“The object of a question is to obtain information that matters to us, and no one else.”
- Sean Connery as William Forrester in "Finding Forrester"

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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

More Alaska Shots

Monday, May 29, 2006


I had to reinstall Windows and all my other programs today because my computer has been acting up so I haven't been able to write anything about my trip yet.

Soon. I promise.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

I've Been Away...

In case you haven't noticed, I haven't posted in a little while. I've been on vacation in Alaska for the past week and just got home this evening. I tried to post some pictures from Anchorage but was having trouble connecting from my hotel room.

I will post more pictures and reflections from my trip tomorrow but I will wet your appetites with a few shots from my first couple of days on the Kenai Peninsula.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Three Years Ago This Week...

I know 3 isn't really a major milestone to reach in most circumstances but every year at about this time I remember my college experience. Three years ago this week I graduated from college and I've been a little nostalgic and listing off some of the memories I carry with me (some good, some not so much) from that period in my life.

  • crazy roommates - not one normal one in the bunch
  • becoming engaged
  • walking in Boston on a cold, dark winter's evening with a gentle snow
  • sitting by the Charles with my journal on a sunny day
  • Covenant Group
  • breaking up and losing a friend
  • Valentine's Day 2001 with my friends
  • van/car rides to and from retreats
  • best man at my brother's wedding
  • the sunrise on the retreat to Cape Cod
  • knowing when to let go and move on
  • getting stuck on a rock as the tide came in in Rockport
  • "Sweet Child of Mine"
  • talks with Meredith
  • non-alcoholic wine on Audra's front lawn - good times!
  • Dean Bob
  • Vinny Testa's when it was always Julie's birthday
  • the choir
  • Merlin Swartz
  • Semester at Sea
  • Indian poverty
  • sadness in Cambodia
  • becoming an uncle and godfather
  • no journal when leaving to study abroad
  • getting a mix tape about moving on and growing up
  • sitting for hours just staring at the ocean
  • Lloyd Trips
  • Boots and Batons
  • the back deck - especially that one sunset
  • Skip-Bo
  • UNO
  • "Baby Jesus did that to you."
  • eye contact when we were the only ones to see the humor
  • weekly lunches with Kimi
  • having a prayer partner who made the effort to keep a schedule with me
  • "Drink this gingerly."
  • Jose, St. Elmo's, and that day in South Africa
  • always feeling like I wasn't a real part of the group
  • sitting on the bank of the river in Kyoto
  • skipping German to see a couple of movies
  • writing letters to a sick friend
  • "Thank you God for linoleum."
  • General Conferences
  • working at camp
  • my cousin's suicide
  • ride's home with friends
  • lots of hugs
  • Leroy Rouner's The Long Way Home
  • the Martha's Vineyard Retreat
  • Adrienne! and "Tarshish!"
  • almost getting charged by an elephant in Kenya
  • moving in and moving out every few months
  • the tone deaf neighbors who loved to sing, loudly
  • fifth floor, no elevator
  • "Not now!"
  • graduating

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Not Now What I Once Was

I don't know why but over the past few weeks I've fallen into a more reflective, more contemplative, more nostalgic frame of mind. I've considered my past and run through all the major mistakes and some of the successes. No big surprise: I've changed.

It's strange, really, how different I am when compared to who I was even three years ago on the eve of my college graduation. Even greater change has can be seen when looking four, six, and 10 years past. It seems so long ago now.

One of my favorite quotes, which I have mentioned before, is from the movie Life as a House. It says: You know the great thing, though, is that change can be so constant that you don't even feel the difference until there is one. It can be so slow that you don't know that your life is better or worse until it is. Or it can just blow you away and make you something different in an instant.

I've been noticing, lately, how I didn't even feel the changes. Over the past 10 years there has been so much in my life - moving, starting at a new school, my first serious girlfriend, graduating high school, college, getting engaged and then having it called off, General Conference, traveling around the world, making some great friends, graduating college, getting my first car, General Conference, moving into my own place, more travel, and on and on.

I've learned so much about myself, what my limits are, what my strengths are, who I really am, and it's amazing when I take the time to look at where I've been, what I've done, and how I've grown.

When looking at some of the missteps I've had along the way I began to wonder about how long should I hold on to guilt? Should I constantly try to make up for past blunders? Should I just be mindful of them so as not to repeat the errors? Should I feel guilty even after I've been forgiven? I'm not totally sure. One of the thoughts that seems to help is that I am not now who I once was. In some ways, I am a completely different person than the me of the '90s, or even the first half of the '00s. Should I still hang on to guilt that belongs to someone else?

It's hard to say. After all, my past is mine. It has helped to shape who I am and teach me about life and the world. I certainly can't just cast it away by saying I'm someone different now. But I'm also conscious of the fact that who I am today would make alternate decisions. So, as always, the answer lies somewhere in between in the foggy gray area that is life.

1 Corinthians 13 is one of the better known passages and is rather helpful when trying to understand love and how one might model oneself. I particularly like the portion about the transition from childhood to maturity and from confusion to understanding. I hope I'm further along than I used to be.

To close I just want to share something I wrote. When I was in college, I wrote some additional verses to the hymn "The Gift of Love" (UMH #408) for our "This I believe..." service. They go something like this:

  • Love never ends, though most things do,
    Like prophecy and knowledge too.
    And though I know only in part
    I hope to know with my whole heart.
  • When I was young and oh, so mild
    I reasoned like a little child.
    When I grew old and rich in days
    I put an end to childish ways.
  • Though now I see in a dim light
    I soon will see all things aright.
    And I will know, through faith alone,
    Even as I am fully known.
  • Fill me with love, fill me with life
    And lead me through my daily strife,
    So in the end my heart may be
    Full of the joy I find in thee.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Beginnings of Faith

We are all on a spiritual path. Whether it is leading us away from the traditions of our youth, toward a more mainline way of thinking of one form or another, or off on our own somewhere there is no doubt that we all walk the path.

