Showing posts from 2006

power of the collar

(not me)

today i made a trip to medical city hospital in far north dallas to see a parishioner before surgery. i went to pray with her, to represent the church family, and to assure her of God's presence with her during her ordeal, including recovery. i wore a clerical collar for this. i used to wear a collar every day, when i wore a suit to work. then i went a little more casual, and wore the collar only on sundays and for hospital visits. recently i stopped wearing it on sundays, going to the more widely accepted shirt and tie.

my history wearing the clerical collar (also called a "dog collar"-- never liked that one) began with our being accepted to pastor churches in england seven years ago. unlike the u.s., almost all pastors in the u.k. wear the collar. even before going to england, i thought about wearing a collar, but when i looked through the photo album of a colleague just returning from across the pond and saw pictured of him in the collar, i was sold. i went to


i am coming up on the 2nd anniversary of my appointment to trinity church in duncanville. it is such a wonderful place, with dedicated people and a powerful understanding of what it means to be a community. one characteristic of that community that i had some difficulty adjusting to was a tradition started a couple of pastors ago: blessings for individuals at the end of the service.

in a new appointment it is expected that the pastor and church will learn to adjust to one another. the pastor may be uncomfortable with certain practices, may want to reorder some things, etc. but what i learned when we went to denison in '03 is that it is not only unreasonable for me to change everything in a worship service-- it is downright arrogant to expect everyone else to adapt to what makes me comfortable.

so when i came to trinity two decembers ago i heard about these blessings: people with birthdays, surgeries, anniversaries, etc. come to the front when the invitation is given, and the pas…

climate controlled

last weekend tragedy struck the drenner household: when i woke up saturday morning (after a very hot friday) the house felt stuffy. in fact, i realized this during the night, and slept upside down in my bed, so my head would be directly under the ceiling fan! a check of the a/c revealed an in-house temperature of 80, despite its setting being at 75. yikes. this was bad news. and we had just had the a/c guys out a few months earlier.

christy had persuaded me three months ago to renew our household appliance warranty we got when we bought the house last summer. thankfully i followed her advice. at least if we had to buy a new unit it wouldn't be so painful. maybe. to be honest i'm not sure i understand the thing. anyway, long story short i called and was told someone would call within 4 business hours-- this being saturday that meant i would not hear from them until monday, and would be without a/c service until at least tuesday. thank goodness a cold front came through saturday …

momentum shift

well, today was the first day of the new nfl season, and the cowboys responded with a futile effort at jacksonville. this evening i also caught most of colts/giants. i love football (not to the level of baseball of course). the thing i like least about it is watching on tv or listening on radio and having to deal with all the useless commentary. joe buck, working for fox, was in not-so-rare form earlier, going on and on about the cowboys' kicking game problems, even when they were behind by more than 3 points. it was a non-issue, and troy aikman nailed him on it.

what i dislike most about the commentary is the endless amount of clichés that these guys must keep on cheat sheets, ready to use at any moment. my least favorite cliché: the momentum shift. someone fumbles, there's a costly penalty, a touchdown in the closing seconds of the half, and all of the sudden there is a tangible shift in the game, where one team now has momentum, and the other team must try to reclaim it. it&…


wow, it's really hard to believe our new praise and worship experience, "all the way live!" is only two days away! i was at a district event today, and made sure to ask several pastors to remember our church in prayer this saturday. i also encouraged the church last sunday to pray for the service, even if "rock n' roll church" isn't their thing. every member of the church pledged to support its ministries by their prayers, prescence, gifts, and service. i am expecting those prayers in full force this weekend!

there is still time to invite a friend,relative,aquaintence/neighbor (you've heard of the FRAN plan, i am sure!) to the new service. a phone call or face-2-face invitation is always most effective. another fun way is to go to the church's website and click on the banner at the bottom of the home page. it has a black and white cow and horse, saying, "the same... but different." it says the message we really want folk to hear…

great times

christy, james, miles, and i had a great time in bay city, spending time with family. this was probably the best trip down there in some time, which is really interesting because there is so much going on (new nephew, mom and dad moving into a new house that is nowhere near to being finished, plus their work, etc. etc. etc.). both christy and i commented on the drive back what a great 9 days it was. and james was thrilled to hang out with his cousins and eat ice cream and junk food for more than a week. when wenji gave him permission to watch more cartoons in bed, even though it was after 10:00 p.m., he said, "this the best day ever!!"

