In Lay Terms

Random Ramblings From a Church Nerd

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Traveling Monkey

That's what I am these days. I'm going be in Toronto until Monday. I'll be at the Lutherans Concerned/North America assembly. The name, Lutherans Concerned, isn't a very good title. It sounds like we sit around with furrowed brow all weekend. Actually, this is a very fun group of people. The title of the assembly is "Together in Toronto", which isn't all that great, either, but we will deal with it.

Two years ago, the assembly was in Minneapolis, and I worked on it. It was a good event (if I do say so myself). I'm excited to go and be a participant.

The assembly is going to be ecumenical. We are working together with the Mennonites and the Uniting Church of Canada. As with anything, each denomination has their own traditions and sacred cows. It's been interesting to hear how these groups have compromised to create an event. I may be a little critical (I guess I always am), but I'm interested to see what the final products is going to be like.

Actually, I'm even more excited to get to visit Toronto. It's a city I've never been to before, so I'm going to be a big tourist!

If you want to see what is happening at Together in Toronto, click here. If you want to learn more about Lutherans Concerned/North America (besides our very dour-sounding name), click here.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Is Altruism the New Prada?

It seems that social consciousness is the new sensation that is sweeping the nation. Just a few weeks ago, Newsweek had a cover story entitled, "The Greening of America." The article highlighted several ways that architects, homeowners, consumers, and people like you and me are all making smarter choices for sustainability and the environment. Maybe these changes are being brought on by rising energy costs. People might not be thinking of the environment, but of their own pocketbooks. However, it was interesting to see all the creative ways that people are changing their lifestyles.

Also, the richest man in the world, Bill Gates, has announced that he is quitting his job at Microsoft to save the world. OK - he's not quitting completely, but he is investing more of his time and energy into the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. He wants to combat the ills of this world. This guy built himself an empire around Microsoft. He used his innovation to make Microsoft what it is. Now he's going to take that ability and turn it toward poverty, malaria, and other problems around the world. Wow. If anyone is poised to make a substantial difference, it really could be him.

AND...if that weren't enough. Another incredibly rich man, Warren Buffet, has decided that he is going to will his fortune to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. He's not going to pass his empire on to his kids (I'm sure they will get along OK without it). He's not even going to start his own foundation (often a monument to one's self). He decided that Bill Gates (and his foundation) is best positioned to make the world a better place.

Is this a new trend? Are people actually caring for one another? Are we thinking about the future in a new way? I really hope this isn't a trend. This is an attitude that we need to share with the world more often. Often, we feel like we can't do anything to change the world. So, we do nothing. Now, if people hear that people want to help the world, maybe it can encourage them to jump on the bandwagon.

To quote a beautiful (and gay) song: What have you done today to make you feel proud?

Sunday, July 23, 2006

This Scares Me

The following article comes from I found a link off my Google News page. It reminds me of how good life is in the United States...and how scary our lives could really be.

Latvian Gay Pride Meeting Under Siege In Riga Today By Fascists, Violence Used

Today in the Latvian capital of Riga, a crowd of fascists laid siege to and attacked a meeting called by the Latvian gay organization Mosaika at the four-star Reval Hotel to celebrate Gay Pride, after Pride March planned for today in Riga was banned on Wednesday this past week by the Riga City Council, a ban upheld on Friday by a Latvian court. But anti-gay fascist protesters laid siege to the hotel where some 100 gays and lesbians were meeting, and assaulted those trying to leave. The gay meeting attracted many journalists, who have also been targeted for assault by the protesters, who pelted them with eggs, bottles, and water. [For background on today's siege, read my article for Gay City News earlier this week on the ban on the Latvian Pride March by clicking here.]

Nicolas Alexeyev of -- who was the organizer of the banned Moscow Gay Pride March, during which he was arrested, a demonstration that was also broken up by fascists on May 27 -- had gone to Riga in solidarity with Latvian gay activists to protest the ban on the Latvian Pride March, and Alexeyev this morning has been e-mailing a series of reports on the ongoing siege of the hotel and the assaults, which were continuing as of the receipt of his latest dispatch at 9:09 AM EST. "Protesters are targetting anyone going out of the hotel. Speeches continue inside the hotel quietly, as planned," wrote Alexeyev in his latest e-mail message.

