Saturday, January 31, 2009

Hmmm, sometimes these things are spooky

Your Spiritual Number is Four

You bring stability and order into people's lives.

You are a devoted friend, and you are able to help other get out of extremely chaotic situations.

Right now, your life is about making difficult choices and complicated decisions.

You find yourself at a crossroads, and you can't stall any longer.

While you may be going through a confusing time, you are confident that you will do the right thing.

You have the courage to do what's best, even when it's hard.

Friday, January 30, 2009

A Mental Health post

I am taking a break from what I've been working on because it's being stupid. And making me crazy. I either - A: Just spent 45 minutes fiddling with something and basically accomplished nothing, or B: Just spent 45 minutes fiddling with something and have totally screwed it up. I don't even want to look to see which answer it is.

So I'm taking a moment to blog for mental health. Which means thinking about anything else.

Like the vanishing snow piles. This has been a really huge year for snowfall here in WNY. An unofficial measurement from a guy about 10 miles down the road who does this as a hobby says 240 inches so far. No, that's not a type, 2-4-0. One other unofficial measurement says 220 about 10 miles away from the first. Both could be right, that's how much snowfall varies around here. 240 inches of snow would be a pretty snowy entire winter total for around here. And this is only January 30.

Because of this my house is surrounded by enormous piles of snow from the snowblower. There's just no place to put it. The piles on either side of the driveways (I have 2 driveways)at the road is just shy of 6 feet. My snowblower can't throw any higher than that. It's an ongoing problem given that there are still at least 2 months of winter still to come.

Well last night I came home from work and discovered two of the four piles were missing! Like totally gone, down to ground level. Then I realized that the shorter of my two driveways was also missing some snow, giving me an extra 3-4 feet of driveway! There are tracks from a large piece of equipment and further examination shows that the piles along side the road have been cut back as well. Which is nice because the road was starting to get a little narrow. I assume the village road crew is doing this as a public service.

But you know what?

I don't care WHO did it! They are my personal heroes right now.

Of course there's another storm headed our way next week apparently.



Monday, January 26, 2009

Thoughts on 100-0

(I've edited the original post, correcting the number of students at the school and adding a comment from the Dallas Academy coach at the end. He sounds like exactly the kind of coach I want working with my kids)

First things first. I'm well aware that I'm likely to get some grief in some circles for this post. It will be seen as "criticizing fellow Christians" which for some folks is an absolute taboo. I've never understood that since there's Biblical foundation for correcting one another. It seems to me that proponents of this "don't criticize" idea fear that it will make the church universal look weak. In fact fair and open correction of one another makes us strong.

Given my love of sports and young people this story just leapt out at me. You may have heard about the girls high school basketball game between Dallas Academy and The Covenant School (also from Dallas). Covenant School is a Christian academy that has built up its basketball program over the last four years to be an area powerhouse. Dallas Academy is a school that works with youth with learning disabilities and hasn't won a game in four years. It was a mismatch from the start and both sides surely knew who was going to win AND that the score would be lopsided. Why would Dallas Academy schedule such a team? I can only guess but I assume that Dallas Academy (which is small, about 140 students, only 20 of them girls and 8 of them on the basketball team) has limited options and plays teams in the vicinity. Plus you can learn by playing more skilled teams.

My problem is with the conduct of the other (Christian) team. According to some reports they maintained a press defense (if you're not into basketball that's an aggressive defense designed to cause mistakes and turnovers. It can be very effective against a good team. It is devastating against a bad one)until they had scored 100 points. The Covenant coach maintains that they dropped the full court press for a simpler defense once the score reached 29-0. Other reports claim that Covenant continued shooting 3 point shots well into the fourth quarter as well. Dallas Academy estimates they took a grand total of seven shots total in the entire game. The Covenant coach (now ex-coach. He was fired after publicly disagreeing with the school board on the game)says his team scoring by quarter was 35, 29, 24, 12. This would seem to support the idea that his team didn't back off till they hit the magic number.

Let's be fair. Games like these are excruciating for everyone involved. The winning team hates them, the losing team hates, all true fans of the sport hate them. There are ways to gracefully play the game without dishonoring the game or your opponent. 5 touch rules - no one on the better team can take a shot till everyone on the team has been passed the ball. This gives the other team more chances to steal the ball and get in play. Defense begins at mid court. Let the other team get that far before you defend. These are rules to be used only in the most extreme cases but they at least offer the other team a chance to play the game and learn.

