Friday, December 21, 2007

A little (a very little) Friday cat blogging

I've owned cats all my life.
I like cats.
I own a cat.

But some of this cat blogging stuff just gets silly to my way of thinking.

But it's Christmas and for the moment my cat is pretending like she tolerates me. I actually CHOSE this cat at the Humane society. She is utterly utterly worshipfully devoted to my wife. My daughter is second choice. If I'm the only person in the house she'll come sit on my lap. But she acts like it's a great personal strain on her.

This is Amidala. She's a very attractive cat but somehow she has never had a sense of kittenish whimsy. I've never had a cat like that.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Fun and a little bit tacky, yeah!

This is SO me!(Thanks to Pseudopiskie)
You Are a Bright Christmas Tree

For you, the holidays are all about fun and seasonal favorites.
You are into all things Christmas, even if they're a little tacky.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Even better than I could say it

Here's what I would have said in my rant about Christmas rants. Only said better. (h/t to Grandmere Mimi (Wounded Bird: Letter From Jesus About Christmas) who pointed me towards Ann)

Letter from Jesus about Christmas (slightly edited for Episcopalians)

Dear Children,

It has come to my attention that many you are upset that folks are removing My name from the season. Maybe you've forgotten that I wasn't actually born during this time of the year -- it was some of your predecessors who decided to celebrate My birthday on what was actually the time of pagan festival. Of course, I do appreciate being remembered at any time.

How I personally feel about this celebration can probably be most easily understood by those of you who have been blessed with children of your own. I don't care what you call the day. If you want to celebrate My birth, here's how: GET ALONG WITH EACH AND LOVE ONE ANOTHER.

Now, having said that let Me go on... If it bothers you that the town where you live doesn't allow a scene depicting My birth, then get rid of a couple of Santas and snowmen in your own front yard and put out your own Nativity scene. If all of My followers did that, there wouldn't be any need for a display in the town square because there would already be so many all around your community.

Stop worrying about the fact that people are calling the tree a holiday tree, instead of a Christmas tree. It was I who made ALL trees. You can remember Me any time you see ANY tree. Decorate a grapevine if you wish: I actually spoke of that one in a teaching, explaining who I am in relation to you and what each of our tasks were. If you have forgotten what I said, look up John 15: 1- 8.

If you want to give Me a present in remembrance of My birth here is my wishlist.

1. Instead of writing protest letters objecting to the way My birthday is being celebrated, write letters of love and hope to soldiers away from home. They are terribly afraid and lonely this time of year. I know, they tell Me all the time.

2. Visit someone in a nursing home. You don't have to know them personally. They just need to know that someone cares about them.

3. Instead of writing the President to complain about the wording on the White House cards this year, why don't you write and tell him that you'll be praying for him and his family this year. Then do it! It will be nice hearing from you again.

4. Instead of giving your children a lot of gifts you can't afford and they don't need, spend time with them. Tell them the story of My birth, and why I came to live with you down here. Hold them in your arms and remind them that I love them.

5. Pick someone that has hurt you in the past and forgive him or her.

6. People in your town will attempt to take their own lives this season because they feel so alone and hopeless. Since you don't know who they are, give everyone you meet a warm smile -- it could make the difference.

7. Instead of nit-picking about what retailers call this holiday, be patient with the people who work for them. Give each a warm smile and a kind word. Even if they aren't allowed to wish you a "Merry Christmas" that doesn't keep you from wishing them one.

8. If you really want to make a difference, support organizations like Episcopal Relief and Development, who are working for better lives for refugees, prisoners, people suffering from diseases that are easily curable with a small amount of money, giving tools and resources so people can support their families.

9. There are individuals and families in your town who will not only have no "Christmas" tree, but also no presents to give or receive. If you don't know them, take some food and gifts to a charity who will make the delivery for you.

10. Finally, if you want to make a statement about your belief in and loyalty to Me, then behave like a Christian. Don't do or say things that you wouldn't do or say in My presence. Remember -- When you speak badly of my children, you are speaking badly of Me; when you treat each other badly, you do the same to Me. Let people know by your words and actions that you are one of Mine.

Don't get so worked up about what you think are slights about me that occur in the material world. I am God and I can take care of Myself. I am not diminished by those things.

Instead, simply love Me and do what I have asked you to do. I'll take care of all the rest. Check out the list above and get to work; time is short. I'll help you, but the ball is now in your court. And do have a most blessed Christmas with all those whom you love.


Oh yeah bring on the super powers!

I know, I'm a total geek.

Your Superpower Should Be Manipulating Electricity

You're highly reactive, energetic, and super charged.
If the occasion calls for it, you can go from 0 to 60 in a split second.
But you don't harness your energy unless you truly need to.
And because of this, people are often surprised by what you are capable of.

Why you would be a good superhero: You have the stamina to fight enemies for days

Your biggest problem as a superhero: As with your normal life, people would continue to underestimate you

And it's almost Christmas

The tree is about to go up at DaYouthGuy's house, the last presents are being prepared.

And the usual ranting about Christmas is well under way. The "Happy Holidays" rant, the "They've stolen Christmas" rant, all the usual suspects. I'm tempted to add a little rant of my own, mostly about how tired I am of the other rants. Instead let me offer this:

It's Christmas. Make of it what you will. Feel free to ignore those parts that don't work for you (really, any of them. To my friends and brothers and sisters of the atheist clan - revel in whatever brings you joy and ignore the rest. Seriously. I will not chide you or look askance. I only ask the same respect for my own choices. Same goes for everyone else. For God's sake (sorry atheists) relax and enjoy.) I intend to revel in the midnight mass at my home parish. Smells and bells, and a full choir and all the decorations. I will rejoice in the arrival of the Messiah and the miracle of it all. And I will wish a Merry Christmas to us all. God bless us everyone.

In the meantime I'm going to enjoy my favorite Christmas specials. I own a copy of just about all of them:

WKRP in Cincinnati Christmas episode - a great show about radio and a great riff on Dickens.

A Charlie Brown Christmas - If I only could have one this is it.

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer - love it.

The Homecoming
- Christmas with the Waltons. A truly classic Christmas story

How The Grinch Stole Christmas
- animated original only, don't bring that other one 'round here.

Scrooge (A Christmas Carol) - The Alistair Sims version or the Mr. Magoo version both classics

White Christmas - yeah, only nominally a true Christmas story but I love it.

A Wish for Wings that Work - OK my natural weirdness bubbles up on this one. This is the Bloom County animated special. It's very hard to find but my most excellent brother got it for me.

Miracle on 34th Street - the original only thank you very much.

Introducing Jesus

Interesting question. If you had Jesus physically here and wanted to introduce him to a friend of yours how would you do it? Steve Harvey (yeah, the comedian and TV star) offers this option (h/t to Stuart Delony):

Little flashy for day to day (I mean how often do you really get together with a couple thousand of your closest friends in a major auditorium?) This is just off the top of my head but I think I'd go much simpler.

I want you to meet someone who has really changed how I think and work and approach the world. And I can't even tell you how much of a comfort he's been when things have really gone in the dumper. He's laid back, never in your face but never plays games either. You'll always get the straight stuff from him. Just really comfortable to be around even when he's letting me know that he disagrees with me. He's cool, I really think you'll like him.


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Just SOOOOOO Wrong!

No, no, no! Say it ain't so. This is a CHRISTMAS lawn decoration! (H/T to Marko)

Monday, December 10, 2007

No I won't

Seems like I see this question every so often on Facebook or on a forum somewhere. Someone comes in with some variation of this question:

Can You Give Me One Logical Reason to Believe In God?

And then the fight is on. Lots of well meaning brothers and sisters in Christ who will try and show this poor lost soul why they should believe in Jesus. The original poster will keep asking for a more rational, logical reason. Something that avoids the circular logic of using our own scriptures as the "proof". The believers will get offended that Holy Writ isn't taken seriously as an "independent source", shortly thereafter the name calling begins.

Every time.

So this time I'd like to take a shot at answering the question. And I think I've come up with something short and to the point. My answer to the original question is this:

No, I can't.

Thanks for coming.

