Monthly Archives: October 2009


I just tried to make hummus for the first time.  I love to snack, and I love to dip.  Unfortunately, my favorite salty dipping snack is a bag of Ruffles and some Dean’s French Onion Dip.  This is a small part of why this blog is called what it is.  So I tried some hummus recently with pita chips, and I liked it.  So, instead of laying down $4 for a small thing of hummus, I spent a fraction of that and made a big bowl of the stuff.  It is really good.  It took about 10 minutes.

1 16 oz. can of chick peas.

1/2 red pepper

1/2 yellow pepper

2 cloves of garlic

2 Tb. olive oil

1 tsp. Cumin

red pepper flakes (optional)

Chop the peppers up in pieces and cook in olive oil over medium-low heat.  You do not want to brown them, just soften them.  The smaller you chop, the quicker this will take.  Season with salt and pepper while cooking.

Add sauted peppers and drained chick peas to food processor and start blending.  Allow it to run for a good two or three minutes.  While it is blending add the cummin and red pepper flakes.  Adding some lemon juice would probably be good, but I didn’t have any, and it turned out fine.  Add some more olive oil as it is blending until you have the texture you want.

Dip with pita chips or bagel chips or soft pita.  It is good warm or cold.

Save the other halves of the peppers for some salsa.  Add them to some chopped tomatoes, onions, garlic, lime juice, jalepeno and cilantro.


Filed under Fitness

Why not Church?

I want to hear from people that do not profess to be Christians.  I want to hear from people that claim the name of Christ, but do not participate in any church.  I want to hear from those that are interested in “spirituality,” but not in “religion.”

I want to start a conversation.  I am interested in reaching out to people that are non-religious, and this is one small step in that direction.  I am hoping to fill the comments section of this post with thoughtful answers.  I know that there are people that do not believe. I know that there are people that have been harmed by the Church, that have been harmed by bad pastors, that have been harmed by people that claim to be Christian.  I want to hear from them.

So please, tell me what you think of Religion.  Tell me what you think of Christianity.  Tell me what you think of the Church.

If I get answers posted on my facebook profile, I am going to copy and paste them here. I am going to resist responding directly to any comments.  Please be respectful.  Please also be honest.


Filed under Christianity

Phillies Phanatic

Last year at about this time I wrote about Why I love the Phillies.  They were playing in game four of the World Series.  A few days later I was wiping the tears from my eyes with my daughter in my arms as I heard Harry Kalas make the call, “The Philadelphia Phillies are the World Champions of baseball!”

Today I am watching the Phillies.  Amazingly, they are back in the World Series. They have a chance at going down in history as one of the greatest teams ever.  It feels strange.  I spent the first 32 years of my life in perpetual disappointment with the Phillies.  Until last year my most vivid memory watching the Phillies was watching Joe Carter round the bases after ripping my heart out.  That all changed last year. Until last year I was a fan of a team that was best known for the record 10,000 losses.  Until last year I could never be accused of being a fair-weather fan. 

This year I am the fan with the confidence of being the defending World Series champions.  Last year I agonized over every pitch. I raged at every close call that went to the Rays, and held my breath everytime the Phillies had someone in scoring position.  Last year I was the fan of a team no one wanted to win because everyone was so enamored of the Cinderella Rays.  This year I am the fan of the team that everyone is pulling for because everyone hates the Yankees.

A lot can change in a year.  I’m hoping one thing doesn’t.


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Filed under Sports

Retired pastor

I used to joke that there is no such thing as a retired Pastor.  There is always a small church somewhere in need of a preacher, or a pastor that is going on vacation, or Bible study to teach, or a wedding to officiate.  I used to think that there is no such thing as a retired pastor.  I thought that, until I met one.

Every month I lead chapel at an independent living facility.  A few months ago I met a retired UM pastor.  He is in his late eighties.  After chapel this week I went to his room to talk. 

His wife lives in the community also, but she requires a higher level of care because of dimensia.  The two have been married 60 years, and they live under the same roof.  Yet he has his own sparsely decorated room and she has a seperate room that she shares with a stranger.

