Sunday, February 28, 2010


I was privileged to spend an extra day in Casablanca on my last trip. I needed extra pages in my passport and a friend recommended doing this overseas, instead of mailing it to an Embassy in the States. This was perfect, as it allowed me to spend 45 minutes one morning having pages added at the US Consulate and the remainder of the day seeing Casablanca.

The couriers that I met in Casablanca over the course of my nine trips have been superb. Rabii and Yusef were especially kind during this trip. Yusef drove me around Casablanca and we were able to see the Hassan II Mosque, Almohades' cannons and an old fort wall, the seaside, and the old medina.

A public park on the outskirts of Casablanca

In Arabic... I'm told of the dedication of the park by the King.

Hassan II Mosque


An old fort wall of the Almohades, the Fifth Moorish Dynasty founded in the 12th Century.

Several views of the sea; both from the mosque and from a beach nearby

A fisherman mending his net.

On my way back from Casablanca I had several harrowing travel experiences including: road construction, wrong terminal, lost passport, exorbitant fees, weather cancellations, rerouting, bus from JFK to LaG, running & sweating, seeing an airline manager, being told I would miss my flight, airlines endorsing their portion of a ticket to another carrier, etc. But several miracles happened and I got home only 2.5 hours after scheduled! So happy.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Sociological Benefits of Church

I was thinking of the sociological benefits of attending church regularly. With my generation giving up 'institutions', there is possibly something lost by not participating in a community focused on the Divine.

I thought that both secularists and the faithful could find the following beneficial when attending a weekly service; this was a quick list I put together. Please add your own.

-Increased attention span by listening to sermons.
-Gaining an ear for harmonies, listening to different parts sung with hymns.
-A sense of physical touch through shaking hands and passing of the peace.
-A sense of community through communion and call & answer prayers.
-A sense/respect of history seeing the historicity of liturgy.
-Being provided meals and visits after recent births, deaths, and tragedies.
-An easy opportunity to serve (as an usher, band member, choir member, etc) and an opportunity to learn new skills (audio/visual equipment, etc.).
-A set-aside time for silence, reflection, and Seasons.
-A sense of transcendence that makes today's problems less severe.
-Time in the week for remembering those who are less fortunate.
-Reading and meditating on a book that is both 2,000 years old, yet timeless, has changed the world, and which much of our Western Civilization references.
-An emphasis on the soul and the eternal, which also can make today's problems less severe (provides new perspective).
-Transcending our reliance solely on the mind and using our heart and recognizing our affect.
-Church can encourage an opportunity to practice discipline either through regular reading and prayer or letting go of worldly things by fasting and remembering those who do without.
-Potlucks that foster community.
-Practicing the discipline of tithing serves to help the discipline of other good money management skills.
-Connecting personal pain with the pain of others in community....crying together and laughing together.
-Confession in appropriate ways that clears away guilt and helps participant look to the future.
-Congregation testimonies which suggests the Holy not only in history but today. This lends itself to congregants believing less in the 'randomness' of the world and instead in a purposefulness. To Christians, this can mean God's work in history and God's work in the lives of other members makes life seem less 'random'.
-Ritual and Imagery- Through rituals like baptism there is a visual sense of putting off the old life and symbolizing a new birth.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Whisper Man

In college, you could kind of tell who many of the pre-seminary students were. Not just because of their hairstyles or clothes but because of the way they empathized with you or challenged you.

I had many guy friends who used a different voice when practicing pastoring. They adopted a slightly higher pitch and they softened the volume almost to a whisper. I liken this 'fumbling about' to children practicing being doctors; harmless and getting the kinks out. No pastor who has real-life experience still goes to that voice, surely. While meaning to sound sincere, it often sounded pretentious... like the person was talking to a baby.

"Yeah, I know what you mean"
"Have you considered...."
"The Bible says..."
"It is difficult, I know"

Business majors and Bible majors wore the suits in the college yearbook. That was another way to tell people apart.