Friday, December 17, 2004

Youth Missioner as sports star (?)

I mentioned before that I play indoor soccer during the white months of the year. Well last night was the final date in this session so it was playoff time! Why we have playoffs in a league that doesn't keep standings, and you get nothing for "winning" the playoffs is a puzzle to us all but there you go.

Our first playoff game (20 minutes instead of the usual 50 minutes, another irritation) we won 11-2. Yours truly picked up a goal and an assist. Also a whole load of bruises on my back because the opposing goalkeeper decided he didn't want me to play in front of him (I was playing completely legally) So he begun pushing and smacking me in the back, at one point pushing me the whole way to the front of the penalty area (that's about 15 feet). Have to admit scoring the goal on him felt good.

Then we had an hour off while other teams played.

Second game we won 5-0 and I got another goal and assist. The assist was a very spiffy little back heel pass that did EXACTLY what I wanted it to do. That so rarely happens.

The third game started 10 minutes after the second one ended, against a team that had about a half an hour's rest and was significantly younger than my guys. Didn't look good. Then we jumped out to a 2-0 lead! Didn't last. We ran out of gas by half time but never gave up. We lost 11-7. I contributed nothing to the score sheet and not a whole lot at all. I was EXHAUSTED! This morning my body is extremely unhappy with me in fact.

Seems to think we're old or something. I haven't told it yet......

I'm signing up for the next session!

Monday, December 13, 2004

Laughter in the church

I had one of those "moments" at church yesterday. No, not a senior moment although they are starting to crop up with more frequency these days. It was the kind of moment that some people will remember for a long time and the kind of moment when I realized that something had changed for me.

I was one of the lay readers for the 10 AM service

(quick note for any non-Episcopalians in the crowd - during our service we read from both the OT and NT plus a psalm and the Gospel. The first three are read by lay people, one of whom is usually also serving as a chalice bearer (oops more jargon - the person who offers the wine to everyone at Communion) and so is vested. For us that's a black cassock with a flowing white surplice over it. The kind with the big swoopy sleeves)

Anyway I walked from my seat to the lectern to do my readings. This means walking by the choir in their pews. The end of each choir stall has a carved wooden fleur de lis on top (kind of three pronged pointy thing). As I walked by the first stall my sleeve billowed out and snagged. I didn't notice till it pull me up short. I stopped, backed up and freed myself. The congregation gave a quiet chuckle. Then on the very next pew my sleeve did it AGAIN! This got quite the laugh and a big smile from me. And the thought that I had changed.

There was a time, not all that long ago when I would have been mortified at what happened in church yesterday. Church was a solemn, dignified, serious place that had no place for light-heartedness. People talking, children making noise, heck even people smiling bugged me. What did they think this was? Some kind of romper room? God was here and God was one tight lipped, deadly serious kinda hombre who didn't want any messing around when we were here bowing and scraping and begging His pardon and maybe, if it wouldn't be too much trouble, and I know I have no right to ask, let alone think you might be listening, but maybe Sir could you do me this small favor?

That was back when I really didn't much care for church or most of the people who seemed to attend.

Today I think maybe God laughed along with His people. This is still pretty serious stuff - sin and reconciliation and forgiveness and all the stuff that goes along with it. Somewhere along the line it dawned on me that maybe this is stuff I'm supposed to be happy about. Our Book of Common Prayer talks about the "celebration" of the Holy Eucharist. For a lot of years growing up I don't remember much celebrating going on, more like a whole lot of "You're darn lucky we let even get a sniff of this, so get down on your knees and be grateful". I don't deny that there is an element of that present. I don't deserve God's love or his Grace or to share in his Communion. But He wants me there anyway. And He let's me have it anyway.

And that seems like something to celebrate, to smile and laugh a little. If you show up in my congregation and spend the whole service chattering you'll probably still get a look or even a word from me. But I love the sound of babies in church, I enjoy watching children learn to grow comfortable in the pew and at the rail. I truly love the chance to read a lesson like yesterday's that spoke of the joy of being with God and the wonderous things that He can make happen.

And I enjoyed being reminded not to be quite such a stuck up sticky beak and to remember to laugh with God.


Wednesday, December 08, 2004

I Have a Problem With The Bible

(This is my column from the December issue of ChurchActs, the newspaper of the Diocese of WNY)

This column comes with a warning. I’m about to say something that might upset some folks. So I’m asking you to stay with me till I can explain, OK? It’s not as bad as it sounds I promise. I’m just trying to head off angry, torch bearing mobs at my doorstep. So here we go:

I have a problem with the Bible.
(Take a deep breath, it’s not what you think I promise)

Actually I have to admit I only have a problem with some bibles. Some translations have little headlines at the start of chapters or stories. My problem is with the one in Matthew chapter 14 that inevitably says, “Jesus walks on the water”. (Oops that just spiked some folk’s blood pressure too. I’m almost there I promise). You see I would change it to “Peter walks on the water”.

I’m not denying that Jesus walked on the water. But Jesus is God. That God is capable of the miraculous is wonderful but is kind of….. expected, right? What’s not expected is when Peter climbs out of the boat. That’s astounding. This story has always drawn me in. So I’ve spent a fair amount of time thinking about Peter climbing out of that boat.

Peter isn’t suddenly a super hero, walking on water is not some new power or gift that he’s given. There’s a good chance that Peter couldn’t even swim. Recreational swimming is a relatively uncommon activity until the last century. While he’s comfortable on the water, even during a storm, Peter knows the danger facing everyone on the boat in this story. The boat used was probably designed for fishing. It was designed to perform specific duties under specific circumstances. Being out in the storm is probably a bit of a challenge. Peter has the skills to get them through this and deliver them safely to the other side. Strength, experience and training make Peter the right person at the right time in the storm.

So while they fight their way through the storm in the early morning hours Jesus comes across the water. Everyone in the boat knows that this can’t be happening. They are terrified by the battering of the storm, they’re tired and now this.

Now we’re back to Peter. Note that at first even Peter isn’t sure what’s going on. His first words are “IF it is you Lord…” Then he does what is probably the bravest thing he’s ever done in his life to that point. The fisherman who probably can’t swim, who knows that people can’t walk on water, that they sink and drown, climbs out of the boat. All of this in response to a single word from Jesus. No fancy promises, no big explanations about how his divine will will keep Peter safe. Jesus says “Come” and Peter tosses everything he knows aside and climbs over the gunwale.
And the miraculous happens. Peter finds that his foot doesn’t sink, the he can walk on the water. His mind is focussed on Jesus, on the “Come”. And it works. Now I figure that Jesus must be standing a little ways away because we’re told that Peter walks to Jesus, not just gets out and stands next to him. So Peter takes a couple steps. He's probably starting to get a little comfortable with this whole thing when he gets distracted. The storm is still going while all this happens and Peter’s mind suddenly starts thinking about what is happening. Jesus reaches out to Peter, brings him back to the boat and calms the storm.

