Sunday, March 27, 2005

Christmas & Easter Christians

Today we celebrated Easter. That day when Jesus raised from death and showed us mere humans that we have the ability to life forever. As Richard is so fond of saying, "we have a miniscule amount of time on this earth when compared to all of infinity we have after this life. What wouldn't I do to get into heaven?" Today is what made that happen, when Jesus showed us that if we believe in Him, we'll get to spend forever with Him.

This Easter was just like all the High holy days (though mainly Christmas and Easter) when people come from everywhere to go to church. Heck, one family came from Florida! Well, really they were visiting and visited us because Rob used to be the pastor at their church in Florida. But hey, doesn't it sound good to say someone came from Florida to visit our church? The church was packed at the 9:30 and 11:00 services. It's really great to see so many people come out to worship God.

All of this is to lead into my own feelings about this Easter (and Christmas actually). For some reason I have jut not been in the spirit. This Christmas it was so busy running up to it, and the services were so busy, I didn't really feel that I had time to relax. I didn't have time to thank God for all the people in my life whom I've been blessed to spend time with, as I do each year.

I spoke to someone today, mentioning I just wasn't in the spirit. He had the good observation that my role has changed. It is now a time for me to serve God and hear some of his words when I can which is different from time to reflect with God and hear what he has to say about my life. So, instead of an attendee, I'm now a servant.

This leads to a few things. Sunday mornings tend to feel very hectic, setting up and running slides at the service, running youth group at night, plus the other days a week for church meetings. Just makes for a lot of time at church, and so church feels like a busy place. This can lead to what seems like a devaluation the "specialness" of it all.

So, how do we keep it special? One way is to use prayer outside of church. I pray a lot, before meals, when I have a question on something, or when I begin to get stressed. It is my time to relax and have a personal conversation with God.

Another way is to look at the advantages which come from this service. One thing I come back to more than anything is the friendships I've formed which I can't see ever breaking. Those with adults (one family in our church are Rachel's God family) and those with the youth. I get online and chat over IM a lot, then have phone calls with adults at different times. But the best is to walk into church for an event or a Sunday morning and have a room of people light up and welcome me. This must be what Norm feltwhen he walked into Cheers and everyone said "NORM" (if you're roo oung to remember cheers, I feel sorry for you missing such a great show).

Ultimately I know I'm doing God's work. He's using me to make this world a better place.

So, to keep things fresh mens making my own time with God, taking as much as I can from the Sunday service, and realizing the great advantages I come from my service. So, if it means losing the spirit every now and then, I'll take it.

How do you keep the Sunday and holiday services fresh and special?


Saturday, March 19, 2005

More Great Corporations

No sooner did I write about how well I was treated with Seiko when two other companies came out of nowhere and make me really begin to appreciate our countries corporations.

Tonight I was having dinner at Red Lobster, a restaurant I generally dislike. I have no idea why, but I always seem to leave there with a headache. Anyway, tonight I ordered beer battered Haddock and chips. I have to say, which I did eat a lot of it, it really wasn't very good at all. When the manager came to clear the table, I simply said dinner was "eh" and she asked about it. She was very, very gracious about it, and took off the entire meal from our bill. I know, it happens in a lot of cases. But I have to say, this just made me feel good, and ratcheted Red Lobster up a few more notches. Now I actually am looking forward to the next time I can go.

This led me to thinking about an amazing gift our church received recently. Last year we rented a theater and showed The Passion of The Christ. This was an amazing time for outreach and growth of every person who attended.

When we reserved the theater we ended up paying about $2 - $3 more per person than we would have if we'd just bought tickets for a general showing. We just received a check from Icon Distribution, the company Mel Gibson has a large ownership in and who distributes the Passion. This reimbursement covered the money we paid over the general admission tickets.

We never would have questioned the charge. Yet here's this huge company setting things right. There truly are some good people leading good companies out there.

What great companies have you come across, and how have they really made a difference?


Thursday, March 17, 2005

episco*rific and Fitting In

I've recently begun reading a blog put together by another Episcopal church youth group. This blog actually has postings by the youth leaders, with comments from the youth. We're actually planning something very similar for our youth group, to help get information out, and give an easy place for people to comment.

That all being said, they apparently had a discussion on fitting in, and why it is that we don't welcome new visitors into the youth group. This was an especially moving topic for me, because I see our group doing exactly the same thing. We have people who all look somewhat similar, go to the same schools and everything. Then I see some other people in our group standing on the wall, or still more who come to one meeting then never again.

