Friday, June 29, 2007

ET iPhone Home

My techno-geek SO just couldn't resist the hype.
She came home tonight with one of these...

Yeah it's cool...but can it toast English muffins?
I'm holding out for one that does.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Wednesday Words of Wisdom

"Happiness is not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort."
- Franklin D. Roosevelt

Stop the presses! I just got my first paid preaching gig!
A local congregation needs a pulpit fill-in for July 15th and they asked little ol' me to do the filling in....and they're going to pay me $150.00 to do it. As I'm already preaching in my home congregation on July 8th this will be the first time that I've done back to back services.
Two services, two sermons.....two different congregations....hmmmmm...this could also be my first chance to recycle! ;-)

But alas, I will most likely choose the high road and write two different sermons. It's a good opportunity for me to get a taste of the real world where I will soon be expected to come up with the goods week after week, without having the luxury of having months between sermons to prepare.
And the fact that I will be getting paid for the pulpit fill-in raises the "you better give them their money's worth" anxiety stakes.

Preaching Fee: $150.00
Cost of gas to get there: $3.29
Experience gained in my first non-home church preaching gig: Priceless

Friday, June 22, 2007

Just put one foot in front of the other...

...and you'll be amazed at how far your little legs will take you.

My more astute readers may have noticed that I posted my last entry at the un-godly hour of 3:46 am. My brain has switched into 'manic' mode these past few weeks….I've been falling asleep late and waking up early (and sometimes not going to sleep at all, as my previous post demonstrates). This is not a bad thing. I usually get this way when I'm really excited about something and my brain won't stop tossing around the details of whatever it is I'm excited about. It could be a change that I'm making in my life, a new project that I've taken on, or an inexplicable flood of creative brainstorming that has me looking at some everyday thing in my life in a new and exciting way.
It's the same drive that makes me climb out of bed at three in the morning because I have an idea for a sermon and if I don't start writing it right there and then I'll never remember it the next day.

This month's mania centers around my role as the Religious Education team leader at church. It's a role I reluctantly took on last year, agreeing to it primarily because I knew it would be good for me to get some experience working with kids before I got thrown to the wolves during Seminary Field Education.
(you Freudians out there, note the comparison: Wolves=Kids….nuff said)

Although I was excited by the challenge at first, the realization of what I was taking on soon set in. Not only was I was the RE team leader but I was also the Sunday School Superintendent (roles usually filled by two people). I was in charge of picking the curriculum, recruiting teachers and helpers, stocking the supply closet, organizing and overseeing our opening Rally Day, Thanksgiving Harvest Sharing, the Christmas Pageant, the Easter Egg hunt, Children's Sunday, Summer Enrichment, and Vacation Bible School. I was also responsible for recruiting leaders for the Youth Groups and overseeing their activities, planning and implementing Adult Education classes with the Pastor, and hiring and monitoring our Child Care worker. If that wasn't enough, I volunteered to teach Sunday School (because we were one teacher short), I cover the nursery when needed, and on any given Sunday I have to be ready to jump up and take the Sunday School class in the event the teacher doesn't show up.

Yes, I was excited at first, and with a team of dedicated RE people to delegate and divvy up the work, it was doable. Did I say "team"? I had three people. One of whom had been RE team leader for many years and was burnt out, one who was so busy at work she had no time to give, and one who turned down my request to teach Sunday School because she didn't like working with kids "that age"…meaning kids over the age of 3 and under the age of 18. It took me over a month just to get the team member's schedules coordinated for a meeting and then only one person showed up.
Throughout the year every request (and plea) for help with projects/events was either ignored ("I'm sorry, I rarely check my email/phone messages") or dismissed ("I'm going to be out of town and/or busy at work").

Way back in August of last year, after I had time to look over all the responsibilities that I was taking on, and I had already begun to suspect that my team was going to be less than cooperative, I sat down with my SO in our kitchen and literally cried "I can't do this."
I was scared out of my mind. Scared of the kids. Scared of the responsibility. Scared of screwing up, making mistakes, and being labeled as 'incompetent' and unfit for the job. I seriously considered calling up my Pastor the next day and telling her to find someone else to fill the position.
But then I saw the dominos begin to fall.
I was coming to the terrifying realization that maybe I wasn't meant to be a minister. If I was afraid of working with kids, afraid to accept the responsibility of leadership, afraid of making mistakes, afraid of being less than perfect… could I be a pastor?