here are some highlights of our trip, in no particular order:

1. spending time with my grandparents. we had gone over for a couple of hours early in the trip, but we really wanted to go back, without the boys. the night before we left we went back. we didn't get there until 8:30 (see the note below about the day in houston with dad), and sta…

"is this all there is?"

recently i wrote a post angrily describing the weather situation here in north texas. we have been mired in heat and lack of rain, and yes, i am aware it is summer. one of the local news stations has a feature where they record viewers' comments and then air them once a week or so. (this is a very dangerous thing, voicing folks' opinions like that-- they tend to be really ugly. it's another reflection of an overly loud and obnoxious society, another symptom of a lack of community-- an excellent subject for a future posting!) one guy said, "hey, it's texas. it's always been hot in texas. if you don't like it, move somewhere else!"

i love the sentiment of "if you don't like it move somewhere else!" don't ever complain about anything! don't ever voice a differing opinion! why doesn't anyone ever say to those people, "hey, if you don't like us complaining about the weather and everything else under the blazing s…

all the way live

last night christy, the boys, several church members, and i went to crossroads church in arlington. no, we were not "church shopping," and no, i am not considering leaving the united methodist church! our goal last night was to hear a praise band that could lead our new saturday night service, set to blast off in september.

saturday night worship is part of the vision for our church that God gave to us back in march. as far as i know, no other church in our area is offering saturday night worship, except for mass at Holy Spirit catholic church. our vision for this service is loud praise and worship music that will be inspiring and inviting for unchurched/pre-Christian folk. many of us have been praying for this service since march, but the details have been slow to arrive.

at lunch with a church member three weeks ago, i mentioned this concern with a leader in our church. i had called our conference children/youth director, and he had referred me…

if you think it's hot here...

you are looking at weather maps of north texas, weather patterns and temperatures. looking at the weather patterns (or lack thereof), those incredibly small green and yellow dots are pictures of an increasingly rare substance in our area: rain. we are in the midst of a terrible drought-- something like 30 inches behind average rainfall for this year. i am not sure why duncanville has not imposed the same water restrictions as cedar hill, only a mile away, but i will not complain too much. i've been watering our lawn every two or three days (always after 8:00 p.m.), and the grass is still green. although recently, when the water hits the grass there is an audible hhhiiisssss and steam comes from the ground. ok, maybe i am exaggerating a little, but not much.look at the temperature map, showing you exactly what our thermometers have been dealing with over the past 10 days. those are current temperatures, not forecast highs, which we usually do not reach until around 5:00 p.m. so tw…

fireworks on the 4th

(no, not that kind.)

yesterday, on the fourth of july (surely no coincidence) north korea launched missiles into the sea of japan: there is already widespread concern over iran's nuclear program: as much as we fear nuclear weapons being in the hands of people like kim jong il and mahmoud ahmadinejadi, we must say that nuclear weapons in anyone's hands is a threat to all human life and the creation. the u.s., britain, israel, and every other country with nuclear capability must also be called into account for having this technology. i could write about this myself, but certainly would do no better than a resolution of the united methodist church, that captures all of our fears over the tensions across asia today:

Resolution 338 #318-The United Methodist Church and Peace

The arms race goes on. However, the danger of a holocaust remains as long as na…


friday night a church member and i went to the rangers vs. astros game. my new home team was playing the team i grew up loving (and still do). the rangers won (woo-hoo!). yesterday the astros won (woo-hoo!). you see my concern... tonight the whole family is going to see who will win the series and the coveted "silver boot." the players look forward to winning that boot more than anything! yeah right...

friday night was draped in drama. before the game the "leap frogs" parachuting team dropped five guys onto the playing field. then someone sang "texas our texas," followed by "the star-spangled banner," sung by the fans, not an individual. by the way: why do we sing the national anthem before ball games? i heard once the tradition was started during world war II, but why has it continued? what is that all about? do our sports have something to do with our national identity? nope. something to think about.