You thoughts are certainly welcome on how we can improve this. But mainly I wanted to share this link

with their discussion topic and some of their own youths ideas.


Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Seiko for Life

It's not incredibly often that I have a really good experience with a company. So good that I want to tell everyone about it. We all know my love for Wegmans and Cold Stone Creamery run deep. But another company has just added itself to the list of companies I would never stray from.

I have a Seiko kinetic watch which Erin got me as a wedding gift. Recently one of the pins fell out and I lost the extras somewhere between house moves. So, I waited, thinking getting new links would be a hassle.

Instead I called Seiko (took a little while to find the number on the Web site, but not that long). Talked to a wonderful woman who asked me for my address and how many links I would like sent. That's it, they're in the mail now. No charge, no question on why, nothing. Just great customer service from someone located in NJ (read, not Bangalore). I can't tell you what a difference it all made. The initial purchase of a product is important, but good after-purchase (3 years after) customer service is key.

So, Seiko now has one customer for life (and hopefully more if I can convince you).


Monday, March 14, 2005


I received one of the dreaded phone calls last night. A youth group member called about 11:30. This obviously couldn't be good. While I do get calls like this once a month or two, I really appreciate God giving me the chance to make a direct impact in someone's life. Even though it generally means I spend an hour on the phone and say at most 20 words, it feels so good to get off and know that I was there for someone. At the same time, I'd rather the youth's lives be good and not need a comforting call like this.

All that leads up to the fact that this person called my cell phone, which I leave downstairs when I go to bed (and by 11:30, I'm generally in bed). So, I missed the call and there's no message. God will provide, and must have provided for this person last night. Now I'll just see what I can do to help later today.

This got me thinking about why it is youth group members don't call my home phone. I know part of the reason is they don't know it as well (My cell phone is always floating around for people to use, and I give out the number to anyone, while my home phone I still give out but people don't tend to save it). But really I think it's about scale...

I realized though, part of why people call my cell phone instead of home is that, for them, the numbers are the same. When you think of someone living with their parents, where do they leave their cell phone at night? Beside the bed, or somewhere in their bedroom. In fact, most of their lives are centered around their bedroom. This especially follows through into college, when you share one room, and your whole world is in it.

When we finally have our own home (apartment, townhouse, whatever) our whole idea of scale changes. While our personal objects used to fit into one room (or half a room) we now have them spread across multiple rooms (and maybe even multiple floors). For someone under 21, they look at the world knowing it's there, a great big place, but they have one room where everything they cherish fits into. Then that room becomes a house, and the world becomes a little smaller. Anyone who's spent time abroad realizes how much smaller the entire world is (I mean, I can go 1/4 of the way around the world in 7 hours, to the other side of the world in 22 - less than a day). People who never travel outside VS see the U.S. as huge, and larger than anything they can imagine.

What this all leads to is how we see the world. I see it as a somewhat small place. But then Africa, Asia, South America and Australia seem huge and unknown to me, because I've never even been there. Sure I've read about them, but it just makes them seem even stranger and more unknown to me. While Northern Virginia or DC (where I grew up) and even London (spent a semester) seem miniscule. I feel like I know every inch of DC and even a lot of London, just from walking around. I know DC's history, the people, the monuments, night life, whatever.

Then you look at God. He knows everything about everything. He knows everything about DC and Australia. Heck, He even knows everything about Australia's past AND it's future! To God, the world must look pretty darned miniscule.

What I find comforting though is that while I find DC pretty small and easy to understand, I also feel comforted when I visit and really care about what happens to it. I may not have lived there for almost 10 years, but I still appreciate who the new mayor is and what is happening to the city (for good or bad). When I visited London last month (after having been gone for 7 years) I really felt a connection with the place. I felt "at home" again.

Just think, God knows everything about everything. He also feels at home and comfortable with all these places. Whether it's the entire continent of Africa or inside my bedroom. He loves each of us and feels "at home" with us every moment of every day.


Friday, March 11, 2005

Blogging For Dummies 2 - The 'Rents

As I promised earlier, I'm going to add a bit to my last post. While the last one was good for anyone writing a blog, it was definitely geared toward youth who are still figuring out just what is okay and what's not when it comes to letting the world know how great they are. This post is for the parents, those people who have been entrusted with their kids' upbringing, and keep them relatively safe in this world of sin.

But I know it's hard to understand some new technology, to see the horrible things which can be done, and decide you don't want your child any part of it. The other idea is to ignore (or not even know) that your child has a blog, and assume they know what they're doing on the Internet. In many cases it is true that your kids know more about the Internet and how to handle themselves. I've heard these guys talk, and most know it's stupid to give out your address to anyone, to assume the "girl" you're dating on IM is really a girl and not some "40 year old ugly fat guy" (word for word what one youth said to another during Starbucks last night).