The fear that I was feeling was real, and it was overwhelming, but there was one thing that scared me more…..the fear of letting everyone down…my pastor, my church, myself.

I decided that I would never forgive myself if I quit without even trying.
I decided to stop looking at the long list of responsibilities and to just take it one day at a time.
I decided that God wouldn't have given me this opportunity if God didn't trust that I could do it….and who am I to question God.
I held my breath, and dived in head first.

As the year went on my confidence grew with each successive event/project that I planned and each Sunday School class that I taught, but with the distraction of finishing up school and applying to seminary, RE was very much a back-burner issue for me….in an "oh crap, it's two days before Christmas and I forgot to get a Santa Claus to hand out gifts for the kids after the Christmas Pageant" kind of way.
Working with the unpredictable and often chaotic nature of large groups of children also had a tendency to dampen my enthusiasm for the role. In plain English: Them kids really did scare the #@*$ out of me.

When I came to the realization that I would have to put seminary on hold for a year, one of the first things that popped into my mind was "damn, now there's no getting out of the second year of my term as RE chair…I have to do it all over again….waahhhhhh!"

Then something strange happened. I started planning Children's Sunday and with all the distractions of school and settling my seminary plans out of the way, I started to have fun.
I didn't even bother to ask my team for help. I asked the parents to do little things here and there and they stepped up. The dreaded 'rehearsal' was a blast. The day itself went wonderfully and even though mistakes were made no one noticed and/or cared. Two long-time members told me that it was the best Children's Sunday our church has ever had.

Now I'm caught up in organizing our Summer Enrichment program, events for the kids over the summer, including a Harry Potter party and a Scavenger Hunt Picnic, recruiting teachers for next year, and more immediately, working on a service with the high school youth for July 1st.
Oh, and did I mention that I'm preaching on July 8th?

My creative pipelines are flowing at capacity right now. Which is why I'm having trouble sleeping. My eyes pop open in the wee hours of the morning and I start thinking: "Oh we have to get a cauldron for the punch at the Harry Potter party" or "it would be nice if the high school youth did the children's sermon next week" or "I need to go to Wal-Mart to get supplies for the Summer Enrichment games."

I spent four hours at the church yesterday cleaning and organizing the RE closet…and I enjoyed it. I couldn't wait to do it. I spent the entire previous night thinking about sorting magic markers and colored pencils and which plastic organizing bin would work best…perhaps a multi-draw unit with a handle so the teachers can carry all their supplies easily…..oh and labels! I need to bring the label maker!"

It's a sickness, I know.

Some people are manic-depressive.
I'm a manic-creative/organizer.

Now, I'm off to Wal-Mart….they're having a sale on plastic storage bins!!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Them kids done me proud...

Well as predicted, my little monsters turned into little angels on cue on Sunday morning and pulled off quite a spectacular Children's Sunday if I do say so myself!
The kids all marched in together singing and clapping, we had them filling the roles of liturgist and ushers, four of the kids sang solos, they delivered the sermon, and they read a special communion liturgy with the Pastor and then served communion to the congregation.
There were a few missteps, which is normal when you're trying to get 10 kids to remember to do 20 different things that they've never done before, with only one rehearsal under their belt.

We had four children who delivered the sermon and they had me in tears I was so proud of them.
I gave them the following scripture passage to interpret:

"Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me." (Matthew 18:1-5)

I asked them to interpret the passage in light of how they think adults should be more like children; how children can contribute to the church/community, and what they as children need adults to do for them.
One of our 12-year-olds delivered a sermon that was so well written, with such a beautiful and spot-on interpretation of the scripture that it put to shame some of the efforts of some seminary educated clergy that I've seen. The other kids did an equally fabulous job and in the end I was just grinning from ear to ear with joy that it all came together, and that the adults in our congregation got to see a side of the kids that they've never seen before.

Their performance was so inspiring, that the one teacher who I swore would not volunteer to teach again next year because the kids made her a nervous wreck, came up to me afterward and said "Sign me up for next year!"