Can I give you one rational, logical, reasonable reason for believing in God? Nope, not one. No some folks will read that and their blood pressure will start to rise and they'll want to protest. I can't imagine why. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians (1:21-23) warns us that people are going to think this stuff is foolishness. If you're not willing to take the Bible as authoritative (and if you take it as authoritative then you've already made up your mind on the subject, haven't you?) then I've got nothing.

Ok, I slipped over the edge right at the end. In fact I do have something. But it's anecdotal. So you'll have to take it for what it's worth.

To me it's worth my whole life. Cause that's what I've got.

I can't prove the existence of God. For me that falls into the old category of why you should never try to teach a pig to sing (It wastes your time and it annoys the pig). I can do my best to tell you why I believe. And that's going to be a story (or stories) about the effect that a life in faith has had on me. When my daughter was born two and a half month premature, when my wife has been very, very sick in the hospital, when I've lost my job(s), when folks very dear to me have passed away. The joy of reaching out and helping someone else. The great relief of losing the burden of so much of our cultural expectations. I can tell you about the positive effect a belief in God has had in the lives of people I know.

But one good, logical, rational reason to believe in God?

Sorry, not in stock.


Saturday, December 08, 2007

My time as a sojourner

Psalm 39 has one of those phrases that has just always stuck with me (from the KJV days) - "...for I am a stranger with thee and a sojourner...". The youth I work with can tell you that I have a thing about language and words. Sojourner (a person who belongs somewhere else but is staying for a time in a different place) is a word that has always appealed to me. In this last week I've gotten the chance to truly feel what it means.

I got the chance to attend an annual meeting of ELCA camp and conference center leaders. They had arranged for Loren Mead, author of "The Once and Future Church" (among many others) to come and talk with us about the place of faith based camp programs in the 21st Century. While many secular camp programs are doing well, church camp is struggling. Loren is an expert on the subject of paradigm shifts (don't roll your eyes!) and the church. Paradigm is simply a shared set of values or beliefs. So a paradigm shift happens when a culture's (large or small) shared set of values change. In the last 50 years we have been in the middle of a massive paradigm shift. The least comfortable place to be during such a time is in the middle of the shift. It's stable at either end but it's hard to find stability in the middle.

You'll note I said leaders from ELCA camps. You may also be aware that I am neither on a camp staff nor am I Lutheran. Our local ELCA camp happens to employ my wife and I serve in a couple roles as a volunteer there. The subject sounded very interesting so I asked if I could tag along and they agreed. It occurred to me though that I wasn't quite sure how to present myself to the larger group. In the end, while I put my link with the ELCA up front, I was clear that I was primarily employed by the Episcopal church. My favorite short version is to tell people I'm a "Lutherpalian". By the second day (the meeting started on Monday and we came home on Thursday) it didn't really matter. They accepted me quite warmly.

What I learned at this meeting will take a while to percolate down through my brain. It was interesting. Loren is a wonderful person who fulfills the role of consultant the way it ought to be filled. Besides that he said some very nice things to me personally! I think it amused him to find another Episcopalian at the conference (Loren is an Episcopal priest).

What really struck me was how the sojourner in their midst was treated. There's a clear instruction in the Scriptures that sojourners are to be treated well. I was treated as a welcome and valued member of the community. They listened thoughtfully to my offerings and seemed to find them worthwhile. At the end of our time together I was told (by several folks) that I was welcome to continue to come to those meetings. I am now "family" and a sojourner no more. That's how faith-filled community is supposed to work.

And that's a very special feeling indeed. My thanks to my new "family" from places like LCLC, Lutherlyn, Calumet, Bear Creek and the other camps whose names escape me at the moment.


Saturday, December 01, 2007

From the Man Who Hates Everything

No that's not me in the title but a very good friend of mine. He works in Hollywood and offers a funny look at where the film industry may be headed:

Dateline, July 17, 2014. With the Writer's Guild strike in the middle of its seventh year, and talks suspended after a food fight broke out between the sides at the last negotiating session, Hollywood faces the final crisis of the strike. For though the TV networks have changed and survived, unproduced film scripts are about to run out.

Read the rest (and more) here "The Last Script in Hollywood"

Friday, November 30, 2007

The Golden Compass

And so it begins again. The furor that we saw some Christians making over the Harry Potter books and movies has resurfaced with Philip Pullman's "The Golden Compass" and the other books of the "His Dark Materials" trilogy.

The books have won some of the highest honors out there in the publishing industry (the Carnegie Medal and the Whitbread award among others). They are also part of his deep seated disdain of Christianity. I've read them and thought they were well written. But they also offer a challenge to my deeply held belief system. To be honest I have to admit that my enjoyment of the books declined with each volume, as his attacks on God and belief became more violent. As a youth minister novels and movies like this are fertile ground for questions and study. I do not believe we best serve our young people by either ignoring or attempting to ban these stories. Much better we confront them (the stories,not the youth!) and discuss what we see as wrong rather than screaming "Heretic" and "Blasphemy" from the steeples.

The best answer to this comes from Jeffrey Overstreet who served "Christianity Today" as their film critic for a long time. As with any critic I don't always agree with Jeff but I respect his knowledge of film and the depth of his faith. He offers a great response to most of the common questions in his column:
"Questions I've been asked, Answers I've given"

In the best of all possible worlds there would not be books that attack and demean ideas and institutions about which we care deeply. You may have noticed that we do not live in the best of all possible worlds. My great concern is how often we as people of faith do far MORE damage to our beloved institutions and beliefs when we lash out wildly. I have no respect or time for people who will condemn a book or a movie while proudly announcing that they've never read/seen it. We are all allowed to decline to view something because we don't believe we'll like it. There's a difference between an opinion and an intelligent opinion.


More from my home in faith

My friend Lee got me started on these then I got distracted. So here's another look at part of my home parish. This is the old baptismal font. A few years back our interim wanted to move it to the more theologically/traditional correct place by the main doors in the back. Some of us tried to point out that there was no place back there to move this thing and that it would make the congregation have to turn and stand backwards in the pews for baptisms. He didn't see that as a problem (we did. I will note for fairness sake that I liked our interim and I think he did a wonderful job. We just a few disagreements along the way) What finally dissuaded him was the fact that it was cemented to the floor where it is! So there it remains. It is my habit (I can't explain why) to touch the angel on the wing as I pass by after taking Communion.

If you're looking for a sense of scale that's a grand piano visible in the back. It sits about 6-8 feet from the wings.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Prayers for children?

H/T to the folks at Youth Specialties for pointing this one out.

What might children hear in a bedtime prayer?
This is from comedian Tim Hawkins


Pittsburgh 3 Miami 0

Yes, that was the most ridiculous, absurd, horrible football game I've ever watched. It was a train wreck, not so much because the teams were incompetent but because there was so little they could do about any of it. That field was wretched.

In the end I'll take the results.

Oh, quick update on my football pool. I'm doing better (except when my beloved Steelers mess me up by losing to the JETS of all teams). But this was a tough week, I got 9 of 16 games right for 100 out of 136 points. So my points per pick was pretty good.

H/T to Kevin Boddecker for this one:

Yeah, that actually makes a lot more sense.


Monday, November 26, 2007

Back from vacation

I took the parts of last week that weren't already holidays as vacation and swore to myself that I wouldn't do anything that was related to work. This blog is an interesting question since it started as a "ministry" blog but has grown to be something larger/different than that.

Time away was good, I'm hoping I can continue to expand on some of the energy that was generated.

In the meantime:

What Social Status are you?
created with
You scored as Middle Class

You're content in your position and would prefer a house or a family than a seven figure pay cheque. But you have your moments of weakness when you buy a lottery ticket in the hope of knowing how the rich and famous live.

Middle Class


Lower Class


Upper middle Class




Luxurious Upper Class


I'd say this is fairly accurate. I do buy lottery tickets because as the tag line used to say "Hey, you never know". Money, in and of itself, isn't evil. If you're thinking "But the Bible says that money is the root of all evil" then go back and read it again(1Timothy 6:7-10). Money is a tool and a very useful one. Tools can be misused but that doesn't make the tool evil. My hope is that I would be able to use that tool well. For me and my neighbors.

I'm just sayin'.