Think about it. When Peter has his attention centered on Jesus he is capable of doing things he knows he can’t do. In defiance of his experience, logic and common sense he can do it. But when he let’s his mind wander suddenly things go wrong. For me that’s the lesson from this story. We need to remember the lesson of Peter climbing out of the boat. We climb out when Jesus calls us and we can do the miraculous. When we stay locked in on Jesus we will be able to continue doing the miraculous. When we let other things distract us we can end in over our heads very quickly. The good news is that at that moment Jesus always has a hand out for us.

Now who do I talk to about editing the Bible?


Monday, November 29, 2004

And now I'm back

Wow, things got away from me again. Hard to believe it's been weeks since I dropped a note here. Lots of work/ministry things getting in the way (of just about everything)

Had a very cool Thanksgiving week. My fabulous sister in law got tickets for the Steelers/Redskins game through her employer so for the first time in my life I saw my hometown football team in person. From 9 rows away from the field. Peggy rocks!

The game wasn't much to write home about, neither were the $6 beers. SIX BUCKS!!!! But the stadium was great and it was fun hanging out with my brother and his fabulous wife (did I mention that PEGGY ROCKS! ?) The only bad part was my youngest brother was supposed to join us. Didn't happen so Peggy (who is just about the coolest person on the face of the planet in my opinion although her taste in men is, well.......) managed to outhaggle a ticket scalper for the fourth ticket.

Actually we had a great time, and my sister in law is very cool, but since I know my brother checks this blog periodically it's fun to razz him in a semi-public place.

Back to more serious topics later this week.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Voting Day

Rachel and Kaitlin - representing young people from WNY! Posted by Hello

Today is the day. If you're a registered vote make sure you get out and do your thing. I know everyone is saying "This is the most important election of my lifetime" but I disagree. EVERY election is important and the presidential election is always important. Assuming that our schedules allow my daughter will walk into the booth with me just as she's done since she was a tiny little girl. Next year she'll register to vote herself and in 2006 she'll enter by herself for the first time. I'll probably get all choked up when she does.

But being involved and making your voice heard is something that can start happening right now if you're a young person in the Diocese of WNY. See those two young ladies up at the top? They represent YOU. Rachel was named the youth rep to Diocesan Council by Bishop Michael at convention this past weekend. And Kaitlin got the most votes of ANYONE as she was elected to be a deputy to the next General Convention.

While they are both still teenagers they are now leaders in the diocese. You can do the same thing. Does your vestry have a youth seat on it? (If the answer is no ask them why the heck not! And keep asking till they create one. If they get mad send them to me!) Join Youth Commission. That's who makes the recommendation to the Bishop for the D Council youth rep and makes the decisions on what kinds of youth ministry we do. Find out when your deanery council meets and stop by, same thing for D Council. If you feel like the adults aren't listening to you ask yourself the question - what am I doing to make them listen? Remember David killed Goliath when he was only a kid (heck Adam was in charge from the day he was born!)

If you're not willing to say anything don't complain if no one pays you any attention. And if you don't vote...don't gripe!

Monday, October 25, 2004

A couple of thoughts upon my return

Lord, it's good to be home!

Over the last three weeks I've been home (meaning there for the whole day not having to travel to some event or place outside of the normal routine) about 4 days. I actually get to stay home for most of this week! I'm excited. I also have a LOT of chores to catch up on.

Things I discovered along the way:

Newark NJ is a puzzle to me. I've visited there several times and have gotten turned around both upon entering and leaving the city. Maybe someday I'll figure it out.

Angola NY seems to have the same effect on me! But I think I've finally figured that one out.

Had a moment of absolute panic on the drive home from NJ when I was sure that a PA state trooper was going to pull me over. He had his radar aimed right at me, checked it, flipped on his lights and pulled out onto the Interstate. Turned out he was after the guy right behind me. Be still my pounding heart!

I am happy to announce that the Province II youth network has taken its first step after many years lying dormant. I met with most of the diocesan youth coordinators and had a GREAT time! We're looking forward to planning more "stuff" in the future.

Now I'm home and enjoying sleeping in my own bed. All is right in the world.

Monday, October 18, 2004

What a long strange trip....

My apologies to the Grateful Dead and any Deadheads out there for hijacking their title but wow! Today is the first day in 12 that I haven't been elsewhere or traveling to and from elsewhere! A quick summary so you know what's been happening:

October 6 - Flew to Baltimore MD for a meeting with the provincial youth ministry coordinators. We meet twice a year for an intensive couple of days of planning, praying and playing. It's a fabulous group of people that I enjoy hanging out with, being inspired and challenged by. Baltimore is a very cool city. If you ever get the time make sure you get a ticket for the water taxi that will take you to all the spots to visit around the harbor. October 10 flew home

October 11 Got to sleep in my own bed, had a birthday dinner with my lady wife (her birthday was actually the NEXT day but....well you'll see)then drove to Buffalo to spend the night at Bishop Michael's (and Carol's too) house because....

October 12 Rode with the Bish plus a couple other diocesan staff types to London Ontario for the Quint diocese day meeting. Bishops and their staffs from WNY and Rochester in the US and Niagara, Huron and Toronto in Canada gather once a year to share ideas and laughs. (a secret - Canadian bishops are some of the funniest people on the planet. Don't know why. They just are.) Drove home the same day.

October 13Flew to Washington DC to be trained as a coordinator for the Journey to Adulthood program. Met some great folks, including one old friend and learned some good stuff. Brief plug - flew on one of the new small airlines, independence Air, and had a very good experience. RT Buffalo to DC was UNDER $140. End of plug. Took a whirlwind tour of some of DC, saw the Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, WWII, Korean, and Viet Nam memorials at varying distances. Saw the Capitol dome and the White House in the distance. Got very wet because it rained and stormed. Flew home October 16

So I'm a tired puppy. Good meetings every single one of them, learned some good stuff, talked with some very cool people and came home with new skills and ideas for WNY.

I just need some sleep!

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

And off I go....

I'm double posting today because I'm going to be away for a while. Part of my calling has been responsibilities at both the provincial and national church. So I'll be off dealing with some of those responsibilities for most of the next two weeks. I hope that I'll be able to keep you up to date on where I am and what I'm seeing but there's not guarantee. My third trip is to Washington DC to get some training in Journey to Adulthood. That will be pretty cool too.

So don't worry if you don't see anything posted here for a while. I'll check in as I can.

So What Happened?

(The following is my column from the October issue of the diocesan newspaper "ChurchActs".)

