Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas

I know that this time of year ISN'T a joyous one for everyone. If this is a hard time for you my prayer for you is that you will find whatever it is you need to make this a peaceful time. I truly hope that everyone will find peace at this time of year. With or without trees and tinsel and presents.

To one and all may the joy and peace of this season last longer than the tree, the tinsel and the presents.


Friday, December 22, 2006

Five Things You Don't Know About Me

Ok I got tagged for this meme by Gman. Wow, hard to think of things since I use a lot of my life stories in my work now and always.

Hmmmmmmmmm, lets assume that many of the blog readers (are you REALLY going to assume your blog has enough readers to use the word "many"?) aren't from 'round here so let's go with the following:

1: I have a long and varied work life. I've been paid to do all the following things - dishwasher, bellhop, muffin baker, actor, house painter, newscaster, radio announcer, talk show host, voice over announcer, copy writer, parade announcer, bar DJ, shuttle bus driver, parking lot attendant, oh yeah and youth minister.

2: My college degree is in theater.

3: I can not abide pineapple. I can taste even small amounts (my mom used to try and sneak it into meals) BUT I have eaten it once when it wasn't bad. Fresh Hawaiian pineapple at the Episcopal Youth Event in Laramie WY.

4:My name was my father's nickname which he got from a role in a play back in high school. Which is kinda cool/spooky considering #2.

5:My most serious injuries in life have come from youth ministry. I broke two ribs and broke my arm (two seperate youth events) while working with young people. I've never had a serious injury outside of youth ministry.

Now I don't know who to tag. So feel free to consider yourself tagged if you read this and have a blog. I'd love to see the lists from Revendref, Mindi, and MadPriest


Monday, December 18, 2006

I do love my paperwork

This is DaYouthGuy on paperwork:

cartoon from

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

Of mystery and wonder

I am a regular listener to National Public Radio and look forward to a segment called "This I Believe". The series consists of personal statements from people of all walks of life. And they simply discuss what they believe. Some of it is astounding, some is amusing, some is profound.

This morning I heard the essay of Franciscan priest Richard Rohr entitled "Utterly Humbled by Mystery". I think it is a wonderful statement about faith, especially for those of us trying to find and live our faith in the modern world. Fr. Rohr says in the essay:

People who have really met the Holy are always humble. It's the people who don't know who usually pretend that they do. People who've had any genuine spiritual experience always know they don't know. They are utterly humbled before mystery. They are in awe before the abyss of it all, in wonder at eternity and depth, and a Love, which is incomprehensible to the mind.

You can find the complete script of his essay and hear him read it at NPR

I commend it to your reading (it's quite short)


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

In response

I've been going round and round about whether I should respond to a comment on the blog. There are plenty of good reasons not to do so. It's so easy to OVER react to the lack of emotional content carried in electronic communications. But the more I think about it the more I feel the need to respond. I would have done this privately but I can't figure out anyway of reaching this person except through where we met.

Which is right here.

Let me say at the start - this person said a very nice thing about me at the beginning of her comment and I thank her. This is also NOT personal since we don't know each other and aren't likely to meet (we live a long way apart).

It has to do with Angela, the youth ministry coordinator in Edmonton who is fighting leukemia. She posted recently about a person who had left comments that Angela just didn't find comforting or supportive. I responded with some flip but blunt comments (as I am wont to do) about such people and the hope that Angela would let it roll off her back.

Well apparently the person who made the comments (I have to take her word for it since Angela didn't identify them) took exception to my remarks and posted the following on my blog:

But I also want to say that when she posts about a friend who has given her brutal advice which she didn't need, she's actually referring to a comment that I left on her blog in love and care, hoping only that she will try her hardest to heal and return to her previous life of joy. So please be gentler in your responses when you don't know whose emotions are involved. I know it's hard to judge a situation from afar, and to be quite honest it's hard enough to judge it from right here in the middle of it, but you never know what words have actually been spoken and interpreted the wrong way. I'm sorry if this seems like an intrusion. Or a lecture. Not intended so. Just a sad friend praying for another sad friend who seems to think I've betrayed her.

Here are my thoughts:

First you need to know - I'm a middle aged guy married to his college sweetheart. Over the last 20 years she's developed one, then two, then three and now four chronic illnesses. A couple of which could be very nasty if they so chose. Which, God being gracious, they've not done so far.

In that time I've seen folks say silly things (and I've done it myself) to my wife or other sick people "trying to be helpful". Or be supportive or whatever. One thing I learned in the years I worked in the media is that perception IS reality. If your friend's perception is that you betrayed her, that your advice was brutal, then her reality is just that. No doubt her illness is playing a role in that, so what? Trust me as someone with long sad YEARS of experience in this - there is only one possible response if you love your friend. You apologize and you beg, BEG for forgiveness. Then, if they'll let you, you hold them in your arms, tell them you love them and ask if there's anything you can do.

And that's not what I'm hearing in your comment. You're upset that she's mad at you. You're upset that I'm being mean to you. It's all about you. Guess what? At this point in her life it's not about you. Not one tiny little bit. And it shouldn't be. It should be about your friend while she quite literally fights for her life.

Did she misinterpret you? Could be. Does that matter? No. What matters is that she's been hurt. By you. Intentionally or otherwise.

And the real question - what are you gonna do about it?


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Perfect Combo

These two just seem to go together:

Our movie of the week this week was "Wag the Dog". A very funny, totally demented and frighteningly close to reality look at how the media manipulates us. It's a real "spot the stars" too. The cast list includes everyone from DeNiro and Hoffman, to Kristen Dunst and Merle Haggard. Adds a new catch phrase to my lexicon "This is NOTHING!"

And also:
You Are Most Like George H. W. Bush

You're considered boring by people that don't know you well. But like Bush senior, you do crazy things.
Maybe you'll end up banning broccoli in your house, or puking on the Prime Minster of Japan!



Monday, December 11, 2006

A few notes from a busy weekend.

Lots of running about this weekend.

I started with a performance of "Godspell" (I was watching not performing) at Niagara University. Now I've been seeing this show for 30 some years now. I always enjoy it. This performance may be the best I've ever seen. What was interesting was the interpretation. All the characters except Jesus are portrayed as trouble youth exploring a new drop in center. Jesus is the director/youth minister (OK maybe I'm projecting just a little bit). The effect was astouding. To have the song "All Good Gifts" sung by a young (rather emo looking) man who reveals evidence of cutting as he sings was just staggering. The spoken portions are all interpreted within the confines of the new characterizations as well. Maybe it's just because I'm in youth ministry but the show was new and vital in a way it hasn't been in a long time for me.

Beyond that to see that show the night before I was scheduled to preach on the John the Baptist - "...a voice crying in the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord..." section of the Gospel was enough to raise goose bumps.

My thanks to the folks at St. Mark's LeRoy for their warmth and hospitality. They were all very complimentary on the sermon and fed me very well! It was one of the rare times when my lady wife got to come with me and hear what her husband does for a living! St. Mark's is set right at the edge of a large creek, with a small waterfall emerging from under a beautiful stone bridge. All of which can be seen from the room where they do coffee hour. If there's a more beautiful view in the diocese I haven't found it yet.

I did manage to make one gaffe. I always try to scope out how the traffic "flows" at Communion time. It's different from church to church. My cheat is to make sure that at least a couple folks are sitting in pews in front of me so I can follow along. Of course I have to hope that they're not visitors too! (Visitors sitting in the front rows at church? Not likely!) Well I got up, received, turned and walked back down the chancel. Oooops, I was fighting the flow the whole way. Seems there's a small door off to one side I was supposed to use. I'll just plead that I was too deeply immersed in the experience of the Eucharist. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Other than that it was a lot of driving. I think I'm about as far away from LeRoy as you can be in the diocese. Just glad to be home. Although I may have caught a cold over the weekend.


