On the road

July 24, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Admin 

I’ll be on the road with the church youth group trip to Montreat from Saturday the 26th through Saturday the 2nd.  Blogging will likely be non-existent during this time.

See you next month!

OH. Hmmm.

July 23, 2008 by · 5 Comments
Filed under: Religion, Youth 

This weekend, I’m off with 3 other adults, 2 college students, and something like 8 or so high school youth to the Montreat Youth Conference (week VI) at the Montreat Conference Center in (you guessed it) Montreat, NC.

I’ve been a little nervous about this trip.  So much so that I think I’m annoying our youth director with questions, which he is patiently answering.  I don’t have any good reason to be nervous.  I trust the youth director and the other adults going on the trip.  The college students and youth going on the trip are great and I expect fewer than average problems with them or their behavior (as compared to what I read on Youth Ministry websites).  I’ve heard nothing but good things about the place and the conference from a large number of people.

I’ve been telling myself that the reason that I’m nervous is that the last time I went to a church youth conference was the Youth Triennium in 1986 – when I WAS a youth.  That I was just worried about whether the 40-year-old air-conditioning-loving, out-of-shape, used-to-sleeping-in-his-own-room me could keep up.

While shaving this morning it hit me.

Triennium wasn’t the last time I went to a church youth conference.

Several months after Triennium, I went to a weekend retreat sponsored by some of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship’s NJ chapters.  Here’s what I wrote about that previously:

Back in 1986, I was a freshman at Rutgers University.  On the first day, I was wandering around campus looking at the booths that various student organizations had set up.  One of them near the Busch Student Center was for the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.  They were giving away ice cream.  I figured that as a rather religious person (at this point I was already a deacon and serving on two Synod committees) I should take a look and find a campus christian fellowship.  The local Campus Crusade for Christ seemed too fundamentalist for me, so I tried out InterVarsity.

I have since learned that different chapters of IVCF fall into different places on the  liberal/conservative spectrum.  This chapter was VERY conservative.  One of the first Bible studies on campus taught me that I should not be a friend to any Jews unless I was actively trying to convert them to Christ (“be not unequally yoked”).  Other lessons were similarly extreme.

In October I took a retreat with them for a weekend in the woods.  It turned out to be a very cult-like situation for me.  The 48-hour retreat turned out to be (as experienced by me) 24 hours of telling me
how terrible my beliefs are, and then once I stopped fighting them, 24 hours of pouring in their own beliefs.  As expected, those beliefs were strongly conservative.

Fortunately, my personality turned out to be strong enough to resist such tactics.  I made the right noises and they stopped treating me as the “resisting” attendee and moved on to other people.  Once I returned to campus, I never went back to their group again.  And as I wrote before, this was the first step in my turn away from the church

This hit me like a ton of bricks today.  My last experience traveling away with youth to a place foreign to me was a negative one.  While I’ve done some overnights with the youth in the past year, those were either at the church or at Camp Johnsonburg where I felt very comfortable and always knew that I had the ability to leave (since it was at home or I was driving my vehicle).  I wasn’t miles away from home without control over my movements.

Having realized what has been going on in my head, I feel much more comfortable now.  I’m shifting rapidly from nervous to excited.  This is going to be fun!

It’s amazing how things from your past can influence the way you perceive the present.  Not a new lesson for me (by a long shot), but a newly reinforced lesson.

If you or anybody you know will be at Montreat for 7/27-8/1, leave a comment or send an e-mail.  I’d love to say Hi.

Identity Concern, part 2

July 22, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Life 

About a month ago, I posted that the Bank of New York had lost my Disney shareholder information, and was offering credit monitoring.

Last night, I got a call from Chase questioning a charge on my credit card for over $7,000 on the Internet.  Somebody had my card number.  They didn’t have the correct expiration date so the charge didn’t go through.  Chase closed that account and is issuing me a new card.  I’m stuck until I get the card – even expedited (which they did because I’m traveling this weekend) I still have to wait until Wednesday.

It’s a good thing I have another card with a different bank.

I’m wondering whether there are other questionable charges on the account.  I can’t see the account online because they closed it.  I’m also wondering how they got my card number.  I do this for a living – at my employer I’m the most likely IT person to handle a credit card fraud investigation.  But it’s still a pain when it happens to you.

What’s going on

July 18, 2008 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Ham Radio, Life, Religion, Youth 

My blog has been quiet, and light on what’s going on in my life.  Most of that is due to the Sword of Damocles question about what I should write here.  (By the way, more input is desired in the Bible Study on blogging.)

Here’s a short roundup of what’s been happening and what is going to be happening.

