this is no longer my blog
Monday, September 27, 2004
woe to the rich
I came across this website Global Rich List
, where you enter your annual income and it puts you on a continuum compared to everyone else in the world. I typed my income, which is by no means extravagant here in America, and I'm still in the top 12.83% with only 5,230,168,175 people coming in as poorer than me... Kind of puts all the Gospel readings into perspective, when they talk about woe to the rich, and in the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man. I may feel like I'm scraping by, with just enough to pay my bills and buy food and perhaps a little extra. But I'm wealthy. And I need to remember in the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus, when the Rich Man is in Hades because he took his wealth for granted and ignored the needs of those around him, even those right outside his door, that it speaks against me just as much as it speaks against the Bill Gates and Warren Buffetts of the world.
Sunday, September 26, 2004
in my Father's house there are many mansions
So there is this tv show that I have seen occasionally, and I was sitting at home in front of the boob tube and saw that it was on, so I decided to watch it. It is Extreme Makeover Home Edition with Ty from Trading Spaces fame. I have enjoyed the few episodes that I have seen of this show, mainly because they pick deserving families and totally renovate their house. Well, the episode I saw this evening was no different. They picked the house of a man whose wife had died four years ago. They had been very faith-full people and God had been very important in their lives. Oh yeah, they also had eight kids. So this widower was living in a small house with eight kids- four girls and four boys. The two younger girls shared a room with bunkbeds, they were like 9 and 12 or something. The older two girls shared a bedroom with bunkbeds, they were 14 and 16 or something like that. The four boys shared a converted garage, and they all slept on bunkbeds. They were maybe 18,15,11 and 7. The only person that had their own room was the dad. And the house was just packed full. They had no dining room table, there was no room really big enough for the whole family to gather. What struck me the most was how immediately attached to the family all of the designers got. These kids seemed pretty amazing. Here they had just lost their mom like four years ago, they were cramped in small rooms on top of each other, and they just kept talking about how they were blessed and the good things in their lives. The designers kept commenting on a definite spirit (or should I say Spirit?) that was evident, especially when the family came back and saw the house. The first thing the dad did, well after the initial shock of seeing how his small three bedroom house had been converted into a two story home, was thank God. At various times it showed several of the kids thanking God or praying in some fashion. They made an office for the dad and on the desk was his Bible open and his wife's Bible next to it open. And they commissioned a neighbor who was an artist to do a chalk portrait of the wife. When the dad saw that he just starts breaking down in tears, telling her he misses her and loves her and thanking her for the eight wonderful children. Dude, I almost cried! Watching a home repair show... Who DOES that? The oldest boy who was 18 finally got his own room, for the first time in 18 years. That brought the dad to tears, too. The two youngest of each gender ended up sharing rooms, still, but for the boys I think that would have been a amjor improvement. They even gave the family a two story home fitness center, because a lot of the kids are hoping to get basketball scholarships to help pay for school. So they had weight machines and a tread mill and all that fun stuff. And the whole community turned out, they said it was the largest turnout for one of these shows they've EVER had. And all the people they talked to said no one was more deserving than this family. The family was touched, but it was evident the designers were touched. In the interviews at the end of the show, all of the designers were in tears or misty eyed. So it was an amazing show.
Of course then I rotted my brain by watching VH1's Search for the Partridge Family. It was the episode where they're looking for Danny, the little red head. They've already narrowed the oldest boy and girl down to two each, and my favorites are still in both categories. The next episode will be the mom. And it may be sad that I watch this, but at least I haven't called in and voted yet. I'm not that sad.
okay, so the very night after I finished typing out my experiences at the leadership conference, I had a dream. Now, you tell me what it means:
It appears that I was at some other conference, not entirely sure what it was about, but we were living in some communal retreat center type thing. I woke up in the morning and decided to go to the kitchen to get breakfast. I opted for a bowl of cereal, specifically Special K, the kind that comes with the dried strawberry bits in it. Well, instead of a toy or anything, each box of Special K with strawberry bits had a copy of some newsletter in it. So I took it out of the box and looked it over, and lo and behold the front page article was a letter from Nameless-intern from the story. She had written to express how thankful she was that I was present at the conference and able to lend a hand, because I was always so helpful. On the cover was also a picture of me participating in some praise band, although there was no praise band and i was not a member of a praise band at the conference. So needless to say I felt horrible. I finished eating the cereal, stuffed the newsletter back in the box, and pretended to not have noticed that it was there. I then went back to my room and finished getting ready. I came back a little later to the kitchen to find Nameless-intern eating a bowl of cereal. I came and sat down, looked at her bowl and clearly saw it was a bowl of Special K with strawberry bits. "Oh," i say "Are those cornflakes?" "No," she replies. "It's Special K. Have you eaten breakfast yet? Are you hungry?" Clearly she wanted me to have a bowl and read the article. Well, I remember that ate another bowl, but I don't remember the interaction between the two of us at that point. I do, however, remember later on sitting in the kitchen and talking with some friends about the letter and they are telling me that I should drive to where Nameless-intern is on internship and tell her. In real life this wouldn't be much of a drive. So I agree that it's a good idea, and get in my car and begin my drive. However, no too far away I notice my mom and dad getting out of the car in some parking lot. I pull over to talk to them, and tell them where I am going. "Oh," my dad says "That's a good 10-11 hour drive." "Oh..." I say. "Probably not the best idea, then." "No, probably not." replies my mom. So I get back in the car and drive home, deciding it's not worth the effort to thank nameless-intern for her kind words.
So that was my dream. Was God trying to tell me something? Hmm...
Friday, September 24, 2004
It is important for you to read the previous three posts in order. Do not read them backwards as can be tempting with the way the site displays them. First read "The Adventures of Pastor Intern Mark in the Land of the Professional Leaders Conference" then "Day Two" and finish with "The Dramatic Conclusion to The Adventures of Pastor Intern Mark in the Land of the Professional Leaders Conference." It is important so that you can learn names and figure out who people are as the story progresses. It makes it a little more understandable. That is all.
Thursday, September 23, 2004
The Dramatic Conclusion to The Adventures of Pastor Intern Mark in the Land of the Professional Leaders Conference
It is late, I am tired, my eyesight is a bit fuzzy, so excuse some typos (as I know you have in the previous posts... I've noticed them myself but decided not to change them). So I set my alarm to go off at a decent time, earlier than the day before, so that I can get up and shower. I did notice a shower stall (previously occupied by flabby pasty hairy naked pastor that has a higher nozzle. Wouldn't you know it, it's taken when I get over there. I step in another shower. Thank God it is consistently warm for the length of my shower. It still sprays me in the back. Squatting is not fun when you're hung over. I shower, go back to my room, take more Excedrin, drink some more water, finish getting ready and look at the clock. It's like 7:30. Breakfast doesn't start until 8:10. I sit in my room, I lay down, I can't fall back asleep. I feel like reheated poop. I walk towards the elevators when I am hit by a tremendous wave of nausea. I figure I will be fine. I'm not. I end up vomiting in a bathroom that by the grace of God was put at the end of the looooong hallway. I think Perhaps that is what I needed. Perhaps after that horribly gut-wrenching vomit I will feel much better. Perhaps I was wrong. I shuffle down to the dining hall, go through the line and get some toast and oatmeal. stuff that will sit well on an upset stomach. I sit across from Glasses and other-guy. Glasses mentions that I must not be a morning person. I say it has nothing to do with not being a morning person and everything do with the crap I am feeling like this particular morning. He says Oh! I'm sorry. I say it's okay. He says he's still sorry. I finish eating. We go back down to the main conference room for a session. I end up sitting in the back row that Supervising and I made the evening before, mainly by myself. Young comes and sits by me. I watch two babies playing together on the floor. Well, one is more a toddler and attempting to play with the other. The other is not quite at the point where she is able to play with another child. I decide that I am not getting anything out of this session. I feel horrible. I go back to my room, which I have already stripped of linens, and I lay down and sleep for about 30 more minutes. I get back up and go back to the session and sit back down by Young. The session takes a break like 5 minutes later. I have already noticed that Supervising is not there yet. He comes in during the break and says he had a bit of a headache this morning. I tell him I feel him. The truth is I am feeling much more than him, what with my horrible stomach. The session reconvenes and then ends. Then it is time for closing worship in the chapel upstairs. I go upstairs and sit by Young and in front of funny-south-african-pastor and funny-wife and behind this one guys who was seemingly in charge of the event and a chaplain at a nursing home and one of those people who causes me to become full of rage just in his very act of being. I think a lot has to do with that during one of the times in that morning's session when we broke into small groups he invited himself into mine and then changed the subject at one point by turning to me and asking me "So, why ordained ministry?" in a tone that seemed to be asking me to prove myself. I told him it wasn't my choice. Young said "Good answer." I explained a little more to jackmunch. I really just wanted to tell him to shut the hell up. I didn't, though. Jackmunch also annoys the hell out of me because he whips out his palm pilot and hooks it up to the little keyboard that I wish he'd shove up his butt. He does it all the time. He then types on it and doesn't seem like he's paying