Monday Morning Quarterback

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:

6:00. Walk Me Up alarm sounds and is uncharacteristically pacified by a desperate wave of the hand. Throat is scratchy and I feel like a sack of bricks. Climb out of the cavern that is my mattress and head for the shower.

6:39. Ibuprofen and coffee.

6:43. Working on an outline for the adult education forum this morning on bullying. Local high school student was supposed to be the centerpiece, but he was felled by a previously scheduled lifeguard exam. Now it’s me and whatever shreds of danah boyd’s research I can piece together. That’s a lot actually. She’s amazing.

7:37. Consulting with Wife a about the coordination of my awesome shoes with my black pants. Uh uh. Don’t work. Gotta go with khaki.

8:13. Arrive to find the Children’s Center Director entering her office, a novel sight for a Sunday morning. Saturday brought bad news about last week’s bathroom flood and the consequent inspection; the words “asbestos” and “preschool” pass heavily between us as we do a quick back-of-the-napkin game plan for a preschool evicted from its building for four weeks.

8:43. Distributing 20 copies of the adult education handout on a perfect circle of chairs.

8:56. Greet a 7th grader with the news that he’s one of the morning’s acolytes. “No I’m not,” he answers. “My mom said I didn’t have to anymore.” Adolescent development, Luther, and The Doctrine of Vocation would make a great seminary paper title.

9:11. Over 30 people now crowding into the adult education forum. Introductory question: “why does this matter to you.” Stunned by adults relating experiences, not only of their kids being bullied, but of their own absorption of bullying at work. Didn’t count on that.

9:52. Flee the forum late for worship and deputize an unsuspecting participant. “Take over.”

9:59. Donning my newest stole for the first time. It’s a five year anniversary gift made by a dear church member back in February, at the start of Lent. I’ve looked forward to Ordinary Time more eagerly than normal this year. Also, it matches my shoes.

10:01. Two acolytes materialize providentially. They’re on the small size, and last week’s candles gave us some trouble, so we do a quick lighting practice. All six candles light. We even replace one of the tapers, just to be safe.

10:07. Brand new taper failing its maiden voyage. Two chancel candles won’t light. As high school student plays and sings a delicate introit, the entire congregation watches the acolyte and Head of Staff strain at the candles before finally accepting defeat.

10:13. As the saints of God pass the peace of Christ, I claim my victory over the two holdout candles.

10:14. Head of Staff has gone missing while Children’s Director conducts the Children’s Time. After several minutes of scanning the sanctuary, I locate her: in the choir loft holding one of the Children’s Director’s babies. Sneaky.

10:19. Reading Galatians 1 through sniffles.

10:49. As Head of Staff invites the congregation to communion in between me and the Parish Associate behind the Table, a sneeze is coming. I successfully contain it, though I’m sure both my feet left the floor.

11:06. Greeting folks on the patio, recruit former student and recent college graduate to give Daughter swim lessons–starting tomorrow. Girl’s gotta learn, like, yesterday.

11:21. Making my way to Teacher Appreciation reception. Stopped by one of the bullying forum participants who offers helpful advice for the next one.

11:25. Advice still coming . . .

11:26. Break away from advise to chase down some reception cake (I skipped breakfast). Intercepted by 6th grader who launches into a nuanced recitation of a Zelda YouTube video.

11:29. Zelda, Zelda, Zelda, Zelda .  . . cake only feet away. Getting woozy.

11:33. More Zelda. This has to stop.

11:34. Crash the cake table. Enjoy first bite as Wife informs me that I’ll be taking daughter to her classmate’s Birthday pool party by myself. In 20 minutes.

11:44. Escaping reception to head for Birthday party with Daughter. Nabbed by church member with a book recommendation for the church library. It’s her sister’s book, a compilation of weekly advise columns for a Christian newspaper. Would I like to see it? Of course. Of course.

12:43. Declining a can of Tecate as politely as I can.

1:01. Devouring burger with mustard. Then another. Then wrinkled remains of Daughter’s hot dog.

1:39. Baking on a lawn chair as Daughter lays on the concrete next to me, wrapped in a towel. Didn’t bring a hat. Or sunglasses. Still, dozing.

2:00. Wife mercifully arrives to relieve me, so I can go home and put away the groceries she just bought.

2:23. Finish putting groceries away just in time to watch Royals put the finishing touches on another loss.

3:30. Head out for the store to get snacks for the Junior High Youth Group and a dinner item for the High School Youth Group year-end party. Lemonade, Cheese Puffs, Cookies, Taffy, and . . . salad?

5:12. Junior high game involves teams of three huddling together with their heads touching as they keep a balloon in the center of their feet. I tap out of my team of two 7th grade girls and offer the female adult volunteer a crack at it.

5:51. Urge students, ala Joshua 1, to be strong and courageous. Feeling weak.

7:06. Looking at a terrific spread for the high school party. Pizza, fried chicken, homemade bundt cake, enchiladas, spaghetti. And my salad.

8:42. The game is Name That Movie, where you try to get your team to guess the title by naming isolated features of it. Breathless student thus describes Star Wars: “Little green guy. Big black guy. Glowing sticks.” The real kicker comes with her explanation of the “Big black guy”: “I didn’t mean Darth Vader. I meant Samuel L. Jackson.”

9:01. Thanking volunteers for all their time. Telling students I love them, blessing them, and sending them into the summer.

9:32. Dropping student off. Heading home.

