Sunday, February 14, 2016

Another idea for church.... podcast-style preaching

Winter continues about as you'd expect this year.  It's cold (20 °F).  Today it snowed about 2 inches.  So we have lots of time to be inside and think.  You'd think I would have lots of time to write blogs also.  I suppose that I do...

Our church's proposal to purchase the building next door was the inspiration for a good bit of thinking this winter.  The scale of the project (about $2M) spurred us to think bigger about the church.  With that much money, a church can do some interesting things.

For example, we could hire another pastor.  A big focus of TCBC is to help students at the University grow in their faith and impact the campus, and in turn, world.  Interestingly, we don't devote much pastoral staff to this part of the church.  Our youngest pastor spends much of his time with our middle and high school students.  Our other pastors are decently removed in time (and I am as well FYI.  1998 was some time ago!) from college life.  If we hired a youngish person to work in this area, I think some interesting projects and ministries could be developed.

But our membership overwhelmingly voted in favor of purchasing the building, so additional staff is unlikely at this point.  But don't worry, there are more ideas swimming around my head.

A idea that has been floated to us community types is to think about how our (mostly-community (non-student)) small groups can serve the campus (read: students).  Jill and I have participated in the adopt-a-student program for many years, and enjoy getting to know students by serving them dinner (and sparkling conversation) weekly.  But how can this be "part" of our small group?  This is a hard question.

So instead of answering that question, I'll ask a different question.  What if instead of looking for ways to serve students (who, let's face it, are pampered in nearly every possible way), we try to provide ways for students to serve?  I also don't know the answer to this question, but it's more exciting to me.  By having them serve the church or community in some way, they will feel more a part of our church anyway.

Lastly, I have an idea for a new type of sermon.  A typical sermon at our church is a 40 minute monologue about a topic or Bible passage.  During that time, the speaker has very little indication of what parts of it are meaningful to the listeners.  Based on looking around at people's faces, I'd guess that they feel very discouraged by looking at the audience.

So, how about have a conversational-style sermon?  2 pastors (or one church leader and 1 pastor) will be at the front.  One will be the "interviewer", and his/her primary job is to introduce the topic (why does it matter, where have we been, where are we going?) and to sharpen the points of the discussion.  This could be by asking clarification questions or bringing up other passages or personal stories, but also by just "guessing" where the conversation should go next.  The benefit for the main speaker is that another person is giving immediate, direct feedback.  The sermon can feel more like a conversation.

Let's assume the interviewer asks a question that isn't where the main speaker wants to go.  She/he could say, that's a good question, but I really want to emphasize (...).  This transition can help the audience understand and track the sermon's main points.  And it gives a signal that this is a time to really listen.

So podcast-style preaching isn't a good name for this (need some help with that), but the idea came from listening to a podcast.

As always, all blog ideas are free to use.

In family news, Jill had her hysterectomy just over 2 weeks ago.  The first several days were spent primarily in bed resting and taking pain-killers.  Since then, she's steadily added more activities to her day.  Today, she made the best pizza in town for dinner.

Clara has been so excited to play Uno lately.  She tracks the number of times she's won:  15 as of the last round.  She's also knows even and odd numbers.

Janny enjoys playing Old Maid and watching the rest of us play Uno.

Many nights when the girls are asleep, Jill says that they are the cutest girls ever.  This might be true, but I observe that she rarely says this when they are awake.  Jill responds, "I don't say it then because I don't want the girls to hear.  It might get in their heads."

Monday, December 14, 2015

Let's monetize your church

Does your church have a bigger vision than budget?  Giving from parishioners isn't keeping up with expenses?  You've come to the right blog.  Jill and I have spent at least 30 minutes working on solutions for you.  And we're not even going to cover the boring, traditional sources (renting out the facility for weddings/memorials).  Here are some solutions by category.

1.  Staff services.
If your pastor has been around for more than a year, he or she has astounding listening skills.  Maybe he or she has a few moments to spare where that gift can be used?  Monetize it!  I'd guess that 10 hours per week of counseling some depressed well-offers could cover about half the salary.

We're fortunate to live in a town with a large university that has a number of international students.  We also have some staff (pastors and others) that have marketable editing skills.  Let's get together and make some money editing those papers

2.  Sunday services.
Yes, of course your church has Sunday morning services.  But do you have car detailing or oil changing services while you worship?  How about coffee or tea delivered to your pew?  Maybe we could arrange house cleaning while your soul is purified.

3.  Phone apps.
A lot of people at our church use their phones as Bibles as well as note taking devices.  Let's make an app where you could take notes.  The app could be a game based on the sermon.  Maybe if you finish the game, you get a sponsored prize or coupon.