Our faith should never take the back seat to winning. The Covenant Academy knew they could win this game at any point. They had the chance to reach out to the other team and offer themselves up as a learning moment. But it turns out the game was more important. And that's sad.

Kudos to The Covenant Academy for recognizing this and apologizing. They've also offered to forfeit that game in the standings. The school has shown itself to be a class act. The coach who defended the score has been fired. Between his coaching behavior and ill advised public disagreement with his bosses he brought that on himself.

Kudos as well to Dallas Academy Athletic Director Jeremy Civello:

"Civello told his girls the life lesson they could take from their loss: "I told them someday they will be on top in a similar situation and they should remember how they felt when some people were cheering for a team to score a hundred points and shut us out. Hopefully, my girls all learned a lesson in sportsmanship that will last them a lifetime.
" Dallas Morning News, 1/23/09

Weekend Update January 26

The Week That Was - Hmmm, what did happen this past week? My office got cleaned, kinda sorta, I got work done on a variety of projects. I started with a new book group at my church, we're reading "The Shack". It's a fairly large group, 15 people or so, and diverse in age, theology and even a couple non-episcopalians. The book is OK so far. I had Adam McClane of YS Blog ask if he could do a profile on me which was really cool. If you're into youth ministry and haven't discovered the blog, check it out. The profile goes up first week in February. Am I excited? Yeah, just a little. Other than that I got my hair cut and did office work. And did winter things like run the snowblower. It was that kind of week.

The To Do List - I have organizational meetings about CROP Walk and the LCLC event this week so I guess I'm over the ELCA guilt thing.

What Am I Procrastinating About? - Not sure, just really don't want to look at my to do list. Cause it's long...

What Am I Watching/Reading/Listening To? Reading The Shack as I mentioned. It's OK but not earth shattering for me. This is the kind of stuff I've been teaching for a while. Not braggin', just sayin'. We'll see where it goes. I've got an Orson Scott Card book I want to read and one other (whose name escapes me).

Movies - I'm not even sure I want to bring this one up. It's called "The Aristocrats". If you're easily offended avoid this movie like the plague. If you're average-ly (?) offended avoid this movie. Paul Provenza and Penn Gillette got about 100 comedians to talk about the ultimate dirty (but not always) joke that they all tell each other that goes back to the days of vaudeville. Some of the versions are awful, vile things. A couple are really funny. It's interesting to hear these folks talk candidly and casually about how jokes work, why this one does or doesn't and why they tell it over and over and over. Everyone from Shelly Berman and Phyllis Diller to Chris Rock and Robin Williams (and the editorial board of "The Onion"). It's a weird movie about a weird, stupid, ugly but strangely interesting joke. I've spent 89 minutes worse in my life.

Next Up Holding myself and my daughter to our new pledge of mutual accountability. She has part of the deal and I have part of the deal. In fairness I'll only reveal mine. I'm to work at playing the guitar and writing. She's tired of hearing me whine. Same thing goes for me about her part of the deal. And we've agreed to hold each other accountable. Very cool. But then my daughter is all that and a bag of chips. Does anybody say that any more?

How Am I Doing You know, I think I'm doing OK. I'm going to do what I can do and try to trust in God for the rest. What a novel concept.


Resource Review - Wingclips

Wingclips - Free Inspirational Movie Clips for Sermon Illustrations and Teachings

OVERALL - This website provides clips and trailers from movies for use in sermons or teaching. They include movies that are still in theaters. There is a free service (medium res video) and paid (high res video). They've referenced the clips based on possible themes and then sorted them so you can look for that theme and find clips that work.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? I've had some really good success doing lessons and programs that use movie or TV show clips. The problem is trying to find them or more specifically find ones that relate to what I'm trying to teach. Well this service is very cool. You'll find clips from even new releases. I clicked on "Belief" and got 28 clips from movies ranging from Pan's Labyrinth, to Robots to X-men 2 and Nativity Story. If you're looking for something visual to add to a lesson you'll find this a great resource.

RESERVATIONS This can be a great tool for your ministry but I see too many places that think this is the be all and end all. You do have to accept that they exert some editorial control on the clips (to make sure that they don't "contradict Judeo-Christian values")but if you take it just as a tool it's great. The free membership restricts to to medium res Quicktime files. The premium would only be worthwhile ($11.95 a month) if you used a fair number of these.

RECOMMENDATION Definitely a web site that I have bookmarked on my computer. On those (very rare, I'm sure) occasions when you've got a youth group meeting or Sunday school class and you just didn't quite get the lesson done this could be a lifesaver.

