In Lay Terms

Random Ramblings From a Church Nerd

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Big Old Range of Emotions

Whew! Yesterday was a big, full day. As I had mentioned before, I was excited to see the movie, "Camp Out", starring ME (well, and some other people). My excitement was dampered quite a bit by the death of my friend, Robin. Her funeral was Saturday morning, just hours before getting to see the movie.

First, the funeral. I've already given my little memorial for Robin. The funeral was very carefully orchestrated to include all aspects of her life. There was a lot of music and drumming. Robin was a conga player, so the Youth Encounter alumni did a lot of singing and drumming. They sang songs that had a lot of personal meaning for me, often because I sang them while I was on team. There was singing for 30 minutes before the actual funeral. The church choir sang, and Youth Encounter alumni sang. Then a small group sang "The Wood Song" by the Indigo Girls. That was where I lost it (for the first time). The recessional was "We Are Marching in the Light of God". Not your typical closing hymn for a funeral. But several people brought their own drums and played along. It turned into a drum circle. It was BEAUTIFUL!

Following the funeral, I got to talk with a few people, but I had to hurry out to get things set up for our private showing of the movie. I was already late. I won't go into detail about the setting up, or the requests of the production company. I'll just get to the good stuff.

The movie is WONDERFUL! It is very funny and touching. I mentioned above that it stars me. That's not quite true. It really follows the kids who come to the camp. They are wonderfully articulate about how they feel about the Christian Chrurch. It's a good film for anyone who wants to do reconciliation work between spirituality and sexuality. I said I wouldn't recommend the movie until I'd seen it. Well, I've seen it, so go and see it.

Actually, this next weekend, the film is making its premiere at the Melbourne Queer Film Festival. If you are in Australia (well, the Melbourne area), go and see it. For those of you in the US, we know that it is at the Cleveland Film Festival March 23-24. We really want it to show at other places, so please make sure theatres are filled. I'm sure I'll be making plugs for the film whenever I know where it is.

For those of you who are interested, information about The Naming Project is to the right, under LINKS. The web site for Camp Out is here. I'm sure that soon, J will have something to say about the movie as well. J is the main adult who narrates much of the film. For the most part, you will see me playing the guitar (rather poorly) by a fire.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Remembering Robin

When I was part of the traveling youth music ministry team, the VP for Team ministries was this wonderful woman named Robin. She was able to talk about tough subjects with a continual smile on her face. She had a great sense of humor. She could play improv games with the best of them. She was a great leader.

A few months later, when I was getting kicked off this traveling youth music ministry team, Robin was the only person on the executive level who stood up for me. The other VPs and the President all wanted me gone, and she continued to fight for me. After the decision was made, she made sure to tell me that she was the sole dissenter in that meeting.

Some months later, I was at a very pro-gay function, and I saw that Robin was playing the drums for this event. I remarked how interesting that was. Later, I actually saw Robin...AND HER GIRLFRIEND! We had a brief conversation, but I was unaware that Robin was a part of "the family". Well, after that, our relationship grew. We were able to talk about her, and me, and this ministry organization. Eventually, Robin desired to tell more and more people at her work. She was also seeing the organization get more and more polarized about issues of sexuality. So, when the breaking point came, she left.

We continued to keep in touch on occasion. We would have lunch and gossip about the organization. When I coordinated my big conference, Robin was a major volunteer. She sat at a sound board, controlling the microphones. She even helped me prep a band that was going to be playing for the first time in front of a GLBT Christian crowd. I appreciated all the energy she threw into that place.

A few weeks ago, when I was in Phoenix, people started telling me that Robin was having major health problems. The name of her disease is ulcerative colitis. She had had some surgeries, but they weren't helping. She even had her colon removed. That surgery was the hardest for her, and she fell into a coma.

On Monday, I learned that her family was planning to take her off of life support. Robin died on Wednesday, February 22 at about 11:00 AM. Her funeral is scheduled for this Saturday.

I have a mix of emotions concerning this. I really loved Robin. I thought she was always the example of grace personified. I also appreciated what she stood for. She was able to bridge her faith and her sexuality in a great way. She was a part of a Lutheran congregation that is well known for their ministry in the GLBT community.

