this is no longer my blog
Friday, April 29, 2005
I just received word this evening that a campus pastor from my home synod, a man who has always been a strong encourager and a good shepherd, and a wonderful man of the faith has passed away.
He was diagnosed with cancer quite some time ago, and this past year went on leave from call and then eventually entered into the hospice program. He was a strong force within the church, impacted a lot of lives, encouraged many people to consider vocations in professional ministry, and was full of love.
He will be greatly missed, and I look forward to having some more wonderful conversations with him, again. Because I know that I will.
God bless you, Pastor Larry!
Our Lord has written the promise of Resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf of springtime.
- Martin LutherLink to an article about Pastor Larry.
Thursday, April 28, 2005
just when you think you're starting to be able to tolerate a guy
he has to open his mouth.
So, Supervising [editor's note: in the last post, i attempted to highlight in blue all names that appeared in my little Who's Who glossary, but that was just too much work. so i'm not doing it anymore
] is leading a weekly Bible study called Parables from the Backside
. Which, first, makes me giggle because the word "backside" always makes me think of butts, and my development obviously has been stunted at about a 10 year old level. Second, I get excited because I think "Ooooh! We might actually talk about Jesus and Scripture outside of a middle class, white, privileged frame of reference! But, since myself and PD are the youngest people there by at least a good 40+ years, and no one in that group (besides myself, Supervising and his family) are what you could consider liberal, we often get sidetracked. Today we were focusing on the Parable of the Sower. Someone mentioned in their Bible it was called A Story about a Farmer. One of the gentlemen spoke up and said that's because kids these days wouldn't know what a sower is. This degenerated into a conversation about things being wrong with farming equipment and vehicles falling apart. That lasted several more minutes than it should, despite Supervising's best efforts to get it back on track. But that set the tone, and so most of the conversation at this Bible study was about how society is degenerating and the youth of today are Godless heathens who have no morals, listen to horrendous music, don't go anywhere constructive like dance halls and skating rinks because they see sex as a recreational activity, and no one goes into the military anymore so they don't know how to be responsible "I mean just take a look at their dorm rooms!" (that was an actual quote from someone). This conversation was fueled by none other than the wonderful Tom. I had thought I was beginning to tolerate him, but when he made comments like 75% of black families don't have fathers, but you can't say that out loud, you can't even write a letter about that to the paper, because of that "stupid political correctness"; or talking about sin and the "Godless heathens" who practice homosexuality; or when we went around the circle and were asked "What makes you feel closest to God?" and his answer was "Hell." Yes, the fear of hell and damnation is why he believes in God. And then there was the question "Do you think God gives everyone a chance to experience God's love?" Pastor's wife commented that she thinks God gives everyone a chance, but often times it's people who get in the way. They commented on this a while, but Tom said that he didn't think that everyone had a chance, "just look at Michael Jackson's kids." So, finally I spoke up and said, "But that's Michael Jackson's fault. That's not God's fault." Tom looked at me and said, "You're passing the buck. He asked "Does everyone have a chance to experience-" and I interrupted him and said, "Does GOD GIVE everyone a chance." Tom shook his head NO, turned to Supervising and said, "What was it you said?" And Supervising agreed with me. Of course. And then Tom just scowled at me and shook his head and muttered something about how he was still right or something like that.
I didn't want to come over to the Bible study tonight. I just was having a rare introvert moment, and wanted to sit at home by myself, but I forced myself to go because I SHOULD and I'd never hear the end of it, because the Pastor's wife would think I skipped out just so I could watch Survivor. So I went. And several times I just wanted to get up and leave because the conversation was just going downhill. I can't believe that some people can call themselves Christians and be so hateful and mean. I just don't understand it at all.
So today, in my weekly supervisory meeting with Supervising
, I somehow managed to get onto the topic of my old job as youth director. I got there in a completely roundabout way. We started talking about how the local high school has planned a band concert the day after prom. I mentioned that I thought that was kind of stupid. Supervising
agreed. Then, I began to talk about how some of the church youth really wanted me to go, and since I missed their last musical (as I was in the midst of a 9 hour drive back from visiting The Awesomes
), I felt like I should go. Although, it also happens to be the same day as graduation at The Mothership. And seeing as how that is the class I started with, I think that I would never hear the end of it from a number of them, if I was not present. Especially since it is just a hop, skip and jump away from me.
So I turned to Supervising
and said, "I never told you why I'm on the five year plan, have I?" [editor's note: the normal program for a Master of Divinity is a four year program - three years in the classroom and a one year internship in a congregation
said, "Not really." To which I replied, "Well, it's kind of a long story, and has to do with me leaving my job as a youth director. I've never told you about that either, have I?" He said, "No." Well, then, since I'd brought it up, I decided I'd go ahead and tell him about it. I've been working with him about 9 months. I figured it would be okay to tell him.
At that point I launched into the whole epic saga. I don't know that I want to go into the whole thing again. I had thought that I had successfully moved on from that experience, but in the midst of conversation I realized that it was still a bit touchy, and perhaps lacking the kind of closure I would want. But I'll give you a brief overview:
Bright eyed college graduate, after having spent three summers as a church camp counselor and numerous evenings and weekends as a confirmation teacher and youth group sponsor, dives head first into a youth ministry position in a church. Quickly finds out that things are a lot different than what he had thought. Finds out about the large amount of paperwork and preparation that goes into planning well thought out and authentic opportunities for youth to gather together and grow in their faith and in relationships with each other. Doesn't exactly see eye to eye with husband and wife co-pastors with whom he works. Doesn't exactly feel as if he is considered a part of the team. Doesn't exactly feel as if he is given the sort of respect from the co-pastors that he deserves. Doesn't exactly feel that they even view him as much of an adult at all. Finally, hears something that one of the pastors has said about him (from the pastors' daughter, no less) and in conversation with someone who previously held his position discovers that these two might not be the healthiest duo with which to work. So this formerly bright eyed college graduate, after a year and two weeks, quickly resigns from the position without knowing where he would be headed next. Thankfully, the summer camp he formerly worked at offers to let him finish the summer out on staff.
I'd like to say that's the end of the story, but alas it's not. There was still some yuckiness that happened afterwards involving news getting to people in the congregation that reflected poorly on the co-pastors, and them assuming that it was me who was spreading it. It wasn't. But the co-pastors wanted me to apologize to a very long list of people for the damage that I supposedly caused "in an attempt to get even" with them.
So as I was discussing this with Supervising
, I told him that I've come to realize that the co-pastors were not entirely to blame. I understand that many of the issues I had could have been solved if I had approached the pastors about them. I didn't handle the whole thing as well as I could have, and in my resignation letter I basically said that the pastors were to blame for the whole mess. I know that a working relationship is very similar to a friendship or a marriage, and that someone may have said something that was the breaking point for the relationship, but it was said in an unhealthy environment that was the creation of both parties. I know that now. I know that I am not completely blameless in the situation. But, as I told Supervising
, I think that when I tell people the story I can easily put all of the blame onto them because at the time, they made me feel as if all of the blame was on me. I also told him that on a couple of occasions I had sat down and written an e-mail to the wife pastor (she was my direct supervisor). I felt that I needed some sort of closure. I never sent the letter, which Supervising
says is probably for the best because I wouldn't get what I was hoping for. For all I know, she could get defensive again and it could rehash old anger. But all I really want is for her to say, "You know what, it wasn't all you. None of us handled ourselves the best in this situation."
So yeah... it wasn't a good time for me. Left me questioning myself and my call to ministry. Luckily, camp was there to catch me and my friends were there to help me muck my way back out. But now, a little ways on the other side of the whole ordeal, I can look back and see what I was able to learn and grow. I think I learned some valuable stuff in that year. It was a crappy way to learn, but it worked.