If you’ve already read the annual camp article you’ve noticed it’s short by one whole camp. Senior High 2004 was cancelled. It was a terribly difficult decision that has sent a variety of ripples out into the diocesan youth ministry. All three of our camps had troubles this year with attendance at some all time lows. The most commonly heard question is: What happened?
In simplest terms Senior High was cancelled because not enough young people signed up. To justify the amount of money involved and the time invested by the staff there has always been a minimum number required. That minimum has changed from year to year based on a variety of parameters. This year we set the lowest minimum ever and still missed by approximately 15%.
Why did attendance drop at all three camps? We’re still looking at that question. What’s coming up in the discussions are some interesting points. There are two obvious problems that need to be addressed right up front:

Communication – It appears we fell victim to the oldest advertising mistake in the book. It’s the one that starts with “Everybody knows about…” While many people have some general knowledge about camp we quite simply failed to move that general knowledge to what’s called Top of Mind Awareness. Without that awareness we became just another item floating around in the very busy lives of our young people and their parents. Discussions are already underway on how to fix this challenge. It includes more materials going out to campers and their families, to the congregations and to the leaders (both lay and clergy) in those congregations. As always our best advertising is our young people telling all their friends what a great time they had. Look for the information, ask if it’s arrived (in a month or so) and stay in touch with me for all the details. Please remember that there are e-mail newsletters available for youth and leaders (with an parents one being discussed) and the diocesan youth web site is always there (

Deadlines – The problem here is that no one seems to take them seriously. Consequently paper work dribbles in and leaves all the camp directors in a serious bind trying to make plans. The deadlines exist because we need to be able to tell the camps, in advance, how many people are coming. They need to know so they can order enough food to feed us and make sure there’s enough staff available to help in some cases. But that ‘s only the beginning. The camp directors need to know so we can make sure that we have the right number of staff, the right amount of materials and have activities appropriate for the size group coming. The needs of a camp of 95 youth can be VERY different than the needs of 45 youth. We try to get the applications out as soon as possible. This year you could even register online at the web site. Camps get cancelled because the time comes when we have to decide if we have enough young people or not. That’s the deadline. All I can ask is that you please, please, PLEASE take the deadlines seriously. If there’s an unavoidable problem then get in touch with the appropriate camp director so we know what’s going on and can help.
So where do we go from here? The camp directors, the Youth Commission and other interested parties are looking at everything to try and insure that our camps return in 2005 stronger than ever. Problems with how the applications were put together this year will be fixed. Communications will be improved and expanded. We’re looking at possible changes to expand the number of activities available at Senior High. The list goes on and on.
How can you help? Talk with other young people and adults about improving the whole camp experience. Pass along any ideas to the other camp directors or me. If you love camp then talk it up among your friends. If someone wants to talk to you about the Bishop Harold Robinson Society please listen. The Robinson Society is designed to help us insure the financial stability of our youth ministries.
Our diocesan youth camps will be back next year. We hope to keep EVERYTHING good about them, add more good stuff and minimize the problems. Like so many things it’ll work best if we can work towards being “One Church – Embracing and Living into the Dream of God”.

Friday, October 01, 2004

And now for something completely different

Since this blog is supposed to cover a wide variety of the things going on in my life I'll include this:

Indoor soccer score Team Gray 5 Team Navy 5

Soccer season has started again and we played our first game last night (at 9PM my least favorite game time - tough to haul this old carcass up and down the pitch at any kind of speed at that hour)

I am happy to report that I a)did not fall down OR hurt myself, b)did not embarrass myself playing and c) had several good chances to score. None of which I converted. Ah well, first week. Much like the Bills last week we lost on the last play of the game after leading the whole time. I wasn't out there so it wasn't my fault.

I must confess that soccer sometimes brings out the worst in me. It's tough to remember one's faith and belief's when some rotten SOB has just whacked you, tripped you or made you look like an idiot. I will admit that I will, upon occasion push back, once in a while make a stab for a ball that I know is going to be late just to make the other guy "stumble" (I almost always help them back up). I almost never make anyone look like an idiot. Well anyone other than me of course.

There is a way to be competitive and still stay within a life in faith. It's that old fashioned concept of fair play. So I try hard to do just that. If anyone asks I just tell them I'm "old school".


Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Thots from the news

Sinead O'Connor Posted by Hello

Saw an article today about Sinead O'Connor complaining that she's constantly made fun of in the media. Apparently it makes her feel bad and gets in the way of her being "a little old lady" (her words) and doing her music and stuff.

Now I suppose I feel some sympathy for anyone whose life is constantly scrutinized by the media (though now much) and I do feel more sympathy for those whose time has passed but the media won't give them a break. But what on earth does Ms. O'Connor really expect? She's always chosen to "go her own way" from her extremely short hair cut (see above) to her never to be forgotten assault on the photo of the Pope. Her off stage antics have been a bit "different" as well.

Assuming she is not, as she maintains, crazy there remains the question of responsibility. How much responsibility do we all carry for how we behave and the reaction that creates in the people around us? Maybe I'm just cranky but if you choose to live outside the norms of society I believe you have to accept that society is going to talk trash about you. I'm not saying it's right but that it's inevitable. If you decide to climb up on stage, if you decide to place yourself in the spotlight, if you decide NOT to dress and act like everyone else and you decide to do something controversial why would any reasonable person be surprised that the world takes notice? The response is almost as inevitably that we should be able to do whatever we want as long as we're not hurting someone else. And why is it anyone else's business what I do or how I live? My answer is that when you CHOOSE to put yourself center stage then you have to accept the consequences of the action.

I don't know if Sinead is nuts or not. To be honest I don't particularly care. But what can she expect after this lovely list of life accomplishments:

publicly defended the Irish Republican Army
Criticized U2 - who helped her get started in the recording biz
Refused to allow the U.S. National anthem to be played before her concerts in the U.S.!
The whole Pope photo thing
Somehow was "ordained" a Catholic priest and changed her name to Mother Bernadette Mary but quit when she discovered she couldn't handle being celibate,
Declared she was a lesbian
A year later married a man.
Is currently the spokesperson for an anti head lice among school children campaign.

Some people will say I'm being cruel or even un-Christian. That's not my intent. It comes back to the "R" word, responsibility. Somehow none of this is her fault, somehow she's being picked on.

So let me offer a word of advice and assistance. Sinead - if you really want us all to go away and stop talking about you then become what you say you want to become. No one wants to see a "little old lady" in the news. LOLs (as we call them here in the States) are lovely human beings who virtually never make the news because they keep to themselves and live their lives quietly.

As the Good Book says - Go and do likewise.


Monday, September 20, 2004

The time has come to choose

( The following is the text of my sermon delivered Sunday Sept 20, 2004 at St. Peter's Episcopal Church, Westfield NY.)

Whenever I prepare for a Sunday morning like this one I take a look at the scripture readings for the day to see if they have any inspiration for me. After wading my way through some pretty grim stuff I found a phrase that grabbed me in the Gospel. It was the reminder that we can not serve two masters. When a phrase or passage grabs me like that I begin to look at how that speaks to youth ministry both here at St. Peter’s and in our diocese.