Her funeral is going to be a strange place for me. It's going to mix the world from this Organization and the very GLBT Congregation. Right now, I don't know if the two can co-exist in the same room...but they were both important parts of who she was. I'm interested to see what the funeral looks like, as they combine both aspects of her life.

I hope that they can honor the whole of who this person was/is. She is so much more than these two aspects of her identity, and I don't want to see any part of her denied. I also want to hear grace at this funeral. I want to know that she's always been a loved child of God, and God has not left her on her own.

Thank you, Robin. We will miss you.

Answering the Challenge

J offered me a challenge, and I have yet to take him up on it (as he reminded me in my last post). I also got a comment from Mark that I should not be ashamed of being a lay person.

First, let it be known that there was a LOT of sarcasm over the lay person comment. I get a little anti-clerical when I'm around pastors who are too full of themselves and their title (I know a few of those). Other times, I just expect people to be full of themselves, when they are really genuine folks.

So, to respond to both J and Mark's past comments, I have to say, "It's abso-flippin'-fragi-paisley-purple-tastic 2 b a lay person!"

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Cleaning House, er, Blog

The bishop meeting went wonderfully well today. I think I was expecting more of an issue, but he seemed very happy for us and for our movie. Good stuff. Now all that's left to do is actually SEE the movie!

I usually make very slow changes to my blog. If you are observant, you will have noticed when I changes some of my links around. I don't think people actually look at links, so I'm not going to be so on top of those as I could be.

However, I did want to update the list of other blogs I'm looking at. You will notice the deletion of a couple. They haven't been updated in months, so I'm not sure if it's worth the traffic. One was even shut down. Of course, I've added several as well. You will notice quite a few that start with "Luther". Apparently, that's me getting back to my Lutheran roots. Not that you Catholics and Episcopalians aren't great, but sometimes you just want to be with your own. I hope you appreciate the new links as well!

When I started this blogging thing, my other half rolled his eyes. He didn't think it would last this long. So far, I've done well. Apparently, I have also inspired my mother to start her own blog. She's been traveling quite a bit, and she wants to describe her travels. I'm looking forward to reading it. As she said, if we faithfully blog, then we won't have to talk to each other!

Thanks, readers! You make this all fun!

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Meeting the Bish!

Tomorrow, those of us who work for The Naming Project are going to visit with the bishop of the Minneapolis Area Synod. The purpose of the meeting is to make reference to the movie that is soon coming out about our little gay church camp. We just want him to know about it if/when some press calls for a reaction

This is going to be one of those strange, awkward conversations. Since both of my colleagues are clergy, they have had a lot more direct communication. However, there is quite a bit of tension between them and the bishop, due to issues of sexuality.

I, on the other hand, am JUST a lay person. I do not warrant the Bishop's attention quite so much. In fact, if I did relate to a synod staff person, it would be the half-time youth ministry coordinator. We did, in fact, inform her about the movie, but she has no power over anything, so she just referred us directly to the bishop and a PR person for the synod.

So, we have two clergy, one of which was ordained extraordinarily, and little old me coming to tell the bishop that we are going to make a big splash in the press. This raises a few questions for me:

1. Does the Bishop even know what The Naming Project is? We have made some attempts to let him know about this ministry we are starting in his area. I have a hunch he has ignored our ministry for some of the more pressing issues out there (like gay ordinations and blessings). Part of me wants to say, "You know about The Naming Project, right? Well, there's a movie about it. Just wanted to let you know."

2. What is he going to do about it anyway? He can't order us to stop the movie. We don't own the movie. A Hollywood company controls it. He couldn't even stop someone's ordination against the rules, so what can he do about a movie?

3. Will he want to see the movie? If so, we are not inviting him to our private showing this weekend. He can walk down the red carpet when this thing has a major showing in Minneapolis.

I think that we are three people he would rather not deal with. It's not that he's a bad bishop. He just plays the political game. And our presence reminds him of things that are beyond his control. That's what is going to make this an interesting conversation.

Oh, one other question: Should I wear a tie?

Monday, February 20, 2006

Getting Geared Up for Lent!

