Tuesday, February 28, 2006

A Small Confession by Lee Jones

This morning I learned something new about myself. I still get frustrated by people.

I get emails. Lots of emails. I try to figure out which ones are important, and which ones can wait. I generally do so by weighing the sender, recipients, subject, and time sent. I won't bore you with the criteria, but have have a conceptual grid through which I filter my communications.

HINT: if you need to communicate with me RIGHT NOW instant message me when possible. I always respond, even if slowly, to instant messages. Otherwise, leave me a voicemail.

For example, I got missed a call on Saturday from someone who almost never calls. They tried twice, but didn't leave a message. I was in class, so I determined that, sans message, it can't be that important. I called him back during the next break.

Another example would be an email I was included in regarding repairing leaks in the church's roof. I basically ignored it, as I have no decisions or actions on this matter. Several days later I noted that I was included on a followup of the "roof" email. I disregarded it, too, based on the subject line.

My email filter (the computer one, not the one in my head) flagged the message and forwarded it to me based on a rule I set up for church emails matching certain rules. I found that I was mentioned regarding an entirely different subject in the email about the roof leaks.

Confused, I looked at the email closer and found that the conversation had moved on. The topic had changed, but the subject line still indicated "roof leak".

For some reason, this really frustrated me. There are, like, almost 10 people on the list of recipients, and replies are being generated with NOTHING to do with the stated subject.

I hate mixed signals. So, I shot back a message telling everybody to CHANGE THE SUBJECT line if you are changing the subject!!

And, I think I may have hurt some feelings. *sigh*

I must confess, I still get frustrated by people in positions of responsibility. It may be tempting for my friends to tell me it is understandable, but it is, to me, unacceptable for a leader to put down people, whether followers or peers. It is unacceptable for me to bite (or byte, in this case) anybody's proverbial head off. I must explore this further in prayer.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Running on "E" - and the Engine Light Came On!

I see a lot of parallels between my conscious life and the state of my car today. We're both running on "E", we both need a tune-up, and my car's "check engine" light just came on.

this is an audio post - click to play

I am looking forward to some time off! I learned that the lobby and common areas have Wi-Fi Internet, so I'll still be able to keep in touch with friends.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Classes, Remodeling, and Church Size

I spent Saturday in Theology class. The teacher is impressively well-prepared, and his syllabus is fill-in-the-blank format. When I have tauch classes myself, this is the method I use, so I'm very comfortable with the lectures. I'm not sure I'm actually in the class yet as the room is at capacity... but we'll see.

Cathy is currently on a liquid diet. Her shots normally cause rashes on her back or limbs, but this week's shot caused no epidermal problems, but gave her several sore spots on her tongue. As a result, Cathy is finding it difficult to chew, so she's been on a liquid diet. Even chocolate milk shakes get old after three days!

I dropped by Chris & Laura's after dinner on Saturday to help with some kitchen moulding... it was half-done when I had to leave for Baskin-Robins' (for Cathy's milk-shake dinner), so I return Sunday afternoon to help them finish up. All the moulding is done, the doors are attached, the hood is venting to the chute, the dishwasher works and the stove is operational! It looks very nice. They'll be tiling the walls, so I'm hoping to learn some skills participating in that regard.

Sunday service was very nice. I actually thouhgt I was early for church but I arrived five minutes late. The message was very well-delivered. After the service I joined a meeting for the media ministry. It was very enjoyable to sit around a table of people with a common purpose who dealt humbly with each other, looking to work together. My technical counterpart, Forrest, looks to be a mature individual with more database experience than I. We may have to switch hosting plans ($2 more a month), but I think we'll have all the feautres the media director wants.

After vacuuming and dusting a home for hours (I'm slow), I dropped by Chris & Laura's. Aside from helping out, I also borrowed Smallville season 4, which Cathy & I will work through in the coming weeks. :-)

I've had a couple of thoughts about churches since attending interning:

  1. larger churches have more money (duh)
  2. larger churches have more complicated problems
  3. larger churches have paid staff
  4. larger churches move slower
A 500-memeber church doesn't have 5 times the budget of 100-member church, it actually has less overhead. In other words, if it costs $12,000 to maintain a 100-member church, it doesn't cost $60,000 to maintain 500 members... it actually costs less. I found this to be interesting. The more money you have, the smaller the fraction that gets taken up by overhead.

However, problems become more interesting... the congregation is not homogenous, so your problems are more complicated. Each sub-group of a church now has more felt needs... so designing just a church web page isn't enough, you have to design a section for the youth. You have parking problems, licensing concerns... yikes.

Oh, yeah... the thing that continues to amaze me is that larger churches can afford to pay people to perform the functions I have done for so long. People actually make a living ministering the gospel, or doing IT for a church. Wow.

Finally, larger churches seem to move slower. In other words, you can't just say, "let's designh a church web site"... it has to be worked out, done on paper, the approved by the elders... The last two church sites I did went like this: "Hey, we need a church web site." "I'd be willing to do that." "Great, get on it." "OK, how's this look?" "That's pretty good! Can we add this?" "Sure."

Well, one thing I'll learn is working in a team, and another thing I'll learn is patience. :-)

Thursday, February 16, 2006

I'm a Pastoral Intern

OK, I'm a pastoral intern now. It just occurred to me that I should supply references... so I emailed a couple of former pastors and an elder to see if they would be willing to be contacted as refences. I'm not sure what being an intern will entail, as the church really doesn't know me (I've only attended for 10 weeks, and that was many months ago).