Monday, April 25, 2005
yet another dilemma
My blog would have only half the entries if I didn't have so many dilemmas in my life. Looking back on a lot of my past entries, there have been a lot where I'm freaking out about something like a member of my church wants me to take in his daughter's boyfriend, or I am having internal conflicts over whether or not to get a pet. Most of the time the dilemmas fizzle by themselves, and so I don't even write a response to them because they're quickly forgotten.
But this time, I switched things up. I had a dilemma (this is one I've been struggling with for some time) but I did something about it first and then I decided to write about it.
I'll tell you about my dilemma, but first some background information.
Every three years, the ELCA has a National Youth Gathering (actually, because of the size of the event, they've had to split into two separate back-to-back weeklong national youth gatherings, while although not ideal (in my book, anyway) solves the problem of having to refuse youth from being able to participate in such a life changing experience). After I graduated from college, I was hired as a youth director the same summer that the gathering was in St Louis. Since preparations and fund raising and all of that happens so far in advance, by the time I came onto the scene at that church, they had already chosen adult sponsors so I would not be going. But as luck (my luck, anyway) would have it, one of the male adult sponsors ended up needing shoulder surgery a few weeks prior to the gathering and so he was unable to go. So it worked out that I was able to go along. It was a great event. It's hard to explain being in a large auditorium packed full with excited, screaming, sweaty high school kids. And it's also fun to scope out the different types of adults that come along. There's the slightly bewildered adults, who seem confused and intimidated and like they don't know for sure what's happening. Often times these are the parents of youth or a first time adult sponsor who got roped into coming. They have a good heart, but you get the distinct feeling that when they agreed to come along they had no real idea what they were getting themselves into. Then, you have the adults who are trying too hard to be cool. They're often dressed ridiculously identically to their youth, or at least attempting to be dressed that way: baggy shorts, backwards visors or baseball caps, that sort of thing (on a side note, these adults are almost always men). It's as if they feel that they need to look and act cool to be considered cool by the youth. Then, you have the adults who are actually fairly cool. The whole cool thing just comes naturally to them. They don't try too hard, they don't try to dress exactly like the youth, they don't try too hard to be "with it" or "hip." They just kind of are. Then there are the adults who are definitely unhip. They know they are not as cool as the youth, and they don't try to be. They're just themselves in all of their wacky, goofy, unhip splendor. Often times, these adults become favorites in the youth group. I'm sure there are more types of adults, but these are a few of the stand out categories, and I'm drifting from my original purpose for this blog (surprise, surprise). But anyway, the gathering was amazing and I enjoyed every minute of it (although I did pay to go up the elevator in the St Louis arch, got my ticket (which because of the crowd was for a couple hours later) and then walked back to the Interaction Center of the gathering and lost track of time and forgot to go back to go up the arch. And that wasn't very cool).
So there's another one coming up the summer after I graduate from seminary. And I want to be there. But, because I will be entering into my first call congregation (wherever I end up) at the beginning or middle of the summer, most congregations that are going will already have all their particulars figured out. And the possibility of me being able to go like I did to St Louis are not likely. But I really want to be there. Because of the size of the gatherings, they rely heavily on volunteers. All of the different hotels (I think there are 42 that will be housing youth at the 2006 gathering) have what is called Community Life staff. They work as hotel/gathing liaisons, and they are in charge of morning and evening activities that occur within the hotel, as well as contact people for the youth groups that are staying in their hotels. This seems like a really great volunteer opportunity and a great use of my gifts. So I thought that I could volunteer for one or both of the weeks, and that way I would definitely be there and it would be fun.
But it happens during the summer when I will be seeking first call. July, to be exact. I'm afraid that might interfere with my first call, and who knows, a call committee might not be that excited that a potential candidate won't be able to start when they want him to because he will be gone two weeks. Or, what if I do end up in a church where they want me to go with their youth to the gathering, but I can't because I already committed myself?
So today I was looking at the website for the national youth gathering and saw that volunteer applications for community life positions are due June 5, 2005
!! And there's no guarantee that I'll be in a congregation by the time the youth gathering rolls around, or that I'll be in a congregation that will send me. But I really want to be there, and the deadline for applications is coming quick. It's a dilemma!!
So, what did I do? Well, I applied to be a Community Life volunteer for BOTH weeks of the Gathering. But, in the "any other information you feel we need to know" box, I wrote that I was a seminarian who would be graduating and seeking first call that summer. I said I was a bit concerned that these two things might conflict, but that it was nothing that couldn't be solved with a little creative thinking and negotiating. So now whoever does the picking of volunteers knows that is a potential issue that might come up with me. They can choose me, or not. And it also leaves it open, I think, so if there is an issue with my first call I can say to the volunteer coordinating people "I let you know right away what would be going on with me that summer. Let's see if we can figure something out!" Plus, I was talking with a friend today and I said I was concerned about interviewing at a church and them being upset because I had a prior commitment at the national youth gathering. She asked me if I would want to work at a church that was upset that I was volunteering my time to help out at the gathering. I said, yeah, probably not.
So we'll see what happens from here!
And so the process of transition continues.
The Mothership has begun sending out information about registering for classes for the fall semester. A reminder that my time here on internship is growing shorter. So with the fun of figuring out what classes I will be taking comes all the paperwork for financial aid and all of that fun stuff. Fun, exciting times, I assure you.
I was reminded last night how this is a period of transition not just for me, but for my internship site, as well. Questions about nyi
have begun to increase. People are interested to know who will be filling my shoes next year. So I try to answer with as little information as possible, I don't want to affect the way that people view and receive him. So a lot of times I just answer, "You'll have to wait and see for yourself." and "He's a nice guy. I'm sure you will like him."
In my life as a single adult, it is easy to think that things revolve around me and that my transition from internship back to seminary life impacts only me. But I have to remind myself that there is a community of people that it will affect. And like someone once told me, that there will always be people who are happy to see you come, there will always be people who are happy you stuck around, and there will always be people who are happy to see you leave. I'm sure it works the same way with people being upset, too. Some are upset when you come, some are upset that you stay, and then some are upset when you leave.
I'm closing in on the 3 months to go marker of my internship, and people say that this is the period when there is a lot of closure and detaching. Plus, it is when I have to start concerning myself with being approved for professional ministry in the ELCA candidacy process, which means I have more paperwork and essays to write for that. So all of the paperwork for school and the candidacy process will be competing for my focus with my internship duties, as well, which will detach and distract me further from things here on internship.
It's a weird time, and I'm sure it will just get weirder as I go along. And you, my dedicated readers, will get a front row seat. Lucky you.
Sunday, April 24, 2005
[editor's note: we here at "stumbling toward divinity" would like to say that Sunday nights are not the best for optimal flowing of creative juices for our author. After a weekend of preaching and teaching and talking and sharing and ministering and playing, his brain seems to stop all forward motion at about 12:30pm on Sundays at which point it begins to move in a steady decline. At that point, things which are often easy and/or trivial, such as coming up with a title for a blog entry or tying one's shoe, begin to take on epic proportions and so if unecessary are best left undone. We hope you understand. Thank you for your continued patronage!]
So, here I sit at my computer wondering what drops of wisdom will issue forth from my fingers. It's not that I have anything of any importance to say. It's more that tomorrow is my day off and so I feel like I shouldn't go to bed so early. Like I have nowhere to be tomorrow, so I should live it up tonight. Although my definition of "live it up" has been greatly altered these past almost 9 months.
Previous definition of "live it up" - The act of spending time with friends, forgetting about studies or exams or the set of rules
under which I am to abide, and allowing myself to have fun, which may or may not include imbibing adult beverages, but which always includes relaxing, laughing, joking, goofing around, and often times eating.
Current definition of "live it up" - The act of spending time sitting on the chair or sofa, watching quality television* and drinking soda, forgetting about sermons to write or Bible Studies to lead or church politics, and often times eating.
So, yeah. Chances are I'll end up going to bed soon. That should also be included in my definition of living it up. Replace the period at the end of eating with a comma and then add: "followed by going to bed knowing that tomorrow I do not have to wake up to that God forsaken alarm clock." I suppose that works for both definitions of living it up. Neat.
