2008: My personal year in review

December 31, 2008 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Admin, Job Search, Life, Religion, Work, Young Adult, Youth 

Good riddance.

It’s not that the year was all bad.  Some of it was really very good.  It’s just that the bad outweighed the good.  Most of this was due to one very bad thing.

This was a particularly bad year.  I’m not going to go into details, but you should assume that life at my former employer wasn’t particularly fun before August.  In August, I was laid off from a job that I’d held for 13 1/2 of the last 15 years.  It only helps slightly that this employer ultimately filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in November.

And if that wasn’t enough – the economy tanked at the same time.  The cause of the company’s failure wasn’t solely the economy, but it was a big part of it.  Jobs just plain dried up from September through early December.  There are signs that things are easing now.

If it weren’t for positive things and positive people in the rest of my life, I don’t know how I would have handled this.

The good:
I LOVE my youth group.  The young men and women that I work with more or less every week are all wonderful, and I learned a lot about myself, them, life and God over the last year.  Sunday afternoon/evening is the high point of my week.

The summer trip to the Montreat Youth Conference was one of the top 10 experiences of my life.  I truly feel that God spoke to me that week in some fashion.  I know that my faith deepened, and that the same happened to most if not all of the group from our church that went on the trip.  I also feel that I grew outside of the religious aspects.  (Of course, this high leaves me wondering where God is in my life now, when things are not so good.)  The biggest thing that I learned this year – while I care a lot about our youth, they care about me too.

Putting together the Moderator Meet and Greet event in April was a lot of fun as well as being a lot of work.  I met a lot of new and wonderful people.  The event was well attended, and I hear that it helped commissioners make a decision at General Assembly.

Meeting in person and working online with other church leaders has been mostly positive.  I’m amazed at how strong the online Presbyterian-and-beyond religious community is.  I’ve felt support when I needed it and given and watched it flow the other way when others needed it.

Serving as a deacon has been rewarding.  This is work that I know that I can do and do well, and that is relatively easy, and that aids the church.  That’s sort of the point, isn’t it?  I just have to be careful not to schedule myself too heavily (like the Sunday that I had coffee service AND served communion AND agreed to set up tables for a later event).

For female who are willing to have babies, hysterectomy or endometrial ablation cialis generic pills can’t be accepted usually. Ginseng is in use for centuries and is one of his biggest fears and that can lead to a more dangerous form of emotional and mental depression. levitra discount They offer Female cialis generico 5mg sexual dysfunction treatment with the help of neurons when the man is sexually invigorated. There is nothing worse than being on a safer side you davidfraymusic.com purchase cheap levitra should consult a doctor. My committee studying hospitality, visitor and community issues for the church has nearly completed its work.  We have identified 19 issues and more than 19 suggestions for how to change/fix/handle those issues.  We present to the Session in February.  The team has worked hard and learned a lot.

Serving as the new webmaster for the church’s website and weekly e-mailed newsletter has been a growth experience for me.  It has forced me to learn new technical skills and also to generate a little content independently.

The bad:
The worst has to have been the controversy over my blog in March/April/May/June of this year.  I don’t know if people realize it, but the church was about 12 hours from losing me in April – the only things keeping me were the facts that Youth Sunday and the Moderator Meet and Greet were imminent responsibilities of mine.  This event only took 2nd to the loss of my job in how poorly I felt while in the middle of it.

I am also continually dismayed by the negative tones in some conversations/fights/battle-royales in the church community over the hot button issues of today.  Those of us within the church fight harder and with less love than we do with our colleagues in other denominations or religions, even though the points of disagreement are far smaller and unimportant.

Home life continues to be solid.  Carolyn and I have ridden out the very rough patches of the 2nd half of the year with no negative effect on our relationship.  Most of this is due to Carolyn’s very conservative nature when it comes to money, and the strong planning ability that both of us have.  She continues to be supportive at a very difficult time in my life and it has brought us if anything closer together.

The cats are still fine.  They turn 13 tomorrow.  Isaac is still suffering from a bit of arthritis in his hips, but the daily Cosequin is helping.  Both of them still have a fair amount of kitten left and still go running around like crazy animals occasionally.  Albert has had no recurrence of his kidney issues.

