Wednesday, May 31, 2006

What is going on?

Beth called this morning to relay the following news as a follow up to Taylor's van accident last month, and I am speechless:

"This morning, we learned from the Grant County Coroner's Office that there has been a case of mistaken identity involving two of the young women involved in the accident. We had believed that Laura VanRyn was airlifted to Parkview Hospital and has recently begun to emerge from the coma she was in since the night of the accident. The Coroner's office has notified us that Laura was instead one of the five people who died that evening and that it was Whitney Cerak who was airlifted to Parkview and is today convalescing at a hospital in Grand Rapids, MI." (excerpt from Taylor's press release, which you can read here.)

I am speechless. Laura's family has been caring for the girl they believed to be their daughter for the last month, only to discover it is not her. Whitney's family has been grieving the loss of who they thought was their daughter and buried her, only to discover she is still alive.

Praise the Lord that these are people of strong faith. I cannot even imagine the level and complexity of their grief. Please pray for the VanRyn family as they prepare for Laura's funeral, and pray for the Cerak family as they embrace the joy of knowing their daughter is alive and follow her on the road to recovery.


Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Gig #1

This Thursday evening, I will be performing live in concert with one of my students in the 1st ever Arlington YD "Songwriters Showcase."

So. Original songs will be debuted.

It will be a blast...

On the set list are "Barrista Boy," "Little John Lennon," "Invisible Children," "Happy Again," and perhaps a remix of "Shaffer the Wafer: Take Two."

It's my first ever gig as a songwriter, beyond being fodder for parties and general amusement of friends and family.

Friday, May 26, 2006


Beginning July 1st, I'll be moving into a new ministry role with Youth Dynamics: Communications Director. I'm excited about the opportunity to use my God-given talents and giftings in a ministry area. My key responsibilities will be to manage our corporate publications and website, to teach and train our staff to grow in their communication skills, and to visioneer and direct the presentation of our public personae as a ministry.

I stood in front of my church in Arlington last weekend, telling them about the new position, and I said, "It's like God made a cardboard cut-out of a way to serve him, and I was standing in front of the space, realizing that the space was a me-shaped hole." I am so blessed by the opportunity to use writing and speaking and empowering as my key job descriptors.

I already have an office space prepared in our Administrative office, which I'm currently working out of one day each week. (It's a 25 minute drive from Arlington, so I'm not planning to move.)

Yesterday, I was sitting in my space, hashing through some Communications details, and it dawned on me that I could write and submit articles about our ministry to national publications. I was astounded at the realization, because I have been growing in my desire to submit writings for publication throughout this year, and I have neglected to make it a priority. Suddenly, I realized that I could take this thing that I love and easily build it into my day job! I was floored, and I grinned that God knows our hearts so well that he provides for us even better than we imagine he can.

So, as of July 1st, the blog will take on a new tone--as I wade through a new position that's not on the front-end of youth ministry daily. I hope that you will continue to read through my journey of discovering who it is that God has designed me to be.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Go Taylor (Hicks)!

I hope Taylor Hicks wins American Idol tonight...I would hope that based solely on the fact that he sang Ray LaMontagne's "Trouble," which in and of itself means that I would love for Taylor to invite me out for a night of ice cream and swing dancing.

(Sidenote: I miss Chris Daughtry terribly. I am coping with his absence by overplaying his single, "Wanted Dead or Alive," which is Track 1 on my Spring 06 Mix. You are great, Chris! We miss you!)

I think it would be rad if Taylor wins and Taylor University is renamed Taylor "Hicks" University. That's funny on so many levels. And Taylor could be our new campus mascot...and instead of the Taylor Fighting Trojans, we could be the Taylor Hicks! Isn't that rad?!

*This endorsement of American Idol is brought to you by a girl who was raised on Rock and Roll, and who has succumb to the mass pop phenomenom of AI*

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Wenatchee Photos

Here's some photos of the Arlington Junior High Wenatchee River Rafting Trip from last weekend...

Friday, May 19, 2006

Walk the Line

As I'm writing a presentation this afternoon, I'm listening to tracks from American Idol that I downloaded, in order to have the sweet tunes of Chris Daughtry, Elliott Yamin, and Katherine McPhee accompanying my writing process.

Chris just sang his amazing rendition of "Walk the Line," and everytime I hear it, I get chills....I think because it's taking Johnny Cash's lyrics and putting them in a style I can really understand.

Suddenly, it becomes this amazing love ballad, and I wonder if my relationship with the Lord is sweet and good enough that I can say "Because you're mine...I walk the line..." I tend to push the line more than I walk it...So, Walk the Line is my prayer for today...that the Lord would be my first love.