Anyway, that being said, I really have nothing else to talk about. I managed to survive my sermon preaching this weekend, but I do not believe that I will be posting it. It's not one of my favorites, and even if it were, I'm not sure how comfortable I am with posting my sermon in a spot where a whole bunch of unknown anybodies can read it. Makes me a bit nervous.
Okay, I guess it is off to bed for me, seeing as how this is going nowhere productive or interesting.* "quality televisison," in this instance, is a relative term and does not mean "a degree of excellence" or "being of a higher standard." Just so you know.
Saturday, April 23, 2005
coming up with a title for this post is proving to be more effort than I want to put into it
I'm all sorts of tapped out. I finally got my sermon for this weekend done. It took me a long time to figure out what to say and how to say it. So I finally finished it about half an hour ago. It was like trying to squeeze a large rock out of a tube of toothpaste. It was a lot of work, and now that it's out I'm not sure what to do with it...
But I thought that blogging would be easier, because really I can talk about whatever I want to on my blog. But even this is proving to be too much effort right now. So I think I might go get some lunch, forget about my sermon for a bit, and then come back to it and read it over again before I have to preach it tonight.
Thursday, April 21, 2005
So as I mentioned a month or so ago, I think I might be close to leaning towards possibly almost believing in universal salvation. I am currently reading If Grace is True
by Gulley & Mullholland, and for the most part I've been jiving with a lot of what they've had to say. That is until I got to the part where they talk about Jesus.
From what I gather, they don't believe or proclaim the divinity of Jesus. In fact, they say that is why Jesus discouraged people from spreading the news about him. They say that Jesus didn't come to die for our sins. They say that because God is a God of grace and love and forgiveness, there was never a need for anyone to die. They say that Jesus came to witness to and bring people into relationship with God and the wonderful grace of God, and it was because of our resistance to grace that Jesus ended up dying. They say it's appropriate, though, to still refer to Jesus as Savior because he is the one that has enabled us to be in relationship with God.
The authors use the example of one of their friends named Tracy who was in jail after admitting his guilt to a crime. While in prison he became depressed and suicidal and reached out to one of the authors, asking him to come and visit. The author began meeting with him weekly, praying for him and telling him of God's love and forgiveness. Eventually, Tracy began to believe in God and in the forgiveness that God offers, and said to the author, "Thank you so much. You saved my life." The author corrected him, saying that God is the One who saved his life, but Tracy replied, "I know that, but you were the one who showed me God's love." The authors claim that this is how Jesus is our Savior, not so much that his death was a salvific death but that for many it was Jesus who visited them in their dark moments and showed God's love. The authors claim that they don't believe that Jesus was fully human and fully divine, but that God was present in Jesus in the same manner that God wishes to be present in each of us.
This is kind of where my train derails from their track. I'm not sure that I can agree with that. I believe that Jesus was God incarnate, who came to live amongst God's people. I believe that Jesus was Immanuel, God with us. I don't think that Jesus needed to die, but I think that God chose for it to happen out of God's love for us. God sacrificed Godself, in the form of Jesus, so that we would all be gathered together. Are universal salvation and the salvificness (is that a word?) of Jesus' death mutually exclusive? Could it be that Jesus' death saves even those who don't believe? I don't know... just a thought.
Wednesday, April 20, 2005
i wanna be a runner
so i got up today, earlier than normal, and went for a jog. it took some convincing to get myself out of bed, and even then i wasn't convinced that i wanted to go jogging. so i sat at my computer and surfed some websites. i was reading some of the entries on convent files
, and the author was writing about her training for a half marathon, and she discusses why
she runs. here is an excerpt:
Exercise is one of those things that I enjoy in retrospect. I like
that I run. I don’t particularly care for running while I am in the
act. But I keep doing it because, as I tell myself, “I am an
athlete.” Not “I want to be an athlete” or “I wish I were an
athlete.” I am an athlete, so I run, whether I feel like it or
so that was the motivation that i needed. i got up and changed into my running clothes and went for a SHORT jog. last year at seminary, a couple of friends and i began training to run a marathon. it's much easier to maintain a running schedule when you have the support of friends to push you along. i went from being a non-runner to training for a marathon, and unfortunately the strain was too much on one of my knees and i was forced to sit the marathon out. but i still was probably in some of the better shape that i have ever been, and running is always something that i've wanted to be good at. but after nearly a year of not having any set running schedule, i was surprised at how out of shape i have become.
so we'll see. i'm going to try to keep this jogging thing going. i'll start slow, like i did today, with a small jog. maybe by next week i'll be able to add a couple of blocks to my route. who knows, by the time i get back to seminary i might be ready to start training for that marathon again.
this also makes me think of how the apostle Paul compares a life of faith to running a race (2 Timothy 4.7 among many others). running is by no means easy. it takes commitment and practice to be good. you can't just wake up one day and think "i'm going to run a marathon," and then go out and do it. unless you've been working up to it.
and that's how a life of faith is, too. it takes commitment and practice. you can't just expect it to come easy. and sometimes, just like running, you have to do it even though you don't feel like it. you have to pray, even though it feels empty and useless. you have to believe, even though it feels stupid and pointless. but, just like running, on the good days, the rush you get is amazing. you feel like you're walking on air and you realize just how all of that work and practice that led up to this point has been worth it. all the bad days don't seem so bad anymore.
1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us
throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let
us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2Let us fix our eyes on
Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him
endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the
throne of God. 3Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so
that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12.1-3)
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
If you have met me, you know I have big ears.
If you know me, you know that this is sort of a soft spot for me. I enjoy teasing and poking fun at one another just as much (if not more) than most people, but if you know me then you know that making fun of my ears is pretty much off limits.
It comes from being made fun of for many years, because even now as a 28 year old my ears are a little oversized, but I think my ears reached their current size when I was in fourth grade. Before the rest of me had time to catch up.
So tonight, when I went over to church for a youth committee meeting a bit late, I was taken by surprise when one of the high school girls there presented me with a picture that she had drawn of me. It was entitled "Super Mark" and had a stick figure standing with his arms in the air. He was wearing a clergy collar and a cape. He had no hair, because the kids like to tease me about my thinning hair, but what I noticed right away were the two ears that were roughly the same size as the head. The two high school girls and PD (see my who's who post to see who PD is) all started to giggle. All I could do was put my hands over the two ears and say, "That hurts my heart."
Now, if you know me, you'll know that I try to cover things up by joking and making light of the situation. And that's what I did in this instance. I mean, I know the girl didn't mean any harm by drawing the picture (although she was quick to say "they made me draw those"), and they don't know the years of teasing with nicknames like "Dumbo." And there is definitely NO SHAME in having big ears. And for the most part, I've gotten over that insecurity. But when it creeps up and gets me like that, it's hard to let it roll off.
So I had one of those "insecure adolescent flashbacks" tonight. And they're not so much fun.
Monday, April 18, 2005
on being anonymous
When I created this blog, I was not very concerned with being anonymous. This was for a number of reasons, quite possibly the foremost being that I figured no one would ever read it. I thought I'd write something for a day or two and then forget about it and my blog would fade back into the ether from whence it came. But that didn't happen. I kept coming back and I kept blogging. And people kept reading, and slowly the numbers grew. Now people in parts unknown, whom I've never met, read my blog. Well, roughly three people, anyway.
Another reason was that I was a seminary student, sitting in my dorm room, either bored or procrastinating some studying that needed to be done, and so I created a blog. It never occurred to me to think about what I might end up wanting to blog about. It didn't cross my mind that I hopefully will someday be a pastor, and I need to be careful about what I share with people.
So, although I've been careful and haven't revealed any names that would be incriminating (in fact, I've gone so far as to change names of people in stories that probably make no difference), I've always been pretty open and honest about myself, and even use my real name.