following the national anthem, there was a f…


i have calluses on my thumbs this morning. and they're red. no, i was not working out too hard on the weights, and if you know me at all i was not working in the lawn too hard! i was working hard on "dig dug," the arcade game from the early 1980s, until nearly 2:00 a.m. this morning. i played that game for about six hours straight-- the boys were in bed, christy was out with her friends. and i was chasing dragons and other guys deep under ground, pumping them up or dropping rocks on their heads. brilliant entertainment.

the only thing that would have made it perfect would have been to play on an atari system, not a nintendo 64. but alas, the atari went into a garage sale many years ago. possibly the same one when my mom got rid of my trombone! james was dying to play video games last night. warming my heart with memories of the in and out mini mart, scheel's pharmacy and the bay cinema four of my youth, his favorite games to play are all in one: an old school reunion …

change of pace

one of the really addictive things about blogging is located in the upper right hand corner of your screen. click "next blog" and you are instantly sent literally around the world in a completely random way (as far as i can tell). maybe that's how you arrived here! welcome! i have looked at lots of blogs, everything from a teenager's diary to advice on gardening or cooking. recently, however, click on "next blog" and you're likely to read about the world cup.

for those of us americans unfamiliar with what i am talking about, it is the sport called soccer, or as it's known around the world, football. the world cup, unlike the world series, is literally a world tournament, and fans from every country are blogging about their team's chances. i have heard countless times this sport referred to as the world's most popular game. i can't figure it out. to my admittedly untrained eyes, futbol is the most boring game on earth.

i am used to the gre…

a pastor's role

ever since i returned from my studies in d.c. i have been overwhelmed with "church work." you understand there is a profound difference between "church work" and "the work of the church." church work has to do with management, details, structures, etc. the work of the church is making disciples for Jesus Christ.

elders in the united methodist church are ordained to "word, sacrament, order, and service." this summer was the fifth anniversary of my ordination as elder, and that reality combined with my new studies have led me to explore exactly what it is that i am ordained to do.
word: preaching the gospel. bringing the people of God a word from the Lord.
sacrament: the awesome responsibility and privilege of dispensing the sacraments of baptism and communion.
order: the authority to lead the congregation.
service: the exercise of pastoral authority is shown through servant leadership, as Jesus showed us by washing the disciples' feet.


so dark the con of dan (brown)

next sunday i will begin a three-part sermon series, with a companion sunday school study, based on dan brown's da vinci code. mr. brown's work has sold more than 40 million copies, and the film, directed by ron howard and starring tom hanks, is nearing the $100 million area for box office sales. the book, released in 2003, has created a sensation unlike anything before.

Christians have for three years been bashing the book, and rightfully so: it is an attack on Christianity, claiming that our faith really boils down to power hungry people (men) and conspiracy. mr. brown's book is filled with factual errors, which is perhaps the most annoying thing: if you're going to claim that Christianity is false, at least read some history books. these factual errors have been pointed out in many places, notably at, a website created by the roman catholic church.

it is not my intention to bash the book further than it already has been (if i were going to do that…

Come Saturday

Note: this is the sermon I referred to in last week's posting. Upon returning to Dallas, I planned on preaching it in church this Sunday, with it being Memorial Day weekend. However, I decided against that, for two reasons: I've been out of the pulpit for several weeks, and did not want to go back to that trusted place and slam folks with a message that some might consider harsh, at least not my first Sunday back. Second, Memorial Day is a civil, not liturgical,observance. There is too much blending of church and state in American society today. So, while the message is certainly prophetic and timely, and I do not discount the message the Spirit gave to me, I did not feel it appropriate to preach this sermon at this time. I would love to hear any feedback on this issue.