Friday, January 23, 2009

A moment of cat blogging

The kid took two really good pictures of the current four legged members of the family so I thought I'd share.

First is Zaphod. She's looks calm and regal. She's actually a total nut job.

And this is the newest lady of the house (with the leading lady seen in the background). Her name is Jenny. She is very shy.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A moment to catch up

A moment to savor the victory of my beloved Stillers. It was a great game (despite some whining I've heard elsewhere on the blogosphere...hmmph)if you enjoy hard hitting, fast paced football. Which of course Steeler fans do. My prayers still go up for Willis McGahee (former Buffalo Bill)who got his clock cleaned on that one hit. Glad to hear that he's got considerable movement and looks to be OK. I AM a little worried about Hines Ward. We could be in a heap of trouble without him. Yes, Arizona's offense worries me. Their defense is good but not as good as what Ben and the Black and Gold "O" are used to facing. Without Hines we need someone to step up big time. The best defense against Warner and company is keeping them on the sidelines.

Good news - Anquan Boldin is adding to the distraction factor, always nice with a first time team and the Steelers will be wearing their white jerseys. We've had very good luck in white.

I am so totally over snow. Really. Permanently. But I know some of you silly people think it's lovely. Sigh. I spoil you so. Here's a couple of photos courtesy of the kid:

The photos are from Chautauqua Institution which is just down the road from me. They have significantly less snow because of the trees. The kid took these as we took a sleigh ride around the grounds. The church shown is Chapel of the Good Shepherd (Episcopal). It is one of only two church buildings on the grounds. The kid takes good pictures.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

This is just cool

I think this is really cool!

From "Canterbury Tales From the Fringe" (a blog by Episcopal bishop Gene Robinson). A detail from his day yesterday at the pre-inauguration festivities where he offered the invocation:

Since all of the presenters/performers were asked to come back out on stage for the finale singing of America the Beautiful, I left Mark and Ella to go backstage again. There, I encountered Bono, who wanted to talk about my invocation. I was amazed that after hearing it once, he was quoting back to me things I had said. We chatted, and then he asked if I would pray with him and his band (U2) before they went onstage to perform. We gathered in a close huddle, I prayed, and off they went to play to a screaming, cheering, joyful crowd. (We saw him later that night at a private party -- and he picked up our conversation right where we had left off.)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Weekend Update - January 18

The Week That Was - The week was dominated by the news from the blood test. I did get our first camp DVD prepared and mostly in the mail (ran out of labels so the last batch go out tomorrow). Youth Commission met on Sunday and we had a very good meeting. I'm still processing all that stuff I wrote about earlier. Otherwise it was a week in the office. Ho Hum.

The To Do List - Wow, the mailing is done so what's next? Prepare for camp stuff, make reservations for our spring planning retreat, settle a date for the CROP walk (PLEASE!!!!) then figure out what needs to be done there. Oh and figure out the event I'm supposed to co-planning with LCLC. So nothing much. Yeesh.

What Am I Procrastinating About? - I'm really slacking on my ELCA responsibilities. Mea Culpa. Nothing personal, I swear!

What Am I Watching/Reading/Listening To? I'm kind of reading two books, actually supposed to be reading a third. I've joined a book group at church to read "The Shack". So far I haven't read a word. The other couple books just aren't' grabbing me. I'm hoping to get rolling again soon.

No music or movies to report either.

Next Up Finish the mailing project, nail down a couple other things.

How Am I Doing I'm still processing the changes to come. I'm starting to get comfortable with the ideas so hope is starting to reassert itself.

Resource Review - Getting Fired for the Glory of God

Getting Fired for the Glory of God: Collected Words of Mike Yaconnelli for Youth Workers By: Mike Yaconelli 139 pages Published by Zondervan/Youth Specialties

OVERALL - I have to be upfront about this review. I love Mike Yaconelli. We're talking total man crush here. I'd read his shopping list. I actually got to meet and shake Mike's hand once at a youth event. It's one of the highlights of my youth ministry life. In his voice I have heard the voice of God. His writing and speaking have had a profound impact on my life and ministry. Mike left us way too early.

So you've probably got a pretty good idea how this review is going to turn out.

These are collected essays that Mike wrote on a variety of youth ministry subjects. But they all have one thing in common. They're about youth ministers. 26 short essays or columns or whatever plus a DVD with two videos of Mike being Mike and a couple audio files of the same.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? It's about what it means to be a youth minister. It's about the challenges that face us in trying to serve Jesus, care for young people and keep the church off our backs. It's about us and who we are and why we follow this call. They are love letters, letters of reprimand, letters of hope. They are satires and tirades. They are comforting and challenging. You may not agree with what Mike says. He'd be the first to cheer you on. The idea is to think about what we do right and what we do wrong and what we might be able to do better.

