Friday, September 24, 2004

Really Good Poetry

I have been a fan of W.H. Auden for a long time. His poetry, ballads, and other verse seems to speak to me in a variety of ways. Perhaps it is because Auden was a man of faith who looked for God in and around his life. Perhaps it is because Auden was also a gay man. Perhaps it is because of his struggle to reconcile his faith and sexuality- and to do it honestly, or as honest as he could have given the era he lived in.

I have added his book, As I Walked Out One Evening, to my list of recommended books. I am thinking, regardless of your sexual orientation or spiritual pursuit, reading Auden will still be a delight. He takes great care in his poetry to ensure that words and sounds, gutterals and vowels, have a way of weaving themselves into the stanzas in an interesting and sometimes, in a quirky way. If you decide to buy this book, be sure to spend some time reading aloud his poetry- you'll hear what I mean.

Eh, so so isn't so bad

My sermon last Sunday went pretty well. It wasn't a great super-duper sermon but most of the folks enjoyed it; it gave them something to think about. I preached on Luke 16 where Jesus encourages us to be shrewd Christians.

I used a particular evangelical book about the management of personal finances using the impetus of being shrewd Christians. The author, a former leader in Young Life, who now runs his own consulting firm, talked about the inner spiritual discipline of financial management and later, gave some fun and practical insights. The book is called, The Shrewd Christian: You Can't Have It All but You Can Have More than Enough, and it is written by Neil Atkinson. I would most definately recommend the book.

You can read my sermon about it by going to my church's website at Nativate to the Sermons section where you'll find the particular sermon titled, "The Shrewd will Inherit Their Reward."

Mirror, mirror, on the wall...

Okay, so last Sunday was my birthday. I am now 39 years old. I told a friend I was 39 and he remarked, "Is this the first time or the second time?" I sort of expected that comment- it makes me wonder if anyone actually believes I am 39.

Despite being almost 40- I feel pretty good. I have my health and I still look decent enough. Today, after a denominational meeting in Brooklyn, a few ministerial friends and I went to a pizzaria down near the Fulton piers. Excusing myself after our meal, I went to the bathroom. (Now, don't get all grossed out, this isn't one of those kinds of stories).

In the bathroom, I was confronted with mirrors on all the walls. And, since their were more walls than just the normal four, it was cool being able to see all sides of me, front, side, back, angled, and the like. Being the good homosexual that I am, I stood there looking at myself- and how I might look to others. I noticed that the gray on the back of my head is definately noticeable. I noticed that I need a haircut. And, I noticed, that hey, I don't look that bad. Tucking in my shirt, I started posing and looking all goofy (being alone in front of mirrors can be cool, as long as no one sees you).

When I left the bathroom, I returned to my table and told my friends about the many mirrors in the bathroom. One friend said, "Well, I gotta go see how good I look from behind!" She is so funny (although I didn't admit to her that I too, found that to be a very curious thing).

Turning 39 really isn't such a bad thing, I've concluded. As long as I don't get all flabby and old looking, then 39 is just like being 38. However, being 38 is nothing like being 35- and so, I now will be turning my attention to turning 40, my next big hurdle. I am sure 40 will look just like 39- as long as I keep going to the gym and don't eat at the pizzarias as often. ;)

Friday, September 17, 2004

Being Shrewd

This coming Sunday's lectionary reading is based on Luke 16:1-15. It is a very interesting story where Jesus tells about a shrewd manager of his boss' estate. In the story, Jesus explains how the shrewd manager defrauded his boss; when the boss finds out, he calls for an audit and fires the manager. Right before the manager leaves, he calls in some of the clients he was managing in order to trade favors with them. He tells the clients that he'll reduce what they owe his boss if they'll take care of him later (probably by providing networking contacts and the like).

Jesus, whom you'd think would chastise the shrewd manager, instead offers him as an example to the godly. Jesus said, "I tell you, use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. In this way, your generosity stores up a reward for you in heaven." (NLT).

As I am trying to piece together a sermon for Sunday, my eyes are drawn to the Pharisees who respond to Jesus in v.15 by scoffing at him. Jesus, as I am thinking, may have included these Pharisees when he was telling his story. For after the story is complete and the Pharisees begin ridiculing him; then Jesus turns to them and says that God knows their evil hearts because what they honor is an abomination to God. It makes me think that perhaps, in this story, Jesus was patronizing the Pharisees by praising the shrewd man at one point, and then, chastizing him at another. This trick, if it indeed was a trick, must have threw the Pharisees off at first and this angered them.

