Monday, December 15, 2014

Unfulfilled Promise

Somewhere between "ambition" and "arrogance", I forgot that I had intended to post much more frequently. Well that hasn't happened. Lots going on. Preoccupied with teh internets. Christmas. Sorry.

In other news, I just spent a bunch of money on my health insurance. I enrolled for coverage for me and my 2 kids through the healthcare marketplace. And I GUESS it saves me money. Except that it's not. It's like buying a couch on discount - they tell you that you've saved money even though you've just dropped several hundred on a couch you were told you needed because they were taking away your old couch that worked just fine.


Case in point: my current health insurance plan (which expires Dec. 31st) costs about $360/month. BCBS is canceling that plan.

Thanks jerks.

I can enroll in a new plan through BCBS that is comparable to my soon to be extinct plan, and the cost of that new plan is over $600/month. I can enroll in that same shiny new plan via the healthcare marketplace...

*saves the day?*

...for just over $425/month. See what they did there? I've got mad savings! But not really because my current plan is just right and it's not broken - so stop trying to fix it. So I'm paying $65 more a month for a new insurance plan that I didn't need.

My family makes too much to qualify for any subsidies or rebates. So yay 2nd job to cover my health insurance!

I get what the Affordable Care Act is trying to do, and I do believe that in a society that we should all look after one another's well being. I believe that basic healthcare is a human right. But today I don't believe that the only way to get it done is to make it so the insurance companies can squeeze consumers tighter for that last dime.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Advent Blogging

After a lengthy break from posting, we here at the 'Bytes are gearing up for an active holiday season. We'll post pictures from our events and decorations, and we'll share some "explainer" posts that help understand things like Advent and the liturgical year.

We're planning several posts during the Christian season of Advent, and will offer reflections on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's. We hope you get as excited about this as we already are - it's a time of year that we can't get enough of!




To get started, here's a few reflections anticipating the upcoming Thanksgiving weekend:


While Giving Tuesday (Dec. 2nd) isn't specifically tied into Thanksgiving directly, it does fall within the post-Thanksgiving consumerist appeal. The important thing to notice is the scheduling. The major shopping day of Black Friday and the huge discounts of Cyber Monday are book-ended by two days of gratitude and sharing. We're conditioned these days to quickly chow down on the turkey and dressing then rush out the door to stand in line at Best Buy in hopes of getting a deal on a TV. It says a lot about our willingness to appreciate the holiday when we're preoccupied by ads and incentives for showing up at the big box store on Thanksgiving night.

So maybe Giving Tuesday is a way beyond the short-lived pressure and anxiety of the shopping frenzy. Maybe Giving Tuesday gets us back to the genesis of Thanksgiving - that we are indeed thankful for what others have done, and we're moved to give in support of that work.

I hope to participate in Giving Tuesday, and plan to donate to Heifer International . I trust that you'll find some meaning in Giving Tuesday as well.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Reading and Retention: 201

I wrote yesterday about a recent Oklahoma legislative measure that would provide for secondary reviews of some 8,000 "unsatisfactory" scores from Oklahoma third graders. The test was for reading proficiency, and Oklahoma Law mandates that students be retained if they fail the test.


This reminded me of the role of reading education in the history of the Church. The modern "Sunday school" program has its roots in mid 19th century England, where poor and low-income children whose families couldn't afford tuition to private school received free lessons and tutoring in churches. Sunday school really was all about academics in the beginning. Today's children's Christian education programs aren't even a shade of their ancestry.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Reading and Retention: 101

Today Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin vetoed a bill (HB2625) that would have given special permission to a select committee of parents and specialists (educators) to review the scores of nearly 8,000 Oklahoma 3rd graders. These students scored "unsatisfactory" on the state's reading sufficiency test and are faced with retention - being "held back" to repeat the 3rd grade next school year. The special committee would have had the authority to review each individual test score and make a determination if that child should be advanced or indeed be retained.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Stigmatizing Education

I really thought we were through with this guy. Well, apparently not.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Airplane!

Surely you thought this was a post about the classic comedy film. I hate to disappoint, so I won't.

Now that that's out of the way, here's what we ran into on Saturday morning while enjoying breakfast at Wiley Post Airport in OKC;


Well, we didn't really run into it - but we did get to check out this very cool Bombardier 415 superscooper aircraft. It's called the Tanker 260 and was in use recently in Logan County. The kids even got to enjoy the inside, look out the bubble window and check out the tanks:


Because of the hull shape of the lower section of the plane, and the need to use that space for holding water, the landing gear fold in and upward into the body of the fuselage rather than tucked underneath as in traditional aircraft.

