Sunday, October 25, 2009
Monday, September 07, 2009
Monday, August 31, 2009
In the mean time I only have a few more training with TYFI as they become something else and so must I.
Sunday, August 30, 2009
Thursday, May 14, 2009
She entered my phone # into the computer.
“Oh, Lyle,” she said. “I’m used to weird names like that.”
I leaned over the counter, almost in shock. “How’s that?” I asked!!
“I know a lot of people from Iowa,” she stated as a matter of fact.
“Really, I grew up there.” I said. Confirming that all Lyles must come from Iowa.
I took my movie and went home.
Friday, April 03, 2009
As it happens so often I over assume biblical story is all about me. Mathew 13 contains the parable about the sower and the seed. I have always heard the story from the perspective of the soil, hoping that I am the good dirt that the seed can grow in. But, when the emphasis is given to the Sower the story takes on whole new meanings.
The Sower has a bag of seed. We always assume bags of seed can run out, thus should be used wisely and planted where we know it has the best chance to grow. But, not this Sower! This Sower throws it everywhere, to everybody, good soil, rocky soil, thorny soil; everybody gets in on the free seed deal.
Maybe that supply of seed is not endless. Maybe the supply doesn’t need to be conserved. Maybe it (“It” being what? God’s unlimited grace and love?) can be shared with all. Maybe even those of us that end up with seed that doesn’t always do so well with growing it still get it, lots of it!
That sower seems to be a bit careless, hapless, and not very concerned about aiming. The Sower is not one bit careful with where it gets thrown. Maybe this story is mostly about this seemingly wasteful Sower.
And me? Keep wasting some seed on me please! I never even notice most of it, some I ignore, but a little of it I finally see and may even take time to acknowledge. Thanks God! Maybe Easter really is for all.
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Walking into the LutherHill chapel at sunset.
I do believe in God and that we do live in and amongst many spiritual flurries breathed out amongst us all kinds of ways I can’t understand. I suspect there is no theology that hold what can’t be understood.
One of my last days in high school, a class called “Life and Living” we had a substitute. She was a mom of two twin sons, also seniors at Cedar Falls High. She was to show a film about loss and death. Half way through the film she shut it off. She then shared her own experience of being “clinically dead,” I believe during a operation. She described the experience of leaving her body and the meeting of a being of light. There was no doubt in my mind that she spoke truth of her experience. I sensed she had complete confidence in her faith and also had no fear of death.
That may have been one of my first experiences hearing a story of spiritual mystery. As I hear people tell of encounters with angels, demons and ghosts I wonder. I am certain that mystery experiences exist. I am not sure we have words that accurately can be attached to these experiences. I wonder if our attempts to fit such experiences into our world view and theology have any semblance for being named with words.
I am most comfortable with using the word “mystery” and being comfortable with not needing to explain or over interpret. God is. God is present. Our understandings of God can are incomplete. “We don't yet see things clearly. We're squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won't be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We'll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!” (The Message 1 Cor. 13:12)
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Episcopal Youth Leaders in the Diocese of Virginia invited me to join them at Phoebe Needles Center in Callaway, Virginia. The Diocese has only three paid youth ministers in Parishes. Thus the leadership relies heavily on the volunteering adults and a very vibrant faithful core of youth.
One of their issues --- maybe too many youth who want to be leaders.
I woke up this morning reflecting on Jesus’ disciples telling Jesus, “There are too many! Should we send them home?” Jesus’ coment? “Feed them.” And so they did. (Loaves and Fishes)
Youth are either leading or they are leaving. We either equip, empower and allow or the demands of others will prioritize kids time away. The church’s job is less about consumer programming, which assumes kids are attracted by more glitz, more gadgetry, with bigger, and better entertainment. Instead the church is about making of meaning, developing purpose, and giving responsibility in ways that kids know they count!
Sunday, March 08, 2009
The picture is from a "Building Bridge" evening, where Andrea works with parents and kids to learn faith practices that can be lived in daily life and households. "Don't expect parents to do in their homes what they have not practiced hands on in the congregation." For Andrea, the gathering times are very specific equipping times. I believe it to be one of the most effective ways I have seen for equipping home to be church too.