Our young people today are called by two masters. The first master is the culture that surrounds our young people, a culture that is shallow, self centered and insidious. It wants us all to believe that we will gain happiness through things. Let me give you an example: There’s a TV promo on the Jamestown cable system promoting cable TV versus satellite. A pretty teenage girl who complains she has so much homework it’s interfering with watching her favorite TV shows! But her friends told her that if she just got a new DVR then she’d never miss another program. You see silly things like homework keep trying to get in the way of the important things, like the new season of Survivor.

The other master is or should be their church as the expression of their lives in faith. I worry that the voice of this second master calls too softly to be heard for many of our young people. Here’s another example - a congregation I knew very well. They had a full Sunday school program for all ages where they did nice classes teaching their young people all the stories of the Bible. When the kids were a little older they got confirmed and became acolytes. But they had this problem that once their kids became teens they just kind of drifted off. I know of one young man who went off to church camp and came back really fired up about his faith. He came back with a lot of questions and wanted to talk about them and how it related with his life in High school. Unfortunately for him the curriculum for that year didn’t include discussion groups. You see they had this book they were supposed to read and talk about. So after a couple years of getting pumped up about his faith at camp and deflated at church he just stopped going. His parents fought with him for a while but in the end it was just easier this way. Astoundingly that young man grew up to become the Youth Missioner for the Episcopal Diocese of WNY. I’d love to tell you that my home congregation was an anomaly. Except that the Episcopal congregation in the town where I went to college, a parish that was right across the street from almost half the dormitories on campus, that sat just a few lots away from the largest off campus student housing complex in the area never made the smallest effort to reach out to those young people in the 4 years that I spent in the community.

The question that faces us today is how do we bring the voice of faith into our young people’s live, how do we communicate that faith clearly so that they will not only hear us but want to listen.

I spend a lot of time studying youth ministry and I’ve seen lots of approaches. Some folks look for the perfect curriculum or program. I call it the magic box syndrome. Once you find the magic box you open it and all your problems are solved. Then there are the places that will do what ever it takes to have the youth show. They have lots of fun "events". The idea appears to be that if you can get the youth into the vicinity of church often enough they’ll catch faith along the way. Maybe it’ll rub off on them. There are the study intensive ideas and the mission intensive ideas. There’s books you can buy, and video series available for only 149.94. Maybe we need worship services with rock bands, or Taize chants or interpretive dance. Ways that engage our young people using music and video and computers so that we are speaking to them in the formats with which they are most comfortable.

The question arises however is that all that faith is? Another set of rules, another music video, another class, no matter entertainingly presented for them to sit through?

So the question becomes how do we make this second voice heard? We’ve tried different things over the years in our diocese. In 1948 this diocese opened Camp Carleton to help bring young people into a deeper relationship with God. For many adults today the memories from those camps are still vivid and form an important part of their growth as people of faith. If you grew up somewhere else, as I did, your memories may be of a different camp. Over the years our diocesan youth programs have had both highs and lows. The highs include the growth of camp program to include young people from elementary school to high school and camps that grew so large that there were waiting lists to get in. The lows include the closing of Camp Carleton in the 1970’s to the cancellation of Senior High conference this year.

In the four years that I’ve served as your diocesan youth missioner we’ve found ways to increase our outreach to our young people. Today we do more ministry with a smaller budget. There is now a diocesan youth choir, a diocese wide social event called the Bishop’s Ball, we’re exploring ideas for mission trips, the Journey to Adulthood program is up and running in some of our congregations. There are lots of other great programs and events being offered to young people in WNY. And they’re all great. But they’re not enough.

In my opinion one of the best "thinkers" in youth ministry over the last couple decades has been a guy by the name of Mike Yacconelli. Sadly for us Mike died earlier this year. Mike had this to say about the fight between faith and culture:
"We're attempting to convince the world how good Jesus is by how great we are. This is precisely how Madison Avenue sells toothpaste, automobiles, and underwear. People don't need any more images of success, wealth, and power; they're surrounded already. What they need are their sins forgiven. What they need is healing. What they need is love."

I believe that helping young people hear the voice of the true master is vitally important. Not because I think it’s the thing to do, or because I work for the church. I’ve seen study after study that shows that young people who are involved in their faith do better in life and have fewer problems. It’s NOT a magic bullet, there are plenty of young people involved at church who still get into trouble and have problems. But the numbers go down from the rest of the population. Why is that? Because they’re given something to compare to when they have to make decisions. They’re given the support they need, they’re given the love they need, they have at least the beginnings of a belief that someone, somewhere believes in them, is watching over them, someone cares about them. Those are gifts they can carry with them for the rest of their lives.

I don't believe that these gifts come from a program or a worship service or a video series. All those things can support the process but they are empty The greatest example of a life in faith, the greatest model that our young people can learn from is the one that surrounds them here.

Now this next part involves asking some uncomfortable questions. If we believe that a life in faith is important for our young people, if we believe that the voice they need to hear most clearly is the voice of divine love are we, the adults, willing to live that out in our own lives? As parents are we willing to say that church is more important than sports? Are we willing to say that our faith is important enough to us that we won’t park somewhere illegally, that we won’t fudge a story to avoid taking responsibility, that we will keep our promises to pay our pledge so the youth group has the funds to get the stuff they need even if it means NOT buying that new golf club? Are we willing to look across the aisle at the young person with the piercings and the tattoos and the weird hair cut and treat them as a child of God and a brother or sister in Christ?

Or is church really just a Sunday morning thing? Is it really separate from the rest of our lives and has no effect on the rest of the week? Which master do we hear most clearly in our own lives? Which voice do our young people see us following in our day to day lives? We can not serve two masters.

Let me tell you another story about how we can really make the voice of the true master heard to our young people. This is a true story about a young woman from here in WNY. We’ve changed a few details about the story, including her name, to protect her privacy. But she’s told me I can use this story. So let’s call her Lucy. Lucy was a pretty typical teenage girl. She was a outgoing, friendly girl from a small town very much like Westfield. She was into school and friends and church in her small town. Lucy had a warm, giving heart. It was that heart that caused her to ask her family if they would let a young man from her school live with them for a while. He had been having some troubles and had left home because of them. Her family agreed. The story takes a nasty turn here. The young man sexually assaulted her and left her pregnant. Can you imagine the hurt? Can you imagine the betrayal? Can you imagine the pain of having to tell her family? At that moment Lucy’s family wrapped her in their arms around her. Lucy’s church did the same and the young people that Lucy had come to know through diocesan events like camp and Happening did the same. Today Lucy is once again working towards her dreams, she’s become a leader among the youth and has even begun to tell this story herself. She’s also raising a beautiful little baby.

This is the vision of the church that our young need to see. They need a church that will do more than talk about forgiveness and healing and love. They need a church that will live out those ideals, not only on Sunday but every day. They need a church that understands who the master is and makes that master a part of everything we do.

There are challenges still ahead of us. But if you look beyond them you see what could happen in our churches and with our youth. If we refuse to let them stop us what might we find in the future? Churches that are growing, young people staying to continue to grow and mature, new energy in our congregations, new ministries, not simply for young people but new ministries of young people. Young people changing their lives, changing their congregation, changing their home town, changing their state and their nation. Changing the world. All because they heard the master’s voice. All because they knew the master’s voice. All because they obeyed the master’s voice.