So your kids do know the dangers, but they still need you to be interested in what they're doing. Also to be there and gently let them know that something they've said could be dangerous, or hurt someone's feelings. There are other people giving input, such as myself and Rob. But being interested in what your kids do on the Internet (interested, not critical or standing over their shoulder 24-7) should help them feel comfortable with you, and build trust so they do come to you if they think they've made a mistake or need advice.

Now, I'm not saying parents shouldn't be setting rules for their kids Internet usage. What I'm saying is that while ignoring it won't work, neither will cutting off whatever they are doing. Trust me, these guys are far smarter than you or I. If your relationship is not built on trust and mutual communication they will just go off and do what they want, making sure you can't find out about it.

people all over the world are putting up their feelings and emotions on blogs. Colleges are even encouraging it. See Blogging Clicks With Colleges. So it would behoove us to stop them from doing what colleges will probably make them do in just a few years. Instead we should talk about what's acceptable and what isn't.

Okay, that all being said, here are some ideas to help. First off, understand the language. I heard form one person who looked at some of the youth blogs that even when they could adjust their eyes to the contrasting colors, they couldn't understand what was being said. This link helps out a bit. But in general, think that vowels are optional, and acronyms are the norm.

For Example:
  • srry - sorry (Y's only half a vowel :)
  • rotfl - Rolls on the Floor Laughing
  • lmao - Laughing My A** Off
For more information and a real description check out Parent's primer to instant messaging slang. It applies to both Blogs, IM and anything these guys write really.

Also, try not to get defensive. This is where your kids write about their feelings. You are a HUGE part of their life, and so they have a LOT of feelings about you. As you also know, as teenagers, the feelings they express most may not be love... But quite the opposite. Hey, you knew they were grumbling it when you sent them to bed early, or made them miss youth group to do homework (Okay, the last one might have been a stretch). Now they have a way of venting it. Let them vent.

Look at this more as a chance to really get to understand your teenager. Talking is great, but we're all so much more open when writing. Try to let the criticisms go. But if they talk about being really confused about something, use it as a chance to bring it up with them. You don't even need to do it face to face, just post a comment on their blog.

For example, if (if? heh, heh... when) Rachel begins dating and thinking about sex. She may not feel comfortable bringing up the subject with me (I hope she will, but only God knows). But she may mention it in her blog, which she'll know I read from time to time (see, communication, remember that one, she knows I'm not watching her every move, but every week or so I may check, and I'll tell her ahead of time I'll be checking every now and then). I may see that and not feel comfortable bringing it up to her either (I doubt it, but hey). So I could comment on the post, saying Sex is the devil's work, and don't look at boys until you're 40! Okay, seriously, I could mention that I've been through what you're going through, I love you, regardless of your decision, I'll be here to support you, and I'd like to talk whenever you're ready. It lets her know that I know, and lets her come to me whenever she feels ready.

Okay, enough on that. Next is safety. Look over your kids blog, and their profile every now and then. Make sure there's nothing that could specifically identify your kid to a stranger. See my previous post Blogging For Dummies - The Writer for some ideas on what they should and shouldn't be doing to keep their anonymity.

But the main thing I can say is what I've said before. It's all about communication. Tell your child you'll be checking their blogs, and their IM logs (Trillian has an IM log that tracks everything I write by person and date, others don't. It's worth switching and asking your kid to use that, as mutual trust and them learning compromise).

As with the previous post, this will change as I get more comments or more ideas come to me. So, please voice your concerns. I'm by no means an expert at parenting, and you may not agree with some of these ideas. There's so much out there, you can't be expected to know everything. I've been working with the Internet for about 14 years, I don't know everything but I do know a bit. Let me know what I can clarify.


Thursday, March 10, 2005

Blogging for Dummies - The Writer

I haven't written for a few days, and promised a post on blogging. I do apologize, but I was on the phone with a hurting youth member for quite a while. While the blogging may be good and further His work, I do believe my primary goal hear on earth is to ease other people's pain, and to be there for someone. So His hands understandably postponed this posting.

As you may have noticed, my "Friends" and "Family" links to other blogs has significantly been reduced. Because of some feedback I received, and a lot of side conversations, it's become obvious (if frustrating as well) that because my blog is linked from our church Web site, all of my links from this blog need to be appropriate. Because of this, it brought up a few questions on what you really should blog publicly, and what should be kept private.