Friday, November 16, 2007

Why I love Youth Specialties

This is Tic and Marko, two "important" guys from Youth Specialties.
Two guys with serious reps in youth ministry.
Two guys who still get it.
These guys are my heroes (and yes even with the little bit of "off color" in the video. It's not a big deal to me but it may be to some so you have been warned)

Is it just me or does Marko have a look on his face that says "I can't believe I'm doing this in front of a couple thousand people?" But in true junior high ministry fashion he just goes for it.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

On humbleness

Like many people here in the blogosphere I have a list of blogs I read on a regular basis. This morning while checking in at Grandmere Mimi's site Wounded Bird I came across this little test for your blog. So I tried it. Oh, how I wished that I hadn't when I saw this result:
cash advance My first reaction was to be angry, then depressed. It seemed to be saying that I wasn't a very good writer.

And that hurts. I will admit to thinking that writing is among my gifts and to confess that I even carry a little bit of pride about the quality of what I create.

Apparently I was wrong.

Then I went back and looked at what the site said it tested. It says "What level of education is required to understand your blog?". It doesn't show anywhere what the standards are for that classification. Is that I don't use big words? Is it passing judgment on the quality of the ideas or the style of writing? Don't know. Doesn't say.

It didn't make it any easier when I checked back at Mimi's and discovered I was the ONLY person to score at the elementary school level. Mimi assures me that I can keep visiting her place despite my low score.

As I thought about it more I realized how much my pride was involved. What difference did it make that some site, using God only knows what standards has put this rating on me? Is it really desirable to have a blog that requires a "Genius" level to understand it? More importantly am I unhappy with what I've written? What kind of response have I gotten from those of you who stop by?

The answer is I'm quite happy with what I've written. I'm not trying for deathless prose (trying for it invariably means you fail. It either happens or it doesn't). I've been deeply flattered through the years with the mostly kind comments I've received from my readers. I don't think I've embarrassed myself or my ministry with my writing here.

So I'll keep doing what I'm doing, glad that my writing is accessible to virtually anyone. I'll keep trying to write well without any attempt to writing pretension.

I'm a simple guy using simple words to talk about a simple walk in faith.
And that's OK.


Monday, November 12, 2007

Football makes me crazy!

Well my football pool got hammered this weekend. Going into tonight's game I'm 6-7. Yuck. And I thought both the Bills and the Steelers were really going to put a damper on my day but they pulled it out.

I saw a movie in the theater the other day! Can't remember the last one of those. It was on the recommendation of my favorite daughter and was pretty cool.

Across The Universe Someone compared it to "If Moulin Rouge and Hair had a child..." and that's probably pretty close. The story really revolves around the Beatles music (there are 30+ in the film)it's set in the '60's during the Viet Nam war. The main characters are Jude and Lucy (Beatles, Beatles, Beatles!)and the story is pretty straight forward. Bono, Eddie Izzard, and Selma Hayek makes cameos. The audience was almost entirely late HS/college age plus us older folks. It was really a lot of fun and great to sing along with (quietly of course!)

Stranger Than Fiction Let's be up front here. I don't like Will Ferrell, I generally don't think he's funny. "Anchorman" was OK (funnier than I expected), everything else is crap (apologies to the language sensitive). But I really liked this movie. Reminds me of Jim Carey in "The Majestic", toning it down and actually doing some acting. Now Carey's fans hated "The Majestic" and so he's gone back to doing his "thing" and I expect that this will be the same. But it's a wonderful sensitive movie that's funny and touching and well done.

And a book I read:

At First Sight by Nicholas Sparks. Don't ask me why I read this. It's a NYT best seller but essentially it's a romance novel and I don't read romance novels. No one remembers how it got into our house but the cover looked interesting and I needed something to read. It's well written, kinda funny, very touching and yes I read the whole thing. I'll probably never pick up another book by Sparks (the plot was really simple and obvious. I'm astounded to see some people call the ending a "surprise"). But I did enjoy it.

I dumped several of the books I listed before, they just weren't grabbing me. So I'm reading an old friend - The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov. Great books.


Thursday, November 08, 2007

Oh Yeah.

You are 100% Pittsburgh.

Great job! There's nooooo doubt about it. You're from Da Burgh. You deserve a reward, so go have an Ahrn City or two. And GO STILLERS!

How Pittsburgh Are You
See All Our Quizzes

Pink Think

This is my column from the November edition of our diocesan newspaper. This finally gets me caught up! Kudos to my Canadian friend Dan for the story

I need to be honest up front. I've never been a fan of pink (the color not the singer). It's not a color I look good in. Over the last couple decades I've seen pink become a color that was no longer a “girl” color and many more men wearing pink and looking pretty good in it. For me personally it remains at the very bottom of the favorite colors list.

So what's with all this “pink think”? A friend in Canada pointed me to a story from back at the beginning of the school year. Two seniors at a high school in Nova Scotia heard that a 9th grader had been harassed early in the school year because he wore a pink shirt to school. A group of bullies decided to give this young man a very hard time, just because they didn't like the color of shirt he chose that day. Those two seniors (David Shepard and Travis Price) decided they couldn't let that slide. They went out and bought about 50 pink shirts at a discount store, got in touch with all their friends and asked them to wear the shirts as a protest against bullying.

What happened was astounding. All 50 shirts were claimed. Dozens of other students came dressed in their own pink shirts, dyed their hair pink, rode to school on pink bicycles. One male student bought a pink dress and wore it to school, another was dressed in pink from head to toe. The original bullied student was stunned by the support he saw when he walked into school that day by all accounts. They described the scene as a “sea of pink”.

The story doesn't end there. Within days other schools in Nova Scotia picked up the idea and hundreds of students came to their schools in pink. It's become a symbol for the desire of the young people to have peaceful schools.

So what does this have to do with youth ministry in western New York? I think they're a great role model for the young people of our diocese. They didn't wait till their parents or youth leaders or clergy or teachers or some rock star told them to do something. These young people saw injustice, refused to accept it and stepped forward to take a stand against it. David Shepard has a great quote “I’ve stood around too long and I wanted to do something “.

The challenge for the church is to make sure we're preparing our young people to look at the world prepared to change it.

The challenge for our young people is to have the courage to “wear pink”.


Monday, November 05, 2007

Thinking about Thinking

This was my column from the SEPTEMBER issue of our diocesan newspaper. Not sure how I missed posting it. I'll have the November column (I had no October one) later this week

I've been thinking about thinking. Our country has a long history of suspicion of people who “think too much”. Our current consumer culture works our emotions to insure that we DON'T think, just buy, buy, buy. In fact I believe that the current trend to create more and more rules, guidelines and standards is part of a movement to avoid thinking. Some folks simply want us to do as we are told, supposedly in the name of greater order, justice or truth. I think (oops, there's that word) we need to think about that.

One of the problems with that mindset is that it goes against what faith teaches us. Literally from the time of the disciples people have been frustrated because Jesus insisted on making us think. The most common examples are the parables.

Quick note on parables. A parable is a short story designed to teach a lesson. Parables have been around for a VERY long time. Jesus taught using parables at least 30 times. Despite the simplicity of the stories some (many, most?) of the parables have caused confusion. Over the years of reading I've come to the conclusion that being puzzling is part of the point. Not because Jesus was trying to hide things from us but because he wants us to think.

Some of them, like ones about sheep or farming or vineyards, can be confusing because I grew up in the suburbs and don't know anything about that stuff. But it's not just me. There are enough instances of the disciples coming back to Jesus asking for an explanation to help me feel not quite so stupid. Jesus used images that would have been pretty familiar to folks in that time and place. But he used them in ways that turned them on their heads, forcing his listeners, then and now, to look at them differently. One of the challenges we face is that we've heard some of these stories so many times (The Prodigal Son, The Good Samaritan as examples) that we're tempted to stop thinking about them. We know what they say, we don't have to think about them. Doing that means that we don't let them really sink in and affect our lives.

