Monday Morning Quarterback

Stuff I learned on Sunday.

Pilot Jay still snores like he did in high school. He’s crashed on my fold-out after a late-night landing. Who needs an alarm clock when you have this guy?

When you under-cook granola, it’s soggy. But when that sog consists of butter and sugar, who cares?

Pilot Jay does not like sweet soggy granola.

Apparently, telling police officers that you’re a pilot is a great way to get out of traffic tickets. Pilot Jay tells this to a 10th grader in Sunday school who immediately demands to know EXACTLY-HOW-THAT-WORKS.

The newest acolyte is a kid after my own heart. Moments before worship starts, this fourth grader says, “O.K., one more check, just to be sure: light the candles, hand the lighter to you, go to the podium . . .” She’s got this.

The candles don’t care about the acolyte’s checklist. They’re not lit by the end of the Introit, and the Call to Worship is happening without her. I should have bailed her out sooner.

The term “Mount of Olives” is hilarious to a five year-old.

When the preacher cracks an inside joke during the sermon, it’s much less fun when the butt of the joke isn’t in the room.

The answer to the question, “Why did Wife and Daughter suddenly disappear from worship?” is: because Daughter puked.

You can resist the Sunday school donuts before church, but never after. Never. After.

Daughter is just wiped from a week of dress rehearsals and performances. Doesn’t seem to be sick.

With the third kitchen chair broken, a plastic lawn chair must suffice for lunch with Wife and Pilot Jay at the dining room table.

My weight combined with a plastic lawn chair combined with a wood floor adds up to falling.

It’s fun to have Daughter school Pilot Jay on her favorite iPad games as he’s getting ready for a flight. He’s annoyed, but really polite about it.

Pilot Jay taught daughter to take a screen shot of the iPad. Goodbye memory.

Pilot Jay looks rad in his pilot getup, even though he doesn’t do the hat.

Aviator shades on an actual aviator look so much cooler.

In addition to 11 pm on a Saturday, 2 pm on a Sunday is a fantastic time to drive to the Orange County airport. Pilot Jay convinced Southern California’s reputation for bad traffic is a lie.

A Sound of Music sing-along at church is as much fun as it sounds.

I’m not the only one wearing that tubby German guy with the protruding chest hair T-shirt!

There are few sights more exciting than that of a Der Weinerschnitzel truck in the church parking lot.

My church is a amazing.

Spaceteam is a thing, and the Flexor Toggle must be set to 4. Now!

If you give Daughter a graham cracker snack before bedtime, she will break it into four equal parts which she will arrange on her vanity before ordering you to leave the room so she can eat them alone.

There’s a clergy couple edition of Monday Morning Quarterback!

Monday Morning Quarterback

Stuff I learned on Sunday

The coffee that is your sermon-writing friend late Saturday night is your can’t-get-to-sleep enemy early Sunday morning.

The pink tie on the back of the tie rack is there for days like this.

Arriving at the church early to practice the sermon in an empty sanctuary is futile if the custodian is there. He arrives early to tell share a 15 minute story with the first person he sees.

Adult education classes taught by trustworthy, intelligent people on complicated issues on faith and life: this is my normal.

Three high school students with donuts, chocolate milk, and The Lord’s Prayer is church, Church.

The new fourth grade acolyte is fearless.

The experimental worship leading internship with that college student is going to work out juuuuust fine.

A sermon that employs the noun “breach” in the title has a limited bank of synonyms on which to draw. Hole? Crack? Fissure?

Employing the lyrics of a Jackson Browne song for the Prayers of The People is the kind of thing you can get away with once. Make it count.

When your spouse proposes meeting up at “The Mexican restaurant” for lunch, better clarify which one so that you don’t go to one and she another.

Daughter’s growing interest in drawing is accompanied by a growing insistence on narrating the content of each picture.

The “Secret Country” Daughter has been talking about for months is bisected by a river and contains a district called “Vixen.” She’s mapped it. I’ve seen it.

The restraint it took to leave the Royals out of the sermon will be rewarded by a Sunday afternoon group email from congregants suggesting ways it could have been accomplished (winner=”The Royal Priesthood”).

There’s a way to preserve a Jack-O-Lantern. 

Four gallons of Jack-O-Lantern solution in a five gallon stock pot+one pumpkin=a wet countertop.

Text from Youth Group Leader that there are no junior high students at youth group makes me think more about this blog post. 

Sunday afternoons spent folding laundry are a gift from God.

Daughter and Wife are waaaaay into Little House on The Prairie, Daughter for the character who shares her name and Wife for a shirtless Michael Landon.

Stuart Little on audiobook is a valuable weapon in Operation Get-Daughter-To-Bed.

Some battles you lose regardless of your weaponry.

Monday Morning Quarterback

Stuff I learned on Sunday

The 5:30 AM airport run is a terrific way to start The Lord’s Day.

Eating a banana on the 105 is breakfast. Eating two is brunch.

When Sunday school and worship employ three separate pieces of technology, you’d better come early.

If the laptop you’re setting up in the sanctuary shuts down to install (Windows!) updates, you can go work on the one in the Fellowship hall.