I recently interviewed 12 different parents from Shepherd of the Lake Lutheran in Prior Lake. I asked parents about their faith hopes for their children. I used various questions to get at the topic but started out with, “If you were to write a letter to your son/daughter describing what you hope their faith and life may be like in 15 to 20 years what would you say?” I discovered that parents were eager to talk and seemed appreciative for someone to be interested.
Optimistically these parents reflected a positive attitude about their congregation and a confidence that the congregation was a source of help. The parents I talked to were very good parents. Most are involved in various ways of helping and volunteering in the ministries of the congregation. They were selected by congregational staff, and were the best of the best, with high faith hopes.
These parents’ imaged God as a God who mirrored parenting roles; setting values, modeling behaviors, and surrounding children with caring people. These parents want help! Including a God who will help.
Because of our focus at The Youth & Family Institute I was very aware of the lack of spiritual practice or expectations outside of the walls of the congregation. Most of their hopes pertained to going to worship and involvement. My hope would be for congregations to become more of the empowering and equipping place for households that learn to make their homes church too.
Instead I sensed a consumer mentality that assumes signing up and sending kids to various programs will be their answer for taking care of spiritual needs and values.
Faith parenting was mostly interpreted as volunteering in programs their sons and daughters were a part of. Certainly a positive thing to do, but also a limiting view.
The Conversation Threads
What follows are some of the threads that came out of the conversations.
Almost all hoped for continued church involvement and participation. “Going to church on Sunday,” “Involved in…” “Attend with their family,” where common expressions.
A personal prayer life was also a common theme. This seemed to be coupled with beliefs about God and a desire for personal connectedness. Parents wanted a God who “Goes with,” “Who is always present,” “Who can be sought in the midst of the bad and unpleasant,” “In the thick and the thin,” “Who can be approached anytime, anywhere.”
For parents there is a hope for a God who will protect, and comfort their children. I sensed they want a parenting God, and extension of themselves.
Biblical knowledge came up frequently. They hoped for “Enough to understand their faith,” There was a hope that youth would grow up with a knowledge that would help them live in pluralistic religious community. That they will “Not be manipulated,” that they can, “Defend and debate what they believe.” Some of these comments came from parent’s memories of times they felt inadequate when entering into conversations, especially with more conservative Christians.
The Bible was also seen as a source for comfort, and discernment in tough issues.
Relationship was another big theme. As they talked they seemed to forget I had asked about the future, but wanted to express their concerns for the present as well. Parents said they wanted, “Friend connections,” “Intentional knitting together of supportive community,” “Wish for friendship groups formed at the church.” “Can talk about and share values with other kids,” “Will emulate role models,” “Find a safe place,” and “Will be surrounded by good people in the congregation.”
I sensed a big hope that the congregation would help with this role of surrounding. I believe parents are looking for help and support. They want others to love, challenge, encourage, and affirm. One parent spoke of a special relationship their young person had with a building manager at the church. At The Youth & Family Institute we speak of this out come as the need to find faithful Triple-A adults, people who are authentic, available and affirming.
Parents greatly valued an attitude and practice of service. They used phrases like, “A giving heart,” “Helping world,” “Being charitable,” “Volunteer in a church,” “Pay it forward,” “Helping and caring for others,” and “Involved in community service.”
While service was highly valued, and seen as a value of this congregation, the assumption seemed to be that this should be learned through congregation programs. While a lifestyle that has an attitude and practice of service is desired, I heard very little that demonstated models of learning this other than organized programmatic ways.
Parents hoped for discernment in making wise choices. “Sex and drugs,” came up a couple of times. “Making wise decisions,” “Knowing right from wrong,” “Having an inner compass,” and “Finding support needed for trials and temptations,” were other phrases used in the conversations.
I may exaggerate a bit, but parents seemed to be looking for an inoculation from evils provided by the congregation.