They have two kids, neither of whom live within 150 miles.  He was a United Methodist pastor in Illinois for many decades.  He served churches all over the state, from the Indiana border to the Mississippi River.  He told me about a book in which he has kept records.  In it are the names of those that he has baptized, buried, and married.  He also has some simple notes on every sermon he has preached. 

I have an identical book.  Mine has about five pages partially filled in.  His is full of names.  The names in the book represent people that he has lead to Christ.  There are names of babies that are surely middle-aged by now.  There are couples that have stayed together to celebrate silver anniversaries.  It would be almost impossible to determine how many lives he has transformed over the years.

He has friends all over the state.  People call from time to time.  One couple sent him a portable DVD player.  His son bought him a pretty nice flatscreen TV.  The walls in his room are bare save for an undecorated brass cross.  On the table next to his chair is an old worn out Bible and an Upper Room.

As we sat and talked he told me about some of the churches he has served.  I mostly listened as the words came pouring out.  I looked him in the eye and heard a small part of his story.  A couple of times I could see sadness in his eyes, especially when he talked about his wife or about family that lived so far away.  A couple of times I could see joy spread across his face as he talked of his grandchildren, or about some of his old churches.

Eventually, I had to leave.  He was gracious when I stood.  He had told me that he didn’t know how to connect his portable DVD player to the TV.  I could tell it would only take a cable and a minute to do.  I promised him I would come back and set it up for him.  I left him my address and phone number.  As I was leaving he asked for a hug.

“I really miss that.  It’s hard to hug my wife.  Sometimes I try, but…” he stopped.  I gave him a hug.  A real hug, and said goodbye.

On my way home I cried. 

Here is a man that has given his life to the church.  He had a book full of names of people that he has impacted.  He has friends all over the state.  Yet here he is, alone.  Here he is, in desperate need of a friend.  Dying for a hug.

I’m glad I could give it to him.  I’m glad I can be his friend.  I plan on going back.  I need to go back.  Maybe as much for me as for him.  When I look at him I see my possible future.  I see the loneliness of children scattered across the country, and the confusion of a gift I do not know how to use.  I see a book full of names, and the fear of having friends scattered all around the state, but no place to call home. 

So I will be his friend.  I will be his friend because he needs me, and I will be his friend because I need him.


Filed under Personal Reflection

And it was still hot

That's me up there.

That’s me up there.

When I was a boy, I discovered a wonderful book.  It was a part of my school library, and I would check it out every chance I had.  It was the story of a boy who was sent to bed without his supper for misbehaving.  While in his room a “forest grew, and grew, and grew until his ceiling hung with vines and his walls became the world all around.”

I was Max.

I was the little boy that got into trouble.  Not so much for being a wild thing, but for other reasons.  I was the little boy that had a big imagination – one full of friends and heroes and enemies and a few wild things.  I was the boy, who after going on an adventure, even when he knew his mother might be angry with him, could depend on the fact that when he came home, his supper would be waiting for him.

“Where the Wild Things Are” is more than a book to me.  It is a story that captured me twenty five years ago and continues to hold me tight.  It is a story I now tell my daughter – word for word, without the book.  It is a story of adventure, imagination, friendship, love, loss, and grace.

“Where the Wild Things” opens in movie theaters tonight.  I have seen all the trailers.  Even with a resounding endorsement from Maurice Sendak, I am reluctant to see it.  I am reluctant because its not his story anymore.  And its not Spike Jonze’s story either.  Its mine.

“Where the Wild Things Are” is MY story.  It is MY adventure.  I was there when they roared their terrible roars and gnashed their terrible teeth and rolled their terrible eyes and showed their terrible claws.  I was on that ship – dozens of times.  It is MY wild rumpus, complete with the beating drums in the background that I still make when I read the story.  I was the king of the Wild Things.

I am Max.

And it was MY mother who had dinner waiting for me when I returned.

I will probably go see the movie, but to be honest I’m not sure if I want to.  I’m not exactly sure what I’m afraid of.  I know that the story will always be mine.  When I was a kid it was important to know that no matter how wild I was, no matter how far I strayed, no matter how long I was gone, my supper would always be waiting for me.

