Daily Fast Write 2/28/15

Really late on this, it’s actually after midnight…oops. Long day

“Men try to fix things.” Today I watched part of a movie about a 14 year old girl who was sexually assaulted by an older man. Rather uncomfortable to watch. One thing that stood out to me, probably because i’m studying a lot of pastoral care now, is that the father in the movie never tried to listen to what his daughter had to say about the assault, but he simply wanted to fix it however he thought was best. I wonder how often parents, specifically dads, do that? Often times I feel like I try to find solutions rather than listening. Certainly the military does that. At least I’m getting paid this coming week. Going to work without getting a paycheck was not going to be all that much fun. I mean, that’s tough. i hope I can have a good day at church tomorrow. I have to teach Elders, so that should be fun. I’m going to teach the lesson using readings, read backs, writes, and so forth like from class. I felt like that was a great community building teaching method. Oh, I ate a “kosher style” hot dog last night. I guess I never knew what that meant until last week. Kosher style…that’s no good for the Jewish folks, they can’t eat that. Real kosher has to be supervised by a Rabbi, apparently. I didn’t realize that. Hopefully I can meet with the Rabbi this coming week. I want to learn more about the Jewish culture and Judaism so that I can be a better minister. Who knows, I might find God in the Synagogue. I feel like God can be found anywhere, as long as we are looking for God.

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Daily Fast Write 2/27/15

“RIP, Leonard Nimoy.” Uh, what the hell? Seriously? That’s Mr. Spock, man. I’m a nerd, I admit it. Not many cast members from the original Star Trek still around. Kinda strange to think that show came out over 50 years ago. Kinda strange to think about a lot of things in relation to time. Maybe Spock should be a notice to folks who smoke. He stopped smoking 50 or so years ago and he still suffered from CPOD. Bad stuff. Same stuff that contributed to the death of my uncle a couple weeks ago. “has there been a recent change in the population of our family” I asked my mom that morning. I saw a really strange post from a cousin. It’s hard to ask “did somebody die?” At least I could play it off with my other question. Death happens sadly. WWE is in New York City tonight, I wish I could go. talk about a change of directions. Stuff like that happens in these fast writes. I Like WWE. It’s entertaining. some folks probably think I’m going to hell because I watch it. Oh well. They can think that. Maybe I am going to hell, who knows. I think the stronger I get as a religious person the easier it is for me to admit that I might be wrong. Some folks I don’t think could deal with that uncertainty. I can. brings me comfort, really. We were talking some about “group think” last night. Every time I hear about group think, I think about Golf Club Atlas and the discussion board. Part of me is glad I’m not there anymore. It was fun, getting to chat and converse. I’ve had a lot of discussions with green and red letters sprinkled in. Green letters. he seems like a good guy generally, but i can’t tell if he’s a school yard bully or just wants to drive conversation. speaking of bullies…that seems to be a big problem nowadays. I think it’s because the internet keeps it from being self limiting. back when I was in school, not that long ago…and I’ve pretty much passed a major turning point in life saying “back when I” …”middle aged white men” we are middle aged white men, Joey said. Yeah, I guess we are. back to bullying…it used to be that if you were a bully, you had your fun and eventually came on somebody who’d just beat your face in, then you weren’t a bully any more. But the internet prevents that self policing. The problem then becomes the fact that kids feel like they can’t talk to parents. I think we do a bad job as parents trying to make sure our kids feel like their problems are important. we have the bills to pay and stuff. yet to the kids, these online bullies or whatever are huge problems. we cause them to stuff it inside them and let it fester, causing depression and who knows what else, because they have no safe place to share it. We see kids, what, 11 and 12 years old commit suidide nowadays? Maybe if they could talk to somebody who didn’t just blow off their problems as nothing significant, that wouldn’t happen. I have to make sure that I do that with my kids. Leonard Nimoy. What is Star Trek without him? what a character he played.

