this is no longer my blog
Sunday, July 31, 2005
the final stretch (and then a shameless plug)
The newsletter containing my good-bye article was sent out at the end of this last week. For your reading pleasure, I decided to include it (don't worry, it's short, I have about a quarter of a page each month) in today's blog.From the desk of the Pastor Intern.......
Wow... I can't believe it's time for this already - my last newsletter article. It doesn't seem as if I have been here long enough to be able to write something like this. There are so many things that I want to say, that I think I could take up an entire issue of the newsletter just to write them all down. I don't have that kind of space so I'll try to keep it short. The main thing I want to say is, "Thank you." Thank you for allowing a young, unsure, goofy and slightly awkward man to come and be the pastor intern at your church. Thank you for welcoming me and embracing me into your lives and homes and families. Thank you for forgiving and overlooking my mistakes, for laughing WITH me at my not-so-graceful moments, and for putting up with my colored shoes. Thank you for reaching out and loving me and helping me to more fully realize my gifts and voice as a pastor. I am now more sure of my call to be a pastor than I was when I first began this journey of internship, and that is because of the loving and grace-filled community at Immanuel that I have been called to serve. It will definitely be hard to leave this place that I have learned to call home and these people that I have learned to call friends and family. It will be hard to say good bye and to be unsure of when we will see each other again. But I hope you know that no matter where I go, and no matter how long I get to be a pastor, there will always be the seed that was planted during my time here at Immanuel, which with God and the help of wherever else I am called to be and whoever else I am called to serve, will grow and bear good fruit. I know that I was called to be among you and minister to you, if even for such a short time, but I am extremely thankful for and will continue to remember the ways that you have all ministered to me. I thank God for sending me to Immanuel, and pray that God continues to richly bless all of you. Love, PI Mark
So most of the people had read that before attending services this weekend. I hadn't really thought about it because I was oblivious to the fact that the newsletter had been sent out. But then, Saturday before church this cute, little lady comes up to me. Her name is Pauline and I believe she had a stroke a while back, so she walks pretty slow and with a cane. But she's just so small and so sweet. She came up to me and said, "I'm so sorry to hear that you're leaving! I'm going to miss you!" and then her eyes teared up. I had a hard time finding the words, but I managed to say something like, "I'm going to miss you, too!" and then I gave her a hug.
Well, then things progressed nicely until announcements. This was Youth Sunday weekend at church, so one of the high school students was doing the announcements and as she was saying them, I heard "We're having a farewell celebration for PI Mark on Sunday, August 14th between services. Be sure to come wish him Godspeed on his last day with us." I knew about the farewell celebration. I had talked with Supervising about it and had jotted something about it in my calendar. But to hear it announced, in front of the congregation, turns it into something a lot more real and imminent. It's weird, because even though I know I only have two weeks left it still hasn't struck me that I'm almost done. The end still seems like this distant reality. I guess we'll see how long it takes reality to set in once I start packing and cleaning my house (which begins tomorrow), and getting ready for the move back to the Mothership. I hate moving.And now for the shameless plug:
Some time ago I started the webring Reconciling Christian Bloggers. It is meant to be similar to the movements within the different churches, expressing welcome and affirmation to our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. Sort of like the Lutheran Church has the Reconciling in Christ program and the Presbyterian Church has More Light Presbyterians (and other churches have similar programs and organizations) as a way to let people know that their church believes that we are all equally children of God, and as such deserve the same rights and privileges within the Church (and beyond), and that their church seeks to be a place or welcome and affirmation for all people, regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity.
So, the Reconciling Christian Bloggers webring is meant to serve as a way to connect bloggers who agree that our GLBT brothers and sisters are just as much a part of the Body of Christ, and as such deserve full inclusion and participation in our churches. It doesn't matter what your sexual orientation or gender identity is. If you believe that the Church should be a place of inclusion and compassion and not a place of exclusion and discrimination, then I invite you to join the Reconciling Christian Bloggers webring. We've got a nice, small crew already, but there could never be too many people spreading this Good News.
Friday, July 29, 2005
moral to the story
So, after a comment about my previous story, I began to think if there was a moral or a deeper meaning that could be found within the story. Personally, I think messages of God's grace can be found just about anywhere, so why don't we dig a little deeper.
Perhaps Bobby, the camper, represents humanity. We often are in situations that leave us covered in "crap." But regardless of the situation we find ourselves in, God washes us clean of all of that stuff, provides us with new garments and brings us back into the flock. Of course, that metaphor falls apart with the imperfect and impatient counselor (that'd be me). Through most of the story I was more worried about the fact that I had to deal with excrement and just wanted Bobby to get cleaned up so we could put this situation behind us and move on with our day, as normal. The fact that I was having to remove myself from the other activity going on to deal with this crap made me a little indignant towards Bobby. I mean, he knew that we were in the tent closest to the bathroom! This was preventable! God, however, is infinitely patient with us and God's only concern in that we be cleaned and rejoin the flock. It doesn't matter how long it takes or how much crap is involved. The trouble that we cause God does not cause God to love us any less. No matter how stupid we can be, God's love for us does not change or waver. God's ultimate concern is us, not that God is wasting God's time dealing with poop when God would rather be building sand castles in the volleyball court. So, naturally, I make a horrible God-figure in this story.
So, there's a possible deeper spiritual message behind the story. Humans are imperfect, but God still loves us in all of our crap-covered glory.
Any other ideas?
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
i'll share a story
I'm generally an upbeat person, and I couldn't let the previous post sit there and be a downer all by itself for too long. So, I thought since I have nothing new to add, I'll add something old. I'm not sure if I have shared this story before on the blog and I didn't want to rummage through all of the archives and check, so I figured I'd go ahead and share it. Besides, I've probably added a few new readers since then. They might appreciate it, too.
Before I begin, this story involves a couple bodily functions and is NOT for the weak of stomach. I should know.
Also, it is a bit long. So you might need to read it when you have sufficient time. With your feet propped up and a cup of your favorite beverage handy. I hope you enjoy!
It was my very last summer at church camp. It was following my year as a youth director which didn't go the way I had planned, and camp acted as a safety net catching me before I plummeted into the depths of despair. This particular week was a 4th and 5th grade mini-session with only two overnights.
The day of their arrival went off without a hitch. They were good kids who got along very well, and I enjoyed spending time with them. The weather was even perfect and so we slept with our tent flaps wide open so we could get a nice breeze. That's when things started to go downhill.
I woke up the next morning feeling groggy but pretty good. Then it hit me. There was an odd odor hanging about the tent, and in my grogginess I couldn't quite put my finger on exactly what it was. But since the tent flaps were open and there was a nice breeze coming through, I chalked it up to something outside of the tent. I didn't want it to be something that would end up being my problem, so I ignored it. If it was something I needed to do something about, I was sure someone would let me know. So I quietly got up and trudged over to the showerhouse and got ready for the morning.
On my way back to the tent, the wake up bell started to ring. Most of my kids were already moving around so I stood outside the tent and encouraged them to get ready quickly. We needed to be over for morning worship fairly quickly. The boys had no problem getting ready. I was pretty sure this was going to be a good couple of days.
Well, we were one of the last groups to get to the worship site, and so we were a bit spread out. I think I sat by one or two of my boys, but the others had to sit on different benches. Worship went well, and by this point, since no one had said anything, the unidentified odor had quickly been forgotten. Until after worship.
