Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Something for the end of the year

Always a good time to re-evaluate who you are and what you're doing. Guess I'm doing Ok but a little exercise and plate discipline would probably help.

This Is My Life, Rated
Take the Rate My Life Quiz

Peace and Happy New Year

Monday, December 19, 2005

A Christmas thought

I take a moment to rise to the defense of a beloved part of my personal Christmas celebration. It has nothing to do with God and my spiritual life except that it brings me joy and it is a shared work within my family that draws us together at the holidays.

It's also one of the most universally derided parts of the season.

Yes, it's fruitcake.

Let me state from the outset that what most of you know as fruitcake, a sugar encrusted lump with a density just slightly less than lead is an abomination before the Lord. Do not send these things to one another, do not accept them from others. I refuse to even sniff such offerings.

Fruitcake in my family is home made. The cake exists only to the extent that it holds the fruit together. The fruit (this is the ONLY time that pineapple enters my mouth) is soaked in brandy then baked for hours in a batter of flour and spices. The result is a heavy cake (there's about 4 pounds of ingredients in our recipe) that is just brimming with flavors. The cake is then wrapped in cheese cloth and aged for about a month (I'm behind schedule this year so we're going to see if vacuum packing pulls more flavors out) occasionally sprinkled with more brandy. Then it is sliced and savored.

My brothers and I love it. Our wives and children haven't come around on it yet. That's fine, there's more for us!

When my mom passed away in October I realized that our loss could be compounded since she had taken on the fruitcake baking duties for the last several years. Please don't think that I'm saying the lack of fruitcake is somehow equal to losing Mom, it's not. But the first Christmas without Mom will be hard enough. I think it's vital that we maintain our traditions, the traditions that we were taught by our parents. In doing so they will continue to be with us. So over the weekend I broke out the monstrous mixing bowl she used and peered at the stained, hand written recipe.

The fruitcake's done now and beginning it's aging process. My mom and dad will be remembered in part this Christmas as I slice off that first piece of fruitcake.

So you can just take your fruitcake trash talk somewhere else. That don't play at my house.

In case I don't get a chance to blog again this week. A Merry Christmas to you all. Remember what the holiday is really about - God caring enough for his creation to become part of it. To walk with us, laugh with us, cry with us. And maybe even enjoy a bit of fruitcake.


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

My perpetual dance

A couple days ago I offered "A Few Thoughts at Advent". In that post I took to task several mega-churches who have chosen not to have a Christmas morning service. I mounted that high horse of mine again (will no one relieve me of this cursed horse?)and made some slighting comments about congregations who would choose to do such a thing.

I need to step back from some of that today. This seems to be the dance that I am perpetually involved in. Two sharp steps forward, one slow step back. I can only hope that in the end I will be found to have progressed through the steps.

First to acknowledge some personal biases. I'm not a big fan of mega-churches nor of the kind of worship commonly (though not always) found there. Having been raised an Episcopalian I like worship in groups up to a couple hundred, I like vested choirs and much (though not all) of the music of our Hymnal, I love the liturgy of our Book of Common Prayer. Contemporary Christian music is fun but it does not inspire in me a feeling of communing with the divine. My lady wife on the other hand loves it. With that in the background I tend to look a little askance at much of what goes on at places like Willow Creek. That is my failing not theirs and I need to own up to that.

After reading through a discussion on the subject elsewhere I find myself uncomfortable with my previous position. First because I think the attitude ill befits a Christian and second because it makes me a bit of a hypocrite. While I must say that personally I find the idea of "closing" church on Christmas morning inexplicable it doesn't give me the right to look down my nose at my brothers and sisters who have chosen to do so. As pointed out there is a significant body of history of the church that even supports such a decision. Christmas has not been universally celebrated throughout our history. Who am I to say "That's wrong", especially when I am known to resent the hell out of other Christians doing the same thing to me about MY piety? While I can't imagine it I change my stance to:
May God bless them in what they do that day, and
May God open my heart to greater compassion.

And the dance goes on.


Scariest test yet

This is the scariest of these online quizzes I've ever taken. Why? Because Math has been my bete noir since the fourth grade. I have deep seated resistance and fear issues when it comes to math. This is why I don't balance my own checkbook!

So this is entirely Len Evans fault (Len's blog Once I finished it and hit the button I wasn't sure if I wanted to know if I could pass 8th grade math. How embarassing would that be? Trusted with all these funds for youth ministry and can't do junior high math.

So here's the results:

You Passed 8th Grade Math

Congratulations, you got 9/10 correct!

Yeah baby! Na, na na na nah, na na na nana na nana nah! I dance the dance of joy! I am victorious! My life is justified (in a non-theological way of course!)

I have faced my fear and whupped it!



Monday, December 12, 2005

A few thoughts at Advent

Two big stories in the news the last week or so having to do with preparations for Christmas.

First you may have heard that there's a campaign to "force"stores that have dropped Merry Christmas/Christmas sale for Happy Holidays/Holiday sales to go back to using Christmas.

If you see or get a copy of such a petition do me a favor - delete it, destroy it, throw it away.

The underlying logic seems to be that we need and want Christmas to associated with sales and shopping and gifts.


In fact I would ask ALL the retailers - leave Christmas out of it. While you have every right to run big sales this time of year the close association between merchandising and Christmas is destroying our religious holiday. I want Christmas back. If you're not celebrating the birth of the savior of the world please find something else to celebrate. What the heck, it's already been created. Festivus! Festivus sales and parties and whatever. Then maybe we Christians can really start focusing on the Christ child again.

And in a related story...

We have the various mega churches around the country (mega-churches if you're not familiar with the term are humongous congregations with membership in the thousands. They do everything BIG! That works for some folks but I'm personally not a fan) Several of the better known ones have decided NOT to have a Christmas morning service (which would be Sunday morning) because Christmas is a "family day". Apparently going to church isn't something you do on a family day.

Am I missing something here?

My home congregation WILL have a service Christmas morning (one instead of the usual two, and there's a baptism scheduled!) I'll be honest with you normally I'd be 50/50 on going that morning. Mostly because we do a midnight service and I do a live "narration" of it on a local radio station(being doing it for almost 20 years now). So I won't get home till about 1 AM and technically I'll have been at church on Christmas morning. This year my wife and daughter have duties that morning, and the family will probably like to get a video tape of the baptism service (I and a couple youth take turns operating our video system). We talked about it as a family and have decided that we're just going to sleep in, go to church and open presents AFTER!

Kind of a family day set of activities. I think the churches in question out to be ashamed of themselves and reconsider.


Friday, December 09, 2005

Just some filler

A silly spiritual test. Link is in the title above.

You are a Sage, characterized by a thinking or head spirituality. You value responsibility, logic, and order. Maybe that's why you were voted "Most Dependable" by your high school classmates. Structure and organization are important to you. What would the world be like without you? Chaos, that's what! Your favorite words include should, ought, and be prepared. What makes you feel warm and fuzzy? Like Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof it's tradition! tradition! tradition!

Because you love words, written or spoken, you enjoy a good lecture, serious discussions, and theological reflection. Prayer for you usually is verbal. You thrive on activity and gatherings of people, such as study groups. Sages on retreat likely would fill every day with planned activities, leaving little time for silence or solitude.

We need Sages for your clear thinking and orderly ways. You pay attention to details that others overlook. Sages make contributions to education, publishing, and theology. You often are the ones who feel a duty to serve, give, care, and share with the rest of us.

On the other hand, sometimes you seem unfeeling, too intellectual, or dry. Can you say "dogmatic"? You may need to experience the freedom of breaking a rule or two every now and then. God's grace covers Sages too, you know!

I don't think most of this is particularly true but what can you say? It's just filling up space!

Monday, December 05, 2005

Go Navy!

I'm not a huge college sports fan. Basketball interests me very little (I wait till March Madness then root for all the little teams to pull upsets) and college football is much the same.

With one exception.

The Army Navy game. If it is at all possible I'm parked for that one. Sports the way it was meant to be played, for pride and honor. Disciplined athletes striving with one another for supremacy. I love it.

Plus I'm a Navy brat, sort of. My dad was on active duty on an aircraft carrier the day I was born. He was stationed in the Mediterranean so he was a long way away. (This is also why my family does not financially support the Red Cross, but that's another story). I didn't grow up with an active duty father, he went reserves by the time I was about 3 but I love the Navy and I have a big soft spot for the families back home.

Navy made it four years in a row. That means this years graduating class from West Point has NEVER been on a team that had beaten the Naval Academy. I've never been to Annapolis but I'd love to visit. My dad was an Officer's Candidate School graduate rather than a "ring knocker" (I know that's not necessarily a nice phrase but it's ingrained) but I still have the greatest respect for the Navy and Marine officers who come from the Academy.