It's an inspirational book. Inspiring us to think, pray, laugh, cry and dance. And just like the Gospels it's a very dangerous book. Dangerous to complacency of all kinds.

RESERVATIONS I'm so totally nonobjective here. Mike is going to make you jazzed up and impatient with what you see around you in youth ministry. It's almost inevitable you're going to get into trouble because of this book. But than that was the idea. Just don't say I didn't warn you!

RECOMMENDATION Buy the book. Read the book. Buy "Messy Spirituality" and "Dangerous Wonder", neither of which are youth ministry books. Don't try reading any of them before you go to bed. Buy extra copies because you're going to want to share this book but you're not going to want to share YOUR book.

I wanna be Mike Yaconelli when I grow up.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Bad news delivered

I mentioned a week or so back that I had to take a more extensive blood test because my doctor was concerned that I might be diabetic. Took the test and waited. Last night the call came.

I am not diabetic. But I only missed by a tiny amount. My body is doing a piss poor job of dealing with sugars. And I need to make some serious changes in my diet. My doctor knows this was the news I desperately didn't want to hear. She's been great about it all. But the news came as a great black weight on me.

My reactions to this have been many.

Angry. My body has betrayed me. All the changes I've made in the last year, diet changes, exercise, losing almost 30 pounds don't seem to have helped.

Scared. I know it's irrational but the word diabetes means death sentence to me. I know that's wrong but it's a leftover from childhood. Plus it's connected to the thought of insulin injections. You want to talk irrational? Let's talk about my needle phobia. I can't watch actors on TV get shots that I know aren't even real.

Depressed. See above about exercise and weight loss. Add in that in the last two years I've developed a great love of cooking. I'm wondering how many of these new recipes are just off the list now. The first person who says "You'll get used to eating it" is going to get hit. Seriously. I have no interest in getting used to food that lacks flavor and texture. A life eating second rate food doesn't sound like one that's worth living.

Don't take that last sentence too seriously. I'm just in the down cycle of my poor-poor-pitiful-me routine. It never lasts too long.

So what's the solution? Apparently the South Beach Diet. If I can survive the first two weeks the rest looks like it might be OK. We've actually begun the move in that direction anyway (whole grain instead of refined, more veggies, lower carbs) anyway. My beautiful, wonderful, amazing lady wife has agreed that she will travel along with me on this path. She has let me express all those emotions above and lets me cry without penalty. I am completely unworthy of this woman. Pray to God that neither of us kill each other going through carb withdrawal.

So a few more days to just feel sorry for myself. A few days of research on what I need to do to prepare and the changes I need to make. We're thinking we may start all this with Lent. We'll see.

So I'm OK. No immediate danger of death. I'm going to be a bit down for a while yet (I'm a firm believer in the positive benefits of taking a brief wallow in your self pity)and then I'm going to be really grumpy for those two weeks.

With any luck at all I'll come out the other side thinner, healthier and destined to stick around annoying those I love for many years to come.

There, I've said it out loud. Now it's real.

It sucks but it's real. And I'm going to beat it. Somehow.

Pray for me.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Doesn't Surprise Me a Bit

You are a Hippie

You are a total hippie. While you may not wear birks or smell of incense, you have the soul of a hippie.

You don't trust authority, and you do as you please. You're willing to take a stand, even when what you believe isn't popular.

You like to experiment with ideas, lifestyles, and different subcultures.

You always gravitate toward what's radical and subversive. Normal, mainstream culture doesn't really resonate with you.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

In the Bleak Mid-winter

Can not get that song out of my head. It's exactly how it feels right now. The reality is that we are headed into the middle of winter for around here. January and February are the two hardest months. December can be, November is for about half the month. March can go either way but usually at least half of that month is full on winter.

But January and February? Brrrrrrrrr!

And we're in for a lulu right now. All that cold air that has been over the mid-west is headed to us. High tomorrow 6 degrees, high on Friday, 3. Wind chill factors will be running in the minus 10 to minus 19 range. Plus up to another foot of snow over the next two days.

Warmest predicted temp over the next week? 22 degrees next Wednesday.

"In the bleak midwinter, frost wind made moan,
earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
in the bleak midwinter, long ago."


