this is no longer my blog
Wednesday, June 29, 2005
what does your birthdate say about you?
Okay, before I comment, here's what this site said my birthdate said about me:
Your Birthdate: April 4
Being born on the 4th day of the month should help make you a better manager and organizer.
You may be more responsible and self-disciplined than you realize.
Sincere and honest, you are a serious and hard working individual.
Your feelings are likely to seem somewhat repressed at times.
The number 4 has something of an inhibiting effect on your ability to show and express affections, as feeling are very closely regulated and controlled.
You are apt to be much more practical, rational, and conscious of details.
There is a good deal of rigidity and stubbornness associated with the number 4.
Okay, so let's discuss this now.
Better organizer and manager? Um... no. Have you seen my office? Have you seen my house? Yeah, one look at that and you would agree that I have the organizational skills of an enraged gorilla.
More responsible and self-disciplined than I realize? Hmmm... In a pinch I can be pretty good. Although it wouldn't take much to be moreso than I realize.
Repressed feelings? Inhibiting effect on my ability to show and express affections? Yeah, not so much. I'm a pretty emotional guy, and if I'm feeling it, you can tell. I'm known for my expressive face which often gives me away. And I'm not known for being much of a repressed or inhibited person.
More practical, rational, and conscious of details? Oh, boy... I don't think it could have gotten much more wrong. I'm not known for being practical, or rational for that matter, and I tend to be more of a big picture kinda guy.
Good deal of rigidity and stubbornness? Okay, I'll give them the stubborn part, because I can be pretty stubborn. But rigidity? I am not a very rigid person. I tend to be fairly flexible and spontaneous and I can very easily go with the flow.
So, either this thing is HORRIBLY WRONG, or my parents lied to me about my birthdate.
In the midst of my working, I have visited the internet numerous times today and always seem to end up staring at my blog. There was just this little voice or feeling or something subtly urging me to write something. But, for the life of me, I could not think of anything to write. My cup- which almost always runneth over with things to tell you about and various occurrences about which to over react, problems to blow out of proportion or memories to share and exaggerate- is sadly empty today. Is there somewhere to get a free refill?
One thing that happened today was the meeting of the Executive Committee of the Church Council. That would be: president, vice president, secretary, treasurer, Supervising, myself, and our parish administrator. Not a whole lot was discussed of much importance, but one thing was definitely brought to my attention: People on a local level are often blissfully unaware about what is occurring in their church on a national level.
Point in case: One of the items that Supervising discussed was the synod assembly where the recommendations from the Task Force on Human Sexuality were discussed, and a poll was taken. I wrote about it here
Supervising began talking about it, and it was as if a lot of these people - leaders in our church - had no idea what he was talking about. They asked questions as if it was the first time they'd heard that these issues and recommendations are going before the churchwide assembly this August.
And it's not like they have not had opportunities to learn about these things. When I first began they were having a well publicized Bible study with the intention of educating members about the issues, and giving them an opportunity to then give feedback to the task force to help shape the recommendations. Only a handful of people showed up, and only one of those was a church council member. Then, in December (or January? I wrote about it, and could go check, but I don't especially want to right now) they had the opportunity on a synod-level to meet and discuss the recommendations after they had been released to the congregations. How many people ended up going? I think Supervising and myself (well, and another member, but she was on the Task Force so she was expected to be there, anyway).
I guess this is to be expected. The church has begun to increasingly focus inward. Finances are tough, and there is some debt. Membership isn't what it used to be, and hasn't shown signs of growth for some time. Worried about making ends meet they are beginning to become a church that focuses on maintenance, and not mission. They've decided to cut their support to the Synod, not because they don't support the ministry of the larger church, but because that is the easiest expense to cut which will effect us the least. Each month the council votes whether or not they will send the payment to the synod, based on whether or not they feel there is adequate funds available.
So, I guess it should be no surprise why a lot of people don't know what is going on in the larger church. They're too busy navel gazing to look up and realize that church is much more than what goes on here. Sure, worship is important and it is the heartbeat of a church, but the church is also about doing the work of God outside these walls. It's about being a vibrant body who is living and breathing and moving and reaching out. I don't know about you, but if I had to choose between being friends with two people, one of which just sat there like a bump on a log, unwilling to reach out and interact with people around him, and was too busy focusing on what was going on inside him, and the other was vibrant and outgoing, constantly moving and talking and sharing and helping others, I think it's pretty obvious what choice I'd make. I think a lot of people would make a similar choice. And choosing a church isn't much different.
Of course, then comes the question: As the pastor intern, how do you draw the people outside of themselves? How do you help them to see that they shouldn't focus so much on staying alive, but if they focus on moving outward and welcoming and helping others, that the whole staying alive thing will take care of itself?
I've tried in my sermons to say: We are claimed and loved and chosen by God. We are to share this news with others. We are to radically welcome EVERYONE into our midst, with kindess and open arms. Every sermon I try to end with bringing it back to the congregation, telling them what this means for us, and how we should respond. People come up and smile. They say, "Good sermon. I especially like the part where you said we should [do this]." How many of them follow through? That's a good question. But I figure that if I keep preaching, and keep trying to practice what I preach, that they will hear my words and see my example and perhaps that will spark a little movement in the right direction. And if, in my year here at this congregation, I am able to even encourage a little movement, then I believe my time will have been well spent.
So, for not having any idea of what I was going to say, I sure did take up a lot of room...
Tuesday, June 28, 2005
working hard... um, yeah... that's it
I have wanted to read this book for some time, and almost bought it yesterday. Not entirely sure why I didn't, but it is kind of an odd coincidence...
You're A Prayer for Owen Meany!
by John Irving
Despite humble and perhaps literally small beginnings, you inspirefaith in almost everyone you know. You are an agent of higher powers, and you manifestthis fact in mysterious and loud ways. A sense of destiny pervades your every wakingmoment, and you prepare with great detail for destiny fulfilled. When you speak, IT SOUNDS LIKE THIS!
Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.
Monday, June 27, 2005
whatcha gonna do when they come for you?
Yesterday evening, I decided I needed to get outside. It was cooling off, and there was a nice breeze, and I had had enough of sitting around in the house. So, I decided to "walk the grounds" and check out the many and various flower gardens that the women of the church have lovingly planted and care for. They've increased their borders into my yard, too, but seeing as how most of my areas set aside for flower beds were overgrown with weeds when the church ladies annexed them I decided not to complain.
As I was aimlessly wandering, enjoying the petunias and rose bushes and various other flowers that I don't know, a car drove by and I heard shouting as it passed. I figured it was just one of those "crazy kids" and their loud stereos, but after the car had passed, the shouting hung around. Curiousity got the best of me and I wandered towards the front lawn to get a better look. If you go down the church driveway and cross the street, you can go right into the driveway of a little gray house. The shouting was coming from over there.
There was a group of about 5 or 6 people that I could see who were milling about on the porch/front yard. Then I witnessed the source of the shouting. A shirtless man stormed into the frontyard and stopped. He turned towards the gray house and threw something, and I heard what sounded like a bottle or cup shatter. Then he stormed back around and into the house. From the distance of my vantage point (the church and parsonage are about a 150 feet from the street, or so... that's a crazy, random guesstimate) I could now tell that the people outside, who were apparently all male, were milling about nervously, not sure what to do. Shirtless man came storming back out of the house, although he seemed to have some sort of shirt or coat on at this point. He walked over and got into the driver's seat of a car, at which point a woman came out of the house and ran down the steps to the car. She opened the driver's door and knelt down. I couldn't see what was happening, but then I heard her yelling and the guys in the front yard ran over to the car. Then previously shirtless man got out of the car and stormed back into the house.
I was this close - to calling the police. I was unsure if I was misreading the situation, and I didn't want to get the cops involved in a situation that was unnecessary for them to be involved in, but I thought better safe than sorry. As I was going over whether or not to call the police, I saw one of the guys come walking towards the street. Thinking that they had witnessed me peeking over the bush and spying on them (although, now that I think of it, they were probably too engrossed in what was occurring on their side of the street to notice the top half of a head peeking over a bush) I turned and started walking back to my house. But the young man, who seemed to be in his teens, started pacing nervously on the side of the road, and wringing his hands.
That's it, I thought, people don't act like that for no reason. I need to call the police. Just then, the teenager across the street raised his hands and began waving, and I saw a police car slow down and pull into the driveway. A couple seconds later, a second one pulled in behind it. At this point the action seemed to move inside the house, but I had already told myself that the police were there, and it was no longer my business. When I was trying to assess whether I needed to call the police, it was ok for me to watch. But now that things were under control, I needed to give these people some privacy.
This experience has made me realize a major shift in my personality. Not too long ago, watching a scene like this would have gotten me excited. I would have thought something like, "Oh cool! This is like an episode of Cops! And I'm there IN PERSON!" I would have thought it was neat to see the previously shirtless man thrown to the ground and handcuffed. I would have been watching the scene for the excitement that it would have provided me.
But this time, I wasn't excited, but worried about the people. Especially the teenage boy who was pacing nervously on the side of the road. I thought that there was something unhealthy going on across the street, and I wanted to make sure everything was alright. I was watching the scene, not for the excitement, but to see if there was something I could do to help, such as call the police.
I really had never taken notice of that little gray house across the street. Now, whenever I walk back and forth between the church and parsonage, I glance over and wonder how things went. I wonder if the people are alright and if there was a good ending to the excitement. I worry about that teenage boy, and if that is the sort of environment that he's exposed to on a regular basis - chaotic and wild and potentially unsafe. So, I think tonight, and more often, I'll say a prayer for the people in that house. I'll pray for peace and hope and stability, and that God keep an eye on them, especially that teenage boy, and make sure that they are safe and healthy. And if you wanted to pray for them, too, that would be great.
