Friday, September 29, 2006


I think it is a real privilege to have kids in our youth group who actually get excited and happy to see their minister show up at their school events. Some kids would roll their eyes, be embarrassed, be spiteful, or just generally not like it. But not this group. Yesterday I attended a choral performance and saw a smile when the young lady saw me in the audience. Later the same day, I went to a volleyball game and was greeted with a huge wave, a grin, and a big hug. But that wasn't even the best part. The best part was as I was walking away I heard in a probably sinfully prideful tone, "That's Fr. Ryan. He's my youth pastor!" Hearing that does a soul good.

Now, that's a privilege. But it is not the greatest privilege. Later today I will be the recipient of one of the greatest privileges I can imagine. I get to drive 5 young people to DaySpring to attend Happening #56 as participants. Words fall short of how that makes me feel. See, it was the Happening ministry in this diocese, and the people who then made it what it was, that changed my life forever. It was Happening that made me choose the less travelled path, pick self-sacrifice over self-indulgence. It was Happening, by and large, that allowed me to forgive myself (long after God had forgiven me) and open my ears to hear God's call in my life.

And this afternoon, I get to drive 5 young people to that experience. I do not know how God will touch them this weekend, only that He will do so. I do not know how Jesus will call them this weekend, only that He will do so. And I do not know how the Holy Spirit will empower them this weekend, only that it will do so. Knowing that, with them in the backseat on the way to DaySpring, will be one of the greatest privileges of my life. So, thank you.


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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Clergy Retreat; Listening to God 

I got back this afternoon from a 3 day clergy retreat at DaySpring. (Well, I didn't stay over the first night because I came back to play softball, but you already read about that.) The retreat was decent as far as retreats go. I was looking forward to some time to get to know the clergy of the diocese with whom I did not have any prior relationship and I was looking forward to some time for renewing old relationships. I got a lot of that and so it was good. However, for a clergy retreat with a focus on prayer and spirituality, there wasn't a lot of prayer and spirituality. The first night we were there, we had a fairly lackluster Evening Prayer service. The retreat leader, who was a well of wonderful knowledge and experience, did not lead us through as much experiential stuff as she could have, but opted instead to tell us about it. Maybe I just learn better by doing, but I yearned for that experience part, that connecting with God part. The experiential stuff she did lead was fantastic. There was also no Eucharist and I really wanted that. Compline was unfortunately cancelled on the one night it was scheduled because the wine and cheese tray had arrived. So, I guess I just wished for a bit more prayer and spirituality from the retreat that theoretically had prayer and spirituality as one of its main foci.

Thus, when I returned to work this afternoon and had to plan out the evening's youth group activities, I decided to do some of the things I had wished for during the retreat. Part of that was out of my own need and I understand that, but part of it was out of a tugging I've been feeling to give the youth group a language for prayer - different ways of understanding and doing prayer. The Holy Spirit was right it turns out, as is so often the case. I knew before the meeting began that I was going to close with a healing prayer circle, but even before we got to that I started sensing the need for it. In our Bible study time, some of the youth started sharing some hard things that they needed to get off their chests. Some of them expressed a desire to say more but could not bring themselves to do it. So, when we were ready to move into our Prayer time, the soil was fertile for the Holy Spirit to plant a seed. We prayed a lot. We cried. We joined together and I think we bonded in a tighter way. I felt it was good.

Then, about 15 minutes after we closed (and 60 minutes after we were suppossed to close!) my phone rang. It was someone who drives some of the youth home afterwards and she called to say that they were just overwhelmed on the way home with the power of God that they experienced tonight. So she said to them, "It sounds like God was really watching over you tonight." And they said, "That's exactly what we read tonight in Genesis." (Genesis 28:15 - "Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.")

God works in amazing ways.


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Monday, September 25, 2006

Just What I Needed 

I drove back early from the 3 day clergy conference at DaySpring this evening to make it in time for my softball game. Over the weekend there was some emailing done among teammates - someone volunteered to bring bats, someone volunteered to be the captain, positions were identified and people agreed to show up tonight. I drove back from DaySpring dressed out and excited!

I arrived at the field. No one was there. Well, no one my age. Some high school girl's softball team was playing. I asked someone and they said try the next field over, down the street. SO, ten minutes before the first pitch I show up, get my jersey, and toss a few balls with a guy I met but promptly forgot his name. Turns out the whole team was made up of people who not only had never played together, but, by and large, had never met each other. Good times! We learned names as the innings progressed. Well, some of them.

We took the field first and had a mildly disastrous inning. The pitcher was working out how to pitch and the infield was getting acquainted with one another. We got up to bat down 5 runs.

And our bats answered. Quickly and severely. Before they got three outs on us we had driven in 7. Yours truly started off in fine fashion with an RBI triple and was greeted by high fives, cheers, and back slapping. We held the otehr team to two runs in the second inning, and then they didn't manage to score again. Our team, on the other hand, kept driving them in.

