Thursday, December 29, 2011

the scrambled dog

I am deeply appreciative of some aspects of the indigeneous culture of South Georgia in which I grew up. I am thinking of the Allman Brothers and Otis Redding (music), Flannery O' Connor (literature), Clarence Jordan (racial reconciliation) and, for our immediate purposes, the Scrambled Dog (cuisine).

So, in the spirit of giving, and in the knowledge that many of my friends will be hosting celebrations during the holidays, I share this recipe for the Scrambled Dog with you. I encourage you to withhold judgment about the Scrambled Dog until you have actually prepared the dish and enjoyed it. This is an ideal meal for a Bowl Game, a New Year's Eve or New Year's Day Celebration, or a Super Bowl Party.


One package of hot dogs (I recommend Hebrew National, but you may choose your favorite brand)
One can of chili (I generally use low fat turkey chili; again, go with your preference)
A loaf of bread (I use whole wheat)
A package of oyster crackers
Mustard (My ideal choice here is Raye's from Maine, but there is flexibility here too)

Options (these ingredients are allowed, but were not a part of my childhood experience in preparing the Scrambled Dog...suit your own taste)

Cheese (for example, sprinkled cheddar cheese works well)
Salsa (while I love Mexican food, I really do not recommend this, but it is allowed)


1. Remove hot dogs from package and bring to a boil.
2. Pour chili from can into a pan and bring to a boil.
3. Place one slice of bread or two onto a large plate.
4. Pour heated chili over the bread. If you are including cheese in the recipe, place cheese on the top of the chili. The cheese should melt into the chili.
5. Dice up the hot dog, one per slice of bread, in half inch increments. Place over the top of the chili and cheese.
6. Pour a generous handful of oyster crackers over the top of the bread.
7. Add ketchup and mustard to taste. This is also the time to place pickles and onions on the Scrambled Dog, and to pour in salsa as well.

Eat with a fork. Bon appetit!


1. It is acceptable to substitute barbecue potato chips for oyster crackers.
2. The recommended complementary beverage is a cold Diet Dr. Pepper.
3. Again, please withhold judgment about the Scrambled Dog until you have actually prepared the dish and enjoyed it!

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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

the real holy week

For my clergy friends, the time between Christmas and New Year's is the real holy week. The accumulation of services, family gatherings and seasonal stress reach a kind of climax on Christmas Eve, and then there is a letdown. For some, it may be difficult to detach from the relentless pace, and for others it may be tempting to fill the time with tasks that have been lingering on the to-do list.

A holy week, however, presents an opportunity for something different. It is a time to filter out the noise and get back in touch with silence. It can also be a space in which to withdraw, for solitude and reflection. Into this time and space one can begin to think about the past, present and future. Of course, this bears some relationship to the making of resolutions, but more is at stake. We are not limited to doing the same things, in the same ways: we are making our way into a new future.

So, claim the holy time and space of the days between Christmas and New Year's. If you have been eating more, eat less. If you have been sedentary, go for a walk, hike, run or swim. If you once loved listening to a particular musician, find their tunes and download them. If you have some kind of spiritual or intellectual hunger, locate a book (one book) and bury yourself in it.

Begin to sketch the plans for the coming year. What are your birthright gifts, and how will you rediscover them? Who are those closest to you, and how will you help them to flourish? What can you set aside (stop doing)? Can you identify your calling in life? And how, in a clear and practical way---one that both stretches you and is possible for you---will you hear the cries of the poor and be a part of their deliverance? What place would you like to visit? What hobby would you like to pursue? And how will you find a manageable way to become more healthy?

These are a few questions. Maybe they are the right questions, maybe not. A perfect response is not required; what is essential is to take a simple and significant step in the direction that seems right for you. So you will choose the questions that are most exciting to you, or perhaps the most urgent.

In a holy time and space we hear the Voice that we have been avoiding. We declutter and remove the distractions. And then we gradually come into the clarity of being still and knowing that we are in the Presence.

