Monday, June 29, 2009

Resource Review - The Episcopal Handbook

The Episcopal Handbook By: Church Publishing Incorporated 256 pages $15.00 Published by Morehouse Publishing

OVERALL - "The Episcopal Handbook provides historical and theological information about the Episcopal Church alongside fun-filled facts and practical tips for being a churchgoing follower of Jesus Christ."

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? A couple weeks ago I reviewed "101 Reasons to be Episcopalian" and you could think of this as a companion piece. If 101 gets the conversation started the Handbook starts taking us a little deeper into the discussion. Again the tone is decidedly lighthearted. Chapters include - How to Survive a Baptism, What Are All Those Books in the Pew?, Is Coffee Really the Third Sacrament? and Why (Most) Episcopalians Don't Kick Dogs (Answer: because we care for God's creation). You also get more serious topics talking about the Creeds, the Bible, How to Pray, How to Tell a Sinner from a Saint, and Why the Episcopal Church Welcomes Everyone. And that only scratches the surface of the book. There has to be close to 100 short chapters that touch on just about anything you could possibly imagine. Not only to do with being an Episcopalian but with being a Christian too. It really does answer, or at least tries to answer, all those "dumb" questions that we so often never ask. We never ask not because we don't want to know but more often because we're afraid we'll look "dumb". I would have loved having this book to fall back on as a teen. Again not written as a youth ministry resource specifically I think it is a great tool for ministry with our youth.

RESERVATIONS Because they are willing to take on all questions it's inevitable that some answers won't be to everyone's taste. Questions about sexuality, evolution and the Bible will not be happy reading for some folks. In reality I think they express the common understanding and feelings of most Episcopalians and are consistent with the stated positions of the church (where they exist). On evolution they note the church has no stated position on the subject explicitly but most Episcopalians agree with it and the church has said that we believe that God can create in any fashion or form, including evolution. That kind of openness is an essential aspect of Episcopal culture. You're either comfortable with it or not.

RECOMMENDATION I'm going to add this to my still theoretical list of "Must Have" resources for youth ministers in the Episcopal Church. (Note I'm aware of similar Lutheran and Methodist Handbooks and there may be others out there too.) The book is fun and funny, easy to read while still being a source for serious answers to deep theological questions. Again as a way to show not only how we live as Christians but also what our Episcopal traditions and understandings bring to the table this book is a fabulous addition to your library. My bet is that most Episcopalians will learn at least one new thing about themselves as they read this book.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Resource Review - Bible

OVERALL - A searchable online Bible in over 100 versions and 50 languages. A great easy to use tool.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT?I had completely forgotten about doing a review of this site simply because I use it all the time without thinking about what a great resource this has been. When I'm preparing for a class or a study of some sort I like to compare different translations of Scripture. Over the years I've found this to be a great way to dig a little deeper into the meaning of some passages or words. Languages do not translate cleaning from one to the next, no matter how much we want them to do so. Add in things like idiomatic phrases and, as one person once put it to me, "all translations are paraphrases". The problem has been having multiple version open on my desk while I'm trying to write, let alone having lots of different versions sitting close to hand when I need them. makes that much easier. You type in the section you're working on (you can also search by keyword or topic too if you're looking for a passage and don't know one off the top of your head). Then it's a quick process to look at it in any of the other versions they have. They have 22 versions in English from the KJV to NIV to Douay-Rheims to The Message and more. There's a button that will bring up some commentary for you, others to move you forward or back through that entire section of the Bible and a quick and easy way to print out what you need. The web page is easy to use and simple to find what you're looking for in either the Bible or web site functions.

RESERVATIONS There are two versions they DON'T have and it's a bit problematic for most Episcopal churches - the Revised Standard Version (RSV) and the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), since these are the most commonly used versions in our churches.. It's annoying. I've found other online sources for the NRSV (here and here) and an online version of the RSV (here). I'm not sure why hasn't been able to get the rights to use these versions. It would be great to have them all in one place but in the end I just prop my RSV up on my desk while I scan the online versions.

