Friday, December 15, 2006

A Vow of Silence


I fully recognize that it has been a while since I last posted, nearly two months in fact. I have also noticed the lack of blogging to be a trend among some of my friends and fellow bloggers as well. But I don't think it is a failure to be introspective, or because there is a lack of reflection in our lives. I think that some of us have learned to be silent. There are times in our lives that we encounter crisis or difficult situations and we can respond in a number of ways. Some of us want to talk openly about the problem, voicing our grievances and letting others know how we have been wronged. Others like to report the information they know, perhaps because it makes them feel important, needed, or close to something. Maybe they find purpose in this. In my humble opinion, these people often do more harm than good. They might seem removed from the situation, and are simply reporting their findings, but they are a clanging symbol.

Then there are those that are silent. They say nothing, attracting attention from no one, remaining quiet. But just because they do not speak on the subject matter does not mean that they are doing nothing. Because they are not engaged in a war of words does not mean that they have removed themselves from the situation. Perhaps they are the ones doing the most. Some may read this post and will not understand what I am speaking of. Others will identify heavily and will find themselves in the heat of a battle.

This leads me to think of my brothers at the Abbey of Gethsemani. The monks at Gethsemani are silent more often than they speak. They spend most of their day in prayer. If you ever have a chance to go to the Abbey in Trappist, Kentucky, you will see that they truly are engaged with God. They pray for their cloister, they pray for the Church, and they pray for the world. Their silence allows them to often see the world differently than if they had been distracted with noise of mindless chatter. I think that some of my brothers and sisters in the Church and in the Academy could learn a lot from the monks in Kentucky.

Sometimes, I think, we speak before our thoughts are fully formed. Speech and words are a gift from God. We can communicate so much love and beauty through words, but we can also commit great crimes against humanity, the church, and God with these words as well. As a minister, people feel the need to let me know how well I am doing my job. One person's hurtful words can cancel out ten people's encouragements. The hurtful words stick, while the positive is forced out of the peripheral.

There are times when we must speak up for those that cannot defend themselves. There are times to shout from the rooftops that there is an injustice being done. But, there are also times to be silent. There are moments that it is more helpful to the kingdom and to our community for us to not speak on the matter at hand. It is then that we should put down our weapons and seek the face of the Lord.

Thomas Merton says this:
"How tragic it is that they who have nothing to express are continually expressing themselves, like nervous gunners, firing burst after burst of ammunition into the dark, where there is no enemy. The reason for their talk is: death. Death is the enemy who seems to confront them at every moment in the deep darkness and silence of their own being. So they keep shouting at death. They confound their lives with noise. They stun their own ears with meaningless words, never discovering that their hearts are rooted in silence that is not death but life. They chatter themselves to death, fearing life as it were death." (262, No Man is an Island)

These are times that I longingly desire to spend the day with my brothers at Gethsemani.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

No snacks allowed!

Tonight, a large group from our church tailgated before going into a local college football game. Alison, being five months pregnant, packs snacks along with her all the time now. She is never sure when she will get hungry, but is sure that it will happen. She was all set for the game tonight, and had a pretty good stash of granola bars, fruit chews, snackwell cookies, amongst other items that were to be consumed at her evening snack times.

Her plans were foiled as we were entering the game, however, by a young woman checking bags and purses. This young woman acted as if she had hit the jackpot at a Vegas slot machine when she reached inside Alison's purse. She greedily confiscated the items in their entirity as she ecstatically stated, "Wow, you have a lot of goodies in here. You can't take any of this in." She snatched up the goods without even offering us the opportunity to return those items to the car. It is safe to say that this woman and her friends probably poured over their pirates booty tonight like a well costumed child on Halloween. We entered the ballgame only to see that there was only one concession stand open in the entire venue, and like at most sporting events, the prices deterred us from a purchase.

I don't know why, but we felt like there was a great injustice done to us. We could have turned around and returned these items to our car, but the snacks were taken and we felt scolded as there were people lined up behind us waiting to get into the game. I sit here writing this now and think of the social injustices that the impovershed face. Those that do not have access to medical treatment because of the place they were born. I think of those that have been stripped of everything by their own government, and when foreign aid arrives, the goods never reach those it was intended to help.