When the laptop you’re setting up in the Fellowship Hall shuts down to install (curse you Bill Gates!) updates, you can curse in the hopes that nobody’s lurking in the kitchen to hear you.

The DVD’s that accompany this PC(USA)-though-not-really-PC(USA) curriculum are garbage. We ordered 20 copies, and, while I can’t say for certain that the whole batch is defective, I can say that at least nine are.

When you ship a defective product, it’s no good to include a shipping note explaining that “.1%” of the products are defective, but that, since it’s free anyway, don’t sweat it.

Our church’s Sunday morning custodian has seen a UFO.

When worship involves three congregations and melds three languages, it will not go smoothly. Best to say that up front.

Tears for Fears wrote liturgical music, as emphatically proven by my students singing “Mad World” as an Introit.

“Holy, Holy, Holy” in Indonesian sounds pretty amazing.

When you’re using a laptop to project a slide in worship and that laptop is connected to the sanctuary’s sound system, you should mute the laptop so that the notification “ping” doesn’t ring out during the Children’s Time.

The we’re-all-different-but-the-same Children’s Time message can be undermined by one child who exclaims, “Yeah, like white bread!”

Asking the Spanish and Indonesian-speaking preachers to add English translations in their sermons is a convenient way for the English-speaking preacher to weasel out of preaching.

The multilingual Great Prayer of Thanksgiving is amazing–if only the worship planner remembers to put the words in the bulletin.

Our choir is the coolest. 

Lunch with Murphy and Veronica is relaxing and exciting at the same time.

It’s taken less than a week for me to become an emotionally-invested evangelist for Alex Blumberg’s Startup podcast. 

The preacher nap should always precede the grocery shopping. Always.

When you shop from the Cooking with Trader Joe’s cookbook, half your cart will contain jars and cans.

When the Tigers are getting swept out of the playoffs, you should stay in the car to hear the final play and then say a prayer for your Tiger fan friend.

When your spouse is mixing a shampoo substitute and mistakenly combines baking powder (instead of baking soda) with vinegar in a kitchen spray bottle, the explosion will be loud but harmless.

Roasting is a tasty way to use those tomatoes that didn’t make it into the previous week’s meals.

Being a father and husband means interrupting the greatest thing to happen to the Royals in 29 years so your wife and daughter can watch Cupcake Wars.

When the neighbors you took to the airport at 5:30 in the morning invite you to use their t.v. while they’re gone, there’s no better use than to be part of this:

Oh, The Broncos played today too?

Monday Morning Quarterback

What I learned on Sunday

  • Emptying a trash can full of diapers is well within the Associate Pastor’s job description.
  • Fresh picked apples from a Northern California orchard are well within the Associate Pastor’s benefits package.
  • Chocolate cake donuts in Sunday School are amazing when you thought you could skip breakfast.
  • High school debate is a corrupt racket of ill-equipped judges.
  • One one youth group member beats another youth group member in a debate tournament, the defeated’s sister will think it’s hilarious.
  • Color guard gets no love from boosters.
  • An unused gift card to P.F. Chang’s is also well within the Associate Pastor’s benefits package.
  • A fourth grader with no acolyte experience will choose to don the robe and cincture, light the candles, and lead the Call to Worship with only three minutes’ advance notice.
  • A four foot-tall child will always struggle to light a 10 foot-tall candle. Always.
  • Daughter and her playmate dancing to the opening hymn will always choke me up.
  • I gotta get the torn zipper fixed on my robe. Dry cleaners?
  • What I gain in childrens’ attention by kneeling on the chancel during the Children’s Time I lose in adults’ patience because I squirm so darn much.
  • The story of Jesus calming the storm is captivating to kids.
  • “Creation can’t be hacked.” My colleague can P-R-E-A-C-H.
  • In a town with a School of Theology, people will come to your church at least once because they saw on the church website that you went to the same seminary.
  • I should flex my memory a bit harder before asking someone if they’ve been traveling over the summer, so that, when she answers, “No. I had a baby,” I don’t feel like such an inattentive oaf.
  • #jessetreeselfie will totally be a thing in Advent worship. No lie.
  • The spring comedy fundraiser that my friend Murphy thought up is happening. Coffee tomorrow to plan.
  • Daughter only takes rice and beans in her Chipotle.
  • Storing Wife’s Chipotle order in Google Keep months ago was tre smart. Burrito bowl with brown rice and black beans, fajita peppers, steak, with mild AND medium salsa. Okay, now I’ve memorized it.
  • Hell’s Kitchen doesn’t bleep the “B” word, so it’s not a great viewing option with a six year-old.
  • The Royals have won their final home game of the year for seven consecutive seasons.
  • The Washington Post is pulling for the Royals.
  • I drive past three grocery stores to shop at Trader Joe’s because it’s more fun and on Sunday afternoon I have the temperament of an eight year-old.
  • Pumpkin Spice Tea is back.
  • One of the checkers at Trader Joe’s is a huge Chiefs fan. Boo.
  • The checkout line at the grocery store is one of the places where you might have to cover your ears if you are trying to avoid learning the score of the Broncos/Seahawks game until you have a chance to watch it on DVR later.
  • The Youth Group Leader is trying to collect those named Coke bottles for every member of his wedding party. “Armen” will be his undoing.
  • You can be beatified for something that happened after you died.
  • Talking to the single junior high student who came to youth group about the fight he got into over the weekend is invaluable programming.
  • A seventh grader has no qualms about launching a video chat on his phone in the middle of a discussion about miracles.
  • Jeans with no front pockets are a thing. What next? A car with no glove box?
  • When Wife completes a major home organizing project on a Sunday, I’m more likely to see it on Facebook than in person.
  • Neighbors who prepare a table outside your back door and invite you to share their food on a cool Sunday evening are a gift from God.