10:32. Working on Monday Morning Quarterback, suspiciously eyeing Daughter’s Antworks Ant Farm. The sides are covered in condensation, and they look mad. Plus, they seem to be eating the sealant on the lid. Contemplating consequences of ant jail break.

Monday Morning Quarterback

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:

Unknown time. Eyes open to darkened living room. Look out the window at an eastern sky that is grudgingly lightening. Check watch. 4:30. Parents visiting from Denver: asleep in my bed. Wife and daughter: asleep in daughter’s room. Me: awake on the couch.

5:00. Give up trying to sleep. Coffee on.

5:16. Leafing through The Powers That Be in an attempt to solidify the Adult Education program I’m leading in a few hours. Not looking good.

6:02. Drain coffee cup and close my eyes for a few more moments of jittery sleep.

6:15. The L.A. Times on my Kindle. Comprehending nothing.

7:11. Daughter coming downstairs so I throw a blanket over my head. You know, to hide. She pulls the blanket off and screams, “Found you!”

7:12. Wife descends the stairs with a gift bag full of children’s books for a baby shower after church.

7:15. Explaining to daughter that leaving for church by myself in about 20 minutes. She’ll come later with Grandma and Grandpa. Mommy is staying home to set up for this afternoon’s Egyptian Birthday Party Bonanza.

7:45. Wife prevails upon me to take Daughter, Grandma, and Grandpa to church with me so she can finish party preparations uninterrupted.

8:01. Dressed for church, setting up folding tables on the lawn. And moving a lawn umbrella. And taking out trash. Stress mounting.

8:04. Wife to Daughter: don’t let Daddy forget the books for the baby shower. Insulted.

8:05. Neighbor to me. “On your way home from church get about 30 lbs of ice for the party.” I got this.

8:07. Pleading with Daughter to brush her teeth. My dad’s sitting and smiling, watching me struggle at the basics of child rearing.

8:12. Off to church with Grandpa, Grandma, and Daughter. Daughter is rocking a purple scarf she got as a birthday present.

8:17. Arrive at church to the realization that I forgot the bag of books for the baby shower. Curse.

8:23. Making the rounds: youth room, adult Sunday school room, office, sanctuary. Everything is as it should be, but something feels off.

8:42. Former student who just finished her freshman year in college shows up. Much rejoicing.

9:07. Trying to condense reams of research on the effects of media violence on behavior by saying, “nobody really knows.”

9:40. 10 minutes left in the adult education forum, and I’m about a third of the way through what I had planned. Fail.

9:52. Acolyte comes to retrieve me from Sunday school. Now that’s a reversal.

10:13. Daughter and her playmate processing down the center aisle with orange, red, and yellow pom poms they made in Sunday school for Pentecost. Playmate stops halfway down the aisle and performs some left and right elbow jabs. Impressive.

10:34. It’s a special service focusing on music, so most prayers replaced with hymns. Deciding against singing the Scripture lesson. Then, deciding against joking about having decided against singing the Scripture lesson.

12:17. Return home from church without the ice I was told to get. Curse. Shoving leftover party sandwiches in my mouth on my way to the store.

12:53. Return from store. Wife has transformed condo complex courtyard to into an Egyptian tableau: tables, decorations, a painted backdrop, a tent. It’s impressive, to say the least.

1:39. Trying on Wife’s best party decoration: a “full-figured” adult Pharaoh costume. Man, I look good.

3:06. Guests arriving for party. Nobody else wearing a Pharaoh costume.

3:39. Enjoy an afternoon and evening of great food, family, lovely weather, and Daughter. Top that, universe.

10:10. Truncate the end of Monday Morning Quarterback. Toooo trred t’finsh.



Monday Morning Quarterback

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:


6:21. Eyes open to unfamiliar surroundings. Body aching. Lips chapped. Throat raw. Clarity returning now . . . rock climbing wall . . . wind-blown games of H-O-R-S-E . . . late night convulsions of laughter over The Game of Things . . . All Church Camp.

7:02. Bathroom greeting with church member. Is that ever not weird?

7:35. Daughter and her playmate are up. They’re scaling the bunk beds as Wife groans below.

8:11. Stumble down to join the rest of the church in the camp’s main lodge. Head of Staff’s husband has brought Starbucks travelers for everyone. Ask, “Is it cool if I kiss you right now?”

8:18. Reviewing with students the best Game of Things answers from the night before. Consensus quickly emerges that the best answer came in response to the prompt, “Things you shouldn’t say to a police officer to get out of a speeding ticket.” Answer from 7th grader: “I knew you were trouble when you walked in.” Now lamenting the fact that, for the prompt, “Things you would have said to Eve after she gave you the apple,” I didn’t answer, “We are never ever ever getting back together.”

8:28. Breakfast. Daughter is protesting the apple juice, which, she says, is not as dark as the apple juice her playmate had at lunch the day before.

9:44. Planning worship in teams around the Man of Macedonia story. 5th grader on my team wants only to perform a play where he’s a ghost who emerges from behind a bath towel.

10:34. Daughter’s playmate and her family leave. Prolonged hugs. And kisses. And hugs.

10:43. At the lake with Wife and Daughter. Didn’t pack a jacket, and it’s cold. Wife: “You never pack a jacket. I don’t feel bad for you.” She’s wearing a fleece and a sweater.

10:46. Daughter is machine gunning Cheeze-Its at the ducks.

11:23. Ping pong. For, like, an hour.

1:43. Closing worship service. Somehow, Head of Staff and her team have parlayed the Man of Macedonia into an acapella hip-shaking rendition of Paul Davis’s “Cool Night.” Yeah, okay. I can see that.

