Tuesday, August 23, 2011

i am an author.

I remember in college, I was determined to prove that a certain “Poetry” contest was a scam. I had too many people who’d bragged about writing a piece of poetry that was “chosen to be included” or “won a spot within” a volume of selected writings (available for a large fee). So I found a brownie recipe, and went to work. I copied that recipe, word for word, even including some of the numbers. I snickered a bit, thinking there’s no way this would actually work.

A short while later, I received my “Congrats!” letter in the mail. Sure enough, my “poem” had been chosen above many entries to be included in a collection of poetry by new authors just like me! So did I call my mom and excitedly announce my dreams as a creative author had finally become actualized?? Nope. I smiled a bit, thankful I wasn’t going to shell out the money to purchase my poem within a book. Though the wooden plaque with my poem mounted upon it might be handy in the kitchen someday….I decided against it. The cost of a joke should never outweigh it’s value in humor. And this was more sad, than funny. I became skeptical of anyone saying they’d been published in a book, if it didn’t involve a contract.

I may have not mentioned it before, but my daughters are professional artists. Seriously. You should see them draw my likeness: Giant round head, and arms that stick out like twigs from a dying bush. They’ve been offered contracts at museums in New York and Chicago, but we really want to keep them well-grounded. So for now, it’s the giant rolls of paper from IKEA on our mini-easel.

Okay, so they may not be able to sell much to even our local art auctions…but when you watch my daughter lean into that paper with a half-crayon with no paper left to pick away…you know artistic genius is at work. I love watching her, and I pray she continues to feel the creative freedom she exhibits in that moment. As she creates on paper, she is reflecting God into a world that needs His image.

It also challenges me.

Since March, I’ve been sitting on a fully written book about how God can use parenting to transform us. I’ve been waiting for a publisher to take a chance on me, and move toward publication. I’ve always subconsciously felt that self-published books were a sign that the material inside wasn’t worth a publisher’s attention. So I continued to wait.

But why did I write? Because God has used parenting to change who I am, and I believe He’s only begun. Because I wanted to put some of that into words, so that others may realize what He could already be doing in their lives as well, and offer new hope to those expectant parents learning Lamaze, still eating bad cookies and punch. But my daughters won’t wait to show people they love, a drawing they’re proud of – they’ll grab it and place it on the highest mountain (or fridge) they can reach!

So here we are. I don’t have a physical book published (yet?). But I’ve written words that I believe are only possible because of God’s work in my life. I’m proud/thankful for them, and believe they can offer much to those beginning this journey of parenthood. It’s available for $2.99 via electronic download (you don’t need a Kindle, you can use your computer using the free software they offer!!) until some publisher decides it’s worth putting into a larger market. But in the words of Lamar Burton, “You don’t have to take my word for it…”

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

a nu thang.

You may have heard by now, I've written a manuscript that I hope becomes a book.  I've been e-mailing back and forth with editors for Beacon Hill Publishing since October 2010.  Honestly, it takes quite a bit longer to hear from them than I'd anticipated.  At one point, they responded favorably, even asking if I'd change a few things in the first few chapters.  They liked what I'd written, and told me I would hear back from them.

So here we are, several months from that point, and I've yet to hear what they're planning/not planning.  Maybe they're working hard to figure out how to best market/push the book, and what sorts of speaking engagements I might be good for.  Maybe they're figuring out how to let me down easily, not wanting to bruise my tender ego.  Maybe the manuscript got shoved down in someone's bookbag, and they've received 30 other books since then.  It's got some coffee on it, and it may have been thrown out with the soggy napkins weeks ago.

In any case, I feel strongly enough that the words I've written have helped me as a parent, and I want to share them with other young parents, and those who will soon have children.  I'm currently going back through what I've written, doing some cleaning up and editing.  My plan is to finish editing, create an attractive book cover, and upload my manuscript as an "Amazon Kindle" book for now.  I realize that may aim for a smaller market, but the good news is, you can use Kindle's software on your computer, laptop, iPod touch, or iPad to read books as well.  Hopefully I can get the word out once it's released.  If you would invite me to post something on your blog at that point - I would LOVE to be a guest of yours.