Can hardly wait for next year.

2005 Navy 42 Army 23.

Go Navy! Beat Army!


Monday, November 28, 2005

Not helping ourselves

I start today with a big sigh. One of those big deep "Oh Lord WHY do we keep doing this?" kind of a sigh.

It all begins with two brothers in Christ, Rush Limbaugh and Pat Robertson.

(Right about now some of you are thinking "Oh boy, he's wading right into the quicksand on this one". Let me assure you that this isn't a diatribe against either of these two. That I don't agree on virtually anything with them probably isn't a terrible shock. But this isn't about any of those kinds of issues. Whether I agree with them or not they are brothers in Christ and that's where my problem is)

About a month ago I stumbled on Rush's show as I channel surfed the radio on a long drive. Normally I'd keep right on going but he was doing a rant about the court case concerning the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance. What got under my skin was his repeated statements that atheist "hate God". It bothers me because that is absolutely NOT what the atheists I've known would say. A fair number of them hate the church and many of the members of the church (often with good reason). But they don't "hate" God. For them it would be like "hating" Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. You don't "hate" imaginary figures. And for them that's what God is, an historic figment of the popular imagination. One that they feel has been a stumbling block to humanity and civilization. While I certainly disagree with that assessment (the human institution known as the church has in its history been such a stumbling block but not God in my belief) it's dishonest to spin that into a hatred of God. Sadly it's a spin that I hear all too often.

Our other spotlight figure is the well known televangelist Pat Robertson. Pat has recently been quoted advocating the assassination of a foreign head of state and warning a town in Pennsylvania that God will abandon them because they voted out members of the school board with whom they disagreed. I hope I don't have to explain the ridiculousness of both those statements.

The part that bothers me most about them both is the damage done by such high profile Christians making such patently self serving statements to standing of the church within our society. And the even greater damage done to our ability to reach the unchurched when the rest of the Body doesn't call them on it. Allowing our faith to be represented as being intellectually dishonest, violent and power oriented makes the work harder. A fellow youth minister I know in passing recently asked his youth what the biggest stumbling block for them living as people of faith in their real lives was. The answer? Televangelists. I'd bet a large portion of ALL high profile Christians would probably also qualify. Allowing people of faith to be seen as buffoons, incapable of reasonable discourse or outright hypocrisy (which I believe the assassination statement to be for any Christian).

Do you believe that the words "under God" should stay in the Pledge? Good, go argue your case. But don't do it by mis-stating other people's beliefs in order to support your own. Think the President of Venezuela is a looney? Fine but don't claim that you find justification for killing a democratically elected head of state in the faith set forth by Jesus of Nazareth. And kindly don't use your pulpit as the stage for your opinion.

Either our faith is strong enough to endure on it's own merits, without subterfuge or disingenuous statements or it's not. And if it's not then the bright light of examination needs to be turned inward, not outward.


Wednesday, November 23, 2005

A time for Thanksgiving

Just time to stop and take a moment to give thanks.(Is that possible, Jay? This is the HOLIDAY season you idiot. You're supposed to be going full tilt, all out, push it past ten to eleven! I'll have more to say on that in a week or so)

What do I have to give thanks for?

I'm married to a remarkable woman who for reasons I have never comprehended loves me deeply.

I have an amazing daughter who is going to continue her journey to becoming a remarkable woman just like her mom.

I have two incredible brothers, a bunch of amazing aunts and uncles and cousins, nieces and nephews and other family members of various descriptions.

I have the memories and life lessons of two amazing parents. I miss them both deeply.

I have a group of friends who are smarter and more profound than I will ever be. And tiny little bits of them have rubbed off on me over the years.

I have not just a job (but that would be reason enough to give thanks) I have an amazing job that is also my ministry. And it's done with people young and old who humble me and inspire me virtually every day.

I'm healthy.

I live in a time and place that offers me an amazing array of opportunities.

I was going to say "I'm a member" of a great congregation. But I prefer to say I belong to a great congregation. I hope you understand the difference that makes.

I believe that God loves me and is watching over me. While still leaving me the discretion to make my own decisions. And loving me despite the stupid decisions I make on an appallingly regular basis. And I hope you understand how wonderful that is.

I have so much to be thankful I should feel guilty ever moaning, complaining, griping, or whining about anything else in my life.

Today I give thanks for every one and thing mentioned above. I can only hope that I am a fraction as much a joy in their lives as they are in mine.


Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Deep Thoughts by Gman

I'm adding another blog to my list over on the right here. This is one by a fellow youth worker who:

1: I think he is a great human being, and a great person of faith, and
2: Has some very good thoughts worth sharing, plus
3: It's not just a personal blog. I read several of those written by friends, and they're all very good. But this is part of my ministry, and while there are personal thing here as well I'm trying for something larger than just a personal journal. I think Gerrard succeeds at doing just that.

So check the Gman out. There's a link in the title too.


HAD to do this one

Yep this is the one I see myself as.


To which race of Middle Earth do you belong?
brought to you by Quizilla


Wednesday, November 09, 2005

A learning process

Well I've done it again. I've reacted to something I read on the web as if I were getting the full emotional value of the message. In the short form of IM, or comment sections, or forums or even blogs the chance that you fully comprehend exactly what the author meant is pretty small. It happens all the time on every online community I've been a part of over the last five years. Suddenly a flame war breaks out, feelings are hurt, hard things are said. All over an understanding that was different than the original intent.

Today I did it to a guy I've never met but whom I know by reputation. And it's a darn good rep. Well known, well respected and well liked in youth ministry circles. Let's face it, he's a wheel and a Big Wheel at that. In the course of a commentary (with which I almost totally agreed )he took a little dig at something I care about deeply. I'm not even sure why it fired me up, but it did. It just seemed unfair and unnecessary and it TICKED ME OFF!

That should have been the warning sign. That someone who I know to be a decent guy probably DIDN'T mean it the way I was taking it. And that maybe I don't need to climb up on my high horse over it under any circumstances. (Question - why don't I sell that damn horse? It's nothing but trouble) That maybe I need to remember that rule number one on the web should be - Lighten Up.

But I didn't. So I sent him a rather frosty little note. Got just the tiniest bit nasty right at the end too. Hit that "Enter" key with just the right touch of righteous indignation (I'll throw that in with the horse for free if anyone's interested). Only to have him come back with a soft answer. A soft answer that made me feel pretty stupid. That's fine, I earned it. So I made nice and ducked out as gracefully as I was able.

It's not the first time. About three months ago I swore off some sports forums because, I'm ashamed to admit this, I was becoming exactly the kind of person I loathe. I was angry, and acerbic, and vicious. I made personal comments about people I'd never met. I finally read something I'd posted and became nauseous. It still horrifies me to think about it. Not to say that some of the folks weren't every bit as vicious. But I have no control over them. I thought I'd found a better person along my faith journey and really become that person.

Turns out I still have some traveling to do.

I've been a communicator all my life. I'm a story teller, trained as an actor, almost two decades as a radio personality. Human communication is only partly about the words. It's about inflection, timing, tone, tempo plus facial expression and body language. I learned that years ago, I've made my living most of my adult life using that very knowledge. Yet I keep forgetting how much info I'm NOT getting in this electronic community. I keep making assumptions about intent without that information.

And I keep making a jerk out of myself.

So Marko, I offer my apology. To the members of the AOL Pirates and Steelers boards I extend an apology as well. If I've done the same thing to anyone else on any of the other boards I frequent I ask that you accept this apology as well.

I promise I'll keep working me.


Monday, November 07, 2005

In memoriam

I've been putting off writing this for weeks now. I've used every excuse I could find. I'm even thinking about dragging out this intro so I don't have to write these words.

My mom died.

She had a good sized stroke and collapsed in her living room. The neighbors found her and called the ambulance. She lasted a while longer, never woke up and died in hospice. She died five years and one day after my dad.

I've told that story, usually with a lot more details about 200 hundred times. I've cried, I've been angry, I've been depressed. It feels like there's about three hundred details I need to be taking care of, and I'm not sure I've done any of them.

The following thoughts keep occurring to me:

I'm an orphan.
I'm 47, so I'm not really an orphan but I may just be an a##h#l#.
I just want all go away.
I don't want any more sympathy.
I do want to feel sorry for myself.
I was probably an OK son.
But I still could have done more.
I'm actually sorrier for her (she won't see her grandchildren whom she adored graduate from HS or get married) than I am for me.
I'm not afraid of death anymore, but I'm pretty sure that dying sucks.
So I want to go quickly.
Between my wife's illnesses, my father's slow death over months and Mom's death I don't care if I ever see another hospital again.
That part of me feels guilty for hoping that she would die quickly. That's the first time I've acknowledged that feeling.
I probably still have a lot of processing to do about how I feel about this and what it means.