4.  Sponsorhips
Speaking of sponsorhips, how about "Today's communion is brought to you by County Market"?  The church would never change it's name, but the name of the building is available for the right price.  We have a weekly bulletin.  That thing is begging to be stuffed with flyers and coupons.  How about 15% off your entree at a local restaurant following the service?

Did you like the pastor's tie?  His sweater?  We'll have links and QR barcodes in the bulletin and on our screens for his entire outfit.  This is even better if you your pastor is a woman.
How can churches with male pastors reach the women?  Our host/emcee is a woman!  While she's giving announcements (brought to you by Wolfram Alpha) about upcoming events, we'll zoom in on her shoes and provide a link on our big screens.


5.  Remote events
Our church is special in that a large number of students have attended and moved away.  Many of them have been in Chicago, made good money, and don't have a good channels for giving back to our church.  Following the political fund-raising approach, we can have fancy dinners that that cost considerably more than usual.  Former pastors could give a brief devotional and share some fond memories of the good old days, reminding everyone that the good times can continue (when sufficient funds are available) today.  Did you know a bunch of university athletes have attended our church?  I'm sure they'd be willing to stop by and shake a few hands.

6.  On the controversial side
Recall in the book of Acts where hankees held by apostles could heal people.  We don't guarantee that level of service, but perhaps a pastor could pray that a tissue would bless you.  Maybe you could ensure that your request is lifted up first during pastoral prayer meetings.

May your church prosper!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

not as conservative as I used to be...

 A group of 15 from work went to a Chinese restaurant last week to say farewell to some friends. We all ordered a dish and shared them on the lazy susan.  There were a few Chinese people in the group, so some dishes weren't familiar to me.  One is particular looked a bit like a translucent sponge.  I'm ashamed to admit that I didn't try it.

Day after day we plead with the kids to eat the [generally delicious] food on their plates.  The current list of non-eaten foods includes marinara sauce for spaghetti, any soup, any stir-fry, most vegetables, and so on.  So there I was (without them, it should be noted) and I ate only what I wanted.  But in my defense, there were about 7 other dishes that I tried.  I was a bit full when I learned that the dish was cow tendon.  So maybe not so gross.  But why eat meat-like products when meat is available, right?

 At the end of the meal, about 1/3 of the food remained.  I was happy to walk away and let it be thrown away.  But a number of us decided to box it and take it home.  Perhaps because I'm in middle age, but experiences like this are jolting me lately with the question:  how did I end up here?

In this case, I wondered, how is it that I'm much less conservative than my coworkers?  After a bit of self-reflection, I have my answer.  The kids have done their utmost to grind it out of me.  We put food on their plates in the hope that they'll try it.  They don't.  I request them to try it.  They don't.  I say, why don't you try some?  They generally don't.  I say, how about eating 3 bites?  They eventually try 1.  Then I have to decide if 1 bite is enough [to get dessert later, my only negotiating chip] or if I want to push for all 3.  Sometimes a child takes a bite but something is wrong with the food so she spits it out.

And we do this every night.  For years now.  There is no end in site.  So I'm calloused about throwing away food.

Maybe you're wondering if this attitude has affected our home energy usage?  Well, I'm much less passionate about it than I was.  So I'm currently not pushing hard.  However, I think we're still doing okay, as this month's data shows.


 For the last 3 months I owned only 2 bikes (for me, plus the tandem).  I sold one of my 1980s Treks to a student through craigslist.  While perusing same list recently, I saw a bike that spoke to me.  It was loud, it was funky, and it was cheap.  It can fit pretty large 26" mtn bike tires.  So I could ride this cheaper bike when the roads are lousy and salty, leaving the fancy blue bike to remain clean in the garage.

I waited about a week before contacting the seller.  Was it still available?  You bet.  So within the hour I was driving it home.  Within a week, I took off some parts and put my spares on, plus some new barend shifters.  Behold, the purple GT:
 The frame is purple (like Clara's and Janny's.  Only Jill doesn't have a purple bike now).  So are the stem, platform of the rear rack, and the bottle cage.  I put some neon bar tape that Jill had hand-colored about 10 years ago.
Call me shallow or materialistic, but I went from dreading the upcoming winter to looking forward to it.  Ride on!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

what is new

Clara has been in kindergarten for a whole month now.  She's so cool and grown up now.  Reading is just around the corner for her, and her written alphabet letters are looking pretty good.  And except for having to wake up too early, she loves the whole experience.

