We are left to finish the story


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April 20, 2014 · 7:44 am

Pastor Robb is going to sing?

Pastor Robb McCoy will be umm, starring? in Godspell on April 18, 2014.

Pastor Robb McCoy will be umm, starring? in Godspell on April 18, 2014.

(With a tip of the hat to this great article from The Onion – vulgarity warning)

The cast of Riverside and the Center For Living Arts expressed their shock when Director Dino Hayz announced the solo list for their April 18 production of Godspell.

“Pastor Robb is singing?” one cast member, who wished to remain anonymous, questioned.  “I mean, he’s a nice guy and all, and knows his Bible.  But singing?”

Reports indicate that while he has a fairly loud preaching voice, and feels comfortable being in front of people, he’s not exactly a song-and-dance kind of guy.  With no shortage of talented veterans to choose from, Dino Hayz inexplicably asked McCoy to sing one of the biggest songs of the show, “We Beseech Thee.”

“It’s the last fun number of the show,” said anonymous.  “Everyone will want to crucify him, not Jesus.”

McCoy showed some potential in the other three shows he’s been in.  The first was a 50’s Follies show he did in eighth grade at his own church.  Most believe that he only joined that cast because he “might get to hold hands with Christina.”  One witness says that they did, in fact, hold hands, but broke up only a few months after the show.  The causes are still unknown, as the note that ended the relationship has been lost.

His two shows as an adult were last year’s presentation of Godspell, where his vocal limitations were apparent in his two-line solo.  His last production was a play called A Bright Room Called Day. 

“He didn’t even memorize his lines,” said one reviewer of the drama about the rise of Nazism in 1930’s Germany.  Ironically, in both Godspell and Bright Room¸ the ordained United Methodist pastor played Satan.

“He’s a damn good Satan, but I’ve never seen a show where Satan has to sing and dance.  We’ll just have to sing back-up extra loud for this one.”

The show is Friday, April 18 at 7:00 p.m. at Riverside United Methodist Church.  There will be a bake sale before the show and at intermission.  There will also be someone taking bets as to whether or not McCoy will “ever show his face in the church again after this debacle.”

2013 Godspell reflection, part 1

2013 Godspell reflection, part 2

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Guest Blogger: Beautiful Child of God #ShapedByGod

Rev. Sarah Renfro, former fashion model. Now preaching the good news of your body.

Rev. Sarah Renfro, former fashion model. Now preaching the good news of your body.

I discovered Rev. Sarah Renfro’s blog after she quoted a part of The Pulpit Fiction Podcast in a post.  I read her post because she quoted me, but was quickly drawn into her story.  Her blog is called Embodying the Divine: Body Image, Media, and Faith.  Sarah is a former fashion model, who is now a pastor preaching the good news of your body.  In her blog, she not only goes to phenomenal resources, but she expresses her struggles and joys as a pastor, woman of faith, Mom, wife, and Beautiful Child of God.  Her website also describes “body image workshops that dispel the myths of media and ‘ideal beauty’ in fashion magazines, and empower participants to claim their diverse and wonderful inner beauty given by God.”  

I love her holistic approach to faith.  As a father of two young girls, I am deeply invested in Sarah’s message.  I want to share it with others, and encourage everyone to check out her blog, schedule her for a workshop, and like her facebook page.  That’s enough of my words about her.  Here’s her story: 

I was born and raised in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).  I was active in youth group and worship.  After high school, I left Kentucky to pursue modeling full-time, living in Tokyo, New York, Los Angeles, and Europe for a bit.  I had the opportunity to see the world, but at the same time, the fashion industry is competitive and harsh.  I struggled with disordered eating and depression after constantly being told that I wasn’t good enough just as I was.  I wasn’t thin enough or blond enough or big-busted enough or . . . I was the one of one percent of the population who is in the magazines and catalogs and on billboards and in commercials; yet, I had low self-esteem and a negative body image.

During my travels, I did not maintain a faith community.  Oh sure, I attended on Easter and came home for Christmas, but that was about it.  I was not grounded in a church that reminded me that I was a child of God.  But deep down I knew.  So when I retired at age 21, I moved home, attended the University of Kentucky, and went to church.

I became a youth group sponsor and loved it!  I was invited to share my story from the fashion world for the first time, and I realized that I just might have something to say to young people about body image.

Fast-forward a few years, a failed marriage, and another stint in LA, and I came back home, finished college, and continued to work with the church.  I received my call to ministry soon thereafter.  At no time had I envisioned God calling a former Hollywood-type to the share the Word.  But alas.  Here I am.

So now I am a former model, ordained minister, married-again (to a minister), and mom to Miriam (almost three-years-old).  My passions about body image have only increased as I continue to lead workshops and retreats with youth and women.

Media reinforces over and over and over again that we are not okay just as we are.  That we are to subscribe to some “ideal beauty,” which is impossible to achieve and devalues the diversity of God’s creation.  There are many passages from the Bible on which I base the title of my website and workshops “Beautiful Child of God: Embodying the Divine.”  Perhaps, my favorite is how God created humankind in God’s own image (imago Dei), and called us not just good, but very good.

