Monday, July 31, 2006

Riddle me this.

A question for all you church goers out there, clergy and otherwise:

What prevents people from participating in church related activities, particularly those meant to engage their spiritual side?

The background:

My church, where I'm currently employed as Director of Children's Ministry, has been working its way through the Natural Church Development process, which is meant to identify your church's weakest area of eight necessary parts of a successful church and then subsequently help you improve your weaknesses. For more information, see the ELCA on the subject here.

Our weakness proved to be passionate spirituality which is the case for many of the Lutheran churches who participate in NCD (Need-oriented Evangelism also scores low). Passionate spirituality has to do with how we live our lives as Christians, how to be passionate for the church and for Christ and inspiring others as well. Our NCD stuff breaks this down into three sections: study of scripture, an active prayer life and joyful stewardship. So basically we are called to pray, learn about God and share freely what we've been given if we are passionately spiritual people.

The theory of NCD says that by working on your weakest area that you will improve your church as a whole, so we've emarked on a year-long attempt to improve the church's passionate spiritualty. We have a committee (we are Lutherans at heart!) and have had focus groups and last wednesday the program staff, committee and church council met to begin working on a plan for the church.

Amazingly enough (hehehe) very little was accomplished. It was difficult to remove ourselves from the nebulousness of pasisonate spirituality into the reality of practical steps. But one facet of our conversation involved why people participate in the church, whether it be teaching, or attending adult forums or being on the prayer chain or anything beyond passive worship attendence.

At our church we can plan a wide variety of adult education activites for example, often at people's request because they think it would be interesting, but inevitably the same 10 people show up. So we asked why. Two choices that we came up with are fear and being busy. Fear of looking stupid, or not knowing the answers, or sharing with others or being open to discussion about God. Or being too busy to take the time to do something to deepen your relationship with God, or putting yourself last or whatever. But those seem to be surface answers of a larger problem.

I'm not sure if these are the answers, and I'd love to hear from others. Ask those around you. Send them here to post. Forward this to your friends, put a link on your blog. I want to know why people take the time in their lives to participate at church. Give me examples, give me reasons, give me stories of things that have worked (particularly you church staff out there). I'm curious to know if we are an isolated case or if this is a larger problem. If you do participate why? If you don't, why? If you want to but haven't, what is holding you back?

Ultimately our conversation was halted because those sitting at the table discussing it were not the people saying no. We'd already said yes. If you have insights I'd love to hear them!

Going to the chapel...

I'm back from the weekend and busy recovering from the combo of heat, travel, and alcohol! For those who don't know, Chris and I hopped a plane on Thursday to go to my cousins wedding. If you were at my wedding I know that you'll remember some of the characters from the family and they were all there. We know how to throw a good party in our family and a wedding is a very good excuse for a party!

This particular wedding was even more joyous because their was a very real possiblity that it would not occur at all. I've been busy praying for the bride and groom for several months. The reason for all the concern was not cold feet or a lack of commitment, but the very real possiblity that my cousin (the groom) may be too sick to get married. Several months ago he developed colitis and went to the hospital. He recovered somewhat and went home to keep planning the wedding. A month later he was in the hospital again, and this time in addition to the colitis he developed a leg clot. He has been ill and pumped up on steriods for a good month or two since. Ultimately he needs surgery but can't have that until he is off of the blood thinners for the clot - oh, and he is 23.

So we have been looking forward to this wedding for a long time and hopeful that it would happen as they had planned. And even though it nearly didn't happen, they were married and it was beautiful.

Chris and I flew into Detroit on Thursday and were picked up by my sister and her husband who are in school at Michigan. We stayed at their place and played games that night. For those game junkies among us, there is a new game called Deflexion which I brought for Logan's birthday present. It is basically laser chess and is awesome! I had a great time with them, especially since I get to see them so rarely.

Friday we drove up to the town of the wedding and checked into the resort. We went to the rehearsal dinner and participated in the favorite of our "(insert last name here)-wedding" traditions. Complete with a side of BBQ and beer, we read poems prepared for the bride and groom. They were tamer than usual (at our wedding it really resembled a roast) but came from the heart. I think we all felt that the bride and groom had enough to worry about. It is a great time and the family is always so creative.