It means I'm the oldest living member of my immediate family. In days gone by that would make me the "head" of my family. Not sure I want that, and I'm pretty sure my brothers would have something to say on that matter. And that's fine. I don't feel like the eldest. I feel like a little kid.

A little orphan kid.

I love you Mom, and I miss you.


Friday, November 04, 2005

The further adventures...

Haven't mentioned my soccer playing of late. I am still toiling away at it. So far we're pretty horrible. Lost every game. My only highlight is that I've scored twice. So that puts me at two goals and two assists. Last week was something of a gimme, we were so far behind the other team was laying back on defense so I had lots of room. It was from an angle and I put it into the far corner so I did have to make the shot. Last night was a tip in on a shot through traffic by a teammate.

Our season high on goals last night too, 5. Lost 10-5 which is a pretty common score. Ref got mad at me at one point and I couldn't figure out why. Turns out it was a mis-communication. We each thought the other had said something else. Jeez, old, slow and now deaf!

I'm not sure I've ever been on a team this far off the pace of the rest of the league. And the rest of the league is younger and more skilled. I'll keep working at it. So far I haven't hurt myself or anyone else. Just got to keep in mind, I play for:

The Fun
The Exercise

The minute I lose track of that I'm likely to get hurt. Must remember. Old. Slow. Not very skilled.


Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The more things change

(The following is my column for the November issue of ChurchActs, our diocesan newspaper)

Adolescence and Middle Age.
In our culture these are the two great times of change, the two great passages in a persons life. I'm working through one and the young people with whom I work are making their way through the other. Over the summer I got started thinking about those two parts of life. What's amazed me was realizing how much they had in common.

Our bodies are changing That's the big one and it's scary at both times. A young persons body begins doing things, and feeling things that they've never had to deal with before. It's disturbing and the reaction from other people to those changes can be pretty scary too. Those of us who made it through can still remember suddenly feeling weird and not being sure why everyone else had decided to act so “weird too. The middle aged person's body is changing too and most of us don't like it one little bit. Things we've always been able to do are suddenly hard or even impossible. Just like our younger brothers and sisters our bodies are changing shape too. There are also days when we feel “weird” and aren't so sure about all the people around us.

Our lives are changing
– Young people are preparing to grow up and move out. Adults are preparing to deal with a home that has fewer people in it. There are whole new categories of decisions to be made about our lives, our dreams and our expectations. At both ages we need to re-examine who we are and how we've changed. As a boy I wanted to be an astronaut, as a young man I had to take a serious look at what I saw in my future. Today I need to look again at what I saw in my future at 18 and decide what part, if any, of those dreams have been fulfilled, still await me in the future or need to be discarded altogether. Our financial situations are changing, our employment situations are changing, the level of responsibility is changing.

Our relationships are changing This may be the most frightening of all when it enters that pivotal relationship of parent and child. The younger person is trying, often straining and fighting, to move away from their old relationship with their parent. It's a necessary and vital transformation but it involves great risk as well. The comfortable safety net of parental back-stopping gradually diminishes, increased responsibility for decisions and outcomes can be a heavy burden. (And one that parents often try to soften for their children. It's an incredibly bad parental decision in my opinion but that's for another column) Moving out and growing up are exhilarating and exciting experiences but they come with uncertainty as well.
The change for the middle aged person is just as daunting even when the changes are in the reverse. As our parents age often it is the children who must accept more responsibility for that relationship. We become the safety net for our parents and in many cases move into a “parental/caregiver role for them as they did for us in childhood. When the person you have looked to all your life is now looking, even beseeching you for guidance and direction powerful emotions are brought to the surface. They can range from sadness to anger to uncertainty to determination. Freud believed that no one became an adult until their parents died. That transition is no easier simply because we've had so much “practice being adults.

In the end my hope is that young person and adult can look at one another with greater empathy as we each travel our assigned portion of the journey. Very often as young people we assume that adults have it together (even if it's a pretty bizarre together) and that it's "“easier"” some how to be a grown up. Adults will too easily discount the pain and struggle of the transitions and transformations of growing up. The world our youth face is more complicated than the one in which we grew up. The choices they face are similar to ours but come with many more permutations and penalties.
Together we can comfort, counsel and guide one another through the hard parts. We can pray for one another and above all LOVE ONE ANOTHER. For through that love we give the greatest assistance, strength and support that there is.

The French have a saying that translates as "The more things change, the more they stay the same". As we walk through life it's important to remember that.


Tuesday, November 01, 2005

In the unlikely event...

That ANYONE would ever confuse me with a saint.

You are Julian of Norwich! It's all about God, to
you. You're convinced that the world has a
happy ending. Everyone else is convinced that
you're a closet hippie, but you love them

Which Saint Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

That I have anything in common with a 14th century mystic nun who lived as a recluse is enough to make me want to go and lie down for a while. By myself. Hmmmm, I'll let you know if I have any visions!

I promise some more serious blogs soon, I'm working on several.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Happy Halloween!

Don't know what your plans are for Halloween this year but you may hear from some folks how terrible Halloween is and how evil. I want to take a minute to step back and take a look at that.

Halloween is a contraction of a three word phrase "All Hallows Even(ing)". In other words the night before All Hallows day. All Hallows can be "translated" to All Saints. So this is the night before the day when we remember all the saints that have lived before us. Doesn't sound so bad does it? All saints day is a Christian holiday that goes back many centuries. Like many of the days on the Christian calendar it doesn't get the attention that it should. But more on that in a second.

So what's the flap about? Well part of it has to do with the date chosen. Several dates on the Christian calendar were chosen to fight against pagan customs. In Halloween's case it was a festival of the dead called Samhain in the British Isles. Christians took the pagan holiday and "baptized" it. (We did the same thing with the date for Christmas which overlaps an old Roman pagan holiday. This is also why the Easter Bunny exists and why we have evergreens like a christmas tree at Christmas time) We "tame" the bad things (vampires and ghouls)by making them silly. The tradition of giving food to keep them from misbehaving is now candy and "Trick or Treat".

So is all this "stuff" about the supernatural just silly and to be ignored? No. As Christians we believe in the supernatural and recognize that it has its dangers. So does everyday life in this world. While I personally think things like the Tarot and Ouija are frauds I recognize that they can be used to bring great evil into people's lives. I also recognize that the powers of evil have used even the Bible to bring great evil into people's live as well. The difference is that the Bible is a much greater source of light and life and good, while Ouija and Tarot (and the like) are just pointless and silly.

So go out and enjoy yourself this Halloween. But remember two things:

Take your faith out with you. It'll keep you out of trouble (just like every other day) Halloween isn't a vacation from living a life in faith.

And tomorrow, take a few minutes to remember a saint. Can't think of any? Then take an extra moment and look one up. Some wonderful people have walked this path before us. We should take a few moments once a year to remember them and learn from them.


Friday, October 21, 2005

Yeah another dopey quiz

Things have been busy, I'll share with you why in a bit. In the meantime...

You are Rerun!

Which Peanuts Character are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

I honestly expected to be Linus.


Friday, October 07, 2005

Another silly one

Yeah it's silly but my cyborg name came out pretty cool and very appropriate. At my age I'm certainly an "artificial youth" and it's all about the journey isn't it?


Friday update

Mentioned before the indoor soccer in my life. Last night was interesting.

I spent the day (my extra day off)sanding drywall and painting. Lots of bending and stretching and general manual labor. I remember now why I don't like manual labor. It's hard work! So I was a little stiff and a bit tired when I rolled into the Y last night.

And who was waiting for us? A bunch of just out of HS (some maybe not even yet)varsity players with a couple of all county type thrown in for good measure. In other words players who have no business in this league (co-ed recreational). They thrashed us 12-0. I've never had any delusions about my level of play but last night was one of the few times when I felt utterly incapable of playing. It's frustrating and took the fun completely out of the game.

The problem is that while the players grumble among themselves I'm not sure anyone's ever actually complained to the Y. That'll change with yours truly. My suggestions will be two fold:

An outright ban on power league players (yes there's a separate league for this skill level but it starts later than the rec league). If they play rec league during the program year they are ineligible to play power.


they can play rec but not as a team. They have to be divided up among all the teams.


they just offer power league earlier.

We'll see what comes of it.


Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Why Lord?