2:02. Time to go. Trouble brewing for daughter. She’s demanding more playground time.

2:04. Playground-gate escalates to a full-blown spectacle. Trying to get Daughter in the car before entire camp hears her screams (subsequent text from student asking “What’s wrong with her?” will reveal utter failure).

2:12. Daughter still screeching as we descend the mountain. Church Intern who rode with us getting a valuable lesson in parenting–the what-not-to-do kind.

2:24. Daughter pacified by a pan dulce.

2:25. Daughter slumped over asleep, pan dulce falling from her hand.

2:32. Wife turning green. “I’m trying not to puke,” she says. Foot off the gas.

2:47. Daughter jolts awake. “Are we off the mountain yet?” No. Slumps back over and sleeps.

2:52. “Are we off the mountain yet?”

2:44. “Are we off the mountain yet?

2:45. “Are we off the mountain yet?” Yes. “Oh, that was fast.”

3:01. Home. Dropping bags in the doorway, wife (still green) trudges upstairs and collapses on bed.

3:44. Answering Daughter’s critical questions about “Tinkerbell And The Great Fairy Rescue.” It’s not really that believable.

5:02. Leaving for Youth Sunday Planning Pizza party. Pay for the pizza, set up the room, print off instructions and old worship bulletins . . .

5:12. Arrive at church to discover I’ve left my laptop at home. Doh! Improvising.

6:39. Whirlwind presentation of Presbyterian principles for ordering worship. “The preaching of the Word of God IS the Word of God!” Students leap to their feet with thunderous applause and gasps of “Amazing!”

7:22. Volunteers working with teams of students to plan an entire worship service. Marvelling. Doing nothing but marvelling.

8:01. Youth Sunday planned. Dismiss students with a benediction of “Waving Flag.”

8:12. Stopping at grocery store on the way home to pick up flowers for Wife. Well, not for her. For her nurses. It’s nurses week and she forgot.

8:24. End the day with with the day’s only play of the iPod.

9:01. Contemplating writing Monday Morning Quarterback. Nope. It’ll wait for the morning.


Monday Morning Quarterback

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:

6:00. Alarm going off. Snooze not working. Remember alarm clock app I downloaded that rings until you’ve taken 10 steps with it in hand. What if I throw it?

6:01. Downstairs, finger over phone speaker, walking hurried circles around the living room. Alarm not stopping. Power down.

6:11. Coffee in hand. Phone back on. Quiet.

6:48. Finish agenda for Triennium Delegation meeting this afternoon. What’s the statute of limitations on your go-to ice breaker, anyway?

7:04. Daughter protests, “Daddy!” from her bunk as I top the stairs outside her room. She thinks it’s a school day and that I’ve come to retrieve her. “Shhh. It’s a church day.” Silence.

7:58. Take wife a cup of coffee in bed and head out the door.

8:11. Greeted by ceramic elk head on my desk. What the?!

8:15. Head of Staff arrives. Ask her, “Do you know anything about this?” hoisting the grisly elk head. She looks at the ground. “I didn’t put it there.” Awkward pause. “Do you know anything about it?” She walks away. Blurg! Pastors’ kids!

8:22. Finessing the formatting on the sign listing Christian Formation Hour room assignments is surely a sign of a poor understanding of the relationship between causes and effects (“Coffee And A Good Book” is in Room 1, by the way).

8:47. Laptop and projector assembled in sanctuary, ready to show slideshow of 30 Hour Famine pics before worship.

8:53. Frantic. Can’t find Jr. High youth group curriculum for the afternoon. I’ll be gone. Volunteers need it. Failing them. Noooooo!

9:14. Final confirmation class with students who joined as Active Members during last week’s session meeting: brief history of the Protestant Reformation. Making a point to mention Servetus. Glad we saved that til after they joined.

9:47. I just said, “vocare.” I’ve lost them.

10:08. Acolyte trying to light all six candles solo before the end of the Introit. Not . . . gonna . . . make . . . . it . . . . run over and light the last one so he can lead the Call To Worship.

10:19. Student uses Peace-passing time to narrate something for Monday Morning Quarterback. “10:19,” he says . . . wait. What was the rest of it?

10:21. Commissioning a mission volunteer during Children’s Time. Ask the kids to lay hands on his shoes. Much giggling, but I learned my lesson the last time I asked a group of children to press their palms onto an unsuspecting commissionee. Never again.

10:23. Kids singing with much clapping and west African drumming, piano and organ accompanying a pop song. Dizzy from happiness.

10:40. Folks in the balcony are swatting at something. They notice I’m watching, and someone does the hand motions to “The Eentsy Weentsy Spider.”

11:09. Talking easily with a Deacon, resting my elbow atop the metal coffee percolator. Doh!

11:22. Gotta be in two places at once. Kiss wife and daughter as they head to a carnival.

11:31. Jr. High youth group volunteer calmly remembers where all the curriculum is. Weep tears of joy.

12:12. Grabbing lunch to go.

12:39. Eating lunch in the youth room, watching a couple innings of the Royals/Indians game. Get to see this.

1:38. Driving with students to Triennium delegation meeting. They’re rotating turns playing songs from their iPhones, having trouble finding music without profanity. Sigh.

2:30. Our Triennium delegation is awesome. That is all.

3:12. Students requesting food for commute home. I need gas, so I guarantee a chance for gas station food.

3:34. After passing two gas stations with insufficient convenience marts, finally find a satisfactory one. Students suddenly realize they brought no money. Blurg!