I think even she realized that little monsters are not so scary once you get to know them...

Friday, June 15, 2007

Out of the mouths of babes...

I know it shouldn't, but this video cracks me up:

I'm thinking of hiring this little girl to help me out with my rowdy Sunday School class. I know some little monsters that could use a good 'ass kickin' ;-)

This Sunday is "Children's Sunday" at our church, and as Sunday School superintendent it was my bright idea to have the kids run the whole show, from sermon to communion. I finally got them all together to rehearse last night and this morning I swear I found a new patch of grey hairs sprouting from my skull.

You know, I always envision how these rehearsals will go the night before: I will explain to the kids what they need to do, they will listen and then they will proceed to do what I tell them to do (stop laughing) we run through the program several times, and we're out of there in an hour oozing with confidence that all will go well come Sunday.

The reality is: I spend 15 minutes trying to get them all to stay in the same room while I discuss their assignments. I distribute neat, color coded folders for each child with all the needed bulletins, scripts, hymns inside, which they proceed to dump the contents of which all over the floor because "Shannon wants the green folder" and "Ick, I hate purple" and "Why do I always have to have yellow!"
I then try to explain what each paper is and how important it is for them to keep track of their parts while they completely ignore me as they are engrossed in an impromptu game of "let's get markers and decorate the folders with our names." (yeah, but in Sunday School they "haaaaaaaate doing crafts").

Once we get everything sorted out we proceed to the sanctuary to practice.
We're not 5 feet inside the door before one child has her shoes off, two are sliding up and down the pews on their backs, two have turned on the sound system and are in the pulpit yelling in the microphone, one is pawing at the new $20,000 piano that we just received as a donation and is repeatedly asking "can I play this? can I play the organ?", two are in the back of the church looking for trouble in the narthex, one has the communion plate and is threatening to use it as a Frisbee, and one is in the choir loft dangling a stuffed tiger over the balcony ("it's not Tigger…it's Hobbes!")

For the next 30 minutes I have them run through everything that they need to do while they wander off, ask questions unrelated to what we're doing, insist on going to the bathroom every 5 minutes, and generally carry on as if I'm just a voice buzzing in the background.
Apparently when I say: "Guys, you need to be quiet and pay attention because this is really important," they hear: "This is not important, please continue talking, sorry I interrupted you." Using my 'outdoor voice' bought me a few minutes of compliance but some just looked at me, waited one-one-thousandth of a second, and then went right back to doing whatever it was I asked them not to do.

Can you tell this is my first year teaching Sunday School? Can you tell that I have very little experience trying to control a group of hyper-active children?
Would it surprise you if I told you I came home last night with a big grin on my face?
I'm learning as I'm going, and as trying as nights like last night are, I enjoy doing it.
I like the kids and I like seeing them learn new things as they explore and experience the world around them.
Come Sunday the kids will do fine. I'll have to prompt them I'm sure, but they'll pull it together.

In an empty church with just little 'ol push-over me to control them last night they went wild, probably because they could…unlike on Sunday mornings when they're forced to sit in one place and pay attention until they file out to Sunday School, last night they saw that empty church and couldn't resist the urge to explore and do all the things they want to do in that space but can't because the adults wouldn't approve.

A church sanctuary is for Worship; it's a sacred space because it's God's House.
But if I went over to God's House and all he had to sit on was plastic covered furniture, and he had all these neat things that I could look at 'but not touch', and I was told to 'sit down and be quiet' while He talked about a bunch of boring stuff with a bunch of boring adults, I don't think I'd want to visit God's house very often.
Church is where we adults go to explore the ways in which God touches our lives, and we do it in community because it's more fun that way.
Church is where children go to explore the ways in which God touches their lives as well….it's where you can explore what the pews feel like when you slide along them on your back, how different the view is when you stand in the pulpit or hang over the balcony, what your voice sounds like on the microphone that only the adults are allowed to use….and you do all these things with your friends, because it's more fun that way.

These kids will do fine on Sunday.
And if not, I know a little girl who would be willing to 'kick some butt' for me if needed.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

I can breathe again....

