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April 11, 2011


Cultural Reviews – A Pastor’s Duty

by Rev. A. J. Iovine

First off, my PICC line in my left arm hurts. The nurse said that was going to happen. I just can't go and strain the IV line that will tug on it making it hurt more. Thankfully, I have a good nurse who is willing to work with me to give me a little more leeway to type on my iPad today (and she offered to get me a green tea frappaccino from Starbucks later on). I use the Typepad system to host my blog – a good cost-effective service that makes it simple to blog and not worry much about crashing severs or hosts that don't respond to problems.

Their weakest link is when it comes to the iPad itself. They do not have a dedicated iPad application and instead, they offer their iPhone app for use on the tablet. Additionally, they have made it possible to blog from their regular web interface, but on an iPad, it is just plain crappy (sorry for the bad language; remember – my PICC line hurts).

Forced into waiting until I got home or using the iPhone app, I decided to use the app. It gets the job done, but it is not the nicest blogging app out there. 

This morning has been relatively bland – nothing out of the ordinary. I will probably get out of here around 11, maybe 11:30am. The PICC line issue pushed me back a bit. One oddity – there are a lot of newer faces here today receiving chemo. Interesting. There are, of course, some people I remember, but I haven't spoken with them since starting. The people I usually sit with aren't here today. 

One elderly woman who has lung cancer came in about an hour ago for her 25th treatment, and tagging along was her college-aged grandson. I know this because she told me about her treatment, that her grandson is a good kid, goes to NYU, and since his classes are in the afternoon, he offered to walk grandma to the center today. Awwww!

Grandma gets hooked up and pulled out her New York Times, going straight to the crossword. And her grandson just sat there quietly. I had my closed iPad on my lap and asked him if he wanted to use it for a while. He said no and just wanted to meditate a while. 

Now, I've always had a problem with people who "meditate." They always seem to give glossy, goofy answers as to why they are sitting there with their eyes closed, "clearing everything from their mind, turning off the world, and entered into a state of relative calm and peace." Prayer seems to work for me. I quietly talk to my Lord, and somehow, I get refocused. I don't need to hum or make other funny noises. I just pray.

This young man was kind of surprised when I told him that I was a Lutheran pastor (this seems to happen a lot to me). I usually dress down on Mondays (since it is my day off) and wearning my faded Lands End jeans never cries out "I AM A PREACHER." But we talked a bit about our personal faith journey – I being a lifelong Lutheran and he being Baptized in the Roman Catholic Church and hasn't been back since. With my left arm hurting – have you heard that my PICC line hurts today? – he asked me if I watch "The Amazing Race" on CBS.

Well, yes I do! I love that show (loved it that Ron and Christina got booted last night; they've annoyed me all season). Last night, the show continued its world-wide trek in India. In one of the challenges, contestants had an option of getting hay for cows or playing what I call "the cow crap challenge." Essentially, the contestants had to scoop up freshly dropped cow manure and shape them in handfuls and stick them to a wall. Yuck! I don't care how much money I can win, there is no way in the world I am going to play with cow droppings because that has to be a little unsanitary. I mean, goodness, it is cow poop. I know people in India don't kill cows for religious reasons, but honestly, playing with their bodily discharges is just plain gross.

The young man laughed at my description to the challenge and told me that I should do television show reviews because "you maybe a pastor, but you're funny as hell."

I giggled at the suggestion, but he went on, saying that as a man of the cloth I had an obligation to write about the cultural issues of the day, including movies, books, newspapers, and television shows. He said there had to be a place in my church for straight forward, clergy reviews of some of the important issues of the day. For a moment, I thought about it, falling on the side of "I would be a terrible reviewer. Every review would be short, sometimes a little antagonistic, and couldn't provide much in a way of guidance." When I expressed these thoughts, he said that is what would make the reviews perfect. No one ways to read long, drawn out movie reviews any more. They want to know exactly what the review thinks in a Twitter-like way.

He said I should try it out. It couldn't hurt.

I told him I went to see the movie "Soul Surfer" after "The Amazing Race" last night. Asking me for my review, he laughed and said I should Tweet it. My Tweeted review: "I went to see 'Soul Surfer' last night. It ain't going to win an Oscar, but I left the theater feeling good about my faith in Christ." The man said that was great and I should do it more often. 

Honestly, I thought about reviewing cultural issues in the past, but I have always shied away from it. Maybe I was a little scared about giving my opinions since I am a pastor – my focus is supposed to be on spreading the Gospel, not telling people why I like the television show "The Killing" on AMC (I haven't watched last night's episode yet). However, maybe this can be fun. I do read a lot of novels and theological tomes. I watch some television shows and go to the movies regularly. I read a lot of newspapers and magazines (mostly on my iPad) where articles have sometimes raised the hair on the back of my neck. And I do listen to music, mostly country, though I love The Blend (hot adult contemporary) and Lithium (alternative rock) on SiriusXM. 

This reviewing thing could be fun … as long as my left arm stops hurting (have I mentioned that the PICC line hurts today?).

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1 Comment Post a comment
  1. Marianne Herrmann
    Apr 11 2011

    Enjoy reading your blog…could you pray for me also, Pastor Iovine? I have alot of constant pain since last night. Went to my doctor and says I may have a kidney stone…have to go for tests Wednesday…still have fuid in my left lung, URI, the arrhythmia..not feeling great.


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