Most of us, women and men, young and old, of all colors and ethnicities, struggle with the reflection in the mirror.  Media has much to do with our dissatisfaction.  In my talks, I seek to expose the myths that reinforce negativity for capitalist gain, and I attempt to enforce the Truth that we are created beings, body and spirit, incarnated, imprinted with the Divine.

Robb asked how I came to use #ShapedByGod.  That was an idea by a friend and colleague, Rev. Sarah Taylor Peck, who mentioned it as Lenten discipline.  I immediately asked to join in her journey, because I believe we were molded out of the soil of the earth to be exactly who God shaped us to be.  Some tall and thin, most not so.  Some light skinned, most not.

When we look in the mirror, it is God whom we reflect.  It is the Divine spark that shines from our eyes and in our bodily actions and spirit-filled prayers.  We are shaped by God to be God’s hands and feet and ears and voice in the world.  We are not supposed to all have the same shape (tall and thin for women, “manly” and muscly for men), but we are to love the bodies that we were given, take care of them, and use them to bring about the Kin-dom of God.

There’s your sermon for the day, but I realize that this is easier said (or typed) than done.  I still struggle.  Fifteen years removed from modeling full-time, I can still pick my body apart if I let myself, even though I eat well and exercise.  But I try not to.  I try to love my whole self because I lead workshops about this type of thing (duh), I am mom to a daughter whom I desperately wish maintains the love of her belly, the good foods she eats, the exercise she gets, the joy she has in her body and spirit, and I am a child of God.  A beautiful child of God.  And so are you!

Thanks for letting me share a bit of my story.

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The difference between seeing and sight.

visionNeurologist Oliver Sacks tells a fascinating story about Virgil, a man who received sight at age 50 after spending 45 years totally blind.  His book An Anthropologist on Mars tells a tragic tale about a man who struggled to adapt to his new-found sense.  On the surface, it seems like such a story would be a wonderful, heartwarming story of triumph and celebration.  In reality, Virgil’s story is fraught with confusion, loss of identity, and even health.

At first marveling at the light that he was able to perceive, Virgil was quickly overwhelmed by the confusion of so much light, color, shapes, and movement.  What people born with vision take for granted became difficult, even terrifying.  A bird flying by, even at a distance (for distance was meaningless to him), was more than a little startling.  Making connections between flat shapes and 3D objects was almost impossible (a circle and a sphere were totally unrelated).  The story of Virgil is heartbreaking. His tactile world, that was ordered and in which he was thriving, was shattered.  His identity was lost as he realized he was neither blind nor sighted.  After making some improvements, he suffered a setback when an unrelated illness caused him to nearly lose the ability to breathe.  He almost died, and in the process he lost his job, his home, and eventually his sight again.

It is one thing to have physical ability to perceive light hitting your retina.  It is another process to interpret that light in the midst of the world.  Virgil was never able to fully incorporate the light which was in front of him.  He was never able to distinguish the shapes, colors, movements, and flashes into a coherent vision of the world.  He spent fifty years in world of touch.  He was able to spend a few months in a world of vision, and when the two worlds collided, the result was not pretty.  It almost indirectly cost him his life.  Would he have been able to adapt if given more time? Perhaps.  Was the stress of the two worlds colliding too much for him to take? Did it hasten the progress of his sickness? That certainly seems reasonable.

Virgil’s story illustrates that being able to see is different from having sight.  There is a story in the Bible about sight and blindness.  It is told in the ninth chapter of John.

In this story the man born blind has  no such difficulty adapting.  Instead, it is the Pharisees who cannot cope.  They had a very ordered world.  It was their role in society to keep the order.  They used the Biblical Law to understand what was clean and unclean, what was righteous and sinful, what was in order and what was out of order.  A man born blind was clearly out of order.  Sin is punished with curse.  Righteousness is rewarded with prosperity.

This is how the story begins.  Even the disciples understand the world in this way.  Sin is the only explanation for blindness.  The only question is, who’s sin? So they ask Jesus to clear things up.  “Who sinned that he was born blind, this man or his parents?”  Jesus turns the order upside down immediately.  He gives an answer that is completely out of their expected order, “This happened so that God’s mighty works might be displayed in him.”

After the healing, there is much confusion.  The people do not know what to make of this healing, so they take him to the ones whose job it is to answer questions about order.  The Pharisees are baffled.  They are split.  They investigate.  In the end, they cannot understand this new order that Jesus is proposing.  Jesus does not fit into their order.  He healed, which must be of God. He worked on the Sabbath, which is a sin.  These two facts are so starkly in contrast, they cannot make sense of them.  The world of Jesus collides with their world, and the result is not pretty.

When you read Virgil’s story, it is easy to feel compassion for him.  In receiving sight, he was changed so drastically that it was difficult to cope.  It wasn’t just laziness, or stubbornness.  There were physical, emotional, and neurological hurdles that were enormous.  That he didn’t “make it” as a sighted person does not make him weak.

Perhaps we can take a similar amount of compassion to the Pharisees.  Their world was being turned upside down.  They knew what they were seeing, but they couldn’t interpret it in the midst of their world.  They were not able to incorporate the light which was in front of them.  They were able to see, but they never possessed the sight needed to understand what they were seeing.  It is easy to condemn the Pharisees, put black hats on them, and call them the bad guys.