"Today, Latvia does not show the face of a modern and democratic country. Instead, Riga is showing the face of homophobic facism, threatening its citizens and their guests, including members of the European Parliament," wrote Alexeyev.

"One of those assaulted was the openly gay pastor Rev Maris Sants. The police refused him protection as he went to his car, where he was attacked," Alexeyev said.

"People attending the press conference had to be rushed out into waiting vans to be ferried away from the baying homophobic crowd," said eye-witness Peter Tatchell of the British gay rights group OutRage.

"Earlier at 1100 hours today, the church service Rev Sants held in support of Riga Gay Pride was attacked by a dozen neo-nazis. Worshippers were pelted with shit and rotten fruit. Despite previously requesting police protection, no police were present to protect the congregation. Dutch MEP (Member of the European Parliament) Sophie In't Veld was one of the worshippers prevented from leaving the church by the homophobic vigilantes," reported Alexeyev.

Agence France-Presse reported this morning that, "An AFP reporter outside the Church of England protestant church in the heart of Riga said hundreds of anti-gay protesters had gathered as the service drew to a close, and chanted abuse at the 50 people inside. 'Homosexuals are dirty sinners. They are immoral people and they don't have a place in normal society," said Viktors Biese, leader of the Latvian national radical organisation ANSS. "We have to stop them now. We can't wait until they start demanding the right to get married and adopt children,' he told AFP."

"Around a dozen of the gay pride supporters, including a pastor, Juris Calitis, who led the service and remained in the church after most of the congregation had slipped out, were hit by eggs and bags of excrement as they left," according to the AFP dispatch.

According to Alexeyev's dispatches, Dutch MEP Veld said of the siege and assault on the meeting in the hotel that "it's putting Europe to the test....We see that some of our European governments are throwing human rights out of the window." Veld added that "We need to speak louder or we will leave the floor to the bigots, to the extremes, to the ones who want violence. Tell your friends and family to speak out. That is just as important. I will go back the European Parliament and will make sure that the Parliament will speak out."

"The inaction of the Latvian police is scandalous. They seem to be doing the absolute minmum," said OutRage's Tatchell.

Doug Ireland, a longtime radical journalist and media critic, runs the blog DIRELAND, where this article appeared July 22, 2006.

When people are attacked in a church for worshipping, then you know that it's gotten out of hand. It's one thing to call GLBT folks un-Christian (some certainly are, but not all). It's another thing to attack folks who are trying to worship. I guess our world hasn't moved ahead in compassion and understanding.

Sorry, I guess I'm a little pessimistic today.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Waking Up Early...Going to Work Late

I love summer!

With our new exercise routine, we are getting up at 6:00 AM to work out for 30 minutes. Then, my other half rushes off to his internship at Major Retailer, while I spend a more leisurely time in the morning. We don't have the dog, so I don't need to take a walk. I work a lot less in the summer, so I strive to be to work at around 9:30 (sometimes even later).

This leaves me with some extra time on my hands. One morning, I went back to bed. Then I realized that going back to bed after working out might not be the smartest thing. These last couple of days, I've spent more time on line, blogging and reading articles. I'm glad that I'm blogging more often, but I probably don't need to spend more time on line. Today, I finished the last chapter of a book I've been reading.

This book is by Jane Jacobs. It's called The Death and Life of Great American Cities. It was written in the 60's and it's great. I resonate with it quite a bit. She writes about what a city is supposed to be, and what a planner expects a city to be. It's another one of those non-theological books that one can think about theologically. I recommend it to anyone who is interested in city life, community, and institutional life.

So, now it's after 9:00, and I need to head off to work. Have a great day!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

State of the World

I don't often comment on current events...mostly because I feel that all the analysis has been done by experts. However, I've been listening to NPR reporting on the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, so it's on my mind.