That night was spent in the party room with my relatives, drinking beer, getting Tiger/Twin game updates (a lot of Tiger fans in the room, I was outnumbered!), and playing cards, with only an occasional question about when Chris and I were going to have kids!

Saturday we woke up (4 hours sleep is plenty!) and my mother and I went out to my aunt/uncle's house to help get fruit salad ready for brunch the next day. When we got there we heard that my cousin had been up all night sick and was currently running a temp of 103! His desire to be a participant at the golf outing on Friday and the rehearsal dinner had him threatening to relapse! Poor guy. But he was ultimately determined to go through with the wedding and assured us that it was on.

And true to his word the wedding did happen. His fever dropped some and the church had AC and they said all their vows sitting down, but they were married and it was beautiful. I always love weddings but have only occasionally cried at them. I think that they are extremely joyous occasions and often find myself smiling too much to cry...this was true at my wedding too. But here I broke down. It wasn't the most elaborate wedding I've been too, or the most expensive, but it was so touching the effort that they went to to have the wedding. Here were two young people who already knew the meaning of "in sickness and health" and it didn't change anything. Here were two people so in love and determined to get married that they weren't going to let anything stand in their way. So I cried. It was a beautiful and touching moment to see something go right for them, when the last few months have been hell. I think the world of my cousin's bride, she was strong and supportive and would do anything for my cousin. And my cousin would take any amount of pain to be there and marry her. It was great.

They did come to the reception, after a shorter set of pictures. They had toast right away, a few "songs with love in it" to kiss, a cake cutting and a first dance and then the groom spent the rest of the evening in a cot in the side room, while his bride kept the party going. He did make an appearance to say goodbye to folks. I'm sure that was not all they hoped for in a reception and it was hard on both of them but I have so much respect for the way they handled themselves this weekend. I hope that life only gets better for them!

In the end the party was great, lots of food, dancing and fun and I had a great time with the whole family, but I'm most moved by the strength and love of my cousin and his wife. I wish them all the happiness in the world, they really deserve it.

Pictures coming tomorrow I hope...

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Twins Win!


TWINS WIN!!!!!!!
The Minnesota Twins swept the Chicago White Sox, in Chicago! This makes them tied for the lead in the Wild Card race with the White Sox. The division leaders, the Detroit Tigers come to Minneapolis on Friday for a 3 game stretch. If we sweep them as well we'll make good progress toward catching them as well and leading the league! GO TWINS!

To my friends...

I have been thinking a lot about having children lately. (Not thinking about having them myself just yet!) I have many dear friends who have just had babies, many who are pregnant, many whom have struggled with infertility issues, some who have gotten pregnant and some who are still trying. I know some whom have miscarried, some who had horrible pregnancies filled with sickness and pain, others who ended up with emergency c-sections. The experiences have been so varied for my friends and they have all been filled with times of joy and times of sadness.

Like I do when faced with incoming information that is hard for me to sort out I think to God and the Bible. It is easy to want to ask...Why did so-and-so have a miscarriage? Why can't so-and-so get pregnant, when so-and-so gets pregnant so easily. I have cried for my friends and felt their pain (only the tiniest portion of the full pain I'm sure). I have prayed for them. In a way, having friends who needed those prayers had reinvigorated my own prayer life. In asking God for the deepest desires of my friends I have felt closer to God.

I struggle with the question of infertility and when I look at the women of the the Bible, it is their main struggle as well. The Bible links women and childbirth from the onset, and it is a link that is filled with pain. Eve's "curse" is literally pain during childbirth. Certainly there is pain associated with the act of labor itself, but I have come to realize that their is pain in the whole process. There is pain in being unable to concieve, or unable to carry a child to term, there is pain in watching others have children if you are unable to, and then there is the pain of childbirth itself, and finally the pain mothers feel trying to protect there children. But I'm certainly not so pessemistic to view the act of having children as a pain-full act. It cannot be full of pain because their remains the room for joy and wonder. When my friends have succeeded in having children, their pain increases their love (if that is even possible, for all my friends love their children more than anything). So is this pain a curse? Yes........and no.

The Bible is filled with "barren" women. Sarah, Hannah, Rachel, Elizabeth to name a few. These women were "cursed" with the title barren and the Bible says that God eventually did give them children. Their responses and attempts are varied and wonderful. Sarah, who is nearly 100 by the time she gets pregnant, laughs at the angel who says that she'll concieve a son. She laughs. Of course, it is preposterous to think of and after decades of barreness it must be easier to laugh. Perhaps their were no more tears that can be shed for that particular pain. But she does bear a son, Isaac.