RECOMMENDATION Again a basic tool that you'll use over and over and over again. It's not perfect as noted (not all useful versions and limited commentary options) but it's hard to beat. Bookmark this one and all of sudden you'll start impressing everyone with your knowledge of the Bible!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Resource Review - 101 Reasons to be Episcopalian

101 Reason to be Episcopalian By: Louie Crew w/ Foreword by Phyllis Tickle 101 pages $9.00 Published by Morehouse Publishing

OVERALL - Gathered thoughts and wisdom from many different members of the church talking about what they love, admire, respect and are inspired by in the Episcopal Church.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? This is a tiny little book (4x6 inches and only 101 pages long) that you can read through quickly but will come back to ponder some passages over and over again. Most are a sentence or two long, none go longer than a single small page's worth. Some are funny, some are quite serious and deep. All express some small part of what it means to be an Episcopalian. My favorite is #52 from Mary L, Lyons of the Diocese of Olympia - "This is the only church that is as lovingly loony as your family". Yes, that sounds familiar to me! I have grown increasingly concerned over the last decade about how poorly we represent what it means to be an Episcopalian. Why do we do things the way we do, where did we come from, what speaks to us in this tradition that is different from any other? If we can't communicate those ideas to our youth then the denomination has no future no matter how well we may do other things. This book can be an interesting jumping off point for discussion about those issues.

RESERVATIONS Some folks are going to cherry pick through the quotes and get all outraged about certain folks who have been included. The editor Dr. Louie Crew will set off some, the Bishop Spong quote will certainly set off others. If you are looking for reasons to reject this book you'll certainly find them. Better than that why not think and discuss your reasons to disagree with whatever quote you may dislike?

RECOMMENDATION I'm really impressed with this book as an entry level volume for folks trying to find their place in our church. It's not written for youth ministry but I don't see why we shouldn't use any and all options in our ministry. What's great is that the reading is short and to the point (the shortest entry is three words). It's lighthearted without ever dropping into silliness, it's thoughtful without ever dropping into tedium. There, call that my simple reason for being an Episcopalian. I think that describes who we are at our best. Think about sticking this book into your back pocket as an easy discussion starter about being an Episcopalian. I think you'll get plenty of mileage out of this little book

Come to the Water

Along with my work in the Episcopal church I also work with the churches of the Southwestern Conference of the Upstate NY Synod of ELCA. It's been a challenge and a lot of fun along the way. Over the weekend we had an event with the local Lutheran camp and conference center (LCLC- Lake Chautauqua Lutheran Center). It's a great facility and we're trying to pump up the involvement of the nearest churches in its programs. So I led a group of 3-6th graders in the Bible study portion of the day. Those are a lot younger kids than I normally work with and I was a little nervous. Everything seemed to go very well and the adults were very complimentary about my teaching. The event was called "Come to the Water" and so I talked about water and its symbolism in the church. I used both the story of the Samaritan woman at the well and Peter walking on the water as examples. Plus did a little easy science by showing them how to float a paper clip on the water with no tricks (just God given surface tension).

There's a photo album of the event here photos of me courtesy of my friend and fellow blogger Tara at Uphill Idealist. I realize these are some of the first looks I've offered of the new, thinner me.


An intereting question

Adam McLane the tech guru at YS (and all round good guy) wrote a very interesting article about "What to Say When the Youth Pastor Leaves". He notes a behavior I'd never heard of before, folks being paid off to say they had quit when in fact they were being fired. It strikes me as an incredibly dishonest thing for a church to be doing and, as Adam notes, rather cowardly. Apparently the idea is that you're "sparing" the congregation and/or the youth pain if the pastor is leaving "voluntarily" and to ease the pain for the pastor you bribe him/her to lie.

I wrote the following in the comments then thought it might be appropriate for me to offer here on my own blog too. Here's what I said:

"Having said that let me note what happened in my last job (in the media not the church). I was offered the choice. I could quit or be fired. No mention of any penalty one way or the other. I chose to “quit” for the good of the staff. We’d lost several other key players (I left with 17 years experience and from a management post) within the last 6 months. Employee morale was in the toilet and in my considered opinion it would be better for the ongoing work environment if I “quit”. So I wrote my letter of resignation, packed my box, got hugged on and walked out. Was it a lie? From a plain reading of the situation yes. I did not leave voluntarily, I was out the door one way or the other (and in the long view thank God for that!).

So did I do wrong? I’m comfortable with what and why I did it. Be interested in other thoughts.

I have no doubt that my subterfuge was thin enough that everyone recognized it for what it was. My passion for my job and that company had in fact been the final straw that had pushed me out the door (note to self - don't tell consultants they're wrong, even when they are.) I was the "face" of my radio station and had been for over a decade. Unless I got a new and better gig I wasn't going anywhere. But I didn't think my co-workers, who had to remain behind, would be best served by having yet another long timer shown the door by management. Maybe I was wrong but as I said I'm comfortable with what I did.