Some parents have recently figured out that their kids have blogs, and went looking over them. Many different reactions took place, from shutting down the blogs, to straight confusion of the language and so they ignored them. I'll be writing Part 2 specifically for parents and how they can better get a hold on their kids' blogs, without too much family discord.

Back to the topic. A lot of people create Blogs, LiveJournals, whatever you call them, as a journal. Some place to describe their day, what frustrations they've been having, and what they are really enjoying well. Then their friends can visit and post comments of advice, or share their own stories about the day. This is a great way for people to improve their writing skills and just relax by getting their thoughts out.

My English teacher used to say, if you keep a nightly journal you'll never go insane. I see some real sense in there, as we get our thoughts down on paper (computer, whatever) it helps us to think about the day and form ways of dealing with problems. Also, when it feels like there is no one to talk to about something, the journal will always listen patiently. In my experience, most people don't need advice, they need an ear who will patiently listen to them. A journal does this (though without a comforting hug afterward).

As everyone should know by now, blogs can be public, private or shared just with friends. A private blog is really just a journal, but instead of using Microsoft Word, or a book, you have it online. This helps if you want to journal from school or work, and are away from your home computer or your notebook.

Then there are the public blogs. This is what most people have. It's also the place I think most people get into trouble. Once a blog is public a lot of other things become public. And public doesn't just mean the people who have your blog address can see it. Most blogs automatically become searchable in search engines. So anyone could search for your name and possibly find your blog. This doesn't just mean your friends, it means your parents, your co-workers, your boss or even (shudder) your youth minister!

So, if you go out and say "our church youth group really stinks, and I wish our youth minister would just drop dead", I may very well go and read it. All of a sudden I'll be upset and may treat you differently (I wouldn't, but for example anyway). Or, you could say you really hate that your friend spends all her time with her new boyfriend. Well, your friends going to see that, and get upset, probably with you. Or last, and worst, is when you say "I had my first kiss tonight!" and your parents see it. You know what sorts of talks that leads too... "You aren't even dating this person" or the dreaded "Sex Talk" :)

Anyway, my point is just this. When writing the blog, make sure whatever you write you're okay with your best friend, your most hated enemy and your parents reading. Because over time, each of them will.

Now on to the more important stuff. Keeping it somewhat anonymous. Everyone's heard about the IM people who find a person, IM them, get their address and show up on their doorstep to attack them (or whatever). Blogs are kind of worse. Since you can put personal information in, like friends names, where you live and stuff, it's really easy for someone to find you. So, here are a few quick ideas to keep it a bit safer.

  1. Never, ever, ever use last names. People can easily take your last name, city and state and find your phone number and address. I mean, there aren't all that many Leary's Ashburn (oops, used my last name and city, who knows who will be calling now).

  2. Keep your profile short. Don't put in your city, or even your state unless you really want to.

  3. Don't ever use your friends' last names.

  4. Don't give your age. Maybe your birthday but not your birth year.

  5. Don't publish your blog to Web Searches if you can help it (Blogger lets you choose).

  6. When looking at comments or replying to them, make sure you know who the person is before you give them any info.

  7. Don't mention school names or places you work. If you want to use an acronym, like PF for Potomac Falls High School.

That's it for the moment. Though if others have comments I would appreciate them, and I'll incorporate them into this post. I love having a personal blog where I can let out some of my feelings for the world to see. It's hard to remember to keep some of it inside, or to keep it private.

I know we want to vent our frustrations to the whole world, but I'm reminded of a blog of a youth minister who said s**t in the blog, and made it pretty clear he was having problems in his relationship with God. If I were a church leader I'd have discussions and probably move him to another position.

What do you want the world to know about you? What don't you want it to know?


Addition 1: A Note on IM's in Profiles. Having your AOL IM Name in your profile does make it easier for people to find your blog. If they know your IM and know your blogging host (whether you use LJ, Blogger, Xanga, whatever) they can find you. It also means anyone who finds your blog can now communicate directly with you. I'm personally a fan of having my IM name in my profile for people to find me. But I also have pretty conservative IM ideas. I don't use AOL IM or any specific IM, I use Trillian (Though GAIM is a good idea too). It doesn't have all the features of Yahoo IM, MSN or AIM, but it has the advantage that it's safer from viruses, and the IM client viruses won't affect Trillian. It also lets me have all my screen names up at once for all the services (Yes, I have Yahoo, MSN and AOL).