As we walked over to the lodge for breakfast, another counselor came up to me. "We need to talk." This was not going to be good. "Joanna [another counselor] was sitting by your camper, Bobby, and she thinks he had an accident."
"Oh, really?" I asked, naively. "What do you mean?"
"He smells like poop."
I stopped dead in my tracks. "Are you serious? You're kidding me. You can't be serious. Are you serious?"
"That's what she said,"
I couldn't believe this. I had only heard one other story in all of my years as a camp counselor of a camper who had pooped his pants. Only one other story. Of course, this other story happened to me, too. But one camper in four summers was an okay record. Why did this camper feel the need to double that?
We walked into breakfast and I quickly sought out the site manager. I was hoping that she would say something spectacular, such as: "He pooped his pants? Don't worry about it! We'll handle it! You just go have fun!"
That didn't happen. Her response was more like, "That sucks." Of course, it was followed by, "Well, you'll need to ask him, just to make sure. But be sure that he knows he's not in trouble and you just want to help him out and get his stuff cleaned up. Make sure that the other campers are nowhere around, and if he needs to get cleaned up make sure you let people know to keep their kids away from the showerhouse."
Okay. I could do this. After breakfast as we were gathering our kids on the front deck, I called to Bobby before he went outside. "Hey, Bobby! Come here!"
He walked over to, a bit unsure. "Yes?"
"I need to know something. It's not a big deal, and you're not in trouble, but did you have an accident?"
"Why?" Right then I knew he had. If it had just been a case of bad gas, and not that he actually dropped a bomb, he'd have said no right away. His hesitation answered the question for me.
"It's not a big deal, really. We just need to know so that we can get you or your stuff cleaned up. So did you have an accident?"
Okay. Truthfully, I was getting a bit frustrated at this point, mainly because I wanted the whole interchange to be over with. I wanted this whole experience to be over with. So, I continued, "What do you mean, maybe? There's really no maybe involved. Either you had an accident or you didn't have an accident. It's no big deal either way. We just need to know so we can help you out. So, did you?"
"That's fine. Let me tell Jen [my co-counselor] to take the other kids to our first activity and we'll go get your stuff and get you fixed up. Okay?" So with that we sent the kids with the other counselor, I grabbed a small garbage bag, and we headed down to our tent. "Okay Bobby," I said. "Just put your dirty clothes in here, grab your shower stuff and let's go." I held out the bag as he dug his clothes out of his laundry sack and put them in. I twisted it shut and held it at arms length as I led him to the showerhouse. "Start to get cleaned up in there and I'll be back in a second to make sure you're doing okay." He agreed and so I trudged up the hill, still holding the bag as far away from me as possible, towards the lodge.
I walked into the lodge and into the laundry room, where two other staff were getting supplies to help their kids clean the restrooms. "You guys will not believe what happened," I said to them as I put a pair of rubber gloves on. "I had a camper poop his pants." I set the washing machine and poured in the detergent and then I carefully opened the bag and using only the tips of my forefinger and thumb pulled out the first article of clothing, the shorts. Nothing. Only the underwear was left. I reached in and pulled it out. Nothing. I was very perplexed. "Don't you think," I said, turning to the other counselors, "That if he had an accident there would at least be a stain on his underwear?"
"You'd think." Came the reply.
"Yeah, there's nothing. Oh well." Feeling relieved that there had been a misunderstanding, and happy that I didn't have to deal with fecal matter, I tossed the clothes in the washing machine just for fun. Then I walked back down to the showerhouse.
I remember bouncing light-heartedly down the hill, relieved that it had been a huge misunderstanding, only to stop dead in my tracks.**Note: For those with weak stomachs, it might serve you well to skip down until you see the next note like this one.**
I could not believe what I saw. There was Bobby, naked from the waist down. The insides of his legs were covered in poop. He had gotten some poop on his feet. There was some on the showerhouse floor. Somehow, some poop had gotten on his hand and he was holding it out in front of him. Later on I felt sorry for the boy. Initially, however, I wanted to keep that poop as far away from me as possible. "What are you doing?" I blurted. "You should be in the shower!"
"There's a wasp in the shower stall."
"There are two shower stalls, aren't there? Use the other one. Get in there! Now!" Bobby quickly rushed back to the other shower stall. I turned quickly and marched back up the hill. I stormed into the laundry room and slammed the button back into the washing machine, stopping the load. I turned and looked at the other two counselors. "THOSE WEREN'T EVEN THE RIGHT CLOTHES!" I bellowed as I unrolled another small garbage sack and, this time, put two pairs of rubber gloves on my hands. I stormed back out of the laundry room and back down the hill, only to see Bobby, completely naked this time, standing in the doorway. Upon seeing me he rushed back into the shower. "Seriously, Bobby," I said, attempting to retain some sort of calm and reassuring tone in my voice, although I'm pretty sure I was failing miserably. "You need to get in there and get cleaned up so we can get you back with the rest of the kids." I delicately picked up his clothes and placed them in the garbage sack and twisted it tightly shut. Holding it at arm's length I rushed back up to the laundry room.
Now only the female counselor was in the laundry room. I stood there for a moment, holding the bag out in front of me, with no real idea of what I needed to do next. "You know," the other counselor said, "You are going to need to scrub the underwear so that they don't stain." I'm not sure if she was serious, or just teasing me, but I turned to her and looked at her like she was crazy. I opened the lid to the washing machine and slowly let the garbage untwist itself open. I gingerly reached in and pulled out the t-shirt and placed it into the washing machine. Next, I pulled out his shorts and placed them in. Now the only thing left was the underwear.
On the floor of the laundry room was a square basin-type-thing where we filled up our mop buckets. I walked over to it with the bag and slowly pulled the underwear out. It was much heavier than underwear should be. Taking the underwear out of the bag I flipped it inside out and a large piece of poop plopped down into the basin. I gagged.
I stood there, holding the poopy underwear, and remembering what the other counselor had said about scrubbing it to prevent a stain. I looked at the underwear, then at the other counselor, then at the washing machine and back to the underwear. "Screw that!" I said, tossing the underwear into the washing machine and adding a lot more, possibly too much, detergent. For good measure I dumped in some other kind of cleaning solution that was on the shelf, which was said to be strong enough to kill the AIDS virus. I dumped plenty of that in for good measure. Then I closed the lid and sighed.
The only thing left was taking care of the poop that was left in the basin. I stood there, not wanting to deal with it, but knowing that I had to. I looked down at it and let loose with a horrific gag. The other counselor (who a long time ago had the sense to close the door to the laundry room) started fumbling with a garbage sack. "Mark!" she shouted. "You are NOT allowed to puke until I get this bag open!" I let loose with a couple more gags before she got the bag open, at which point she shoved it into my hands.
I looked at the bag in my hands and then back down at the poop. Deciding that it was now or never I placed the garbage sack down on top of the washing machine, grabbed a dryer sheet to cover my mouth and nose and then quickly reached for the poop. But I stopped before I got to it. I quickly dropped the dryer sheet and lunged back to the washing machine. I grabbed the garbage sack, held it open, and began vomiting.