Any thoughts?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Post Credo update

This is probably something I should and will do on a semi-regular basis. Part of the concept of CREDO is make good changes in your life. Another part of it is accountability and I decided to make this blog part of my accountability process.

So here's where we stand:

Goal #1 A Healthier Lifestyle - I have the basic concept of a sabbatical approved and I'm homing in on a concept. I'm working on my spiritual life (got a book on the writings of Julian of Norwich which I'm starting) and my exercise routine has kicked back in with the bike coming into play now. We've started the conversation about our finances as well. So I'm happy here.

Goal #2 - Expand and empower others in leadership. I'm working hard at handing leadership roles to other people. I think both I and they find that strange but we'll keep on working on it. I need to get started thinking about a leaders event for the fall. It's a start.

Goal #3 - Develop and expand projects for my communication gifts. Got a new piece of equipment to start that and I've been struggling to get it to work. Finally just did a work around and it works. Now I have to take the plunge. I did try something new and rather silly but it was fun anyway. I'll keep playing with this to make them better as I go along:

I'll have some more new projects coming up as well. These will actually have me in them (Scary, I know!)

Finally I've streamlined how I deal with my e-mail and that seems to be much more efficient. I've also consolidated my contact information into one central place and everything else has to come from that one central location. That's been a great help as well.

So just, wow it's been two months already and I'm still on track and working on my goals. Thanks to everyone IRL (that's In Real Life) who has supported me so far in this trip. Special thanks and love to my two ladies and my CREDO small group!


Translated Part two

Part 2

I mentioned earlier this week that Stuart Delony (above) had asked me some questions as a way to keep his blog active while he is away on a training trip. He broke mine into two posts (he did that with lots of other folks too!) and here are my answers (in my usual rather smart a$$ fashion) to the second two questions.

Part 1

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Star Trek Movie Easter Eggs

Easter Eggs are little hidden goodies found in movies and video games. They are usually private jokes of the creative team or with the fan base or tributes to other storylines/people/media. has a list of the easter eggs discovered so far in the new Star Trek movie. I caught a few of them but now I'll have to go see the movie again to catch a few more. H/T to Matthew McNutt for the tip. I also snitched this list from him of some of his favorites from the list:

* R2 is in the debris field. During the Drill Machine sequence as the Enterprise comes out of its barrel role amidst destruction of the other Federation ships above Vulcan, we cut to an interior Enterprise bridge over the shoulder of Kirk that is looking out through the front viewscreen. In space, R2-D2 is floating in the debris from about the top middle of the screen to the bottom right.
* The surround screen tests for the young Vulcan children are similiar to the multi-screen tests for the resurrected Spock in Star Trek IV
* Sign seen as Kirk drives motorcycle into Riverside Ship Yard reads ‘Sector 47′, the number 47 is a recurring theme on the Abrams shows Alias, Fringe and Lost, as well as TNG era Trek
* Another 47 mention when Uhura talks about “47 ships” from a Klingon armada that were destroyed
* During Kobayashi Maru simulator Kirk eats an apple, an homage to the Genesis cave scene in Star Trek II when Kirk at apple while telling story about how he beat the Kobayashi Maru
* Last name called for assignment was “Vader USS Hood”, reference to Star Wars
* When Chekov is trying to log in to his station the computer voice is by Majel Barrett Roddenberry, her last role in the Star Trek franchise before her death
* Sulu tells Kirk his combat training is in fencing, in the TOS episode “The Naked Time” Sulu shows off his fencing abilities
* Chief engineer Olsen wearing red jumpsuit dies a ‘red shirt’ death
* Nero tortures Pike using ‘Centaurian Slugs’ which are an homage to the Ceti Eels of Star Trek II
* Spock’s line “If you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth” is the same line Spock speaks in Star Trek VI(which is a tribute to Sherlock Holmes)
* Spock Prime tells Kirk he “has been and always shall be his friend”, just as he said to Kirk in Wrath of Khan
* McCoy asks Spock if he is “out of his Vulcan mind?”, a question that McCoy Prime asked Spock on a couple of ocasions in TOS and the movies
* Spock’s comment about “roaming the halls weeping” could be reference to Spock’s loss of control in TOS “The Naked Time”
* A tribble can be seen (and heard) in cage in Scotty’s workshop (on table he has his feet up on when first seen)
* Spock keying in the equation from the future for trans-warp beaming into Scotty’s computer is homage to Scotty keying in formula from the future for transparent aluminum into Plexicorp computer in Star Trek IV
* When Pike is seen at the end he is wearing admiral uniform very similar to those of The Motion Picture and is in wheel chair, as he was in “The Menagerie”

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Me, translated

Translated as in moved to a different place.