Monday Morning Quarterback: Cut And Paste

Note: Monday Morning Quarterback is a recurring post that examines personal and pastoral events of Sunday. 

 It’s among the most useful word processing tools and a life maneuver to save time and effort: cut and paste.

But it doesn’t always work.

Here’s a sports application: it appeared to everyone watching that my beloved Denver Broncos prepared for their Super Bowl matchup with the Seattle Seahawks yesterday in a sort of cut and paste fashion. Simply cut what worked for their season’s 15 previous wins and paste it onto this immense page. If the Seahawks were editors, there’s deep red ink all over the page. What worked there and then can’t necessarily be trusted here and now.

Now here’s church application: yesterday’s communion liturgy was, as it often is, cut and pasted from a previous worship service, so I didn’t look it over before the service.  I didn’t notice that I’d cut it from an Advent worship service. Not until I was reading it aloud to the congregation did the paste get messy, because there were some references to the baby Jesus being born and Mary’s song of hope and defiance. Cut and paste be cursed.

So what do you do? Forswear the tactic? Hardly. It’s too useful too often to be scared off it by a couple of bad applications.

Be more careful. Of course. This is a blog, though, not a user’s manual; “be more careful” is boring nanny talk.

How about this: seize the chance to adjust on the fly and to improvise.

Yesterday’s communion liturgy was unlike any I’ve been part of before because my colleague and I had to replace entire phrases in real time. Our appropriation of communion–what it is and what it’s good for–came through as we were left, in the heat of the moment, to extemporize Eucharist. And you know what? Christ was still present.

It’s a parable for the modern day church. Cutting and pasting practices from an earlier era into this one won’t always work, but that doesn’t mean we face an insurmountable creative task. We still cut and paste, because we’re working with gold. But there’s an invitation here to make it fit in new ways. And where it doesn’t fit there’s an invitation to adapt–not discard–to flex, and to trust that God is working in the jumbled mess that results.

Monday Morning Quarterback

Note: Monday Morning Quarterback is a weekly post reviewing Sunday, the busiest, most stressful, most gratifying day in the week of a pastor/parent/spouse/citizen.

 Song of The Day

6:13. Wake up. Alarm is set permissively for 7:00, since sermon wasn’t done til 2:00 am. Drifting back to sleeeeeee . . . .

6:43. Eyes open again. Forget it. I’m up.

7:14. Foregoing further sermon edits at home in favor of getting to the church, where I’ll edit from the pulpit in an empty sanctuary.

7:49. Quick-and-dirty design of a “thank you” postcard for the youth bake sale after church. On to sermon.

7:50. Children’s Director: “There’s a dead cat in the street outside. Can you come with me to see if it’s still breathing?” Me: “Sure. I love dead cats. Wait. Are you serious?”

7:52. Spot the felled feline from about 100 yards. That thing is dead, dead, dead.

7:53. Suggest to the Children’s Director that we should call animal control. Start back to the office. Stop. She asked me to come with her; I should be less of a jerkface and actually do what she asked. Kitty death march resumes.

7:55. Moment of silence. Children’s Director getting emotional. I’m still thinking of my sermon edit. What’s wrong with me?

8:12. Problem: printing quick-and-dirty postcard on cardstock. Not so quick: printer jam.

8:13. Jam extricated. Printing again. Jammed again.

8:16. After four jams, give up on the postcard in favor of getting a manuscript draft printed. Will edit by hand.

8:17. Printing sermon manuscript. Jammed again.

8:19. Head of Staff walks in to find my arm swallowed by the printer. “Um, good morning?”

8:31. Printer fight rages on. Children’s Director and Head of Staff have tagged in. Children’s Director wrapping scotch tape around the blunt end of a large plastic candy cane to try and retrieve rogue paper scrap.

8:33. Head of staff giggling and taking pictures. She. Wouldn’t. Dare.

8:35. Paper retrieved. Surprise! It’s not from my manuscript. It’s a shard from a mailing label last seen in 1868.

8:36. Printer still says it’s jammed. Rebooting. Stalking to office to edit on the laptop.

8:43. Manuscript finally emerges from the printer. Half of it is on the green cardstock meant for the postacard. I’ll redo it later.

8:45. Checking up on adult education class leader. She needs a DVD player. Facilities guy can’t find it. Only other option: my laptop. So much for redoing the manuscript.

8:56. Laptop threatening to install software updates while I’m fighting with to play the DVD.

9:11. Slip away from adult education class after facilitating one DVD clip. Pretty sure the laptop will restart while I’m gone.