The massive length and thickness of the wing gives the craft the lift it needs in order to scoop and transport water to fire afflicted areas. Each wing has a pontoon to stabilize the craft while skimming the water, or while floating in stationary position. The aircraft will hold 19,000 gallons of water between 2 tanks, scooped from a lake at 90 mph through two intake ports, no larger than 5x7 inches each. Wild huh!!

For more on this aircraft and it's recent visit to central OK, check this story on the Fire Aviation website.

Garden 2014

It's been a while since we've posted an update on our garden. (with the exception of this quick post about the grapes). Mostly because we're lazy and have forgotten about keeping you informed, dear reader.

So - here's a photo essay of the garden, version 2014:

Preaching: Easter 4 "The Gift of Life, Abindant"



The Gift of Life, Abundant!
Easter 4, May 11th, 2014


If I have done my math correct, today is the 21st sermon I’ve given here at FCC Kingfisher. And in these 5 plus months I’ve learned something about myself as a preacher. I like to explain preaching in my sermons. I’ve often said things like “what makes this passage interesting to preach on is…” or “the traditional preaching of this passages includes this…” 

And so keeping in what has now seemed a pattern, I have to say, preaching on Mother’s Day is a daunting task for several reasons. One, it’s Mother’s Day and people need to hear a good word on mom’s day. Two, it’s all too easy to lump the good deeds and self sacrifice of Jesus in with the selfless acts of motherhood, which can lead to tricky and often unfulfilling promises and statements of belief. Third, and maybe most importantly is that the day isn’t celebrated by all people, for whatever reasons, and as a pastor, I have to be willing to call reality as I see it – and note the challenges with preaching on a specific day. 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Oklahoma Inmate Suffers Botched Execution

Today, state department of corrections officers were set to execute 2 inmates convicted of horrific crimes committed decades ago. What happened next is unimaginable.


Oklahoma officials have been in a bit of some controversy about the drugs used for executions. The mix of compounds used to sedate, slow the heart and eventually kill the inmate was once a matter of public record. But after the company that manufactured one of the drugs stopped providing Oklahoma with the product, officials sought another, untested concoction. Regulators, human rights advocates and lawmakers across the nation have been challenging the use of untested and potentially unsafe and inhumane execution practices.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Preaching Easter 2: "What Peace do you Seek?"



What Peace do you seek
Easter 2, 4-27-14

“The best stories come in the weeks after Easter” a seminary professor once told me. “It’s a shame”, they continued, “that church attendance doesn’t keep up with Easter Sunday for those weeks. People need to hear those resurrection stories.”
It’s true, I think – that we often move beyond Easter a bit too quickly. Kind of how we move past Christmas too quickly. As soon as the day is past we’re busy packing up the decorations and closing up the boxes – a symbolic gesture of once again sealing that tomb until next year. 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Funding Oklahoma's Future

[this post was updated on 4-24-14. It originally appeared on 3-31-14]
 
Yesterday was a big day for OK education. The OK Hwy Patrol estimated that 25-30K people descended upon the south lawn and steps of the state capitol to show support for increased funding for OK education.

Over the past several years, upwards of $200 million has been cut from education budgets, resulting in decreases of supplies and resources for teachers, larger class sizes, and reduced retirement benefits for educators. The district that my wife teaches in is set to face a $4 million budget cut next school year, which will mostly be realized by faculty cuts, meaning larger class sizes. Class sizes could increase to 35-40 students, further widening the gap between teacher and student interaction and a loss of personal teaching time with students. And in an "insult to injury" style vote today, the OK Senate Finance Committee voted in favor of an income tax reduction, further decreasing state revenues.

Even still, the rally was quite impressive! Here are a few pics:

Why America Should Care About Cliven Bundy - But Why I Really Don't

AP photo
 
By now you've heard about Cliven Bundy. He's that brash Nevada rancher who for the last 20+ years has been grazing his cattle on public land. Now he's the soup du jour for Fox News' Sean Hanity and like-minded Tea Party folk in the American west for standing up to the tyranny of the federal government. You see, the feds have been after him for decades because he's not been paying the fees associated with grazing cattle on public land. Bundy says he doesn't recognize the federal government and thus owes them nothing.