OK, now I'm just going to flat out steal from Jesus. In the Parable of the Leaven (you'll find it in chapter 13 of both Matthew and Luke) Jesus talks about a little bit of something simple getting mixed in with the everyday stuff and helping it grow. If you don't mix the leaven (leaven is a bit of bread dough that's been allowed to ferment. It was used to help bread expand when baked) you'll get a little bit of surface change but not much else. Thinking is the mixing in of that little bit of something to change the whole thing. Thinking takes you to questions like “What does that really mean?” and “How does/should that effect me?”. It can take you to some uncomfortable places but it will help avoid even worse ones.

Thinking is a great gift from God. Like all gifts it needs to be treated carefully. Clearly God wants us to exercise that gift. That's why Jesus didn't just hand us a new set of standards, guidelines and rules. He told us stories. Stories designed to make us think.


Monday, October 29, 2007

A Good Weekend

I suppose some folks would consider any weekend whose focus is Diocesan Convention to be a long way from a good one. But this was a very good weekend for me.

I had several folks compliment me on my columns for ChurchActs and the newsletters. Folks have said that they clip them out and send them to their children and grandchildren. But this weekend I was told that someone used some of my stuff as part of their home schooling of their kids!

I made several new contacts with young adult youth leaders and young people who want to get more involved. I moved forward with getting more visits lined up before the silly season starts.

One of my young people (with NO prompting by me) got up during discussion of the budget and asked when I was going to be brought back to full time. He went on to say some very nice things about what I do for them. It was pleasantly embarrassing. Then the bishop said that he agreed and that getting me back to full time was very important to him too. That was very nice to hear. He's told me that privately but it's nice to "have it on the record".

My report to convention on where our ministries stand was well received. I also received more than my fair share of credit for the audio/visual work during the convention (our Communications director deserved about 85% of the credit. I just helped run the machinery)

We gave away 300 buttons with our new logo on them attached to cards touting our online "store" to raise funds for youth ministry.

Our youth reps at convention identified a resolution that was important them, analyzed it, proposed a change, wrote the amendment, presented it and got it passed!

Plus a "former youth", now a young adult was elected as a deputy to General Convention. This will make at least the third GC in a row that we've had a lay deputy who came up through the youth ministry.

Additionally we did the business of the diocese, we took a long hard look at where we are and the future of the church and worshipped together.

It was a good weekend.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

On our way to Heaven

Sister Joan Chittester tells a story about the day she learned (in Catholic school many years ago) that "Protestants don't go to Heaven". It was quite a shock to her since her mother was Catholic but her father wasn't. Sister Joan's story got me thinking about the fixation that some Christians have about Heaven. You see I'm concerned about how many of us are caught up in trying to define who is and isn't going to Heaven.

First thing we need for this discussion a little honesty. We all have folks that we don't want to make the cut. That's really what it comes down to, I don't want YOU in the really good place. I know I do. And I bet you do too. We may not be proud of it, we may fight against it. But deep inside our broken human hearts there are people that just can not imagine are going, should not even be considered for entry to that Heavenly place.

Thank you Jesus, thank you Lord that I'm not in charge of making that decision.

The problem for me is that starting from the Gospel message of a loving, Grace offering God I can't find a place where I can ever say "You are unclean and unworthy". At the same time I'm not saying that there's no cover charge at this door. I do believe that the cover be comped i you ask. And that some folks will refuse to ask.

I worry about the folks who want to deny that to whoever it is that gets under their skin. An attempt to control entry to Heaven strikes me as an attempt to control access to God. The concept of anyone trying to restrict access to the Divine strikes me as a sin in and of itself.

My role isn't to be a gatekeeper to Heaven. It should be, I believe, to insure that by my life and actions I don't get in someone else's way. Not to be a stumbling block. When I chose to "enforce" the "standards" of admission I'm taking onto myself a degree of certitude, a level of authority to which I don't believe I'm entitled.

I pray everyone hears God call and follows it. I believe that God will use all the Divine means to bring us all home.

I hope we all get to Heaven.

Monday, October 22, 2007

An intersting weekend

Kept very busy this weekend. The most interesting bit was probably the parish visit with the Bishop. I had driven up to his house then we car pooled to Trinity church in Albion. A beautiful drive up through the country side.

When we pulled it was a little surprising to see TWO police cars parked outside the back door of the church. Turns out they'd had a break in the night before. A total of 11 doors (every locked door in the church) was kicked in. And I mean KICKED in, door jambs shattered, parts of the dead bolt locks lying on the other side of the rooms, pieces of door frames all over the floors. Bizarrely almost nothing was taken. A video camera, a couple of small checks and the roast beef intended for the luncheon with the bishop. That's it. The wine was left, the various silver untouched, all the VCRs, TVs, boom boxes etc. right where they belong. There was no vandalism other than kicking in the safety door of the small elevator. It's a small congregation and the repairs are going to be a bit of a financial strain.

Beyond that they were a wonderful host! At the peace young and old greeted each other usually by name. And they did one thing that I thought was really cool. Many of our parishes will have members who for one reason or another find it difficult or impossible to make it to the communion rail. So commonly (in my experience) Communion is brought to them at the end of the process. Not at Trinity. They serve those folks FIRST! It was one of those "BOOOOOIING!" moments. It seems so obvious that we should serve our eldest and our infirm members FIRST and ourselves SECOND.


Meanwhile it's the sprint to Diocesan Convention at the end of the week. I have lots of stuff to get done. Then when I get there I get to be the "media expert" or maybe it's "media peon" for not only the sound system this year. We're also going high tech with multiple projectors and computers for Powerpoint presentations etc. So I actually arrive a day in advance of most everyone else.

So it'll be a busy week. Keep our brothers and sisters in Albion in your prayers. Pray also for the person or persons who felt compelled to break in.

Oh yeah and pray for yr hmbl srvnt.


Saturday, October 20, 2007

Ah the joys of being an Anglican

One of the great traditions of our faith community is the beauty of Anglican chant. I've heard people say that chant can make anything beautiful. How about the weather forecast?

Check it out Weather Chant


Thursday, October 18, 2007

About books

Over on my facebook page I use an application to keep track of the books I'm reading. Sadly it seems to NOT work about as often as it DOES work so I don't have all my recent books listed.

It is interesting to compare my list with the lists of a lot of other youth ministers. As near as I can tell I'm letting the side down because I don't read "Christian" books (however you choose to define that) exclusively. Now it's possible that they only show the faith based books but why? To be honest I have trouble with most of the faith based books I've tried to read. Some are badly written (apparently we're willing to forgive crappy writing in the pursuit of the divine. Count me out). Some seem to be talking about some world I don't live in (and often wouldn't want to). For most of the rest I just want to say "Stop talking about it and go do it. Stop trying to find the "magic bullet" in some book and just go live a life in faith".

It's not easy but it's really not that complicated.

So in addition to boring you to tears with my movies I'm now going to inflict my books on you. I'm not choosing any of these books to impress you. To be honest I'm far too egotistical to concern myself with whether or not I'm reading the "right" books. One of my favorite buttons reads "I Read Banned Books". Yep, sometimes just to tick people off.

My reading is both fiction and non-fiction. I'm actively trying to read authors and books from the last 100 years or so that I've never read before. The intention is to bring a little more depth to my background. As part of that I've read "Old Man and the Sea" by Hemingway and "Ragtime" by Doctorow. Liked 'em both.

So here's the current list, just got them today at the Library:
Making Money by Terry Pratchett. Pratchett is a seriously demented writer who I enjoy immensely.
Stalin's Ghost by Martin Cruz SmithDon't know anything about this author, first book I've read. It's a mystery.
Post-modernism 101 by Heath White Yes it's a "Christian" book. I'm interested in what PoMo means and this looks like an interesting place to start.
God & Empire by John Dominic Crossnan Another "Christian" book (though I bet some of you just snorted in derision) Crossnan is an interesting guy and this looks like an interesting book.
The Third Man by Graham Greene I love Greene's stuff, got started on it a couple years ago.

So I'll let you know what I think as I roll along. If it's my usual pace I'll be through these books in the next two weeks. Yes, I'm serious. 5 books in 14 days? Easy, besides two of them are quite short.

As for the rest of you. Read. Read regularly. Read widely.

That's enough for today.

Oh, book suggestions old and new are certainly appreciated.


Purist just means no one's made the right offer yet.
Expert? Well I do have THREE blogs and own a blogring so maybe.
Undiscovered. Oh mostly I suppose.