I've also created a new webpage/blog, "www.differentparent.com" (The working title of the book is: "Different: How God Uses Parenting to Transform Us Wholly").  I intend to use that website to focus on God using parenting, and other parenting type posts/etc.  I realize my personal blog here has too many other topics/ramblings to attract the attention of my books' primary audience.

All that to say, watch for updates!  If you can help me get the word out about my blog in any way for now, I'd love the help!  I will let you know if I hear from Beacon Hill, or if I'm going through Amazon as soon as I know anything!  Thanks for reading!!!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

foncusion

"You need to look out for you.  You are your number one concern.  Look out for yourself, and what you need, and you will succeed.  If you find anyone in your crew who is looking out for themselves, kick 'em out, because they're not going to help you." - paraphrased quote from today's rally

Whoa.  I was confused.  Seriously.  Here are gathered a couple hundred people under the theme of "Pump up the Pride - Uniform Rally".  It's true, they talked about uniforms, and how it's a positive change.  People clapped.  They gave away some free pop.  It was delicious.  But honestly, many were there simply to pick up their school schedules.  The main speaker was a judge from the County Courthouse, who spoke largely in quotes and idioms.

But I understand the heart and desire.  There are large numbers of our high schoolers who serve social/worldly pressures.  We say "give into peer pressure", but the pressure doesn't usually come from a peer anymore, it's bigger than that.  As evidenced by today's rally:

Beneath the uniforms, call to responsible living, and promise that you can end up being an author, professional dancer, or professional musician if you simply work hard enough...there was a quiet undertone.  The undertone that says, "We're not sure if you'll like us if we ask you to grow up, so we'll try to make it sound/look attractive."

There were words against drugs.  Against having sex.  Against drinking, and committing crimes.  All sponsored by our local radio "rap" station that plays songs depicting drugs, sex, drinking, and criminal mindsets.  There was a short "catwalk" of high school models wearing acceptable uniforms for the year ahead, and after their walk they were asked to do dances ("Dougie", and "Cat Daddy" to be specific...warning: those links contain offensive language) to compete for a free backpack.  I felt awkward for them, and sad for our community that this is our display of how we take pride in young men and women growing up.

All that to say, how do we expect the next generation to grow into becoming men and women who respect themselves and know how to make wise decisions/difficult choices even if they're not accepted well by others...if we don't know how to model that?

May we begin with prayer...from repentance, to restoration, to renewal...

Friday, August 05, 2011

Homeschool Expo Father

They said the pool was open at 5am.  Sure, the workout room was open.  But the little red light from the pool door told me I was rejected.  Thankfully, Paula from the front desk was awake enough to find the maintenance key and let me in.  A great way to wake up.  But as I sit in the lobby now, refreshed and ready for day 2, some thoughts hit me from day 1.

We're in the midst of attending our first "Chicago Homeschool Expo" as a couple.  Sarah attended last year, and returned very excited that I might come with her this year.  So glad it worked out.  This time, we even paid the extra money to attend the Thursday before the event begins, for "Homeschool 101".  Intended for those just beginning.  My advice?  Definitely come early.  It's great to get settled in.  But save that money for IKEA, and read some articles online instead.

The two women that presented were great people.  Lots of experience there.  But one of the 3 sessions even ended with the statement, "Oh, and don't come to _______ (a seminar) tomorrow, what I just told you was the same thing."  Really?  We paid quite a bit extra to hear what we could have heard tomorrow?

I'm discovering some interesting things in Homeschooling.  Primarily, that there are as many ways of doing it as there are homes.  Here are a couple (rephrased) quotes from yesterday:

"I believe in 7-up.  No children allowed out of their rooms until after 7am, so that the parents can have time to themselves before the day begins.  Before you start your school day, be sure to shower/dress as if your family were leaving the house.  It helps to separate school from home, and communicates what we're doing here matters."

(the other speaker) "Be sure to make sure your household chores are done before homeschooling.  Also, you may want to sleep in until 11am sometimes, that's fine.  In fact, you may even want to just keep everyone's pajamas on.  That's just one of the many benefits of homeschooling!  Heck, you should probably just take the entire month of December off also, because it'll be quite busy anyways."

