this is no longer my blog

Monday, May 30, 2005


short entry

This past weekend, being a fifth Sunday of the month, was our Youth Sunday. We had a guest preacher, and the youth were in charge of most everything else about the service. I only assisted at two of our three services with communion distribution. Other than that, I was a spectator and it was nice.
Now there are a group of people, several who belong to the group I sometimes affectionately refer to as the curmudgeons, who pay attention to the calendar and when the fifth Sunday of a month rolls around, they are conveniently not in church that Sunday. Tom is often a part of that group. On Palm Sunday, which wasn't a fifth Sunday, we had some youth add some visuals to the very long reading of the Passion narrative. Nothing else was different about the service, but it was enough to set Tom off and he made a few comments on his way out of church that day, and did not shake hands with the youth who participated. So I figured that Tom would not be present at the service this weekend.
But he was. And not only that, but on his way out he told the guest preacher (who is in seminary and a daughter of the congregation) that she did a great job, but then he proceeded to shake the hands of the youth and told each one, "Nice job." One of the youth was in line directly after me, and when Tom shook her hand and said "Nice job," I couldn't help it but I looked at him and my jaw dropped. She laughed at me and said, "You should have seen your face!" I was greatly astonished.
Grace abounds. Often coming from the places where we least suspect it, and from the places where we've stopped looking for it. That's the crazy thing about grace. The minute we think we've got it figured out, it pulls another trick out of its hat to show us just how clueless we are. I love grace.

Saturday, May 28, 2005


the bus ride

The bus bumped along the dry, dirt road kicking up a billowy cloud behind it. The bus driver was an older woman with strong hands and kind eyes. She didn't say much as she drove that big yellow bus, but she had a quick and kind smile that made the passengers feel comfortable and at ease.

They sat nervously in their seats, silently eyeing the rest of the passengers who they did not know; trying to get some idea about the people they would be sharing this experience with. Some stared out the window, watching the scenery as it silently tumbled by. Others timidly started conversations with their neighbors, asking where they were from, and if they were nervous, too.

All of them had been expecting this trip. Some had known it was coming for quite some time. Others were surprised that it crept up on them as quickly as it did. None of them had ever been there before, so none of them knew quite what to expect. And this made them nervous.

The anxiety in the bus rose to a new level the minute the bus veered off of the main road and onto a smaller trail, passing through a wooden gateway that arched overhead. What little conversation there had been was now silenced as each passenger was straining to see out the window, to get some idea of what this place looked like; what kind of things they'd be able to do while they were here.

Light shone through the leaves of the trees, giving the air an ethereal golden-green glow. The bus trudged along this tree lined path for what seemed quite a while. The passengers were getting more nervous, sitting on the edge of the seats; craning their necks to get a view out of the windshield, to see if they could catch a glimpse of buildings or something that would let them know they were getting close.

And then suddenly the tree line opened up. The light, no longer blocked by trees and leaves, seemed so fresh and golden. There arose an excited murmuring on the bus. The passengers were excited to get off, to stretch their legs, and to see what it would be like outside. The bus driver slowly pulled the bus to a stop. She rose to her feet and turned to look at the group of nervous passengers. With a kind smile she opened the doors to the bus and said, "We're here!"

There was a mad rush for the door. The passengers quickly rushed down the aisle, down the steps and out into the warm sun. As they spilled out of the bus, the passengers were greeted by a group of welcomers that seemed even more excited and happy than they were. The greeters were smiling and waving, overflowing with enthusiasm and offers to help.

At first, the passengers were a little overwhelmed by this welcoming committee, this group of unfamiliar people who were so excited that they were finally there. The passengers hung back close to the bus. But the more they looked at this group of welcomers, the more comfortable they were becoming. Then, suddenly and without warning, one of the passengers shrieked, "GRANDPA!" she broke from the group of passengers and into the waiting arms of one of the greeters. Then another passenger yelled, "MOM!" and rushed forward into her loving embrace. And then the air was full of laughter and crying and yelling. People were rushing into the arms of their loved ones who they had not seen for some time. At first they had not recognized them in this place, there was something different about them. Something better.

Those who had been sick were now glowing with health. Those who had been broken were now completely whole. Those who had been distant were now wonderfully close. In the warmth of the sun, all past hurts were forgotten and there was only excitement and forgiveness and love.

And watching it all was the bus driver with the strong hands and the kind eyes. She stood on the ground outside of the bus, watching this wonderful homecoming, with a wise and gentle grin playing across her lips.

Thursday, May 26, 2005


junior high flashback

Let me begin by saying that I am not a competitive person.
When I got psychologically examined before beginning my journey through seminary and candidacy for rostered ministry, I was told that I have an extremely low need for achievement.
When I engage in activities, such as games or sports or the like, the need to win is very low on my list. I participate because I want to enjoy community and have fun and be active.
This didn't translate well in junior high. Especially PE class. I can remember participating in various sports during class, and because I didn't have this intense need or desire to completely obliterate the other team, my team would often turn on me. They couldn't believe that I didn't dive for that volleyball or they couldn't believe that I was joking around instead of directing every ounce of energy and rage against the other team. This would cause me to detach even further, and I figured if I was going to get yelled at I might as well not even attempt to participate.
Now, I am an extremely energetic and fairly athletic person. I enjoy playing sports. I enjoy shooting hoops or playing Ultimate Frisbee or playing volleyball. But the minute people start getting competitive, I back away. I'd rather not participate, thank you very much. And it's not that I couldn't do a good job. It's not that I don't have what it takes to win a game of volleyball or Ultimate Frisbee. It's just not that important to me. And I'd rather spend my time doing something fun than getting yelled at because I am not "giving as much as I should."

