Sunday, December 28, 2008


I recently got a new book which I have fell in love with. It's called "Crazy Talk: A Not-So-Stuffy Dictionary of Theological Terms." I think its a great book to explain all those "stuffy" theological terms we throw around in seminary and soon find that we can never use in a sermon. I've also been thinking about doing a study with church members on "thinking theologically" as far as getting our members to understand the idea of consistency. The notion that if you say "XYZ" about God then that also means you are implying "ABC" about God and how we can offer consistent affirmations about God in our everyday conversations. We'll see how that goes :)

In "honor" of my upcoming ordination, I thought it appropriate to offer their definition of ordination.

"Ordination" (ohr-dih-NA-shuhn - noun)
A ceremony of God's church during which someone God has called is consecrated for God's ministry on behalf of God's world - and so, naturally, people who are ordained think that it is all about them.

Thank you all for reading this entry. Most folks don't give a rip about the particulars of bureaucratic processes and human resource concerns. To a large extent, that's what ordination amounts to, with the added veneer of church ritual and religio-speak, of course. We're not trying to be flip. It's just that all pastors-to-be are sinners just like you and we are.

Too often, ordination is set up in such a way that the pastor-to-be is placed high up on a spiritual pedestal. The resulting high hopes, coupled with the pastor's natural flaws, inevitably produce disenchantment, burnout, and worse. It's one thing for a church to have a bit of a celebration when one from their midst is being lifted up as public preacher of the gospel. It's another thing to (a) set someone up for failure or (b) believe your own publicity.

It'd be chaotic if just anybody could get up in a pulpit and let fly. So a little order for the preaching office is, well, in order. Ordination sets aside those people whome the church believes are divinely called and thoroughly prepared for ministry.

On the other hand, ordained pastors do well to remember that it's not about them. Ordination is about what God is doing through the preaching, teaching, and ministry of everyday sinners."


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Light Among Darkness

This letter is from a former minister of mine... their annual Christmas letter. I always like their's because they are rarely the typical... "look at all the cool stuff my (grand)children did this year." (Granted yes those are nice sometimes, but can get a little cliche)

At any rate - I thought this letter was worth sharing. I think it says a lot about our country - and especially about how a lot of Christians feel at this point. I hate stereotypes - granted yes I'm sure I have my role in perpetuating them, but I hate them. I try not to live into them, and I try not to assume them. Yes, I'm human, I have difficulty with that sometimes... but alas... here is the letter.

" - The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. - John 1:5 -

I was a wet-behind-the-ears kid that day, circa 1942, when I saw this huge black man, in bib overalls, talking with dad at the service station. They were friendly and laughing together, and I took it in. I didn't know it then, but later, looking back, the darkness had gotten a bit lighter.

It was 1947 when I first saw him on the high school track. He was a black flash with a beautiful stride. His name was Everett. We ran track together. We weren't close, but friendly. One day I gave him a lift home in my car. And when I saw where he lived I couldn't see through the tears, the darkness was getting still lighter.

They say college is where you grow up. I guess that's right. Against my dad's good counsel, I, along with others, picketed the trustees of our Christian university for not allowing blacks to enroll. I don't think it was a few idealistic students, but by 1953 a black face was seen on campus. And the darkness? Well, it wasn't as dark as it had been.

I didn't march with the black man in Selma, but I spoke on the streets of Brooklyn in support of his dream. Scared the hell out of me. Yet the darkness just wasn't as dark as before.

Back in 'ol downtown K.C. there were floods of black and white storie memories - a little black boy looking for a dad, almost any dad would do... a church full of curfew violators following a dark as dark can be assassination...a march to the police station to confront as good a police chief as K.C. ever panthers walking in the night...a church, and churches together, applying tourniquets and bandages...As the classic novel put it: it was the best of times and the worst of times. It was darkness and light in pitched battle. And it took a good bit of faith to see through those dark nights.