Meanwhile, Janny didn't at all enjoy Clara's absence during the day.  Mommy just couldn't replace Clara (and Mommy really didn't want to).  But she's getting the hang of life with less Clara.  She has a good friend (the only other girl) in her preschool class.  And Jill is working hard to inspire Janny to learn things and play on her own a bit more.

Our church has a nice tradition of passing out Bibles to new kindergartners each fall.  Clara lined up with her friends to receive theirs during the service last month.
Clara's birthday party was a bit smaller scale this year, but so much more grown up.  She invited 5 friends, and their parents didn't stay for the party.  We built legos and whacked this pinata.
 A couple of years ago, I bought a new fridge which turned about to be about 3 inches wider than the old one.  It barely fit between the counter and the cabinet.  I suspected that one reason we never had much ice (besides Jill eating so much) was that the water line was too close to the exhaust and there wasn't any place for it to go.

Enter Grandpa, always a willing worker!  He helped me move the cabinet over about 2 inches.  Sounds so easy, right?  But we got it done.  The fridge now breathes.
 Janny is a 2 wheeled bike rider!  She is so proud of this (and I am too).  On her third ride (on the way to pick Clara up from school), she crashed and cut her mouth (likely on her handlebars, see photo below).  Much blood and tears flowed. When she and Jill got Clara and returned to the crash site (and the bike), Clara showed Janny how to start by herself.  Janny took off and hasn't looked back.
 Our garden produced a watermelon!  It was pretty decent even.  One more remains to be picked.  Tomatoes have been growing well also, except that squirrels are stealing many of them.  Red raspberries are again available in small numbers.  And our moon vine bloomed yesterday (just a day before the super moon eclipse tonight).
 Clara and Janny are both getting a little big for their respective bikes.  So I got to thinking.  And reading the internet.  And scouring ebay and craigslist.  Eventually, I decided on a 20" Specialized Hotrock with coaster brake.  It's a super cool purple.  Clara loves it, despite being just big enough to ride it.

Not one to leave bikey things well enough, I have a few items on order to hotrod it up a bit.  The coaster hub will be replaced with a single speed freewheel hub (when I'm convinced that she has the hang of the hand brake) and some fancy bmx race tires will replace the flat-proof tires that came with it.
Janny tried the pink bike, but still prefers her 12" purple bike for now.  Her legs spin so fast (trying to keep up with Clara) it's hard to keep her feet on the pedals.  Maybe if she's grows an inch (she's tiny for her age), the transition will be easier.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Summer vacation

Unbeknownst to us, we scheduled our summer vacation for the last week of summer.  After a large number of years not caring a whit when the school year starts, school is again impacting our lives.  Clara started kindergarten this past week.  But that's getting ahead of the main story, which is that we took a summer vacation in Colorado with Chad's side of the family.

Again, I kick myself for not taking enough photos, but Grandma did her part.  When she sends her set to us, I'll have a full suite of photos to choose from.  But for now, we're stuck with ours.  I promise, the rest of the family was there.

Going into the trip, I had a few small goals to achieve:
a.  Bike ride adventures
b.  Some hiking
c.  Dip my feet in a mountain stream

(c) was quite easy to do, as our condo was a short walk from the Keystone ski resort, which has a very nice stream that flows along the mountain.  We built dams and found some treasured rocks to take home.

(b) was actually pretty limited.  The whole family (except Grandpa, whose knees aren't so hot anymore) rode the chairlift to the top of Keystone and hiked along the ridge.  And it turns out that was the only real hiking we did.
 But Grandpa and Grandma have jeeps!  Grandma's was the available machine this week, so two different groups took a mini adventure ride with Grandpa in the Montezuma area.  We took off the doors and roof for super jeeping mode!  Janny liked the part when her head rattled.  I enjoyed seeing the vistas from the tops of mountains.

(a) was, surprisingly to me, my biggest success.  Prior to the trip, Jill and I waffled about bringing our bikes.  I considered just renting an mtb at Keystone.  Hanging the bikes on a rack on the back of the Protege for 2000 miles makes me a bit nervous (plus we lost an mpg or two!).  But sanity prevailed, and the bikes came!
Jill and I did a couple of rides together, up to Montezuma and up the Keystone gulch.  Jill preferred the pavement over the gravel.  I also managed to talk Bernie and Anna into joining us to Montezuma.  Despite riding on mtbs from the '90's, Anna and Bernie rode great.  We were quite close to Montezuma before Anna decided she'd had enough climbing.  I was impressed!  No doubt she can ride to Grandma and Grandpa's house from their house now.
Just prior to leaving for the trip, I emailed my friend Ryan to see if he was going to be in or near CO during our stay.  Well, in fact, he was there and was planning to ride up Mt. Evans with his brother-in-law and nephew.   We met up at Ryan's 1970 ice cream truck/army transport camper on Friday morning, parked 22 miles from and some 6000+ feet below the summit.  He brewed some tea for me while we awaited the rest of the crew.

