Tuesday, August 22, 2006

August 21st. Happy Birthday, Emma

Emma Faith, 7lbs. 7 oz.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

SYATP: An Honest Question

I got a flyer in the mail today advertising See You at the Pole. Now, here in New England I'm not sure how popular this activity is, and actually, I'm not sure how big it is nationwide. When I first heard about it some years ago, my reaction was somewhat negative. I've heard of some small gatherings at local high schools, but I've never discouraged a student from participating in this event, nor have I ever encouraged it either. I've been relatively quiet about it, I'd say.

I understand that
"See You at the Pole™ is a student-initiated, student organized, and student-led event. That means this is all about students meeting at their school flagpole to pray—for their school, friends teachers, government, and their nation. See You at the Pole™ is not a demonstration, political rally, nor a stand for or against anything,"
but I can't help but think that it will often be viewed by most as a "Nah-nah! We're gonna pray and you can't stop us!" thing. (As if anyone could ever be prevented from praying.) Now, people misunderstanding you is not necessarily a good reason to not do something, but still, is that a message that is being sent?

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for prayer. I'm for students praying together for their schools, friends, family, government etc. I'm confident that SYATP had its origins in sincere hearts with good intentions, but I have to wonder if it does more harm than good. Does the very nature of the event reek of those emails you get? You know the "if you love Jesus you'll forward this silly email to everyone in you address book, and if you don't you must really hate Him…and puppies!" Does it send an unintended message to our students that prayer is not really that important, but other's thinking you pray, is?

For instance why one day? And why so public? Wouldn't it be far better for students to gather and pray each day, regardless of whether anyone sees them or knows about it or not? It seems to me that the one day, big rally event serves only to foster a sense of spiritual superiority among those who participate. It seems to me that very nature of the event unwittingly sends the message that we don't need to pray all that much…one day will do.

On the other hand, one speaker (Efrem Smith) at CHIC, told the story of a high school where each day two students gathered in the gym to pray. There was no announcement, t-shirts, or websites. Some others asked what they were doing and joined them. Eventually, hundreds of students joined in. (Feel free to fill in the details, my fellow CHIC friends.)

Jesus did say, "Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven…"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."

So, am I missing the boat on this or what? I must be because everyone and their sister (including my denomination) is a supporting ministry of SYATP.

There is a repsonse to this posted at the SYATP website. (See the "Is SYATP biblical?" question.) They say essentially two things: 1. This is designed to be done in a spirit of humility and NOT for show. 2. It will hopefully be more than a one day thing.

But doesn't the very nature of the event work against those objectives?

I've got no stake in this and I've got an open mind. Feel free to help me view it differently.

(This post is emphatically not questioning the heart/ sincerity of any student, pastor, teacher etc. who has ever participated in/or promoted this event. I don't question hearts. I just wonder if there are unintended consequences/ ramifications of how we choose to do things. Or in other words, is the medium the message in this case?)

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Thanks, Pt. 2

You often hear horror stories from youth pastors abut how poorly they've been treated by their senior pastors and/or their congregations. I know some of those youth pastors personally and I know their stories aren't exaggerated. But how often do you hear about a congregation that really treats their youth pastor and his family wonderfully? Well, let me tell you some stories about my church family.

They once sent my wife and I to a bed and breakfast on Cape Cod for the weekend, along with a gift certificate to a very nice restaurant that more than covers the bill. And what's the occasion for this? Nothing, other than to say "Thanks, we appreciate you." There was the time a family in the church asking you what your plans are following the week-long youth event, and upon finding out that you are taking the week off but no plans have been made, you return home to find they've gotten you a room on Block Island and a gift certificate to a nice restaurant and an invitation to their family's cabin in the mountains for a week of canoeing, fishing, swimming, and relaxing? Do you hear stories like this?

How often do you hear a youth pastor say, "It's hard to go more than two or three weeks without hearing a parent saying 'thank you' for just doing my job(?)." (Again, hard to think of it as a ‘job,’ as I mentioned in part 1.) Or how about when you're leaving for a big week-long youth event and a mom hands the other adult leader a $20 bill, "So you and Brian can get coffees this week,”? Or when you're buying a house and church helps with an interest free loan for a down-payment and takes up a collection for a house warming present? Or the anonymous donor(s) who pay your seminary tuition? You don't often hear stories like these, but they're true and they all happened to me.