That's the sound of the air rushing out my lungs after holding my breath for the last two months as I agonized over my seminary situation.
The Boston school has confirmed that they WILL hold the scholarship for me should I choose to defer my entry until next year. This takes the element of risk out of making the decision to wait. I can apply to the NY school in January and see what they have to offer as far as financial assistance, and I can take the time to visit both schools again this fall to get a better sense of which school is the right fit for me.

As it stands now, there is no downside to waiting.
The only thing I have to lose is time, and as I plan to use that time to further discern where it is God is leading me, in my book this is not a loss but a gain.

Through my pastor and local church connections I've been given the names of grads of both schools who've said that they'd be more than happy to let me pick their brains about their experiences at their alma maters.

Ultimately, I know it's going to come down to which school feels right to me.
But I'm just grateful for having been given the time to let the comparison shopper inside me loose. Ask anyone who knows me…I am not an impulse buyer. It took me over a year to buy my first computer because I had to research every possible choice ad nauseam. I'm an information junkie. My SO will attest to the fact that she hates shopping with me because I will stand in front of a product display looking at every package, comparing every detail, and weighing every option before I make a decision…..that is until she screams, "It's just a damn surge protector…pick one and let's get out of here!"
Ok, I'm exaggerating, my SO is extremely patient with my idiosyncrasies and never screams (except for the "buying party supplies for our wedding" incident, which I won't go into now…I love you honey!)

All I have to say is, thank God for the internet…now I can research my purchases to my hearts desire and then head out to the store armed with a little sticky note that says "Buy the Panasonic DX6780376WHT, sale price $69.99." But God forbid the store doesn't have the Panasonic DX6780376WHT in stock but has the SONY CF8790845BLK which is "just as good" according to the 16-year-old salesperson who just wants you to leave so he can go on a smoke break......Now I have to make an on-the-spot decision, which is very unlikely to happen. Even finding the same product in a different color can send my decision making processes into a tizzy. As I stand there pondering what a black microwave would look like in our kitchen, and how easy will it be to keep clean, and what's up with that funky knob-button thing, I can feel my SO tapping her feet behind me. Thirty minutes later we'll walk out of the store the proud owners of "Unknown Brand" microwave and I just can't wait to get home so I can go online and read the product reviews (and hope that none says "has a tendency to explode without warning while in use").

So….you can see why choosing the school where I'm going to spend the next 3-4 years of my life is not a decision I can make on short notice.

Too bad doesn't rate seminaries....I'd be in info junkie heaven.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Friday Fun with the Book of Life

It's Friday, so we have yet another irreverently blasphemous video that relies on adolescent humor for a cheap laugh.

Damn, I wish I had that book right now...

Thursday, June 7, 2007

God moves in mysterious ways....

You know what I've been saying over the past 2 months about not holding my breath that the Boston seminary would come through and offer me more money to go to school this fall? Well, maybe I should have held that breath, because the seminary admissions office called me yesterday and OFFERED ME A FULL TUITION SCHOLARSHIP!!!!!!!!!

I came home yesterday afternoon to a message from the school telling me that they "had good news." My first response…"I don't know if I WANT good news."
I was actually afraid to call them back. Because I feared having to make the very choice that they have given me.

Boston or NY?
Do I take the sure thing and accept the scholarship for Boston this fall?
Or do I stick with my plan to wait a year and see what the NYC school has to offer when I apply in January?

I really, really, really like the school in NY, and so many factors are leading me to choose it over Boston. Despite all my whining over having to wait, I think my initial response to what should have been wonderful news was telling. They're offering me full tuition and my first thought is "I don't want it. I want to go to NY"??
Am I a complete putz or what??
If they had offered me the scholarship in April I would have been bouncing off the walls with joy. Boston was where I wanted to go. NY wasn't even on my radar. Oh, how things change in such a short amount of time.

I feel like a contestant on Let's Make a Deal.
Monty Hall has just handed me $40,000 and I'm thinking of trading it in for what's behind Door #2. The problem is, I could end up with a lifetime's supply of Turtle Wax.
The NY seminary may not offer me a full tuition scholarship, and even a half-tuition scholarship would have me paying out of pocket twice the amount of money it would cost to go to Boston.

