Branding

December 9, 2008

I started drinking coffee about 18 months ago; shortly after Evan was born.  Over the past few months I have come to discover that coffee is as much a social subculture as it is a beverage.  I thought this post from MobileYouth summed it up nicely:

When young professionals walk down the street holding a cup of coffee with the highly visible Starbucks branding they’re sending out a subtle signal that they can regularly afford the $4-$5 for a cup of coffee, need the fuel for their busy lives and therefore to some degree (in their own reckoning) must be significant. Their choice of coffee, the countless permutations and the manner of consumption are all about displaying significance to the wider peer group and the premises in which this takes place are itself the most tangible social network youth have.

I’m not sure what it says about me that I tend to avoid Starbucks and opt for my local Grounds for Celebration when I’m looking to overpay for a cup of coffee.  And also, speaking of local coffee, thanks to the lady at the Drake Diner who kept hooking me up with refills yesterday.  I’m confident that I ended up drinking about 40 oz of java with my breakfast…but since it was never empty, I’m counting it as “one cup of coffee”.

Where do you get your coffee?  What impacts your choice?


Muchas Gracias

December 3, 2008

Thank you, faithful readers, for making this humble blog #95 on the WordPress Blogs of the Day – Growing Blogs list.  I have no idea what it means…but it’s kinda cool to be on a list that doesn’t involve unemployment, bankruptcy, OWI, or communicable diseases.  

It also reminds me to pay tribute to the greatest #95 of all time – Richard Lamar Dent.


Waiting is the Hardest Part

December 3, 2008

My new friend, Emily, has convinced me to blog every day in December.  I figured that since I dropped out of the Blogoff last month, I should at least make an effort on what I am now calling the “December Blog-o-rama”.  Let it be written…and let it be done.

Tonight I attended the Women’s Advent Service, which has been a tradition at my church for decades.  It was a lovely service…but truth be told, it was as much a Christmas Program for adults as it was an Advent Service.  This is not to say it wasn’t beautiful (yes, I did just serve up a double-negative).  Everything was beautiful.  I have no qualms with the service.  Kudos to all involved.

The event did cause me, however, to ask the same question I ask myself every year.  

Why do so many people suffer from Advent Aversion?

Every year I hear the same refrain from people at church.  “Why can’t we sing Christmas songs at church until December 24?”.  It’s a reasonable question, considering you can’t go anywhere without hearing shmaltzy Christmas muzak.  It’s good for Christians to want to sing these great songs of our faith in community with one another.  Right?

I don’t have a problem with singing Christmas songs in Advent.  I do have a problem with abandoning Advent altogether.  I live in a world where I can have anything I need instantly, so it’s important for me to be reminded of the importance of waiting patiently for Jesus to come into the world.  Christmas decorations may come to retail stores in late-October…Christmas music might arrive at radio stations in mid-November…but the celebration of Christmas still has its rightful place on December 25.

Now, the “emergent-minded” person in me is tempted to cast a shroud of cynicism over the whole Advent / Christmas dilemma.  After all, Christ came into the world 2,000 years ago.  Why do we need to pretend to be waiting for him to be born in a few weeks?  Besides, if we wanted to celebrate Jesus’ actual birthday, we would, most likely, do it in May or June.  Why get all worked up about the semantics of something so petty?

Here’s why – because I need to JUST WAIT.  I need to be reminded of the mystery that was (and is) a part of Christ’s coming into the world.  I need to read from the prophet Isaiah about the “one who is to come”.  I need to internalize the anticipation that John the Baptist spoke of when he cried out in the wilderness, “prepare the way of the Lord”.  I need to be brought into the spiritual exercise of awe and wonder.  

We all do.  

That’s why Advent is worth observing…and celebrating.

 

Here’s an underrated song about waiting.  It’s from one of my favorite albums — Blues Traveler’s 1994 album Four.  The song is called “Just Wait”.  Some people think it’s a song about God…I’m not so sure.  I just like what it has to say about the necessary struggle of waiting.

If ever you are feeling like youre tired
And all your uphill struggles leave you headed downhill
If you realize your wildest dreams can hurt you
And your appetite for pain has eaten its fill

I ask of you a very simple question
Did you think for one minute that you are alone
And is your suffering a privilege you share only
Or did you think that everybody else feels completely at home

Just wait
Just wait
Just wait
And it will come

If you think Ive given up on you youre crazy
And if you think I dont love you well then youre just wrong
In time you just might take to feeling better
Time is the beauty of the road being long

I know that now you feel no consolation
But maybe if I told you and informed you out loud
I say this without fear of hesitation
I can honestly tell you that you make me proud

Just wait
Just wait
Just wait
And it will come

If anything I might have just said has helped you
If anything I might have just said helped you just carry on
Your rise uphill may no longer seem a struggle
And your appetite for pain may all but be gone

I hope for you and cannot stop at hoping
Until that smile has once again returned to your face
There’s no such thing as a failure who keeps trying
Coasting to the bottom is the only disgrace

Just wait
Just wait
Just wait
And it will come


The Next Phase

November 26, 2008

I was going to title this post “Time of Transition”, but I’m developing a strong aversion to that word.  Therefore, I’m putting it in the lockbox of banned words / phrases that are over-used in my life.  (Including, but not limited to, “outside-the-box”, “process”, “postmodern”, and “unprecedented”.)  This week has brought a convergence of new phases in the three major realms of my life – family, church, and writing. 

