Saturday, July 24, 2010

facing down the monster

I have to say, you are lucky to be reading this blog post. It almost didn't get written. That's because I had a brush with death this week. Furry, winged, full of rabies death.

Let me explain.

I arrived in the office on Wednesday morning. As I walked inside I could see our secretary sitting on the edge of her seat just waiting to tell me something. When I walked in the door she said that the custodian was looking for me because she needed someone tall to help her with something. I said I was going to put my stuff back in my office and then go find her, but the secretary offered to go get her. I didn't think that made much sense, but she was out the door before I could say anything.

Well, our senior pastor heard us talking so he came out of his office. We stood in the hallway chatting when the secretary and custodian came to the office. The secretary walked in the door first and she was followed by the custodian who was carrying a smelting net (a net used for catching fish). It was a big net on a long pole. I knew IMMEDIATELY what was going on.

"No," I said. "I know what's going on and I don't like it!"

Well, it turns out I was right. There was a bat in the corner of the ceiling in the entryway of our church. Which meant that I had walked right by it when I came inside. And now they were expecting me to help them catch it.

Now, let me explain something here. I have not always had this irrational fear of bats. In fact, I have stories about times I helped catch some. I have always not liked them, but I haven't always been deathly afraid. But then there were three instances in one school year that involved a bat hitting me in the head, and two showing up in my room in one week. All of these experiences helped foster my extreme dislike of bats.

So, there I was, standing in this small breezeway, staring at this bat. Curled up in the corner it looked small and harmless. But I knew much better. Our custodian began to prop open all of the doors to make for easier bat evacuation. Then she extended the net and tried to get it into the corner to trap the bat.

The only problem was, the net was too big around and didn't fit into the corner. It didn't even come close to the bat. The custodian tried turning the net around and using the handle to poke the bat, but that just aggravated it and made it chirp.

My bright idea, then, was for me to get a broom. I would use the bristles of the broom to nudge the bat carefully off the wall and into the net, which the custodian would be holding underneath it. It seemed like a great plan.

So the custodian positioned her net underneath the bat and stood as far away as the handle would allow. I grabbed the broom and bravely walked up to face the hairy beast.

I looked up at the bat and began to move the broom closer and closer. But it was then that the chaos ensued.

The bat looked at me and then with a menacing chirp it launched itself from the wall. Directly at my face.

As the bat came hurtling at my face I did the only thing I could.

I shrieked. Like a small child.

And not only that, but I fell down. Now I'm not saying that I gently eased myself to the ground. No, I fell to the ground, throwing the broom in the air, and landed on my butt and back.

The bat flew a few circles in the entryway before shooting off through the open door.

The senior pastor, custodian and secretary stood there laughing. I couldn't help but laugh at the situation, too, as I lay there on the ground. It was a pretty comical scene.

As we talked about it later, the custodian said that I should be proud that I faced my fear and helped get the bat out of the church.

My response was that I would be more proud if the story didn't involve me screaming and falling down.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

To dog or not to dog?

Last month, I was once again visited with the privilege to take my Confirmation students to camp. Now, if you know me or have read my blog for any length of time, then you probably know that I have a deep love for camp. It is where my call to ministry was first heard and fostered. It has been a place of rejuvenation and renewal for me. It is also the place where I spent four of the greatest summers of my life as a camp counselor. I have a deep love and a very high regard for camp.

So it was with much anticipation, a lot of excitement and deep gladness that I boarded the school bus along with my seventh graders. We were going to camp!!

I'd have to say that this was perhaps my most drama free week at camp as a pastor. Of course, after my first week at camp as a pastor, anything else would be a cake walk. There was a lot of unnecessary excitement that week, including three canoes full of boys from my church tipping over on purpose, and thus losing boating privileges for the rest of the week, and the fallout from that. It was an interesting week and I'm surprised that they let me bring kids the following summer.

But this week went well. My youth got along with each other famously, and made quick friends with the youth from the other churches. The counselors were great fun and did a wonderful job.

There was one thing, however, that made this week different. One of the other pastors and I went out for a walk one morning. We walked along the road for a while before it started to rain and we needed to turn back. As we were walking back, I heard someone approaching us from behind. I turned around to be greeted by a black lab jumping up to greet me. I admit I responded with a not-so-manly yelp. I was not expecting a large black dog to be launching himself at me. My pastor friend responded with a scream herself, saying that she thought she was going to get stabbed.

This dog appeared to be a stray. He was fairly skinny, covered in ticks, and my friend said he had worms (I didn't try and verify her claims). But he was friendly and really just wanted our attention. He followed us back to camp, no matter how much we tried to discourage him. I tried to chase him away, but he was persistent.

As we turned down the camp road, he ran ahead. We knew we had to inform the director that a stray dog was now loose on the property, but when we arrived we saw that one of the counselors had already intercepted the dog and was holding onto him. We apologized profusely, claiming it was our fault that the dog was there as he had followed us. The counselor explained that this wasn't the first time he had been there. Apparently he made quite a habit of coming to camp. The staff had named him Linus and they said he belonged to the house down the street but that it seemed they didn't care for him too well. When he'd show up at camp they would return him, and tie him up in the yard so he could not follow them back. But, inevitably, he'd show up again sometime.