Baptism and Bluntness-Weekly Reflection 6

This was a good week for doing work but I am not sure how much real, tangible growth I had spiritually this week. I certainly gained a greater respect for my Bishop this week after our meeting Thursday evening. I also met again with the member who I spoke for during his baptism two weeks ago, he’s an interesting case to say the least. This was also my first week serving as Assistant Mission Leader in my congregation and that gave me some additional items of work. I feel like as a congregation and personally, there is growth as far as the work that is happening, but that my growth spiritually is stagnant, possibly because I am not working on it as much as I should.
I have known my Bishop since my wife and I moved into our current Ward (congregation). He was the first assistant to the previous Bishop when we got here and he and I get along quite well because we have a lot of shared interests. I have a new respect for him as a Church servant after Thursday night, however. The mission leader and I had to meet with him. Our appointment was scheduled for 8:30pm but his previous appointments ran late and we did not get in until about 9:35. We did not finish until 10:45. During all that time, even though he had worked until 5pm, had likely not been home since 6am when he left for work, he gave us his undivided attention and continued to work through all the plans and ideas we had for the mission effort. I am not certain I would have been so easy going during the whole process. That is probably something I should be willing to work on going forward, since those times will almost certainly happen to me in professional ministry.
On Wednesday, we met with our newly baptized member to teach him part of a series of lessons for the recently baptized. We showed him a video about temples, which are fairly unique to our faith. After the lesson, we spoke with him and he basically told us about how bad his life is, how it has been bad for weeks, and he does not anticipate it getting better. This is the same person we met with a few weeks ago and I mentioned I did not go into details about our conversation for “obvious reasons;” sorry for that word usage, I simply meant I was not sharing because I considered this to be a private conversation, much like you meeting with a member of your congregation. That week, I was worried about him. This week the feeling was different because the conversation was the same as the prior one. I have the feeling that this man simply refuses to see the good that is in his life. He has a good job, not a ‘get-rich’ job but a good one, he is healthy, has food on the table, and all the needs of life, but he sees only the bad parts because he used to work at a power plant in Saudi Arabia (perhaps he should be thankful he is not there?) making more money than he makes now, so sees nothing good in his present situation. I hate to say this, but he’s like a living version of Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh. He mentioned to us that he had stopped praying because he did not feel his prayers would be answered. I eventually just told him that I felt like he needed to just kneel down and pray whatever was on his mind, get angry, ask why he is doing good things and still has all these challenges, and just generally ask why God is letting this happen. I would not normally tell someone to say that, but felt that given his situation, it would benefit him to simply air our everything in such a situation. This is interesting given my own personal thoughts right now in that I do not think his situation is somehow God’s fault or that God is putting all sorts of challenges in his life but that this is simply something that happens and is really outside of God’s control because this is our mortal world. But I did not tell him that.
Finally, I took over two weeks ago as Assistant Ward Mission Leader. This is a fairly unique position in that it is in the manual as an optional position but is rarely filled because it is usually not needed. My duties in the Ward as part of this class made it a reasonable fit for me. Part of this will be working to create our Ward Mission Plan for 2014, how we will work to introduce more people to our church, how we will reach out to the community, and how we want to get families involved in the process. I will write out much of this and present it to leadership tomorrow, hopefully they are accepting of our plan. I am also more involved with missionary planning, we have three pairs of men (Elders ages 18-22) and one pair of ladies (age 19-20). It is an interesting dynamic the mission leader and I have. He is very laid back, does not like to say anything that might annoy others, and things of that nature. I tend to say whatever is on my mind, especially if I believe it to be correct. This morning we had our weekly meeting with all the missionaries and we were discussing the members who are on our Ward rolls but have no known address or phone number. The mission leader asked if it was possible for the missionaries to look up members using computers at the church building. One of the sister missionaries said (rightfully, in my mind) that it is not their job to look up that information, but the members job. The mission leader asked something to the effect of could they look up one or two a week to show members that they are working? I said in response that if the members would actually go out with the missionaries then they would know how much work is being done. Perhaps I should work on being gentler in conversation.
This coming week I hope to really dedicate myself to following one or two of the disciplines from Celebration of Discipline. I think I get too busy trying to do work with the church, school work, and other things that I forget to study and be dedicated to growing my own spirituality. I am going to be sure to take at least thirty minutes a day to do that this week.

