Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Driving down the 101...

Tomorrow at six in the a.m., Bronco and I are road-tripping with eight other YD Staff and youth pastors for six magical days in The Golden State.

We're going to Youth Specialties' National Youth Worker's Convention in Sacramento get to spend four whole days in conferences and workshops and concerts. I get to do things that I'm certainly thrilled about--like going to Mass, seeing Kutless live, and learning more about how to train a team of mentors this fall.

I'm sure there will also be plenty of opportunity to get hip and relevant youth-ministry program-type knowledge, like, how to write 3-point sermon based on Shrek or 572 ways to use peanut butter to communicate the gospel...but I will probably skip those sessions in order to go see Tony Campolo get all red-faced while debating about the Arian heresy or something. Maybe I won't even do that because I'll be too busy name-dropping to build clout with guys like Doug Fields and Duffy Robbins. Wait, probably not that either...but six days with thousands of youth pastors? It's bound to be insane.

"California, here we come. Right back where we started from. Californiaaaaaaaaaaa."


Yesterday at an AHS lunch table, we were talking about people looking younger than they are. I asked a few girls if they thought I could pass for a high school student, and they said yes. To prove my point, I imitated a very high schoolish voice and said something irrelevant like, "I can't believe Jenny is going out with Tommy. Eugh. She sits next to me in Spanish, and she's always talking about him like it's some big deal." I then turned back to the girls and said, "How was that." They say, "'s a bit too early 90's. You sound like you're starring in Clueless."

"But I was in high school when Clueless came out." They just smiled and nodded and said, "Yeah, we were in the third grade"...and suddenly I sensed a looming generation gap.

Monday, September 26, 2005

The Upper Room

For all of the things that I do joke about and mock--one thing that I never ridicule is my personal need and personal longing for intimate worship. Since moving to Washington, I have found it in bits and spurts and so-and-so's church here and so-and-so's group there...but it's never been anything that I've found consistently fulfilling. This leaves me feeling isolated away from God a lot of the time, because it's so difficult to reach Him through the means I have available in Arlington.

About a month ago, I received a letter from one of the Associate Pastors at my church saying that the church was beginning a Young Adults' service on Sunday nights for 18-35 year olds. I was thrilled--because I have been craving this kind of service so badly that I was preparing myself to make weekly commutes to Seattle to find it. I've been wanting to be a part of a vibrant, young community, and I've also been wanting to be a part of a service that offers solid teaching and reflective worship, both of which I do not find at my church on Sunday mornings.

I thought that this service would be different. So I went in anticipation, climbing the stairs up to the newly painted and lit "Upper Room" and spent two hours talking, drinking coffee, listening, praying and worshipping with about twenty other 20-somethings from my church community.

And I was filled...and I began brimming...and suddenly I was overflowing...

At our Youth Pastors' Networking Meeting next week, I'm going to share with our group about the first Covenant Bond of "The National Network of Youth Ministries," which is Personal Holiness. The covenant bond says that I claim that in accountability to God and my co-laborers, by faith my life will be characterized by "Personal Holiness before God and others, which is established in Christ and expressed in daily life through prayer and commitment to the Word of God."

A week ago, I might have expressed to my fellow youth pastors despair over my own ability to live out Personal Holiness on a daily basis...I mean...I have such ebbs and flows in my spiritual life where there are weeks that go by and I'm seeking God out everyday...and there are weeks that go by where I don't do it at all--but today, things are different.

According to Gary Thomas's Sacred Pathways, I seek God best through sensory input--that I want to see/feel/smell/taste/touch the presence of God...and for some reason, ingesting traditional prayers while taking communion, smelling the flames of new candles, while sitting in a room so beautiful and intimate that I want to bring in my sleeping bag and curl up on the floor and never leave rejuvinates me spiritually in a way that it can feel like I wake up and see my world through clear eyes for the first time in months. Is this what personal holiness is characterized by? Seeing our lives through the eyes of God?

I do know that for all of my mentoring and discipling, I have at last found a spiritual home in a place where there is a pastor and a community who want to pour into me--challenge me, prod me, teach me. And I am thrilled. Last night, when Pastor Greg started talking about the Gnostic heresy that led to the church at Ephesus's request to John to write a gospel account, I thought the extra wrinkle in my brain was going to release a flood of endorphins to my body and overwhelm me with a joy I have not felt since days gone by when I'd take notes during the sermons of Richard Allen Farmer and Jay Kesler at TU Chapel.

In two weeks, when I return to the service, I will pull out my Taylor guitar and lead my group of fellow pilgrims in worship through song...and for the first time in months and maybe years, I will look at my life and say that it has balance.

Friday, September 23, 2005

I watched the proverbial sunset.