Yeah, it's tough when the budget is tight and a raise isn't coming or if it does, it's a very small one, but I find it very difficult to complain about that, you know? When people as how long I’ve been at my church and I say, “10 years” they will often respond, “Wow! That’s a long time.” Usually if I tell them a few stories they’ll say, “Oh, well, that makes sense now.”

Monday, August 07, 2006

Yeah, Thanks for Nothin'!

Nothing like losing a softball game to kill your mood. Grrr.

I'm just kidding! Losing stinks, but life is still good.

Or, well,at least okay...kind of.

No, I'm kidding again, life is good. As my friends Lost And Found sing,

"Joy is not in how things go
joy is in the Word and Truth we know"
(The New New Song)

Sunday, August 06, 2006


My wife and I very rarely go to the movie theatre. (I've always preferred the English spelling of theatre.) It is even more rare for us to pay full price for a new movie, which in our neck of the woods is $9.75. Occasionally we'll go to a matinee if it's a movie we really want to see, though I can't remember the last time we did that. Sometimes we'll go to the $2 theatre, last doing this to see Walk the Line.

Last night we were supposed to get together with some friends, but they unfortunately had to cancel. Since we already had a babysitter, my wife suggested we go to a movie since we had several movie passes that friends and family had given us as gifts. As we drove to the theatre, I felt very thankful for my mom (free babysitting!) and our friends who'd given us these passes.

We decided to go to the movies despite the fact that there were exactly two movies (out of 19) that I was mildly interested in seeing, none Katie was interested in. I suggested we go see Click, mostly due to Tony's post that seemed, at least in most part, inspired by the movie. After seeing the movie, I was thankful for many things, among which was Tony's recommendation. (Thanks, Tony!)

I don't want to ruin the movie for anyone who hasn't seen it, but as Tony points out, there was a lot of the crude humor that Adam Sandler is known for, and (if you like his stuff) some very funny bits that weren't as crude. None of this was surprising. What was surprising was how touching and thought provoking the movie was. I suppose some might call the movie cheesy, and while it was a little over the top at times, a little cheese is usually a good thing. Ultimately, the movie asks questions about what it is, and who it is that we value.

Following the movie, my wife and I discussed how fortunate we are. While there are things I might whine about now and then, those things (that I whine about) are usually of little consequence and usually centered on money or what I perceive to be a lack of it. The truth is, however, that I have been incredibly blessed and God has always provided for my every need. I have a wonderful wife and daughter (and another due any day) a good home, a good job(?) (It's hard to think of it as a'job') and a great church family.

There are things that are truly important...and things that aren't and it's important to know the difference. Here are a few questions I asked myself after seeing the movie:

-If I had the remote, what would I do with it? (While I'm glad I don't have it, I do think I would want to rewind more than fast forward.)
-How often do I go on auto-pilot, especially with my wife or daughter?
-Am I a person who is "fully present"? (Thanks, Rob Bell.)
-Are material things really all that important?

This morning we celebrated the Lord's Table. We had lunch with our neighbors. I played with my daughter and hugged my wife. Tonight we had some friends and neighbors over. We played cards. Life is good.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Big Papi

He hit another walkoff homerun last night. This guy is unbelievable. This is ridiculousness of video game proportions.

From The Boston Globe:

We have reached the point in hardball history where teams are going to have to start walking Ortiz even if if means loading the bases to pitch to the modern Jimmie Foxx (Manny Ramírez). This was Ortiz's third walkoff homer this year, his seventh regular-season walkoff homer with the Red Sox, and the eighth regular-season walkoff homer of his career. He has two postseason walkoff homers. He has 15 regular-season walkoff hits and five walkoff hits in the last 51 days. He has 37 homers and 105 RBIs after 104 games. He hit 14 homers in July with 35 RBIs. He is the American League MVP at this hour. He is a player you might want to think about intentionally walking even if the bases are loaded.