This is my column from the October 2005 edition of our diocesan newspaper ChurchActs

As I write this (in early September) the full scope of the Hurricane Katrina disaster is just becoming clear. I've only learned today that all the members of my family are safe and out of New Orleans. Prayers of thanks for my family and prayers for the safety of everyone still in the city are the order of the day. Inevitably out of events like this a couple things happen. Certain groups begin to shout how God has expressed his anger through the storm and many people begin to wonder why/how God allows things like this happen.
As for God's involvement in “sending” storms and earthquakes and plagues to punish us I must admit to having a problem with the concept. That God is able to do such things is beyond question but that the Lord chooses to do it strikes me as inconsistent with his post-Easter relationship with his creation. Could this all be part of a larger plan? Sure. But it dawned on me several years ago that God's plans are probably way beyond my pitiful understanding. I'm willing to assume that the God who calls me “beloved” has a plan that is beneficial to creation in the long run. Personally I fall somewhere between believing in a God that micromanages every part of my (and everyone's) life and a God that got the world spinning then walked away.
So where's does that leave the questions from the beginning of my column? The honest answers are: I don't believe God “sent” Katrina, and I don't know why or how he chooses to let these things happen. I simply know that bad things do happen both on the large scale and the small. The more important question for us as a people of faith is how do we react to them? Our reaction to the “bad things” that happen tell us a lot about how deeply our faith has etched itself in to our lives. I believe that God is very interested in how we react to what happens in our lives.
God's challenge to us has less to do with being caught in the great disasters of our time than it does with being caught in the little ones. How will we react when we see suffering, when we are confronted with injustice, when we are surrounded by selfishness. When we open our eyes we discover that bad things happen every day to people all around us. Whether it's the victim of the school bully, a frightened child, a confused adult or someone just having bad things happen to them (a car breakdown, an emotional upset, the loss of someone or something important to them) I believe God watches us. It's not so much that God creates tests for us as that he knows that tests abound.
I wrote earlier this year on my blog about watching a young man struggle through the slush and snow of late winter with a long line of grocery carts. That's his job, to return those carts from the parking lot to the store. It dawned on me that I had never really looked at folks like these. He wasn't getting rich working at the grocery store and this job had to be pretty awful that day. And I could make his life a little easier or a little more miserable. Not a lot, just a little. It would be easier for me because I didn't want to be out in that weather either. My faith had etched itself deeply enough into my life that the easy answer wasn't going work anymore.
That large disasters like the hurricane bring out the best in us is fine. I believe we need to keep our eyes open every day. We need to remember the passage where Jesus talks about serving him when we help the hungry and the naked that surround us. Our society pushes us into every more self involved behaviors. We isolate ourselves from our daily life and those in them. In doing so we miss our chances to be agents for positive change in the world. We either ignore or simply insulate ourselves so that we do not see the bad things. How could we have made the day easier for someone with just a word, or a smile?
We ask why does God let bad things happen. How often do we choose to behave in a way that makes God ask us the same question? I can't stop the storms, large or small. Of course that's not my job.

Something new...sadly

If you've visited before and posted a comment you'll note that I've added a security feature that makes leaving a comment slightly more annoying (hopefully only slightly). You'll now have to verify you're a real person by copying a security code. The reason for this is that I'm getting spam comments. The first batch was just annoying and I figured I'd just edit them. The latest was totally inappropriate so I have to defend myself and my readers.
Hope you understand.
As for the spammers, I think you're dirt bags.


Friday, September 30, 2005

A new season begins

For the last 12 or 13 years I've been playing indoor soccer in the winter time. Last night was the first night of the new session.

It should be noted right up front that I am not now nor was I ever an athlete. Like many American males this hasn't kept me from playing sports. As a soccer player I have limited ball skills, limited speed and at my age limited endurance. What I bring to my team is perserverance, a pretty good knowledge of position play and enthusiasm.

None of which helped last night when we lost 5-1. The game was actually much closer than that. We had a slack period when we ran out of gas a bit and the other team put up three quick goals. For a first night back we didn't look out of place in a mid level recreational league.

As for your humble correspondent, I played defense all night, was only on the floor for two of the goals and managed to put virtually every pass I tried right on the button. I didn't do anything stupid and almost avoided hurting myself. About 6 minutes before the end I tangled myself up with another player and turned my ankle slightly. It's only a tiny bit stiff this morning so I think it's probably no big deal. I should be ready to go for next Thursday.

Go Team Orange!

Thursday, September 29, 2005

And so it begins

The Anglican Church in Nigeria has chosen to eliminate all references to the "mother church" of Anglicanism, represented by the Archbishop of Canterbury (link to article in title). This is the saddest news I've heard as an Anglican in my lifetime.

Archbishop Peter Akinola has been the vocal leader of conservative factions in the Anglican Communion, especially in the southern hemisphere. He is also looked to as a leader by some of the traditionalist churches in the northern hemisphere as well. While I respectful the views of the tradtionalists I must admit that some of the comments of the Archbishop have disturbed me. Within the last year he has referred to homosexuals as "dogs" a statement for which I can find no Christian theological basis.

It was only a few months ago that ++Akinola assured everyone that there was not a split in Anglicanism coming. Yet surely this move, which the Nigerian church acknowledges allows them to "set up missions outside Nigeria", something that would be against the unwritten rules of the Communion. It appears that this "new" Anglican church will be very different from the worldwide Communion it seems to want to replace.
These are my expectations of that new church (and mine alone):
1: Greater central authority - expect to see some version of an Anglican 'pope' with power to mandate dogma and doctrine.
2: Ongoing disputes on what that dogma and doctrine may look like. U.S. bishops who may support female clergy but oppose same sex marriage may find their stay in this new church uncomfortable at best.
3: That further dividing of the anglican tradition churches will continue as more litmus tests are advanced by differing groups.

I'll be honest and say that personally I am angered by what appears to my eyes to be a power grab. The effort put into trying to find a way forward together seems to be for appearances sake only. That anger could easily lead me to say things that I would regret later so I'll return to my initial thought.

This is the saddest news I've ever heard as an Anglican.


Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Real Live Pirates!

I swore I wouldn't do a lot of these but this is from a page created by some of the readers of Real Live Preacher (If you're not a regular reader, what the heck's the matter with you? See the link on the right!) I have no idea why they went the pirate route but as a fan of RLP's and the Pittsburgh Pirates how could I resist? Chekc the link in the title.

My pirate name is:

Captain Sam Flint

Even though there's no legal rank on a pirate ship, everyone recognizes you're the one in charge. Like the rock flint, you're hard and sharp. But, also like flint, you're easily chipped, and sparky. Arr!

Get your own pirate name from


Friday, September 23, 2005

Seems I spoke too soon

I thought that all my adventures were behind me for this trip. Check the link connected to the title of this entry for the after effects of the tornadoes that swept through this area two days ago. Winds hit 80+ mph in a straight line, more than a hundred thousand people have been without power for the last 36 hours. The hotel staff moved us out of the dining room Weds night and took us to the basement because the tornado was less than 4 miles away from us. It was quite a storm.

And I still love travelling!


Wednesday, September 21, 2005

More travel tales

So I've just decided to give up an give in and accept that weird things happen to me when I travel. This time I didn't even get out of my home airport! I was scheduled to leave from Gate 21. Now there are only about 26 gates at the airport so I just boogied to the far end. Let's see - gate 20, 22 and 24 on this side. Even Odd so that's easy. I turn around and see gates 23, 25, 27.

Ummmmmm. Hello?

So I check again, nope not on this side. Nope, not on that side. No gate 21 anywhere.

Well, poop.

So I ask a friendly passing airport worker. He takes me back down the concourse! Yes it turns out that gate 21 is BEFORE you get to gate 19. No clue why.

Fortunately the rest of the trip went well.

It's just one long adventure for me.


Thursday, September 15, 2005

Waiting for wailing

I'm waiting for the cry to go up.

"We're turning away from God"

I'm waiting for the anger.

"Liberal judges are destroying our nation"

All because of two words.

"Under God"

A federal judge on the west coast has ruled that the Pledge of Allegiance as it stands today is unconstitutional because it infringes on the rights of school children to be " from a coercive requirement to affirm God." The ruling at the moment affects only a couple of school districts out there. When it is appealed, if it is upheld, it will affect only nine western states. At which point it will go to the Supreme Court of the United States. All of which is a ways away.

So here are my thoughts on the subject:

The front man for this is Dr. Michael Newdow, an atheist, who attempted to do the exact same thing last year on behalf of his daughter. The Supreme Court would not consider the case since Newdow doesn't have custody of the girl and therefore has no legal right to speak for her. Now he's back representing three families from the Sacramento area. While I respect his right to object to the two words (more on that in a second) I get a strong feeling that he's grandstanding. He's a hard guy to get warm fuzzy feelings about for me. Of course that doesn't mean he's wrong.