If I defer admission to Boston until next year there's a chance that they may hold the scholarship for me, or at least put me at the top of the list for consideration when it comes time to hand money out for Fall '08. (the admissions dept is checking on this for me)

There's also the issue of housing. If I go to Boston in the fall my choice of on-campus housing will be slim to none as most of it has already been assigned.

Once again, am I a complete putz for agonizing over this decision?
If someone gave you the keys to brand new Porche would you say, "No thanks, there's a Ferrari that I've had my eye on and I'm pretty sure that I'm going to get a good deal on it….but just in case I don't, could you offer me your car again in 6 months? Thanks, you're a doll…."

Yeah…I'm a putz.
Even God knows it.
He/She is up there right now laughing saying "yeah, let's dangle a couple of carrots in front of her and see which one she chooses, this should be fun……Hey Jesus, you got that case of Turtle Wax that I asked you to bring up from the basement?... we may be needing it."

I could use some prayers/suggestions/guidance on this one, so if anyone has any to offer, HELP!

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Wednesday Wisdom and oxymoron?

"It is inexcusable for scientists to torture animals; let them make their experiments on journalists and politicians."
- Henrik Ibsen

There was yet another presidential candidate debate last night.
10 white guys all standing in a row (it was a Republican debate afterall) trying to out sound-bite each other. "Gentlemen, what is your plan to overhaul health care?....You have 10 seconds to answer and if you use the word "socialist" in your answer you're guaranteed to make the morning news cycle."

I haven't actually watched any of the debates. I rely on The Daily Show and Stephen Colbert for a fair and balanced report on these things. My favorite debate question so far:
"Raise your hands if you believe in evolution."
Glad to see that in 2007 we're back to caring about the issues that matter.
"What's my candidate's position on poverty, education, health care, and the Iraq war? Darned if I care, as long as he believes that the world was created in six days and them monkey fossils was planted by liberal activist judges carrying out an elitist, commie, pinko homosexual agenda (them gays got their limp-wristed hands in everything) then he's got my vote!"

Yes, there are some seriously ill-informed people out there who actually think this way, but why does the media feel the need to cater to them? Asking a question like that is more about stirring up controversy and getting air time on the 24/7 news shows (as the competing media outlets perpetually examine each other's navels) than it is about actually gathering information that the American public can use to make an intelligent, reasoned choice when deciding who is qualified to be the next leader of this country.

Do I care if the candidate I vote for believes in God?
Because we as individuals have such diverse theological beliefs and ways in which we define "God," chances are slim that the person I'm voting for believes in the same God that I do.
George W. calls himself a God-fearing Christian but his understanding of God and what it means to be a practicing Christian are miles apart from what I believe.

Bill Moyers said it best when asked what role he thought religion should have in politics:

"Whose religion? Christian? Muslim? Jew? Sikh? Buddhist? Catholic? Protestant? Shi'ite? Sunni? Orthodox? Conservative? Mormon? Amish? Wicca? For that matter, which Baptist? Bill Clinton or Pat Robertson? Newt Gingrich or Al Gore? And who is going to decide? The religion of one seems madness to another.
If religion is the voice of the deepest human experience—and I believe it is—humanity contains multitudes, each speaking in a different tongue. Naturally, believers will bring their faith into the public square, translating their unique personal experience into political convictions and moral arguments. But politics is about settling differences while religion is about maintaining them. Let's realize what a treasure we have in a secular democracy that guarantees your freedom to believe as you choose and mine to vote as I wish."
- Christian Century Magazine, April 17, 2007

And on that note, I'll leave you with a Blog Quiz:

You Are 4% Republican

If you have anything in common with the Republican party, it's by sheer chance.
You're a staunch liberal, and nothing is going to change that!

In case you were wondering, I answered "yes" to the "Do you go to church every Sunday" question. That's what got me the 4%. I'll never be able to show my face at a Democratic primary again.

Monday, June 4, 2007


It's raining…again.
We're getting the remnants of Tropical Storm Barry.
I should have known..…all things coming from those named 'Barry' are suspect in my book….Barry Bonds, Barry Manilow, barium enema….
At least our living room ceiling appears to have stopped leaking. I wish I could say the same for the roof. The temporary patch that the roofers threw up there has simply detoured the water to another hidden cranny, and the woman who lives upstairs has discovered a brand new leak in her linen closet. Four laundry loads of towels and sheets soaked in icky yellow/brown roof water. Yuck.

