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Showing posts from 2013

Mirror, Mirror

Last Thursday was a social media lowpoint for me. News broke about a United Methodist pastor who was defrocked after presiding at his son's wedding (the son is gay, and United Methodist pastors are forbidden from participating in such weddings). On the same day, the cable TV network A&E suspended one of the cast members of Duck Dynasty for inappropriate comments in an interview with GQ magazine.(I'm guessing his picture used to go in the empty space between the others.) Both of these announcements caused Facebook and Twitter to explode with all kinds of angry posts. I wanted to run and hide.

Just this morning I received an email from parishioners resigning their membership in our church because of the denomination's stance on homosexuality. The wedding defrocking was the catalyst, although they admitted that they had not been active members for some time. Since this whole episode has unfolded this Fall, my heart has ached for everyone involved. It's been the reactio…

Iced in Worship Opportunity

The last three days in North Texas have nene weather crazy! Which, if you read my post from two weeks ago, is not unusual. This time around the hype was well spent. Our family has been homebound for three days. Thousands have been without power. I have loved reading all the posts from those with power welcoming others into their homes. Churches are doing the same thing. Many churches are closed this morning, including ours at Custer Road. We offer live-streaming worship every Sunday at 9:45, but today Senior Pastor Kory Knott and worship leader Tim Morrison will lead a special online service at 11:00 a.m.- starting in 30 minutes. I have no idea what is planned, but knowing who is involved I am excited. I am grateful to be part of a church with such dedicated, creative folk. So if you are iced in or otherwise unable to physically attend worship this morning, please click here to join us online. Everyone is invited to use the hashtag #CRWorshipAtHome

Weather the Storm

This weekend promised to be an exciting one. An arctic front blew through Dallas Thursday night, bringing with it the promise of rain, and the possibility of ice, sleet, and/or snow. On Friday, the National Weather Service issued a Winter Storm Warning for the North Texas area from Sunday afternoon through Monday. Local news channels sent teams to Lowe’s and Home Depot to interview employees and customers about last minute provisions like covers for outdoor plants. Other crews populated grocery stores, looking for folk stocking up on water, batteries, and canned goods. As a minister, I immediately began to worry about worship attendance. I even asked on Twitter for predictions about Sunday’s weather:




frankdrenner@revfrankdrenner Who's got weather predictions for tomorrow? Obviously every preacher expects sun and no precipitation. 2:20 PM - 23 Nov 2013
Many colleagues posted status updates on Facebook like this: “It may be cold and yucky outside, but inside it’s warm and dry i…

Gravitational Pull

The other day I saw Gravity, starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. I was very nervous at the beginning, because the 3D animation was so realistic-- I thought I would be pushed beyond my virtual reality threshold-- and that is VERY low. But after a few minutes I knew I would be OK. 90 minutes later I was exhausted, emotionally and spiritually. I will not get in to plot details or spoiler alerts here. I'm not even going to review the movie, although I thought it was very good. I want to think about one particular moment in the film, which I thought really revealed what the movie's main theme was. To set it up, after a very challenging space walk, Sandra Bullock's character is out of oxygen. She just barely gets into the space station airlock and releases the air inside. She spends a few moment weightlessly floating in a circle, breathing in and out. The she holds this pose:


Now compare that image to this one:


The space station is a womb for her. It's the place whe…

The Circle Is Now Complete

Last Sunday everyone studied the same material in Custer Road's small groups and Sunday schools: a stewardship lesson I wrote on Paul's use of the word charis in 2 Corinthians 8 & 9. Here are some highlights from that lesson, as well as a real world example of life application. Central to the lesson is the idea of reciprocity. In Paul's world, as well as our own, this was an important concept. You do something for me, I do something for you. From a Christian perspective it's God does something for us, we do something for others. Reciprocity.