9:19. Drop green sermon manuscript in the pulpit. The color is the most interesting thing about it.

9:28. Arranging items for youth bake sale.

9:39. Return to adult education classroom. Computer indeed restarted. Spend six minutes trying to play the second clip.

9:52. Recruiting jr. high student to acolyte and turn on graphic for sermon.

9:55. Text from high school student I recruited to lead the Children’t Time: “On my way.” Checking watch. Oh man.

10:06. Acolyte calling the congregation to worship with a full voiced “Hear the good news!” That’s what I’m talking about!

10:07. Spy my high school student during the opening hymn. Acknowledging his presence (dude rode his bike. Uphill)

10:11. Daughter belly crawling beneath the front pew. The acolyte next to me is amused.

10:18. High school student killing the Children’s Time. Beaming. I know that guy!

10:19. High school student: “My mom is a strong woman, just like I’m trying to be.” Relishing the thought of ribbing him about that later, then deciding not to.

10:21. Daughter and her playmate “sneaking” off the chancel, scooting their bottoms a foot at a time til they get to the steps. High school student unfazed.

10:26. Reading the scripture text I didn’t incorporate into the sermon. Realizing my oversight; it’s full of “Jews” and “Gentiles” language that would benefit from some comment. Oops.

10:48. Finishing sermon by ad-libbing a conclusion. Never do this.

11:09. Alternative Christmas Market and youth bake sale in full effect!

11:11. Problem: students aren’t telling people baked goods are for sale, and people are just taking them. Students too terrified to intervene.

11:12. Ripping a lemon bar from an octagenarian’s hand. “You think this stuff is free?! You think lemon bars grow on trees?!”

11:47. Wife: “Where’s our daughter?” Ummm . . .

11:49. Daughter not in office. Or youth room. Or any of her usual “secret” spots. Freaking out a little bit.

11:53. Wife steps outside and issues mama bird call.  Daughter comes running. What the–? How’d she–? Where was–? I give up.

12:36. Throwing together a salad for lunch while daughter dumps a quart of beef stock into her Hello Kitty crockpot for a “soup.”

12:39. Daughter chopping broccoli with a butter knife. Silly Daught–wait. It actually works?

1:14. Wife turns on the Sound of Music Live for us to watch while we have lunch. This could be bad.

1:22. Yep. It’s bad.

2:23. Escaping #somlive to fold laundry. Best bad option.

3:48. Wife suggest some “Punkin’ Chunkin'” to get rid of rotting pumpkin decorations. Daughter hurling produce from atop a stepladder onto the sidewalk? What could go wrong?

5:28. Jr. high students playing “the box game,” led by adult volunteer. Students roll a dice in turn. When it lands on six, you put on a pair of gloves and try to open a wrapped present before the next person rolls a six. Easy enough.

5:29. Oh. The gloves. I get it now . . .

5:30. Student curses and hurls present across the room.

5:32. Finally roll a six.

5:34. Roll my second six. Get into that package like a beast. Win. Win. Win.

5:35. Victory is mine. And a pair of socks.

7:20. Explaining summer work trip to high school students. They’re hung up on the charter bus piece. Specifically, they’re worried about the bathroom situation on a charter bus. In the desert. In July.

7:57. Dusting off my copy of Soul Pancake for this discussion prompt: Why do we hate? Students responses are thoughtful, which is not surprising.

8:34. Volunteer proposes playing the game he just bought. Funny or Die. First thing I see is card that reads, “I’m not naturally this flexible.” This could be trouble.  Ask volunteer if game is PG-13. He smirks and doesn’t answer.

8:43. Students crying with laughter at game. Dropping resistance.

9:21. Home to find tree lit. Ahhhh.

9:28. Putting Daughter’s uniform in the washer for tomorrow morning.

9:37. Starting replay of Bronco game.

10:40. Nodding off at the end of the game . . .

11:03. Taking Daughter to her bed.

11:06. Out.

Monday Morning Quarterback

Note: Monday Morning Quarterback is a weekly post reviewing Sunday, the busiest, most stressful, most gratifying day in the week of a pastor/parent/spouse/citizen.

Song of The Day:

5:53. Awake from a dream that I was in prison and was going to stand up my mother, visiting from out of town.

6:00. Awake to the alarm.

6:02. Turning on the oven to bake the cornbread stuffing that’s been chilling in the fridge overnight. There’s a Thanksgiving-style meal after church today, and my stuffing will be the talk of the event.

6:43. Enjoying my coffee while reading this article. Painfully recalling high school.

7:12. Removing daughter’s crock pot concoction to a pie dish: lentils, potatoes, broccoli, and carrots, all congealed into an orange mash.

7:15. Daughter tastes her dish. “I don’t like it, but I want to take it to the pot luck, because other people might like it.” How can you say no to that?

7:58. Ready to walk out the door, two casserole dishes of stuffing in one hand and daughter’s mash in the other, and daughter begins to plead, “Can I come to church early with you? Pleeeeeeease?”

8:10. Daughter and stuffing in the car. Daughter is drinking prune juice, ’cause, you know . . .

8:18. Children’s Director tastes daughter’s dish and issues a gleefully muffled, “Itsh derishioush.” Grimacing.

