Monday, March 22, 2010

Attention Chicaaaaago Friends!

... I thought the title might get more notice if I said it in your accent. Now that I have your attention...

An old friend of mine is part of a really cool new church plant in the Chicago area, specifically targeting the folks in and around the Loop. You may have seen some of their ads on CTA busses or trains:

I know a lot of churches talk about everyone being welcome, but the folks at Urban Village Church don't just welcome everyone, they value everyone for who they are.

If you're the type of person who is intrigued by faith but has had a hard time with religious systems, I hope you'll check this church out. It might be for you, it might not, but you won't lose anything by giving it a try. And you just might find a really amazing point of connection with God and other people.

update: Urban Village Church has a cool new promo video:

I have to confess, I have the urge to plant a new congregation at some point in my journey in ministry, and I'm quite envious of what these folks are getting to do!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Hoops and Health Care

This morning I saw a poll on CNN's website, asking which I would be following more closely this weekend: the progress on the Health Care Reform bill or NCAA basketball games. Health Care or Hoops?

I had to sit back and think about this for a minute. Ten years from now I'm probably going to remember more about the Health Care bill than the progress of my tournament brackets (aside from Butler's game, of course). So one would assume that I'd be paying more attention to health care. But I clicked on the "NCAA hoops" option on the poll.

I like college basketball a lot. But I care much more deeply about reforming the health care system in our country. This is not an abstract issue for me. I'm not a pro-big-government person, nor am I a socialist or whatever other label Glen Beck is applying to me today. This is a human issue to me. I've met too many people over the years who live on the margins of society, barely surviving because they don't have access to basic services, health care included.

So why did I click on the "hoops" option? Why am I so reluctant to even post this? It's because this health care debate has worn me out. There's so much yelling and so little substance that I simply don't have the energy to participate in the way I feel I should. Rarely do I have a conversation about this issue that doesn't quickly devolve into fear based rhetoric or general demonization of the other side (this includes those who support the bill). It seems like everyone has already made up their mind, even if they haven't bothered to look examine the issues for themselves.

So for my own sanity I choose to stay out of the fray, other than sending some emails to my congressional representatives (who are all far right ideologues, so they don't listen to me, anyway). I'll keep an eye on the vote tally, but I'll keep a closer eye on college basketball and my brackets, because it causes me significantly less stress. Is this bad? Probably. But it's where I'm at.

Actually, I will make one more contribution to the debate. I said earlier that this is not an abstract issue, that there are real people whose lives are affected by health care reform. I'll show you one of them.

This is a child that won't have any health insurance coverage if nothing changes. Her name is Becca.
She is the smallest premie ever born at Vanderbilt hospital to survive. She's thriving and doing very well, but she's a walking pre-existing condition, so she'll never be insurable under the status-quo.

You can read her parents' blog for more about her story.

Becca and many other people I've met throughout the years are the reason I support Health Care Reform. If you're someone who actively lobbies your representatives (or if you're in Congress, in which case, thanks for reading!), please consider the human face of this issue.

PS- On April 17, our family is participating in the March of Dimes "March for Babies" walk in Nashville to raise money for treatment for kids like Becca. Our goal is to raise $500. If you could like to contribute, click here to do so online. Thanks for your support.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Kelley Family Bracketology

For the last couple years, Jessica and I have competed against each other in picking the winners in the NCAA tournament, which begins tomorrow. I follow sports more closely than she does, but she's still beaten me about half the time because I tend to over-think my brackets. Most guys I talk to about this express the same frustration, where some guy in the office's girlfriend ends up winning the bracket pool because she picked based on the cuteness of mascots. (Jessica just goes with her gut instinct.)

This year our daughter, Kate, is getting in on the action, too. So here it is: the Kelley family's 2010 Bracket Showdown.

My bracket is defined by my love for my alma mater, Butler University, and my sincere (perhaps foolish) belief that they could make a serious run in this year's tournament. Upsets include Houston (13) beating Maryland (4) in the first round, Minnesota (11) over Xavier (6),  Sienna (13) over Purdue (4) (though with Purdue's injury situation, this isn't a huge upset), and Marquette (6) making it to the Sweet 16. I have Butler beating Vanderbilt in the second round. Choosing my undergrad over my graduate school was a not as gut-wrenching as some might expect.
My Final Four is Kansas, Butler (yeah, that's right, go Dawgs!!!), Kentucky, and Baylor. I have Kansas beating Kentucky in the title game. I love Butler, but I also want to win the competition.