Demonizing is tricky business.  Were they at fault? Sure.  It would be wise to remember though, that Jesus cast out the demons, he didn’t cast “demonhood” on others.  Neither should we.

I think we’d do well to remember that there’s a difference between seeing Jesus, and having vision.  When Jesus comes off of the page, out of the two-dimensional world we so often like to keep him, disruptive things can happen.  When we incorporate Jesus into the world, there can be collision that is discomforting.  Catching a vision of the Kingdom of God knocks us out of our daily existence.  It challenges our preconceived notions.  It breaks our routine.  It shatters prejudices.  Suddenly we’re supposed to be loving our neighbor.  Suddenly we’re supposed to forgive as we are forgiven.  Suddenly all of our instincts of survival and self-hood are replaced by Kingdom instincts of abundant life through selflessness.

It’s a struggle, and it’s a process. We may experience a flash of euphoria when the weight of sin and shame is lifted.  Usually there is more to it though.  It is rare for the scales to be removed, and all understanding to come at once.  Even the man in the Biblical story, though he could see, took time to process what had happened to him.  Even he didn’t open his eyes and praise Jesus, the Son of God.

It’s no wonder that for so many, the vision doesn’t stick.  It becomes easier to be blind, to shuffle through life slowly, methodically, unchallenged by the light.  Turn a blind eye on the suffering.  Turn a blind eye on our own sin.  Turn a blind eye on the injustice, on the first remaining first, and the last being pushed farther and farther down the line.  It’s no wonder so many cannot see

Jesus healed the blind man so that God’s mighty acts may be displayed in him. There’s a difference between seeing and having sight. We are called to do more than see.  We are called to have God vision, to catch the vision of Christ, and see the Kingdom of God.  For if we can see it, we can live into it.  There is a difference between seeing Jesus in a Bible, or in stained glass, or in a movie, and catching onto this vision for the world. When see Jesus, I mean really see Jesus, it changes the way we look at the world. It changes how we look at our neighbor. It changes how we look at a stranger. It changes how we look at suffering. It should also change the way we see ourselves. See the world with Christ’s vision so that God’s mighty acts may be displayed in you.

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Raiders of the Lost Cabinet

Cabinet, the board game.

Cabinet, the board game.

So it appears I have set off a fury.  From Nashville to Savannah, the people called Methodists are searching for Cabinet.  I discovered it when a friend shared this picture on his Facebook timeline.  I thought it was outrageous, and decided I would write about it.

Clearly my entrepreneurial skills are lacking.  I should have done the work of finding this precious artifact first, then written the blog post.  There seems to be a growing demand across the connection, and I probably could have cashed in.  Oh well, lesson learned.


The stacks at MTSO’s library (I think).

Upon not being able to find the game through normal outlets, i.e. Amazon, Cokesbury, Ebay, I was afraid it was lost somewhere in a warehouse in Nashville.  In my research though, I found a copy of the game at the Methodist Theological School in Ohio’s library.  Through the magic of Facebook, this picture was shared with me yesterday.  I’m pretty sure that the game was guarded by the ghost of Francis Asbury.  She had to prove that her heart was pure, or at least moving onward toward purity (or some-such thing).

cabinet game found

April Casperson, Director of Enrollment Management and Scholarship Development at Methodist School of Theology in Ohio.

As you can see, her face is a perfect mix of bemusement and mild disgust.  I can only assume the she is afraid of opening the box, lest her face get melted.  That would be a shame.  She seems to be a perfectly pleasant person, and I would hate for her to end up like this.

In the meantime, there seems to be a groundswell of Methonerd support to find copies of this game.  My friend Melissa Meyers  has promised to bring the game to the attention of someone at United Methodist Publishing.  If it gets re-published, I only have one request: Please let me be a part of the group having a grand ol’ time playing it on the box cover art.

I’m having fun with this. I have chosen to laugh when I see this game, but there is another reaction that I could have.  I have dedicated myself to a system that all-too-often feels like a game.  The only way I can remain sane in the itinerant system is to believe that the members of my conference’s cabinet understand that they are not playing with Pokemon cards, but with peoples’ actual lives.  I believe this is the case. I do.  Every year in appointment season I reaffirm in my own heart and mind the covenant I made with the United Methodist Church, and I submit to the will of my Bishop. I submit my family to the whim of a few people in an a room a few hundred miles away, and trust that they are guided by the Holy Spirit.  That is a huge amount of trust, and the fact that someone that was once given that kind of trust decided to turn that process into a game makes me boil over with rage.  Then I take a deep breath, realize I’m probably taking it all too seriously, and realize it probably is a good teaching tool.  Appointments are a wildly complicated thing to figure out, and this could help people realize how difficult it is.  So I make a joke.

So keep searching, Methodists.  If anyone finds and plays this game, please share your experiences here.

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In which I raise some awareness of epilepsy

The Fat Pastor:

Today is National Epilepsy Awareness Day, and a little bit of knowledge could save someone’s life. I’m wearing purple, and found this blog when I followed the #PurpleDay. Vulgarity warning – but a very good read.