LutheranChik made a reference to being ready for Lent to begin. I have to say, I'm sort of with her.

I'm not planning anything too different. I probably will attend those Wednesday services with a nice soup supper beforehand. I also use the oh-so-convenient Lenten Devotionals sent out by Luther and Pacific Theological Seminaries. They combine a short reading with a short reflection. I find that it works in my house.

Do you know that I love best about Lent? It's palpable. I get all caught up in the change in climate. I can see the days getting longer (I realized it this morning when I walked the dog at 7:30 - which has been pre-dawn until today). I can see earth coming back to life - slowly, mind you. But it's happening. The climate change effects my brain, and I do think of new life in Christ. Really.

If you look back through my archives, you will see that I get blue in the fall. I don't like the shortening days. The end of the season of Pentecost is tough for that reason. But Lent holds promise. Lent is bringing us through the darkness into an ever-growing light. It's like a secret that cannot be kept any more.

Here's a practical consideration to ponder. We have one of those garden flags. You know, you are supposed to change them for the season. Well, we have a snowman, who sits out for most of the winter (from Christmas on). We even have a Mardi Gras flag, purchased by my other half when we were in New Orleans a few years ago. We have a great Easter flag. It's a lavender color with a gold cross over it (no bunnies here!). But we don't have a good flag for Lent. Oddly enough, Target doesn't sell Lenten garden flags.

I suppose we could get crafty and make our own set of liturgical garden flags. But, to tell you the truth, we are not very crafty. If we can't buy it, we probably don't have it. Any suggestions for a good Lenten garden flag? Otherwise, the snowman will go out there after Mardi Gras.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Yet Another Week of Fun

After a very full week, and a relatively relaxing weekend, what do I have to look forward to? Quite a bit, actually.

Tomorrow (Monday): Doesn't hold a lot of excitement, but I'll be at work while many of you get President's Day off. That's the quirk about working at a college of the Church. You don't get a lot of public holidays off.

Tuesday: RENT is coming out. You may remember my excitement about the theatre release over Thanksgiving weekend. Now the DVD will be available. I probably will not rush out to buy it right away, but it helps to make Tuesday more special.

Wednesday: Three of us who work for The Naming Project are going to have a meeting with the Minneapolis Area Synod Bishop. We are planning to warn him that there is a movie coming out about The Naming Project, and if people ask him about it, he shouldn't play dumb. This will be an interesting conversation, as the three of us all have a unique, yet strained relationship with the Bishop. What's this movie, you ask? Keep reading.

Thursday: The third installment of the Alumni Mentoring Dinner. This is one of my programs that I run at my college. I get to throw dinners for alumni, students and employees. It's a fun program. This time, we are going to have a presentation from the Campus Kitchen. They use the leftover food in the kitchen to repackage and deliver to needy folks. A good night.

Friday: An academic support roundtable at nearby St. Olaf College. It may be the opportunity to learn about this job that I've had for the last year and a half. Maybe now I'll have a clue what I'm doing.

Saturday: This is the day that I actually get to see "the movie". J has already made reference to this in his blog. We have run a camp for GLBTQA youth for the past two years (this summer will make camp #3). The first year, a film crew filmed it. They made it into a documentary, and we finally get to see the finished product. I'll formally recommend it to you once I've seen it. For now, I'll mention that we are supposed to be in the Cleveland Film Festival, and three festivals in Australia (apparently, we are big in Australia). I'm very excited and a little nervous about seeing this. I hope it's good, and I hope that lots of people see it! So, here's my plug to you: SEE IT! The movie web site is here.

Quite a full and busy week. Saturday is definitely the climax, but there are quite a few days until we get there. I hope I can keep up my strength...I guess I should go to bed.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Getting My Groove Back

Today has been a stay-at-home day. That is a good thing, since I have not been home over the weekend for a few weeks now. I can't call it a lazy day, but I sure didn't go any farther than I had to walk my dog.

I spent a good chunk of the day cleaning house. Then, then evening I watched the lovely movie, "How Stella Got Her Groove Back." It's a very good movie that I hadn't seen before. Also, Taye Diggs is a beautiful person!