Hannah prays fervently for a child, offering any future child to God's service. She is so hungry for a child that she wants one even if she has to give him up. She too recieves the gift of a child and true to her word Samuel becomes a prophet for the Lord.

Rachel, wife of Jacob, struggles for years watching her sister and fellow wife bear child after child for him. She is jealous of her sister I'm sure, but loves her none the less. She can't imagine why she isn't blessed as well. Ultimately she goes on to have Joseph (who brings the Israelites to Egypt) and then dies bearing Benjamin. Her greatest joy also cost her her life.

Elizabeth gave birth to John the Baptist after years of barrenness. Her birth was fortold by God to Zechariah, her husband. She was to give birth to Jesus' cousin, who prepared the way for Jesus himself.

These women all faced barrenness and were given children who became key figures in the Bible. I have seen a bit of their pain in my friends eyes. And as my friends become pregnant and have their tiny beautiful babies, I see the joy that they must have experienced as well. I have seen prayers work alongside medical interventions. I've seen miracles that go beyond the "normal" miracle of birth.

I don't know the answers to infertility. I don't know the causes or the solutions more than basic descriptions. I don't know why it happens to some people who I know would make outstanding parents, and those who take little regard for their children can have them with seeming ease. I don't know what the reason for it is. I know that the pain for those going through it has not eased in these thousands of years, but I also know that prayers are still being answered.

To all my friends who are in the process, whatever part, know that you are all in my prayers.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Worship music vs Praise music

It has been well documented that music can unite people. Think of the patriotic marches on July 4th, or Woodstock, or Take me out to the Ballgame. Think about the songs of your generation. The songs you and your friends danced like maniacs too. "Your song" as a couple. Music is meant to touch chords deep within us and trigger something. Sometimes that is love, sometimes sorrow, or joy or pain. Sometimes it is fun and silliness, sometimes it is serious and deep. But whether it is Bach or the Beatles, Mozart or John Mayer, music triggers an emotional response.

Sometimes, however, I think that music is just as likely to divide people as it is to bring them together and sadly that is what I currently see in the church right now. There has been a continual debate over traditional worship - hymns, traditional liturgies (LBW for example) vs contemporary worship - praise bands, contemporary liturgies (if there is a formal one at all). Some churches have faced this battle with equality, all services doing the same thing but the format changing weekly or monthly or per season. Other churches, like my own, offer a variety of services catering to the individual styles. At my own church, we offer 4 weekly services. A meditative on Sat night, traditional LBW at 8:15 on Sundays, blended worship (Typically With One Voice) at 9:30, and contemporary at 11. (Summers is only 2: Traditional and Contemporary). For the most part this works out well. There is some chopping up of the congregation, with those who prefer one style only attending "their" service and thus sometimes it feels like we have 4 different congregations to work with, but for the most part it does work.

So what is my complaint? It is the attitude of the people on each side. Those who find comfort and worship to be in traditional music scoff at those who enjoy worship in a contemporary way and vice versa. I admit that if forced to choose, I enjoy traditional worship. That is what I choose if I really want to worship. It is the music that touches me deep and gives me comfort. It is the stuff that swells my heart and makes me glad to be a part of the church and joy in the gift of grace that God gave us in Jesus Christ. That being said, I respect the contemporary worship scene. The music has improved over the years and some of the texts are getting to have the same depth as some of my beloved hymns. And I don't deny that it is fun. I even sub with our praise ensemble, and from time to time add some jazz trumpet to the mix.

But what I find happens in my church and others, is that they do one of the worship styles well and the others are pieced together. At my church, our music leader is clearly a contemporary worship person. Which is fine. I respect her and her work in the church and she does a good job. However, since she is a contemporary person, she naturally spends more time and effort making that service top notch. The praise band is excellent and the music is always carefully choosen. She really makes an effort to pick music for worship. The problem: since she does not understand, internally, the sense of worship that people can get from a traditional style, that is often left uninspired and less creative. Where their can be beautiful organ variations or twists on classic hymnody it is often plowed through hymns done without much sense of finesse. (She is not the organist though, so it is not entirely her fault). But it seems that if we remain committed offering both styles of worship we should be taking the time to do them both fully in order to both worship God and allow others the joy that comes from participating in that worship.