Lord I pray that you will redeem your creation. I ask you to pour out hope for a better day to the war ravaged areas of this world. Send your Spirit to your people and strengthen us for the work you have called us to do. Let us offer our hands in helping to make this world a better place; let our path be the way of the cross.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

An Evening with Donald Miller



Last night, a group from our church went to see Derek Webb and Don Miller in a concert/talk session/discussion thing. In many ways throughout the evening, I was blessed by what I heard and saw from the stage. I also ran into a friend from seminary which was a blessing and a surprise. Julie is serving at the Wesley Foundation at Auburn U. She was my small group orientation leader when I first began seminary, and helped us to transition well when we moved to Kentucky. It was good to see an old friend last night, as she was bring a group to the concert as well.

Derek Webb was an outstanding showman, armed with a twelve-string guitar, he escorted us into the battle zone of social justice, poverty, the war/peace debates, and to the foot of the cross. Judging from the cheers, his most popular songs are still the ones about the cross and the Christ. He is saying things other Christian artists are not, for fear of not selling records. He is even giving his latest album away for free. Go to freederekwebb.com to get Mockingbird, his latest. It is always a treat to see an accoustic Derek Webb in concert.

It was a bit surreal to see Don Miller in person. He has been a cultural icon for twentysomethings for the last couple of years now and I wasn't sure what to expect. He was clean cut and had a short haircut and no soulpatch was to be seen. He wore khaki pants, slick shoes and a long sleeve button down with the sleeves rolled up. I half expected a black leather jacket and motorcycle boots. I am not sure why, but I was surprised to see a guy that looked like he was going to church. He has a voice that is as easy to listen to as his words on the pages of Blue Like Jazz are to read. In short, I like Don Miller a lot. He seems like a guy I would like to invite over for dinner or take home to Thanksgiving.

There were things he said though, that didn't settle well with our group. It wasn't outright disagreement, but it was more along the lines of, "how does he come to that conclusion," or "how does he back that claim up with the Scriptures?" The thing I would say about Don Miller is that he is a student of the culture. He is not a trained theologian, nor a trained sociologist, and he is not a pastor. He is simply a Christian trying to make sense of this mess of a world we find ourselves in, and he interprets these things in light of his experiences and writes books about them. Why is it that people can get so angry when people like Miller and Webb say things that they don't agree with? I wish we as the Church could interact with others better. Why don't we play nice with others? Leaving the show last night, I found myself disagreeing with some fundamental issues (not fundamentalist issues), but for maybe the first time, I did not feel threatened. I looked at what these two men are doing and saying, and I looked across thee audience of most twentysomethings and was thankful that social justice, peace, and truth were being pursued in response to the cross with this generation. I found myself laying down a sword and not wanting to fight. Perhaps it is the way these men approach their issues, or perhaps a change has been made in me.

Either way, I felt blessed and encouraged after my Evening with Don Miller and Derek Webb. If you have a chance to see either of these two in person, I think you will not be disappointed.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Keeping Watch is for the Birds


A couple of posts back, I talked about the disciples and their falling asleep when Jesus asked them to keep watch with him. In that same spirit, let me share with you something that I experienced yesterday.

Upon returning to the church after lunch, it had started to rain again. It had been raining off and on all day. Each day, before entering the church through the side door, I look to the right at a large cross afixed to the roof of the sanctuary building, and before walking into "work," I reflect on the cross, just for a moment. Yesterday though, I saw a huge hawk perched on top of the cross, and I stopped and observed him for a few minutes. He stood there on the cross, scanning the horizon for what seemed like miles and miles. Rain was coming down on him, but he stayed there, watching and listening. At one point, I whistled to try to get him to look in my direction. He didn't. after three or four attempts, he finally turned, giving me what I wanted, but looking annoyed with me. I was interrupting him from his watch.

I have always been impressed with hawks. Growing up in Texas, I used to see them perched on telephone lines and fence posts as we drove though the harsh landscape. They always seemed so still, so powerful, so controled. But what I was most impressed with was their patience to sit, wait, and watch. I was a jittery kid that couldn't sit still, and I still can't sit for too long without becoming fidgitty.

So yesterday, upon seeing this bird sitting on my "reflecting cross," I took this as a sign. I am just now again becoming a person that sees signs. I feel that as I child, I had the eyes to see these kinds of things, and the imagination to decipher what they could possibly mean. But as I grew into adulthood, I feel like that part of me went away; it died a little bit. In the last two years though, that area of my life has become re-awakened, and new life has been breathed into it.