Anyway, this gets more into IM safety. But if anyone IM's you and you don't know who they are, be careful. Someone could IM you and say they are your friend (since they know his/her name from your blog) and say they go to your school (since they may see that in your blog) and soon you're accepting links or just talking away to this person. I always ask a new person who they are, how they got my IM name and something else they won't know from the blog. Like what service I go to (since a stranger won't necessarily know our church service times, or the title).

Okay, that's it for now. I may add more as it occurs to me.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Chili and Blogs

Okay, so Chili doesn't have much of anything to do with a blog. But some genius will probably find a way. Too bad I'm not much of a genius.

I jsut got back from our annual Booz Allen Chili Cookoff. Over the weekend I volunteered to help a co-worker hand out some of her chili. People get together and make 12 - 18 quarts of chili to be handed out to other Booz Allen employees. We sold over 400 tickets (at $5 - $7 a ticket) and hade 280 votes put in. Unfortunately, Kristen didn't win. It's kind of surprising since hers was about the best chili, and many people were talkign about it and sending others to our table to try some. But, the guy who won first place was another friend, and while his chili was sweet and not very traditional, it was still good. So now he moves on to compete corporate wide. To give you a feel, our McLean campus has about 7,000 employees. Corporate-wide we have 14,000. So it'll be interesting if he wins.

The whole point was to raise money for the Relay for Life. This one was actually for the Reston one, though I am goign to be looking for some Booz Allen support for our youth group (or at least some free food and snacks). So, with the pre-sales tickets of about 400 @ $5, then another 100 or so sold today @ $7, Booz Allen probably brought in about $2,700. Kind of insane for 1 1/2 hours worth of work. But then people went way out of their way making chili.

It really was great to see some co-workers I hadn't seen in years. And to just laugh, market chili and have fun :)

There were other things I wanted to mention which occurred ot me while reading the paper. But in keeping this short I really wanted to tough on the topic of blogs, and especially blogs for teenagers. But as I think about it, that'll be a long blog in itself. So I'm actually goign to talk about that in a blog later today.

Until then, check out this Washington Post article on one amazingly dedicated father. I only wish I could be as committed and solid as he is. Any ideas on how we can help?

A Young Father's Rare Choice
People don't belong to each-other, regardless of whatever contract they sign. They choose each-other every day.
Joan of Arcadia

Sunday, March 06, 2005

You're Screwed Up Too

Tonight during youth group we talked about a couple things, which all focused on the way we see others and how we treat other people. I started talking about a great line in (what else) Joan of Arcadia:
Every one is broken in some way.
What's interesting is how we look at other people and think their lives are so much better than ours. Or we look at people who are attractive and somehow think they must have a better life than we do. I remember this being especially true in elementary and middle school. It just seemed like everyone had it together while I was such a mess.

But one thing I've figured out over the years is that every person I know has something wrong with them. I mean, I dated a 13 year old (I was MUCH, MUCH younger) who had a 2 year-old son. Tell me she wasn't broken. Or me, who's pretty darned screwed up too, I've done bad things and had bad things done to me. None are a secret, but also don't need to be mentioned now. I have youth group members who go through problems I can only imagine. I mean I've been reading in some youth magazines (and had them backed up from some youth members) that an 8th grade girl will let an 8th grade boy touch them privately, and many who've had sex, because they think they'll finally be loved and appreciated. I can thankfully say (so far as I know) none of our youth group members have gone that far. But I'd love them regardless of what they've done.

What happens though is that as we deal with friends, even friends we've had for years, we still see them with blinders sometimes. I had a friend in middle and high school who treated me like crud, though I didn't see it for years. He was a great friend, 5 years older than me, helped me get a job with a cable company and was always there for me to talk to. At the same time I'd been abused for years. When I finally told the friend about it, his response was, literally "I thought something might be going on". I'd kown him for years, I was really upset (and still am a little) in that he didn't say something earlier which would have ended it sooner.

The friendship did continue and I eventually also saw him (whether correctly or not) taking advantage of me, and using me to get what he wanted. He always had to be better than me, and he even got me to begin stealing things, where he'd get some part of it and I'd get another. But everything we did somehow worked to make him feel better about himself. Yeah, I'm screwed up too :). Well, that friendship did die off thorugh High School and in College as I made soem real, strong friendships.

About 2 years ago he called my old church to try and get a hold of me. I got the message but just didn't feel ready to call him back. I mean, I went years thinking this guy was the best thing since sliced bread, and then to realize he was essentially using me. I've finally grown enough that I think I can talk to him. So now I'll begin the task of looking him up and trying to reach him.