In other news, everytime I drive downtown I have to pass this other house that's close to one of the main intersections in town. It's not the nicest house, but it's not too shabby. But everytime I drive by, there is a large group of people milling about on the porch. They're usually sitting around and chatting, and the kids are running and playing in the yard. They are definitely not members of the upper crust, and if I had to guess I would say that most of them know what it means to have to work hard to make ends meet. But it always seems they are enjoying themselves and the company of their friends and/or family. This evening as I was driving by, one of the men was sitting out on the side of the porch with a large yellowish snake draped over his shoulders. They just seem to be an interesting bunch. Sometime I think it would be fun to walk down there and just say hello, and tell them that whenever I drive by that it looks like they're having a good time. Who knows, they might say, "Well, why don't you hang out for a while?" or, "Yep. Wanna beer?" or they might look at me like I'm crazy and tell me to get off their property... Who knows? But it would be interesting to see what would happen.
Although it's unlikely that I'll ever muster up the courage to do anything like that. So I'll probably just continue to drive by and see them and continue to wonder.
Sunday, June 26, 2005
As a preacher, I love my manuscript. I appreciate carefully crafted and well thought out words and phrases. I find it easier to get my thoughts across, and make sure I say what needs to be said, if I have them written in front of me. There may be times I decide to add a little, or perhaps even skip over a sentence or two, but I appreciate the comfort and reassurance I feel from having what I'm going to say tangibly in front of me.
This can sometimes lead to a little too much dependence on the manuscript, however. I understand the importance of eye contact and engaging your audience, and know how boring it can be to sit through a pastor that reads his sermon rather than preach it. But that doesn't always keep me from loving my manuscript too much. In my preaching class at seminary last year, one of the first words out of the professor's mouth when I had finished preaching in front of the class was, "What a glorious day it will be when Mark becomes less dependent on his manuscript!"
I've definitely made progress. Members of the congregation have repeatedly told me that they've seen improvement in this area as the year has progressed. But Supervising, who preaches sans manuscript, encourages every one of his interns to try preaching without one, as well. In my Learning Service Agreement, which is basically some learning and professional goals set for the year, the first goal on the page is to become less dependent on my manuscript. So, it is something I want to work towards.
But I wasn't wanting to do it today.
You see, I procrastinated writing this sermon almost as long as I possibly could. I found excuse after excuse to aid me in this cause. Monday was my day off. Of course I will do no work that day! Tuesday I had a funeral, so as it should be, all my time was spent with the details that needed doing for that. Wednesday... well, I didn't have much of an excuse as to why I didn't work on it on Wednesday... and my excuses kind of fall apart every day after that. But, I suppose at the time they seemed very real and very convincing. Which is why all day Friday and Saturday morning were spent frantically working on the sermon.
So come time to preach the sermon, and of course I'm not too familiar with it. But I preached it Saturday night, and as I went along I came across parts that, had I run through it previously, I would have figured out didn't flow correctly or seemed to be a little out of place in their current spot in the manuscript. It needed a little tuning up. After church yesterday evening, I read through my sermon, moved some stuff around, took some stuff out and added some other stuff. Much better! I printed it off, paper clipped it together and sat it on my desk.
That brings us to this morning, and our 8am worship service. Things were going a little less than smooth during that service. I got up front to do announcements. As I began talking to the congregation, I realized that my voice wasn't carrying as much as normal. I asked them if my microphone was on. A couple members answered that they didn't believe so. I took the microphone out of my pocket and flicked the switch back and forth. Nothing. I opened the battery hatch, and there was indeed a battery inside. Unfortunately, it had passed away. So, I turn to Supervising and say, "My battery's dead." The congregation laughs. Supervising ran back and grabbed me a new battery as I did the announcements with my outside voice.
There were a few other difficulties during the service, but nothing unforgivable. But then it came time to preach my sermon. I'm going along, really appreciating how this sermon is flowing and how it meshes together much better. But as I keep flipping pages, I think that it doesn't feel as if there is as many pages as their should be. My manuscript felt thicker yesterday. Well, it turns out that I had shortened the sermon a bit, and took out more than I added in. So there were a couple less pages because of that (I increase the font to a large size, and double space the lines, so it's easier to read and doesn't require too much concentration or focus on the page) and, oh yeah, I was missing the last page of my sermon.
As I'm going along and preaching what should have been the second to last page, I'm frantically wondering what I'm going to do, how I'm going to fix this mess, and WHY IS MY PAGE MISSING? I look at Supervising in the front row, searching for any sign of a sly grin or a victorious gleam in his eye... Nothing. I'm getting closer to the end of the page... I have to figure something out soon... I can't just stop my sermon now... HELP ME!!!!
So I decided to go boldly forward, and to preach what I could remember. Of course my body reacted to this unexpected change. I tensed up a bit. My voice grew a bit softer and shakier. Supervising told me later it was as if someone had punched me in the stomach (it's always pleasant to hear that you were preaching like someone who'd just been punched. You should have someone tell you that, sometime). But I remembered most of what I wanted to say, at least the general message, and finished the sermon. A few people asked what had happened, and I explained, and that seemed to make them appreciate the sermon even more. As it turns out the printer must have just run out of paper and stopped, unable to continue printing my sermon.
So I began to consider what I should do for our 10:30 service. Do I print off the missing material so that I have it for the next go round? That was the most tempting option, and it would have been easy to do. But I decided that since I had unexpectedly had to preach my last page without it written in front of me, and had done a successful (if not aesthetically pleasing) job, that since I would be expecting it this time it would be much easier. So I didn't print off the last page, and I preached it from memory. There were a few nervous behaviors, but for the most part my voice remained steady and strong and I maintained good eye contact with the congregation.
So, what have I learned from this? That I am, indeed, capable of preaching without a manuscript. It is something that is very much within my power and capabilities to do. Though it is also something that needs a little more preparation before I try riding without the training wheels for support. But just as any bike rider knows, eventually the training wheels come off and the bike rides much more smoothly and quickly after that.
Saturday, June 25, 2005
oh so painless!
and in the name of science!!!
and take this MIT survey about weblogs. It only took about fifteen minutes, and the larger their sample, the better chance they have of being unbiased.
And there are a selection of different graphics you can put on your blog after you take the test. I chose this one because it seemed kind of political, if in a humorous way. And then it made me think of that "Free Nelson Mandela" song by Special AKA. So, now I have that song in my head...
I also like this one, so I'm including it, too:
war of the lutherans... or, it hurt when i fell
I read something on a blog somewhere that I arrived at through a series of random links, that was written by a pastor from the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod. Now, if you don't know much about the Lutheran Church, saying the Missouri Synod might confuse you. In fact, it confuses members of my own church. The ELCA is split up into synods, many with names like Northeast Ohio Synod or Nebraska Synod or Florida-Bahamas Synod. And these are all parts of the ELCA. Now, Missouri (in the ELCA) does not have its own synod. It is part of the Central States Synod. But sometimes when people hear a reference to the Missouri Synod, they can often think of a synod of the ELCA. That is not the case. The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod is it's own independent church body which is not confined to the state of Missouri. It started out, when it began, as The German Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio and Other States in 1847, and it's name was shortened on its 100th anniversary.
Now, the LCMS is known for its conservative views on most things, including the ordination of women and the communing of nonmembers (meaning they don't allow either...). They don't fraternize with other denominations, and they seem to harbor special ill will towards the ELCA because we dare to call ourselves Lutheran, and they don't recognize us as an authentic Lutheran (or even Christian) faith.
Anyway, back to the original point of this entry, in the blog I read, this LCMS pastor basically demonized the ELCA for all of their "sins," especially even considering ordaining homosexuals and for tainting ourselves by having open communion with the Episcopalians and UCC. He said some pretty harsh and spiteful things, all in the name of Jesus.
And I was angry. How dare he make us look like the bad guys for exploring ways to broaden our Christian community, for recognizing that there is more the same than there is different with our Episcopal and UCC friends, and for considering the possibility of including everyone in the Body of Christ. Just because we're different from you doesn't mean we're wrong! I wanted to yell at this man, to tell him how hurtful and mean and close-minded and ignorant he was being. And then, it hit me...
Don't I do the very same thing? Don't I look down on him because I see him as close minded and ignorant? Don't I disregard him because he interprets things a bit differently? Why is his offense greater than mine? (Besides the obvious reason that his offense offended me, of course)
Of course this hit me a couple of hours after reading the blog, and I'd had time to sit there and stew on it and build myself up because I'm inclusive and liberal and expansive and progressive and open minded, and tear him down because he's exclusive and conservative and narrow and regressive and close minded. So when this realization came to me, I had quite a distance to fall as I came tumbling off the pedestal I had made for myself. And then I got to sit there and feel kind of hypocritical and stupid.
So, I've decided to do what good ol' Marty Luther says, in his explanation of the 8th commandment (you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor), and strive to interpret my neighbors' actions in the best possible light. They may not agree with me, they may say things that are diametrically opposed to what I believe to be true, but I must remind myself that they are coming (hopefully) out of a place of faith and devotion and the desire to do what they believe is right and true. I don't have to agree with them, I don't have to like what they say, and I can even speak out against them, but I should strive to always do so with compassion and humility and tact.
That's a pretty small task, right?