Sometimes I worry that someone from my internship will find the blog. Not that there is anything super-secret that I've shared. But most people from my congregation would be able to figure out who people are (especially Tom), and I don't know that they necessarily need to know about my run ins with Tom or my insecurities or how I sometimes just want to be doing anything but being their pastor intern. They don't really need to know that. But if they were to google my name, chances are that my blog would be one of the things on their list. And it wouldn't be hard for most people in my congregation to figure out that this blog belongs to me. And like I said, it's not that I share anything that would jeopardize my internship, it's just a question of whether I want people from my internship nosing around in this part of my life.
So a part of me thinks I should just start over. I should get rid of this blog, start a new one with a different name, and never say anything that could in anyway make people think that I was the author of my blog. That would solve that. I would be completely anonymous and I could say bad words and mean things about people and not be concerned that the following weekend in church someone would come up to me and say "I read what you wrote about So-and-so." I just don't think I need that.
But then a part of me wonders why I should need to be afraid of sharing my thoughts and feelings (in an appropriate manner) and having my parishioners find out. Is there anything wrong with that? I mean Real Live Preacher does it and it seems to work well for him... Although he's more of a storyteller and I'm more of a stream of consciousness babbler... but still, is there anything wrong with being open and authentic and risking the chance that people will find out? And I think that enough of my personality comes through in my writing, anyway, that even if I did not have my name anywhere on the blog, if people knew me after reading the stories they'd have a pretty good idea that I was indeed the author of my blog.
So I go back and forth about that a lot. Do I need this to be an outlet where I can type all of my emotions and feelings and not care who reads it, because I don't reveal who I am? Or do I just say "To heck with it. I am who I am, and at least this way my church (if they find it) will know who they're dealing with?" and then just not share anything that might get me in too much trouble?
To be anonymous or not to be anonymous, that is the question.
And now I need to go to bed, because I have the curmudgeon breakfast tomorrow morning. Bright and early.
Sunday, April 17, 2005
a couple of things
okay, so i know that i should be in bed now, especially since i've been noticeably tired for the past hour or so... but i was procrastinating getting up and going upstairs and then i thought of a few things that i should post about.
1. i have issues with my cordless microphone during worship. meaning most of the time it doesn't work. and then other times it cuts in and out, especially while i'm talking or chanting a psalm. well, today it felt like working the whole time, and people complimented me and said they were glad they could hear me. even Tom said i was doing a good job and speaking with authority.
2. the missing flamingoes have come home. randomly, two weeks ago, one of the members of the congregation came up to me and said that they had had the flamingoes at their house for quite some time now, and wanted to know if we wanted him to bring them back. i said that would be wonderful. so they came home today. i helped them get situated into their room. i was glad to see them.
3. tomorrow my pastor leaves to meet "nyi." and while normally i feel ambivalent about this, my week spent with my friends the Awesomes has really gotten me thinking about this next year at seminary, and life beyond seminary, and so while i'm glad for my opportunity to learn and grow here on internship, i know that it is not where i'm supposed to be permanently. and so i'm glad that nyi can have the same opportunity that i have had. it will be good for him.
the servant's prayer
This past week, I got to listen to a CD that belongs to my friend Mr Awesome, by the barely heard of and little appreciated (and unfortunately now disbanded) group Fat and Happy
. I'd heard the CD before several times on my excursions with the Awesomes, and I got the opportunity to do so again, this time (and this time I made him burn me a copy... shhh... don't tell anyone). On it is a song that I want sung at my ordination. I believe it's called The Servant's Prayer. Here are the lyrics:Lord, it's you who has brought me to this day,
Who has carried and kept me in your care.I look back and I see you in all my years,and so forward I go knowing you are there.May each word from my lips be a song of good news,Every touch of my hand be a gift of grace,Every beat of my heart be a prayer to you,and the sum of my days be a life of praise.May my feet never stumble and never stray,nor grow weary upon this rocky road.For the path I am on is a narrow way,but I know you are with me so on I go.May each word from my lips be a song of good news,Every touch of my hand be a gift of grace,Every beat of my heart be a prayer to you,and the sum of my days be a life of praise.May my eyes ever fixed on your kingdom be,as my heart ever longs for joy to come.For my hope is in things that I cannot see,but because of your promise I press on.May each word from my lips be a song of good news,Every touch of my hand be a gift of grace,Every beat of my heart be a prayer to you,
and the sum of my days be a life of praise.Christ before me to guide me on my way...Christ beside me so I am not alone...Christ within me to give me words to say...Christ behind me to bring the harvest home!May each word from my lips be a song of good news,Every touch of my hand be a gift of grace,Every beat of my heart be a prayer to you,and the sum of my days be a life of praise.
The group that sings it is a two woman group, and they harmonize beautifully on this song, with a bongo drum and a guitar. It's such an amazing and moving song.
Saturday, April 16, 2005
i have returned
I told myself I wasn't going to blog, but then I remembered that I said if I didn't blog by a week from last Sunday, then you should send a search party. And that got me a little concerned. If I said "if I don't start posting again by a week from Sunday," does that mean that you should wait until the day is over, and if I haven't posted yet, then send a search party? Or does that mean I have UP TO Sunday, and come 12am Sunday morning, if I haven't posted, then a search party needs to be called out? Yeah, I wasn't sure, so I didn't want any of my more literal readers, or those that have a tendency to overreact, to assume the worst. So I thought I'd put up a quick post this evening. I just got back a bit ago from my week with The Awesomes, and it was great and I will probably think up numerous stories to share with you from this past week. I loved it, loved it, loved it, loved it. Anyway, I must get ready for bed. Duty calls tomorrow morning (luckily duty does not include preaching).
Saturday, April 09, 2005
So tomorrow, in a little more than 12 hours, I will be on my way to Northern Minnesota to visit my friends, who from this point on, will be called the Awesomes. Mr Awesome is a graduate of my fine seminary, and is now serving a parish in Northern Minnesota. He's one of the greatest people I have ever met, and he has an amazing family. Mrs Awesome is his wife, and they have three boys C, J and K who are about 16, 10 and 6 respectively. They have two dogs and two cats, as well, so you can imagine that their house is never quiet. And I love it that way. The way we met is kind of a coincidence. At my seminary we have (or had) what is called the Connections program, where it matches single student with students with families. My first year I was matched with a young couple, and my friend "Christine" was matched with the Awesomes. Now Christine and I were friends, and my match and the Awesomes were friends, so we started hanging out together. Thursday nights were THE night at the Awesome household, and we'll all gather for supper and then to watch Survivor and ER. As things progressed, however, I got much closer to the Awesomes and Christine got much closer to my match. One year, over Easter, I went to Disney World with the Awesomes. That was amazing. For my CPE (clinical pastoral education) I stayed with the Awesomes while Mr. Awesome was on his internship in Duluth. They ended up really becoming like a second family to me. So it is with MUCH MUCH MUCH excitement that I think about getting the opportunity to spend time with all of them, and to meet their second dog. They got him right before they moved to their first call parish. So, if this is my last post for a while, don't assume the worst. I am most likely not dead. I am most likely buried under a pile of kids and dogs and Mr. Awesome. It'll be a good time. However, if I don't start posting again by a week from Sunday, you might want to send a search party. Or at least have someone contact me at the Awesomes' house and tell me to stop shirking my internship responsibilities. But now, I must go to bed. I'm tired.
1. For those of you who read my posting last night, and are worried about my financial situation and how that will impact my ability to take some much needed time to visit some much loved friends, do not worry. The tragedy has been averted. I will, indeed, be on my way in about 24 hours!!! Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!
2. Last night I was struck by something (figuratively, not literally). It is what I would rename my blog if I had the opportunity to start over. It is something less identity revealing, and people would stop thinking I can't spell the word "leper." It is a fitting name for someone in seminary pursuing a Master of Divinity, and it's reminiscient of a Sarah Maclachlan song. Want to know what it is?
Stumbling Toward Divinity
I think that it just describes my process quite well. Stumbling.
Anyway, it's lunch time and I have a sermon to tweak.
