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
Mar202013

Word Bubbles

Years ago there was a movie called The Stooge.  (No, it was not a prequel to the Three Stooges.)  The Stooge starred Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. (PLEASE tell me you at least know who those people are.)   They were a much beloved comedy duo who had their own television show and  did dozens of movies together.  Dean Martin was the handsome singer and Jerry Lewis was his lovable doofus buddy.  The Stooge was a movie about a handsome singer and his lovable doofus buddy.  (Yeah, it was pretty much the same movie over and over.  One movie might be set in the old west and the next would be set in on a golf course.  You get the idea.)

 Okay, so I read recently the good folks at Disney were remaking The Stooge as a fully animated PLUS live action movie.  Mickey Mouse will be taking over the Dean Martin role and Roger Rabbit as the Jerry Lewis character. 

As a fan of Martin&Lewis and of classic Disney cartoons I am intrigued.  Disney went through a period there where I’m pretty sure they were just interested in cranking out low quality stuff and making a lot of money.  The tide seems to be turning and they are embracing the idea they should be a leader in the creativity game.

 Anyway I’m reading about this new Stooge movie and in an interview a writer spoke of his Roger Rabbit novel. 

Wait?...what?...a Roger Rabbit NOVEL? 

So I looked on Amazon and sure enough  There are novels starring Roger Rabbit and his detective buddy from the movie. I sampled one to my kindle. It’s pretty good actually, for not having the visual to go with it. 

Part of the concept involves the notion that when toons speak their words become physical.  They come out either as a “word balloon” like in the comics or as individual words flit and blip around the room until they fade.  The angrier the speaker the larger and more permanent the words. (Starting to see where I’m going with this aren’t you?)

 At one point the detective grabs the word bubble spoken by a suspect, folds it up and puts it in his car.

 What if our words were physical? 

I had a professor in college who almost never raised his voice.  In my head I can see him speaking in his one long monotonous sentences and his words are dropping out of his mouth and breaking on the floor. They sound like tiny glass bits. 

What would our anger look like?  Firey words that blaze out of our mouths and shoot past the object of our anger like comets. 

What words would be bullets? 

Are the words that have been spoken to you that, in “toon town” would be made of great steel girders that you drag around with you everywhere you go year after year.  You know these people don’t you?  Perfectly nice people but if you saw them with “toon eyes” you see the word “MISTAKE”  or “STUPID” behind them...as if no matter what they could never get rid of and it just drags them down or keeps them from becoming something wonderful.  

 I said it before. I’ll say it again.  You are a unique and wonderful and amazing creation of a creator and creating God and you have the right to ignore anyone who tells you otherwise. 

  (I’ll pause a moment so you can go back and read that last statement five times. Really, I mean it. Five times. Ready? Go.)

 There are words that, in “toon town”, would be balloons. They would lift you up, slip under your feet and allow you to soar like a magic carpet.  Imagine a word that you could wrap around you and use like those flying suits you see in the youtube videos.  What words would those be?  What if you said those words to someone else?

 What words are you using?  If words were physical and could either spin you around, make you dance, or stick to you like that gummy stuff on the back of a gift card...what words do you choose to use?  Yes, CHOOSE to use.  Nobody else controls the words that come out of your mouth.  

 Try it this week...take the time...try and “see” your words as if they were real.  What are you putting out there?  What are carrying around in your book bag?  What do you need to leave in the trash or put in your trash bin and then permanently delete?  

 If you try and see your words I guarantee it will begin to change the way you speak. 

Wednesday
Mar132013

WINDOW DOWN RULE PART 3

It is Saturday morning.  I’m sitting at my laptop in the wee hours. (I don’t sleep late anymore.) I have a small stack of Oreos (shut up it’s my diet cheat-day) and a cup of coffee.  Never get between a caffeine addict as his coffee.  I stood at my kitchen cupboard and stared at my vast collection of coffee mugs.  I thought about my grandfather.  He had a huge collection of mugs as well.  To me these are kind of like Christmas ornaments.  Each one has a story.

 I originally chose the mug that says, 

“I’ll tell you one thing he’s not building a play house for the children.”  