Stuart Delony who blogs at "The Ramblings is away for two weeks doing some rock climbing and raft training (some guys get to do all the cool stuff). He is a missionary youth minister working among unchurched youth in the Pacific Northwest. He also writes one of the most interesting youth ministry blogs out there. Anyway, while he was away he asked some of the other bloggers he knows to answer some questions to "fill in" for him while he's gone. That included, I'm very honored to say, me!

Those who know me will be stunned to discover that my answers were so long he broke my responses down into two separate posts. Here's part one, part two tomorrow.

Part 1

If you're interested in what Stuart is doing check out this video about his group:

Monday, June 08, 2009

Resource Review - Google Maps POI

Google Maps POI

OVERALL - So you're headed out on a trip with the youth group. You know, these are teenagers after all, that they're going to want to eat eventually. How do you know where to find food on your trip? Google Maps of course! POI means Points of Interest, which in this case means fast food!

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? Some one (not Google itself but one of the outside developers that Google encourages) has come up with the perfect mapping tool for youth ministers on road trips with youth. You tell it your route and it tells you what kinds of food are available along the way. It really is quick and easy. You don't need zip codes or street addresses just starting town or city and ending town or city. You get a route for the trip and a map with every major chain of fast food indicated along the way. Just zoom in on the area where you're thinking about stopping and you'll find your choices. Just that simple.

RESERVATIONS The only choices you're given are fast food restaurants. So if you're looking for something other than burgers, tacos, pizza or fried chicken you're pretty much out of luck. Of course you're travelling with teenagers so the chance they want anything OTHER than burgers, tacos, pizza or fried chicken is probably pretty small.

RECOMMENDATION This is one of those you don't need it till you need it kind of tools. The great thing is that the locations are tied into Google maps which is one of my favorite maps sites anyway. You get the street address plus if you zoom down in tight you can see the exact streets you need. Worth bookmarking it just so you have for that next road trip!

An update

Well I've gotten out of the habit recently of doing a weekly update. In hindsight the ended up being mostly filler. If something interesting happened I'd post about it, not wait to do an end of week review. So I'm deep sixing that and just going with periodic posts about anything that I think might be interesting.

Reading a new author, at least to me. Susan Howatch is an author I've heard a lot of fellow Episcopalians/Anglicans talk about usually in glowing terms. (There's always a grump or two). I've been taking to wandering the stacks of the library looking for something new to read and stumbled on "Glittering Images" the first book in what's called the Starbridge series. It's the story of an Anglican priest in the 1930's and his spiritual, physical and familial struggles. To be honest the first couple hundred pages I kept thinking "Why am I reading this?" But the writing was good and the characters interesting so I kept on and now I'm hooked. I was almost late getting out the door this morning because I was engrossed in the reading.

I find it interesting as well because the main character is struggling with some of the same issues I am at roughly the same age (he's a few years younger). So the story is speaking very strongly to me. I'll be interested to see how the rest of her work goes.

Starting exploring a new movie thread too. Got a series of Harold Lloyd films from Netflix. I've never seen any of his work, which is highly regarded by film buffs. What surprised me was how long the first one was, 1928's "Speedy", 86 minutes. I know I went in with the mindset of movies from 5-10 years earlier that only ran a couple reels but I was still surprised. This is also a very high quality movie, great photography and action scenes. But the really amazing moment is when Lloyd "flips off" his image in a mirror! It's unmistakable that he offers the classic one finger salute quite clearly. Apparently this slid through because it was before the hated Hays Office was created. I ran it back just to make sure I had seen it. Oh yes, to yearn for more innocent days!

Not much else going on 'round here.


Friday, June 05, 2009


Two events of some level of importance happened this week.

First - for the last several years (hmm, like 6-7?) reaching the minimum number needed to put on some of our camp programs has been a stomach churning and occasionally heart breaking process. So it was great earlier this week to realize that we would pass that milestone for our Senior High Conference with almost a month to go. There have been several years where we took it right down to the wire and then some. Begging, pleading, arm twisting and more. At the moment we are past the minimum number with at least a handful more still to come that I'm confident of seeing. There maybe another handful out there as well. So very good. We may still have to go through the agony for our next two camps but it's great to have breathing room for a change at the start of the summer.

