Showing posts from 2007

find your spiritual compass

the other day i scored some new pez-- a bear with a metal helmet, a monkey, and some other animal. the package said the golden compass. i had no idea what that meant, maybe a new discovery channel show? i came home and showed my new surprises to christy, ready to place them next to the other 200 or so pez in my office. and then she said i had to take them back.
she explained that the golden compass is the first of a three-part series of children's books written by an atheist, whose stated purpose is to destroy kids' belief in God. in fact, as i have discovered recently, in the third book the kids kill God, who turns out to be not a god at all, but a man with a serious personality complex-- sounds sort of like The Wizard of Oz to me.
this brought up a very difficult decision: get rid of the golden compass pez or not? a true collector simply collects, and does not weigh his/her collection by moral standards. i collect pez; therefore all pez should be in the collection. on the oth…

time for a change

today i was james' invited guest at parents/grandparents/special friends day at school. we got to feast on school cafeteria pizza. they also served a thanksgiving-type meal for the adults, but the turkey wasn't exactly appealing. i had the other sides though: potatoes, yams, and dressing with. james was very excited, and it was fun to participate.

after lunch he took me to his room and showed me some of the projects the class was working on. he had all sorts of thanksgiving related pictures to color: turkeys, pilgrims, and of course, american indians. this year i have become very uncomfortable with indian costuming and coloring. i know our boys have participated in its various forms every year they've been in school. this week miles made an "indian" headband with feathers. james' recent homework assignment was counting feathers on smiling indian kids' heads. we'd consider it insensitive to other cultures to dress up like them (or like the stereotypes t…

enough already

congratulations to the boston red sox-- world series champions again, the second time in four years. they have won eight consecutive world series games. they beat the previously unbeaten rockies in every possible way over the last few nights. pitching. hitting. defense. experience. whatever the young rockies threw at them, the sox had more. good for them.

anyone alive in the sports world knows that the new england patriots are destroying the nfl. i got a chance to see them first hand at texas stadium a couple of weeks ago. what a machine. the cowboys actually had the lead halfway through the third quarter, but you could tell it would not last. the pats won by three touchdowns. tom brady has thrown 30 touchdown passes in half a season-- troy aikman, cowboys hall of famer, never threw more than 27 in an entire season. next week the undefeated pats play the undefeated colts. yeah, that's right. peyon manning's team hasn't lost either-- undefeated super bowl champs. but everyon…

one crazy night

last night was an incredible night in the wide world of sports. after a four-hour marathon the cleveland indians beat the vaunted-- and expensive-- yankees. at the same time, in the same state, the cowboys finished the craziest football game i have ever seen. i finished both games slightly before midnight, but was too emotionally wound up to go to sleep.

i have been a baseball fan since 1986, my freshman year in high school. that world series featured a young former university of texas pitcher, roger clemens. the red sox lost to the mets in a thrilling, if not frustrating and infuriating, series. and i was hooked. that year was also a good one for my hometown astros, who nearly beat the mets in the previous series. for several years, the astros floundered, got better, floundered again. through it all, my all-time favorite players, craig biggio and jeff bagwell, kept my connection to the great game real. last year bagwell retired; this year biggio hung 'em up; and clemens is probabl…

overachievers anonymous

something i am learning every day about prosper is there is a busyness here that i did not experience in other communities where we have lived. a small town stereotype is that life is simple and slow, predictable and unexciting. not so in prosper. actually even though the town population is somewhere around 6000 this is no small town. the type of folk moving here every day are not what one typically thinks of as small town texas.

one of my first impressions of prosper was the enourmous amount of suburbans and tahoes in town. believe me, there is much relief in detroit that the strike between gm and uaw ended so quickly! anyway, when i go to pick up james at school (in the interest of full disclosure we have a minivan, not an suv) i get in line behind dozens of suburbans, tahoes, escalades, and expeditions. the first day of school i wanted to make an impression by making sure my kid wasn't the last to be picked up, so i left early-- at 2:45. huge mistake. every other overachiever in…

sleep is overrated

hey-- it's been a while! lots of big things going on at the drenner home and church, too much to find time for my brain to downshift and write something. linus was born sept. 1 at 2:45 a.m.-- just in time to avoid a potential argument about when he should start school. texas law will decide that now. he'll start kindergarten in 2013. instead of the youngest, he should be the oldest in his class. planning is always important!

and no, he is not sleeping through the night. please do not ask. i promise i will announce it from the rooftops when it happens. so christy and i are a little sleep deprived-- so what? the little guy has to eat every 3-4 hours, and he is usually very good about informing us of grub time! and linus has not been the only activity in my life keeping me awake at nights. here are some more, not in any significant order:

1. selling a home in duncanville in a less-than-ideal market. if i hear another report of a housing slowdown or foreclosure warning …

the good ol' days weren't always good...