God bless y'all!
late night babbling
Well, it has been about a month since my last whiny post, so I thought I'd come out with another one.
These past couple of days have been kind of bad. Nothing job wise, I rarely have anything to complain about in that department. I managed to score a pretty sweet internship site. So that's not the problem.
It's my whole life outside of work that's the problem. Or lack thereof, I suppose I should say. These past couple of days, I haven't had a lot of evening commitments at work. Which has meant sitting at home. And I put myself on a spending freeze, because I wanted to have what was left of my paycheck to be able to take with me up to see my friends in Minnesota. So I wasn't allowing myself to go do anything that required spending much money. But, from my last post, we all see how that worked out. Now my whole trip to Minnesota is in jeopardy. And that doesn't make me feel any better about anything. Ergh.
Yeah... so I know this funk will pass. It always does. Although I wouldn't be surprised if in about a month I start posting, again, about how I have no life. It just comes with the territory of being hypersocial, I suppose.
Friday, April 08, 2005
taxes make me want to hurt people
I hate taxes. Any of that stuff with numbers just really makes me confused, and I'm always unsure as to whether I did them right, and all of that crap. If it were up to me, they'd just tax me and then I wouldn't worry about the money again. Sure, the refund can be nice, but sometimes I wonder if it's worth the effort. It's not like they're giving back money that I used to have in any tangible way, so it's not like I miss the money. So if I didn't know I was supposed to get it back, then it wouldn't bother me if I didn't. And then I wouldn't have to file income tax returns and my life would be so much closer to perfect.
Instead, I used some internet service that was supposed to be free. But then it ended up charging me, but I figured I'd made it that far, I might as well just keep going. Then it said that I could just have them take the money out of my refund. I thought that sounded like a good idea, but then they wanted to charge me another $25 for that. So I thought better of that, and I had them charge it to my credit card.
Except now I don't have enough money in my account to pay for all the gas that I'll need to get to Northern Minnesota for my vacation. Which sucks. Which means that this weekend sometime I'll have to beg the parish administrator to print out my paycheck a couple of days early (it'd normally come out on Wednesday).
I hate money.
Thursday, April 07, 2005
in the absence of turkeys
there shall be ducks.
It brightened my morning. I finished getting ready and decided to walk over to work a tad early this morning. I guess I thought that going over the half an hour or so earlier would make up for the total lack of motivation that I am experiencing today (more on that later).
As I exited my house I saw that we had new visitors: ducks. They were hanging out in the front lawn of my house. There were two of them, a male and female, and I think they were just making a pit stop on their way to somewhere with water. So I smiled and stopped for a few seconds to watch them, and then I finished the short walk to work.
At which point, I realized that even the early beginning would not make this day prove anymore fruitful. There is just too much rumbling around in this gimongous head of mine. Let me share a few things with you:
1. I received the newsletter from my home church. The one where my dad was pastor, until very recently. Seems they've begun the process to call a new pastor. Which wouldn't be all that weird or unusual except I feel like it should still be my dad's church. And the fact that it is not, just makes everything seem more real and more depressing.
2. I'm going on vacation in a few days. I'm headed up north to spend some much needed days of rest with some much missed friends. And I'm leaving Sunday after church. Right now my focus is just leaping over church and resting in the thought of visiting my friends. My friends whom I love. My friends who served as a surrogate family for two years at seminary. I get to see them next week! I AM EXCITED!!!
3. Survivor is on this evening. I'm addicted. Addictions aren't rational, so don't expect this point to be rational. Because it isn't. But I think the tribes are merging tonight. Or they should, anyway. I'm going to stop before I give you anymore ammo with which to make fun of me...
4. When I get back from vacation, the following week my pastor goes to seminary for a few days to hang out with NYI. And there's that whole finality and closure and saying good-bye stuff that creeps up to the surface when I think of that.
5. A few friends and colleagues are having some professional and personal issues. I don't feel at liberty to divulge the information, but it is looking like it will be very painful for one of them. And so I'm worried about some of my friends and their well-being.
So yeah, lots to think about. Hopefully this afternoon I'll be able to buckle down and really focus on the sermon and get a large chunk of it figured out. Usually once I get started I move along at a pretty good clip. It's just figuring out how to get started, and then figuring out how to end it, that gives me the most grief.
Wednesday, April 06, 2005
Oh Ginger, we hardly knew ye
A brief explanation:
In my post entitled "one brief fleeting moment" I shared one of my many, many camp stories. You see, church camp was very instrumental in helping me end up where I am today. It nurtured me in a vibrant and diverse community of faith (although we were, for the most part, middle class white kids, there proved to be much diversity even amongst such similarities), helped me to grow in confidence and skills as a leader, and really brought out where I believed God was and is calling me to be in my life. So there are many, many stories that I may perhaps decide to share someday, involving a whole range of topics, such as: complicated relationships, bodily functions, vegetarianism, and weird weather formations. Unfortunately, however, I do not have a story that encompasses all four of those which is, indeed, sad.
But this story is about something I mentioned in "one brief fleeting moment," and that would be the "burial spot" of "Ginger the dead horse."
I worked at camp for several summers and on many hikes to the lake and the swimming pool (we had a swimming pool so as to be more handicap accessible. And no God-fearing person wanted to swim in that lake unless they had to. Luckily, after my heroic life saving efforts, I did not come down with any weird rashes or parasites) I would walk by this large mound of dirt. I'm not sure what it was there for, but it was about 11 feet long and 5 feet wide, give or take a couple feet. It had been there long enough that grass and weeds and whatnot were starting to grow on it, but it was still a prominent pile of dirt.
It had become such a part of the scenery, that I really did not notice it anymore. It was just there, as it had always been.
One day, however, I was hiking down to the swimming pool with a group of campers, and I remember little freckle-faced Keegan grabbed my arm and stopped me. He pointed to the large mound of dirt and asked, "What's that?"
I turned and I think for the first time really noticed that there was, indeed, a large mound of dirt there. Like I said, I had no real clue what it was or why it was there. But I felt that Keegan's question needed an answer, so I said the first thing that came to my mind.
"That's where Ginger the dead horse is buried."
Keegan's jaw dropped. He looked at the mound of dirt and looked up at me. "What?"
"Yeah," I continued. "Ginger the dead horse. She was an old camp horse, was here for a long time, even when I was a camper. We couldn't get rid of her when she passed away, so we buried her here. So that we'd get to walk by her all the time."
By now several other campers and counselors had stopped on their hike down to the pool and were listening. The counselors, who all knew me and also knew that this was not the burial spot of a horse, were trying to hide their laughter. Several campers let out oohs and aahs, as if they were at the burial site of some great saint.
"Come on. We'll be late for swimming." I urged the campers onward and they made sure not to walk on this sacred mound of dirt.
As the day continued to progress, I forgot all about Ginger. It had been a spur of the moment joke, and I figured that nothing more would come of it. We ate supper, played games, went to evening worship, and eventually went to bed.
However, the next day after lunch we once again began our hike down to the swimming pool. I walked right by the mound of dirt, it once again had faded outside of my focus. But I wasn't let off that easily.
"MARK!" I stopped and turned to see Keegan and several of his friends standing by the mound. "Come here!!" I walked back the several feet to where they were now standing around the pile of dirt. "We need to have a moment of silence for Ginger!"
I tried to hide a grin. "That would be nice," I said. So there I stood with several fourth and fifth grade boys, in a reverent circle around a pile of dirt. A few seconds of deep silence later we all turned and continued the hike to the pool.
I don't remember if I ever told them the truth, about how that pile of dirt was not the burial spot of an old, faithful camp horse and in reality was probably just a pile of misplaced dirt from the nearby gazebo. I do know, however, that the story spread through the staff like wildfire. Everyone asked me questions that weekend about this Ginger, and I think other people told their campers about this horse on their hikes to the pool. I never heard if my boss at camp found out, or how she felt about me telling kids there was a dead horse under that pile of dirt, but I do know that the following summer it was hidden by a large pile of branches that had been cut from trees.