Originally posted on Another angry woman:

Today is Purple Day, a day for awareness and fundraising for epilepsy. In the UK alone, there are about 600, 000 people living with epilepsy, myself included, and it’s still a disability which a lot of people don’t understand. This leads to general stigma, but also a fair few fuck-ups from people trying to help.

When someone is having a tonic-clonic seizure, it looks terrifying. I’d always wondered, upon waking up from one of my own seizures, why everyone was running around like headless chickens and practically snogging me in relief. One time, when I was stuck on an overnight stay in hospital, I saw someone else fitting, and I suddenly knew why. It really does look awful.

Fortunately, a lot of the time, it’s not as bad as it looks. Here’s some really useful advice for what to do, which I’m going to repost here because it’s so important…

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Nothing to be “Mad” about here. Go Green. Go White.

I have a lot of fun with March Madness.  One of my most-read blogs of every year is when I pick the entire NCAA tournament based on which Mascot would win in a fight.  Its silly, a little juvenile, sometimes humorous, and hopefully informative. This story about March Madness though, is none of those things.  This is a story of an unlikely friendship.  It is about how we can be inspired by each other, and draw strength from others.  There’s a cynical part of me that gets tired of worn out cliches about sports.

The way we idolize sports figures is troubling.  Sometimes it is absolutely dangerous.  There are times I want to quit sports all together, just wash my hands of the whole dirty, bloody, idolatrous affair.  I know, however, that I can never give up sports all together.  Sports are a part of my history, my family, my very being.  Yet I get weary of the packaging of sports.  I get tired of the human interest story.  I get tired of the coach-worship.  I get tired of lazy metaphors and the emotional manipulation.  Just when I’m about to give up on believing that sports are anything more than a distraction from what really matters, I come across something like this.

So the cynic in me wonders: Is this just another fluff piece thrown together by a media outlet with an interest in showing the “good side” of sports? Is this just another attempt at making an athlete more than we ought?  Is this just another case of emotional manipulation?  It’s hard to judge how much of this video is real, and how much is good story telling.  There are two things that are undeniably true in this video.  Lacey’s struggle, and Lacey’s smile.  That’s all that matters.

All of the sudden sports have won me over again, and the Spartans have another fan.  Go Green. Go White. Go Lacey!

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I just added this to my bucket list (and I don’t even have a bucket list)

Cabinet, the board game.

Cabinet, the board game.

My friend and United Methodist colleague Gavin Lance Presley introduced me to this game, and my life will be incomplete until I play it.  It was created by Bishop Dan Solomon, I can only imagine his train of thought before creating this game.

“I’m so sick of people calling me to complain about the appointments I’ve made,” he thought. “If only I could show them how hard it is.” And in a flash of light, the greatest board game since Monopoly was created.  Though some might think that this game must be the parting gift of the worst TV game show ever, I feel like I have to play it.  Cabinet can actually be found at the library of Methodist Theology School in Ohio.  All I could think of is, “ROAD TRIP!”  I’m packing 7-15 of my favorite Methodists in a van and going.  Tomorrow.

According to the online catalog description, this game includes “1 director’s manual, 16 participant’s manuals, 2 lay advocate’s guides, 2 clergy advocate’s guides, 50 declension and data sheets, 16 name tags with 16 plastic holders, 10 envelopes for superintendents (2 sets of 5), 4 sets of color-coded file cards ; in box 24 x 31 x 4 cm.”

This is a game that is so beautifully Methodist, I’m almost in tears.  This is a game with not one but two different manuals, two kinds of guides, (my heart is aflutter) 50 declension sheets, and FOUR SETS OF COLOR CODED FILE CARDS.  I don’t even know what a declension sheet is, but I know I want one.  I’m guessing it is sort of like a Pastor’s pokemon card, with all of their stats and hit points on it.  I think mine would be ATTACK 68, DEFENSE 78, PREACHING 87, TEACHING 92, ADMINISTERING SACRAMENTS 87, ORDERING LIFE OF THE CHURCH 33.

I have to find this game for sale somewhere.  I think I would probably pay dozens of dollars for it.

The saga to find Cabinet has been updated

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2014 Mascot Bracket

The sixth annual Mascot Bracket has a special interactive addition.  This year, you can submit your own picks.  Who do you think would win in a fight?   The First Annual Readers’ Choice bracket was also submitted into the Free Yahoo Tournament Pick ‘Em Contest.  The Readers have a lot of respect for the tenacity of the woleverine, and little respect for 19th century arms.  The Michigan Wolverines came out on top over the Tulsa Golden Hurricane.

The rules

  1. When determining the winner, origins of the nickname are of primary importance (see Blue Devils and Jayhawks).  Current official logos are consulted to find out needed details, such as whether or not the mascot is armed; and for disambiguation, such as which type of Aggie?
  2. Inanimate objects, e.g. colors and plants, always lose to animate objects.
  3. Predators beat non-predators and unarmed humans.
  4. Humans beat non-predators.
  5. Humans with weapons beat predators. There can be exceptions if the weapon is non-gunpowder, and the animal is particularly big and/or fierce.
  6. Humans with weapons beat humans without weapons.
  7. Humans with superior technology/weapons/training win.
  8. Supernatural beings and killer weather systems defeat human warriors.
  9. Many animals, especially birds and fish, can survive devastating storms.
  10. If the schools have the same mascot, then the higher seed wins.
  11. Prepositions lose to everything. (See explanation of What’s a Hoya)
  12. Don’t turn your back on bears.

