Thursday, September 10, 2009

LIfe Update

It is now October. Wait . . what? October?!? Really? This year has been an absolute crazy time warp of a year. May 1st, seriously feels like a decade ago, but I can not believe that it has been exactly three months since I started at Avon. It seems so much shorter than that.

This is, I'm not kidding like my fourth time to attempt and write this post. My problem is that I do not know what to say or how to say it. In short, everything is going absolutely wonderful, and every time I tried to write about it . . meh.

So everything is going great,I could use a lot of adjectives to describe how well everything is going. The more interesting thing to know about would be the three biggest adjustments that I have been coming to terms with since coming to Avon. So here are three greatest adjustments I have had since starting at Avon three months ago.

1. Being Clergy

So honestly, I didn't expect this one. I have never been big on titles and formality. I am seeking ordination, because I believe that God has called me to commit my life to serving God through ministry and ordination is the way that the United Methodist Church recognizes that call. I knew that being a deacon technically made me clergy, I just didn't realize how it would affect me. In the two previous churches I was at, I was viewed and treated as a leader in the church. That is still true, but being clergy is also different. It is like going from a leader (lower-case) to a Leader (upper-case). There is just something different and more "weighty" about it. I guess the best way to explain this is an example. I was in a meeting, and I asked a question that brought up an issue that had not been given any consideration. After the meeting, the senior pastor, thanked me for doing that. She said it was a point that a young person needed to bring up, and she said it also needed to be said by a pastor and I was the only person who could do both of those things at once. Also, even though it has only been three months I am still not quite use to hearing people address me as "Pastor Sean" (I technically know they shouldn't do this as pastor is a title traditionally observed for elders and not deacons, but this church does not historically use the title of reverend so from the before I even came I was referred to as Pastor Sean to the church.)

2. Working Full Time
This is technically the first full time job I have ever had. I say technically because at Pizza Hut on a light week I would work 40 hours, usually it was 42-50 hours. As a camp counselor I worked tons and tons of hours. In Corydon there were several weeks, where between three jobs I worked over 60 hours, and at Epworth I worked part time and was a full time student. However, the summer jobs were temporary so even though I was working full time hours there was always a known end point. In Corydon one of my jobs (subbing) was optional and I could decide not to do it on any given day, and at Epworth how much time Seminary stuff occupied varied from week to week. This is the first where I put in 40 hours (or has been the case a little bit more than that) every week and then do it again next week with no fixed ending. I am not complaining about this at all, but it is an adjustment. I think in some ways this was a bigger adjustment for Abigail. There have been multiple times where she has asked me to do something the day of in the middle of the day and I have had to remind her that I have to work. Of all three of these adjustments, I think this one has been the easiest and we have gotten fully adjusted by this point.

3. Split Group
This is one the adjustment I fully knew and expected coming in, and it has probably been the hardest. I have worked in youth ministry for six years thus far, and all six of those years were done with a Jr. High/Sr. High combined group. Avon (thankfully!) has split Jr. High/Sr. High groups. All of my experience has been in planning to shoot for a middle ground, and now my lesson planning has to be more specialized by age. I think by an large this is going well, but there have been a couple of instances with both groups where I felt like I "missed the mark." I aimed to low for the Sr. High and I aimed to high for the Jr. High. I am continuing to work on this, and hopefully with practice I will find the sweet spot.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Oh Hell

Last night I watched Hell House. This is a documentary about the original and biggest “hell house” in the country. Some times these events are called Judgment houses instead, but the principle is the same. They are an alternative haunted house that features graphic depictions of people dying from a un repentant sin and then suffering eternal consequences for it, while others repent of what they have done, accept Jesus as Lord and Savior and find eternal life.

This documentary was very well done, because like Jesus Camp it more or less just shows the events give a couple of different sides fair time, and stays fairly objective. Much of a “hell house” is based on shock value, and it is very easy to find it very, very offensive. Personally, I do not know if such scare tactics is the best way to reach lost souls, and they can deny it but the time of decision at the end was very much emotional manipulation.

