Thursday, September 27, 2007

United Methodism for the common person and parson

There are two new handbooks out for United Methodists and those interested in what being United Methodist is all about. And they are even interesting to read.

The Unofficial United Methodist Handbook and The Unofficial United Methodist Handbook for Pastors are two different books providing some helpful information about United Methodism while not making it a chore. F. Belton Joyner, Jr. is a United Methodist pastor. He has edited together these two fun and enlightening manuals of everything important about United Methodism.

The Unofficial UM Handbook is designed for lay persons. Basically that means for anyone who is not a pastor or who has been trained in United Methodist "stuff". This book doesn't go deep into details about anything. But it provides enough information to understand the how's and why's of what United Methodists. It also provides practical tips on living the life of a Christ follower. It is broken into 4 sections: church stuff, Bible stuff, everyday stuff, and United Methodist stuff. In church stuff you discover history of how the church of believers has grown over the centuries, basic differences between denominations, important people in United Methodist history. You also gain some helpful tips or "how to's" of church life such as how to listen to a sermon, how to receive communion, and how to not be burned at the stake (yes, that is truly in the book). The other sections are just as helpful and as humorous.

The second book is written with pastors in mind. But it is not limited to only pastors. It provides some insight into the work that pastors perform as well as some of challenges pastors face. For pastors who read it, they can find gems on how to be more effective in their place of ministry as well as balancing their life and vocation.

Both books were published by Abingdon Press and I picked both up at Cokesbury for 14.99. The Handbook would be a great book for anyone who is thinking about becoming a member of a UM church. It is also pretty handy for someone who has been a lifelong member. It's worth your time to read it, even if it's only to get a couple of giggles at ourselves in this funny thing we call the United Methodist Church.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Dave Ramsey fans take note

News is coming out of Freedom Plaza (the home of Dave Ramsey's Lampo Group and everything Dave) that Dave will be starting a new television show on Fox Business Network.

Dave created Financial Peace University and has a syndicated radio show heard nation wide. He is one of the people I call a hero. This will be a real bonus for Dave fans, who tend to be die hard fans.

I'm a Marvel

I am not ashamed to admit that I love comic books. I've been reading comic books, off and on, for 20+ years. I still have three boxes of comics that I pull out and read (usually over a bowl or two of my favorite cereal).

I read (that's red and reed) mostly Marvel Comics. This is the group that produced Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, the Hulk, and Captain America. DC, the other major comic book company, is responsible for Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the SuperFriends.

There has always been a little friendly rivalry between the two companies. This year, Marvel put out a few videos that play on that rivalry. You can get more information about the videos, and some of the best comic books in the world, over at

But here is the first "I'm a Marvel, I'm a DC" video.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Finish the course

I got word from some friends last night that Robert Jordan had passed away.

Who is Robert Jordan? He is a fantasy author. His most famous work is a series of fantasy novels in the Wheel of Time series. Being a fan of science fiction and fantasy, I got hooked on this series in seminary. To date there are eleven books in the series with a prequel, some short stories, and an encyclopedia.

Fans of the series have been waiting for Jordan to publish the final book in the series. That was expected to come out in the next year or so. Now, that work will be finished by another's hand or never be completed.

Jordan had been fighting a heart condition. He was fighting the good fight, though. He did not want to face defeat. He wanted to make the best of his life. He kept the vision for his last book in mind.

Jordan's story reminds me of the story of one of my heroes. Walt Disney faced his final days (battling lung cancer) with strength and never giving up on the vision he had.

There is the story that while Walt was laying in his hospital bed he was talking with his brother and partner, Roy. They were talking about what would be come Walt Disney World outside of Orlando, Florida. Roy related that conversation of how Walt, using the ceiling tiles as reference points, laid out the vision of streets and where different attractions would be situated. Walt died that next day.

Jordan didn't get the last book finished. The vision was complete in his mind. He even passed the "skeleton" of the story on to loved ones. So how it goes from this point forward will depend on how his family understood the vision.

It begs the question of what we all have in our own lives that needs to be pursued. I have spoken of dreams in the past. But there are visions of things that we all want to accomplish and just haven't accomplished them, yet. Maybe "life" keeps getting in the way. Perhaps we believe we have "grown up" and passed them by. But there may be visions that we have yet to see made reality and are fully able to bring them to reality.

I deal with vision every week. As a pastor it is part of my job to conceive the vision for the church. It doesn't happen in isolation. It happens through intimacy with God, the congregation, and the community. And at times the vision seems very blurry or impossible. But without the vision, there is chaos and confusion.

We are all being called by some vision. Perhaps it is betterment of self (sanctification in good Wesleyan terminology) or bettering the world around us (mission) or perhaps contributing something to the world. Whatever the vision we are called to, we should pursue it. If we aren't going to finish the course, at least make provision for passing the vision on to another generation who might bring it to reality.