In Lay Terms

Random Ramblings From a Church Nerd

Monday, December 31, 2007

Stupid Things I Do

Today, I'm taking the most pointless flight of my life. I am flying today so that I can enslave myself to Northwest Airlines for at least another year. Why am I doing this? Because I'm a fool.

I flew a lot this year. And in all that flying, I have accumulated a lot of frequent flyer miles. In fact, I've accumulated 24,942 miles in 2007 alone. If you hit 25,000 miles, then you earn the coveted Silver Elite status. The benefits of this status are earlier boarding. Earning more miles at a 1.5 rate. And the biggie: the possibility of getting 'bumped up' to first class when I fly in the future.

I called NWA a few weeks back to ask if it was possible to round up to 25,000 for the year. They said no. So I looked for the cheapest and shortest flight I could take. So today, I'm flying to Chicago (Midway airport), eating lunch with a friend, and flying home in time for a New Year's Party out in Shakopee, MN (which also would have put me over 25,000 miles...too bad I can't fly there).

As I look at my travel plans for the coming year, I realized that I'm planning to fly to San Francisco quite a bit. I've also observed (and heard from even more frequent travelers than myself) that no one gets bumped up to first class on San Francisco flights. They are filled with rich people who pay for their first class experience, or people who are gold or platinum elite status (which makes me look pretty lame). Will I get the benefit that I am going for? Only 2008 will tell.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The 2nd Day of Christmas

I tried to write last night about my great partridge in a pear tree.

Guess what I got today?!?!?!?!

How am I going to fit all these in my car?

They are going to drive my dog nuts.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Past the Solstice

I am now up in Norther Minnesota, sitting at my parent's breakfast table, eating fruit.


Yesterday was quite a treacherous drive. What is a normally a 5-hour drive turned into a 7.5 hour drive to get to International Falls. My parents don't exactly live in International Falls, MN, but they (and I used to) live in a nearby town. The trip to "the Falls" was the first part of our Christmas gifts from my parents. We all got a massage from the local massage therapist. This has become an annual event (it happened last year for the first time). After a 7.5 mile drive in blowing, slushy snow, the massage was very welcome.

We've developed new "adult" traditions around Christmas. So far, there are no children in the picture. That really shapes what we do. I have a hunch once children enter the picture, our traditions are going to be very different. But for now, I really like it the way it is.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Unexpected

This certainly is the time for the unexpected. Yesterday, one of my offices was moved. The move itself wasn't unexpected. However, we'd been trying to find out when it was going to happen since last summer. Yesterday, the moving crews arrived and took our stuff away. They moved us into an office for which we didn't have keys. It added a dash of chaos to the day.

I guess I should be expecting the unexpected.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


If you are wondering what Glögg is, then I found a great recipe on line. I liked to it through the title. I'll print it below. The only thing we do differently is use vodka instead of brandy.

If you are wondering how I got the "ö" up there...holding the alt key while punching in 148 works.

Heroes Glug Glögg (Swedish hot mulled wine)

By Craig Goldwyn

Samuel Johnson wrote "Claret is the drink for boys, port for men, but he who aspires to be a hero must drink brandy." By that definition Swedish Julglögg, will make us superhuman.

Glögg, pronounced gloog, is a high octane, hot mulled wine made with a potpourri of spices and all three of the above: Claret (red wine), port, and brandy. It is the perfect cold weather drink, warming the body and soul from the inside out.

There are as many recipes for this old traditional winter beverage as there are for chili. Instead of brandy, the original Swedish recipe calls for aquavit, a distilled spirit frequently flavored with caraway seeds. I know of an Irishman who uses Irish whisky and I've tasted it made with bourbon and vodka. But I prefer the taste of glögg made with brandy.

The spices and flavorings change just as frequently, with most recipes calling for cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, orange peel, raisins, almonds, and sugar. Some people use dried cherries. Some swear by dried orange peel, others use fresh. Sugar content can be varied according to taste, and I have tasted it made with honey and maple syrup. Some brew it and drink it on the spot, and others age it. I usually do both. My wife and I like to make some for Thanksgiving, and age some for Christmas.

One thing is certain: the aroma in the kitchen of mulling glögg is heavenly, and when it is served steaming hot in a mug after a hard day of skiing or shoveling the sidewalk, the body offers thanks. Glögg also makes a good marinade for beef or venison. Here is my tried and true recipe.

