Monday, June 29, 2009

farewell at Convergence

Last night was my last at Convergence; the service was basically a time to honor and thank me. It was very touching and encouraging to hear so many people share how I have impacted them. I felt very blessed.

I wish I had copies of everything everyone said--it was really beautiful. Here is a poem my friend Mike wrote during the service:

of short hair
and long temper

stretching himself
every day
from Stafford
to here
and back again

to push and pull
to plug away
to make a way

leading from the heart
loving from the gut
both family,
and family of faith

soft and hard

It hasn't really sunk in yet that I won't be going to work at Convergence anymore. I am at peace with the decision, and excited about the future, but I will miss seeing so many people on a regular basis. I am only letting those feelings in a little at a time; it's too much to face all at once.

I have done some little things to move on--changing my info on websites and blog...strange to be unemployed...

But I know many of those friendships will continue; so many people at Convergence have become a big part of my life.

Now I need to get busy preparing for our vacation--lots to do.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

my rambling thoughts on thursday's passings

I really had to wait a couple days; couldn't really get my mind around the deaths of Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson. I'm feeling really old right now.

When I was 11, watching Charlie's Angels was the highlight of my week. I was in love with Farrah. I had that poster on my wall; probably all the way through high school. She was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen; and was the first to stir some strange new feelings in me.

I followed her career, and was glad that she had some later success. I thought she got kind of strange in her later years, but always appreciated her spirit.

Michael Jackson--wow. I'm still in shock. He was as big as they come. His music, along with a few other artists, created the soundtrack for my first 20 years. I remember watching the Jackson 5 Saturday morning cartoon when I was 6 or 7. I remember dancing to the Off the Wall album at high school dance parties.

Thriller provided the biggest music for my senior year in high school. Dances, parties, "Billie Jean" and "Beat It" blasting from boom boxes and car stereos.

Michael Jackson was the artist that everyone listened to--no matter what color you were or which crowd you ran with. He was one of those people you felt connected to, because of the music.

I remember the day Elvis died--where I was and what I was doing when I heard the news (at my friend Michael Brown's house, working on our bikes in his backyard). That night my next door neighbor Paul sat on his back patio and got drunk while blasting Elvis songs on his stereo.

That was big, but Elvis was from my parents' generation. Michael Jackson was ours.

I heard about Michael Jackson on a plane that had just landed in Chicago; another passenger had turned his phone on and received a text with the news. I couldn't believe it. I still can't.

I didn't care much for his music in later years, and felt he had become so bizarre that I couldn't really connect with him anymore. He seemed like such a sad person--not really the same one I had listened to years before.

But I will always remember the little boy with amazing talent, and the young man who broke down barriers and helped us to party and celebrate life. I've been listening to his music more the last few days than I had in years. It brings back great memories, and helps me both celebrate his life and grieve his death.

Thanks Michael and Farrah, I hope you are at peace.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

the funniest show you've never seen

Mr. Deity is an amazing web show--really one of the funniest things I've seen--better than most of what you see on TV. Brian Keith Dalton, the creator, writer, director and star is hilarious.

Now, those of you who don't like your Christianity to be the subject of comedy may be offended; but the show does make you think, and raises some good questions.

Mr. Deity just began its third season. Brian and his cohorts recently began a second show, Words, that is as funny as Mr. Deity. You can check them out through the website or subscribe on YouTube.

Monday, June 15, 2009

important announcement--transition time

Below is the announcement I made at Convergence last night:

The past three years have been a wonderful journey--I am honored and grateful to be a part of such an amazing community. My family and I are at a time of transition, and believe this is the time to step out of my role here at Convergence.

I am resigning as co-pastor effective June 30. There are several factors that have influenced my decision--please know that none of them have anything to do with the people of the Convergence community. I love each of you and hope our friendships will continue.

Living an hour from Convergence is a huge challenge. We had hoped to move closer, but the economy has made that impossible. Because we're so far away, it is difficult for my family to be as involved as we would like to be. We hope to find a faith community closer to home where we can all be involved.

My primary ministry gifts are teaching and pastoral care. While those gifts have helped us build a healthy sense of community, they don't match as well with what Convergence needs to grow and increase its influence, and we all want what is best for Convergence.

From the beginning, we knew Convergence would be a community marked by innovation, change, and experimentation. I am confident that the staff, the advisory team and the trustees will work together to create an effective plan to move forward and achieve even greater success through this transition.

As hard as it is, this is what is best for my family, and I think this will be a positive for Convergence as we strive to involve more people in leadership, and continue to multiply people and ministries.

My focus will shift to completing my Master of Divinity degree at the Leland Center for Theological Studies next year. At the same time, my family and I will be praying and looking for the next steps in our journey.

I will miss being at Convergence, and will miss the people here tremendously. I am grateful for the ways you have supported and encouraged me over the past three years. I want to thank Lisa, the advisory team and everyone in the Convergence community for their support and encouragement.

I'll be in the office most of this week if you would like to stop by. Next week I will be in Grand Rapids, Michigan, representing Convergence at the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship Symposium.

June 28 will be my last Sunday; I hope it will be a time of celebration of what God has done and what God will do in our lives and the life of Convergence.

Thank you for the opportunity to be a part of such a wonderful endeavor. I will always cherish the relationships and accomplishments of the past three years, and will pray that Convergence continues to break new ground and make a positive impact in our community.