So, my point is just this. We get ticked off at people for saying something hurtful or because we think they are acting stupid. Maybe they change their personality depending on who they're with, maybe they say things about us which aren't true, or maybe they ignore us when we really just need to talk. It's easy to think about the bad in this, and how we don't like the person now because of how they're acting. But we need to remember to have patience and forgiveness. This person is just as broken as you are, so they make just as many mistakes. They'll need your love and kindness just as much as you'l need theirs sometime.


Saturday, March 05, 2005

Young Life and Me

I just (truly, about 15 minutes ago) got back from a Young Life fundraising dinner. For those of you who don't know, Young Life is a large group whose purpose is to bring young people to God. Pretty much the same thing we try to do every Sunday at G3 meetings. It was actually a pretty interesting dinner. I got an idea for what they do on their weekly meetings, which hare strangely similar to our G3 meetings as well. They play a game of some sort, a community building game (popping balloon between two people without using your hands), a skit (we had one with a woman who didn't know how to be creative, another with two people spraying each-other with whipped cream). Then they have a talk about God.

Two things struck me about this. They have a great staff and a ton of youth attending. It makes me wonder what we're trying to do the same thing at G3. Why is it (and I'll be asking this of the group) that our youth want to come to G3 instead of attending Young Life or another church (Christian Fellowship, McLean Bible, etc...)?

The other thing which got my attention was that the games they played are things we've tried as well. But for us people just don't seem as interested (though I will be trying them tomorrow night to see for sure).

This leads me to really want to figure out what Young Life does so well to bring youth to Christ (they have 700,000 members worldwide) which we could be doing better. But then, maybe it's the relatively small size of our youth group that people like. Though I don't completely believe that. If you have comments I'd love to hear them. I'll also be looking into this a but more myself.

Well, tonight I leave you with this quote from JoA which we watched last G3:
Romance serves a purpose. It's a meditative state. It puts logic to sleep so that people can come together. Otherwise you probably wouldn't risk it... Love is big. It's a bright light in the universe. And a bright light casts a big shadow.

How awesome is that?


Friday, March 04, 2005

G3 Frustration, e-mail and Questions

It's been two days, and so much has already happened that I feel overwhelmed. Which, of course makes me not want to write about everything, since there's just so much to say. So, I'll touch on a couple of topics without going into a whole lot of detail.

first and foremost, Rachel seems to be fine now. She was at daycare today and happy the whole time. So, I'm really so glad she's feeling better and happy again. Tonight I was putting her to sleep and she just looks like an angel. But, its so late I'm not going to put up a picture tonight. Maybe tomorrow, I did get a bunch today and yesterday.

One of the questions I get asked a lot regarding G3 is this (and I can quote it word for word, no matter who asks it it's exactly the same):

What are we doing for G3 tonight?

Now, here's my question. What answer are you looking for? Are you asking what we'll be talking about? Are you asking what games we'll play? Are you asking to figure out whether we're having food or not? I'd love to hear comments on this. If I know what you are really asking about then I can give you the answer you're looking for.

Even better, got ideas on how to improve the G3 meetings? Let me know that too, since I'm definitely interested.

Completely unrelated, I was talking to a friend over e-mail today about how he gave up e-mail one day a week for Lent. Only three weeks into Lent he had decided that he gives up, it's just too hard. That got me to thinking about it. I am one who checks e-mail ALL the time. I get home from work and turn on the computer to check e-mail, get on IM and surf the Web. While I have been using the Internet for over 10 years (back when there were no graphics and pine was my e-mail of choice - not vi and emacs, I'm not smart enough for them). But I still had a great life, and could go over a week without checking e-mail.

Why is it that we find we can't go a day without the Internet, and more specifically e-mail and IM (for some people IM is worse than e-mail, just check how many people are on IM from their mobile phone all day every day). Have we decided that something won't get done if we aren't available every day? Is it just that we feel that if we wait a day there will be so much e-mail the next day we won't want to sift through it? Can we not entertain ourselves for one day without Internet access?

It almost seems as though the concern of watching too much TV from the 80's and 90's have turned into too much Internet. But it's so new that parents don't worry about it for their kids. Heck, most parents (myself obviously included) are online as much as our children are. And how much time is too much, when you realize we are forming stronger relationships through IM, and when teachers are assigning homework that requires using the Internet to get information, such as the annual budget for the Department of Transportation (true story, I helped a youth group member find this information).

I don't know what I expect for an answer. I literally rely on e-mail, the Internet and IM Monday - Friday for work, and then use e-mail and IM over the weekend for church activities. So it sure doesn't look like I'll be breaking from the habit any time soon. I wonder though, is it becoming so much of a "habit" that I won't be able to break it?