Faith Diversity Value
In about a third of the conversations people hoped that youth would grow up with an understanding and appreciation for other religions. They hoped that youth may learn about, visit and be in dialogue with people of other faiths.
When asking about spiritual practices, I asked for things they would hope for in homes and daily life. I asked about things outside of the congregations programs. This consistently produced some hesitation. People would then name meal time prayers, sometimes would suggest reading Bibles, but would often go back to a practice of “Going to Church.” Only one person remembered the “Seven Faith Habbits,” that has been a core theme at this particular congregation. They could not name them all, but remembered they existed.
Sunday, January 25, 2009
The emotions were many. – Stress and worry in getting my dad to the wedding. – Great pride in my son and my new daughter-in-law. – Many hopes for the launching of a new commitment in relationship. – Grief that Randi was not physically there. – Warmth in a sense that Rand’s presence was among us all. – Supported and loved by the presence of the Sundet family. – Honored by many friends who came to surround Nathan, Sasha, and the rest of us. – Grateful for Andrea being at my side. – Pride of seeing two brothers, dressed in tuxes who deeply care for each other.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Over the last years, my own image has been that most represented by a warm breeze. I’ve like the faceless, mystical motion of such an image.
During an exercise led by one of our CERT School participants this week we were asked to write a letter to ourselves, addressed from God. My pen flowed more easily than I expected. Such a human task as letter writing did not seem to fit my wind image. My God image needed a face.
The Appalachian carpenter who I met at least a dozen years ago, a real person, but has become a source of my own story telling mythology surprisingly surfaced in my mind. Mid sixties, white beard, a warn and harsh exterior, complete with a beat up sweaty stained felt hat, but also very kind eyes that seemed somewhat sad but also gave a sense a knowing described this man.
During a service project in the Kentucky back country, the Appalachian man, was quiet and to himself, working on his own project. Periodically he would help someone hold their hammer differently, or help hold a board being sawed. Day-2 of our project he told me he wrote poetry, surprised by this, I invited him to bring some out the next day.
Day-3, lunch time, coal trucks rumbling up a nearby mountain road, he read his works out of a three ring binder. On the left hand side was written an observation. Just a line or two describing something he had witnessed or sensed about people. The right side flowed a poem. Some funny, some deeply revealing insights, some sacred, some in mountain speak, and others in very good English prose. This man was well educated! He had not always lived in the midst of hidden mountains.
“Yep,” he said, “I’ve always been good at observin’.” With that he looked into the eyes of each person of our group and told each the things he saw and believed about us. Our kids were each deeply touched. When he came to me he said, “Sir, you will never be happy unless you are making a difference in someone’s life.” --- !!! It felt like this man could see into our hearts and souls.
Certainly my memory has created him into a figure of legend. It is the legend memory that helps me understand God this week. I can visualize this old carpenter walking with me, jogging along side of me, sitting down to listen to me, and… I don’t want to be overly mystical about this… but, understand this form as one that can speak back to me, that can see into my heart and soul, observing and reflecting the words I need to hear.
Friday, January 23, 2009
I have had other opportunities to climb the pamper poll. The last time was watching a cancer survivor be the first in the group to climb. He made it to the top but then struggled to stand on top before he jumped. Watching his legs shake, the hesitations, and his determination quickly brought me to the conclusion that I did not have a need to climb the poll.
Yesterday, I knew it was my turn to climb the 40 foot poll. In the midst of a breeze I could feel the poll swaying. The climb was not hard to the top. The real task was to balance and stand on the top. I had no natural senses, reactions or experiences that could guide me. I tried, but ended up hugging the poll, than letting my crotch rest on top of the poll, okay, not the most comfortable position! Slowly, carefully, with an audience below, trying to only focus upward, I stood. Mini shuffle steps turned me towards the trapeze. On the count of 3 and the word jump, I had no choice because Sara, on the belay rope would be pulling on the rope attached to my back.
I made the leap of faith, and somewhat to my surprise hung from trapeze. It was my day. My time. Happy, proud, but a bit smug… as if my maleness needed to proclaim, “of course I would do it.”