In Lay Terms

Random Ramblings From a Church Nerd

Friday, August 31, 2007

Traffic Update

OK - I made it into work. The bridge is still closed. As I was driving in, I heard the radio say that they were planning to open it today sometime after rush hour, so maybe I'll get to drive it on the way home.

They also reminded me of something else. This bridge is the best viewpoint for people to see the collapsed 35W bridge. If I do drive on it this afternoon, there are going to be a lot of people, gawking at the wreckage. Not a safe traffic senario.

One other point, I am now nervous driving on bridges. I have never been nervous about that before. I had a friend in high school who freaked out when going over bridges, and I made fun of her. Now every time I cross a bridge, I have a little freak out until I know that the solid ground is beneath me.

Getting to Work

There is a rumor spreading that the 10th Street bridge is going to be open today.


I live in a neighborhood that is still in Minneapolis, but on the east side of the river. Back in the day, that side of the river was a completely different city. At some point, it was incorporated into the city of Minneapolis. So, I live in Minneapolis, but on "the other side of the river". Usually when we use the phrase "other side of the river" we are referring to St. Paul. But I am one of the odd Minneapolites that do live on the eastern side of the river.

Because of my location, the collapse of the 35W bridge has been especially difficult on my commute. I didn't realize how many times I cross that bridge on a daily basis. I really can't go anywhere without crossing that bridge (except St. Paul, but who wants to go there...I mean really, is there a reason?).

The 10th Street bridge runs right next to the 35W bridge. When traffic looks slow on 35 (I can see it just before I get on), I opt for some side streets that use the 10th Street bridge. Since they closed that along with 35W, I haven't had a good way to get to work, or shopping, or picking up anything. It's been a mess. This is my first week back at work since the collapse, and everyday I have tried a different route. I keep hoping that I can find something that isn't too crowded. Sometimes, I weave through the University of Minnesota. But that's difficult because of the number of pedestrians. Other times, I've driven a ways east so that I can take a different freeway. Also a mess.

Last night, I had to be at an event from 4:00-7:00. My other half also had to work late, and since I have the car, I planned to go home a little early to walk my dog before returning to work. I ended up leaving work a little later than I wanted (2:30). I took the other freeway home, which got me there at about 2:50. After dragging my dog around the block, it was about 3:15. They told us to set up between 3:30-4:00 at my work, so I knew I had to get on the road. I figured that since rush hour had really started, I should try to avoid the other major freeway. I got on 35 and got off on University Avenue (there aren't many cars on 35, since it forces you off on University). My plan was to drive through the U of M campus and connect with the Washington Ave. Bridge. This is where I realized that everyone else knew about this idea as well. I think I spent 20 minutes trying to go one block. Augh!

Once the 10th Street bridge opens, life will get a lot easier.

Uh oh, I just looked at Google Traffic , and it appears that there is no traffic on the bridge. This is a bad sign.

I better get driving!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Settling in for the Winter

My apologies to all those faithful readers of this blog. I've phoned in the last two entries. I was tired, and I felt I should get something up there.

The other part of it is that after my summer of adventure and travel, life now seems, well...rather dull. Now I'm going to work and doing the same things on a routine. At least when I'm telling you about travels and excitement, I feel like I'm sharing something.

But here's the rub: The best bloggers that I read (note the list to the right), they also write about mundane things that happen in everyday life. And they make it compelling to read.

So, maybe I need an attitude adjustment concerning what is worthy to write about. Or I need to start seeing my everyday life in a new perspective. The sacred exists in the mundane, so why shouldn't that be shared with everyone?

Monday, August 27, 2007

Back to Work!

I have made it through my first full day of work in quite a while. I'm still tired from our red eye flight from Anchorage, but I made it through the day.

Although, the bed is calling strongly to me right now. I don't think I'll make it much longer.

I feel as though we haven't had a routine for sleeping/waking up. Ever since my Other Half has started working, he's been waking up even earlier than we used to. We haven't been getting up at the same time. I'm hoping that soon we will be able to establish a waking up time that we can both wake up for. Then we can exercise together and go about our days.

