Monday, April 23, 2012

Recreation Volunteers

My dear wife, Allison, is a brave soul.

She is leading the recreation portion of the Interaction Center at the 2012 ELCA Youth Gathering in New Orleans.  There is about 80,000 square feet (no big deal) set aside for young people to do all kinds of different activities throughout the week.  It's a massive undertaking...and I'm amazed at how organized Allison is with all of this.  I can't wait to see how it all comes together in July.

Allison is looking for 5 volunteers to supervise and lead activities for the 30,000+ youth and adults who will be attending the Gathering.

If you know someone who would like to spend a week in New Orleans contributing to the success of one of the largest youth events in the country, they are welcome to apply on-line.

Recreation Volunteer Application

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Here are some more details from Allison:

Welcome!  I am glad you are here to apply for a volunteer position for a fun-filled week at the 2012 ELCA Youth Gathering in New Orleans, Louisiana on July 18-22.

Here are the basics that you need to know about the recreation volunteer position:

  1. You would be a member of a team of 11 volunteers (including myself) that would oversee the sports area of the Interaction Center during the ELCA Youth Gathering.
  2. You would be responsible for providing supervision, positive interaction, and enthusiasm to the 30,000+ ELCA Youth Gathering participants that are allowed to use the space.
  3. You would help with any set-up and tear-down and daily maintenance of the sports area that needs to be performed.
  4. Your travel, hotel, and meal expenses would be paid for.
  5. You would need to arrive in New Orleans on Tuesday, July 17 to prepare for the opening day on Wednesday, July 18.
  6. You would most likely leave New Orleans on Sunday, July 22.
  7. You would be required to be on-site at the sports area during the hours of operation, which are, 10am-3pm on Wednesday and 8:30am-4pm on Thursday-Saturday.  You would also need to plan on being on-site 1 hour before the start of each day's hours of operation for a team meeting, set-up, etc.

I am excited to be given the opportunity to head up the sports area of the Interaction Center and to meet the many wonderful volunteers that will be offering their time and talents during the 2012 ELCA Youth Gathering.  I hope that you will prayerfully consider joining the recreation volunteer team.


Allison Ullestad
Recreation Coordinator, City of West Des Moines

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Hope for Resurrection?

It seems that many (though not all) Protestant congregations these days are experiencing heightened levels of anxiety.  Numbers are down...the median age is rising...buildings are in need of some extra is tight...and so on.

Good thing for us, Diana Butler Bass has something to say about it.  She wrote a tremendous article (ok - I could have done without the self-promotional stuff) addressing the despair of the mainline church.  Much of her comments are a response to Andrew Sullivan's Newsweek cover story about the demise of Christianity.  Both articles are excellent and worth carving out some time to read.

Here are some of the money quotes from DBB's article:

Contemporary people care less about what to believe than how they might believe; less about rules for behavior than in what they should do with their lives; and less about church membership than in whose company they find themselves. 
The old faith formulations were externally based, questions that could be answered by appealing to a book, authority, creed, or code. The new spiritual longings are internally derived, questions of engagement, authenticity, meaning, and relationship. The old questions required submission and obedience; the new questions require the transformation of our souls. 
I also know the hope of possibility, for every crisis bears the promise of something new. Endings are also beginnings. Indeed, without death, resurrection is impossible. Imaginative, passionate, faith-filled people are enacting a new-old faith with Jesus and are working to change wearied churches. It is the season of resurrection, and resurrections always surprise. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

How Much is Enough

It's been a while since I've been to Mexico City (I went on several week-long "pilgrimages" with people from my church back in the mid-2000's).  These were fascinating experiences which gave me a sense of the similarities and differences between the United States and Mexico.  One aspect of Mexican culture that was most fascinating for me was the pace of life.  The people I met were non-anxious and laid-back.  (The start time of every meeting came with the suffix "-ish".)  It was a fascinating adjustment for the members of our time-obsessed group of Americans.