Thursday, June 23, 2005
this is fun
You are Angela Davis! You were the THIRD WOMYN IN
HISTORY to appear on the FBI's Most Wanted
List. You are a communinist, black power-lovin'
lady who shook up the United States when you
refused to lie down quietly to oppression. You
WENT TO JAIL! Wow. You kick so much more ass
than Foxxy Brown.Which Western feminist icon are you?brought to you by
Wednesday, June 22, 2005
self check out
Sometimes I love the self check out lanes at stores. Like if I'm buying something that I really don't want the whole world to know I'm buying, or just don't feel like having to interact with a real person on a particular day, self check out lanes come in handy.
But sometimes, they are distinctly of the devil.
Take today, for instance. We have this older guy who is trying to start a water ski ministry at church. Well, he's been trying to start one for the last 7 years, or so. That's a whole other issue, so I won't get started on that, but he called and invited me out to the river today, and despite the issues surrounding this thing, I said okay. I was told I needed to bring my lunch. So before I drove out to the river, I stopped at the local grocery store to get some things for my lunch. As I was getting ready to check out, I noticed that all of the available real people had lines, and there were several open self check out lanes open. So I went to the nearest one. I scanned my first item and it told me how much it cost, so I put it in the bag in the bagging area. Then the nice automated woman said, "Unidentified item in the bagging area. Please remove item from the bagging area." So, I did. Then the voice said, "Item removed from the bagging area. Please return item to the bagging area before continuing." So, I did. Then the voice said, "Unidentified item in the bagging area. Please remove item from the bagging area." So, I did. Then the voice said, "Item removed from the bagging area. Please return item to the bagging area before continuing." And there was really nothing I could do, because it required a store log in before I could continue. So I looked over at a random store employee and gave her an exasperated look as the light above me flashed red, letting everyone know that somehow I was incapable of utilizing a self check out lane. After she scanned her little card and fixed the situation, she continued to watch over my shoulder as I scanned each successive item. I felt as if I was in kindergarten and working with fingerpaints or glue and the teacher felt I needed extreme supervision.
Of course, it did happen to be the same self check out lane that I have written about before, where I somehow managed to make it go haywire and then was verbally berated by a cashier before I think she flirted with me. Here's the link
to that story.
And if you've already read my previous post about the clown picture, I've added a second one. So I encourage you to go and check it out.
the promised clown pictures
Here is the picture of me as a clown for Vacation Bible School that I said I would try and post. Not the best make up job in the world, but it was pretty good, I think. This picture was on Thursday, and in it I am chilling with my pal who was a third grader, and that day, especially, seemed to be permanently attached to me.
(the thing to the left of the picture is "Chompy," a little puppet made out of a piece of notebook paper. The 4th grader, to whom Chompy belonged, was hilarious. He said that he has had Chompy for almost three years, now. Chompy is holding some hair from my wig in his mouth. It seems he thought it was cotton candy.)
Here we have a picture of me (on Wednesday, I believe) with one of the volunteers. I picked this picture to show that I had a different colored shirt everyday, and also you get a better view of my socks in this picture. I am proud of them. I apologize for it being so small. I'm not sure how to alter the size without distorting the picture. I lack tech savvy.
long winded preachers and banana bread
Ideally, I like to talk to the family members of the dearly departed when I'm doing a funeral. It allows the family members the opportunity to share memories about the loved one, and it also helps me figure out what to say at the funeral, and what will give the most comfort for the family members to hear.
That didn't really happen this time.
First, I called the funeral home on Sunday (the day I found out I was doing the funeral) to get a contact number for someone from the family, to perhaps arrange a time to get together and talk, or even to ask a couple of questions over the phone. Well, it forwarded the call to the funeral director's house, since no one was at the funeral home. He had none of the information with him, but said he would fax it over the next morning. If he did, I never saw it.
The daughter of the dearly departed ended up calling and leaving a message on the church answering machine. She's from Missouri. Her mother lived in Indiana. They had a service for her mother in Indiana, and they wanted a service for her here, as well. Seems she was born here and still has a lot of family in the area, and she's being buried here. Guess they thought they needed another service. And I'm sure the funeral home wasn't going to turn down their money.
I ended up, after playing some phone tag, getting a hold of the daughter who was en route, as we were speaking, to town from wherever in Indiana the previous service was held. So I didn't really feel as if it was the most opportune time to begin asking questions and such. First, I think talking on the phone and driving at the same time is dangerous enough. Add something as emotional as the death of your mother into the mix, and you're playing with fire! So I kept the conversation short, and said I would see her at the funeral home.
When I got to the funeral home she came up to me, and the first words out of her mouth were, "Reverend, I'm not trying to be mean or anything, so don't take this the wrong way, but mom never liked long winded preachers." Since I had no personal information to use in writing the sermon, it is the shortest of the funeral sermons I have had to write. So, I told her that there were no worries, that this sermon would not be long. She also said that her mom liked to bake and the day she died she had baked 12 loaves of banana bread. They snuck one of the loaves into her casket in a White Castle bag. I thought that was funny.
So, I preached the sermon, and at the end I said that we live in hope that some day we will all be reunited in the place that Jesus has gone ahead to prepare for us. And then, spur of the moment, I added, "And I hear there will be plenty of banana bread for us when we get there." That got some chuckles out of the people. I was glad that it was taken well.
It felt as if I only made a cameo appearance at this funeral. In a fit of nervousness, Sunday I asked Supervising if he would be willing to go with me to the funeral. It was at a funeral home out of town, to one I had not yet been to, and I just thought it would be nice to have a familiar face in the crowd. After we got there I loosened up, and he sat in the office so I never saw him, but it was a bit reassuring to know that he was there, although I didn't need him to be. The funeral service did not take very long, and then we drove out to the cemetery. I rode in the hearse, and talked with one of the men about what it was like to be an on-call employee of the funeral home and to respond to all of the deaths in the area, especially when it's almost 11pm and you're tired and ready for bed.
The graveside service always gets me. Especially in the Lutheran Occasional Services book. It seems you get everybody trucked out to the cemetery, get the casket on the stand, get everyone situated and quieted, and then it's over and the funeral director says, "thanks for coming, there's a reception at [wherever the reception is]" I mentioned that to Supervising, that it seems as if there should be more done at the graveside, but he said that people don't want that. They like that it gets done quickly.
So yeah... I hope that I spoke words of grace and hope to the family. I hope that out of the mumbling and stammering that I did that they were able to glean some Good News. I have heard that God can speak from the mouth of an ass, so hopefully God was even able to speak from my mouth to offer words of comfort and assurance to that family.
Monday, June 20, 2005
i'll take Potpourri for 200, Alex
Synod Assembly was a good time. Lots of schmoozing with fun pastor-types, some reunions with classmates and a few seminary grads, some irreverent humor in the backrow, some really good food, a little joking around with the Bishop, and a lot of making fun of the typos in the song lyrics in the Power Point slideshow. One of the main topics discussed at the assembly was the ELCA's Taskforce on Sexuality's recommendations concerning people in same sex relationships and the church's response. There are three recommendations, the first was that regardless of what happens and what decisions are made, that the ELCA continue to strive for unity, and promise to work together despite the wide variety of opinions regarding the matter of homosexuality. The second recommendation was that the church still define marriage as being between a man and a woman, but allow congregations some leeway in determining the best way to minister to same sex relationships, leaving the door open for the blessing of these relationships. The third recommendation is that the church still adhere to the policy that people in same sex relationships are not allowed to be ordained/consecrated/commisioned, but to allow for more effective ministry to the gay and lesbian community, that there be an allowance for some exceptions without any disciplinary actions, which is left up to the Bishop of the synod.
Now there are many reasons to disagree or agree with these recommendations. You could disagree because you think they go to far, or you might think that they don't go far enough and create a second class citizenship. You could agree with them because you think they are at least a step in the right direction, or because it still upholds everything that we have previously professed but allows some leeway for congregations to determine what is the best way to minister to their own people.
I tend to agree with them because they are steps in the right direction. They are better than what we have now, I think. Sure, they're not perfect, they might not give gay and lesbian people all the rights and privileges that they were hoping for, and deserve, but at least they finally seem to be getting some. I think most of the people in this synod agreed with that, and this is why I'm really beginning to love this synod, and they approved of all three recommendations. The first two passed with a large majority, the third passed by a much, much smaller margin. The Taskforce also released two different positions, which add some clarity to the third recommendation, which gives more of an idea of why people did not approve it. The first position was that homosexuality is sinful and "any church policy that seems to approve of such behavior is a betrayal of the authority of Scripture and an ignoring of the natural order." The second position sees homosexuality as a condition, not a choice, and that scripture that supposedly speaks out against homosexuality is really speaking out against behaviors that are abusive or God-denying, which can include some homosexual acts but can also include MANY heterosexual acts, and that there are "growing numbers of congregations ministering to gay and lesbian persons whose mission might both accept and be enriched by gay and lesbian pastors and rostered leaders." 146 persons agreed with position one, while 229 disagreed. 259 agreed with position 2, while 152 disagreed. It made me happy to sit there and think that I was amongst a majority of people who were able to recognized the gifts that God has given to our GLBT brothers and sisters, and the ministry they can offer.
I was sad when we left Synod Assembly early, to get back in time for our Saturday evening worship service, because we left right before one of the things I had wanted to see. During the Synod assembly they have a Synod Youth Assembly. They were getting up to share their report right as we had to leave. I was sad to miss it.
But then we got home and went through worship and then I got to go to a reception for a young man who just graduated from West Point Academy. It would be an understatement to say that his parents are proud of him. They are also one of my favorite families at church because they are all absolutely some of the nicest people I've met, and they have a hot tub. So time with them is always fun.