Here's why this matters to the country.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Grapes!

This little guy is a bunch of grapes. And we've got loads of 'em this year!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Preaching Easter - 4/20/14



“Who? The Gardener?”
Easter Sunday, April 20, 2014
John 20:1-18

          There’s a church in Oklahoma City called City Presbyterian Church that has been open for a few years meeting in a rented space near downtown. Maybe you read a little about it in this weeks Oklahoma Gazette. Today, at this very hour they are having their very first worship service in a new location: a restored old church near 13th and Classen. The old church building had sat vacant for many years, had served as the front for a law office and several attempted and failed businesses (including a health spa) and sat vacant again.

Then came the growing congregation of City Presbyterian, a group of 200 or so people from mixed backgrounds with a heart for their neighborhoods. And so, after purchasing the property in November of last year, and 6 months of renovations, the old church will stand tall again – resurrected from the isolation of abandonment, and be given life anew through the ministry of City Pres.

Preaching Palm Sunday - 4/13/14



Everybody Loves a Parade
Palm Sunday Lent 6A, April 13, 2014

The story goes of a child who was sick on Palm Sunday and stayed home from church. When a parent returned from church holding a palm branch, the child was curious and asked, “Why do you have that palm branch?” “You see,” said the parent, “when Jesus came into town, everyone waved palm branches to honor him, so we got Palm Branches today.” The child sat up in bed with wide eyes and jaw wide open and replied, “You mean the one Sunday I miss church is the Sunday that Jesus shows up?”

On Temple Cleansing and Oligarchy

A recent study from Northwestern and Princeton named the United States as an oligarchy more than a democracy - meaning - the control of power rests not with the population or even the elected officials, but with a very small group of wealthy individuals. (Think Koch, Brock, etc).

From an MSNBC post:
...studies have shown that income inequality has grown in recent years. An economist at the University of California-Berkeley estimated that between 2009 and 2012, the richest 1% of Americans held 95% of all income growth.
This got me to thinking about power, control and politics, and how religion fits into it all.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Hosannasaurus Rex

Happy Palm Sunday!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The culture of shut up

This is an amazing piece. A bit lengthy, but very worth the read. Some of the best social commentary I've read in a while.

http://m.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/04/the-culture-of-shut-up/360239/#

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Preaching Lent 5A, For the Sake of the Spirit



For the sake of the Spirit
Lent 5A, 4-6-14
Romans 8:6-11
 
6To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, 8and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.
10But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.
       
   I think Paul would have made a great advertising executive. Or maybe a marketing director. Something like the show Mad Men, but set in first century Palestine, with groups of Jews who follow Jesus spread out all over various towns and cities of the Roman empire. And he’s trying to bring unity to them, to get them to align under a common brand – specifically his understanding of what the Jesus movement means, and how the Christ stands to reconcile people to God. We can view the letters of Paul as a early marketing campaign. In some ways, he’s introducing something new, or he’s trying to convince people to switch to his product. Or he’s trying to clear up misconceptions about his product.
           It’s like that soap commercial that tries to get you to buy their brand because it gets your clothes cleaner. AND it smells good. AND it comes in a convenient package. AND it does more for less than the leading competitor! But wait! THERE’S MORE! 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Garden. 2014

We're upping the ante with the garden this year . We secured a trailer and hauled over 7 tons of soil to fill up the 4 raised beds, the main flower beds and level some yard.

We also decided to build a garden fence instead of fences around each individual bed .






Not shown, rabbit fence border & unfinished gate. Also picked up 3 cu. yards of cedar mulch for the walkway paths.
We also scored 250 sq ft of bermuda sod at a very good deal, and have been trying to fend off patchy-grass yard syndrome.

That's 20, 1.5 foot x 6 foot rolls in the back of the 'runner. We had another 14 rolls on a pallet with the trailer before.
Oh, food: 3 varieties of potato, beans, strawberry, carrots, grapes, raspberry. Probably more. Updates to come!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Holy cow...THIS!


Hobby Lobby, everyone's favorite retailer of fine imported home-decor stuffs from China, and everyone's favorite ACA contraception mandate antagonist, is now found to be in a bit of a pickle. Mother Jones slays the dragon. 

