I affirmed a mom’s right to force her kid to go to Confirmation…

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This has happened before. Parent approached me after Sunday School ~ worried ~ about her daughter ~ who is being forced to complete Confirmation. Her daughter does not believe, she says, in any of this… And she won’t tell mom what she believes instead. When mom ran out of (a short list) of suggestions why her daughter must do this, she resorted to the old tried-and-true, “because I had to when I was your age & it will make your grandmother happy.”

Has Confirmation ministry existed on such a string for 100s of years?

Anyways, we did have a good talk. It’s for another blog post about my many developing thoughts on this issue. I learn from parents… what to do and what not to do. I affirm a family’s right to “make” kids go to any form of Christian Education… I’ll do my darnest to back them up and promote life and liberty ~ Jesus style ~ when i get an audience with their kid. I actually think I’m good at it.

But in reflecting on it… I hear what wasn’t said. Mom was scared. She admitted she can’t even articluate a strong faith. Her and her husband feel like failures because they don’t really claim a creed themselves, tho they are faithful church folk. They come for the community, more than the creed. They give their money. They volunteer. I think that’s probably most ELCA Lutherans’ story right now. And i get it. That’s okay. But mom was scared. Not sure why. Her daughter is baptised. Doesn’t she at least believe in radical inclusion ~ the Spirit always at work redeeming and recreating us? Even when we can’t find the belief to confess a creed…?

I’ve examined my own fears in ministry. It used to be, the fear was what motivated my evangelism and discipleship. Fear that if people don’t choose Christ, they’d burn in the lake of fire. For eternity. You know, where the worm dieth not. That would really suck. I don’t think in those terms, at all, anymore. That has changed, and is changing. I’m compelled now, called by the gospel to be a witness to the light. Like John the Baptist pointing to Jesus, that’s my calling. I hope i am shining a light back to the One who called all of us. And I hold the hope for those who can’t hold it right now. Others held it for me at one time.

Others gave me grace to be that fearful minister. Let’s bless the kids who are less than fortunate to not know what the heck is going on. When their own parents can’t even get off the merry-go-round of life long enough to breathe in the mercies of the Spirit and affirm their own baptism. It’s okay… i’ll remember your baptism for you.

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Birthday Calories Don’t Count ~ (And other things I wish were true)

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Yep, i turn 38 tomorrow. The official start of Christmas, my birthday: 9/29/75. Ha! Well i wish that were true, and it kind of is, for me.

For our church staff devotions and meeting each week, we take turns bringing treats and sharing a devo. This week, our children’s director had to bring a treat in honor of it being my birthday-coming-up, and she asked if i had a request and … I chose… French Silk Pie. It was delicious. Over a two days i had three pieces. 

And birthday calories don’t count. So it’s all good. (It was good!)

I’ve had a stressful two years. This doesn’t make me special, or different. Most of us live with an incredible amount of stress. My vice is food, usually… I eat for the comfort, like when i feel sorry for myself. My weight has fluctuated from something i was real proud of a few years ago to fitting more snuggly in my clothes than i prefer currently. Again, this doesn’t make me special or different. Many of us aren’t where we want to be with our health or our weight. But I indulged a little this week to celebrate life with some added calories and I’m not sad i did.

I’ve made a lot wishes against nature too ~ things like birthday calories not counting, that there will be more money in the bank after purchasing a home that I wasn’t planning on this year (did I tell you I shopped for a house in mid-July and by the end of August closed on one?), that i won’t have to sweep away the cob webs in said house more than once a week, that there is not vicious hate in the world, that my friend who let me in on his “i’m secretly gay and i have a partner of 4 years but no one knows because i’m ashamed of the gay male community’s lack of fidelity…” would be set free of his closet prison and celebrate the love he’s found with the world, … ok I will stop… It gets heavy. Like my weight on the scale. 

So, it’s choosing joy time. It’s birthday time. It’s reveling in autumn showers and changing colors of leaves and the tiny house getting painted this week and eating life one bite at a time ~ wishes fulfilled or not. Happy autumn to you.

When the Universe Sent Me a Smiling Hickory Nut

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I was picking up after my dog, let’s start there. We won’t say what i was picking up, with a plastic bag, which he does more at the new (tiny) house i purchased, simply in my opinion to get me to come out of the house and be with him. But anyways, I was picking up after him and there by the pile of the stuff i was picking up was this cracked nut. At first, it looked like a pig snout. Which in itself would have been nature’s artwork. But after i picked it up, holding it at a different angle, i noticed it was smiling confidently at me. And after I took this picture, i noticed the little guy’s troubled teeth. But teeth, nonetheless.

