Friday, June 22, 2007

I am the Grim Reaper

I feel very badly. I have prayed for two people to die in the last two months, two people who are prominent Christian leaders, and they both have passed away.

A couple of months ago I saw Jerry Falwell on some television show spouting off his.. well..evil, intolerant, right-wing garbage and was getting angry as he was sharing about the importance of killing Muslims. In line with our inside joke, I turned to Jen and said, "I apologize for my people". (An inside joke: My people=right wing kooks, her people=every left wing nut job special interest groups.)A few moments later I said outloud something to this effect. "Lord, please just take him home. He has had a nice full life. Just take him home." A little over a week later I turned on the radio, and he was dead.

Having not learned my lesson, I recently prayed a similar prayer in a more compassionate sense. Having heard a rerun of a segment on Larry King Live with Billy Graham where he said that she was having a difficult time, and struggled to recognize anyone, I asked God in a brief prayer if he would take her into eternity. Less than a week later, Ruth Graham was also dead as well.

So, I feel a little guilty about Jerry, and not as much about Ruth. Strangely, although God does not answer all my prayers with expediency, this prayer when I pray it seems to have a grisly efficiency. Especially when I do this based upon an immediate, almost impulse-based prompting. And although these are the cases that stick in my mind lately, they are not the only ones. When led to pray for people in my congregations at certain times in this manner, they often die fairly soon after I pray this as well. With the exception of Mr. Falwell, these are all generally folks that are elderly and terminally ill.

Is this creepy or what?

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Finding my voice

I have a friend that studied to be a school psychologist in Montana. Toward the end of my time in Montana, she did a study on adolescent boys. At the time, much of popular thought was focused on the book "Reviving Ophelia", which is a tour de force of the perils of being an adolescent female in America.

Joy did her study on adolescent boys, and used the metaphor of voice change for boys as a metaphor of transition of boyhood to adolescence. One of the things that she found was that they also felt a profound sense of loss of their boyhood as adolescents. This was juxtaposed with this anticipation of this "new voice" they were growing into, and this since of hope that they could be the kind of men they hoped to be.

These days, I find myself seeking my voice in many ways.

Through a number of recent circumstances (for those readers that live in my proximity, it may include all of you, but this is not focused toward any one person individually), I have found myself struggling to relearn how to deal with conflict. Much of my work culture encourages me to swallow my voice in order to help other people function with less stress. My job is to keep my boss and constituents happy, and to chase the elusive dream of pleasing everyone. I have never felt good about this part of our organizational culture, but it has become painfully obvious to me that I have slowly surrendered to it without noticing. Sometimes I feel like I have slowly and imperceptably lost my voice.

Yet, when I try to assert myself in stressful situations I struggle to do it well. My face gets red. I get light-headed. I struggle with dealing with what I am supposed to say, and balancing that with what I want to say and what I honestly feel. And I intend to say one thing, but it sounds different when it comes out than when it was in my head. In some metaphorical way, my voice cracks. What I meant to come out strong yet compassionate instead comes out awkward and disjointed. My voice quivers with frustration.

I often notice in others that when they attempt to grow, they tend to overcorrect the shortcomings of the past. The friend that suddenly learns assertiveness wants to have a 20 minute conversation on how you shake their hand, or why you did not eat the potato salad they fixed and how that made them feel. Part of learning my voice in relation to assertiveness and leadership is not being like that person. Other people I know try to be super-nice and friendly, until they blow up in rage and frustration and anger. I do not want to be that person either.

Also, I have another confession to make. One brief conflict drains me of energy for hours. I had a heated discussion with someone this week about some of the things they were saying about other people I cared about, and it took me a good hour to calm down from the discussion. It so turned out in that conversation I held my own, and the conflict brought us closer. But, even a taste of pro-active conflict does not make me eager to seek out another tense conversation.

Having said that, I have come to the conclusion that learning to assert myself in a confident and healthy manner in interpersonal situations is an important part of the way God wants me to grow. I need to find my new voice, so I can move forward with strength.

What do you do?

I have a friend who used to be a children's minister before she finished her teaching degree. She and her husband had dinner with another couple (both couples were eventually in the small group I lead), and they began to talk about work. My friend's female counterpart was an upwardly-mobile accountant that liked to work for FORTUNE 5oo companies.

During their dinner conversation, I was told the accountant asked the children's minister, "Well...WHAT is it that you DOO all day." My friend fumbled to share a laundry list of small things she did to reach out to children, facilitate our church programs, and do ministry. She came to me, angry at the woman for being condescending, and angry at herself for not having a succict answer.

As she told me this I nodded and smiled. "I know what you should say," I said.

"What?" She replied.

"Say you are spending your life working to change our world by shaping children's spirits and values forever," I said, "Then ask very politely, now what is it YOU do?"