In 2 Corinthians Chapter 8 and 9, Paul gives us some of the New Testament’s most profound teachings on generosity and giving. One of his goals in ministry is to honor the legacy of the Jerusalem church, founded by the original apostles, who empowered him to be an apostle. Paul’s ministry was focused on Gentiles (non-Jews), while the ministry of the original apostles was primarily focused on Jews in and around Jerusalem. So Pau…

Tacos and a Side of Witness

Yesterday I went to lunch at Taco Bueno. I sat down, unwrapped a taco, said a brief prayer, and tucked in. I noticed there were a ton of high school students there, as well as several adults sitting together near me. I figured the students were on their lunch break, and I assumed the adults were too-- maybe they worked together somewhere in the area. About the time I was wrapping up, one of the adults approached me with a flyer in her hand. "I just felt like I should give this to you," she said. It had several "big" life questions printed on it-- things like, "Does God care that I exist?" "Why do good people suffer?" etc. She explained that she was a Jevovah's Witness and wanted to assure me the Bible contained all the answers to the questions we have. This was a new experience for me. I was just having lunch! And now out of nowhere a stranger is asking me questions about salvation and the Bible.
Does she not see my Custer Road United Meth…

Observations from My First-ever Trip to Aggie

So my friend David (A&M Class of '89) and I traveled to College Station yesterday for A&M/SMU. Christy scored us these tickets courtesy of the Athletics Department at SMU (thanks!). I had been to College Station once in my life-- twenty years ago when I went there for the Social Science Composite test to be certified to teach. I had never been to the A&M campus. Full disclosure: I grew up a UT fan, went to school there for a couple of years, before moving on to Sam Houston State in Huntsville, graduating in '93. I earned a Master's degree from SMU in 1999. Anyway, David and I left Dallas shortly after noon. Kickoff was scheduled for 6:00 p.m. We purchased meal tickets at the SMU Alumni tent for 4:00. Along the way, a three hour drive from Dallas, we talked about several things, one of which is a long-term vision for ministry at Custer Road that I will discuss later-- and I'll owe David some sort of consultation fee for his expertise. On to football. Here ar…

Fight the Future

I am a visionary type person. Just yesterday Pastor Kory and I did some initial sermon planning for 2014 and beyond. I loved it. I'm thinking more and more about the long-term of Custer Road. Very excited about that. Rather than dreading their growing up, I spend some time each day thinking about what the boys will be and look like when they are in college. I'm a future guy. But here's the thing: I'm getting tired of the future.

Because in most of our imagining, the future is a bleak, dystopian place. Think of the raging zombie craze. Brad Pitt's World War Z, still available at your local $1 cinema and now available on DVD, tells the story of a virus that changes most of the earth's population to zombies. It's made $500 million worldwide-- his biggest movie ever-- and a sequel-- maybe even two-- are being developed. The Walking Dead, a zombie TV series on AMC (same network as Breaking Bad), scored a then-record for cable viewers with its season three final…

Cliches are so Cliche

The other night Christy and I watched Gangster Squad, which was so disappointing. I mean, look at this cast: Ryan Gosling, Sean Penn, Emma Stone, Josh Brolin, and the always lovable Jon Polito... and so many others! The cast was great (well, Sean Penn was really over the top playing Mickey Cohen) and the film looks stunning-- spectacular work by cinematographer Dion Beebe. Its over-violent in several places-- gratuitously so. It's biggest weakness was in the direction and writing. I mean, I have seen a ton of gangster movies-- one of my favorite genres-- but this one is filled with cliches that ruin it.

Example #1: One of the main sets is one of those typical '40s era night clubs where everyone would dress in their finest and there would be a live singer or comedian-- dinner and a show in the same place. The movie comes back to this same place over and over-- then one of the performers is a Carmen Miranda wannabe-- fruit on the head included of course. Really?

Example #2: Nea…

The Youth Will Set You Free

20 years.

It's incredible to think about, but it's been twenty years since God came in to my life in a surprising, life changing way: through youth ministry. The summer of 1993 started out with lots of excitement: I graduated with a degree in History from Sam Houston State in Huntsville. I then began the tedious work of applying to school districts. Without any contacts anywhere, I randomly applied in places like Tyler, Dallas, San Antonio, and, of course, Austin. May rolled into June. One day Mom came into the living room, where I was planted on the couch. You know, next to the phone I was certain would ring at any time. "Penny's been calling for volunteers for the youth ministry at church," she said. "Get up and go help her out." So I did. I walked into Penny Buckert's office and offered to help. I started showing up at UMYF meetings on Sunday nights. Later in the summer I found myself a camp counselor at Lakeview camp for a week, and an adult hel…