South Region

Round One

The play-in game has Scoobie up against the owner of the haunted lumber yard.

The play-in game has Scoobie up against the owner of the haunted lumber yard.

1 Florida Gators def. 16 Albany Great Danes or Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers.  This year, instead of treating the play-in games (and yes, NCAA, they are play-in games) as a separate round, I’m throwing all three mascots into the ring to see which one will emerge.  Before doing any research, I was very hopeful that the mountaineer didn’t have a gun.  It looks like the Mountaineer has two tickets to the gun show, but no actual gun.  Hoping that the gun show loop holes are closed, and feeling bad for the Fighting Scoobies, but the gators emerge. 8 Colorado Buffaloes def. 9 Pittsburgh Panthers.  The last time a we saw the Panthers versus Buffalo, Cam Newton was sacked six times and Buffalo won 24-23.  I’ll stick with that outcome.

The Stephen F. Austin Lumberjack and WWE Superstar Razor Ramon

The Stephen F. Austin Lumberjack and WWE Superstar Razor Ramon

5 Virginia Commonwealth Rams def. 12 Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks.  While the SF Austin Lumberjack would be a formidable foe against a human opponent, I’m not sure he would be able to do the Razor’s Edge on a Ram.  That huge axe might come in handy, but I’m not sure it would be enough.

Tulsa University's Captain 'Cane

Tulsa University’s Captain ‘Cane

13 Tulsa Golden Hurricane  def. 4 UCLA Bruins.  Here I have to make the important distinction between being a mascot bracket or a nickname bracket.  I have to admit that this is really a nickname bracket.  I don’t usually go with the appearance of the guy running around on the sideline.  This is a good thing for Tulsa, because their mascot is this comic-book like character known as Captain ‘Cane.  He even has a complete Marvel-esque origin story.   If we’re pitting a bear with this blue static-electricity guy, I’m taking the bear.  The bear versus a hurricane though, does not favor the bear.  I’m not confident in the bear’s survivability in the face of a hurricane, and we have our first major upset, and our first early favorite to win the whole thing. 2 Kansas Jayhawks def. 15 Eastern Kentucky Colonels.  The Kansas Jayhawks are one of the more interesting origin stories for a college mascot.  While the current version looks a lot like Foghorn Leghorn, it has roots in the Civil War.  The Eastern Kentucky Colonel looks like Colonel Sanders’s cousin.  It would not be a very good fight. 7 New Mexico Lobos vs. 10 Stanford Cardinal. This is a clear example of rule #2.  Colors lose to everything.  By the way, so do hippie trees. 3 Syracuse Orange vs. 14 Western Michigan Broncos.   Again, colors lose. 6 Ohio State Buckeyes vs. 11 Dayton Flyers.  It was kind of nice of the committee to put all the Mascot Bracket losers in the same quadrant.  One of these days we’ll have a Ohio State vs. Syracuse matchup, but this is not that day.

Round Two

Gators def. Buffaloes.  This is not a clear-cut choice, but I don’t think a Buffalo would be able to mount enough of an offense. Golden Hurricane def. Rams.  If a hurricane could take out a bear, a ram would not stand a chance. Broncos def. FlyersEven though this Bronco is just sort of chillin’, I don’t think an unarmed pilot would be able to beat a horse in a fight.  I know that this goes against my normal human vs. non-predator rule, but I think this is a proper exemption.

I say. I say, I say, what is a Jayhawk, boy?

I say. I say, I say, what is a Jayhawk, boy?

Jayhawks def. Lobos.  On the surface, it appears that a wolf would dismember a strange blue jay crossed with a sparrow hawk bird.  The Mascot Bracket though, goes deep.  The origin of the Jayhawk predates the Civil War.  When the future of the state of Kansas as either a free or slave state was in dispute, supporters of both sides waged an underground civil war on each other.  These vigilantes from both sides were known as Jayhawkers.  They stole horses, ransacked farms, vandalized homes, and there were even some casualties.  Eventually, the Jayhawk name became synonymous with the free-staters.  During the Civil War, a Union regiment from Kansas that was called the Independent Mounted Kansas Jayhawks.  So, that is a long way of explaining how the Jayhawk defeats the wolf.  It’s sort of like that sad part of Dances With Wolves.

Sweet 16

Gators def. Golden Hurricanes.  I actually think that a gator could wait out a hurricane.  I might be wrong about that, but it’s my bracket.  If you disagree, you should have voted in the Readers’ Choice Mascot Bracket. Jayhawks def. Broncos.  Do they still, or did they ever really, take dead horses to the glue factory? Answer: Yes, they did; and no, they don’t.