Then, Sunday I was sitting at my desk when Supervising walks in to my office and puts a little piece of paper down on my desk. It's an obituary. I don't recognize the name, but I read over it just in case it might be a member or relative of a member. I get to the end and have no clue why he has given it to me when he says, "It doesn't say it, but the funeral will be officiated by Pastor Intern Mark." My brow furrowed. I was pissed off. I couldn't believe that he was shoving this funeral on me because he didn't want to do it. And with only 2 days notice. I grumbled and stomped around getting ready for worship that morning. Angry that I was being inconvenienced.
But then, suddenly, a thought hit me. Someone needs to speak words of grace and salvation to that family. Someone needs to assure them that their wife/mother/grandmother is indeed in the loving arms of God. And why not me? Why shouldn't I be the one to proclaim this good news to these grieving people? Why shouldn't I see it as a privilege and honor rather than an inconvenience and a chore?
So I'm trying. God, give me the grace and ability.
Thursday, June 16, 2005
and so it ends...
Today was my last day of Vacation Bible School. The official last day is tomorrow, but as I will be attending Synod Assembly and all the meetings and discussions and whatnot that accompany one of those, I will not get the chance to see the wonderful children one last time.
Now, don't get me wrong, I enjoy Synod Assemblies. The large worship services, the networking and schmoozing, the booths and tables advertising different religious organizations. It has the potential to be a lot of fun. And, as the subtitle of my blog states, I am a church nerd. So why wouldn't I love the Synod Assembly?
But, I enjoy (even more) Vacation Bible School. I was talking to some of the youth who have volunteered this week and I said that I wish VBS ran all summer (granted I did not have a hand in the organization and running of VBS, but I did have to put on clown makeup everyday and endure the onslaught of pokes and pulls and grabs). I just enjoy being in that sort of atmosphere with youth who are excited to be there, and VBS always seems to pull in quite a few youth who aren't regular attenders. But it goes beyond that. VBS has always been a good thing for me. I remember, in days of yore, going to church with my sack lunch and learning and playing and then eating my lunch outside on the church lawn. I remember, in high school, being in charge of recreation and taking the kids outside to play and running amok in the field and the park with them. I remember leading arts and crafts one summer and helping the kids make eyes of God with yarn and tongue depressors, or plaster of paris hand prints, or any number of really neat activities that seemed to only come around during that one week of summer. I admit I LOVE Vacation Bible School.
And granted I have had to put on clown makeup everyday, which in itself is not so bad. But getting thos triangles above and below your eyes just right with a stick of makeup the size of a large crayon is no easy chore. And then comes the running around on a warm summer day in a wig, and thick cakey makeup and really hot socks that come up to above your knee. Then there are the children who want to unhook your suspenders, or snap your suspenders, or take off your wig, or think you should make them ANOTHER balloon animal because their's popped when they were using it as a weapon against another child, or who won't listen to a word you say (because you're a clown, and thus not an affective authority figure), or the endless scrubbing scrubbing scrubbing to get the makeup off of your face so you can continue your day and make your hospital visits without scaring people to death.
But then there are those moments that make it all worthwhile. When a small child shares an animal cracker with you. When you walk into a room and it is filled with excited shouts like, "There's the clown!" or "Clown Mark!" (I was unimaginative with a clown name, plus most of the kids already knew me so I figured just go with the name ya got). There are the times when you hear through the grapevine about how people are so appreciative of the clowns, and that word has gotten to parents and grandparents about the fun clowns at VBS. Or when the church secretary comes into your office and says that she has been hearing all about how you are so good in interacting with the kids. Or when a small child comes up and gives you a hug. Or when you hear the laughter of 75+ kids as you do a goofy little dance in the front of the sanctuary. Those are the times when the makeup and the scrubbing and the poking and the snapping and the sweating and the itching seem to fade away and you are just so thankful that you have been blessed with such an amazing opportunity.
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
another entry today
I just could not let this go without sharing. I don't know how many of you have heard his story, it's fairly widespread on the internet at this point, but Zach, a 16 year old boy, recently came out to his parents and they responded by sending him to Love in Action, which will supposedly "cure" him of being homosexual.
So yeah... In my last post I filled out that little thing, and I said I will never understand how someone could harm a child, and that the world could do without religious terrorism and intolerance. This is a classic case of all three. It just pisses me off!!Here is the link to the story
, and if you go all the way down to the bottom of the page, it provides a link to Zach's blog so that you can read his experiences and send him a word of encouragement. I'm sure the kid needs it.
[This is where a phrase that describes the content of the post should go]
Nothing too clowny to report today. The kids continue to warm up to the clowns, and several have laid stakes on their favorites, calling us "my clown," and (especially with me, since I'm so much bigger than them) feeling the need to climb and hang on us. One boy in particular has attached himself to me, and refuses to share me with one of the other volunteers. She thought that my get-up was so great she wanted a picture taken with me, to which he replied, "HEY! That's MY clown!" She works at the daycare he attends (which is owned by our church, and so as an outreach tool, they give the daycare kids a discounted rate for the week... So instead of $7, they pay $5 or something like that) and was playfully arguing with him about how I was her clown and not his. So I told him that I was going to go hang out with Miss Sue and he replied that I couldn't do that. Later on that day, when I was back with his class and they were lining up to move to the next station, I said I was going to hang out with Miss Sue, again, and he said it was alright, as long as I hurried back as soon as I could.
So, I've seen this floating around at a couple different blogs, and so I thought that I might as well go ahead and fill it out. I have nothing else to do right now, anyway...My uncle once:
helped excavate a mastodon in Ohio.Never in my life:
would I consider bungee jumping or sky diving.High school was:
fun and exciting, the first half, and painful and nauseating the second.I will never forget:
my internship experience.I once met:
two guys from MTV's Real World... Okay, I didn't really meet them. They were at a booth next to me in an Old Chicago. And I didn't want to go meet them, because I didn't want to be like the young waitresses who were fawning all over them. I'm so
much better than that...Once at a bar:
I suddenly realized I was very drunk in the presence of about 10 other pastors from my synod (including Supervising), and a member of the synod staff.By noon I'm usually:
ravenous, and afraid my stomach might digest itself.Last night:
was spent doing work that I didn't get done during the day (due to being a clown) and attending a youth committee meeting. Fun times!If only I had:
a million dollars, I would buy a monkey, because Yes, I HAVE
always wanted a monkey.Next time I go to church:
I will be a clown at VBS for the last time (I have to miss the last day because of our annual Synod Assembly... pardon me while I silently weep).When I turn my head left:
I see random clown paraphenilia, pictures of my nieces and godchildren, and a bulletin board covered in pictures drawn by children (yes, it's 9:30 and I'm still at work. I might be starting to become the person they tell you not to be).When I turn my head right:
I see a window and a bag of peanuts (given to me by someone as a joke because of my story involving turkeys and peanuts, but then they kidnapped my turkeys and so I was unable to feed them the peanuts. Thus they sit on my windowsill).You know when I'm lying when:
I can't keep a straight face.Every day I think about:
the impending end of my internship.By this time next year:
I will be scouting the waters of employment in fulltime ministry.I have a hard time understanding:
how people can harm children.If I ever go back to school I'll:
be doing that this September... Oh, you mean AFTER I graduate... Well, shoot, let's handle one school at a time, folks!You know I like you when:
I tease you.If I won an award the first person I'd thank is:
my mommy and daddy. Followed closely by all of the little people who helped me get where I am today. Like the Lollipop Guild and the Mayor of Munchkinland (get it... Little People? probably a politically incorrect joke, I'm sure, so feel free to leave comments reprimanding me for my lack of sensitivity. I'll consider them deserved...)My ideal breakfast is:
eggs, bacon, toast, hasbrowns, pancakes, cold milk and a cup o' coffee.A song I love, but do not have is:
Well, until the other day it was "Conservative Christian, Right Wing Republican, Straight, White, American Males" by Tom Snider (I think that's his name), along with a couple of other songs by him. But as of yesterday I own it, thanks to one of my pals in our area pastor text study. If you visit my hometown, I suggest:
bringing something fun to do, because there's not a whole lot there.Why won't anyone:
admit that they like the Backstreet Boys? I mean, they have had several big albums, and now a new single on the radio, and still no one will admit that they are Backstreet Boy fans. Come on! Somebody has to listen to them! I'm flabbergasted...If you spend the night at my house:
we could stay up all night watching movies and eating junk food, and playing games like Dream Date and looking at fun magazines like YM and Teen Beat and Soldier of Fortune.I'd stop my wedding for:
a medical emergency. Or perhaps a large bag of Cheetos. It would have to be a pretty big bag, though.The world could do without:
intolerance, racism, sexism, violence, hunger, hatred, the gross imbalance of wealth, religious terrorism, any kind of terrorism for that matter, and brussel sprouts.I'd rather lick the belly of a cockroach than:
a skunk's butt.Paper clips are more useful than:
a hole in my head. Or hangnails.If I do anything well:
I probably don't think that I do it that well.And by the way:
there is no softball game tomorrow, so a couple of people from church and I are going to see the newest Batman movie.The last time I was drunk:
may have been the time I suddenly realized I was very drunk in the presence of about 10 other pastors from my synod (including Supervising), and a member of the synod staff .
Hope you had as much fun reading that as I did writing it. Until next time...
Tuesday, June 14, 2005
a day in the life of a clown
First, I did a MUCH BETTER job with my make up today. I looked exceptionally clowny.
Okay, now that I have that out of the way, I just wanted to say that I never intended to use my blog as a means to share my clown exploits. But since that is what seems to be consuming the majority of my time these past two days, that is what my faithful readers get to read! I'm sure you are so excited and that you can hardly wait to read on.