Friday, December 08, 2006

Just a few quick thoughts

I love the theater and the movies. So I thought I'd share a few quick updates on what I've seen recently:

My daughter's birthday present this year was dinner and tickets to see the national touring company of "Rent". She loves the show and I knew nothing about it except that it had gotten rave reviews on Broadway. I really liked the show (and having an expert next to me who could clear up any confusions!) I liked it enough that I've got "La Vie Boheme" playing in the background as I type this! A great night with my two favorite ladies in the world.

We're hoping to catch "Spamalot" in the spring.

Movies we've seen recently (all on DVD)

The Lake House Nice little romance with a few logic problems but I liked it. Kind of a neat concept with the time twisting mail box. Keanu almost acted like he can, well, act.

I Walk the Line
Not being a huge country music fan I went strictly on word of mouth on this one, which had been pretty good. Now I know why. Great performances that show the people (Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash primarily) warts, insecurities and all.

Some others quickly - Bandits- fun, Matchstick Men - classic weird and wonderful Nick Cage stuff, Being There - An amazing performance by Peter Sellers in an astounding role. Still not sure what to think about the ending. The only one of this bunch that I would say is a must see.

Next up - Green Mile and Wag the Dog.


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Prayers for Angela

As a diocesan youth minister I belong to a fairly small club. There's just not that many of us in the great wide world. So when I hear that one of us is struggling it strikes particularly close to home.

I've never met Angela but beyond being my sister in Christ and a fellow Anglican she's a diocesan youth minister in Edmonton (that's Canada for those of you flunking geography. Do they even teach geography any more?). Beyond that she lists both the Bible AND Winnie the Pooh as her favorite books which makes her OK in my book.

She's been diagnosed with leukemia, which quite frankly sucks. I know some folks don't like that word but I can't think of a more appropriate time to use it.

If you have a spare prayer lying around any time soon, or if you have room on your list please add Angela to your prayers.


Monday, December 04, 2006

Letter to the Younger Brothers and Sisters

I've been thinking about a series of open letters. Each one would talk about some single concept that I believe is important for my younger brothers and sisters in Christ to think about. This starts the series. We'll see how it goes

It's not about you

I workout a couple days a week trying desperately to hold my rapidly aging body together. One of the things I do is a half hour "class" on stationary bicycles. The class is led by a friend of mine who puts us through a quick but tough half an hour of exercises. It's hard work that requires that I keep my mind focused.

So imagine my irritation last week at class. We had 12 of 13 bikes filled in a room with no air conditioning. Pete had gotten us rolling with warm ups and we had just started into the routine when a young lady rolled in late. Being late is no big deal. A minute or so later in comes another woman. Both of them wound up on the bikes right in front of me. When the second got up and rolling they began to talk. Now Pete is trying to give us the exercise instructions with these two talking right in front of him and I'm trying to hear him over them. The women just continued to talk, got out of sync with the rest of class (we do a lot of up/down exercises), Pete tried to guide them back into the rhythm, which threw him out of sync. And they continued to talk. With about ten minutes left (remember this is only a 30 minute class!) the first woman obviously finished whatever she needed to talk about and got off her bike and left! The second woman did the same a few minutes later.

I was totally disgusted.

Why? Because these women showed no respect for Pete or anyone in the class. We were just the background to their personal lives, and apparently, not especially important backgrounds at that. Why couldn't the conversation have taken place somewhere else if it were that important? And if it wasn't that important why did it have to happen right then and there? Why show up late and leave early to a small class where that will be disruptive?

It strikes me that I'm seeing more and more of this. The concept is that it's "all about me". The rest of the world is fine just as long as it doesn't interfere with what I want, when I want it. This kind of self centered attitude is rampant in our society today. Somehow we've been given the idea that everything is supposed to go our way, that no one else matters except that they fulfill our needs without any regard for what they may need.

Somewhere along the line a healthy level of self love turned into unbridled ego bordering on solipsism (which is the metaphysical belief that I'm the only one who really exists, and everyone else is just a useful figment of my imagination). It's not wrong to care for yourself. It is wrong to care only about yourself.

So here's my humble opinion: There's nothing good that comes out selfishness. It may feel good in the short term, since you can get your way. In the long run it hurts you and everyone around you. It makes people angry, and hurts them. Which makes them want to take out that anger and hurt on someone else. Eventually it makes its way right back to you. Our faith as Christians call us to care for one another. That's not intended to be "always take care of the other person and never yourself". God loves you but he loves the other people out there too. Even the annoying ones who talk through exercise classes.

I heard a story recently that I'd never heard before. It has to do with Moses leading the Hebrews out of Egypt, through the Red Sea and then the waters rushing back in to destroy Pharaoh's army. As this played out an Angel looked at God and saw tears on his face. The Angel asked "Why are you crying Lord? You have saved the children of Israel!" And God replied "Were not the armies of Pharaoh also my children?"

What you do affects the people around you. Are you going to make every day all about you, or are you willing to look around to see if you are going to hurt someone nearby through your actions? There a thousand little ways to care for other people. One thing I do is return shopping carts to the corrals in the parking lots, even if they're not mine. If there's one near my car I take it back. Why? Because one day last winter I saw a young person whose job it was to track those carts down. It was a bitter cold day, the snow in the parking lot was a couple inches deep and about half slush. I realized that while he was getting paid to do that job, it was a nasty, uncomfortable and largely thankless job. So I try to help out by making sure that the ones near me get put where they belong.

All I can ask is that you keep your eyes and hearts open for ways to take care of the people around you. That every once in a while you give up something you want so that someone else gets what they want.

Trust me, you'll feel better and you'll make the world a better place.


Monday, November 27, 2006

I got credit with Jesus!

This is my column for the December issue of our diocesan newspaper "ChurchActs"

Christmas. Credit cards. Big bills. It can really suck the fun out of life. I started thinking about the whole credit idea.
In this case I'm not talking financial credit. What jumped into my mind was a kind of spiritual credit. One that gets misused an awful lot. It's the credit some people think they build up with Jesus. The thinking goes something like this:
“Well, I went to church three times this month, and I served on the last Happening team, and I was nice to everyone, even you-know-who, though they didn't deserve it. So now it's OK if I have a little fun”.
“Fun” usually means “things I know I probably shouldn't be doing or will make my parents/people mad”. The idea is that as long as your “credit report” balances out you're OK. You just want to make sure that you're at least even, or even better, just a bit up on the “good” side over the “bad” side. A lot of people of all ages like to play this kind of credit game with Jesus. Somehow we convince ourselves that it's good enough to be good most of the time, a majority of the time, more often than not. And that this makes the other stuff (lying, cheating, sneaking around behind someones back, or worse) no big deal. If this is the way you've been thinking I have some bad news for you:

Your credit report stinks.

A relationship with God isn't about trying to make the best deal you can. We've already been handed the best deal there is between Christmas and Easter. When we get caught up in trying to “balance” the report what we're really saying is “I'm not really interested in changing. How much do I have to offer to get you to leave me alone?” Well there's good news and bad news. The good news is that God won't ever leave you alone. The bad news is that God won't ever leave you alone! While we know we can't be perfect we need to at least try not to be imperfect. Our culture doesn't want to believe it but it's actually easier and more fun to live life governed by the two concepts of Love God and Love One Another. Love is the “cash” of a life lived in faith. If I follow those rules I'm not going to do things that treat my relationships with God and other people in ways that are damaging. When I treat everything and every one around me with respect life becomes MUCH simpler. I don't have to make up stories to cover or remember which ones I've told. I don't have to avoid people because I'm ashamed or afraid of what they might think or say.

A life without credit is hard to get used to at first. When you get rid of it you realize what a burden it has been. It weighs down everything in your life.

There's no credit with Jesus. “Cash” only.


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

What Theologian?

I'd never heard of Anselm before this so I looked him up. I like the quick view of what I see. Two examples from his wikkipedia entry-

"Nor do I seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe that I may understand. For this too I believe, that unless I first believe, I shall not understand."

"I hold it to be a failure in duty if after we have become steadfast in our faith we do not strive to understand what we believe."

Yes, I'll take Anselm. Not sure where Calvin came from though! I'm sure we share some theological points, even if no one else has every accused me of any Calvinist leanings.