Regional Champion: Kansas Jayhawks

Kansas Jayhawks are able to topple the Florida Gators.  Given the Jayhawk history, this boils down to a simple case of armed human defeating a powerful wild animal.

West Region

Round One

Arizona Wildcats def. 16 Weber State Wildcats. In the first of two Wildcat battles in this tournament, I have to go with the higher seed.

9 Oklahoma State Cowboys def. 8 Gonzaga Bulldogs.  This is a clear case of armed human defeating an animal.

12 North Dakota State Bison def. 5 Oklahoma Sooners.  This one has some historical significance.  At first glance, I’m thinking that in the battle between settler and bison, the settler came out on top.  According to this site, the bison numbered 30-60 million at the time of Columbus, but by 1888 there were 541 known bison in the United States.   The good news is that at that time there was more of an effort to preserve the bison, and by 1907 there were over a thousand living bison.  Today there are 250,000.  That year, 1888, is important.  That is the year before the Sooner was born.  April 22, 1889 was one of the most unique days in American history, when settlers were allowed to claim 160 acre plots of land.  There was a great race to claim the land, and those that left before the predetermined starting time were called “sooners.”  Anyway, the idea here is that by the time that the sooners were on the scene, the bison population actually improved.

This might be the greatest picture I've ever created.

This might be the greatest picture I’ve ever created.

13 New Mexico State Aggies  def. 4 San Diego State Aztecs.  An Aggie is an infuriatingly ambiguous mascot.  Even the New Mexico State Aggie has two versions.  In one version, the mustachioed aggie is wielding a lasso.  In another, he is pointing two six shooters.  The Aztec takes out the mustache and the rope, but cannot stand up to the firearm.  The current NMSt website has the guy packing heat.  I’m going with the Fighting Ron Swansons.

American Eagle outfitters

American Eagle outfitters

15 American Eagles def. 2 Wisconsin Badgers.  If the American Eagle is one of these clowns, I’m picking the badger. Unfortunately for Bucky though, one of the badger’s natural predators in the wild is an eagle.

10 Brigham Young Cougars def. 7 Oregon Ducks.  Pretty terrible fight, really.  It wouldn’t even be sporting.

14 Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns  def. 3 Creighton Blue Jays.  Even if the Cajun isn’t armed, I’m pretty sure he could take a blue jay.

6 Baylor Bears def. 11 Nebraska Cornhuskers.  This one comes down to whether or not the Cornhusker is armed.  That’s an ear of corn in his pocket, and I’m thinking that won’t do much good against a bear.

Second Round

Cowboys def. Wildcats. He shot a bulldog last round.  This time it’s a wildcat.

Aggie def. Bison. We unfortunately know the outcome of armed farmer vs bison.

Top: Chili's. Bottom: Ragin' Cajun

Top: Chili’s Bottom: Ragin’ Cajun

Bears def. Ragin’ Cajuns. I’ll let you guess which of these is the mascot of the Cajuns, and which is the mascot of a delicious restaurant.  Baylor goes to TGI Fridays to celebrate after the game.

Cougars def. Eagles.  In doing research, I came across a website that had actual footage of an eagle fighting a cougar.  The cougar wins.

Sweet 16

Cowboys def. Aggies. This exact matchup came up in last year’s Mascot Bracket.  The Aggie and the Cowboy seem identical, so I’m just going with the higher seed this year.

Bears def. Cougars. This video is not at all graphic.  The bear and the cougar basically stare each other down.  The narration is great, and for some reason it ends with techno music, and the video declares the bear the winner.

Regional Champion: Oklahoma State Cowboys

The Oklahoma State Cowboys take out the Baylor Bears.

Midwest Region

First Round

These two look like cousins to me.

These two look like cousins to me.

1 Texas Southern Tigers def. Wichita State Shockers and Cal Poly Mustangs.  It is clear that the tiger would take out the mustang, so the only question is: Is Lady Elaine armed?  The actual mascot is a bundle of wheat.  Not sure it would muster much offense against a ferocious beast.  So let’s dig a little deeper, shall we?  Well, it turns out that the Wheat Shocker name came from a common summer job of many of the students.  Shocking wheat might take a sickle, but really there’s nothing here to make me think that a wheat shocker could survive a tiger attack.

8 Kentucky Wildcats def. 9 Kansas State Wildcats. Top seed wins.

billiken12 Xavier Musketeers def and 5 Saint Louis Billikens.  Were you thinking that the Billiken was some kind of supernatural entity that would be a tough out?  If so, you were wrong.  The Billiken is basically a troll doll.  It is a tchotchke.  Seriously, it is a made up good luck charm that became a fad about a 100 years ago.  Next, we have the Musketeers and the Wolf Pack.  This looks like another exception to the armed human versus a predator rule.  A wolf pack would not be fun to face, but I think that once one wolf was shot down, the rest would be pretty intimidated, and would retreat.  If it were a closed arena, where retreat was impossible, the musketeer might have some trouble, but I imagine these battles coming in natural environment.

Brother Jasper

Brother Jasper

13 Manhattan Jaspers  def. 4 Louisville Cardinals.  The Jaspers have no discernable mascot.  All I could find was an M with a star.  It turns out that the Jaspers are named after Brother Jasper, a priest at the college who introduced intercollegiate sports to the college.  He was their first athletic director and first baseball coach.  So, the Jaspers are just some old guy, but even some old priest can beat a cardinal.