attention. He does this during worship. It makes me irrate. So after worship we go to lunch. I am hoping we'll have heavenly mashed potatoes. They are plain. They'll sit well in my upset stomach. We have spiced roasted potatoes. And meatloaf. Dang. I grab a few roasted potatoe wedges, although I know I probably won't eat them. I grab a slice of meatloaf. I grab a roll and some canteloupe. I sit down by Supervising and a clergy couple. I ran into wife-pastor before at seminary when i worked in admissions. She brought a confirmation group, and according to her I gave them a tour, took them to the top of the tower and most of the girls fell in love with me. I eat some of my meatloaf. I eat some canteloupe. I take a bite of bread and get that taste in my mouth that means I could vomit. I take that as a sign that means stop eating the bread. Finally Supervising says it is time to go. I say I need to go over to this table and say good bye to a few people. Namely Young, funny-south-african-pastor and funny-wife. Supervising says he is going to pick up the bread that he ordered and then he'll meet me at the front door. I go tell the three that I'm leaving. Funny-south-african-pastor wants a hug. We hug. I hug funny-wife. She says remember this synod when I graduate. I say that I thought about giving my nametag to the bishop so that he could remember my name when I graduate. Funny-wife tells me to do that right now. I walk over to Bishop and he is standing up, saying something that must be important to the table of retired pastors that he was eating lunch with today. He stops and looks at me. I hand him his nametag and say "I want to give this to you, so that you can remember my name in two years when I graduate from seminary." The entire table laughs. They enjoyed that. One older man pipes up "What is it?" I guess he didn't get it. He just laughed so he didn't feel left out. Bishop says that this table are all his witnesses that I approached him and not vice versa. Seems it is heavily frowned upon for Bishops to recruit people to their synods. But he says he will keep my name. Then he encourages me to be involved in the synod, and he knows Supervising and knows I will. We shake hands. I go back to the other three. They are laughing. They like that I had the huevos to go do something like that. Supervising has gotten his bread and is now waiting for me to leave. He came back because I wasn't at the front door yet. I run over to Liberal-woman and Glasses and tell them what I just did. They like that. I tell them I will see them next week at text study. Then I run over to Supervising and we walk down the hallway. Supervising needs to go to the bathroom. While I am waiting I run into woman-who-went-to-my-college-but-several-decades-earlier-and-my-seminary-but-at-the-same-time-pastor and assistant-to-the-bishop. I tell them what I did. Assitant-to-the-bishop says that' SHE'LL remember my name, because that's her job. Then I go pee. Then Supervising and I leave and drive home. I'm still hungover, but I finish working the day when we get back to church. So that is the end of Day Three, and that is the conclusion of The Adventures of Pastor Intern Mark in the Land of the Professional Leaders Conference. I knew I just needed to sit down and type it out. I may have forgotten some stuff, but I believe that most of the important stuff has been remembered. If I remember anything that adds to the story I will write them out in paragraph form with a note of where to insert them. For now I think I will finish my gatorade and then go to bed. I think I can feel the carpal tunnel setting in from all of this typing. Ow.
Day Two arrives insanely and unGodly early, despite the fact that it is occurring at a nunnery. UnGodly, in this instance, means both Outrageous and Sinful; wicked. It is because I know that many pastor-types are sharing a common bathroom. I want a warm, uncrowded shower. I get up, walk across the hall to the bathroom, and into an open shower. I do not like these showers. In fact I hate these showers for a number of reasons: Reason One: They were designed for small, midget nuns. The nozzle is so low that the spray of water hits me in the middle of the back. It is an exercise of leg muscles to lower myself to the point where it is able to wet my hair. Reason Two: I do not know how many people have showered before me. All I know is that when I entered there were two others in separate showers, and then one left. Two of us are showering at this moment. You would think that a retreat center such as this nunnery would have a water heater capable of heating enough water for people to shower. You'd be wrong. As I am showering the water fluctuates from hypothermic-turn-my-skin-blue-I-can't-feel-my-feet-cold to oh-my-sweet-Jesus-my-skin-is-melting-instant-blister-boiling-hot. There is no middle ground. I feel like crying. At this point I have only wet my hair down. I decide that it will be enough. I turn of the water, quickly dry, get dressed, open the shower curtain, exit, turn to leave when I see him. He was the other pastor in the shower at the same time as me. He is standing halfway out of his shower. He is all soapy. He is rotund and hairy. He is naked. He is in between me and the exit. He asks if I have hot water. I avert my eyes, focusing intently on his face. I tell him my predicament with the shower. But you had hot water? Please stop talking to me. Large, hairy, naked men blocking me in the bathroom and talking to me make me uncomfortable. No, I didn't have hot water by the end. Leavemealone!! Darn, he says, I'm still soaped up. Sorry, I did not notice the large amount of soap suds dripping off your flabby, pasty, hairy body. I need to leave. I quickly exit as he moves back into the shower. I retreat back to my room and finish getting ready, putting on extra amounts of deodorant for good measure. I grab the sheets of paper that have the Bible readings for this coming Sunday that Supervising gave me for the text study our text study group is having today at breakfast. I go to the dining hall and Liberal-woman is already there, saving seats. I sit across from her and wer begin eating and talking and finally we are joined by the rest. It is noisy and hard to concentrate and I thank God that I don't have to preach this weekend, because the text study is usually helpful for me and today I can't hear much. Well, after breakfast we had another session, followed by a Spanish worship (nothing is funnier than hearing extremely white people [there were a few ethnic minorities, but by few I mean two] try to sing in Spanish. Well, there are probably funnier things, but not many). After worship is lunch. I do not remember who I sat by at lunch. I'm thinking Supervising and PA.. oh yeah, that's right. And once-i-was-a-lutheran-pastor-but-i-quit-three-years-after-ordaining-and-then-was-involved-in-the-ucc-church-although-now-i'm-an-interim-at-a-luthern-church-but-retiring-january-pastor who doesn't really shut up the whole meal, and then can't believe that we all finished before him because he was a fast eater. Wait, nevermind, that was supper the previous day. Shoot. So I don't really recall lunch that day. Anyway, it doesn't matter... Oh yeah. I tried to sit at the table by some intern people I knew, because people were already sitting by Supervising and PA. So I sit down and notice that it is full of married people. The two interns are married, they are sitting by a clergy couple, and there are a couple of random spouses (although funny-wife and quiet-wife are not there). I say to one of my fellow interns, this is the spouse table, isn't it. She says yes, but I could pretend to be a spouse, if I wanted. I say heck no, I ate with the bishop yesterday, I'm not going to do it again if I don't have to. I get up and sit by an pastor who's sitting by PA. Turns out he went to my college and then my seminary, although several decades before me. And he knows my dad. Kind of. Anyway, I decide to leave after I'm done eating. There are some more sessions, then we have free time. Some people, Supervising included, have signed up for golf. I don't seem to have the patience for golf. PA has left to go home to take her test she studied for last night. I run into getting-ordained-in-november-pastor. He is in the same conference I am and I met him at our last conference meeting. He asks me what's going on. I say I don't know. He says he signed up for golf, but three hours seems rushed. I think 3 hours seems like an unGodly long time to play golf. See my previous definition for unGodly. It still applies. So he asks me what we're going to do, then. He wants to do something, whether it's going to Galena or driving around. I say I ran into Young and he was talking about going into Galena with another guy. We could connect with them. We see Young. He cannot find other-guy. I say maybe we should ditch other-guy. We do. So Young and November and I drive to Galena. As we are walking down the street we run into other-guy. Seems he thought he saw Young drive by when he was standing in the parking lot so he drove himself. Turns out it wasn't Young and other-guy got there like fifteen minutes before us, because Young spent those fifteen minutes waiting and searching for other-guy. So we are walking up and down the shopping district of Galena in different and random stores. They see a bar and want to get some drinks. I panic because I have not solved my cash problem yet. We sit down in the bar and they hand us menus and we order beers and I say "Are we getting anything to eat?" thinking that we can just get rid of the menus. Young wants to get an appetizer. Other-guy says he doesn't really need anything. November says he would help eat something but doesn't need anything. I say I don't need anything, mainly thinking because I have no money. Young orders an appetizer sampler. We devour it. So after drinking and eating the fried food that comes in an appetizer sampler we decide that it's time to go. November says he wants to help pay for mine because he knows what it's like to be a poor intern. Young says he'll chip in. So does other-guy. So I didn't pay for a thing. After that we walk back down to Young's car, November decides to ride with other-guy, so Young and I drive back by ourselves. Young thinks he knows a different way to get back to where we're going. I'm sure you know what's coming next... He really doesn't. We drive on this random road, but by the grace of God Young decides to turn around. He goes back the way he knows. I'm just worried and don't want to be late, because the nuns at the nunnery, obviously having a flashback to old fashioned Catholic education, wrote us all a note saying food would be removed from the serving area at exactly 6:15. It is 5:30ish and I want to make sure that we don't get rapped with a ruler. When we get back to the nunnery we run into really-nice-but-i-have-glasses-that-horribly-magnify-my-eyes-pastor. He's a funny guy and also in my text study. He is a little odd, and tries to be funny all of the time (usually succeeding), and so I like him. He's one of my favorite pastor acquaintances so far. So Young, Glasses and I walk to the food area. We get there just in time to be ahead of the large, mostly white college Gospel choir that will be entertaining us that evening. Young, Glasses and I sit at a long table. Mean-nunnery-dining-hall-employee lady tells us that's reserved for the large, mostly white college Gospel choir. We get up and move to another table. In about 15 minutes I notice that