I can't believe its June already.
Just a few short months ago I was looking forward to the summer. I was looking forward to being a college graduate and taking a few months off before I tackled the next phase of my life - Seminary.
I planned on spending the summer months at church working with whoever was taking my place as Sunday School superintendent, and by the second week of August I'd be packing to move to Boston.
Now none of that is going to happen.
Instead, I'm looking at 15 months of uncertainty and waiting.
I am going to seminary in the Fall of 2008, no matter what, and I've placed a countdown clock in my blog sidebar to remind myself of that daily.
But in the meantime I'm faced with the prospect of getting a job to pay down my credit card debt, planning another year of RE/Sunday School (which entails recruiting twice as many teachers because we're splitting the class), and erasing all of the imagery and expectations I had of going to the Boston seminary as it now looks like I may end up in New York City.

So here I sit on a rainy day contemplating my next move and all I have to say is…blah.
I've accepted that this unexpected wait is a good thing- It fits all the criteria of the clich├ęd "blessing in disguise:"

- The NY school is a better fit for me; The more I learn about it the more I realize that I'll be happier there and get more out of my seminary experience than if I had gone to Boston.

- The Boston school just announced that one of their long-time New Testament professors is leaving and now they're scrambling to cover his classes in the Fall.
Now I don't have to worry about suffering through the repercussions of that.

- I could do with another years experience as RE chair. There are new things I'd like to try and there are things that I would do differently the second time around, and now I have that chance to do it….and knowing that my seminary field placement will most likely involve some kind of RE work, the more experience I have working with kids the better.

- Working full-time for a year will allow me to pay down some of my debt so I'm not carrying it all the way through seminary.

- This is the first time in my life that I've looked for a "temporary" job. Not having to worry about a job's long-term prospects, vacation time, and 401k options, allows me to consider jobs that I might otherwise have never gone for. I can try something new, or take a job because it looks fun, or do something that's repetitious and boring but pays decently, knowing that I don't have to do it for very long!

I've run these silver-lining options through my head many times over the past few months, and I've continuously paraded them out as 'reasons to be cheerful' in response to the lamentations of others when they hear about my seminary saga.
But now I'm realizing that I may have moved too quickly to the "when one door shuts another one opens" mantra.
I didn't allow myself time to grieve.
I didn’t give myself time to let go of one dream before I latched onto another
I didn't give myself permission to be pissed off and disappointed beyond the few days that it took for it to sink in that I'd have to put seminary on hold for a year.
I've been nothing but patient and understanding in my interactions with the Boston seminary telling myself 'that's just the way the admissions process works', when I really want to scream and rant at them for dragging their feet for months and leaving me hanging.
I want to accept the fact that in their eyes I'm just another student looking for money that they don't have to give, when in reality I feel slighted because they seem to not care one iota whether I attend their institution or not.
I want to grab them by the lapels, slap them about the head and scream "You fools! Look at my GPA! **smack** Look at my financial need! **smack** Look at my recommendations and transcript which you described as being "stellar"! **smack, smack** Look at the fact that I'm a UCC member looking to go to a UCC school, and I actually WANT to be a parish minister, as opposed to all the UU "I haven't got a clue why I'm going to seminary" aspirants that I ran into during your orientation weekend! **smack, smack, whaaaaaaaappp**

That's what I want to do.
But I won't do it because it's petty, and ego-driven, and presumptuous, and not at all becoming of a minister-to-be.

But it still lurks in the back of my mind whenever someone asks me: "have you heard anything new from Boston?" Mentally, I've already moved on to NY and all that the school there has to offer. I just have to be patient and take this year that God has given me and appreciate it for the opportunity that it is.
But I also have to allow myself to have days like this.
Days where I look at all the work I have in front of me, work that is different from the work that I expected and wanted to be doing, and the only response I have is to plop myself on the couch, curl up in a ball and say "blah."

That's how I'm doing today.
Ask me again tomorrow when it's not raining.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Friday Fun with Family Guy

This is completely blasphemous and over-the-top...
Which makes it perfect for a Friday Fun video!

The Family Guy takes on Christianity.