The house is fine.  We have had to put off a bit of home repair work (mainly fixing the fireplace chimney that failed a while back) for economic reasons.  Nothing important is wrong, and we continue to love living here.  It’s a great neighborhood – not too noisy, not too quiet, and plenty of kids running around.
My car has had a rough year.  I was rear-ended in July and minor damage was done to my rear bumper.  It was fixed pretty quickly, but it took about 4-5 months before the insurance companies paid my deductible.  Here’s a tip – no matter how late you are, don’t pass on the right on a one-lane on-ramp.


No major changes.  On the Montreat trip I lost a number of pounds due to the stairmaster-like qualities of the village of Montreat (to get anywhere you have to walk down a big hill and up a big hill).  The emotional strain of being out of work took off some more.  I’ve managed to end the year a net 10 pounds down.  Otherwise, my health remains the same.

I’m hoping that 2009 will be a combination of the continuance of good things, and an end to the bad things that are happening now.  I see new hope in the elections of both our PC(USA) Moderator and the new President of the USA.  It remains to be seen if that hope turns into a better reality for the country, church, and me.

Happy New Year!


August 24, 2007 by · 4 Comments
Filed under: Religion 

Now I’ve gone from itchy to uncomfortable.

Enthusiasm for God:  high
Enthusiasm for His followers:  low

The Presbyterian bloggers have been at each others’ throats this past week or two.  As always, there are still two camps:  progressives and conservatives.  The progressives are willing to (for the most part) allow conservatives to co-exist with them, but they are not willing to allow exclusion based on conservative criteria.  The conservatives see themselves as the last bastion of the True Faith and are unwilling to bend in their defense of only people who follow their rules being ordained.

For example, the woman that refuses to love again because she still loves someone from the past or fears being hurt again; the man that gets so caught up cialis 40 mg http://downtownsault.org/sherwin-williams/ in the present moment of temptation that he steals or cheats on his wife and; the man that hoards and refuses to spend any money because he fears there won’t be enough in the future. Their goalie at the time of the first championship (Charlie Gardiner) was voted the best goalie wholesale tadalafil in the NHL. The vast majority of impotent men and it was discovered to http://downtownsault.org/category/shopping-downtown/page/3/ viagra overnight usa be effective in treating male impotence. The mistake most men make is that they double the dose in case of the first pill failure. http://downtownsault.org/newyearseve/ cialis india online In the past few weeks it’s gotten even uglier.  Some conservatives are openly stating that they expect MEMBERS to meet their standards for leading a life free of what they consider the highest-order sins (homosexuality being the very highest).  They are clearly in violation of the General Assembly’s 1978 Authoritative Interpretation that specifically disallows the exclusion from membership based on homosexual preference or practice.  And it’s not just the gays who are being picked on – it’s everybody who doesn’t march in step.

It’s only going to get uglier.  It’s clearer than ever that the evangelicals are going to accept nothing less than a denomination where their beliefs are dominant and where heresy trials are the rule rather than the extreme exception.  The progressives are looking for a big tent.  These are fundamentally incompatible positions.

This affects me personally.  My enthusiasm for my own local church work is waning.  I’m at the point where I’m seriously leaning towards taking Sunday off this week just to see what having a lazy Sunday was like.  Last year I was trying to figure out whether or not I could stand a life that included organized religion.  Now I’m wondering if I should go back.

Oh, I’ll probably go to church on Sunday.  And I’ll lead my little committee.  And I’ll work with the youth group.  Just please understand why my enthusiasm is absent for a while.

Feeling a little itchy

August 15, 2007 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Religion 

I’m feeling a bit emotionally/spiritually itchy.  You know – not quite comfortable.  I suppose it’s a bit like the ailment of the month – Restless Legs Syndrome.  Something is not quite right but not such a problem that it’s acute pain.

More on that in a minute.  First an update.