flabby-pasty-hairy-naked-pastor is sitting at a table with the choir, although at this point he is clothed THANK YOU JESUS. I mention it to the others, but they are not as righteously indignant as I am. We are shortly joined by kind-of-odd-but-fun-nameless-intern's-supervisor-i'm-a-woman-but-i-go-by-a-man's-name-pastor. I'm a bit hesitant because at this point I don't know her, but after a rousing round of putting "in bed" at the end of different hymns I realize she is one of the gang. So after a fabulously immature meal we go back for more sessions. The choir is performing that evening and Supervising helps me make a row a few feet behind the back row so that, if needed, we can escape for martinis early. I say that I might be feeling the Spirit move and be dancing. He says that's okay as long as I notice and the Spirit moves me out the door, too. So after the choir, and several of the youth give their testimonies, and they sing songs that make many of the choir members cry, it is over. They did a good job. I would go see them again. So then the same group as last night, plus a few more who really don't need long and hard to type names, head out to Galena for martinis. So we're sitting there, probably about 13 of us around the table, and we begin ordering drinks. I order some martinis that aren't really martinis, they just call them that. My drinks involve things like chocolate liqueor, raspberry liquor, vanilla vodka, kahlua, and cream. I order one. It goes down smooth. It tastes like chocolate heaven. I order another one. It goes down smooth. It tastes like raspberry truffle heaven. We joke around, share some jokes, suddenly random-drunk-man comes in. Seems he knows we're pastors. He does what drunk men do best and begins talking to us. A lot of things are inappropriate. He tries to buy shots for Liberal-woman pastor and woman-with-a-man's-name-pastor. This doesn't sit well with them. He won't listen. I get up, I say "Hey J.B. No means no. Don't pressure them." He says okay and shoots both himself. I am received by approving glances from Supervising and Adninistrative-assistant-to-the-bishop. Random drunk man reveals he was recently released from prison. By recently he means yesterday. He begins to tell us how to do our job, mainly in how we relate to people with similar situations and backgrounds as him. He has a lot of decent stuff to say. Randomly throughout the evening I try to get funny-South-African-pastor to dance on the table. He says only if I do. We decide tables are not very sturdy and we might fall and hurt ourselves. We decide not to do it. Probably a wise decision. Random drunk man leaves. Glasses-pastor makes a joke, calls Libeal-woman a puppy because she is young. She says she's not a puppy. She says I'm a puppy. Glasses begins to call me puppy. I have a flashback to when I was a youth director and spent a whole staff meeting listening to co-pastors and secretary talk about how I was the office puppy. I tell Glasses if he calls me puppy one more time I'm gonna pee on his leg. This is met with much laughter and approval. Later on in the evening I am given the opportunity to explain to Liberal-woman, woman-with-a-man's-name and Glasses the story behind the puppy incident. Glasses says he will no longer call me puppy, i am now his Dog. Liberal-woman, speaking from experience, says most of the time people doing with youth tend to get shat on. After drinking three martinis and the arrival of my fourth, I realize I am much much drunker than I had previously thought. But I cannot waste this martini, not with a name like Jamaica Me Crazy. I drink it. I begin to think that I am being obnoxiously drunk. I become overly self-conscious. I am afraid Supervising or other pastor types are extremely disapproving. We get up to pay and leave. Supervising tells me he paid for one of mine. Young says he paid for two. I only have to pay for one. I'm not too afraid that they disapprove anymore. In the course of the conversation Liberal-woman asks if I know where I want to go after graduating from internship because they want me back in this synod. I say I wouldn't mind ending up there. Administrative-assistant-to-the-bishop says she'll remember that. I say to Supervising you've got connections, too, right? He says yes, he does. I am feeling extremely popular and liked and like I'm living my junior high wet dream at this moment. We go back to the nunnery. I sit up and drink seven glasses of water and take three excedrin. But I am tired and go to bed drunk. To save you from suspense, I wake up hung over. But that is after the End of Day Two!
The Adventures of Pastor Intern Mark in the Land of the Professional Leaders Conference
It started out as an early day. I was expecting to be on the road to the conference by 8am because that was what our parish administrator had said. My supervising pastor was going up the night before, and so I was riding to the conference with our PA (parish administrator is too long to type. So PA will be used instead from now on). So that meant I had to get up early, because of course you know I didn't pack my bags beforehand. So I was awake early in the morning (much earlier than I usually prefer) and showered and packing, so by this time it was about 7:30. Well, then the PA calls because our pastor had talked to her yesterday and asked her to remember that there was a bag of trash that needed to be taken out. And since three of the four main office workers (main as in full time... we have a part time youth director, and if she were to read this, which she shouldn't because i'd be mortified if anyone from my church actually was..) she needed me to go over and find it and take it out. The only thing is she didn't remember where the pastor had said it was. So I went over to the church and searched around the area where she had thought it was, but never found it. She had also said that she'd be there a couple of minutes after 8 to pick me up. Well, 8:30 rolls around and she comes pulling into the parking lot. So it wasn't bad. But I could have slept like another hour... Oh well. So we left and drove the 1.5-2 hours to the nunnery (I know convent is the correct term, or more preferred over nunnery, but nunnery just sounds fun like a factory that produces nuns) where the conference was being held. So we get there and I'm a little nervous. I know a few other intern-types that will be there, but basically it's going to be full time pastors, and a handful of other church workers (i know there were a couple PA-types, and then I think one Christian Ed. director... but other than that I think it was mainly pastors and the Bishop). So our PA drops me off and the door and sits her bag on the curb and drives to find a spot. I walk in (she said I didn't need to wait or watch her bag) and go to the table and tell them my name, they find me my nametag and then hand it to me and tell me the order forms for bread are over on the other table. No other explanation, they don't hand me a key or tell me where to go, so I just go stand over to the side and look through my materials and pretend I know what I'm doing and wait for my PA to come. She finally comes up, and then I see that if I had looked closer at my nametag I would have seen the room number... Although that wouldn't have solved the problem of getting there. So I follow her to the elevator and then we go to our respective floors. So I get a little situated in my room and then head back down to the lobby, where I am excited to see a few people that I know graduated from my seminary and that I have seen at various seminary functions. So I make a beeline over to them, and say Hi. Comfort in familiar faces. People begin moving to the room where the action will be, and as I enter that room I see my pastor and PA so I walk over to them. They start with worship (and I usually enjoy worship) and then we move to lunch and this nunnery has wonderful mashed potatoes. They are as close to divine mashed potatoes as one could come, I suppose. And this meal all of the new people in the synod, including interns, have to eat with the bishop. So I walk over to the table and sit down and lo and behold here comes a certain someone from my own school, who shall remain nameless. *disclaimer: chances if you are reading this then you already know, or will know very shortly, who this person is. Let me begin by saying that she is a nice person, maybe lacking some social skills, but nice. On a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being "horrible" and 10 being "nice" she's probably a 7 or an 8. On a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being "wonderful conversationalist" and 10 being "has a knack of saying things in such a way that make conversations awkward and sometimes painful" well... she's probably an 8 there, too.* And this certain nameless intern sits next to me. Well, the bishop comes and sits across the table from nameless-intern and we begin eating and chit chatting. A pastor new to the synod, and also a graduate of my seminary, sits across from me with his wife. He is currently serving a church in the town between nameless-intern and me. Well, the conversation ebbs and flows as conversations do, when the Bishop gets up, says a few brief words (brief as far as bishops go, anyway) and then it is our turn to introduce ourselves as well as a favorite hobby. It gets to me and I introduce myself and say my favorite hobby is sumo wrestling. That produces some laughs, and the bishop says I should try that with my supervisor, who he is chummy with. Well, the conversation gets back to chit chat and small talk, when someone mentions something about cold weather. Nameless-intern says that she doesn't mind cold weather, in fact they could ask me about that. I cringe. I know what's coming next. It's what gets brought up in every conversation I've ever had with Nameless-intern. I silently pray in my head that someone will NOT take the bait. Please God, don't let them take the bait. Please God, let the conversation die. Please God, don't make me talk about this one more time. Please God, strike me down with lightning-anything-just something to get me out of this situation! Wouldn't you know, it is the BISHOP that takes the bait and asks Nameless-intern what she means. So Nameless-intern says "Well, Mark notices that I never wear socks." I silently scream. So I proceed to tell the story that one day during homiletics class the group of us is commenting that it's kind of chilly in the room. Nameless-intern says she's not cold. I make the horrible mistake-the mistake I have wished a million zillion kajillion times that I could rewind and erase-of mentioning that she must not be cold because she's not wearing socks. That was it. End of story, you'd think. No. Not at all, really. A couple of class periods later, it is colder outside. Nameless-middler-at-that-time points out to me that she is not wearing socks. Repeat this scenario numerous times in different settings with different people but same conversation. Repeat it now at the lunch table with the bishop sitting across from me. Call it a flare for dramatics but at this moment I hate my life but not as much as Nameless-intern and her stupid sockless feet. Once again the conversation kind of diminishes to nothing, until pastor man's wife says "At Arthur's Deli I had a wonderful ham and cheese sandwich." Thank you, wonderful woman, if you were not married I would kiss you. The conversation moves on from that horrible, screeching, awkward halt and moves on in a much more pleasant direction.
