Archive for January, 2009

SNOW! (the sequel)

We are having a great snow today. It’s gorgeous, light, coating everything, muffling the sound, picture perfect. Everything ideal about snow. It’s rare we get this kind of snow. We usually get the icy, wet, dreary snow that soaks into everything or freezes into a solid coating that takes ages to melt of the car in the morning.

So, I’m just being publically grateful for at least one really sweet snowstorm this year. It’s not deep, but otherwise, it’s perfect.


Book Review-Revisiting Relational Youth Ministry

I just read a book called Revisiting Relational Youth Ministry by a guy named Andrew Root. If nothing else I have to thank him for raising my reading level by a few grades just through being able to say I read the entire book and looked up a lot of words….and I have a degree in English(that’s like saying I went to college to spcifically to learn to read)

The book made good points about relationships, especially in youth ministry, being about the relationship, not about “earning” the right to influence the other person. That was already on my radar but it was good to  hear some reasons why spelled out so specifically by someone with more education and a better vocabulary than I have. And, unintenionally, Root steered me toward reading Bonhoeffer again. I’ve read him before but now I have a little more concept of his context and everything he had to say makes a lot more sense.

The thing that’s really worth wrestling with coming out of reading this book, though, is how to help the volunteers I work with internalize some of the ideas. One of the basic volunteer “needs” is a concrete idea of their role. To say “your role is to be create a reliable, deep realtionship with a kid; sharing the place they are and standing up for them when they can’t do it themselves” is not exactly concrete-it’s not like it just happens with every kid who walks into your life. Also, to provide programming that includes realtional opportunities is pretty easy but to provide THAT kind of in-depth work, on a regular basis with three different age groups and several different programming opportunities presents a significant challenge.

The book deserves at least a second read. It had some complicated diagrams I’d like to understand more fully, and I’d like to see where he might be going with it as an overall appraoch. I like/work toward/agree with the idea of teens being full members of their congregation with everything being available to them AND with youth-oriented programs being available to adults as well. It’s a complicated dynamic-messy as all getout-but it seems more in line with being fully human. Root’s book is pretty strong on that point-acknowleding the humanity in all.

to be or not to be (normal)

Have you ever felt not-normal and wanted to be normal?

Sometimes, actually quite often right now, I want a normal job, with regular hours and expectations. I want to the ability to talk to the other parents at my kids’ activities and feel like we’re living on the same plane of existence.  

But, then, at the same time you’re thinking yeah, I just want to be like everyone else, you also know you’d never be able to live that way? It’s just that it seems easier somehow, to float down the same part of the stream the rest of the world is floating down. What’s with that, exactly?

Layer that on top of constant thoughts that somehow I can do ______ better, more creatively, more sensitively, etc. but I don’t care enough to try. I think I should care. I’m expected to care. Why don’t I? It would just be so much easier to be doing something where it doesn’t matter if I care.

My husband says I think too much. Probably, he’s right. How do you stop thinking, though? I heard somewhere that women have a thicker corpus callosum. It’s the band of tissue between the two hemispheres of the brain which allows the hemispheres to communicate with each other. Apparently, what this means is that women are better multitaskers. Which, logically, means wwomen think about more at once. So, biologically, I can’t even rely on myself  to shut my brain down -I have to think and think about lot of things at one time. (currently I’m wondering if the laundry is dry, while I’m trying to figure out how to explain this and deciding what dinner is going to be)

So, exactly how does one stop thinking and start caring? Or live in the tension of being outside the normal while being in the midst of it?

So, you think you want to be in ministry?

Every year, one topic comes up in the ministry I work in: changes and the future. Granted, they’re teenagers so many of them don’t have much Past to work with yet. But, they spend a huge amount of time worrying about and planning  out their futures during their junior and senior years of high school.  There is no explaining to them that they cannot determine every single thing that’s going to happen for them for the rest of their lives. They believe, completely, that deciding what college or other path they’re going to take after high school is the last and biggest decision of their lives. (really, it’s pretty much the first, big decision they have ever had to make, but hey, they think they’re going to be old when they’re 28, too.)

So, Nick the Geek from the Stuff Christians Like blog came up with this quick, little ministry compatibility test to determine what type of ministry God’s going to call them into…because all youth group kids have to go into vocational ministry, donchaknow. Check it out.

New Year’s Graveyards

In the last few days I’ve had to pick a few people up from their homes, so I’ve been driving through a lot of neighborhoods. Nice, middle and working class American families with decorated Christmas-y houses.

Except that now that it’s into the reality of 2009, past the holidays and back to the daily grind, no one is really into the decorations anymore so strings of drooping christmas lights remain unlit and wreaths are starting to look a little flat from being smashed in between the front door and the storm door.