All through my married years she's been with me, supporting and pushing me, and moving beyond me in places I'd never go. For cryin'-out-loud they stuck this vulnerable-white-woman-teacher in a ghetto-black-school, where neither teachers nor students nore parents wanted her. She was a pariah in no-white-persons-land. Yet in the end - this vulnerable one, who could cry a river, forded the stream and became a favorite of students and parents and many of her black colleagues. And if that isn't a comet in the dark sky I don't know light.

And today? Well it may not have been your today, red and blue as it is. Fair enough. But for Susan [name changed for privacy] and me it was November 5th, 2008, the day after election day, sitting on the couch early a.m. hearing that a black man had become the 44th president-elect of the United States. We clinked our coffee cups, and virtually said together, "Well, I'll be damn!" Because if that wasn't a sun-blast-in-the-darkness we don't know what is.

It's not over, not by an infinity. We are no pollyannas. But two old skeptics, on the cusp of a new day, are affirming once more that "the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."

P.S. To you "reds" out there - many of whom we are beloved family members - we mean no fault. But neither do we apologize. God bless us all. We're all Americans. And may we always be together."

I normally would add some sort of commentary or thought that I hope would be inspiring, or might add to what I've just posted. But in this case - there is no need. This letter is perfect.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Claiming the Holocaust Didn't Happen

A few weeks ago I received a forwarded email entitled, "It happened." I'm normally not one to respond to forwards, I don't normally pass them on unless I think they are extremely important, or have made me fall out of my chair laughing, but this one was different.

The forwarded email I received had a power point file on it that played several very disturbing photos of the Holocaust, along with a "news" story about how the United Kingdom had officially taken the Holocaust out of its national curriculum, and would no longer be teaching about the Holocaust in the United Kingdom. The reasoning - according to this powerpoint - was becasue the teachers did not want to offend the Muslim students and their families who believed (because of Muslim teachings) that the Holocaust did not happen.

I was shocked and appalled.

I had to respond.

First of all, I didn't believe that this could ever be true, so I did some research only to find that this was an ounce of the truth that had been blown way out of proportion. So my first complaint is that people need to quit sending on emails and forwards that aren't true. All it does is waste time and energy to forward dumb emails that are either completely false, or just so ridiculous they should be removed from all of cyberspace. But I digress.

After I did some research I did something I'm not one to normally do. I went back and looked at ALL the email addresses that had received this email, according to the FW: FW: FW: FW: FW: and I emailed the following email to every single person. If you know me at all, I'm not one to rock the boat, and I'm not fond of confrontation. Sometimes I don't mind - but if it's me putting my own rear end out there, ALL BY MYSELF - chances are I'll just observe until I develop the courage. So responding this quicly and strong, this was a big step for me...

Feel free to read MY response to the original email... then there's more :)

"I’m normally not one to respond to or to pass on forwards, but I can’t sit back and watch these kind of emails. I apologize if you have never met me, nor even know who I am, but I BEG you to think about the emails you are sending before you haphazardly send emails to your entire address book without thinking of the implications. I also plead that you will take time to think about the following thoughts, even if its only for that minute our first email talked about…

I am especially touched by the spreading of this “It happened” email because I personally have stood on the Holy Ground that is Auschwitz/Birkenau. I have personally touched the grass that grows an entirely different color green because it is growing from the ashes of cremated human beings that were buried there so many years ago. I have touched the hard metal of the rail roads that represented a way into Birkenau, but no way out. I have stood inside a gas chamber and felt the cold steel of the inside door of that chamber, which so many people wrestled with as they fought to open the door before they were put to death for no apparent reason. I have met and dined with "Righteous Gentiles" who were put into death camps for speaking out. I have traveled with a Holocaust survivor and listened to him tell me that he cannot remember his sister's face, only her long braid as she walked into the gas chamber.

I’ve included at the bottom of this email several links which clarify that THIS FORWARDED EMAIL IS FALSE and that there is no truth to an official removal of the Holocaust from the United Kingdom’s curriculum. However, I first have something to say about sending this kind of email in the first place.