We rode most of the way up to Echo Lake together, but I soon realized that to climb that far I really needed to ride my own pace.  So up I went, alone.  About 4 miles above Echo Lake, the rain started.  It poured, and I got soaked.  About 10 minutes later, it hailed.  I was wearing shorts and had no gloves.  Hail on bare legs and hands hurts!  So I contorted myself to have most of the hail hit my arms and head.  Then it rained again.  But at about mile 5 1/2, I was above the storm.  I thought, hey, this isn't so bad.  I'll dry off the rest of the way up, and enjoy a cozy route down.  Alas, it sprinkled more, I never dried completely.  Gloves and a rain jacket instead of my wind-breaker would have been nice to have.

I made it to the summit and was heading towards the trash to throw away my banana peel when a man and his wife offered to let me sit in their van and warm up.  I like to say no to such offers, but warming up did sound nice.  Their 4 kids squeezed into the back seat of the van so I could sit in the middle row.  The family was on a monster road trip from their home in Long Island to Seattle, Las Vegas, and Colorado.  I turned down offers of pizza and peanuts, but accepted the roll of paper towels to dry my shirt and socks.  I very much enjoyed talking to them and feeling the heater blowing on my head.  Then I bid adieu and headed back down.

I saw Ryan and the rest of the crew not far from the summit and planned to wait for them at Summit Lake.  Alas, it was too cold, and I wanted to get away from the lightning storm.  So I headed down... and down... and down.

I didn't realize until this trip that I struggle with a bit of vertigo.  Riding and driving (we drove Loveland Pass on the way there) on roads without guard rails and with huge dropoffs really freaks me out.  I know that a guard rail really doesn't do much, but still, they are so comforting.  Plus, the edge of the Mt. Evans road is crumbling away, and periodically there are 1 foot diameter holes in the road.  I think the holes go to the center of the earth.  Perhaps my bike would bounce over them, but thankfully I managed to avoid them all.

Well, finally I made it to the Echo Lake lodge and drank hot tea while waiting for the crew.  We were all freezing upon arrival.  We had very nearly warmed up when we left, but then it poured rain.  And I had a flat tire.  And my spare had a slow leak.  I gingerly rode the corners down to my car.

I put on dry clothes (except that I didn't have extra socks, so I drove barefoot), and Ryan gave me his nephew's breakfast burrito (thanks!).

During most of the ride, I thought that it was stupid.  Looking back, it was yet another super memorable, excellent ride with Ryan.  May there be many more!

I also rode the service trail to the top of Keystone and took the "green" mtb trail down.  Then I (gently) crashed, and decided that riding a road bike on mtb trails is not fun.
 Thanks again to Grandma and Grandpa for arranging the trip (and paying for the condo!).  It was wonderful to have the whole family together.  We're looking forward to more adventures together.

Finally, TCBC is again the A league softball champion.  We won the semi-final game 9-8, and then for the second year in a row I took vacation for our last playoff game.  Without me, the team won 16-1.  I guess I'm not needed.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

springtime

Hi, it's wake up time.  Are you ready to go?
 Some pretty momentous occasions have happened since my last report.  Fereshteh is now a master business lady, soon to be working out on the east coast.  We'll miss her!  And we'll miss Nikki too, who has just started boot camp at the Air Force Academy.  I think she'll do more pushups this month than I'll do this year.  Finally, we added a new boarder, an intern working at Wolfram (not doing all my work, sadly) for 6 months.
 And Clara graduated from preschool!  She started at Wee Disciples as a tiny, just turned 3 year old, and is now a hearty 5 year old ready to tackle kindergarten.  Well, that's if she can get herself out of bed in time.  Lately getting up before 8:30 has been rare.  So a bedtime change is in order.  But that can wait until it's actually dark outside at 8:30 pm.
 Thanks to a company provided 4 day weekend on Memorial day, we took a trip down to Nashville to visit grandpa, grandma, and the southern gang.  It was a great way to welcome spring a bit early -- the weather was so nice.

