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Archive for February, 2007

Yes, I feel like I have a lot in common with Tubby, besides the fact that my physique matches his name. Of course, I’m talking about Tubby Smith, beleagured coach of my beloved University of Kentucky Wildcats basketball team (second only to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, of course). There is a lot of talk in the air about UK buying out Tubby’s contract, which is sports parlance for kicking him to the curb, canning him, giving him the pink slip, firing him.

I heard some talk on the local radio here in Huntington that the Lexington (KY) Herald has an article that discusses the very real possiblity that Tubby will be fired if the Cats don’t do well in the post-season (and in a cool related note, Patrick Patterson, the 6’8” power forward from Huntington High has made it clear that he will not come to Kentucky if Tubby is not there).

So, why is there talk of Tubby being fired? Simply put, UK is not doing so well this year. They are not ranked as of today, and have not been for quite a while this season. They’ve lost every game that they’ve played against ranked teams, including twice to Vanderbilt. Their record this year is 19-9, which is just not up to the level that UK fans expect. UK fans like to win and they have been so good for so long that they just can’t handle not being among the best in the nation (same thing with Duke, by the way).

In other words, UK is losing, so there is talk about Tubby losing his job. Now, this is what gets me: Tubby is basically being blamed for UK losing. Could there be other factors?

  • Perhaps the players, you know, the ones actually given the task of getting the orange ball through the hoop, might not be playing well enough?
  • Could it be that the other teams are just better this year?
  • Why not blame the fans for not cheering loud enough? I was at Rupp Arena to see the UK/EKU game and there was one EKU fan who was louder than all of the UK fans… it was quieter than a funeral for most of the game.
  • Maybe this is just a momentary burp in UK’s greatness: not every season is going to be a top 10 winning season.

But, no, all those other factors are ignored: just blame the coach. Is Tubby a bad coach? Not hardly. This is from the Lex. Herald article:

Smith has been one of the most successful coaches in the history of the
Southeastern Conference and college basketball. His 384 career victories rank
fifth all-time for coaches in their first 16 seasons. His .700 winning
percentage in the NCAA Tournament ranks sixth among active coaches.
In his 10
seasons for UK, Smith’s teams have won or shared five regular-season league
championships, seven divisional titles and five SEC Tournaments. The
regular-season titles rank third all-time behind two former UK coaches, Adolph
Rupp (27) and Joe B. Hall (eight). No SEC coach has won more divisional titles.
Rick Pitino (UK) and Billy Donovan (Florida) are second with four
each.
Smith’s five SEC Tournament titles tie for second most with Pitino and
Wimp Sanderson of Alabama. Rupp won 13 such championships.

In the end, though, it will be the coach blamed for the losing season, and he will most likely be fired if there is not an immediate turnaround. Now, don’t get me wrong, I know that the coach is partly to blame: he is the leader, and in Bush’s words, the “decider”. But, you can’t blame the coach for EVERYTHING.

Now, what does this have to do with me? In a lot of ways, I see the minister of a church in the same predicament as a coach when it comes to blame for the poor performance of a church. I know that the leaders and the people in our church keep a close eye on the two most important stats (in their minds) in the life of the church. All together now: attendance and offering. If the numbers of either go down, the fingers of blame are going to be pointed towards the senior minister. If the church is not “winning games” by keeping up numbers and offerings there will be talk of “letting the minister go” (though we won’t get the million dollar a year contract buyout that Tubby will get).

I don’t deny that the minister is sometimes to blame for the decline of a church. Poor leadership, poor preaching, poor visiting and the like can contribute to a church losing members and offering. But, like a coach, there are others who could be blamed:

  • The leaders of the church, who are the ones charged with directing the affairs of the church (in most cases, the elders, deacons, and/or board).
  • The congregation, who are the ones who are actually charged with doing the work of the church: evangelizing, volunteering, praying, contributing to the offering.
  • The community. This is like factoring in the fact that the other teams just might be good. If you are in an area with a 6% decline each year in population, you might not be growing. If you are a 50s era church in style, you might have trouble “competing” with the contemporary, exciting church up the street.

In the end, though, the minister is like the coach: no matter what the other mitigating factors, the minister and the coach are the only ones who can be fired, so when the church/team doesn’t do well, they are the ones blamed and fired. There are a lot of GREAT ministers who are in churches that simply will never be able to rise above the leadership of the church, the apathy of their members, or the circumstances of their community to be the next megachurch. So, the church goes through ministers like they were paper towels, always blaming the minister, never looking at the real reasons for their lack of growth.

Tubby, I feel your pain. If you need help moving, give me a call, and I’ll call you when I need the help.

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Update:

Just read the Internet Monk’s admission today that he, too, reads unorthodox books too, in his case, the writings of Marcus Borg, who most evangelicals would call unorthodox, or worse.

Read article here.
http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/marcus-borg-attempting-faith-between-either-and-or

I like his reasoning for reading him, too: he would rather read a person in their own words than to read the words of their critics. That’s why I’ve read McLaren… I heard enough bad about his theology to want to find out for myself if the critics were right. (And I think they are).