I guess I don't understand how hate can run that deep. Just a few years ago, Israel pulled out of Lebanon. Was it only last year that Israel pulled out of the Gaza Strip? I heard a radio commentator state that Israel saw these acts as acts of peace, but Islamic extremists saw them as acts of weakness to be exploited. That comment has hung with me these last couple of days. It makes me wonder when there is truly an act of peace. Even if one party intends peace, it may not be interpreted as such. Will mistrust and hate always pervade. What can Israel do to prove that it wants peace with the world, yet not be crushed out of existence? Maybe nothing.

Even as I write this, I question Israel's peaceful intentions. Their reactions often seem overly harsh. Twice now, they have had soldiers kidnapped. In response, they have killed lots of civilians in bombing raids. This is way more than "an eye for an eye". This is using an act of aggression as an excuse to perform an even bigger act of aggression.

Who's at fault? I'm not sure that any person, or any party, is at fault. This is something that we have set up for centuries. It can't be undone quickly. Somehow there needs to be an understanding that we all have to live in this world together. When someone is hurting, we are all hurting. People don't seem to get that.

One of my criticisms of the National Youth Gathering, and particularly the Multicultural Youth Leadership Event, is that they did not stress that we are all the body of Christ. We need to learn how we live together faithfully. We have too much of the "I have no need of you" sentiment going on in the world. I think an important aspect of my theology is that we need one another in order to survive this world. We cannot ignore others, because their pain is our pain. God sees us as a collective. God will not pick out those whom God favors. We need to let people know that. They are connected to one another.

So, I started with Israel, and I've gone to San Antonio in one post. However, I think that the human race needs an attitude adjustment. We need to see one another as valuable. Valuable to each one of us.

If God loves each one, then so should we.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Redoubling Our Efforts

We are trying out some new things in our household.

First, both of us are aware of how out of shape we are. My other half is taking a physical education class for his degree. It has started him thinking about his own health and lifestyle. So, we are waking up early in the morning to do a little workout routine. It's not a lot, but it's more than we have ever done before. I'm hoping for some strengthening...especially for my back!

We also have noticed how behind we are in other areas of our lives. We have some work that needs to be done, regarding our real estate. We keep putting it off over and over. If we want something good to happen, we are going to have to take care of it soon. Last night, we made a list of projects to get done in the next two weeks. We are going to cut back some other stuff for the next few days, in order to focus on getting the jobs done!

This summer has been constant chaos at our house. We've had to deal with evictions, friends moving in, my travel schedule, and my other half's job and school schedule. Sometimes we don't know if we are coming or going. I'm hoping that we will be able to finish up some of these projects and simplify our lives. But it will take effort to get all this stuff done. That's what we are hoping to accomplish.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Did I Mention I'm Back?

Yes, I've returned from San Antonio. My posts were brief and didn't really tell the whole story. I've been challenged and shaped by this week. Not all of it was positive, but I know that I've grown because of the experience.

The photo of the kids dancing with the lights is my favorite photo of the whole trip. I think the effect is incredible. Death-metal Christian band, the Newsboys, are playing in the background. We don't really care about them. We are having our own fun!

My workshop to the LYO went really well. I was able to say everything that I wanted to say. I did even better than my outline called for. While I was speaking, some other point came up in my mind. These points were what really stuck in people's minds. I also got some invitations for follow-up with some synods. That's some pretty good news as well.

I also discovered a day after my workshop that a trailer for Camp Out is on the Camp Out website. I wanted to show a trailer, but I didn't think that one existed. Bummer. However, I was told that the workshop was strong without the trailer.

Now I need to buckle down at home and get some much-needed work done.

The photo is a banner of all the churches I traveled with.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Guess What Theologian I Am?

I don't usually post quizzes on line, but this got my attention.

You scored as Martin Luther. The daddy of the Reformation. You are opposed to any Catholic ideas of works-salvation and see the scriptures as being primarily authoritative.

J�rgen Moltmann


Martin Luther


John Calvin




Paul Tillich


Karl Barth


Friedrich Schleiermacher


Jonathan Edwards


Charles Finney




Which theologian are you?
created with

It may say that I'm Martin Luther, but it actually was a TIE! I'm so good, I'm two theologians...Or maybe that means I have a split personality and should be taken to the psych ward.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Am I Really Posting this much from San Antonio?

I'm shocked that I have the time and access to a computer to keep updating you. But it's been a good processing for me.