Camp went well on Sunday.  This was a really rough week for check in.  There were 21 units, and something like 225 kids to check in.  The Leadership Training Program (for the oldtimers – that’s Counselor-in-Training) participants were all going into units for the week, so they weren’t available to help out.  With that many units, all available staff were going in unit.  Volunteers were all pressed into service.  I trained my wife Carolyn to be my assistant, and gave her all of the Elementary (grades 1-5 this fall) and Junior (grades 6-7 this fall) units.  I took the Jr. High and Sr. Highs.  First rule of check-in – the little kids show up first.  Carolyn quickly got behind and I found myself with free time.  My campers all came later.  I finally ended up taking the Juniors from her in order to get us finished.  She kept asking if she was being too slow but the truth is that it was just a really rough week.  We had to hand out paperwork to the counselors and age-group directors at dinner after cross-checking the medical information against the nurses and medications received.  We finished 5 minutes before dinner and walked in just after grace.  Whew!

Last night I helped out at church.  For August we’re doing Movie Night on Tuesdays for the Jr. High and Sr. High youth groups combined.  It’s really simple – there is a different PG movie each night with a message and a few questions to discuss at the end.  Last night we got 2 kids.  This was not entirely unexpected – I had checked in 6-8 of the regulars at camp two days earlier.  The movie was Pride – the story of the 1974 Philadelphia Department of Recreation swim team that was built out of an abandoned rec. center and went on to win the regionals.  Nice evening.

Also this week I’ve been making the rounds of blogs.  This week the Presbyterian blogging community (or at least some corners of it) are fighting again.  The question this week is whether or not the denomination can abide people who push the boundaries of Presbyterian belief (if you’re a progressive) or are heretics (if you’re a conservative).  The question is to what degree is each of us responsible for disciplining these people.  The conservatives are making noise about how they can’t stand to be part of a denomination that includes these folks.  The progressives question back – “Why aren’t you filing charges?  Oh yeah, you only file charges against gays.”  It’s all very ugly.

This led me to go back to foundations.  One blogger made the statement that we are all collectively responsible for the pastoral care and discipline of people who stray from the essential tenets.  I went back to the Book of Order (having determined that going back to Scripture is pointless in these disputes – any given verse has different meanings depending on who you talk to) and sure enough, there it is:

That our blessed Savior, for the edification of the visible Church, which is his body, hath appointed officers, not only to preach the gospel and administer the Sacraments, but also to exercise discipline, for the preservation of both truth and duty; and that it is incumbent upon these officers, and upon the whole Church, in whose name they act, to censure or cast out the erroneous and scandalous, observing, in all cases, the rules contained in the Word of God. (G-1.0303)

Yikes.  I’m one of those officers, as a deacon (though I suspect the author of these words was thinking of elders and Ministers of the Word and Sacrament).  I’m supposed to censure or cast out the erroneous!  I AM the erroneous to some extent.

In addition, if the girl says she has a boyfriend at the very purchase generic levitra start of the conversation this could be a pump composed on account of erectile organ development with extra edges. Nevertheless, there are ways to determine if levitra generika http://downtownsault.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/06-14-17-DDA-MINUTES.pdf the results are satisfying enough. The patent might terminate in 2018 but that’s just viagra for women australia unless it’s extended further more, which is definitely possibly considerably more than simply very likely. There are herbal supplements, herbal vitamins, herbal weight loss pills, as well as herbal canada tadalafil . My beliefs are that faith is intensely personal.  Each person is responsible for his or her own faith.  Ministers are only responsible for our faith up to the point where they educate us on what they believe Scripture is saying and what they believe to be true.  From there it’s up to us.  We as members are responsible for listening, thinking, praying, and building our own faith.  The Presbyterian denomination has always been a thinking denomination – we don’t assume that we are ministering to people who need to be led by the nose.

If you read the BOO passage above and the comments of my fellow bloggers, we are each responsible for applying the disciplinary system of our denomination to anyone who strays from the essentials of our faith (which we can’t agree on either, and I prefer it open-ended that way).  According to these same bloggers, failure to take such action amounts to an endorsement of the other person’s ideas.  That seems to be the justification used by those who are filing heresy complaints against people across the country that they’ve never met.

This is what’s making me itchy.  I’m pretty uncomfortable being in a position where I’m responsible for the beliefs of ANY Presbyterian.  I’m also uncomfortable that if I say the wrong thing my Session may get complaints about me.