So, I ask all three of my readers, do you see signs, or just coincidences? Do you see Red Moons in Kentucky skies and try to explain what is going on with solar and lunar positioning? Do you see hawks perched on crosses as merely a bird looking for lunch? Or do you see God communicating, ever so gently with his children?

I, myself, am reminded to keep watch.

(The photo is of the chuch and my "reflecting cross." I couldn't get a photo of the hawk, but will try when he returns.)

Saturday, August 26, 2006

We made it

I appreciate the patience and the gentle prodding ( thanks JD) from those who have let me know that they actually read my blog. It has taken some time to get settled, but the Fabulous Frenzels are back baby!

We have moved to Birmingham, Alabama and I began working a couple of weeks ago at a church here. We moved here on a Friday afternoon and officially reported for work the following Monday, although we came to church with no official duties that Sunday. The bishop was preaching that Sunday morning and I joked with Alison that he must have heard we were coming and that it would be my first day and he wanted to extend a personal welcome. In reality, he did more than that. He personally charged me with the responsibility to be a leader for young adults in the conference from the pulpit in his sermon! Nice. No pressure there.

There are so many things that have changed for us. We have moved to a new town with a new job, a new community, a new apartment, and I got a new computer. It is the new iMac and I am operating on a pretty big learning curve here. Like learning how to operate this new computer, I am still learning how it feels to live, work, and serve in this new place. We have been outserved and welcomed beyond our imagination. We truly love it here, and yet we are torn, because a piece of us remains in Kentucky.

I miss my home state, Texas, but Wilmore is a special place. It is a place where I learned to die and along with my close friends, we were baptised there. Not physically, but spiritually. I remember being told often in seminary, "remember your baptism." For me, my baptism in the waters that flow through the halls, classrooms, and chapels at Asbury seminary will forever be remembered. It was a place I learned to truly live, to love honestly, and to die well. For those of you that experienced this with me, I am glad we were able to do this together.

Sunday, July 30, 2006





These are photos of interest for my previous post. Enjoy and feel free to comment.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Stay here and keep watch with me

Then he said to them,"My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me." Matthew 26:38

I am preparing to leave Kentucky, the Asbury Seminary community, and some of the closest friends I have ever known. I rejoice in this time of entering the ministry and exiting seminary, but there is still much to process. My friend Josh suggested that we spend a day in retreat, so that we as friends could process through this time of transition in prayer, conversation and hanging out with monks.

"Monks?" you say. Yes, Monks. We spent a Monday at the Abbey of Gethsemani, a trappist monastary about an hour from Lexington. It is fully working farm and monastary and you can visit their website here. They sell cheese, fruitcakes, fudge, and other items in a gift shop. They also have about 3000 acres of farm and woods open for exploring.

Josh and I set out to find some statues that our friend at FARMstrong told us about. These statues are of the sleeping disciples and a praying Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. When we arrived at the statues, we had been hiking for almost a mile. We were told to be prepared to be moved, but our experiences we amplified by other unforseen events.

At the bottom of a hill, there lies a statues of three slumbering disciples. They are a little larger than life scale, and at the top of the hill, there is a statue of Jesus, on his knees, praying, and in agony. It is very moving and my words of description cannot do it justice.

As I stood next to these slumbering disciples, Josh asked me in a slightly alarmed tone, "Brandon, is that a snake by your foot?" Because of the seriousness of his tone and the reverence of the situation, I knew he was not joking, so I jumped away, and turning back, I saw the thick black snake Josh spoke of. This snake apparently lives under the statue and came up to sun on the warm statue. "How ironic," I thought, after my heart beat slowed to a normal rate, that it was with the sleeping disciples that the snake would dwell.

Josh and I began to discuss the spiritual implications of the symbolism of the Biblical serpent and what this means for the sleeping Chrisitan. Our true goal was to get to the bottom of what it means to be a disciple that stays AWAKE, rather than the sleepers. Jesus asked his disciples to wait on him. But what does it look like to wait for Jesus? What does it look like to be a disciple who remains awake? The conclusion can never be reached if we find ourselves nodding off when we are asked to remain at watch. The serpent will not creep in with those who are alert.

More on this later.

Read more about our time at the Abbey of Gethsemani on Josh's blog here.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Willie Nelson, Church Father?



For those of you who know me well, that I am blogging about Willie Nelson should be no surprise. You might even be thinking, "Brandon, your obsession with this living legend warrants such a post." Perhaps not, but to this day, my favorite concert experience is still seeing Willie Nelson play a small honky-tonk venue in Bryan, TX. He is a true showman in every sense of the word.