As for my friend (who shall remain nameless). I can only pray that you do find the strength and fortitude to continue your Lenten offering, through Lent and maybe even afterward. Look outside, look in a book, look into your kids' eyes. There are so many things which will help you grow. Growing doesn't always mean intellectually, I've always preferred the emotional and spiritual growth we get from others and the world around us.

Lastly I wanted to share a neat and slightly sad story. Tonight our family (myself, Erin, Rachel, Grandma Cindy, Grandpap Jeff and Uncle Jason) went out for our usual Friday night dinner's. This time we went to Logan's, and I had a pretty darned decent Rib Eye (but I digress).

Turns out our waiter used to be a youth minister. He currently works with a boy's basketball team at Christian Fellowship. What was sad about this was that he stopped being a youth minister in 2001, for a couple of reasons. While burnout may have been there, the main cause for him was seeing so many 20 year-olds he used to lead having completely fallen from the faith. As he said it so well, it got far too hard to have fun youth group activities when there was so much else competing for their interests (relationships, sports, homework, work etc...).

This got me thinking a bit about our youth group. We tend to do a lot of crazy activities, which don't seem to relate to God on the face of them. Going to New York to see Phantom of the Opera, going to an anime convention, Halo nights at church or even bowling. The only thing these types of events build are community. But we aren't going to make it through the long haul without that community. When we leave high school and go off to college, if we don't have other friends or youth leaders checking in with us, and helping guide our spiritual compass every few weeks or months, its very easy to see how we can loose our own connection. We need to build a connection among each-other so that we do have a friend we've made with faith as a common factor. If we don't have faith friends, we may lose our faith in God as well.

But these big fun events have two things going against them. First, they're hard to plan (especially for someone like me, who tends to live for the moment). Second, and most importantly, they're expensive. While we are blessed by the church for funding to help pay for events and scholarships, the money isn't limitless. And for some people they just miss out. So we have our weekly bible study and G3 meetings.

The main focus of the G3 meetings is to bring people into our community and begin to figure out what being a Christian is all about. So we get together to play games, sing a few songs, and talk about God and His work in our lives.

As a side note, we'll be putting together actual mission statements for G3 and bible study, since I believe there is some confusion on what the difference is. If you have comments or suggestions please let me know.

Going back to our waiter's frustration, and the question I started this post with. Because we have G3 every week, it doesn't stay fun, exciting and fresh. Every week I get at least one complaint about something (lack of pizza, the game's not fun, whatever). Each week I go through what really pushed our waiter to take a break from ministry. While some people really are happy and excited to be there, the few who find fault really bring it down for me.

I read a few years ago that the burn-out rate for youth ministers is 16 months. I'm really proud to say I've lasted 3 years, and still doing well. But I'll be honest, there are definitely times when I can understand that burnout rate. Keeping parents, youth and the church leaders happy and growing in their faith is hard. Not a little hard, really hard. While I'm trying to grow a team of youth leaders to help group the group and alleviate my workload, I'm still responsible for handling all the problems which come up (well, Rob's responsible, but I'm second in line, and would prefer not everything has to go to him). Why would someone keep doing this? I mean, I have a job, a family, I'm already active in church outside youth group. Why put up with one more thing?

Well, that's one I've answered so many times. It's because of my relationships with each of the youth group members. If I could afford it, I'd quit my job, assign my other volunteer duties to others and dedicate my life to youth ministry. I don't know that it's where I'd be the rest of my life, but I truly love the relationships I have with the youth and their parents. I mean, some of these parents go so far out of their way to help, offering to drive to bowling from 11pm - 2am, staying over night, other volunteers staying from 6pm Friday to 6pm Saturday, giving one-on-one time to youth, helping lead, and enjoying their company (yeah Katie, you know who you are, if you ever read this, I can't express enough how much I appreciate your help).

Then there are the 6 - 12 graders who will give weeks of their summer vacation for a mission trip. Or every Sunday night, even though they have homework, to hang out together and talk about God. Or they just get with someone they know a little, find a common bond, and begin planning activities together like laser tag.

Okay, this has gone far longer and more off track than I'd ever planned. May need some trimming later. But the short thought is this. Even if 90% of the youth from youth group fall away from faith, there's still 10% who stick with it. And of those 90%, I still believe most will come back to faith later in life, because of the unconditional love they have experienced in each of their youth leaders. So, I'll do this for as long as God wants me, because 30 years from now one person may say "I remember Tom Leary, he was with me when I learned what it meant to experience God's love".