I'll just go ahead and say - we're awesome!

Final score of 19-7. I batted 2-2, with a 3B, a 2B, a walk. I know, I know - a walk in slow pitch! But hey, as the boys in LCA used to say, sometimes you gotta kiss your sister, too.

Our pitcher worked her style out and struck out several, and induced easy ground balls and fly outs the rest of the time. Our defense had some errors, but was mainly solid. I played first and did fine. Afterwards, to celebrate our victory, we all went out for some beers. And also to introduce ourselves to one another.

It was awesome, just what I needed. I'm going to say what I'm going to say next gently...and I've loved the softball teams I've played on the past seven years, both in undergrad and grad school - but it feels good to be on a solid looking team. I hope that doesn't hurt anyones feelings, cause it's not meant to. It was also just what I needed socially - lots of the players are in my age range and are cool folks. I am looking forward to next week already - we're gonna rock it!


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Saturday, September 23, 2006

Field Promotion; Forest Gump 

When I arrived at the Yacht Club on Thursday night, I learned that the First Mate would not be there this week and that there was only one other hand available for crew, and he less experienced than I. It was therefore with some trepidation that I accepted the field promotion to First Mate. Despite my shaky confidence, I discovered that I knew/remembered more than I thought I did, just from watching the First Mate in weeks past. We got the main and jib hoisted with no issues, and when sailing, we had a minimum amount of trouble. What trouble we did have was in large part due to the lack of anticipation on the part of our fourth crew member, but that's no big deal really because I've only just begun to learn how to anticipate what needs to be done next. We came in last place, but that mainly because we were sailing in the Spinnaker class, but didn't fly the Spinnaker. All in all it was a good experience and it instilled a bit more confidence in me.

On to Forrest Gump. So, a couple of weeks (maybe months) ago, I signed up as a Free Agent in the Tampa Bay Club Sports softball league pool. I never really heard anything back from them, so I assumed I hadn't been picked up. Then, last Thursday, I got an email saying I'd been assigned to a Monday night team - Forrest Gump. Forst game is Monday and I am pumped. I wonder what the team will look like...


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Sunday, September 17, 2006

Fish on! 

One of the most significant benefits of this job in Tampa has nothing to do with what the church has (amply) provided. Rather, it has to do with the fact that my uncle's fishing cabin (only accessible by boat and, aside from the river community, as isolated as you could desire) is only 45 minutes away. We headed up there this weekend and had a blast. It was my first trip in over five years, but the locals remembered the boy I was at least. Cricket said, "You done grow'd up an' lost yer hair! Guess that runs in your family though." Howard, the Lord of the River, said, "Shit! Welcome back, son! Welcome back."

And, by golly, it felt fantastic to be back. The cabin is one of my absolute favorite places to be and I cannot express in words how thrilled I am to be so close. But that wasn't the biggest of surprises recently related to the cabin. I knew it would be awesome to be back and be back regularly with my Uncle. No, the biggest surprise is that my uncle said he was getting me some keys to the place and I can run on up there anytime I like. He'll teach me cabin maintenance and the river basics, but as for learning the river past the point of getting to and from the cabin, that's up to me, just like it was once up to all of them. How great is that?!!?!!

Well, after quickly losing a trout on the first day of fishing (I had even reminded myself out loud just before I hooked him, 'soft mouths, Ryan, soft mouths') I found my touch again. It wasn't long before I had caught a 22" redfish (my favorite fish). Then we moved out into deeper water where I had my first taste of Spanish Mackerel fishing - a fantastic experience all around. I don't know how many we lost to their sharp teeth (we were retying hooks and leader as much as fishing), but we ended up with four keepers, all about 3 lbs. The total tally for the day was 4 Spanish, 1 Red, and 1 Trout. With that, my uncle and I ate til we were stuffed, I fed 6 people tonight til we were all stuffed, and I've got plenty of leftovers to take to the Boss Man tomorrow. Hopefully, it won't be long before we get back out there. The more I can learn, the sooner I can start heading out on my own. Fish, you've got your notice.


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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

A God Moment; A Request for Advice from More Experienced Clergy 

The light was dim in the chapel, as it always is for Wednesday night services. Fr. Kalisa, a guest preacher from Rwanda had just sat down after delivering his meditation and the room was quiet as we began to silently reflect. Sometimes I use this time to reflect on the Gospel or what the preacher had just said. Sometimes I use this time to reflect on my week or maybe the week ahead. As I was finishing my meditation I suddenly felt the voice of God speaking to me. God said, "Someone needs prayer tonight." I felt it. I had a vision: I saw the youth group meeting room and I saw us standing together in a circle, holding hands and praying. I saw myself moving around the room, laying hands on each of them to pray for them and hoping to find the one whom God had said needed prayer. The meditation time was over and I opened my eyes.