Well Willie has even surprised me this time. Growing up just a few miles down the road from Willie's ranch and home, I take extra interest in his latest venture. Mr. Nelson grew up in a Methodist Church in Abbott, TX, about an hour south of Dallas. Last year, he and his sister recorded an album composed entirely of the hymns he grew up singing in church. The proceeds of this project were donated to the United Methodist Church.

But this is not what I am posting about. It appears that the Abbott Methodist Church closed its doors last May for what was thought to be the final time, after many years of a shrinking congregation. Mr. Nelson couldn't seem to bear it, so he purchased the church and re-opened its doors to the public. See the article in the Houston Chronicle here.

I am impressed with his committment to keep this a community church and not a concert hall. My thoughts flood immediately to the question of his intentions. Is he doing this to preserve a bit of his childhood and history, or does he have a genuine sense of duty to use his wealth to do real Kingdom Work? Perhaps we should not question his motives, but instead, respect the work that has been done and pray that authentic worship and fellowship that is pleasing to God will happen in this historic United Methodist Church Chapel.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Alarmed

This weekend, while staying in an out of town hotel, Alison and I were awakened by the hotel fire alarm going off. It was about 3:30 a.m. and we both had a big day ahead of us, including about 7 hours of driving. I cannot stress to you how loud this alarm was. I swear there was buzzing and beepeing. I have heard alarms before that buzzed and I have heard alarms that beeped, but this was doing both.

After about ten minutes of waiting for the alarm to go off, it finally dawned on us that we might need to go and see if there might actually be a fire, hence the fire alarm. We made our way to the lobby and saw a large gathering of groggy, bed-headed people standing outside the hotel's glass doors. We made our way outside, and the fire alarm was quieted somewhat between two walls of glass. The fire department were there and I am never unimpressed when I see a firefighter in full gear. I suppose that is the little boy in me that still wants to grow up to be a hero.

After a few minutes of standing outside, the buzzing/beeping was hushed and we were allowed to go back to our rooms. But the next morning, I began to wonder why it is that we always assume that it is a false alarm. Perhaps because of the sheer frequency of these we experienced in elementary school. Well at 3:30 Sunday morning, I didn't think that my life might be in danger, I thought of how inconvenient it was to be awoken by such an annoying buzz/beep. I am assuming that I have been socialized to think that I am safe in my bed at night and that the fire alarm does not pertain to me, surely it was meant for others.

As we made our way back to our room when the alarm was turned off, a few people stuck their heads out their doors to see what was going on. One man asked what happened. I told him I didn't know, but they told us we could go back to our rooms. He laughed, said it was probably a prankster that pulled the alarm. As he said this, a little girl, about 3 or 4 years old stepped from behind the door. I was surprised and a bit taken aback that her father had not taken her outside with the rest of us bleary eyed. I don't know, this might be a rant, but I think if I had a daughter, I might not have taken my chances that this was a false alarm, but maybe I would have. Who knows?

For any who read my blog, what do you think this says about our culture?

Friday, June 02, 2006

What is your theological worldview?

I took a quiz provided by Quiz Farm.

here is the link http://quizfarm.com/test.php?q_id=43870

I took this que from my wife's blog (http://www.alisonfrenzel.blogspot.com/) and saw her post on this same subject. I was curious as to how I might test on this quiz, being a recent seminary graduate. Alas, it appears that I am completely unoriginal and have been vastly "indoctrinated" by my time in the Asbury community.

Here is how I tested:

You scored as Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan.

You are an evangelical in the Wesleyan tradition. You believe that God's grace enables you to choose to believe in him, even though you yourself are totally depraved. The gift of the Holy Spirit gives you assurance of your salvation, and he also enables you to live the life of obedience to which God has called us. You are influenced heavily by John Wesley and the Methodists.

Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan-93%
Emergent/Postmodern-82%
Roman Catholic-68%
Neo orthodox-68%
Classical Liberal-43%
Modern Liberal-43%
Charismatic/Pentecostal-43%
Reformed Evangelical-36%
Fundamentalist-14%


I assumed I would test high in the Emergent/Postmodern though, but was taken by surprise by my Evangelical/Wesleyan thought. 93%! My new found appreciation for liturgy and my family roots with the German Catholic community boosted me on the Roman Catholic section. I thought of leaving off the last on the list, but I though that would be unethical. It is my blog though, so I can do what I want. I think the 14 percenter comes from my rich heritage of growing up in small Baptist churches in Texas. You can take the boy out of the Baptists, but you can't...oh nevermind. In all seriousness, I am baffled by the results.