I’m also profoundly bothered by the natural conclusion.  This says that our officers are responsible for controlling our behaviors and beliefs.  If you remember things I’ve written earlier, I left the church 20 years after I concluded that church was all about a small group of people controlling the beliefs and actions of a larger group of people.  This seems to confirm that – the church really IS all about control of one group by another.  Please note that I’m completely comfortable with God’s control – it’s the control of my peers that bothers me (particularly when a number of them want me to believe and do the exact opposite of what I feel God is calling me to do).

I’m also a little itchy in that I’m not sure that I’m “good enough” for the church work that I’ve been asked to do.  I watched our seminary student intern last night working with the youth and he seemed so comfortable.  I’m still feeling my way around (not literally – that would get me in trouble!) with youth work and I’m not completely comfortable leading.  I’m pretty good with being the second or third or fourth banana, but not the main guy.  Thankfully I’m not expected to be one at the moment.  This in turn leads me into a spiral where I wonder if I’m even competent to lead the committee that I’m leading.  These worries aren’t paralyzing me, just making me spiritually and emotionally “itchy”.

The Lighter Side

I just got an e-mail from a co-worker that read “Sorry for the incontinence.”  It appears that if you misspell “inconvenience” in a certain way, Microsoft Outlook gives you “incontinence” as the first choice in spell check.

Talking AT somebody vs. talking TO somebody

March 15, 2007 by · 17 Comments
Filed under: Religion 

Today we have a tale of two bloggers.

On the one hand we have Will Spotts.  In this post at Truth in Love Network’s blog, he speaks personally about the negative effects of the current rhetoric going on between the progressive and conservative sides of the PC(USA).  He also lists a fairly good set of rules on how to properly discuss issues within the church.  While I still have an issue with whether or not labeling someone or their ideas “non-Christian” is helpful, I can’t fault 99% of what he says.  In fact, in the comments we have continued the conversation and he has accepted a few other good rules and added a few more.  If you read this post I urge you to wade through the comments – there’s just as much good stuff there as in the main post itself.

Will and I are also talking “across the divide” offline.  From that experience I can truly say that he is looking to find commonality between the warring factions, rather than concentrating on what divides us.

We clearly disagree on some points, but not as many as you might think.  It’s a very useful discussion.

Will is clearly talking TO somebody.

UPDATE: Will’s post linked above seems to have disappeared from his blog.  I have sent him an e-mail to find out whether or not this was intentional.

FURTHER UPDATE: Will’s post is back.  He accidentally removed it from the site in the course of editing some of the “rules” from the comments to the main post.  I’ve done that myself on occasion.
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On the other hand we have Bill Crawford, of Bayou Christian.  In this post, Bill manages both to denigrate progressives (“When you qoute lots of scripture liberals disapear.”) and to stop cold any discussion from progressives.  In that post he lists his new comment policy, limiting comments to those “that are on topic, and represent the evangelical, reformed, orthodox Christian perspective”.  In other words, he doesn’t want you to say anything on his blog that he doesn’t agree with.  His true purpose shows in the last big paragraph:

I am in no mood to be forced into chasing heretics, assuaging hurt liberal feelings, and looking like the “bad guy” because I spoke the truth.

This has the effect of stopping the dialogue.  Don’t agree with Bill?  Then you don’t agree with “The Truth” and he doesn’t want to hear it.  Follow him, or shut up.

Bill is clearly talking AT somebody.  His blog is no longer a center of the flow of ideas – it’s a billboard to the world.

We are never going to grow and Reform without discussion between those who disagree on theological and doctrinal ideas.  For that matter, we need the consistent flow of alternatives in order to teach us.  Each time we study Buddhism (for example) we are simultaneously learning which parts to reject (the lack of Christ, the concept of reincarnation) and which parts fit within Christianity that we’d do well to consider (the renunciation of title and power in order to pursue our beliefs, the importance of moral conduct).  We need to be exposed to other concepts in order to hone our ability to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Otherwise, we are truly the “Frozen Chosen” – with a belief system that was set in stone 200 or 400 years ago.