I’ve shown the photo to several people. Some were not impressed, knowingly saying, “oh yeah, a nut.” I was like NO, THE UNIVERSE IS SMILING AT ME THRU NATURE!

Others found it very funny. Others, i don’t even think i can convince that it’s a smile or … the teeth. [Hello?? How can you not see the TEETH. Duh!]

I wonder about how God created me. Different. I see things and hear things differently than other people. I’ve always known this. Today one of my therapists told me she doesn’t see me as my age: she sees me as someone much younger. And, she didn’t really mean this as a compliment. [I’ve often joked for years that i have more in common with 12 year old boys than i do with my female peers… whatever, that’s another blog post.] I see smiles in nuts. I see the universe winking at me. I’m different.

And that hickory nut definitely smiles at me. And it makes me feel good. The way God intended for nature to make us happy. Rejoice always, and again i say…

Morning Prayer from a Youth Minister

Lord who must be reading this Blog

You are good. You write my story. 

My story is good. You are Holy.

My story is holy. I praise and thank you for my life, the breath in my lungs and all You’ve given me. 

This morning as the sun rises, as the families wake, as big and little decisions are made, be with us. 

Be our God. Be our Immanuel. Be our rock, that which is steady, confident and sure.

Be our wind. Be that which is surprising, unpredictable, a little irritating, and always there.

Be hope to the students I work with who do not see or feel light. Be a joyful hope. 

Fill me with your Spirit. I need you. I love you.

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Not interested in killing Sunday School

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Sometimes when I log on to Facebook, I see the groups some of my friends are in. One of them is about “Killing Sunday School.” 

Okay, first of all, I get it. Reform, dismantle, challenge, push… Question what’s not working and why… Plenty of articles have been written from research about Christian Education and dying methods.

But, God. God gave me a weird gift this fall. One I was not asking for at all… What I thought would be a mere blip on my schedule screen in my ministry call, a teen Sunday School class which according to all reports was dying or dead already, has become a place of life and energy for me.

The first day, Rally Sunday (my first official Rally Day!!! Now all those cards I collect pictures of mean something personal!!) seventeen kids showed up. 17. This after a few years where people reported to me that only a handful ever did ~ and that was, if they could find where the class was meeting. What did i bring? Some worksheets (by faith I had copied 15 ready to go) and … Candy Corn.

Two bags of candy corn, suckas.

They devoured the corn. We barely used the worksheets. This weird group of kids who only maybe knew one or two others in the whole group started to get to know each other because I turned on my comedic group leading capabilities and we started interacting. And we even discussed the Gospel. And we even opened the Bibles. (Okay, they don’t bring Bibles. I have to supply them. Big freaking deal. We still open them!)

There was a space made for the Holy Spirit. I could not be more happy with this. I don’t have an expectation about this group of 7-12 graders. It could grow. It could shrink. It could be different kids each week. We’ll eat our high-fructose corn syrup treats and maybe someone will grab on to some the hope i’m sticking out there.

I’m not interested in killing it. I’m interested in the “Come, follow me” stuff. I’m going. Let’s live.

Will these Confirmation Students Value the Holy Scriptures?

ImageI have had something important on my list of things to do since I began in my new ministry call. I wanted to post a list of recommended study Bibles for families to buy for their teen, on our church website, that I have found helpful. I put off doing this. I made some excuses like, well, who really uses books anymore? Small group leaders told me that their students needed to have a place to put their cell phones because they are such a distraction during small group… so there went my idea to get everyone doing electronic things.

So I made my list. It’s a good list. I even started with the anecdote about “what’s the best bible to buy? Answer: the one you will read!”

And then I had to pause. I wonder what would really happen if these students bought Bibles and read them. I have no idea.

I have some guesses, but I really don’t know. And if you are a smart theologian, you caught the error in my last sentence. The real question isn’t what if they bought and read a Bible, it’s what if they bought, read, and discovered the Christ that speaks to each of us through the Bible and then dropped their nets and ran to follow him? I have no idea. I wonder what that would be like.

This year, I’m doing something I wish didn’t have to be spoken or articulated as a “goal.” I am hoping I can convince group leaders to help students actually open their Bibles. And read them together on Wednesdays. Not just sit there. Not have it printed for them. This is a stretch. Maybe it’s not a stretch where you go to church, but Lutheran kids for some reason don’t seem to open up their Bibles. At least not the ones I met. Which is such irony, isn’t it? Given who we are named after: Mr. Martin Luther Bible Dude. And then maybe the unexpected will happen. Maybe they will see Jesus in new ways.

So, here goes. Saying a prayer. Hoping to lead by example too.