8:23. Typing agenda for post-worship Adult Education Committee meeting. Who calls a meeting concurrent with a church meal? I do.

8:47. Printing the Junior High Youth Group lesson for this afternoon. Daughter conscientiously retrieving papers from the printer in the next room. She demands I stay put and allow her to bring them to me. Empowerment or secretary training?

8:56. Chatting with a friend who’s giving the charge at another friend’s installation later today. My advice: incorporate the word “awesome.”

9:35. I’ve got an honest-to-goodness high school Bible study going in my office. Three students and me. And Philippians.

10:00. Acolytes today are old pros. I ask if they can light the candles themselves and they roll their eyes.

10:11. Call to Confession. Daughter is in the front row. Her playmate is rebelliously climbing under the pew. Daughter is fighting the temptation to follow her by smacking herself on the head.

10:12. Silent Prayer of Confession. Daughter whispering, “Daddy. Daaaddy.” I should be irritated, but I love this.

10:16. Time with The Children. Daughter clutching my arm, then mimicking my every movement. At least she’s not picking her nose.

10:17. Explaining to children that God wants all of us and realizing how menacing (and hopelessly abstract) that sounds.

10:21. Reading Psalm 100. “He” and “His” are all over this thing. Trying hard to emphasize all the words right after each masculine pronoun: “Enter his gates with thanksgiving/and his courts with praise/Give thanks to him, bless his name.”

11:14. Looking for daughter. Church is out, her mom’s not here, and I’m running all over.

11:16. Find daughter, crying because she doesn’t know where I am. Father of The Year over here.

11:38. Planning Adult Education programming for January and February. Anyone up for a sensitive conversation about race?

12:09. Finally joining the potluck. Happy to see there’s some stuffing left.

12:11. Plate is full, but there’s a disturbance. There’s a kid in here whom none of us know. He’s crying. He asks to use someone’s phone to call his mom. Won’t tell us who his dad is.

12:17. Crying kid taken care of. Enjoying stuffing.

12:22. Second crying kid.

12:34. Seconds on the stuffing.

1:22. Home cleaning casserole and crock pot dishes.

1:46. Sitting down to Miracle on 34th Street with daughter and Wife. Relaxing.

2:03. Recalling my boyhood crush on Elizabeth Perkins, owing entirely to her role in Big.

2:07. How did Dylan McDermott get to be such a big deal?

2:39. Daughter: “Where’s my beer bottle?” What the?!

3:23. Playing Hide-And-Seek with daughter for a bit before I have to leave for youth groups. It’s the least I can do.

4:34. Junior high boys arrive and immediately begin assaulting each other with pool noodles left on the floor. Completely ignore my stern directives to S-T-O-P!

4:48. Shooting a quick video with students for next week’s premier of our Advent worship series on Christmas movies. Today’s challenge: film an illustration for the sermon featuring the line, “You’ll shoot your eye out!

5:08. Struggling mightily to teach “Up Jenkins” to junior high students. Mostly, they’re just yelling at each other.

5:24. Finally get students calm enough to do a Bible talk.

6:06. Debriefing junior high youth group with volunteer staff. Deciding the challenge is growing the maturity of some and the immaturity tolerance of others.

7:12. Filming the high school version of the “You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out” video.

7:48. Check in tonight involves summarizing Bible stories with a Facebook status update. My favorite: “That moment when you realize your kids are hiding from you in the garden” (my entry–“That moment when you turn to see the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and get turned into a pillar of sa–” does not fare well).

8:12. Watching a clip from Despicable Me and concluding that Gru is Jesus and we are Jesus’ Minions.

8:54. Quick game of Camoflogue in the sanctuary. 9th grader’s never played before and messes up. Leaves angrily. #pastorfail.

9:36. Home and making a list of all the things I need to get done tomorrow. On my vacation.

Monday Morning Quarterback

Pastor Ends Adequate Lord’s Day by Fouling Up Youth Group

 By Rocky Supinger

November 3, 2013: 9:46 p.m.

A Southern California pastor drove home discouraged Sunday night, after students in his high school youth group stormed home angrily at the close of their gathering. The incident soured an otherwise upbeat day in which the pastor had lunch with the new President of his seminary and made significant progress toward improving the behavior of the a cadre of 6th grade boys.

“There’s a lot of work to be done,” the pastor summarized. “But running the junior high youth group like a presbytery meeting, appointing a student to act like a moderator, actually worked better than I thought it would.”

After modeling the role for half the meeting, the pastor chose an 8th grade female student to officiate the proceedings, encouraging her to rule her peers out of order when they interrupted or failed to listen to one another. For her part, the student seemed reluctant, as she giggled more than ruled.

The incident with the high school students brought an abrupt end to a gathering that had gone remarkably well up to that point. After 45 minutes of opening conversation in which students and adult advisors laughed their way through one another’s “highs and lows” for the week, the Youth Intern led a spirited discussion about movies–students’ favorite movies as well as ones from which they felt they had learned something. He ended the discussion by suggesting students look for God or “the gospel” in movies. He showed a clip from The Dark Knight and read a Bible passage to illustrate.