So, tonight we have a church league softball game. Now, I am not very good at baseball or softball. I'll admit that. I stopped playing after my second or third year of tee ball because I wasn't good. I enjoyed playing, sure, but I didn't enjoy the competitiveness or my coach and teammates yelling at me because I wasn't as good as they thought I should be.
Our first game was last week, and I showed up a little late, not really intending to play, but Supervising had to leave for a meeting and gave me his glove as he left and said I could take over second base for him. I didn't have much of a choice, because without Supervising our church did not have enough players for a team. So I took his glove and walked over to second base. Now, because of my inexperience in playing organized softball or baseball, I did not know that the second baseman doesn't really stand right by second base. They stand in between first and second. So as I stand by second base I have the short stop and the first baseman shouting directions at me as to where to stand. Great. Two seconds into my first game and I've already alerted both my team AND the other team that I have no clue as to what I am doing. This is off to an amazing start.
Well, not because of my lack of skill, but because of the power hitters on the other team, the game is called after 6 innings because we are behind by a score of 1-15. They played an extra inning just because the first five went so fast. I did a fairly good job, considering the ball was only thrown to me once. And I caught it. But now it is expected that I will continue playing. Not because the team needs a person with my amazing skills and capabilities, but because the team needs a person, period.
And as I sit and think about the upcoming game this evening, my brain can't help but travel back to junior high. I know that this is different, that I'm a grown up and I'm playing with grown ups, but it's just one of my insecurities; that I'll be ridiculed because of my lack of skill or competitive drive.
How do you tell a bunch of people on a softball team, who want to win, that you have a low need for achievement?


Parsonage life

Except for four years of my life, growing up, I have lived in a parsonage. For those of you who do not know what that is, it is the house next door to a church, owned by the church, in which the pastor lives. Most often they are in small town and rural parishes, but perhaps some larger cities have them, as well. This year I live in a parsonage, as well. Now don't get me wrong, there are some great and wonderful benefits to living in a parsonage, but there are also some horrible and inconvenient drawbacks. I thought I would take some time out of my day to share some of each with you.

Benefit: The house is provided by the church. You do not have to buy it, nor do you have to pay rent. It is part of your payment package.
Drawback: As such, the people at church often feel like it is just as much their house as yours. They traipse through your yard. They let you know if they don't appreciate what you've done with the flower bed. They have no qualms with using the water faucet at the back of your house, even if that means that they stand right outside your dining room window and can stare inside your house. Which, if the church didn't own your house, would be considered a criminal offense. But they do own your house, and it would be frowned upon if you reported a parishioner for being a peeping tom, when they were trying to water the flowerbed between your house and the church.

Benefit: Often, parsonages are close to the church. That means you do not need much prep time to get ready and over to church. You don't have to consider the commute as a factor in how long it will take for you to get there.
Drawback: That being said, everyone at church knows where you live. They observe your comings and goings, and then ask you about them. If someone needs into the church at some ungodly hour for any reason, they come and ring your doorbell. When other office staff are running late, it is you that they call to go and unlock the doors for some group that needs to use the building. If there is a group meeting at the church, and they feel like you should be there, there isn't much stopping them from coming over to your house to get you. And when you answer the door in a t-shirt and shorts and socks, it's hard to convince them of any reason why you shouldn't be at that meeting. I mean, it's not like you were in the midst of doing anything important, especially when they can hear cartoons blaring on your television.

Benefit: Since you don't own the house, you are often not responsible for the repairs. If something goes wrong (that was not directly the result of something you did) someone from the church will come and fix it and the church will pay for it.
Drawback: There are a couple drawbacks with this one. The first being that most parsonages, in my experience, are older houses. This means there will quite often be things wrong with your house. This can range anywhere from bad pipes or bad wiring to horrendous orange and green and brown shag carpet in the basement. Some things are considered high on the priority list of repairs. Others are not. Often small town and rural parishes are not the most wealthy churches, and so items that are low on the priority list are overlooked. I mean, so what if that carpet was there since 1950. It still works fine. It covers the ground like it's supposed to, except for that one spot over in the corner. And who cares if there is that big stain from God-knows-when and God-knows-what. Just put that end table on top of it.
The second drawback kind of goes alongside our very first drawback. Sometimes, after church people will come up to you and say, "Sometime this week I'm going to be coming over to put another coat of paint on that wall [or "check the furnace" or any number of odd job type things]." You say, "Ok," thinking that they'll let you know when they are coming over. But then one day, after you were gone running some errands you come home and smell fresh paint. You see that your furniture has been moved so that this person could get to the wall, and that your wall has been painted. Then you see how messy your kitchen was and how badly your floor needed to have been vacuumed. And you know that this man saw both of those things, as well, and probably went home and told his wife. And you know how church ladies love to gossip. Especially in small towns. Wonderful.
A third drawback, that goes along with this, is that if there is something you don't like about your house, say the color of the walls, it's not like owning your own house where you just go to the store and buy a can of paint and paint the walls. You need to go through the appropriate committee and say, "I'm not a fan of the color of the walls in my bedroom. Can I paint them?" Most likely, they will say yes, because churches realize that it is your house (while you work for them, anyway) and they want you to be comfortable in your house. But it is just an added inconvenience to have to run it through a committee.

So those are a few of the benefits and drawbacks of living in a parsonage. I'm sure, since I've lived in one for about 20 years of my life that, given time, I could come up with many more of both. But, you see, one of the drawbacks about working in an office wiht other people is that these other people can often see when you are not being very productive. And they often know what it is that you need to get done that week, and so if you don't get it done, they won't be very happy with you. That being said, I need to go and get some things done.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005


work break

I try not to blog during work. It brings lots of feelings of guilt to the surface. I think about the stuff that needs to get done, the stuff that I should be doing, the stuff that they're paying me to do, and here I am blogging instead. So I try to blog only when I'm at home and not when I should be being productive. But today is a slow day. I don't preach this weekend, and since it's the fifth Sunday of the month it's a Youth Sunday, so the youth in the church are responsible for most everything during the service. So I don't have a lot of prep work to do to get ready for the weekend. Wednesday is not one of my visitation days, so I don't need to go to the hospital to check on people. There are no looming deadlines or unfinished projects lounging on my desk.
So I thought I'd write about an experience I had yesterday.