You scored as Anselm. Anselm is the outstanding theologian of the medieval period.He sees man's primary problem as having failed to render unto God what we owe him, so God becomes man in Christ and gives God what he is due. You should read 'Cur Deus Homo?'



John Calvin


Paul Tillich


Friedrich Schleiermacher




Karl Barth


J�rgen Moltmann</font>


Charles Finney</font>


Martin Luther


Jonathan Edwards


Which theologian are you?

created with

Monday, November 20, 2006

A week for Thanksgiving

This is the week to think about those things for which we should be thankful. Here's a list of some of my major thanksgivings:

1: The many gifts and blessings from God. I'm actually pretty good at a couple of things and not bad at a bunch more. I'm relatively healthy (for a rapidly aging person), I still have my wits about me and I still love life.

2: My wife. It was hard not to put her at the top of this list. Of all my blessings she's been number one. I could go on and on about how wonderful I think she is, but that just embarrasses her. If you know her, you already know what a great person she is. (Entirely too good for the likes of me!)

3: My daughter. Boy was she a surprise 19 years ago! And has been a delight and surprise and wonder ever since. She is every bit as amazing to me as her mom. I just tried not to mess her up as her father.

4: My parents. Both gone now, Dad for six years, Mom for just over one. It's amazing how much of them I find inside me, or see in my daughter. It's even more amazing that with each passing year I realize how much I learned them. They were amazing people and who I am I owe in large part to them.

5: My brothers. I have two amazing brothers. I won't embarrass them by going on and on (we don't do that in our family) but suffice to say I respect and love them both.

6: The young people I've worked with over the last 15 years or so. These people are an ongoing inspiration for me. I can't imagine why they want to hang out with this grown up geek or why they seem to have such affection for me. Fortunately in my personal faith walk I'm comfortable with mystery so I'll leave it at that. I love all "my" kids, past, present and future. You've had an huge impact on my spiritual journey. I hope I've had a fraction of that on yours.

7: The adults I work/minster with. This is an incredibly diverse group of people, young and old, clergy and lay, male and female. I know I irritate them sometimes, I hope I inspire them sometimes too.

8: My home congregation. Can't forget them. Can't begin to tell you how much they mean to me and my family, and how much they've done for us. I just don't have the words.

This barely scratches the surface but let me stop before this looks like a "Top Ten" list. My life has been blessed by my many friends, by folks I don't know (the pall bearers in the snow storm!), even by people I never really liked. I need to thank God for each and every one of you.

Let us go forth into the world, rejoicing in the power of the Spirit.
Alleluia, Alleluia.


Friday, November 17, 2006

On respect for our young people

Came across this article in the Times of London online (yes I read all kinds of things) and it brings to mind a long standing peeve of mine.

Stupid children's names.

The first instance I remember of thinking "Well his/her parents were obviously idiots" was back in the '70's when I saw, I swear, a man name Santa Claus interviewed on TV. It was a name given him at birth by parents with a twisted sense of humor or no concept of what they were about to do to this guy. As I remember he was very calm about it, and didn't see it as a big deal. My thoughts ran somewhat differently:

His parents should be flogged in a public place.

The Time article brought this to mind since they show that such dopiness has crossed the big puddle. Children named Reebok, Gandalf and Arsenal (which is a huge football (soccer) team over there. Kind of like naming your kid Dallas Cowboy). It's one thing to hear a name, decide you like it and want your child to have a beautiful name. It's another thing to name them after a sneaker.

Naming them after pop stars with unusual names is dumb. I mean these people do know that his name's not really Tiger right? Naming them after fictional characters is equally idiotic. Come on can you see this poor kid all through elementary and junior high school - "Is Superman Melman here? Superman...Melman?" He better be the strongest kid in class otherwise it's a recess punch fest everyday for years.

What really bothers me is the mind set for the parents who do this. This smacks of child-as-toy which is an utterly disrespectful attitude towards our young people. If you have that little respect for the kid at birth, how is it going to get any better as they grow up? When did child raising become a game for some folks?

I'm a firm believer that part of the role of parent is allowing kids to skin their knees, bloody their noses, and get their feelings hurt at times. We often tend to try and wrap kids in bubble wrap believing we're doing them a favor. Protecting them to this degree doesn't help in the long run. Our kids need to know, to KNOW, deep down in their bones that they can do what they set out to do. They know it to that deep level when they've tried and overcome obstacles. I've written before about how the opportunity to fail is every bit as important as the chance to succeed.

But sabotaging the kid before they even start is just cruel and thoughtless. It's strikes me as be what makes me happy now, rather than what affect it will have on the kid later.

Not everyone needs to be named Tom, Dick or Harry. But no one needs to be given the name Pixie Frou-frou at birth. When you grow up you can call yourself anything you like, even like the guy mentioned at the end of the Times article (looney!).


Do you know why you were named what you're named?

My name was my father's nickname, which he got playing a role in a school play. That I grew up (not really knowing the full story) and taking a degree in Acting struck me as strangely appropriate. When I was an adult my father formally relinquished his claim to the name (a source of ongoing confusion growing up. I was little, then young, then my name with my middle initial for years) It also had the advantage of being short, which my folks hoped would prevent it from being turned into some nasty nickname. They did the same with my two brothers. They pretty much failed all three times but they tried to make our lives EASIER rather than harder on the days we were born.


Thursday, November 16, 2006

A day of wows...

And neither of them good.

First the OJ story. O.J. Simpson has written a book "If I Did It" which details how he would have killed his wife and one other "if he did it". No matter how I look at it this book is reprehensible.

If OJ is innocent how do explain spending that much time thinking about that subject, let alone writing it all down? How do you explain to your kids that THIS is how you decided to make some money?

If OJ is guilty (and I've always believed he is) then this is one of the most evil individual acts I can imagine. It is the ultimate form of spitting on someone's grave. His publisher says it's his "confession". No it isn't, it's a cheap easy way to try and ease his conscience.

What does this have to do with ministry? It's another chance to model for our young people how we believe life should be lived. Don't watch the TV interview, don't buy the book. Until he's ready to make a full confession and accept responsibility (assuming that he's in fact guilty) don't buy into the cheap and easy media event. Don't feed the "car accident gawker" portion of our culture.

Second unpleasant wow. A letter in one of my local newspapers. A local clergy person calls upon the newly elected governor to help congregations that are failing. He wants the governor to "...arrive at solutions to make our churches economically viable..." because "...Like health care and education, spiritual care should be accessible to all." (Full letter is here)

I was flabbergasted. Dumbfounded. Astonished. Appalled. And then I began to laugh.

Brothers and sisters, if we are reduced to having the state government pull our chestnuts out of the fire, if we are incapable of supporting ourselves in a community of faith, then it's time to close the doors and go home. We face a variety of congregations that are struggling, that may or may not survive. I feel for all of them. But if they are not capable of creating a self sustaining community then why do they exist? Should we bail out communities of faith that are little more than personal chapels for a few families? How does this coincide with ANY understanding of the Great Commission?

Beyond that have you seen the way NYS runs MOST things?!?!?!?!?!?! Who in their right mind would want them more deeply involved in church?



Monday, November 13, 2006

On the value of boredom

(This is my column from the November issue of ChurchActs, my diocesan newspaper)

I have a recommendation for you that you're going to think is boring. But this is good boredom, productive, maybe even profitable boredom. So you need to think about it.

Boredom seems to be at the top of the list of “Things that must never happen to me” today. Our American culture has longstanding problems with the idea. Whether you call it downtime or idleness there is a distrust of the concept. “Idle hands are the devil's workshop” is a piece of alleged wisdom that has been handed down for generations. I would remind you that the devil has done some pretty good work with busy hands too.

There are studies out there that boredom is good for you. It actually gets different brain cells fired up, often the ones associated with creativity. That increased brain function can help you feel calmer, relieve stress, help you learn better and make you feel more in control. So a little boredom may be a good thing for you.

