Sunday, April 25, 2010

For teens texting is the new talking | Minnesota Public Radio NewsQ

Though late to the game, I have become a fan of the short-hand email version of communication, texting. At least, the positive, stay-in-touch with my teenagers feature of it.

But for this coming generation of near-adults, it seems that texting is the primary mode of relationship connection. What will that mean to them in the future?

Listen in to Kerri Miller's MidMorning talk show on MPR this week to hear a discussion of this topic.

For teens texting is the new talking | Minnesota Public Radio NewsQ

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Glad They Didn't Call

A couple of weeks back I wrote an essay for the Savage Pacer, one of the columns I have done for the paper every few weeks or so since 1997. This time, I wrote about my disgust with the Roman Catholic leadership about the decades of cover ups of child abuse and pedophilia that continue to be discovered. I am just one of the hundreds of people writing, blogging, speaking, and interviewing recently on this continuing scandal. My ideas are certainly not unique in any way, and are informed by my 25+ years of study and personal service as a pastor of the Church.

Want to read it? Here it is:  Savage Pacer column

It generated a lot of feedback. I'm happy I have more than a few readers, and that I can continue to inspire people with my words. But the most angry people respond, of course, and their letters to the editor were printed in the paper last week. I decided I didn't need to read them myself. I guess they were pointed upset and shocked. I'm just glad they didn't write to me at my house, or call me personally. For that, I thank those readers.

Those who agree with me, who have applauded my point of view, are not members of the Roman Church. They are my Lutheran, Episcopalian, and other religious and non-religious friends and readers, who see the same things I do, and despair that this Pope will make significant changes in the design and culture of Roman Catholic institutions.

With my column, I haven't made any new friends in the local Roman church, and I may have lost some. But I guess that wasn't my goal. My goal was to think and write about what is out in the world through a spiritual lens. Pedophilia and child abuse is part of the Church. If the safety of children in the Christian community isn't assured by every Christian, we have no business claiming to be communities that follow Jesus.

Despite all the emotion and distress by loyal believers, it's just that simple.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Easter : As Simply as I Can

I see it this way : God is part of the human experience. Constantly.

I believe that God uniquely joined with the one called Jesus and through him embodied the will and desire of God.  I hear in the NT gospels the constant pull of God toward healing, God's compassion for all human suffering, and God's dreams for a more just creation.

When Jesus was executed / crucified, I see the worse of human power brutalizing and silencing truth. God doesn't answer. Death happens. God allows the silence to speak.

And then God raises Jesus up from death. God heals Jesus even from death itself.

This is the central proclamation of the Christian faith: God is our Creator force whose hallmark is life, healing, and restoration. Along with others of the Christian community, I bear witness to God's drive to heal and restore the world. I have been healed. Over and over again.

And in death, even then, I will be healed and rise.

These are the central powers of God. And this is what Jesus, the Cross, the silence, and the Resurrection mean to me.



Image: "White Crucifixion," Marc Chagall, 1938

Friday, March 19, 2010

Family Travels

The weather’s slowly warming across the country, and along with snow melt and longer days comes that familiar family travel time known as Spring Vacation. And though they may not be, as Charles Dickens’s wrote, “the best of times, the worst of times” in your family’s lives, travels together as a group can be some of the happiest as well as most stressful times you have together as a family.

Time away from our regular routines is essential for good mental health. We do tend to thrive with a healthy balance of the familiar and the different, and vacations are one way many of us create difference in our lives. We can put away the same responsibilities, schedules, foods, sights, people, and weather for something different, a change that can make for a sense of escape as well as renewal upon our return. When we travel with our families, we get a chance to make shared memories and then recall them again and again in the future. Many of us remember the time spent in the back seat of our family station wagons going somewhere together as hallmarks of our childhood.

But like everything else with our families, traveling together as companions is a mixed blessing. While we can anticipate one another’s reactions and find pleasure in those shared experiences and understandings, we also make instantaneous assumptions, judgments and responses to each other that can zap the joy out of the newness of travel. In other words, it can be great and awful at the same time! (Recall the Clark Griswold’s of the 1983 movie, “Vacation,” and you’ll instantly know what I mean).

So, before you come unglued in your rush to close the house and get on that plane for that long-awaited winter escape, consider a few things that may make for a more relaxed, pleasant and renewing family trip. If you have some more ideas to share, be sure to add your comment at the bottom of this post.