As an adult I have a deeper understanding of grace.  Max and his mother helped teach me that.  So now maybe its okay to let go of my story – a little.  The story of grace is one that needs to be told over and over to as many people as possible.

Someday soon my daughter will come home from the library (her favorite place in the world) carrying the story of Max and his wild friends.  She will read it and I pray that she will know that no matter how wild she is, no matter how far she strays, no matter how long she is gone, her supper will always be waiting for her.

And it will still be hot.

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Filed under Christianity, Media

Personal Revival

I spent last week taking batting practice with Mike Schmidt and George Brett.  One taught about power, the other about hitting for average.  I listened as they taught me about so much more than the mechanics of a great swing.   After hearing them teach I was compelled to be better, to strive for excellence.  They convicted me in my failures – my feeble attempts to do it all by myself.  They called upon their coaches, teachers, and teammates that helped them be great.

They helped me realize that the moment the ball leaves the pitchers hand is preceded by hours spent at the tee, in the cage, in the weight room, studying from others, watching tape, and breaking down opponents.  The moment of the swing carries with it hours of preparation.  They reminded me of the old adage that “a failure to plan is a plan to fail.”

Actually, I didn’t go to a baseball fantasy camp.  I spent two days with Adam Hamilton and Mike Slaughter.

These two men have achieved great things.  I could go into details, but let me sum it up by saying that they are the embodiment of the greatest hope I see for the United Methodist Church.  They represent the extreme center at its greatest, most fruitful, and most faithful.  I know neither of them personally, and I am careful to not idol-ize them in a sinful way, but they are models to emulate, respect, and learn from.

I went to the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection’s Leadership Institute, and it renewed me.  The time spent in learning, worship,  and personal reflection gave me a new passion for who I am as a pastor.  They challenged me and encouraged me to be a better Christian, pastor, father, and husband (not necessarily in that order).

While there I made a list of things I wanted to do, changes I wanted to make.  It became a pretty long list.  There is much work to be done.  So I ask you now to stop reading and please, say a prayer for me.  It is easy to be fired up on Monday morning.

It will be more difficult later in the week when my old habits start to creep back up on me.   It will be more difficult when my cold lingers a little longer than I was hoping.  It will be more difficult when I feel too tired to cook and a quick trip to MacDonald’s would solve everything.  It will be more difficult when I sit down to do some hard work on my sermon and facebook is just waiting for me to “check” for a few hours.  It will be more difficult when I am tired in the morning and the gym feels so far away.  It will be more difficult if I keep trying to do this alone.

I need your prayers.


Filed under Personal Reflection

Pastor Appreciation

clergy appreciationI found out on Sunday that October is Pastor Appreciation Month, so I thought I would tell you all how much to appreciate me.  Just kidding of course.

Actually, I want to write about some of the pastors in my life that I appreciate.  Doing what I do, I have come to know a few pastors. So here is a list of pastors that have shaped me in some way over the years.

Steve Arters and Heather Hasto. Steve was my first youth pastor and was a major factor in introducing me to Jesus Christ. While I wonder if we may now be on different sides of some theological issues, I know that we still share more in common than our love of the Phillies.  He shaped me in an important way, and he loved me for me. He will forever keep me grounded in the importance of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Heather was an associate pastor of the church I grew up in, and the first woman I recall being a preacher. I was completely oblivious at the time that anyone would have a problem with a woman as a pastor, and am still largely baffled by the obstacles that women clergy face. She was someone that just made people feel loved.

Keith Zimmerman. My current district superintendent. In many ways, he is my pastor. He has helped me through some difficult times, and has been a strong leader. He’s the best DS I’ve ever known, but I’ve only known two, and the other was pretty great too.

Josh Williams, Will Deuel, Nicole Cox, Jeremiah Thompson, Eric Swanson, Jay Reginetter, Megan Thompson, and Grant Armstrong. This is a group of new pastors that I have gotten to know through the Residence in Ministry and other conference relationships. RIM had very little practical value, except for the relationships that have formed with other clergy in the conference. Every time I get depressed after watching the Daily Show or see a best seller list with Bill O’Reilly or Glen Beck on the top, I think of these people, and I have hope. They are smart, energetic, young, and talented. Our conference, and more importantly the Kingdom of God, is better for having these people as pastors.