I know that there is some controversy surrounding the author and this memoir-type piece. It turns out that Stella's 20-year old lover-turned-husband (played be the very hansome Taye Diggs), turned out to be gay. Apparently he married her so he could get a greencard to live in the US (he's a native of Jamaca). Let me say, that it sure changes your perspective to watch the movie with that information in your head.

All I can say, if I had the money that Stella had, then I'd probably have my groove as well. Dang, she had a nice house!

My other half has been doing our finances and paying bills. A little less restful for him, but stuff that had to get done.

Hopefully, I'll have my groove for this coming week.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Stomp on the Devil

OK - I should apologize for all my cheap shots on the Vice President. I'm over it now.

Last night, I preached at our campus-wide communion. It happens at 9:30 on Wednesday nights. We use the next Sunday's lectionary texts. The main reason that I was invited to preach was that we were trying to promote the camp fair, which happened tonight. I was supposed to take the texts from Isaiah and Mark (lowering your friend through the ceiling), and relate them to why you should spend your summer working at a church camp. In some ways, it was more infomercial than sermon.

I run a program at my college where we give students a $500 stipend in addition to their camp pay. It is now a legend that 75% of church leaders had a significant camp experience, so we are trying to get more people to have a camp experience by making it easier on them financially. That's why I was to connect communion, Mark, and outdoor ministry.

I also decided that it would be a good idea to ask those students who worked at a camp before to help lead portions of the worship. Here's where the danger came in:

1) Apparently, camps do not teach people how to teach/lead camp songs anymore. I am dismayed by the poor songleading skills from those camp workers. I have noticed this for a while, and it really disturbs me.

2) (This is the bigger issue) We closed the worship with a song from one of the camps called "Stomp on the Devil". At the end of the stanza, we shout "It's time for war!" and then we all shout with glee.


If you look two posts below this one, you will read about the infiltration of a very evangelical group on our campus who has been drawing students away from campus ministry worship. I know that these two students are a part of that, but little did I know that they were working at a Lutheran Bible Camp (in Iowa, no less!) that was glorifying war in song.

I HATE spiritual warfare language. It makes me want to wretch. I do not believe that we are in battle with the devil. More often, I'm in battle with myself. I also can imagine being called the Devil by someone who does not approve of my "lifestyle". This song apparently gives free license for youthful thugs to smash my head in with a baseball bat. Why do we have to sing songs that glorify violence through the theme of spiritual warfare?

I'll confess that I heard some of the words before chapel started. I knew that it was not a song I would have approved. I decided that I was so happy that these two students were participating in worship, that I would allow them to sing their song. However, I did not hear the "It's time for war!" line until they taught it to everyone else.

This is not the first time something like this has happened. I'm torn between two values of mine. I really want to empower youth and college students into leadership in several areas. However, when I've had quality sacrificed by doing that. I would never have taught that song to other folks. I would be ashamed of that song.

OK - I'll admit that I've laughed at songs about Jesus and the Devil in little boxes (white and red, respectively). However, I also see those song for what they are. They have become songs that I will joke about with friends, not songs that to build up the faith of children.

So, we sang "Stomp on the Devil." I couldn't do anything else. It was my choice to let them go, so I have to live with the consequences. Mea culpa.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Hunters Beware!

Is it OK to confess that I'm getting some sort of sick pleasure out of the story about Vice President Dick Cheney shooting another friend in the face?

I'm guessing it would be OK, because all of the late night shows are really playing it up. Actually, tonight I went to the Daily Show's web site to hear their spin on the story. I don't watch TV, but if I did, The Daily Show would be on my favorites list. And of course, they did not disappoint.

A part of my own reaction to the story is not one of shock. I grew up in the north woods of Minnesota. Hunting was a way of life there. We got "fall break" off from school - which happened to coincide with the opening of deer hunting season. My family did not hunt, but we lived among about 50 hunting cabins. Every year, there was at least one hunting accident, and usually someone died.

In Minnesota, the gun debate has been around criminal activity. I guess I have my own take on it. I've known more people die in accidents than in homicides. I still don't think guns are safe - mostly because people still don't know how to use them properly.