The behemoth writing project from the big publishing company has moved from creating cool leaflets for 5th & 6th grade students to now creating lesson plans for the teachers.  I’m way excited to see what the finished product looks like…and also looking forward to being done with this PHASE of writing.

My mom’s side of the family is moving to a new PHASE after the death of my grandfather, Vearl Schuldt.  His wife, Mary, died 8-1/2 years ago.  Vearl and Mary’s four children (my mom and her three older brothers) are now the oldest generation of the family.  They are now the grandparents…the ambassadors of the traditions and values that Vearl and Mary instilled in them.  It’s worth mentioning that Grandpa Vearl is also in a new PHASE now.  I remember the day before Grandma Mary died, he leaned over the bed and told her, “I’ll meet you at the foot of the cross”.  It took him longer to get there than any of us imagined…but I believe that he’s with her there now…and they’re both happy.

Life at church is also entering a new PHASE, with the recent resignation of my long-time friend and short-time pastor, Eric Carlson.  He is going to be an assistant to Bishop Michael Burk in the SE Iowa Synod.  This new calling is the perfect use of his gifts and interests.  I have been surprised at how shocked / afraid / sad / confused the people of our church have reacted to this news.  This is the third pastor to resign since my coming (I’m trying to not take it personally), so I’ve just assumed that it’s business as usual to enter into the “T” word.  In fact, the past 2 years have been the longest stretch of time that we’ve been fully staffed.  We were probably due for another shake-up.  It is with cautious optimism that we enter this new PHASE of our church’s life and ministry.  I’m sure I’ll use this space to share more about this in the coming weeks and months.  Eric’s last day is December 7.

 

So, as I (along with friends and family) move into some new PHASES, I’m reminded (oddly enough) of seasons of the church year.  Those of us who do the Liturgical Calendar are moving from Pentecost into Advent; a time of fire and passion into a time of waiting and reflecting.  This is the time to “be still and know that God is God”.  It’s good to remember that God remains present through the various PHASES of our faith journey.


#100

October 29, 2008

This appears to be my 100th blog entry since I started this humble little experiment in April.  Here are the 7 highlights of my 7 months of blogging:

  1. An insane stretch of spring weather that flattened the town of Parkersburg and messed up our backyard.
  2. A less-than-impressive fourth running of the Dam to Dam.
  3. Pilgrimages to Jackson, MS and Mexico City with people from church.
  4. A surprisingly enjoyable Olympic Games in Beijing that changed my bedtime to 3:00 am for two weeks.
  5. New Beginnings for Anna (Kindergarten), Isaac (Pre-school), and Allison (working full-time outside the home).
  6. An unexpected forray into politics, culminating with a Messiah sighting in Denver. (For my conservative friends, that was supposed to be a joke…)
  7. An enlightening entry into the realm of the Emergent church conversation

I know some people can pound out 100 blog posts in two days (Andrew Sullivan)…and I know that boasting an average of 30 hits per day isn’t anything to write home about – but I’ve really enjoyed using this medium of expression.  It’s a good outlet for some of my thoughts and experiences.  It also lets me dabble in something that I would really love to do as my “real job” (writing) at some point…which is, likely, a pipe dream, but it at least keeps me in the mix.

In the coming months I hope to:

  • Turn the Youth Auction page into an eBook
  • Flesh out some of my thoughts about the Emerging church movement within the ELCA
  • Offer my thoughts on the start of the NBA season – “Where Amazing Happens”
  • Toy with renaming the site to something a little easier to understand
  • Reach #200 in fewer than 7 months
  • Remain gainfully employed
  • Lose 50 pounds
  • Not turn 30 years old

Thanks for your ongoing readership.  Tell your friends…


Dam Tired

June 1, 2008

Yesterday was my 4th consecutive year of participating in the Dam to Dam run. Known as “Iowa’s Distance Classic”, the race gathers over 5,000 people on a point-to-point route from the Saylorville Dam north of Des Moines to the Locust Ave. Dam downtown. Here’s the route…

I started preparing for this race about 10 weeks ago. About halfway into the training, I started experiencing a lingering issue with my right calf. With the “injury”, I reduced my running from 5 times / week to barely 2 times. It turned out that this made me barely more prepared for the race than last year’s ill-fated attempt at running without any sort of preparation.

I’m not sure what was more disappointing – finishing poorly, or letting it bother me that I finished poorly. The Dam to Dam is such an overwhelming experience; the numbers, the distance, the volunteers, the cheering crowds. It is both awe-inspiring and humbling to be part of such an event…just to be able to finish the race upright is no small task.

And yet, I had hoped for more. It’s easy to make excuses, but there really are none worth making. It’s just as well. I’m glad I was able to complete the race, and now I set my sights on the Des Moines Half Marathon in October. I can only hope I fare better in 20 weeks…