I’d like to think that the Internetmonk read my admission today (previous post) and decided that if such a respected and august figure in Christendom such as myself could admit to questionable reading that he, too, could come clean about his reading habits. (yeah, right! just kidding on that one!)

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Refreshing Unorthodoxy

OK, I have a confession to make. There is a part of me that is ashamed to put up a “What I’m Reading Right Now” list. Why? Because I’m reading some pretty unorthodox things. No, I’m not reading “The DaVinci Code” or “Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret” or anything. But, I am reading some things by folks who are not even close to being considered orthodox, evangelical believers.

I am reading a lot of books by Jonathan Kirsch:

That’s the order that I’ve read them, though I’ve not read “The Woman Who Laughed At God”, it’s next on the list.

Here’s the thing: Jonathan is a liberal, Jewish, atheist writer. He’s relies heavily on textual criticism and liberal research. Yes, he’s highly readable, but he seems to approach the bible with respect yet without believing that it really is the Word of God.

And I’m loving reading him. I got turned on to him in a very roundabout way. The public library I go to has a bookshelf of books for sale, things that have been donated, removed from circulation, doubles, etc. For a buck you can get a hard-back book, often with the cool library plastic binding stuff on it.

I saw the book “Moses” and since we are reading through the bible in our Sunday School class and are in the middle of the Moses story (Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and now, Deuteronomy) I picked it up, thinking it might be interesting. Thing is, it was. Very interesting. Kirsch is one of the best writers that I’ve ever read in terms of being accessible and interesting. You can read one of his books in two days, they are that easy to read. Yet, he handles tough academic questions in an accessible way.

There are times I want to throw his books across the room, since they spout a lot of liberal lines, but since he doesn’t claim to be a believer, much less an evangelical Christian, I can handle it a little better.

The thing I like about it is that he does not give the pat answers to things that we expect from our evangelical brothers (which is why I like Philip Yancey). He shows arguments that we might never be exposed to, since no evangelical author would dare mention some of the textual criticisms that he brings up. And, as in the case of “Harlot By The Side of the Road” he talks about things in the bible that are rarely mentioned.

In “God Against the gods” he is basically defending the pagans and showing how monotheists cause wars. I don’t agree with him one bit, but I learned a lot.

Would I recommend him? Not to a Christian who didn’t REALLY know their bible and could rationally discern which arguments are valid and which are not. I wouldn’t recommend him to someone who was not sure of their faith. But to someone who could “eat the fish and spit out the bones” he’s a very good author who will show you how the “other side” thinks. He really does handle the arguments well, and he’s not anti-faith, he’s just not a believer himself.

It’s been nice to read some things that make me think, instead of just the “party line”.

The only thing I wonder is this: I heard someone say once: “There is not enough time in a lifetime to read all the good books, so don’t waste time on the bad ones” and by bad he meant things that are unorthodox. I worry about that. The time I spend reading a liberal, secular scholar on the bible could be spent reading things that are more edifying, or by re-reading the bible. However, I think that if we can read something by a someone who does not think like we do and still keep the faith and maintain what we believe, we are all the stronger for it.

Call it intellectual resistance training.

What do you all think?

Incidentally, at this moment I am reading “Who Wrote the Bible” by Richard Friedman, which is an apologetic for the source criticism. A lady in my church read it and wanted to know what I thought. I don’t agree with most of his conclusions, but at least now I’m better able to answer her questions. I now know what the arguments of the other side are.

Hey, it’s better than reading anything about my best life now!

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Working the night shift.

I used to work at Toys R Us when I was in high school and college, which, by the way, is not nearly as fun as it sounds. You’d think that workers there would run around playing with toys and all like Santa’s elves, but in reality, stacking boxes is stacking boxes, ringing up merchandise is ringing up merchandise, whether it’s widgets, toys, or cans of soup.

During “season”, which is the month and half or so leading up to Christmas (or, Ramahannakwanzmas, if you wish) that joint was really rocking. They would hire a bunch of new people, give all kinds of hours, extend the times of business, and best of all for me, they would start a night shift for night stockers (pronounced, Night Stalkers).

That was a shift made for me. I’m a night person, I loved being around co-workers, but not so much around the whiney customers beating each other up for Cabbage Patch Dolls or Nintendo Systems.

One thing that I really loved was that I was out of sync with the rest of the world. That was bad when you had to get your oil changed or your teeth cleaned, but most of the time it was way cool. I would get up at 6 PM and eat “breakfast” and get ready for work while most people were coming home and getting their nest ready for bed. I was driving to work while most people were driving home. And when I got off in the morning I would eat my dinner at Waffle House while all the other schlubs were trying to get awake and ready for work. It was nice being a part of that underworld of people working the night shift.

I still feel that way as a preacher in some respects. Not that I work the night shift, but it’s like I work the “other” shift. I see this a lot with my wife. She is giddy when she gets home on Friday, because it’s the weekend and the longest period of time before she has to go to work again.