Jessica's bracket shows her love for her parents' alma mater, the University of Kentucky (who, based on their coach's history, will no doubt get their wins for this season revoked when the NCAA uncovers the grade fixing and various other violations Calapari and his one-and-done players are no doubt engaging in). She isn't picking too many upsets, but has Gonzaga beating Syracuse in the second round, and Purdue beating Duke in the Sweet 16.
Her Final Four is Kansas, Butler (because she loves me), Kentucky, and Purdue (clearly she didn't watch the Big 10 Tournament or read up on the Robbie Hummel injury). She has Kentucky beating Kansas in the title game.

While this is not Kate's first NCAA tournament (she was a whole six weeks old last year), she has yet to learn the intricacies of shooting guard match-ups and the glory of mid-major Cinderellas, so she's making her picks based on the mascots. Specifically, she's going with mascots she recognizes from her books or her stuffed animal collection. Bears trump anything else, then cats and dogs get preferential treatment. Thus we have lots of interesting upsets: Cornell (12), Montana (11), and Oakland (14) all going to the Sweet 16, and Morgan St. (15) upsetting West Virginia (2)!
Since she loves her Mommy and Daddy, Butler and Kentucky are playing each other in the national title game, having defeated Georgetown and Baylor, respectively, in their Final Four games. Right now her national champion slot remains blank, which probably means she hasn't decided which parent she loves more. Guess who's going to be getting lots of cookies from Daddy?

Of course, we all know who would win if graduation rates and player GPAs were factored in:

Go Bulldogs! Enjoy the tournament!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Wheels on the Bus

Yesterday, Jessica and our friend, Paula, took Kate "yard sale-ing" (as opposed to yard-sailing, which may not exist but sounds kind of cool), and found a couple cool toddler toys.

One of these toys is a little yellow bus that plays the song, "The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round"(a song which I'm convinced, along with "John Jacob Jinglehimer Schmidt", is on a continuous loop in Hell). As you can see, there are a couple little removable plastic passengers. While Kate and I were playing after church this afternoon, I realized that when you press each of these people into their spot, their verse of the song plays.

The person in the front turns out to be the driver, and her verse goes:

The driver on the bus says 'move on back', 
'Move on back', 'move on back'. 
The driver on the bus says 'move on back'
All through the town.

This got me thinking about how fifty-five years ago, a driver on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama told a black woman to "move on back" in the segregated bus because there weren't enough seats on the bus for white people. Rosa Parks refused and was arrested, the Montgomery Bus Boycott began, and our world is a much better place for it.

(By the way, I have no reason to believe this song has any racial overtones, but anyone who knows otherwise, please feel free to correct me.)

Kate isn't talking just yet, but she will soon, and "Wheels on the Bus" will probably be a song that she learns early on. I'm going to teach her one additional verse:

Rosa Parks on the bus says, 'I aint moving'
'I aint moving', 'I aint moving'
Rosa Parks on the bus says, 'I aint moving'
All through the town!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Of two minds

I've been following the dust-up over Glenn Beck's call for folks to leave their churches if they hear the words "social justice" with a mixture of annoyance and amusement.

On the one hand, I'm not remotely surprised that Beck said it. He's in the business of saying outrageous things to get people to pay attention to him. The only time I see him on TV is when Jon Stewart is making fun of him on The Daily Show, and I figure that not paying attention to him is the best thing to do. (Yes, I realize devoting a blog post to him is undermining that strategery)

On the other hand, a lot of people do listen to him and take him seriously. Jim Wallis thinks that he is worth taking on, asking people bombard Beck with emails proclaiming themselves "social justice Christians"  (another way of saying we take what Jesus said seriously), which you can do through the Sojourner's website. Wallis is apparently even challenging Beck to a debate.

I can't decide if that's a good idea or not. Are we somehow validating Glen Beck as a legitimate voice in the conversation by responding to the crazy things he says? Or is his voice so influential that we have no choice but to respond? Is a televised debate between Glen Beck and Jim Wallis a good opportunity or stooping down to Beck's level?


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Festival of Young Preachers on You Tube

Back in January I was privileged to be a part of the inaugural Festival of Young Preachers in Louisville, KY. It was a great experience, because as the oldest of the young preachers (at 29), I got to see other preachers as young as eighteen who are just beginning to explore their calling. It was also lots of fun to sit there and listen to a bunch of awesome sermons for three days!

The Academy of Preachers has now put all the sermons from the festival on their You Tube channel. I highly recommend checking it out. You'll see a variety of preaching styles from very diverse theological backgrounds, all of them very good.

Perhaps against their better judgment, the Academy even posted my sermon. It's not the best delivery I've ever done, but overall I was pleased.

The videos aren't able to be embedded right now, but you can view Part 1 and Part 2 on the You Tube site.

Any feedback is, of course, welcome.