My week has been insane, and I'm not exactly sure why. Probably because school has hit its groove of routine and busy-ness. I'm up at AHS every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 9-10a to help Mrs. Stone's students with writing...I'm up there again 2-3 times to eat lunch with the fifty kids I know and love...and meetings seem to be popping up all over the place to fill in the gaps--student meetings, youth pastor meetings, Arlington Ministerial Association meetings, staff meetings, volunteer meetings, donor meetings, etc, etc, etc.

Last night, Grandma and Grandpa came up after a week at a nice resort on the Hood Canal to visit my home in Arlington and see bits of Northwest Washingon. By the time they arrived yesterday afternoon, I was on my third meeting of the day and trying to finish up all the materials I need to have ready for a church presentation on Sunday. I was ready to crawl into a ball on my couch and sleep for 36 hours. But--I also wanted to brag about my state a bit more, so we hopped into the car and drove up Chuckanut Drive towards Bellingham at sunset.

It was beautiful--and I was able to catch my breath, be inspired, and relax...

It's why I love Washington sooo much...because I can go non-stop for four days, exhaust myself, and then drive up Chuckanut Drive at sunset and remember that the world is bigger and more beautiful than I've stopped to notice this week.

This week I've also seen 50 AHS students gather around the flagpole to pray, and while I was so encouraged at their confidence, I watched 1450 other students walk past them, wondering what was going on...and my heart broke that there are so many kids that I see everyday that are not living for Christ and are making horrible decisions to follow other paths. And yet, at sunset on Chuckanut, God tells me that He's always bigger than I imagine Him to be. Soo....yeah....

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

It's Wednesday.

Because I've been running around doing various types of work since 7am with no signs of stopping until 9pm tonight, I give you this link for a Wednesday afternoon. Flight of the Felix.

You are a cat, and you have a helicopter propeller coming out of your head. What else do you need to know?

Monday, September 19, 2005

A Case of the Mondays.

There are two truths that comprise any Monday:

1. I always love seeing my kids.

2. I never look forward to driving to work on a Monday morning.

This morning, I was up bright and early and signing-in at AHS because I am volunteering in Mrs. Stone's 2nd Period English class. The class is comprised of about ten boys and one girl, all of which have some level of learning disability and all of which are expected to successfully complete a "Scholarly Paper" before graduation. Today I sat down with a Junior student and mock-debated whether or not a Wal-Mart should open in Arlington in preparation for the persuasive argument he will build for his "Scholarly Paper."

I loved being there...but also I was thinking, "it's 9am, and I have had no coffee, and where I really want to be is curled up on a bench where I was yesterday--watching the tide roll in at sunset on the Hood Canal."

My grandparents are visiting from Ohio, and they have a nice time share out on the Hood Canal, which is about a three-hour drive from Arlington...I was with them this weekend and left them last was beautiful...and it was restful...

...and now it's Monday morning, and I'm having problems grappling with the fact that I'm so self-centered that I would prefer to mentally drift away to a daydreamed mountain sunset with a cup of hot coffee instead of engaging the here and now of kids who need to pass high school.

This afternoon, one of my students dropped by to say hi, and I was so thrilled to see her that I spun around and welcomed her in. We sat and talked about lots of stuff for a half-hour or so...and I thought about how important it was that she know that the most important thing I had going was to talk to her...because as soon as she sensed that I was distracted by other things, she said, "well, I need to go..."

Learning how to be "here" mentally is the most important and the hardest part of my job. The kids always sense when I'm upset or distracted...and because I happen to enjoy being upset and distracted a lot of the time, it means I have to fight my very human nature just to do my job well. I'm assuming that everyone deals with this, but it's a hard thing to feel when I'm in 'ministry' and I have all these supporters who are committing financial support to me because they know that I am doing a good job. It means that when I feel distracted and disengaged on a Monday morning, there's all this pressure that I'm letting more people than myself down by my own self-centeredness.

I'm not sure what the solution is, other than to continue my daily ritual of praying the Sinner's prayer about 4800 times, "Oh Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner."

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

All over Seattle.

It's not normal for me to spend 95% of my day, in the middle of a work week, driving all over Seattle. But, yesterday was that day... It reaffirmed to me that although I love Seattle, I have no desire to live any nearer than I do now--if only because when one tries to cross the Mercer Island Bridge from I-405 to I-5 at sunset, all of Lake Washington is glaring in your face, and it's impossible to see the road and the surrounding vehicles.

In the morning, Bronco and I drove through Seattle to Snoqualmie Falls, for a little mini-outing with our new staff member--Stuart--who is currently raising support to come to Arlington as the Associate Director of Junior High Ministry (See Photo - L-R - Stuart, Me, Bronco). We're all trying to get to know each other a bit through some fellowship/meeting time each week. This week, it included to trip to Snoqualmie Falls and lunch at an Ethiopian Restaurant (yuuum! You can easily guess who planned the trip...)

