Thursday, August 28, 2008

What the Democratic National Convention and My Super Sweet Sixteen have in common

On my way into work this morning, I started piecing together commonalities between The Democratic National Convention and MTV's popular show, My Super Sweet Sixteen. I apologize for the randomness of this post...

The Democratic National Convention (DNC) is all about one person. Technically, it’s about a political party, but all the attention is on one person.

Every episode of My Super Sweet Sixteen (MSSS) is about the great lengths parents go to throw their sixteen-year-old son or daughter a party to remember.

The DNC is an extravagant event, featuring former presidents and other political elites, celebrities spreading across a wide spectrum, and the best musical talent available.

On MSSS, one spoiled brat and his or her submissive parents spend outrageous amounts of money on the hottest venues, whatever hip-hop artist is most popular at the time, and a vehicle nicer than most Americans will ever own in their lifetime.

The DNC is about the party and their presidential candidate impressing their constituents, still undecided voters, and making the Republican Party look like a bunch of idiots.

MSSS is about a sixteen-year-old having the entire universe revolve around him or her for one day. It’s an opportunity for the spoiled brat to receive acclaim from friends and to create greater enmity between those that did not get invited to the party of the century.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

My Church in the News

Earlier in the summer I participated in a short-term mission trip to Mexico. Our church partnered with the Baptist church down the road. Apparently, our trip caught the eye of the prestigious Seacoastonline. Check out the full article.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Shack'n Up

Over the weekend I helped out with a One-on-One Father-Child retreat at a summer camp in western New Hampshire. My responsibilities were to assist with icebreaker games, organize a game of Crazy Kickball, perform the hand motions to the kid-friendly worship song, “Pharaoh, Pharaoh,” give a Bible lesson, and facilitate a craft. Sounds like a lot of work, but it was seriously a chill weekend. Both Saturday and Sunday left me with entire afternoons left to nothing other than swimming in the lake and relaxing in the sun at the waterfront beach area.

In addition to eliminating my farmer’s tan line, I used the time at the lake to read a book that I picked up last week called The Shack. The book has received a good deal of notoriety and has quickly climbed to the top of best seller lists. Reading this book is kind of a big deal for me because it’s fiction. I realize that probably sounds dumb, yet rarely do I explore the realm of fiction.

If you ask me, The Shack is a funny name for a book. But it’s appropriate considering that in the book a dilapidated old building in the woods is where a tragic and bloody event occurs. The shack is central to the story. Anyway, the reason I share this bit of information is because my stay at the summer camp had me sleeping in—you guessed it—a shack. No joke, this old staff cabin was a creepy place to lay my head and its striking similarity to the shack depicted in the novel had me nervous.

Regardless, I think I want this post to have more to do with the book than my weekend at Camp Squanto.

To my surprise, The Shack is very theological. It’s full of commentary on the nature of God, human freedom, relationships, sin, and hierarchy. The following is a passage from the book where God is talking about the difference between the relationship that exists between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and the social order that prevails in human relationships:

We are in a circle of relationship, not a chain of command or ‘great chain of being’ as your ancestors termed it. What you’re seeing here is relationship without any overlay of power. We don’t need power over the other because we are always looking out for the best. Hierarchy would make no sense among us…Humans are so lost and damaged that to you it is almost incomprehensible that people could work or live together without someone being in charge…It’s one reason why experiencing true relationship is difficult for you…Once you have a hierarchy you need rules to protect and administer it, and then you need law and the enforcement of the rules, and you end up with some kind of chain of command or a system of order that destroys relationship rather than promotes it. You rarely see or experience relationship apart from power. Hierarchy imposes laws and rules and you end up missing the wonder of relationship that we intended for you.

I guess it's ironic that I believe humans are made in the image of God, and yet it is unimaginable for me to picture human society without any hierarchy. "Lost and damaged"--that is what we are.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


I just spent the last 4 days in Acadia National Park with several youth group students. Acadia is probably the most naturally beautiful area in all of New England. The park doesn't have the same "wow" factor as other parks like Yosemite or Yellowstone, but the combination of the mountains and the Atlantic Ocean make it a really unique place. I made the kids hike Cadillac Mountain. Reluctantly, we all made it to the top. I wish my kids liked hiking as much as I do.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

As Summer Comes to a Close...