So after lunch we go back to the main meeting room for a session, but I know that's not what you want to hear about, so we'll advance to the first round of drinks. Supervising pastor, PA and I are meeting Previous-intern and wife for drinks at local bar, seeing as how the seminary is just a hop over the river. We hop over the river and get to the bar. I drink two Guinesses... Guinni? What IS the plural for Guiness without saying Guinessessesses? Anyway, it was a glorious moment because I do not feel intimidated, in fact I am able to have a good discussion with Previous-intern and wife about the current situation at church. By the end, in fact, the only thing I AM feeling is slightly fuzzy in my head. And supervising pastor pays for both of my Guinessessesses. Lovely, wonderful man.
So after Round 1 of drinks we head back to the nunnery for more boring sessions. After numerous boring sessions I think the evening is drawing to a close. I am, in fact, tired. PA says she is going to her room to study because she is taking college courses and has a test tomorrow evening. Supervisor pastor asks me if I'm interested in [makes drinking gesture with his hand]. I say "Of course." He says that other people are thinking of going out, but they want to drive into Galena to drink, he wants to go back to the Busted Lift which is where we were earlier. He manages to convince everyone else who is going out to come to the BL with us. Here is a list of the people that go to the bar, and their monikers for this story: me, Supervising-pastor, outspoken-liberal-woman-pastor, funny-south-african-pastor, funny-south-african-pastor's-wife (funny-wife for short), quiet-pastor and quiet-pastor's-wife (quiet-wife for short... funny how both funny-wife and quiet-wife's monikers describe them perfectly, too), and hefty-young-but-not-as-young-as-me-pastor (young-pastor for short... although he IS hefty, I feel weird and bad using that for his name), and slightly-older-and-kinda-odd-pastor (odd-pastor for short). I ride with Young and Odd, because I know how to get there. Supervising and Liberal-woman ride together. The two married couples ride together... Not that any of this is important, besides that I'm riding with Young and Odd. Anyway... Supervising is leading the caravan, but he misses a turn and we leave him in the dust. We get there, and everyone is kind of hesitant because only Supervising and I have been to the Busted Lift before. So we get there, people start ordering drinks, Supervising had said something about paying for mine but he orders his pays and goes and sits down. I take out my wallet. $1.00. Yikes. My options: mooch, start a $10 minimum tab with my check card, wander outside until I find a nearby ATM (the closest one I know of is quite a hike), or not drink. Well, the choice I made, and one many of you might disagree with was the last one. I sit down, at the end of the table facing everyone, in between Young and Liberal-woman. Liberal-woman asks me about the text for this weekend, since I had a wonderful insight in text study last week. She tells everyone about said insight, they all comment that they think I'm a genius and I'm only an intern, I wow them all with my wonderful and sarcastic humor, I become the center of attention and the life of the party. I'm knocking them dead and I'm not even drunk. Whoa. Supervising gets up part way through the evening, and asks if I want a Guiness. In my ear. Trying to hide it from the group. I think that if I agree to this free drink then everyone will know that my not drinking beforehand was not my choice and because I am poor. I think this will somehow reflect poorly on me. I say, in an upbeat voice, "No, I'm fine!" Supervising goes and orders himself another drink. Liberal-woman is ranting at Young, how she can't believe he'd even think about voting republican, he doesn't make enough money to be republican, I dig my finger into the wax of the unlit candle. The evening progresses, I impress the people some more with my charm and wit, I end up being Young and Odd's designated driver for the evening, making it look like it was planned that I not drink all along. Damn, I'm good... if a little weird. We drive back to the nunnery, people making comments as we walk up to the door, that I need to go out for martinis with them tomorrow night. I agree and make a mental note to get cash so that I can actually imbibe the following evening. I retreat to my closet of a room and go to bed. End of Day One.
Wednesday, September 22, 2004
Stay tuned for:"The Adventures of Pastor Intern Mark in the Land of the Professional Leaders Conference"Starring:
various rostered and lay leaders in the Synod
the occasional nun
another intern, or two
a cocktail waitress
and a random drunk ex-conBe sure and check back in!!You won't want to miss this latest installment!But it is being delayed because Mark needs sleep.
He's tired, and reasonably so.
You'll understand later.
Saturday, September 18, 2004
One of my redeeming qualities (or at least one that I find redeeming, anyway) is that I am easily amused/entertained. People don't have to go to great expense, most of the time, to find things to keep me interested. This concerns television shows, as well. It doesn't have to be a quality show to keep me entertained... I mean I already admitted to the fact that I watch Real World and the Surreal Life and Survivor... Reality television is considered the lowest form of life amang television shows, and they have no problem keeping me interested (I think it has a lot to do with how much I enjoy people watching, and this gives me the opportunity to people watch without being rude and staring). But there is at least one show that I will not lower myself to watch. It's even an MTV show, which some of my faithful readers might find odd- What? Mark not watch an MTV show? Unheard of!! But the show is Cribs. I have never seen a show that focuses so much on egotism and wealth and bragging so much in my life... except perhaps Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, but that pretty much says it all in the title. Cribs is a half an hour (or more, depending on if you catch a marathon, which MTV is famous for) of celebrities and not-so-much-celebrities showing off their fancy houses, their stable of luxury cars, basically look at what we can afford while you sit in a house you don't own, with borrowed furniture, and a 13" tv (luckily i have a borrowed tv, too, and it's not a 13 incher, but the tv i do own IS.) Basically it's look at the life I can afford and you can really only covet because I'm in a job where I'm horribly overpaid for very little work and you might have three jobs, which serve the public in much more necessary and tangible ways, and you're still struggling to make ends meet. But how do you like my flamingo-shaped swimming pool and my set of 7 porsches, and the 567" plasma screen television? I just don't see any reason for a show like that. So there's my vent for the evening.
In other news, I preached for the very first time in my church. Most people said I did really well, but I ended up having to revamp the ending of my sermon afterwards because I didn't like the way it ended. But, as perhaps you can tell, I'm really not feeling the same as I was in my last post. I had a good talk with my supervising pastor and he told me that realistically, about the time that you feel you've finally gotten into the groove and are making great strides in ministry, is about the time that you have to begin to think about closure and heading back to seminary. And I have only been there for three weeks, and this is my first ministry gig of this caliber, I can't expect to jump right in and be Mr. Super Pastor. I can't even expect to be in the ministry for thirty years and be Mr. Super Pastor. I just need to do the best that I can in the place that I'm at, and not worry about whoever came before me, because I'm my own person and I bring my own gifts to the table and if you don't love me than you're on crack.
Oh, and everyone's favorite new sport seems to be dodgeball. I'm glad the rest of the world is finally catching up with me. I have been singing the praises of dodgeball for quite some time. Ask my Educational Ministry class from last year. I did a power point presentation on dodgeball. Way before the movie came out and this new craze hit. I am a champion.
Wednesday, September 15, 2004
where the heck am i headed?