I think I took this quiz a few months ago and scored highest as a Quaker, so I wouldn't place too much value on this quiz. A lot of it is based on how well you understand the question. If you take it, you'll see what I mean.

For all three of my readers out there, how did you do?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Inclusio

Last week, before telling our story in chapel, Alison and I were sitting in “Little Estes,” a small prayer chapel that is an off-shoot to Estes Chapel at Asbury Seminary. Little Estes is used for many kinds of meetings on campus. The chapel team will meet in here for prayer and discussion, while others call “sanctuary” from the rigors of life, looking for a quiet place to reflect, think, pray, seek solitude, and commune with God. This semester, in a group project, we filmed in Little Estes, a scene that takes place in heaven. It worked perfectly with her white washed walls. Others meet here for a prayer and healing ministry, and while there is a chapel service in progress, there is always a team of people that pray in this chapel while a worship service is taking place.
But for many, like Alison and myself, Little Estes acts as an inclusio, or bookends on our time in seminary. When we arrived on campus for a visit in November of 2001, we went on a campus tour. The tour ended when we along with the other campus visitors were taken down a quiet hallway into a small room with pews. We were met by our good friend JD, the Dean of Chapel. He came in, prayed over us, and welcomed us to campus. It was in this small prayer chapel that Alison and I would eventually call Asbury Seminary our home.
Last Tuesday, we found ourselves, once again in Little Estes’ half-pews, meeting with the other participants of that day’s chapel service, going over the schedule of events, just 15 minutes before we would tell our story to a chapel full of fellow students, co-workers, professors, friends, and the Board of Trustees that were meeting on campus that week. In walked JD, who welcomed us and told us,
“this week, the last services of the semester, telling your stories, this is what we have been working toward all year.”
He prayed for us, and then worship service began, we shared our story, and we are now preparing for our departure.
Our story at Asbury begins and ends in this small, modest prayer chapel, affectionately called “Little Estes,” by the community here. I have made numerous visits back here during my time as a student, as a prayer team member, as a film maker, as a person seeking sanctuary from the outside world, and as a child of God seeking to hear from my Father. Little Estes is like a port; it is where our ship came in and where it leaves from. This is a loading dock, a gathering place, a phone booth that connects directly to heaven, and for a brief moment in film making history, it was heaven.
Many people say that the “Big Estes” is the heart of campus, but I am beginning to think that it is Little Estes is overlooked in her role on campus. Perhaps this is place where the Spirit originates from on this campus. It was here that my heart was won over to come to seminary, and it was from here that God launches us into our call to service His kingdom. We have come full circle in our time here, and Little Estes is our reference point. We will set up stones of remembrance in Little Estes chapel.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Staying the Course

I have been a bad blogger, I admit this. It is not because my wife and my friends have been hounding me. At an outing with friends on Saturday, they all but berated me about it. Some accused me of going out of my way to not blog. I suppose that does sound like something I would do.

But alas, it is not something I have done on purpose, but instead, it has been my schedule that dictates lack of writing here among other things. You see, I am on a crash course to graduate from seminary in a few weeks, and this is why you haven't heard from me in six months. But in this time much has happened. Alison and I flew out to Kansas City in February for an interview. Since that time, I have talked to no less than a dozen other churches in search for a ministry position and there is nothing to really show for all the effort.

For a while, I began to think I might be going about things all wrong, and I began questioning a lot of things(this can be dangerous if you are not careful), until last week. A saint of a man and a magnificent professor of mine told me this, "Brandon, you need to stay the course and stick to your vision. This vision is yours and it has been entrusted to you by the Father."

On his album Clear to Venus, Andrew Peterson sums up how I have felt after this word I received.

The ocean is rolling and these waters are rough;
With the storm clouds brewing in the sky above,
Let my vessel be sturdy let my anchor be tough.
Cause the the clouds are known to gather,
And the wind is prone to blow,
I'll keep her steady as a river,
When the wild wind comes to blow;
I've already been delivered,
So I'll keep her steady as she goes.

Remembering that I have been delivered from sin, the world, and myself is difficult at times. But it is in remembering what our Father has done that gives strength to the weary, and hope to the desperate. The message of "stay the course," this was a word of encouragement that was much needed.