I'm not particularly bitter, but I would love to find away to have the church do both styles of worship with the same respect and effort. And I know that my church is not alone in this problem. I know churches who do traditional incredibly well, but would be hard pressed to put a well done contemporary service on.

At the moment, we are looking for a children's music person for the church. The position was held by a contemporary sort. Is it too much to ask that I find a person who can do both styles with respect and admiration? Who can teach the children that both forms have their place in worship? I don't know. I suppose that my first goal should be to find someone to do the postion first, otherwise I'll be trying to lead a children's choir this fall, which could be highly amusing.

The fight for the Series.




VS





Tonight begins a crucial series for the MN Twins. We are starting a 3 game series with the White Sox and conviently we are three games behind them in the wild card race. We are in Chicago so it will be a hard fought road series. Respect for my Father-in-law (a born and bred Sox fan) keeps me from any major smack talk, but if you want to see some good baseball played tune in the next three days (Mon and Tues Night, Wed afternoon). Go TWINS!
UPDATE: Game 1 - Twins win! 7 to 4
UPDATE 2: Game 2 - Twins win! 4 to 3

Friday, July 21, 2006

Overwhelmed by nothing

There has always been a certain comfort I take in being busy. It means that I don't have much room for error or for procrastination. The same things that can cause me stress make me feel confident in my ability to deal with the unexpected and to prevail when things get difficult. It was true in high school when I managed to get my non-morning person self into school each day at 7am (an hour before things started) to do homework so I could stay in band, jazz band, church choir, sunday school teacher, pep band, pit orchestra, math team and whatever else I was doing at the time.

It was true in college, balancing three majors, 4 music ensembles (on average) and a part time job. In college and high school I did these things and found time for friends too. Seminary wasn't much different, being ahead in class and in the choir and brass ensemble and still being able to see friends or visit Chris.

The working world is that way to I suppose. VBS week, though stressful, forces me to be on top of my game and things do go fairly smoothly because of it. But I'm more and more aware of an anxiety and overwhelming feeling when left with a light schedule. Oh sure, there is always stuff to do. The house needs to be cleaned, and i always could go into work and finish stuff but I don't always want to be working.

This weekend there is nothing planned. Most ofen, when there is nothing planned nothing gets done and I end up guilty for wasting all the time on nothing. Things get put off because they don't have deadlines or aren't urgent. The more relaxed my schedule the more likely I'll skip going to the gym, or doing the dishes, or catching up with friends. I don't know why exactly. Does stress trigger a desire to please that keeps me motivated and focused? Am I a procrastinator at heart? I don't know but faced with an unscheduled weekend in front of me I am on edge. I want so badly to have something that I HAVE to do, just so I know something will get done. I don't know why that is different from giving myself something to do and keeping myself to it, but it is somehow. My responsiblity to my self and my deadlines has never been as strong as that for others. I guess I should work on that.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Which convention to root for?


Minneapolis/St. Paul is still in the running for BOTH National Conventions for 2008 and I'm definately torn. I want one of them to come here but I can't decide which one. On the one hand, I'd like to see the democrats come to town and rally the state. I'd like to see a strong candidate excite the world and sweep away the Bush-tatorship.

On the other hand, if the republicans come to town I'd be able to go protest all their crap. Which is very tempting in its own right. Of course they are probably going to be arresting people for looking liberal so maybe I should go and get arrested, but it is an amendment right so why not. It isn't like I would be ashamed of being arrested on some sham charge that goes against my constitutional rights. And I won't be assaulting anyone afterall.

So who do I root for? Who knows but I definately hope that one of them chooses us. Bring on 2008 - It can't get here fast enough.


On a side note: Does anyone know where I can get one of these?

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Oooo, it makes me mad!

Can you believe this?

Plus-Size Store Sues After Suburb Denies It Space
10:57 a.m. CDT July 5, 2006
CHICAGO - The Village of Oak Park was recently voted the fifth "sexiest suburb" in the country by a national real-estate group, but the town's apparent push to keep its image may have gotten it sued.

Lane Bryant, a national chain clothing store specializing in plus sizes, is suing the western Chicago suburb after the store was denied space in a new development, NBC5's Amy Jacobson reported.

