Enough Brisket BBQ For A While!

So … 4 days in Texas, 4 BBQ dinners! First was Dickey’s in Richardson with my niece and her husband on Saturday night; next was Spring Creek Barbeque in Dallas with the Texas family for Sunday lunch; yesterday was a welcome luncheon of the same at the host church for my conference; and finally tonight at Rudy’s Barbeque in Austin with two of my pals – Guy Kneebone from Urbana (yes, from Maryland), and Joel Sutton from Minneapolis.

Here are some pictures from tonight. The place has a lot of interesting signs and hangings on the wall (very Texan-like), and they had a ribs-eating contest while we were there (though we did not participate).

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Bro Time in TX

Over the years as a pastor I have gone to many pastoral conferences and seminars. Earlier in my career I found many of them to be helpful and interesting, but as time went by, this was less true. It seemed that the practical truths and benefits were more difficult to find and hidden within a sea of miscellaneous ideas that were either unrelated to my church situation or were things we had been doing for years.IMG_0221[1]

The national organization of our denomination – The Evangelical Free Church of America – has national conferences that are extremely good. There are many break-out sessions of great value. But I’ve never found anything as helpful and practically beneficial as an affinity group that has been put together also by the EFCA – called Team 500. It is for lead pastors of churches with 500-1,000 people in their ministry (there is another group called “The K Club” which is for churches of over 1,000 people).

Over the past eight years, I have attended this on six occasions. As I write this, I am sitting in the session this year at First Evangelical Free Church of Austin, Texas. Right now they are talking about church governance and how to change structures … as they are mostly talking about changing in a direction like we already have and have possessed from the beginning. So I can listen and write at the same time!

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The 3rd guy from the left is J.J. Plasencio – the bass player from Sixpence None the Richer – who is the worship leader at the host church here in Austin.

But there are so many topics over these years that I have found to be helpful, and that is true again this year. But beyond that, this is the best group of guys I’ve ever known in ministry; I love these men and we are warriors in the conflict at the same time and in the same sorts of battles with all of the similar issues that we confront in this age and culture. One of the guys here and I think so much alike and have had so many of the same experiences, that I began to wonder if we were separated at birth. I knew he was of a similar age, so I asked him exactly when he was born … and it turns out that I am one day older than him!

Duckie Always Has It Worse

So if you think you are having a bad stretch of life, let me tell you about our family friend “Duckie.” This is the favorite stuffed animal toy of both of my grandchildren. Yes, there should be a special place in heaven for all favorite stuffed toys of preschoolers.IMG_0154[1]

So here we are in Arizona for a “vacation” week. So far, of our travelling group of 10 people, the only one to not be more than just a bit sick is the mother of my daughter-in-law … who is a cancer patient on regular chemo treatments. Whatever the rest of us had, chemo destroyed apparently.

The most ill of us all have been the grandkids. And poor Duckie – he has been barfed upon, tossed twice into the toilet, had soup and food spilled all over him, and been stepped upon and thrown across the room. He is also regularly carried from place to place by people holding onto his beak! Along the way he has as well made several trips to the “hospital” by being sent through the laundry to clean up the last disaster.

Yep, it’s a Buchman vacation. So typical. I’ve even blogged about it in the past. We have had a couple of nice vacations over the years. The reason those stand out in my mind is because we have more commonly had TOTAL DISASTERS for vacation trips. You know how (I would think) the common experience for people on vacation is to wish it could continue and they don’t have to go home? Well, most of our vacations have been the sort that you are counting the days until you can get home again.

What makes them bad? Well, a couple of times it has been vehicle failures. A few times the accommodations were, well, less than what the pictures portrayed.  Many times it has been horrendous weather conditions like a solid week of heavy rain while camping somewhere (people in a canoe literally paddling through the campground). Sometimes it has been, like this trip, sickness that makes for … well … unhappy campers.

One of those experiences actually happened about 22 years ago in the area where we now live – about 3-4 years before we moved to Western Maryland (of course, not knowing we would ever do something like that). I remember we stayed at a large hotel alongside 81 in Martinsburg for an evening. Several of the kids (we had four at the time) were not feeling well – especially Jesse who was just a baby. The room looked like a war zone when we departed. We went to Antietam that day, hoping none of the rest would get it that bad. I remember parking in the area on the south side of the cornfield, and in the time it took for me to turn off the car and walk around to un-belt someone, two of them had thrown up! We just cleaned it up and drove for home.

So, it all makes for memories, right? Well, there are all sorts of memories. I think my vacation memories could use some shock therapy. But no matter how bad it gets, Duckie has it worse!

Skulls Everywhere

So here I am in Tucson, sorta attending a gemstones show – the largest in the world, with literally thousands of vendors – along with my bead store business family relatives. I’m here for the family part of it, the warmth part of it, the leave Washington County on something other than a school bus of teenagers part of it … more than the gemstones experience. It is a lot of walking and standing, so on this first day, I did a half day and went back to the hotel to deal with my swollen knee and to write stuff like this!

IMG_0114It really is quite a sight to see crystals and gemstones from literally all over the world … and in all sizes – from the seed bead size of a sesame seed, to crystals actually bigger than a human. There are fossils and meteorites and every shape and size of both raw and polished stones.

But one thing that quite amazed me was the popularity of skulls. You can buy carved stone skulls in every size from beads to larger than life – and you can get them in just about every type of gemstone or color. Dozens upon dozens of vendors were selling them – many of them also wearing clothing with skull prints of varied sorts.IMG_0080

But why? Why skulls? It is a trending item even in the fashion world.

I did some research to find some answers. There were a lot of hits on sites that were asking and seeking to answer the same question. There is no definitive simple answer.

Regarding popular fashion, one writer said, “What happened to make them so immensely popular in fashion? Alexander McQueen happened! The fashion designer created a line of silk skull scarves and the rest is history. Skulls continue to hold a position on the fashion radar, making bold statements everywhere. They have been trending on the streets in various forms.”

Among others seeking to give an explanation to the trend were these suggestions:  “Because it makes you look hardcore and edgy … it is part of Emo and Goth cultures, hence it is everywhere … there is an obsession with death – like ‘The Walking Dead’  … the punk rock chic look is in … it makes you look badass and that is cool … lol, it’s just popular, no one knows why.”

A more thoughtful writer questioned it in a way that has gone through my mind, “But what’s it all about? Down through history, skull iconography has been used in campaigns by invading and dominating forces to instill fear into their enemies, from the Romans, to Vikings, Cannibals, to Pirates, to the Nazis, even to Bikers and Metalheads in the latter half of the 20th century. All fairly antisocial types! So why is the fashion world trying to associate with this?

I think it is a subconscious expression of a worldview by a generation who sees the world as dark and hopeless. There is a sense of meaninglessness in modern world with moral malaise, expressed often by a pervasive sense of despair – that there is a vacuum of answers to the meaning of life. I read where one young woman who was buying some skull fashions lamented about how the world is so full of violence and injustice that “you can’t just go around wearing rainbows and happy stuff.”

That is sad, if indeed this last suggestion is the reason … and I think it had some merit and validity. The generation is yet to be found that can find happiness and contentment in life apart from a vital relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Without that, there is that God-shaped vacuum spoken about by Pascal. This is a timeless truth about the human condition.

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