At this point, the door to the laundry room opened and Scott, the male counselor who had been in there before, took a step into the room. Now, the dryer had been going this whole time, so it was very hot in the room. I think Scott was overwhelmed by the heat, the smell of poop, and the sight and sound of me wretching, so he stopped dead in his tracks and exclaimed, "OH MY GOD!" Now, Scott was not alone. He had been followed by his throng of bathroom cleaning campers. Scott's exclamation piqued their curiousity of just what was occuring in the room, and so they began trying to get around Scott to see inside and shouting things like, "What's going on in there?" and "What is it?" Scott turned around, held out his arms and herded the group of campers away from the door and closed it behind him.
By this time I had stopped puking, and so I tied the garbage sack shut and placed it on the floor. Now that there were no more traces of breakfast left in my stomach, I felt it was safe to try to rid the laundry room of the piece of poop that was sitting in the basin. I grabbed the empty garbage sack and without thinking ran over to the basin, stooped down, picked up the piece of poop and dropped it in the garbage sack. Then, I needed to get rid of every trace of poop that I could see, starting with my rubber gloves.
In retrospect, it probably would have been good to rinse off the rubber gloves before taking them off. But in my haste to get rid of the poop I was not thinking straight and as I tried to take one of the rubber gloves off I ended up smearing poop on my left arm. I shrieked. Loudly. Finally, I got the rubber gloves off and then I began spraying my arms and hands with scalding hot water. I furiously scrubbed myself with any available cleaning fluid that was within reach. After I had sufficiently scoured and scalded my arms and hands, I finished off by spraying them down with bleach water. Just to be safe. The lovely female counselor, who had been there through the whole ordeal, kindly said to me that I had been through enough and she would dispose of the poop and vomit bags for me. I thanked her from the bottom of my heart.**Note: Now is a good time for the weak of stomach to return to the story!!**
So the poop was gone. The clothes were in the laundry. My arms had been thoroughly and repeatedly cleansed. The only thing left to do now was to go back down to the showerhouse and make sure Bobby was clean. So I began the walk, once again, down the hill. When I arrived the freshly showered Bobby was standing in the bathroom wearing a t-shirt and his towel. "All clean?" I asked.
"Yes." Bobby said. Now he didn't sound completely convincing, but I wasn't about to say or do anything that would prolong this experience for either of us.
"Well, then let's go back to the tent and you can finish getting dressed."
"All my clothes are in the laundry." Bobby said. It seems that since it was a mini-session he had only packed a couple of outfits, because his parents didn't foresee that he would poop his pants. So, now after this first trauma, poor Bobby was left without pants. After a lost and found search, and after Bobby sat in a towel in the tent for some time, we finally found a pair of shorts that fit, but that were still extremely huge on him. So the rest of the day, until his clothes were dry, he had to run around in a pair of shorts that nearly went to his ankles.
In perfect "Let's torment Mark" fashion, however, for the rest of that mini-session other counselors would come up to me and whisper, "Did Bobby poop his pants again? Maybe you should go ask him!" I chose not to, however, because I figured even if he had pooped his pants, that after that traumatic experience he wouldn't admit it to me, anyway. And it was probably better for both of us if he didn't!
In light of all of the evaluations that are going on around me, I thought it was time to evaluate my blog. Instead of question after question, which is the case with all of the other evaluations, when it comes to evaluating my blog there is only one question: If I was blog-surfing and came across this blog (and it wasn't mine) would I come back for repeated visits?
So, I read through some of my previous posts with that question in my mind. I was a bit disappointed at the answer that I came up with. I wanted it to be yes, I really really
wanted it to be yes. I mean, they are my thoughts and ideas and stories and whatnot. But if I was being totally honest with myself, I don't know that I would come back for any repeat visits. And if even you
don't find yourself interesting... Well, that's kinda sad.
There are a lot of different things I could chalk it up to... But when it comes right down to it, I think it's just a matter of not really having anything worth saying. And what's the point of a blog if you don't have anything to say?
In case you couldn't tell, I'm feeling a bit down. Can't exactly put my finger on why, though. Just a general glum feeling with perhaps some listlesness mixed in for good measure.
Anyway... I don't feel like I have anything else worth sharing. So I suppose I'll go and get ready for my meeting.
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
Please bear with me
Okay, now I know most of you are probably getting bored with all of my posts concerning my upcoming ending to my internship, and believe me, I am, too. Sometimes I wish the end would just get here and then I wouldn't have to do all this waiting and detaching and leave taking and I could just focus on other things that need to be done. But it isn't working that way, unfortunately, and this whole saying good bye thing is a process and not just an event. So, since my blog is about the events in my life, and the end of my internship is a pretty major event in my life, well, then, of course my blog will be dominated by the end of my internship. And if you don't like it... well... TOO BAD!
Well, then. Now that we've got that out of the way, tonight I had my final Internship Committee meeting. The Internship Committee is the group of concerned citizens whom I met with once a month to talk about my internship, chart my progress, discuss joys and concerns... All of that stuff. They were also lay members of the congregation who were responsible for evaluating me at several stages in the game: 3 months, 6 months, 1 year. Now, normally this group consists of six members, but because of a few circumstances beyond our control (one went to Iraq for a year and the other, who was a youth, had a falling out with several other of the youth who were the reason he was a member of this church in the first place, so when his friendship deteriorated so did his involvement) we only had four. One was a young man about my age, then there was another man maybe 10 or 15 years older, and then two women who are both about the same age as my mom. These women dominated the committee. Each have a son about my age and so they felt it was their need to protect and care for me (which really came in handy one day when I was sick and one of them brought over a care package of soup and crackers and jello and pudding and tylenol. Very nice!). But when it came time for evaluations, they never felt as if they could list any growing edges. On either the three month or the mid-term they wrote that I had exceeded their expectations, and that they could not think of any growing edges. The middle aged man, who comes from a business background, tried to push the idea that there is always room for improvement, and that it wasn't an insult to say that I could improve in certain areas. But the moms would have none of it, and what they wrote originally stayed in the evaluation. Now that's funny, because I'm well aware of the areas that I need to improve in. And maybe the women felt the need to protect me, or maybe they actually did believe that I didn't need to improve, or perhaps it was some combination of the two. But it provided me with a laugh and Supervising got a consternated look on his face after reading. I guess afterwards he went and had some words with the committee, telling them if they didn't give me growing edges than I didn't know where I needed to improve. I should have told him that there were a few vocal people who had no problem alerting me of my growing edges.
But anyway, tonight was our last meeting, and we went over their final evaluation of me. It was touching, even though I knew they were going to say good things about me, to sit there and read such good things about me; to realize that this group of people sees such potential in you, and that it so wonderfully affirms the direction that you are headed. My eyes watered a bit, but I managed to control myself, because I knew if I started crying at this stage in the game that it would all be drastically downhill after that.
And now I have no more internship committee meetings, which is weird to think about. So that's one more thing off of my checklist of things to do before I'm done. Have I told you, yet, that it feels extremely weird to be this far along already? That it feels unreal and impossible?
Well, it does.
Monday, July 25, 2005
the final countdown
Not only is it a good song by the band Europe (which we played in high school pep band) but it's also the title of this entry!