We'll have to work it out.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Home Again, Home Again

Pop quiz, everybody! There is only one question:

1. What is the best part of a red-eye flight from Anchorage, AK to Minneapolis, MN?

a. The 12:30 AM departure
b. Getting served drinks twice on the plane, because you are bound to sleep through one of the servings.
c. Waiting for your luggage at 8:30 in the morning, after getting 3 hours of sleep.
d. Getting up and going to work the very next morning.
e. All of the above.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Alaksa: The Wunda Wunda

We have now moved on to a new and exciting part of Alaska. Yesterday (Rather, Tuesday, August 21, since I’m not sure when I’ll get connectivity to post this), we drove from Denali National Park. We departed before 6:00 and headed north to Fairbanks. However, Fairbanks was not our destination. We stopped briefly for breakfast in North Pole (with a lot of Christmas-y stuff…and the home of a friend of ours). Then we continued to drive for another 8 hours to Valdez, AK. Valdez isn’t really close to anything, and there was no direct way to get here, hence, the trip up and around.

Anyway, that’s not the important part. We were met by a relative who owns a boat here. Last night we slept on the boat and today we took off for a three day adventure in the waters around Valdez. We’ve only been on the water for about 4 hours. We’ve already caught about 15 silver salmon. This is the easiest fishing I’ve ever been a part of. I’m not too excited about fishing, so I’m mostly watching and cheering. But I remember fishing in Minnesota involving a lot of waiting around for a bite. These are coming very quickly!

The boat we are on doesn’t move very quickly (only about 7 knots – don’t you just love my nautical terminology? Is “knot” even spelled right for this purpose?). However, the pace works very well for us. We are slowly moving along glaciers and pockets of salmon. We caught ice that fell off a glacier to put in our coolers. We even put down some shrimp pots.

By the end of today, we hope to be at the Columbia Glacier. There is a lot of wildlife around there. We hope to see a lot of wildlife (more than we saw in Denali). We’ve already seen an otter swimming around the harbor, so we are at a good start for the day.

When I told people about this trip, many people asked me if I could handle a vacation with the family. The honest answer is, yes I can. Our family has always gotten along really well. We have enjoyed each other’s company during this whole trip. Also, because now we are all coupled up, we can split off into pairs a lot easier. The time away makes the time together a lot of fun. Of course, we were all 6 crammed into a minivan for our 10 hour trip from Denali to Valdez. But we made the whole thing pretty fun (even without any radio for most of the trip).

One interesting thing is that while we are on one vacation, we start thinking/planning on the next vacation. We’ve had some really interesting conversation about when and where we should go next. I’m sure that sometime soon we will have a family trip to Scandinavia. Our family is Swedish, and my sister’s husband is Norwegian, so we have a lot of family to see there. My parents would love to go and visit family. Heck, I’ll go wherever I can!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Alaksa: Hiking in Denali

Today, we hiked a couple of trails in Denali National Park. First, we started off at the Horseshoe Lake Trail. It’s a nice little stroll that leads down to a lovely lake. After that, we decided we were up for a bigger challenge, so we hiked the Mt. Healey Overlook Trail. This one was 4.4 miles (round trip). My brother-in-law is a much better outdoorsman than the rest of us, so he led the way. Soon, we left my parents behind. The were climbing at a slower rate than the rest of us.

The first quarter of the trip was pretty nice. The trail was wide. The incline wasn’t too bad. However, after the first quarter (this is where there were little benches to take a rest), then the trail took a very steep nature. We walked up about 3000 feet as we tried to head toward the peak of the mountain. I was doing pretty well. My sister was usually behind me, and my Other Half was a ways behind her. Every so often they would just stop to take a break, and I had to let my brother-in-law know to stop as well (he was quite a trooper).

Just when I thought like I couldn’t go anymore, we were nearing the peak. It was an exciting moment. We got to the top. To celebrate, we broke out our food (trail mix and granola bars). We looked at the view. I attempted to take a nap (unsuccessfully).

Then, we noticed that the trail continued past this first peak that we did. There was a second peak, not visible from the ground. It was only a little higher than where we were, and the path looked pretty easy. So, we decided that we should go for the second, higher peak. That might have been a mistake. We were really dying by the time we got there. It also got very windy and cold. I had been chilly for most of the morning, but the climb had made me sweat. Now there was cold wind blowing over my sweat-soaked shirt. Brrrr.