...and tomorrow ain't as bad as it seems. -- billy joel

i recently discovered the miracle (actually much, much less than that) of free movies online with netflix. turns out i am eligible for about 17 hours of online viewing, included in my $17/month subscription to the otherwise brilliant internet movie service. a couple of weeks ago i was browsing through the titles available online-- some good ones, a few great ones, mostly "b" or "c" movies. for example, i downloaded the ghost and mr. chicken, an old don knotts movie from the 1960s that i thought my dad recommended i see. i watched it with james, and after a pretty solid first five minutes it was a complete flop. i'm surprised it got an average vote of 7 out of 10 on the internet movie data base.

two days ago i swam through the freebies again, hoping to find a lost gem. turns out the entire first season of the outer limits, again from the 1960s, is there. you've probably heard of the twilight zone, y…


babies r' us. baby usa. the drenner home. all places expectant parents can go to stock up-- or stork up?-- before baby arrives. yesterday the ladies of the church showed up in great numbers at a baby shower for christy. she came home with a van full of stuff, from blankets to onesies to diapers. it was a very nice gesture, and christy really appreciated it-- and so did i. not so much the stuff, as the fellowship and support. we've been very strategic in our family planning-- this was the third shower in three different congregations!the official due date is still september 13, but after a sonogram last week we know that baby d3 is already 6 pounds, and christy's doctor does not expect her to make full term. Jesus said, "whenever a woman is in labor she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world" (john 16:21). wow.miles and ja…

camp yogi

this week the boys and i met wenji (my mom) and my nephews at yogi bear camp near houston. the idea was for the grandkids to have a fun, wenji-rules week away from home. when mom's friend backed out, i volunteered to step in. my nephews agreed that i was cool enough to come.

to call this week a camping experience is a bit of a stretch. we've slept in an air conditioned cabin with satellite tv access. plus i am wireless-ly blogging in the laundry room! there is a fun water park sort of thing here, with extra shallow water and lots of slides. another proper pool, maximum four feet deep, is nearby. there is an outdoor cinema; first night was cars; last night was the pacifier. needless to say, james was thrilled.

last night we grilled hamburgers and hotdogs by the fire. none of us knew how to start a proper fire with wood-- i'm a gas or charcoal guy myself-- but mom invited a guy from the cabin next to us. for the next hour or so, he coached all of us on the skills o…

We Have a Vision!

Please note: This vision will appear in the August newsletter and as a bulletin insert the next two Sundays.

Joel Committee Report
Prosper United Methodist Church, July 2007
“Catch the Vision!”
In 1902, the railroad decided to establish a new town north of Rock Hill. The town came to be called Prosper, because, as one of its original citizens observed, there had been a prosperous harvest that year. The Methodist Church was the first of the Rock Hill churches to move to Prosper in 1902. Our congregation was the first church in town!
With recent development, Prosper is quickly becoming a bedroom community for the Dallas area. Population projections indicate that Prosper will grow into a city of 85,000 or more. Our congregation has experienced growth in recent years, though not at a similar rate to the Town itself or the school district.
In May of this year, the Administrative Council authorized the creation of a Joel Committee to establish the vision for the church, specifically regardin…

Just Me and My Dad

Dad and I just got back from a really special trip. After he got off of work yesterday we packed up the car and drove to see a Rangers baseball game. It took a long time. There was lots of traffic. There were no movies to watch-- we were in Dad's car, and I didn't have any of my music except a Shrek song. I kept myself entertained for a little while by looking at my Lunchable box, which had pictures of Transformers on it. This is the new Transformers movie, not the old cartoon one Mom and Dad got for us from the mail movie store-- I've watched it like 600 times, because they can't find the envelope it came in, so they can't send it back! Dad says I can't see the new Transformers movie until I'm like 18.
After a while I fell asleep in the car, even though the sun was pretty bright on my face. After I woke up we still weren't at the game. We finally got there, but then Dad remembered he had to go to a bank to get money for parking and food. We drove arou…

sermon planning

a couple of months i wrote about my frustration with my doctoral work-- which was not remedied by my recent trip to kansas city, by the way. i said i was not certain about my final project, until i began thinking about the issue of preaching in a new church with its own needs. that thought process led me to the inspiration for a new project, studying the preaching of pastors in new appointments, and the development of a tool to be used by pastors when they move to a new church.