One of the scenes they show is one of the church leaders talking to a group of people were very upset and offended by the experience. It was very impressive how loving the church leader was. Even though he was being cussed at and insulted, he never raised his voice and never acted in a way that could only be described as loving. Of this offended group, one of the more rational girls really hit the nail on the head of what caused this hell house to rub the wrong way. They portrayed the life situations as “black or white”. They had a scene where a girl gets raped at a “rave” and then out of depression commits suicide. The church member tried to stress that the girl went to hell not because of the rave or because she was depressed but because she did not know Jesus. However, the offended group missed that instead they just felt condemned because they had been to raves and felt like it was unfair the girl be eternally punished for making a bad decision while being depressed.

The problem is really one of absolute truth. The organizers of Hell House believe that there is absolute right (God, God’s will, and God’s command) and there is absolute wrong (sin). I agree with this. The problem is that they used human situations to convey this, and most human situations is a shade of grey. As creations made in God’s image (white) who are fallen into sin (black), grey is really the best color to describe us. The “humanness” of the situation is lost in hell house. Using the rave example, the human response should be to feel sorrow for a girl who suffered multiple date rapes. The Christian thing to do is support her and aid in her healing, not abandon her to condemnation.

Of course, one of the reasons why a Hell House can come off as offensive, especially to Christians, is because of how little we talk about hell. This is especially true in the main line denominations. We LOVE to talk about God’s love, and we should. However, we often over emphasize love at the detriment of what the consequences are if that love is rejected. “Fire and brimstone” in a United Methodist church just doesn’t happen. Mainline denominations may not need to go as far as preaching “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” once a month, but we should at least acknowledge there are eternal consequences for not accepting Jesus.

Of course this leads me to briefly state what I think this eternal consequence is. I believe that Jesus through His sacrifice atoned for our sins. When we accept this we become right with God and be with God. My understanding of heaven, is eternity with God, being surrounded and enveloped in God's loving presence. I have no idea what this looks like but I believe that God's love is what defines heaven. Thus, hell is eternal separation from God and the complete absence of this love. Again, I don't know what this looks or feels like, but I sort of doubt it involves being eternally poked with pitchforks.

One of the things that Hell House reminded me is that one of the sins that I am very guilty of is that I have quite literally loved people to Hell. I so wanted to not offend a person that I never took the time to share the gospel with them. I know that I am not alone in this failure of cravenness, and I know that I am forgiven but that does not make it any less tragic, and watching Hell House reminded me of that as well. I have spent a lot of time in churches and around church folk that I realized that my heart does not break enough for the lost, and that is something I should really seek to change.

Last Game Post

So I know I said the last post was probably the last post about board games for a while, but this one really is. Honestly, there is no reason to read this unless your name is Abigail Johnson.

So Abigail, here is the list of games we have that I really want to play. Many of these games are games that we have not really played enough yet to do them justice. I know that you remember the game, but not by title so there is a short description to help you out. These are listed in the order of how I want to play them, and I look forward to doing them with you :)

1. Starship Catan: This is the two player Catan game that we had a blast playing. It just took a long time, but it is time we did it again!

2. Dynasties: This is the "china game", I know we just traded for it, and we have played it several times. I just can not get enough of it.

3. Hidden Conflict: This is one of the two games I got at Gen-Con that we have not played yet.

4. Palatinus: This is the other one from GenCon that we have not yet had the chance to play.

5. Hera and Zeus: We traded for this two player game, and we have only played it once. . .back in April. I don't think you cared for it but I want to give it another try.

6. Battleline: This is the one where we play cards in army formations (based on number and color). We both like this game, it is quick, but we hardly ever play it. Why is that?

7. The Ark of the Covenant: We traded for this game. It is Caracassone with a bible theme. We got it right before we moved, and we have only played it once.

8. Dominion: Intrigue: We have not played very much with the new Dominion expansion yet. Here is a perfect cheap date some night. Let's get pizza, and watch a movie, while playing Dominion the whole time. It would make my week :)

9. Ghost Stories: Is the co-op game where we are ninjas fighting ghosts. You have really enjoyed this game every time we have played it. We just have not played it enough.

10. Humans!!: Yes it is a Zombie game, but you and I have not played it with just the two of us yet.

11. Last Night on Earth: Yep the other Zombie game. I really just want to play this more, and you are the person I play games with.

12. Dungeoneer: Vault of the Lynch King: We traded for this right before we moved, and I have not read the rules yet. I need to, and we need to play it.

13. Arcana: This is the game I got at GenCon, where you compete to win cards to add to your deck. We have already played it several times, but we have not used the advanced rules yet.