Tuesday, April 25, 2006

A little cooler

After I blogged yesterday, I cooled off and thought about it. And decided I was still irked but that just climbing up on that high horse was not going to be an option this time.

So instead of the note saying "Buzz off" I actually wrote out my thoughts on why the practice bothered me and the suggestion on how I think they could proceed.

I'll probably either be ignored or get some phone call trying to explain why I'm wrong.

But I'll have tried.


Monday, April 24, 2006

Grumpy again on a Monday

You think maybe there's a pattern here?

I got a phone call about 10 days ago from one of the innumerable sales people selling a wide variety of Christian program stuff. My diocesan office sends them to me (as is proper) and they try and tell me why I should invest the program dollars I don't have in their books/videos/discs/materials/whatevers. I know these are folks trying to:
A. Help folks by providing needed materials, and
B. Trying to make a living.

So as long as they're polite about it I'll listen to their spiel. So why am I grumpy?

A couple years ago a company who will remain unnamed here asked me if I'd be willing to preview a program. Since I'm often asked for recommendations I often say yes. They sent me the stuff, I looked at it, it was OK but a little too pricey to keep on my shelf so I prepared to send it back. In the box was a note basically informing me that I needed to send along a "donation" to cover their shipping (not my return shipping but their initial shipping) expenses. 'Scuse me, ain't that called the price of being in business? That irritated me so I sent them a note saying that I thought that was a pretty shoddy practice and thank you no.

Since then I'd begged off when they called (which is about once a year). This year I talked with the guy who was repping them and he went through the whole spiel and then said, up front, that if I'd like I could help them control expenses by making a small donation to help with shipping, If I Wanted to. Okay, now we're being upfront and maybe I even had a little bit to do with that. Fine, send me the preview.

So it arrives today. And I did indeed preview some of the DVDs. Not bad but a bit "Stepford Christian" looking for my taste. (You know what I mean, those perfect smiling Barbi and Ken look alike Christians. I've never actually met someone like that and the ones I see on TV or whatever always make the hair stand up on the back of my neck. Just come off creepy to me. I know, I need to see someone about this)

So as I'm preparing to ship it back (they even pick up the return shipping now) I take a look at the invoice (still too expensive for the shelf but not unreasonable for a congregation) I see this line (quoted exactly)

"...it should be returned along with $4.00 to cover our initial handling cost as was discussed with you over the phone"

Say what?!?!?!?!?!?!

So in a black marker I underlined the offending line and wrote: NO Clearly stated it was my option! This amounts to a bait and switch. It's unworthy of a Christian company" and included a note asking to be removed from their mailing and call list.

You may (even reasonably) think that I'm overreacting. I spent a long time in the marketing business and I know that being upfront and honest with your clients is the ONLY way to keep them coming back. I also have ZERO respect from folks whose basic business model doesn't seem to actually be business minded. Somehow they want to be a business without actually having to be responsible for making the business work. Most especially I have no time for people who apparently want to play games, especially people who claim to be Christians. That's not how people of faith are supposed to deal with one another.

In a world in which I have limited time and limited budgets I don't want to waste my time with game players.

Heck I'll even go so far as to recommend how to do their job better. Don't mail out the whole shooting match. Make up a single CD/DVD with a reasonable portion of one of the programs on it. Add electronic files for some of the print materials so that I can get a real feel for the materials. Then send that out to the folks who are interested. Instead of $2.55 for the box of the whole program, plus the hassle of dealing with returns, the individual discs will be much cheaper, will allow folks like me to keep the program on our shelves.

And won't continue to tick me off.

Maybe next Monday will be better.


Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Stupid Decisions


The ongoing story about the alleged rape of a young woman by members of the Duke Univeristy lacrosse team just weighs on me. What weighs on me is that no one seems to want to talk about several issues that I think are really key to what was going on here.

Let me make perfectly clear at the outset that I'm not passing judgment on the guilt or innocence of the team members or the veracity of the young woman's story. I don't know enough about the facts to have an intelligent opinion.

But here's the facts that bother me. Both the team and the young woman made some really dumb decisions. Decisions that placed them into positions where bad things could potentially happen to them. And no one is calling them on it.