Sometimes I wish God would make my path a little more obvious. I hate this going back and forth between thinking I'm knowing where I'm headed one minute and then feeling like I'm standing in the dark with a blindfold on the next. I wish there was a sign that said something like "Mark, you are supposed to be doing..." and then it would tell me what I was supposed to be doing. Instead of this whole bull in a china shop blundering around I seem to be doing lately. I feel like I'm charging around in the middle of something I have no business being around, and all of these things that are delicate and fragile and meant to be handled by someone with a little more grace and a little more skill and a little more, I don't know, opposable thumbs maybe?? I mean here I jumped headfirst into this whole internship thing and now I feel like I'm floundering becase I forgot to pack a lifejacket. I feel like everyone thinks I'm just some kid that's hanging around, and a lot of people feel that the internship program is a drain on the budget and don't really want an intern in the first place, and then there's me making a fool of myself and doing everything wrong. That sure doesn't change their opinion at all. I know it takes time to get adjusted and I know I have only been around for about three weeks now, but it's still just darn poopy. And I have these huge swings... One minute I'm super excited, I love my job, I feel totally called to be doing the ministry that I'm involved in... and the next minute I feel totally unequipped, generally unwanted, and I'd just rather be playing dodgeball or something. And it sucks because all of my old support system are far away in places like Texas and North Dakota and Minnesota and Iowa and Georgia and Nebraska and Colorado, and here I am in freakin' Illinois, in a huge house that feels darn big and empty, with a church full of people that have no idea what to do with me, and God seems pretty quiet right about now. I thought internship was supposed to be this great awesome time when my call to ordained ministry would be wonderfully nurtured and strengthened and I would no without a shadow of a doubt that this is what I was called to do. But so far it's not like that. And it sucks to even think that maybe this isn't what I'm supposed to be doing with my life, because for so long it's been the only option. I've put so much time and effort (and money) into following this path. But I know that this is just one of those temporary downs... that soon the pendulum will swing back to the other side and for at least a fleeting moment I'll be excited and happy to be where I'm at and doing what I'm doing. I don't know... Maybe I'm just tired and need to go get some sleep.
Oh, in other news a parishioner dropped off a present. She said she noticed last Sunday that I had a really nice robe but no cross. She decided I needed one. Her husband and a parishioner who recently passed away used to work together to make wooden cross necklaces, so he made me one and she brought it to me at work today. It's a really neat cross. I absolutely love it. So I don't know... Maybe I am supposed to be right where I'm at. Maybe I need to give it some time, get to know the people more, let them get to know me more, before I let myself wallow in self pity and spiral into despair. But life would be so much less fun without the dramatics, don't you think?
heaven in a bed
I have discovered it.
God has led me to it.
There is no other excuse.
You, too, can find it.
Look here at this link
Monday, September 13, 2004
my newest dilemma
Okay, so today after contemporary worship band practice I was approached by a congregation member named "Peter" (notice the neat quotation marks. That means it's not his real name. I'm clever). He said that he had something that I could possibly help him with. It seems, he said, that his daughter's boyfriend has gotten kicked out of his house. This is where I tensed up. I knew what was coming next. This kid has been staying at Peter's house, but they've decided that that just won't work out (He DOES have five kids, and it sounds like they're not the wealthiest people in the world). He was thinking that perhaps his daughter's boyfriend could come stay at my house until the end of the month. He said he's a good kid, he's just got messed up parents. Here, as in many television shows and movies, is where we will have a flashback scene:
It's the year 2001. I am a youth director at a neighborhood church in the town of Lincoln, Nebraska. I am still fairly new to the city, I do not have a lot of friends in the area, and I am seriously missing the dorm life of college. Living in an apartment by myself has been fun, but I keep thinking another person in the place might not be that bad. I finish up a Bible Study at church when I am approached by a young man, in his first year of college, and he has something he needs to talk to me about. He doesn't want to live with his family anymore. He wants some of that independence that comes with college, but his college doesn't have on campus housing. He's kind of a shy and introverted guy, and so finding a roommate would be hard and he doesn't want to shell out the money for a single apartment. He has met me through some events at church and feels comfortable with me, so he approaches me and asks if I would be interested in getting an apartment together. I guess he had also heard me say that having a roommate would be cool. So I answer off the top of my head (never a good idea for me) that it would probably be okay. But here is why I should have said no: he's dating the pastors' daughter. So I begin to think that someone that has such a direct connection to one of my youth (she was a high school senior at the time) would not be the best roommate. I think I should find a way to gracefully back out of this agreement. I talk to one of my pastors (they were married co-pastors). She encourages me to room with him, stating that her daughter won't be a high schooler much longer, and he needs a place to live. I agree. We get an apartment together. His girlfriend constantly comes over. He becomes a funnel of information about my private life to my pastors. This hinders my already dysfunctional relationship with my pastors. I get upset that things that happen at work get brought up at home and things that happen at home get brought up at work. I begin to feel like I don't have much of a private life, and also that I am not always welcome in my own home. Things get really awkward when I decide I can no longer work with aforementioned pastors and quit my job. Things get better when I decide to go to seminary and move out.
So all of this flashes through my brain when this man approaches me about this. I suddenly think that the same thing is going to happen, and that it is too close to the beginning of my internship to have something like this happen to cause it to go sour. I tell him I will talk to my pastor about it and then we'll see. So after everyone leaves the church and it is just the pastor and I cleaning up, I tell him what has occured and that my initial reaction is no. Pastor says that he doesn't see why it couldn't happen, but it really depends on my comfort level. I can always use the fact that I have barely enough furniture for myself, and that the kid wouldn't have a bed or anything if he moved in. Kind of a flimsy excuse... I have couches and such, but I could always say that I am allowed to stay at the house because it is the church's parsonage and it is a part of my payment. So, really, it's against church regulations or whatnot to have someone living in it free of charge. So if this were my only dilemma, then it would not be much of a problem. But if you know me, then you know my dilemma doesn't stop there.
I have a bleeding heart. Here is a high school aged kid, with a messed up home life, who is currently living with his girlfriend's parents, and this isn't working out. He's basically a good kid with nowhere to go... Or so Peter says. I have plenty of room in my house. It's a three bedroom house. I only take up one bedroom. I have three couches, he could take his pick for a place to sleep. And it's only until the end of the month (why? I don't know. I didn't ask.) This is not a repeat of my previous experience for a number of reasons: He's a high schooler in dire straits, not a anti-social whiny little college kid who's too much of a nerd to find his own place to live (can you tell how I feel about my previous roommate now?). He's not dating my pastors' daughter, and I do not have a dysfunctional relationship with this pastor. I wouldn't need to worry about private information getting back to church or vice versa. Word might get to Peter's family, but I think they would be grateful that I'm doing this favor for them, plus I really don't have anything that I need to hide (unless you count the person locked in my basement... but I think they would help me keep the secret). It has been almost four years since that experience, I have matured (I'd like to think), and it would not be the same situation. My heart goes out to this poor kid, and I don't even know him. So I've decided not to decide anything tonight. I'm going to sleep on it, go to pastor's text study tomorrow and study the text for this week, and then talk to my pastor about it, tell him where I'm coming from, what my previous experience was and what is going through my head. Let him help me consider my options and then make the best and most faithful choice that I can. What is it that Christ said in the Bible, "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in... 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." (Matthew 25:35&40)... Yeah... so, what's an intern pastor to do? I'll get back to you on that...
I was fortunate enough to find this link, so I thought I'd share it with everyone:
click on this link
So I attended part of a Sr High lock-in this weekend, part of the duties of being a pastor intern I assure you... Actually I think I attended too much of a lock-in this weekend. It was on Saturday night, and I ended up leaving around 3:30 which wasn't the smartest thing since I had to help lead worship at 8:00. But anyway, my poor choices are not the subject of this entry. I want to talk about the movie The Passion... First, it was a decent movie. I liked that it was in Aramaic, added some authenticity. It was a bit on the graphic side, although not as graphic as I prepared myself for. There was a part when Jesus was being scourged, I think that's the correct verb, with these cat o' nine tail looking whips with barbs on the end, and it showed Jesus get whipped and the barbs stick in and tear his flesh. That was a bit icky. But in the Bible it is clear that Jesus was abused, it was definitely violent. I loved the way the movie treated Mary. She was clearly a mother in mourning, and there in one instant in particular, where Mary is watching Jesus lug his cross down the street, and he trips and falls. It juxtaposes this with a flashback that Mary is having of Jesus as a small child running and tripping. It alternates between current scene and flashback as Mary runs to help Jesus. She kneels by the bleeding, abused Jesus and says, just as she said when he was a boy, "I'm here..." Wow! Powerful scene. There were some parts where they tried to work in the character of Satan, like when Jesus is praying at the Garden of Gethsemane, which aren't in the Bible. But I think they were just trying to get across the presence of evil and sin and temptation.
