Through a glass darkly

"For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." (1 Corinthians 13:12)KJV

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Surf Alaska

I had dinner the other evening with some friends of mine from church, Daniel and Allison Felton, both graduates of Biola University. Daniel and Allison are missionaries in Alaska with Christian Surfers but are home on furlough to raise support and also because both of Allison's grandmothers recently passed away within a few days of each other. Now you might just react the way I did when I heard they were leaving surfing ministry in Australia to lead a surf ministry in ALASKA. ALASKA? SURFING? IN THE ICE & SNOW? But to my surprise, surfing is thriving up there, particularly amongst the Native American coastal tribes. In some tribal villages, half the inhabitants surf. This is particularly true of the Tlingit (pronounced Klink-et) tribal group. Daniel, himself part Tlingit, grew up in Alaska and knows how both surfers and the Native Alaskans are both "unreached peoples". Their goal is to "to reach surfers with the Gospel, connect them to local churches, and send them back into their local mission fields."
Unfortunately, Daniel and Allison's support levels aren't what they need to be in order to remain on the field so they're going around trying to raise support. This is the first time they've done this so it's kinda tough. If their ministry touches your heart, I'd encourage you to join me in supporting them and their work. Visit the Christian Surfers website and learn more about their ministry. I know they'd appreciate it.

Friday, March 24, 2006

My Personal DNA Test

Use your cursor to hover over the colors and see my personality traits. Now you can see why I roll my eyes at my women's ministry friends when they propose some foo foo activity as an women's outreach event. Oooh, let's have a craft night where we paint flowers on a terracota pot; how about a make-up party? Not this woman, no way. Give me some techno gadget and I'm happy as a clam.

Not All Gloom And Doom

One of my friends (who also happens to read my blog) sent me an e-mail..." between your job, the youth ministry, losing your cat ... and the disappointment that was the ladies retreat ...This has not been your year!Be thankful this isn't groundhog day."
I had to laugh and reassure her on the phone that although all these things had happened to me, I wasn't nearly as gloomy as the blog sounded - I use my blog for ranting, for the catharsis I experience by putting those emotions out there. That is not to say I haven't been distressed by those events, but I have found solace and encouragement from my blog readers by sharing these things. Sometimes I don't even need anyone to personally respond to my ranting - I am writing for me, sort of a release from carrying around a burden that I'm afraid to dump on another person. Once it was "off my chest", I am free to point folks to this blog and invite them to read it for themselves. I don't have to relive the pain during the re-telling of the negative experience.
Hmmm, perhaps there is an important spiritual principle at work here. Maybe this an application of 1 Peter 5:7 about "casting all your anxiety on the Lord." As Christians, we know that we should "cast it all on Him", but how often do we "reel it all back in, again and again" as soon as we're done with the casting. I have decided that it is sufficient for my emotional well-being to put these traumas out there in my blog and not keep dwelling on the story over and over to get "through it". (An aside: I somewhat view my blog the same way I view my journal -it's first and foremost a dialogue between God and me that I happen to allow people to peek in on. Realize though, I exercise a huge amount of discretion in what actually is published and therefore this blog lacks the intimate communication one would actually find in the non-public "diary".)
I know quite a few people who are "stuck" in the bad thing that happened to them years ago. Somewhere along the line, they made a choice to keep living in the moment of their pain; they retell the story again and again, perhaps hoping that the next time it is shared, the pain will go away (or that the outcome would be different). That's what I mean about reeling it back in after casting -I'm not saying you never think about it again (that would be ridiculous, even if it were possible) - but it means instead to keep trusting the One "who is able to keep that which I have committed to Him." Changing the metaphor a bit, it's like the child having buried the seed who keeps digging it up to see if it's growing.
As I finished the phone call with my friend, she remarked that she was relieved that I sounded much more hopeful than I did in the blog. I am glad too, but probably even more so that Groundhog Day was just a movie and not my life.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Back From Women's Retreat Part III

In my final installment of my description of the weekend, I thought I would talk about the spiritual component of the retreat. The theme was Extreme Makeover: Heart Edition and the purpose was stated as a chance for us to "refresh, relax, and renew". As I described in my earlier installments, the weekend was not very refreshing or relaxing for me personally -stressful is probably a more accurate word for my experience. Yet even in the most stressful situations, I have still managed to learn or apply something valuable to my Christian faith. This was not the case here.
One person commented to me that the speaker seemed ill-prepared and not overly acquainted with Scripture. It seemed her talks were mainly random thoughts, scattered interactions without points. During each message, she would have us break into smaller groups to discuss and "share" with our neighbor. Honestly, I could not tell you what I learned or how it would help me be a better follower of Christ. The musical worship we had was more just music and less worshipful connection with God.
I got more out of the early Sunday morning mass I attended at the Mission with a few of the ladies. There the priest in his homily challenged the congregation to live out their faith and to use the Lenten season to reflect on our sinfulness. He encouraged them to use their pennance as a means to forsake their sin and lead renewed lives. One of my friends, a former Catholic, was impressed and remarked on how right on his words were (except for those Roman Catholic moments in the Mass where we remember that we are heirs of the Reformation). I only wished that the service was a bit more "user friendly" - my lack of the familiarity with the missal caused me to fumble around with it rather than fully participating in the readings and hymn singing. (Note to readers: we DO NOT participate in the Eucharistic elements of the Roman mass, we understand the theological difficulties with it and abstain. We did not have problems with the rest of the service -it was indistinguishable from a liturgical Protestant service in that regard on that day.)
To top off my "lost weekend", Laura and I decided to drive down the 1 instead of returning home by the 101. It was great, scenic drive until we got to Malibu where a downed power pole turned a 10 mile drive into a two hour traffic jam.
Although it wasn't a "good" weekend, It definitely was memorable.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Back From Women's Retreat Part II