The weekly text study group of area Lutheran pastors (and one Methodist) meets at my church. They are usually a group of fun people, although there are a few that dominate conversation. There is this one man who attends who is a retired pastor. Inevitably, he will stay for 45 minutes after everyone has left cornering whomever he can to talk. There have been times that I have been trapped in my office by this man as he talks and talks, and I'm frantically searching for a possible route of escape.

So, in one of my finer moments yesterday, I made myself scarce after the text study. I refused to go into my office while I could still hear this man's voice, for fear of once again being trapped. First, I went back to my house. I drank a glass of water and ate some marshmallows. I grabbed a couple of things that I knew I would need back at church, then I strolled back over. He was still there. I put the things in my office, quickly, and then went to use the restroom. On my way back up the stairs, I could still hear him. So I went into a class/conference room and began looking at the bookshelves. A certain book caught my eye: The Acorn People.

I have heard of this book before, but have never read it. So I decided that I would borrow it and take it home with me and read it. It's a short little book about a man's experience as a counselor at a camp for disabled youth. He captures each of his campers' personalities wonderfully, and shows disabled people for the wonderful, complete people that they are. The only problem with the book was that it was too short. I could have kept reading for a long time.
The author is very up front in the beginning, sharing how he was scared as the youth arrived at the camp. He had signed up to work at camp to run and play and be active, and here were a group of campers who had a difficult time even making the trek from their cars to the cabins.
But as time progresses, he begins to see what makes each of his campers special, and how they are capable of achieving SO much, regardless of their physical limitations.
It's a pretty moving story, and a good one, about how all people are children of God, not just those of us with "able" bodies. If you have a chance, I recommend reading it.

Part of my morning today was spent on the internet trying to find the movie version of the book. Every website I visited did not have this movie in their catalogs. It was kind of disappointing. I might visit some area stores and see if they have it, which is highly doubtful, but I will keep looking.

Anyway, I suppose I should get back to striving for productivity.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005


double edged sword

Visiting The Mothership is good for me. It is good because I do not have a very active social life here. The most interaction I have had, outside of the church walls, with people my own age was this past Sunday when six other young adults and Supervising came over to the space between my house and the church and we had a cook-out. But, of course, I had to provide the meat to lure them there. So, when I visit The Mothership I get to hang out with friends. People I know and appreciate and like and who know and appreciate and like me back. I soak it up like a sponge because it is something I am sorely lacking, and which I greatly miss. For my hypersocial extroverted self, The Mothership provides a much needed social outlet. Now, I know that this year is about my development as a pastor and growing my identity apart from The Mothership, and so I have tried not to visit it too often. The Mothership placed me in a site within a fairly short drive, and so the temptation is there to think, "What am I doing tonight? Nothing? I should go visit my friends at school!" And early in my internship, that is what I did. But I have consciously worked on NOT doing that, regardless of how many of my friends are currently there, and regardless of where ever in this great United States they will be moving to in a few weeks, and regardless of the unknown span of time that will pass before I am given the opportunity to see them again. I have told myself that I need to work on the relationships I have here, in the time that I have been given.
Now, some good friends of mine, who The Mothership has also deployed on internship this year, recently had a house fire. Due to the short distance between their internship site and school, they have been allowed to live in some on campus housing for the short remainder of my friend's internship. I have greatly missed these friends. AND they have a new addition that was born into their family last November. So after I went to graduation at The Mothership, and heard news that my friends were now living on campus, I made contact with them shortly after I returned home. And since that contact, I have been to visit them twice. It has been wonderful for me to see them again, to play with their dog, and to meet their new addition. I have enjoyed myself thoroughly.
But, I still have two and a half months of internship left to go. I know my work here is far from over. When I visit my friends at The Mothership, it makes it difficult for me to get back into the swing of things here. Especially the day after I visit, I kind of aimlessly meander through the day, unable to really buckle down and focus on much of anything (to those of you who know me in real life, i find it harder than normal to buckle down and focus... if you can imagine). I find myself thinking of my friends and having a social life and wishing I was back in that atmosphere. I often leaf through my desk calendar and see how many days it is until my internship is over, and what is going on between now and then, and wondering how quickly the days will go by until then.
Then, the guilt sets in. I mean, it set in even while I was writing the previous paragraph. I feel bad for wishing that my internship was over, as if that somehow trivializes the relationships I've made and the growth that has occurred. I feel that wanting to be back at seminary means I'm not putting in enough of myself into my internship congregation, and that I'm obviously doing something wrong because I don't want to stay here, like many previous interns have said when they've returned to seminary. Sometimes, when I'm feeling like really getting down on myself, I think that the fact that I want my internship to be over is a clear indication of my inability to hack full time ministry, and that I should consider some other vocation. Do I really think that life will get any easier than it is now, when I move into full time ministry?
So, yeah... There you have it. And I've also been having some dreams that are evidence of me being in the midst of transition.
Dream #1: NYI decides that he wants to start internship early, and the congregation has okayed this decision. But they don't want me to leave until I've finished my scheduled time. So NYI moves to town, and they allow him to assume my preaching responsibilities but require me to stick around and help with worship. The most vivid scene of the dream was when NYI was preaching at the contemporary worship service. I think it was his first Sunday and he gets up in front of the congregation and immediately starts preaching without a manuscript, which is how Supervising preaches, and is a style that he encourages his interns to atleast try. And NYI is doing it right away (it's something I've not had the courage to try, yet) and doing an amazing job, and making jokes and the congregation is laughing, and no one really notices as I walk out of the church and start crying.
Dream #2: I am working at some youth camp, but it is more like a youth convention. It is at a completely indoor facility, because I think there is something unusal with the kids. Like they have disabilities or something, although a lot of the kids I'm remembering didn't have anything noticeably affecting them. And, of course as I'm known to do, I immediately bond with the kids. Like no holds barred bonding (well, inappropriate holds barred, of course). So, as it inevitably does, the time for the kids to go arrives. But this camp does something different, and makes the youth parade through the hallways before they leave. They begin their parade at a certain point and then the parade ends with them leaving the building and going home. I'm watching in some hallway as these kids who I've grown to know and love walk by me, and I am unable to say good bye to them because they need to keep moving. There is one in particular scene that I remember, this boy is walking by who was one of my campers, and I want to say good bye to him and he's sobbing but these people just keep making them walk on by. Well, eventually after the hallways are empty and I'm making my way out, like three or four of my campers come rushing back down the hallway to find me and say good bye. So, that was a good feeling. But then my alarm goes off. And I needed to get a new alarm, because my old one was beginning to be ineffective. And this alarm scares the crap out of me. So I go from this pleasant moment of a Hallmark movie of a dream, to the earth shattering beeping of my alarm clock. That was not fun.