So, I have been receiving e-mail after e-mail from classmates and friends who are finishing internship and moving back to seminary. Several have made the pilgrimage back to the mothership already. One, that I know of, will be returning after this Sunday. All of them will be done before me. I was the last one to start my internship and I will be the last one to come back. I'm okay with it, although it seems a bit weird as I started seminary before all of them, and they will all be finishing their internship before me. It kind of sends the message that I am deficient, in a way, although I know I'm not because I started later because the previous intern left later. And I've also done many things that most of my classmates probably haven't on internship, some of which I've been told to be quiet about from the bishop (whom I needed to get special permission from in order to perform a couple of the things) so that other interns don't start asking their supervisors and/or bishops why they weren't allowed to do similar things. A bit stupid, I think, but who am I to argue with the bishop?
So a week and a half, or so, ago I wrote out a list of all of the things remaining on my list of things to do. I thought, since the end of internship is on my mind because of all of my friends, that I would take a few seconds to update that list. Here it is:
- 3 more Sundays
- 2 more sermons
- 1 more church council meeting
- 1 more executive committee meeting
- 1 more internship committee meeting (which will be tomorrow... so I can check that off soon)
- 1 more area clergy meeting
Not very much, at all. Sure, it's more than most of my classmates and colleagues have left - the majority of which will be done by July 31. But, it will go by very quickly, of that I am certain. Before I know it I will be loading up my car and driving back to the mothership. I am excited to see my friends; to move back into the dorm room with the great view of the playing field outside; to be able to step outside of my room and be within arm's distance of friends and potential social activities; to not have to look to find ways to procrastinate, because they ways to procrastinate will surely find me; to begin to thoughtfully consider, discern, and pray about where I believe God is calling me to be as an ordained pastor as I begin the journey towards first call. I can't believe I just wrote that one. Wow...
So yeah... This leg of the journey is almost over. I can't believe it, because I can so vividly remember how it began. I don't feel like I should even be at this point yet, much less contemplating the end of my seminary journey. They say time flies when you're having fun, but time must speed by when you're confused and running around like a chicken with your head cut off, because that has been my state of existence since I began seminary.
So the countdown is at 20 days, one day short of three weeks. Weird...
What's your model of the church?
I took a test to find out what model of church I am. Frankly, I'm not surprised.
Hat tip to Susan
which is where I found it, but she got it from Nathan
. I encourage you to go and find out what model of church you are!
My results: You scored as Servant Model
. Your model of the church is Servant.The mission of the church is to serve others, to challenge unjust structures, and to live the preferential option for the poor. This model could be complemented by other models that focus more on the unique person of Jesus Christ.What is your model of the church? [Dulles]
Sunday, July 24, 2005
sleep has definitely been my friend
Shortly after writing the post from last night, I went to bed. It was about 8:30. That is usually a time that I consider to be extremely early to go to bed, but last night the only thing that kept me up that late was that I didn't want to wake up at 3 or 4 in the morning and not be able to go back to sleep. But there was no problem with that. I slept soundly until my alarm went off this morning. I got up for church, assisted at our two services, helped clean yard flamingoes in between, and then came straight home and back to bed until about 2:00. Sleeping has been wonderful.
I'm still trying to figure out how to tell you all about this past week. It was pretty amazing. The small group I was in charge of bonded extremely well. We had 7 girls, 5 guys, a female adult and me. In our first small group session, I was afraid that I had been given a group of mute children that had chronic fatigue syndrome. They just sat there and looked around at each other and didn't say too much at all. Now, if you know me, you know that I have a lot of energy and that I don't do very well at just sitting there. And I like to talk. The first thought that came to my mind was that my small group was the antithesis of me. The second thought was that, because they were the antithesis of me, that they would end up thinking I was crazy or dumb or some combination of the two, and that would make for a pretty crappy week for all of us.
Well, we met for the required time and then sent them off to supper. When we met for our small group time, again, there had been some fascinating transformation. They were all talking and laughing and joking and moving around. It was wonderful. I raised my arms to the heavens and sang a loud "Hallelujah." Well, in my head, anyway. But the thing that really got me was, as we were leaving to go to evening worship, one of the girls said, "Shouldn't we sit together as a group at worship?" The other adult and I answered that we didn't have to, but if they wanted to that it would be great. They all agreed and we ended up sitting together. It was fantastic. And the bonding just continued from there.
I keep trying to write something, only to backspace and delete it all. Words just don't seem to be good enough to explain what I experienced. One of the volunteer staff told me at the beginning of the week that it would be life changing for me. I just smiled and nodded and disregarded what she had said. How would this be any different than any other youth event that I had been to in the past 10 years? Well, it was. And I'm glad.
I'll work on putting some more of my experiences to words, to share with all of you. I hope that you can be patient and tolerant with me!!
Saturday, July 23, 2005
it is finished...
and i am tired!!
So, there was the potential for internet access this week, however, at the dorm in which I was sleeping, it required having your own computer and cord. I had neither, so then it would have required borrowing(begging) another one of the volunteer staff to use their computer, which in turn would have required them to go to their room to get it for me and bring it down into the lounge area, which is where the plug-in was. And the lounge was always full of various and random amounts of youth and adults and would have afforded little privacy. So there was no blogging this week (as you have probably noticed). So I will give you an overview of my week:
The leadership event I attended is a joint effort by all three synods in the state. It has been going on for 41 years (in some shape), and so has a big history and many traditions and memories. In the current form, you can begin after your freshman year of high school with the beginner's year. It covers leadership basics, Lutheran doctrine, low ropes initiatives, decision making, planning, and all sorts of things in between the celebration/worships and other large group activities. As a new volunteer, I was placed with this group because it is the year with the most structure and would be easier for someone with no previous experience to step into and become engaged. After your beginner year, your next year you move up to the advanced level, followed by the third and fourth level in consecutive years. I had little experience with those levels, so I could not say anything about them, really. The idea, however, is that they build on what was learned the previous years and continue to help the youth grow their gifts. After you have gone through all four levels you qualify for what is called staff in training, and after two years of that, the youth are allowed to come back as volunteer staff. And believe me, they keep coming back. There is also a week for adults to come to the event and participate, after which I think they are considered eligible to be staff, as well. Few people, it seems, come to the event as staff without prior exposure to the event.
When I arrived onto the college campus on Sunday, I was a bit nervous and had no idea what was going on. I was the only volunteer below the age of 35 who had not gone through all four levels of the leadership event as youth, and those who were young enough had also completed both levels of staff in training. There were a few adults who had come to the event later in life, but even they had completed the adult week and all but one had been staff before this past week, too.
I'm trying to remember what is important to write and leave out the things that don't make any difference, but my mind is a bit clouded with fatigue and I feel the weariness deep in my bones. So, for now, I will just list a few of the highlights and leave the potential for expansion.
- 420 young and old people gathered together to learn and serve and worship and pray and play and eat and sleep and live together for a week;
- the dance, where i was truly in my element. I bopped around the dance floor from group to group, having a great time;
- Being able to be around other adults who truly believe that youth ministry is important and vital to the life of the church;
- Bacon for breakfast;
- If the life of the church were to depend on the kids that I met this week, we would be in great shape.
Okay... there was a lot more that happened, more things I'd like to share... I wish I could just hook a cord to my brain and it could translate it all into the blog for you all, but alas there is no such thing. So I will try to come back to the computer at a later date and fill you in with some more details later!!!