Friday, October 12, 2007

It's her birthday

Today is my wife's birthday.

My relationship with my wife is one of those things where I don't quite know where to begin or end. So perhaps just some bullet points:

We've been a couple for 30 years more or less.

The more or less part is my fault.

We met in college.

I was an insecure idiot (see "more or less" above)

She and I are almost perfectly "matched" by which I mean that she's strong where I'm weak and I'm strong where she's weak.

I trust her utterly. All she has to do is say "Trust me" and I'd walk off a cliff.

She is incredibly strong(mentally and spiritually), much stronger than she thinks.

We dated for four years, were engaged for 18 months and have been married for 25 years.

She has made me into a better person, far beyond what I could have imagined.

Both my parents thought she was amazing. (As usual they were right)

She has been an amazing mother to our daughter.

She has put up with living in the shadow of my "fame" (notoriety?) with remarkable grace.

I believe she's a better Christian than I am, she's smarter than I am, and she's a nicer person than I am.

She has only one flaw. Incredibly poor taste in men. She suffers under the delusion that I'm good enough for her.

She's my best friend.

You may have noticed by now that I'm still crazy in love with her.

Happy birthday beautiful.


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Football pool update

OK, the weekly results are out. I finished right around 25th for the week and that moves me into the top 50 overall. I had 10 correct picks, the top person had 13 (out of 14! Bet she missed the Pack)and I had 84 points the top person had 97. My best week so far.

Green Bay was the major stumbling block for everyone. 5 people picked Chicago out of about 100 folks playing!

All right, all right! I'll stop obsessing about my football pool!

(Actually I'll just obsess quietly)


A new recommended blog

You'll note that I have a very short list of blogs I "recommend" over on the right. I'm aware that it's a bit of a violation of the blogosphere's common courtesy not to list the many wonderful blogs I read regularly. There was a good reason for that when I started but I'm considering changing it. Some blogs I read just because they're written by friends and I can "keep up" with them that way. Some of those blogs are also darn fine blogs. So I'll probably be expanding the list. I'm not guaranteeing that everyone will like every blog I like. That's just the way it goes. But some folks deserve the extra nod.

Which brings me to today's post. I just came across a youth ministry blog that is also a excellent blog written by someone who just reaches out and grabs me with his thought process. His name is Stuart Delony and his blog is "The Ramblings"

I like Stuart's writing style, I like the way he thinks, I like his approach to faith, I like his courage, and I like the fact that his 201 facts about himself reveals that he and I have a lot in common. Even though we're a couple decades apart in age and a continent apart in distance.

Go read this blog!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Post Monday Night Football

I've been a bit slothful with the blog, my apologies. I've been checking out the travel photos from the acolytes trip of my friends Kim and Lee to the National cathedral (here's the crew)

Meanwhile here in western New York we're trying to figure out how we feel about last night's game. We weren't supposed to win, heck we weren't supposed to be CLOSE and we led the Cowboys for most of the game. Only to lose in the final two seconds. You see we've been here before. Just ask any WNY sports fan about the phrases "Wide Right" and "No Goal". Then buy them a drink and help them wipe away their tears.

I'm torn myself. After 20+ years the Bills are my #1A team (Steelers are #1). I root for them, pay attention, know the players the whole deal.

But I was hoping they'd lose last night.

I had the Cowboys in my pool.

I'm doing a football pool with a youth group out in Minnesota (the wonders of the internet). To be honest I've been fairly wretched with a brief moment of merely mediocre. But Sunday! The pool is done by picking winners and then assigning confidence points to each pick. So this week with 14 games the highest point total was 14. (Umm, errr, Dallas over Buffalo). By the time the Sunday afternoon games were over I was 9 correct picks out of 12 with two of the misses being my 1 point and two point games.


Then the Bears re-discover the concept of offense and upset the Packers (my 12 point pick!) Noooooooo!

As I watch the game Monday night I am utterly torn. The Bills are WINNING!!! Yay!. The BILLS are winning! NOOOOOOOO!

In the end I finished 10 of 14 for 84 out of 105 points (or is it 85 out of 104? Can't remember)

If only those darned Packers.......


It's OK, really.
I'll be fine.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

A lifelong love

If you know me in real life you may assume that this will be a love poem to my lady wife. As important to my life as she is (she's my Rushmore) this is about a love of longer standing than even my lady love.

It's reading.

While I cannot claim to have learned to read as early as my darling daughter (who began reading at 2.5 years old. She's such a show off!) I can not remember a time when I couldn't and didn't read. It became the bane of my mother's life that her eldest son was constantly inside reading instead of outside. So I'd take my book outside and read there. Seemed like a reasonable compromise to me but never seemed to satisfy her. I read at meals, before I turn out the light almost every night, in the bathroom (I'm sorry, was that TMI? ;-) ), at virtually any moment I can. And I've done it all my life.

Well today is the birthday of the man who had a profound impact on my love of reading. A man I never met and that until today I never realized just how MUCH of an impact he'd really had.

Edward L. Stratemeyer.

Never heard of him? Don't worry most people haven't. But I bet you know some of his characters and if you're of a certain age you know them well. They include:

The Hardy Boys
Nancy Drew
Tom Swift
The Bobbsey Twins

Stratemeyer was the brains behind all of them. He created the characters, outlined the stories and then turned them over to his syndicate of writers. Literally a fiction factory.

The Hardy Boys, Joe and Frank (and their buddy Biff!), Tom Swift (and his flying electronic whosis) and the Bobbsey Twins (the first series of books and characters I learned to love Bert and Nan, Flossie and Freddie. Nan is always described as a slim brown eyed brunette. Guess what kind of girl I fell in love with later in life? LOL!) these were my first friends in print. From them grew a love that has become central to my life.

I have a friend, a highly intelligent, talented lady who really doesn't like reading at all. I once got the impression she really thinks of it as a bit of a waste of time. This is beyond my ability to comprehend. Reading ranks up there with breathing, and eating. Often I'm reading more than one thing (book, magazine, etc) at any given time.

So here's to my friend and mentor in the love of reading. The 145th anniversary of the birth of Edward Stratemeyer. I never could have done it without you.


Monday, October 01, 2007

My Home in Faith 2

This is one of the stained glass windows in our chapel. We don't have ANY gargoyles like Lee does but we've got some pretty snifty stained glass. I've always liked St. George.

I find stained glass a challenge to shoot because the light is shining through the subject rather than reflecting off of it. Plus the problem with hot spots like on the good saint's thigh.

I'll probably add some more of the chapel saints as we move along.


Monday, September 24, 2007

My beloved home in faith

I'm doing this after being inspired by my buddy Lee. He takes some beautiful pictures of his home parish and posts them. Well, I love my home parish too, and I fancy myself a bit of a photographer so why not?

This is a statue that is not much loved by my congregation I'm afraid. It's very modern in style and our church is English neo-gothic so I suppose I see the complaint. But I've always had a soft spot for it and at certain times during the day when the light shines in just right...


This is in a back corner of the church, the only light is coming through the stained glass. I like the Madonna and child with Jesus entering Jerusalem in the background.

Thanks for the inspiration Lee! I'll do some more soon.


Oh the things I do!

Been busy, run off my feet the last week.

Nothing too profound but a couple things to share:

Went bowling with the Lutheran youth group I work with. Haven't bowled in a LOOOOONG time so my scores weren't too unfathomable (92 and 107) Once I got a feel for the motion again I just didn't have the touch and kept leaving spares. Ended up with lots of 7s, 8s and 9s. Plus the machines were setting the pins strangely so a perfect pocket hit would leave you with three standing. Or pins would just randomly fall down (happened a LOT). But it was fun and the youth had a great time so that's all that mattered.

A couple movies to add to the list:

Pulp Fiction - I'll catch pieces of it on TV but clearly it's a movie you have to see uncut. People had given me the impression that it was incredibly violent but it's really not. The deaths are spectacular but it's very classic Greek theater. They all take place "off stage" and you only see the aftermath. Now as for language! If bad words upset you do NOT want to watch this movie. It becomes funny (at least to me) after a while because they swear CONSTANTLY! For all that it was a really good movie. Visually stylish, amazing dialogue and a cast to die for. Highly recommended.

