30 April 2008

Wednesday Reflection: "Labor Pains"

We spent the afternoon chasing Ainsley all over the place: first, at the house, then we went to the park for a good long time. We’re pooped!

This parenting bit is some hard work. You get some awesome moments of happiness, to be sure, and I love being a Daddy, but this work is not for the faint-hearted or the uncommitted. We’ve been up several nights this week helping Ainsley sleep after major coughing attacks. We clean up the house and get all the food out of the carpet only to watch our little darling get it messy again as soon as she gets up. My wonderful book collection, so lovingly sorted by author and genre when we moved in, is a gigantic, haphazard mess because we don’t have time to put them back in order after Ainsley pulls them off the shelves. And let’s not even talk about what I’ve seen in her diapers, or the sheer amount of snot, spit and puke we’ve wiped up or absorbed on our clothes over the last fifteen months. No, being a parent isn’t easy – but nothing worth doing well is ever easy.

In tonight’s reading from the Gospel of John, Jesus talked to his disciples about the pain of delivering a child. He did get it right, you know: holding the new life in your arms drives all the exhaustion and pain right out of you. I should know: I didn’t sleep for almost twenty hours before Ainsley was born! J In all seriousness, Kristin did enjoy holding our little one almost right away when she was born, and the 30 hours of labor she had endured were reduced to almost nothing in that moment. But that doesn’t mean Kristin was ready to get up and dance in celebration. The joy of becoming a parent is beyond description, but it leaves scars and changes your life forever.

Living the life of Christian discipleship is much the same. When Jesus was telling his disciples about his coming death and what it would do to them, he knew they wouldn’t understand, because you can’t understand this kind of thing until you’ve actually lived through it. Jesus knew that the crucifixion would not be a “get over it and move on” experience; the disciples would be tested, pushed and pulled past their breaking point, and finally scattered and left to fend for themselves, before the resurrection would bring all things back into some semblance of restoration. But the resurrection doesn’t reverse the effects of the crucifixion: the scars remain. The resurrection was the joyful end to a terrible ordeal, and, like a parent with a newborn child, resurrection joy can never be taken away from those who follow Jesus Christ.

You’re in the crucible of your semester: it’s Dead Week, finals are looming and while the end is in sight, there is much to be accomplished before the work is completed. You’re delivering the fruit of four months of gestation, if I might stretch a metaphor to its breaking point. There are probably days when you feel like just walking away from it all and settling for the anesthesia of happiness instead of the deep joy that comes from an ordeal such as this. I pray that you won’t let that happen. There is great joy and grace to be gained in going all the way, in following along the hard and narrow road and not taking a side trip onto Easy Street. I won’t commit the heresy of comparing your semester to the ordeal of the crucifixion, but I will ask you this: in grace you’ve been set free to serve God – wouldn’t a fully committed, 100 % push to the end of the semester be a fine and fitting way to offer praise to the God who gave you this opportunity in the first place?

Wherever we are, whoever we are, our lives mean more if we live them deeply, fully committed, going all the way. Yes, the road can be hard. Yes, living this life fully can be painful. But you do not live this life alone, and you do not live it without help. Your savior Jesus Christ has gone all the way before you, that in Him you may have peace and joy – even in the midst of your toiling. Be blessed friends, and work, for Christ has called you here to give it all you’ve got. Don’t settle for anything less. Amen.

28 April 2008

Parallel Principles of Performance

Yeah, yeah, so I love alliteration. Deal with it. :-)

Being a Husker fan has been an interesting thing this year. Being a Husker fan and making a roughly concurrent move with a new Husker regime has led me to do a lot of reflecting on leadership principles. When you're reading articles about Bo Pelini and Tom Osborne and the change they bring to a belaguered program (not that I'm saying the Lutheran Center is beleaguered, mind you), you can't help but examine your own performance and principles.

I like a lot of what I read about Tom Osborne and Bo Pelini. They both seem to have that ability to evoke the best out of people without browbeating or psychologically exploiting them. Of course, growing up playing football in Nebraska, I once dreamed of playing for Dr. Tom, but genetics got me there - I stopped three inches short of being tall enough to play O-line for the Huskers (by my admittedly less-than-scientific judgment). But there's a lot to learn from these excellent coaches and leaders of people all the same.