Change Is Gonna Do Ya Good

Last week I spent a couple of days making final "official" visits to some of our homebound members. Many of them had questions about Oak Lawn's future because of recent changes. I said, more than once, that Oak Lawn has great days ahead. "Really?" I was asked more than once. Absolutely. There is a ton of change the church has to deal with this summer: new financial realities, new faces, saying goodbye to familiar ones. Really, none of these changes would be very surprising to any who had access to announcements, attended meetings, or had conversations with others who were informed. One mantra we've bounced around fairly regularly since last December, when many of these changes first began to be considered, is "People do not dislike change. People dislike the grief that comes with change." Your leaders in the church have done an exceptional job making themselves available to the congregation's questions, concerns, and opinions. Decisions were m…

Compass Points

This week has been a busy one in the Drenner household: Christy was in Orlando on a business trip for five days, Miles and Linus have participated in Cub Scout Twilight Camp (so called because it runs from 4:00-8:30 p.m. only, not a sleepaway camp), and all three boys have participated in Vacation Bible School at University Park UMC (thanks for the hospitality, friends!). Somewhere along the way-- I think it was one of Christy's little surprises she brought back from Florida-- Linus (5) secured a small compass. Miles had one too from scout camp. So on the way to VBS this morning Linus kept saying, "We're going North! Now we're going South! Now we're going West! Now we're going North/South!" From the third row Miles (8) would respond, "No, we're going West. No, we're still going West. No, now we're going South." Then Linus realized he could not find the little bubble that actually marked the direction on the compass. I tried to find i…

Parallel Universe

Last night after I wrote the blog about Man of Steel I pulled up 1982's Star Trek II on Netflix. I actually own the Blu-ray but I wanted to watch in bed. That's the very definition of laziness. Anyway, I've had this movie on my mind since Star Trek Into Darkness came out a few weeks ago (for those of you who have not seen it, run to the cinema and come back-- spoilers will follow).

You have been warned! Last chance!

Both of these Star Trek movies at their core deal with relationships, especially the one between Kirk and Spock. In Into Darkness the relationship is still in its infancy; in Kahn Kirk and Spock have been flying the galaxy for fifteen years! At the beginning of Into Darkness Kirk violates one of the fundamental rules of Star Fleet, the Prime Directive, in order to save Spock's life. Spock includes this in his official report of the mission, and Kirk loses his command. This makes Kirk crazy: "You don't stab friends in the back." Throughout the…

Kal-El or Emmanu-El?

The other night I had the opportunity to see an advance screening of Man of Steel, the latest reboot of the Superman franchise. I was seven in 1978 when the Christopher Reeve version came out. I liked that one, especially the music, and I really liked Superman II. I was intrigued by 2006's Superman Returns, if for no other reason than the teaser trailer, which still excites me seven years later (the movie was a dud). The teaser trailer features the music of the 1978 movie, plus words from Marlon Brando which were not used in the movie. Brando plays Jor-El, who sends his infant son to Earth because his planet Krypton will soon explode. It's all straight forward comic book stuff, but the Superman Returns trailer features familiar theological language for Christians: "...[Humanity] only lack[s] the light to show the way...for this reason about all others, their capacity for good, I am sending you, my only son..." (see John 8:12). Sounds a lot like the Christmas message…

On the "Road" Again

(This week the great Willie Nelson turned 80. In honor of his birthday I tried a new ice cream, which was disappointing. So now I do him the great honor of lending the title to one of his more famous tunes to a blog post about an appointment change. You're welcome, sir.)

I received the news late last week that I will have an appointment change this summer. This was not a surprise, as I had requested a change in March for family reasons. What was a surprise was the destination- Custer Road UMC in Plano- and my role- an Associate Pastor position, working alongside incoming Senior Pastor Kory Knott. My exact duties are unknown at this point, but most of my work will center around developing a long-term strategy for growth at one of North Texas' leading churches. This appointment allows us to stay in the same house and the boys at their school. As I said, this was a change I sought- neither Oak Lawn's SPRC nor the appointive Cabinet initiated the move. I would have never drea…

"Resume." Reflections on an Emotional Week (Boston, West, US Senate)

This morning as I silenced the alarm on my phone I noticed a bulletin from
The Washington Post: one of the Boston bombing suspects had been killed; another, his brother, was on the run. Boston was in lockdown. Since then I have been constantly checking my Twitter feed for updates. In this era of instant communication, much of what I see I read with suspicion, because every media is determined to be the first to report a breakthrough (hello, CNN). I am in prayer for the safety of all involved in Boston, and for a peaceful end to this horrific week there.