It was not Starbucks or KFC, but Ben’s Chili Bowl, down on U Street, where God began to speak to me. I was enjoying soul music, feasting on a half-smoke and fries when my soul began to stir. I had much to write …

akeelah and me

(i am still in d.c.-- home on friday!)

yesterday i preached a sermon in our "prophetic preaching" class. a prophetic sermon is meant to bring people to a decision, to challenge people, to stretch them beyond their comfort zones. they are not meant to make people happy or comfortable. originally we were not to have this class until 2008; but due to an emergency in one professor's family, the seminary switched the classes. we were to come monday, the first day of class, with a prophetic sermon. i tried to post it here but for some reason the library computer would not let me do it. when i get back to dallas i'll put it up.

the sermon went ok. it was a challenging topic, the war in iraq and our country's uncomfortable history with warfare. but the professor and class thought there was too much stuff built around the main subject. the sermon i will post here will be updated, based on their feedback. mine was the first sermon preached in the class, not a great preaching…

wesley seminary

wow, what an amazing two days i have had in washington, d.c.! no, i haven't been to the smithsonian yet, nor seen any cherry blossoms, nor been to any monuments. i have spent the last two days in the classroom, learning about the art of preaching. it has been thrilling.

my classmates are very diverse. there are sixteen of us, mostly from the d.c. area or the east coast. another from north carolina, one from alabama, one from hawaii, ohio, wisconsin, new orleans, and me, the only texan. yes, there have been comments about everyone wearing cowboy boots and the weather ("in wisconsin at winnertime we run outside, turn on our heaters, then run back inside. i heard you have to do that in texas in the summer with your a.c." "no," i said... but i may think about it come august!).

fully half of our group are women, half are persons of color, and half are not united methodist. there are even women baptist preachers! how cool is that? it's obvious i am a lon…

merging traffic

well, the weekend we've been waiting for for nearly a year has arrived: trinity church's old-fashioned tent revival. i am sitting at church right now, waiting for the guys to bring our tent and set it up. it's a 40x40 tent-- huge! and they are bringing 300 chairs, two misting fans, huge lights. another crew will deliver a 16x8 stage. we've run ads in the duncanville paper, as well as the dallas morning news. we've printed flyers, asked for volunteers, prayed... we're ready. for more info on the revival, go to our church's website.

at the same time, i am getting my head ready for my studies in d.c., which begin tuesday. i leave monday afternoon, meaning i will miss half of the revival services. i am cool with that, secure in the knowledge that our intern pastor marie and our planning team will do an excellent job. this washington thing is hard to get my head around. in four days i'll be sitting in a seminary classroom again. of course, for three weeks i h…

Travelin' Man

I have felt God calling me to pursue a Doctor of Ministry degree (D. Min.) for a couple of years. The D. Min. is not to be confused with a Ph. D. degree. While it is doctoral work, it is primarily designed for pastors in ministry settings, not for those who wish to teach at the seminary level. I have been looking here and there on the Internet at the various United Methodist seminaries for a while, just curious about what was being offered. I found some good things, but nothing I was excited about, certainly nothing I was prepared to go back to sitting in a classroom and researching in the library about!

That all changed two weeks ago. Sunday night I said to Christy I really wanted to explore a D. Min. in preaching. I felt it was an area of strength for me, and wanted to develop it further. The next day I began looking on the same websites again. Then I noticed “Preaching in the 21st Century” at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C. It was exactly what I was looking for. I ne…


today is "easter tuesday." yesterday was "easter monday." most people refer to the day before that as "easter sunday." to be more accurate, it was the first sunday of easter, for easter is a season, not a day. for Christians, every sunday is "a little easter," and the sundays between now and pentecost in june are "second sunday of easter," etc.

that being said, there is always something special about easter day. there is an ethusiasm, a joy, a spirit in worship and everything else in church that day that is somehow different. thinking about it, it probably should not be that way-- church should always be a celebration. maybe it was the handbells ringing, the children singing, singing those classic easter hymns... but i felt great after worship on sunday. i was thrilled.

following worship we went to some dear friends' home to enjoy easter fellowship with their family. normally following worship i like to retreat into my house…

exercise of mind, body, soul

christy and i recently joined a gym (the secret is out!!). i have joined and quit many a gym in my adult life, but so far i am sticking to this one. part of the reason for that is the church is graciously paying for my membership, as part of a church-wide effort to improve the health of pastors. i can't think of a better incentive to go work out than knowing that the dedicated members of trinity church are footing the bill!
my routine consists of lightweight training and aerobic exercise. i will soon be adding to that classes. but what i do now is pretty simple stuff. i don't want to get too heavily into it and risk injury. i also don't want to take it so easy that i get nothing out of the effort. believe me, i have been sore. and i can honestly say i feel better.
i am trying to make a decision to be more healthy. often times we make decisions knowing that they are unhealthy and unwise. i heard the legendary preacher zan holmes deliver a sermon once on this topic.…

A New Vision for Ministry at Trinity United Methodist Church

(Note: This vision was shared with the Church Council March 28. It was approved unanimously).