Swedish Glögg
Makes about 1 gallon
1.5 litre bottle of inexpensive dry red wine
1.5 litre bottle of inexpensive American port
1 bottle of inexpensive brandy or aquavit
10 inches of stick cinnamon
1 Tablespoon cardamom seeds
2 dozen whole cloves
Peel of one orange
1/2 cup raisins
1 cup blanched almonds
2 cups sugar
Garnish with the peel of another orange

There is no need to invest in expensive wine or brandy because the spices are going to preempt any innate complexity of a fine wine, but don't use anything too cheap. Remember, the sum will be no better than the parts. Do not use an aluminum or copper pot since these metals interact chemically with the wine and brandy and impart a metallic taste. Use stainless steel or porcelain.

Cardamom comes in three forms: pods, seeds, and powder. Do not use powder. If you can only find the pods (the look like orange seeds), take about 2 dozen and pop them open to extract the seeds. Cardamom seeds may be hard to find, so you may need to order them from a spice specialist like

Pour the red wine and port into a covered stainless steel or porcelain kettle. Add the cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, orange peel, raisins, and almonds. Warm gently, but do not boil. Boiling will burn off the alcohol.

Put the sugar in a pan and soak it with half the bottle of brandy. Warm the sugar and brandy slurry over a low flame. The sugar will melt and bubble until it becomes a clear golden syrup of caramelized sugar. If you wish, you can speed up the process a bit and create quite a show by flaming the brandy. Flaming will create a 2 foot high blue flame, so be sure there is nothing above the stove that can catch on fire. Then, stand back and light the brandy. Turn out the kitchen lights and watch it burn! This caramelization is crucial to developing complexity.

Add the caramelized sugar to the spiced wine mix. Cover and let it mull for an hour. Just before serving, strain to remove the spices, and add brandy to taste (about 1/2 pint). You can serve it immediately, or let it age for a month or two. If you are going to age it, make sure the bottle is filled as high as possible and sealed tight.

To serve glögg, warm it gently over a low flame or in a crockpot, and serve it in a mug. Garnish it with a fresh orange peel, twisted over the mug to release the oils.

You can easily tailor the recipe to your own tastes by changing the sweetness, potency, or other ingredients. Try brown sugar if you wish. Or Southern Comfort instead of brandy. The orange peel garnish, however, is essential to the fragrance. Drink while seated and give your car keys to a friend.

An Academic Advent

When you work in a campus ministry for a Lutheran-affiliated college, the academic year and the liturgical year sometimes do strange things. We have a daily chapel while classes are in session, so we often celebrate major festivals on their particular day. We also spend more time "in worship/in season", if that makes sense. However Advent is probably the most difficult.

In a "regular" congregation, people really get four Sundays of Advent worship. Sure, sure, you are supposed to be doing an advent wreath and a calender and a devotional at home, but let's face it...many people do not. So, essentially, they get four times when they can sing Advent hymns (the BEST hymns, in my opinion!) and get to light the candle.

At my school, we only get two weeks of Advent. Why? Because classes are often held through the second week, and then the third week is finals (when we do not have chapel). So, we get two weeks working in Advent 1 & 2, but we never quite get to the Nativity at our college.

We also tend to jump into Christmas a little (but not too much...Scott!). Of course, we won't get back together for chapel until we are well into Epiphany, so Christmas is a lost season to us. That's why we often take the last couple days of chapel to move into something like Los Posadas. Normally, Los Posadas takes 9 nights to complete. We do it in 20 minutes. Truncated is our theme.

I really enjoy Advent, and I should be glad that I can get into an Advent worship for two solid weeks. I can sing the hymns I really like, but I always feel like we are cut off. We drop Advent for finals and then get back together when it's all over. I mean, the Maji have already arrived, and Jesus is starting to perform miracles. It's like we've missed his entire childhood. And he'll begin to anger the rulers in just a few week. Soon, he'll be crucified and raised again.

When he's raised, we are getting ready for graduation. But that's a different story for a different time.

And so it continues...

Sunday, December 16, 2007

I Drunk-Dialed God Today

My timing was perfect. Just one post after I'm criticizing other people's public prayers, I have the opportunity to offer some of my own.