We can not serve two masters. Because if we try we will love one and hate the other. Which master would we have our young people choose? Which master will they see us choose? Choose.


Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Thoughts on death - yeah, really

I'm behind on my entries but I've been struggling with how I should deal with this subject. I said earlier this year that I was going to address all the stuff going on in my life here. Talking about someone near to me dying wasn't on the agenda. Man plans, God laughs.

My uncle Nick died last week. He wasn't really my uncle, he was my godfather. I've called him uncle my entire life. After my dad died four years ago and my godmother died three years ago he and my mom became a couple. It was kind of weird but it was also kind of cool. He married my mom's oldest friend so they'd known each other for about 50 years. It was good for both of them.

I can't tell you that I was real close to Nick for most of my life. He lived in Arkansas and I lived in Pennsylvania. I probably only saw him a half dozen times in my life before he and my mom got together two plus years ago. One of them was when I was exactly one month old, at my baptism. In the last couple years I'd gotten to know him better and I'd come to like and respect him. In some ways he was just like my dad. In other ways they couldn't have been more different. My mom can be pretty orderly, Nick could be pretty free form. They were fun to watch together.

What sticks with me most is a ridiculous favorite line of his "I'm just a poor white Ukranian on a fixed income". It was after he passed away that I realized the really funny part of that line. Nick wasn't a wealthy guy in worldly terms. Yet there are few people I've known in this world who lived more richly. Even with some major medical problems he'd laugh and tell the most atrocious jokes and flirt with all the girls and dig into his pocket to slip me a little something when he thought I deserved it. He crocheted gorgeous blankets and just gave them away. He loved his children and his grandchildren. You were sure to hear the latest adventures of Rossie the youngest grandkid.

People keep asking me how I'm doing, and how my mother's doing. I guess we're doing OK. There's a part of me that hurts and I know there's nothing I can do about the pain. Instead of focussing on it I remember Nick as I've gotten to know him over the last couple years. I'll always treasure the Bible and Book of Common Prayer he and aunt Janet got me for baptism and confirmation. And there'll always be a special place in my heart for that "poor white Ukranian" that blew into my life and then suddenly disappeared.

I miss you Nick. And I love you.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Just some random thoughts

I'm trying desperately to get ready for two solid weeks of camp coming up. So naturally I have an uncontrollable desire to write something for my blog. Jimmy Buffett is jamming away in the background (Barometer Soup CD) and my brain feels like it's going to explode.

So here are some of the things that are on my mind:

Story in the Buffalo News today about an area soccer team made up of Yemeni-Americans. A youth team made up of kids born here in the States. They're being taunted and threatened, called terrorist and told to go back where they came from. How many times in American history do we have to live through this idiocy? How many of the youth and adults spreading this abuse are descendants of folks who lived through it when they arrived in this country? This is a national tradition that needs to end, now. It has no place in the 21st Century. Yes there were some Yemeni Americans from this town who were convicted for their association with Al Qaeda. Shall we return to the days when all Italians were painted with the brush of a Capone or Lucchese? (as only a single example)

As someone who is a small part American Indian may I remind you that you're all damn foreigners.

I'll probably explore this in more depth later but I remain puzzled by the "WHY" of body peircings and tattoos. I've asked a lot of folks who gotten a piercing or two (I'm talking about beyond an ear piercing or two) or tattoos. Allowing that folks who go whole hog (dozens of piercings or large portions of their bodies tattooed) are a different category (Are they?) I ask folks the simple question - Why? And the most common response is some variation on "I don't know".
For the record let me state that I'm terminally boring. Other than length I've had the same haircut since I was in 5th grade. I can't stand having ink on my fingers or hands so the concept of getting permanently added to my body is incomprehensible to me. And as for punching holes in my body......fuggehdibowdit. For most of life I wore a single piece of jewelry, a small silver disk with my initials on it on a silver chain. A gift from my wife. Today I've gone whole hog, I wear a gold wedding band on my left hand and an heirloom ring (which is actually steel I believe) on my right. I'm about as far from metrosexual as you can get. The best reasons I can think of for doing this to yourself (or a variety of other things) are pretty sure to tick off a lot of people. So I'm keeping my thoughts to myself. At least for the moment.

(JB just ended so I had to pop in a group called Cartoon from State College PA. Friend gave me the CD and I've made it one of my faves for years)

On a completely unrelated topic I've been thinking about what appears to the fundamental selfishness of our culture. It's amazing how much of what I see in advertising, music, pop culture is based on the concept of me, me, ME! Even more frightening is how much I see of the same idea creeping into the faith community. People who have no interest in the others in their faith community except as backdrop to their personal worship life. The list goes on. It's a destructive concept inside any culture because we can't live without one another. Try it, you can only use what you create yourself. So electricity (and everything that runs on it) is out, so are roads, any manufactured or produced product. You're left naked out in the middle of the woods somewhere. Not an attractive prospect for most of us. I'm worried about the growth of IM -ing and even blogging. Because while we may want to believe that this offers us "relationship" it's an essentially selfish relationship. Because we can turn it off any time we want, we can ban certain people so they can't even reach us.
There's a whole lot more to this concept than I have time for today. I still have all this work waiting for me.

Something else I'll want to dive into sometime in the future is the question of where faith and religion collide. But later. Maybe much later.

Meanwhile the music plays, and my thoughts wander...


Friday, July 09, 2004

Life in ministry

So why do you do this?

Why do you do a job that deals with teenagers? Why do you do a job with so little job security/pay? Why do you do a job that requires irregular hours, sometimes 24/7? Why do you do a job that makes some people wonder about you sometimes?

My first reaction when I’m asked these kinds of questions is usually “Beats the hell out of me”. If I’m really honest I don’t like working. I’d much rather play golf, ride my bike, read a book, walk in the woods, snuggle up with my lady wife, just about ANYTHING other than work.

It’s not a job without a downside. First there’s that whole work thing again. Second there are plenty of people who believe they know what needs to be done a whole lot better than I do. Money is a problem. I’m forced to do things I’m profoundly uncomfortable doing. Like talking about money. Or confronting people. Or failing.
Failure is not only an option it’s inevitable. Not every event will work. Not every lesson will get through. Not every young person will make the right choices. That last one is the hardest to deal with for me. No, that’s not right. The hardest part for me is that very often I don’t ever know if I’ve failed or not. It is the nature of ministry with young people that you don’t always see the product of the seed you plant. At 18 or so they’re gone. I see them occasionally but usually for just a moment. A quick hug and a hello. That seed may rest in them for 10 minutes or 10 years before it blooms. And that’s hard.

Of course when I’d doing the parts of my job I like I don’t consider it work.

Work is budgets, committees, phone calls, meetings, details, mass mailings, paperwork in all forms.