Members of a sports team at an elite southern university CHOSE to attend an off campus party where we know there was an "exotic dancer" present and which we can reasonably assume there was alcohol. Anyone really naive enough to believe that a bunch of college aged guys were hanging around watching a stripper with lemonade in their glasses? The two young men charged so far are both listed as being 20 years old. Last time I checked the legal age to drink in the U.S. is still 21.

So their choice placed them in an environment where bad things could happen. Even if they are in fact innocent we have every right, and I would argue every requirement, to look at them and say "What, are you stupid?" Spare me the "Boys will be boys" nonsense too. At 20 you're not a boy anymore. Actions and choices come with consequences. Being associated with events like this have consequences too even if you were just a bystander. Even if the accusations are totally false (and again I have no idea if they are or not) how do you explain what you were doing there to your girlfriend, mom, little sister? You risk jail, loss of scholarship, loss of education, loss of your future and at best carrying with you for the rest of your life that you were one of "those Duke lacrosse players". All for what? A couple of drinks and the chance to see some attractive young woman shake her ya-yas?


And virtually all those same arguments can be made for the young woman who chose to work as an "exotic dancer". Even assuming the tamest definition of that term she put herself in a position where she would be shaking her whatevers in front of a bunch of likely drinking/drunken guys who are going to make some unsavory assumptions. It's not even the relatively controlled environment of a club but just some off campus party for college guys. For the rest of her life she'll carry the label "former stripper". That's no justification for rape or sexual assault but there's still the question of what's the value of placing yourself in a position where virtually only bad things can happen? For her she risks jail, sexual assault, loss of education, loss of her future. All for the benefit of a fee and some tips stuffed into her costume.

I hope the truth comes out, whatever it is. I hope the guilty parties are punished to the fullest extent of the law.

Mostly I hope that somebody learns a lesson from this, be it the young woman, the young men or just all the rest of us who are watching this all unfold.

Stupid decisions. Tragic results.


Monday, April 17, 2006


I'm sure I'm not supposed to feel grumpy and out of sorts in Easter season, but here I am. It's not because I overloaded on chocolate and the like since I didn't have any this year, although I'll admit to a major chocolate craving last night. Haven't had one of those in a long time. So why am I grumpy? Let's see:

Tax time - we owed taxes this year, something that never happens. It pretty much wiped out the savings account. So that's a good news (had the money) bad news (wiped out savings) kind of thing. Plus I'm handling the taxes for my mother's estate and the early indication is that the news there is bad too. Great.

It's the beginning of camp registration season. And I'm short on staff. And the applications aren't rolling in yet. Which makes me nervous. And grumpy.

A lot of plans for this year are clearly NOT going to happen. I WILL be spending a fair amount of time doing things that I don't enjoy. Rah.

I have a long drive ahead of me just for the privilege of...cleaning house. Double Rah.

I have several easy projects I need to get done today and can muster no energy to just do them! Which ticks me off. (Of course one of them is updating the blog so that's one for the plus side)

My day started off by my driving into the office and leaving my keys at home. So I couldn't get in. My lady wife dropped off a set which was nice but it seems like I'm an idiot an awful lot these days. I don't want to be that sitcom husband who can't find his butt with both hands and roadmap while his wife shakes her head and cleans up behind him.

Really got to get to my other chores today.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

I hope you fail.

This is the legendary "lost column" that appeared in the March issue of ChurchActs. I'm glad to finally be able to share it with you