1. Stay Within the Budget
Nothing can kill the joy of a family trip than spending more than you can afford. No one wants to be paying off credit card travel expenses 11 months after that dream visit to Disneyworld. Do all you can to stay inside your planned budget, making room for the spontaneous and unexpected, and you will have a much less stressful time while vacationing, and particularly, upon return.

2. Prepare to Travel
Don’t wait until the night before you leave to know if you have enough cash, if you have or need your passport, if your favorite shorts still fit, if the car needs an oil change, or if you have renewed your daily prescriptions at the pharmacy. None of us needs the emotional turmoil of last-minute, rushed packing. It can take all the pleasure out of the first part of your vacation, and can really stall your trip through airport security!

3. Lower your Expectations
No destination is going to be as great as the travel brochure, the website, or your dreams set you up to expect. Even Hawaii has problems. Lower your expectations of your perfect honeymoon or family trip, and instead, ready yourself to be pleasantly surprised and flexible. More fun will be had by all!

4. Manage your Job
Most successful employers know that we are better at our jobs when we can leave them for awhile. While it’s tempting to stay connected via email, texts, photos or even phone calls to work, unplug from the people at work and turn toward the people you’re with. After all, it’s your family that will stick around long after that job is over. And if you are self-employed like I am, make a plan to limit the contact you need to have with your business and stick to your plan.

5. We Bring Ourselves with Us
Your son isn’t automatically going to be well behaved just because he’s visiting grandma, and your spouse isn’t miraculously going to be easy going, generous and relaxed just because you’re in a different place. Remember that while your family is pretty much the same wherever they go, so are you. Cut everyone a little slack.

6. Staying with Extended Family
Nothing says “emotional overload” like traveling with your family and staying with even more. Be sure to treat the family you visit with respect, do your share of the extra work you create, and make time to get out from under their feet, and you will probably be invited back!

7. Returning
Some of us appreciate more time at home before the rush back to the normal begins. I know I need time to get some of the laundry done, to make sure there’s enough milk in the refrigerator, and to sort the mail before I go back to work. Others don’t need much re-entry time, eking out as much vacation time as possible. Know your preferences and honor them. That way coming home will be as pleasant as possible.

And in all journeying, safe travels!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Memoirs R Us

American readers seem deeply interested in memoirs this year. I've been wondering why.

What books people write, publish, review, buy, share and talk about tend to go in waves. Some years, historical fiction rules; in others, fantasy and other worldliness (think Gone With the Wind and the Harry Potter series as examples). A few years ago biographies were flying off the shelves; last year, anything vampire sold. All it takes is one, big, humongous publishing success and it seems like we are all off to the races.

I read a lot of book reviews, in search of the next great American novel. And while the great novel is still being written, more memoirs are available than ever. Of particular note are two of the more famous memoirists: James Frey (A Million Little Pieces) and Mary Karr (The Liar's Club; Cherry; and now, Lit). You may remember that a minor brouhaha erupted after Frey admitted to fictionalizing some of his drug addiction and treatment story; Oprah, who had chosen the book for her Book Club brought him onto her show to confront him. While Karr, a brilliant writer and poet, seems to have been spared the public skewering that Frey endured, her 3 volume story of degradation and personal reform seems impossible to fit into one small lifetime. 

Americans are endlessly interested in how other people live their lives. But what seems to have shifted in our culture is that the lives we want to read about are less about strength, courage or righteousness and more about failure and secrecy. Instead of presidents and religious leaders, we buy books about drug addicted professors or single women on a quest for God. We want to peer behind the curtain to reveal the humanness of those around us, and not only confirm our own brokenness, but also heave sighs of relief when our own lives aren't so dramatically distorted and bent.

It fits with the trends of paparazzi following the famous, the famous repenting on television, and the not so famous watching this all on 24/7 news cycles. It also follows on the decline of the organized Church, where not too long ago the lives of saints, old and new, were held up as models of faithful living.

People are always going to look for help in living their lives, and trying to understand their own through the lens of another is one powerful way to do it. But I wonder: is it helping anyone to lead a better, more satisfying life when all the stories we buy and sell are those of deep failure, relationship pain, and the crawling back toward the shores of self respect? Or does it set us up for lives of lower standards, lives measured against the latest and biggest personal fall?

Among other things, we are what we spend time reading and thinking about. Garbage in, garbage out?