Friday, January 28, 2005

Some silliness

Yeah another silly survey. No I'm not really that age. Let's just say that the AARP people will be seeing me on their radar in a couple years. But's nice to know I'm still young(er) at heart

You Are 29 Years Old


Under 12: You are a kid at heart. You still have an optimistic life view - and you look at the world with awe.

13-19: You are a teenager at heart. You question authority and are still trying to find your place in this world.

20-29: You are a twentysomething at heart. You feel excited about what's to come... love, work, and new experiences.

30-39: You are a thirtysomething at heart. You've had a taste of success and true love, but you want more!

40+: You are a mature adult. You've been through most of the ups and downs of life already. Now you get to sit back and relax.


Wednesday, January 26, 2005

What are we thinking?

I was going to write a piece on the English prince Harry's unfortunate decision to go to a costume party wearing Nazi regalia. Thought I'd discuss the questions of how (and whether) we're teaching our youth on the subject of evil. I felt sorry for Harry, it's obvious that he simply didn't "get" what all the furor was about (you should pardon the expression). And that's not surprising. WW2 was old news when I was growing up, by now it's not that far removed from the Roman Empire in the minds of teens and young adults. That's where our failure jumps in, we're simply not doing a very good job of teaching about evil.
But Harry gets the pass because something even more offensive, something even more idiotic has taken front page. WQHT in NYC ran a "parody song" on its morning show this past Monday (1/24) that made racial jokes about the people hit by the tsunami, made jokes about child slavery and people watching their mothers die (Reuters story is linked below) The following day the station aired an apology to "...anyone who was offended". They should offer free psychiatric exams for anyone who WASN'T offended! Here's my problems with this incident:

These were adults There's no excuses these are grown ups, you know the folks who are supposed to be responsible and know what's going on. And it's not just a single person, the morning show "team" was something like 7 people. Apparently none of them said, "Hey, maybe this isn't a great idea". In fact the lead DJ was also the Program Director (a management position that usually has oversight of all on air stuff. She was the boss and responsible. She and the rest of her castmates are currently on indefinite suspension)

The state of the media This bugs me particularly because it's radio, where I made my living for 19.5 years. The station is yet another one that has sold its soul and social responsibility to the "shock jock" concept. This is the most loathsome disease that is attacking the medium that I love to this day. Being "shocking" is in fact a license to not care about anything and anyone. I was a morning jock for something like 17 years, and there were days when I ticked off some of my listeners with my bits. But the purpose was never to shock, it was never a situation where I had to say "OK, how do I top that?" The idea was always to make folks think. Thinking is the last thing on the agenda of a shock jock. A shock jock (or talk show host or whatever) is an anti-intellectual bully.

This next bit is NOT politically correct but it bugs me
This was done by folks who suffered at the hands of racism It's the racist nonsense that gets me. I'm sorry but shouldn't this be an area that Black America simply draws the line? Maybe I'm holding my brothers and sisters of color to too high a standard but they KNOW what racism feels like so why become party to that madness? Again maybe it's unfair and unreasonable but I expect better.

Finally there's Where's the common sense? How do you look yourself in the mirror and say "Hey, I think the suffering of these people is funny! And I mean FUNNY! We should take the time to write the lyrics (and maybe the tune) get into the studio record it and put it on the air. Yeah let's make some money on suffering!" How do you look yourself in the eye?

No there's no doubt about it. We've failed in our teaching on the subject of evil. Maybe it's time we started thinking about changing that.


Monday, January 24, 2005

There is no joy in 'Burgh-ville...

Well my beloved Steelers (that's the Pittsburgh Steelers of the National Football League for any non-fans of American football) had their season grind to a halt yesterday. They were overwhelmed by the defending league champs the New England Patriots. I have no doubt that there are many Steelers fans out there doing their usual plunge off the bandwagon. The cries of "They suck!" and "I'm never gonna watch them again" will be heard. True fans just shake our heads and ignore them. I'm a Steelers fan. One little loss isn't gonna put me off. Hey I root for a baseball team that hasn't had a winning season in 12 years!