The work isn’t why I do this. I do this because of all the rest.

Why do I do this? Because:

I happen to like teenagers. And for reasons I don’t completely understand, they seem to like me.

I’ve never worked “for the money”. If I have enough to pay the bills with a little left over to go out with my family and friends then I have enough. I went for years and couldn’t tell you exactly how much I made. I couldn’t tell you right now how much I make. I make enough. And that’s enough.

The hours balance out. My schedule is flexible so if I work long hours today I can work short hours tomorrow.

Hell, people been wonderin’ about me for years! I’ve stopped worrying about it.

I can make a difference. Maybe it’s an ego thing, I don’t know. But all my life I’ve wanted to make a difference. Just for one person, or for a thousand. I spent 19+ years working as a radio DJ at 5 different radio stations in three different towns. Based on the reactions of my audience and my sponsors I was pretty good. What I did on the air was something of value. Today I get the chance to do something important. Working with some fabulous adults and teens I help to create the chance for young people to grow in their faith. To provide them with tools to help them find their way on their own life and faith journeys. A journey that can lead them to fully becoming the person God created them to be.

I believe this is where God wants me to be. I’m not sure I know why. I’m not sure that I have all the tools I need. I’m not sure I’m smart enough or spiritual enough or whatever enough. But I am sure this is where I’m supposed to be right now, struggling, failing, succeeding and struggling some more. An explanation was never promised, just an opportunity.

I do this because of the joy that comes with the sorrow, the questions that come with the answers, reward that comes with the work. I do this because I can do no other.


Friday, June 25, 2004

Through Jesus' Eyes

I watch people.
I don’t know if you’d consider that a bad habit or not. It’s not a matter of peeping through windows. I’m not trying to catch them at anything.


About half way through that last sentence I thought, “No I’m trying to catch them at EVERYTHING!” I wonder what I meant by that?

It began years ago. My first love and my first training are as an actor. I love performing, especially in front of a live audience. Words have always fascinated me, spoken words and written words (hence this blog). They have textures and temperatures. Some words are written but are meant to be spoken. For years Shakespeare baffled me. It wasn’t the sheer tonnage of words, although the style of his time was not to be sparing. They swirled and swooped and were beautiful simply in themselves but what the hell did they all MEAN? What was the story that they told? Once I saw the plays performed so much became clearer to me. I wanted to be up THERE, I wanted to give those words form and bring their stories to life.

As a student I was taught that all an actor requires is a passion and a plank. Something you cared deeply about and a place to tell your story. Diving deeper into my studies I found that so much more was needed to create “real” living characters on the stage. I could not walk with the bounce and energetic stride of a young adult for a character of middle age. The moment I took that step I plunged a knife into the heart of the character. So I had to learn to move, to stand, to inhabit someone else’s life within my own body. And that’s when I began to watch people.

The next time you find yourself with some free time in a crowded space try this. Just sit and watch. See what their bodies tell you about their lives, their hopes, and their dreams. It’s in how they dress, and how it fits, and how they move within it. Watch how they stand and what their hands do. Don’t watch their faces too much. We lie with our faces. Only the best liars can make their bodies speak other than the truth.

So what does any of this have to do with faith? Because once you begin to watch you will begin to see the humanity that lives around you. The uncertainty, the joy, the doubt and the delight. I believe this brings you closer to how Jesus saw the world. It’s too easy to turn your eyes inward and not really see the world around you (count them. Count the people who walk by who look but do not see, who hear but do not listen). How often did Jesus look at someone and feel himself moved by what he saw? Why does it happen so rarely to most of us? Because we do not see. Our eyes look at things that crowd around us, interfere with our passage to our goals. When we watch we are forced to see the people-ness of the people around us.

Beware. What you will see can become a burden on your heart. Make sure you watch all the people. Take special time for children. They will be the first to notice the difference in your eyes. We have forgotten how to see like a child but they always will notice an adult who actually sees them. Immerse yourself in their joy. The world is a new place to them. Everything is exciting and interesting. Revel in their vision. It will refresh, awaken and energize you.

As people of faith we are called to serve our community. By watching our community we will better know these people. In better knowing them we can better serve them. In better serving them we can change the way they think and feel. At the end we change what is within and that will change what is without.

And we will see it.


Tuesday, March 02, 2004

The nearness of Death

I'm not normally someone who spends a lot of time thinking about dying. It'll happen eventually of its own accord. All I can do is eat right and get some exercise so I don't open the doorway too widely too soon. But every once in a while something comes along that demands you attention.

Nature and my house conspired to bring just the whiff of death wandering into my life yesterday. We've had a long period of unusually cold weather here for the last month or so. Consequently we have had any snow melt, it just kept building up and up. The weight of the snow then compacts it into ice. We had quite a wall of it building up along the edge of the roof just over the walkway between where my family parks our cars and our front door. In the last week the weather has warmed up into the 40s several times and the snow and ice has begun to melt. But not that big ice dam along the edge of the roof. The roof edge is easily 30 feet long and stands two country house stories above the ground. Yesterday as my rector dropped me off at home following a meeting in Buffalo I commented that I was beginning to worry about all that ice. What if it fell on someone?

The comment was quick, without any feeling of foreshadowing. I said goodbye, walked along the path, up two steps to the small back porch, pushed open the door and went up the 13 stairs to my apartment. What did that take? Maybe 5 seconds? As I stood at the top of the stairs I heard a LOUD rumble then a thud. I had a pretty good idea what had happened, ice fall always sounds the same. Quickly moving to my bedroom I looked out the window. The rector was pulling back into my driveway, dialing his cell phone. He had seen the entire ice dam come down, as a piece just seconds after I'd disappeared into my house. The section over the walk fell just inches to the left of where I'd walked. On the bottom step to the porch sat a piece the size of a basketball, exactly where I'd have been standing if our conversation in the van had taken another few seconds.

By quick estimate about 500 pounds of ice came down. Tore the phone lines out of the exterior wall and destroyed some of the siding. No other damage. I called the phone company and they'll show up sometime before spring (even with the wires hanging low over the side street). Everybody safe.

So why did my hands shake for hour? It really wasn't close. But it was close enough. Close enough to catch that whiff. Too close.


Friday, February 27, 2004

Holy Noise

(This was originally published in the March issue of ChurchActs, the diocesan newspaper of the Diocese of WNY)

I going to try and cause some trouble this month.

A 6-year-old inspired me.

The 6-year-old in question is Margaret , oldest daughter of my rectors. A couple of months ago Margaret decorated her father’s office door with notes that read: Church is Fun, Church is Great, We Love God, I Love Church, Church Rules.