So is there some deep theological message behind this story? I'm not sure. But there was something oddly moving about Keegan and his friends' need to have a moment of silence around this pile of dirt. And after that week, that pile of dirt was never again just any regular pile of dirt to me.
Tuesday, April 05, 2005
one brief fleeting moment
The day started out much like any other day. The sun rose in the east and all of that. And I woke up on my cot in the tipi and made a mad dash to the showerhouse to get ready before my kids woke up. I was fairly successful and made it back to the tipi, so fresh and so clean, just as the large bell was being rung to wake up the rest of camp.
Things progressed as usual that morning. We had morning worship, sang some songs about how Jesus loves us and how we love him back and how we will follow him. Then we moved over to the circle of logs where we eat. Breakfast was probably the same as normal, a bit charred and smoky after being cooked over an open fire. Unless I was in charge of cooking, then it was usually late.
I was looking forward to the day that my campers and I had planned after breakfast. It was going to be a morning of leisure spent fishing at the lake. I would grab the tackle box and the kids would grab fishing poles. We'd make the short hike (past the "burial spot" of "Ginger the dead horse") and end up at the small lake. The kids would fish, and probably catch nothing, and I'd lay on the dock and tell jokes and stories or poke fun at the kids for not catching anything. It was bound to be a great morning.
And things began to go exactly the way I envisioned them. After breakfast I rounded up my small group of campers and we hiked over to the lake (and we did go past the "burial spot" of "Ginger the dead horse"). We made it to the dock and my campers were pretty self-sufficient with putting the bait on the hooks and flinging them into the water. I sat down on the dock and watched them fish for a little bit.
Then I heard some chattering and giggling coming from the trees. I turned my gaze from my campers and looked at the trail as it emerged from the trees, waiting to see the source of the commotion.
Max, a good friend and fellow counselor, came bounding down the trail leading his group of excited and loud first-third grade campers. His co-counselor Anne was the caboose on this train of noise. They came over to the dock, but stopped by the paddle boats and canoes. Max and Anne began the process of trying to explain lake safety rules to their group of kids. One of the most important rules was to stay clear of the far side of the lake. It was shallow and there were lots of places (like fallen trees) where it would be easy for them to get stuck.
At camp, kids are divided into three groups: green swimmers, blue swimmers and red swimmers. Green swimmers are accomplished swimmers, and when they wear their green bracelets at the lake and pool the lifeguard knows they require little supervision. The drowning factor for green swimmers is low. Blue swimmers are a step below green swimmers, and those campers wearing blue bracelets let the lifeguard know they need to be watched a little more carefully. Red swimmers are on the lowest rung of swimming ability. A red bracelet lets the lifeguard know that if the camper gets into water above their knees that trouble is on the horizon. At the lake, green swimmers are allowed to go boating with green swimmers and blue swimmers. Blue swimmers are allowed to go boating with green swimmers. Red swimmers require the accompaniment of a counselor if they are in a boat. It appeared that most of Max and Anne's campers were green swimmers because after they went over the rules several canoes quickly deployed from the dock and Max and Anne were still on dry land.
Max and Anne saw me relaxing on the dock, and so they came over to talk. We began sharing how our weeks were going and all the excitement that we had experienced thus far. That's when we heard it.
It was a shout from the far side of the lake. I immediately jumped to my feet and we looked over to see every single canoe of Max and Anne's campers stuck on the far side of the lake. It seemed as if they had made a beeline from the dock directly to the side of the lake that they were just told to stay away from. Max cupped his hands around his mouth and yelled, "Get out of there!!!"
"We can't!" was the reply. "We're stuck!" It seems the wind had been too strong for them and had blown their canoes directly where they were not supposed to go.
Max, Anne and I exchanged glances. Looking at Max, I said, "Let's go!"
The two of us hopped into the rescue canoe and we quickly deployed with the intention of going to dislodge the stuck canoes. I sat in front and Max sat in the back. Now, if you know much about canoes you know that it is mainly the responsibility of the person in back of the canoe to do most of the steering. I'm not sure anyone explained that to Max. Instead of going straight ahead, and making a direct line towards the campers, we began making a gradual arc to the left and to the opposite side of the lake. I yelled back at Max that he was steering incorrectly, but he assured me that he was most definitely NOT. So I began making wide, forceful arcs with my oar into the water and got us moving in the correct direction.
We stopped when we got close to the stuck canoes. They were wedged into the trees and branches in such a way that if we were to maneuver our canoe any closer, we'd be stuck ourselves. I grabbed my oar and shoved it down into the water, testing the depth. When I found that it was fairly shallow I turned to Max. "One of us is going to need to get out of the canoe to pull them out. Who's it going to be?" I'm not sure what happened next, but I remember that somehow I was the one that ended up getting out of the canoe.
I am not a good swimmer. When I get into water that reaches my chest, I often envision myself being swept away and drowning. It has to do with growing up in a family that didn't go swimming, and didn't send their children to swimming lessons. When I was a child, the term "swimming pool" meant the little green turtle-shaped plastic tub we'd fill with water from the hose and sit in out in our front yard. So when I miraculously got out of the canoe without tipping it and stood in the water that came up to about my armpits I began to question my own sanity. Luckily I was wearing a life jacket, otherwise I think I would have thought that all hope was lost and began uncontrollably weeping. I managed to trudge over to two of the canoes and pull them out from the fallen trees and sticks. Luckily, at one time that side of the lake had been the side that was most used and so there was an older dock not too far away. I slogged my way through the water, pulling those two canoes behind, over to the dock. I pulled myself out of the water, told one of the campers in one of the canoes to move forward to the middle and then began rowing back to the other side of the lake, towing the second canoe behind us.
As we rowed by Max, I saw the unfortunate consequence of removing all of the weight out of the front of the canoe, without first having Max move to the middle. He was sitting in the back of the canoe with the front end jutting up at a hilarious angle from the water. He was rowing furiously, trying to get over to another stranded canoe, and making very little progress.
I managed to get the two canoes safely back to the otherside, at which point the poor campers decided that they were completely finished with boating and quickly jumped out onto the dock.
This next part is a bit hazy, and as I look back on it I definitely question the decision we made. But after we lifted one of the canoes out of the water we heard Max yelling that Anne and I should take a paddle boat out, instead of a canoe, to rescue the last canoe of campers. And we listened to him. If we had taken a canoe our rescue time would have been much faster, but for some reason we decided to listen to the idea of a man who was still trying to paddle his canoe that was still almost perpendicular to the water.
Anne and I put a paddle boat into the water and climbed in. We began paddling furiously to the far side of the lake, and several sweaty minutes later we made it to the far side. We managed to reach the canoe without needing to get out of the boat and began towing it back to safety. At this point Max had somehow managed to get out of his canoe and into the canoe that he had been trying to rescue for the past twenty minutes and was now paddling that canoe to safety, but had left his canoe stranded and empty. So as we paddled by that canoe we grabbed onto it, as well, and began pulling it along with us.
So finally every camper and every canoe was accounted for and on dry land. I looked at my watch to see what time it was, and I saw that not only was there now a large amount of water inside my watch, but we were late for lunch. Turning to my campers I told them to quickly pack things up we needed to get back for lunch. We made the hike back to lunch as fast as their little legs would take them. I was rather grumpy that my morning of leisure had been rudely disrupted and that my wet clothes were clinging in uncomfortable places. Water gushed from my shoes with each step.
When we finally made it back to camp I told my campers to hurry and go get lunch. I assured them that I would be there as quickly as I could change into dry and cling-free clothes. I climbed into my tipi and began grumbling and muttering as I changed out of my sopping clothes. I think I may have even said some words that I had enough tact to not say in front of the campers. But finally I was dry and ready for lunch.
I climbed out of my tipi and walked down to the logs for lunch when I was greeted by the strangest thing: applause. It seems that my campers had relayed the whole story to the rest of the campsite and they had told how I had rescued the poor little campers from the lake. For one brief fleeting moment
I was the hero of camp.