And so you will get to hear how this story plays out. You will hear John Stuart and Jay Leno crack jokes about Dick shooting his friend in the face. You can laugh...I probably will, too. But maybe some good can come out of this. Maybe we can learn a little more about gun safety.

Ya think?

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Yup, I'm Still an Extrovert

I really appreciated Joe's comments on my last post. I'm happy to know that there are others that feel the urge to want to meet each other. Actually, I'm still considering the idea of an "anonymous convention". We would wear paper bags over our heads and our name tags would read our blogs.

Yes, I mentioned that I'm an extrovert. However, tomorrow I'm departing with a group of students for a retreat where we are going to take a whole bunch of personality tests. Actually, I'm probably not going to take any of the tests, since I've done this same retreat twice a year for three years now. Anyway, one of the tests is the Myers-Briggs Personality test. I've taken this test several times before, and I come out with the same result.

Are you ready for it?

I'm an ENFJ.

Of course, for those of you who don't know what the Myers-Briggs test is, those four letters mean anything to you. Well, I'm not going to go into a lengthy explanation of the test or what the letters mean. You can Google it.

You may be asking yourself the big Lutheran question, "What does this mean?" This means that I get my energy from other people. I have compassion, and feel for others. I tend to see the big picture over the details, and I act with my gut about how I'm feeling. I'm also a big, anal-retentive freak about some things.

The J is the anal-retentive freak part. I like to make a decision quickly, and stand by that decision, even when evidence shows that we should change our decision. I hate to be late. In fact, I like to always arrive early, so I can mentally prepare for whatever I'm going to be doing. The J is a big factor in my life. It's a part of me that determines how well I get along with other people.

So there, I have found a way to reveal another part of my life to you, my dear readers (both of you).

Maybe next time, I'll debrief the ELCA Youth Ministry Extravaganza. It sure was extravagant!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Have I Mentioned that I'm an extrovert?

I just got back from Phoenix last night.

Whew! I'm exhausted. They tell you that you should use this time as rest and rejuvenation. Whatever. I stay up late talking to people. I'm running around all day, trying to make connections between my youth group, the college where I work, and their own ministries. I've done this for three years, and I always come home exhausted. I guess exhaustion is when I know that I've done a good job and that I've had a good time.

Yes, I'm a conference freak. I love seeing how the workshops and keynotes go. Even more, I love talking to people. Sometimes they are old friends, and sometimes we have a fresh new connection. I've also become a conference snob. I tend to evaluate the conference as we go along. I'll tell you what is working and what should be changed. But I really like networking at conferences, and that is what we did in Phoenix.

So, I'll unveil a little of my anonymity. My program is called The Naming Project. As Jay mentioned, we have a movie coming out soon about our camp. So, we spent a lot of time at this conference talking to people about The Naming Project. We did a workshop, so we got a lot of good conversations out of that. We also had a booth, where we hung out most of the time. It was great!

Here's hoping that these conversations will mean a continued ministry for The Naming Project.

On the same theme of being an extrovert, here's my frustration with blogs. There is community gathered. I read your blogs and I assume you read mine. We comment on each other's posts (occasionally - but I wish we commented more). I feel like I know you people. You are real, genuine people. I want to meet you and have a conversation in real time. But, I know that anonymity is a part of this whole blogging experience. We can never gather in one place to meet each other. For some, that's an impracticality. For others, that's a breach of appropriate on line interaction. I mourn the fact that I'll never be able to converse with you.

Hey, maybe we can plan a conference, just like the one I attended. We could all be there. You know, web lurkers unite!

Of course, how do you get to do that when some people won't even comment?

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Rush, Rush, Rush

In mere minutes, I'll be driving my other half to the airport to help his mother move. Then, I have to prepare myself to leave tomorrow for Phoenix. We have a display for my youth group that we need to put together. That has to happen tonight. Then, I'll go home and pack my personal belongings and clean the house.

I love to travel, but I don't always like preparing to travel. I feel so much better once I'm on the plane. That's how I'm feeling here. There is so much to take care of before I can leave.

Many of you have probably had the same situation. I'm sure you can sympathize.

Well, I'm off to Phoenix!