this confusion and frustration poured into my own sermon preparation, and i found myself falling back to the lectionary-- a model for preaching i was taught in seminary but one i have never fully embraced. since i returned from kansas city, i have felt the creative impulses coming back. with the help of my end-of-term assignments which focused on long-term sermon series planning, i've got plenty of ideas for the next two years or so. since i used this forum to share those frustrations (rotten fruit), i…

playing catch up

the boys are in the other room, watching star wars episode 1. there's only so much of that one i can take, so i left before jar jar was promoted to general to fight the droid army. what a joke. anyway, i just heard james exhort miles to be careful about becoming a jedi knight like darth maul-- beware of the dark side! good advice from a very helpful brother!

while they were in there, i was here at the computer, doing my normal nightly routine:,, checking bank accounts, etc. then i began to wonder about my friends in the texas conference, pals i went to seminary with 12 years ago. i caught up with a couple of them, sending emails with a brief update on where we are, wishing them the best in their places of ministry.

the sermon this week will focus on galatians 6:1-10, the last section of paul's letter to the Christians at galatia, and the last in a sermon series from galatians. in that text he encourages them to care for one another: "bear one another…

safe at home

christy and i took the boys to see ratatouille today. it is pixar's latest film, and it may well be the best of all. the toy story movies will always be at the top of my list, and i loved the incredibles. but ratatouille scored major points for me, because of its riskiness in subject matter and marketing difficulties (how would you feel if you saw rats in your kitchen-- even after watching remi and emil for two hours?)if you've missed the trailers, the storyline is: remi the rat has a profound appreciation for food, even after his father says, "shut up and eat your garbage." by accident he ends up in paris, in the kitchen of a famous restaraunt. a new kid is working there who cannot boil water. they hook up, and great things happen. i liked the film because its story is pretty sophisticated. there are typical themes involved, like following your dreams (joel osteen would be pleased) and making the best out of difficult solutions. for a g-rated movie, this one deals w…

the trunk of soul

this weekend in kansas city has been busy. yesterday several of us left to go downtown to tour two museums, jazz and the negro leagues. on the way constance blew out a tire, so we stood on the side of a very busy intertstate while changing the tire. we finally got down there and check out the exhibits. as a fan of the game, the negro leagues museum was fantastic. they had many artifacts, as well as displays on how painful the racism was to the players and the communities. one quote i loved was how the folk who attended the african-american games dressed up, while those who went to anglo games dressed like they were "raking leaves."
i found a great josh gibson poster, which asked the question, "is josh gibson the black babe ruth? or is babe ruth the white josh gibson?" gibson slammed hundreds of home runs that were never recorded. satchel paige is regarded as one of the best pitchers ever, but of course we don't have all of his records either. there would hav…

bloody kansas

That’s what Kansas was known as before it was a state—the reason being that before the Civil War both sides packed Kansas to swing the vote to be a free state or slave. The resulting fighting was so fierce that they nicknamed the territory “Bloody Kansas.” I am very happy to say that in my first 24 hours in Kansas, I have found it to be anything but bloody. People have been very inviting and helpful.

The other day at lunch after church Christy said, “Lots of people asked if we were coming to Kansas City with you.” All of the sudden, I said, “Come with me!” And after several minutes of debating the positives and negatives, Christy and the boys agreed to spend a few extra days with Dad. We left immediately, and spent the night in Wichita. I woke up the next morning and drove to a Honda dealership—we’d been looking for a new vehicle for Christy for a while. Three hours later, we drove away in a new van! Easiest and best deal ever!

Last night we rolled in to Kansas City and staye…

holy conferencing?

dateline: june 3-6, at various locations across north dallas. the north texas conference, the annual meeting of clergy and layfolk across the dallas area, convened. the first day, sunday, ended with a powerful service at the new cathedral of our conference, first church in richardson. our new bishop, alfred norris, who ordained me in houston in 2001, preached about the relationship between the tower of babel story and acts 2. no, he did not credit my post last week as his inspiration! i'll let it slide.monday the entire conference convened at the plano centre for meetings. at the top of this year's agenda was the election of delegates to the general conference (g.c.), in ft. worth next april, and the jurisdictional conference (j.c.), in dallas next summer. for those who do not know, the g.c. is a gathering of 1000 united methodists from across the globe, which meets every four years to determine the direction of the church. it is the only body with the authority to spea…

the church is the people

last sunday was pentecost sunday, the day Christians celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit (not his creation) to the disciples, creating the church. it's sort of the birthday of the church. for children's time i showed different styles of churches, including one with lots of faces inside. i told them the church is not the building, but the people inside. you remember the words of the classic hymn: "i am the church, you are the church, we are the church together..."