3:52. Something amazing happens on the drive home. I didn’t do it.

4:14. Back at church in time to check in with Junior High youth group volunteers before skipping out for a commitment for wife’s work. Tell them I love them and mean every ounce of it.

4:32. Return home to find wife ironing and daughter in bath in preparation for wife’s work commitment. Daughter: “Get away from me!” I’m wanted less and less.

5:35. In the car, playing bargain bin cd find for daughter, some story about a pure and spotless lamb named Judah who thinks he’s a lion.

5:39. Daughter is bored with the fable and protests, “I want a real Bible story!” Atta girl!

6:12. Daughter from the back seat: “When are we gonna be there?!”

6:22. Arrive. Daughter asleep, hunched over the arm of her booster seat. Wake her up. She exclaims, “Wow! That was fast!”

6:46. Sipping Pinot Noir on a Pasadena patio full of pediatricians. Wonder if they can tell I’m a dunce just by looking at me or if they need to hear me speak first.

7:12. Move to the front lawn with daughter, who is eager to prepare a “feast” on the unoccupied picnic table. She brings crackers, arranges them, then prays over them.

7:15. Daughter skipping through the garden singing the Celtic Alleluia chorus we use in worship.

8:27. Daughter has set up shop in hosts living room, performing somersaults on their couch.

9:43. Home. Check email to find message from a stranger questioning a blog post I wrote 15 months ago. Head to bed.

9:55. Come back downstairs to answer email about blog post.

11:20. Monday Morning Quarterback: done.

Monday Morning Quarterback

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:

6:40. Wake to alarm. No memory of the 6:00 and 6:20 alarms. The night following the 30 Hour Famine is one of the hardest sleeps of a Youth Pastor’s year.

7:22. Coffee and the LA Times on the Kindle–catching up on all the Watertown madness that transpired over the weekend.

7:45. Baby Girl comes downstairs and crawls in my lap. Decide to take her to church early with me.

8:17. Enter the office to discover . . . babies! Colleague and her partner have brought the new foster adoptive twins to church for the first time. Gettin’ my baby on.

8:55. Leaving Baby Girl to her Godly Play devices.

9:34. Discussion with confirmands about social issues and the church. Encouraged by their perception that the environment, poverty, and immigration are big deals at their church.

10:08. Acolyte sails through Call to Worship, then promptly leaves. Sick.

10:17. During Children’s Time led by guest missionary, 3 year-old walks across the chancel to grab the bunch of plastic grapes on the communion table. Remark to my colleague, “That’s the right instinct.” “Lest ye become like a little child . . .

10:24. Choir is whistling during the anthem. Whistling.

10:50. High school student rises to sing the antiphonal Lord’s Prayer. Caught off guard. Can’t sing. Wiping eyes.

11:54. Adult Education Committee putting the finishing touches on a four week gun violence series, planned in under 40 minutes.

1:22. Reminding Mario at La Parolaccia about the junior high students I’ll be bringing back tonight looking to do some good. He’s pumped and ready.

1:34. Thumbing in notes on my phone–stuff to remember for Monday Morning Quarterback.

1:43. Watching Rob at Heirloom cut Perrier bottles into drinking glasses using something called a G2 Bottle Cutter and buckets of hot and cold water. Must. Have. Bottle. Cutter.

2:11. Retrieving neighbor’s refrigerator box from the recycling bin to use as a pyramid for Baby Girl’s Egypt-themed birthday party next month.

2:55. Baby Girl wants to watch The Ten Commandments again. Fine. There’s laundry needs done.

3:32. Inadvertently merge 100 of my phone contacts into one. Oops.

4:51. Junior High Impact Challenge is on. Wondering if junior high students aren’t the worst possible population for an experimental activity that requires approaching strangers with earnest pleas to do some good.

5:01. Impact 1: student holds the door for patrons of an ice cream shop.

5:12. Impact 2: students serve as unofficial “greeters” for a local business.

5:19. Impact 3: students wash windows at a restaurant.

5:33. Impact 4: students help bakery employee stack chairs at closing time.

5:35. Impact 5: students procure end-of-day croissants from bakery for giving away.

5:43. Impact 6: students procure $25 gift certificate from window washing restaurant.

5:50. Impact 7: students give gift certificate to lone man wearing a “Vietnam Vet” hat in a motorized wheelchair eating a sack lunch at a courtyard table.

5:52. Impact 8: students procure individual pie from pie shop for giving away.

5:58. Impact 9: students chase down elderly couple and give them pie.

6:13. Processing Impact Challenge learnings: need to make contact with decision makers beforehand. Hourly employees have little decision making power that can be helpful.

6:52. Back in the office watching the 9th inning of the Royals/Red Sox game.

7:10. Lasers and Burritos. It’s on.

7:33. In line at Laser Tag concession stand, remark to volunteer, “I hate this place.” Pretty sure the guy getting my Sierra Mist heard me. Wonder: could he have spit in it?

8:40. Treating students to their first ever Chipotle burritos. An under appreciated aspect of youth ministry.

8:43. Wait. Chipotle has something called a Quesorrito? Why wasn’t I told about this?

9:17. Driving home past Adult Toy Box billboard. Students cracking jokes. Share that I can’t partake in the humor, an impulse confirmed when student says, “Yeah, because if you do Christ will come and stab you.”

9:38. Waiting with students in church parking lot for parental pick up. Student retrieves phone to call when I crack some mid-90’s slang on him. “Yo, Ima hit these digits right quick.” In seconds, he’s on his knees convulsing with laughter. When I add, “Playa,” he’s rolling on the asphalt and begging for mercy.