Oh that name game!

As much as my ego would love to say I'm the only one I know for a fact it ain't so. There is a police officer with my name in Moorhead MN. And there appears to be one in Nevada too. While they are listed that way it may not be thier official census name. So maybe I AM unique.

The peanut gallery will come to order!

Other cool facts - My first name is the 334th most common, 97% of us are guys. My last name is the 13,874th most common. Apparently there are only 2,231 of us.

There are 3 people with the kid's name and 7 with the same name as my lady wife.
LogoThere is
person with my name in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

h/t to Grandmere Mimi

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Weekend Update January 13

The Week That Was - Running behind, which appears to be the theme for this week. The weekend was quiet and utterly unproductive. In a completely unsatisfactory way too. Had a Happening Board meeting which went fine. Late last week I met with a group to fund and plan the work I'm doing with the YMCA (radio/podcast techniques with a mostly Hispanic population of teens). I'm not sure where that one is headed. The difference there is that we HAVE funding we're just not sure how to use it. The opposite of the ministry stuff. If I could only merge my two worlds, sigh. Discovered the wind had almost torn the back screen door off it's hinges. Something else to repair. Just lots of little stupid things. Haven't heard back on my blood test yet. My weight loss is minimal and the stupid Carolina Panthers messed up my week in the playoff football pool. Like I said lots of little stupid things.

The To Do List - Must get the DVD project basically done this week. We'll see. Then a mailing to the congregations.

What Am I Procrastinating About? - Not so much procrastinating as just overwhelmed a teensy bit.

What Am I Watching/Reading/Listening To? Kind of between books at the moment. Didn't watch any new movies either. Re-watched "Princess Bride". Only music I've listened to was a collection of music from "The Godfather" films. This should give you a pretty good idea of my mental state, lol!

Next Up DVD production, mailing related stuff (printing, folding, stuffing, carting to the Post Office)

How Am I Doing I'm a little down. The kid is having an existential crisis and it's interlocking with the remains of my previous one. I think I see a solution but it's not going to make either of us totally happy. I think it might be workable however. We'll see.


Monday, January 12, 2009

Resource Review - That's Not

That's Not
OverallSeems like every time we turn around there's some new concern for our youth. As they spend more time on places like Facebook and MySpace plus time texting and sharing photos there are more pressures coming to bear on them. Cyberstalking, pressure to take and share nude photos, even controlling issues like someone texting or emailing them constantly are growing problems. Well the folks at the Ad Council, The Family Violence Prevention Fund and The Office On Violence Against Women have come together to create a really good AND really cool website.

What's It About Using video, cool graphics and common sense they create a very approachable way of talking about some potentially scary topics. I can see this being used from Middle school on up. Plus they have a section where youth can discuss the issues online, links to resources if trouble gets really serious, and even youth created videos on the subject.

In their words:
Your cell phone, IM, and social networks are all a digital extension of who you are. When someone you're with pressures you or disrespects you in those places, that's not cool. is attempting to raise awareness about digital dating abuse and stop it before it gets worse. Sponsored and co-created by the Family Violence Prevention Fund, the Office on Violence Against Women and the Ad Council, the site is designed to address new and complicated problems between teens who are dating or hooking up—problems like constant and controlling texting, pressuring for nude pictures, and breaking into someone's e-mail or social networking page.

Reservations Actually not many. I'd love to have some resources for a more in-depth discussion after the kids have taken a look at this. I didn't see a lot of ways for the adults in these young people's live could hook in to help. I'd also be concerned that some of the callout cards might escalate a bad situation.

Recommendation It may be a real eye opener for adults to cruise through and see the kinds of things that some young people are doing out there on the digital frontier. It may seem harmless but it's not. A photo that was supposed to be for "someone special" very quickly can end up on the world wide web and things get ugly at that point.

I can give this resource a very strong recommendation. I'll have a link to it on the youth ministry website in the near future.


Thursday, January 08, 2009

Who Am I - Faith/Ministry version

You should never encourage people who like to talk about themselves to talk about themselves.

I promise I'll keep this short and I'll be done after this one.

For a while at least.

It occurred to me that I'd given rather short shrift to my life in faith and my ministry in my last post. That would not be an accurate view of who I am at the moment. So a few thoughts:

I am a product of the late 60's - early 70's in the church. I can hear the eyes rolling in certain sections of the peanut gallery! Say what you will about that time in the church but those "hippie priests" as I like to call them (not that many of them would really qualify) made a deep and abiding imprint on me. They served God well in at least one young life. As a youth minister today I know what a victory that is.