Part of me wanted to take this dog home with me. He was friendly, and it would just take a little bit of work and he'd turn into a great pet. Several people on the staff said that if they were in different situations that they would take the dog in. That when my heartstrings began to get tugged. I thought that maybe, just maybe, I could provide a good home for this nice dog.

I consulted all sorts of friends. The reactions were mixed, but most said that I should go for it. This dog needed a new home and they thought I'd be a great guy to provide that home for him. A few friends discouraged it, saying I already had two cats, and that dogs are much more high maintenance than cats. A few others reminded me of the dog I used to own (Frankie the three-legged pit bull) but ended up giving away to another home. I reminded them that Frankie was a special (high needs) case and this dog seemed much different.

So I decided that what I would do was that I would bring Linus home with me if I saw him again that week. If he came back to camp, then he would come home with me. My pastor friend and I were coming up with a plan to get him to the vet should he show up.

But by Friday morning he had not yet returned. We drove by his house a couple times and he was not there. As we ate lunch and then loaded up onto the bus, it was evident that I was going home without a dog. Linus did not make a return to camp that week.

I still think about that dog. I think he has a lot of love to give and would have done well in a house that was receptive that love and had love to return to him. The camp staff has informed me that it's not too late, I could definitely still rescue that poor dog and give him a nice, new home.

So, who knows. Maybe sometime I will plan a rescue mission and get myself a new dog...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

3 busy weeks

I have not posted in quite some time. I apologize to my regular readers for my lack of productivity on this blog. But, you see, I have been busy.

On June 14th, I left with a busload of 7th graders and we headed up to camp. So, for a week, I was immersed in camp songs, campfires, outdoor games, hiking, canoeing, and even a storm that threatened to send us to the basement. Although I brought my computer along, I didn't use it much. I figured camp is a place to experience God in the outdoors, to marvel at the miracle of creation and there was plenty of it out there. I saw a lot of turtles that week and it didn't help that the internet moved about as slow as them, which made getting online frustrating. Especially when I knew I had only ten minutes to change into tennis shoes to be ready for our next activity. So my blog suffered a bit while I was there.

Then, the following week we had Vacation Bible School which was led by some of the camp counselors from the camp I had been to the previous week. Five of them came down and led a week of Vacation Bible School for us. Now, my schedule was not quite as demanding as it had been the week prior, but it was plenty busy. One evening we had a campfire and kids stayed in my yard goofing around and playing games until 10pm. Another night we had our church's annual Ice Cream Social and I happened to get roped into being in charge of making lemonade so I ended up staying much longer than I had anticipated. Another night we had a program and pot luck to celebrate a great week of VBS.

Then, with only one day between the end of VBS and the beginning of my next adventure, I headed off with 36 other people to the Yakama Reservation in Washington state for our mission trip. So we drove across Minnesota, South Dakota, Montana, Montana, Idaho and Washington to get to Toppenish, Washington where we'd be staying (I'm aware I listed Montana twice. I felt it needed to be done that way to symbolize just how freaking long that state is). While there we played with kids, we scraped and painted houses, we heard about the history of the Yakama tribe, we participated in a worship/healing circle, we toured a farm and ate fresh cucumbers, and we had a cookout in the park. Then we drove the 27 or so hours back across Washington, Idaho, Montana, Montana, Montana, South Dakota and Minnesota (Montana seemed even bigger on the way back) and arrived home sometime after 11pm on Saturday night. I had to watch some of the luggage while I waited for our rental vans to be returned, and then I ended up getting home around 12:30 only to get up at be at church the next day for church services.

Then I went to a party with some friends where I served as a jungle gym and a chair and a water gun target for a large group of kids.

That brings me to today where I have done almost nothing of consequence and it feels great. I haven't had to tell kids to stop climbing on poles, or to quit talking so as to not disrupt the other groups. I haven't had to watch a long line of kids as they crossed the street to play games. I haven't had to deal with upset adult chaperones or try to get kids to move sleeping rooms. I haven't had to sit with kids because they got in trouble or constantly remind kids to stay on task and get the job done. I haven't had to give a piggy back ride. I haven't had to tell kids to put their shoes on before they go into the gas station bathroom or to throw away their trash when they are done with it. I haven't had to make any decisions regarding buying food for 37 people and figuring out the quickest and easiest way to get them through the line and to pay for the food. I haven't had to ask girls to put on less revealing shirts or asked guys to pull up their pants to cover their underwear. I haven't had to run inside to escape three 6-9 year olds running after me with squirt guns full of water. I haven't had a large mob of children chasing me with water balloons. I haven't had a single child hang on my arm or jump on my back or grab onto my leg.

And it's been nice.

Although, now since I've finished that marathon run and finally had time to sit down and breathe, I've discovered I'm getting sick. Stellar.

But now that I have some time, perhaps I'll use some of it to sit down and write an interesting and thought provoking blog. Well... that might be pushing it a bit. But perhaps I'll use it to write something.