So what's this boredom I'm talking about? It's also an old concept in the faith community and one that is making something of a comeback these days. It's called Sabbath. I'd bet most of us can come up with the definition of “A day of rest”. The real question is how many of us really try to live out that concept anymore. The idea of a day of rest (a recommendation from God, no less) is really about time off from your regular life. Time off from your job, school, your everyday routine. The problem for many of us is that even our “rest/play” time has become a job. It's one thing to round up some kids from the neighborhood for a game of some sort and another to have scheduled practices, games and tournaments. So what I want you to think about is simply time to do nothing. A total break from all the things you usually do. Time that you're going to think is pretty boring.

Taking this time, this sabbath, is important. It's important because it will make you stronger. Sabbath time is meant as more than just goofing off time. Sabbath is holy time, time to share with God. It's a space in your life that isn't pressurized. Time to think about you and God, about what God wants for you and from you, and how you're doing. Out of that will grow strength, calm, and a deeper relationship with your creator. You'll also discover that it'll stop being boring pretty quickly.

So how do you do this whole sabbath thing? Trying to take a whole day off right from the start is next to impossible. So let's start small. Carve out about 5-10 minutes every day (all in a chunk) that you can set aside. Time when folks won't bother you, when you can turn off the cell phone, the TV, the computer and just sit. Don't worry about having something “to do” right away. Just start up a conversation with God. Ask the questions that bother you, talk about what really made your day, pray for the people in your life who need it. Pray for yourself. Pray for the people who make you happy and the ones who don't. After you've done that for a couple weeks add a longer sabbath once a week. Take a half an hour and do something more intensive. Read a short portion of the bible (where do you start? As Episcopalians we have a daily reading schedule available to us. It's called the Lectionary and there's one in every prayer book. Check out the section marked “Daily Office”, we're in year 2 till the end of this month, then we flip over to year 1 again. Easy!), read some other book that has to do with faith or that makes you think. Then spend the rest of the time thinking about what you read, what does it mean, why on earth did they keep that in there?

Once you've gotten started you'll find there are all kinds of other things you can do to really make your sabbath time rock. You may even get to the point where you can do a whole day of rest. From my own experience I think you'll find that things become clearer, that life becomes easier to handle and that you'll be happier.

And you certainly won't be bored.


( A note to Parents: It is vitally important that we help our kids make time for God in their busy lives. If your child wants to find a Sabbath during the day help them clear that time and protect them from intrusions. Sabbath doesn't have to be only solo time. Finding a family sabbath time can be a great practice for everyone to share.)

Well I did it

Well following the lead of fellow foot dragger RevRef I have moved over to the "new" blogger software. My ongoing concern has been that they refer to it as "beta", which to my mind always means "We're pretty sure there are still some bugs in this stuff but we're gonna let you find them for us".

Which I resent. I mean it's THEIR job to write code, not mine. Anyway...

So I checked this morning and all I see is the word "new"! Ah, they've finished the process and now I may proceed. It isn't until you've started the process that the word "beta" re-appears.


So if this all goes horribly wrong, I'm blaming the priest in Montana. LOL.


Thursday, November 09, 2006

Just in time for Christmas

What on earth are some people thinking? The following are real products aimed at young people.

Tesco, a major retailer in England, has agreed to remove a stripper pole kit from its "Toy" section. Yep, right there along side Barbie and Tonka trucks (or their English equivalents) you'd find a kit with extendable pole, garter, sexy music, fake money and lessons on doing, well, what you do on a stripper pole. What genius saw fit to classify this as a "toy"? All it would have taken is about 3 seconds of thought to come to the realization, "You know this is the section of the web page that the kiddies spend the most time on. Maybe this isn't the best place for it." Curiously it has now been moved to the "Fitness Accessory" category.

Major retailers in Jolly Old are obviously a different breed than over here. Not sure if that's good or bad.

Here's my favorite though:

"Left Behind - Eternal Forces". This is a video game based on the extremely popular book series. I've read most of the books but got bored about 2/3 of the way through the series.

The video game has some serious problems in my view.

First while the maker stresses that it's a "strategy" game there's plenty of places for good old fashioned shoot 'em ups. This from the manufacturers website:

Conduct physical & spiritual warfare : using the power of prayer to strengthen your troops in combat and wield modern military weaponry throughout the game world.

Am I the only one having a problem with that concept? I know I'm only an Episcopalian but doesn't Jesus warn us that those who live by the sword, die by the sword?

Then we have:
Command your forces through intense battles across a breathtaking, authentic depiction of New York City .

· Control more than 30 units types - from Prayer Warrior andHellraiserr to Spies, Special Forces and Battle Tanks

Now follow that up with this line from the company's FAQ area:

The millions of parents – and many casual players of games – that are looking for entertainment that also offers positive, inspirational content will flock to this title. (bold face is mine)

I will acknowledge that the players are supposed to try and evangelize and convert "the other side". This is done by getting your character to stand next to some other character for three seconds. That's it. Who knew it was that easy?

So am I anti-video game? No. While not a player myself I have no problem with the concept. I don't like some of the games out there that turn violence into amusements.

Am I a pacifist? No, not really. I enjoy the Chronicles of Narnia, and there's violence in those as well. I recognize all violence as being outside the teaching of Christianity. Of course most of the world remains outside of Christianity in many ways too.

Beyond any theological disagreements some of us may have with the whole "Left Behind" universe I get seriously queasy about tying the concepts of "Christian faith" and "wield modern military weaponry". I'm even more appalled that some churches are allowing this to be marketed in/through/with them.

The games are expected to get either a "T" rating (13 and up) or an "E" rating (age 6 and up). That's even more disturbing in some ways.

So my recommendation? Don't buy it. Don't let your kids buy it. Don't let someone else buy it for them. (The same goes for video crap like "Grand Theft Auto") If this is the best idea we can come up with to use the amazing technology of computer gaming, then maybe our kids need to spend more time outside. Playing in God's reality.


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Beginning anew

As part of my response to the previous post (and my thanks to everyone who has responded so far, by comment (Mad Priest rules!)by e-mail, by phone (Deacon John rules as well! Although probably NOT in the same room with Mad Priest. I have a cool group of friends)and in person. I love you all) I'm working on getting my mind and spirit back into our proper Hawaiian shirted, serving youth, loving God, emergent traditionalist mind set.

There was only one thing to do.

Clean my office.

My office is the perfect symbol of my mental state. It's never really clean and orderly but there's a certain rhythm to things. I work in a very tiny space, about 8 foot by 10 foot. In it is my corner computer desk and chair, entertainment center for the sound system, TV (currently missing since the old one died), DVD player, VCRs, chair for a visitor, small filing cabinet that doubles as my worship area, large filing cabinet, small book shelves. Plus two cases of bottled water, two cases of juice boxes (for the next youth event) various snack food bags (same reason), the leftover t-shirts, PA system, signs, limbo poles etc. That's what's in here when it's "neat". Add in extra papers, boxes, catalogs and assorted crappola and the room goes down hill fast. So if my mind has started to come unraveled the office follows. How bad was it? Two full trash cans have left the office, so far.

And I feel much better.

So keep praying for me.

Oh and by the way... if I've irked you, annoyed you or you just think I'm a complete ninny would you PLEASE tell me??????? How am I gonna get better if my brothers and sisters don't give a brutha a little help? I promise I'll listen. And we'll see where we go from there.



I really am feeling better.

So what's the weirdest thing in your office? My bet is that youth ministry types especially have strange stuff. Looking through my many candidates I'd say it's probably my two small rubber gargoyles, souvenirs of someone's trip to the Nat'l Cathedral. Either that or the roll of toilet paper I keep here which is NOT for use in the bathroom.

Go ahead, ask.

Got to go.


Monday, November 06, 2006

An apology

I've been trying to avoid writing this entry for a couple weeks now. Shortly before our diocesan convention I prepared a report on youth ministry. As I looked back over the year I saw that we'd had a good number of successful events. There had been a couple that didn't work, including Junior High camp (which we eventually cancelled due to low enrollment). As I thought about all my "jobs" I realized that I wasn't happy with my performance. I hadn't "dropped any balls" but several things had been finalized later than they should have, details were fixed on the fly and I had relied on my ability to "ad lib" an awful lot. The year wasn't a failure, but it certainly wasn't the kind of performance I expect from myself.