So there you have my neuroses in a nutshell, really. Life is interesting, to say the least.

Sunday, May 22, 2005


me 'n' jesus

This is my pal Jesus and I if we were South Park characters.
Now, I know that they already have a Jesus on the show, but
I thought why not be like everybody else and make Jesus how
I want him to be?
Actually, I just thought it would be fun to make a picture of
myself with Jesus (and yes, I'm planning on sharing my ice
cream with him... but he can forget about using my light saber).

You, too can be a South Park character. Go here.

Thursday, May 19, 2005


it's getting to be that time of year

Schools are getting out.
The weather is warming up.
My internal clock is telling me that my favorite time of year is coming.
Summer, you ask?
Well, kind of. But let's get more specific.
It's getting to be time for CAMP!

The four summers I spent at camp have been four of the greatest times of my life. Such amazing and life altering things have happened at camp, I've met some of the greatest people at camp, people who continue to be wonderful friends and mentors and examples. It has become such an integral part of who I am and my call to ministry.

See this place in my heart? Yeah, that's the place in my heart for camp.

I can still remember my first (and only) week as a camper. I drove in the church van with four giggly junior high girls from my confirmation class. I was the only boy who had signed up to go, and I was wondering if I would regret this. My pastor drove us up, and we got out of the van and were greeted by some of the loudest most excited and genuinely happy people I had ever met. They gushed all over us, offered to carry our bags, and led us to the table where we would be able to pick our cabins and our villages for the week [editor's note: at this particular camp, the group of campers that you participated in activities with throughout the week, and the counselor(s) who were assigned as your group leaders, were called villages]. I remember walking up to the table where we checked in. The names of the cabins and the names of the villages were all hanging on nails on a board. The number of tags for each cabin and village was equal to the number of campers it could contain. There was one counselor, in particular, who caught my attention. He was a large black guy, extremely outgoing and constantly cracking jokes. I checked his name tag to see which cabin he was the counselor of and made sure to pick that one. He told me later when he saw me looking at his nametag that he thought I was making sure not to end up in his cabin. When it came time to pick my village, I didn't know what to do. The girls had gone before me, they had split into pairs and each pair had chosen a different village, but I didn't know which villages they had picked. Luckily, my pastor was there and he pointed to one and said that a couple of the girls had picked that one. So I grabbed that tag as well, and then moved into my cabin. That week was amazing. My village was a pretty cohesive unit, we got along really well, the two counselors were amazing (Daryl, the guy who was my cabin counselor also happened to be my village counselor), and I felt extremely welcome and accepted at camp. It was then that I decided that when I was old enough, I would come and be a counselor at that camp.

Fast forward a number of years. I am once again riding out to camp, this time in my parents' car. After my freshman year of college I had remembered the promise I had made, that I would come back and be a counselor, and I made good on it. I remember pulling up to the lodge at camp, and two of the loudest, most excited people I had ever met burst out of the doors to help me figure out where I needed to go. My parents felt relieved, leaving me in that place. I had arrived the night before most of the other staff would be arriving for training, because I lived a distance away, and so there were about five of us there that night. Once again I was the only guy (until the next day) and we sat around the table and talked and joked and laughed. Immediately, I felt that I was where I needed to be.
That summer, camp affirmed, for me, that I was called to be in the ministry. That youth ministry was indeed something I had gifts in and that I was supposed to do. Camp became a second home for me, and a place that I returned to throughout the year to help with retreats and youth events and as a place to meet up with friends.
I've already shared how, several years later, camp was there again after things didn't work out at my first job as a youth director. Camp was kind of like the safety net that caught me when I slipped off of the trapeze, and saved me from plummeting all the way down, and helped me to get back on my feet. Camp was there to remind me that I did, indeed, have a calling to ministry. There were people there to cheer and support me to get back on the ladder and start making my way back up.

So, you see, I think camp is a wonderful place. I still get a little pang every summer when camp time rolls around, and I realize that I have other obligations or responsibilities and I can't drop everything, pack all of my belongings into my large rubbermaid containers, stick them in my car and head out to camp for the summer. There'll be times throughout the summer, where I'll stop, look at the clock and think, "If I were at camp, I'd be doing [this] right now," or "I wonder how bad my tan line from all of my friendship bracelets would be by now," or "Wow, I'm glad I'm not sleeping in a tent in the middle of this storm!" (all the while secretly wishing I was sitting in a bunk bed, enjoying the light show with a group of rambunctious, goofy, sweaty kids).

Maybe someday I'll be back out at camp. Maybe someday I'll be the camp director who gets to lead worship around the campfire. Maybe I'll get to be the guy who interviews enthusiastic college students who all want to come out and experience a great summer as a camp counselor. Maybe I'll get to be the person who invites campers and staff into a time and a place that could change their lives forever.
I hope so!

Tuesday, May 17, 2005


oh so trinitarian!