Like Coach Bo, I'd love for people to feel like I speak bluntly, with passion, without animosity except where "my kids" are concerned. Like Dr. Tom, I hope people someday see me as a man of impeccable integrity, humility and energy for helping others. Are these traits I can embody as a minister? I think so. Much of what I do is comparable to what Coach Bo does - I, too, train young people to give their best efforts, albeit in a much different arena and with a few thousand less screaming fans. Much of what I do is also comparable to being an athletic director - making schedules, promoting the program, finding people who will be a good fit in certain spots. There's a lot to be learned from the coaching world, good and bad, and I'm lucky to have two stellar examples to follow as a dedicated Husker.

Your thoughts? Folks you emulate from other professions that are similar to your own? Please add them in the comments!

27 April 2008

Out of the Mouths of Babes...

In an act of extreme kindness, the youth group of Lord of Life Lutheran Church (the ELCA congregation using our space for their home) prepared water bottles and goodies for our college students. The cards they included with the water bottles were, well, interesting (read: "that'll blog."):

Now, just so you know that the lunatic fringe didn't totally take over the project, here's one of the numerous "nice" cards the students made for us:

See, this is when the church is awesome - when we do things in great love for one another. What a morning!

St. Olaf Choir - Praise To The Lord

For this Sunday morning, a song of praise that never fails to bring tears to my eyes.

Praise to the Lord, O let all that is in me adore Him.

All that hath life and breath come now with praises before Him.

Indeed. Amen.

26 April 2008

Sulking on Saturday

It's been a heckuva week since last I posted. I neglected to mention on Friday's post that two technological items without which I would not want to live are the wet/dry vacuum and the dehumidifier. I mention this because we've had the two of them going non-stop since our basement flooded sometime Thursday. Yup: new carpet, new pad, all kinds of stuff soaked because yours truly was an idiot and forgot to plug the sump pump back in after fishing out a drill bit that Beloved accidentally dropped into the sump pit. Not my best moment. So, instead of spending Thursday afternoon writing the sermon and prepping for tomorrow morning, we spent it hauling wet carpet pads out of the basement and hitting all our cement floors and such with the wet/dry vacuum. That means I spent Friday getting ready for this morning's Senior Retreat (including a session at 8:00 PM last night) and the sermon is woefully not done.

But I can't write right now. It's just not coming. So, I'm going to veg in front of the television and go to bed, to rise early and knock out a Sunday Special. We'll see how it goes.

Because I spent last night working at the office, I also spent last night fretting about this morning's retreat (for no good reason, as it happens - the retreat went very well) and thus my idiot brain refused to shut down until well after midnight.

AND we didn't get a morning paper. Grrrrrr.

In addition, due to said Senior Retreat, a very pregnant wife and a very demanding child, and the love I bear for all of them, I didn't get my 10 miler in today. That got bumped to tomorrow afternoon. But I DID mow the lawn - at least, the part people see when they drive past our house.

Thus endeth the sulking. Good night.

25 April 2008

Technological Friday Five

Yesterday I had two separate conversations in which people were musing about how much change is occurring. The WW II generation, of which my mom is a part, went from horse and buggy to automobiles, saw the lessening, or even the end of many diseases, went from widespread use of kerosene lamps and outhouses (in the country, and most folks were rural)) to a totally electrified and plumbed society. The fastest means of communication was a telegraph. The second conversation--gulp--was about MY generation and how much change occurred in the last half of the 20th century. The person said his 13 year old had not seen a vinyl record album until a few days before, couldn't remember a time without cell phones, and on and on.

As for the questions!

1. What modern convenience/invention could you absolutely, positively not live

My iPod. I resisted getting one for quite some time, and now I’ve no idea why I would do such a thing. It is my companion on the treadmill, driving to conferences, riding the bus to the office. Errands around the house? NPR Podcasts make a great soundtrack. BUT I’ve noticed that it can definitely separate me from the world around me, so I try to abstain from using it too much around the family. That having been said, we definitely enjoy car trips with a couple episodes of “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” to pass the miles!

2. What modern convenience/invention do you wish had never seen the light of day?

I don’t have a problem with cell phones, but I could really do without text messaging and Blackberries. There’s something anti-social about watching our students stop in mid-conversation to tell someone “LOL.” On my way back from Nashville a few weeks ago, I spent a good portion of a plane ride watching an officious, overweight businessman flaunt FAA rules with his Crackberry; I wanted to rip the damned thing out of his pudgy hands and throw it into the toilet.