Saturday, July 16, 2005
Well, I'm not leaving quite
yet, but close enough. Because I think between now and the time that I actually leave, I will not have much time to blog. I have to finish getting ready for worship this evening, then after worship I will be packing like a madman, making sure I have everything that I need, double checking to make sure I have everything I need, and then probably going to bed. Then tomorrow morning I have two worship services and immediately after our second one I will be racing from the church and speeding away to get to the youth leadership event on time. They ask that the staff be there a day early, and the particular staff that I am a part of are to be there at 2:00 for debriefing and whatnot. Well, it is about a 2.5 hour drive from here to there. So even if we get out of church in an hour, as the congregation would prefer, I would be cutting it very close to get there on time. But it is, indeed, doable. I may just be a bit late, but they will survive and I will survive, and all shall be well.
Then I will be gone for a week. Now, it's a college campus and so chances are very good that I will have access to a computer sometime during the week. However, people who know me know that I tend to get swept up in the moment, and so it might not occur to me that I can go log onto a computer and shoot something out to my blog audience. But I do plan to bring a notebook along with me to jot down thoughts and things that happen, so you can rest assured that you will enjoy the fruits of that labor, even if I don't blog in the midst of the week.
I will be returning on Saturday, probably just in time to change clothes and assist with worship. Thank the sweet Lord above that I am not preaching that weekend as was originally scheduled. That would have been insane.
So, if I don't speak with you before then (which I probably won't) I hope you all have a great week and enjoy your various endeavors!
Thursday, July 14, 2005
So, Christopher over at Bending the Rule
had joined a webring and then quit, after realizing that there was a bit too much porn for his liking. Then, Nathan at Quo Vadis
created the Queer Faith Alliance as a way to connect gay people of faith, and saying that there is a "need for queer people of faith to come together at this time and affirm in our exile that we, too, are the People of God and that we are all human persons worthy of the same dignity and respect, and the rights that come with that dignity and respect. If we don't come together to say it, it has become increasingly clear that no one else is going to."
I couldn't agree more. I believe that the issue of inclusion in the church is not something that only affects our GLBT brothers and sisters, although it more directly affects them, but it affects all the Children of God. It is not just the job of those being oppressed and silenced to cry out, but it is also the job of those of us who live in privilege to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters. And so, since the Queer Faith Alliance exists solely as a webring for LGBT people, I thought that I would create a webring for LGBT Children of God and their allies. I named it "Reconciling Christian Bloggers" because I know that the movement in the Lutheran church is called "Reconciling in Christ," and our token Methodist at text study has a travel mug that says "Proud to be a Reconciling Methodist."
So please join! Don't make my first attempt at a webring go down in flames!!! Click on "join" in the little square on my sidebar!! Let's join together and let our LGBT sisters and brothers know that they are indeed welcome in the family of God and that we are ready, willing and able to struggle beside them!
time to spice things up
I'm not a big fan of any of the templates that Blogger has to choose from. I find them all to be either terribly plain, or a bit too gawdy. So, as I was looking at the recent edition of my blog, I thought it was a bit plain, and I considered going through the process of picking a new template and then redoing my links section (because no, I do not use blogrolling. I tried once and for some reason it was beyond me, and so now I don't try anymore) and redoing my site counter and haloscan comments. That just seemed like a lot of work to me. Then, however, I was visiting a couple other blogs and they have nice pictures in their sidebars, and that's when it struck me. When I want to spice up my rooms at home, I add pictures. Pictures of loved ones and friends and family, of important and influential people in my life. I thought I might try to do that on my blog. Only one problem... I don't know how. I use a little program to upload photos into the body of my blog posts, and I know that Blogger now allows you to upload photos, too, but I don't know the html code, or whatever, to insert photos into my sidebar. Or how to figure out how to make them fit nicely without horribly distorting either the picture or my blog.
So here is my plea: All of you more tech savvy bloggers out there, how do you insert pictures into your sidebar? Help a brother out, please!!!
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
days like this...
It is days like this when I realize how deeply I will miss this place.
My day started like any normal Tuesday. I got up and got ready for work, and then came over to the church. I checked e-mail and looked at my calendar to see what was coming up for the day, then I walked down the hall for the area pastor text study. Our happy group of Lutheran pastors, and token Methodist, were already beginning to gather in the classroom. I sat down (not in my usual seat, because it was taken... Grrrr....) and we began our discussion of the texts for this Sunday. I really have enjoyed getting to know this group. They are mostly progressive thinking type people, but those who are not so progressive still feel as if they can speak up within the group. We all get along pretty well, and I appreciate their humor and insight and collective wisdom. Sure, there are days when we don't talk a whole lot about the text at hand, but truth be told, those are some of my favorite days.
However, I had to leave early for the second day of water ski day camp. So I drove out to the park and joked around with the kids, we said a prayer, then the three youth who were present went onto the boat with Capt. Jack, and the other two adults present and I sat down for a game of Scrabble. Which I won. Then after a good lunch of hot dogs and chips and soda and candy and fruit, three more youth arrived. So five kids and Capt. Jack went on the boat and the sixth youth (who was not interested in skiing) joined us for a game of Scrabble. I didn't win this one. But it was a good time to sit and talk and have a relaxing time. There was work involved... preparing and cleaning up and leading Bible study... but the in-between times were fun.
Then we left the park and I came home. I checked my e-mail and lounged around for a bit before changing my shoes and heading out to the neighborhood middle school to cheer on the church softball team. We lost (by only two points) but it was fun and I had a good time cheering with the rest of the troublemakers. This has been a fun experience. I know I posted a while back about how I was afraid to play for the team, due to my lack of ball hitting/catching ability, but this team was nowhere close to "needing" to win as I had thought. In fact, most of the time they were resigned to losing, but went out to have a great time, anyway. We were the most age and gender diverse team. Most of the other churches stacked their team with younger and bigger men. We had people all the way from 12 to 60 out there on the field. It was a great intergenerational experience, and I'm glad I got to be a part of it, if I mostly did cheering from the sidelines and (sometimes) saying some slightly out of line comments.
After the softball game, I went out to eat with three members of the church. PD (Pastor's Daughter... I thought I'd translate because I haven't redone my link for my Who's Who post yet), myself and two members of the Goodtime family. I'm calling them the Goodtime because most any time spent with this family is a good time. There are three Goodtime brothers that are members of the church. All three are married. The is R and B Goodtime, K and P Goodtime and T and C Goodtime. B Goodtime is the liaison to the council for the youth committee, and has been out at water skiing off and on. She has a 6 year old son who I think is the greatest. Way back at St Patrick's Day when we were getting ready for the dance, she brought her son along, and that sidetracked me from being able to help out at all. Anyway, it was K and P Goodtime that we went out to eat with. They are just a hoot, and we've decided that even thought softball is over, we'll still have to do something on either Tuesday or Thursday nights.
After supper, PD and I went out to another family from church's house. We visited their farm kittens (I named two of them: Bojangles and Lump), and then played a fun game called Apples to Apples. It's the party game of the year. Says so on the box, so it must be true. And it's an amazing time sucker. If you have three hours that you need to kill, just grab some people and play this game. They'll go by quickly.