Last night, our group performed in the mass cast of "Travelin' Through". They told our kids to wear white, long sleeve shirts and khaki bottoms. Then, they gave the kids two little keychain flashlights (tiny, cheap torchlights here). The effect was really cool. During the beginning of the song, kids got up from random places around the dome, and walked into place until they filled the isles and the perimeter of the dome. Then they turned on the flashlights all at once...and BAM! It was an amazing affect.

At the end of the night, the Newsboys performed. Most kids were excited about seeing a famous Christian rock band. Our kids were more interested in creating a spontaneous dance in the back isle of the dome. It was cool. These kids are very good hip-hop dancers - for the most part. They were great leaders, and tried to get everyone involved in their dance. They also were dressed alike (the white shirts on black kids with these flashlights just had an amazing affect), and they were dancing with the flashlights, so they attracted attention. I even joined in, and I don't usually dance too much.

It was a super night. We got some pics. I'll put one here, but there are lots (they might even try to upload some video) at

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Dancing...Or Not

First off, I'm sorry that my other post got cut off. My time on line is limited, so I can't go into very much detail. I feel pretty good about where we are at as a group. They have been good with a lot of really structured schedule. Life will lighten up for them in the next few days.

MYLE was heavily scheduled. AND, our group is doing a mass cast dance tomorrow night. Today, they had to take 2.5 hours of their free time to rehearse for this. Tomorrow, they will have to head over to the dome VERY early to prepare for the evening session. Those things cut into free time, but I think the kids will find it worth it when they get to dance in front of everyone. When I saw the rehearsal, I see that it will be a good performance.

There is some VERY heavy gay subtext in this gathering. It's funny, because we (Lutherans Concerned and The Naming Project) are officially shut out of the gathering. However, our mass cast is actually dancing to "Travelin' Through"...the song from the movie Transamerica. Also, we've had the Hawaiian "Over the Rainbow" and "The Rainbow Connection" (hard rock version) as transitional pieces. Let's face it, gay is all over this place, but no one will talk about it...Officially.

So I'm here, with brochures in my back pocket. I have what conversations I can. Maybe someday we can have a place at the Youth Gathering table. Until that day, I'll keep rocking with my kids!

p.s. The photo is of a bunch of us adult leaders. You can find it at

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

MYLES of Community

Greetings from San Antonio. I'll make a short post, just to let you know what's up. We've been here for three days already. We started off with a pre-event, called the Multicultural Youth Leadership Event (MYLE). This is intended for congregations with youth of color to connect with one another. However, our group is feeling that they are quite different from the rest of the kids who are here.

I am traveling with a urban collaborative of nine congregations, and our model does not fit into the mold of the ELCA. Registration was much more complicated because we were nine congregations trying to register as one. We also have a very multicultural youth group, with kids from a lot of different backgrounds. I've found that most of the ELCA is monocultural. Of course, most 98% of the ELCA is white. But even the congregations of color are mostly congregations of one ethnic background. Thus, they still haven't worked on how to celebrate and appreciate each other's culture. They finally realized that we are just further ahead of where the rest of the ELCA is. We hope that we can help be an agent of change. Here's hoping.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Link Fixed

I fixed the link to the VIBE website. Now all my adoring fans can follow our group's progress.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Travelin' Through

Today, I am departing for the ELCA National Youth Gathering in San Antonio, TX. I'm going to be in San Antonio for the Multicultural Youth Leadership Event (MYLE), week one of the gathering, and the Lutheran Youth Organization (LYO) Convention. In total, I'll be there for 10 days. I'll be a chaperone for some youth for most of it, but I'm also staying on a little longer to do a workshop (with a very long title: What It Means To Be Welcoming to All Sexual Orientations and Gender Identities).

I've sure been on the road a lot this summer. To tell the truth, I still really enjoy travel. I've had times in my life when I get to travel a lot. I get tired, but I still look forward to my next trip. This summer has been the same way.

Ian commented a while ago that I haven't spent too much time describing my trip to Italy. He is right. I think part of my problem is that when I have so much going on, then I move onto the next thing very quickly. Italy was left behind in my mind as I moved onto the next program I had going. This is what summer is always like for major event after another.