Wow.  I couldn't believe it.  I can see the importance now of finding like-minded homeschooling families to rub shoulders with.  I can also understand what must go through some people's minds when they discover we're homeschooling our children.  Perhaps their experience has been either ridiculously conservative approaches, or the second quote from above.  I think we find ourselves connecting more with the first speaker quoted above, though I'm sure there will be more relaxed days.  I look forward to the family time this path will allow for our home.

There were some other great things I learned also.  One being simply, to be involved with my wife, because it is a decision WE have made, even if she's the primary "teacher" (though I hope to be involved in what teaching I can also).  She needs to know I'm not only behind her 100%, but standing shoulder to shoulder with her in the education/development of our children.  I have also attained the title of "Principal" of our school.  Mrs. Anderson will have the children report to me if they become disruptive or unruly in class....(snicker).  Seriously though..thinking of myself in that role certainly communicates a more involved role in everything going on.  I like that.

Finally, the reminder that the decision to home school is made on a yearly basis.  It's daunting when someone asks "Are you doing this through graduation from HS?" to answer them "Yup."  Even though that is our goal at this point, we will decide annually, and re-evaluate in the summers.  One year at a time, making sure this is a healthy decision and beneficial for what God is doing in our family/home.  In fear and trembling..

All that to say....here we go....day 2..

Monday, August 01, 2011

youth ministry as failed experiment.

You don't have to look far these days, to find young adults & adults who were once involved in a Church community, and no longer see any need to be.  Many of these have also let go of any felt "need" for Christ/God/etc.  But some feel they're satisfied Spiritually even without being involved in "the institutional church".

Often it seems, we graduate teens who then look for an experience of church that is similar to the addictive product we've called "youth ministry".  Instead of moving into adulthood, many times they leave their churches to find alternative "young adult" or "relevant" ministries.  Sometimes these are connected to larger churches, where relationships can occur.  But often, these are simply islands of ministry, offering to "serve" the unchurched, or de-churched.  It's easy to point a finger.  It's more humbling to realize what that means for the ministry/church I'm pouring my life into. 

Recently a book has been published, and documentary created (view it for free until Sept. 15th) that point out the problem with much of our modern Youth Ministry.  There are some extreme beliefs in the movie (haven't read the book yet, it's on its' way), such as "not believing in literal 6 day creation = evil".  But if you can keep watching past that, there is a great call to family/home/cross-generational/Christ-centered Church.  A calling to parents (although they focus on the men usually here - a subject for another blog) to reclaim their role as the primary source of discipleship for their children.  A calling to pastors to sound that call to parents, and become a champion for them.  A calling to the entire church body to become the family for those children/youth who need fathers, mothers, grandparents, etc...who will lead them towards Christ.

Both in ministry, and as a father of 3 little girls, I want to take these truths to heart and practice.  I want these young people that I love, to be drawn to the Family of Christ, both now and in a way that grows roots for a lifetime.  These are all things we've been praying/working toward as a pastoral staff, ever since before attending the D6 Conference last year in Texas.  To not create a "family/home ministry", but to raise what we've built, and lay a renewed foundation throughout all we do.  A foundation connecting all that we do and are, that resources families/parents/homes to be the places of discipleship/growth.  As a youth pastor,  I want to come alongside parents and support them as they raise children and teens who look forward to continuing a life-long journey of being part of the "Family of God", and raising their own children in the same vein, toward multi-generational faithfulness and global/local transformation/Kingdom of God proclaiming.

That may begin with a repentance of worshiping the gods of modern youth ministry.  It's not about big events, being fun or hip or energetic.  It's not about emotional worship.  It's not even about being ambiguously "relevant/genuine", as if that's all people are thirsty for.  But it's also not about denying all these things.  It's about being the body of Christ. 

I'm a youth pastor.  But I am also a pastor.  I love the people of my family, nursery to nursing home.  I am called to serve all of them.  Called to figure out what changes may need to happen, as with any structure what you change the foundation of - certain things may break/fall.  That may mean a very small "youth group" at times.  But that might be a great place to start...