So now, sitting here, I can easily remember being that nervous guy who knew nobody and wondered what the hell he was doing coming to this strange town and trying to be the intern pastor to these strange people. Now, although I sometimes still wonder what the hell I'm doing, I see all these great people who I enjoy and love and want to spend time with. Sure, some of them are strange - who am I kidding? MOST of them are strange- but they've nestled quite nicely into my heart. It's a pretty good fit.
I hope that nyi (next year's intern) has a nice spot in his heart to put them.
And he better take damn good care of them.
Monday, July 11, 2005
double dose of Ugh!
We had the first day of our three day water ski camp today. And I had thought that the whole drama aspect of this thing was past us. I thought we'd come to an agreement of sorts. I was wrong.
The man who is the driving force behind the day camp, who shall from here on out be referred to as Captain Jack (going for a nautical theme), agreed to limiting his water ski exploits through the church to the three day camp. We were all present at the meeting when he agreed to it, when he said it sounded good to him. I heard it with my own two ears. The youth ministry committee would plan a menu and fix the food, do the Bible study, and have people come out to the park to be "beach moms" for all three days of the camp. All Capt. Jack would have to do is drive the boat, which is all he has ever seemed willing to do. We made the agreement, however, that we'd need at least five youth to sign up if the committee was going to take all of the time and go to all of the work to make sure it went smoothly. At the last minute, Capt. Jack pulled just enough kids together so that we were committed. When I arrived at the park today, however, it was a different story. Two of the youth who had signed up were not there. Only three kids showed up. One of the missing youth was accounted for. He was at his summer job detasseling corn and would be coming out later (later meaning about 2:00, which is one hour before we are scheduled to be done) but it seems Capt. Jack had him sign up anyway (although he wouldn't be present for any of the other activities) so that he would bulk up the number of youth present.
Then, at a quarter 'til 3, Capt. Jack took a boatload of kids out to go skiing. You can't do enough waterskiing in 15 minutes to make it worthwhile. He also took youth who he knew were depending on rides from some of the beach moms, thereby insuring that they could not leave at 3:00, either, as was planned. By an act of God they lost the rope, so they couldn't tow a skiier. But they still drove up and down the river looking for the rope, before giving up and coming in. Before the youth left, however, Capt. Jack let them know he'd be starting an hour earlier tomorrow and going a couple hours later. Once again he undermined the authority of the committee. We can't tell him that he can't bring his boat out to the public park whenever he wants to, and we can't tell him that he can't keep it there as long as he pleases. We can't tell the youth that they can't show up an hour earlier than the planned time, nor can we tell them they have to leave when the event is over. Really, we're kind of powerless in this situation where it seems Capt. Jack has manipulated us to get what he wants.
And I'm trying not to be bitter about it. Capt. Jack enjoys waterskiing and he wants to share that with the youth. He's giving of his time to come to the river for the same amount of time that many people put in at the office, to allow youth from church to spend time waterskiing on the river. Normally, when someone wants
to spend that much time with the youth at church, you definitely do not discourage it. But it just seems that he has gone about this the wrong way.
He expects everyone to do all the work while he just drives the boat. After we had agreed to help for the three day camp, and advertised that we were doing the three day camp, he went behind the backs of the committee members and started calling youth to come out every wednesday to water ski. Then he kept telling me that he expected me to come out and do Bible study every Wednesday. Now that we're actually doing the day camp, he tells the youth that he's extending the hours of skiing. It seems that Capt. Jack is getting what he wants, and we can't do much about it.
Reading through this post, I feel as if I'm being a bit too whiny. What are three days, really, in the scheme of things? So what if he spends a couple extra hours with the kids, outside of the planned day camp? Who cares if he still goes out every Wednesday to water ski? He likes to drive his boat. Why shouldn't he pull some kids behind him while he's doing it? Am I just being bitter and petty? After preaching this past weekend about the parable of the sower, how do I know what kind of seeds are being sown through this? The youth are seeing this older member of the church who is willing to take time out to tow them up and down the river. Who knows what kind of impact that is having? And here I am complaining because it isn't "what we agreed on." Who's being the hindrance to effective ministry here? Him or me? Or both?
Sunday, July 10, 2005
i be busy
I was under the false impression that when I got closer to the end of my internship that things would start to slow down. I thought I'd be much less busy and I'd get to kind of coast the last few weeks, and be able to focus on saying good goodbyes before I leave.
It's beginning to not look that way.
First, we have the upcoming Water Ski Camp. Basically, there's an older gentleman who loves to water ski. He has instilled that love in his children who have instilled it in their children, as well. One of his sons moved up to Wisconsin and was able to get the church he joined up there excited about the idea of a water ski ministry in the summer. Lots of youth participated, lots of parents were excited about it, and it has just gotten bigger from there. So, the older gentleman thinks that if his son can do it up at the church in Wisconsin, there is no reason why he shouldn't be able to do it here. And he's been trying for the past seven years. The first year or two got a lot of regular involvement. It met every Wednesday at 10 until about 2, and the youth who were in high school really enjoyed it. However, in the past seven years, excitement about and participation in the program has greatly decreased. Some of the youth mentioned that the gentleman in charge would yell at them if they couldn't get up on the skis as easily as he thought they should, and that he showed favoritism for the youth that already had water ski talent and would take them out in the boat more often than the inexperienced youth. Also, a few years ago our church had a youth drown in the river where the water ski ministry is held, granted it wasn't with the water ski ministry and there were drugs and alcohol rumored to be involved, but now parents are extremely wary about letting their youth use the river. Also, this man only wants to drive the boat. He thinks everyone else should be in charge of everything else. Someone else should provide the food, someone else should do the Bible study, someone else should plan the logistics. He'll just drive the boat. Granted, he's not a favorite among the youth ministry committee. Anyway, after he bugged and bugged the committee to do this water ski ministry, we decided to do a three day water ski day camp from 10 until 2, Monday-Wednesday of this week. We offered to take care of the logistics, food and Bible study. He agreed. Well, several weeks ago he started calling youth from the church to get them to come out to the weekly water skiing, bugging some of the church staff (i.e. ME) to lead Bible study every Wednesday (to which I said NO) and using permission slips with the church's name on it. There has been some brouhaha about that, and I think things are finally worked out, but I still have to lead Bible study for all three days of the day camp this week. When it came to that part of planning the camp, all eyes turned to me. There were no other options. But I guess that's what I get for going into this line of work.
We also have our last softball game this Tuesday, a church council meeting on Wednesday, and I preach this weekend.
Then, after church on Sunday I head out for the week to go take part in a youth leadership event. Early on in my internship I e-mailed the planning committee for this event, asking for information for my youth, but after offering a friendly introduction, of course. I got an e-mail response which directed me to their webpage, as well as a note that said they might ask me to be a staff member for the week. Well, sure enough, they did. And Supervising said that if I got about three youth to go, then I could serve on staff. I only got two, but Supervising said that was enough.
Thankfully, I don't preach the weekend after the leadership event, although I have four committee meetings in the span of three days, plus a youth service to help plan, and a council retreat.
I'm not sure what next month will look like, although Supervising is on vacation from Aug 1 until Aug 10, and my last day is Aug 14 (of course I preach that day!). Although I already know that those weeks will be consumed with packing and cleaning.
So yeah... So much for coasting to the finish. Although I suppose it's good to keep busy. Then I won't dwell so much on the fact that I'm leaving and eventually will have to say good bye. That part is gonna suck.