As I stated in my last post, although the accomodations were adequate, certain elements of the meeting room left a lot to be desired. It was a good thing that we broke down the electronic gear after every meeting because after we left the room and turned out the lights on Friday night, some of the bar patrons came in later and made themselves at home, helping themselves to our snacks and giftbags.
On Saturday morning, I hurried through our continental breakfast so that I could get everything set up in time for the morning meeting which then lasted until about 11am. By the time I got everything put away, it was lunchtime -the first meal I actually got to sit down and enjoy with the other ladies. After lunch, some of us visited the old San Buenaventura Mission and then walked around town a bit, avoiding the anti-war protesters parading down the street. Some of our women went out shopping in the thrift stores while Laura and I went up to the famous cross in Grant Park which overlooks the whole city. We took pictures, but it was too cold and windy to stay for long. I then went geocaching with some other ladies in memory of one of our young women who died last year. We left a travel bug at the cache in her honor -the goal is to have the travel bug make it to all 50 states and then come home. I got back just in time to prepare for the evening meeting and to eat dinner. After the meeting, most of the ladies were tired from their day and went to bed. By the time I again tore down the equipment, most were gone so I ended up back in my room before 11pm.
To be continued...

Back From Women's Retreat Part I

Normally I enjoy going on retreat with my women's group from church -this was not one of those times. Held at the Clock Tower Inn in Ventura, this retreat was more stressful than it was relaxing. Since I'm the techno person on the Women's Ministries Team, it's my job to do the sound and computer stuff for the meetings. Mostly, I like doing that sort of things but lugging around the full-size Roland keyboard, amp, mixer and speakers is not the most fun aspect of the job.
Friday, I took the day off work (not the smartest idea when you're in the middle of a project costing exercise) so that I could load all the equipment in my truck. Laura helped me and we finished just as it began to rain. Of course the rain meant traffic on the 405 would be worse eventhough we were leaving around 1pm. Three hours later, we arrived, checked in and I began to set up for our meeting at 7pm. It took me a while, but I finished with an hour and a half to spare. The bummer was that most of the women who were already there had left to go to dinner, leaving me and Karen to guard the stuff (our meeting room was adjacent to the hotel nightclub/bar and had no means of securing the meeting room or our equipment.)I did manage to go a block away to grab some tacos from the local taqueria for a few minutes, but I missed the opportunity to go to a nice restaurant with my friends. The meeting itself was interfered with by the nightclub patrons celebrating St. Patrick's Day. Occaisionally, a bar patron would poke their heads into our meeting room. After the meeting, I had to tear down the equipment so it could be moved into a more secure location while the other women played games and talked. I did get a chance to play two games of dominoes, but after 11pm, the bar really turned up the volume, making it difficult to be heard.
The hotel room turned out to be much smaller than advertised to us -two double beds to be shared by the three of us -me, Laura & Dee. Then there was issue of the hotel manager suddenly trying to charge us twice the contracted price (he eventually backed down when confronted by the leadership team). While it certainly had some charm, it was only a three star hotel at best, not worth the $200+/night for the room and food the three of us paid. We joked about the wine, cheese and crackers they served to all the guests at 5pm the crackers were saltines, the cheese was one step above CheeseWhiz and the wine came out of a box (although I don't drink alcohol, even I can tell box wine when I see it in a carafe.)
To be continued...

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Jesus Videos

One of my former High School students directed me to this link at Vintage21. These Jesus videos are hilarious enough, unfortunately there probably are some people who think that Jesus and the disciples were just like this.
The Believer Way videos are even more funny because we all know Christians who are just like Marcy, Jim & Billy. Very clever illustration of the book of Hebrews and how we confuse following Christ with following Christian culture.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Leaving Youth Ministry

I posted this a little while ago on MySpace...
For those who weren't in Sunday School this morning, I announced then that I have been asked to leave Youth Ministry by [the Youth Pastor] -next Sunday is my last time with you, God willing. Although I don't agree with his decision that he and I could not work together anymore, that is his feeling and as Youth Pastor he has the right to choose whomever he wants as a worker.

One student asked why everything seems to be changing and I don't really have an answer for that except to say that life is full of change; new leadership brings different ways of doing business.

You can pray for me- I have been working with youth now, on and off, for over 25 years -the last seven years I have had the privilege to be your Sunday School teacher and now for the first time in a long time, I have to find a new ministry. I am very sad, obviously this wasn't my choice; I would still be working with you all for years to come if it was. Perhaps one day I will be back working with you should circumstances change again. But know this, I remain committed to seeing you become adult followers of Christ regardless of what I'm doing.

The good news is that you will still be seeing me around church on Sundays, just not in the Youth Room. Feel free to come up to me and let me know what God is doing in your life or ask me your really tough questions, I like those.

Some of my "cryptic" posts of late have been alluding to this but I deferred my blog on this until I had a chance to inform the students myself. I was going to announce next week, but enough people already knew, making premature disclosure likely.

Now to the wherefores: If you've been reading my blog for any length of time, you know that there are certain issues I've been ranting about. Some of these issues were issues of disagreement for us. There were philosophy of ministry differences sure, but also issues of respect and leadership that did not allow me to reamin silent. Although I love working with students, maintaining my personal integrity is more valuable to me than continuing and closing my eyes. As one unhappy parent expressed to me, "Youth Pastors come and go, but after they leave, you'll still be here." I can find comfort in that yet it is still painful to say goodbye to the students I love. Some students are perhaps happy to see me go -these are the ones that are only in youth group to "hook-up" or "hang-out" and saw me as an obstacle to their goal. I'd rather not think how much closer they will be to that objective now that I'm gone.