I dread Friday, since I know that I have a busy day Saturday getting everything ready for Sunday (see my Saturday night post!). Sunday is always a bear of a day: I’m at the church or doing church things from 9 AM till 9 PM most Sundays. I’m “on stage” twice on Sunday, pouring my heart out in a sermon. I’m intellectually “on” when I teach Sunday School. I’m usually dealing with church things all day, meetings, talking with folks, visiting, etc.

So, when I pull up to the house on Sunday night, I let out a sigh of relief. Sunday night is my Friday night. It’s the longest period of time before another sermon is due. I take Monday off so I know I can rest up from Sunday. The old week is behind me, don’t have to think about the next week.

My poor beloved wife is utterly depressed on Sunday night. She knows that she has to get up the next morning and go to work. There’s nothing in front of her but work for a week. I try to hide my glee on Sunday night, she tries to hide hers on Friday night.

I love Mondays. It’s my day off. It’s my day to walk around in my shorts and T-shirt (from Sunday!) and not get showered and dressed until the wife comes home. It’s the day to drink coffee and relax.

This is true in many other ways for ministers. Whereas most folks look forward to the lazy, hazy days of summer, we dread it: VBS, camp, lower attendance. Whereas most folks look forward to the holidays, we dread it: WAY too many special services, cantatas, Christmas plays, parties, etc. Whereas most people look to church service as a great way to unwind and focus on God, we dread it (in a way): we are thinking about how many folks are there, whether the sermon is “on”, why so and so is not in church, etc.

Yeah, as a minister, I love Mondays. Me and Garfield (the cat, not the president) don’t see eye to eye on this one!

But, that’s life working the night shift.

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What is Insipid?

While talking to my wife about the meaning of the word “insipid”, it occurred to me that if this blog does nothing else, it will get the rarely used word “insipid” out into public usage. Many people probably don’t even know what “insipid” means, so, as a public service, here is the definition.

in·sip·id (ĭn-sĭp’ĭd) adj.
1. Lacking flavor or zest; not tasty.
2. Lacking qualities that excite, stimulate, or interest; dull.

There you have it.

“Garbage” you will have to figure out for yourself.

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Why Insipid Garbage?

It occurs to me that I ought to explain the title of this blog: Insipid Garbage. After all, it’s not exactly the most uplifting title for a blog, nor a very good advertisement for the content contained herein. I don’t think I would eat at a restaurant called “Nasty Swill” or go to a doctor called “Incompetent Blunders”. So, why should you read something called “Insipid Garbage”? Well, I can’t answer that question, but I can explain the meaning(s) behind the name.

First, the title is NOT just self-effacing humor, as though I’m so humble that I call my musings insipid garbage just so that people will insist that it’s not, like the pretty girl who claims that she is ugly just to hear people reassure her that she’s not.

In reality, the title is a bit of an inside joke. I used to post a lot on a Christian Church forum (to say I posted a lot is a bit of an understatement). Now, while I can certainly be serious when I want to be and can even wax eloquently on occasion, I’m a very good-natured person who loves silly, Monty-Pythonish humor. On top of that, most of the people on that forum take themselves WAY too seriously, so unless you are willing to argue the nuances of baptism for the umpteenth time, you have to have a little fun.

Consequently, a lot of my posting there was just light and fun: discussions about mimes, Legos, lime jello and the like were often the norm. One day some new poster came into one of our typically inane discussions (this one on whether or not the centripetal force of the earth would suck you into hell… really) and declared that I posted more insipid garbage than anyone he knew.

Naturally, at first I was pretty cheesed off. But the more I thought about it the more I thought it was funny. And, after all, I was pretty good at doling out the insipid garbage (in true Monty Python fashion). So, I took his insult and made it into a compliment, and thus: Insipid Garbage. To the anonymous hater out there: thanks for the inspiration. The name is kind of an inside joke with myself, and now you know it too. (But, even though I’m a fine purveyor of insipid garbage, you might find a gem in here every once in a while).

And now for the historical revision. My good friend BS (mynameisbrandon) pointed out that the name Insipid Garbage could be a play on the verses:

Phil 3:7-11 7 But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish [insipid garbage], that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ-the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. 10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. NIV

So, I consider whatever genius I might bring to this blog to be rubbish, or, if you will, insipid garbage, compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.

Not a bad explanation, BS, and I think I’ll go with that. Yeah, that’s the ticket! Thanks BS, you’re the king of BS, you know.

In all seriousness, both explanations work. The first explanation is the true reason for the title, but I agree with the sentiment of the second, and I hereby apply it as well.

There, now you can rest at night, you know the reason behind the title to this blog.

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Blame Brandon

Ok, you all can blame Brandon, affectionately known as BS, for the title of this blog. I had a couple of choices, but he thought that “Insipid Garbage” would be best. He’s seen my stuff, I guess he believes in truth in advertising.

And, you can blame him if I post here more. He’s inspired me to post more on this thing and to keep it more up to date. What, 2 posts in 2 months is not enough?

I normally hate it when people go on and on about their big step in entering the blogosphere and all the soul-searching that goes along with it, so I’ll not do that.

Besides, I’m heading out to get some Famous Dave’s barbecue!

Oh, and check out Brandon’s blog at mynameisbrandon.com

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