The church where I am a member asks their membership to read the lessons (that role is called the "lector", for those of you outside the church world) and someone to offer up prayers for the church (that's called the "prayer", which is a little more intuitive). Sometime in the past year, the "Prayer" role has become a full-fledged "Assisting Minister" role (which mainly involves holding the book for the presiding pastor and a couple of additiona lines. A couple of times per year I will assist with a worship. I'm pretty good at it, and it can be fun.

However, the prayers are still a part of that role. They expect me to write the prayers. They mail me stuff with ideas and suggestions, but I'm the one who puts the words together. I've been procrastinating this job for about a week. There has been too much other stuff to occupy my mind.

Then yesterday (Saturday) came. We threw a party at our house. Lots of glögg is served (a Swedish spice wine. Very good. A whole separate post should be dedicated to this drink). The party ended, and I realized that I still hadn't written the prayers. So I sat down at my computer, still a little tipsy, and pounded out some prayers.

This morning, I got up at 6:00 to prepare for the early service. I had to wake up my sister and her husband to get to the computer. Then I got my stuff and ended up at the church in a matter of a few minutes. Then I looked at the prayers that I had written. Apparently, I wasn't as witty as I thought I was the night before. I did some editing and they went OK.

After my concerns with the other prayers I listed in the last post, one could ask if reciting bad prayers in a public worship essentially drags a few hundred people into my drunk-dial with God.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Is There Bad Prayer?

I am generally a person who believes that prayer is a good thing. However, I have been a part of bad prayers. I have, for your entertainment, compiled stories of three prayers that went bad. There will probably need to be a little context around these prayers, but I hope you can find the humor in them.

  • Back in college, I worked at a church camp. One summer, we had a young and inexperienced cook working in our kitchen. He was very excited about his new job (and his new power), but the kitchen didn't run very efficiently at all. After a while, the staff knew that there would be problems at mealtime. As we would gather outside the dining hall before dinner, we would sing some silly grace, and then someone would pray. One day, our chaplain (who was a 1st year seminary student at the time) did the prayer. I kid you not, his prayer (out loud to the campers) included the following phrase: "God, we thank you for this food we are about to eat. May it, by your grace, be hot and edible." Not so great.
  • There is a very conservative Lutheran congregation in Minneapolis (actually, there are several, but I'm thinking about on in particular). This was an urban congregation, which made being conservative a little bit of an anomaly. The congregation called a young associate pastor who quickly developed a reputation of saying whatever came into his mind very publicly. Once, a group of clergy were gathering to do text study (or something, I wasn't there...but J was). As they went around to offer prayers, this pastor began to pray. "God, we thank you for Hurricane Katrina. Use it to call our nation to repentance." Of course, all the other pastors are appalled by this, but by being in the prayer circle with him, they are now praying it too.
    • Deeper Analysis: If you are all praying together, does that mean that you are "agreeing" with whatever someone is saying in prayer? That was the conundrum that faced this group. Upon hearing this story, I developed my theory: "Whoever controls the prayer, controls the agenda."
  • Last week, I was coordinating a chapel service. We've been doing a whole series on "Science as Vocation" and having a lot of scientists visit our campus to talk about their calling to work with the sciences. My latest guest was a former manager of the South Pole Station. I'm thinking this is going to be pretty cool. She gets up there and tells us about how she found that she wasn't particularly good at doing science, but she was great at working with and supporting scientists. Then, she told us a lot about the International Polar Year. It's a collaborative effort between countries to study the North and South Pole to look for effects on climate change. Very cool. Following the homily, one of our interns got up to pray. Wanting to pray along the same theme that she had just preached about, he began like this: "God, we thank you for our poles. Help us to take care of our poles. Bless those who will visit our poles. Let everyone take delight in our poles." Luckily, I was not sitting behind him, because I'm cracking up at the liberal use of the word "poles". Maybe I'm just to sophomoric. I didn't see anyone else sniggering in chapel, but when I told people afterward, then they went "there" right away.
The conclusion is that you should be careful what you pray for. It might not be what you wanted to pray for.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Doing It All

At The Naming Project, we've been working on a fundraising letter. This is a letter that is going out to all of our supporters (for whom we have contact information) that will update them on what all has happened in 2007 and where we hope to go in 2008.

The problem is that we have been working on this letter since August. Originally,
we had intended to send out a letter at the beginning of fall and one again closer to the end of the year. This fall has been so overwhelming that the letter never got sent. Now I'm scrambling to get it out before the end of the year.