At a surface reading it would appear that he's got this one absolutely right. The separation of church and state is fundamentally about government not establishing a national religion. These two words, which do NOT appear in the original pledge, was inserted by an official act of government. It was passed in 1954 by Congress as a bulwark against "Godless Communism". A fairly idiotic idea in its own right but that's another topic. The government has inserted into a pledge a two word statement that clearly indicates the government believes in God. That pledge is taught to children at a very early age by schools(basically another governmental agency). Children still pretty much do what their teachers tell them to do so the concept that some elementary school child is going to stand up and refuse is pretty remote. The idea that there's not a coercive element to having that child "simply not say it" while EVERY OTHER CHILD IN THE ROOM does is fairly silly.

But whatever the legal arguments my real irritation is with my fellow children of God. This ruling and the following appeals process is going to bring on an absolute storm of hoo-haw. I will restrain myself from voicing more cynical and sarcastic thoughts and stick to this:

If our children, our nation and our faith are actually balanced on the infinite thinness of whether or not they say "Under God" while pledging allegiance to our nation's flag then we're a sad and pitiful bunch. The pledge is a civic act, it is an act of patriotism. When we confuse God and Country we're headed into a very bad place. The pledge is an act of the citizenry re-affirming our commitment to our way of life. A way of life that includes believers and un-believers and attempts to put them on equal footing. Except that all too often when we come to issues like this the truth comes out:
As long as you're well behaved and quiet, as long as you don't expect us to really take you seriously (or your beliefs) we'll let you play along. But don't cross us. We're the majority and we will force you to do things our way.

My child will survive without those words, words quite honestly she probably stopped thinking about and maybe even saying years ago. Her faith life has nothing to do with whether those words are there or not.

My nation will survive without those words. It survived between 1892 (when the pledge was written by a Baptist minister) and 1954 when it was changed by Congress. For all the "value" of those two little words there seems to be plenty of room for spiritual improvement in our national life so I doubt they've made that big a positive influence. Or are we really going to argue that those two words are the last defense that have held back an even worse spiritual condition for our nation?

My church (the church universal) will survive without those words. All the church needs is God. And last I knew God did very well without the assistance of our pledge of allegiance.

If parents and churches are doing their jobs properly then our children are getting all the spiritual guidance, influence and reinforcement they need. If the best we can do is two words in a morning pledge we should be ashamed of ourselves. If the only reason we want those words included is so everyone knows we believe then we're just as guilty of grandstanding as I believe Dr. Newdow is.

But wait for it, the wailing and the gnashing of teeth is coming. I can hear it already.


Sunday, September 11, 2005

Another silly thing

Something silly. My family is a big fan of the show. And yes I'm surprised. I expected to be BJ while hoping I'd be Hawkeye.

Click here to take the M*A*S*H quiz!

Friday, September 09, 2005

Another quick story

I want to get all these out of my head before they disappear forever. Another story from my travels this summer.

I always remember as my planes prepare for take off the story in Jim Bouton's book "Ball Four" of the player who went through all kinds of gyrations, flipping switches, talking into a cup et cetera prior to take off. His explanation was that flying made him nervous and it made him feel better if he "flew" the plane himself.

What brought it to mind this time was flying on a plane with headsets that offered the cockpit radio chatter as one of the channels. I'm fascinated by how things work so I plugged right in to hear what went on (you get the pilots talking with the control tower and both sides of the conversation). Well I'm not sure that this is the kind of stuff they wanted us to hear! The conversation went something like this:

Pilot - United 2087 on runway 9 left prepared for take off
Tower - Uuuuuunited 20-87, you're headed for...where today?
P - destination is Denver today.
T - Really?
P - Yep got clearance and everything
T - Oh I'm sure you do, I just can't seem to find your paperwork anywhere
P - That so?
T - I'm sure it's here somewhere but I can't...Wait...OK! Now we're set United 20-87 you are cleared for runway 9 left, and you have a great day in Denver
P - United 20-87, thank you very much

I'm sure the folks around me were wondering what I was listening to that was making me smile and laugh so much. The conversation was all very casual and matter of fact. The pilot wasn't concerned and the tower was just a bit puzzled.

And one passenger sat back feeling very much refreshed and relaxed.

Thanks guys.


Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Tales from my trips

Lots of traveling this summer so here are some stories from my wanderings:

I was sure that the problem would be Denver. If you've been reading for a while you know that I seem to have a travel karma problem with Denver's airport. A couple years ago I nearly missed a plane when one of the youth I was traveling with had to go through a security bag check because of a zip lock bag filled with quarters. Earlier this year I was chosen at random (repeatedly!) for a more thorough security check, then got bumped from plane (which had been overbooked by 30 seats!). I only seem to have this problem in Denver.
So when I saw that my trip to visit my brother in California stopped in Denver I just anticipated the worst. And was pleasantly surprised. Despite having to puddle jump across the country (Buffalo to Chicago to Denver to Burbank to Reno - don't ask!) the trip was simple if very long. Only one flight was even delayed and that was only by 15 minutes.
The trouble was on the way home. Now I wasn't worried because I wasn't even going through Denver on the return trip (Burbank to San Francisco to Chicago to Buffalo). Got to the airport bright and early, quick flight to SF, then the longer trip with a good movie (Madagascar - very funny movie)and into Chicago a little ahead of schedule. Now when you're playing leap frog on airplanes you know that the first thing you have to do is verify what gate you next plane will be at. They have this nasty habit of changing while you're in the air so you can't trust what you may have been told at the start of the day. I hop off at Chicago (O'Hare), find the departure screen, scan down for Buffalo...


No,no,no,no,no. Double check, must be some OTHER flight to Buffalo. Wait, there is no OTHER flight to Buffalo.


A few years ago this would have really rattled me. Not any more. I've never had a flight cancelled before but the drill is easy. Find the customer service desk, smile and and be pleasant (these people have to deal with WAY too many morons. You'd be amazed how treating them nicely greases your way), get scheduled for the next flight (4 hours later), and call home to tell my lady wife of the schedule change.

Then try to stay amused for 4 hours at O'Hare. Not easy. But it really makes you appreciate being home.


Of course there was my little flap in Cleveland. I flew through there on my way to EYE. When I checked in at Buffalo I got all the details, flight numbers, gates etc (this trip was easy, only one change). As we arrived in Cleveland I check the airport map for gate numbers and realize that I have very little time to make a one end of the terminal to the other run for my plane. Great. Thank God for luggage with wheels (seriously, my wheelie bag has changed my life traveling. So much less stress, physical and mental. Thank you Brian Prior!) So I'm off to the races! I arrive at the other gate and it's loading a plane for someplace I'm not planning on going. Not good. Up to the desk, ask the question, "Oh they moved that to gate such and so". Which is at the other end of the terminal from where I am now! Lovely. So back to the races, to discover that the new gate is RIGHT NEXT TO THE ONE I'D GOTTEN OFF AT! The airline employee informs me that I'm the last person to get on the plane. So I explain that there had been a mix up on the gates. To which she responds:

"Oh No, this flight's always been at this gate"


Lady I have a piece of YOUR airlines paper IN MY HAND that says differently. And no less than two of your co-workers told me differently.

But it's not worth having the fight. I just get on the plane and fly away.

Yeah it's been an interesting summer.


Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Back to Normal?

Feels kind of weird to be here in the office again. The last month especially I've been running around a lot. So now I guess it's back to "normal". That always seems funny to me since I have no clue what a normal day looks like in this job. Depends on time of year and status of various projects.

All of the following have become "normal" days in this gig:

Camp (in all its diverse glory)
Sitting in airports
Long hours in my car
Trying to find a church I've never been to before at 7:30AM Sunday
Sitting at meetings (so many meetings!)

Now what does my most common day look like? Pretty much like today. Come to the office, sort through e-mail, check various websites, sift through the pile of paper on my desk, remember several small (usually) projects that I've overlooked or gotten right up to the deadline on. Make phone calls, answer phone calls, write e-mails, respond to e-mails, try to figure out what needs to be done NOW, NEXT, AFTER THAT and later. There's a lot of keyboard work and not nearly enough getting my butt out of this chair work.

But that's what's up. I've got lots of stories to share from the last couple months but I just remember two things that need to be done NOW! So I gots to go.


Monday, August 22, 2005

Just dashing by...

The title reflects how my life has felt for the last month. I never seem to "be" anyplace just in transit to the next. To be honest it's all a little wearing.

The last three camps of the year went very well. Music Art & Drama (MAD) camp was a lot of fun with three Episcopal young people there. We're already planning for next year including some changes. The name will be Art, Recreation, Theater and Song (ARTS) camp and we will build in time for the campers to do some traditional camp activities that were hit or miss this year (swimming, sailing, arts and crafts type stuff) I'm hoping that we can continue to see growth in this camp overall and within the diocese.