At the end of the youth group meeting, we all stood and held hands to pray. Some wanted to say the Aaronic Benediction, which has been a tradition of theirs from the past. We said that. I remember my vision but I thought, I'll just freak them out if I do that. So I said, as they were gathering their things, the "Amen!" having already been declared, "Anyone who wants to stay after for extra prayer may do so." I heard over my shoulder one sibling tell another, "I'm going to stay." And like that, they headed to the other room, which I have used for one-on-one prayer or counseling. That person was the one who really needed prayer, who really needed a shoulder to cry on, who really needed someone to listen, who really needed some comfort. I hope God could use me, a broken vessel, to provide what was needed. We talked and prayed for a while.

After it was over, and everyone had gone home, I walked over to my house. I took off my collar and I sat on the couch and turned on the TV. I was emotionally spent and physically exhausted. But still, I felt guilty. I felt guilty that I didn't think or pray more for that person. That I didn't consider their pain further.

How do you, more experienced clergy, deal with this? Do you feel this guilt? Is it ok to let go of it after you have prayed with the person or should I have prayed more. I will remember them in my night prayers, but I wonder if could/should do more. Sages, come on out of the woodwork to help a neophyte.


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Monday, September 11, 2006

In Every Land 

Honor the dead, in every land, who have died as a direct or indirect result of the attacks on America, five years ago today. Pray for those who were killed and for those we killed in retaliation. Pray for those who mourn and for those who do not understand.

The American news services have inundated us today with more images and stories than one person would really ever care to see. Truthfully, I didn't see any of it. I heard a little bit of it on the radio and will watch the Presidential address in a little while, but I don't need to re-live that day. I don't want to. I don't want to play or have played my heart strings.

Because the American news has done such a good job reliving the event for us, as if it were something we needed to watch over and over again, I encourage you to read just one short article from the Arab News Service, based out of Saudi Arabia, that reflects on the fifth anniversary from an Arab reporter's perspective.

Access it by clicking here.


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Thursday, September 07, 2006

Nerdy Hebrew Moment; A Mystery Solved 

Years ago, back when my mother still taught Sunday school and I was in college and helped her out from time to time when I was home, we had a humorous disagreement about a Sunday School lesson. The lesson she was teaching her 3-5 year olds that Sunday, out of a teacher's resource book mind you, was about Isaac and Ishmael. The material from which she was teaching, and with which she had no reason to quibble until I came along, stated that the reason (in part) Ishmael had to be sent away from his family was because he was mean to Isaac. I took issue with this teaching and said it had no scriptural warrant, but was based in anachronistic fear. So, over the years, we've laughed about this and continued to argue. Me saying, "That's not right," and her saying, "But my book said it." Then we would laugh at the absurdity of it.

So then, last night at my youth group meeting, we're studying Genesis 21 and reading it aloud. One of the readers had a decidedly older translation of the text than my NRSV, and so when they got to verse 9 (which says in my NRSV, "But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, playing with her son Isaac,") she read the word, "mocking", instead of "playing". I recalled the aforementioned history of the Sunday school lesson and almost blanched. Instead, I made a mental note of the verse number and told myself to look it up in Hebrew later.

So, today I did that. The Hebrew is a pun, as it so often is. The word translated as "mocking" in the KJV and as "playing" in the NRSV is matsacheq, which generally means "playing", "sporting", or "jesting", and is a derivation of the same root word for Isaac's name - Yitschaq, which means "laughter".

So, years later, I solved the mystery. The Sunday school lesson was using a different translation, a less amicable translation. I had no doubt it said that in the resource manual, I just couldn't figure out why. Now, I know, thanks to the Youth Group kids and some Hebrew classes. Now I can laugh with the Genesis author(s).


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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Church on Cain Rd. 

We're having primary election voting done at the Church today, and as I walked over from the church to my house, a voter pulled into my drive and hailed me. The following conversation took place.

Voter: "Are you with the church?"
Me: "Yes."
"This is your church?"
"Yes, it sure is."
"Well, we used to have voting at the old church and that was much closer to my home."
"Um-hmm. Ok."
"But you have a nice facility here. It's very lovely. You're set up well in this new location."
"Yes, thank you; we like it here."
"I think there is one thing you need to do though. I think you need to change the name of the road. There is no reason a church should be on "Cain" road. He shouldn't be the prominent one. So, do you think you can work on getting the name of the road changed to "Abel Road"?"
"I'll surely bring it up. Thank you for your concern."
"Ok, thanks. Bye bye. We shouldn't remember him. Bye bye."

Consider it brought up.


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Monday, September 04, 2006

He caught him looking! 

Expect to hear that soon, folks, coming from the University of Tampa Spartan Baseball Stadium...

my bro made the team!



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