Daily Fast Write 2/26/15

“What is it that others think is right for me to say and do?” I read this last night. You know, maybe this is kind of the root of some of my issues. How worried am I about what others think is right? Should I be worried at all? I find it difficult working in the religious community. It’s difficult to be a real part of a community that seems to have no idea what to do with you. No one understands what a Chaplain does. 95% of people don’t even know that LDS chaplains exist. They don’t udnerstand why I am goign to school. Folks just don’t understand. Yet, I feel impaired in spiritual progress. SOmetimes I talk to people about doing things in church and the words coming back to me seem to be just drawn out versions of Rooster Cogburn saying “I can do nothing for you, son.” I wish I could teach more. I wish I could preach more. I truly am happy when I get to do those things. I feel engaged and active in the church. I want to do something more than just sit around. It’s strange, I think we don’t know what to do with that. It seems that we ask a lot of poeple to preach or teach and it’s like you’re having to twist their arms around to get them to do it. Yet I would honestly enjoy it, at least I think I would, for a while, if I were asked to preach every week and teach Sunday School and Elders every single week. I just really enjoy that. Which is a funny thing to say because I remember freaking out the first time someone asked me to teach a Sunday School class as a substitute. But I really found comfort in teaching…I remember being asked to teach Sunday School as the permanent teacher, 12 year old kids I was teaching. That doesn’t seem that long ago but I see on Facebook where these kids are getting driver’s permits. It won’t be long and they’ll be talking about going to college. It’s interesting to see them grow. A part of me wishes we were still in Alabama, but most of me is glad we’re gone. I’m holding off making some unkind comments…you’re not supposed to hold back on these fast writes, but at some point, I just have to hold back and be kind. How can you fit into a community that doesn’t udnerstand you? How can you talk about feeling a call to ministry that the vast majority of people you talk to don’t even want to acknowledge exists? Talk about difficult. Are you even LDS folks ask. Yes, in fact I am. Strange, right? Someone who actually WANTS to minister to people.

Daily Fast Write 2/25/15

“I’m bored, brother.” hulk hogan said that almost 20 years ago when he decided to stop beign a good guy in professional wrestling. as a side note, it’s almost frignteing to me that the nWo started 19 years ago. but what is it about being bored? i’m bored. i really am. truly bored with church. like, the institution of church, the building. i’m not bored with reading the bible or the book of mormon or studying about church renewal. i’m bored with actually going and sitting in the seats. i talked about this with camille last night. she says taht maybe i don’t give the sermons a chance. maybe i don’t. maybe i do but i can tell within about 30 seconds what it’s goign to be about, get bored, and then the speaker never does anything to really bring me back. a friend suggested taht i try to do a people watching activity during church. that’s cool, i guess, but it doesn’t really get to the root of the boredom. i think this has come up a lot recently after i went to ginghamsburg twice while i was in school. i really feel like i got something out of the church. the preachers really engaged me. i’d like to go back and watch the sermons again to get more otu of them. maybe i could start taking notes during the sermons at church like we did in class. that would be cool. why do i call them sermons? we don’t even call them sermons as a church. verbiage is important. call them sermons and people might really feel the need to try to put together something taht really calls someone to action rather than the lame ass schtick that we get every week as it is now. i really feel bad. i mean, we try to get folk to come to church, missionaries break their asses every day trying to do that. yet what do they find when they get to church? bland talks and the atmosphere of a business meeting. is there no joy in worshiping God? we sure do’t seem to show it. sad thign is, if you did show it, people would look at you like you’re crazy. we can’t even smile. but then again, i don’t smile either. maybe if i smiled other people would smile and at some point in time we might actually have a vibrant joyful congregation. perhaps i’ll try that. i get to teach this Sunday. i’m stoked about that. i like teaching. i really enjoy going to church when i know that i get to teach. we’ll see how the rest of the services go…oh, wait, it’s fast Sunday…bother. but i’m fasting for Lent, so it’s cool. at least i won’t be hungry listening to the rambles…