In the middle of lunch, I received a text message from Corrie (see photo w/me) saying that her dad's office had a lot of extra tickets to the Angels/ Mariners game for their company party, and would I like to take some kids? I hurried back to the office and called lots of girls. I tracked down two of my Owyhee River Kayaking girls, who were thrilled to spend several hours in Seattle on a school night, and my friend Heidi, who was also thrilled to be out on the town on a school night. I wound up driving back South within in an hour of arriving home with Bronco and Stuart.

Safeco Field was beautiful! and the game was amazing because not only did Dr. Spencer provide us with tickets-- we received vouchers for free hot dogs and sodas! Amazing. Heidi and I were also so brave as to experiment with the famous "Garlic Fries" (which are basically 52 fries covered with an entire jar of minced garlic. no kissing.) Astoundingly enough, the Mariner's squeezed out a victory in the bottom of the 9th inning, and although we were disappointed that our dance rendition of "The Sprinkler" didn't make it on the Jumbo-tron, we jumped up and down and yelled a lot for Ichiro and all the Latin American players (since it was Latin-American player appreciation night.)

The girls and I had several good conversations about the same things we always talk about (boys, school, parents, that order) and also about how they can grow in leadership this year... I'm glad that one night of MLB can inspire better friendships and opportunities to encourage a few of my students...

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

My life is SO COOL.

This afternoon, I got offerred complementary Mariner's Tickets by Dr. Spencer, and so courtesy of him--I get to take myself, two girls and friend Heidi to the Mariner's game tonight! Woohoo! Last minute and all, but I'm thrilled!

I will use this to assuage the pain that I feel over the losses endured by the Buckeyes and the Seahawks this weekend. *sigh*

Monday, September 12, 2005

In the absence of a variegated hillside, to celebrate autumn, I will be decorating with bouquets of sharpened pencils.

Okay, maybe it's not officially autumn for a few more weeks, but once you pull out the freshly sharpened #2 pencils, the Pumpkin Spice Latte's, and High School Football, for the sake of the definition, it is autumn. (I grimace a bit as I say that, because it will be Autumn #2 with the absence of all the changing colors in SE Ohio that I consider to mark the passing into winter. I will make do).

Last week was Back-To-School in Arlington, and as I write this blog at 7:58pm PST, the kiddos have only tackled four whole days. My first visit up to school last week was exciting. I was bumping into kids I knew all over the place, and I was certainly caught off guard to see my freshman strolling through the commons looking more like deer-in-the-headlights than savvy high school students. When I went in to visit the teacher I volunteered with last spring, I thought she was going to knock me over with glee that I'd be in her classroom again this fall.

The football game on Friday night gave me many more things to laugh about--cheering with my students in the student section (feeling horribly out of place because I had not decorated my jeans with blue and gold glitter)--watching the mascot shove her way through the crowds with a humongoid eagle head and feet--and reminiscing of days gone by as field commander in the marching band, when I'd cry out things like, "Band Ten-Hut" while wearing a red sequined headdress.

Lots of stimulation, lots of excitement, and most of all--a fresh start. Year #2 in ministry is going to be different and more exciting than year #1, because I'm a bit more comfortable in my skin, I'm settled in this place, and to start off my year, I can bump into 20-30 kids that I know well while walking through the stands of the High School Football Field.

I'm not exactly sure how this fits with "inviting and challenging them to a lifelong journey in relationship with Christ and His church..." but I know that singing "The Hey Song" and sharing a tray of nachos is a start.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Yes, That's Right. I'm special.

Who has a copy of the new Switchfoot cd in her hands a mere four days before it's released to the mass public? Oh, that's right. It's me.

Our Interlinc subscription just sent me a very fine brand-new copy of Switchfoot's "Nothing is Sound," so that I can fall madly in love with it years before all of the songs are overplayed on Youth Group Slideshow Soundtracks.

A small perk of having my job.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Are you relevant?

A lot of things are going on in my life artistically, and since I've given enough reading material for one week, I'll save it for another time.

Suffice to say.

I love Relevant Magazine, and I read it online nearly everyday. And, because I also love writing, I have wanted to write something for them. So I wrote a proposal for an article...

And--they like it. So, I will submit an article to Relevant Magazine circa mid-October. That doesn't mean they'll publish it, but it means I'm submitting it. And it means that I'm going to put myself out there as a writer--giving something that matters to me over to someone else for evaluation and inspection and editing. That's a scary thing for an artist to do.

But. Here I go.

Golf Marathon. Belated.

Drew rightly pointed out to me this afternoon that I have YET to post about Golf Marathon, which is horrible of me, because it was a GREAT DAY.