Phil Icenogle and Jason Woolever. These two pastors were my mentors during the candidacy process. Jason was a great person to sit down and share some ideas. Sometimes we would even get to the Wesley sermon we had read for our meeting. Phil is retired now, but helped me tremendously when I was overwhelmed with conference paper work.

Dave Estep, Charlie MacDonald, Shelly Forrest, Jon Hauck, Ron Marsh, Ken Sloan-Couch. A group that meets for breakfast every Tuesday morning. They have supported and encouraged me since my earliest days as a pastor. It is great to be able to get together with a group of pastors that are free of pretension and BS, and just care for one another.

Brady Abel, Sue Artt, Rick Oberle and Stacy Tate. This group started as few first-year seminarians that were terrified of oral exams, so we gathered in the library every week to study. We helped each articulate our faith. We challenged each other. We encouraged each other. After we all passed our orals, we kept meeting at a local restaurant. When we graduated we knew that the group had become an essential part of our life. So now we gather at least once a year and we help each other articulate our faith. We challenge each other. We encourage each other. We love each other.

Deana White, Eric Fistler, Diane Windler, Jack Michael, Josh Longbottom, Craig Jan-McMahon, Clint McCann, Michael Kinnamon, Peggy Way, Christopher Grundy, Deb Krause, John Bracke, Karen Tye, Jesse Williams, Nelson Pierce, Joe and Jessica Rowley, Sharon Kichline, Pam Ekey, Dee Pennington. I was reluctant to start this list because it could keep going and going, and there is no way I could include them all. These were the people that shaped my seminary experience. They are professors and students that changed my life and shaped my faith.  Eric became my best friend.  Deanna became my co-coach and friend.  I couldn’t possibly list them all, or the reasons I included them on this list.

Dr. Williams baffled me when he said, “seminary is not about finding the answers.  It is about learning to ask the right questions.”   Dr. Kinnamon reminded me that “every theological statement you make, you need to be able to make to a burning child in Auschwitz, or a dying AIDS orhpan in Africa, or a mourning mother after a drunk driver killed her child.”  Dr. McCann reminded me that, “If I have to make a choice between God’s grace and God’s wrath, I’m going to err on the side of grace.”

Michael Smith, Dan Powers, Jeff Long, Duane Larson. Michael Smith was the pastor at the first church I ever attended without my parents. He helped me through the earliest stages of my call to ministry. Dan was the pastor that helped hire me as a youth director. Although I had no experience or qualifications other than a willing heart, he nurtured me and let me grow. He allowed me to preach and teach and guided me to seminary. Jeff and Duane were the pastors of the church I served in seminary. Jeff is a leader full of charisma and a preacher not afraid to take some chances. He cast a vision for that church that is still developing. Duane took the vision that Jeff had helped create and his turned it into a reality. He is a khakis and flannel kind of guy that allows others to shine. I learned so much from them about leadership, preaching, and the pastoral office. Both were confident enough in their own position to allow me to grow.

Christian Ricker, Ed Hudelson, Dan Patterson, Steve Estes and Jerry Koch. These are the other pastors in Chenoa. We have a great working relationship. When we gather at a table we represent a wide spectrum of theological and political diversity, yet we can work together for the best interest of Chenoa. I think it helps that we honestly like each other.

Mark Harris and Mollie Ward. Mark went through CPE with me and Mollie was our director. While the other three gentlemen in our group helped me a lot, it is with Mollie and Mark whom I have continued to be in relationship. Mark inspired me as a United Methodist and as a dynamic personality. He and I are very different, and I learned so much from him. Mollie was a quiet, intelligent, pushing and yet encouraging voice through a difficult and rewarding experience. She held a group of five men together and allowed herself to be vulnerable with us. She helped me push myself to be a better pastor, father, brother, son and husband.

When I look back at this list, and what has turned into one of the longest blogs I have ever written, I feel so blessed. I have been shaped, nurtured, loved, pushed, and cared for by so many that are called Pastor. This list continues to grow. If I bought a gift card to Target for all of these people that have been there for me, I would be broke, but I also know that is not why they were there.