Things began on a trip to Frazer Memorial UMC in Montgomery, Alabama. We were overwhelmed by what we saw and experienced there. Through continuity of leadership and dedication to have 100% of their members involved in ministry, Frazer is able to do amazing things. We took lots of notes and the wheels began to turn, not just in my head—this is the important thing—but in everyone who went on the trip. We returned home with passion to get everyone in our church into active ministry, but also to reach out to the unchurched around us. We wanted to really become a Great Commission church.

The week after Frazer we sent in money for Easter postcards and coffee mugs, to help us reach new people for Christ. After that Jim Lawrence and I had lunch with Richard Hearne, a friend of this church and mine. We wanted to pick Richard’s brain abo…

spring cleaning

yesterday was the first day of spring. spring is the time when nature renews itself: flowers start to bloom, trees and grass become green again, the days become longer. it can be very exciting (and considering last weekend's rainfall, unpredictable too!). for some of us, spring is also the traditional time to clean up the house, washing the windows, dusting, rearranging furniture, whatever those chores are that we just couldn't get done over the winter months.

we've been doing some spring cleaning around church. always a very dangerous and delicate thing, we have moved furniture, threw stuff away we didn't need, claimed unused or underused space for other ministries. as a pastor, i've gotten into some pretty hot water over moving things around without consulting the "right people." hey, my philosophy for ministry has always been, "it's easier to ask for forgiveness than to get permission." no place on earth is that statement more true …
1994's Hoop Dreams

oscar dreams

Three weeks and counting… to Oscar night! Christy and I and another couple have an annual tradition of picking Oscar winners. We haven’t gotten to it yet, but it’s always fun competition. And one of our favorite TV personalities, Jon Stewart, will host Oscar night. We’re looking forward to the evening March 5.

Most of the talk this year is about Brokeback Mountain. It is widely believed to be the favorite to run the Oscars, particularly Best Picture and Best Director. Another film that caused much public “water cooler” discussion was Crash. Released in May, it is still widely talked about, with special screenings being hosted with discussion to follow. I have not seen Brokeback; I saw Crash after it came out on DVD. It is interesting that these two movies nominated for Best Picture discuss topics most of us are afraid to talk about: homosexuality and racism.

As a member of the North Texas Conference Anti-Racism Team, I have been through extensive training on the evil of racism.…
My newest friends, standing outside the United Methodist Building.

reflections from d.c.

Have you ever struggled with finding your purpose in life? Ever wondered if anyone listens to you? If you are making a difference? Or what about the opposite concern: You are passionate about something, a specific cause or issue, but have nowhere to express yourself? Many of us find ourselves in one or all of those situations again and again. I know I have.
Recently I was privileged to be a part of a group of eighty-four pastors from all across the United States, plus Norway and the Philippines, that convened at the United Methodist Building in Washington D.C. The General Board of Church and Society invited us for an insider’s tour into their work on behalf of eight million United Methodists. I was stunned to learn that the United Methodist Building is literally right next door to the Supreme Court Building and right across the street from the Capitol. As one unidentified bishop was remembered to say, “The Supreme Court is the voice of the law, Congress is the voice of the peo…

lost in transition?

note: this article recently appeared in the cedar hill/duncanville/desoto neighbors section of the dallas morning news.

i am not originally from north texas; i was “born and bred” in bay city, south of houston, in matagorda county. aside from my wife and kids and a couple of cousins and their families, most of the original clan still lives within the same 30-mile radius they always have. the undisputed heads of the family, our patriarch and matriarch, are my grandparents, mema and papa (you understand those are not their real names!). they have been married nearly 60 years, have four children, ten grandchildren, and lots of great-grandchildren. at Christmas this year, the family presented mema and papa with a calendar with all sorts of pictures displayed on it: kids, grandkids, great-grandkids of all ages, shapes and sizes. it was a history of the family in pictures.

i have always thought of my grandparents as unique gifts to me. for 35 years, i have played, ate, laughed, cried, t…