(In the spirit of journalistic integrity I suppose I should mention that one reads “Church is about my Dad”. I expect her mom will straighten out that theological question for her)

What grabbed me was that here was a young person who was EXCITED about being in church. Even though she really doesn’t have a choice, she HAS to go. It got me thinking about how we manage to lose that by the time most of us hit our teen years. What happens? Where does all that excitement go and is there anyway to get it back?
Books have been written on this subject by folks who are supposedly a lot smarter than I am so I don’t think I’m going to set the world on fire in 800 words or less. But let me bounce an idea off you. It sounds pretty honor society at first but stay with me (at least till we get to the part where I ask you to start causing trouble at church). We begin to lose the excitement when we realize that the words we say have come disconnected from their meanings. A word without meaning is just mouth noise – BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, and BLAH. Sound familiar? We use words that have no apparent connection to what we’re doing. Example? Check out page 354 in your BCP. It’s the page right before Holy Eucharist Rite Two begins. It gives instructions on how this service is to be done. The title reads “Concerning the Celebration”. Quick somebody grab a dictionary! My dictionary defines celebration as to show happiness that something good or special has happened. How often does what you see in church look like a celebration? Even if you like church do you walk out feeling like you celebrated? My bet is that most of us don’t, even when we liked the sermon or the music or whatever. If there’s a downside to our beloved Book of Common Prayer it may be that the words become very comfortable, very routine. I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t even need the Prayer book open in front of me. It’s great I can say all the words of the service while my mind is thinking about important things…

Uhhhhhh, wait a minute.

Here’s where I want to cause some trouble. There are several words or phrases that I think we’ve let get away from their meanings. I want to bring them back into connection. All it means is making a little holy noise during church. Ready?

Alleluia – My Bible dictionary says it means Praise God! Whattya think? We should definitely mumble that one right? Wrong answer! This is a word that we can put a little oomph into. This is an invitation to praise God. When someone praises you is it more believable when they put some emotion into or if they just kind of mumble it?
The modern equivalent would be a “Yeah, All right, Booyah!” kind of a feeling.

Amen – Not every amen needs to thunder up into the rafters but the word means let it be so, Yes! Now some of these can be quieter but why can’t we really ram a prayer home with a good loud AMEN!

Then there’s my favorite:

Thanks Be to God – This one we should definitely sound like we’re about to doze off on. And it comes up several times. “The Word of the Lord” ZZZZZZZZZZZ My favorite is right at the end of the service “Let us go forth into the world, rejoicing in the power of the Spirit” ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ. Come on people! Let’s pump up the volume. “Let us bless the Lord” THANKS BE TO GOD!

Take some time and look to see what other words have come disconnected from their meaning or intent. Figure out how to reconnect them and do it. Let me warn you some of the adults are going to get grumpy about it. You’re going to catch some looks and maybe some people will get in your face about it. Just tell them that you’re excited about being in church and that excitement just came busting out. If that doesn’t work blame me.

I intend to blame the six-year-old.


Friday, February 20, 2004

Thinking about bibles

Well I've fallen behind again on my updates. I keep trying for two a week but only get one. Sigh. Another discipline left lacking.

I was thinking about bibles the other day (it kept me from actually doing the work I had waiting). There have always been a bible around me if only the one given to me by my god parents at my baptism. It's a beautiful leather bound KJV with gilt edged onion skin pages. The Christmas passages in Luke are wrinkled from snow flakes that fell on them as I read the story around a campfire years ago. I don't remember why I was there or even where there was but I carry that reminder in my bible. To be honest that's about the only sign of use you'll find in that book. It has a very nice box with a maroon cover. The bible has resided most of its life inside that box safe and secure. Upon reflection I understand that in my mind I've always felt that it was far too valuable to just have lying around. I mean, it's THE BIBLE!

That's where my problem with bibles really begins. When I started my first serious bible study group my wife and I bought a brand new study bible. The first time someone suggested that I write questions or comments in the margins I was appalled! Whatta you nuts?!? It's THE BIBLE! Somehow that construct of paper, cloth, glue and ink had an aura around it that made it holy and untouchable and beyond mere mortals. I felt almost guilty just reading it. I am a man of unclean thoughts, hands, lips, eyes you name it. Jeez do they let just anybody start messing around with this thing?

As I've traveled a little farther on the journey I've discovered the answer to that question is "Why yes we do". And that really sets off other members of this family of faith. Which is a whole nother topic. This is an amazing book filled with incredible stories, many of which I'd never heard before or only heard parts of them (like drunk, naked Noah) It challenges me and confuses the hell out of me. I'm never quite sure what to do with all of it. The part that grabs me is the New Testament. The Hebrew bible portion is wonderful too, I keep a quote from it framed in my office (Isaiah 6:8). But it is the story of the Nazarene that captures me. I pore over the stories, comparing them wondering at their accuracy. Miracles, mistakes and masses of people. Who was this man and what does he want from me? And which version of the story is "right"? Hell, which one comes closest? I struggle with it and every time I read it I find something that hadn't dawned on me before.

I treat the physical bible with a lot less reverence these days. My study bible shows some serious wear and tear, and lots of notes! I read several different versions to get many different views of the thoughts contained in the words. And I've learned that I don't much care what the bible says but I'm very concerned with what the bible means. It's a hard book and a scary book. I'll keep on thinking about it and what it means. Maybe some day it'll all become clear to me.


Friday, February 13, 2004

On aging gracefully

I'm limping a bit today. You see I play indoor soccer each week at one of the local Y's. I am not now nor have I ever been an athlete. I was the geeky kid who knew all the answers in school. Always picked either last or next to last (what a great triumph that is when you move to next to last or even next-to-next-to-last! It means there's at least one person lower on the food chain than you. Take your victories where you can).

Anyway about 10 years ago I got talked into joining this recreational indoor soccer league. One night a week, mostly guys in their 30's and 40's with a smattering of folks at either extreme. And I fell in love with it (about the same time I started playing golf too. Apparently my mid life crisis started at age 35 and involved sports. Cheaper than a mistress and/or a divorce). I've never been better than a mid-level player in this league but that was pretty good for someone with as little on my sporting resume as I have. It was fun, great exercise, a way to make new friends. It also became a running bit on my radio program for years. I dubbed us "Team Old Fat Guys" and we entered into local legend. Today there's only a couple of us still playing. It's still fun, it's still great exercise, I just have to work at it harder.

But last night was great. The game was wide open. I had pretty good wind and I was handling the ball well (a skill that comes and goes for me). In the end we won and I scored twice! Not my biggest night ever (I have a dozen or so hat tricks all told and one glorious night when I scored four times) but the best in a while. The problem came later as my right knee got tighter and tighter. This morning I was fine as long as I didn't flex the knee. Not good. Visions of torn ligaments and knee surgery dance through my head (the scars would be kinda cool though "Yeah got those when they repaired my ACL. Blew it out scoring two goals in soccer" Ah the dreams of the weekend warrior. Then I remember I hate all things related to medical procedures).

Am I too old for this? People have been telling me that for years now. I keep telling them I'll play as long as the knees let me (Hmmmmmm). In reality I'll play as long as my body doesn't give out and I'm not the worst player in the league. There's still a couple guys that are definitely below me on the totem pole.