You can definitely tell when kids move from a state of being frightened and uneasy to a state of comfort and curiousity. My suspenders were snapped, my wig was touched and tugged, and my neck tie was confiscated more times today than I can remember. Well, except for the neck tie confiscation thing. One young man had that the whole morning. And I can still count that high. Kids who were afraid or uneasy in our presence yesterday have quickly warmed up to us today, and faces brightened and there were shouts of "Clowny!" everytime we walked into the room.
But I think my biggest success story is the young boy who is the son of one of the VBS coordinators. The one who couldn't take his eyes off of me when I came into the room, and would state at me with a mix of uncertainty and fear. Finally, with some encouragement from his mother and grandmother, he gave me a five today. That would have been enough for me, that would have been a big enough step. But then, he shared some of his animal crackers with me, with no prompting from any family members. He'd walk across the room, hand me a cracker, smile, and then walk back to his seat. AND THAT'S NOT ALL! He also gave me two hugs! Of course, after most of the kids had left, I washed my makeup off and removed the wig, and ran into him in the hallway, and his grandma asked, "Is that the clown?" and he resorted back to his uneasy, quivering "...no..."
Now my office, which has turned into the unofficial clown headquarters, looks as if a clown exploded. There is a large bow tie on my desk; large glasses, a feather boa, 2 pairs of clown pants and a wig strewn on the couch; suspenders, red neck tie, neon green shirt and assorted make up and facial washes on the table; and a pair of blue shoes and a pair of red shoes on the floor. My desk itself is beginning to show some signs of neglect. Random piles of papers and pictures and coffee cups and mail. I think that next week will be spent sorting and cleaning and hopefully getting it back to it's former state of only a little messy, rather than it's current state of Disaster Area.
Anyway, I suppose I should figure out what I should be doing with the rest of my day. With my mornings dominated by clowning, I have to cram my normal day into a much shorter time span. Unless I want to stay later into the evening than normal, which is probably what I will do today since we have a youth committee meeting this evening, anyway. But the Catch 22 of the whole thing is that clowning is much more tiring than one would think, and so I need to cram more responsibilities into a shorter span of time, when I have much less energy than normal. Oh, the life of fulltime ministry...
Monday, June 13, 2005
tears of a clown... wait, tears BECAUSE of a clown is more like it
I am amazed at the number of people that are afraid of clowns. Or even unsettled by them. And you really don't realize it until you put on the make-up and the wig and the funny clothes and try to interact with people. Then you hear things like, "You're creepy!" or "Clowns freak me out," or small children cower behind the legs of adults, and some cry. Over the course of the day, most of the kids warmed up to the roving band of clowns. And when they figured out that I was behind the clown make-up, a lot more of them warmed up to me. But there was a request that we keep our distance from the preschool class, because several of them were in nears, or at least pretty close to tears, because of the clowns. There was one little boy who, everytime I walked into the room, would stop what he was doing and just stare at me. He wasn't near tears, and he didn't run screaming, it was just obvious that he was very unsettled. His mom is the coordinator, and his grandma is a helper in his class, and his older sister and brother are both in VBS, and they all just thought it was pretty funny. They'd try to get him to warm up to me, by letting him see them give me fives and handshakes and whatnot. But then they'd ask him to do it, and with a quiver in his voice he'd quietly say, "...no..." So I didn't press him on it.
Some of the kids' reactions to the clowns were fun. One girl came up and asked if we knew how to juggle... Unfortunately none of us do. Then, one boy piped up and said, "They can't juggle! They're not CIRCUS clowns, they're just clowns!" I think he was trying to defend us. But then another girl said, "They're not real clowns. They just painted their faces." What I want to know is if she believes that there is a country of real clowns, who don't wear wigs or paint their faces, but are just born that way...
Tomorrow morning is our weekly pastor's text study for the scripture lessons this weekend. Seeing as how I am supposed to be clowning, and I don't have to preach this weekend, I will not be joining the group. Although I might pop in because I'm sure they'd get a kick out of seeing me all clowned up.
To those who requested pictures... I will see what I can do. And to Mackenzie, who requested no white face scary clowns... I'm sorry. That's exactly what we were :(
Saturday, June 11, 2005
... from the movie "Saved"
I just watched this movie again, and I wanted to share a couple of gems:
-- After the "Christian Jewels" attempt to kidnap her and perform an exorcism, and ringleader Hillary Faye throws a Bible at her, hitting her in the back, and shouts "I AM FILLED WITH CHRIST'S LOVE!" Main character Mary picks up the Bible
, looks at Hillary Faye and says
, "This is NOT a weapon!"
-- To the close minded, evangelicalesque pastor ("Are you down with G-O-D?") after he was responsible for sending her boyfriend to "Mercy House" because he was gay (for de-gayification), and for trying to convince her mom to have her sent there because she's pregnant, Mary says: "If God wants us all to be the same, why did he make us so different?"
-- And maybe not as deep, but funny, the pastor is explaining to the "Christian Jewels" that they need to intervene in Mary's life because she's obviously struggling, one of the girls named Tia (played by the wonderful Heather Mattarazzo) says, "You mean, like, shoot her?" and the pastor replies, "I was thinking something a little less gangstah."
Just some things to chew on. Blessings!
Friday, June 10, 2005
the saga of young adult bowling
When planning events for our extremely small and often uninterested young adult group, I try and listen to what ideas they may have. So far, the events that they have suggested have resulted in extremely low attendance. By low attendance I mean as low as me and one other person. Take, for instance, watching The Luther Movie. When we met to see if there was interest in a young adult group at church, the gathered young adults suggested that we get together the next month and watch The Luther Movie. So I planned a viewing of the movie, popped several bags of microwave popcorn, bought some soda, borrowed the movie from Supervising, and set up shop in the youth room (with couches and comfy chairs it was the best option for watching a movie). Out of the eight of us that planned this activity, only three showed up. So we watched the movie and ate too much popcorn. Then, some suggested going out to eat for supper sometime. So, I planned that. I found a restaurant in nearby bigger town that was recommended by the parish administrator, for being fun and different, and the waitresses dress like wenches. However, only one other person showed up for that. Finally, our last event was based on a suggestion by a non young adult member of the congregation. It was the cook out, and that was the largest attendance at a young adult event yet. Not counting me, we had 7 adults, three kids, and two babies.
However, this last time I went back to suggestions from the group. Someone suggested bowling. We had gone bowling before, and had only three other young adults show up. But I figured, since I enjoy bowling, we'd give it another try.
I planned Young Adult Bowling for this coming Sunday at 3:30, which I thought would give us enough time to bowl and not miss any major mealtimes. I said family was invited, because the bowling alley in town is a very kid friendly place. I sent out e-mails and gave the information to the church secretary to put in the newsletter and bulletin. A couple days later, PD comes and shows me, in the bulletin, next to the announcement for young adult bowling is the announcement for her sister's wedding shower which takes place the same day until 4:00. She thought that, for those who wanted to go to both, we should bump the bowling to 4:00. I agreed, willing to give up the half an hour. So we announced that Sunday that since the printing of the bulletins that the time had changed. But I forgot to tell the secretary. And she's been getting in trouble for inaccuracies and carelessness in our publications. She printed the announcements for this past weekend with the time at 3:30, but when she saw my report to church council had it at 4:00 she told me that I needed to let people know, when I did announcements in church this past weekend, that I didn't tell her that the time was changed. And not wanting her to get in trouble for my mistake, I did make a little joke about it. I said that the time had been changed and I apparently told everyone else except for the secretary, so she didn't know to change the time in the announcements. But I told them we were still bowling on the same day and the same place, just half an hour later.
When last we bowled, which would have been in April, I called ahead to the bowling alley and said I wanted to reserve four lanes. They told me that on Sundays they are not busy, at all, and so for future reference I would not need to call ahead for lanes on Sundays. (Can you see where this is headed?)
So, I was planning on calling ahead sometime this week, just to be safe. But I didn't need to. Earlier this week, PD went with a couple of the youth to go bowling, and saw that the bowling alley's new summer hours include being closed on Sundays. So she called me to let me know.
I wasn't sure what to do. Luckily, church council met that night, and it includes a couple of the more active young adults. So when it came time for me to report to the council, I told them what had happened. They were all as shocked and surprised as I was. I told them that, as of right now, Young Adult bowling was officially cancelled. They said that we should just go to Neighboring Podunk to the bowling alley there. I said I was a bit hesitant to go to other bowling alleys in case people brought their small children or babies, and I didn't want to expose them to bowling alleys. Church council president said her husband (whom I affectionately refer to as Chuckles) was a bowler. I asked her if she was trying to improve my opinion of bowling alleys. But then people said that the bowling alley in Neighboring Podunk is not bad.
So yesterday morning I remembered to tell the secretary that bowling would take place in Neighboring Podunk (after calling to make sure they'd be open and lanes would be available... I've learned my lesson!), and still the time is set for 4:00, although their summer hours include closing at 5:00. So, we'll bowl for an hour, and then maybe we'll get some ice cream or something like that. That would be a fun young adult activity, right?
Thursday, June 09, 2005
Bozo the Pastor Intern
I was innocently sitting in my office this morning, trying to finalize arrangements for our young adult bowling this weekend (which is a story in and of itself) when I received the phone call. Part of me knew it was probably inevitable that I would receive this call. Part of me was a bit hopeful that I wouldn't. But I did. Here is a transcript of that phone call, with perhaps a bit of artistic license...
Me: This is Mark.
Caller: Hi this is [Vacation Bible School Coordinator]!