We found a little space out of the wind. I took out my jacket (finally), and we settled in for lunch. My brother-in-law had picked up some bagels, cheese, and reindeer sausage (which, upon closer inspection, was really caribou sausage). That was our lunch. We ate it at the second peak of the mountain. At noon, we decided that we should start to head back. We made our way back to the first peak (the original goal) and found my parents there, watching us the whole time. I honestly didn’t think they were going to make it. We had asked people about them, and they told me stories of my mother lounging out on a rock, using it as a recliner. It was pretty fun to see them at the top.

After a while sitting with them (where I came closer to taking a nap), we started the descent. My Other Half and I ended up out in front. We tried to take it slow coming down, but gravity often got the better of us. We got back to the benches, where I finally fell asleep (for about 5 minutes). Then we walked back to the van and moved it to the visitor’s center, where we drank root beer while we waited for the rest of the family. They eventually showed up, and we headed out.

Back at our insulated tents (yup, that’s where we are staying), I laid down for about 15 minutes. When I got up, my back hurt to high heaven (it had already been hurting by the time I climbed down the mountain). But now my right knee was joining in the pain as well!

So I’m spending tonight scared to move my back or knee too much. I’m hoping we get better by tomorrow. There is a lot more to do. I knew that we would hike, but I had no idea how much I would be hurting by now.

I guess that’s what happens once you get over 30!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Report from Alaska

I've not been great about updating this when I travel. However, since I have some connectivity, and we have some good photos, I thought I'd share this with you.

Today, we took a flightseeing tour around Mt. McKinley. Around here, it's better known as Denali (the Big One).

Here we are wearing oxygen masks, because we are so high up in an unpressurized airplane. I'm hidden behind my sister.

And here we are after the flight.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Churchwide Assembly: Analysis

For not blogging a lot while I was actually AT the Churchwide Assembly, I'm sure getting a lot of mileage out of it while I'm at home. This will probably be my last post about the Assembly (and there was much rejoicing!). Tomorrow, I depart for a family vacation to Alaska with my Other Half, my parents, and my sister and her husband. I'll attempt to write a little while I'm there, but I make no promises.

The last thing I wanted to say about Churchwide has to do with pastoral care and concern. There was a point earlier in the week when it looked like a possibility that the policy preventing clergy in same-sex relationships would actually fall. The Goodsoil volunteers were excited, of course, but we had some major concerns. Namely, we were concerned about those folks who would be hurt because of the policy change.

We talked among ourselves about how to act at the moment of the vote. We made sure to spread the news that there should not be a lot of vocal rejoicing or applause. We did not want to disrupt the business and further alienate those who are opposed to policy change. More pastoral-type folks than I were also discussing how to make sure that we reach out and provide some pastoral care to those who would feel hurt and alienated by the policy change. This was going to have to be something that was handed very carefully.

Here's the thing: We don't want people to leave the church...for any reason. We don't want our GLBT brothers and sisters to head over to the UCC or some other denomination because they feel there is no space here. We also don't want people to break off to form a Church of the Common Confession because they feel that our presence chases them away.

Maybe I'm speaking corporately too much. I know that I do not want people to leave. Many of us feel as though the ELCA is our home, especially those of us who have mainly grown up in the ELCA. It is not perfect, but it is our home. And we work to improve our church home.

Here's the complaining part. I don't think that the Lutheran CORE (or any other opposition group) ever thinks about providing care for those of us who were hurt by the continued policy. They are happy that the policy is still in place. It seems that they are mainly concerned about orthodoxy. Now, I'm all for orthodoxy, but we need to ensure that we are providing care for people. When we steamroll over people by ignoring their cries of pain, then we are not the loving church.

Even discipline (which is the main issue of the Lutheran CORE, it appears) can be given in a loving way. When parents discipline their child, its best to do it in a way that continues to let the child know they are loved. I don't think this group wants us to know that we are loved. They would rather kick us out of the house.

I really wish we had the opportunity to show our love and compassion for others who were hurting. It may help to demonstrate that we are real people who care about the gospel. We want to provide gospel to those who are hurting. Instead, we are given something that is not's not even law. It's just abuse.