Jill and I took our bikes for the first time and did some riding in the neighborhood.  Based on our driving around their neighborhood, I thought it would be pretty difficult to start rides from their house.  But I was pleasantly surprised by the very nice road that tracks the west side of the Priest Reservior.  I ventured out into some neighborhoods to ride some steeper hills and rode past the BMX track (not on it... way too scary for me!).  So color me impressed.  I still prefer my commute to any sore of possible commute there, but the "fun" riding is pretty nice.
 Clara and Janny got some pointers for hitting a wiffle ball.  I'm trying to play a bit of ball sports with them regularly.  My goals:  throwing well, catching without flinching (or ducking) and sweet hitting.

And while on the topic of ball sports, church softball season is about half-way done.  If you asked me prior to Monday, I would have said that our team is very tough to beat.  After our 10 run loss on Monday, well, we're still pretty good.  The wind was howling out to right-center, so much so that I hit a ball over the fence.  The problem was that the Vineyard gents were really mashing the ball.  Many balls were into and over the fence, neutralizing our team's biggest strength, excellent defense.
 No more babies amongst the grandkids.  Linda is still too young to play much with the older 4, but that should change very soon.
 We've gotten a lot of rain this spring/ early summer.  Janny doesn't mind, as long as she has an umbrella.
Our (well, mostly Jill's) gardening skills continue to improve.  To date, the big successes are cherries (every other year seems to be good for our tree), raspberries (both black and red), peas, and salad greens.  Much more on the way, including tomatoes, peppers, squashes and beans (if we can keep the bunnies away).

Apologies for not writing often here.  It's too nice outside!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

less green

After church today, a friend commented that life might be too easy in this town.  We are never in traffic jams, there are a few cultural amenities, and reasonable employment situations happen.  When the temperature is 75 degrees with sunshine and no humidity, well, it's quite nice.  Thankfully, it's not like this too often, and there's still lots of work to be done.
 Not long after Grandma and Grandpa S came for a visit, the K grandparents stopped by for a long weekend.  As usual, that means a family portrait was found amongst the 10 or so attempts.  Silly kids!

My parents were able to peak into some of the crazier parts of our life.  They attended our small group.  I think that there are 12 kids 8 and under at our house (it's hard to count them all).  Preparing for the group and recovering after it can be all that we are able to handle.  So it's gotten harder to call on Sundays, as had been the usual plan.  We still need to work a better time for all of us to talk.

We've now been living in this house for about 4 1/2 years.  As the kids have grown, Jill is having more interest and energy to do some gardening.  Our neighborhood is filled with giant trees, so full sun areas are hard to find on our land.  So we started thinking.  Hmmm, there's a big evergreen in our yard that appears to be dying one branch at a time from the top and bottom.  If it were to somehow disappear, we'd have a bit more land to play with...
Well, a visit from Gus (and a big check!) later and voila, open space!  While I was at work, Gus led the count of tree rings on the stump.  It was about 40-something years old (fits with the age of our house).  Rings for the last 7 years were exceptionally narrow, suggesting that it had a disease of some sort.

Eventually we might have some raised beds in there, and hopefully a nice rainfall runoff management system.  But for now, it's full of dreams and potential.

While Jill was digging in the dirt, I was getting grease in my fingernails.  We bought a tandem from fellow townie Bonnie a few weeks ago.  She had all the parts for the kid-back crankset but they weren't connected.  So I hooked up all the chains, bolts, and such for a Janny-sized person.  Frustratingly, the kid crank length was 150 mm, or not that much shorter than adult sized (170 mm).  
When faced with challenges, one could get frustrated or spend $$ on new cranks or get aggressive with drills, saws, and taps.  I chose the latter.  The holes would have been a bit more accurately placed if I had a drill press.  But I used a cordless drill.  Since Janny doesn't turn the pedals over in anger, I'm not too worried about the 1.5 mm-ish offset.

So, now we're out there on the roads, bringing smiles and turned heads wherever we go.  15 years ago, we had almost the only bikes at the church rack.  Today the racks are full of single bikes.  Maybe in the future, more families will travel this way?  Who knows, I might have a couple for sale by then.
Today was the Urbana Criterium bike race.  I didn't race.  I'm not saying that I'm retired, but I'm not planning to do any races this year.

Softball season is underway!  We've won our first 2 games by a comfortable margin.  The first game almost doesn't count since the other team only had 8 players.  For my first at bat, I noticed that there was no shortstop, so I casually hit a grounder in the gaping hole.   We went on to score 17 runs that inning,and I batted 3 times.  Curiously, we scored 1 run in the remaining 3 innings.

This year, we picked up a new outfielder, Rob, that is better than both Matt and I.  How much longer until we're put out to right field pasture???