But the most depressing sight, by far, is the graveyards of limp, uninflated Christmas decorations laying around front yards of every fifth house or so. Not everyone gets into the inflatable decorations, but those who do, really do. Their yards are packed full of these monster-sized critters that probably give the two year old next door nighmares throughout Christmas. Squiggling wires streak across to every electrical outlet in sight of the house. And, at night, may even move and play music. They’re a lot of fun really….when they’re plugged in. Now, though, no one inflates them anymore. We’re back to thinking about the cost of electricity, the leaky faucet and the other everyday mundane things that are the bulk of life. The graveyards of the holiday season are just reminders that it has passed and the routines we’ve started again are going to extend for the next few months, at least.

So, hey, if you’ve got ’em, plug them in and extend the celebration! Or get a couple people together for a Christmas Wake and remember the holidays with a little style while you put the decorations away.

Today’s best email

Subject: Karen needs help!! Exploding soda cans in the kitchen!!!
As you can see by the subject line of the email that went out to staff this morning, the day is off to a fine start.

I was trying to be nice and restock the supply of sodas we keep in the vegetables bins in the 2 refrigerators in the kitchen here in the office.

We provide sodas and bottled water for 45 cents each – much cheaper than the vending machines.
As I was carrying a case of Root Beer over to the 2nd fridge, it split in half and dropped to the floor with cans spilling everywhere.

Unfortunately the impact caused one can to spring a tiny leak. You’d think that would be no big deal. But you’d be wrong!!

The force of the soda shooting out of the can, caused the can to spin in circles on the floor. I was bending down trying to grab the spinning can, and it shot soda up my nose. It shot soda up my pant legs. I got soda in my hair and all over my glasses.

By the time I got the can under control, the kitchen was a wreck.

Soda was dripping off the windows and cabinets – even the ones up over the sink!

Soda was dripping down the walls, the table and chairs.

Because I had the refrigerator door open, soda went ALL over inside the fridge too.

Soda squirted people’s lunch bags, all over condiments on the door shelves, and it even dripped down into the vegetable bins.

All total, that one stupid can covered an area about 15’ x 15’!!!

I walked my dripping, but sweet smelling self, out to the nearest cubicle and asked a colleague to email the office and ask people to come help clean it all up. About 8 people descended on the kitchen within 2 minutes. Most came because the idea of exploding soda cans was too intriguing to ignore! It took all of us about 15 minutes to wipe everything off, empty the fridge out, rinse things off, soak it up, etc.

Hope your day is a little less exciting.


And the #1 reply winner:

Here are my responses based on aspects of my identity . . .

Pastor – I’m so very sorry.  Can I do anything to help?

Missionary – You should be grateful to have soda in the first place.  Most people in the world don’t have such luxuries.

Your friend – hahahahahahah!!!  hahahahahah!!! (catch my breath) hahahahahah!!  hahahahahaha!

The Parable at Kruger

This video has become popular, so you may have seen it before. On the other hand, if you haven’t, it can be tough to watch. It’s better without the sound on because the narraration interrupts the flow of the video. If you start it watching it, make sure you watch through to at least seven minutes-don’t quit in the middle.

Isn’t that amazing? Maybe stop and take a breath or two to calm down. I admit it, I cried. It’s watching seven minutes of hell for a water buffalo- not exaggerating. The little guy went through something that there isn’t a better term for than hell. And came out alive enough to walk away.

It has to be one of the best, albeit unusable, sermon illustrations in memory. Get beat down, keep going. Get torn up, keep going. Get a little help from your family and friends. Let God work a miracle in your life so you can stand up and walk again.

It also has all the makings of a great story- a character that you care about, an insurrmountable obstacle, positive and negative progress, conflict, suspense and an amazing finish. I’m glad they didn’t try to figure out what happened to the little guy next. It would have ruined the story.

The video doesn’t need anyone to explain it-I get it. I mean, I GET it. To the point of tears. I can easily see that God would want to tell it to humanity- I feel God in this completely visceral way when I watch it.

Do you think there’s any chance that people don’t need us (the Church) to explain God’s point to them? Can’t we just tell the stories where we see God at work, in Scripture and in life, and simply let God speak for Himself ? Why is it necessary to take it apart, analyze it and try to reduce it to something uncomplicated? Life’s complicated-God is beyond our grasp and he created life. So, why can’t we accept that life is beyond our grasp as well and let God tell us His story?

I was more frustrated with that than I thought I was when I started-frustration is my strongest spiritual gift. What I really wanted to get into is why Hell is considered a location when we define it in terms of an experience, but I guess I can save that for another day…