Breanna’s Blog

My daughter Breanna is one of the most creative people that I know. She is in sixth grade and has a natural knack for writing. She started her blog today. It’s about a mysterious and imaginary place named Leezerk. Her blog will tell a story that unfolds over the course of days, months and maybe even years. You can find her blog at http://leezerk.blogspot.com. Check it out! You’ll be glad you did.

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Baseball Shenanigans

I love baseball. I’ve loved it since I was a kid. Some of my fondest memories of growing up include the baseball games that my Dad or Grandpa would take me to at Wrigley Field and Comiskey Park in Chicago. I’ll never forget waiting for autographs at the players’ parking lot after the game. I’ll never forget holding a stack of baseball cards hoping that Ryne Sandberg of the Chicago Cubs would come and autograph a card for me. I’ll never forget chasing a foul ball at Wrigley Field, tripping over the steps, injuring my knee, and having to leave that game early. I’ll never forget the first Grand Slam I saw, when Jose Cruz of the Houston Astros launched one over the left field wall at Wrigley. And, I’ll never foget witnessing Jack Morris pitch a sloppy no-hitter against the Chicago White Sox in Comiskey Park.

Last night I had a chance to once again take my kids to a professional baseball game. One of the advantages to living in Minneapolis is that we get to watch the Twins play live for less than it costs to go to a movie. Chris’ church group was going for a group outing, and I got to chaperone. Breanna was invited to come along as a junior chaperone, and each one of my children brought a friend.

Going to a game with the Schulenburg family is an event. We try to have a good time, not just watching the game, but by being entertainment for those who come along with us. Every time we go on a group outing, my kids play a practical joke on those around us. They pretend that I’m a former baseball player. This is how it works — We’ll walk through the Metrodome, and my kids will run about fifty yards in front of me and then turn around to start walking towards me. Pretty soon they’ll act very suprised and excited. Their walk becomes and all out run, and their indoor voices are now outdoor voices.

“Hey, didn’t you used to play baseball?”

I never answer that question.

“Can I have your autograph?”

Pretty soon I’m autographing a piece of paper, a hat, a ball or sometimes even a hand.

Then, invariably complete strangers start to ask me for my autograph. I give it to them, and then they ask, “Who did you play for?”

“Oh, I never played,” I answer.

And they start laughing like crazy.

I think I must have autographed items for 20 people last night. My kid’s friends were cracked up.

But the funniest part of the night came when Chris and his friend Nathaniel were looking over the balcony of the Metrodome. “Oh gross!” came the words out of Nathaniel’s mouth. He had discovered that someone had put a piece of chewing gum on his back. Instinctively he took the gum off his back and threw it over the balcony. I think things started to go into slow motion here for Chris and Nathaniel. Because, it was then that they realized that there were people sitting directly below them on the first level.

Chris and Nathaniel watched in horror and amusement as Nathaniel’s gum dropped perfectly into the waiting beer cup of a rather drunk ballpark patron below them. The guy didn’t notice. Chris and Nathaniel’s eyes were riveted now. There would be no taking their eyes off of this fellow until they saw if he would put the cup to his mouth. Within seconds he did just that. Taking the cup to his mouth, he took a large gulp of his malt beverage. And with his gulp, he took in more than just beer, he soon found a piece of gum in his mouth as well.

“I’ll get you for this,” yelled the stranger.

But he had no idea where the gum had come from.

When we dropped Chris and Breanna’s friends off at their home, the four mouths could not tell fast enough the events of our little baseball game. Four mouths talking at once in excited tones about what they had just experienced. It was too much for any adult to take in all at once. Overwhelmed by the rate of communication, Nathaniel’s dad came and talked to me about the night.

And then, we just stopped talking, and watched. Watched as our children were children. Remembering what it was like to be a child myself.

I love baseball, but I love my kids more. It was fun to laugh with them, and experience life in such a fun way. Aren’t you glad that God invented fun? He loves laughter. He loves when families laugh together.

“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Proverbs 17:22

Teachers

We had the most delightful evening last night with three of my heroes — Sue DeYoung, Grace Attema, and Mary Lipscomb. They are the teachers of two of my children, a kindergartener that is full of energy, and a fourth grader who is becoming quite the young man.
When we moved to Minnesota three and a half years ago we didn’t know anyone. It was pretty lonely. As a way to get to know the people that were impacting our children the most, Cyndi, my incredible wife, decided to invite our kid’s teachers over for an elegant dinner, gifts, and a time of affirmation. This is the fourth school year that we’ve been able to do this, and to be honest, I look forward to this evening as much as any holiday.

We pull out all of the stops on this evening. The china comes out of the cabinet, the tablecloth covers the marker stained kitchen table, and our kids help us prepare the meal. They pick what we eat, what we drink, and they pick something else too — how they will affirm their teachers.

I had tears in my eyes last night as I listened to two of my sons share what they loved about their teachers. I watched a tear stream down my wife’s face as she told Mrs. Lipscomb, who has been teaching for over 30 years about the impact that she has had on Christopher’s life. And I watched tears well up in the eyes of three incredible women as they were affirmed — showered with little gifts (candles, lotion, candy, a plant) and a huge gift (AFFIRMATION).