If you have read this list and have gotten to this point, I hope you take a few more minutes and reflect on pastors in your life. I know that bad pastors can inflict terrible harm, and I have experienced the damage they can do. If you have been harmed by pastors, try to find a place for forgiveness, because we are, after all, sinful humans.

If you have a pastor that has shaped your life, that has loved you unconditionally, that has challenged you to be a better person, that has introduced you to the love and grace of Jesus Christ, take another moment and thank them. Give them a call, write them a note, send them an email, or post something on their facebook wall.

I’m not going to lie, if I get a gift card to Chili’s in the mail, I am going to like it. But if I get a note from someone that says, “you changed my life,” I will cherish that forever.

To all the pastors that have been there for me, I say thank you. You have changed my life.

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Filed under Personal Reflection

One Year as the Fat Pastor

I started this blog last year as a way to try share my thoughts about God and other issues with others, and to chronicle my struggle to become more healthy.  For awhile I was doing well on the health side of things.  Obstacles and excuses have popped up time and again, and as I sit here typing I am in worse shape than I was last year.  So on that front, this blog has been a total bust.

Yet I have hope that I can still turn things around.  The poll I took a couple of weeks ago came out 100% in favor of me trying out for the Twin City Dawgs, an amateur football team that plays in Chenoa.  The try-outs are January 24, which gives me three and a half months to turn things around.

The other reason I started this blog was to reach more people.  So I thought I’d share some stats about that front.  This is my 97th post.  In the last year I have had a little over 7,500 visits.  September was my most visited month with 1,148 visits.  I’ve had two different months with over 1,000 visits.  My busiest day saw 160 visitors.

In May I discovered Networked Blogs on facebook.  I have now invited all of my facebook friends (only once apiece).  On Network Blogs have have 75 followers, several of whom are people I do not know.  Since May my traffic has gone up, and right now I average about 30 visits a day (about 200 visits a week).  On days I don’t post I still get 10-20 visitors.  On days I publish a story on facebook I get 30-40.  Every once in awhile something I write touches a nerve and I spike to close to 100.

My top four posts this year were:

Sorry Albert, I don’t believe you — 430 visits (this one gets the most outside traffic from those searching “Albert Pujols sterioids” on engines)

The Mouse is a pimp — 323 visits  (I’m not sure how many people actually read this one, everyday I get traffic from people that searched some variation of “Miley’s breast” that get to this site.  I think they’re probably pretty disappointed by what they find.)

The Great Disconnect — 241 visits (this one had brought 160 visits in one day.  The traffic was driven largely by friends sharing this with their friends.  I got some very kind words from people I respect about this post)

Jill and Kevin’s wedding entrance — 168 visits (I still get some occasional traffic from search engines, and if you google “dancing wedding entrance pastor,” my post is the first result.)

In addition, I am now linked on two fairly popular Methodist blog sites – Methoblog and the Wesley Report.  Every now and then I am featured on Wesley Report.  I’m still hoping to get featured on Methoblog.

I have had a lot of fun doing this.  It has fed something inside of me.  I really enjoy using the blog as a way to share my feelings, insights, frustrations and celebrations.  The comments I get from people have been extremely rewarding, but the thing that has touched me the most have been times when I have seen friends tell their friends to check out my blog.

Thank you to all who have read this blog.  Thank you for your comments.  Thank you for your encouragement.

So now I’m going to make a shameless appeal.  I am excited about the 7500 visitors this past year, but  I would love to have more next year.  So if you like this blog, share it with friends:  If you are on networked blogs on facebook, then click “like” on posts you like.  Usually the top “likes” of the day have about 10 clicks, which puts a post onto a page with a lot more traffic. Rate my blog using the stars.  Invite your friends to follow.  If you don’t have Networked Blogs on facebook, then email links to posts you like.   If you have a blog, put me on your blogroll.  Any way that you can spread the word, I’d appreciate it.

Here’s to another year as the Fat Pastor.  I pray that it will be my last.  Thanks for coming with me on this journey of, “One pastor struggling to live well and do good.”


Filed under Blogging