"It's a little ridiculous. If it's good enough for Oakbrook (Mall), it's good enough for Oak Park," one Lane Bryant customer said. "Especially on the Fourth of July weekend, you think in a freedom-filled country, you can sell your product wherever you want."

The Chicago Sun-Times quoted Oak Park deputy village manager M. Ray Wiggins as saying in a letter that Lane Bryant doesn't fit the "kind and quality" of shop desired for the building. "We want a more broad-based retailer benefiting of the village, rather than a niche market," the letter said.

The village used to own the property, which includes condos, a health club and retail space. The community leaders have final say in which retail tenants will be allowed to set up shop.

The building's developer said he was never given an explanation why Lane Bryant wasn't welcomed at the space.

"I don't see any reason not to let a retail store in the neighborhood," a local resident said. "It seems like they're discriminating."

The village president told the Sun-Times that Oak Park wants a Lane Bryant, just in a different location.

But a Lane Bryant spokeswoman said she cannot remember the store ever being denied retail space, according to the newspaper.

The lawsuit seeks to force the village to allow the store to open, and it asks for $2.4 million to cover the developer's losses.


I'm so ticked off by this mess. It seems to me that it is not a big misunderstanding as the town wants to assert. I think that they are backtracking now that they have been sued and it all leaked out to the press. I think I would be mad about this even if I weren't one of the customers of Lane Bryant (aka fat!). The world is not a size 2. I'm so sick of discrimination and judgement of being large. It isn't like we don't try to lose weight or are blissfully unaware of our size. Most larger people I know (women especially) are always trying to lose weight. They go from one diet to another.

BUT, even though we try to lose weight we still need to dress ourselves in the meantime, and Lane Bryant has been an innovator in making stylist plus size clothes. The options have been increasing but the prejudice still remains. Sometimes I hate the looks that I get at the gym "Ugh can you believe her, I'd rather die than be fat." HELLO! I'm at the gym trying to lose the weight, jackass. There is so much extra crap that we have to deal with. I went to Target a couple of months ago because I needed some new workout wear and can't afford to get specialty stuff. Target didn't care plus size workout wear (hello, we need it most?!). Neither did Scheel's or Dick's Sporting. Neither did Marshall Fields. Guess where I found something...Lane Bryant.

Grrr. It makes me so mad. I know the health concerns about being fat, I know that I look better smaller, and I know that being thin makes life easier, but this is who I am now! My efforts to change my weight do not diminish who I am, my true self.

I hope that Oak Park does build a Lane Bryant, and I hope it thrives. Your weight does not equal your worth.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Telemarketers gone wild!

I am home from work today (Hooray for day's off) before I head up for another weekend of camp. Being home always has its benefits: the laundry is getting done, the kitchen is getting a good clean, books get read, etc. The one problem about staying home during the day are TELEMARKETERS!

I should learn to screen my calls I suppose, but since we don't get many people who call anyway always think I should answer. I always try to be polite but firm but it really can get out of hand.

Just this morning I received a call from a fellow who said his name was Eric, although it was hard to tell through the thick indian accent. I'm sure the call was routed from India and no doubt this fellow has a much different name, however, we must try to americanize our telemarketers to make it seem like we value the consumer, right? ugh. So Eric says to me, "I see that you are paying an average of 6% on your morgage, we at _________ can reduce that...."

These are my favorite types of calls because your really know that they have no clue and got your name from some random list somewhere. If they had any clue they would know that we live in an apartment and consequently don't have a morgage! So I hardly can lower my morgage payments. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to have a morgage because it means I'd have a house, but really don't tell me what my average % is if I don't even have it!

So I interrupt Eric and thank him but say we don't have a morgage and he'd be better off calling the next person on his list. He was nice and polite and got off the phone, but I feel bad for the next sap who gets called. Who really buys stuff from a telemarketer anyway!

Oh well, back to the dishes. :)

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Who are the terrorists?

Israel is bombing Lebanon. Hezbollah guerrillas are firing into Israel. Two soldiers have been captured by Hezbollah and at least one woman was killed by their shootings- Are they the terrorists? 45 people and 2 soldiers have been killed so far by Israel's bombs - Are they the terrorists?

Israel occupies Palestinian land - Are they terrorists? Palestinians fight back - Are they terrorists? The US unilaterally supports Israel - Are WE terrorists? What about Syria supporting Hezbollah - Terrorist? Iran - Terrorist?