3. Do you own a music-playing device older than a CD player? More than one? If
so, do you use it (them)?

Nope – but we do own a car with a tape deck, no CD player. We use a trusty “tape with a cord” for a portable CD player or my iPod. My parents bought a stereo about ten years ago, and they had to look long and hard to find one with a vinyl record player for all their old Statler Brothers / Peter, Paul & Mary / Herb Alpert records.

4. Do you find the rapid change in our world exciting, scary, a mix...or something

Nothing, really – technology, as wonderful as it can be, is only a tool. The 42” plasma TV we were lusting after a few weeks ago remains a dream, and that’s no problem for us. When it becomes a problem, then we know that we’re putting too much value into our stuff.

5. What did our forebears have that we have lost and you'd like to regain? Bonus
points if you have a suggestion of how to begin that process.

  1. The joy of creation. My great-great-grandfather built much of what he used with his own hands. My grandparents were accomplished cooks, toolmakers, toy-menders, etc. I would love to be more of a creator and far less the consumer that I am.
  2. The rhythm of life. I truly believe we are meant to follow the seasons and the sun, and electricity, with all its benefits, does give us the false impression that we are the ones in charge of our lives.

Now, as to how we can begin the process: start creating, start listening to the world around us. When the sun goes down, I try to go down with it – I’ve been known to spend some time in the basement with only one lamp by which I read, and I find that I sleep much more soundly when I do so. I try to make my own food as much as possible, and to find ways to fix and reuse the stuff we own rather than just pitching it and buying something new. It’s just a start, but it feels like I’m being a better steward by doing so. AND sometimes technology can play a part, too. After all, downloading the latest Chieftains CD to my computer and my iPod doesn’t use any natural resources: no plastic for the CD and jewel case, no paper for the insert, etc. The issue is really stewardship, not the ethics of the things themselves. Or so I think as I sit here blogging and listening to Pandora via my computer – good stuff, eh?

23 April 2008

Wednesday Reflection: "Grounded and Centered"

“[Wisdom] is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her;

Those who hold her fast are called happy.” Proverbs 3.18

“…there is no place in you for my word.” John 8.37b

In the final chapter of The Centered Life, Jack Fortin tells how a group of church folks, lay and clergy, gathered together to “identify what is needed in congregations to help people connect Sunday with Monday to Saturday.” [1]

The group made a drawing that represented “the congregation in its present state. Then the same group created a drawing to illustrate their vision of how they would like to see the congregation’s presence in the world. You have them in front of you right now – which do you think is which?

The longer I do this pastoring business, the more I’m convinced that our God and our faith have been far too small for far too long. It could be that when we begin the journey of faith, God is one element within the many facets of the life we live – but if God remains just one part of our life for too long, everything else begins to crowd God out, until, finally, the words of Jesus become true: there is no longer a place within us for Jesus, God’s word.

I’ve had a little of that going on in me lately. I’m not experiencing the kind of faithful angst that Mother Theresa faced, but it’s somewhere around there. For whatever reason, God and I aren’t particularly close at the moment. I don't doubt or feel like I'm straying or anything like that, but at present it feels like a good friendship that has gone dormant for some reason. Maybe it's the parenting thing - I certainly don't have a lot of peaceful moments right now, and when I do I tend to sleep right through them. But our rootedness is coming in different ways in this new call, and I think we're still figuring them out, and part of figuring things out is figuring out where God is in all this newness in our lives.

Losing God’s presence is not an easy thing to experience on your own. You try to make time for God in the rest of your busy life, until you begin to feel stretched and out of sorts, like the rest of your life is pulling you away from God (or God is pulling you away from the rest of your life) and things just don’t fit right. This is why the ‘tree of life’ image on the right is so brilliantly done. If you look close, you’ll notice that the figure is actually lots of little people together in one body, and everything is a part of that body which bears fruit.

Part of our calling as the body of Christ is to live as the body which bears fruit for one another, and sometimes we keep each other going just by being here. One major change that’s coming in the church is a willingness to meet each other where we are broken, where we struggle, where we’re frustrated, and hang in there together, openly, vulnerable, able to give each other life simply by being here together. By sharing in each other’s joy and sorrow, love and remorse, we become vessels of the Spirit to each other, through whom the love of God becomes active and real, present in tangible ways throughout every waking and sleeping moment of our lives.