While I hate the "numbers game" I must admit that I'm trapped by it. Part of how my success is gauged is by how many "butts there are in the pews" at youth events. I understand why some people do that, they need some way of quantifying what is done for financial reasons. I absolutely can not abide it in other youth ministers. It is ego pure and simple. How many kids do I get at youth events? As many as God sends me. Period. This is something of a hot button for me.

I don't read many "Christian" books and I listen to virtually no "Christian" music. I don't much like reading youth ministry books for that matter (but I am this year as a way of better serving others). To be honest they bore me by and large. I've enjoyed "Blue Like Jazz" and "Speaking of Faith" but they are not the norm in my experience. My wife loves praise music. I have a limited appreciation of it. Too much of the music reminds me of the love poetry of 13 year old girls. Rather treacly and swoony. On the other hand unlike a fair number of others who don't like this stuff I don't disparage those who do like it. If it brings you closer to God, if it helps you on your walk do it with my deepest, most heartfelt blessings. Most youth ministry books strike me as overly earnest and very much in the "Here's the magic bullet" mode. This year may teach me differently. My plan is to read around 25 youth ministry books and review them. (And yes if you publish youth ministry books and are willing to accept a completely honest review, send me your book and I'll put it in the queue)

I am moderately liberal in my theology. But my theological spectrum changes a little based on the issues. I have no trouble repeating the Nicene creed even though I know my understanding of some of the tenets aren't quite the historic understandings. What does that mean? It means I don't know if Mary was a Virgin or not but that I acknowledge that we have historically referred to her in that way. More importantly I believe that whatever characteristics God required of her, she had. And I believe THAT is all that matters. I have leanings both high church (I like icons and some chanting) and low (I could live without incense and my attitudes toward the clergy are really rather protestant).

I find the Bible to be a constant source of wonder and challenge and inspiration. It's also troubling and puzzling.
I don't read it as often I think I should.
I care far more about what the Bible means than what it says.

I am astounded that God called me to minister to young people.
I am astounded that young people seem to agree that this is what I should be doing.
I am further astounded that my heart of heart agrees.

I don't wear my religion on my sleeve. I don't wear a cross usually unless I'm serving as lector or chalice bearer. I don't invoke God's name very often. Normally if you sneeze or if I'm very angry. I understand that one of those is probably not a good habit to have. I take the direction to not flaunt my religious practice very seriously. At the same time I am finally comfortable admitting that I am a person of faith, a Christian even! That's a big change.

Church politics annoy (nay anger me!) even more than office politics. Yes, I honestly expect us to be better behaved than that.

My faith has made a difference in my life. I do not believe that I am a finished product or that I can rest easy. Faith is a journey, one that lasts every minute of every day for all of my life. I'm doing the best I can.

My hope for the next world (believe in it, yep) is that I'll earn a "Well done, thou good and faithful servant". They can give me the cheesiest robe, the most out of tune harp and a tarnished halo. Stick me in the back row of the heavenly choir. All I need is that.

I'm not as good a person of faith as most people think. I'm not as bad a person of faith as I think.

God isn't done with me yet.

But I need to be done with this post.


Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Who Am I Anyway...?

(With apologies to "A Chorus Line")

Well it's the start of the New Year. A time for me that usually includes some introspection. Years ago I realized I had a personal belief/superstition that things didn't become "real" till I said them out loud. If they stayed inside my head the could be avoided, ignored, worked around. Once I said them out loud they had a life force of their own and I had to deal with them. Very often saying things out loud reveals just how silly they really are. This makes dealing with them much easier. Silly things are easily disposed of, in fact you can sometimes just laugh at them and watch them disappear.

So 2009 is here. Who Am I Anyway?

I'm almost 51 years old. That bothers me. When it comes to age I am the stereotypical baby boomer. I resent getting old. I resent that the skin on my hands has begun to show signs of crepeyness. I resent that I'm slowing down and that some things just don't work they way the used to. It's not overwhelming me and I'm finding ways to come to terms with much of it. But I don't like it. Not one expletive deleted bit.

I am shamelessly stealing the following from my friend Dan. As in word for word, cut and paste - I have a deeply held belief that I am an intelligent and talented person who could do something completely extraordinary with my life if I really tried. However, I am too lazy to try, and am also a little worried that if I did I might discover that this deeply held belief is untrue. (Thanks Dan!)