I keep my eyes wide open all the time
I keep a close watch on this heart of mine
I keep ends out for the tie that binds
Because you're mine, I walk the line

I find it very, very easy to be true
I find myself alone when each day's true
Yes I admit, that I'm a fool for you
Because you're mine, I walk the line

As sure as night is dark and day is light
I keep you on my mind both day and night
And happiness I know proves that it's right
Because you're mine, I walk the line

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Time to Be.

You have to make time to be creative.

It's true, isn't it? Last week at the Communicators Workshop, I was admonished to make time to be creative...because our speaker, McNair Wilson, said that if we don't intentionally leave and make time to be creative, we are reduced to the "tyranny of the urgent," and we lose our creativity.

I was nearly brought to tears as he spoke, feeling so bound to my schedule these last few months...feeling so uncreative. Feeling so much like I have my backpocket novel that is currently 3 pages long and a songwriting book that's slowly gathering dust.

So this week, I am throwing off the chains. I took a few free moments on the plane from Dallas to Seattle to 'be creative.' I took some time on Sunday to sit in front of a lake at a Seattle Park and write. Today, I'm taking a day away from work to sit in my favorite Seattle coffee shop and read and write and think and be.

Suddenly, I feel so much more like myself, just because of a few scheduled hours of "be-ing" this week.
We are created in the image of a creator. Maybe our Sabbath is part remembering that we are designed to create ourselves...because when we work through that seventh day, we tend to forget.

"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." Genesis 1:27

Monday, May 15, 2006

Dynamic Communication!

I spent all of last week intensely developing my skills as a public speaker at the Ken Davis Dynamic Communicators Workshop. From Sunday to Thursday, I was up at 6am everyday and working through 16 hours of lecture, speech preparation, and speech delivery/critique with 120 of the country's finest new communicators.

The setting was amazing! We lived and worked at the Billy Graham Training Center, The Cove just outside of Asheville, NC in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The experience itself was probably the most intimidated I've ever been about speaking in public. Every evening, from 6pm to 9pm, I'd be in a room with seven other students and our leader, delivering a speech and then having it critiqued by the 8 of them for 10 minutes. My group was comprised of several long-term pastors, a counselor, and several men from the corporate world. How intimidating to stand before them, deliver a speech, and then ask, "What can I do better?"

It was certainly challenging, but mostly, I was affirmed that I have a lot of ability to effectively communicate to groups of people--if--I'm willing to work hard at it an invest the time and energy to speak well. I learned the value in critiquing videos of yourself after you speak, the value of practicing aloud in front of a mirror, the value of clearly outlining the message you want to communicate, and the value of presenting it in a style that is entertaining and engaging!

So. We'll see how much I've learned this Sunday, when I present about the YD at my church in Arlington, and next week, when I encourage students to attend the Deschutes River Rafting Trip.

Also...the weekend was great, because I was able to visit with Havaleh, my best friend from Coshocton...we travelled around her hometown of Charlotte and sampled some fine soul food at Mert's.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Tarheels and other things.

A few things of note:

1. Grandma has recovered from her surgery. She had four separate breaks in her arm and will be moving to the Extended Care Unit at the hospital for a few weeks.

2. I am in North Carolina in the living room of Havaleh, my best friend from high school? Why am I here? Long story. I am traveling for work, to a conference called the "Dynamic Communicator's Workshop." It begins in Asheville today, and I flew into Charlotte last night and spent the evening with Havaleh, who lives here. Hooray! I'll be in Asheville until Thursday, learning about public speaking/oral communication, giving speeches, etc. I'm looking forward to it, and I'm looking for the beautiful 2-hour drive to Asheville this afternoon.

3. Yesterday, on the airplane, I saw three students walk on board wearing shirts that read, "Western Washington University Plastics." I almost passed out, because I'd just discovered earlier in the week that one of my rafting friends who's a student in the WWU Plastics Department would be in town for the weekend at an engineering conference. (This in itself felt random enough already. Now several students with whom he is attending the conference happen to be on my flight from Dallas to Charlotte. Dallas to CHARLOTTE? Not perhaps the MOST popular of possible flights for people who live north of Seattle. Super Random!)