The Junior High/Sleep Away camp week was different this year. Because our numbers were down I got "cut" as a staff person. In some ways that made things easier but it also allowed me to run back and forth between the camps which became tiring and kept me from getting a real feel of having been to camp. Of course I seemed to be the only one not having a good time so it all works out. The campers and families I spoke to were all excited and looking forward to next year.

Add to that a visit from one of my longest term friends in the world and his family. I was a pinball bouncing between trying to find time for them and still make contact and connection with the young people.

There's still lots to do: final money issues for camp, end of camp reports, getting the fall programs on line, figuring out what my new job entails...

Oh yeah, I've added a part time job to my portfolio. The good news is that it's still youth ministry and that it helps with the old personal bottom line. Sometime in the next month I'll begin work at the Southwestern Conference Youth Ministry Coordinator (or something like that) for the Upstate Synod of ELCA. I've become a Lutherpalian! We'll see how good my juggling skills are. Is there a "bad news" side to this? I hope not but that feeling of being in transit I mentioned earlier maybe taking up permanent residence. We'll see.

For the moment I'm trying to get my stuff in reasonable order so that I can take off for a week of comp time/vacation. I'll be joining at least one of my brothers and his family in Lake Tahoe. I've never been there but I'm told it's gorgeous.

So I'll be gone again till the end of August when I have to hit the ground running for the new program year. Lots of things to share here as well. Just wanted to make sure you knew I hadn't dropped off the face of the earth.


Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Back from EYE

Well it was everything I hoped and then some.

Just under 1,400 youth, adults, bishops and guests gathered in Berea KY for an astounding time together. It was amazing worship with a Hip Hop mass (before you get your Anglican knickers in a knot this was a very Anglican form of worship that used rap as a vehicle for communicating the Word. While not a rap fan it still touched me, challenged me and made me feel closer to God. Would I choose it for my regular worship? I don't think anyone would be surprised to hear the answer's no. But then it's not really aimed at middle aged white guys who grew up in the suburbs of the '70's. Yet it's clear that there are many young people out there, especially in urban areas, for whom this would be worship that speaks to them in a language they understand. Given a history in our own denomination that emphasizes using the language of the common people in worship, how can we object to prayerful, worshipful, Spirit filled liturgy in the language of the streets?), there was also powerful traditional worship including a sermon from Bishop Michael Curry that was simply beyond description. He blew the roof off the place and brought us all to tears, to laughter, to inspiration and finally roaring to our feet. I've said it before and I'll say it again. I would cross the street and pay to hear the man preach.

The music was provided by a music team that for the first time was made up entirely of people 21 and under. Young people preached and led the events. They met with others from all over the world and made new friends, learned new songs, were challenged in what it meant to be a Christian and an Episcopalian. I know of one young man who came to EYE upset with the furor surrounding Bp Robinson and his perceptions of what the bishop was "doing to" ECUSA. Much to his shock he discovered the bishop in a group with him. They talked and suddenly the young man discovered that some of his assumptions challenged and he has begun a thoughtful process of reasessment.

For me personally the highlights were Bishop Curry's sermon, the presentation by Friends of the Groom, the chance to touch base with some special friends that I don't get to see very often plus a couple of new friends too. And of course the young people. Their energy, their faith, their belief in God and in their larger church. They inspired me and brought me to tears.

I'm very tired still but I don't want to let go of those memories. Of standing just at the edge of the arena and listening to over a thousand voices singing, praying, laughing, praising and worshipping.


Friday, July 22, 2005

To Kentucky I go

Wow three posts in a week, close to a record!

Time for me to start packing up for the Episcopal Youth Event (EYE). Think 1,300 people, mostly high school youth, from 85 diocese with 55 bishops wandering around loose! Just about the most fun you can have with your clothes on....

Hmmm, perhaps not the best image.

I'm "leading" the adult sponsors training sessions. This joy is mine because at a meeting prior to the event I grumbled about how I'd had issues with the one done three years before. Yeah, opened my big mouth and was promptly volunteered. Also discovered that someone who has become a friend did that training last time so I don't want to sound like I'm criticizing her. It's a tough gig. So now I get to put my mouth where my mouth got me. Stupid mouth.

Anyway, what this means is that I won't be making a post for the next 10 days or so. And given that I've got a week to prepare for the next camp when I get back I'll be on the trot then as well. This summer just may kill me.

Next summer I only have General Convention, my daughter's graduation and High School Conference all in a three week period! Who said that youth ministry wasn't fun?


Thursday, July 21, 2005

How we chose to entertain ourselves

You've probably heard the news over the last day or so about a big name computer game that contains sex scenes. I'm not going to name the reprehensible piece of filth because I don't want to give even that much publicity. I didn't like the game (or its predecessors) before this story and I certainly haven't changed my mind now. In case this is news to you here are the basics:

Manufacturer is accused of putting programming into the game (which can be played on your computer or the major game "systems") where the player can have characters have sex with one another. It's not part of the regular game, this is a hidden (supposedly inaccessible)part of the program. Except wonder of wonder, word gets out and some clever denizen of the WWW rigs up a little software bundle that will make it accessible! Let the games begin! Outrage builds and the manufacturer first claims that the sex stuff wasn't actually in their software but was created by the other software. Finally they fess up, yep, we did it, it's in our stuff. We just decided not to use it.

Here's my problem with this:

These games are marketed aggressively to teens. Spare me the fairy tales about it was rated "Mature" and it was intended only for adults. That's hogwash and we ALL know it. So NATURALLY the best idea for amusing teens(or anyone else) involves violence, destruction and demeaning images of women. Lovely. Even better let's take a look at adding in some graphic sex options! How stupid or greedy (those are pretty much the only options) do you have to be to sell that concept to yourself?

These games show women as large breasts and butts on long legs. In as little clothing as possible. Because we all know that's a realistic view of women, right?
Ummmmmm...... Because it's the way women prefer to be thought of, right? No, still not quite there.... Because getting our entertainment by abusing, demeaning and whenever possible making people into sex toys is really cool. I think I need to barf.

Now let's see how shall we make heroes in our little fantasy world? OOOH OOOH I know! Violent criminals with no regard for property or life. Knuckle dragging mouth breathers whose best choice for resolving problems is to shoot, blow it up or run it over. Just perfect.

Finally because after all of the above the manufacturer PROVES they know what they did was wrong by LYING ABOUT IT!!!

Sadly several major chains are getting all self righteous about pulling the product off the shelves because, GASP, I'm shocked, shocked to discover there's sex going on here! Excuse me here's your profits from selling a violent, humanity demeaning game.

This is how we choose to entertain ourselves? This is what we allow our children and ourselves to watch and do for fun?

Barf making.


Tuesday, July 19, 2005

And the summer rushes along...

How can this be the next to last week of July?

How can EYE (the Episcopal Youth Event, a national gathering of HS aged youth)be next week?

How can I be this tired and not be dead!?!?!

Okay it's not that bad just yet but when I look ahead to next month I just shake my head. It's a long three months, even when it's only about 2 1/4 months.

I promised some thoughts on Senior High Conference. It was simply amazing. A great group of young people, fabulous staff, a wonderful Chaplain (thank you Fr. Steven!) and some really HOT weather. The closing worship was amazing which is usually a good sign that the community has come together. There were no major problems and life as the conference director was actually relaxing and a joy. I wish every camp could be just like this. And I hope this is a sign of what is to come for the conference. Check out photos by clicking on the title of this entry.

A side note: our diocesan archivist told me that she'd stumbled upon some older papers about our senior high conference. I was ASTOUNDED to discover that the conference goes back much farther than I'd thought. I'll be sharing some of those bits on the website later this summer. It's amazing how much has changed and amazing how much it is EXACTLY the same. For example - I discovered they used to create a conference newspaper, with a GOSSIP column! It's really hysterical.

So EYE next week, and then home for a week, then Music, Art and Drama Camp. Then home for an overnight and back for Junior High camp and Sleep Away camp (the SAME WEEK!) Then hopefully some off time.

Makes me tired just thinking about it.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

God Calls

This is based on my sermon at the closing Eucharist at the 2005 Senior High Conference. I was honored that the young people chose me to give this sermon. Several folks have asked that I print it out. The readings for this included the story of the calling of Israel at the foot of Mt Sinai in Exodus, The Great Commission and a portion of Paul's letter to the Ephesians. I've forgotten the exact citations.

When I prepare for a sermon I usually read the scripture selections and then listen for a theme or central idea. As I read these I heard just two words "God Calls". And my first thought was "With as busy as my cell phone's been this week, He's about the only one who HASN'T called". And then I heard the Lord's voice say "Jay", Yes Lord?, "That wasn't what I meant", I knew that Lord, "Carry on".

God calls. You may not be hearing it, or even listening for it. But God is calling you. He's calling you now, He called you before you got here this week, He'll call you when you get home. He will call forever, His calling is relentless.