Todd Cullop

P.S. After June 19, please send all Convergence communication to You can reach me at

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Stories Seldom Told

Stories Seldom Told
by Bud Hensgen

I participated in SPARK recently--an artistic project where writers and visual artists pair up and create work inspired by one another.

My friend Bud and I worked together. Above is his original piece, Stories Seldom Told. Below is the poem I wrote in response.

My life is messy.
Sometimes it feels like I’ve accumulated
a century’s worth of memories in half that time.

Those memories are contained, ordered,
like stories on a page.
Sometimes I read them, and let my imagination take me back,

But on occasion they jump off the page, and come alive,
and suddenly they’re reading me.
It’s frightening, and a little fun
as they surround me and fill me.

I relive the embarrassing moments;
the times I felt famous
or ashamed
or loved.

The truth swirls and flows and is hard to get hold of.
What happened blends with what I wish happened,
or what I fear happened.

I remember the feelings more than the events.
I see the faces of the characters
but often can’t remember their names.

Imagination picks up where memory leaves off,
And the stories grow over the years.

I want to keep my life, my past, my story
neat and linear:
”Look how I’ve grown through the experiences!”
All of it working step by step to create the man I am today.

As if my commendable resume reflected my actual life.
As if I were the man others see.

But who I am today has little to do with orderly growth.
It’s from a lifetime of mistakes, failures, blunders;
with occasional victories that I fell into more than I orchestrated.
Blessings that I don’t deserve.

My good choices have multiplied.
My poor ones minimized.
I’ve been damn lucky.

In all of this mess and marvel of my life,
there is one memory, one story
that I keep fighting off.

I try to beat it away.
I run and hide.
I beg and plead.
I fill my mind with anything else I can think of,
But sooner or later, it always comes back,
big and cold and blood red.

So I remember.
I cry and confess and pray to forgive myself.
I lie there, empty and weak
as my tears carry the weight away.

The story is still there, but it’s a little lighter.
It lets me breathe.
I look through it and around it at the rest of my life,
and see the beauty and joy that have come since.

The pain I feel is more like a punch in the gut
than the complete beating it used to be.
And I can live with that.

I don’t want it to go away completely,
for as much as I hate that story,
it is mine.

I can’t wish it didn’t happen,
because without it, I would not be.

So I keep my story, deep down, seldom told, but always there.

Monday, June 01, 2009

my first poem in like 30 years

I wrote this for SPARK; a really cool partnership between writing and visual arts.

Dad’s Hand

I sit beside his bed,
not looking at the tubes pumping artificial life into his body.
I reach out and hold his right hand
once full of strength, now still and soft.
I wrap my hands around it, and remember
this hand that has so shaped my life.

I was no more than a toddler, walking through a green park,
holding my arm straight up so my hand could reach his.
He lifted me to his shoulders, on top of the world.
The height scared me, but I knew I was safe,
his powerful hands wrapped around mine.

A few years later those rough, tanned hands taught me the manly acts
that he said I must learn.
Throwing and catching, sanding and hammering,
shooting and fishing and building a fire.

But as I grew older, those hands turned on me.
They pounded tables and threw things and backhanded me.
I began to fear the hands I once adored,
and soon I wanted nothing to do with them, or the man.

He pushed me away with his hands and his heart,
And those hands became a memory.

But as we both grew older, we learned to give and receive forgiveness,
and start again.
A letter here, a conversation there, an awkward visit at Christmas.
I no longer feared those hands, or the man.
And with a second chance, I learned to love him, and his hands, again.

He was not affectionate, but I hugged and kissed him anyway,
and in time he hugged me too, those strong hands around my back.

Those same hands held a Bible as he read about love in my wedding.
They played with my daughter as he learned to be a grandfather.
They unwrapped presents as we spent his last Christmas together.

And now I sit in this bright room, with that clean but unpleasant hospital odor.
I realize for the first time that our hands are the same size.
Now I’m the one holding his hand in mine,
hoping for movement, but there is none.

I talk about the memories—hunting, camping,
baseball games and beach vacations;
drinking Dr. Pepper from tall glass bottles.

“Don’t be afraid, Dad,” I tell him. “I’m here, and it’s OK.”
I kiss him and touch his face and squeeze his lifeless hand.
And then his hand moves in mine, his fingers reaching out.
It’s a tiny movement, his last, but it’s everything.

God and Country?

Thomas Nelson publishers has a new Bible: "The American Patriot's Bible."

Jim Evans has a great story on this. Here is an excerpt:

Billed as "The American Patriot's Bible," the Nelson folks have put together a volume of the Bible that presents Scripture in the context of American history. In a promotional piece, spokesman Richard G. Lee wrote, "Joining with the sacred text are stories of American heroes, quotations from many of America's greatest thinkers and beautiful illustrations that present the rich heritage and tremendous future of our nation. If you love America and the Scriptures, you will treasure this Bible."

The pages of this new Bible are also filled with pictures celebrating America's military history. In fact, according to one critic Kaylor talked to, it was shocking to see pictures of military activity featured at the beginning of the Gospels.

Greg Boyd, author of "The Myth of a Christian Nation" and also senior pastor of Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, Minn., said, "When you consider the uniform and emphatic teaching of Christ and the New Testament authors that followers of Jesus are called to love and do good to our enemies, laying down our lives for them if necessary, this overt celebration of America's violent victories over our national enemies is absolutely stunning."

Greg Boyd, mentioned above, wrote a great blog post about this.

Thoughts anyone?