So, I introduced myself to a very nice-looking engineering student named Cassandra in the Charlotte airport restroom saying, "You go to Western? I know Kurtis!" She was like, "What?! He was actually supposed to be with us right now, but his flight got messed up! He said he had a friend who was going to be in town this week! This is sooooo weird!" We walked out of the restroom, and she introduced me to Luke and Marty, who were very cordial and very surprised at the weirdness of this all saying, "We're in Charlotte, North Carolina of all places." We then enjoyed a nice chat on the way to baggage claim about how we were already sweltering in the 78-degree heat that felt shocking compared to our Northwest home. My life is WEIRD! (Consistently weird, like, last summer when I ran into someone I met in Kenya at a Farmer's Market in Eastern Washington....) *Queue 'It's a Small World.'*

4. I have rented my first car as a grown-up. Since I'm 25 now, it only cost $30. I wish it were something glamorous, like a Sting Ray. It's a Taurus. Not even a close second.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

...and another turn...

Last night mom called and told me that Grandma Baker fell and broke her shoulder while she was taking out the garbage. Blaaaaah! She's in the hospital, waiting to be approved for surgery today. They're going to have to replace the ball in her socket, so it's going to be a rather intense surgery, as soon as she gets approved to go in.

To make the situation more interesting, Dad and Grandpa were in South Carolina at a Prisoner of War convention, and they are driving all the way back to Ohio today... please pray that my Grandma will be healthy enough to have surgery, that the surgery will go well, and that Dad and Grandpa will get back soon and safely to be with her.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Grief is odd.

Grief is odd...because it never affects the parts of your life that it seems like it should...

...for instance.... Over the Rhine is in Bellingham and Seattle this weekend, and I'm on the verge of tears! Why? Because I CAN'T GO!

I'll be out of town, and I'm nearly in tears that one of my favorite bands in THE ENTIRE WORLD is going to be here, and I will not be.

So I'm melodramatic? Maybe--but I'm also rational. I can recognize that missing a concert is not going to make my world come crashing down, and there's certainly much bigger stuff going on in the world and even in my own life...and my campus is still grieving and Laura VanRyn is still in a are still big prayers to be had.

Somehow, though, when life gets's not the big stuff that weighs me down like work, life, and five members of the Taylor community stripped away: it's the little stuff. i.e. missing an Over the Rhine concert, spilling paint on my housemate's white carpet, losing my keys again, and getting in a fight with MS Publisher. These small things somehow cause me to lose my mind...

Life is odd...grief is odd.

Monday, May 01, 2006

"At Higher Water..."

For over a year, I've been hearing everything about the Wenatchee River described in relation to the phrase "At higher water." This is because last season, the river was only a tiny trickle compared to its normal flow. We had no snow, therefore, no river. This winter, however, we had 124% of the normal snow pack, meaning there will be 124% river.

This weekend, I finally got to see a bit of "At higher water" myself. I saw the river run at 7500 cfs (cubic feet per second) compared to last weekend's 3200 cfs. Meaning, that at any given point in the river, twice as much water was flowing past that point this weekend as there was last weekend. This results, obviously, in a much bigger, faster river.

I held my own on the rapids, finding them fun and easy to navigate with my crew...certainly much more exciting to hit than the mini-waves I've been working on for the last year.

Probably the most ridiculous of all possible moments for me was on a rapid called "Rock and Roll." It's a rather long Class III, with two very-important-to-avoid boat-eating waves called "Holes." (The most menacing of which is called "The Devil's Eyeball." Not a very friendly wave, eh?) I was coming through Rock and Roll not in a raft, but in a one-man inflatable kayak...meaning...I had lots of maneuverability but very little momentum...also meaning that there was very little cushion between me and the 10 foot swells I was tackling in such a small boat.

I managed to make my first turn well and clearly avoided "The Devil's Eyeball," only to watch another trainee head straight towards it. To his dismay and mine, I watched as his kayak overturned and he swam the eyeball and then headed 500 feet downstream towards the second man-eating wave. By this time, I was preoccupied with maneuvering myself safely downstream, so I could do nothing but watch my friend swim. I plowed over and across the series of waves leading me downstream and successfully avoided the second big hole, which, from my vantage point on the left side of it, looked to be several stories tall with the power to immerse entire archipelegos. I suppose it was only 6-10 feet tall, but it felt enormous as I watched it from my little kayak. My friend was not so fortunate and went straight through it! Gah! I was in shock! He bobbed under for a second, and before I could reach to blow my whistle, he popped out downstream, a bit cold, wet, and unharmed.

So. At higher water is a remarkably interesting thing...fortunately maneuvering the rapids in a kayak was only a training exercise, and it was overall much less intimidating to tackle the big rapids with a hefty crew and a big boat.

Later in the day, I successfully flipped a boat back over during "Boat Flip Practice," and was really most excited about the fact that I somehow pulled myself back into the righted boat after I flipped it over.

In two weeks, I will be paddling a boat down full of Arlington junior highers down the river. It will certainly be an experience... Wenatchee Season, here we come! Woo woo!