2 Michigan Wolverines vs.  15 Wofford Terriers.  If these were the bull terriers, things could get interesting.  The Wofford Terrier though, is a Boston terrier.  The wolverine is one of the most terrifying wild animals out there.

10 Arizona State Sun Devils  def. 7 Texas Longhorns.  Supernatural entities are tough.  There’s really no way to gauge the toughness of a completely fictional character.  The origin of the Sun Devil doesn’t help either.  Apparently, the student body didn’t want to be called the bulldogs anymore.

3 Duke Blue Devils def. 14 Mercer Bears.  As has been long established by The Mascot Bracket, the Duke Blue Devil is not supernatural, but was the name of an elite French army unit from World War I.  This is a clear rule #5.

11 Tennessee Volunteers  def. 6 Massachusetts Minutemen and 11 Iowa Hawkeyes.  This is a very tough one.  The Minutemen and the Volunteers are a pretty even matchup.  The Minutemen were from the Revolutionary War.  The Volunteers were from the war of 1812.  Even the Hawkeyes are making this one tough.  They are actually named after a fictional character – a white man who was a companion, hunter, and scout in the book The Last of the Mohicans.  I’m going with Tennessee because of rule #7, I’m guessing that there must have been some advances in weapon technology between 1776 and 1812.  I’m no expert though, almost all I know about guns I learned on Pawn Stars.

Second Round

Tigers def. Wildcats.  A tiger is the king of the wild cats.

Musketeers def. Jaspers. Brother Jasper would, presumably, not be armed.

Blue Devils def. Volunteers.  This is basic timeline stuff.  World War I soldier defeats a War of 1812 soldier.

Sun Devils def. Wolverines.  Seriously, I don’t know what to do with a Sun Devil.  I don’t even know what it is. I suppose the trident helps against the Wolverine.

Sweet 16

Musketeers def. Tigers. Rule #5.

Blue Devil def. Sun Devils.  I really don’t have a good reason for this.  I don’t see the Sun Devil having any extraordinary power.  Do they give the Blue Devils a bad sun burn?  I guess that trident is useful, but not against World War I fire power.

Regional Champion: Duke Blue Devils

The Blue Devil is a more advanced soldier than a Musketeer.

East Region

First Round

1 Virginia Cavaliers def.  16 Coastal Carolina Chanticleers. The Chanticleer (SHON ti Clear) are not a fancy light hanging in your Grandma’s dining room.  The school website has a pretty pompous explanation that alludes to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.  It’s a rooster.  A rooster would be run down easily by a Cavalier.

colonial8 Memphis Tigers def. 9 George Washington Colonials.  So, is the Colonial armed?  It looks from this logo like the only thing ol’ George has to defend himself is a flag.  That might work for a little while, but I don’t think it’s going to be enough to fight off a tiger.

5 Cincinnati Bearcats vs. 12 Harvard Crimson. Colors lose. Always.

4 Michigan State Spartans vs. 13 Delaware Blue Hens.  Perhaps the most lopsided of all battles, the Spartan versus a hen is not a pleasant site.

wildcat vs panther15 UW Milwaukee Panthers def. 2 Villanova Wildcats.  It looks like this matchup has already been taken care of in the DC universie, but I don’t have the book, so I don’t know how it ends.  A real Panther has about 100 pounds on a wildcat, so I’m going that direction.

7 Connecticut Huskies def. 10 St. Joseph’s Hawks.  The kid in the St. Joseph’s Hawks outfit never stops flapping his arm, but apparently he only flaps one arm during the anthem out of, um, respect?  I’m not sure how to pick between a bird of prey and a dog.  A husky’s fur is pretty thick, and its jaws are pretty powerful.  I’m going with the Husky.

14 North Carolina Central Eagles def. 3 Iowa State Cyclones. Usually the Cyclone is a formidable foe, but I think the eagle soar over it, avoid it, and wait it out.

6 North Carolina Tar Heels def. 11 Providence Friars.  I don’t think it really matters what a Tar Heel is, the friar isn’t going to put up much of a fight.

Second Round

Cavaliers def. Tigers.  Human with weapon.  This could be an exception to that rule, since the sword is a non-gunpowder weapon, but I’m sticking with the Cavaliers.

Spartans def. Bearcats. Human with weapon.  No exceptions here, despite the lack of gunpowder.

Tar Heels def. Eagles.  We’ll get to whether or not the Tar Heels have a weapon a little later, but for now, I’m sticking with the Heels.

Panters def. Huskies.  I don’t like to think of dogs fighting, so I won’t have much explanation.

Sweet 16

Spartans def. Cavaliers.  Ken Burns recently made a sequel to his groundbreaking documentary, 300.  It reminded us all of how badass Spartans were.

Panthers def. Tar Heels.  This breaks with history as far as the Mascot Bracket is concerned.  I’ve uncovered an origin to the name Tar Heel that goes farther back than the Civil War.  Instead, it appears to go back farther than the Civil War, connecting instead to a laborious, and dirty process of making tar that was an important part of the area economy and development.  That is much less cool than the story about the soldiers.  There’s no inherent weapon here, so the panther has lunch.