I got this at reverendmother's blog, and she said it was in honor of Holy Trinity Sunday, which is this coming Sunday. So I thought that I should honor this Sunday in a similar manner, plus I'm bored and not quite ready to go to bed, yet. So, here you go:

Three names you go by:
Mark (most people call me that)
PI Mark (short for Pastor Intern, but gets turned into Private Investigator, or PIM, and someone once called me CSI Mark. That made me laugh.)
Mowk (Mr. Awesome, as he will tell you, likes to pronounce the W in my name...)

Three screen names you've had:
Well, I'm not as creative when it comes to screen names, and since I'm trying to keep some shred of anonymity here, I won't reveal the one I use most often.
The first one I remember having was 'dumb007' just because it was the first one I typed in that was not already in use.
And I can't remember any others, because once you find one that no one else uses, you tend to stick to that.

Three physical things you like about yourself:
I have a high level of energy.
I have a good smile.
I tan well and seldom burn.

Three physical things you dislike about yourself:
I have large ears.
I require corrective lenses.
I have skinny legs.

Three parts of your heritage:
Irish (I believe)

Three things you are wearing right now:
A polo shirt
Brown Socks
Carpenter jeans

Three favorite bands/musical artists:
Ben Harper
Jack Johnson

The last three songs you listened to:
(this is tough)
Let's get it started, by the Black Eyed Peas
Blessed to be a witness, by Ben Harper
I was flipping channels and I stopped briefly on a channel and listened to part of a song by Kenny Chesney, but I don't know what song and I'm ashamed to say that I listened to it as long as I did...

Three things you want in a relationship:

Three physical things about the preferred sex that appeals to you:
Bright eyes
A great smile
A good laugh

Three of your favorite hobbies:
People watching

Three things you want to do really badly right now:
Spend time with friends
Drink a slushie
Hug my mom and dad

Three things that scare you:
Very small places where I lack freedom of movement
My furnace room

Three of your everyday essentials:
A shower
Interpersonal communication

Three careers you have considered or are considering:
Running a pizza place
Children's book author
Counselor at Eckerd Youth Alternatives wilderness youth camps

Three places you want to go on vacation:
Rio de Janeiro and other Brazilian places
the Holy Land (minus the violence)

Three kids' names you like:
Jacob (I'm very Biblical, but I really do like these names!)

Three things you want to do before you die:
Be able to adequately repay my parents for all of the good they have done for me (as far as I'm concerned. They would probably say that I don't need to, or that I already have, but I feel like I owe them so much and would love to be able to give them back a fraction of what they have given to me)
Have stepped foot on all six inhabited continents
Been on Survivor

Three ways you are stereotypically a boy:
I'm messy
I leave the toilet seat up
I have thinning hair

Three ways you are stereotypically a girl:
I'm emotional
I own a lot of shoes
I'm not good at math
(Now, notice they said stereotypes... I'm not trying to be insensitive or anything like that)

Three celebrity crushes:
Sandra Bullock
Drew Barrymore
Eva Mendes

Three people I would like to see take this quiz:
It makes no difference.
I'm ambivalent.
Whoever wants to.

Sunday, May 15, 2005


portals to my blog II

So I am kind of fascinated by the google searches that people do. I often wonder what they were intending to find when they typed in those words. I've had the unusually usual google searches for that snack cracker commercial, and that isn't so odd anymore. But some of the others are, and I just wanted to share some with you.

Now, there are some that make sense. I mean, I think I talk about youth ministry and about becoming a pastor quite regularly. But there ar e a few up there that are a bit off the wall. I'm not sure which I like better: gerbils pee in plastic tubes, or dogs eat celery. They both make me smile. And I hope whoever ended up here found what they were looking for in all instances, even if they didn't know that they were looking for whatever they may have found.
I'm tired, it was a long day. After worship I drove to the Mothership for graduation. I got to see my friends walk across the stage and get their diploma. And then there was much eating of veggie trays and fruit trays and meat and cheese trays. Well, not so much the trays, really. We ate what was ON the trays.


don't EVER say that!

So last night I led worship by myself. I wasn't too nervous, I mean because it was only one service and several months ago I was in charge of worship the entire weekend. So one service would be fine. And minus one little slip when I was doing part of the liturgy, things went well. I got several good comments about my sermon, which is always nice.
Now there is this gentleman in his late 50's early 60's who I really, really like. He's always giving me a hard time, but always very supportive. On his way out of the sanctuary he told me that I did a really good job, then when he was about a couple feet away he turned to the woman next to him and said, "He did a great job. He always does a good job! I could see him starting his own church someday."
Now, I wanted to thank him for the compliment, then grab his shoulders and shake him and yell, "Never EVER say that again! EVER!"
Because, while being a mission start pastor would be kind of cool and adventurous, I do not believe that I possess near enough of any of the gifts needed to be successful.
Plus, just thinking of being a mission start pastor makes me wet myself a little.

Friday, May 13, 2005


portals to my blog

Since I wrote that post about the commercials concerning snack crackers and dog treats, I have had more people arrive at my site through googling those two things. I didn't realize they were such hot topics, that I would average AT LEAST five people a day just from googling those two things. Weird. Now I don't feel quite so bad for googling some of the peculiar things that I do.
Although, the search in the past week that gets the prize for possibly most peculiar is:

hamsters sickness kids

I'm not sure what those have to do with each other... Well, perhaps hamsters and kids, or sickness and kids, but is there some sickness that hamsters spread to kids? I know that prairie dogs don't make good pets because of some weird sickness that they can give you, but I haven't heard if hamsters are culprits, too.
Anyway, it's late and I'm tired and I have to finish a sermon tomorrow, and I have to lead worship tomorrow evening by myself. I'm flying solo because Supervising is going to be somewhere else officiating at a wedding. It's the church's parish administrator's wedding. Directly conflicts with Saturday evening worship. I'm not even going to say what I'm thinking. But I am a bit disgruntled. Anyway, good night and have a pleasant tomorrow.

Friday, May 06, 2005


in lieu of anything interesting that happened today...