I looked up the greek word for ridicule and learned it was the word, ekmukterizo, which means to show contempt. In my mind, ridicule has a playground mentality where kids tease other kids. But to show contempt is worse because it has anger in it. This makes me think that the Pharisees were ticked off that Jesus was patronizing them. Why is this important?

I wonder if Jesus is saying that the godly folks need to be less "nice" and more intentional when they go about living in the world. Being more intentional means we realize our responsibilities to our families and ourselves. It also means that we react and live accordingly--not allowing others to walk over us. We are to wisely manage our affairs and know we are responsible for them rather than throwing our coins in the air and saying, "God you can manage my money, I will simply sit back and let you do it."

Jesus has reminded us elsewhere to be shrewd as serpents and yet, innocent as doves (Matt 10:16, NAS); the NLT translation renders this passage, "Be as wary as snakes and harmless as doves." In either way, shrewdness is called for, just in a way that is honorable to God. Whether we are innocent or harmless, we are to be compassionate, kind, and honest in our dealings.

I am still twirling the idea of being effectively shrewd. I am not nearly as shrewd as I am frugal- and there is a huge difference, I know. However, I do think frugal is in the family of the shrewd. My boyfriend buys $300 jeans and $80 t-shirts from Diesel (he's got a whole lot more moolah than I). I buy a package of 6 t-shirts for $14.99 from K-Mart. He buys enough t-shirts that the stores often give him huge discounts; K-Mart doesn't treat me like that. He can barter with a travel agency and save hundreds of dollars on his trips (he travels alot); I buy my airline tickets through; sometimes I save but I don't get any frills. My boyfriend is shrewd; and I am trying to be, only when I try such tactics, I am only being frugal.

What does it mean to be shrewd as a serpent? I looked up on the internet about being shrewd and found this book, The Shrewd Christian, by Neil Atkinson. I am curious about it and will hop over to Barnes and Nobles to see if they have it. Perhaps it'll be helpful while compiling and organizing the sermon. Or, perhaps I just need more snakes in my wallet. I dunno.

Monday, September 13, 2004

This is Roy-
Posted by Hello

I took this pic last winter on Christopher Street. It was during one of many snowstorms we experienced here.
Posted by Hello

During the anniversary of 9/11, these lights came on lighting up the sky in remembrance.
Posted by Hello

Apple Cake Recipe

This recipe comes from Vicki Standridge of Lucile, Oklahoma and compiled by the Friendly Mound Extension Homemakers Club (organized in 1929,) in the rural area south of Tuttle, Oklahoma.

2 cups of sugar
2 cups of flour (remember to sift it)
3 eggs
1 cup of oil
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract (I always double the vanilla ingredient)
1 cut of nuts (optional, I don't use nuts because Roy doesn't like them)
4 chopped, peeled raw apples

I used my food processor to mince the apples, it was a lot quicker and a whole lot easier than cutting them up with a knife. Besides, I just received some new knives. I was afraid, with all of the chopping required that I'd end up chopping off a finger (or two).

Anyways, mix all the ingredients and bake in a greased and floured 9x13 pan for 35 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove from oven and let cool slightly. While waiting, make your frosting.

1- 8 oz package of cream cheese
4 tablespoons of butter
2 cups of powdered (confectioners) sugar
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

Soften cream and butter (30 seconds in the microwave). Mix all ingredients together and spread on warm cake.

This cake tastes so good, especially after I added an extra tablespoon of butter and 2 more ounces of cream cheese to the ingredients in the frosting. I have had a piece of it already and it is sooooooooooooooooooo good. I am giving the cake to Roy's parents tomorrow, so we'll see how it passes the Ecuadorian taste tests.

Cookies in a Cookie Jar

You should've seen me today. I was one happy camper. Remember my troubles with the bathroom ceiling and the cascading water fall that occurred at improper times while I was pondering on the porcelin? Well, the Super came over today and not only fixed the water leak but also fixed the ceiling that became damaged with the water. And, since I took the day off from work, I was home without having to schedule the time to be home, which made everything even more cool.