Regional Champion: Michigan State Spartans

The Spartans take out the Panther in a clear case of Rule #5

Final Four

final fourWe’ve come to a point where we three armed men with similar firepower and training, and one ancient warrior that was the product of a an entire society aimed at war.  Throw the four of these in a Hunger Games-like arena, and I’m putting my money on the Spartan.  So, does a cowboy defeat a World War I soldier?  The Cowboy is a quintessentially American icon.  I feel like I would be accused of hating America if I pick against the Cowboy against a French soldier.  In the other semi, we have a Civil War soldier versus a Spartan.  When it comes down to it, the gun would just be too much.

Oklahoma State Cowboys def. Duke Blue Devils

Kansas Jayhawks def. Michigan State Spartans

In the championship, it’s the Cowboy versus the Union soldier.  I’m going with the training, and the cause.

National Champion: Kansas Jayhawks def. Oklahoma State Cowboys

You don’t like my picks?  That’s okay.  

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Six reasons I share Communion with kids

wine and breadCommunion is one of my favorite things about worship.  It is a ritual ripe with meaning and power.  People ask me sometimes about Communion and children.  I have been giving my daughters Communion since they could take solid food.  Some wonder if their kids are allowed to take Communion, so I offer this as my answer.  As far as I’m concerned, children are always welcome at the table, but I also respect the wishes of the parents.  If there is a new family coming forward, and they have a little one, I always say something like, “Your child is welcome to partake, if you are okay with it. If not, I’d be happy to give her a blessing.”   In that moment, it is difficult to go into all the details of why I invite that child to share in the bread and the cup.  So now I give you these reasons why any child (or any other person for that matter) will always be welcome to Communion at a table over which I preside.

  1. Communion is a means of Grace.  I believe that Communion is a powerful act.  I believe that God is present in the bread and the cup.  In that holy moment of eating and drinking, one can feel the presence of God.  This is at the foundation of my Communion theology, and everything follows from this precept.  God meets people in Communion, so why would I do anything to get in the way of that meeting?
  2. It’s not my table.  One of my favorite things to say during the course of any service is, “This is not my table.  This is not a Methodist table.  This is Christ’s table, and all are welcome.  Come, for all is ready.”  If it is Christ’s table, who am I to guess his guest list?  If Christ wants to meet someone at his table, that’s his call, not mine.  Jesus told a story about inviting guests to a banquet, and one of the most important lessons of that story is that we don’t make the guest list.
  3. There’s no kiddie table.  I’ve always thought of Communion as the family meal, and there’s no kiddie table.  If we consider kids to be a part of the family of God, why would we exclude them from the family meal?  Even at family gatherings where there is a special table for the kids, we always bring food to them too.
  4. No one fully understands what’s going on at this table.  People say to me, “We don’t bring our kids until they know what’s going on.”   My first reaction is to ask that person to explain to me their theology of atonement to make sure that they understand.  No it’s not.  That would be stupid.  We don’t have to pass some comprehension test to be invited to Christ’s table.  My actual first reaction is, “I’m not sure I fully understand what’s going on.”  Yes, I can write about the incarnation.  I can tell you what a Sacrament with a capital S is.  I can tell you about forgiveness, the body of Christ, and sacrifice, but I don’t think I can tell you with any real certainty what happens in Communion.  I believe God is present in the bread and the cup, but there is an element of mystery in the act that is unknowable.  That doesn’t mean we let kids think it’s snack time.  We teach them as we go.  Kids understand the difference between play time and serious time.  They know when something is important, if we tell them that it is.  When I hand a child a piece of bread and a cup of grape juice, I don’t say “this is the body and blood of Christ.”  I tell them, “Jesus wants you to have this so you remember how much God loves you.”  That’s all they need to know.  Sometimes that’s all any of us need to know.
  5. Children might not understand what’s going on, but they have a sharp understanding of what it means to be left out.  That is a feeling I want no child to feel in any church I am called pastor.
  6. Children are a vital part of the Body of Christ right now, as they are, not for what they might become.  I’ve heard many people say that “Children are the future of the church.”  I understand the sentiment, but I vehemently disagree.  Children are the right now of the church.  They are the church just as much as anyone else.  If we only value children for what they might become, or who they might bring with them (get the kids, and the parents follow), then we are not valuing children.  I want to be a pastor of a church that values real kids, not just the idea of kids.  I want a church that loves kids who are loud at the wrong time, who don’t sit still, who make messes when they eat, and ask rude questions sometimes.  Does this mean we don’t provide guidance, or boundaries, or expect good behavior?  Of course not.  It means that we love them as they are, and try to model for them behavior that is life-giving.  We don’t chastise or shame them.  We embrace them for all of their kid-ness.  Children are a vital part of the body of Christ, and I do not believe in treating them as anything less.

So there you have it.  These are six of the reasons why I share Communion with kids in worship.  I always leave the final decision up to the parent, but hopefully all the parents at my church know that when they come, all are welcome.

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