Do I qualify as a "true fan"? I'm sitting here in my Steelers sweatshirt as I type this. It was an intentional choice. Need to take a shot at the AFC championship loser? Fire away! I've been a fan since before the glory days of the 70's. Before Noll, before Bradshaw and Franco and Mean Joe. Back when the the Steelers were pretty wretched. I was a fan through the Super Bowl years of the mid to late 70's. I was a fan when they fell on hard times in the 80's and the Cowher era from the '90's to today. There are days when they drive me crazy but there's never a day when I'm not a Steeler fan. Even after 20 years in Buffalo Bills country (and I love the Bills too!) if you cut me I bleed Black and Gold.

(You'll have to pardon me but it struck me that there's a religious connection here too. I feel compelled to add it but I promise to keep it short).

Despite their shortcomings, despite their failures, despite the up and down nature of our relationship I love the Steelers. Just the same way God loves us. Not a bad model to follow.

(OK religious segment over. But think about it OK? There I feel better.)

Our kid QB is going to get better. We've got a very fine team and a bright future. It's good to be a Steelers fan (Hey we could be 49ersfans!)

Now I just gotta wait till Pirates spring training opens up.


Friday, January 21, 2005

Sabbath Summit

Ok this may be a new record. Four posts in a single week. No, now that I think of it I did more than this last year(oops two years ago!) when I was in Minneapolis. Still a pretty good start. Let's see how long I can keep it up.

The big thing this week has been the trip to Estes Park CO and the YMCA of the Rockies for the Sabbath Summit for diocesan youth ministry coordinators. It was an amazing 5 days. The Rockies are astounding all by themselves, although at 8,000+ feet I may have been breathless for reasons other than the scenery.

The purpose of the Summit was several fold:
First as a sabbath time for diocesan youth leaders. Just a time away to relax and hopefully get a little time with the big youth leader in the sky. I can tell you that a lot of folks did a LOT of just plain sleeping. Which they apparently needed. There was also worship and a chance for a limited form of spiritual direction. We had a wonderful group of people there to help us through the various "things" that were offered (virtually all of which were optional. You did what worked for you). Body prayer and centering prayer were offered along with more traditional forms of worship.
Second it was a chance to discuss the underlying concepts of the sabbath which grew out of a project called the Youth Ministry Spirituality Project. (I've added a link to their page at the bottom of this posting) 8 years of work with various congregations from a variety of denominations all over the country have resulted in some very interesting thoughts in integrating spirituality with youth ministry. We've already started using some of the ideas here in the diocese and are looking forward to doing more.
There was some really great music, some fabulous people, a great chance for those of us doing diocesan youth work to meet and network.

Now you may be saying "That's pretty spiffy for all you diocesan types. What about the rest of us?" Well this was always meant to grow and spread. It is our hope that we can bring this experience in some form to youth leaders/ministers at every level. How exactly that will happen is still up the air. But it's coming, trust me. When it happens I hope lots of folks will be interested in experiencing a sabbath for themselves.


Thursday, January 20, 2005

A quick word about Colorado

I want to take a minute to comment on something I noticed everywhere I went in Colorado. Every single person, without fail, was polite, helpful and a joy to know. From the TSA people at the Denver airport, to the shopkeepers and clerks in Estes Park, to all the staff at the YMCA of the Rockies, EVERYONE greeted me with a smile and a warm hello. I was thanked repeatedly and wished a "Good day".

Here's the kicker - even the toll booth workers on the thruway were polite and cheerful. Given that I rarely get more than a grunt from NYS toll booth workers it was refreshing.

I think we should work on infecting the rest of the nation with this Colorado pleasantness.

Thank you Colorado I enjoyed my visit!