At the same time my attention has been split for updates on the explosion in West, TX. I am grateful for the selfless acts of those first responders, police and firefighters, who consistently put themselves at risk for our safety. At our church level, I am grateful for our Missions team, who have been bouncing around ideas for ways to reach out in Christian love. And I am still coming to terms with my frustration with our leaders in Was…

"Earn This."

When most people think of Steven Spielberg's classic Saving Private Ryan (1998), they think of the brutal first twenty minutes of the movie, a re-enactment of the storming of the beaches of Normandy on D-Day. When I think about the movie, I remember its bookends-- the first and last scenes of the movie. Both take place at the Memorial Cemetery at Normandy, where an elderly man kneels at the grave of a man called Captain John H Miller.



The story of the movie is about a desperate search for Private James Ryan (Matt Damon), whose three brothers have been killed in combat. The War Department dispatches a crew of excellent soldiers to find Ryan, to make sure his mother does not lose all of her sons in war. The group of soldiers is not pleased with the assignment, which will be very dangerous. Ryan is in at unknown location far behind enemy lines. After a long struggle they find him, and he is resistant to go-- why should he be so special? Why should he be the only one to go home? Near …

Mr (Rev) Irrelevant

The other day I realized I had made a scheduling snafu: My Tuesday schedule: Christian Believer class, a wedding conference immediately before that, and Pastor JoAnne's Taize service all conflicted with Miles' first ever Pinewood Derby for Cub Scouts. Just a couple of days before, all five of us spent an hour of so sanding and painting all three boys' cars for the derby. How could I have forgotten it? That morning I began working the phone, cancelling my appointment, telling JoAnne I could not be at worship, asking Sue Thorn to step in and lead class until I got there. It all worked out. Whew.


We had a great time at the derby. Miles' car came in 2nd or 3rd (out of 4) in all of its races, and he won a trophy for "Most Funky Car." The racing was over at 7:25. Then I headed to church for Christian Believer. I was on time. And then: traffic. Not just traffic: TRAFFIC. It took 45 minutes to get to SMU from Royal. I began texting members of the class to say I would…

Come Fly With Me

Last year I applied for funding for a three-month sabbatical that would have taken place this summer. My plan was to travel across the country and explore other churches similar to Oak Lawn: historic, inclusive, urban. Funding was denied by the Lilly Endowment-- not because the project was not worthy; it did not meet their qualifications. Lilly sabbaticals are more personal in nature-- renewal for the pastor, while our proposal was more of an academic model for sabbatical. I was pretty upset for a few weeks, because I was very excited for what we would have learned.

Later, a family in the church came forward with a special gift to send me on a mini-sabbatical to explore churches. So this week I have been making plans for a couple of learning trips this summer. One trip will be to Los Angeles, the other Washington DC. I'll share more about this later, but the short of it is: the DC trip I'm taking the family with me-- we're driving. The LA trip is a solo-- meaning I will f…

Remembering Rebecca Wriker

We celebrated the life of Rebecca Bell Wriker (5) at Oak Lawn yesterday. These are the words and prayers I offered at the service. Her parents, Matt and Samantha, gave their permission to post them here, hoping they may be a source of comfort to others.

Last week I sat with Samantha in Rebecca's room at the hospital. We talked about finding meaning in all of this, and I gave her permission to go to the roof of the hospital and shout, "THIS IS NOT FAIR!!" to God. We could probably line people around the block today to shout at God. It can be a cathartic thing to do- God can certainly handle it. Rebecca's illness, metachromatic leukodystrophy (MLD), was a tragic reality. It is not fair for a life which began as most other girls' to end in this way. Let us not define her memory by her disease, but rather our remembrance of the joy she shared with us. Every time we see a ladybug, let's remember how that was Rebecca's trademark. Every time a child shouts alo…