I will share another story from the life of me.
It might not be interesting, and there are parts that are better told in person, as they involve hand motions and facial expressions which get lost in the written word. But I will try my hardest to convey, as fully as possible, this story.

Since the dawn of time, I had wanted a pet hamster or gerbil. My cousins had a hamster, and he was cute and would run around on the top of their bed. He was this goldish tan color, and I think cuteness oozed out of his pores.
The only animal that I wanted more than a hamster or a gerbil was a monkey. I begged my parents for a monkey, I wrote a report (on my own, it was not a school assignment) about monkeys in hopes that it would convince my parents that they did, indeed, make good pets. But I think deep inside I knew that monkeys were not pets. No one else I knew had a pet monkey. But they DID have pet hamsters and gerbils. So why shouldn't I have one, too?
I saved toilet paper rolls and paper towel rolls in the corner of my room for the hamster or gerbil my parents would one day buy for me. At one point I had quite a collection. But still they would not buy me one. I bought a book about gerbils, and read most of it, trying to hone myself into the perfect pet owner. But still they would not buy me one.
You might wonder why they didn't just get me a gerbil. They're not that expensive. They don't take up a lot of room. So why not just buy the poor kid a gerbil?
Well, my parents had their reasons. You see, one of my best friends in elementary school gave me two fish for my birthday once. So we bought an aquarium (that looked like a gumball machine) and a couple more fish. It was blissful, but fish do not have long lives and before you knew it, one died. I was a little saddened. I had gone to school that day and returned to see one less fish in the aquarium. My mom informed me that one had died while I was away. After that I moved into the ritual of saying "See ya!" to my fish everyday, and then would add, "Okay, now none of you die while I'm at school." Inevitably, I would return home and one would have passed away. Jokingly, I came up with the theory that my mom felt as if she was being replaced in my heart by these fish, and so while I was gone she was murdering them. But I was, indeed, a bit tramautized by the loss of my fish. Soon, all but one had passed away. His name was Speedy and he was a little neon fish. So we bought three or four more little neon fish. I could only tell Speedy apart from the group, so they became known as Speedy and the neons. As if they were a singing group. Soon, however, the neons began to pass away and soon Speedy was the only one left of them. Eventually, he too passed away. I was even more traumautized at this point. (Random aside: not too long after this, we were given a farm cat by a family from church. When we were trying to come up with a name for him, my only advice was: "Don't name him Speedy. He'll just die." What did my brother end up naming the cat? You guessed it. Speedy. But it fit. And I loved that cat. That's a whole other story though...)
So one Christmas or birthday (you know, one of those days I get gifts) I was given an ant farm. This was exciting. I sent in my little slip and they sent me the tubes o' ants. I deposited them in the little rectangluar farm and as they woke up they began to do what ants do and went to work digging. Well, if you know anything about ants you know that only the queen reproduces. And ant farms don't send you queens, because then you don't order more ants from them. So if there are no ants being added to the group, then eventually they will all be dead. There was this little room in the middle of the ant farm that became the graveyard. Every ant eventually ended up there. I feel bad for the last living one, who had to carry her last dead sister into this room and then quietly wait for her own demise. This tore me apart. I remember weeping at the loss of my ants and then in a moment of anger blasting water from the sink into the ant farm to get rid of all of the dead ants and watch their dead bodies swirl in the sink and then down the drain.
So you see, my mother was worried that if I mourned the loss of my fish and was tramautized by the loss of my ants, how would I react at the death of something cute and furry and cuddly. She really thought that getting me a hamster or a gerbil would just be setting me up for a meltdown. So I can understand why she was reluctant to buy me one.
Well, eventually the desire for a gerbil or hamster dwindled but never completely faded. I didn't think much of it as I went through junior high and high school. In college, I lived in the dorms and we were only allowed to have fish. I definitely didn't get any fish. After I graduated from college and took my job as the youth director, it struck me: I can now get a hamster.
I drove to the pet store, I bought a little plastic house for them, and some wooden toys for them to chew on. I bought a tranparent purple ball for them to run around in, and a lifetime's supply of cedar chips. I looked in the aquariums of hamsters and carefully selected the two I wanted. Remembering back to the book on gerbils I had read over and over, I made sure to see which two were the most active and had the fluffiest, shiniest fur. So I called over the pet store employee and told him which ones I wanted. A bit hesitant, he lifted the top and reached in towards the fluffy golden one I had chosen. As the hand drew closer this hamster reared up on its hind legs, bared it's teeth, clenched its little hamster claws and was ready to tear that man's hand apart. He quickly yanked his hand out and said, "Are you sure you want a hamster? They don't make the best pets."
"Well, what would you recommend?" I asked.
"A rat." He replied. Now, I have known people who had pet rats and they did make good pets. But they did not hold a candle to hamsters in the cuteness category.
"Um... anything else?" I asked.
He suggested gerbils. I was glad to pick out a couple gerbils, and they were nicer to the man, not rearing on their hind legs or baring teeth. They mainly ran blindly around their cage trying to escape this large latex covered many armed monster. They weren't too successful.
So I took my mousy brown gerbil and my black gerbil home with me. My youth director friend was over at my house and we were trying to figure out names for them. She was holding the mousy brown one and thought he reminded her of the mouse Gus Gus from Cinderella. So we named him Gus. The black one, which I was holding, was proving much more difficult to name. Although within the first two minutes he had pooped on me. And then he looked at my thumb and bit it. It drew blood. So we decided to name him Chewie.
I was excited to have Gus and Chewie. They would provide me hours of endless enjoyment running around in their ball and their wheel. I was sure.
I was wrong. These were the most deficient animals I have ever met. They did not chew on their wooden toys, which is what they were supposed to do. At all hours of the day and night they would chew loudly on the plastic of their cage. They did not know what they were supposed to do with their wheel. They would mainly just sit in it and poop. I would take one of them out and put him in the ball. Neither of them knew what to do. If I rolled it, they would walk along with it. When I stopped they'd stop. Occasionally they'd reach out a little claw and touch the ball and it would move a little. Then they'd quickly pull it back. And then they'd poop.
And their pee smelled horrible. I'd clean their cage out and the next day the living room would reek of gerbil pee. And Chewie was able to get out of the cage seeminly whenever he wanted to, and he'd run around the top of the entertainment center. And poop. He can't figure out how to use the wheel, or the ball, but he can escape the cage.