I have decided that this word should no longer be used, ever. ALL people who seek to bring pain, war, suffering and domination and indeed terror should be considered terrorists. Why is it that the only terror we ever consider is our own. I do not make light of 9/11, it caused pain and suffering beyond imaging for me. But when we respond by beginning a war in Iraq and consequently causing the Iraqi people to live in fear and terror are we any better? Can the fear that the Palestinians live with each day justify hostility to Israel? Can the fear of Israel justify the occupation of Palestine?

Terrorists cause terror - whether by bombs and airplanes, rockets, guns, hunger, pain, instabilty, war, destruction. But the act of being a terrorist is often a response to being terrified as well. Whose rights to live in a world free of terror should we bow too? The world should be working toward peace and I'm so sick of all the justification for war being terrorism. We are a part of it, we are a cause of it, and on occasion we even fund it. We are not innocent, we are not free, we are not the moral compass of the world. The US is no different than the Arab world, or North Korea, or Israel or Lebanon or Palestine. The only difference is that we have bigger guns to respond to our own terror with. But the guns do not solve the problem, merely create more terror in the world.

I am sad today. I have been to Israel. I have been to Palestine. I have been to cities being bombed in Northern Israel. I have seen old land mine fields and learned of the 6 day war. I've seen settlements on Palestinian land. Million dollar houses walled to protect themselves from the refugee cities next door. I have seen flocks of hungry children. I have seen the Jewish people worship at the wailing wall, Christians worship at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Muslims pray at the Dome of the Rock during Ramadan. I have seen the city of Jerusalem, filled with hope and fear at the same time.

I have seen fear in the face of Israelis and Palestinians alike. I have heard their claims to a life of peace and freedom. I have been called a Nazi for walking near a settlement in the West Bank. I have met children who've seen too much suffering already, and their parents who've seen more. I have been moved by the holiness of the place, and wept for the fighting for the "right" to own that holiness.

I don't know what will come of the acts of war happening today. But both sides have lost already. Who are the terrorists? Who is free from the terror? Just take the time to pray that it doesn't get worse, and that peace may win out over war and fear.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Would you try?

So I just found out that American Idol is coming to Minneapolis this year for try outs. Apparently they will be doing auditions on Sept 8 at the Target Center! So would any of you try out? I know some of you aren't in the cities, but whether you are or not, would you ever sit in line and submit to the judging?

I know that I won't try out. I would almost certainly end up on one of the "bad" clips. I can sing marginally but I know that I can't sing at the level it would take to move on. I'm half tempted to encourage Chris to try but I doubt he would. I would be willing to sit in line and support someone who wanted to try, if anyone wants to go though!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Camp Life -or- Hypocrite much?

I have returned from Camp much tanner and sleepy! I was actually home yesterday afternoon but in attempting to update my blog I found myself staring half dazed at the computer screen and realized that I'd be better off relaxing!

I had a great time at Camp with my kids. From Friday to Sun afternoon I was there with my 3rd graders most of whom were at camp for the first time ever. They were wonderful and had a great time! We went swimming and played 4 square and Mighty Mighty Scoop Noodle Challenge! Mighty Mighty is this particular camp's variation of Capture the Flag which involves the attempted retrevial of a wide variety of items: footballs, water noodles, frisbees etc. The first team that gets all the items to their side wins. It is amazingly fun (even though I'm not that good at it...I can't outrun sprinting 3rd graders most of the time!).

I got a camp song fix of course and campfire fix too. All in all it was a great time. I stuck around til lunchtime on Monday because my 4-6 graders came up for week long camp. When I left they were having a great time so far. I imagine that will continue. It is camp afterall!

While I was there I met some other church staff who'd come up with their kids as well. We occasionally met for meals or lulls in the action and naturally discussed our programs and successes and struggles. Like all people tend to do when they have a similar job but different circumstances. It is always enlightening to see how other church's operate and such.

One such woman I met was in the same roll as I am: Children's Ministry Director. She was up for the weekend and staying the whole week long with her kids. She and I had several chats about the ministry things and I learned a lot about the programs she was running and the success that she'd had in her position. She reminded me a lot of a Martha Stewart type...a little too organized for my taste, but I readily acknowledge that that is not my forte. She described all her ministries in such glowing terms that it seemed that she'd never had any challenges with volunteers, troubled kids, or indeed things going wrong in any way. I know that this probably is not the case but she did seem to be implying it. I don't grudge that things are doing well for her, if her children's ministry is thriving so much the better.