I say these things as a licensed minister from the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), a mainline denomination here in the US and Canada, which also has ties throughout many countries of the world. I have completed my education at an accredited seminary and will be ordained in the next few months.

The original email said, the “UK erased the Holocaust from the British school curriculum because it offended ‘the muslim population beliefs’ that the Hoocaust never took place.”

Ineeded there are several people in our world who have a sick and twisted idea that the Holocaust never happened, however THIS IS NOT A TEACHING OF THE MAJORITY OF MUSLIMS, NOR IS IT PART OF TRUE MUSLIM FAITH AND TEACHINGS.

JUST LIKE EVERY RELIGION, WHERE THEY HAVE THOSE WHO HOLD WRONG BELIEFS, THOSE WHOM WE CALL EXTREMISTS, ISLAM DOES TOO. This does not mean that every single Muslim you meet is an extremist, nor does it mean that every person who follows Islam believes the same things that extremists do. Islam is like Christianity – there is a broad spectrum of beliefs. Would Christians all want to be associated with the beliefs of the KKK? Would Christians want people to "learn" about Christianity based on the teachings of the KKK? I think not. I'm not saying that there aren't people who teach and profess such lies about the "myth" of the Holocaust, but this is not something that is a true teaching of the Muslim faith, or at least the Muslim faith I have studied and know.

Forwarding emails like this that blame things on one particular faith community only perpetuates hatred and misunderstanding. Sending emails without fully knowing whether or not they are true continues to perpeutate hate.

When the Holocaust started, Germany was a fertile ground full of protestant believers who “knew” the Bible front to back. These believers “knew” that the Jews killed Jesus, which they were taught, and they believed gave them right to kill the Jews. The Nazi’s also “knew” hundreds of other things they could blame on the Jews, and why they should be killed. All of which we now profess to be wrong. If we are still perpetuating hatred, and spreading rumors about religious beliefs and institutions, have we REALLY learned anything? Maybe it’s not about Jews or Christians now, but by perpetuating hatred towards and fear from those who are different, or those who we do not understand, or those who receive bad press because the extremists have the loudest voices, we are only continuing on with the same hatred that was present during the Holocaust. Sadley, that hatred has never died.

It is not what people do in the name of their religion that makes a religion. It is not what the extremists do that make Islam what it is. I could go on for days about true Islam and the true meaning of their religion, but I digress. If you are insterested I encourage you to check out and see for yourself that Islam, Judaism, and Christianity are in fact all very much related, all believe in the ONE SAME TRUE GOD regardless of the name we give our God, and all three faiths have peaceful foundations. We are directly connected through a common ancestor, Abraham, and continue to have a peaceful familial relationship in many places throughout the world.

“Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.” – Blaise Pascal

Please check out these links:

Holocaust Education Trust of UK

Boycott Watch

Israel News

Thank you for taking the time to read this email. Please feel free to respond with any questions or concerns.

"It is in our lives and not our words that our religion must be read." - Thomas Jefferson"

I even went so far as to give everyone on that email list my personal phone number and email so that they could respond if they wanted to. I had one person respond simply asking me to remove them from the list. It was very polite, and I was not offended.

TODAY however... I received a new email...

"Ms. Phillips:

This would be in response to your email in regard to Great Britain not wanting to offend their Muslim citizens in regard to the Holocaust and taking the truth out of their history books. Snopes, I fear, is as liberal in their interpretation of the truth as you seem to be. I do not know the quote--but there is one out there that suggests that if we choose to ignore the past and hope that it will go away--the horrors of it will be repeated.

How do you feel about the "stuff" going on in Illinois? Our country is on a steep--grave--slippery slope. Liberal denominations such as the one you serve are taking us down the same path that our government is. Come Lord Jesus--come quickly."

This gentleman then signed his name and then put in parentheses underneath his name (Psalm 91).