While I’ve been walking in this somewhat bewildering distance from God, I’ve been drawn into this fellowship of forgiven sinners and found a place of welcome. I may not be particularly close with the Father at the moment, but I do feel the presence of the Spirit of Life here, keeping me connected with the Father and the Son through the community of faith, and for that, I’m grateful. You’re being stretched at the moment – classes, papers, work, family and many other things are clamoring for your attention. But the tree of life that grounds you in faith isn’t one of the many voices calling for your attention – it’s the wisdom of the faith community, reminding you that you are grounded, centered and swept up into the everlasting love of God. I pray for your peace, as I know you pray for mine – God bless you all as you finish out the semester. Amen.

[1] Fortin, Jack. The Centered Life. © 2005 Augsburg Fortress, Minneapolis. p. 92.

22 April 2008

Hi, I'm Scott - this is my blog...

It's been more sporadic blogging lately. I don't know why, precisely - I'm just not feeling as inspired to write and reflect at the present. That doesn't bother me so much, but I've not been reading blogs as much, either, and that makes me uncomfortable. So many people have great things to say, and I'm not giving them an audience they deserve. Anyway, I'm going to stop playing Scrabulous for a bit and tell you what's up here in Ames.

Speaking of Facebook, it's been kinda fun suggesting friends and having them suggested to me. I've connected with a few old friends and lots of new ones, and I've kept in touch with some folks from our previous calls as well. Scrabulous, though, is definitely the best thing about Facebook.

Ainsley continues to be a wonderful blessing to Kris and me. Having learned some basic children's signs, she can now ask for food, help with various things around the house, and lots of other stuff. I took her to the pediatrician on Monday, and all of a sudden she started signing "Baby." Then she pointed to the picture of a mother and baby on the cupboard above my head. Talk about a proud moment! Then she asked for milk and food to eat and we proceeded to enjoy a snack together in the examination room. I've remarked more than once to Kristin that she may not be talking yet, but she is communicating, and it's a lot of fun.

I've picked up my training for Grandma's Marathon, which is two short months from yesterday. *gulp* We've joined a gym in Ames and have been putting our membership to good use - in the 23 days of April I've gotten in 13 workouts, and that includes my trip to Nashville when I was so tired from the long travel days that I just slept in. In the past week alone I've lost two pounds - hopefully I'll keep losing weight and approach my goal weight of 190 lbs. for the marathon. If I'm going to make it under 4 hours I'll need to cut the weight. On Monday night I enjoyed my last bit of ice cream until my birthday, and I've eliminated the late night TV snacks as well. We'll see how it all goes, but I'm pretty happy thus far.

Is it me, or does it seem like God just flipped a switch and spring came ON? We went from cold and rainy and even snowy to green and warm in less than twenty-four hours, it seems, and I'm loving every minute of it. So is Ainsley, who now asks to go outside several times a day (when she's not already out there, that is). We were definitely feeling cabin fever the last few weeks of March, and apparently we weren't the only ones: either Ames is home to the highest per-capita percentage of runners in the world, or everyone's out feeling their oats this spring.

Watched a neat little program last night on NOVA: Tom & Ray Magliozzi, aka Click & Clack the Tappett brothers, hosted The Car of the Future. It wasn't as funny as I'd hoped it would be, but damn, as soon as Tesla comes out with an affordable plug-in I'll be first in line. That sports coupe they are building right now is HOT. Here's a video promo for the show that also shows the Tesla AND Ray's beloved '52 MG:

Good stuff there - brought to you by Dewey, Cheathem & Howe, naturally.

In book news, I've finished the Irish Century series by Morgan Llywelyn. 1999: A Novel of Ireland and the Search for Peace was the last and, unfortunately, very disappointing. After the Halloran family was so deeply involved in the republican cause for most of the century, watching them watch the rest of the century happen was very much underwhelming. You just never got the sense of the historic figures in 1999 like you did with Padraig Pearse, Michael Collins and even Eamon de Valera in the earlier volumes. That having been said, it's a worthy series with much to recommend it, even the final volume. Now I'm looking for good books on ancient Irish history, Brian Boru and the like, and not necessarily historical fiction, so if you've got suggestions, please send them my way!

Campus ministry continues to feel like a good fit for me, and I'm very thankful for the opportunity to work with and for these young people in our community. It's just incredible to watch them live and study and work and grow and become who they're becoming. Jan E at A Church for Starving Artists had a post about her church and their struggle to be a better community for each other - her frustration hits why I feel called here squarely on the head. I did NOT become a pastor to churn out confirmands and pray at every church supper - I'm here to help people ask the questions for themselves and learn what it means to be a disciple of Jesus every day for the rest of their lives, to never stop growing in faith, and in campus ministry I feel like I can really put that passion to good use. As I said a while back, it's good to feel useful again.