The problem came in the meeting’s closing game. Some students urged their peers to play the Game of Things, while others sued for a seated basketball game they played months ago. The pastor himself cast the deciding vote for the basketball game from behind the bathroom door. “I knew some kids were going to be upset either way, and I was making a careful calculus about which ones I least wanted mad,” the pastor explained.

The game was aggressive, and several students complained about the rough play of one of the adult advisors. At precisely 9:00, after less than 30 minutes of play, three students abruptly stood up and left.

“We didn’t pray or anything. I’ve got to do better than that,” said the pastor.

The day wasn’t a total loss. The adult education class led featured the engaged participation of three high school students (and one elderly man who forgot to turn back his clock for Daylight Savings time). Participants were put through an approximation of a Soul Pancake Science of Happiness experiment and then made to view the video of the experiment. One participant wiped tears from her eyes.

During worship the pastor led a Time With The Children in which he explained communion with reference to his stole, a gift from a church member that features images from the sanctuary’s stained glass windows, including a loaf and cup. The pastor’s daughter was the only child who could identify what the stole was. “I wanted to make some joke about her being a pastor’s kid when she did that,” the pastor remarked. “But I thought better of it.”

“Yeah, I’m glad he kept his mouth shut,” said the pastor’s wife. “She’s at the age (five) where she’s totally fine with being the pastor’s kid. But trust me, before long she’s going to hate it and he’ll regret drawing any attention to it at all.”

After the worship service, several worshipers groped and ogled over the stole, a gesture which the pastor repeatedly mistook for attempts to shake his hand.


Monday Morning Quarterback

Note: Monday Morning Quarterback is a weekly post reviewing Sunday, the busiest, most stressful, most gratifying day in the week of a pastor/parent/spouse/citizen.

 Song of the day:

7:00. Alarm goes off. Yes, 7:00. After daughter’s Halloween party on Saturday and staying up past midnight to finish editing the long overdue movie about our summer vacation, I slept in an hour on Sunday. So defrock me.

7:41. Dressing in black and grey today. I need my colorful socks for a conference I’m attending during the week, for which I’ve been boasting to friends that my socks will “mean business.”

7:44. Breakfast is the bottom half of a leftover Panera bagel from yesterday morning’s gathering of youth ministry volunteers. Chewy.

8:07. Stopping at the grocery store on the way to church. After nearly two months of fall Sundays, I’m finally leading the high school Sunday school class. Yesterday I solicited breakfast requests from several of them by text message, so I’m confidently picking up some muffins and orange juice, impressed with my ability to engage young people in substantive decision making.

8:30. Breakfast spread is ready: mini muffins, mini danish, bananas, and OJ. Snap a photo of it and text to students. This is what they pay me for.

8:38. Setting up the laptop in the sanctuary to show this week’s “Blessings” slide show featuring Erin Dunigan’s pictures when the first student response shakes my phone: “I’ll be there. Nom.”

8:40. Follow up response from same student. “On second thought, I have too much homework.” Another log on the homework bonfire.

8:42. Second student replies to breakfast text. “I’m getting kidnapped this morning so I can’t be there. My mom told you about it.” Rule mom out as kidnapping suspect. I’m gonna miss that kid.

9:02. Standing outside Sunday school classroom with other teachers, waiting for students to arrive. Crickets. (The step son of one of the teachers had recommended the muffins. He’s home sleeping.)

9:03. Text from wife: “we just got up, so we’re not coming to church today.” Reply 😦 I can’t even get my wife to show up.

9:05. Swapping stories with other teachers of high school pranks our “friends” pulled off in high school. The town is abuzz after students from the rival high school painted up our school’s parking lot and littered it with nails.

9:11. First high school student arrives. Cue the victory music.

9:16. Begin Bible study with three adults and one high school student. Trying not to direct every question to the student.

9:32. Bible study is joined by a fourth adult, the leader of the Family Focus Sunday school class. They got one less participant than the high school class.

9:41. Discussion of humility features anecdotes about kidnapped Mexican politicians. High school student looking bewildered.

10:06. Congratulating the congregation on it’s robust support of last week’s Walk for The Hungry. “You guys are great. Uh . . . good job?”

10:18. Children’s Time. CE Director is line-by-line teaching the children a benediction song. Halfway through the second line, with the whole congregation listening intently, CE Director’s infant son lets out an epic rasberry from the first row. It’s at least 15 seconds in length. CE Director losing it.

10:23. Reading today’s Scripture lesson, which is only two verses long. Using a Scottish accent, just to keep it interesting.

11:09. Greeting a young couple on the patio after worship, working hard on that balance between sincere interest and desperation. “Please like us!”

11:32. Congregational meeting to present a preliminary budget, share stewardship goals, and elect officers. And to eat crunchy Asian salad. Seconding the motion for more of the salad (see what I did there?).

11:37. Church member with whom I had a phone conversation earlier in the week follows up with a typed letter, handing it to me between bites of salad before leaving for another engagement. Fold the letter and put it in my pocket, wondering if it will end up in the laundry.