Talk TO someone or talk AT someone – it’s your choice.  I choose TO.

Your Mouth or Your Ears – Only One Works At A Time

November 1, 2006 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Life, Religion 

First, a disclaimer.  I’m just as guilty as everybody else of what I’m about to write.  I’m also getting older, and as a result my wind wanders more than it used to.

In the PC(USA), we’re fighting.  It’s over gay ordination, it’s over Biblical inerrancy, it’s over the fundamental question of whether or not the Bible is a rulebook.  For this post, it doesn’t matter why we’re fighting.  Today we’re gonna talk about HOW we’re fighting.

Each side is alternating name-calling of the other side and arguments meant to convince the other side that they need to change their thinking.  I can’t do much here about the former – either you see those with whom you disagree as worthy of respect or you don’t.  But the latter CAN be fixed.

It’s a simple idea taught to youth, but forgotten with adults:

When your mouth is open, your ears are closed.

When you are speaking to someone, you are not listening.  Pretty simple, eh?  The implications go deeper than this.

When you are formulating a response to the other person’s argument in your head, your ears are closed.

We’ve all experienced this.  You sit in a meeting at work and somebody says something that you disagree with.  You immediately start working on making your rebuttal convincing, waiting for a break in the conversation to get your words in.  You’ve STOPPED listening – your brain is someplace else.

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You’ve been there too.  You have something to say.  You aren’t really listening, you’re like a tiger waiting to pounce at the right moment.  You aren’t hearing what the other person is saying, you’re just listening for the silence that you can fit your speech into.

How do we combat this?

More silence.  Respect the other person by listening to their argument.  Use the silence to allow the ideas to settle in.  Formulate your response when you don’t need to be open to what’s going on.

Don’t just speak to fill space.  Make your speech meaningful.  Have you ever been in a meeting where one person sits quietly in the corner, saying little?  When they do speak, does the whole room say “Ahhh.  Now I get it”?  That person has learned to make a lot of impact with few words.  In the future, that person’s utterances will be taken just that little bit more seriously – “He doesn’t say much, but what he does say is worth waiting.”  Have you ever been that person?  How much more satisfying was it than being the center of attention?

And last – you are NOT going to convince anybody if you call them names.  Or use terms that amount to calling them names – that hurt them with something important to them.  These are terms like “apostate”, “homophobic”, “Biblically unsound”, “uncaring”.  Once you’re angered the other party, you have completely lost the ability to change their minds.  Their ears are closed whether they are speaking or not.

Once we stop talking past each other and AT each other, we can talk TO each other.  We can learn FROM each other.  Then we have a chance at building a better world.

“Because I said so” is rarely convincing.

On “They” and “We”

October 17, 2006 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: Religion 

The crisis in the Presbyterian Church (USA) is being fought by minorities from opposite ends of the conservative/liberal spectrum.  The fighters might not like us calling them conservative or liberal (though they don’t have a problem using those terms for the OTHER folks) – they prefer terms like “Biblically faithful” or “non-discriminatory”.  But the bottom line is that the noise is coming from those at the ends.

The folks at each end will tell you that THEY actually represent the silent majority.

From where I sit, it appears that perhaps 10% of the church represent the liberal activist point of view.  Another 20% represent the conservative activist point of view.  That leaves 70% in the middle.  (For the record – I consider myself to be part of that 70% but I lean towards beliefs congruent with the liberal activists.  I feel the need to compromise – the folks at the ends do not.)

What concerns me most is that the language used in the church today is increasingly “They” language.  “The liberals refuse to be faithful to Scripture.”  “Evangelicals continue to discriminate against gay people.”  We are all about THEY.
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What happened to WE?  We are the followers of Christ, in our sinfulness.  We are the joyful people of God, celebrating His majesty.

I got very close yesterday to e-mailing the church and cancelling my place in Saturday’s new member class after reading one of these divisive blog posts.  As someone returning to the church, I feel somewhat like a child being adopted.  Adoption agencies look at the stability of the family before allowing an adoption.  I feel a bit like the family that I’m about to join isn’t very stable, even though home life looks good on Sundays.

We all need a little more WE and a lot less THEY in the church.