I'm not sure if I should respond to his email... What would I say? What would you say?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Advent Traditions

Each week in church we light a new candle to recognize the season of Advent. We light these candles, and remember the different themes that have traditionally been assigned to each week of Advent, hope, peace, joy and love. But has this act become something we do out of tradition and monotony more than out of intention? Are we chancing the Advent wreath becoming womething like Christmas lights and the Christmas tree? They look pretty, but WHY do we REALLY take time to put all these things up?
Don't get me wrong, I have a Christmas tree up, and a few "Nutcracker" decorations (after dancing in it for so long I can hardly not!), but why do we really put them up? They might remind us of the times we had Christmas trees when we were younger. Or I always remember the times that my whole family was present to put up the tree, and we always fought over who got to hang THE "baby's first Christmas" ornament up, even though it clear had a 1982 date on there. (I'm sure my sister and brother got one of those, but for some reason, mine was coveted!) And I'm sure if you have children, its simply out of the question to NOT put up a Christmas tree - but what are all of our Christmas traditions really representing?
Most Christmas traditions started out with great intentions, and were quite meaningful things at the time. But OVER time, we chance getting stuck in the monotony of a tradition and forgetting why we are REALLY doing it, rather only doing it because "that's what we've done before." All traditions - especially those at church - but all traditions risk this... Christmas is no different.
As we light Advent candles on Sunday mornings, or on Sunday evenings at home with our families, or anytime throughout Advent, I hope we all continue to take time to pause and remember why we are lighting Advent candles. As darkness (both real and metaphorical darkness) deepens, and as the long winter comes, each week we light one more candle to remember our hope for the coming light. And while each candle might mean something, hope, peace, joy, love, may we remember the simplicity of even lighting the candles. The action of lighting one more candle in the darkness bears the most meaning. In the face of growing darkness, the church and its community participates in practices which bring more light. May we think of our own faith communities as a circle, imaging ourselves as our Advent wreath, that we are the ones to bear the light of Christ. Each week may we bring more light into the darkness, bearing the light which we know will come to us on Christmas day.

Monday, December 01, 2008

40 Things You'd Love to Say at Work - BUT WON'T

1. I can see your point, but I still think you're full of shit.
2. I don't know what your problem is, but I'll bet it's hard to pronounce.
3. How about never? Is never good for you?
4. I see you've set aside this special time to publicly humiliate yourself.
5. I'm really easy to get along with once you people learn to see it my way.
6. Who lit the fuse on your tampon?
7. I'm out of my mind at the moment, but feel free to leave a message.
8. I don't work here - I'm a consultant.
9. It sounds like English, but I don't understand a damn word you're saying.
10. Ahhh. I see the screw-up fairy has visited us again.
11. I like you. You remind me of myself when I was young and stupid.
12. You are validating my inherent mistrust of strangers.
13. I have plenty of talent and vision - I just don't give a damn.
14. I'm already visualizing the duct tape over your mouth.
15. I will always cherish the initial misconceptions I had about you.
16. Thank you. We're all refreshed and challenged by your unique point of view.
17. The fact that no one understands you doesn't mean you're an artist.
18. Any connection between your reality and mine is purely coincidental.
19. What am I? Flypaper for freaks?
20. I'm not being rude. You're just insignificant.
21. It's a thankless job, but I've got a lot of karma to burn
22. Yes, I am an agent of Satan, but my duties are largely ceremonial.
23. And your cry-baby whiny assed opinion would be?
24. Do I look like a f..king people person to you?
25. This isn't an office. It's Hell with fluorescent lighting.
26. I started out with nothing and I still have most of it left
27. Sarcasm is just one more service we offer.
28. If I throw a stick, will you leave?
29. Errors have been made. Others will be blamed.
30. Whatever kind of look you were going for, you missed.
31. Oh, I get it. Like humour. Only different.
32. A cubicle is just a padded cell without the door.
33. Can I trade this job for what's behind door number 1?
34. Too many freaks, not enough circuses.
35. Nice perfume, but must you marinate in it?
36. Chaos, panic and disorder - my work here is finally done.
37. How do I set a laser printer to kill?
38. I thought I wanted a career; turns out I just wanted a salary
39. I'll try being nicer if you try being smarter.
40. Wait a minute - I'm just trying to imagine you with a personality