12:02. Talking with a church member who read my ECO blog post earlier in the week and who worshiped last weekend at one of the angry Presbyterian churches. “They say ‘savior’ a lot,” he observes. “That’s a word we hardly use here ever.” Respond by narrating a brief history of American evangelicalism, then stop, deciding once again that I care less about explaining the differences between evangelicalism and our church than I do about doing church really, really well. Then wonder if that decision is worth anything.

12:15. Return home to help put the house back together after yesterday’s party (our condo is small enough that having company requires stuffing the living room into the garage, like kids cleaning their room by hiding clothes and toys under their bed.)

12:17. Changing my clothes and remembering to take the church member’s letter out of my slacks pocket and place it in the pocket of my shorts. Again wondering if it will find the laundry.

12:18. Texting youth group students, trolling for snack volunteers for this afternoon’s youth groups. “First one to reply wins.”

12:19. We have a winner. This is what they pay me for.

12:20. Wife offers untouched pie from yesterday’s party to the youth groups. Seriously? Where were you three minutes ago?

12:52. Having regained access to the garage, cleaning cat’s litter box and assessing my experiment at using an old Diaper Champ as a dirty kitty litter bin. It works great, until you lift a week’s worth of litter out of the bin and rip the bag open, spilling Hell’s belly all over the floor.

2:30. Wife napping. Trying to convince Daughter to do a grocery store run with me. Nope.

2:36. Finalizing vacation movie instead and uploading to Vimeo.

2:41. Daughter notices bag by the door, a bag filled with items for the Goodwill, items including some of Daughter’s things she hasn’t played with in forever. Uh oh. “These are my faaaavorite!” Daughter wails. Trying to argue that if they really were her favorite she would have noticed them missing before she spied them in the bag is a loser’s errand.

2:44. Wife intercedes in GoodwillGate from upstairs, ruling that Daughter can keep the items. Daughter wins, but is playing the hurt to the hilt, burying her face in the carpet and moaning.

2:46. Turning on a movie. Not only has Daughter saved her excess toys from making other children happy, now she’s enjoying a victory lap of The Smurfs.

3:43. Getting ready to leave for youth groups, making wife some post-nap coffee. She reminds me, “Don’t forget the pie.” Don’t forget the pie? C’mon, man. I got this.

3:57. On my way out the door to youth groups, grab the bag with Daughter’s ransomed toys, looking back over my shoulder to see if she noticed. She didn’t. I’m a monster, I know.

4:01. Halfway to the church before I realize I forgot the pie.

4:42. Snap a junior high student’s three game Connect Four winning streak. Debut my victory dance to blank stares.

4:57. Leading junior high students in writing acrostic poems with the word E-V-I-L. Winner: Every Venomous Intention Loses. Student next to me can’t get over the fact that he can use both “elephant” and “virgin” in the same composition.

5:38. Playing Grog. A student has brought his costume for this: black robe and silver skeleton mask. Notice that the boys scream like frightened toddlers when chased. The girls seem bored. Constructing an anthropological theory in my head about adolescent boys’ delight in danger.

5:57. Winning snack volunteer has brought chips and a dip she claims is her grandmother’s secret recipe. Swallow the claim with gusto, along with most of the dip.

6:01. Music Director debuting a new youth program tonight, which I’ve dubbed “The Youth Music Thing.” Good initial turnout. I’ve got a pie at home, though, so . . .

6:23. Return to Youth Music Thing with pie to discover that, in my absence, students have convinced the Music Director–sound unheard,–that their first project should be a music video of The Aquabats’ “Hey Homies!” They’re over the moon when I walk in because they know I have this on my iPod.

6:25. Student demonstrates the “360 Hug” by lifting me up and spinning me around. After, he collapses on a couch in pain and yells, “Why are you so fat?!” Use the last piece of pizza to stifle my tears.

7:01. Youth Intern arrives with a Grande Coffee for me. Cry on his shoulder a little bit.

7:24. German foreign exchange student stymies the high school youth group when he shares that the thing that made him happy this week was the realization that he’s smarter than everybody else in his math class. Awkward laughter. American youth really don’t know what to do with this kind of hubris.

8:12. Youth Intern leading a very thoughtful conversation on the problem of evil in which all of the students are eagerly and respectfully contributing. I’m tracing the coffee stain on the side of my cup with a pen.

8:39. Playing Grog. Again. There should be a seminary class on the proper technique for jumping out from behind a sanctuary door to scare the bejeesus out of a student. Also, I should teach that class.

8:53. Somebody keeps crop dusting the front of the sanctuary during the game. Invent a joke: “Eww, somebody Grogged.” Nothin’.

9:02. There are two slices of pie left and they’re coming home with me. They will compliment my fat pizza nicely.

9:30. First order of business upon returning home is to grab the torrent of tonight’s episode of The Walking Dead. Second order of business is to pull up the archive of this afternoon’s Broncos’ game. Business getting done.

10:11. Daughter comes downstairs. “Daddy, Mommy said to come down and have you get me a snack.” Pick her up and hold her for a bit before getting her some chips and warm milk, which I tell her my dad used to make for me when I couldn’t sleep (at least once he did). She’s delirious to be part of a family tradition.

10:14. Daughter explaining that she watched a video with Mommy that scared her. It was a Bible video, she says, about David, who got sent to the scary forest where there was lots of lava. Probably Apocryphal.