  • Car Accident – This happened back on June 20.  As I said before – minor damage and no injuries.  My car has been repaired.  I’m apparently at the beginning of the subrogation process – my insurance company has decided that I’m not at fault and has submitted a claim to the other driver’s company.  The other driver got a ticket for Careless Driving, so it should be an easy decision in my favor.
  • DirecTV – I have two DirecTV DVRs.  One of them developed hard drive problems and was randomly rebooting.  That has since been replaced for what amounts to Free.  It was just a pain, but much less of a pain than expected.
  • Deacon – I perform my first deacon duty this weekend.  I’ll be putting juice and iced tea on the table in Fellowship Hall after the service.  As one other blogger said, “They also serve who stir and pour.”  I’ll be greeting in August, and Officer Training and Installation will be in September.
  • Camp Johnsonburg – I’ve assisted twice with Sunday check-in.  Once I was a medical check person for the “no medication” line, and the other time I managed the medical form paperwork process (an all-paper process that is a bit labor-intensive for 200+ campers).  I was pleasantly surprised to run into one of my youth group members checking into the camp’s Leadership Training Program (a 3-week program that is essentially Counselor training).  I’ll be back again in August for one more Sunday.
  • Youth Group – I drove the youth mission trip to and from Philadelphia where they stayed at and worked with Broad Street Ministries.  By all reports a good time was had by all and several report transformational experiences.  I’ll be going with the youth group trip to Montreat for the Youth Conference (week VI) starting next weekend.  I’m a smidge nervous about that – the last time I did a week road trip with a bunch of youth was my trip to the Presbyterian Youth Triennium in 1986, when I was a youth.  I’m hoping that a mostly out of shape 40-year-old can keep up.
  • Birthday – it was quiet, which is the desired result.  I didn’t ask for much, and the presents that I received were thoughtful.  I got a lot of cards with old people on them for some reason …
  • Ham Radio – I participated in the national Field Day at the end of June.  I was only able to help set up in the morning and operate for a few hours in the afternoon.  This event is when amateur radio clubs and individuals all over the country set up their equipment in the field (we were at Mercer County Park) and demonstrate their ability to operate in an emergency.
  • Home, Wife, Cats – all about as good as usual.

Blogging will be non-existent between July 25 and August 3 or so due to the youth trip.  It may be light until then, unless I think of something compelling to say.

I am 39 and 366/366ths

July 16, 2008 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: Life 

Yep, it’s that day.

This year my birthday is a day for reflection.

This is the first year that my body is starting to get creaky.  In the last 2 years I’ve gotten reading glasses and I’ve learned how NOT to move my muscles suddenly when I’m just waking up.  I’m aging, but generally healthy.  It could be worse.

This is also the year that I realize that some doors have closed.  There are just some things that I could have done, but which I can no longer do because I didn’t take that side of the fork in the road.  There are things that I never could have done (I was never going to be an NBA star).  There are things that I have done.  This is the year that I realize that there are things that I didn’t do, and the opportunity is gone.  I don’t regret the decisions but it’s sad to see the closed doors.

This past year has also been a rough but fruitful year.  I spent a LOT of time outside of my comfort zone.  In some ways that has paid off.  In other ways I’ve bounced off some metaphorical walls at high speed.  Some of this has produced personal growth and a lot hasn’t.  Ironically, most of the “new” things in my life are actually a return to a part of my past.

I have made a number of new friends in the past year both locally and nationally.  I cherish those friendships.  I have been able to help a few of these new friends with their lives and goals and that is gratifying.

Probably the most rewarding part of my life in the last year has been my work with the youth group at church.  I love our kids, and watching them grow has been wonderful.  Sunday evenings have been a very bright spot in my life.

Life with Carolyn continues to be wonderful.  I think we’ve reached the beginning of the “growing old together” stage of life.  It’s good.  Every day I learn something new about her (or gain a new story – there are LOTS of those) and yet we know each other so well that we’ve reached the point one or two words speak volumes.  (“Do you know where …” – “Here you go” – and it’s exactly what she was looking for.)

And our cats are still as snuggly as ever.

It could have been better, and it could have been worse.  One more year in the books.

p.s. –  Happy Birthday, Harry!

Young Adult – not anymore

July 8, 2008 by · 4 Comments
Filed under: Life, Religion, Young Adult 

Next week, I have a birthday.  This birthday ends in a zero, and puts me at the upper limit of what the PC(USA) denomination considers a “young adult”.

(Note – this is not a call for well wishes or gifts.  However, my e-mail address is in the column on the left if you are so inclined.  🙂 )

Carolyn and I are in a strange spot.  We are childless by choice, and at that age where most of our friends are having children (or in some cases have children as old as teenagers).  We don’t quite fit in the world of folks “our age”, because we aren’t sharing the same experiences.

At the same time, we’re not finding that we have a ton in common with the folks who are behind us in years but also childless.  These are the true young adults – the not-yet-married, the under-40-not-gonna-get-married, and the married-without-children.  Don’t get me wrong – I love my friends in this group.  It’s just that I feel a little different from them.  Carolyn and I have been married for over 13 years at this point – most of the young adult friends that I have aren’t married at all and those that are haven’t been married quite so long.