It’s a Tom Waits quote.  Tom Waits is awesome.  The mug was a do-it-yourself type gift from my beautiful wife.  I put it back and then grabbed a mug from the coffee shop at the former Hard Rock Cafe Amusement Park in South Carolina.  The park is dead and abandoned now. Perfect for a zombie movie or Scooby Doo episode. I put that back as well. 

National Public Radio?  Great Lakes Educational Event?  I have selected to sip coffee from my Island Cow mug.  Island Cow is this awesome little restaurant on Sanibel Island.  (We went to the restaurant when we were on a mission trip a few years ago.)

 Over-thinking it? Probably.  But it’s important to me.  As with the Ornaments on my tree at Christmas time every one has a story.  I think every one affects how I will approach my day.  I’ll probably pull down the National Public Radio mug on Monday.  It makes me feel smarter. 

Today is Saturday and a Sannibel Island restaurant on the beach seems to be the way go go. 

 I am assigning meaning to these pieces of dinnerware. Some of them are gifts from people I know or knew a long time ago. I think of these people when I use the mug.  

 If you looked at my collection you would either make an arbitrary selection or choose one you thought was cool.  Your choice would happen differently than mine. You don’t have the history with these mugs.  I do.  I understand the meaning and importance these mugs have is entirely mine.  Just mine.

We assign meaning to the church as well.  We assign meaning to Jesus and God and Holy Spirit.  That meaning is based on your history with those things. When you think of God do you think of quiet moments alone at the beach?  Do you think of being up to your elbows in the sink at the homeless shelter?  If you were abused by your Father when you were small...how comforting is the image of "Our Father in heaven" will you be?

 There is not one way.  This is where a lot of people have a problem. They have been taught there is one way and ONLY one way to make a connection with God. Too many people have been taught that ANY deviation from the path is a one-way ticket to the fires of damnation.  Other faiths teach that you can wander from that one-way  and still be safe as long as you “find your way back to the path.”  (This method can also include a variety of apologies and behavior changes in order to regain entrance to the one-way path.)  

 What if there are wayS and not just way?

 Perhaps this is the Window Down Rule Part 3.  What if you stopped listening to the people who told you ONE way (usually theirs) is the ONLY way.  God is big enough to receive anyone from anywhere by any means.  ONE way is putting a limit on that which is, by definition, LIMITLESS. 

 If a choir singing The Old Rugged Cross gets you closer to the Creator of all things then open your hymnals and let’s all sing.  If you connect via Pete Townsend singing The Best I’ve Ever Had. Roll the windows down and sing along at the top of your lungs.  If you connect at the beach, the wood, the mountains, the silence of an empty sanctuary...make it happen.  

 Connect.

 Don’t let the one-wayers keep you from that connection.  

 Get your Jesus where you can.

 

Tuesday
Mar052013

WINDOW DOWN RULE PART 2

Okay, this could be considered part two of the ”Window Down” rule. 

 I was at my favorite record store. (Park Ave CDs)  wonderful place.  Live bands. Used LPs.  I’ve actually had one talk with them about doing a live reading when the novel comes out. How cool would that be?  I was there to hear a band that I had never heard before but they were there and they were live and it’s a cool store, so...yeah.  The band was He’s My Brother She’s My Sister. Cool band.  I sampled the disc while I was in the store before band started.   They are more fun live. 

 Anyway, in the used cd bins I found a old POLICE album.  I owned it on LP back in the 80’s. (No my band did not open for them.)  The cd is playing in the background as I type this. Can you hear it?  ROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOXXXXANNNNNNNNE.

 The police had some heavy Jamaican influences.  If you are not familiar with The Police try listening to Bruno Mars song Locked Out of Heaven.  Mars says he was heavily influenced by The Police.  

 What set The Police apart, mostly, was the beat.  Stewart Copeland was the drummer for the band. In addition to a strong Jamaican sound Copeland was a master of syncopation.  (Okay here we go....with the point..ready?)