The dominant emotion in my life I have realized has been fear. See the item above. Too often I've either taken the safe road, or chosen not to do something because I was afraid. Of what? Failure. Embarrassment. Letting other people down. I may have only a third of my life left. I don't want fear to retain it's position during that time. Which is why I need to say things like this out loud. (I have no idea if all this stuff is going to interlock this way. Surely you don't think I'm in control of this little ride do you?)

Despite the fear I have been a damn good husband and father. I want to believe that I've been a damn good son, brother and friend. I've decided I'm going to be proud of that. I've earned it.

In my life I have been truly passionate about three things - the theater, radio and youth ministry. My pattern is to fling myself into what I do, to study it, to serve it and to love it. I've come to realize that this is not usually a healthy thing in the long run. The objects of my desire show their flawed and human side. Willing to give myself to the point of physical/mental/spiritual exhaustion I receive the same devotion in return. I'm not sure what to do about that. I am who I am. I left the theater because she demanded more than I was brave enough to offer. I left radio because she was a two faced liar. In youth ministry it is my love's family's indifference that is wearing me down. But I love them all still.

I draw more comfort from the teens and young adults I work with than most of the adults. I work with some wonderful adults whose company I cherish and enjoy. The kids accept me as I am and are happy just that I'm there and care. Adults are in many ways much more high maintenance.

I desperately want to be more creative. I want to write. I want to take photographs. I want to teach. I want to make videos. One of the items on that list has never been said out loud in public before. Now it begins to become real and I will have to deal with it.

A quick listing of things I am - I am lazy, shy (rather profoundly, which surprises people), vain, a little messy, crazy in love with my wife, not a fan of winter,truly trying to figure out how to be closer with most of my family, intensely proud of my daughter and intensely scared for her as well, more comforted by having a black cat in my life again than I expected to be, deeply aware that I retain father issues with my own father and they have affected my relationships with male authority figures my entire life, less spiritual than I wish and more consumerist than I wish, not satisfied with the life I have lived, pretty good with tools, capable, reliable and very much to my constant surprise apparently rather likable. I'm reasonably intelligent and reasonably well read. Some people think I'm funny (using virtually any definition of "funny" you chose, in fact!) I'm surprised to discover that I am a person of faith despite my doubts.

So who does all this make me? Just a guy trying to make his way in this craxy, mized up world.


Sunday, January 04, 2009

Update January 5 2009

The Weekend That Was - Well 2009 is off to a dumb start. We had some kind of accident just before New Year's. There was a bottle of wine in the wine rack that had been opened and then re-corked. Do it all the time. Well either the cork slipped out or one of the cats gave it a whack. When I walked into the kitchen my first thought was "What the heck did the cats kill?" Looked like blood spatter everywhere. Very CSI. Took a while to clean up. Then on New Years we discovered an old bottle of spumante. When we opened it it was the color of maple syrup. Not good. Down the drain it went. Spent a quiet night at home New Year's Eve with my lady wife so it was good. Then on Saturday I managed to completely miss my first meeting of the year. Just slept right through (the meeting site was about 2 hours away, I woke up 45 minutes before. And figured it out about 30 minutes before) The rest of the group was very gracious about it (THANK YOU!) The football pool came to an end and I didn't manage to climb back into the top 10. I missed by less than 10 points though. So not bad.

The To Do List - Started putting together the first list of the year. It's ENORMOUS! I so do NOT want to go back to work! I just need to bump things off and not let them linger.

What Am I Procrastinating About? - Nope still on vacation till I get to the office.

What Am I Watching/Reading/Listening To? Finished "Wish I'd Been There", pretty good. Then hit "The Fifth Elephant" by Terry Pratchett. This is part of the huge Discworld series (depending on how you count there could be 30 some books). If you're a fantasy fan you probably already know the name of Terry Pratchett. If you've never read any Pratchett would be an interesting place to start. He has a bizarre sense of humor, takes regular swipes at the "rules" of fantasy and fills the books with all kinds of word play. The primary recurring character is Death who is an interesting person. As always I enjoyed this one too.

Not a lot of movies this week. Watched a classic '50's horror film "Them" I was really expecting a cheesy flick but I was impressed. A pretty impressive cast (James Whitmore, James Arness) and it is a Warner Bros. film. The script is quite good as well. They kept the special effects to a minimum and that helps too. It was a nice pick up.

Watched the last of the Christmas videos for last year too. "The Homecoming", the first time America met the Waltons. Still love it. Got me started thinking about Walton's Mountain. I'll probably post about that sometime this year.