Daily Fast Write 2/24/15

“But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do.” Vain repetitions, we hate those. We talk about not using those all the time. But don’t worry, that prayer you said over dinner last night that was the same as the one you used the night before and the 25 nights before that, that one’s OK. not vain at all. Why only 25 nights? well, you probably ate out somewhere and forgot to pray because we sometimes forget to pray in public. Jesus said don’t pray in public. does that mean to literally not pray in public or to just not pray in public as a sign of how special and Godly you are? I read something late night that a lot of younger folks nowadays think that Christians are hypocrites. on another note, that same book excludes Mormons from the Christian church. that didn’t impress me. but it comes from a group sponsored by the American Bible Society, so i shouldn’t really be surprised. i saw a survey from them that ranked Salt Lake City at #90 of 100 in the most biblical cities, something like that was the title of the survey. that doesn’t really surprise me, the South was near the top. why was SLC near the bottom? probably because of the wording of the questions. ask a Mormon “is the Bible the inerrant word of God” and most of them will say no. it’s an article of Faith…”Bible so far as it is translated correctly.” that’s always been a comfort to me, i think. back to vain repetitions…how often to we pray in vain repetitions? how often to we go to church and hear the same invocation as last week? maybe not verbatim, but really close. “God bless those who are sick, those who are traveling, those who can’t be here. bless the speakers….” and so forth. i’ve always wondered why that is? but i do the same thing. major change of directions…we’re having a girl. i thought we were having a girl. it just seemed like the thing that was supposed to happen. i wasn’t excited initially about having another child, it seemed like 2 was enough. but now i like the idea. Trey gets his sister Pepper. he wants to name her pepper. Camille is not a fan of that name. i strangely like it for some reason. it sounds really cute, i think. i have no idea why i think that. a friend just asked me if he got that name from Iron Man…i don’t think he’s ever seen Iron man. I’ve never seen Iron Man, I’ve never seen most of the Marvel movies. I did see Guardians of the Galaxy. that movie was hilarious. Batista was funny in that movie. Gwoss. Some people might find that funny. I saw a picture last night where Q from Star Trek said that he’d helped Matthew and Luke write their Gospels. that was funny to me. some folks might not get it. some folks don’t like Star Trek, so they don’t know who Q is. Some folks don’t know the two source hypothesis, so they don’t know what Q is. jokes aren’t funny when they have to be explained. i had to explain it, so i thought, on our lovely million mormons Facebook site, but i took the explanation down. why do i still go there? i really should leave. it’s quite a bother. jokes and sob stories, that’s all. why can’t we have some solid discussions about religion and theology?

Daily Fast Write 2/23/15

In my most recent seminary class, we did a thing called a “Fast Write.” I think I’m going to start doing these. Who knows what I’ll pick as a topic. This week’s comes from a video lecture in another class. Tomorrow’s might come from a scripture passage I read, or from the news, or who knows. I hope to be able to do these every day, but I doubt that will actually happen. These will be posted exactly as I type them with no correction of typos, punctuation, capitalization, etc. Let’s see how this goes.

“If we make church into a commodity, we no longer “compete” with just churches, we compete with baseball, sports, shopping, eating out, etc. Church is just another option for “consumers” to weigh and see what gives the most self-fulfillment.” What does this mean? Don’t churches always have to have something that is different from the ones down the street? Does it matter what that “something” is? I would say it does. sometiems that something can be nothing more than fancy light shows, video boards, and a message rooted in some murky version of the Gospel. Sometimes that something is deeply rooted in the full Gospel and works on wholly transforming lives, yet they are able to add things to the building that makes it easier for individuals and families to attend. making your church stand out is not a problem unless it detracts from the message of Jesus Christ. I wonder why I don’t like church. that’s not entirely true. i really love church. i love reading. i love studying. most days i even love going to seminary and doing school work. i just really don’t like waking up on sunday mornings and going to church. that’s a very strange dynamic. truthfully, i’d say that i would have stopped attending long ago were it not for a strong testimony. well, i have to admit that my wife dragged me to church for quite a while, though i might have never admitted that to her. yet now, i just find myself tired. i haven’t really been invigorated about going to church since i stopped being a sunday school teacher back around october of 2013. it’s fun some days, others, most others, not so much. i get bored. i get bored sitting through lame sermons…why do i even use that word? LDS folk don’t give sermons, they give talks. beleive me, there is a huge difference. massive difference. sermons make people want to come off the pews and improve their life or the lives of others. talks list off a bunch of facts that everyone already knows and fail to every once challenge a person to improve. just my opinion. constantly, every 2 or 3 months, we get to hear a lovely talk on tithing. oh joy. i love it when some poor 12 year old deacon gets tasked with this. some folk pay tithing. some folk don’t. i can’t say for certain, but it’s highly likely that those who don’t pay have a reason and their minds will not be changed by a 12 year old kid yammering about some, to him, mythical blessings of tithing. it just bores me. i find myself bored most sundays in church, sadly. We pass the Sacrament of Holy Communion, i’m going to use that full name from now on, about 15 minutes into the service…meeting, I forgot…and I…

Running Journal 2/16/15 to 2/22/15

Between the difficult running surface on the track at school, subzero temperatures, and general exhaustion from classes and class work, this was a rest week. I have not run since February 12th and while my body feels well recovered, it was way too easy to just quit running for 10 days. Back to it this week once they can get the roads cleared.