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Pulpit Rock Hike

This summer we are doing some hiking with our youth. We have a very kind man who has initiated this ministry, and it has been exciting to see him pitch in and get excited about a project tied in with youth ministry.

Our first hike, for most hikers, is an easy hike. Not so for me. I tried to hike it with my friend who is leading this hike, and was challenged. (I guess any hike for a fat asthmatic at high elevations during allergy season is a challenge) And since it was not the actual hike, I skipped the hard part. Last Sunday, we did the hike for real. We did not have a great turn out of youth (some folks were busy, some don't like to hike), but the folks that did come had a good time of a "prayer path" experience of hiking up the mountain bit by bit while praying as we went.

I was happy because I made it to the top, did not fall down (like I did on the practice run), and got to spent some quality time with the few people who wanted to show up.

Trip to Michigan

On June 1, I headed out to Michigan with Jen to meet her parents and go to a family wedding. It was a long, yet pleasant trip.

On the first day, we drove from the airport to her mother's house. On the way I got to see all the houses that Jen grew up in, and get a feel for the lay of the land. It was nice.

That evening we stayed at her mom's place. Her mom makes a mean barbeque, which is something I can appreciate.

One thing I noticed immediately about Michigan in relation to Colorado Springs was the size of the yards. Colorado (and Southern California for that matter) have such small yards compared to most of the yards in places like Michigan and Oregon and Kansas. In addition to the large yards, Michigan is a very green place. And, since Jen's mom's place was near a lake, it was especially green.

We left Jackson, Michigan for Sturgis, Michigan the next day. The wedding was in a very small town on the way to Sturgis in a beautiful park. Since her dad was not really in the mood to talk to me, and I did not know a lot of people in Michigan, I went around and took a few photos. Some of the pictures can be seen above.

Here is a pic of Jen and I at the wedding.

After the wedding we made our way to Battle Creek to see where my friend Steve Buie's family lives and where his dad pastors a church. Here is a pic of the church in "cereal city" right past the "majestic mile" (which we were told was not as majestic as it sounds). Besides being a former home of "Super" Steve Buie, it is also home to most of the cereals in the country, and the best, most hospitable and friendly PS Mart employees on the planet.

On Sunday we went up to Jen's dad and stepmom's place up in Midland, MI. We were immediately informed that in Midland there are the "Dows" and the Dow-nots", which is a reference to Dow Chemical having plants in town, and basically sustaining the local economy. We toured houses that Jen's dad has considered or is working on, as Jen's dad reconstructs houses as a hobby and to produce income in his retirement.

The house they are in now I would never leave. It is on a lake and absolutely gorgeous. Here are a couple of my pictures looking toward the house from the lagoon and vise versa.

On Monday, we headed to Belleville, MI to go to Jen's grandparents, and then out on the plane the next day. On the way we stopped at an outlet mall and a very large Borders store in an effort of Jen's to reward me for spending several days with her family. She is a thoughtful and kind girlfriend like that.

We also watched Knocked Up (funny because if you are under 40 you know people like all of the characters in the story, and because it pokes fun at most of our common fears about pregnancy and such), went to an Indian Casino that Jen used to deal blackjack at.

All in all, it was a great new adventure.

Friday, June 08, 2007

More bumper stickers

They that can give up essentional liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither--Ben Franklin

The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off

For every action, there is an equal and opposite criticism

Christianity might be a good thing if anyone ever tried it

Momma would be proud if she knew that....

Last week I drove all around Ann Arbor and the Detroit suburbs. And I live in Colorado Springs and drive in Denver quite a bit. Thus, when I read this fine article, I felt proud that I have not gotten a speeding ticket since the fall of 2003, almost 4 years ago. Yeah me. And, by God's grace I hope this pattern continues.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

New Bumper Stickers

Some titles include:



Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Digging Deep in the Walmart Garden

So, about a week ago, I decide to go to Walmart and look at getting a plant. I am trying to make my small deck more about beauty and prayer. Part of the plan is adding some plants to my little outdoor space, so that the space can be a small personal worship and reflection space.

So I looked, and looked and looked. After wandering around Walmart for a while, I decided to sit with Jen in the rocking chairs in the garden department. After exchanging pleasantries about how nice it was outside, how good it smelled, etc. I started to think about owning a plant. I told Jen, "I am not sure I am ready for the commitment of owning a plant. Owning a plant is a big commitment. First you buy the plant, then you have to repot, buy pots, soil, and so much more. Its a big commitment if you are going to do it right."

There was laughter, then there was silence.

"So what does that say about me ever having kids if owning a plant is too big of commitment." I said.

"Exactly" Jen replied.

And then we both laughed really, really hard.

Then, I went and bought a couple of plants.


Saying What Needs to be Said, But Should Go Without Saying           Racism is wrong. Violence based on racial prejudice is wrong. Christi...