I'm sorry this is such a downer. I'm not sure if there are more conservative readers of my blog (somehow I'm guessing not). I would really appreciate hearing other's thoughts on this. Am I way off base? Is there pastoral care and concern for those who are hurt by a policy? Please share.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Churchwide Assembly: Lost Luggage

My last adventure of the Churchwide Assembly came after it was all over. On Sunday morning, Goodsoil participants who were still in Chicago went to worship at St. Luke's Lutheran Church in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago. Pastor Erik had given us directions during our loooooong evening of stories and thank yous.

I decided to bring my luggage with me. I had checked out of the hotel and was going to stay at a friend's that evening. So I followed someone who was sure he knew where the subway was. Well, we walked for a long time, me dragging my luggage behind me. When we finally found the blue line, that station was closed. At that point, we decided that a cab would be a better option. So we stopped a cab. Five of us all climbed in, and I put my stuff in the trunk.

The first problem was that we didn't have the address for the church. All we knew was Logan Square. This presented a problem. Eventually, we made our way to the neighborhood. He dropped us off between two churches...neither of which were St. Luke's. We realized this, but knew that the church was just around the block. Then someone said, "Hey, your luggage!" By that point, the cab was a block away. I started to run, hoping that he would be stopped at a light or a stop sign for a long time. It was not the case. He turned and drove off. After sprinting three blocks, I realized it was hopeless.

We went into the church and started trying to look up the cab company in the phone book. I was very fortunate to have friends who could remember not only the cab company, but also the number of the cab. However, I wasn't getting anywhere with the cab company on the phone. On Sunday, they are a lot less staffed and not prepared to deal with lost luggage. Eventually, I joined the worship service, already in progress.

After worship, we ate some lunch while my friend drove over to pick me up. He got there and we drove back to his place. He very graciously offered me some more casual (and cooler) clothes to wear for the rest of the day. I spent a lot of time on the phone trying to reach someone about my luggage. I realized that I wouldn't be able to talk to anyone until Monday morning. We went out briefly in the early evening, but spent most of the evening watching Miss Congeniality and Mean Girls on TBS. Exciting, I know.

The next morning, I asked my friend to drop me off at the cab company headquarters. I sat in there, waiting for employees to show up. When I finally got to meet with someone, I was told that once the driver logs back in, then they could contact him. At that point, I began to head to the airport, facing the prospect of flying home without any clothes, or my laptop (this was the really big deal).

At the airport, I was exhausted. Even though we had gone to bed at 9:30 the night before, I was so worn out from the week that I fell asleep while waiting for the plane. I then felt my phone vibrate. The cab driver was calling me to find out where I was! I told him I was at Midway Airport and thanked him about 50 times. I only had one hour before my flight left, but he said he could get to me in 20 minutes. I waited for him outside and he pulled up. It was a joyful moment for me!

I dashed back inside just as the plane was boarding. The rest of the trip was uneventful, but I learned my lesson about putting a laptop in the trunk of a cab. Even if the car is really full (5 passengers), I'll still hold it on my lap.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Churchwide Assembly: Voting Time

I'll share another story from Churchwide Assembly for ALL of you who are interested. This story involves a lot of the policy in the ELCA precluding partnered GLBT pastors from serving on the roster. The main point of my going to Chicago was to help overturn the policy. Several synods (21, to be exact) passed memorials asking the ELCA to change it's policy. The ELCA wanted to wait until 2009 to make any policy changes. Of course, we want change now.

I was not a voting member. I came to visit and volunteer with Goodsoil. Most of my jobs involved watching, praying, and helping with the worship service.

On Wednesday, the memorials were brought up before the voting members. The debate stretched on for two more days (among other pieces of business). On Friday, the motion to change the church policy failed. We were all pretty let down. Other, more compromise-type, resolutions were going to be brought up after that, but it was clear that we were not going to have complete policy change.

Friday night, everyone was pretty demoralized. We gathered at Goodsoil Central, and people started talking...and talking...and talking. We GLBT Lutherans sure love to talk a lot. We wanted to share stories and thank people. In all honesty, it got too long. I was going to help J with a devotion (you can read the devotion here). We didn't get started until an hour after we were scheduled. It was pretty long.

Afterward, some of us went out...mainly to get away from the Hyatt and Navy Pier. We wanted to not be around more analysis or crying or hugging. We went out.