And, of course, I didn't give myself time to rest afterwards, either. Because less than a week after I move back to the Mother Ship, I'm going with a small group of classmates up to Northern Minnesota to the Boundary Waters to go canoeing. Then, as soon as I get back from that, I'm packing up and going to visit my parents, and also to preach at my home church. I have a long list of friends from back home that are feeling neglected and forgotten, so I need to make sure to go and visit EVERY SINGLE ONE of them, mainly because I want to, but also because if word got back to them that I was in the area and didn't stop to see them they'd be storming my house with torches. Then, I get back to the Mother Ship with two days rest before classes start. Ugh.
It's non-stop from here on out, folks. It should be exciting.
sorry for the mess
So... I was unwise and decided to change my template. I thought that I had copied my sidebar, so all I would need to do was paste it into the new template and that would fix everything... Yeah, that didn't work out as planned.
So now I have to go about the business of redoing my entire sidebar. I lost all my links to websites and blogs, as well as my visitor counter and my statements of welcome... So over the next few days I will be rebuilding all of that over there. Be patient with me, I don't have the patience to do it right now. But rest assured if your blog was listed over there before, it shall be listed again. And perhaps there might even be a few new ones.
Saturday, July 09, 2005
life's BIG questions
I guess you can say that lately I've been pondering the big questions of life. Questions that loom largely in the grand scheme of things. Unable to come up with acceptable answers on my own, I thought that I should share them with my blog audience. However, I'm not sure that some questions in life are ever able to be answered, but that shouldn't stop us from discussing them. Here are some of the questions I have been pondering:
Why is it that when you heat up raw hamburger on the stove or on a grill it is good to eat, but when you heat up raw hamburger because you left it on the counter in the sun too long, it is definitely NOT good to eat?
Why is it that when you warm up milk on the stove top or in the microwave it is good to drink, and is also said to help you relax and sleep better, but when you warm up milk because you left it sitting out of the fridge too long, it is definitely not good to drink, nor does it help you to relax or sleep better?
Why is it that when you forget about and leave a houseplant unattended in the corner of your house that it will wither and die, but if you forget about something and leave it unattended in the corner of your fridge that it most certainly does not die, but suddenly sprouts all kinds of new and thriving life forms?
Friday, July 08, 2005
they're after me...
One of the sometimes fun sometimes not so fun things about the Mother Ship is that they include interns on their mass e-mail list. That means that when someone announces something fun to the community through e-mail, such as an answered prayer or a birth announcement, that even those of us off campus get to share in the joy. That also means that if someone needs a ride somewhere or the long distance phone service will be down or they fertilized the lawn or some other little tidbit of information that doesn't impact anyone not on campus, we get that, too.
So, I was checking my school e-mail account and I read an e-mail that confirms my suspicions and paranoia. Luckily, however, the infiltrators did not know that I am not on campus. Here's the e-mail:
"There is a injured raccoon wandering on campus. Animal control said it was not unusual to see raccoons out during the day and it was best to leave it alone. Animal control only picks up animals that can be caught with a rope pole. DO NOT approach this animal. Call me if this raccoon seems to be acting strange and I will call animal control immediately."
I'm not sure how it got injured, but it serves those darn raccoons right for trying to torment me. Grrrr.....
Wednesday, July 06, 2005
REPENT! THE END IS NEAR!!!
Okay, so this isn't really a post about the Eschaton or the parousia or the rapture or anything like that (so, for all of you non-theology nerds, we'll interrupt this post briefly to discuss the theological terms just used... Eschaton is taken from the Greek word eschatos, which means last or farthest. It has to do with the final events in the history of the world or humankind. So, it means the end of the world. Parousia is taken from the Greek word pareinai which means to be present, and is used to describe the Second Coming of Christ. The rapture is what you're reading about when you read the Left Behind book series, when all of the good and righteous believers will be lifted up, leaving all of us sinners down here in our dirty squalor.)
Now that that is out of the way, back to the intent of the post.
It is getting down to where I can count on one hand the number of times I have to do certain things here on internship. Here is a partial list:
6 more Sundays
4 more sermons
4 more staff meetings
2 more church council meetings
1 more executive committee meeting
1 more softball game
1 more internship committee meeting
1 more newsletter article
1 more area clergy gathering
So, when you put it that way, I really don't have that much longer left here on internship. They always say that internship kind of flies by, but when you are looking at internship as merely a future reality, a year seems like a long time. But life in the trenches clips along at a steady pace. It takes a bit to get into the flow, but once you do, it takes you along pretty quickly. Before you know it, the end is near and keeps getting closer.
I was reading through my blog archives the other day, reliving moments from my previous year at seminary, like when I found out where I'd be going on internship. Then I got to where I blogged about moving to my new town, my first time assisting with a worship service at the church, my subsequent loss of a social life, when i discovered the vagrant in my furnace room, my constant struggles with Tom, various dillemas and discernment crises, various errors and bloopers I committed leading worship services, and all sorts of various and sundry stories and tales and remembrances. A lot has definitely happened this year.
Through it all, not only have I managed to cling on to my calling to become a pastor, but I believe it has gotten stronger. I've seen some of the things that ministry entails - good and bad - and really believe that this is where God is calling me to use the gifts and talents that I have been given.
So, yeah. My time here on internship is drawing to a close. Pretty soon, my blog will shift from detailing the experiences of an intern in the midst of pastoral ministry to a senior seminarian struggling through essays and interviews and exams and venturing into the waters of the first call process. I look forward to sharing continued adventures with you!!!
Tuesday, July 05, 2005
podunk gay pride?
I think, this previous week, that I experienced Podunk's version of a gay pride festival.
There were festivities: rock bands, a Blues Brothers tribute band, drum and bugle corps competition, carnival rides and games, and even a parade.
There was food: corn dogs, cotton candy, funnel cakes, elephant ears, turkey legs, cheese fries, smoothies, lemonade, soda, a lot of alcohol and more.
There were a lot of people: people on stilts, clowns, shriners in small cars, people in skimpy clothing, lots of tanned and toned bodies, people in outrageous costumes, a couple brave same sex couples holding hands in public, and a plethora of "carnies".
But the thing that topped it all of was the slogan for the event. Now, if someone from the area (or someone who has previously lived in the area) reads this blog, and still has no idea where I'm located, once I reveal the slogan for the event, all should be made clear. The slogan for the event, which is called The Petunia Festival, was:The Pink... The Proud... The Petunias!
It just seemed like quite the gay pride slogan to me. Everytime I heard it, saw it on a button, or thought of it, I would giggle to myself and wonder if anyone on the planning committee ever had that thought occur to them. For some reason, I doubt it. But it provided me with humor throughout the festivities. Plus, I can't complain because it's not everyday I get the chance to gorge myself on funnel cakes and cotton candy and corn dogs, and hang out in a spot which provides such great opportunities to people watch.
i've got church camp on the brain
My mind, lately, has been focused on things camp. It's summer, which by itself is enough to get my mind wandering and remembering my glory days as a camp counselor, but several of my bloggy friends have posted or commented about how they are headed off to camp this week. That sort of makes me jealous. I want to be out at camp!
I think when I graduate seminary and receive my first call into a church, I'm going to find out if they already take kids to church camp every summer and, if so, which camp they go to. If not, I'm going to do some local camp shopping, find which one I like the best, and then start pushing summer camp like crazy. If for not other reason then so that I can go to camp.