When I went to convention I found some folks pretty upset about canceling camp and not real happy with me. I worked hard not to just reject the criticism (come on, who likes being told they've messed up?)and listen. And it was an echo of what I'd heard when I was preparing the report. I may not agree with them about canceling camp, but I can hardly say I was happy that we had arrived at place where we had to face making that decision at all.

So I began to think about apologizing.

There's a good biblical/traditional basis for it. It allows me to acknowledge my shortcomings. It supports the kind of honesty and transparency I believe is vital in my ministry.

And I soooooo don't want to do it.

I hate falling short of my own expectations (For the record let me note that at the end of my first full year in this job I had a job performance review. I submitted a self review and other folks also submitted reviews. When I was brought in to discuss the results I was marked down seriously in only one area: "Sets goals too high". I am who I am). I REALLY hate having to admit failure publicly. I don't want other people to know what a loser I am (that's what I hear in my head). I want them to think that I'm wonderful, even when I know the truth. You see, I'm just trying to protect you from a unpleasant realization.

Yeah, right.

Of course I could plead that it was a tough year. It was. Over the last year my mom, my last surviving parent, died. My wife has had two major operations. My only child has gone off to college. We moved to a new house. A friend told me that other than divorce and bankruptcy I'd hit most of the major life stress events all in one year. But that's not really an excuse, and I don't like making excuses anyway.

I apologize to my youth because they deserved better. Same goes for my bishop, and the adults that work with me in this ministry. They deserve me on top of my game not just being average. I apologize to the kids who missed out on Junior High camp this year. It's always an amazing event, the kind you remember for the rest of your life. One chapter in that book will always be missing and I carry part of that responsibility. I'm sorry to you all. I'm sorry for the folks who have supported me because now they have to spend time defending themselves. Some of you went out on a limb fighting for this position and for me to fill it. I let you down and I'm sorry.

I finally decided to write this while reading Reverend Ref's blog. In one of the comments someone noted that "We're called to be faithful, not successful". It was one of those moments when it feels like God taps me on the shoulder to say "Excuse me, if you would just turn your attention over HERE I have something I need you to see". Even as I've struggled I think I've been faithful. I'd love to be successful too but that's a hit or miss proposition. A priest friend of mine told me yesterday about the trials and tribulations of getting through the service. The circuit breaker blew, they ran out of wine, etc. But they were faithful. I hope that I have been as well.

My pledge is that I will continue to be faithful. That I will work hard. That I will give my best everyday (though "my best" may vary from day to day). I will do everything in my power to be successful. That I'll try to be the youth minister I want to be and that all those folks above deserve.

In the meantime,

I'm sorry.


Friday, November 03, 2006

Way to go Matthew!!!

I mentioned before that my friend Matthew was involved in the TV show "Biggest Loser". While he wasn't chosen to stay on the ranch at first he has earned a chance to get on it later in the show. Six folks of the ones sent home originally have been invited back. Two of them (1 guy, 1 girl) will get to stay and try to win the big prize. I'm really excited for Matthew and it gives me more push to keep working on my own middle aged spread.

Check out Matthew's latest blog entry, and check out the show's main page

So all of us involved in youth ministry have our boy in the race! Keep him in your prayers.


Thursday, November 02, 2006

Well, that was interesting...

In the last week I've been in two states (NY and PA) and two countries (US and Canada). I took an official oath (as executor of my mother's estate), signed many legal documents, attended our diocesan convention, raked leaves for the first time in over a decade and just generally ran myself ragged.

So a few notes from the week:

Best line overheard at convention: A clergy person (who shall remain nameless but he's quite tall) on a cell phone walking past me "I'm on my way to the bar for the budget hearing". Only at an Episcopal convention. For the record it was in the morning, the bar was not operating, we were simply using that space for the hearing. Given how the budget hearing goes some years doing it in the bar may not be a bad idea. Budget was passed without discussion this year (which is not necessarily a good thing)

My thanks to the youth from St. Phillip's for coming out for the youth event at Convention. It was a first time event and they let me try the program out on them this year. Look for it again next year.

I was in Canada for the annual Quint diocese day. Bishops and their staffs from the dioceses of WNY, Rochester, Huron, Niagara and Toronto gather once a year to sit around and gripe about everyone else in their dioceses. Ummmmmm...........joke! We get together to discuss a variety of issues that face us at the diocesan level and in our specific geographic area. It's always very interesting. This year was the first specific meeting of diocesan youth ministry staff. I have great hopes for what may come from that. Also great to hear that we face similar challenges.

I didn't realize that I really DID have to be "sworn in" as the executor of the estate. Had raise my hand and repeat after. My brother flew in from Texas to help me out (he's an attorney) and we had a cool time hanging out and talking in between meetings and chores.

Late last week sometime my main e-mail address at the diocese became so filled with spam that it shut itself down. Which was a little scary since it is, well, my MAIN e-mail! That's been fixed now and I'm back in communication with the world.

Raking leaves was, well, raking leaves.

Pray for our Happening this weekend! A great team led by Chuck Berds and some really great youth as candidates.


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

A little fun along the way

Well, diocesan convention starts on Friday. I've got a lot of running around to do between now and then. Plus some work to do while I'm there. So I think we need a little fun.

For the record my favored position is second base, just like my hero Bill Mazeroski.
Interesting to see soccer in second place, but why is golf so far down the list?

What Sport quiz
You scored as Baseball. You should play baseball, the true American sport. There's lots of positions to choose from, but the most important are pitcher and catcher.















Field hockey


Ice Hockey










What sport are you meant for??
created with

Monday, October 23, 2006

An interesting weekend

Notes from the weekend:

Went to visit a church up in the area hit by the storm for their Youth Sunday (which I hate but am learning to deal with.) While I was there I spent some time with the youth group. During their discussion the question came up of what it meant to be ordained. I quote the answer:

It means you're holy enough to read the Gospel

I'm having great fun repeating that to clergy people! We did our best to correct that view.

Meanwhile the update from Buffalo. The last school districts to get going again after the storm will return to classes on Wednesday. That's right almost two full weeks afterwards. The streets were lined with big piles of downed branches. The tree limbs still hadn't been cleared on one side of the church. And this is an area that wasn't the hardest hit. Those areas are still a mess with piles so high that parents are being advised to dress elementary school children in bright colors so they can been seen by drivers! The cleanup is expected to run at least a quarter of a BILLION dollars ($250,000,000).

A thing seen while driving - I'm seeing them fairly commonly now. They are bumper stickers that read "Official U.S. Terrorist Hunting Permit" or "Official (insert state name) Terrorist Hunting Permit". What struck me about this car was 1) It had TWO of these on the trunk, and 2) It had a "Jesus is Love" license plate in the rear window.

Am I the only one that finds a serious disconnect there?

Oh and my daughter just IM-ed me to tell me that I'm a dork.

So what else is new? So's she. And her Momma!


Friday, October 20, 2006

Thank you very much

I was somewhat surprise when an online friend told me I'd been "noticed" by another blogger. I read this blog and enjoy it (be warned it is iconoclastic and occasionally profane. It is also funny and informative. Don't say I didn't warn you). It's written by an Anglican priest in Jolly Old who goes by the name Mad Priest. Don't think American "mad" (angry) but more English "mad" (demented and looney, as in Hatter). He can get good old fashioned American PO-ed too. But I'm quite happy that he's added me to his list of "idiots". Check him out at "Of course, I could be wrong..."

And yes, isn't it a great photo of me? Gotta get a better one up.


Thursday, October 19, 2006

Many of me!

Another fun thing. The only problem is this time it's absolutely WRONG!!!
LogoThere is:
person with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

On days when you're really bored try googling your own name. I have a brother who keeps track of his two brothers by periodically googling our names. Which is how we found out our third brother was running for statewide office in his home state! Anyway I googled myself after I took the quiz and came up with at least TWO other Jay Phillippis (spelled the same way) very quickly. Check the story below:

Stolen police car

The REALLY funny part of this? The date of the story is my birthday!