I’ve played a good deal of catch-up in the office this past week. It feels strange to already be focusing on the fall, and the beginning of the church’s program year. It always amazes me how quickly summer passes. But this summer has gone by especially fast. And what an amazing summer it’s been. I’m grateful for the wonderful opportunities I have had in the last three months to travel domestically and overseas, to see best friends, officiate a wedding, play host to my visiting parents, and surf the biggest and cleanest waves I’ve ever seen in person thanks to tropical storm Bertha.

Tomorrow (Sunday) will also be kind of a memorable day. The two other pastors on staff are away on vacation and I’m in charge of the entire worship service. It’s an odd feeling. It feels similar to when my parents left me home alone for the very first time. But at the same time, I have this preliminary feeling of being totally comfortable. I have never had this large of a responsibility before, yet I’m confident that all will go well.

Sunday also means that the summer fun continues as I head up north to Acadia National Park with a handful of youth group students. This will be the first time I’ve been camping since last August. Although I’m looking forward to the four-day get away, I’m just a little nervous about taking student into the semi-wilderness. Pray that they all come back alive.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Tres Equis Tire Change

Last week was spent mostly in Juarez, Mexico. I participated in a multigenerational short-term mission trip with members from my church and the Baptist church down the road in Portsmouth, NH. I have a million things running through my mind right now. I don’t know where to start…so I won’t. Instead, I’ll just share a funny story and a snapshot to match.

As I drove the 15-passenger van full of youth group kids to within a mile of the Mexico/USA boarder, I got a call on my cell from Todd who was riding shotgun in the mini van behind us. Todd informs me that the van had two flat tires. At this point I’m wondering how a car gets two flat tires at the same time. Nevertheless, no van gets left behind. We circle back and find our companions in the mini van pulled off in an empty parking lot right off the road in front of a….oh, what is this? The irony is inescapable: A church sponsored mission trip group numbering twenty-five corralled around a deflated Chevy Uplander in the parking lot of a strip club. Although the kids in the back of the van are laughing hysterically, I demonstrate unparalleled pastoral maturity by quickly jumping out of the driver’s seat to snap this picture:

Friday, August 1, 2008

European Rendezvous

I’m back in New Hampshire. Well, for now I am. However, in a little more than 36 hours I’ll be back on a plane and headed to Mexico to co-lead a week long mission trip. But for now I’ll suspend my thoughts on Mexico and give a little recap on Europe.

Flying out of Boston’s Logan International, I was supposed to catch a connecting flight to Zurich, Switzerland in Philadelphia. But that never happened. Unfortunately, an isolated thunderstorm system meant that my flight was not going to get off in time. My plane sat on the tarmac for an hour-and-a-half which meant there was little hope for reaching my connecting flight.

But I was determined. I literally sprinted as fast as I could through two terminals only to see that the plane I was supposed to catch had already pulled away from the gate. But this was not all in vain. I had a really great conversation with an openly gay mathematics professor from a Cal State school about religion and numbers while standing in the special services line to find another way to Zurich.

I finally reached Zurich. Unfortunately my checked bag never made it across the Atlantic. To make matters worse, I had no way of reaching my friends that were supposed to be picking me up, and didn’t know if they had received my sister’s message through Facebook that I was coming in later on a different flight. However, as I’m filling out the paperwork to reclaim my lost luggage, I look to my right and see on the other side of the glass windows seven smiling faces. These are my friends—and I’ve waited all year to see them. I hardly recognize Jake because he is so hairy, but everyone else looks just as how they did when I said good-bye to them a year ago.

And then I was running again. I wanted to find my friends as quickly as possible, but only one problem: I could not find the exit. Slightly embarrassed, I eventually found my way out of the maze that is Zurich airport’s baggage claim, and into the warm embrace of my friends.

That first night in Switzerland would set the tone for the next week: Dinner outside in a trellised enclosure with bunches of grapes hanging above a large picnic table surrounded by friends enjoying cheese fondue and white wine with the glow of a fire in the back ground as the sun slowly set.