Wednesday, January 19, 2005

What a Long Strange Trip...part deux

So after the fun and all of the Summit it's time to come down and get back to real life. I've decided that Real Life is overrated.

So I hop in the van and ride back down the mountain, again about a two hour drive. I arrive at the US Airways check in, stand in line and tell the nice lady when she asks that I'm headed to Dulles, then Buffalo. Oh, you must be on a United flight, we don't fly to Dulles. HUH?!?!?!?!

See my itinerary at the very top reads US Airways but in the little print it says "Flight operated by United". Seems they have some kind of deal to swap passengers back and forth. Which is fine but guess where the United check in is? Who said the other end of the terminal? Give yourself a gold star! So off I truck. I get to the United gates and do the computer check in. The machine spits out ONE boarding pass, not the two I'm expecting. I ask the attendant. Don't worry you'll get one from the gate agent. Ok, weird but OK I guess. So off I go to security. Make my way through the line and "You've been selected". For what? Extra security screening! One of my companions suggested it was my Navy issue black watch cap that made me look suspicious (Thanks Brian!) So off I go to be patted down, hand wanded for metal, and have all my bags searched. For the record the security people were polite and clearly explained everything. Highest marks to the TSA. In fact they were so efficient that I came out just behind the folks who had been in line behind me to start with! We all had a good laugh. Rode the train to my concourse and waited for the gate agent. About a half an hour. She shows up and informs me (very politely) that I don't have an actual seat on the plane at that moment. Seems they're overbooked by 10 (the next gate over was overbooked by 26!) and they'd work on finding me a seat. Great! So I sat with Jon and Carla and just muttered for about 10 minutes. At which point, voila! I had a seat. YAY! Now I flip on my cellphone so I can call my lady wife and tell her. I have a message waiting. From her. It's snowing like crazy and could I just get a hotel room in Buffalo when I arrive? Otherwise we'll be on the road till about midnight in the lake effect snows. No fun. Meanwhile the gate agent begins to announce that they'll give a free hotel room for the night to anyone who wishes to take a bump. Plus a free airflight voucher. And I begin to laugh. I think Jon thought the pressure had gotten to me at that point. I explained and we all agreed I had to get bumped! So I went up and took the bump. I'll spare you the tedious details except to say that everyone was very nice and very efficient and I ended up at the Double Tree hotel about 20 minutes away. Had dinner and hit the sack.

Oh did I mention my flight the next morning was 6:15 AM? So my alarm went off at 3:45AM. Showered and went down to catch the shuttle. Ummm, why does the little sign say to sign up in advance for the shuttle? Turns out since I was alone it was no problem but for a moment my blood pressure must have spiked. Now the shuttle doesn't leave till 4:30 and it's a twenty minute ride followed by security with a 5:45 boarding time so this is do-able but a little tight.

Except the shuttle doesn't leave till 4:40.
And the first security gate I go to (there are two at Denver, at guessed it opposite ends of the terminal) is closed.
When I get to the other one guess what?

I GET SELECTED AGAIN!!!!!!!! I kid you not. And the line is longer than yesterday for some bizarre reason. (The cutest little girl, about 3 years old was being screened with her daddy right behind me. Standing there with her little arms extended out from her sides. She was very brave) Again very polite and efficient. And I'm through security!!!!!

And I realize I never checked what gate I'm at. And there are NO monitors on this side of the security area just the train to the concourses! AAAAAAAAAAAAGGGHGHGHGHGHGHGHGH!!!!!

THINK, THINK, THINK! All gates for an airline are together so check the concourse map for United.....YES!!!!!! Concourse B. Onto the train, off to the gate, onto the plane! YES!

Not quite finished though. There was:

Having gotten up so early I didn't get breakfast. And United was willing to SELL me a breakfast sandwich for like $8. Pay for airline food? I think not.

Then there was the near fight between two adult women about an hour into the flight. They simmered down.