So to all the Jay Phillippis of the world, rejoice! We are a rare and special breed.


Monday, October 16, 2006

Biggest WINNER - Matthew McNutt

This is Matthew McNutt (yes, that's really his name. Don't being makin' fun cause Matthew is a BIG boy!) Matthew is someone I've met online and once in person. He's a fellow youth minister (in Maine) and is one of the contestants on "Biggest Loser". You won't see him on "the ranch" on TV cause he's doing his thing competing at home. In four weeks he lost 51 pounds. At home. On his own. The two little guys are his sons.

If I could lose 51 pounds I could probably go off my high blood pressure medicine (maybe) and I wouldn't ever hear the doctor talk to me about being overweight or obese. I'd look better. Feel better. Live longer.

Matthew is my hero and I'm going to try and figure out how to lose that weight too. In the meantime I'm rooting for Matthew to win it all (he still can)


Saturday, October 14, 2006

That was some storm!

By now you've probably heard about the storm that rampaged through western NY on Thursday and Friday. If not here's a bit from the Buffalo News:

The Columbus Day storm dumped nearly 2 feet of snow, the sixth-biggest snowfall ever in a 24-hour period, and forced the closings of schools, businesses and a 105-mile stretch of the New York State Thruway from Rochester to Dunkirk. (Don't know how long the story will be there but the link to the full coverage is in the title of this entry)

For the record, if you live here in WNY you're accustomed to snow. LOTS of snow. But this was completely out of the norm. I believe I heard that the next closest day for snow fall in October is 6 inches. This was the kind of thing we sometimes see in January or February.

My lady wife and I found ourselves caught in the storm. We were driving from north of Buffalo (where my daughter attends college) to south of Buffalo (where we live). The drive normally takes two hours.

It took four.

Three hours of creeping along, with visibility very low. Roads not only covered in inches of snow but the temperature dropped quickly enough that ruts had developed. Trucks and cars off the side of the road. Tree limbs down. At one point we had tried a different route hoping to get us either through the storm area or to somewhere we could stop for the night. Our first choice for stopping was part of the blackout area. No luck. So we had to kind of loop our way back since turning around was very difficult. (Try turning around when you can't see the driveways or side streets because of snow on the ground, snow in the air and no street lights. We got caught on a looooong hill and ended up backtracking about 5 miles at one point) I got out to 1)clear the headlights, and 2) try and figure out what the problem was with traffic at this point, when I heard a cracking near me and had a branch fall about ten feet away. It was scary enough by itself and a little more so when I heard one of the three deaths related to the storm was a man dying when struck by a falling branch.

In the end we decided to simply gird our loins and do the best we could hoping that the storm would have an edge to the south. We found it about 15 minutes later and cruised home on clear and then dry roads. Here, well south of Buffalo, we actually got no snow at all from the storm.

We left the college at 11 PM and arrived home at 3:05 AM. It's one of the worst sets of driving conditions I've ever gone through. Thanks to God, my father for teaching me how to drive, my mom for buying a four wheel drive SUV that I now drive, and my lady wife for being a calm presence by my side.

It's good to be home.


PS (Added Monday October 16)Yesterday we cancelled our diocesan youth commission meeting because large parts of the city of Buffalo and surrounding areas were still without power and some travel restrictions remain. Most schools in the area are closed today, some tomorrow and several of the largest suburban school districts have closed FOR THE WEEK! Meanwhile an hour and a half to the south there's no snow on the ground and life goes on as normal.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The never ending struggle

I don't know if anyone else has to do this, but periodically I simply have to stop everything else I'm doing to organize. My life seems to be a head long rush from one project to the next with little time to assess, to reflect, or to put anything away.

Over the years I've come to the realization that this surge and rest process isn't very effective. A couple years back I shared with a youth group the story of a piece of paper that sat on my desk for over a year. On it I had written a phrase. I know what happened. I was surging along when this phrase leapt into my mind. It summed up all the concepts that I'd been juggling, I had a great idea on how to build a lesson, a column or a sermon on that single phrase. It was going to be BRILLIANT!!

I had to write it down before I forgot it! Once it was immortalized on paper I could then put it on hold till the latest surge was over. But the surge lasted a long time, and the scrap got buried under a pile of other stuff. When I finally brought it back to light all that was left was the phrase. I didn't remember what it referred to any more. The brilliance that it had focused was gone.

I kept that paper for many months afterwards. Hoping that perhaps, under just the right circumstances, the veil would part and I would catch just of glimpse of what I had seen before. From that I could try to re-build the thoughts. The glimpse never came. Finally I threw the paper away because there were just too many other scraps and sheets and pages of thoughts and ideas that had built up behind it. I still feel sad about that scrap of paper and thought. I've repeated the process several times more since then, but it's that one that still stands as the symbol for lost inspiration to me.

Today I'm surrounded again by a desk awash with papers. Some are notes from meetings from as long as a year and a half ago. Forms, reminders, business cards, notes for letters I meant to write, requests that need to be processed, projects on seemingly perpetual hold. I'm almost afraid to sift through the piles. The fear lurks that I'll find another paper with another amputated phrase on it.

What I'm really searching for is balance. Balance between the necessary and the numinous. I have been a creative person all my life. Photography, writing, acting, my work as a radio personality, all are about creating for me. These piles on this desk are equal parts that which must be done and that which I am called to do. For me to reach (or at least reach towards) those goals I must stop setting things aside for some day. But how do I work on the necessary and still honor the revelation of the numinous? Inspiration can be a fragile gift with a short life span. I can not simply say "Well now is the scheduled time to be creative. Let inspiration flow!"

On the other hand am I prepared to bury more inspirations that have withered before their time?

Meanwhile the piles grow higher and some inspiration begins to fade buried deep within.


Thursday, October 05, 2006

A minor correction

A sign of how scattered my brain is, I just realized that I had posted my column for this month, twice! And hadn't noticed till just now. So I fixed it. Which means I have even fewer posts than before.

ah such is life.


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Enough already!

That's about how I feel these days. It has been an incredibly busy year so far. In fact let me review:

About a year ago my mom had a massive stroke and eventually died.
My wife has had BOTH hips replaced (totally new bionic hip joints)
I attended my denominations General Convention. An event both exhilarating and difficult.
I had a full summer of camp activities, including my LEAST favorite, canceling a camp.
My only child has gone off to her first year at college (where's she's doing very well!)
I just gave up a position that I loved, that I was good at and that I didn't want to give up.
We've just moved into a new house.

As a friend of mine pointed out all I need is divorce and bankruptcy and I will have covered most of the major life stress events all in 365 days. (While divorce isn't even on the horizon, every time I see the college bills I wonder about bankruptcy)

I'm feeling scattered, and put upon and like shouting "Enough already!" at whoever is listening. I spent the last three days trying to find my cell phone. We had a bunch of our friends come over to help with the big move and they were like a whirlwind! The problem is that we're not quite sure where everything is at the moment! (Sure you do big fella. It's in one of the hundred or so boxes stacked all over your house!)

So what do I do? There are days when I feel like packing it in, digging a hole and pulling it in on top of me.

Then I think:
You have really cool friends who gave up a Saturday morning to move some very heavy stuff for you for no reason other than they like you.
You're living in the nicest house you've had since you lived with your parents.
You're married to an absolutely amazing woman with only one flaw. The complete lack of judgment that makes her love you.
You're doing work that you mostly love (yes, there are parts of youth ministry I don't like. There are parts I'm no damn good at in fact)and that you know you're making a difference.
You're in the best place you've ever been in so many ways.

The only way to screw it up? If you decide to host a pity party for yourself and then attend it. Life is hard, sometimes very damn hard. I'm praying for someone right now who is probably twice the youth minister that I am who has been out of work for a while and is hoping that this interview is the one that brings him back.