Me: Hi VBS Coordinator! How are you!
Caller: I'm good. I have a quick question for you.
Caller: VBS is next week...
Caller: What would you like to do?
Me: Well, what do you need? (I know, I know... I walked into it. I deserve it.)
Caller: Well, I've been doing some calling around and have been unable to come up with a clown. Since the theme is Davey and Goliath's Circus Extravaganza, we thought we needed a clown.
***To make a long story short, I was asked to be a clown for Vacation Bible School next week. Lacking the ability to say no, I said yes. I also offered to call a couple of the older youth to see if they'd be willing to be clowns, as well. I have one high school girl who has already agreed. Seeing as how her hair is already a dark shade of pink, and she wears bright green colored clothes a lot, I figured she'd be a natural person to ask. I have a list of some others to call, but have not yet done that. Except one. But she wasn't home.
So, I think I might go to some thrift stores to find a sufficient clown ensemble. I used to be a clown every year for halloween when I was younger, but now that stuff has either been thrown away or would be much too small. I would love to get a clown wig, but seeing as how I don't have that much notice, that is sort of out of the picture. And my podunk little town is not big enough to have anywhere that would sell that stuff year round, like a costume shop or whatnot. So, we'll have to see what I can find.
Okay, so I make it sound like it will be some sort of inconvenience to be a clown all next week. But anyone who really knows me knows that I was born for that sort of thing, and that even though I might pretend to not want to be doing it, it makes my day to think about spending a good part of next week as a clown.
Although, to be truthful, I find clowns a bit unsettling. What with Stephen King's IT and the real life story of John Wayne Gacy, and then the multitude of scary clown dolls and figurines... Clowns are a bit frightening. I suppose it might be different if I am the clown, though.
So yeah. Just call me Bozo the Pastor Intern. At least for the next week.
Wednesday, June 08, 2005
the stability of impermanence
Lately, talk has been about my inevitable good bye.
I visited a member in the hospital, the one who just had potentially cancerous polyps removed along with a large portion of his colon (which, although the Doctor said there was a 99% chance that they were cancerous, the tests came back cancer free! Alleluia!), and the first words out of his mouth were, "So, can you see the light at the end of the tunnel?"
In our weekly area pastor text study, I walked in and sat down next to a fellow younger male pastor, and he turned to me and said, "So, you're on the home stretch, huh?"
In our church council meeting, one of the council members who I was sitting next to, casually mentions, "You don't have a whole lot of time left, do you?" Later on in the council meeting, after I (thought that I) quietly mentioned to another member that she was leaving to show cattle for the state fair before my last Sunday and that she'd have to make sure she said good bye before she left, another council member overheard my comment and made a much louder comment about it. At that point my leaving became the topic of conversation of the whole council. Many voicing regret that I would be leaving, and some even saying that I couldn't leave. One member said that they could fail me so that I'd have to stay another year. Supervising, always the voice of reason, mentioned that if an intern fails his/her internship that they go elsewhere and don't stay at the internship site.
This morning, at our conference clergy meeting (all the Lutheran pastors in a reasonably close geographic region), we went out to lunch afterwards and two of the pastors who I've grown close to were talking about how they will miss me and that they need to get me back in this synod after I graduate.
If I wasn't already thinking about the transition, I would have started now.
Each person who has mentioned my leaving seems to not be anticipating it with joyful expectation. Which is good. Most seem a little remorseful, as if when I leave a little ray of sunshine in their life will disappear, as well. It's nice to know that I have been a positive addition to all of the places to which I have been added. It's always nice to hear that your absence in a group or at a location will be noticed and that your presence will be missed. It's neat to think that during the year that I have been here that there have been positive additions because of my contributions and presence.
The not so fun part is the leaving. The good bye saying. The inevitable change that happens to once close relationships. I'm no stranger to moving. Growing up, we moved an average of every four years. I'm used to forming relationships, knowing in the back of my head that they will not remain the way they are for long. I'm used to saying good bye, promising to stay in touch, and then slowly, but surely, contact fades until all that is left is the memory of once good friends. But that doesn't make the process any easier. I'm a very relational person. I thrive on human contact and enter whole heartedly into most friendships and relationships in which I engage. Even with the knowledge that I would only be here for a year, I was unable to prevent myself from picking this church and these people up and stuffing them into my heart.
So the idea of transition, and moving on, and saying good bye has definitely begun to weigh much more heavily upon me. Two months is still two months, which is a good chunk of time. But two months will slip quickly through my fingers. Two months will come and go with enough speed to take my breath away. The thought of moving on, leaving these people, forever altering the relationships that I have made these past months, can sometimes make me queasy (which, just so you know, is indeed spelled with an "s" and not a "z," even though it does have a definite "z" sound to it. I'm willing to admit when I'm wrong. And the person this comment is directed at knows who they are).
Truth be told, I am looking forward, a bit, to the end of my internship. I've mentioned that my social life is a bit bleak, and that I miss the relationships I formed during the past few years at seminary. And with all of the paperwork coming that needs filled out for next year, that impending reality is looming very much in my future. But, I don't want to talk about that right now. I want to make sure that I focus on saying a good good-bye to the people I care about, to this church which has wonderfully nurtured a tentative and unsure intern, and to a pastor who has been an amazing example and support.
Monday, June 06, 2005
my sermon this past weekend...
I don't normally do this, but I felt compelled to share my sermon that I preached this past weekend. It makes me feel a bit nervous and vulnerable, but here goes nothing:
Matthew 9.9-13, 18-26
Matthew was a tax collector. Now, in the hierarchy of Jewish society, tax collectors were pretty near the bottom. They were not respected by most Jewish people, and in fact, were usually seen as traitors and collaborators with the Romans. This is because they were paid by the Romans to collect taxes for the Roman emperor, and the Romans claimed that the emperor was God. In the eyes of the Jewish people, this was breaking the first commandment. Since the tax collectors gathered the money that went to support the emperor, they were seen as breaking this commandment, too.
As if this wasn’t bad enough, tax collectors had the reputation of being unfair. They would often collect more tax than the Roman’s required, and keep the surplus for themselves. So, you have these poor people who are being oppressed by a foreign army, and then you have someone who is supposed to be on their side helping out the enemy and stealing money from Jewish people. As a rule, tax collectors were not welcome members of Jewish society, and even associating with one could affect your standing in the society, as well.
Then we have the leader of the synagogue. If tax collectors were on one end of the spectrum, then synagogue leaders would have been on the other. They were often the most respected members of Jewish society, seen as good and upright citizens. They were often very wealthy and well connected and would have a lot of power and control in the society.
However, in Jewish society, just like in our society, there were the haves and have-nots. The people in power often got that way, and stayed that way, by taking advantage of the people below them. While the synagogue leader would have ranted and raved about how the tax collector was sinful and unclean, he was probably just as guilty for taking advantage of the poor Jewish people as the tax collector was. But because he had power and prestige he was able to cover up his wrong doings and present to the people this image of power and control, an image that won him respect from the people.
The third person we meet in today’s Gospel is the hemorrhaging woman. She would have been at the lower end of society, along with the tax collector, for a couple of reasons, neither of which were her own doing. First, she was a woman and in Jewish society women didn’t have a lot of status. In fact, they were pretty much considered to be units of property. Secondly, she was hemorrhaging. There were a lot of rules and regulations regarding blood and cleanliness among Jewish people. Because this woman had been hemorrhaging, she would have been considered unclean and so people would have stayed away from her. She would have been shunned from society and even her family until a certain number of days after the hemorrhaging had ceased. After it had ceased she would have been required to participate in a ritual cleansing and then she would have been considered clean and fit to rejoin society. But it had been twelve years since she had started hemorrhaging. It had been twelve years since she had been able to participate in society as a normal and respectable person. She had been shunned from her family for that long and probably by this point her family considered her dead and had moved on. She probably tried every treatment and cure known to stop the hemorrhaging, but after twelve years and failed attempt after failed attempt, she had probably given up all hope and was resigned to live a life of exile and suffering.
We don’t know what position in society this woman held previous to her condition. Perhaps she had been married to a man much like the leader of the synagogue. If so, she would have had some esteem in the community, if only because she belonged to an important person. Or maybe she was a poor peasant woman, who would have spent the rest of her life on the fringe of society, anyway. All we know about her is that she was suffering physically, as well as suffering the indignities that came because of her condition.
Lastly, we briefly meet the daughter of the synagogue leader. Since women were married at a young age, and this girl still lived at home, we can guess that she was fairly young. And for some reason she was now dead. The reasons behind her death are a mystery, but since she was so young, her death seems undeserved. She had her whole life ahead of her, and it was unfairly robbed from her. That’s all that we can decide about this young girl. Unlike the previous three, we are unable to use her occupation or her situation in life to make judgments about her, because she didn’t have time to get an occupation or to develop a situation. She was just a young girl.
So there we have the stories of four people. Four people who, except for the synagogue leader and his daughter, lived lives so different from one another that there would have been no real reason for them to overlap. They would have kept their distance from each other, each one knowing their place in society and sticking to it.
But in the Gospel for today, their lives are connected. At least momentarily the barriers that separate them from each other are removed; they are all on the same playing field, and given the same chances. All of this happens when they come into contact with Jesus.
Jesus comes across Matthew, first. Since it says that Matthew was sitting at the tax booth, it would have been obvious to Jesus that Matthew was a tax collector. And Jesus would have known about the reputation of tax collectors. He would have known that you couldn’t get much lower than a tax collector, and that good citizens only associate with them when they have to pay taxes. Jesus knew all of this. He could have told Matthew that he was a horrible sinner and that there was no place in the Kingdom of God for someone like him. But he doesn’t do that. He talks to Matthew. Not only does he talk to Matthew, but he invites him to join the disciples. Jesus invites this man, who was disregarded and despised, to be his friend and companion. Through this act, he gives Matthew a new life, of sorts.