I think that over the years of wanting and yearning for a gerbil or hamster I had built them up into something they weren't. I saw gerbils from the "Oh they're so cute!" side and not the "Oh they're a lot of work." side. They weren't fun to hold, because the minute you'd pick them up they would start to think you were meaning them harm and they'd almost have a seizure trying to get away. They weren't fun to play with because they couldn't figure out how to use any of the fun things I bought them. All they did was eat, chew on the cage, and poop.
So, not too long after I had adopted Gus and Chewie I began shopping around for a new home. I was willing to give them away. And their cage. And their ball. And the lifetime supply of cedar chips. Just as long as someone would take them away from me. So, really, I think that's the first time I had to say good bye to a pet that didn't end in tears and trauma for me.

Thursday, May 05, 2005


this day in history

So a week ago Tuesday, we were informed in our area pastor's text study that today is 05/05/05, which by itself is pretty cool. But it is also Thursday. The fifth day of the month. The last time this happened was (I believe) 05/05/55, and it won't happen again this century. So, we should enjoy it while we are alive and able.
AND it's Cinco de Mayo! It's the day that remembers and celebrates May 5, 1862 when 4,500 Mexican soldiers defeated the Mexican traitors (exiled Mexican conservatives) and a French army of 6,500 at Puebla, Mexico. While not an American holiday, it is celebrated far more by the Chicano people in the United States than in Mexico. The people of Mexico consider their Independence Day to be more important, which they actually won from Spain in 1821. Just a few little facts for you, there.
So, with all of that information that makes today such a special day in history, you think that I'd have had a much more interesting day. I didn't.
First, I seem to be coming down with some sort of sickness. Like a head cold. So I was doped up on Dayquil today. Which has made life interesting.
Second, I really didn't get a whole lot accomplished at work. I did end up leaving a bit early because I was feeling sort of light headed and woozy. Cold medicine has a tendency to do that to me. We did go out to lunch as a staff, to celebrate Cinco de Mayo as well as our Parish Administrator's birthday.
Third, I'm playing hooky. Supervising has his Bible study tonight, Parables from the Butt Backside. And if you remember my post from last week, that one was not too fulfilling for me. I just do not have it in me to go over there tonight and sit through that train wreck, again. Much love to Supervising, it wasn't his fault, and normally I would just go over to support him. But tonight I don't feel like it. So I'm not gonna.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005


on becoming a pastor

So my friend Mackenzie responded to my previous entry. She is a friend and classmate of mine, and so what might seem to others as perhaps a bit on the harsh side, she really just knows me pretty well and has worked side by side with me as co-chairs of our youth ministry committee back at The Mothership, and has recently discerned that she, herself, is not called to ordained ministry, so she is just asking some questions that she considered in her own discernment process (how's that for a run-on sentence?). And I can't deny that I haven't wrestled with these questions, in fact similar thoughts were rumbling around in my head not too long ago. So, I thought that I do my best to answer them.
Mackenzie says:

You really want to dedicate the majority of your vocation to youth ministry and you say you want to be a pastor. I understand the desire. I've seen people want this and do it. I thought that was what I wanted for awhile too. However, is that really the role of a pastor? If you want to spend the majority of your time in a ministry with youth and young adults, this sounds like the position of a deacon rather than the focus of a pastor.I'm just saying, with all the blurrings between roles and pastors doing diaconal work and deacons doing presbyteriate work, it is a question worth considering.What is the function of a pastor? What is the function of a diaconal minister (deacon)? Are you really called to an amalgamation of both, or are you a pastor who support youth ministry or a deacon who wants to slip in some sacramental work on he side?

I do, indeed, feel a strong calling to youth ministry. From the beginning of when I started discerning a call to fulltime ministry, I knew that youth ministry would always play a prominent part in that. Even if I were an 80 year old visitation pastor.
I also feel called to the ministry of Word and Sacrament. To be in and amongst this community of believers and to set the table for them so that they might experience the awesome grace of God, and to be the one to dab water on the head of a baby and to welcome them into this imperfect and tattered but grace filled family is exhilirating and humbling at the same time.
So is there a place for someone to do both? Do we really need to say, "Okay, you are in charge of communion and baptism. And you are in charge of the youth." Why can't that be the same person? I think there might even be a deep benefit for it to be the same person.
My good friend (and a great pastoral role model for me) Pastor P. summed it up pretty well in an e-mail I received from him, and rather than try to paraphrase and lose some of the value of what he told me, I will quote him:

You ask a question that is close to my heart. The youth and children of our church are always so undervalued. We don't need a pastor for those kids... just one of those goofy youthworkers. I don't want to under-rate the amazing work that happens through the many youthworkers who are not Pastors. I was just at the Extravaganza (ELCA Youthworker convention) and it is a sign of the many faith-filled lay workers that for little or nothing, care deeply for the children and youth of the church.
At the same time. We are a church of word and sacrament. The person that plays wiffleball with you on Sunday afternoon is the same person that presided at Holy Communion that morning. That person placed in your hands the greatest gift you will ever receive... the bread of life. The same person that jumps in the swimming pool with you is the same person that baptizes screaming children. On every retreat we have Holy Communion. The Sacraments weave themselves through each activity because they are at the center of my personal experience and "professional" calling.

So, to answer your question Mackenzie, yes I do believe I'm called to be a pastor and yes, I do believe that I am called to work with youth. I don't know what that will look like once I leave seminary, heck, I don't even know what state I'll end up in, but whether youth ministry is only a portion or a primary part of my call as pastor, it does not change the importance youth ministry holds in my calling to ministry.