And my seat was in the absolute last row. You know the ones that don't recline...right by the bathroom.

Then getting to Dulles with not enough time to stand in the rather long lines at the food places to get a meal before boarding time (good thing I grabbed all that junk food from the Summit and stuck it in my backpack!)

But in the end I got home, and was greeted by the smiling face I love the best. And my lady wife drove me home.

Where I had dinner and collapsed!

What a Long, Strange trip it's been.....

With apologies to the Grateful Dead

Just got back from the Sabbath Summit at Estes Park CO. This was a great chance for diocesan youth leaders to gather and pray and think and be with God. Very cool.

But the travel at either end...............

Let's start at the very beginning (a very good place to start). My flight out of Buffalo was scheduled for 7:50 AM (actually I thought it was 8:05 but it had been moved up). So my lady wife dropped me off just before 7 AM. Made it through security in a twinkle and was sitting waiting at the gate. Then word comes. Fog in NYC. My flight goes to LaGuardia then catch a flight to Denver. It's pushed back. And pushed back. And the pilot of our plane comments that the computer shows visibility listed as ZERO and he'd never in all the years he'd flown EVER seen such a listing on the computer! Great!

Eventually I'm told that even if we took off right now I'm never gonna make my connection. OK, I'm a fair and reasonable kinda guy, it's not their fault, so what can we do? Answer, as it turns out is, not much. Seems since it's Martin Luther King weekend and a three day holiday everybody is going to Colorado to ski. There are not available seats out of Pittsburgh, Chicago or Charlotte. The first available seat is on a 6 PM flight out of Pittsburgh. To get there they can put me on a 3 PM flight out of Buffalo. It's now about 9 AM.

Can I send a quick note to the folks at NFTA who run the Greater Buffalo International Airport? You have one damn boring airport. Pittsburgh, Denver, Dulles are all MUCH more fun to be stuck in for 6 long hours. I'm thinking we need to work on this. Really.

The flight to Pittsburgh went smoothly. I had about a two hour layover, then onto the flight to Denver. Smooth sailing.

Now at the other end all the arrangments are in the toilet. And for some reason my cellphone won't hold a signal for any of the folks I'm to meet. One of them (Yay Silvestre!)sends me a text message. (I didn't know I could receive text messages. It was very cool) and told me that someone would meet me in baggage claim. Great! Umm, no wait...which baggage claim? There are four of them at Denver and they're in pairs at opposite ends of this very large terminal. Finally I find my connection and the other two folks also arriving late join us and we're off.

For a two hour drive to Estes Park. It's now about 9 PM Mountain time. I will skip over turning the wrong way and having to back up an on ramp we didn't want to be on. (Heck I thought it was the right place to turn as well). Once off the interstate and onto the winding roads up the mountains we almost hit a coyote. Don't know who was more surprised us or him. Finally arrived around 11 PM, bedraggled and exhausted. Said hello to a few folks that I knew, gave them the short version and asked where my room was.

I'll tell you about the Summit later.

And I'll tell you about the trip HOME in the next post!

I can hear Jerry and the boys singing....


Monday, January 10, 2005

How's your Investments?

This is my January column from "ChurchActs" the diocesan newspaper of the Diocese of WNY

Well it’s the start of the year. That’s always a good time to sit back and review the year gone by with an eye towards the year to come. I want to talk to our youth about their investments. (Edit: All this applies to the adults too!)

By the way this column has nothing to do with money.