Then Jesus goes to eat at Matthew’s house, where they are joined by many other tax collectors and sinners. The Pharisees, who were constantly following Jesus and watching his every move, see him socializing with these outcasts and they are quick to make a commotion about it. They ask the disciples why their teacher is eating with such people. Jesus hears the Pharisees question and tells them that it is those who are sick that need a physician. Then he gives them a homework assignment and tells them to figure out what he means by saying, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”
If the Pharisees wanted to know what Jesus meant by that statement, they would have just needed to follow him and watch. Moments after the Pharisees had tried to criticize Jesus by calling attention to the fact that he was eating with tax collectors and sinners, he is approached by the leader of the synagogue. Now this leader could have been a Pharisee himself, but if he wasn’t he would have been very friendly with the Pharisees. This man comes up to Jesus asking for his help. The man’s daughter has just died, but he has heard the stories of Jesus and his miracles, and knows that if Jesus would only lay his hand on her that his daughter would live.
Jesus could have told the man to go away. He could have called to attention all of the ways that this man was responsible for the oppression of the poor, or how he and the other leaders kept the very people out of the synagogue that needed their help the most. Jesus could have told this man that since he did not offer help to people who needed it, that Jesus would not help him either. He had every right to do this. It would have been perfectly justifiable. But Jesus does not say anything like that to the man. In fact, he doesn’t say anything. He gets up and follows this man, taking the disciples with them.
As they are journeying to the leader’s house, the hemorrhaging woman sees them. She has heard the stories of Jesus and his miracles, just the like leader of the synagogue has. She believes that if she can only touch the hem of Jesus’ robe then she will be healed. So she creeps through the crowd and as Jesus passes by she reaches out and touches his robe.
This woman had just done several things wrong, according to Jewish society. First, as a woman, it was inappropriate and scandalous for her to publicly touch a man, especially one that was not her husband. Secondly, as someone who was unclean, she was supposed to keep her distance from everyone else, so as not to jeopardize their cleanliness. In either case, the act of her reaching out and touching Jesus would have been grounds enough for him to have her stoned.
But, of course, that is not what Jesus does. He turns to her, and with mercy, says that her faith has made her well. Her years of suffering and of separation from her friends and family are finally over. Because of one act of mercy her life has been forever altered and she has been made clean. Instead of a response that ended in her death, Jesus gave a response that gave the woman new life.
Finally, Jesus makes it to the home of the synagogue leader. Already there are people gathered outside to mourn his daughter’s death. Seeing as how he was an important person, there was probably quite a large crowd gathered. As Jesus approaches he tells the mourners to go away, because the girl is not dead, only sleeping. When they hear this, the crowd begins to laugh. Most of them have probably seen her, and they know she is dead. They probably think that Jesus is crazy, or at least a little weird, and so they laugh at him and probably call him a few names.
Now, Jesus could have said, “Fine. If you’re going to laugh at me, then I won’t help.” And then he could have left, leaving the little girl dead. But he doesn’t. Acting out of mercy, he disregards the laughs and taunts of the crowd, and raises the young girl from the dead. He reaches down, takes her hand, and the little girl gets up from the bed. Jesus raises the girl from the dead and into new life.
Jesus interacts with four very different people and, regardless of their position in society or their previous actions, Jesus responds to all four in the same way. The tax collector, the synagogue leader, the unclean woman, the young girl… All four receive mercy from Jesus. He doesn’t turn them away because they are unclean or outcast. He doesn’t turn them away because of their wealth or because of other people’s disbelief. He reaches out in mercy to each of them, offering them forgiveness and new life.
Let’s extend this story. Let’s say that after raising the girl from the dead Jesus continued on his journey and he came across you. What reasons would Jesus have to ignore you? Maybe you’re like the tax collector, and you have done things that you know are not right. Maybe you have lied or stolen or cheated someone. You think that Jesus has no use for a person like you, that Jesus would keep on walking without even glancing your way.
Or maybe you’re like the synagogue leader. Maybe you are responsible for ignoring the needs of those around you. You see your church as a place for those who are acceptable and clean and worthy. You keep out the very people that most need the church and what it has to offer, and that because you have failed to offer help to others, that Jesus will not help you.
Or maybe you are like the hemorrhaging woman. Maybe because of circumstances beyond your control you are suffering. Your support systems have fallen through, and no one seems to be willing to help you. You feel as if you have become an outcast, forgotten by the people who should love you and protect you the most. And you wonder why Jesus would be any different. If your friends and family don’t seem to care, why should Jesus? And you’ve resigned yourself to a life of suffering and separation.
Or maybe you are like the young girl. Not dead, but in a situation that seems hopeless and as if there is nothing anyone can do to help you. People are gathered to mourn your loss, but when someone mentions that there is still hope, they all laugh it off. There seems to be no way out. So you think that even Jesus could not help you. Your situation is too bleak, there is no hope. Why would Jesus even think of helping?
I’m sure that each of the people in today’s Gospel had those thoughts running through their head. They knew that Jesus had every reason to ignore them, to keep on walking, to leave them alone in their situations. But Jesus didn’t. He stopped his journey and reached out to them. Despite every reason he had to keep going, to ignore their needs and pleas for help. He stopped and reached out in mercy.
This mercy that Jesus offers to these four people extends to us as well. Regardless of where we fit into this story, whether we are more like the tax collector or the synagogue leader, whether we identify with the unclean woman or the young girl, this mercy is offered to us. What this Gospel is saying to us is that it doesn’t matter where we fit in society. We could be a top dog or hanging out at the bottom of the barrel, but that doesn’t matter. Jesus’ mercy is extended and offered to us.
Jesus ultimately reached out in mercy on the cross. I mean, he had every reason to not give his life for such a sinful and unworthy group of people. But out of love and mercy, he chose to be crucified and die on the cross so that our sin and unworthiness could be washed away. He chose to reach out in love and mercy, even though it meant giving up his own life in the process. And because he did die, and then rose again to new life, we know that we, too, shall one day rise again. And in his extreme love and mercy he will gather us all together, and the barriers that separate us will be removed.
Other than Matthew, we’re not sure what happened to the characters in this story after they came across Jesus. We know that Matthew became a disciple and followed Jesus with the others, but even he is not mentioned much outside of this story. We can only imagine that after this interaction with the mercy of Jesus that their lives were changed and that it altered the way they lived. We can only hope that after being shown mercy that they were more willing to show mercy to others.
As Christians, that is our calling: to witness to the mercy and love that we have received from Christ through our daily interactions with others. We are called to respond to the mercy and love and kindness that Jesus has shown us, by showing mercy and love and kindness to others.
So remember that. Remember that Jesus has come to you, and regardless of whether or not you deserve it, he has reached out and shown you mercy and love. And in return you are called to spread that love and mercy around, even if you think the people around you don’t deserve it. Because you received and continue to receive that love and mercy even when it is undeserved.
Friday, June 03, 2005
for some reason
I think it started when I found out that I would be moving into an unfurnished, four bedroom house for the year I was on internship. It could be because, in my contact with Supervising (before he became Supervising and was still Soon-to-be-Supervising), I told him I lived in a dorm room and did not have enough furniture to furnish this aforementioned house. It probably has something to do with the article that was printed in the congregation's newsletter before my arrival asking for donations and loans of furniture to help this poor, furnitureless intern have a comfortable house for a year. But for some reason, my house has become a home for unwanted and wayward furniture. It seems that when people get new furniture they think they need to give the old stuff to the parsonage. Or when someone inherits some unwanted furniture, they think they need to give it to the parsonage. Or when someone moves to a new house and needs to downsize, they think they need to give the extras to the parsonage. Or when someone will soon be getting married and moving into a new house the furniture that will one day be moved into this new house needs somewhere to go, so they think they can store it in the parsonage.
To illustrate this, let me give you a brief, virtual tour of my house. Here, let me get the door for you... Upon entering the house, it looks like any other house. But as soon as you walk in, you realize how it is drastically different. That's because in the living room you would find not one but two couches, a love seat, three upholstered chairs, one wooden chair, an end table, a coffee table and a round kitchen table that is there because I can't think of anywhere else to put it and don't want to move it upstairs by myself. So you walk through this obstacle course of furniture, turn to the right and see the dining room which has a dining room table, six chairs, a china cabinet, and four stools. Then there's the kitchen, and that has no extra furniture in it, so there's no need to dally here. Upstairs, in one bedroom we have a room filled with an older bedroom set (minus the bed) that someone inherited and didn't want. It was the first set of furniture to find its way to my house. In another room we have a dresser that was there when I got here. In the master bedroom, the furniture is sufficient (if a little gawdy, but it works). Downstairs, in the family room, we have two upholstered chairs, an ottoman, a couch, a love seat, a patio table (that my television sits on), a coffee table, and eight (count them eight) wooden chairs that go with various tables throughout the house. Then, if you go into my garage, you'll find an old television set (the kind in a wooden console), a wall mirror, several lamps, a microwave, a hope chest, a large, round wooden dining room table, and a dresser.
Some people take unwanted animals into their house, some give a home to children that need it. I seem to attract stray furniture.
At first, I didn't mind. I had lots of extra room. At that time I only had the weird dresser in the spare bedroom, the furniture in the master bedroom, a couch, loveseat, coffee table, end table and two chairs in the living room, four stools in the dining room, and two chairs, ottoman, couch, coffee table and loveseat in the family room. It was a manageable amount of furniture.
