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Archive for November, 2008

It’s Crunch Time

So, it’s that time of the quarter, and I must say – while I missed the academic stimulation of formal schooling, I did not miss this feeling.  I have a number of big assignments due this week for classes.  This week marks the beginning of advent and another super busy season in the church year (are there any seasons that aren’t busy?), which means lots of youth activities filling the calendar.  Basically, it’s crunch time.  In the next 7 days I probably have about 10 days worth of work, and I’m probably going to have to cut down on my hours of sleep and “hang out” time at least a little bit.  Hopefully by this time next week I’ll be ready to sail smoothly through the last week of the quarter to finish up my first quarter of seminary.

Posting could continue to be scarce this week – or it could peak in fits of procrastination.  Who knows.  Either way, I do know this:  I will survive.

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Last year I went shopping on “Black Friday”.  I vowed that I would never again participate in such a comercialized and consumeristic mess again.  I find it ridiculous that we celebrate Thanksgiving on Thursday and then are immediately driven by greed and selfishness to buy, buy, buy on “Black Friday”.  What’s the point of even counting our blessings Thursday?  Do we even do that anymore?  Or are we too busy making lists of all the things we want (or “need”? ) to buy on Black Friday.

Greed is an ugly thing.  Today greed got really ugly for some folks at a Wal*Mart in New York (full story from cnn.com here) as a man was trampled to death by the crowds entering the store at 5am.  What is that important?

I hope they got what they wanted.

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I have so much to be thankful for this year.  Seriously.  Every year as I take some time to really think about and reflect on the blessings in my life, a couple of things happen: (1) I am reminded of how truly blessed I am; and (2) I wonder why I don’t reflect on the blessings in my life more often (maybe we’d all be a little happier if we did).  It kind of makes me wonder: why don’t we make thankfulness a daily habit rather than a yearly obligation marked by an over-comercialized holiday?  (or maybe it’s just me that doesn’t make thankfulness a regular habit, and if that’s the case, maybe I should start!)  Anyways, there’s lots to be thankful for this year:

  • A God who continues to love me no matter what.
  • Two parents who support me in everything I do and are even putting up with me living “back at home” for a year – the sacrifices they make for me on a daily basis are greater than I can possibly comprehend.  I can only hope that I will be as good of a parent to my (future) children as they have been and are for me.
  • A sister who (mostly) puts up with my crazy antics, laughs and cries with me, and is just plain fun to be around.  I’m so impressed by the young woman that she is becoming.
  • My fiance Scott who has stood by me for the past seven years, and for the sacrifices that he has made during that time to make sure that our relationship lasted.  I can hardly wait for the rest of our lives to begin on September 12, 2009!
  • Grace Lutheran Church (Fremont, OH) – In the year that I spent with the folks up in Fremont, strangers became like friends and a group of teenagers became like family.  I can’t express my gratitude for the 13 months I had the pleasure of enjoying in Fremont.  I miss them like crazy every day.
  • Spoke Folk OH*08 – I am so thankful for the love and support of this incredible group of people and for the blessing they have been to my life.  It’s amazing how God can take a group of strangers and in 12 short days create a family out of them.
  • Parma Lutheran Church (Parma, OH) – It’s hard to believe that I’ve been serving as the Director of Youth & Young Adult Ministries @ PLC for a mere 4 months.  God has big things in store for this church, and I’m thankful that he is allowing me the opportunity to be a part of it.
  • Friends: Ashland, Mowana, Spoke Folk, LSM, Mayfield, etc. God has blessed be with some incredible friendships, and while in many cases we only see each other on rare occasions, I am blessed by friends that truly embody Paul’s words in Romans 1:11-12.
  • Ashland Theological Seminary – The opportunity for a graduate level education seems to be getting slimmer with today’s slipping economy, but I am so thankful that God has opened the doors for me to pursue a theological education at ATS.
  • Even in a struggling economy, I am blessed:  I have a roof over my head, I have a job (directly related to my college degree), I have more than I need.

