1. From Lorna: Where do the names of your daughters come from?
Ainsley's name comes from this television moment:
We fell in love with the name "Ainsley" when we both realized we remembered this character from the West Wing, a show both Kristin and I loved long before we even knew each other. When she was born, we had two names: Ainsley and Madeline, and we thought we'd just see which one suited her best. It wasn't even close: she was Ainsley from the start.
Alanna's name comes from my sojourn through The Irish Century series by Morgan Llywelyn, which I read voraciously in the space of about a month earlier this year. The series is historical fiction, following a family from the sinking of the Titanic in 1912 through the peace accords of 1999. As I was reading, someone called their child "Alanna," and then explained that it means "dear one" in Gaelic, and I was hooked. Kristin loved it, too, and this time we really never had a "second" name - she was Alanna even before she was born. The funny thing is that "Alanna" is the feminine form of "Alan," my dad's name, though we didn't know this until after she was born. Alanna's full name is Alanna Sophia Faye, and Faye is my mother's middle name, so she is named for both her paternal grandparents, completely by accident.
2. From p.s. (a.k.a. purple): I am a Big 12 Alumna and enjoy the sports, but here is my question: please explain Huskermania?
The state religion of Nebraska? It's hard to explain. Do you mention the fact that there are no other Division I colleges in Nebraska? No top-level professional teams, either? A small population base, in a state often referred to in derogatory tones, unified behind one of the few characteristics almost everyone agrees is a superior element of said state? A history of excellence few football programs can rival, which supports other excellent teams (like the Nebraska volleyball team, which might be the only program in the country with an even more unlikely rate of success)?
Do I also mention the Cornhuskers were the only team to defeat the Four Horsemen of Notre Dame in the 1920s, and we did it twice? That we've sold out 295 straight home games, a streak extending to 1962?
Oops, you said explain Huskermania, not display it. Sorry. :-)
3. From Shalom: What three books have been most important in your life?
1. The Bible (natch)
2. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
3. Ooooh, now it gets tough. I think I'm going to say Cujo by Stephen King. Not because it's his best work - it isn't, not by a long shot, though it is very good. I'll choose it because I was in 4th grade when I picked it out of a bin at a garage sale, completely on a whim. It was the first "grownup" book I ever read, and I never went back to children's literature, though I have enjoyed some of the better stuff, like the Harry Potter series, Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising sequence, and His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman.
5. From "a faithful reader from Minnesota": If you weren't a pastor, what could you imagine your occupation/calling might otherwise be?
On my "I could be a guy in another profession that requires advanced education" days, I think I'd be interested in teaching English at the university level.
On my "this job sucks like an Electrolux" days, I'd do just about anything to work for a landscaping or lawn care company. Ride a mower all day, outdoors, or plant the occasional flower/bush? You betcha.
Thankfully, I don't have many of the Electrolux days.
6: From Erik, one of my college roommates: On a more serious note, something I was going to ask you about is, how did you decide to go into campus ministry? You have mentioned several times that you are enjoying this assignment. I always had you pegged as one who would want to work with high school youth, so this is a bit older of a crowd than I thought you would enjoy. Thanks to Him, I think you are exactly where you ought to be.
I've felt a calling to campus ministry for quite a long time, but I should note that when Erik and I were sharing a dorm room, I was coming off two summers of church camp and really starting to think that maybe the ministry, not music education, would be my calling. At that time, I wasn't particularly involved in campus ministry; that came later, though Erik and I of course stayed close for quite a long time after we lived together.
I'm not opposed to the thought of doing youth ministry, but it seems as though it wouldn't be the best fit for me these days. I'm married to a youth & family ministry professional, and she has forgotten more good youth ministry stuff than I'll ever know or put to good use; it's a calling that requires some incredible gifts and a LOT of patience. I don't have a lot of the latter, so perhaps it's for the best that I'm in a slightly different place now.
6a: Another couple of questions: Did you ever think you would find true happiness in Iowa, of all places?
6b. After all of the bad things we said about those Iowa football and basketball teams, do you find your allegiance strained a bit?
7. And from my brother, Brian: How do you approach your role as developing future leaders of the church (and I'm not talking about the ones with M-Div's)?
I'm still figuring it out, truth be told. It's one thing to tell our college students they'll be "out there" in churches someday; it's another thing to sit down and help them find those churches and take up leadership there. I think a first step is to delegate, delegate, delegate: get people on board with projects and let them loose to make it work. A micro-managing pastor is a terrible blow to any ministry, but I think in campus ministry it can be a death knell. We do a piss-poor job of involving youth in our denomination: if campus ministry continues the trend, it dies - pure and simple. Beyond that, I think, it's a matter of opening eyes and expanding awareness. That's why I like our national campus ministry mission statement: "Expanding Minds, Deepening Faith, Inspiring Service." Three elements of growth in a ministry where growth is the primary currency? Brilliant - and we need to emphasize it even more than we've already done.
And for the adults in the room:
Bonus question from Shalom: I'm tempted to ask my favorite James Lipton question: What's your favorite swear word?
The F word. By far. Nothing compares to dropping an F-bomb when you just gotta let loose. But boy, you gotta be careful; it's like playing with gasoline in the wrong company.