Then we got a call from some member that I had never met, and haven't seen since, whose mother had passed away and she had inherited a lot of furniture. She didn't want it in her house and wondered if the parsonage could use it. Because there was that once empty bedroom, I thought it would be no problem. Then someone donated the round kitchen table and four chairs because they had no need for them and knew I didn't have one. I gratefully accepted those, because then I could at least pretend that I ate at the table even though I always eat downstairs in front of the television. However, it started to go a bit downhill after that. Supervising's younger daughter is getting married, and was needing some furniture for the house she would be moving into with her soon-to-be-husband. An older couple was getting new furniture, and so they had a couch, loveseat and chair to give to her. The only thing is, they're not married yet, and they don't have the house into which they'll be moving. Supervising comes up with the idea that they can store it in my house until after the wedding. So, they came and moved into my living room. Then, our parish administrator was getting married and would be moving to a new house. This was to be her second marriage and they'd be consolidating households into one new house. So, she had some furniture she didn't need. This was the dining room table with six chairs, and the china cabinet. She said that sometime in the next week they'd be driving by to drop it off. I told her that I already had one, but she explained that this one would be much nicer, and besides, the previous intern had a table in the downstairs, too. That's how that furniture came to live in my house. I moved the round kitchen table out of the dining room and into the living room and the four chairs down into the family room. The hope chest in the garage arrived because the parish administrator found out someone had one to donate, and she wanted it for her new house. I helped her move it out of the house it came from and into my garage, where it is still sitting. She keeps saying they'll come get it, but they haven't yet.
The story that takes the cake happened today. Supervising got back from his trip down south. PD (PD is his older daughter, not his younger daughter who is getting married) came to show me some pictures she'd got developed from the lock in, and then told me that Supervising would be coming with a UHaul to the church. That was all she said. Well, around 3 the UHaul rumbles into the parking lot and Supervising starts unloading home health supplies donated by his wife's family to the church, that the church can use to loan out to people who need them. PD drives into the lot to help. I go outside to see if Supervising needs help moving stuff into the church. He says, "Not here... But we've got some stuff to put in the parsonage. Didn't PD tell you that?" I say that she said he'd be coming with a UHaul trailer, but not with stuff to move into the parsonage. She says she told me. She didn't, but whatever. There is a large wooden table, four chairs, and a dresser to be moved somewhere into the house. I reply with "Yippee! Now I'll have three dining room tables." At this point, I'm a bit disgruntled, but what can you do? So I help unload the chairs, which go into my family room. Then I help unload the table and dresser into the garage. He mentions that they are only their for a short time. So, obviously, they will probably go with the couch and that furniture when his other daughter gets married and gets a house. I'm so glad that I can store all of that crap for her...
I go back and forth about it. The furniture isn't cramping my lifestyle, at all. It takes up unused space in my house, and why shouldn't they store it there, for free, and not have to pay to keep it in storage? However, it is my house, and just because I do live by myself, it does not mean that I can be taken advantage of, and that my house should be used as free storage... So, I don't know what to think. Most of the time, I just get disgruntled, grumble to myself, then tell myself to suck it up and I don't say anything about it. I mean, what good would complaining do, anyway? And besides, there's that part of me that keeps telling me that it's no big deal. That side prevents me from saying anything.
Oh well, only about two more months left in that house anyway, right?
a whole week has come and gone...
The past few days have been a bit tiring. Allow me to explain:
First, Supervising has been gone. Originally, he planned to take this week as vacation with the intention of doing some work around the house or some preparation for his younger daughter's upcoming wedding. Unfortunately, his mother-in-law passed away, so his vacation was spent driving down to Arkansas for the funeral and to help take care of those matters. So, I've been here "in charge" most of this week... Although, I won't pretend that I was really in charge, because we have a secretary and parish administrator here who, as any church secretary can tell you, do a large amount of running the show.
Then, we had a member in the hospital. Polyps in his colon, which is never a good thing. So he was in for surgery to remove a large part of his colon. His surgery was on Tuesday, and I contemplated whether or not to stop in and see him Tuesday afternoon, but I figured I would give him some time to recover before he had to put up with visitors. So, Wednesday morning I went to the hospital. I heard voices in his room, so I knocked on the door and I heard him say, "Come in!" but then I heard another voice say, "No, don't." So I peeked in and saw a doctor hunched over the bed examining the incision. So I lingered in the hallway, thinking it might just be a brief check, and I looked at a picture on the wall and pretended to be interested in it. Then, a young cleaning lady who I had seen bopping in and out of rooms doing her cleanining duties came up, stood right next to me, looked at the picture and then looked at me. I looked at her, then back at the picture, then back at her... Sure enough, she was still looking at me. So, trying to be polite, I said, "Hello..." She may have responded, but I don't remember. What I do remember is that she continued to stare at me. I turned and continued to look at the picture, and after a couple more seconds of staring she went back to cleaning. It was weird. So I decided that, in order to prevent that from happening again, I would leave and come back to visit him later on that morning. About an hour later I returned and was able to talk to both him and his wife for about 10 minutes before a nurse came in and started talking about getting him cleaned up, which from the sounds of it was going to include a sponge bath. I decided to give him some privacy, so that he could maintain his dignity. He seemed appreciative. I have to go and check and see how he's doing today. Hopefully he's received some good news from the doctor!
Thirdly, Wednesday night we had a lock-in for the senior high youth at the cabin owned by one of our members. Now, those of you in other parts of the country might think of a cabin as being in the mountains or a heavily wooded area. Perhaps by a lake or a stream. Yeah... not so much. Sure, it's by some woodland, but not what I'd consider heavily wooded, and it's about a ten minute drive from the church. Surrounded by a lot of farmland. No streams or lakes. But a nice little location to "get away." When they had talked about having a lock in, again, I requested that it not be on a Saturday night. Since school has officially ended, we decided to have it on a weekday evening. This lock-in had a smaller attendance than our previous one, and there weren't as many organized activities. It did bring out they dynamics of our youth committee, however. There seems to be two factions in our committee, and this was very obvious as we talked about planning this lock in. One faction thought it should have a Survivor theme, and they started buying things that would be appropriate for a Survivor themed lock in. They asked me to lead the Bible study that would take place that evening and to somehow incorporate the theme of Survivor into this Bible study. The other faction, planned something else entirely and one of the mothers had the Bible study figured out already. So one day before the lock in was to take place, the youth committee met to finalize plans, and presented each other with these differing proposed schedules. Now, to be fair, both were willing to compromise and we ended up with a combination of the two, but the mother seemed unwilling to even consider relinquishing the Bible study. At the meeting, she was telling us all about these kids that she knew were coming and how some of them had told her that a few others were planning on coming. However, the youth she said were coming did not show up and the youth she said that they mentioned didn't show up, either. But the youth that did show up seemed to have a good time, and we enjoyed the outdoors, and I got to drive through the woods on a golf cart and we placed my lawn gnomes in several places throughout the woods to help guide the youth on a scavenger hunt that we had planned. A fun time seemed to be had by all, especially the gnomes.
The day after the lock in (yesterday), which one normally spends sleeping and recuperating from the previous nght's lack of sleep, was spent back out at the cabin cleaning, and getting photos developed. Our softball team was scheduled to play a game last night, as well, against the other Lutheran church in town. There seems to be a good natured rivalry between the two teams, so our team's organizer had spent a good amount of time trying to recruit good players to come for that game, so that we could at least put up a decent fight against the other team. I figured that there would be a lot of people and I wouldn't be asked to play, so I was in no hurry to get to the ballpark. So after spending some time at the home of a family from church, and enjoying a margarita, I made it out the ballfield after the game had already started. Turns out that only 9 people had shown up, and we needed to have 10. Coincidentally, someone had brought an extra mit. They asked me to play and I decided that I would. Well, to make a long story short, I did, indeed, get a hit and actually made it home!! I scored a run for my team!! Yay for me! Some of us had planned on going out to eat afterwards, but I was exhausted by that time, so I chose the option of going home and resting instead.
In other news, I have about two months and one week left of my internship. Doesn't seem as if I should be that far along, yet. When I was still only contemplating what my internship would look like, I figured I'd have accomplished a lot more by this point. I wasn't sure what it was I would have accomplished, only that I would have. But it really doesn't seem as if I have enough to show for my 9+ months of internship. I have a desk piled with too many papers, a small collection of drawings given to me by some of the kids (mostly small kids, but a few big ones, too), a pile of photographs - mostly of the youth making strange faces and showing me the food in their mouths, a drawer full of sermon manuscripts, and a broken computer printer... Are these the trappings of an accomplished intern?
03/01/2004 - 04/01/2004
04/01/2004 - 05/01/2004
05/01/2004 - 06/01/2004
06/01/2004 - 07/01/2004
09/01/2004 - 10/01/2004
10/01/2004 - 11/01/2004
11/01/2004 - 12/01/2004
12/01/2004 - 01/01/2005
01/01/2005 - 02/01/2005
02/01/2005 - 03/01/2005
03/01/2005 - 04/01/2005
04/01/2005 - 05/01/2005
05/01/2005 - 06/01/2005
06/01/2005 - 07/01/2005
07/01/2005 - 08/01/2005
08/01/2005 - 09/01/2005
09/01/2005 - 10/01/2005
10/01/2005 - 11/01/2005
11/01/2005 - 12/01/2005
12/01/2005 - 01/01/2006
01/01/2006 - 02/01/2006
03/01/2006 - 04/01/2006