9:43. Students’ parents aren’t coming. Driving them home to a lively discussion of Sonic The Hedgehog music.

10:05. Back home, watching highlights of Royals/Red Sox games.

10:11. Consulting Monday Morning Quarterback notes on phone. They’re useless. Memory diminished by lasers and burritos.







Monday Morning Quarterback

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:


5:48. Eyes open. Check clock on phone. 12 minutes more . . .

6:00. No way that was 12 minutes.

6:14. It’s going to be a red pants day.

6:38. Chewing strong coffee and scribbling edits to the late night sermon manuscript. What a mess.

7:12. Daughter clomps down the stairs. Sermon editing done. Well, not done. But I’m not doing any more now.

8:00. Wrestling with daughter’s favorite dress. Who designs clothes that have to be tied on? “It’s not long enough!” she protests. Pardon me for insisting on some five year-old modesty.

8:17. Daughter pitching a fit over limited wardrobe choices. Teeth not brushed. Hair tangled. Not fed. No way I make it to confirmation class on time. Drumming the stair rail impatiently. Dangling one of mommy’s scarves as a carrot.

8:24. Resorting to the fake phone call to the neighbor reporting that Daughter will need to stay home. Screams. Tears. But movement. Fake phone call saves the day.

8:41. Out the door as Daughter presses the protest over dress length. Realizing that wheels-up on Sunday is not the same as wheels-up Monday thru Thursday. Mommy usually gets Sunday, but she’s at a conference this weekend.

8:49. Arrive at church to find daughter’s playmate. All concerns over dress length forgotten. Deposit jumbled manuscript on the pulpit, hand Daughter off to Sunday School teachers, and fly to confirmation class. Student already there.

9:16. Going over Book of Order description of the “Ministry of Members” with confirmation students. Deer. In. Headlights.

9:53. Giving a rough once over to Scripture drama with four student readers. Lots of room here for calamity.

10:08. Spot the 10th grade nursery staffer balancing a two year-old on his hip during the opening hymn and the tot’s parents looking on in delight from 10 pews back. Loosening up.

10:18. 3rd graders getting Bibles presented to them by 6th and 7th grade peers. Perfect, perfect, perfect.

10:49. Using conclusion of sermon to rehearse an improv Charge and Benediction. Congregation nails it. “Um, amen.”

11:04. Stopped at rear entrance after recessional by guest who just arrived with a flurry of questions. Improv indeed.

11:21. Shaking hands and noticing glances going downward to the red pants protruding from the bottom of the black robe. “They’re not red,” someone insists. “They’re coral.”

11:28. Where’s Daughter?

11:44. Collecting garden-grown lettuce from church members from the church fridge. They grew it in the new church garden, then picked it and left it for me on Thursday. I’m only getting it now, and the disappointment in their faces is hard to ignore.

12:02. Tearing Daughter away from her playmate to go home.

12:17. Home and working on lunch. Daughter wants to play birthday party and make me a “Birthday Salad”: leaves of lettuce topped with pepper and thyme sprigs. I choke it down. She bounces like a sprite.

1:06. Still playing birthday party. Daughter sits me on a stool and throws things at my head. “It’s a plague simulator!”

1:49. Turn on The Ten Commandments for Daughter so I can lay on the couch with her and doze off. First, watch the Royals walk off against the Blue Jays. Sweet Sunday nap dreams.

2:38. Awake to paused movie and Daughter gone. Find her upstairs “getting all fancy” to watch the rest of it. “Do you know who I am?” she asks. Nephritiri? “Oh, yes, of course!”

3:01. Coffee and planning the week’s meals with new Trader Joe’s vegetarian cookbook.

3:56. Dropping Daughter at neighbors’ so I can head to youth groups. Kissing neighbors’ feet.

4:42. Heaping helping of seven layer bean dip brought by 8th grader for snack. Careful–the red pants.

5:49. Sardines in the sanctuary. Small 13 year-olds should not be allowed to hide amidst pageant costumes.

6:32. College-aged youth group volunteer advising me on upcoming “dating and relationships” talk with high school youth. She was in high school only three years ago, and I never did this talk with her class.

7:13. 9th grader keeps announcing that he’s Batman. I’m lost=missed meme.

8:32. Talking dating and relationships with high school students. No problem. I got this . . .

8:33. Wait. I don’t got this.

8:46. Student describes his father’s youth: “He went to Catholic school. Nuns. All guys.”

8:47. Three minutes of giggling about guy nuns.

8:56. Colleague arrives mere seconds after her kid spills the beans about who gives the birds-and-bees talk at their house.

9:22. Home to find neighbor horizontal on couch. Down comes Daughter from her bedroom and jumps into my arms from the fifth step. Kiss the neighbors feet again.

9:27. Five minutes of The Hobbit with Daughter in her bed. Maybe the giant spider part not the wisest choice.

9:45. Settle down to watch condensed game of Royals win. House is quiet. Pants are still red.




Monday Morning Quarterback

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:


6:00. Alarm. Throat parched and stinging. Left nostril inoperable. Wife MIA. Snooze.

6:18. Snooze fail. Out of bed, hoping hot shower will free nasal passage, soothe throat, and prepare confirmation lesson.

6:47. Ironing. Wife enters the room carrying blanket and pillow. “Dude, you snored like crazy last night.” Before I can explain, she’s passed out on the bed and snoring herself.

6:58. Tripping over the remains of daughter’s “T.V. tent.,” yesterday’s home improvement project: her play tent in the middle of the living room surrounded by blankets and pillows.