As for the Logan's waiter, he has an open invitation to come to Mama Mia with us. I only hope he calls, so we can share God's goodness together.

No JoA tonight, this was too long already.


Wednesday, March 02, 2005

My day with a sick baby or Streaming Media

This morning started off a bit crummy. I had been waiting for one person to decide whether or not they were coming on our youth group trip to NY. Because I'd waited, I wasn't able to get a block of 5 seats together for the rest of the group. I was pretty much freaking out 4 people who signed up on time (I'd be the 5th seat) would have to sit by themselves because nothing was available. Thankfully I was able to call and they had 5 seats together, in the rear mezzanine (upper level) instead of the orchestra (with the rest of the seats), and with an extra $6.50 surcharge per ticket for using the phone. But at least we have a group together.

This ticket fiasco was definitely a learning experience for me. I realized that I really do want to make individuals happy, and accommodate their needs. But in doing so I made the experience for everyone else a little less enjoyable. It's got me thinking seriously about how I plan trips, but also that I need to really think about the entire group, and not hold off for just one person.

At the same time I had one of the best day's I've ever had with my daughter today. I spent 6 hours watching her or (most of the time) with her in my arms. I barely checked e-mail, and just sat while she slept in my arms for an hour and a half. It's really just amazing to look at a sleeping baby, and stare at them. To look at her features, and just be amazed by how beautiful she is.

I mean, just look at this:

Anyway, she was sick all day, which is why I ended up staying home. My brother in-law has gotten us to call poops "downloading". So today's problem I could only call "streaming media", and MAN was it streaming. But it did get me to have some time with Rachel which I don't normally get.

On top of it I presented an annual review for a co-worker. It went really well, and I came away pretty happy with the job I did.

I also got to head to Best Buy and Wal Mart to buy some movies and music I'd been waiting a long time for. I finally picked up some of the classic romances (well, 80's - 90's classics). My DVD rack now contains When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, Dying Young and Bambi. Okay, the last two aren't exactly romances (especially Bambi), but still great movies. The only other two I was really looking for is Strictly Ballroom and While You Were Sleeping (what else am I missing). I also picked up Bon Jovi's Slippery When Wet and New Jersey CD's, since mine have apparently gone missing.

The day with the Lenten series as we walk through The Jesus Creed. Tonight was interesting, though last weeks seemed to bring about more conversation both for our group and Erin's. But it's still great to get together with friends and talk for a while. Learning more about each-other and how God works in our lives.

So, all in all what began as a crummy day ended up great! Now if only Rachel would feel better :(

Love is complicated, way more complicated than driving a car, which you're barely old enough to do.

Joan of Arcadia


Tuesday, March 01, 2005

More thoughts on the Blog

I've been giving this Blog some more thought, and still don't know exactly what it should end up having in it. But, as I was just recently reading in the Jesus Creed (yes, I'm a week behind everyone else) not everyone has a single "conversion" experience when they get their Christian "Birth Certificate". Along these same lines, I fully expect this will change it's focus every now and then.

Right now I've been thinking that I'd really like this to be a place for someone to see the world the way I see it. I can only pray that you'll come away from it feeling a little better about the world. But then reality sets in, and I know I'll have days like today. Where Rachel (my daughter) is just so sick all I can do is wonder how she can be so amazingly cute and so incredibly disgusting at the same time. We had to leave early and Erin (my lovely wife) or I will have to be home with her until 24 hours of no disgusting stuff.

So, today I'm just throwing out a quote from JoA. I'll end up closing each post with one... Well, until I run out and need to turn to other things with even better quotes. Maybe the Bible?
Thinking you're the worst person in the world is no different than thinking you're the best. It's giving yourself a place in the universe you haven't earned.
This is pretty interesting. I mean, think about it. We all know how hard it is to be with someone who thinks they're God's gift to the world. I've generally fond it somewhat easy to tell someone I think they need to take a step down, and realize that everyone they meet are people, with a heart, history and a life.

What about those people we deal with who see their lives as awful, and who never see the good side to things? I've dealt with some people, trying to show them what they see as a gift, but you just do it day after day, always dealing with the surface problem and never the root cause. It's so much harder going the next step. Telling that person that I love them with all my heart, and they need to realize they are a gift from God. That they are not the worst person in the world, and saying you are just makes those who love you angry.

How we deal with this is, as with everything, complicated. But Rob (our pastor at St. Matthews) gave a great sermon on conflict resolution. This is off topic, but tomorrow or Thursday I'll likely be using some of these methods when dealing with a co-worker, prayers are always appreciated.


Locations of visitors to this page