And He's calling everyone. The populars, the plastics, the geeks, the freaks, the jocks and the tall and the short, the skinny and the ample. It doesn't matter where you are or who you are. He called a ragged group of refugees in the middle of nowhere with nothing but what they could carry. They'd left their homes and their jobs. They were without a country and had no power in this world and God called. He didn't need them. But He called them to be more than they were. And they said yes. And that's what He wants.

God calls. He reasons, cajoles, implores, nags, inspires and as Saul found out if you make it necessary he will strike you blind. He doesn't care other people think about you. He doesn't care whether you're fashionable or even presentable. God desperately wants to be your friend. You will make his day, his week, his month, his year is you say yes. Given the world we live in let me assure you that we're not talking about some weird divine stalker dude. God is calling to you because he knows that he has what you need. And it doesn't matter what you need. Maybe you need a little more confidence, maybe you need a little LESS confidence! God has what will bring you joy, what will make you whole, will bring out all that is best in you. Because it's all in there. God gave you gifts, wonderful presents, and he's calling to ask why you haven't opened them yet?

But that's not all he calls about. He calls about how we treat each other and what we are to do with the gifts after we've finally listened that first little bit. Paul reminds the brothers and sisters at Ephesus - be humble (it's not all about you), gentle, patient, bear with one another (and this is my favorite part of this sentence) making every effort to maintain the unity of the spirit. Note what it says, it doesn't say that you should make sure that only the "right" music is played during worship, or that everyone observe the dress code at church. It isn't the unity of the rules and regulations, it's the unity of the spirit!

God calls us not ride off on our own little quest,ignoring everyone else. I am not called to the International Church of Jay, the church dedicated to the care and well being of Jay, making sure that Jay is happy and healthy and gets what he wants, needs and dare I say it, deserves. But too often that's where we find ourselves. That's the church that brings us road rage and people who say "It's not my fault you didn't think that was funny, I thought it was funny". They say that usually right after they've said something that's hurt you or humiliated you or made you feel stupid and small. But hey as long as they laughed because they're the only ones they worry about. You know what? We're called to be patient and gentle with those folks too.

God calls us to One Body, One Spirit, one hope, one lord, one faith, one baptism. The God that calls us is above all and in all and through all. The God that calls us isn't trapped in some little box somewhere, only during certain hours of the week and usually when a bunch of other people just like me are hanging around. God is everywhere and that's where he sends us. He tells us that this is not a gift that we are to hoard for ourselves. We are sent out into ALL the world. Where is that? Like God, it's everywhere. It's the students and teachers at school, it's the store clerks and the girl who works at the car wash, it's strangers and those slow people driving in front of you.

For our seniors this is an especially important message. You are about to leave your homes behind, your old lives behind and go into a strange land. And parts of it are scary and it becomes easy to doubt. So I would remind you that not long after the children of Israel gave that ringing endorsement of doing all that God asked they were worshipping a golden calf and that when Jesus called the 11 some doubted. But their doubts did not win, they did not let their doubts drown out the sound of God's voice in their lives. When the doubts grow strong remember the last thing that Jesus says to them. That He will be with you always, everywhere, until then end of time. Always and Everywhere. None of us are being sent out alone. We will NEVER be alone. As long as we remember:

God Calls.


Saturday, July 02, 2005

And we're back!

Back from Senior High.
It was incredible.
Details to follow.

In the meantime.......

Which Star Wars Jedi/Sith are you?


Dynamite in a small package, and long-lasting, like the Energizer bunny. While you are wise and calm, you are able to call on your killer instincts and be kick-ass. Some may call you a ‘sleeper’. With such great power comes some arrogance, but you are quick to return to humility and fix your mistakes. You have certainly left your mark on the world, in good and bad ways, and it was kinda sad to see you go. But no need to worry, you have gained immortality even though you can’t wield your toothpick of a lightsabre anymore.

Personality Test Results

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Thursday, June 23, 2005

A week Away

Well I've kinda caught up with this being my THIRD post of the week! Hope it makes up for not having a new post next week again. This time I have an excuse (other than carelessness or senility). I will be at our Senior High Conference next week. I am the conference director so I'll be hopping at times - and comatose the rest. It's a great event and we've got 41 young people signed up for it! That's very exciting after a difficult year last year. At the moment I'm into my last minute melt down mode, trying desperately to remember to bring, pack, prepare everything. I'm having DREAMS about camp! If you'd like to see what our conference looks like click on the title for this post and it'll take you there.

So I'll be back after the 4th of July. Till then I hope you have a great week and keep us in your prayers!


Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Offered without Comment

Today the Episcopal Church (USA) will be making a presentation to the Anglican Consultative Council. The text of that presentation (a .pdf of 135 pages) is available at the link in the title of this entry.

I offer it without comment for your consideration.


Monday, June 20, 2005

For the Captain

Since yesterday was Father's Day I keep being nagged by the feeling that I should write something about my dad. I just don't know where to begin.

My dad has reached an almost "legendary" status in the family and I'm not sure I really want to continue down that road. He was human and a very real person. I can only imagine that he'd be less than impressed by having been reduced to a "legend".

My father was, as I commonly say, an engineer by training and a Naval officer by choice. He was a very intelligent man and one who believed in precision and discipline. His nickname is my given name and I look and sound like him. There's a picture from last fall where I look so much like him that it's a little frightening. It's made me realize that there's a part of me that doesn't want to look like the old man. Part of that comes with the name and the looks. I've been "little" J and "young" J and JD (to his JK) for most of my life. Being held up to that standard has always felt like an impossible burden. Even with "The Captain" gone for five years it still feels like I 'm just not going to live up to him. And I think that would make him sad.

I don't think that Pop ever wanted us (three boys in my family) to feel like he was setting us up to fall short. In fact I'm sure that his goal was to set us up to succeed. To have the discipline needed to survive the hard times and use our intelligence to guide us through the good times. I know that he took the task of parenthood very seriously. Looking back maybe we would have better off if he'd taken it just a shade less seriously. But he was a serious person.

I see a lot of him in me and my brothers, both good and bad. We've all gone our own ways, done our own things and on balance have done pretty well for ourselves. While some folks look at us, so reserved and quiet mostly, and think that we're not very close I know that's not true. In times of trouble my brothers have been there for me and I know that I can trust them completely. I hope they feel the same way about me. Not a day goes by when I don't think about them. And my dad. I see his negatives too. We can be brusque and none of us tolerate fools. Period. We're not real good at getting all emotionally expressive and don't trust that part of our personalities much. Big emotional displays will pretty much put us into shut down mode till we can "move on". I'm not apologizing for that, it's who we are. There are advantages and disadvantages to it. It can make it hard on the folks around us that we love. If I had to chose two guys to have on either side of me when the troubles begin they would be at the top of the list.

So I can't get away from who my father was because it's very much caught up in who I am. After five years I miss him, even the times when he made me feel like an idiot schoolboy. I was finally getting to the point where I could catch him out sometimes too. He loved cars, and intelligent people. If you were his friend it was for life. His friends are still some of the most amazing people I've ever known. As was he.

He married a pretty incredible woman too. I'll probably talk about her sometime too.

On Father's day I remembered my daddy, my pop, my daughter's "Grandpa Captain Sir"

Jack K Phillippi, USNR (dec)


Friday, June 17, 2005

The subject of marriage

My friend Mindi is feeling the stress about marriage. A young man who used to be in my youth group just got married. I just realized that I will be traveling next year on my 24th wedding anniversary. Seems like marriage has been a recurring thought of late. So maybe it's time for me to talk it out.

First my former youth getting married - I've known John since he was about 6 and he was a handful and a half. One year on retreat when he was middle school age he got into a huge row with the kid he was rooming with that blew up into a confrontation with me and the other adults. John never had any of the "big" problems but he sometimes seemed to have a full portion of the "small" problems of growing up. And there he stood, in white tuxedo, so emotional about marrying the woman he loves that tears were streaming down his face. John really has grown up into a helluva nice guy, one that I'm proud to say is now a friend. Watching "my kids" grow and get married makes me feel old. But it also makes me fall in love with marriage all over again.

Mindi is feeling the cultural heat, I think, of a woman past a certain age that hasn't been married yet. Like somehow she's not a complete person. What a crock. As much as I love being married I've watched too many folks I know get married for the wrong reasons. (The list of "wrong reasons" to get married could fill a good sized book so I won't go into them here. I bet you can come up with a fairly complete list on your own) Putting pressure on ourselves and our loved ones (but do we really love someone that we inflict these kinds of ridiculous expectations on?) to get married just....well, stupid, hurtful to the people involved and disrespectful to the institution of marriage. I hope and pray that the right person for Mindi comes along and they sweep each other mutually off their feet for a lifetime of crazed happiness.