The next morning, I got up relatively early (if you consider 8:00 early). I showered and went down to Goodsoil Central, preparing to help pack up. I got a call from a Twin Cities number. The caller didn't identify herself. She simply said, "Where are you?" I assumed that this was someone who needed some help storing luggage (that's what I was working on at the moment). When I said I was at Goodsoil Central, she asked me if I was at the hotel. That's when I realized this was my friend, Melissa. She was a voting member. She said, "We need another lay male voting member right now. Get your ass over here."

It's at moments like these, when I confuse movies with reality. I said something quickly to the guy I was working with and ran out of the room. I had just missed the last shuttle bus to Navy Pier. I ran upstairs and started debating whether I should wait the 20 minutes for the next bus, or if I should try to run. It was 90 degrees outside, so the run didn't sound that appealing. I rant into a few other Goodsoil people and we decided to take a cab. I probably said something stupid to the driver like "Navy Pier. And step on it." When he drove us there, I ran out of the cab (one of the other folks offered to pay). I ran up the stairs and down the hall to the registration booth.

Then I stopped and waited for about another 20 minutes. I had to fill out a card, which had to be signed by my bishop and then processed. This took forever. I began to question why I had run when I would end up waiting so long to get the magic name tag that let me on the voting member's floor.

When I finally got in, I got my seat. I hadn't prepared for being a voting member at all. Since I had watching the previous day's proceedings, I knew where we were. But I didn't know any of the Goodsoil strategy. Luckily, I had a friend sitting in front of me who would give me a nod or a shake when I didn't know what to support.

Essentially, all I voted on was the compromise resolutions concerning GLBT clergy in faithful relationships. The only one that passed asked bishops to refrain from or show restraint in disciplining clergy who are GLBT and in faithful committed relationships. It was a small step, but not one that helps everyone.

Thus, I played my role in ELCA history!

Monday, August 13, 2007

ELCA Churchwide Assembly: Goodsoil Worship

OK - my "part one" thing never led into a part two. I'll tell some stories here about the week. I assume that you have read some of the major outcomes of the Assembly, so I won't go into those. Instead, I'll share some of my own experiences.

On Wednesday, Goodsoil held its worship service. I decided that I could be of assistance for the setting up of the service, so I spent the whole day in the hotel. I was not on the planning committee, and I didn't really know what the worship consisted of, but I was willing to help. The room where we were holding our worship was the same room where everyone would be eating breakfast, so we had to wait until breakfast was over to even get started setting up. This took longer than it should have, due to the fact that this unionized hotel would not let our volunteers move any chairs.

After removing the tables and vacuuming the floors, we were on our way to a pretty good set up. We set six sections of chairs in an elliptical shape the altar was in the center, flanked by a baptismal font and a lectern. The worship chair, Patrick, had a great vision. By the end, the room looked great. We had told the hotel to set 500 chairs for worship, but after the attendance at the Bradley Schmeling program, we decided to add 100 more chairs.

While we were setting up, the walls were being lined with the "Shower of Stoles" project. This display was of 1,100 stoles of GLBT clergy, many of whom have been removed due to their sexuality or gender identity. The display is rarely on display in its entirety, but it was for us. That took all day to set up while we were setting up the worship space.

Finally, the evening hour had arrived. Folks began filing in to claim their seats. Attendance was looking pretty brisk. We had reserved 40 seats for clergy who would process in. Patrick had lined up four people to carry banners while they circle around the baptismal font (which was empty). We then gave each of the clergy a pitcher or bowl of water. As they entered, they had to approach the font (without running into a banner carrier). They would then empty their water into the font. It was quite cool.

By this point, I noticed that we were running out of seats. There were about 10 more clergy than we had seats for. More people kept coming in as well. Soon, we were out of seats. We ran across the hall and began moving more chairs into the room. The hotels employees caught us and guarded the doors so that we couldn't carry them ourselves. They brought in another 50 chairs to the room and set them up in the corner. Yes, we had 650 people in worship with us. At the last Churchwide Assembly, Goodsoil had 350 people at worship. We did well. The other ironic thing was that our main opposition (Lutheran CORE) had a reception in the room right next to us. They only had 12 people. And we had 650. It's really petty, but I smiled!