It goes against everything we seem to hear about how to deal with you these days. We’re supposed to enable you and validate you and set you up to succeed. And the more I think about it the more I think you, my young brothers and sisters, are being set up for a failure of monumental proportions. I think we need to make sure that you’re given every opportunity to fall flat on your face. To auger in, to crash and burn, to have the wheels come off. In short to fail. Maybe even spectacularly.
I know, you thought I was your friend. I really am.
That’s why I want you to fail. Actually I want you to be given the opportunity to fail. The real problem is that adults spend a lot of time and energy trying to make sure that you are given opportunities to succeed. When you were little the “circle of protection” needed to be very tight around you. Little kids don’t have any idea what can be real trouble for them so their parents and families and teachers need to watch over them pretty closely. Trouble is that a lot of adults are continuing that same process even as you grow older. While you don’t want to hear this either there is still a need for some adult supervision even for 14,15,16,17 and 18 year olds. If we’re really trying to prepare you to become adults capable of going out and surviving on your own we need to let you fail. And we need to let you figure your own way out of a goodly portion of those failures too. Because it’s not enough just to try and fail. You need to know that you can work your way out of it, figure out the solution and make it work.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of success. I won’t kid you either, failing really stinks. It hurts and it can hurt for a long time. But it’s necessary so that you know that it’s survivable. You know what can be the strongest part of a bone? The place where it was once broken. The time is coming very quickly for you when you won’t be able to rely on Mommy or Daddy or whoever to pull you out of every problem. You’re going to find yourself out there on your own, there won’t be a convenient adult to step in and “fix” things. Yes, I know the general consensus among youth is that all these “meddling” adults are a pain and you wish they’d go away. But let’s be honest, that’s really only when things are going well, right? It’s kinda nice to have them around to take charge (and responsibility) when things go whacko, isn’t it? There have been plenty of times when I’d LOVE to have someone step in and fix up a few details for me. Trust me it doesn’t happen. Success that comes easily doesn’t feel nearly as good as success that you know you’ve really earned.
For my fellow parents, teachers, youth ministers I need to acknowledge that we have the hardest part in all of this. We have to be willing to step back a little farther, NOT run in at the first (or second, or maybe even third) sign of trouble. Worst of all we’ll have to deal with their pain after the failure. And that is really hard. In the end we need to remember that we really are preparing them to thrive on their own. It’s no surprise to us that it can be a cold, hard world out there. What we can do is make sure that we’re always there to help our youth figure out what went wrong, to insure that failures don’t become too calamitous and to let them know that failure is not the end of the world. We can’t (and shouldn’t try to) prevent them from falling. We can make sure that they always have a safe place to fall. In the long run I believe that we’ll see them succeed more often, growing more confident and able to deal with anything that life can throw at them.
So let the opportunity to fail begin.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Just odds and ends

I finally found a copy of last month's column which I'll post later this week.

In the meantime just some odds and ends in my life:

I took yesterday off. Meaning I didn't get out of my pajamas till about noon, goofed off reading the new Patricia Cornwell book "Predator" (good stuff, finished it in a day)then did some chores around the house. Scrubbed the kitchen floor, cleaned the bathroom and cleared off my desk.

Now to some that will bring some puzzlement. "I thought you were taking the day OFF!" I must admit that there's certain kind of zen/holy experience in being on your hands and knees scrubbing the floor or the bath tub. Plus my house keeping tends to mirror my mental state. And my house has been a disaster of late. So this was a very important part of me getting back on track. And that floor shines!

I won the lottery! Actually I won it back in March and hadn't gotten around to checking the ticket. As part of the cleaning yesterday I checked the number. Matched three in the NY Lotto. Won a buck. I'm a lottery winner! (for the record my largest win ever was around $120. Once. Years ago)

Headline in today's Buffalo News "For Mohan, a mysterious 5 grand". Mr. Mohan is a local town supervisor who got $5000 in the mail on Friday. In cash. All $100 bills. Also included was a note which read "We like what you're doing". That's it.

Why can't someone like methat much? LOL.


Friday, April 07, 2006

Life Doesn't End at 18

This is my column in the April issue of ChurchActs, the diocesan newspaper. If you're wondering whatever become of March's column so am I. Can't find it anywhere.

Over the last six years I can't count how many times I've said something like “This generation is the busiest/most heavily scheduled in the history of mankind”. Then I'd go on to make some profound point about the importance of youth ministry. The other day it dawned on me. By simply accepting that point, shrugging my shoulders and moving on I was part of the problem. That's not right. Somebody needs to stand and up, speak out and fight back. And I'm just the guy to do it. So here goes:

