In Lay Terms

Random Ramblings From a Church Nerd

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Do I Want to Tweet?

When my friend, J, started a blog, I resisted following suit. I sort of wondered what sort of self-important person would want to put his/her thoughts out there to read. I read his blog, because he was my friend and I could often understand the "inside story" of what he was describing. Eventually, I gave in, and In Lay Terms was born. I viewed it as an opportunity to practice my writing style, while putting some thoughts out there. I never anticipated that those beyond my closest circle of friends and family would follow it.

If you have read this for a long (or short) amount of time, you know that I can be pretty hit-or-miss with this blog. Some days, I feel like I write pretty good thoughts. Some days, I just throw something up here. And then there are the weeks that pass when I do nothing at all with this blog. Eventually, my grandmother will get on my case to put something new up.

Then Facebook came along. It was a place where you can post photos and "notes" (which look a lot like blogs. You can also "friend" people or "poke" people or do other awkwardly-named actions. However, my favorite feature is probably the status update. I seem to enjoy the challenge of writing a one or two sentence monologue (in the third person) that always begins with my name. It's great.

Now there is Twitter. As far as I understand it, Twitter is just like the status update from Facebook. I write my short comments and I read other people's short comments. I can follow Richard Florida or a friend who actually lives in Florida.

The big question I want to do it? It seems like my writings are getting shorter and shorter all the time. Twitter is about the shortest thing you can do to share a thought. Perhaps next we will have a social networking site that only consists of emoticons.

I'm tempted to try it, but I'm not sure yet. Are any of you on it? What do you think? Do I need one more distraction (probably not)? Do I have anything pithy to share? Can I just do the same thing on Facebook? Should I continue to try to write longer pieces for the blog?

I look to you for advice.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Guthrie Update

OK - someone expressed an interest, so here's my quick and dirty review of Two Gentlemen of Verona. It is probably also a review of the new Guthrie (which is coming a few years too late).

Loved the show. I had not read or seen Two Gentlemen before, so I was not familiar with the plot. They set it as a 1950s teenie-bopper movie, which worked out really well. That genre really matches the story line.

Now, onto other things: those seats are NOT comfortable. My back began to hurt partway through the first act. It's like sitting on a bench, only with less room.

Also, why are the bathrooms hidden? For a theater that has a bunch of "cool" things, those are the most boring bathrooms ever.

Anyway, it was a good night out. It cost us very little and we had a good time. I recommend having a hot date night with your special someone.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A Normal Life

Tonight, Richard and I are going to the Guthrie Theater to see Two Gentlemen of Verona. For those of you who don't know, the Guthrie is considered the premier regional theater. They are what you might call "high brow".

So, we are going. We found a good deal on tickets, and we are going to take advantage of them. Of course, like everything else today, the Guthrie is suffering some financial troubles. As I drove home from work, I listened to a news story that said that there would be cuts at the Guthrie very soon.

But back to the "high brow" comment. How on earth do we have the money to go to this much theater? Remember, Richard is unemployed at the moment, and I'm only working 1/2 time. We hope both of these situations will be remedied in the near future, but what should we be doing in the meantime?

When Richard was first laid off, we immediately cut several expenses. We wanted to save as much as possible. Actually, the lay off came at a very good time. Because of the extra time, Richard has been able to rent up our apartment building (something that NEVER would have happened if he was in a regular job). But now we seem to be going out more. We are seeing theater. We are seeing friends.

In all honesty, we are valuing the time that we have together. We are spending our precious money on the stuff that is most important to us...our time. Theater (cheap theater especially) is one of those things that we both enjoy quite a bit. It seems that we need to use this time of underemployment to appreciate one another again. When we both work...when demands are placed on us from someone else...when we don't control our own agendas, then I think we tend to disconnect from one another. Now we are able to connect in a new and exciting way.

We have also learned that it is good to get out of the house. Walking is good. Theater is even better. We have cut out dinner before the show. We have cut out drinks after the show (well, on some instances). We have learned to spend minimally to make a hot date work well!

So, yes, we are living normally. In fact, we are living better than ever.

In the Balance

It has been a full week. On Monday, I returned home from Tallahassee, and now I'm back in the fray. There are many demands at work, but not enough time to get everything done.

I feel like we are on the brink of something. There is the possibility that wonderful things are going to happen. There is also the possibility of disappointment. Which will it be?

Actually, I feel a little like the future is dependent on me. What I do will determine whether we get prosperity or loss.

Now, I know...the future does not depend on me. I make up one small part of this vast universe created by God. I am not in control. Quite frankly, I shouldn't be in control. I need to let go. Do my part and see what will happen with my results.

But it still nags at me.

I want the next shoe to drop. I want to see what the future holds. I want to know, so I can figure out if my work is futile or not.

Friday, March 20, 2009


I am currently in Tallahassee, Florida. Before this trip, I didn't even know how to spell Tallahassee, let alone anything about it. Now I'm here, about to train nearly 30 people on faith-based community organizing skills to make the Church a more welcoming place.