 Syncopation could be a matter of snapping the rim of the snare drum on the opposite beats of a regular rock song. (Copeland played the rim of his drum a lot).  It’s the art of making a song sound different by messing with what your head says should be the normal beat.  It is a disturbance in the songs “flow.”  It is an interruption in in the expected.

 THIS is what faith should be.  A week or so I go I recommended you find that “window down” rule.  Find that part of your life that makes you feel connected to something bigger than yourself.  A syncopated faith would be finding your groove outside of the normal. (Can you say UCC?)  

 I spent an hour this morning laughing my ass off at a comedian named Tim Minchin. Incredibly funny. One of the few comedians who knows how to live in a pause #MarkTwain.  #CraigFerguson.  Minchin takes the church to task and religion itself. (The Good Book is a favorite.)* 

 I’ve seen a few comedians lately who go off on a riff about the church or religion but what I have found is that most of the comedians who go after the church as the target of their humor are mostly going after the complacency and hypocrisy. (Both quite prevalent in the church I’m afraid.)   They are attacking the idea that religion seems to, in their eyes, make everyone get in line and be the same.  Hence the irony in the “All we like sheep” or “The Lord is my shepherd.”   (You ask any clergy and they will tell you the reason we say the Lord is my shepherd is because sheep BITE.)

 Faith should never ever ever be about getting in line.  I’ve often said, if we all get our own personal hell mine is going to be a line at Disney with no ride at the end.  Just a line. For all eternity. ARGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH. 

 You find God where you want to find God.  Get your Jesus where you can. I happen to like the Psalms.  I like the stories. But if you start reading the laws in the book of Leviticus to me you will be able to watch my eyes glaze over.  

 Faith should be syncopated.  It should disturb the normal.  It should interrupt the flow.  I go  back to the story of Creation. (Genesis 1:1 for those of you following along in your Bibles.)  The Creation is some of God’s best work.  Mostly because he was doing something brand new. I mean REALLY brand new.  There was nothing previously to compare it to because there was NOTHING PREVIOUSLY.

 Worship with your own personal Jesus**. Let your faith interrupt the flow. Be unique.

God is big enough. Sometimes religion is like cutting a giant slice of cake and then cramming that slice into a little Tupperware container and THEN saying “THERE...that’s faith.  We say, “but what about the rest of the cake over there?”  

The cake-crammers say, “Oh don’t look at that...here...take this. It’s all you need....really.”

 God does not fit in the box.  Don’t let anyone tell you that little box is where God is so that’s all the dessert you get.  There’s more to it.

 There is always more to it than that. 

 

 

* Speaking of getting your Jesus where you can...Minchin is playing Judas in the new Jesus Christ Superstar. Saw a bit of that this morning and it gave me a God-moment.  Mysterious ways indeed.

**Yes, depeche mode. I give credit where it's due.

 

Thursday
Feb212013

The Window Down Rule

Rolling Stones = Window Down.

 It’s a rule.  I didn’t make it.

 I left the church the other night and a stones song came on the radio. (Ironically, Sympathy for the Devil.)  I rolled the window down because that’s the rule.  There are certain songs that when you happen upon them the volume must be turned up and if you are in a car the window must come down.  It was raining the other night and it was cold so I turned up the heater to compensate.  

 There are certain movies that when I’m scrolling through the channels if I happen upon that flick I will stop and watch it to the end. No matter how many times I’ve seen it. No matter how far I am into the movie. 

 I’m on a diet, most of you knew.  I’ve lost 38 pounds as of this writing.  Its a good diet. I don’t feel I’m starving and I didn’t have give up coffee.  Every Saturday is “skip day”. The sky is the limit.  Its Friday now, tomorrow morning I’m eating Oreos for breakfast.  I don’t completely understand how the diet works but it seems to.  The book I got this diet from was given to me by my friend Russ.  The author recommends NOT reading the whole book.  He says only read the 150 or so pages you want to.  I read the diet pages.  

 There are certain songs that require the window to be down. There certain movies that must be watched to the end no matter where you start. There are only certain pages that must be read from certain books.