Also caught Batman - The Dark Knight which was quite good. I could have done with a bit less blowing up/crashing/booming stuff but a tour de force performance by Heath Ledger.

Next Up I have a multi hour blood test on Monday. Part of my doctor's quest to determine if I'm headed toward diabetes or not. My other test was fine but this one tests something that she thought was borderline. This one really freaks me out. Not the test but the possibility of diabetes. I'm not likely going to get that diagnosis, even my doctor admits I'm just in a borderline place and she's afraid it's headed the wrong way. Still freaks me out.

How Am I Doing Other than the blood test and the monster to do list I'm feeling pretty good.


Friday, January 02, 2009

Resource Review - "Shaped By The Story"

Shaped by the Story - Helping Students Encounter God in a New Way By: Michael Novelli 176 pages Published by Zondervan/Youth Specialties
OVERALL - I am really excited about the approach to teaching/learning/forming/creating community outlined in this book. This is NOT a PROGRAM but rather the outline of a PROCESS for approaching Scripture called "storying". What is truly fabulous about the book is that Novelli walks you through step by step and provides a wonderful set of resources as well. There is a DVD included that actually shows you a youth group using the storying process, there are several appendices with lots of great ideas including a personal favorite Lectio Divina. PLUS there's a web site with more resources, ideas, and help all of which are free. Storying falls into that category of "Everything old is new again". It opens Scripture up in a way that the early church would have understood but also in a way that 21st century young people can get involved with just as easily. It requires no fancy equipment or any extensive training regime. You could have the storying approach up and running in very short order.

As a lifelong storyteller and long time youth minister I have say this is a book that really got me excited (with one notable exception, see below). Novelli has done a thorough, in depth examination of storying in this book. You'll understand the history, the underlying concepts and the process itself by the time you're finished. That's no mean feat in only 176 pages. What you find at the end is something that is a serious challenge to how we've approached Scripture in the past and an exciting possibility for the future.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? Storying is a way of getting deeper into Scripture. Novelli talks about the need to realize that it's not about us integrating God's story into our lives but integrating our lives into God's story. In many ways I think storying is a further growth from the Lectio Divina concept. We all know the stories at the surface level but may feel intimidated to dig deeper. To do that the author notes that we're going to have to be open to approaching scripture a little differently than we have in the past. I can only imagine how some people will react to comparing the Bible to a "wikistory" or a web "mashup"! Storying takes the youth leader out of the role of leader and into the role of co-learner. It offers the young people ways to interact with the individual stories of scripture (what Novelli refers to as the narratives) that are help them work towards a deeper understanding. A storying session goes through 7 elements - Build community, Review previous stories, Prepare for imaginative listening, Narrate the new story, help the group Retell the new story, Discuss the story, Connect the story to our own stories. If that sounds complicated you'll quickly discover that it's really not. This can be done very effectively with a minimum (but absolutely necessary) amount of preparation.

RESERVATIONS A little one and a big one. Little one first. Novelli really pushes hard for a very straight forward way of narrating the stories. He recommends against using humor for example. There's absolutely nothing wrong with his approach. But. I've told stories all my life, even made a living doing it. And so I'm not willing to give up any potential tool. Getting away from the straight forward style of the book means you have to prepare more carefully and work harder. Under the right circumstances going a little farther can be magical. Under the wrong circumstances it can be a total train wreck. I just wanted to note that small difference.

The big difference has to do with an entire chapter. Chapter 5 "Communication Revolution" cites a large number of statistics outlining the change in how all Americans deal with media. We don't read as much as we used to. We rely more on electronic media for entertainment and information. I don't dispute any of that. Unfortunately Novelli cites at least one source that is seriously suspect. It doesn't offer original research but is an extended listing of other sources. At the very beginning however the web site notes that it quotes some material that it has no source for, and that some of the "source" links in fact do not take you to the statistic cited but only to the organization or person who is the supposed source. I followed several of them and could not find the statistic cited. What I did find on the web site were statistics that appeared to contradict each other. It detracts from the case being made. Given the excellence of the rest of the book I found this chapter disturbing. If you're willing to agree that our youth approach media, literature, information differently than we did at that age (and it's indisputable) you really don't need this chapter. Frankly it comes off as alarmist and I just don't see the need. Skip the chapter and you really won't lose a thing.

RECOMMENDATION I give this book a strong endorsement for any youth group starting with middle school on up. This could work very well with adult groups too I think. It gives you all the resources you'll need to get started, it's well written, and it's clearly "real world" workable. It's well worth it's $30 purchase price.