Now back to your investments. 2005 is just getting underway and I want you to spend a little time thinking about how you invest your time. Because how you invest your times is also the measure for how you invest your life. For most of us the “portfolios” that hold our investments of time are self, Family, Work (in your case School), Church and Other. Other includes all the stuff we do because we choose to, hobbies, sports, social activities and things like that.
So spend a little time looking at how your invest your time. Take a serious moment and think of how much time you actually invest in the average day, week, month and year in each category. Be honest, hey no one’s going to see this but you. Don’t try to fudge the figures if you don’t like the way the numbers are coming out. That’s part of the exercise.
While you’re doing that let me play investment advisor for you. So let’s look at the options:

Self – All of us need to take the time to take care of our selves. That means physically, mentally and spiritually. Even Jesus took time during his very short adult ministry to go off by himself and get away from the crowds. With your physical self-investment are you investing in good food, some exercise? In the mental section are you looking for new challenges or allowing your mind to stay in the same comfortable neighborhood. Spiritually if someone asked you about your personal relationship with God what would you say? Sunday morning worship can only be a small portion of this investment.

Family – Some families function really well, some don’t function at all, a lot of others just muddle through. You probably know where yours fits. So the next question is how much do you invest here. It’s too easy in our society to just blow off the importance of family. I’ve never heard of someone losing by investing heavily in this portfolio. There’s risk here for some of you, enormous risk. But the potential returns not only in the short term but in long term too are just too good to pass up. Your siblings may be a pain and your parents may be totally Uggghh but they are your family. And there’s an amazing long-term track record for this one.

– To be honest you don’t get a lot of choice on this one. The question for you is what kind of quality investment do you want this to be? When I was in school someone said to me “Don’t think of it as something that’s being forced upon you, think of it as something they owe you. Demand that they deliver and deliver in a useful form”. It changed the quality of my investment in this portfolio.

Other – Here’s all the other stuff, the sports, the music, the X-box, the hanging at the mall, the hobbies, et cetera. In our society this portfolio gets a lot of attention. Sometimes too much attention. The Other category can take over our whole lives, dominating our schedules and forcing everything else to the back. If there’s one portfolio to trim it’s almost always this one.

Church – and if there’s one that commonly gets shortchanged it’s this one. This one gets whatever is left over, and let’s be honest that’s usually very little. Church is more than just that interminable hour (or more) on Sunday morning. It’s part of the spiritual portion of our Self portfolio. It’s the part of our investments that directs us away from ourselves and out into the world. To care for someone else and their needs rather than to spend all our time on our own.

So here’s my investment advice. Take a hard look at how much is invested in Other and cut it. Don’t eliminate it because some of it is tied into your Self portfolio. Take the extra and invest it where you’re under-invested. My bets are those are Your Church, Your Family and Your Self . In the end you’ll discover those investments are a lot more important than all the other stuff in your life. Along the way you’ll probably also discover less tension, less craziness and more joy in your life. Proof positive of the quality of those investments.


Sunday, January 09, 2005

Not a great start

Well I was hoping for a great start to the new year. Not sure this is what I had in mind. Had a bad meal at a local restaurant and spent most of Thursday night/Friday morning being sicker than sick. Just nasty. 13 hours sleep seems to have put me right but it'll take a couple days to get back up to speed I'm afraid. Such fun.

There was an upside as well. When I was at the re-convening of our diocesan convention I had two people tell me how much they enjoy reading my columns in our newspaper "ChurchActs" (which I also publish here - I'll get the January one up this week). In fact one lady said she had read the December column (about Peter walking on the water) over and over and over again then sent it on to her brother because she like it so much.

Let me tell you I immediately began to feel a whole lot more chipper!

Hope you all enjoy this stuff as well.


Thursday, January 06, 2005

And a New Year too

Just realized that the end of the year had blown right by and not a new post in site. Mea culpa. This is going to be an interesting year. Lots of youth activities planned, a major funding program to move forward, the Episcopal Youth Event in Kentucky, camps! Including the return of Senior High after a one year sabbatical. There there are the little things like my daughter entering her senior year at HS and college visits and on and on and on.....

I'm hoping that this will be a great year. There's so many things to do and so many projects I want to undertake and get rolling. This is a great year for anyone who has been thinking about getting involved because we'll have lots of things for you to pick and choose among.

Here's to a great year for youth ministry. And more posts on the blog!