Rushmore - Man did I go into this one with misgivings. I'd been told "If you liked Napoleon Dynamite you'll probably like this". I hated Napoleon Dynamite. Two hours of my life I'll never get back. But I really like this one. Yes, it's strange. Yes, the main character has a weirdly obsessive personality (as compared to normally obsessive). But it's a neat little off beat story that carries you right along to the end. And you have to love the production values of the main characters stage shows! Worth a look when you're in the mood for something a little quirky.

I went to something new last weekend. It's called Artists Share and it's co-sponsored by a local church and the Arts Council. Literally it's a chance for artists to come together and share/show their work and get some feedback. This month was writing (last month was photography) and it was very cool. I ran into an old co-worker of mine (old only in the sense of jobs neither of us hold any more. She's a fair bit younger than I am!) I now discover that she is a prolific and talented writer! It's just fun to be around folks who are creative again. I think I'll keep coming back. In fact I'm working on a new blog that will be dedicated just to whatever creative pursuits I can produce. We'll see how that goes.

I'm trying one other new thing. I'm in a football pool. Since I don't bet (because I lose)I've never done a pool before. One of my brothers usually does a football pool or two during the NFL season so I've thought about it. This one's great, it's "sponsored" by the youth group of a friend of mine. So there's no money, no prizes, just the glory of winning it all. It's also simple and appeals to me. No worries about point spreads or anything like that. It's simple you pick the winners of the 16 games each week. Then you rank your "confidence" in each pick. For example this week I picked New England over Buffalo (sorry my fellow Bills fans but seriously did ANYONE think they'd win?) and ranked it 16, my highest confidence. Those then turn into points if you're right. Without tonight's game (which has my lowest confidence point total - 1) I'm at 81 points. Not real good, not terrible but not gonna win either. The first week someone picked all 16 games right! How do you do that ON THE FIRST WEEK!?!?!?!?!? This week's disappointments were San Diego and Denver. I picked Philadelphia to win so that felt good. So I imagine I'm still firmly mid pack somewhere. Let's see if I can't do better as the season goes along.

So on the whole a pretty good week. But lots still to do.

So off I go.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Mystery and Simplicity

I was asked by my home parish to speak during our adult education time this past Sunday. We're doing a series based on the "This I Believe" concept created by Edward R. Murrow (a personal hero) back in the 1950's. NPR has revived it in the last couple years.

We were asked to talk about what we believe and the effect it has on our lives. This is the audio of my bit. I got very good reviews from everyone afterwards so I thought I'd share it with the larger world. That may be a terrible mistake, lol!

Mystery and Simplicity

Check out other presentations and sermons from our great clergy PLUS the coolest logo (created by the rector!) at the blog Voice of the Winged Ox


Back after a brief but busy bit

Wow, it's been a busy week. I've been on the move so I'm a little behind. I mentioned in the last post about my schedule from last weekend. It was every bit as difficult as I expected! Lots of driving but lots of time with some really great people from all over our diocese and province. So it was good but I am TIRED.

Something of note on the trip. I stopped at a rest area and ran into something I've never come across before. In the rest room were the usual blowers to dry your hands. Except these were larger and much noisier. Like a jet engine taking off! And they blew so hard that it made ripples in the skin of my hands! If you remember the films of the jet acceleration sleds from back in the 50's and 60's you remember the guy whose skin gets pulled back in waves from the g forces. That's what it looked like on my hands! Really weird. Didn't hurt but it threw me for a loop.

Otherwise the week went very well. It's good to be home though.


Thursday, September 13, 2007

A Full Weekend

So that you may be suitably impressed with how hard I work:

Saturday - Diversity training (I'm co-leading) in East Aurora
Sunday - Speaking at Adult forum at 9AM in Jamestown
Helping out at D House Open House 11-1 (Buffalo)
Youth Commission 2-4 (Orchard Park)
Niagara Deanery Youth group meeting 5-7:30 (Burt)
Monday - drive to Binghamton for a Province II meeting, spend night,
Tuesday - drive home.

I'm exhausted just thinking about it.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Today I remember

I saw that my buddy Lee had done a Sept. 11 post (I also stole this image from Lee too. More on that in a minute).

So I thought I'd put a link to the my post about 9/11 from back when I commented on it.

I never have. That surprised me as I looked back over the last 4 years of posts. Of all the things I've talked about I've never written about that day.

I remember it clearly. There was a staff meeting that day so I'd driven up to Buffalo (an hour and a half drive)for the 9 AM meeting. In fact I had turned off the radio just a few minutes after the first plane hit at 8:46 AM. We had just gotten settled into the meeting with the sliding doors closed when there came a banging. Two members of the office staff came in, one in tears. The only TV in the building was with us and they needed to check the news. Something had happened at the twin towers in NYC and they had a friend who worked there. So we turned on the TV...

You know what we saw. And you know how we felt. It is a shared moment for our nation. I remember thinking in those first few moments "It's not an accident, it's a terrorist attack". For several years after college I'd been fascinated by terrorism and how we respond to it. What I saw and what little we knew at that time just screamed terrorism.

And then the second plane(9:03AM)

and the report that a plane has crashed into the Pentagon (9:37AM)

and the FAA grounds all planes (9:45AM)

and then the south tower collapsed(9:59AM)

and then another plane crashes in western Pennsylvania (10:03AM)

and then the north tower collapsed (10:28AM)

Sometime shortly after that we were sent home. We prayed for everything and everyone and Divine protection and went home in a state of shock.

The diocesan offices are not too far from the airport so you see a fair number of planes if you look. I remember driving home thinking that there had never been a day in my life like this one. When virtually NOTHING man made was in the air above me. It is one of th strangest and most enduring feelings from that day.

When I saw the photo Lee was using I knew I was going to steal it. We need to remember how horrible that day was. We must never forget. But not as just as a goad to our fear and self interest. We must remember as a call to all that is good in our nature. It must serve as a call to make the world a better place rather than only a safer place. A better place WILL BE a safer place. A safer place is not always a better place.

Today is a day to remember.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Silly Stuff

This is all Deneice's fault:

Your Brain is Blue

Of all the brain types, yours is the most mellow.
You tend to be in a meditative state most of the time. You don't try to think away your troubles.
Your thoughts are realistic, fresh, and honest. You truly see things as how they are.

You tend to spend a lot of time thinking about your friends, your surroundings, and your life.

What Veggie Tales character are you?

Oh yes, and


Go Steelers!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Husband Day Care

Now this would make me feel better today!

Husband Daycare - The best video clips are here

Thanks to Gman

Rotten start to September.

Well September is off to a rip roaring start! Nothing but me being stupid and other bad news.

First me being an idiot. What you see on the right side here is the new logo for youth ministry in the diocese. It was designed by Bryan Sharry one of no less than TWO very talented design students from this diocese studying at the Pratt Institute in NYC. Pratt is one of, if not THE best design school in the country. So I was very happy when Bryan took the challenge on. I think the final product is great.
So much so that I wrote an article about the logo and Bryan and submitted it to the diocesan newspaper. When I opened the paper this morning I realized I had a problem.

I'd sent the wrong logo.

Bryan did several, I chose one, we tweaked it and voila. One of the old files was still lurking about (NOT ANYMORE!!!!!) and I sent it in.

I feel badly for Bryan, for the editor of our newspaper but mostly I feel like a complete and utter idiot. I did the article in the midst of camp, trying to get things out of the way.

Rule #1 - NEVER DO ANYTHING DURING CAMP SEASON!!! My brain is just too fried.

So I've sent the proper logo with appropriate grovelling to my friend, the wise and wonderful, forgiving person that she is, the editor in hopes that her opinion of me doesn't slide too far. (She once compared me to Moses. Silly woman. Of course it did take Moses 40 years to get to where he's going)

I'm very angry with me.

Next up is this headline from Yahoo news:

"Who" fans face two-year wait for new season (article)
It seems that David Tennant, the actor who plays the BBC's scifi icon "Dr. Who", has decided to take a little time off. Season four will air next spring but season five will have to wait till 2010!

Why, you ask?


I ask you, where are people's priorities these days?