So stop living like it does

I'm astounded at how much “stuff” seems to get crammed into the first 18 years of your lives. The underlying logic seems to be that you better do it now because you'll never get the chance again. Say WHAT?!? Are you really comfortable with the idea that all the rest of your life is going to be so busy, so overwhelmed that you will never have the chance to do things that might be fun? You have to do all the fun things now because adult life is just one long hard drag from high school to the grave. Yee Haw, let the party begin!
I'm not going to tell you that being an adult doesn't come with more responsibility and more claims on your time. At the same time it's also a wonderful time with responsibilities (like being a parent) that can be more fun than any theme park, game console or concert. In some ways it's the best part of life I think. The other side of that coin is that childhood and your teen years are the last time that you DON'T have all those responsibilities. It's a time when you can relax, enjoy and have a special kind of freedom.
Unless your schedule bulges like a water balloon about to burst. Think about it this way – one of the things you are supposed to be doing as a teenager is getting ready to be an adult. So what is this lifestyle training you to do? To be on the go 27 hours a day, with an activity scheduled for every waking minute. Is that really the best that the world has to offer you? I don't think so. That's why I want you to stop.
There is one other way that I've seen this lifestyle have an effect. In the last two years I've had young people say something to me that even I have trouble fathoming. I've received complaints that during youth ministry events we haven't told them what to do or had something planned for them at all times. That's right they've been complaining to me about that dreaded concept - “Free Time”. Now before the parents start getting twitchy thinking we leave your children wandering around for extended periods of time without supervision let me reassure you. Your young people are cared for and watched over when they're at camp or Happening or other youth events. The most recent complaint was about an amount of free time that was astounding to me, one hour. They got one hour of free time to hang around, talk with their friends, play games, read a book, listen to their tunes, whatever. Quite simply most of the young people (high school aged I note) had no idea what to do with themselves. To be honest that scares me. Free time is one of the most precious concepts I have as an adult. Time just for me, or for me and God or for me and my wife or daughter, or my friends, or just some QUIET! It's a gift it seems to me. But it appears to be a gift that too many of our young people neither understand nor desire.
So here's my advice to my young brothers and sisters (and the adults who love and care for them). Give it a rest. Take a serious look at that planner. Make some serious decisions about what's really important. My prayer is that Faith and Family and Friends will get high priority. Add in school and then see how much time is left. Figure out what fits and then do something radical. Dump everything else. Walk away from it. Yes, there'll be some weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth about the effect on the “program”.
I don't care.
I care much more about the effect on you.


Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Jesus may have walked on .....ICE!

The title has the link to the article.

Seems a scientist has determined that the Holy Land may have had an extended cool spell possibly during Jesus's lifetime and that temps might have dipped below freezing. This would explain how Jesus did something that's "impossible".


Even granting that the world's environment has gone through many swings (and may still be doing so with our without our help)here's a thought from a guy who lives where the snow is falling outside my office window EVEN AS I TYPE THESE WORDS!

In order for it to create ice thick enough to hold up a full grown person it has to stay cold enough to lower the overall temperature of the body of water, then stay there long enough to generate at least a couple inches of ice. And that means you have to stay COLD day and night. A 30 degree night followed by a 45-50 degree day grows you not a lot of ice my friend.

I just jumped across the web and checked modern day temps in Israel. Hard to find them in just the right part of the country but in Jerusalem the coldest month is January and the low is 39 the high is 53. Even if the temperature change was a ten degree drop (and that's a HUGE climatic change) I don't see you generating enough ice to walk on.

But hey I'm just a youth minister from the frozen north...


Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Juror #129

Was not required today. So I STILL have never actually been to a jury call or served on one.


Had my first weigh in for the fitness program I'm signed up for. (You know a fitness program should be a standard benefit for all youth workers over the age of 30. You gotta have help fighting those pizza pounds!)

After one week (of admittedly very little actual working out) I lost

Dah dah dah daaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh.........

Two tenths of a pound! Yep that's a whole .2 Not quite a quarter pounder. At this rate it will take me about, oh just shy of three years to lose the weight I want/need to drop.

Looks like I'm going to actually have to go in and work out. Some. More.


Monday, April 03, 2006

Too Funny

Thanks to Gman for this one:

Webring update

You'll notice over on the right hand side not only do I list a couple of blogs but there's the links to the Youth Ministry web ring. I "manage" this ring (which means I do the paperwork. Why do I always end up with the paperwork?).
We're up to 36 active members and there are some great folks who have joined the ring. If you're interested in making connections with youth ministers from a wide variety of denominations and approaches, if you're looking for inspiration, ideas or just a laugh, you'll find it among those bloggers.

Please feel free to surf the ring and support my fellow YM bloggers.

Here at home a busy week again. Back from Binghamton (yay Province II) I've been to Buffalo once and have to go back again tonight (thank you Calvary Williamsville!) Plus did a quick report to my Lutheran brothers and sisters on the work they've called me to do.

And tomorrow I may get on a jury! I've been called and we'll see if they need me. I've actually never served on jury duty in my life so this will be interesting.