One major problem that I had with the movie was that it was just the Passion of Christ. It doesn't show his life and ministry (what we know of it). It doesn't show why he was abused and beaten and eventually crucified. It doesn't show why the priests and pharisees wanted him dead. It doesn't show him eating with tax collectors and prostitutes and talking to the diseased. It doesn't show him preaching a Gospel of love and mercy and justice... So it DOES make the violence seem empty and gratuitous and excessive. I can understand why people complain. And the little last minute flash of the resurrection really takes away from the story, too. The death AND resurrection of Jesus are the cornerstone of the Christian faith. The death without the resurrection is meaningless and empty and unefficacious (big word!). So, if I were to make the movie of Jesus I would include more of his life, less of the violence (although that would be necesarry, too) and more of the resurrection. OH!!! I JUST REMEMBERED ANOTHER THING I HATED!!! I think it was supposed to be the Mary Magdalene character, and the movie showed her as the woman caught in adultery where Jesus stops the men from stoning her. How scriptural is that? And if it is, someone give me the reference where it NAMES her. I think Mary Magdalene gets a bum deal... always being depicted as a prostitute or loose... And I don't think that was the case. She may have spent a lot of time with Jesus and the other disciples, and perhaps that was what gave her the reputation. But I don't think there is any scriptural evidence of her being a prostitute. Blech!!
Saturday, September 11, 2004
am i heartless?
I agree that what happened on September 11th three years ago was horrible. Lots of people died, even more people lost loved ones, our sense of security as a nation was shattered. It was the most tragic and horrifying things to happen on American soil. But that's just it... it was the most tragic and horrifying thing to happen on AMERICAN soil. Nations and countries and cities and people in other parts of the world suffer and die and fight and starve and kill. In many parts of the world what we experienced on one day
is similar to their experience everyday
. So we mourn the loss of our loved ones, which is appropriate. We remember the heroes, those who gave their lives and those who managed to hold on to them, and that is appropriate, too. But it seems as if many people believe that it should be a world day of mourning. But please excuse the Palestinian woman who lost who whole family in the fight against Israel... please excuse the Rwandan child who has only known destruction and genocide... please excuse the man in Haiti whose days are marked by death and AIDS and violent rebel groups... please excuse them if they can't find the time to stop and mourn the affects of violence and terrorism in America. I'm sure you'll understand.
(wow... that sounds bitter and heartless... really i am a compassionate person, and i do mourn the loss of lives because of the actions of terrorists on september 11, 2001... but i don't think that those losses are anymore significant or terrible than the losses that occur any other day in any number of places throughout the world, that don't find their place on the front page of US newspapers...)
So I decided to take a walk, and explore the town I'm living in. It was a nice, if a bit overcast, day. Well, ten minutes and a couple of wrong turns later I ended up in a shady part of town. Buildings had boarded up or broken windows, the few spots of ground that weren't covered with pavement were covered with overgrown and unkept grass, buildings were decorated with grafitti, litter was scattered around. I quickly began to wonder how I got there, and better yet how I could get back out. As I slowly and cautiously walked down the pavement I heard: "Mark!"
I glanced around, not seeing anyone I knew. In fact the only person I saw was a man, obviously homeless, sprawled out on a bench and snoring. That's odd,
I thought as I started to quicken my pace.
"Mark!" I heard the voice again and this time I knew it came from the direction of the homeless man. I turned and looked at him again. His eyes were closed, his mouth gaping open. It obviously wasn't him that was shouting my name. So more than a little freaked out I started to turn to quickly run away when I heard it again. "Mark!" My mouth dropped in unbelief because this time I could have sworn it came from not the homeless man, but the little blue newspaper vending machine a couple feet to his right. I took a step closer and peered at it. It was a sad, neglected machine. It's blue paint was peeling off in large chunks revealing the grey metal underneath. The window that was supposed to reveal the newspapers inside was yellowed and cracked. There was a huge dent in one side. Did I seriously hear it call my name? "Come closer," It was evident, now, that the vending machine was in fact speaking to me.
"Come closer Mark, for I am the LORD your God!" Now I've heard some preposterous things in my life, but I think a newspaper vending machine claiming to be God is clearly at the top of the list. If I hadn't been so freaked out at the time, I may have even laughed.
"Excuse me?" I sputtered. "YOU are God? Is this some kind of joke? Is this Candid Camera or one of those shows."
"No, those shows are clearly a distinct product of sin in the world. I am God! As I revealed myself to my servant Moses so I have chosen to reveal myself to you."
Now I knew something was up. "God revealed Godself to Moses in a burning bush. You are a dilapidated old newspaper machine in a shady part of town."
"I revealed myself to Moses in a burning bush because he wouldn't listen to all of my other attempts. Plus, the whole burning bush thing is kind of cliche. I reveal myself to people everyday using all sorts of methods, it's just most people don't realize or recognize... Oh, and that part about the shady part of town reminds me... Remove your shoes for you are standing on holy ground." I looked down at my shoes and then gave a nervous glance over to the homeless man who had woken up and was rubbing his eyes. "Don't worry about him," the Voice said. "That's just my child Randall."
"Are you sure?" I whispered. "What if I take off my shoes and he tries to steal them... Did you notice he's not wearing any?" I moved closer to the newspaper machine and hoped that Randall couldn't hear me.
"Randall is a good man," the Voice said. "He's had some hard times, and made some poor choices, but his heart is full of love and compassion. He won't steal your shoes."
"I still don't know... Regardless of whether he'll steal my shoes or not, I don't know that I want to listen to a newspaper machine. And even if I wanted to listen to a newspaper machine, my Mom has always told me not to go outside without my shoes on. It's bad for my socks."
"Wow..." the Voice said. "I wasn't sure if it was possible, but you are proving to be denser than Moses."
"Hey!" I yelped. "I've read the story of Moses, I've taken the Hebrew Bible classes in seminary. That wasn't very nice!"
"Even so, it didn't take him long to realize that the burning bush was indeed the God of Abraham and Jacob."
"But if you think about it, the neat thing about the bush was that it was burning and not consumed. You're just a crappy old newspaper machine. What's so awe-inspiring about that?"
"Perhaps that it is being used as a vessel for God?" the Voice asked.
"Although that sounds impressive and awe inspiring, really you could just be a speaker and your voice could belong to someone in a nearby building speaking into a microphone. So maybe I'm NOT as dense as Moses... So there!"
Suddenly there was a break in the clouds and one single beam of sunlight rested on the newspaper machine. It seemed to glow and I swear I heard an angel chorus, if somewhat faintly, singing "Aaaaaaaaaah!" just like in the movies.
"Okay, I'll admit that was pretty good. And hard to do, unless you are in fact The Almighty." I said, beginning to believe that this could actually be God. "You promise that if I take my shoes off that he won't steal them?" I said looking over at Randall, who at this point hocked a major loogie and spit it onto the pavement.
"You have my word," the Voice said. "Oh, that was funny..." the Voice chuckled. "You have my word with a lowercase double-u, but I've also given you my Word uppercase double-u! I made a joke!"
I laughed, but mainly just to be polite. "Okay, I'll take off my shoes..." I bent over and slowly began to untie them, even still glancing warily at Randall. I fumbled with the laces, at this point feeling kind of awkward in the presence of the Divine. Normally I try to get prepared for encounters with God, like when I get dressed up for church. Here God had caught me in my unawares and I was wearing an old pair of running shoes, a pair of cargo shorts, and a t-shirt that was stained from a youth event when I let kids hit me with whipped cream pies... Not exactly the outfit I would have chosen.
So there I stood on the cracked and dirty pavement, against my mother's best advice, in my sock feet. I held my shoes in my hand and looked at the vending machine.
"Now what?" I asked. "When you spoke to Moses in the burning bush, you gave him some big important mission. Am I going to do something big and heroic and be remembered through the ages? Am I going to get to free an enslaved people?" Now I was kind of getting excited. I thought that this would be the time that I finally got the fame and recognition that I knew I deserved. God had chosen ME!
"Moses lived in a much different time and place," God said. "His people - MY people - were held in oppressive captivity by the Egyptians. I chose Moses to be my mouthpiece to Pharaoh, to proclaim that my will for the Hebrew children was to be released and allowed to go to the land that I promised their ancestors. People aren't really in that kind of slavery anymore, Mark. At least not in this country. So there's no need for you to go and liberate a nation from bondage to physical slavery."
I visibly deflated. "So what the hell are you talking to me for?"
"Don't get me started on humanity's concept of hell," God said. "That's a topic for a whole 'nother discussion. Talk about misinterpretation... Anyway, I'm getting off subject... People are still enslaved, Mark, but this time it is to sin. Just like the Egyptians overpowered the Hebrews and it was beyond their power to free themselves, people today are overpowered by sin and it is not within them to free themselves. And just like I performed signs and wonders-"
"Like the frogs, right?!?!" I interrupted. I like the plague of frogs. I think it's my favorite.