This story, which I noticed on the wall of Jimmy John's sandwich shop, reminded me of the contrast between lifestyles in our two countries:

The American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked.  Inside the small boat were several large fin tuna.  The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them. 
The Mexican replied, only a little while. 
The American then asked why didn't he stay out longer and catch more fish? 
The Mexican said he had enough to support his family's immediate needs. 
The American then asked, "but what do you do with the rest of your time?" 
The Mexican fisherman said, "I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos.  I have a full and busy life." 
The American scoffed, "I am a Harvard MBA and could help you out.  You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat, and with the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats.  Eventually, you would have a fleet of fishing boats.  Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery.  You would control the product, processing, and distribution.  You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually NYC where you will run your expanding enterprise. 
The Mexican fisherman asked, "But, how long will this all take?" 
To which the American replied, "15-20 years." 
"But what then?" 
The American laughed and said that's the best part.  "When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions." 
"Millions?" asked the fisherman, "Then what?" 
The American said, "Then you would retire.  Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take a siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evening, sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos!" 
Author Unknown

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Seeking Challenges

The life of a church worker is filled with challenges.  As such, people in this line of work tend to avoid situations where their perspectives, attitudes, and priorities are questioned.  This has certainly been the case for me.  The only small groups / classes / Bible studies I am part of at the church are ones I lead.  Even though different viewpoints arise during these gatherings, as the leader I am able to guide the conversation in certain directions.  I get to prepare activities and discussion questions that move the dialogue along a path of my choosing.

So, it is with a great amount of curiosity and a twinge of nervousness that I am becoming a "regular" member a church group.  An early-morning men's Bible study, to be specific.  The group consists of 10-12 guys, none of whom are within twenty years of me.  To be honest, this is not a small group (nor a meeting time) that I would typically be drawn to.  I've worked at this church for nearly nine years, and until last month, I had never attended these meetings.

Why now?

It's time for me to step out of the role of leader and be surrounded by a very different demographic.  I need to be immersed in the wisdom that only comes from people who have lived longer than me.  It's important for me to step out of the echo-chamber of ideas that reinforce my understanding of the way the world works and seek challenging, new perspectives.  I need to wrestle with difficult questions as just-one-of-the-guys, and not as the person who is expected to have the answers.  I need to humble myself a little (or a lot) and realize the ways in which I need to grow as a disciple of Jesus Christ.

Today was the first day I attended this group as a member.  Though the texts we studied were familiar -- Doubting Thomas and Early Christian Community -- the insights offered by these intelligent, well-read, faithful, curious, wise men brought something new to my (albeit limited) understanding of who God is.  It's a blessing that this group eagerly invited and graciously received me as a fellow participant.

The discussion was lively and fascinating...and so important to me that I'll be waking up far too early again next week to do it all again.

Monday, April 9, 2012


The reasons I rooted for Bubba Watson on Sunday were numerous, and included:

  • the pink driver
  • lefties unite!
  • I felt bad after he choked away the 2010 PGA Championship - the last time his dad saw him play golf before dying of cancer
  • "Oh, Oh, Oh"
  • his last name is easier to pronounce than Oosthuizen
  • he and his wife just adopted a baby two weeks ago
Bubba won the 2012 Masters in spectacular fashion, with a stunning second shot (140 yard snap-hook wedge from the pine trees) on the second playoff hole.  He was a wreck after he won, bawling in the arms of his caddy and mother on the #10 green as ole Oostie waited patiently for the post-match handshake.

This morning, I found a new reason to like The Bubba -- it seems he has never taken a golf lesson.  Though the veracity of this claim can be debated, it does add a bit of intrigue to the narrative.  Furthermore, it makes me wonder if Bubba's autonomous learners approach to golf is part of what makes him so colorful and quirky, or if it's indicative of how 21st century young adults learn their craft.  

Most golfers employ several swing coaches throughout their career.  Many of them have been playing since they were old enough to walk; products of over-bearing (wealthy) parents, local golf pros, summer-long instructional camps, and national academies.  Every golfer has received hours of instruction - formal and informal - on the how to master the myriad technical aspects of the game.  

Not Bubba.

Is he naturally gifted, and therefore can eschew any sort of formal training?  Did he lock himself in a room and watch thousands of hours of old golf footage and go out and mimic the swings of the great golfers?  Did he just practice more/harder than anyone else?  Did he actually take "lessons" by playing a lot of rounds with golfers that gave him pointers?  

My guess is that there are a bunch of Bubba's sprouting up in companies around the world.  Scruffy-looking young people with no formal training who possess the potential to transform the way business is done.  If I had a stake in institutional hierarchy and the preservation of formalized education, I'd be nervous every time a young punk like Bubba Watson (or Mark Zuckerberg / Steve Jobs, for that matter) ascends the ranks.  When these people succeed, it renders formalized structures a little less important...a little less powerful...a little less essential.