Second - I'm only going to give a tease here because I want to do a little bit of fancy stuff about this later today. I've been looking for challenges for my bike riding this summer beyond my annual ride around the lake (about 42 miles). I'd been eyeing one particular hill coming up from the flatlands along Lake Erie up to the village where I live. The hill is about 6 miles long with no real breaks in the climb. If I remember correctly you rise some 800 feet over the course of the ride. I had really put that down as a train all summer and take it on at the end kind of challenge. Well today I rode the "back way" into the village where the climb starts with a couple friends and they said "Let's do it today!". On my third ride of the year. With only 20 miles under my belt and 10 of those had come that very morning.

Sure. Why not?

And I whupped that hill. The ride took 45 minutes which is well below what I had expected. We stopped once about half way up to make sure everyone was OK. The break was about 2 minutes. I'm fairly certain I could have made it without stopping, I really felt pretty strong at that point. That climb would have been flat out impossible a year ago. Just amazing. (OK that turned out to be more than a tease)

It's been a good week.


Thursday, June 04, 2009

A matter of importance

I see lots of folks getting all in a lather about the announcement of David Carradine's death.

I would like to remind you that today is the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmin Square massacre and one of the great images of individual resolution ever seen.

I know that the phrase Tianamin Square massacre isn't always used any more since very few people died actually in the square. But many people died in the vicinity of the square in action related to what had been happening there. I'm comfortable with the characterization.

David Carradine, 1936-2009 R.I.P.


Monday, June 01, 2009

Weekend Update June 1

The Week That Was - Wow, got the whole way through May without any kind of summary. And the world didn't end. LOL. Slowly getting back into a routine. The kid came home yesterday, Soap Box Derby on Saturday (I've been race announcer for 23 years) otherwise fairly quiet. Trying to get things organized and working on my Credo stuff. Kinda nice to have a boring week.

The To Do List - Remains a disaster area. I have a simple to do list at the moment. It has 16 items on it plus 3 that I've crossed off.

What Am I Procrastinating About? - This has been less of a problem. I'm making a habit of simply DOING things when they need to be done.

What Am I Watching/Reading/Listening To?

Touched on this earlier still working on some Sue Grafton stuff. No new music.

Movies - I've seen Star Trek (liked it and am seeing it again tonight), Night at the Museum (meh, it was OK) and hope to see Angels and Demons soon. Nothing new at home.

Music - No new music

Next Up This month is basically all camp prep all the time. Lots to get done for Senior High, plus starting to get things ready for Junior High and Sleep Away.

How Am I Doing Actually doing pretty well. And that feels good.


Resource Review - How to Volunteer Like a Pro

How to Volunteer like a Pro - An amateur's guide to working with Teenagers By: Jim Hancock 143 pages $12.99 Published by Zondervan

OVERALL - Someone finally wrote a book just for volunteers. One that doesn't talk down to us, that actually talks about the important stuff.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? Jim Hancock describes his very first youth group meeting as a new adult "volunteer". He was nervous, felt completely out of his depth and was quite certain that he didn't know what he should know. I had the exact same feelings the first time I walked into the room (curiously the room that was then the youth room is today my office) for my very first youth group meeting as an adult volunteer. My bet is it will ring a bell for most of us. Jim Hancock took an interesting path as a youth worker. He started as a paid youth minister then quit and became a volunteer. Out of both those experiences he's come up with a very good book. He covers everything from your first day to the kids last day and time to leave. In between he'll give you a good, brief look at just about every skill or standard you'll need to get started. It's also a great refresher for folks who have been in the trenches for a while. With 37 chapters and only 143 pages obviously this is a quick an easy read. There's some real value in these quick chapters too. I like that it comes as a hard back book because I think a lot of new volunteer leaders will want to carry it around with them for a while.

RESERVATIONS The downside of the short snappy chapters is that you never really get into much depth. Some of these chapters are going to "want" to be discussed in greater depth. So the new leader will want to have someone else to talk with about some of it. That will slow the process down a little but not enough to take away from what can be learned.

RECOMMENDATION This could certainly be added to my beginning youth ministry pack. It's a solid introduction to most of the issues we face in our youth ministries. You'll also find a solid starting point for taking on all those challenges. It's not for everyone (some of us have learned most of this the hard way) but if you've got someone that you want to help past some of those early hurdles you should definitely buy them this book.