in the sermon i mentioned the tower of babel story (genesis 11), when the people of the earth got together and decided to show off how great they were by building a monumental tower to the heavens. God punished them by forcing everyone to speak different languages. i compared that (not very clearly, unfortunately) to the pentecost story of acts 2, where the Spirit came to the disciples, inspiring them to go into the streets and preach Christ in the native languages of the pilgrims in jerusalem (not to be co…

curse of the sequels

i just got back from mckinney. i was part of a caravan from the church taking our youth group to lunch and to see pirates of the carribean 3. we ate at culvers-- a great place, thanks again royce. we dealt with fierce rain on the way, and more on the way back, though not as bad. i drove four teenage girls in my car. they were lots of fun, a reminder of the days when i hauled youth all over the place for various activities.

christy and i liked the first pirates movie-- come to think of it, i saw it in that same cinema in mckinney in 2003. i thought johnny depp's riffs on keith richards as a pirate were hilarious. and the legend himself shows up briefly in episode 3. not much need for makeup either! anyway, we liked the first one, then ordered part 2 on netflix a while ago. it was part of the first post-24 shipment, probably dooming it. after about three weeks sitting on top on the tv, we plugged it in, watched about five minutes, and turned it off. it went back to netflix the next d…

inspiration happens!

the other night i posted an entry about my ongoing doctoral studies in preaching. i was not comfortable with my project proposal. even while i wrote that, i began to think of something i was interested in developing further: how do preachers decide what to preach to their congregations?

for lectionary preachers it's pretty simple: there are four texts from which to choose every week. pick one and get to work. one frustration i have had with the lectionary in the past is there is little or no flow from week to week-- outside of the seasons of the year, advent and lent, when the texts deliberately move us from one place to the next. i like to think not just week to week but month to month, or even year to year, and so preaching a series of sermons, like one i just finished yesterday, "walking with Jesus," is appealing. for the next couple of months i will be 100% out of the lectionary. God seems to be stretching me in a different direction right now.

last week christy…

doctor of blues

a year ago, i began my doctor of ministry (d. min., not ph. d.) studies at wesley seminary in washington, d.c. the three year course is called "preaching in the 21st century." i really felt God calling me to the program, and i was thrilled at the prospect of learning more about preaching. the first semester was great-- good, challenging classes, exciting new friendships. the last semester was poor academically, but excellent in terms of fellowship. now i am preparing for the third semester, which will take place in kansas city in june.

coming off my last semester's experiences, it has been hard to get geared up for the next session. the first week we will discuss our thoughts on our final projects, a sort of dissertation. the second week we'll discuss preaching in series, which i talked about in my last blog entry. my plan all along was to focus my final project on preaching in the african-american tradition. through my work on the north texas conference anti-…

do what feels right

no, i am not giving in to cultural pressures after 10 years of ordained ministry and saying let's do our own thing! what i mean to say today is maybe the problems many of us are facing are the results of our sticking to a plan or model that sounded good at the beginning, but has grown stale over time. maybe it's time to go in a new direction.

one of my favorite scriptures: "behold, i am making all things new" (revelation 21:5).

sometimes we think we have everything planned out, we're headed in the right direction. we're sure of it, maybe we've even prayed about it. then we get frustrated. things don't seem to go well. maybe that's the time to pull up anchor and chart a new course.

when i came to prosper three months ago, it was obvious that there was a profound opportunity for ministry. i knew the town had 6,000 people, but was aware of the north texas tollway extension coming through town, the "development" of land for new housing (…

not exactly the target audience

"know your target audience, and love them well."
-- bishop scott jones, at an evangelism event

the other day i was at home when the doorbell rang. it was two men i had never seen before. one was holding a magazine and a bible. the other was standing behind, watching, sort of like the training waiter looking over my shoulder at pappadeaux during my early days as a waiter when i was in seminary.

they were spreading the word about the Word. he asked me if i ever read the bible. i said, "yes, i'm a pastor." "oh," he said. "yeah, i guess you have an interest in people reading their bibles too." "yup," i said. "you know everyone says the bible is important, but too often it's just a decoration around the house." "yeah," i said.