6:59. Tiptoing around T.V. tent, foot presses something squishy into the carpet. Orange. Nice.

7:01. Ibuprofen.

7:11. Tall coffee and a multigrain bagel. Toasted? No. Sliced? No. Cream cheese? Well not if it’s not toasted or sliced.

7:37. Working on afternoon youth group plan. My savvy refusal to purchase the companion activity book to our curriculum is only now showing its weakness: no activities.

8:12. Head of Staff explains that today is Quasimodo Sunday. She’s relating the history of Latin terminology, but all I can hear is Tom Hulce singing “Out There.”

9:12. Confirmation class has two students and 12 donuts.

9:24. Student asks, “Why does it seem like Jesus doesn’t want to hang around with rich people?” Before answering, pause to thank God for attentive youth.

10:06. Acolyte nails the call to worship and I nearly applaud.

10:08. Daughter prancing with her playmate during the opening hymn. Hearing it was Quasimodo Sunday, she’s come dressed as Esmerelda. She’s in for a disappointment.

10:51. Awkward pause during the communion liturgy as I wait for Memorial Acclamation to begin. Wait, that’s after the Words of Institution. Someone in the sanctuary starts whistling.

10:56. Head of Staff and I stand atop the chancel steps waiting for elders to bring communion elements back up the center aisle. It’s quiet, and we can see them fussing in the narthex trying to get ordered. A phone vibrates in a pastor’s robe pocket, and it ain’t mine.

11:03. Parish Associate quotes entire first verse of “Draw Us In the Spirit’s Tether” as impromptu Prayer After Communion. Teach me, Obi Wan.

11:15. Ibuprofen.

11:35. I’m the last one to show for the Christian Education Commission meeting. Punctuality fail.

12:46. Wife texts that she’s taken daughter out by herself for the afternoon. “I thought you’d need to rest.” Reply only “Thank you.”

12:59. Stopping for takeout pizza on the way home, eager to eat it and watch the rest of the Royals/Phillies game.

1:25. Choking on pizza as Royals nearly choke away a five run lead in the ninth. This could ruin my afternoon.

1:27. Text to Phillies fan friend: “nonononononononononono!!”

1:35. Royals narrowly escape. Put away T.V. Tent happily and lay down for nap.

1:42. Texting high school youth about evening gathering before nap.

1:43. Noting to do items for the week before a nap.

1:44. Checking next Sunday’s lectionary texts before a nap.

3:00. Wake up to sound and smell of nextdoor neighbor preparing barbecue. Certain I’ve slept through youth groups. Panicked.

3:06. Legs wobbly as I make coffee.

3:07. Ibuprofen.

4:02. Killing my sore throat singing in the car on the way to Jr. High youth group.

4:43. Connect Four nemesis wins again. C’mon!

5:02. Among hypothetical rules students choose for a new city they’d found are these: criminals get sent to space; no old people/hippies; 65% of budget must be spent on space research; no stealing.

5:58. Drop a giant dollop of whipped cream but catch it with my shoe before it hits the carpet. Student announces, “Ninja . . .”

6:55. High school student arrives with tea and no fewer than three home-baked goodies she’s prepared for a “youth group tea party.” Be advised: Doritos do not cut it in this youth group.

7:07 Adam Walker Cleaveland texts: “I played Grog tonight.” Recall text conversation from earlier in the week where I urged him to give the game another try with his youth group. Reply, “How’d it go?”

7:10 Response from Adam: “First time in 14 years of camping and youth ministry that a student had to go to hospital.” Gulp.

7:12. Relaying text conversation to students, who launch immediately into tales of injuries they’ve sustained playing Grog. Note to self: Grog is a menace. Never play it again.

7:40. Follow up question from Adam: “You play with the lights off right?” When I relate this question to youth, they groan collectively.

8:02. Soul Pancake check-in question: “Who cools your crazy?” New favorite phrase.

9:25. Home. Decide to sleep on the couch so as to not keep wife awake again. Check in upstairs. Daughter’s wide awake. She relates the details of her afternoon and then orders, “Go to bed old man!”

9:56. Firing up laptop. Instant Message pastoral care with a student home in Mexico for Spring Break. “God is with you.”

10:59. Finish Monday Morning Quarterback.

11:00. Ibuprofen.






Monday Morning Quarterback

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:


6:20. Awake to the sound of snoring from a junior high student in the bunk above me. Ahh, the spring youth retreat.

6:58. Switch off the alarm two minutes before it’s set to ring. Take that, technology.

7:02. Out of bed, testing the ankle I tweaked exhibiting my Elway-esque spiral skills to a crowd of adoring youth the day before. Ouchouchouch!

7:07. Put on the most wrinkled flannel ever. Camp attire, man.

8:15. Talking with another pastor I met here as we wait for breakfast. He tells me he wrote a doxology to a Lady Gaga tune and has seen the Pet Shop Boys in concert five times. I am much less cool than I’ve been giving myself credit for.

9:36. Youth covertly dumps a gallon of Tobasco into unsuspecting compatriot’s drinking glass. Compatriot gets three healthy gulps down before the fire hits him. Gasping. Coughing. Laughing. My gawd, the laughing.

10:44. Sitting through retreat’s closing talk. Resolve to revisit my two year-old blog post about youth retreats.

10:53. Fist-bumping my students as they offer closing reflections to about 50 of their peers. Confronting my terrible tendency to underestimate my students.