Bradley Schmeling preached a lovely sermon. He has become the poster boy for gay clergy for this assembly. Bishop Margaret Payne presided over communion (a rare move for a bishop to take such an active role in our organization). While the service was happening, I was an usher and the sacristan. I walked around with a huge basket of bread to replenish the communion bread. However, they gave tiny pieces of bread, so they didn't need much replenishing.

When it was over, there was a reception. People also helped us volunteer to take stuff down (we had to turn the space into the breakfast room once again). Lutherans are so nice!

Monday, August 06, 2007

ELCA Churchwide Assembly, Part 1

So after being home for all of 24 hours, I’m now in Chicago. I have moved from The Naming Project Camp to Minneapolis to Chicago. I got here yesterday at about noon. Today, the opening worship has occurred, and the business has begun in earnest. I’m now watching our presiding bishop explain the rules. I’m not in the assembly hall, but I’m watching it being broadcast from Goodsoil Central. Goodsoil is a collaboration of organizations who are working to change the policy within the ELCA precluding GLBT clergy in relationships from serving on the ELCA roster. It’s going to be a long week.

Here’s my first observation. During opening worship, we had communion. There are about 2000 people here. As you can imagine, the singing is beautiful. Anyway, there are several stations for communion. At my station, the guy serving the wine was a guy I went to seminary with. When I was in seminary, I thought that he was sort of a dufas. He seemed closted to me. He really liked fabric (a sure hint). He also seemed pretty arrogant to me. Anyway, I decided that I didn’t like him. I didn’t have much reason (other than those I just listed).

Here’s the irony. I keep running into him everywhere. I think I see him at least once a year since. Tonight, he was the guy who served me the wine during communion. Again, he smiled and greeted me as he gave me the wine.

It is possible that God continues to put this person in my life to remdind me that I judge other people, just as I complain about being judged by others. This guy has always been so nice to me. I have had no reason to dislike him. Perhaps I need to let my ill feelings toward him go.

Maybe I’m growing up.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

A Little More Coherent

OK - After about 9 hours of sleep, I'm feeling much better. I wasn't much good for anything last night. We left the camp at about 12:30, had a stop in a Dairy Queen in Garrison (can't pass one of those easily without stopping). Then we drove back into Minneapolis. We had NO idea what driving would be like. We tried to give the kids an estimated time of arrival, but it was a Friday afternoon after the 35W bridge collapse. We didn't know where all the cars were going. And it was fine, until we got directly into the city. Then I-94 slowed down to about 5 miles an hour. The last 3 miles took about a half hour. We finally got to the church, the kids all found their parents and I asked J to drive me home. This is where it got really interesting.

You see, I only live 6 miles from the church where we dropped the kids off. This is also close to my workplace, so I know this distance and this route well. However, those six miles include the 35W bridge that is now sitting in the Mississippi River. There is a smaller bridge right next to the 35W bridge. I've been calling it the 19th Avenue Bridge, but the news kept referring to it as the 10th Street Bridge. Whatever. I assumed that we could go home on that, since that's what I have been doing while construction has been happening on 35W.


The 10th Street Bridge (or 19th Ave Bridge, if you ask me) was also closed, since the area around 35W is now a "crime scene".

Can I add here that this is not a crime scene. There were no explosions. There have been reports that the bridge was badly in need of repair (and not the repair they were doing). It was hot, the foundation was cracked, and the construction crews were using jackhammers for weeks. There, I said it. We brought this on ourselves.

ANYWAY, We only found that out as we drove up to the bridge to see it closed. After cursing a little bit, we decided that we should go through the corner of downtown and take the Central Avenue bridge home. However, this is what everyone else was doing as well. Eventually, I got home. The trip took 45 minutes. In all, the trip from the camp to my house (with some stops) was a 5.5 hour ordeal.

This bridge thing is really getting to me right now. That is my normal daily commute. It's probably not going to be completed for another 5 years. My 6 mile commute is now going to take me about a half hour.

Friday, August 03, 2007

I'm back. I'm OK

I was going to write about our camp week, but then I found that the bridge between my house and work has collapsed into the Mississippi.

I got a lot of text messages asking things like "R U Alive?" That's never happened.

I'm very tired. It's been a long week. Too many thoughts spinning in my head.

I'll write more tomorrow.