But I still had to help wash dishes afterwards.
I read a story over at Real Live Preacher, and it sparked a memory. I thought that I would write about it here.
My dad is a great man and an amazing pastor. He has always exhibited a steadfast and vibrant faith. He has an enormous love for people, and can talk to anyone about anything forever.
It was sometime during my junior year that I remember laying in my bed and being roused by a commotion coming from upstairs. I quickly got out of bed and rushed up to see what was going on. Our German foreign exchange student and my mom were in my dad's room [editor's note: my parents who loved each other then, and still do, had for quite some time slept in different rooms. You see, my mom is a sleeper of the persuasion that if someone walks across the floor, she wakes up. My dad is a sleeper of the persuasion that if someone tap dances on his face he might roll over. And oh yeah, he snores like a chainsaw that could use a little oil. So, rather than trying to sleep in the same room, and then my mom moving downstairs to the couch so that she can sleep, they just cut out the middleman and sleep in different rooms]
and my dad was making this weird noise as he breathed, like he was snoring on the inhale and then exhaling and trying to make a noise like a motorboat. His eyes were half opened and spit was starting to foam at the corners of his mouth. By the time I made it up the stairs and saw what was going on, they had already called 911.
Within mere seconds (since our neighbor was a first responder) people had rushed into our house. An ambulance had arrived and my dad was wheeled out on a gurney. He regained consciousness at the hospital, and besides being tired and confused as to why he was in the hospital, seemed no worse for the wear. It seems that on that day, my dad had manifested an unexplainable seizure disorder. At first they were just nocturnal, but then they began happening during the day. Most of the time they were controlled with medication. Sometimes one would slip through. But all of this was manageable.
Then one day during my senior year of high school we drove to the closest big town and enjoyed a day out. I used the money I had earned washing cars that summer to buy a new stereo system. My dad bought some light bulbs to replace the one that had burned out in the driveway. As soon as I got home I rushed my stereo downstairs to my bedroom and began furiously attempting to put it together. There was one part of the instructions I was having trouble understanding, and I decided to ask my father for help. I walked upstairs and saw my mom in the kitchen. I asked her where my dad was and she didn't know. She had thought he was downstairs. We began looking through the house for him. I walked into the basement, which is also his office, thinking he might be there. That's when I heard what I will never forget. It was the panicked yell from my mom. I rushed up the stairs and out into the garage. My mom had found my dad, on the ground, in between the two sides of a step ladder and unconcious. He had gone outside, in the dark, to replace the burned out light bulb without telling anyone. We managed to rouse him but he was very groggy. My mom said to wait there, she was going to get the car keys and we were taking him to the hospital. Somehow (and I firmly believe God was helping me) I got my dad onto his feet and into the car. My mom came outside and we drove to the hospital.
After an initial check, the doctor decided my dad probably had a seizure on top of the ladder and just had a whopper of a concussion and he was sending him home with us. Both my mom and I had reservations, so the doctor decided to do an x-ray just to make sure. Everytime they would try to get my dad to lay down on his back for the x-ray he would be overcome with nausea and need to vomit. Unable to get an x-ray, the doctor decided to keep him overnight.
At 2 in the morning we got the worst phone call ever. It seems that the night nurse had noticed something unusual about my dad during the night and after checking him out, they discovered he was bleeding from two spots in his brain and was being transported by helicopter to a hospital about two hours away. My mom and I rushed to the hospital and were there just in time to see them wheeling my father out. We were greeted by several members of our church who had somehow managed to hear about what was happening and were already there. One, who was the local sheriff's deputy at the time, volunteered to drive us to the hospital in the city.
After the brain surgery to stop the bleeding, my father was in a coma for about a week. It was horrible to see him lying there with his half-shaved head and a tube coming out of the scar that arced from his forehead to above his ear. We held a constant vigil at his bedside, and even slept in the intensive care waiting room, not wanting to be far from my dad. My two older brothers both came and went while we were there, and my grandparents and one uncle came and went, as well. But it was while my grandparents were there, and my dad, although still comatose, had been considered stable enough to be moved out of intensive care, that we received some of the greatest news ever.
We were sitting in the waiting room talking and watching tv when a nurse walked into the room and looked at us. We were on the edge of our seats, hoping and praying for some good news, but fearing the worst. That's when the nurse said, "I have someone that wants to talk to you." My mom and I practically jumped out of our seats and ran to the room. My dad was sitting up in bed and looked at us when we walked in. "Someone's here to see you," the nurse said. "Do you know who this is?"
from Real Live Preacher reminded me of this scene from my own story. My dad spoke. His tongue was dry and swollen. His speech slow and slurred. But he answered. He said, "That's my wife."
Then the nurse said, "What's her name."
In the same manner my dad replied, "Barbara."
"Oh my!" my mom yelled sounding almost shocked.
The nurse turned, a panicked look on her face. "What's the matter? Is that not your name?"
"He NEVER calls me Barbara!" my mom replied.
And from that moment on my dad began his miraculous recovery. Considering the amount of brain damage that he received, people say it is a miracle that he can walk and talk today, much less go back to work as a pastor, which he did.
Although lately, things haven't been as good. Some seizures managed to find their way through the medication, and resulted in some irrepairable brain damage. He is now on continuing disability from work. He is often unstable on his feet, has tremors in his hands, has trouble with his memory and word recollection. He now walks with a cane and seems more feeble than the dad I grew up with. It is sad for me to see him this way, and I have shed more than a few tears about it.
He has been to numerous neurologists, and has even gone to the Mayo Clinic. The seizure disorder still remains unexplainable and the brain damage irrepairable.
But through it all my dad has remained steadfast and faithful. He doesn't ask why God has allowed this to happen to him (although I have on numerous occasions, and if anyone EVER tells me to consider the story of Job again, I will punch them in the face), but constantly speaks of how God has helped him and continues to help him through it all. Although he is unable to continue in his professional role as a pastor, he is definitely still ministering to people, and he is one of the best damn ministers and pastors I will ever know.
Anyway, thanks for listening. I'm not sure why but I just felt the need to write this down. My parents called me for my birthday today. It's hard to talk to them on the phone sometimes because my dad gets confused a lot easier than he did, and he has trouble coming up with words sometimes. But they sang happy birthday to me, and on the line where they said "Happy birthday dear Mark" my dad added "a day late." My mom corrected him when it was over, that today was indeed my birthday, and then said that he had been convinced all day yesterday that it was April 4th and had wanted to call me yesterday. Something about that just touched me. Despite his sometimes horrible memory he had remembered that April 4th was my birthday and had wanted to call me to let me know how much he loves me.
Despite all the things that have happened, I feel amazingly blessed to have him for my dad.
Monday, April 04, 2005
So I thought that I'd take my free time to write out a Who's Who. Then I think I'm going to try to link to this post on the right hand side, so that when people are reading my blog and they come across a character, rather than explain that character in the post, they'll have the option to click on the link and read about that character. And I will add to it as I meet more characters along the way.
welcome to the peanut gallery
Tom - An older gentleman from church, fairly conservative in his politics and religion, and not the most youth friendly person I have ever met. Well known at the colony for his stances on homosexuality, "non-traditional" worship, and the ineffectiveness of Mark as a leader.
Supervising Pastor, or often times just Supervising - A really good guy and a great supervisor. Leans to the left politically and theologically. Loves coffee and beer, and thinks it is great that Mark has liturgically colored tennis shoes for worship.
PD - Supervising Pastor's daughter, chairperson of the Youth Ministry Committee at church, teaches Senior High Sunday school. Although, according to many people, was a C&E Worship attender (C&E = Christmas and Easter) until the arrival of Mark to the church, at which point she became uber-involved... Hmmm....
Clark - A young man from church, out of high school but not yet in college. Struggling to find a new niche at the church he has been attending since he was a wee one..