Friday, December 23, 2011

simple and straightforward advice to preachers on christmas eve

1. Keep it brief. Err on the side of saying less, rather than more, and allow the sights, smells, tastes and sounds of the service to fill in the gaps. So, if it is somehow possible for you, cut out one-fourth to one-third of your sermon prior to the service. I know, this goes against our nature, as preachers, but you will thank me later.

2. Save the judgment for another day. There will likely be a number of folks who have made their way into the sanctuary under duress, or for reasons unknown even to them. They carry a stereotype about Christianity into the service that identifies faith with judgmentalism. In length, err on the side of brevity; in content, err on the side of grace. Jesus often did this--think about the parables of the prodigal son and the good samaritan.

3. Make room for doubt. This is, after all, the mystery of the incarnation, and even Mary "pondered all of this in her heart" (Luke 2). So you do not have to feel the need to tie up every loose end, or place a period where the Bible itself has recorded a question mark.

4. Appeal to the generosity of those present for others. Identify a need in the community or world, and set a big, hairy, audacious goal for a gift that would make a difference. It is likely that you will rarely find yourself preaching to a more generous congregation than Christmas Eve. So go for it!

5. Finally, imagine that Christmas Eve is a beginning and not an ending. Yes, religious professionals do often make their way through a fall gauntlet of church council meetings, stewardship campaigns, servant and leadership recruitment efforts, and fall festivals, and then there is Advent and now it is Christmas Eve. It is easy to perceive that you are crossing the finish line and you are ready to collapse. But this night is a beginning, and for many it can be the first step in the journey of being a disciple. So give those present some guidance about the next step, and the next: a sermon series in January, or an outreach initiative.

The last word after the last word: if you can't bring yourself to follow all five pieces of advice, work on one or two of the points. You will find yourself in a closer alignment with the spirit of the evening, and your people/God's people will be blessed.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

a christmas eve prayer for those who don't go to church

Lord, I don't go to church much.
I don't go at all...
Well, I go at Christmas.
I'm home then.
I feel drawn to it.
I like the Christmas Eve service,
the coolness of the air.
I feel like a child again...
It's surreal.

I know folks make fun of people like me.
What can I say?
I've drifted...
but there is a pull back.

Are You speaking to me?

I hear something in the sermon, sometimes,
but mostly it's the music and the candles.
What is it about those candles?
And the darkness?
The darkness...
or maybe it's the light, I suppose.
Light and darkness.

I know about light and darkness.
I live in both.
I've got some of both in me.
I'm basically a good person, I think,
but I struggle...
I know about light and darkness.
But I want to be closer to the light.
I want to light that candle and sing those words:

"And in the dark street shineth,
the everlasting light..."

I would like to live in that light, Lord.
I would like to come home.
I would like to be born again.

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Monday, December 12, 2011

images of God

Our prayer lives are shaped, to a great degree, by our understanding of God. In the "Magnificat" (Luke 1. 46-55), one of the Gospel lessons for this coming Sunday (Advent 4), we are given insight into the nature of the God to whom we pray:

God saves
God blesses
God does great things for us
God's name is Holy
God is merciful
God desires reverence
God is strong
God hates human pride
God judges human leaders
God is on the side of the oppressed
God feeds the hungry
God helps those who serve him
God remembers
God keeps promises

As a spiritual exercise, read the gospel passage slowly. How would you add to this list? Then read the gospel again, reflecting on the dimension of God that is most comforting to you...and the attribute of God that is most challenging to you.

The former is your source of encouragement. Claim it!
The latter is your spiritual "growing edge". Work with it!

Friday, December 02, 2011

an advent prayer

We are never ready, to be honest,
for your coming into the world.
We would like to be a little more prepared,
a little more presentable,
a little more together.

We would like more time,
and yet you come in your own time,
in the fullness of time.

We want to receive you,
but mostly on our own terms.
We want to be in control.

And yet there is never a manageable Christmas,
never an orderly Christmas,
never a perfect Christmas.
Birth is always messy, chaotic, unpredictable.

And so along the way we give up,
and we listen,
in the silence.
We watch for a sign,
and we believe,
despite appearances to the contrary,
that you are surely coming,
just as the word of the promise declares.

Come, Lord Jesus.