 I want to find a way to make my faith work like this.  I want to focus on those particular aspects that move my soul.  Sweet harmonies touch my soul.  There are times when I watch Kevin, our music director,  play and I can tell he is “in his moment.”   I love an empty sanctuary. The bigger the better.  I can read certain Psalms over and over and never get tired of them. (Psalm 46 is one of them.) I love it when someone teaches me something new about a scripture passage that I didn’t know.  

 I don’t like contemporary Christian music.  It all sounds the same to me. Yes, I’d probably like it more if I put some effort into it but its not part of the “window-down rule” if you get my meaning.  

 This faith thing is massive.  Trying to understand it all is like dipping a coffee cup into the ocean.  You can’t get it all.  Yet sometimes we feel like we have to.  We feel like we have to understand it all in order to be close to God.  Understanding it all isn’t possible so you’ve just set yourself up for permanent failure.  And if it’s going to be permanent failure what’s the point of trying.  This is how the distance between us and God happens.

 Focus on your “window-down rule”.  Maybe its music.  Maybe you truly feel that connection when you are scrubbing dishes at the shelter.  Maybe you truly feel that connection outside at sunset or in the rain or walking in the woods.  There are moments when you feel like you are part of something bigger than yourself.  Use those moments. Open yourself up to them without feeling like you are missing something because you can’t quote scripture, or enjoy hymns, or wave your hands and take Jesus Christ as  your personal Lord and savior. (Something Jesus never asked ANYone to do by the way.)

 There is something that makes your feel connect.  Think of faith as a giant Chocolate Chip Cookie.  Something is the chip for you.  Don’t worry about the rest right now. What is the chip?  What is the sweetness of your faith?  Focus on that.  If you can’t think of anything...well, we’ll work on that next.

 

Thursday
Feb142013

Duuuuuuuuuuuuude

I recently misunderstood the president.   I was watching the Annual Prayer Breakfast on television.  I read some of President Obama’s stuff he wrote many years ago for the UCC. Yeah, he’s one of ours in case you didn’t know.

 The President quoted scripture by saying “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your mind and all your spirit and love your neighbor as yourself.”  That’s from a specific spot in Jesus life where the rule-makers and the finger-pointers were trying to pick apart every word he said and turn it around into something he didn’t mean.  

 Right at that moment,  (I mean while I was watching the prayer breakfast not the moment where the nay-sayers and the finger-pointers were playing “gotcha” with the Son of God)...right at that moment the guy who mows our neighbor’s lawn passed between our two houses and the sound was covered and I was pretty sure the president said, “Welcome the Lord your God with all our heart and all your mind and all your soul.”  I reversed the tape to be sure.  He said, “Love” and not “Welcome.”

 I like the “welcome.” 

 Welcome the Lord your God...

 Throw the door open and welcome him. Imagine you are having a party in your house and the one person you haven’t seen in years shows up.

 How do we welcome with our whole hearts?  How do we welcome with our soul?

 I looked it up to see if it might actually be a possibility language-wise.  All I came up with was shalom.  Shalom is a greeting. It is a farewell.  It is an all encompassing word that means peace...complete and total peace of mind body and heart.  

 Shalom.

 Kind of like “Duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuude.”

 God comes to your door and rings the bell. You open it and say, “Duuuuuuuuuuude.”

 God says, “Duuuuuuuuuuuuude.” and then God comes in and you have ice-coffee.

 At least I’d give God ice coffee.  Maybe sweet tea but most likely ice coffee.  Coffee has become such a part of the definition of myself I think would have to give God some. 

 Welcome your neighbor as yourself.  How would you want to be treated when you go to your neighbors house.  Of course Jesus had some interesting thoughts about “Who is my neighbor.”  So maybe its more like, “How would you want to be welcomed by the person you would expect the least to welcome you.”

 There’s a famous painting of Jesus standing at a big wooden door and knocking.  If you look closely you’ll see there is no door handle.  Jesus does not come in. We have to  open the door and let him in.  Open our hearts. Open our souls. Open our minds. (Yeah, that last one is a problem sometimes isn’t it.)

 If we don’t open ourselves...how does God get in?  

 Open your heart. Open your mind. Open your soul.

 Duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuude.

 

 

 

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