Anyway, here's a little preview of this trip. I am technically traveling with The Naming Project and with Bethany Lutheran Church. Both the kids I'm going with are involved with both. However, Bethany is a part of a youth ministry collaborative called VIBE. It's a collection of urban churches with small youth populations that do youth ministry together. So, we are traveling with all of them...about 40 kids. HOWEVER, VIBE partnered with some other Twin Cities congregations to travel together to create a trip of about 100 kids. We are going to be a force to be reckoned with!

Because of my workshop, I had to change my flights around. I asked if they could keep me on the same flight as my youth (our whole group is taking five flights to get there). That didn't happen, so I'm flying by myself both ways now. The kids are covered, so it's not that big of a deal. But I feel bad that I'm not flying with them

As for the gathering itself, usually they do a really good job of putting together an excellent program. I've always been impressed with it. I've also been fortunate to travel with a really good group. Let's pray that this group is also smart and knows how to handle themselves.

The workshop is probably the thing I'm most nervous about. I'm doing a pro-gay workshop to kids at the ELCA Youth Gathering. This could really backfire on me. I've been working on my outline. This is not the time to talk on the fly. I hope that I have an audience who is willing to listen and not heckle too much.

That's my trip! I probably won't get to blog, but I'll try. I can try to keep you updated on how things are going. If you really want to watch our progress, then you can visit the ELCA Youth Gathering site for updates. I also believe that VIBE is going to try to keep a journal for folks to read. You can try to visit them here, but I'll change it, if I have to.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Mix Tapes

Earlier this week, I drove my dog up to my parents' house. I'm going to be gone for about two weeks, and my other half is working quite a bit. It's like our dog gets summer vacation at grandma and grandpa's house. Lucky for him.

Anyway, it's a five hour drive up to my parents' home. I spent the night, and then drove back the next day. This was all in the midst of trying to arranging our house to accommodate another friend moving in. This is all inspiring me to throw some junk out (the definition of "junk" is still debatable). I found a case of mix tapes that I made when I was moving stuff around.

Now, back in my high school days, I loved to make mix tapes. I would combine my music (or sometimes borrowed music) into 90 minutes of my own private radio station. A good adjective for my musical taste is difficult to find. "Eclectic" might be a euphemism. I would put slow and fast, classical, rock, rap, sacred, and showtune music all on the same tape. And, while I love music, I don't have the deepest knowledge and appreciation that others do (J comes to mind, for example). When the world began to convert to CD's, I found that it didn't have the same feel in the process. For one thing, you can't hear the music as you record it onto the tape. You just select songs and try to match them up.

Anyway, when I found these tapes, I thought about what to do with them. I have fewer and fewer machines that will play a cassette. Maybe it's time to get rid of them...but first, we should have one last hurrah. Our car still has a tape player, and radio on the way up north is pretty crappy. So, why shouldn't I use this trip to have a last listen? So, that's what I did. I brought five tapes with me (I have more in the house).

The tapes were found pretty randomly. Mostly, they were ones that I put together in college, with borrowed music from my roommates. I laughed a lot at what I included on there. College was the only time in my life when I felt like I "should" like Christian pop music. Apparently, I borrowed a lot of it from my friends to put on these tapes (never mind that it breaks a commandment in the's CHRISTIAN music, so God must forgive me, right?). I can barely even listen to that stuff anymore. I found myself fast-forwarding through some songs.

In the process, I did find some lost-and-forgotten gems. I remembered how I believe that "Real World" by Matchbox 20 is one of the most cathartic/angry songs I've ever heard. I had to play it twice so I could sing along in the car. I also found some duds. Why did I feel the need to remember "Motownphilly" by Boys II Men?

I also had a mix tape that a friend made for me. He and I were both exchange students in Brussels. We had a few adventures riding the public transportation system around the city, and recording our experiences. His tape was entitled "Back in the States: Life Without Public Transportation". I listened to the tape with a sense of nostalgia. He was a great friend, and the emotion shows through on this collection of music. One gem on this tape was Luciano Pavarotti singing a great arrangement of "Hosanna". Wow. I almost couldn't part with the tape. But I got over it.