It's not so much that I need a kick in the butt (though there are days...) as that I need to remember that God has my back and holds me in his arms.

Enough already. I have work to do.


Monday, October 02, 2006

I swear this is the last one

This is all Gman's fault. It's what I get for reading his (excellent) blog. At least that's my story and I'm sticking to it. I promise a real blog entry soon, maybe even today.

For the record I hate Dr. Pepper but my wife loves it. So this means I probably have issues. Like THAT would come as a surprise to anyone who knows me.

Oh, and it's POP, people. Not SODA! It's POP!


You Are Dr. Pepper

You're very unique and funky, yet you still have a bit of traditionalism to you.
People who like you think they have great taste... and they usually do.

Your best soda match: Root Beer

Stay away from: 7 Up

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Words Matter

This is my column from the October issue of ChurchActs, the newspaper of my diocese

I've made my life with words. My training as an actor, years in radio, even today in youth ministry, they all rotate around words and how to use them. I know I've annoyed my daughter for years by actually answering the question she asked, not the one she thought she was asking. For example she'd ask to “see” the remote for the TV. I'd hold it up and then put it back. Of course she'd get irritated because what she wanted was to be given the remote, but that wasn't what she had asked. I really wasn't trying to be obnoxious (that was just a side benefit). Rather I was trying to impress on her the importance of using words the right way. Meaning using them in a way that helps us clearly communicate.
What brings this to mind is how often I hear people using words poorly. I had a co-worker years ago who, when he felt a point was debatable, would always say that it was a “mute” point rather than a “moot” point. That's one common way that we break down communication, by using words incorrectly. What is really bothering me is the attitude I've run into when I ask people if they know what they just said, or if they really meant what they just said. It's the “Whatever/I was only kidding/You know what I mean” attitude. This is the one that really drives me crazy. At it's very center this attitude says that words don't matter. In a faith where we refer to the messiah sometimes as “The Word” it strikes me that we need to take a very close look at how we treat words.
One of the places I see this attitude shine through is when young people use all kinds of negative words toward one another then just laugh it off. It's part of the culture we live in to make words into throw-aways. When we make the words we use to talk to one another throw-aways we're not far from saying that what we're describing is just a throw-away too. When we are constantly battered with negative words it can batter our self image as well. If you call someone a dork often enough it doesn't matter that you don't “mean” anything by it. It doesn't even matter if they know you're kidding or that you love them. Someone they like keeps calling them a rude name, so in their hearts they believe it must be true. The list of words I hear being used range from the pretty tame (dork, weirdo) to some that aren't for polite society or the pages of the diocesan newspaper. If you use those words because they're part of the cool, current youth culture then I'd recommend you take another look at how shallow that culture is. What's being peddled to you is all about surface image and self. A life in faith is about going deep below the surface and caring for others.
I need to note that this is not a “teen age” thing. Adults are using words in our church today designed to hurt and hinder all the time. Once we've decided to stop listening words can build a wonderful barrier to communication that keeps everyone else out. Misusing words with faith and theological underpinnings can create divisions where they don't exist and widen them where they do. As always adults need to remember that we stand as role models for our younger brothers and sisters. The model that I see often (though not always) when it comes to using words disturbs me very deeply.
Just before they begin preaching I've heard many clergy pray that their words be wholly acceptable to God. It strikes me that we need to make that a model for all our words. It's hard to imagine that God finds much satisfaction in hearing us call each other names, no matter how much we protest that we were just joking. In his letter to Ephesus (4:29) Paul reminds us to watch what we say so that all our words brings a touch of God into the lives of the listener.
In other words, words matter.

Monday, September 25, 2006

More wasting time

Yes I'm wasting time, but I'm struggling with some things I want to write about. So for the time being just silly stuff. The 10% Dixie kind of threw me.

Your Linguistic Profile:
70% General American English
10% Dixie
5% Midwestern
5% Upper Midwestern
5% Yankee

Saturday, September 23, 2006


Just couldn't resist.

My pirate name is:

Mad Sam Kidd

Every pirate is a little bit crazy. You, though, are more than just a little bit. Even though you're not always the traditional swaggering gallant, your steadiness and planning make you a fine, reliable pirate. Arr!

Get your own pirate name from
part of the network

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Where I am

Dear Lord,
I'm tired. Not just physically tired, shoot that's probably the least of this tiredness I feel. I'm tired from feeling like my world is resting on my shoulders. Tired of feeling like I can't afford to let anyone down. Tired of being the responsible one. Tired of the challenges of job and ministry, of bills, of health issues, of all the terrible problems that may exist or may only be in my head. I'm tired of the burdens of my own brokeness.

My heart is tired, my mind is tired, my spirit is tired. I feel like Sisyphus constantly pushing that stupid rock up that stupid hill. Never to get there, always to have it roll back down the hill, right over top of me most times. Sisyphus was given that task as a punishment for trickery. Am I being punished for something? That's not what I understand our relationship to be so I don't think that's it but it's the way I feel sometimes. Sisyphus was given a pointless task to do and an awful lot of what I'm doing feels pointless to me too.

This is a hard thing you've tasked me with, this youth ministry thing. The image of the garden comes up in scripture all the time. It seems like this is the part of the garden where everything grows fast including the weeds. I can spend all day fighting the weeds and never have a moment to feed and water the things I'm supposed to be growing. When particularly clinging weeds gather round what you want me to tend actually RESENTS my pulling those weeds away! And it's likely I'm never going to see the full bloom of the work you have me doing. They're still growing and immature when they leave my care. Am I making any difference at all?

Of course I'm still growing too. And some of those clinging weeds I've become rather partial too as well. I try to remember that you've given me a good place to grow and surrounded me with wonderful resources to help me in that growth. The saying goes that you never give someone more than they can bear. Feels like you've got a pretty high opinion of me somedays! I have to admit that deep down in my heart that feels good, even when it seems like maybe, just maybe, this time you over estimated just a teensy bit.

I'm still tired but I feel a little better now. I know that getting that stupid rock up that stupid hill is still my job. But do you think you could hold it here for just a moment? Just long enough to catch my breath and ready myself again for the push.

Thanks, that was great.

Love you man.


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Yeah, that's a miracle!

I'm still frazzled from the summer and having a little trouble getting myself re-oriented to "real" life. Of course having my only daughter going off to college the day after tomorrow, my lady wife going into surgery in a week and having to move from one house to another while still trying to do my job is probably effecting the overall confusion too! I literally had to stop and think what day it was as I rode into work today.

Of course things could be worse. Walt Mueller is the man behind the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding CPYU, a very cool resource site for stats and info on the world our young people have to traverse. Walt went into work early one day this week and was narrowly missed when a car crashed through his office wall! Photos He was on the phone with his son (who ended up hearing the whole accident)and managed to step just far enough out of the way that he suffered nothing more than some scrapes from the whole thing!

My prayers go out to Walt and the driver (who was basically OK too it appears).

Makes me glad I'm on the second floor.


Wednesday, August 16, 2006

A Lightning strike of truth

Every once in a while I come across a blog posting from someone that just smacks me between the eyes with its truth and love. A fair number of those come from the man known as Real Live Preacher. I've commended him to you before in general but the posting today just struck me as amazing and appropriate for those of us who work with youth. The question posed is one we get asked many many times and I intend to hang on to this wisdom for my future use.

You'll find a link to the post in the title and Here

Wow. And I stand by my comment on that post. This man has touched me in amazing ways through his writing. I hope that my blog may become half of what his is in wisdom and faith.


Monday, August 14, 2006

Still here

No I haven't died, gotten lost or whatever It's simply been such a busy summer that I'm having trouble getting the energy to sit down and write. It's been a busy, busy summer and I'll share about it soon. But for the moment I'm just trying to struggle along.


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Thoughts from the weekend

Sorry I've been a bit lax but it's still a busy time of the year for me. Got lots of family and friends coming in for the weekend. Celebrating the daughter's graduation from HS (I think the first school bill arrived today. If I'm lucky it's just her room/roommate assignment)plus a second memorial service for my mom. More thoughts on that later.