10:17. Suggest that I take Daughter to her bed. “No Daddy, I can go by myself.” Great. Follow her to the stairs. “No, Daddy, you don’t need to come with me.” Watch her take two steps up the stairs. “Daddy, don’t follow me. Really. Don’t.” She reaches the top of the stairs and sprints to Mommy and Daddy’s bed, where she announces to her sleeping mother, “Daddy made me warm milk like Grandpa used to make for him!” So much for a sleep aid.

11:09. Broncos’ game finished. Putting off Monday Morning Quarterback til the morning. Head to bed with the church member’s letter still in my pocket.

Monday Morning Quarterback

Note: Monday Morning Quarterback is a weekly post reviewing Sunday, the busiest, most stressful, most gratifying day in the week of a pastor/parent/spouse/citizen.

Song of The Day:


6:17. Up to put together a youth Sunday school lesson.

6:19. Watching the condensed game of the Royals Saturday win over the Astros first.

6:33. Using Wikipedia to bone up on Galatians. You know, for the teens.

7:12. I don’t need to get dressed yet, but I got a new suit yesterday and I’m eager to put it on.

7:43. Saying goodbye to Wife and Daughter for the day. They’re spending it at the Pride Parade in West Hollywood. LIttle baby’s all grows up.

7:44. Bump into neighbor out front. He compliments the suit but insults the shoes. Come this close to going back inside and changing them.

8:09. Placing Graduate Recognition gifts on the communion table while I’m thinking about it, lest I forget them.

8:19. Printing youth Sunday School lesson. Second guessing exegetical exercise for Greek euangellion. Also this: “introduce Apostle Paul’s life story (2 minutes).”

8:24. CE Director’s baby smiles at me. Day=made.

8:51. With the church nursery dislocated due to preschool building flooding, advising the Nursery Director on the best place to change diapers.

8:58. Making copies for adult education leader who agreed to fill in on two days’ notice. Copies? I’ll make you a cake right now if you ask me to.

9:34. Discussion with teens of Paul’s “zeal” relative to theirs. At this hour, they’re zealous only for donuts.

10:09. As the Introit wanes, acolyte lights three candles in 1.8 seconds, then races to lectern to lead the Call to Worship. Then spikes the snuffer on the chancel in celebration.

10:18. My lapel mic has come unclipped from my belt. Using the Children’s Time to stealthily unzip my robe and retrieve it. Assuming the worst about how this looks.

10:23. Guest preacher (whose wife and three kids have worshiped with us since the fall) thanking the congregation for welcoming his family these several months. Choking up.

10:41. Leading a recognition of our high school graduates. Choking up.

10:45. Concluding the Graduate Recognition. Someone calls out from the pews, “What are their names?!” Pounding my head and exclaiming, “Idiot!”

11:49. Post-church prospective officer discernment gathering. Participant shares that, while there’s lots of “top down” opportunities for leadership, he’d like to see more “bottom up opportunities.” Elder next to me suggests under her breath, “Well, maybe not.” Giggles.

12:02. Someone tells me I look good, “healthy.” Thank them, but ask what they think of my shoes.

12:09. Invited to lunch. Don’t mind if I do . . .

1:33. Home. Set timer for one hour and 30 minute nap.

2:12. Phone rings. Nap officially over.

3:01. Heading out to get supplies for Junior High Youth Group Year-End Party.  Frisbee: check. Pool noodle: check. Oreos: check. Water balloons: check.

3:39. Filling water balloons. In my new suit.

4:39. Students arriving for party. Nobody mentioning the suit. Baffled.

5:01. Toilet paper games in the wind don’t work. File that one away.

5:23. Water balloon pops on my new suit.

5:34. Milk spills on my new suit.

5:45. Ducking out of party for community baccalaureate service. Why do I smell like milk?

6:48. Sweating the organist for the baccalaureate. She sent me an irate email the other day, owing to the fact that nobody told her about the service til Friday but promising to be there. Composing alternate processional in my head.

6:52. Organ prelude begins playing. Fall to my knees in gratitude. Gonna stash that processional away for a rainy day, though.

7:04. Processing in with graduates. Everybody has their cameras out, but nobody’s taking my picture. Don’t they know I’m wearing a new suit?

7:09. Calling the congregation to worship. “Peace be with you . . . ” “Who are you?! And where did you get that suit?!”

7:33. Beaming as one of my students gives a baccalaureate talk. Nudging the adult leader next to me. “That one’s mine.”

8:10. Local Pastor giving the Baccalaureate Address should be done by now. Instead, he’s transitioning with, “You know what? Lemme go here . . . ”

8:12. Local Pastor: “And another thing . . . ”

8:16. Local Pastor: “And what about this?”

8:20. Local Pastor holds his iPhone to the pulpit microphone and plays a country song. People passing out in the aisles.

8:22. Lament to the adult leader next to me that my new suit has become wrinkled. He observes, “It wasn’t wrinkled when this guy started preaching.”

8:35. Students singing a Bruno Mars benediction. All is well.

9:19. Home. Daughter tells me that she went to a parade today for “The gees!”

10:12 Monday Morning Quarterback=done; suit=hung.