So, while the Super and his fix-it guys were fixing the bathroom, I decided to bake a cake. I made an incredible Apple Cake with a cream cheese frosting. (The recipe is up top.) MMmmm!! I do love to bake. While I was baking, I noticed something kind of odd. Normally while I bake, I have a dip of tobacco in (to prevent me from eating and tasting too much). However, this day I didn't have it in. As I was cooking, I began to grab a cookie from the cookie jar every once in awhile.

As the afternoon drew on, I noticed I was only taking out one or two cookies at a time while I told myself, I'll just have one or two and nothing more. The trouble is, I did that about 9 times. On my last trip, with 5 cookies left in the jar, I said to myself, "Who are you kidding, you sugar binging fat cookie eater you, just take them all, you're going to eat them eventually anyway." So, I actually listened to myself and poured a glass of cold milk and sat down and ate the rest of the cookies.

As I sit here and ponder the moral relevance to my cookie-induced indulgence, I am trying to shake off the accompanying guilt that so often follows such radical and unplanned lapses in judgment, hence my morally laced blog entry. How could I be so susceptible to those dang cookies? Me, the guy who weighs himself in the morning AND the evening to keep up the motivation to stay below my 230 weight maximum. Me, the guy who'll pass on his favorite ice creams and second portions of his favorite meatloaf concoctions. Me, the guy who has realized he's dropped 5 pant sizes due to his diligence.

I have discovered that one of the best ways for me to avoid temptation is to simply not have what is tempting around me. Normally I don't have those little nick-nacks around my apartment. The cakes and treats I bake, I usually give away within a day or two. So, why did I have the cookies in my apartment to begin with? They were on sale at the .99 cent store. And, they are amazingly good. I told myself, "I'll just eat a couple every now and then.. I can resist the temptation to scarf down the whole container."

The problem with me and temptation is that I forget very easily. I forget all about the trials and temptations that lead me to binging on my favorite snack of choice. I forget about the guilt. I forget about the weight gain.

On the positive side of the experience, I work out every day. If I gain a pound today, I can work it off tomorrow. And I do. So maybe eating an entire package of vanilla and chocolate cookies with creme filling isn't a bad thing (if I can just limit these binges to every once in awhile). See.. can you hear me rationalizing already>??! Dannnng, even when I am trying to moralize and provide a good example to resisting temptation, I am already rationalizing my way out of it.

I guess I should study this matter more. If I pick up another package of cookies and place them into my cookie jar, perhaps I'll be able to better analyze (& moralize) my cookie binging better. I'll let you know how it goes. I am off to the .99 cent store before it closes.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

My First Funeral Service

Last Friday I performed my first in-church funeral service. I had done a couple of graveside services when I was much younger; but this was my first funeral service performed as a memorial/thanksgiving thing.

I did not know the guy who died; he was a friend of several of the parishoners of the church. Receiving the call last week, I met with the surviving girlfriend (not legally married but together for years and years), the sister of the deceased, and a friend who was a member of the church. Referring to the UCC's Book of Worship, we planned the service together. Prior to our meeting, I had met with a retired Lutheran minister to get some ideas on what to ask the family and how to plan the service. Oh, and I didn't tell the deceased family that this was my first service. I remained calm throughout the planning.

The service, which happened last Thursday, was great. It wasn't too long, the order of service went smooth, and everyone who spoke about the deceased, all pretty much said how great a guy he was. The Eulogy (that I combined with the sermon, at the suggestion of the Lutheran minister) was warmly received too.

Following the service, several of the visitors remarked how the funeral was, bar none, the best funeral they've ever attended. The girlfriend of the deceased loved it too. It sure made me feel good to honor the memory of the deceased in such a way as to allow everyone else to do the same, and to feel comfortable with it all.

Thinking back over this past weekend, I was wondering how odd it is that this is my first funeral. And, I was thinking about how whenever I do something new that I've never done before, God always has this way of making sure I do whatever it is I need to do, very well. I am so convinced that God is not only with me in ministry, but is actively working alongside of me- in situations like this funeral, it becomes so evident afterwards.

God is just soooooooooooooo wonderful and amazing.

I am losing my mind, yet again..

So I brought my gym locker lock home with me, I've had it at the office since I cancelled my gym membership across the street from the church. However, I had forgotton to bring home the lock combination, so I have been unable to use my lock at my new gym (near my apartment).