Running Journal 2/9/15 to 2/15/15

Sorry, a bit late on this one.

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: 2 miles, 20:42 total. I don’t have the splits because I ran indoors at my Seminary on a short track. I’m not going to list 36 lap splits.

Wednesday: 1 mile, 7:21 total. Same as above, I ran indoors. This is my fastest one mile time since I started keeping track, I wonder if I could have done it a little faster without the constant turning on the short track. I was pleased with the time.

Thursday: 2 miles, 22:25 total. I used this as a rest/shakeout run from the fast mile on Wednesday. After this, the next three days are rest days to get some additional healing.

Friday: Rest

Saturday: Rest

Sunday: Rest

Wrestling with Defining God-Weekly Reflection 5

This week was a productive week overall. Working with the Elders, we interviewed and confirmed one man for baptism and set up two return appointments for interested persons. For ten hours of work in our area, that is very good. I also found out yesterday that another set of Elders in my congregation, who I have not worked with in several weeks, has a baptism scheduled for Tuesday.
The first person we scheduled for baptism was the man who we have worked with for several weeks and the one who was having the problems last week. He seems to be doing better in his life, not so depressed. Seeing him do better than before is certainly a good thing for me. One thing that I feel we have to be careful with when dealing with folks like him is to make sure we do not sell him on some idea of prosperity or “goodness” that might come after becoming a church member when that may not happen. This situation with him has really caused me to analyze and study my own personal thoughts on God and temporal blessings. Understanding that at this point in my studies I’m not working with the full toolbox I will eventually have (hopefully), I think I’m perfectly content with my thought that God does not really promise us any blessings here on Earth. We follow commandments not to be blessed here, but to be blessed later on and that we follow commandments because we’re told to follow them. I’m also kind of content in the thought that God may not be all-powerful within this human realm we have here. He doesn’t “allow” that driver to go mad and drive through a town square and doesn’t randomly place huge trials in our lives, these things are literally out of His control because this is the human realm. I’m not even sure that fits within LDS theology . . . am I crazy? Oh well…definitely my spiritual growth for the week and probably the rest of the year.
After the interview, the Elders had an appointment. As is often the case, the person was not at home when we got there. This happens quite a bit, far too often for a logical person to assume that ‘stuff’ simply comes up and draws them away from the appointment. Perhaps people think it’s more polite to schedule a return appointment with us and not show than it would be to simply say “I’m not interested.” After we left here, I asked the Elders if they had anything set and leaving them with the statement “if you don’t have anything that is rather concrete, it would not hurt my feelings to call it a day since I have a big paper to write.” (Exegesis on Exodus 3) We went back towards our church and knocked on the door of a person who had expressed interest in our church before. This lady had moved out but the man who lived there now was interested in learning our message. We went in and taught him one of the lessons (the missionary program for our church is rather structured with 5 lessons for converting members) and scheduled a time to come back and teach another. I certainly learned here that the Spirit works in odd ways and at odd times.
We have a scheduled baptism tonight for the man I mentioned in the first paragraph. Hopefully this one does not fall through, though I do not think it will, he seems very committed to joining and moving forward with this chapter in his life. I have to speak at the baptism event which will be another first for me. The order of the baptism ‘event’ is much like a normal LDS service: opening prayer, opening song, welcoming, talk* on Baptism, Ordinance of Baptism, talk on Gift of the Holy Ghost, closing song, and closing prayer.
Hopefully I can dig around a little more and find the answers to some of my questions that I listed out above, but I suspect that will be a longer term evolution. This was a good week for me in doing work and asking spiritual questions, even if I am not certain I really grew in my spirituality. Without the questions, however, no growth will ever happen.

*talk= sermon without expectations of an uplifting message.