28 January, 2006

When cyberspace meets realspace

So, I'm leaving the hospital yesterday, in between calls on parishioners in the hospital and the nursing home, and decide to try to find a coffee shop to pass the time by reading exegesis on Isaiah 40 for next week.

I found a new-to-me coffee place about a block away, and I'm stirring the sugar in my coffee, and I look up and do a double-take, because there at the table next to me is...Gordon Atkinson.

Gordon is better known in the blogisphere as the Real Live Preacher. He started an anonymous blog a while ago, and I started reading it when directed there by my friend the Naughty Church Secretary. I seem to remember that was while we were still in California, but my memory might be flawed, because that's right about when he started writing. I've been a regular reader ever since, and he's been a source of inspiration and challenge.

Anyway, the man has a gift. And, by now, lots and lots of practice at writing. When I finally got drug kicking and screaming into the blogisphere, I mentally told myself that I wanted to write like he did. I also want to preach like Haddon Robinson, Fred Craddock, and Peter Gomes, and hit like Ted Williams... we all aim for something.

he gets upwards of 5,000 visitors a day to his site. (as of recent count, I think 15 people know about the existence of this blog) Then he wrote a book, which I gave to several seminary classmates as gifts. Than I found someplace to do ministry, and it's in San Antonio, and I thought, maybe, someday, I'd go knock on this guy's real-world door, just for the purpose of shaking his hand and then going away again.

Anyway, there he was, drinking coffee and talking on the cell phone. And when I said "hey, are you Gordon Atkinson?" is was HIS turn to do the double-take.

We ended up talking a long time. At least an hour, maybe two, much of it about preaching. He is, as you might expect, fabulous to meet in person.

20 January, 2006

A better post on intelligent design

Just read an excellent essay by Uncle Orson on Creationism, intelligent design, and the like. The kind of argument I'd like to have made in the parish newsletter. Except that my word limit is about 250 words, and this essay contains 3626.

12 January, 2006

...and make him a priest in your church

Here the Bishop lays hands upon the head of the ordinand, and prays:
Therefore, Father, through Jesus Christ your Son, give your Holy Spirit to Cristopher; fill him with grace and power, and make him a priest in your Church.

I felt it.

Didn't expect to. But God has a way of doing things I don't expect.

I need to think about it for a few days before trying to tell the story or describe.

It was glorious fun. Packed church. Friends from California, Virginia, New York, New Jersey, Houston, Dallas, Friendswood, Austin, including one from California who showed up unannounced at the last minute. Still have houseguests. The feasting and celebration continues.

09 January, 2006

National Champions addendum

Last night, I read the news that Vince is going to the NFL. I called down the hall to my beloved, something like "did you hear Vince Young declared for the draft?" Her response:

a blank look.... then she said "Who's Vince Young?"

I just stared at her for a minute.

Then she said, "Oh, yeah, isn't he the hot-shot running back for Texas?"

THAT got her the open-mouthed, disbelieving stare.

So she tried again. "um... coach?"

Thank God for my wife, who keeps me in perspective.

06 January, 2006

Thoughts on national championships

So: The University of Texas, National Champions.

Actually, the University of Texas is now the reigning NCAA Divison 1 title holder in Football and Baseball, and for a time early this season the basketball team was ranked #2 in the country. Which makes for a bunch of happy UT alumni and fans. I've been a Texas athletics fan since...since I was born, practically. My father played football at the University of Texas. I grew up in Austin. I have pictures of myself, as a four-year-old boy, posing in front of Big Bertha with a UT cheerleader. Right now, in the CD player in my truck, there's a recording of the Longhorn Band. My sisters got tickets to the Rose Bowl and flew to Pasadena. And, yes, I watched, and cheered myself hoarse, and wore burnt orange to the office the next day.

All that said, the current state of collegiate athletics in this country has taken on a life of its own rather than being an integrated part of the education of our best and brightest. I believe that the availability of athletic challenge--for students, not as a spectator sport--is a significant part of an elite education. And every so often I wonder if being a fan of college athletics means that I’m missing the point.

How many Nobel laureates are teaching at UT? How many volumes in the libraries? Or, if that's too esoteric for you, how about this--who's the current president of the University?

(seven, but only one in Austin; eight million, give or take a few; as of Feb 1st, it's William C. Powers, Jr)

I view the current state of big-time collegiate sports, including those played at my alma maters, as entertainment—something disconnected from the purpose of a university, played by people who are not students in the usual sense of the word. Nothing wrong with entertainment; I’m a big fan of the NFL and of professional baseball at all levels, and I’m learning to be a Spurs fan, here in my first season. But that’s what professional sports are for. Professional football, baseball, and basketball leagues exist in this country for both men and women--multiples of all three, actually.

One really good reason I can think of to have scholarship athletes is one that I can put a face on. My freshman year roommate in college was a bright, articulate fellow, funny and handsome. And huge. I’m remembering him about 6-4, 275. He played center for the football team, and majored in English. Late at night, I’d be up doing Math and Physics homework, and he was almost always up late, reading glasses on, under the lamp, in the middle of yet another book. He parlayed his size and athletic skill into a university degree and a good education. Sadly, not all scholarship athletes take the same path, getting by with minimal grades and minimal effort in less than meaningful curricula.

Here's the biggest reason for my discomfort: the enormous extent to which alumni of schools, and even non-alumni residents of college towns, identify with collegiate athletics rather than the "sober, fearless pursuit of truth, beauty, and righteousness..." (to quote the language on my undergraduate diploma) is shameful. Many large-school alumni seem to care more for the performance of the current athletic team than they care for each other—at least, to judge from the content of their conversations.

When the most common place for the alumni of America's great places of learning to interact is at the stadium or in front of the TV watching sporting events, and if our conversations never go beyond sports, then we've forfeited our power to change the world.

05 January, 2006

Christmas is over

When the song of the angel is still
When the star in the sky is gone
When the kings and princes are home
When the shepherds are back with their sheep

The work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost
to heal the broken
to feed the hungry
to release the prisoner
to rebuild the nations
to bring peace among people
to make music in the heart
---Howard Thurman

(sent to me by a seminary classmate)