At the conclusion of our time, it was Mrs. Lipscomb who said, “Affirmation is so important. If we don’t get it, we become narcissitic, and start to give it to ourselves. We all need to be affirmed.” She then talked about a box that she has kept on her desk for years. The box must be a treasure to her, for it holds notes of affirmation from various students and parents that she has worked with over the years. She said that when she gets discouraged she opens that box and reads one of those letters.

It’s easy to get discouraged when you work as a teacher. I know I feel it as a youth pastor from time to time. And that’s why Mary is one of my heroes. 30+ years in the classroom! She may have thought that we encouraged her on her little visit to our home, but I assure you what she’s done in the life of Chris, and what Mrs. DeYoung and Mrs. Attema have done in the life of Jeremy far outweigh one night of affirmation.

Have you affirmed someone lately? You know you love it when someone does it for you. Now, go do it for someone else.

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.”
1 Peter 4:8-10

Summer Sports

His face glowed as he took my arm and said, “Dad, did you hear what I got yesterday?”

“No, buddy, what did you get?”

“My soccer stuff!”

I don’t think I’ll ever forget the expression on Jeremy’s face as he tried on his new soccer uniform and proudly displayed it for me. His smile was infectious. His enthusiasm unparalled. My little Jeremy looked so grown up in that uniform.

This summer will mark the first time that all four of our children are playing sports at the same time. Breanna, my sweet daughter will try her hand at soccer. And you know what? Like every Dad, I know that she’ll be the best on her team. I can’t wait to watch her run up and down that field, chasing a ball and a dream.

Chris is going to try baseball. He knows that baseball is his dad’s favorite sport, and part of me wonders if he isn’t playing the sport because he knows how much I love it. I can’t wait to hear the crack of his bat against the ball. To watch him try to field his first fly ball. To see his eyes grow big as a ball comes to him faster than he ever expected, and to see him be amazed as he catches it.

Jeremy, my baseball buddy, is switching to soccer. And you know what? I think he’s made for it.

And, Zachary, my little soon to be four-year-old is going to Rookie Camp for baseball. How fun is that?

From what I’m told there will probably be times this summer when we’ll wonder why we signed up for these sports. But, for today, all I can think is that I’m the luckiest guy on the face of the planet.

Pass the Salt

Have you ever heard the words, “You don’t know me?”

I remember hearing Britney Spears say them when she felt that she was being unjustly judged by Evangelical Christians.

I remember my college roommate saying those words when he felt that I, a caucasion American from the suburbs of Chicago couldn’t possibly understand what it was like to grow up African American in the suburbs of Washington D.C.

I remember a student saying those words when I tried to counsel him before knowing all of the facts.

Last night I spent time at the Twin Cities Emergent Cohort Group. The conversation was fascinating. Tony Jones spoke about what it means to be Christian in the pluralistic society in which we now live. Tony’s analysis of our pluralistic world was correct. You can read brief synopsis of what Tony taught about on his blog: http://theoblogy.blogspot.com. His blogs on What is Practical Theology? An Interdisciplinary Intermezzo, Parts I, II, and III are the ones you’ll want to pay attention to.

As I sat at the group, and for the most part kept my mouth shut, I was reminded again of the fact that we shouldn’t make assumptions about people before we get to know them. It was almost presented that a person who is conservative, and comes from a traditionally conservative background, cannot minister effectively in our postmodern culture.

I am a youth pastor, ministering in a postmodern world, to an emerging people group, who make up an emerging church. Our ministry is growing. God is constantly drawing new people to Himself. Our ministry is engaging culture. We do not view culture as a foe, but as a friend. We are constantly looking for opportunities to get to know people and understand their spiritual experience. And the more people I get to know, the more excited I become about what they teach me. I serve as a Police Chaplain in the town in which I live, teach regularly in public schools and have friends who are on all sides of the political spectrum. Our student ministry includes straight students, gay students, black students, white students, Asian students, Republicans, Democrats, Independents, etc.

And, here’s the shock for my Twin Cities Emergent Cohort Group Friends. I am also a graduate of Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University and Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. Which during the group was pointed out more than once as being a place for narrow minded biggots, who have no idea how to work with other people in culture, and a place that brainwashes its students. Attending Liberty didn’t brainwash me any more than attending Princeton has brainwashed Tony. I can appreciate the fact that Jerry Falwell, has said some pretty stupid things in his life. But, haven’t we all? Tony mentioned in his presentation that Christians, living in a Liberal Democracy need to work together with culture to impact the lives of those that we are called to minister to. Amen. But, let’s not beat other Christians up in the process.

I have served three congregations, from four different denominations (Evangelical Presbyterian, Evangelical Free, Baptist General Conference, and Conservative Congregational Christian Conference), sat under the ministries of a broad range of pastors (Bill Hybels, John MacArthur, Jerry Falwell, Graham Smith, and Leith Anderson), and made friends across Denominational and Religous lines. I think my friends at Twin Cities Emergent have a lot more in common with the Falwells and MacArthurs than they know. Maybe some day that dialogue will be open. Until then, don’t label me. Because, you don’t really know me. And whether we are on the right, the left, or somewhere in between, the church is emerging. Let’s emerge together, as brothers and sisters, and not as adversaries. Then maybe we’ll learn the lesson that the Church at Corinth struggled with:

“I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.”
Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into
the name of Paul? I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized into my name. (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel–not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.”
1 Corinthians 1:10-17