When all is said and done, I am blessed beyond what I could ever ask for.  I thank God for these blessings because I know that they are most certainly of him.  While I have experienced the extremes of love and loss in the past years, I can only hope that my attitude will continue to be that of Job:

The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
may the name of the LORD be praised.” (Job 1:20b)

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It has begun.  Actually, it began weeks ago, but I’ve managed to mostly avoid it until now.  What am I talking about?  The premature onslaught of Christmas.  I hopped into my car this morning to head to Caribou coffee only to find that 95.5 has started their 24/7 Christmas music extravaganza.  Oy vey.  It’s not even Thanksgiving! I feel like our consumeristic society has squeezed Thanksgiving right off the calendar – from now until December 25th we’ll all be inundated with “huge sales” and pressure to buy, buy, buy.  Is Christmas even about Christ anymore?  And why do we just pass over Thanksgiving.  As soon as Halloween is over, all the stores switch their displays to Christmas, causing society to lose the emphasis on Thankfulness and instead to be filled with greed.

Call me strange, but for me the thankful reflection of Thanksgiving has always been an appropriate lead-in to the Advent season (you know, the preparation for Christmas that we seem to have completely forgotten).  It’s a challenge in today’s society to maintain this rhythm of the ancient church with emphasis so quickly being placed on the consumerism of Christmas rather than on the reflection and preparation for the holiday during the season of Advent – a time of preparing ourselves to recieve the incarnate word of God in the baby Christ.  So, I think I’ll be boycotting 95.5 for at least a few days, and focusing on Thanksgiving.

Maybe after Thanksgiving I’ll get into the Christmas spirit.

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Something of Substance

I’ve been longing to write something of substance lately, but when combined with all the end-of-the-quarter writing I have for my seminary classes, all the things that have been flying through my head just seem like mumbo-jumbo.  I haven’t really been able to find clarity in any of it – even the papers I’m writing for classes seem less organized than usual.  I’ve been gripped by a lot of things these past couple weeks – fear, feelings of failure, guilt, questions and doubt.  I’ve been praying for freedom, clarity and direction.

Hopefully I’ll have something of real substance to write sometime (very) soon.  Until then, it’s the honesty of a writer who doesn’t know what to write.

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I’m pretty sure I had the exact opposite reaction at this moment in time.  Or perhaps I just sat quietly and soaked in the moment.  This is a little over the top.  Welcome to life in Jr. High Ministry, though.  This could be your life, too.

thanks los

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Mowana Sr. High Retreat

At this weekend’s Sr. High Retreat, besides having the opportunity to share a place I love with new people, I was once again reminded why I love camp so much.

  1. Milk Ring Hearts – People at camp know how to show their love with simple gifts.
  2. Fleming Falls & Hoppy’s Cave – I learn something new every time I take that hike around camp.
  3. Oatmeal – Maybe it’s because of “The Oatmeal Song” (which we all forgot the words to this weekend), but camp is the only place where I will eat “that crazy whole grain goo.”
  4. Campfires – Even when they’re inside, it’s all the rage.
  5. Worship – It seems to me that worship at camp is about as genuine as it gets for youth.  Sometimes it’s silly, sometimes it’s serious, but always it’s meaningful.
  6. Dining Hall Antics – “Here’s to Erin and the way she eats spaghetti without silverware,” “Here’s to David and the way he does the dinosaur,” “Here’s to Casey and the way she does the hula hop.”
  7. Healthy Physical Touch – Whether it’s hugs or high fives, for those of us who rank “physical touch” as high on our list of Love Languages, camp is fantastic.
  8. Real, Transparent Conversation – Something about getting away from it all and being in “the middle of nowhere” creates a breeding ground for real and open conversation to happen.
  9. Students Ministering to Students – I know this happens in churches and schools too, but it seems to get amplified at camp.  Students praying for each other, surrounding one another with love, and just being present with one another.
  10. Relationships – There’s a lot to be said for the way relationships develop at camp.  Walls come down, and the opportunity to really get to know one another arises.  (Especially when nobody has showered in 3 days.)

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