Tennant has been wonderful as the Doctor, really revitalizing the franchise once again. I got sucked into the whole Who world with the fourth doctor Tom Baker, saw a few Jon Pertwee (#3) and some Peter Davidson (#5). Baker is still my favorite although Tennant(#10) and Christopher Eccleston (#9)are right up there.

But really. An actor turning his back on television to do the stage?

I love David Tennant!


Friday, August 31, 2007

And a Movie update

Haven't done a movie post in a while. Let's see what I've been watching:

Double Indemnity For a lot of folks this is THE great American film noir. Snappy dialogue, sexual tension (but oh so carefully tap danced around, thank you Hays Code!), the wonderful lighting, the betrayals. Just great stuff. Fred McMurray is great in a role very much against his usual type. Barbara Stanwick is great as the femme fatale, but it's Edward G. Robinson who is the real ace of the cast. Really good stuff.

Saved Second time I've seen it, first time was at Senior High camp. I think this is a wonderful movie and aims a sharp finger at a lot of what I think is wrong with youth ministry today. Yes, I'd love to have Pastor Skip's facilities and budget. I just don't ever want to be that youth minister. He's shallow and so is his ministry IMHO.

This is Spinal Tap Had a quiet day and watched an old favorite. Great parody of the music industry and heavy metal bands especially. How can you not love a movie that gets excited about going to "11"? And in the end the music wins out over the power hungry personalities.

Cabaret Yes, it's about decadence, deceit, dishonesty and sex. But it's honest about them and where they lead (no one ends up happily ever after in this film). It's filled with some wonderful music and Liza Minelli at the start of her movie career. Normally I can take or leave Liza but she's smashing as Sally Bowles. And Joel Grey is rather scary as the MC.

Wow, I just looked back and saw how many movies I'm behind. So some quick looks:

Whale Rider - It's well done coming of age movie. Not something that I want to see again though.

Man of the Year - One of Robin Williams' "OK" movies. Fun to watch, especially with a national election coming up, but nothing exciting.

Sunset Boulevard
What can you say? One of THE classic American movies. Incredible performances by a very small cast of off the scale talents. You'll never see the movies the same after this one. And it's great the DeMille's scenes were actually shot on a real movie that he was making at the time. The back story of the making of the movie is almost as incredible as the movie itself. Put it on your "Must see before I die" list (along with "Double Indemnity")

GoodFellas Really fine mob flick. And I like mob flicks. "You think I'm funny?"

Ed Wood Johnny Depp guaranteed my daughter would watch but she got sucked in by Wood's incredible personality. Just an amazing movie about, well how would you describe Ed Wood?

Bulworth A movie that I liked more than I expected till the end. What a stupid, horrible out of place ending.

Barton Fink This one seemed to have everything going for it. Great cast, the Coen brothers. Hated it. My family loathed it. Pointless and dark.

Good Will Hunting Good movie, good performances. But not a watch again and again movie for me.

The Prestige This was a wonderful movie, filled with great performances and keeps you guessing till the end. Toss up if I like this or "The Illusionist" better.

Ice Age and Ice Age 2 - Yeah OK fun. Moving on. First one was better than the second.

The Commitments A band struggling against all odds to win movie and a good one. I just felt like I expected more of this one. Music's great. I was left feeling "eh". Not bad, just not blown away.

A couple other things that aren't movies -

The Blue Man Group "The Complex Rock Tour Live - 2003". My whole family loves these guys. We're into that orchestral rock stuff (it's silly but I like it), the theatricality of it all, just the novelness of it. Plus you get instruction on how to act at rock concerts!

Slings and Arrows If you're into the theater and haven't seen this Canadian TV series what the heck are you waiting for? Bitingly funny, you'll recognize people you've worked with, both good and bad. The show ran three seasons and it makes me pine for more. Great actors, wonderful scripts and you'll learn some stuff about Shakespeare along the way. Even if you only know the theater from the audience side of the footlights, see this series!

OK, dear God that's enough!


Just dragging

I finally finished updating the youth ministry website. New look, great new logo, checked the links to weed out the dead ones (hope I got them all), add some new content, make sure the calendar is up to date. The whole deal. Took me a lot longer than I thought but one change led to another which made me realize that THIS was stupid and should be changed and THAT was now totally useless.

So it's done. And I'm excited. And I have several other projects just screaming for my attention.

But I have no motivation at all at the moment. Does anyone else get post project let down? It's like my body and brain just say "That was really good work. Now we need a wee lie down". I know this will pass quickly. It always does. Besides it HAS to since I have all this OTHER stuff to do. But it's frustrating at the moment. I'm keeping busy by doing some simple things, finally putting things away after camp. Generally cleaning and sorting, throwing out junk, trying to remember what I've forgotten.

Hi Ho.

Monday, August 27, 2007

God Blessed America

I have no idea what set me off. I've seen and heard the phrase probably a million times in my life. This time it was on a bumper sticker.

“God Bless America”.

Over the years I've been disturbed by the smugness that seems to underly the common use of that phrase. Too often it seems to mean “...but not you”. Or it is used as a triumphant punctuation at the end of a speech, one that says, “This is what God means/wants/ordains”. Worst yet is when it just a hollow political catch phrase meant to give the speaker the appropriately pious sound. I intensely dislike all of those usages.

This time was different. Suddenly a different phrase echoed in my mind. Not “God Bless America” but rather “God BLESSED America”. It suddenly struck me how much and in how many ways God has already blessed us. It borders on avarice to continually ask the Creator for more blessings. Then I began to consider some of those blessings.

We have been blessed with an area of land so filled with the riches of this world that we have created a standard of living beyond the dreams of most cultures before us. Even the poor in our country have comforts and wealth that the equivalent members of earlier societies could not even imagine. This blessing has allowed us to create almost limitless social wealth, and to produce food in quantities almost equally endlessly. Yet there are hungry not only in lands less blessed than ours, people in our own country are hungry. In a land of wealth beyond the dreams of Croesus we have not managed to provide basic health care for everyone. Families live in substandard housing. Basic education levels still fail to be reached. It's not that we can't do something about it. There is no doubt that we have the material wealth to make a difference.

Speaking of the wonderful land area with which we have been blessed, how well are we taking care of this blessing? Our great inland seas, the Great Lakes, suffer from vast areas where life can not exist. A river not far from where I grew up once caught fire! (In fact this same river caught fire several times over the span of some 30 years). The air can get so bad in parts of our country that we advise people with certain illnesses to avoid going outside and breathing it. We dumped so much junk into the ground in some places that it wasn't safe to build homes (or much of anything else) there because of the toxins that worked their way back up out of the ground. Maybe the reason we drink so much bottled water is because in our hearts we know we can't trust the water flowing in our streams and rivers and lakes. We deforest the hills, then strip mine them. The hills we build are the ever growing mounds of garbage we create.

This blessing of place also resulted in the chance to create a novel form of government. Unlike many political movements in Europe we could experiment with very little danger of our neighbors invading to overturn it. In that moment of space and time we created a governmental form that can actually function “...of the people, by the people and for the people”. Instead more and more of us turn our back on this blessing. We choose to walk away from the political process. That allows the power hungry and the profit hungry to turn the blessings we have been granted into their own personal resource.

Choices have been made and continue to be made. In this land of milk and honey shall we choose to continue to grow ever more out of shape letting our life spans decrease now instead of increase? Shall we choose to waste food (in so many ways) in a world where people go hungry? Shall we choose to continue building our lives on consumerism, usually in pursuit of things that are little more than throw away toys? Shall we choose to continue to pump toxins and filth into the air, and land and water because we do not want to be bothered to make the changes that could begin the process of revitalizing our land? Will we continue to choose to turn our backs on our responsibilities as citizens of this wondrous republic and allow our governmental processes to become a simple marketplace where the deepest pockets win? Is right to be complicit in a society that demeans it's members at home and uses torture on those we declare our enemies abroad? Is this truly how we are to use the blessings that we have been given?