Sometimes I'm concerned about the level of commitment that I'm in. I have three paying jobs. I have two other jobs that don't pay. I'm on a couple of boards. I'm in a night class program that lasts for two years. Oh yeah, I'm in a relationship with someone. And every time another invitation comes, I tend to say "yes". The problem is that I'm doing everything in a haphazard way. Things are not being done well because I'm trying to do everything.

Case in point, yesterday I attended a bar mitzvah for a friend. He is converting to Judaism. My MBA small group wanted to meet yesterday, so I tried to schedule it for after the bar mitzvah. However, I had no idea how long Shabbat services went (especially with 11 adult b'nai mitzvahs). I ran out after the service without really getting to say anything to my friend, and I still missed the small group meeting. Both were done poorly.

Advent is one of those good points when you take stock of your life (there are several points like that in the year). What am I doing? What am I doing of value? What is giving me life and what is taking life from me? What means labor now but rewards later? These are important questions I'm facing. I don't think that I'll change my routine because of this reflection, but maybe I'll be more faithful about saying no in the future.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Creepy Old Man Child Care

I'm working on a conference that is happening this summer in July. It's the Lutherans Concerned Assembly. You can see details of the conference here. Yes, I think you should go, but that's not what this post is about.

I was in San Francisco last weekend doing some planning for the conference. Several local churches have decided that they want to hold a Vacation Bible School that happens at the same time as the conference. This would be hosted by one church, but just about any church in the Bay Area could send their kids. Parents who came to the Assembly could also send their kids to the VBS. It's like day care for 5-15 year olds!

I think this is an excellent idea, and I'm very supportive of them. However, we did have some further conversation about what services we should provide for children under the age of 5.

Keep in mind that offering services and programming for children is something that we haven't done yet. I think in the past, we've just assumed that GLBT people don't have kids. Well, they do. And we are also inviting any straight allies to the assembly who may also have kids (that was a subtle, but direct, invitation for you people who are trying to opt out because you are straight).

Anyway, some of the questions that arose had to do with where we could keep kids during the day. Another major issue is who should provide the service. Should they be licensed? Should we just get a babysitter-type person? How many people will we need? These questions never got resolved when I departed San Francisco.

On the plane ride home, I decided that I should write some text for the assembly web site that talks about children, youth, and families. When I got to the section about child care for children under the age of 5, I had a hard time finishing the sentence "Children will be cared for during specific hours by...". I didn't know what I could say. So, I wrote a note to myself in the document, in all caps (so I could remember that I needed to fix that) and landed in Minneapolis.

The next day, I forgot about that paragraph and sent it off to the webmaster. When he informed me that he had updated the web site, I went to check it out. There it was, my note to myself out there for the whole world to see. The sentence actually read, "Children will be cared for during specific hours by SOME CREEPY OLD GUY."

Needless to say, this was not the message I wanted to be sending. I sent an email to the webmaster, and then called him right away. I apologized for the mistake and asked him to take it down...RIGHT AWAY. He commented that he thought that sentence was a little strange (especially since I had put my note in all caps), but he just assumed that it was the name of a child care company.

I'm now envisioning Creepy Old Man Day Care. As you can see, I got the language fixed to something a little more positive. Let's just say that I need a review panel before I publish things.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Here, There, Everywhere

I haven't been much of the poster-boy lately. It's not for a lack of exciting things happening. Perhaps too much has happened for me to take time to sit and write out my experiences. Here's the quick re-cap:

I spent Thanksgiving in Seattle with my Other Half's family. It is always a good trip. This was the first time that we've stayed in a hotel when we were in Seattle. It was a little different, and took some getting used to. Family politics made us decide that we should stay a ways away. However, we did go and see two plays while we were there...and I love me some theater!

I returned to work on Monday at 1:00 (our flight wasn't until Monday morning). By Wednesday afternoon, I was heading back to the airport to fly to San Francisco. I'm working on the Assembly for Lutherans Concerned/North America. I tend to find that I get a lot more done when I'm physically in the city, instead of trying all this distance work stuff. Anyway, it was a good trip, and I feel good about where we are (mostly).

When we got home, the snow was on the ground. Now I'm back at work (my "normal" job) and ready for more!

Talk to you later.