Something struck me over the weekend. First I was doing something that I generally DON'T do. I was watching golf on TV. I play golf (badly) and enjoy the frustration and triumphs of the game. But I find golf on TV to be just about terminally boring. Because they bounce around from player to player and stroke to stroke I get no feel for any one round. It took me a while to realize that Sergio Garcia was Tiger Woods' partner. The only reason I watched was:
1: It was a major
2: It was almost over (I tuned in when Tiger was on the 14th hole)
3: I'd heard that Tiger wasn't blowing away the field.

Let me be perfectly honest. I don't want Tiger to win. Quite simply I'm tired of Tiger winning all the time (which he hasn't done in the last couple years). This has nothing to do with Tiger himself. It's just that when the same person or team wins all the time I get bored. Dynasties are dull and overall aren't good for the game after about the fourth year in a row IMO. And when you win the Tiger often does, by blowing the rest of the tourney into the weeds early then coasting to the trophy it makes watching on TV even MORE boring.

So Tiger is only a couple strokes ahead and Chris DeMarco (yes I was rooting for DeMarco) was doing all he could to keep the heat on. You know what? It was still boring.

What finally grabbed my attention was what happened after Tiger finished the 18th hole.

He burst into tears.

And my opinion of Tiger jumped through the roof. Because we'd never seen this kind of emotional outburst from him before. Because having lost BOTH my parents in the last six years (and Mom only 9 months ago) I felt his pain. Because he didn't try to hide it. Much to the surprise of his caddy it looked like, LOL. Then again when he hugged his wife.

This was the moment he'd always shared with his dad who died a couple months ago. Another major title, the only ones that count for Tiger, another big hug from the man who had put Tiger on the path to greatness. And the final smack of reality when it was no longer something he could just ignore. His dad wasn't there waiting for him. Would not EVER again be there to hug him after a win. And Tiger broke down and cried.

And so did I. Because my Mom won't ever call me to harass me about something she thinks I should be doing, or telling me a story for the third time because she'd forgotten which of her sons she'd already told it to. Because I can't call my dad and talk about the sweet new cars that are coming out or how the latest Formula One race finished. That neither of them will see thier eldest granddaughter debut on the college stage, or see any of their other grandkids graduate or play football or whatever. That I lost the advice and comfort of my parents.

And it sucks. That's what hit Tiger so hard on the 18th green. So he cried and hung onto his friends and wife. Which is entirely cool and proper.

In that instant I felt like Tiger (the greatest golfer in the world) and I (not so much) came a little closer. My prayers are with Tiger. Heck I hope he wipes up a few more majors this year.


Friday, July 21, 2006

A Community theme

I mentioned the theme for Senior High (actually for all our camps this summer) and that we'd had some success with the teaching. The theme was simply "Community". I try for simple concept themes that will allow the director and staff of each camp to interpret it as they see fit for their age group. (Last year was "Beloved"). I did some research and didn't find anything that I really liked, so I borrowed some ideas and built a course around them.

My approach was simple. We talked about what community means in the light of a life in faith. For the overall concept I took John 13:34-35 because I think that (the new commandment love another as I have loved you) is central to our understanding of how we create a community. It's not enough to love one another but we are to do it as Jesus loved us. Lots tougher. We talked about what constituted a community, the good, the bad, the communities they belonged to and the responsibilities that go along with it.

Each day had an individual scripture story that went with the day and some activity/discussion for them to hash out what we were talking about (each session lasted an hour) The central focus was on a pair of concepts:


Then on Friday we talked about "Taking it Home". Each of the pairs had to be defined first, then we looked at the stories from scripture and discussed them. I enjoyed all the sessions and the kids could repeat back to me the concepts we'd discussed the days before and put them in context so I was getting through too which was pretty cool. Friday's session kind of had me stumped. How to get it through, at the end of the week and without sounding preachy? I had really wanted to use some music from Isaac Everett (mentioned in a previous post) and as I listened to one cut (don't have the CD here so I can't tell you the name, it's cut 4 off his brand new disc) there was a line that just kept coming back to me "Lead me to Jerusalem to die" (that's close if not perfect). It wasn't until I was up in front of the class with the music playing (pretty hard rock sound to it, so it's pounding and the kids are sitting there with their heads bobbing) when it struck me. I went over to the chalkboard and wrote "Go to Jerusalem and DIE!" then walked away till the song ended. In the silence that followed I talked about the community of believers that went before us, and how they would go on pilgrimage. I spoke of our own lifelong pilgrimage to the Holy City and how as people of faith we are called there to die to our selves. All of the concepts we discussed were about setting aside our selves to love one another. It is in doing that, just as Jesus did, that we truly fulfill the new commandment and create a faith based and faith filled community. I'd only used up about 20 minutes of the hour but it felt like time to wrap it up. So I sent them on their way to their Jerusalems.

You never know about how well the seeds been planted with young people. They seemed interested and open and involved. I'm not sure I get to ask for any more than that. The adults seemed to really like it. One suggested I needed to do that as a workshop for adults throughout the diocese and the bishop suggested that me teaching needed to be a regular part of conference. (Blush)

By the end of the week we'd had a beach party (with rubber duckies for everyone! Those were a major hit), a dance, a talent show, game night, workshops on Anglican Prayer beads, General Convention (with one of our former youth who had been part of the Official Youth Presence in Columbus)and done a Morning worship that drew from traditions all around the world (mostly Anglican plus Iona) and prayed for folks from the diocese and the world wide Communion. Some of the kids liked the morning prayer enough that they took me up on taking a copy home with them. Maybe they'll even use it!

It's tiring me out just thinking back on the week. It's a conference I feel really good about. It wasn't perfect (next year! lol)but it went very well.

Onward to the next task...


Thursday, July 20, 2006

OK let's do some talking here

End of a long hot day, here in the world's tiniest office with no air conditioning. Let me take a stab at just a few memories from Senior High Conference.

It's always HOT. But not this year. Warm mostly with rain the first couple days. The rain was lots of fun the day the electronic entrance locks all died. With the entire conference outside! It also made our class time interesting since we're normally out doors. But we survived.

The kids decided to translate my name into Spanish. For no apparent reason. So I became Jota for most of the week. I'm usually pretty easy about this kind of stuff but they insisted on shouting it out every time they saw me. Which wore thin REAL fast. Finally I quietly asked one of them to drop it since it was starting to bug me (and we have a community rule that says we refer to people they way they prefer). No big deal, just a quiet request which I planned to repeat individually over the next couple days till it died out. Well the next morning at the big teaching session one of the girls greets me with a big "Jota!" and the youth I'd spoken with last night tells her not to do that since I had "yelled" at him the night before! Please be assured there is no way what I did could be construed as yelling. If only because it was last thing of the day and I was exhausted! So I quietly explained to the whole conference that I preferred the name my momma gave me and explained how much of our identities were tied up in our names. They told me that I'd said I liked the nickname (sorry, no) and got a little upset with me. I stood my ground and the "Jota" thing died out mostly. Not the way I wanted to handle it but it got the job done. Sheesh.

It's funny when I was a kid I thought my name was dopey. There weren't that many Jays out there (in elementary school there was one other, a really cute red headed girl! I'm not sure there were more than three of us in high school) In the end however it is my name and I should have called them on the name rule earlier rather than let it slide. I guess it's especially important to me because I'm NOT clergy. Most of the staff are, so they're Father John Paul, or Bishop Michael or Mother Ellen. I discourage the use of Mom or Pop (titles for adults working with our Happening movement. I do qualify for that) because not everyone has done Happening (or will) and that should remain part of that community. I know other adults who feel differently and I let them do their thing (again the name rule). So what I DO have is the name the Captain and his lady gave me almost 50 years ago. It's mine and it means ME. I don't know who the hell Jota is but I wish him well.

Of course that was the biggest problem we had (OK we had some organizational problems with the college and the whole electronic lock thing). And that's a very good thing.

I was very excited about the theme for this year and the program I led. I'll share some more about that soon.