What does bug me was her attempts to one up me in all things. When I described something we were doing or that had worked for us she would jump in and explain why that wouldn't work for her congregation and that her way was much better. Fine, whatever. Some people are like that. I'll do what is best for me and my church thanks.

What was especially interesting though was our last chat on Monday morning. We were killing time before Chapel began after breakfast. She'd brought her laptop up and was transcribing some notes onto it, working. We started having a conversation about how more church staff don't come up to camp and support their kids, and agreed that it was a shame that they couldn't get away or didn't want to come. That it was a blessing to be able to interact with the kids and get to know them better, etc. I agreed, and felt a bit guilty for not being able to stay longer.

Chapel began a few minutes later and I left her to go in and worship with my kids. After a while I noticed that she'd remained in the other room working on her laptop. I was there interacting with my kids and she was doing her work instead. And I thought back to the weekend and realized that when I was playing Mighty Mighty or swimming or singing at campfire with my kids she was sitting in the background, sometimes taking pictures but otherwise just passively watching. I felt a bit better realizing that for all her self proclaimed "perfection" I was the one participating with my kids. What is the point of coming to camp and sitting on the sidelines doing your work? (Oh and did I mention that she was staying at a hotel in town rather then at camp? And this camp cannot be considered roughing it at all!)

So I'm back at the office today, thinking it would be nice to be able to be back at camp with my kids, but glad that at least for the time I could spare the time to be fully there. I hope it makes a difference.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Off to Camp

Goodbye for now. I'm off to spent the weekend at camp with my third graders. I should be back Monday night. Until then I'm going to sign off of cyber space! I'll be too busy swimming, doing crafts, singing camp songs,and playing Mighty Mighty Scoop Noodle Challenge! (Think Capture the Flag only more so). Assuming I don't melt in the heat I'll be back next week with a full update.

Playing with the camera...

Since I have a new blog to play with, I thought I'd get the camera out too and experiment. And since my troublemaker cats are home with me, they seemed like the logical choice. So introducing my children...
Tsunami!
This is her "playhouse" she loves to hide inside there.
And...
Doppler!
He likes to explore everything. It is hard to get a good picture because he keeps wanting to play with the camera!
Hide and Seek!

Mmmm...Ribbons. My Favorite!

What would a night be without a little birdwatching...

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Welcome to all: A political disclaimer

To all my friends and family,

I recently sent out an email letting you know about my blog. I hope that you will come and visit. It occurred to after I sent that email that the diversity of the people whom I love makes me need to make a statement. Everyone is welcome here and I hope they feel the freedom to comment about how they feel. But because I care deeply about all of those who may traverse my little web domain I offer this disclaimer:

DISCLAIMER:
I am human. I have opinions and these opinions may differ from yours. You may think that my opinions are crazy or unfounded and I may think that of your opinions. I may talk about politics from a side you do not agree with. I may express concern over current events. I hope to maintain a critical eye and a diplomatic voice but there will be times when anger or sadness or joy overwhelm it. I do not want to hide who I am or what I believe in. But know that you are welcome to disagree. I encourage you to post and begin a discussion, for it is in discussing our differences that we come to recognize our similiarities. Regardless of my opinions and thoughts, I welcome you here.

"Here I stand, I can do no other." - Martin Luther

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Comments

A little bird told me that my comments were stuck on members only. I didn't mean for that to be true, so if you stopped by and visited and were unable to comment please come back and try again! I *think* I solved the problem.

Small Town America Does the 4th of July

For the second year in a row I've spent the 4th in my husbands home town with his family. Though it is not far from the Twin Cities it is a definately MN small town in look and feel. All the small town-ness that occurs there that just seems foreign to me, although it is not unwelcome. I'm getting used to the fact that everyone knows my husband's family, and that they probably know a lot about me too. I've long lost track of how they all know Chris...whether it be "I was his day care provider" or "I lived in X house before the X's did" or whatever. I've gotten used to my mother in law saying "You'll never guess who..." and then offering clues so that everyone knows who they are talking about except me.