I wrote a post about a month ago on scripture. I asked about what makes a text scripture, who says, and why do we believe one set over another. Apparently it wasn't provocative enough to illicit any substantive responses (though, thank you to those who did). I've noticed that it is the most polarizing of issues that garner the most traffic and discussion. And, in some ways, I think that's a shame. Asking thoughtful questions about the nature of scripture and authority, should be central and ultimately of more importance than questions about divisive issues of the day which only prove to harden each side all the more against the other. And, in the end, we are left where we began.

In the same light as my previous post about scripture, I would invite you to comment on your spiritual beginnings. How did you acquire your set of beliefs? When and why did you claim your faith as your own? Why do you believe one thing over another? Is there any room for everyone else?

I grew up in a parsonage family. My dad was reappointed every 3 years or so which exposed me to many different congregations of all sizes, social makeups, and theological perspectives. When I was young, I was a good little PK and always went to Sunday School, had all the answers to the teacher's questions, and went to church camp every summer. Like most kids, I would imagine, I didn't really think about faith all that much. I was told about the church and the Bible and I accepted it. I was really just concerned with having a good time and gaining the approval of others by giving the right answers and following all the rules.

When the family moved to Georgia for a few years as my dad took some time away from the parish, I began to change my thinking. I would get tired of listening to the preacher and excuse myself to the bathroom for the remainder of the sermon, even listening behind the door until the musical response began before coming back in. I went through confirmation because it was the thing to do at that age and all my friends were there too.

When we moved back to Central New York I felt like the new kid that I was and found acceptance and friendship in youth groups and at the summer camp I grew up attending. When I went to my first CCYM retreat in 8th grade I loved singing all of the praise songs and feeling the joy with which they were sung. I loved getting all the hugs and the freedom to be my crazy self. So I joined and, in some ways, mistook those feelings for faith. At that age, I didn't understand that there was a real difference between the two.

I had myself convinced that I was one of the faithful. Everyone around me knew that I was a pastor's kid that went to youth events, got out of school to go to annual conference, and it was assumed that I was a strong Christian. And I played the role well. After all, I wasn't about to rock the boat.

Throughout high school and into college I felt that I needed to learn more, to understand religion as a whole. I saw things I disagreed with in my own denomination and found out that I could go to General Conference and do something about it. So, I was nominated and elected to serve as a delegate and after spending some time as an astrophysics major I transferred to the religion department to figure things out for myself. All the while, I rooted myself in the interdenominational campus ministries and held up the facade of being "the good Christian."

General Conference came and went. The feeling of being a part of that process reinvigorated as much as disheartened me about being a United Methodist. I became recharged and found myself feeling more faithful and directed than I ever was even as I was angered by the lack of openness in the "open hearts, open minds, open doors" church.

I continued to study the religions of the world and saw more and more how none had a monopoly on truth yet each held a certain lens with which to view it. My pluralist sensibilities really came into form, not because it is what I was taught but because for the first time in my life I really began to see God in a way that spoke to me.

Each year at annual conference I felt myself pulled toward some form of ministry. I had always known that I didn't want to be ordained - in part because of the realities of parsonage life (I have horror stories) - yet I found myself drawn to seminary to pursue a degree in social ethics and sociology of religion. I was quickly accepted and given a full scholarship for the length of the program.

I then left for Semester at Sea and found myself seeing the world in a different light from which I saw it before I left. So, I turned the seminary down. Yet, when nominations came around again for GC, I once again gave in to my sense of wanting to make a difference, to change things from the inside. And once again I was elected.

I offered to help out a friend with the conference youth and I began to work on starting a young adult ministry. All the while, though, I felt like I was playing the role of the dutiful Christian and, like a role in a play, it wasn't really me. I had long since stopped saying words in prayers and hymns that I didn't believe. I began to question why I did what I did. Why did I continue to be a part of something I didn't identify with, that didn't speak to me, that asked me to lead without offering much to sustain me. Was I just being selfish? Or did I need to step away from what I knew? I took the step away.

I attended a UU church for awhile and found myself inspired and filled like I hadn't been in so long, and in a much deeper and more honest way. But I haven't been in a while now. They're excuses, I know, but the distance is a factor, the lack of a community of people my own age is another, work and the need to rest weighs in, too. So now, the only real affiliation I have with any religious group is through work - where I relate to United Methodists and Southern Baptists - and as an adult advisor to that same youth ministry I've been a part of now for 3 years.

Do I do it out of a promise to a friend? Yes. Do I do it because the youth make me feel loved and cool? Yes. Do I do it because I feel like I am doing a good thing and am, in some way, making a difference? Yes. It is true that my desire to feel like a part of something has once again trumped my need to separate myself from that which I don't believe. It's hard sometimes. In some ways it's like I'm continuing to live the lie I had grown so accustomed to over the years.

I'm not sure what the next turn along the path will be, and even though I don't have a regular church home, I know that my heart is open to wherever this spiritual path will lead me. I have given in to the fact that I am not in control, that I don't have all the answers, and that is ok.

Where has your path taken you?

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

New York State Fair Submission Help

In the next couple of months, the submissions for the various competitions at the New York State Fair are due. I have been encouraged to submit some of my photography for judging at this summer's event.

I can enter 2 photos in all but I can't decide which ones to choose. And I need your help. If you would go to my photo gallery and comment here or email me with which one(s) you think are the best, I'd appreciate it. I'll be adding more to the gallery over the next month or so as I work on more images and after my trip to Alaska in a few weeks.

Thanks in advance! Please feel free to let others know too, I'll take all the input I can.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Humboldt Redwoods State Park