I’m also feeling my age.  My hairline is headed north at a rate faster than average (thanks to my family tree, it seems).  I’m starting to feel creaky in places.  I need reading glasses sometimes.  My mother was apparently more dismayed than me last December when she noticed the amount of gray in my hair (well, what’s left of my hair) – and the implications for her in having a son with gray hair.

I think I’ve crossed the line.  I don’t feel like a young adult anymore.  If we’d had children I’d probably have crossed the line at least 5 years ago.  I now find myself saying and doing things that my parents used to do – I catch myself saying “Shoot.  I sound like my parents”.

Each person crosses this line in their own time.  I know folks over 40 who are still young adults at heart.  I know folks under 30 who are no longer young adults.  I just get this feeling that some time in the last 5 years, I crossed the line without noticing.  I’m noticing now because there will shortly be a zero in my age.

And it’s just as it should be.

Bible Study on Blogs

July 7, 2008 by · 14 Comments
Filed under: Religion, Weblogs 

This post and its comments are the online home for this Bible Study on blogging.  I hope that each of you will contribute.  If you wish to contribute anonymously, just e-mail your words to me and I’ll post them under whatever identification you want (or none).

The basic question that we’re covering is “what does the Bible say about blogging?”  This was prompted by a bit of a dustup that I’ve had with some members and staff of my congregation over things written by me on this blog.  So a sub-question is “Can you or should you ever post negative thoughts or facts about your local church on a blog?”

So far we’ve got two sides to the question (hey, most of us are Presbyterian!):

Post only what builds up the body of Christ – Coming from 1 Corinthians 13, but also from most of Paul’s letters and strong support from the Gospels is the concept that we should blog in love for our fellow humans.  That we should blog only what builds up the body, and avoid that which would cause disruption.

Criticism that is intended to promote right action is valid
– In this case, Galatians 2 is the key, particularly the narratives of the discourse between Paul and the Jerusalem leaders, and Paul’s rebuke of Peter.  Here, it’s clear that speaking truth to power (church leadership) and then writing about it to a larger group of 3rd parties has happened in Scripture.

Overlaying all of this is the injunction in Matthew 18:15-17 – if you have a disagreement, take it to the other party.  If that doesn’t work, take a few friends to the other party.  If that doesn’t work, tell it to the church.  If that doesn’t work, write the other person off.  One question here – in terms of blogs, what is the definition of “the church”?  The local congregation?  The denomination?  The entirety of the Christian blogosphere?  Or all believers in Christ?

Another question is whether or not the rules are different when speaking of people that you see weekly in church vs. the greater church (the denomination).  Can you speak more harshly about those who you disagree with simply because they don’t sit in the same sanctuary with you on Sunday?

I welcome your continued thoughts.  I plan for this post to be the home of this discussion.  Please put your thoughts in comments, or e-mail them to me to be added.  This is a Bible study, so let’s focus on Scripture.

Just talk to me

July 2, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Religion 

Sara, commenting in another thread, tells me that there are members of the congregation that I belong to who read my blog solely to make sure that they aren’t mentioned.  So far, only one person has talked to me about this – at the prompting of the pastor.

There’s a simple remedy for this that is already being used by the one person who spoke to me.

TALK TO ME

Just tell me that you would prefer not to be mentioned on this blog.  I will promise that I will avoid mentioning you or events involving you, and if I am unable to do so I will at least clue you into the fact that I’m writing about X (whatever it may be).

If I am called to follow Matthew 18:15-17 on this matter, then others are called to do the same.

Support – does it have to be for everything?

July 1, 2008 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Religion 

In an off-blog discussion about churchy things and blogs, the following question came up.

Can you support the church, but not support absolutely everything the church believes or does?  Can you be critical of the church on a specific issue while still supporting it in general?

This has implications at all levels.

The concept is central to my personal blogging dilemma – can you criticize the local congregation on a blog?  Are you being unsupportive by being critical on one issue, or do you have to evaluate the entirety of your reactions/words/writings about the congregation?

It also has implications about unity, purity and peace within the church.  Can you disagree with what another church member or congregation or presbytery is doing, but still be a supporter of the church?  Does your support of one or many facets of the church require the support of ALL facets?

Or are we stuck with absolutes:  Never criticize your congregation in public.  Never criticize the denomination.  If the church or even one member does or says something that you disagree with, you have to either leave or force the member or church to stop.

This reminds me of an old story.  A woman was talking about her husband to their children.  This man, living in the St. Louis area, was subscribing by mail to the Mountain Mail newspaper of Socorro, New Mexico.  When she was asked why, she explained that he used to subscribe to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, but then they printed something he didn’t like in an editorial and he canceled his subscription.  He tried the New York Times, the Chicago Times, the Washington Post, but canceled them all when he read something he didn’t like.  He was now forced to get his news from this tiny newspaper many states away.  And she wasn’t even sure how long this paper would survive with him.

What do you think?  Is forbearance required?  Do we have to put up with hearing a certain amount of criticism of ourselves and our institutions?  Or are we supposed to unquestioningly support our church?