I suppose that it is not really different from the average people you meet but it is condensed by the size of the town. I'm getting used to it, and it does have its charm. And I'm even slowly starting to recognize more of the many people that I've met over the years since I started coming to this particular small town America. (Which really isn't all that small and a city, but much different from what I grew up with).

Thankfully said small town is also a college town, which ups the political spectrum from much of small town America. I have been feeling particularly grouchy about the 4th of July this year, especially after Sunday. At church we closed worship with My Country Tis of Thee. As patriotic hymns go I suppose it wasn't the worst, but I was so annoyed by the liberal use of the term 'freedom' in the hymn. "Let freedom ring..." and all of that. With the country at a war in Iraq we started for dubious reasons, fighting a war against terror (which much of the country thinks is synonmous for a war against Islam *grrrrr*), going deeper in debt, ignoring the UN, ignoring health care, education and economics, in favor of more "moral" debates such as marriage amendments, patriot acts, and abortion, I have little positive to say about our freedoms. The freedoms that we were founded with (freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly) are deminishing while we have soliders fighting and dying in Iraq in the name of our *freedom*

Faced with my already negative attitude I wasn't sure I had the energy for the pomp of the 4th. So at said small town we began the morning with the parade which lasted for two hours. I saw more obscure beauty queen winners and fire trucks to last me until at least next 4th of July. And being an election year the local candidates were out in force. The republicans came first complete with a fellow in an elephant costume. After a good distance came the DFLers, and I was pleased to see that their numbers were larger! It offered a little hope that as a nation we can have the good sense to turn the country around after the 8 years of "W."

What was particularly cool was that marching with the DFLers, offering his support for the candidates of this town and county, was Al Franken. Chris and I got to shake his hand though he had to move on before my mother in law thought to get the camera out. It made me happy to see that a nationally known name took the time to come out and do the work of supporting a local candidate. It was not like the president flying in and backing up traffic to do a brief PR appearance, it was him walking and being present and supportive and welcoming. I knew I liked him! Anyway it was a cool thing to see, and did manage to remind me that the democracy can still be a powerful force and that things can change from their current state.

The rest of the afternoon passed uneventfully and we had to drive home before the fireworks, but small town America had given me a renewal of hope for the 4th of July. The history of our nation is one that moves towards equality and freedom, even when we are stuck in the rhetoric that causes us to believe that limiting freedoms and equalities is a moral necessity. I have to have hope that it will succeed in standing for equality and freedom for all once more.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Shuttle Launch Scrubbed

I was sitting at home today watching eagerly to see whether or not the shuttle would launch. I was anxious to see NASA have a successful launch and nervous for the astronauts aboard. Given the last several attempts the shuttle program does not have a great track record, and one that of my earliest vivid memories is the Challenger explosion, I am concerned for those brave enough to go on the shuttle.

The space program has always fascinated me. Given that my mother was a fan of "cheesy sci-fi" I was awed by space early on. But I think even my mother was shocked by my certainty when I declared in elementary school that I was going to be an astronaut. Even after the Challenger explosion (1st grade for me) I was drawn to it. To this day, gazing at the stars is one of my favorite things to do.

I remember following a geeky pattern through elementary school. I convinced my parents to buy me a telescope, and I remember having late night slumber parties for the sole purpose of staying up to watch the meteor showers. I even made a homemade telescope in 4th grade and recreated Galileo's experiements tracking the moons of Jupiter. By 6th grade my desire was more refined and I was certain that I was going to be the first person (not just woman) on Mars.

Obviously as I grew up my dreams changed and my goals changed but I've never quite given up the hope that I might get to space one day. So I found myself watching the preparation of the shuttle with excitment and anticipation and a little worry. They talk about each of the astronauts and their families at home and it makes me say a prayer that they all will make it home safely. They are living one of my dreams.

Ultimately the launch was scrubbed today due to weather concerns. I think that the goal is to try again tomorrow. I wonder about the future of the space program. The shuttles will be scrubbed for good in 2010 and we'll be going back to launchers more reminiscent of the Apollo missions. Whatever the future of the space program I hope that it continues to grow and thrive. Another tragedy would continue to set them back.

In the meantime, I'll watch and wait and hope and pray. And, if NASA should ever want to send a regular person into space I'll be glad to take the risk and go. (And my husband adds, if they want to do experiements on the effects of weightlessness during sex he'd be glad to go too!)