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.