The Turkeys - Although it sounds like The Turkeys could be the name of a rock band, these turkeys are the actual feathers and beak kind. Three wild turkeys who are quickly on their way to becoming tame, and hang around the neighborhood because of the large amount of people who feed them. They do not eat bread, however. Unfortunately, I believe their residence in the colony is no more, because after causing an automobile accident they are now participants in the Animal Control Relocation program and they have assumed different identities in some other part of the state.
The Mothership - My affectionate nickname for the seminary of which I am a student. I think the term Mothership alludes to the main alien spacecraft that sends out the smaller spaceships that go off and explore. Then they go back to the Mothership to report their findings, and then the Mothership comes and destroys the planet. I think that this allegory is adequate up until the part about planet destruction. My seminary doesn't do a whole lot of that.
Next Year's Intern, nyi for short - The student from seminary who will be following me next year. At first, I was excited to know who this would be. But learning the identity of this until now hypothetical person has really made me begin to contemplate the impending end of my internship.
The Awesomes - Occasionally you run across a person who you think is amazing. Very seldom, do you come across a whole family. I have been blessed to do just that. Not one member of this family is less than amazing and I am glad, excited and honored to know them and to be considered an honorary Awesome.
Mark - That'd be me. I'm just a guy trying to make a difference in this world. And trying to figure out where God is calling me. And you get to read all about that on this blog. Neat, huh?
it's my birthday!!
the day of my birth.
we're having a party!
Sunday, April 03, 2005
do i have the stamina
to write a blog?
OF COURSE! Although after this, I'm going to bed.
Today was another one of those marathon days. Last night I had a cleaning frenzy. My house might be close to the cleanest it has been since I've moved in. Vacuumed, swept, threw A LOT of junk away, cleaned the kitchen, got rid of massive amounts of those imitation lady bugs (they're "asian beetles" but they look like little orange lady bugs and they are ALL OVER), and then I finally collapsed into bed at midnight (after remembering to set my clocks forward). Of course, then my alarm clock decided to malfunction and I woke up with brief moments to get ready and over to church in a timely manner. And then we confirmed those little punks. And, I'd have to say, that a part of me was kind of sad to be done with them. Although I'm excited at all of the options that are open before me during the education hour at church! Now, in the past, when my dad was pastoring churches and he'd confirm youth, invariably at least 95% of the youth would invite him to their luncheons and parties and whatnot, in celebration of the confirmation. Since, supposedly, the pastor plays a large role in the formation of faith, he'd be invited to the celebrations that these youth had affirmed their baptisms. Well, guess how many families of the ten kids that were confirmed invited me. A BIG FAT ZERO. Guess how many invited Supervising Pastor. That's right. A BIG FAT ZERO. I was a little disgruntled, but even so, there are probably only two or three that I'd have been extremely interested in going to, although I would have gone to all that I was invited to. So I used that time to finish up some cleaning. But then, after the 8:00 service and before the 10:30 service, and after about 7 of the youth and families had split before the reception for them between services, I was talking with the high school youth and figured that, since I cleaned and everything, that I'd invite the Sunday night senior high Bible study over to my house that evening. Maybe a little party, even, since my birthday is tomorrow. So, after the 10:30 service I went home and finished cleaning the house, and then at 3:00 I went to the local bowling alley for our Young Adult bowling. Three people, besides myself showed up. But we had a good time (and I actually won one round, even against a league bowler!!!) and we made it back to church (after a stop at a local restaurant) in time for a meeting of the high school youth who want to put on a lock in for the younger youth, and begin a type of mentoring program for the middle school/junior high aged youth, which I think is fantastic. So part way through that I decided that I needed to go to the store to get supplies for the party at my house so I took "Clark" (who DID go bowling with us today! Yay!) and we picked up some stuff. Then we came back, about a half an hour later, and the people were still chatting about the lock in. So then I figured I needed to go back home because some high schoolers who did not show up to the meeting but had been to church were expecting the Bible Study at my house, so I figured I needed to be over there if they showed up. So Clark went with me, and we put on some music and started eating, and some of the other high school youth came, and then they decided the wanted to go outside and play tag. So we were outside playing tag when LT, a boyfriend of one of the girls from church, came out of the church and we roped him into playing tag. A little bit later one of the high school girls came out of the church and said that they needed my inside. She said this with concern, so I was worried that there was something wrong with one of the girls. I get inside, they open the door of my office, and it is decorated with balloons and streamers and there is a cheesecake on my desk with a "2" candle and an "8" candle. I was totally surprised. So I blew out the candles and we took the cake to my house and all enjoyed food and cake and pop (or soda or coke, depending on your location). After eating and talking and joking, some of the youth left (to go enjoy a hot tub) and the rest of us continued eating and then we played some games. Then everyone left except for PD (Pastor's Daughter) and Clark and we watched some episodes of Family Guy
, since I bought the first and second seasons on DVD. So as they were getting up to leave I said "I think this is the most activity my house has seen since I moved here." I think I want that to change. I want my house to be active. It's my dream when I have a family to be THE house, the one that is always busy and hectic and noisy and full of kids and friends and pets and people and noise and laughter and love. So why not start now, even though I don't have a family?
But yeah that brings me to now. And it's late. And I'm tired and guess what????TOMORROW IS NOT ONLY MY BIRTHDAY BUT IT IS MY DAY OFF!!!!
So good night, from a more mature Mark.
Friday, April 01, 2005
have i achieved blog enlightenment?
I think I received my first mean comment today. Probably won't be my last. Because then I think it might mean I'm doing something right. All the real visionary, social justice oriented leader types had lots of people that didn't like them. I mean, look at Oscar Romero and Martin Luther King, Jr. Now, don't even THINK I'm comparing myself to these great men. I mean, I'm a lowly seminary student who writes on a blog. But I was just saying how those who are often doing the greatest things are the ones who receive the worst (and sometimes most violent) criticism and opposition. So really, to have haters on your blog must mean you're blogging right.
Although this guy didn't actually say hateful things about me, or my theology or anything pertaining to me, really. Just about a quote that I chose to use from Martin Luther. He called Marty's character into question. Like that's never been done before. Even us Lutherans have been known to do that from time to time. The man wasn't perfect. But he did some great things for the church. We don't call ourselves Lutherans because he was infallible, but because he outright admitted he was the opposite. He was fallible, and often considered himself to be the most fallible. But it was through the grace of God in Jesus Christ that he was (and we are) redeemed anyway.
So I feel as if I've really accomplished something by inspiring a hateful comment. Even if it was just a drive by. Yay for me!!
Oh, and for those of you who care, the countdown to my birthday is: 49 hours!! Yippee!!
Hello. May I help you?
I have received a call.
I recently received the denominational magazine of the ELCA (ingeniously named The Lutheran) and as I was flipping through the pages I found an article that spoke to me. It was entitled Calling God's 'fools'
It began by talking about how April 1st (that'd be today) used to be the beginning of the New Year until 1582 when Pope Gregory XIII ordered the use of the Gregorian calendar that made January 1 the new New Year's Day. But there were some people who did not know about the new calendar, or they may not have cared, and so they oblviously or intentionally continued to celebrate the New Year on April 1st. The more enlightened January New Years celebrators dubbed these off-schedule revelers "fools." And that is why April 1st is called April Fool's Day and celebrated with all sorts of clever (or not) pranks.
But then the article goes on to discuss the place for 'holy fools," that is people "who encourage us not to take ourselves too seriously."
The article talks about the importance of play, and how play can be a spiritual practice. Jesus incorporated play and humor and jokes and sarcasm into his parables. Even Francis of Assisi called his early followers "Jesters for the Lord."
The authors quote 13th century abbess Mechtild of Magdeburg writing about God: "I, God, am your playmate. I will lead the child in you in wonderful ways, for I have chosen you."
And they quote good ol' Martin Luther as saying "Our loving God wills that we eat, drink and be merry."
So yeah. I think my calling is to be a "holy fool."
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