I don't ever want to go back to being the last one picked.

Monday, February 02, 2004

Some post Super Bowl thoughts

I've spent most Super Bowl Sundays over the last decade just the way I spent it last night, with my youth group from church. It's great fun, lots of food and talk and shouting and good natured ribbing. I really enjoy it.
Plus this year we had a least a half of good football to watch and most of the commercials were pretty cool too. So a pretty good year on the whole.

Well there was the half time show...

IMHO, what a complete and utter waste of time and energy. Not just this one but all the mega-production ones of the last good many years. This year's was just a classic example of what NOT to do. First there's the whole lip synch-ing thing. Yes I'm aware of the problems of trying to sing in an environment that loud with those kinds of echoes. It's incredibly difficult. How do they do it normally when these artists perform in arenas? Easy they have a day or more sometimes to set up the stage and work out the details. This stage gets set up and torn down with a performance in the middle in about 35 minutes. So you lip synch. I understand. It's just boring to watch. Then you crowd the stage with multiple "big name" stars who all get about 120 seconds to "perform" so they go for the over the top bombastic silliness that doesn't show them at their best. But then this isn't really about "performing" as much as it is about being seen. This is ALL glitter with no substance. It's pop culture at it's worst. Heck I kinda like kid rock and Miss Janet but what a waste of time.
And speaking of Miss Janet and Justin I-got-no-talent-lake (yes, that was a completely egregious shot at him. But let's get serious who thinks ANYONE will still care about Justin and his music 2 years from now? 5 years from now? I worked in pop radio for 20 years. He has pop flash written all over him) Watching Justin and Miss Janet do their little bump and grind routine knowing that she's old enough to be his Momma was just a little disturbing. (What was more disturbing was hearing one of the girls in the room with me agree that an older woman with a younger man was just WRONG but that the other way around was OK) Then there was the whole "Ooops, did I do THAT?!?" stupidity. Hey Justin keep your hands off a lady's boob while in public and this won't happen to you!

What we saw at halftime was just wrong. It was a waste of whatever talents the singers and dancers involved brought to the stage. It was a waste of time to watch. It was the perfect highlight of everything that is Wrong With Our Culture. It was shallow, stupid (meaning it had an thought quotient near zero) it raised up booty shakin and casual sex as legitimate ideals of conduct.

Hey I'll give them this much they hit the trifecta - Artistically, Intellectually and Morally bankrupt.

Thank God the second half had some decent football in it.

Monday, January 26, 2004

A decided lack of profundity

I was chatting with a young friend of mine on IM last week (thank you Tim!) and he kicked me down a new path in my thinking about this blog. Tim mentioned that he had been doing some reading on the site and I apologized for not having come up with something in over a week. I explained that my "method" was to try and get something done each week. His comment was pretty neutral but it sprung my thinking in a whole new direction. Tim commented that it was better to try for a couple times a week because people just want to know you're OK.


You see I get all caught up trying to be profound. It's not that I have an especially high opinion of myself (OK, I have a slightly higher than normal opinion of myself but not out of touch with reality). I just don't want to waste the time of whoever drops by to read these little diatribes of mine. They should be worthy of your investment.

So sometimes it's a week or two before I come up with something I think is profound. Which you may find idiotic. Is it possible to be sprung to something more profound from some simple honest communication? Seems like Tim managed to do that without trying much at all. I know that he's busy with college classes and a really special young lady who is way too far away for both their liking (Hey, Kels!). Providing profound inspiration for some looney middle aged youth minister is nice if it happens but probably doesn't pop up on his To-Do list very often.

But it happened. And I'll thank Tim for the nudge, intended or simply serendipitous. Yeah I'll still keep trying for profound. But I think I'll just try a little more often with whatever wanders by.

Heck that's what it says in the title no less.


Monday, January 05, 2004

(This was originally published in the January 04 edition of "ChurchActs" the newspaper of the Diocese of WNY)

I’ve been thinking about a line from 1 Corinthians (13:11) that says “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I put away childish things.” That transformation, from child to adult, is what you’re going through when you’re a teenager. It saddens many parents how vehement some teens are about shedding anything and everything that smacks of “kid stuff”. The questions that nag at me are: “What qualifies as childish ways? Are there parts of childhood/youth that are worth keeping?” I have a few thoughts on making your way through the process from child to adult.

Don’t be in a hurry: Trust me, I’ve been an adult for over 20 years now and it’s not all that it’s cracked up to be. You live in the best time and place in the history of the world to be a teenager. Take this time, use it, and yes, even enjoy it! The process takes time. As you’re going through it seems to take forever. How long? I can pretty much guarantee you won’t be through it when you graduate from High School. For some folks it can be years beyond that. The Book of Ecclesiastes (3:11) tells us that “everything has a season”. God gives you time so you can do it right. Use what He’s given you.

Change the World: When we’re young we believe fervently in things like “right” and “fair”. We believe that we can change the world. When we get old we get cynical. We get tired. Sometimes we give up. Don’t give up, hang onto the belief that you can change the world because you can. I’ll warn you, it’s harder than you expect and will take much longer than you want. Anthropologist Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of dedicated people can change the world. It’s the only thing that ever has”. At the center of our Christian faith lies the call to change the world. How can we ever give up on such a calling?

Jesus Loves Me: It’s the lyric of children’s Sunday school song. It’s theology boiled down to its simplest form – Jesus/God loves me. Over the next decade or three you (and your church) will wrestle with many questions about right and wrong, form, function and faith. It will be all too easy to take your theological stand, ready to take on all comers, to battle to the last. You need to wrestle with the questions. As you walk deeper into life and faith the questions grow thicker and thornier. Never forget what you knew as a child. That beneath all the complexities and theology and yes, politics the answer is always simple. Jesus Loves You.

Have Fun: You may have noticed that an awful lot of adults seem to have had their “funny bone” surgically removed. It all comes from a belief that being an adult is “serious stuff”. There’s plenty of serious waiting for you as an adult. Pain, hurt and hard decisions. Being a parent can be the hardest, most painful, most terrifying, most wonderful job in the world. Same goes for being a husband/wife. Be very serious about the responsibilities that await you. Take yourself a little less seriously. Jesus calls us to a life of faith that fills our lives with joy. The only problem is when you don’t take the time to look for it. You’ll be surprised by where you find the fun sometimes.

I put away childish things. Yeah, the time comes to pack away the toys of childhood. Temper tantrums really don’t play well when you’re in High school. Boys and girls become men and women. Things start getting weird after that. Don't cast aside everything from childhood however. Hang on to the important stuff. When the process gets to be a hassle or when you’re finally an adult and the world starts to grind you down check out Philippians 4:13. Being an adult can be a lot of fun. Think about this – what part of their lives are adults most likely to miss? Being a teenager. It’s an amazing time in your life that will never come again. It’s wonderful and horrible and a time of transformation. Enjoy.