Well, that's the news from Ames - blessings to you all!


17 April 2008

Thursday Coffeehouse Update

I'm not having a good afternoon.

Mind you, I'm not having a bad afternoon - but I'm beginning to feel like I've been surreptitiously cast in a Mr. Bean episode. I walked into Panera at 2:00 p.m. It's now 2:30 and thus far I've gotten bupkis done on the sermon this week. But I have:
- found my favorite table, right next to the fireplace (essential on a cold, rainy day like today).
- spilled a good portion of my first cup of coffee because said table was wobbly.
- fixed the aforementioned table with several trips to the counter for napkins.
- spilled coffee again because I didn't actually fix it as well as I'd thought.
- taken two more trips back for napkins and, finally, fixed the table.
- answered the comments from the guy at the next table who also hates wobbly tables.
- fired up the trusty laptop.
- dropped my Bible on the floor.
- hit my head on the wobbly table while bending down to pick up my Bible.
- discovered that my laptop battery is low and, unfortunately, I'll need to move because no outlets are open in the vicinity of my favorite not-so-wobbly table.
- walked around for several minutes looking for an open outlet.
- found an outlet, moved all my stuff, bent over to open up my laptop & hit my head on the low-hanging table sconce.
- knocked over the other chair at my table while piling my jacket & bag on it.
- finally gotten my computer set up, coffee refilled, Bible opened and ready to go.
- sat down & discovered my chair is wobbly. At which point I burst out laughing.

You could ask, "Why are you writing away from your office in the first place?" Well, I've discovered that when I'm at the office, it's really easy to be distracted by housekeeping details and never get any writing done on Thursdays. I spent the better part of the morning working in the sanctuary: cleaning out the old sound booth, setting up the pews (which are still out of order after being moved for renovations last summer and fall) and cleaning & reordering the sacristy so that we can start using it again. This is stuff that needs doing, mind you, and it's part of my unspoken job responsibilities to be the building caretaker, but I can't do it ALL the time. Unfortunately, there's a part of me that would rather spend my time finding new ways to organize the cleaning closet and replacing lightbulbs instead of doing the hard work of proclamation. There's a different kind of creativity that's needed to create order from the chaos that is this building, and it's a creativity that appeals to me, but the primary reason I was called to be a campus pastor was NOT to change lightbulbs and reorganize closets.

I made a promise to myself that when we moved here, I'd spend more time meeting people than I would "nesting." I did pretty well in that regard - it took me two months to get all my files into the filing cabinet, and I didn't get my posters and degrees hung on the wall until last night. I've spent the time I would have spent organizing my books, etc., getting to know folks in the community and learning about stuff here, and it's paying off already. After all, knowing which folder contains my Ancient Hebrew History notes from UN-L is far less important than knowing that Susie's grandpa is sick or Pastor Inquist has been a strong supporter of campus ministry in the past.

We had a great ecumenical prayer service last night. Some of the students at the St. Thomas Aquinas Center were doing a cardboard city sleepout to raise awareness for homelessness and poverty relief, and I sort of invited ourselves to worship with them instead of holding our usual service at the Lutheran Center. About eleven of our students and the same number of RC folks stood in the Campanile and joined together for song, prayer and just a little bit of preaching from yours truly. We talked about doing a joint sleepout next year and getting more Lutheran Center folks active in the ONE Campaign at Iowa State, which would be really cool since I'm a ONE campaign member myself. Good times with our brothers and sisters from the RC church, especially with Papa Ratzi having come to America yesterday.

So, that's the news from the coffeehouse, and since I've managed to avoid hitting, dropping or bumping into anything for a while, I think I'm safe to get back to work now.


13 April 2008

Sunday Morning

Coffee's hot - I've read the paper. Was going to put together a manuscript for the morning's sermon but thought better of it. Today I'm about knowing "To which voice are we listening?", and I'm going to try to listen more than talk at folks this morning. Got a fun little exercise put together to start it off: a CD with a dozen or so "voices" from pop culture - Darth Vader, Homer Simpson, etc. Who knows which voice? How do we know the voice of Jesus when it speaks and calls us? It's about holy conversation today, I think - thus all week I've been thwarted every time I've sat down to write a manuscript. Could it be that sometimes, when you've been faithful and the words still don't come, it's a sign that this is not a "preaching at you" kind of week? I dunno, but it feels right for today, so I'm going to run with it.