11:03. Serving communion with another pastor here. Unnecessarily adding words: “This cup is the new covenant–the new relationship, the new arrangement–between you and God. And it’s sealed–completed, made real–in my blood–in my life.” You know, because the words of institution are . . . incomplete?

12:53. As the dining hall clears after lunch, three students stand looking out the window and shifting anxiously. Suddenly, they erupt with cheers, and then check to see who’s watching them. I guess immediately that they’re applauding two of their peers who are kissing outside. Momentarily lose my breath as my first kiss flashes before my memory. It was a hurried event behind the transformer box at Mrachek Middle School. Now you know.

12:54. Kissing youths return to the dining hall to the applause of their peers. Breath back. Memory gone. Mad.

2:23. After withholding phones from students for almost 48 hours, I return them for the drive home on the condition that they use their internet connection to tell me the start time of KU’s NCAA tournament game. They happily oblige.

2:34. Twisting and turning down the mountain. Student in the back with a history of vomiting en route to youth retreats asks me to take the turns a little more slowly. Practically slam on the brakes. Whatever you say, man. Just don’t hurl on me, okay?

2:57. The car is quiet. Everyone’s asleep.

3:02. Student behind me surveys eastern Los Angeles county and concludes, “It’s good to be back in the city.” Nod in agreement.

3:37. Back home. Wife texts that she and daughter, along with visiting sister-in-law and 11 year-old nephew and niece, is going to a movie at 4. Turn on the KU game and settle in for some badly needed alone time.

4:56. Trying to take advantage of the rare chance for a Sunday afternoon nap. Failing. Making coffee instead.

6:02. Fidgety. Too much time alone. Need family to get home. How long is this movie, anyway?

6:30. Family returns home. Blissfully happy.

7:24. Nephew showing me a YouTube video about Space Unicorns while I chop lettuce. Wonder what my knife would do to his iPod.


8:43. Making plans for tomorrow’s outing to the beach. In under three minutes, wife has bags packed with towels, sunscreen, and assorted reading materials.

9:13. Inflating air mattresses for nephew and niece. Happier by the minute they’re here.

9:55. In bed, composing Monday Morning Quarterback while wife scrolls through Pinterest on the iPad. Domestic bliss.





Monday Morning Quarterback

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:

6:00. Alarm. Seriously? Snooze.

6:18. Awake two minutes before expiration of snooze alarm. Consider the relative value of two minutes of sle–alarm again.

6:33. Open laptop to finish the morning’s confirmation lesson. Face down reality: The Heidelberg Catechism, Ann LaMott, Dorothy Day, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the story of the Rich Young Ruler, and the Presbyterian Study Catechism won’t all fit in 45 minutes. Curse the space/time continuum.

7:12. Practice sketchnoting with the cribnotes from a talk by danah boyd. Plan blog post on the talk for later in the week.

7:53. Completely rethink final confirmation project assignment and write up a new description. Plan to post it to blog later in the week.

8:11. Second cup of coffee.

9:27. Expose confirmation students to Ann LaMott and her profoundly theological profanity. Brace for retribution.

10:09. Acolyte jogs to the lectern to lead Call to Worship like he’s being introduced as part of the starting lineups.

10:10. Chest bump the acolyte.

10:17. Recognizing new crosses decorating sanctuary during Children’s Time. Tell kids that the big paper one with their handprints on it hanging in the back is to remind us that the cross is for all of us. Kid looks at me like, “For me? What did I do?”

10:29. Getting schooled on the water situation in 1st century Laodiceia by my brilliant colleague. Mentally rehearse the putdown, “Ima spit you out my mouth like Laodiceian water, fool!

11:22. Ask adult education committee members to introduce themselves by answering the question, “What are you learning?” Listen carefully as people share thoughtful, sensitive, yearning to grow.

11:58. Schedule six weeks of adult education programming in four minutes. We done here?

12:38. Return home to playdate with four year-old and her bestie. Realize I haven’t eaten yet today. Devour a pizza.

12:45. Wife is screening new show, “Preacher’s Daughers.” Hey, this could be interesti–nope nope nope nope nope. Plan blog post on horrors of the show for later in the week.

12:53. While watching show about promiscuous pastor’s daughters, serve as the groom in my four year-old’s wedding, officiated by her playmate. Riff terrifically with the hashtag #fouryearoldwedding.

1:39. Set up play tent, sleeping bag, and lawn chair for daughter and playmate on the lawn. Claim the lawn chair for myself.

2:46. Taxes. Done.

2:52. The week’s meals. Planned.

4:14. Tearful end to the playdate. Literally have to pry the crying girls off of each other. Assurances of “You’ll see her next week” are met with “But that’s too long!” Broken up.

4:37. Facing group of 14 people–junior high students and their parents–explaining with as much pastoral adroitness as I can that there’s no telling what will happen at the meal we’re all about to go serve at the local transitional housing shelter. Thinking they’re taking it well.

5:07. Sit down to banquet of chicken enchilada casserole, fruit salad, mac n’ cheese, caesar salad,  brownies, and gallons of beverages. There are 15 from the church and a single shelter resident. Awkward. Reeealy awkward.

5:24. Shelter resident and church families devolve into knee-slapping laughter around the table. Catch a glimpse of the truth: we’re called to share our community and our humanity; food’s a useful tool to do that.

5:51. Dishes. Dried.

6:32. Waiting for high school students to arrive, building to-do list for the week.

6:41. Youth group volunteers arrive with coffee for me. Kiss them both on their mouths simultaneously.

7:43. “Game of Things” prompt: “Things you shouldn’t lick.” Answer from volunteer: “The Pope.”