My head elder got back to me today. It seemed to me that they had designs for me, which I disrupted with my internship. A new round of elders and deacons will soon be selected, and I confess that I was hoping to serve as an elder. Those plans are now set aside, however. A year is a long time, and I am committed for two semesters.

If this new church is willing to invest the time, effort and risk of taking me as an intern, I must do my very best to serve them. It will be a long time, then, before I get the privilege of serving as an elder. The new church would be wise to withhold that privilege until I was proven, and my old church would have to rebuild a relationship with me before I could serve there again in a position of spiritual leadership. Not to mention, I'm not inclined to pull a "thanks for the investment, I'm outta here" on the church interning me... They deserve a return on investment.

Life is strange, is it not? All the people I have come to know and love, people I desirely deeply to serve and to protect, will be unseen to me for several seasons. I plan to visit, of course... but my allegiance must shift. *sigh*

Cathy will still make the drive to the church where she serves as treasurer, though. The service times are such that she can attend the first service with me, then go and serve as the treasurer and attend church "out there." I am certainly looking forward to some local fellowship, which I have been missing.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Move Towards Your Enemy

Two tips from an otherwise boring Valentine's Day class... "Move towards your enemy" and "Let's try it."
this is an audio post - click to play

People Get Paid as Pastors!

People actually get paid to do the ministries I am involved in!
this is an audio post - click to play

It seemed like a "duh" to Cathy, but I was stuck by the fact that people get paid for full-time ministry work. The associate pastor I'm meeting, Justin, actually has an office and a full-time job as a pastor. I'm so accustomed to performing various spiritual and technical functions for free that I forgot people get paid for such things.

That may seem weird coming from a man who intends to make his living from ministry to the church... but I honestly forgot. It occurs to me that, one day, I may actually switch occupations, not just become more trained to do what is in my heart to do. I was even planning on working 40 hours a week at my current job, and still try to pastor at a church.

Of course, any career change is far in the future... but it is a curious sensation, realizing I could make ends meet just doing the ministry. Wow.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Taiwan, Full Moons, and Laterns

Yup, I miss Taiwan. Last night the moon as nearly full... which means the Latern Festival is over now back on Taiwan. It is a time of celebration and family gathering, and bowls of sweet rice dumpling soup.

My earliest memory of a Latern Festival involves my mother explaining that it always occurred on a full moon. I remember looing at the full moon suspended in the sky, marveling at the size of it, the brightness of it. Everybody would turn off their houselights, so interference from light polution was minimal. The full moon of the Latern Festival, dressed by the array of stars unveiled in the night sky, was always best during New Year.

I remember building paper laterns as a child. We worked with thin bamboo sticks and wax paper... there were simple ones, such as the boxes, and the slightly more advanced (and rather popular) spheres. You could purchase elaborate dragon-shaped laterns, which my mother bought for me one year.

Chinese parents trusted their children with firecrackers and candles, at least during the New Year. It was fund chasing each other around under a full moon, showing off our laterns, playing hid-and-seek, and exploring hills and streams that seemed much more exotic by moon lantern light.

As I grew up, paper laterns and candles gave way to molded plastic and flashlights. Sure, the traditional shapes were still available, but by my early teen years, an entire generation of children were growing up without ever building their own latern.

Granted, we spared all future generations the pain of watching your lovingly constructed latern go up in flames; that happens when you don't trim the wick, or tilt it wrong... :D Still, on the balance of things, I think Chinese children these days are missing out, if they even still celebrate the Latern Festival with actual kids carrying actual lanterns around at night.

I think I'll go home and listen to Dizi solos and dream of a starry night sky.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

My Wife Sent Me Flowers!

Cathy just went me flowers! Our receptionist called me to the front, and I found a beautiful vase of roses waiting for me! It is our 9th anniversary. I've got a photo... I'll upload it tonight. Click the photo below for a closer look!

The card says:
Thank you for 9 of the best years of my life.
I look forward to as many more as God wills.
Happy Anniversary my love.

I have the best wife in the world!

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Super Bowl Commercials on Google Video

Google Video is hosting most of the Super Bowl XL commercials. If you didn't watch the game (like Cathy & I) or if you missed your favorite commercial, check this link out or drop by the Super Bowl commercial show at SuperBowl.com.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Recipe: Turkey Hash

Turkey Hash

Chicken hash was one of thomas Jefferson's favorite breakfast dishes. This version has been adapted so you can use leftover turkey. If you have 2 cups of leftover potatoes, too, chop them and use them in place of the 2 medium potatoes.

Preparation time: 20 minutes.
Cooking time: 33 minutes.
Makes 3 servings.

2 medium-sized potatoes (peeled and choopped)
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 medium-size yellow onion (chopped)
1 small sweet green or red pepper (chopped)
2 cups chopped cooked turkey
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup lower-sodium chicken broth

Cooking Directions:
Step 1: In a small saucepan, cover potatoes with water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Drain.

Step 2: In a 10-inch skillet, melt butter over moderate heat. Add the onion and green pepper and cook for 5 minutes or until tender. Stir in potatoes, turkey, rosemary, black pepper, and salt. Cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes. Stir in chicken broth. Cook and stir for 2 minutes more or until it has a desired consistency.

For Chicken Hash: Prepare for Turkey Hash by substituting 2 cups chopped cooked chicken for the turkey and 1/4 cup leftover or canned chicken gravy for the chicken broth.

Nutritional Information for One Serving:
Calories 365
Total Fat 14g
Saturated Fat 7g
Protein 36g
Carbohydrate 24g
Fiber 2g
Sodium 253mg
Cholesterol 107mg