Figuring I had twirled the lock dial enough times, I had been trying to "remember" my combination for about a week now. For some reason, I just couldn't remember the combination. I must've tried about 50 times with no avail. Fortunately, I had written the combination of my lock on a post-it note at work and filed it away (for just such a time as this). Last Friday at work, I emailed the combination to myself (for when I would access the email from home).

This morning, I opened that email and after a few spins, whallah! I opened my lock. Figuring I had better write down the lock combination, I grabbed a notecard (I keep a stack next to my computer), I wrote down the lock combination and set in next to my computer. Trying again to make sure I would remember 'to remember' the combination, I opened my lock. Setting my lock down, I noticed some tape sticking up from behind it. Turning the lock over, I discovered I had written and taped the lock combination to the back of the lock; I had done this last week when I brought my lock home with me.

You'd think I'd've remembered to turn the lock over and see the combination without the week long angst of trying to remember my combination. But alas, I did not. Now, if I can just remember to take off the taped combination from the back of the lock before I use the darn thing at the gym.


Wednesday, September 08, 2004

It's raining harder than a...

..cow peeing on a flat rock. New York City is flooding. From reports on the radio, there are parts of the FDR expressway that are 4ft underwater. The NYC police department has deployed BOATS! to rescue stranded commuters stuck in places throughout the city. It's nuts. I don't think I've ever seen it rain this hard for this long since I've been here (9 years).

The subways aren't running either, the subway tunnels are flooded.


But then.. I get to stay home!! Yayyy!

Monday, September 06, 2004

The Jane Pauley Show

I caught the new Jane Pauley show today after Ellen's show. It was pretty cool and was really about a topic that I often ponder over myself. The show was about cleaning your house (or apartment) and the psychology behind being overtly neat or a complete slob.

The show also gave some interesting insights on how to get our tough stains and fix old scratches. One of the recommendations for getting stickers off your wall was to put Reynold's wrap over the sticker and then apply a hot iron on top of the Reynold's wrap. Heating the sticker, you're able to peel off the sticker as it becomes sort of gooey like.

Another idea in tackling scratches to your hardwood floor was to break a pecan or walnut (depending on the color of your floor) and rub the scratch with the nut. These nuts contain both coloring and natural oils that blend into the scratches. Simply wipe off the excess and the scratches are masked. I thought that was really cool. You can find more with the lady who taught everyone all these nifty ideas by going to Hints from Heloise.

Being inspired after the show, I went into my bathroom and began to tackle the mildew that has grown on my shower curtain. Fortunately, it wasn't too bad and I was able to eradicate it all. Now I feel all better.

Friday, September 03, 2004

An Evangelical Liberalism

Come October, I will have been ordained for 3 years (seems like only yesterday when it happened actually). At my three year mark, I am now qualified to pursue my doctoral studies in ministry. This is something I have been giving much thought to and am presently investigating different seminaries as I hope to make my decision by the end of the year.

Doing my doctorate also requires me to think about an area of study I want to concentrate on. For several months I've been thinking about pursuing an evangelical liberalism. While those two words may sound like an oxymoron, that only depends on how a person might define the two. I believe they are not mutually exclusive and am working out how those two words might help motivate and drive the United Church of Christ, the denomination in which I am called to serve in.

So- after much more thought, I have been beginning my pilgrimage into developing an evangelical liberalism that I feel comfortable with and one that speaks to my faith. In seminary, I developed a working model for a new gay theology that spoke to my faith journey- this time, my development won't be all that new, only it'll speak to how and why a liberal Christian can and should go about sharing their faith.

In my coming sermon this Sunday morning, I am preaching from the lectionary text found in Luke 14:25 where Jesus says those mighty tough words, "Unless a person hates his mom and dad, he cannot follow me." Here is a snip-it of my sermon:

If we tell Jesus that we want to take up our cross and follow Him as His disciple, then He wants us to know exactly what we are getting into. He wants no false expectancy, no illusions, no bargains. He wants to use us as stones for building His church, soldiers for battling His enemies, and salt for bettering His world; and He is looking for quality.

After all, He was on His way to Jerusalem when He spoke these words, and look what happened to Him there! He does not ask us to do anything for Him that He has not already done for us.

You can read the sermon in its entirety by going to my church's website at and selecting the Sermons webpage. While you might think the sermon is exclusive in my faith tradition, it really isn't- it's not about telling others what they must believe, but rather, telling them that if they want to pursue a deeper relationship with God, then they will have to make (and can expect to make) some pretty serious adjustments in their lives.