"Yes, Mark, like the frogs." When God said that, God used a tone much like my first grade teacher used to use with me. I wasn't sure how I felt about that, but I let it go. It was God after all. "And just like I performed signs and wonders to liberate the Hebrews from slavery, so I performed the most wonderful miracle to free people from the bonds of sin."
"JESUS!" I yelled, just as any good Sunday School student would have.
"That is correct!" God replied.
"So... I still don't understand what I have to do with this."
"Just as Moses was my mouthpiece to announce liberation to the Hebrews, so you will be a mouthpiece to announce to all of humanity that they have been liberated from the bonds of sin and death." God answered.
"Cool, I'm the mouthpiece of God." I stood a little straighter when I said that and started to do a little strut.
"Hold up," at this I stopped my strutting and turned to the vending machine. "I didn't say THE mouthpiece... I said A mouthpiece. Truthfully it is every Christians calling to proclaim this Good News."
"Oh..." my shoulders sagged. "So I'm not special?"
"I'm not saying that, either, Mark. You are, indeed, special. But it is not your calling alone to spread the Good News. I have called every Christian to share this Gospel. There are many other things that make you special... believe me. So go, therefore, into all the world and proclaim this Good News, Mark."
"If we're comparing this to Moses, isn't this where I protest and say I'm not capable, and you should send someone else?"
"Remember what I said about being dense?"
"Just asking, now go, therefore."
"Yes sir... I mean ma'am... I mean, um...."
"Just God, is fine."
And so I walked away from that encounter with the Divine. Back down the cracked and dirty sidewalk, past the broken and boarded windows, and back into a neighborhood I recognized, in my sock feet. Randall, on the other hand, was strutting up and down the street in his new pair of slightly worn running shoes.
Friday, September 10, 2004
true confessions of a bored intern who SHOULD be working...
so i'm looking over past entries, and realizing that nothing really exciting happens in my life. and i ask myself "self, if nothing exciting happens in your life, and all of your blog entries are about the absolute nothing that goes on in your life (other than the possible transient who you've locked in your furnace room) how do you expect anyone to read these entries and then say to you 'you should really think about writing a book' or 'wow... what an amazing and exciting life you live. i'm extremely jealous of your wicked mad life' or even 'nice socks'?" because truth be told, i would be happy even if someone complimented my socks.
but nothing exciting happens, so really i would just have to make up horrible lies to make my life seem interesting. like a radical arm of greenpeace asking me to join them to take down a baby seal clubbing organization... or the Pope called me up because he was on his way to nearby Polo, Illinois because it seems the Virgin Mary decided to reveal herself in a tortilla and he needed someplace to kick his feet up... or how about a squirrel with three eyes that lives in the pine tree in my back yard, that would definitely be cool.
but stuff like that doesn't happen to me, and the most exciting thing that does is that i get cable hooked up, so instead of reading and trying to stimulate myself intellectually i sit in front of the boob tube and watch the Real World or the Surreal Life (although i'm not sure if this is the current season i just saw, but Charo
is on it, and she cracks me up... she was on the Love Boat
something like forty five times... uncle joey from full house is on it, too. he's kind of a big loser, but unfortunately one of the coolest people on that show... hmmm....)
now you see my dilemma? instead of writing about the cool and exciting things i'm doing, i'm proving how sad i am by writing about charo and uncle joey on the surreal life... man... and i wonder why i have no friends!!!
anyway, until i have something else boring and mundane to write about, i will return to work.
the dilemma that is [in] my life
okay, so here's the deal... i live in a big house all by myself. i love animals. it would be neat to have a pet to share this big house with. i like both dogs and cats. a cat would be much easier to take care of, as they are more self-sufficient (usually). there is an animal shelther not too far from my house (they have cute cats, i saw on Petfinder
. i am unaware if the nearby animal shelter has the foster pet program, like the humane society does. but here is my dilemma anyway... it would be easy to get a pet for a year, the house i am living in allows pets. i could easily take care of a cat. but what happens if i fall in love with this animal and want to keep him/her forever and ever and ever? the policy at seminary is that if you started seminary without a pet you are not allowed to acquire one and still remain in campus housing. so basically if i get a pet and decide to keep it, i will not be allowed to move back to school. thath would be tough. as i mentioned in a previous post i am a hypersocial person. anyone who knows me knows that it would be hard for me to not be in the center of things back at school. i would not do well in off campus housing. i love having the ability to drop by a friends house by just walking several feet. i love being able to look out of my window and see the field, and know if there is anything going on outside that i want to participate in.
so, it would be easy to say don't get a cat. if it's going to cause that much of a problem back at seminary, then just suck it up and live in that big house by yourself (except for the person in the furnace room, of course). But decisions are never that easy for me, plus that doesn't solve the problem of wanting a pet right now. AND it doesn't help that i've checked out pictures of some of the kitties and seen how dang cute they are.
Thursday, September 09, 2004
last night was my church's third session of "journey together faithfully
" which is the elca's study of sexuality and homosexuality, which is supposedly getting congregations thinking and ready about these issues for the upcoming vote... atleast that is my understanding of it's purpose. could be wrong. wouldn't be the first time. anyway, there is a very small group that meets for these sessions. two couples, three women (two being members of the pastor's family), and myself. the pastor is the leader. so last night we talked about leviticus and judges and romans and timothy where it directly speaks about "men lying with men as with women" and how it is an "abomination" (or as the good news bible translates abomination: God hates that!). by some of his comments it was obvious where one of the older gentleman in the class stands on the issue (he repeatedly read the "God hates that!" part of his bible...) at one point in the meeting, we were talking about i think it's one of the deuteronomy texts where it talks about these codes and laws (one prohibiting male to male intercourse) as being for the health of the community. at this point (we'll call him Tom) says "it says health. have you given blood lately? have you read that checklist? it asks if you've had homosexual sex since 1977. they don't want homosexual blood." that was paraphrased and condensed. at this point i piped up and said "they also won't take your blood if you've been overseas" trying to align the homosexual prohibition with something more widely accepted. the pastor then wonderfully stated that if homosexual unions were recognized then it would validate their relationships and there would be less harmful behavior, i.e. sleeping around. so then, towards the end of the session Tom speaks up again, and this time uses his wife as an illustration. you see his wife, who we'll call Bernice, is left-handed. she was born that way. but they only make right handed mowers so she's had to adapt. she has to learn to be right handed to start the mower. so i piped up again and said "or they could invent a left handed mower... i mean they make left handed scissors." Tom replied by asking if i'd ever tried to use a pair, and i said no because i'm not left handed. he said they're not very effective, basically just like right handed scissors except with the grip reversed. so then the pastor decided to close the session with prayer, and i sat there frustrated because it seemed like Tom had gotten the last word, and i didn't want the last word to be negative. so during the prayer i was inspired, so immediately afterwards i sat up and said "i don't think i buy this right handed mower argument." some people chuckled and everyone turned and looked at me. so i kept going "Mowers are right handed because they are made in a society dominated by right handed people. The fact that Bernice is left handed does not make her wrong or mean that she is less than, it just means that society doesn't do a good job of meeting her needs." (it was something similar to that, i was proud of what i had said). but Tom made some little jokey comment and people laughed and then we went home. but i think i won. i did a victory lap around the church afterwards... okay, not really... i actually went home and ate some cheezits. i like cheezits.
Wednesday, September 08, 2004
rollin' with my homies
i just got back a little bit ago from a meeting of area Lutheran (ELCA) clergy, and i have to admit that i enjoyed myself. pastors may not have the collective reputation of being hip or with-it or any of that, but i think as a whole they are a pretty good group of people. i mean, i think it takes someone unique to be a pastor: work in a church all day, put up with all sorts of crazy politics, follow where they believe/discern God is calling them, try to preach God's word to a gathered group of people the majority of which probably have no deep desire to REALLY hear what God has to say to them (but will listen as long as God says what they want to hear), and the position of pastor definitely does NOT have the status that it once had. but still there are faithful people who believe that God is authentically calling them to minister to God's people, and they pursue the position of pastor out of a deep desire/hunger/need/call to serve God and serve others and serve God by serving others... so yeah, i think i hung out with a bunch of those type of people today. it was fun. and i can only hope/pray/strive to be one of those types of people, too.
Tuesday, September 07, 2004
another freaky addition to the dude who lives in my furnace room fiasco...
okay, so i think deep within my being i know that no one really lives in my furnace room. this claim is supported by the fact that i still stay in the house and have not called the police, whereas if i was really afraid someone was actually in my furnace room i would quickly leave and call the police... anyway, this really doesn't resolve the whole dilemma that i can easily freak myself out when it's dark and there are weird noises coming from my house. so i was in the downstairs of my house, and i looked at the furnace door and there was one of those chains that people have for extra security in their houses... like on your front door and you put the chain in and then it can only be opened the length of the chain? but it's NOT my front door... it's the furnace room door... why is there a chain on that door? was it once used to keep someone down there? really it's kind of odd and freaky and, to be honest, quite unsettling... so, just to make sure that in case there was someone down there, i fastened the chain. so take that person in my basement... i'd like to see you get out now... okay, not really. but if you do manage to get out, don't be angry with me... i panicked... help yourself to the canned vegetables, still...