But seriously, I believe that church camp is an amazing experience. I don't remember the exact number right offhand, but a large number of people who pursue vocations in ministry have had church camp experience. Many people claim that it was at camp that they first experienced the calling to ministry. But even if it doesn't go that far, I've seen junior high youth arrive at camp at the beginning of the week, believing that they are far too cool to participate in something as uncool and lame as a sing-along at church camp. By the end of the week, they are singing and clapping and having a grand ol' time. I've seen youth get upset when their parents left them at camp, crying because they didn't want to be there, and then by the time the end of the week rolls around, they're crying because their parents are there and they don't want to go home. I've seen youth trade addresses and e-mails with other campers, so that they can all register for the same week the following summer. I've seen God work in amazing ways through counselors and campers and maintenance workers and kitchen staff and camp directors.
Of course, camp wasn't always a happy fun time. I've had homesick campers who do nothing but cry. I've had campers (during a 1st-3rd grade week) call me an f***ing idiot and kick, bite, pinch, and hit me. I've had two campers have bowel issues which I won't discuss any further. I've had campers lash out at other campers as well as counselors. But, in hindsight, those things don't seem nearly as bad as they did when they were happening. And besides, without those experiences, I wouldn't have some of my great stories that I love to share with others.
So, yeah. It's summer time. The weather is hot and wonderful. The days are long. I want to be outside leading kids on a hike or paddling a canoe across the lake or playing games in the pool or lounging in the shade of a tree leading Bible Study or jumping and singing camp songs around a campfire.
God bless church camps!!!
Monday, July 04, 2005
So, in a moment of frustration- or two, really, since I posted the first question and then added the second at a later time- I posted some questions that frustrate me.
The first one I have trouble understanding is how people can spew bile and hate out of their mouths towards others, and still claim to be proclaiming the Gospel - the Good
The second was why people are afraid of or threatened by the idea that God's love and mercy and grace are big enough for EVERYONE.
I believe that the answer to the first branches off from the answer to the second. I'll try my best to articulate the thoughts that I've been thinking about these questions, perhaps provide some insight, but I do not claim to know the answer to these questions.
I just finished reading The Great Divorce
by CS Lewis. It's a great, short read which illustrates an idea about what the afterlife could look like. Hell is a dull, dreary, lifeless city stuck in perpetual dusk. Heaven is a lush, vibrant, beautiful land dwelling in the constant promise of sunrise. Those living in Hell are allowed to take field trips to Heaven, where they are greeted by people whom they knew when they were alive and who are now living in Heaven. The residents of Heaven try their best to convince the residents of Hell to stay in Heaven, but the residents of Hell are often too strongly attached to their earthly ways and are unable to really see the grace and mercy and love that is being offered to them, and they almost all decide to take the return trip to Hell.
Many of the residents of Hell were inidgnant that certain people were allowed in Heaven and they weren't. They list all of the good things that they had done, and then condemn the life the other had lived. The can't imagine how someone "like that" was able to get into Heaven while they were sent to Hell.
And I think that's a big part of it. We try to stuff God's grace and love and mercy into a human sized box. We try to make God think and look and act like us. God thinks what we think. God loves only those who we love. God doesn't like anything that we don't like. We try to make God something that we are comfortable with, that upholds what we believe to be important. People who claim to know or believe in a God that is different than what we think God should be can be threatening. It's the slippery slope idea. If what that person says is true, we think, and God isn't necessarily in the image of a human male like I believe God to be... then what other things that I hold dear might be false? If I could be wrong in that instance, what else am I wrong about? And we, as humans, don't like to be wrong. We like to think we have all the answers. So, we'll fight tooth and nail to prove that the God we believe in is right. We'll pull out all the little bits and pieces of the Bible that support our arguments. "See!" we'll shout. "Right here Jesus says to address God as Father! Therefore God MUST be masculine!" or, "See! Right here, in these two verses, it says that what you are doing is an abomination. Therefore, it must be true!" To think that God might love and care for, and hope to bring unto Godself, even those people that we don't understand (or are afraid of) makes us uncomfortable. We, in our human minds, cannot fathom to think that people we don't like and don't agree with could find a place in Heaven, alongside the people we like and consider to be wholesome and worthy. It doesn't mesh with what we believe to be right and true and just.
Therefore, if someone believes in something that doesn't mesh with OUR beliefs, then it follows that their beliefs don't mesh with God's beliefs, too. Or if they behave in a way that we don't consider appropriate and moral, then they must be behaving in a way that God considers inappropriate and immoral, as well. Therefore they must be wrong. And if they're wrong, then they must be going to Hell. And because we've tried our damndest to stuff God into this box, and this small box is all we'll allow ourselves to see, we are able to believe that God is okay with it. God only saves those who act the way I act and believe what I believe. Of course "those people" will go to Hell. And they pull out their bits and pieces of Scripture and yell them outloud and believe that they are preaching what God wants them to preach. They think God wants them condemning people to Hell, calling people abominations and shunning others because they are different. They really think that what they're doing is out of love for the other, not out of hate or ignorance or misunderstanding or fear. They really think that they are proclaiming Good News.
In The Great Divorce
, if the residents of Hell are able to let go of the beliefs and ideas, that are most likely the reasons they ended up in Hell in the first place, they are given new bodies and are able to remain in Heaven. It is then that they see that everything that happened during their life on earth was actually a part of their time in Heaven and are able to see the joy and glory in everything that happened to them during that time. They also realize that the time they spent in Hell was not actually Hell, but more like purgatory. However, if they choose to go back and remain in Hell they keep their ghostly bodies and they see that everything in their life on earth was actually a part of their time in Hell, and they lose sight of the joy and love they experienced on earth and it is overshadowed by the sin and evil that they experienced.
Now, I am definitely not claiming what side of the bus trip I'll end up on. I deliberately used "we" in the above paragraphs as a way to remind myself of the ways that I put God in a box, as well, and try to make God into something I'm comfortable with. I know that it is not just the conservative evangelicals or any one type of Christian that is culpable of doing that. We all are at one time or another. But, I do see some correlation between what some people profess and believe and the distinction between Heaven and Hell in The Great Divorce
If we believe that God is a God of grace and mercy and love, then we can focus on the joy and love in every person and experience here on earth. But if we believe that God is a God of anger and judgment, constantly focusing on our sins, then it would be hard to focus on the joy and love in every person and experience because we would be focused on the sin and transgressions.
I believe that God is a God of love and grace and mercy and compassion that transcends all human hoping. I believe that God's greatest desire is that all of God's children be reconciled to one another and to God. I believe that God will not rest until all of God's children are gathered together, and I don't believe that God subscribes to the same exceptions of which we, as humans, are guilty.
So those are my thoughts and ideas concerning the questions. Feel free to add your own!
p.s. Happy Independence Day (to my USAmerican readers), Happy normal 4th of July to everyone else!
Friday, July 01, 2005
can someone please explain this to me:
How can some people be so full of hatred and bile towards people and still claim to be proclaiming the Gospel?
It's really something I don't understand.
AND another thing: Why do some people get all upset at the thought that God JUST MIGHT love everyone the way that they are, and that God's grace extends to everyone? Why are they so threatened by a loving, grace-filled God?
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