7:52. Student tries to tell me her mom needs her home early. Text mom. Nope. Busted. Student fumes.

8:08. Soul Pancake check-in prompt: greatest fault, greatest strength. Observe students struggling to talk about their strengths. For some it’s not a pose; they really don’t know they have any. Wince.

8:38. Celebrate student who’s question was featured on Questions That Haunt. Note this is a student who couldn’t identify his own strengths.

9:02. Practice “Yes, let’s!” improv benediction I learned at NEXT 2013.

9:05. Fuming student to me: don’t text my mom behind my back. Me to fuming student: don’t lie to me.

9:12. Whipped in foosball. Again.

9:18. Locking up, notice fuming student’s parent wandering around, looking for her. She just left. Didn’t wait for parents to pick her up.

9:22. Driving home, looking for fuming student along the way.

9:38. Texting fuming student’s mom: is she home?

9:41. Flustered response full of apologies for student’s behavior.

9:42. “Better to have her than not.”

9:43. “Goodnight.”

9:44. Plan fuming student blog post for later in the week.

Monday Morning Quarterback

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:


6:00. Alarm! Smash! Daylight Savings! Smash! Wife’s annual company banquet last night! Smash!

6:22. Planning adult education session about “family.” Opting against the suggested “draw a self-portrait” activity.

7:11. Compiling afternoon junior high youth group plan. One of the adult leaders had her wisdom teeth out two weeks ago; plan for her to do the meditation on suffering.

7:56. Slather leathery neck with Aquaphor, cursing dry air and eczema.

7:57. Notice Aquaphor ring coating the inner collar of my freshly pressed shirt. Wordsmith a few explanations in my head before chucking it in the laundry bin.

8:24. Printing reams of paper–adult ed. handouts, youth group lessons, 30 Hour Famine planning materials, adult ed. handouts (again: I misplaced the first stack). Wonder what the recent energy audit of our church office will find.

9:06. Standing in an empty high school sunday school room with the two teachers I cajoled into teaching one extra day. I was supposed to start confirmation today, but I double-booked myself and threw myself upon the mercy of my volunteer teachers. Their graciousness is being rewarded with empty chairs and a full box of donuts.

9:12. Ask adult ed. participants to conduct introductions my mutual invitation.

9:13. Realize mutual invitation only works when people already know one another’s names.

9:34. Someone suggests parenting is “like a calling.” Practically come out of my shoes to quote Martin Luther on family and vocation. Class swoons at the breadth of my wisdom.

10:09. I gave my order of worship to the acolyte. Now I need one to lead the prayer of confession. Ask Head of Staff for hers during the opening hymn, and she looks frantically for it on her seat before I point out that she’s holding it in her hand.

10:16. Successfully employ the words “cross,” “door,” “metaphor,” “peace,” and “supralapsarian” during the Children’s Time. They don’t know how good they have it.

10:43. Fall asleep during the Prayers of The People. Seriously. Like, out cold.

10:52. As acolyte is collecting the offering, I steal her order of worship to look up the final hymn. Don’t judge me. I had it first.

11:12. Conversations on the patio: depression, death, SAT’s. I am useless.

11:58. Sit down to lunch of salad and crepe to find a Facebook notification:

Screen Shot 2013-03-10 at 9.56.20 PM



11:59. Liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiike

11:59. Show notification to wife. No response. Insist, “It’s, like, a thing.” Four year-old throws crepe to the floor.

1:07. Recline on couch hoping for badly needed nap. Four year-old using my elevated shoulder for a chair. Channel Maryann McKibben Dana: “It’s resting time.” Daughter leaps from my shoulder as if from a diving board, exclaiming, “It’s play time!”

1:09. Four year-old covers me with a blanket and pats my back for a nap. Drifting . . .

1:50. “Daddy! When is resting time over?” Awake. Guilty.

2:00. Daughter wants to watch “Anastasia.” John Cusack and Meg Ryan? What’s not to like?

2:42. Planning games for jr. high while listening to Hank Azaria’s Russian accent yields strange game ideas.

4:37. Invite junior high student to babysit next weekend. In front of the other students, who, of course, voice their interest in babysitting as well. Marvel at my stupidity.

4:47. Listening to jr. high student respond to the question, “What’s the most difficult thing you faced last week” by recounting the plot of a movie he saw. “It was sad.”

5:22. Watching students respond to The Youth Cartel’s “Stations of The Cross” meditation making my day. They’re quiet and observant. A little uneasy.

5:59. [pant] Win [gasp] capture [wheeze] the [choke] flag [vomit]. Yep. Still got it.

6:23. Planning the 30 Hour Famine with group of 10 students from two different churches. Student next to me asks, “Wait. We don’t eat?” Funny you should mention that . . .

7:38. Decide chair basketball with high schoolers in the Fellowship Hall is a keeper when playing requires the directive, “No putting your hands directly in the trash can!”

8:16. High school student chooses prompt from Soul Pancake: what’s one thing you would un-do if you could? Stirring moments ensue as students and adults offer their failures and regrets to one another. Handle with care.

8:32. Questions That Haunt prompt:

Screen Shot 2013-03-10 at 11.00.02 PM






Students share experiences of God from work trips and retreats. Gratified. Students share their lack of experience with God. Grateful for their permission to one another to be honest.

9:32. 30 minute impromptu debrief with adult leaders come to an end. “I’m glad you guys are here,” I tell them. It’s more true every week, people.

11:04. Put the finishing touches on Monday Morning Quarterback.