Spent all day yesterday out and about. Drove to Cedar Rapids for our Iowa Lutheran Campus Ministry Committee meeting, which was fun. As I was heading out of town at 7:00 I thought to myself, "this is why campus ministers work too much - so much of what I do is really enjoyable!" Almost five hours behind the wheel was a good "check-out" time for me; listening to a book on the iPod and just driving is almost meditative, even when the book in question is an almost-bodice-ripper like World Without End (seriously, I could do with less descriptive "sex among the peasants" and more plot, please!) Upon returning, Kristin and I got dolled up for a night on the town. We went out to eat (Panchero's for burritos and Cold Stone - YUM) and then took in the play Doubt: A Parable at Actors Community Theatre here in Ames. Following the performance I moderated a discussion between cast and audience, which was great fun and a neat opportunity to introduce myself to the local theatre group. You just might see me in a production next summer, assuming we can emerge from the mountains of diapers we'll have changed by then.

So, that's the Sunday morning story. Blessings to all as you preach, hear the gospel, receive the Sacrament and worship together in God's name.


11 April 2008

Moving Friday Five

We are right in the middle of a move--only twenty minutes away, but we're still a mix of busy, excited, nervous and surprisingly full of grief about what we're leaving, for me at least. So this week's Friday Five asks about your experience of the marvels and madness of moving...

1. How many times have you moved? When was the last time?

Let’s see – from birth to 18 I never moved. Not once. My parents farm less than a mile from the farm where my great-grandfather was born. I’ve always thought that was cool. But since 18, I’ve moved quite a lot – eleven times, which doesn’t count several “non-permanent” moves to summer camp, my CPE site, etc. The last time was January, when we moved from Minnesota to our present home in Ames, IA.

2. What do you love and hate about moving?

I don’t love anything about moving – it’s a big pain in the tuchus, if you ask me. I hate everything in boxes, how something essential always goes missing, and the sheer annoyance of it. I wouldn’t be surprised if we stayed put here in Ames just to avoid moving again until it’s time for the next call.

3. Do you do it yourself or hire movers?

The policy in the ELCA has moved toward movers, and I’m pretty happy about that. Sure, there’s the hassle of the moving truck and strangers handling your stuff, but really, do you want to move that incredibly heavy oak entertainment center all by yourself? Really? Okay, great – can you come take mine next time, then?

4. Advice for surviving and thriving during a move?

LET THE MOVERS DO THE PACKING. We tried to save money by packing up non-essentials this last time: books, summer clothes, etc. The movers packed our boxes into their boxes and still charged us for it. They’re professionals, and they know what works – let them do it. Besides, you save yourself a lot of hassle that way!

5. Are you in the middle of any inner moves, if not outer ones?

Yes – several, in fact. Parent of one child to parent of two. Renter to homeowner. Caretaker chaplain to visionary campus ministry leader. Minnesotan to Iowegian. You name it, it seems to be changing for me lately!

Bonus: Share a piece of music/poetry/film/book that expresses something about what moving means to you.

Well, there’s Under the Tuscan Sun, which is one of the most gorgeous movies I’ve ever seen, and it’s all about new starts, etc., but it doesn’t really say anything about what moving means to me. There’s a song by Storyhill that might hit it a little. I’ve always been a homebody – someone who needs to sink roots deep to be truly nourished, and when I’m away from those rooted places for too long I can tell that something’s not right. So when Storyhill sings Absaroka Air I can understand what they’re saying – there’s both the loss of home and the hope you can find it again. Hope you enjoy it.

10 April 2008

The Torch and Truth-telling

Okay, first of all, I've NOT been following all the news related to the situation in Tibet closely. That having been said, the events of the past few days regarding the Olympic torch, the Tibetan situation, and public reaction have been pretty incredible.

One gets the feeling that the IOC is experiencing a significant level of buyers' remorse at the moment. No matter how much the Chinese government promised to do / pay / construct to make the 2008 Summer Games successful, the price of negative public perception is hard to overemphasize, and I hope with all my heart the IOC will start paying closer attention to more than just the bank sheet from now on.

The folks in charge of the actual torch run made, I think, a serious mistake in re-routing the run yesterday. True, the disruptions in Paris and London were significant, but it seems to me that route-gerrymandering doesn't solve anything, and takes what is already a rapidly emptying gesture and deflates it even more.