Most parents face those moments when a child keeps asking for something over and over again. Even when you give it to them they can come back and ask for more or another. Finally you reach the point where you say, “What did you do with all the others I gave you? No more, till you learn to appreciate what you have!” . As I looked at that bumper sticker it struck me that our constant prayer/request/demand for God's blessing is a lot like that child. In all the ways that God has blessed us how can we possibly muster the temerity to ask for more? Rather we should be thankful for what we have been given and ask that God help us to better use those blessings. I recall the Gospel of Luke (13:48) which reminds us, “ whom much is given, of him much will be required...”. Given our blessings what shall be required of us? Can we say that we have loved God and our neighbors to the standard of our blessings? Will we be able to say that we have “...act(ed) justly, love(d) mercy and walk(ed) humbly...”?

God blessed America. Now what?

Monday, August 20, 2007

Well I'm back

And I'm feeling grumpy.

Running around between three camps and a major family visit all in the span of 14 days has taken their toll. I've come down with a summer cold, quite possibly the most depressing of all illnesses. Plus the weather has been cold and dreary the last couple days.

Grump, grump, grump.

But that's not all. We had three campers simply not show up at one camp. The new management team at our facility is holding us to the terms of the contract (the previous managers were more casual about that. Which may be why they're the "previous" managers) which says we have to give a final count two weeks in advance. Well the count we gave was 33 and the final count was 30. That's a nearly $900 unfunded expense staring at me. I'm not upset in anyway with the facility, they are perfectly in their rights and they are at least considering my request to adjust the count. That's EXTREMELY nice of them. And something they don't have to do.

No the people I'm ticked with are the folks who simply didn't show up. Two of the three are folks with whom I'm familiar, they have my number, my e-mail, my address. Never heard a word from them. And now my budget, tight at best, has a big ole hole in it. The bills will be paid, money can be juggled to cover. But it means that other programs will be even tighter for the rest of the year.

So next year we'll be more serious about deadlines, deposits will be non-refundable, and fees paid for campers who drop out less than two weeks prior to camp will be forfeit as well.

And people will scream bloody murder. Just lovely.

Other than that camp went really well. All our camps were successes on their own merits. The kids had a great time. The staffs were marvelous.

Just wish I could enjoy the moment.

Grump, grump, grump.


Sunday, August 05, 2007

Off to camp I go

The next two weeks are going to be crazed! I'm headed out the door shortly to A.R.T.S camp (Art,Recreation, Theater and Song). It ends on Friday night with performances by the kids, then I'm off to a rehearsal dinner for the wedding of one of my former youth, the wedding is on Saturday. We've volunteered to sort of MC the event, just keep things organized and rolling so the family doesn't have to.

Oh and both my brothers and their families are coming to visit this week too. I'll have to sneak out of camp a couple nights to hang with them (which I can do without damaging the camp program)

Then next Sunday it's off to Junior High Camp and on Wednesday I'll be at Sleep Away camp. Yes, two in one week. Fun, wow.

Then I have to try and put everything in order.

Then I'm taking my usual week of post camp vacation.

So I'll probably not be updating here for at least a couple weeks. I'll try to sneak in if I can but I'm not sure either of the camps have internet.


Thursday, August 02, 2007

It seemed like a good idea at the time

How many times have I thought that?
Gotta love Mr. Bean

Just some filler while I frantically try to get ready for two straight weeks of camp. Plus helping with a friends wedding. And having my family come visit. Plus trying not to melt in this heat!


Monday, July 30, 2007

Thoughts from a Yard Sale

We had a yard sale over the weekend. Just lots of "stuff" that we no longer needed, no longer wanted, no longer had a place for. I manned the sale in it's entirety while my two ladies came and went doing various other things.

It's interesting watching people at your own yard sale. Even though you're selling it, and you REALLY want this stuff to go there's still a personal connection. Reading body language it's obvious that the lady in the clam digger shorts and the over sized sun glasses doesn't think much of your offerings. (I'm sure she thought those glasses hid her emotions from the world. Silly lady!) And I find myself getting a little offended.

"Hey, I may not want it any more but there's nothing wrong with it. If you don't like then move along. Keep your snotty attitude toward yourself"

(I only think these things. She might want to buy something else)

All this over a vase or a wire basket in the shape of a chicken.

On the other hand I snort to myself as someone picks up that terrible frog pot, or that hideous butterfly napkin holder. Good God, I never thought THOSE would sell. But I take my dime for each, glad that someone liked them.

There are the people who cruise by the end of the driveway "just to check", trying to see if they really want to stop. I've foiled them but setting up at the far end of the driveway, so they can't really see.

Most people will say hello, whether they buy or not. I wonder about the people who choose to ignore me completely.

But my favorite are the hagglers. My theory is that I've priced everything at reasonable prices with an emphasis on making sure that price doesn't scare away the customers. As one guy said, "Nice to see an old fashioned yard sale with old fashioned yard sale prices". The most expensive item was a nice sized wall mirror for $10, we had a few things at $5, and everything else was $3 or less. Lots of 10, 25, 50 and 75 cent items. Could I have gotten more? Probably. But I might have sold less.

So my prices are very reasonable. Still some folks want a little more taken off. I had a brand new electric hand mixer with beaters priced at $3. In the store it would be what, $12-$15? The guy that bought it wanted it for $2. Then proceeded to peel of the two singles from a huge role of cash. Nicely dressed, driving a nice car. So that buck was probably very important to him.

The more I thought about it the more I came to realize, yes it probably was. A lot more important to him than it was to me.

And I think that's probably just fine by me.

Oh, and we did OK on the sale. Sold about half (we had a LOT of stuff), sold most of the "good" stuff and a fair bit of the "You really want to put that in the sale" stuff too.


The Parable of My Father's Guitar

(For some reason blogger put this post in out of order. This is the latest addition to the blog

I've been contemplating my father's guitar and thinking about church.

A moment of confession. I love guitar music and have always wanted to play. My fear of failure always holds me back. My dad's guitar isn't anything fancy or expensive. It's a simple instrument and he taught himself to play on it. I hope to do the same thing.

When I pulled it out of the guitar case I realized we had a few problems. The tuners were loose and one knob's shaft was bent. The bridge at the bottom (that's the wooden thing that holds the pegs that hold the strings) was cracked. As I looked at the bridge I saw that either originally or as a repair someone had drilled two holes in in it and put a pair of small bolts in to hold it. The crack ran right between the two bolts, from one end to the other. And the pegs couldn't hold the strings properly.

I'm not a luthier (that's an expert who builds and/or repairs guitars) and I don't have much money for this project. So I did a little research. The tuners were easy and not very expensive. When I was done the guitar looked 100x better. Now I'll be able to tune each string perfectly. The bridge wasn't expensive but it worries me more. The peg holes need to be drilled (they're started but not the whole way through) and I'll need to glue it in place. That means preparing the wood on the body of the guitar, sanding it carefully to remove the old adhesive. The carefully aligning it. Making sure that the saddle, the piece the strings actually rest on, is set just right.

And I keep thinking to myself "It would just be easier to pitch this in the trash and get a new guitar. One that doesn't come with these 'inherited' problems."

The problem for me is that it's important that this was my father's guitar. There's some tradition there, and it helps me feel a little closer to my dad, who died several years ago. With a little care I may be able to pass it along to another generation for them to learn to play as well. To do that means I have to make a few sacrifices, I have to learn some new skills, and I have to care for the things that have been passed along to me.

As I thought about that guitar it struck me that it's a lot like the church. We inherit it from our parents (and those before). It's not always in perfect shape. Some things wear out or aren't able to do their jobs the way we want them done. Some ideas (or repairs) just haven't held up very well. It would be easy for us to just say "The hell with it. We're going to pitch all this stuff over the side and do a new thing. One that works for us."

To do that means we need to pitch our parents and all those others who came before over the side as well. It means we've decided that this is really only about us. And those who come after us? Well they get whatever they get.

Instead we should take a look at what we've inherited. The body is strong and the neck is straight. The tuners don't work properly any more but we just need a newer version of the same thing. The bridge is broken and needs replaced. The strings are stretched and no longer hold a note. New strings will make the guitar sound a little different but soon that voice will become familiar as it sounds the notes.

In the end it will look a little different. And it will sound a little different. The essence of the instrument will remain the same. It will be ready for me to pass along to the next player. Because in the end it isn't my guitar, I'm only caring for it for a while.