Monday, September 06, 2004
well, yesterday i couldn't stand to not sit and watch t.v. anymore, and regardless of the fact that the cable company isn't coming until this thursday to hook up the cable i managed to find one channel that sort of comes in on my t.v. it was a fox network, and so i thought it would work because i could still watch the simpsons (albeit a fuzzy simpsons) and other good shows. but that night must have been "criminals on t.v." marathon night, or something, because they played Cops after Cops broken up with only one episode of America's Most Wanted. now i am not a big Cops fan. i think it almost exploits people, showing mostly minorities who are usually drunk or stoned resisting arrest or fleeing from a stolen car or whatnot, and then being manhandled by the cops. i don't like the way it represents minorities or lower class citizens at all, and think that television would be a much better place without it... anyway, to get off that little soap box, i figured that i could suck it up and take care of my t.v. fix (i was eating supper AND i had a book just in case i needed to use the t.v. as background noise instead) and so i watched the episodes of Cops. well one that i watched was the "drugs in the city" or "narcotics unit" or some such title, which meant that it was going to be all focused on drug busts. well, there you have ONE part of my argument... these people will all be stoned. so, it was set in hawaii and they are sharing the squad car with this young polynesian cop and he's talking about why he loves to be a cop in hawaii, when he spots a car with expired tags or some such thing... thinking it could possibly be a stolen car, he turns on his lights and it's obvious that the car is not going to stop. so it pulls into a parking lot and the driver, who happened to be white NOT a minority, hops out of the car and takes off running. well, the cop gets out to chase, but for some reason doesn't follow through with the chase and calls for more back up and searches the car and finds crystal meth. well, the young man had run into a condominium complex, and another squad car managed to pull in on the other side and they ended up arresting him. now this episode did something that i haven't normally seen on a cops episode and didn't focus on the whole arrest scene. the man was barely mistreated at all. but they put him in the car and take him to the station and this young man just pours out his heart: he has been in prison his whole adult life. the only people he knows anymore are criminals, and so there is little hope for him to fall into a better crowd once he's released. he said that he was in prison for three years, and that whole time managed to stay clean, but he's not out of prison for three months and he's back on the stuff, because he falls back into the same crowd. it ends up he was breaking parole to go visit his three month old daughter who he's never seen because he's been in prison. it was heart wrenching. and the words of wisdom that poured out of the police officers mouth to the young man were: "it's all about the meth... it'll ruin your life." and then it cut to commercial... obviously i would have thought of something better and more pastoral to say to the unfortunate and obviously grieving young man... of course that is what i get paid for. so i thank you Cops for that brief moment of showing the humanity of the people on your show who so often get basically parodied and minimized. even if it, well, not exactly ruined by the comment at the end, but it would have been much better without it.
anyway, i should head for bed... have a 7:00 breakfast with the Lutheran Men in Mission tomorrow, and i should be a good pastor intern and show up... even though it is God forsakenly early... and by God forsaken I don't really mean that God has forsaken it... it's just dang early.
Sunday, September 05, 2004
a sad day in the life of me...
back when i lived at seminary i would have laughed mercilessly at the me of today... you see, i am a very social person. perhaps i could even use the word hypersocial, if there is such a one. i was seldom in my room, most likely i could be found either at someone else's house/apartment/dormitory or outside interacting with the seminary youth. now i find myself in a parsonage, alone, spending a lot of my free time in the office at the church either working or checking my e-mail and hopelessly waiting for one of my friends to log on to msn messenger so we can communicate. perhaps it will be good for me. i will learn how to spend time with myself. on the plus side, i have gotten a lot of reading done. on the negative side, i think i may be going crazy. i've come up with this weird notion that someone else is living in my house with me, although i've never seen them. i'm sure they spend most of their time down in the furnace room because i don't go down there very often. which during the day works as a funny little joke, but at night when it's dark and the house makes funny noises becomes a much more scary and eerie proposition. perhaps i should set some milk and cookies down there as a peace offering, with a note that says "you can live in my furnace room as long as you don't hurt me. help yourself to the canned vegetables." see, i need community. it keeps me sane... or at least a little closer to sanity than i'm functioning right now.
the weekend has come and gone...
It is Sunday afternoon, and I have successfully completed my first weekend as pastor intern. Well, my first weekend assisting with services anyway. Things went well, I chanted and prayed and passed the peace and all of that. There were no glaring errors (that I am aware of), so that was a blessing.
But now I'm going to spout off... I found the website for Lutheran Churches in Mission for Christ and I am saddened. I'm sad because people disagree and the only way they can figure out how to deal with it is to break away and start their own little church. Let's take, for instance, my family. Sure members of my family have done things that I have not agreed with. They have made decisions or choices that I would not have made, and yes, these decisions affected me. They affected me greatly. But I did not decide to pack up and move on. I did not think that this current family was not my ideal family so I needed to start a new one. Of course we weren't the perfect family, and we aren't now, and we never will be. We will still make choices that hurt the others, we will still make decisions that other members don't agree with, but we will still be united as a family. I see this as a metaphor for the church (in this case the ELCA, but perhaps much broader...) Sure the church will make decisions I don't agree with and they may make choices that I would not choose... But does that mean I leave the church to start my own? Does that mean I pick and choose what I want MY church to look like and begin a church based on that? And then what happens when that church decides or chooses something that I don't agree with? Do I then splinter off, yet again, and start my own church? Or do I make a firm commitment and say "You are my church. I am a faithful and commited member. I did not like that decision that you made, and I doubt I will ever agree with it. But I will remain faithful and commited, if even at the same time voicing my dissent. I will keep speaking, even if quietly, the Gospel that I believe this church - MY church - needs to hear."
But we'll see if I stand by that viewpoint in about a year... When the ELCA votes on the issue of ordaining men and women in commited same-sex relationships, and if they vote contrary to what I believe, will I stick with what I mentioned above? Sure, it's easy to have that point of view when the church makes the choices I agree with (in the case of LCMC it would be (supposedly) the Call to Common Mission, our open communion agreement with the Episcopal church, which I see as a great step forward in ecumenism and Christian unity (I wanted to say brotherhood, but that seemed so... uninclusive, maybe?)) But if the church votes in such a way that I see as denying the humanity of a certain group of people... Will I be able, in good conscience, to stay with the church and be that still, small, persistent voice? I don't know. It pains me to think that I will have to make that choice, I would rather not be faced with it. But this issue is such a polarizing one.
Friday, September 03, 2004
a long delinquency ended
wow... talk about being absent... well, needless to say the summer has ended, 2x2 is over and done, i have successfully packed and moved out of my room (minus a small fee for a carpet stain), and i have moved on in my life to my year of pastoral internship...
so now i am sitting in my office at almost 9 on a friday night (something i would have mocked myself for when i was at seminary) trying to continue my saga ala blogspot.
well, we'll start with 2x2: i was assigned the western route and along with my partner kathleen we visited Rainbow Trail
near Colorado Springs; Sky Ranch
near Fort Collins, Colorado; Flathead
near Kalispell, Montana; Lutherwood
in Bellingham, Washington; Holden Village
in Washington, and finally Upper Missouri Ministries
near Epping, North Dakota. so that was a lot of driving, but in some amazing parts of the country.
after that experience, i visited family in various parts of the country out east (ohio and maryland to be specific) and then travelled back to the grand ol' midwest for my year of internship. fun exciting times. i have been at my parish for about a week now, officially, so that means about 47 left to go. while that seems like quite some time (actually, not that long, really) i'm sure it will go too swiftly.
in other news, i managed to find some time to read in the midst of all of that travel... and here is a list of recommended reading
Lamb, the Gospel According to Biff, Jesus' Childhood Pal,
by Christopher Moore
& The Gospel According to The Simpsons,
by someone who i cannot remember at this time. both were interesting (to say the least) and occasionally enlightening. now i will quit pretending that anyone is actually reading this, and go back to the parsonage to sit in silence because the cable company cannot come to my house until this coming thursday... drat.
for more fun reading, please visit www.theooze.com
or the yahoo group for GTNG (Gathering the Next Generation... it's Episcopal)...
03/01/2004 - 04/01/2004
04/01/2004 - 05/01/2004
05/01/2004 - 06/01/2004
06/01/2004 - 07/01/2004
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03/01/2006 - 04/01/2006