Last night, I was talking with the other trainer. We were at a restaurant/bar that was next to our hotel. It was karaoke night, and the music even reached us all the way across the restaurant. She told me that this is one of those random, magic moments that I will experience in my life. It's true. This was not someplace I expected to be.

Yesterday, I met a large chunk of the planning committee. They are a wonderful group of people, who are so excited to be hosting this training. They spent hours yesterday setting up the room. They arranged fresh-cut flowers for us and put up drapes and curtains. I can't believe the hosptiality of these folks. They do know how to welcome!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

What I Learned in Finance Class

Since it has made a lot of news, I thought that I would link to Jon Stewart's interview with Jim Cramer. These are the unedited (and uncensored) versions, so beware if you don't like a few cuss words slipping out.

First, a little context. This is Jon Stewart's show on March 4:

Then, the interview on March 12 (in 3 parts):

That's some good schadenfreude, isn't it? Jon Stewart is good for that. At times, he's been underestimated. Since he's not a "serious" news guy, he can go on the attack pretty easily. He's done this before.

However, what does it help? Not a lot. Even as I write this, I am reading an article about the $100 million bonuses at AIG. We are continuing to lose money, while others can walk away richer than ever.

I think it makes me madder, because I'm in an MBA program. I really like my classmates, and there are a few financial traders and advisers in my class. I believe that they are people that don't want to cheat people out of money. However, they (and all of us) get caught up in a cycle where we are seeking a short-term gain, while losing a long-term benefit.

I'm not sure what's going to happen in the future, but I'm still hoping that we are resetting ourselves to look for the long-term. And when I say "we", I mean ALL of us. I don't want to be planning for a retirement in 30 years, while someone is figuring out how to make a buck on me today.

Sometimes, I wish I hadn't studied finance.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

A Church Open to All

Today, I served as Assisting Minister at a congregation where I am no longer a member. I'm not sure why they still want me to act as a worship leader, but it can be fun to do.

Today, there was a person with some mental illness present. He kept coming up front, into the chancel area. The first time was during the children's sermon. He sat behind the kids and the pastor, showing off a bicep tattoo. I get very protective of kids, so I watched him closely. Eventually, he went back to his seat.

Then, he came up during the offering and placed an envelope on the altar. This was done with great reverence, including holding his arms up to the air. As assisting minister, I was the next to go behind the altar. Again, my paranoia made me wonder what was in this "package" that he put on the altar. When I got there, I saw that it was labeled with his name a 99 cents. I picked it up to set is aside, and the change jingled inside.

Then, during the serving of communion, the guy came and set on the chancel steps again. One of the pastors who felt like she knew him well told him that if he came to the railing, she would serve him communion. He refused and extended both middle fingers in her face. He started yelling. By this time, the security guy was there to take him out of the room. Sadly, he was ejected from the worship space and his shirt was torn.

I have mixed feelings. On one hand, I support an urban congregation that keeps its doors open, even if folks wander through the worship space. I don't like it when we have to remove someone from worship, but I do know that it happens. I also think about congregations and welcoming statements. When a congregation says they are welcoming to all, they have to include guys like this. It is an inherent risk when a congregation wants to be hospitable. In my mind, it's an acceptable risk.

I was feeling pretty comfortable with the events of the morning when I came home from church. Then, I read the news that a gunman killed a pastor and wounded several worshipers in a worship service this morning. Whatever we experienced in worship this morning was nothing compared to what happened in Illinois. Again, I believe that this is a risk that exists for worship places. I would never want to see a church under lock and key. However, events like this morning are tragic, no matter what happens.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Richard Florida

I've become a big fan of Richard Florida. He is an economist who focuses very much on "place".

A few years ago, I read his book, The Rise of the Creative Class: And How It's Transforming Work, Leisure, Community and Everyday Life. (I've become an Amazon associate for The Naming Project, so if you click through my links, your purchases will send a donation to TNP). I loved it. He was looking at the cities, and how well those cities are adapting to a new creative (information-based) economy. He was concerned about the decline of the former manufacturing cities (the rust belt), and concerned about the fragility of cities and regions that are solely based on speculation and tourism (sun belt).

He was interviewed on Minnesota Public Radio just a couple of days ago. I'll link to that interview here.

He also wrote an article in Atlantic Monthly, which is quite good.

I'm now interested in the idea of "regions". I can envision a high-speed train that runs from Minneapolis to Madison, Milwaukee, Chicago, Cleveland, and Detroit. I think that there is the possibility of creating a strong region by linking our cities to one another. It allows the creative energy that exudes from Chicago to be able to be matched by the Twin Cities. If Cleveland and Detroit can figure out what to do with themselves, then they could strengthen the region as well.

Place is important. It has always been. Do not take where you live for granted. You are there for a reason. These links that I've given you are based on economics, but place is important for so many other reasons.

Spend a little time appreciating your own habitat.