No one benefits when a forum for public commentary is pre-emptively dodged for fear of the consequences. We're lucky that protesters didn't take out their frustrations on each other or, even worse, the innocent who simply wanted to see the torch.

Some have complained that making the worldwide trip is a farce in the first place, that we should return to the prior tradition of simply leaving Greece and traveling directly to the host country. But the route isn't the problem - it's the host country, stupid, and pretending otherwise looks foolish and rather pig-headed.

I'll admit that I really love the Olympics - the spectacle, the drama, the passion, all of it has remained even after the doping scandals and everything else that could tarnish it. But I'm wondering if I should watch this year. Stuff like what happened yesterday doesn't help me make that decision, but it certainly reveals the passion behind the protest and the determination of those in power to carry on with their agenda no matter how ridiculous the truth shows that agenda to be.

09 April 2008

Checking Back In

Yeah, it's been a while, I know.

Last Wednesday I pretty much wore myself out getting campus ministry stuff done and preparing for a four-day trip to Nashville for the ELCA Campus Ministers' Gathering. And between travel and the gathering itself, it's taken me until today to really feel like I'm beginning to catch up again.

My desk is a disaster right now. For a compulsive neat freak like me, that's a HUGE problem. I do not like all the clutter, because when things get cluttered things get dropped, and I do not want to be dropping events, etc. in the days to come. So, tomorrow is a desk-cleaning day, made all the more simple because my administrator will be out of town for a funeral and I'll likely not be disturbed.

I'm really thankful that I went to the gathering, though - it was well worth the time away from family. Well, almost. I caught up with some friends I hadn't seen in years who are still doing great work in campus ministry, and made a bunch of new friends, also. I got some great new ideas for our own campus ministry, and heard about some spring break trips for next year that will be really great (Lutherstadt Wittenberg, here I come!).

Being Nashville, we heard some wonderful music, of course. For starters, we heard a presentation by Pastor Becca Martin, an Episcopal priest and director of Magdalene and Thistle Farms. She was incredible - passionate about her ministry and the uncertainty that comes with doing it. Her husband heard we were in town and said, "Hey, why don't I go down and play a song or two for them?" So he did - we got a free two-song concert by Grammy Award winner Marcus Hummon, writer of Closer to You and God Bless the Broken Road. Not bad when you can get it. AND I learned that if one Peter Mayer is good, two is even better. This Peter Mayer, who moonlights as Jimmy Buffett's lead guitarist, is as good a musician as the Peter Mayer of Minnesota / Blue Boat Home fame. Unfortunately, this Peter Mayer doesn't have any youtube videos, otherwise I'd post something. But you can check out his excellent Lutheran rock (including a song attributed to Luther Seminary's own Dr. Rollie Martinson) at petermayer.com.

Unfortunately, air travel added a lot of tension and very little relief to my trip. I'm enjoying flying less and less each time I have to fly, and at this point I'm seriously considering driving to anything less than 8 hours away for the near future. I spent all day Thursday and all day Sunday in airports, and believe me, the only thing I like to do in airports is walk out the door. Combine that with seats next to the lavatory on a tiny commuter jet with lousy snack service and you've got a recipe for extreme annoyance. I will say this, though: the airline staff were all marvelous. I don't know if they're trying to be kinder and gentler now that their profit margin is getting squeezed more and more by gas prices, but whatever it is, I got way more smiles and hospitality than I'd expected, and that did make for a much more enjoyable experience. Still, next time it's behind the wheel with a good book on CD to keep me company.

I'm discovering more and more that the major drawback to campus ministry is time away from family. I expected this, so it's not surprising, but it's hard to stomach at times. Kristin told me that the second day I was gone, Ainsley walked to the front door and made her "guy with the hat" sign, which was her way of asking where I was. When she told me that over the cell phone it was all I could do to keep from sprinting to the Nashville airport and begging for the next flight home - I missed my girls that much.

So, that's the post-trip report. Today is the anniversary of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's murder at Flossenburg Prison Camp, so we're doing a Bonhoeffer video tonight in chapel - thus no reflection will be posted. See you soon, friends. God bless.

03 April 2008

Off to Nashville

I'll be at the ELCA Campus Ministers' Gathering in Nashville until late Sunday night. May or may not have wireless access, so you may or may not hear from me this weekend. Blessings, all!