Golf Marathon was held a week ago Monday (August 29th) at the Avalon Golf Course in Burlington...what Golf Marathon required of me was waking up at 4:30am, throwing myself into the car, driving the 35 minutes to the course, and prepping for a day-full of caddying. My buddy for the day was Senior Pastor Verlin Elmore, who is a very funny man, and who was very excited about the hundred holes of golf he would get to play. He was intense. He was driven. He was focused. I, on the other hand, was nursing a chain of espressos and driving like a madwoman as our cart swerved down the fairway.

So since Golf is a very numbers-driven sport (Hole 7. 487 Yards. Par 5. 3 Wood.), here's my Top 5 list for things one should know in order to effectively caddy for a Golf Marathon:

1. When caddying one-hundred holes of golf, the caddy is expected to be awake at all times. I do recall Pastor Verlin asking me at least four times in a row for the yardage of our hole, and I incorrectly answered him all four times because I was too incoherent to properly read the score card.

2. Golfers do not appreciate it when you call attention to their bogey's. At Golf Marathon, we give out all kinds of awards, like, for "Lowest Score," "Highest Score," "Most Birdies," "Most Shots in the Woods," etc. Verlin had a lot of bogeys, and everytime he shot one, I'd get excited and sing "Bogey, bogey, bogey, bogey, boo-gaaaay," to the tune of the "Money" song from "The Apprentice" in a falsetto...because I thought we were in the running for "Most Bogey's." I don't think it was an award he cared to win. I had to sing the song at least 52 times before he found it endearing. And we didn't win anyways. We had 52 bogeys and someone else had 63.

3. Golf courses have lots of unwritten rules that caddies get in trouble for breaking, even if they didn't know about them, like, "You may not drive the cart on the tees," and "You may not drive down the middle of Par 3's," and "You may not let your friend Heidi hitch a ride on your rear bumper." I also got yelled out by the court marshall for driving on the fairway, which is really weird because supposedly you're allowed to drive on the fairway. I got the last laugh though, because it said you were supposed to lose cart privileges after two violations, and I still had mine after FOUR.

4. Golfers have more fun when they play in groups. Verlin and I golfed alone for 85 holes, but for the last 20 or so, we golfed with Dr. Spencer and Dr. Cavanaugh. When men are golfing together, they like to ha-ha each other when they make better shots, or ooh and ahh each other's awesome shots. Plus, it's a confidence builder to see your buddies out in the woods more than you.

5. Golfers at the YD Golf Marathon work really hard at fundraising. For instance, for the day as a whole, $75,000 or so was raised in pledges. Just for Arlington area, over $21,000 was raised by our nine golfers. Dr. Spencer raised $4000 which will go towards my personal support, and Pastor Verlin raised $3700. the end of the day, I was ready to sleep for days, but it was an awesome way to raise $75,000. I already have plans for how I can be an even more awesome caddy next year. Heidi suggested we do a "Pimp my Golf Cart," and deck it out with a stereo, plasma screen, and lots of streamers. I don't know what the Course Marshals would have to say about that. Wait, yes I do...

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Chicago. Again. Good Times.

So this past weekend I made my second trip to Chicago in as many weeks for as many weddings. This time around--the amazing wedding of Suzanne Marie Page to Barrett Christopher Thomas. Suzanne is one of my dearest, closest friends from years gone by at Taylor, but even moreso, she has been a kindred spirit, whom I usually talk to nearly every day.

The weekend was very full, very crazy, and very fun, and by Sunday afternoon, after a Bachelorette dinner cruise, hours of floral arranging and wedding prep, a rehearsal and rehearsal dinner, hours of hair/makeup prep, hours of wedding photos, hours of standing and looking pretty and hours of dancing, I woke up exhausted to the very core of my being to realize my strep throat from a few weeks back had returned. Blaaah. (BTW, you can see lots more wedding photos by clicking here.)

The weekend was not only good because it was a celebration of the marriage of two good friends, and lots of time with twenty other good friends, but because on Sunday, I was able to spend the day with Beth, Pam and Renee, my college roommates from four years at Taylor. We were able to spend the evening together in South Bend (where Pam is getting her Doctorate at Notre Dame, and where Renee is working after having returned from Bolivia).

At the end of it all, it feels like over the last three weeks, I have seen so many people whom I love, and got to spend, on average, about five minutes with each of them. I don't know whether to be grateful or exhausted. I feel both.

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This morning Bronco and I sat down, and I blinked and realized that I have a meeting this afternoon with my youth pastor, and that school and youth group start tomorrow. I feel exhausted and behind the 8-Ball for this school year already. But. As soon as the exhaustion fades, and I can get into AHS on Thursday and see my kids, I know I will be thrilled that I get to start another school year! Football Friday Night starts this week, so already my senses are overwhelmed with bouquets of sharpened pencils, airhorns, and brand-new Trapper Keepers.