Monday, May 02, 2005


bad choice? perhaps. good times? heck, yeah!

Nothing gets me quite as excited and impassioned as youth ministry. Which would be why I've already dedicated a large chunk of my life to it, and continue to involve myself with it. I love seeing it when youth grow in their faith, or struggle with the deep questions, or when the "lost" take their first baby steps towards "home."
I believe that effective youth ministry, while aided by programs, is all about building trusting relationships. Being present and authentic with the youth is key to developing trust and openness with them. The youth need opportunities to get to know you if they are going to trust you and share this deep part of their life with you.

So, what I'm getting at is that we had a lock-in at our church Saturday night. The idea came from the high school youth, and they wanted to include the younger kids, starting with the 5th graders. The kids who are currently in high school remember when they were younger that the high schoolers did things like that for them, and they remember how that made them feel, so they want to do the same for the younger kids now that they are in high school. And when the high schoolers WANT to reach out and include the younger kids, you don't discourage them. So we had a lock-in.

As I have already mentioned, I love youth ministry. Lock ins are a big part of youth ministry, where you have such extended contact with the youth, and have the opportunity to really get to know them. So, after our 5:30 Saturday service, and after I preached my sermon about Ned Flanders, I went home and changed clothes and then came back to the lock in.

The group consisted mostly of high schoolers, although there were four 5th graders and three 7th graders. Most of the high schoolers that were there are the regular attenders. They were the core group that we can depend on to be at just about everything. But there were two high schoolers there who are not very active in the church. One was a girl who I had never met before, although they did say that she had attended Sunday youth group a couple times prior to Christmas. The second was a young man who is gay, and as churches have a way of alienating people because of their sexuality, I think he has kind of turned away from church, not because of anything that Supervising or any of the previous interns may have said, but because of the perceived opinion of the Church regarding homosexuality. So they were there and I was glad to see that they were.

I had been to a lock-in back in September, and had stayed until 3 in the morning. It was also on a Saturday night and so when I had to help lead worship the next morning, I was definitely NOT in my best form. But I managed and was then able to go home and sleep most of the day.
I decided that I was going to go home a bit earlier than that this time, seeing as how I had to preach the next day.
Although, since the title of this post starts with the words "bad choice" you can probably guess what happened, and you're probably thinking that I stayed until around 3 again, aren't you?
Well, that's not too far from the truth. Although this time I ended up staying all night. Without sleeping. But we went from fun activity to fun activity and I really was having a good time and not noticing the time as the evening progressed. We played a game called "Sock 'em" which is where one group of people needs to make it from their starting point to the safe place, and another group of people wielding tube socks filled with flour are trying to "sock" the other group and send them back to the starting point, thus preventing them from reaching the safe place. And that was a fun game. Then we played "Honey if you love me, won't you please, please smile" which just involves sitting in a circle and the person in the middle trying to get someone seated in the circle to smile, but can only say that sentence. The person in the circle has to respond with "Honey, I love ya, but I just can't smile," without smiling. If they stay strong, they remain seated. If they crack under pressure and smile or laugh, they must trade places with the person in the middle. Although I was horrible at being the person who was trying NOT to smile, I was awesome at being the person in the middle, and was able to crack several people that no one else could. It was after this game that I looked at my watch and it was close to midnight. That wasn't a big deal, as I've been up later than that at my own home when I've had to preach the next morning, so I just kept going. Although, the hours quickly progressed after that, and then I decided that if I were to go home and try to sleep, that it would actually be worse than if I stayed up all night. So in the end, that logic won out and I stayed awake at church all night. But it was rewarding to get to know the youth better and to engage in some good discussions with them. And to see the high schoolers reach out and include the young 'uns and to see the young 'uns open up and begin to feel comfortable with the high schoolers.

But then, yes, I did have to preach at the 8:00 service the next day. Although I did tell Supervising right away that I had been up all night. But I don't think that you could tell. I don't know that my lack of sleep affected me that much. Although part way through the service I was sitting in my little chair and I just remember thinking, "Holy Cow, I'm tired."
Then, after that service I went back up to the youth room where people were meeting for Sunday youth group, and I sat on the couch and before I knew it I was out cold. But they were nice enough to wake me up for the 10:30 service and I did a fine job at that one, as well. People filled out evaluations of my sermon at that service, too, and they were all good. They even appreciated it that I talked about Ned Flanders from the Simpsons.

I'd like to say that after that service I was able to go home and sleep the rest of the day. But, alas, I wasn't. Because I had already agreed many moons ago to preach at one of the local nursing homes at 2 pm that afternoon. Late enought that I couldn't just go right there and get it done with, but early enough that I knew I couldn't really take a nap without probably feeling worse after the nap than I did before.
So I went to the nursing home and preached. That was fun, because the first time I said anything, one of the older women yelled from the back "WE CAN'T HEAR YOU! SPEAK INTO THE MICROPHONE!" So I started to speak into the microphone. She yelled, "WE CAN'T HEAR YOU! TURN THE MICROPHONE ON!" So then I turned it on and everything went fine. It was mostly women, although there were two men in the group. I ended up holding the door for them after the service as they shuffled out and they all said "Thanks" and "Nice sermon" and "We're glad you were here." I think the best compliment I received, however, was from one of the gentlemen who said, "I look forward to you coming back when I have hearing aides that work."
Of course, then I came home and went to bed and slept until about 7pm. Then I got up and ate some supper and piddled around the house (piddle here means "did a whole lot of nothing" it does not have anything to do with urinating) until about 11:00pm or so, at which point I went back to bed.
So overall it was a great couple of days. It is weekends like this that really say to me, "Hey Mark! You just might be on the right path! Keep on truckin'!" I suppose I should tell the weekend that the phrase "keep on truckin'" went out of style several decades ago, although when the weekend is trying to be uplifting and affirming to me, I feel like I shouldn't criticize it.


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