Let me take a minute to talk about the disrespect for marriage. It starts with a glorification of weddings. This needs to be clear - a wedding is a one day event, marriage is intended to be the rest of your life. The current ongoing and growing rage for creating "fairy tale" weddings that are ever more grandiose and expensive is, in my opinion, an incredibly bad idea and disrespectful to marriage. When your wedding is "perfect" (spare me)and glorious and wonderful, how do you survive the day to day mundane rest of your life? How can it not suffer? Why would you not look at that other person shuffling out of bed in the morning with pillow head, puffy eyes and scruffy clothes and not find them seriously lacking in comparison to the vision that stood next to you at your wedding. Beyond that is the huge monetary outlay for a one day event instead of investing that money in the future of the couple. I'm a firm believer that marriages would be better off with simpler ceremonies followed by handing the young couple a check for the balance.

Every time I attend a wedding ceremony the words bring tears to my eyes and I end up holding hands with my wife. The vows I made that day over 23 years ago still have a hold on me. My lady wife and I have been through sickness and health in that time, I've been unemployed twice (so far), so has she, we're finishing up raising a child to adult hood (with that set of adventures), moved 7 times (so far)and in the end still find out greatest joy in one another. Just the sound of her voice still kicks up my heart rate, and doing anything is more fun if we do it together.

The longer I write the more thoughts I have about marriage but I'll knock it off now. With one last thought - I believe that the largest cause of divorce is not taking marriage seriously enough. Not so much DURING but BEFORE folks get married. We've made it all about the wrong things so we shouldn't be surprised when it blows up. There's wisdom in the old saw "Marry in haste, repent at leisure".


blog tag

I saw this on Rev Ref's blog and took the challenge. Like him I won't "tag" someone (this is the blogosphere I don't got to follow no stinkin' rules!)but if you're passing through and would like to play go for it.

I couldn't resist because it's about books.

How many books do you own?

Umm, hundreds? And that doesn't count the hundreds I've given away because I run out of space. And my lady wife owns hundreds more and my daughter probably owns a hundred by herself. Yes, her father's house is full of book shelves.

What is the last book you bought?

Umm, wow. Let's see Mike Yacconelli's "Messy Spirituality" and Brian D. McLaren's "a Generous Orthodoxy". I was just given four books. So I now have something like 12 books sitting in a stack that I'm trying to get to.

What is the last book you read?

That I've finished was Yac's book from above. I'm most of the way through Stephen King's book "On Writing" for the third time. If you write I recommend it.

Name five books that mean alot:

Malcolm Boyd's "Are You Running With Me Jesus" and "Human Like Me". Both profoundly formative when I was a teenager. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" but I'll only count it as one book because I really think that's the way it was conceived. Kevin Lehman's book (Dr. Kevin Lehman to give him his due honor. Which isn't something Kevin worries about) "The Birth Order Book". Told me a LOT about why I am the way I am. And finally a book I have read and re-read and re-read for years. The People's Almanac editted by Wallechinsky and Wallace. Yes I was the kid who read the encyclopedia as a kid (Collier's Universal) and I love these kinds of books filled with trivia and history and whatever. I'm a geek, I know and I'm proud.

If you want to take up the challenge of the game, leave a comment telling me you're doing it and I promise I'll come read yours.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Struggling on...

My apologies for missing a post last week. I've gotten into a groove making sure that I get something up on the blog every week and I feel badly when I miss. I've got several ideas perking around in my head ready to pour forth in the near future so maybe I can make up for it.

The reason I missed is camp. The run up to camp always feels like a death by a thousand cuts. My office is stacked with boxes as I try to remember to bring everything this year (hasn't happened yet. If I call home during the first couple days of camp my wife answers the phone with "What did you forget?"), my desk is littered with applications, health forms, scholarship forms, notes, phone messages, bills, contracts and I'm not sure what all else. At any given moment I'll have a dozen different thoughts clamoring for attention in my brain and the fevered certainty that I'm going to forget the most important one, or three, or five. Camp is a great experience and I really enjoy it at many levels but it exhausts me starting weeks before the event. (In fact I should be working on camp stuff right now. There are, let me check... 10 applications sitting on my desk, a phone message about a camper who indicated the wrong camp on her application, minutes from three meetings I need to type up, packages of materials that need to be assembled and sent to the staff of the first camp. Which is coming up in 10 days. I expect to be huddled under my desk giggling before 3 this afternoon)

I do have a little better grip on the "WHY" of this phenomenon today. On Monday I worked through a gifts discernment process that was pretty cool. We used "The 3 Colors of Ministry" by Christian Schwarz. What I discovered is that I do NOT have the gift of organization. This surely comes as no surprise to several of my previous employers and my wife's response to the news was a snort. Not in the top five, nor even the top ten. I tested out with organization in the lower half in fact. We were taught that doesn't mean I can't learn organizational skills just that I don't have a(and never will) gift for it. In fact I've kind of known that all along. My life became easier as I created spreadsheets to coordinate all the information that comes in. I have routines I use and I've learned to WRITE EVERYTHING DOWN!. But it's still hard. I enjoy blue skying new events, I enjoy defining the outlines of how to do them, and working on the underlying theology and philosophy. In the end someone has to get down to the nitty gritty details. And the joy just flees for me. I grind away at it, procrastinate about it until I get behind and then I get angry and frustrated.

So I need to stop writing this and get to it. There's only 10 days left. Plus after this camp is our national youth gathering and I have things to prepare for it. Then there's another camp, followed by two camps in the same week. That's a lot of details waiting for me. Thousands more cuts still to come.


What gifts did I test out with? Top five are: Artistic/Creative, Teaching, Knowledge (the ability to develop new ideas that are useful to the church), Wisdom (the ability to apply what comes from Knowledge in real life terms), and Apostle (the gift of leadership on a larger scale). Not a bad set of gifts for a youth missioner. We also looked at the "latent" gifts, those that are sort of just bubbling under the surface and can be strengthened. They are Craftsmanship (working with my hands) Shepherding(the gift of making a long term commitment to a group), Leadership (curiously 68% of folks who have this gift also have the gift of Organization!), Evangelism, and Music.

So when I get a moment I'll think some more about these gifts. In the meantime there's some work to be done.


Thursday, June 02, 2005

Of Bats and confusion

A couple things to share.

I learned years ago that if I was to have any chance of getting everything done I had to write it down. There is a constantly updated list of tasks sitting on my desk reminding me of what I need to do, want to do, have promised to do. The current iteration is 14 tasks long (with several items that are also multiples so the number of jobs to do is actually about 20). Or so I thought. I was just reviewing it to see what had to be done NOW and noticed that #8 read "Clear Pile", referring to the pile of paper that always builds up on the right hand corner of my desk. Further down at #11 is the notation "Clear Pile". I haven't gotten to the pile yet, but my list just got one job shorter! Life is good. LOL.
(OK, I felt guilty and actually cleared the pile. Or at least sifted it, filed appropriately and got it under control)

We had a bat come visit us at home last night. Our apartment is the second floor of a century old farm house and we get a visitor a year. At the first sign of something flying my lady wife and teenaged daughter scurry (there is no other word for it) into a room that is 1: Bat free, and 2: has a door that latches. Remember this is an OLD house and not all the doors shut securely. Then they call me. To rescue them.


Can I admit that bats give me the willies too? One of my first jobs was as a dishwasher at camp (the "Kitchen Boys" were the absolute TOP of the social ladder at this camp. Don't ask me why. It was the pinnacle of my teen years when I made the grade and was chosen as a kitchen boy). One of our tasks was chasing down the bats that got into the main house periodically. That building was also the girls dorm so we were all the girls hero, plus we got to trespass in restricted space (hmmm, maybe this whole kitchen boy social thing is making more sense now!) So I've been in the bat business for a while. And they still make my skin crawl.

Don't get me wrong I know that this part of the country would be virtually un-livable without our little brown buddies. I know that they are no more likely to be a rabies carrier than any other wild animal I run into, and that the bat is no more thrilled about being in my house than I am to have him there. But I much prefer them outside!

So my little brown buddy was hanging from a crack in the wall when I got home and was very calm while I prepared myself. In fact he was so calm I couldn't get him to fly when I needed him to! It took the usual 10 minutes to herd him into the direction I wanted (toward the open door. Praying all the time "Don't any more come in, don't any more come in!") Then another five frustrating minutes when he just REFUSED to fly low enough to go out the door. I always feel sorry at this point because I know the animal is frightened and just wants to get away from this lunatic human. Finally he fled and I quickly closed various doors and windows and told my two girls they could come out.

As has become tradition I'm greeted with the words "Our hero" and big hugs.

So I guess this bat chasing stuff has its advantages.