i didn't mean to be rude, and i appreciate their effort. but i figured when i said i was a pastor that would be it-- they'd go to the next house, and i'd get back to wha…

our thoughts and prayers to blacksburg and beyond

in light of the terrible events at virginia tech this week, i can think of nothing more powerful to say than these words, a prayer for the bereaved from the reformed church in france, 1963. o living God, you share all our griefs. give a meaning to that which defies our understanding. shine upon our night. you alone can show us that we are not abandoned to chance or fate, not even in what seems revolting or senseless to us, but that in all things you work for the good of those who love you. grant that those who mourn may receive your message even through their sufferings. through their sorrow challenge them to discover the help of your mercy, and to hope more fervently for your kingdom. through their sadness, open them more to your compassion, and help them to live in your strength alone. reveal your nearness to those who suffer this day. surround them with the love you have for your children, through Jesus Christ our Savior. amen.

baby drenner

is a boy! woo hoo! and he waved at us on the sonogram!

i have to say i am relieved. as great as it would be to have a girl around the house, i was already getting stressed out. i can imagine how i would act when she brought home her first boyfriend-- and every one after him.

and i'll still be able to use the phrase "the boys," and not "the boys and ___," like she was tacked onto our lives.

yes, we have picked a name, but we'll keep it a secret until #3 arrives, sometime around september 10. thank you for all the prayers!

a new hope

last night was family night in the drenner household. family night means blankets on the living room floor, eating there, and watching a movie. needless to say the boys love family night. the last family night, about a month ago, was significant: james and miles' first viewing of a star wars film. they've seen the cartoon network's brilliant clone wars series-- if you haven't, check them out-- they're really good. the viewing last month was episode iv; in other words, old school, 1977. the original version, when lucas made the correct decision to leave han solo's encounter with jabba the hutt on the cutting room floor.

so what to follow the brilliance of episode iv with? james picked episode v-- the empire strikes back, from 1980-- and even better star wars film. why he chose that i do not know, although i am sure it has something to do with darth vader. like his dad before him, james has a powerful love for the dark side of the force. this came to him…

dreaming of peace

wow, has it really been two weeks since my last post? easter really can play tricks on one's ability to keep track of time!

i had a dream several months ago: my cousin ron, who died 3 1/2 years ago, and i enlisted in the army and were deployed to iraq. ron would have loved to serve in the military, but was unable to do so because of epilepsy. in the dream, he was all gung ho about going to war. the closer the plane got to the warzone, the queasier i became, finally yelling to be released from duty and given permission to return home to my ministry and my family. then one of those moments occurred when you realize you're really dreaming, and if you only wake up you'll be out of it. so i woke up, safe in the comfort of my own home.

a few nights ago i had a similar dream. this time i had signed up to be in the national guard. ron was not there, but my drill sergeant (if that's the role she really had-- who knows, it was a dream) was rev. katherine lyle, pastor of f…

broken commitments

well christy and i returned to the states last week. we had a great time visiting our friends in britain, but after nine days (and a combined 19 hours on an airplane!) we were happy to get home and see our boys. christy wondered if they'd send us away, knowing it meant the fun times at the grandparents' home were coming to an end-- but no, they were thrilled to see us.

i mentioned in an earlier post that i had pre-arranged with God to have a break from my lenten observances (fasting on wednesdays and not eating fried foods and sweets) during our trip to england. i said this to be funny, knowing full well that God could care less what i did or did not eat during lent. so i ate fish n' chips without guilt, and enjoyed desserts and cokes without a second thought. truthfully, eating and drinking junk food when i wanted to did not make me feel any closer or further away from God.

on holiday or not, i am always mindful of Christ's sacrifice during the season of lent. for those…

renewed relations

christy and i had a brilliant day today. from 10:00-5:00, off and on, we visited with former parishioners from each of the three churches. last night christy phoned jean from hurst hill and we were not sure jean knew who it was that invited her husband and herself over for a visit! but when we arrived not only jean and cliff were there, but also cris and lil from the church. obviously jean figured out who we were.

after an hour there we went to lunch at a traditional pub near the wolverhampton train station. many pubs in england have become loud eating places with flashing lights and games-- not this one. all over the walls are pictures and plaques of the old railways (the place is called the great western, after the railroad that once ran through wolverhampton), as well as pictures from the glory days of the local football team, the wolves.

after lunch we stopped by tony and kath's house for nearly two hours. they visited us in dension four years ago. again others came, so …