So, the Greene family is now going to have to decide what to do. Do they continue denying full access to contraceptions to their employees or do they divest their their retirement programs and let employees take a financial hit? Oh the probz when religion and capitalism collide.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

"Vision: Then and Now" Preaching Lent 4A


[Haven't been posting sermons for a while. Sorry about that. I'll try to get back into the swing of it here sometime.]
 


Vision, Then and Now
Lent 4A, March 30, 2014

The story(1) goes of a people who lived deep within a cave. They had never seen the light of day, and were bound by chains so that they could only look straight ahead. Behind the people stood unseen statues, of humans and animals and nature - and a fire burned behind them so to cast shadows of the statues on the wall of the cave that the people faced. And staring through the darkness of the cave, the people saw the shadows, and believed them to be the most perfect form of reality imaginable, for they could not see the statues, nor the fire.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

When it goes your way


It's freedom of religion when a private retail corporation wants to deny certain birth control as a healthcare provision, but it's not freedom of religion when a Christian charity group decides that they're okay with gay employees?

Just like Hobby Lobby employees DON'T HAVE to work there if they don't like the health provisions, donors to World Vision who hate gays DON'T HAVE to donate there if they don't like the charity's policy.

The clear winner here is good old fashioned asshat-ery.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Fun with Jesus

Here at the 'bytes we like a good meme when we see it. In case you're unfamiliar with what a meme is (mom), here's a primer from Urban Dictionary:

That being said, here's a few images from one of my fave meme's:

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Oklahoma Gay Marriage Ban Ruled Unconstitutional

In what is expected to cause an uproar among Oklahoma's largely right-wing conservative masses, a U.S. district judge today ruled the states same-sex marriage ban as unconstitutional.

Human Rights Campaign has the clear analysis:

http://www.hrc.org/blog/entry/u.s.-district-judge-rules-oklahoma-ban-on-marriage-equality-unconstitutiona

Saturday, January 11, 2014

"Beloved Servants" Preaching Epiphany 1A



Beloved Servants
Epiphany 1A, Jan. 12, 2014

The Isaiah passage we heard comes from what many scholars view as a second act in the prophecy of Isaiah. It includes chapters 40 through maybe 66. We might refer to those 2 dozen chapters as Second Isaiah, much like we refer to Second Corinthians, or Second Kings.

But the prophecy is contained in 1 complete text, even though it was likely written during different times and from different locations. This section was likely written while the Israelites were in captivity, after the fall of Jerusalem in 586, some 6 centuries before the time of Christ.

"Of Words, Wisdom and Life" Preaching Christmastide 2A



Of Word, Wisdom and Life
Christmastide 2A, Jan. 5th 2014

It's the second Sunday of Christmastide- and believe it or not, we’re still in the season of Christmas. It’s why we still have the Christmas decorations up here in the sanctuary. Though, thanks to the Trout boys for cleaning up the poinsettias – they were beginning to look a lot less like Christmas. Tomorrow, the 6th, is Epiphany- the time traditionally that many protestant churches recognize the Epiphany of Jesus as Messiah by the visitors from the east. That makes today the 12th day of Christmas, and the second Sunday of this mini-season between Advent and Epiphany.

I like to linger around Christmas a little longer than most people. If it weren’t for the extreme cold temperatures this week I’d have left the Christmas Lights up on the house. But I took them down a little earlier than I like. But that’s okay. If Christmastide calls us to stay by the cradle, then Epiphany calls us to get up and move. And so here we are – in between adoration and activity.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

"From Dream to Incarnation" - Preaching Christmastide 1A



From Dream to Incarnation
Christmastide 1A, Dec. 29, 2013
The last Sunday of the year is one that I think offers up special opportunities for reflection. It’s always nice to step outside ourselves for a moment and recap where we’ve been and relive some of the more exciting moments of the past 12 months. A few of the highlights for me this year were my ordination, a wonderful vacation my wife put together for me, and coming here to be your pastor.
The last Sunday of the year also give some opportunity to dream about the New Year. I’m excited about the possibilities that lay ahead of us, and I hope you are too. I’ve been dreaming about the ministry we’ll share together, and I’m eager to hear your dreams for First Christian Church in 2014 as well. Our work together, pastor and church, is the relationship of trust and hope that brings to life vision and dream. In the coming weeks, with the cabinet meeting and board meeting, we’ll begin exploring the work God is calling us to in the next 12 months. But for now, we have Christmas to deal with.