Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Power point minus the slides

A dear friend shared this great new resource with me which is changing the face of presentations across the world.  It's called Prezi, and it's a fun way of making power point more participatory.  Since this follows along with my yearnings for worship reform which encourages more participation and active thought, I've been playing around with reading scripture in Prezi.  Try this out and let me know what you think. To view the presentation, simply hit the play triangle and continue hitting the right button or click where you want to go.  To view in fullscreen mode(the coolest) use the more button.  For more instructions and to try your own hand at making a prezi, go to

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

JC's Pizza

Have you ever found something that your parents saved from your childhood that you're both embarrassed and excited to rediscover? Today my mom was cleaning out her office at work and found a short skit I had written back in college (ten years ago;) for use with explaining faith to kids. I think I wrote it originally for her puppet ministry…which uses a lot of puns, so brace yourself. I was shocked to discover how there are a lot of funny theological explanations in a quite basic and yet deep way. I'm not sure if it is for adults or kids, but I think either group would pick up on some things and just have fun in the mix of it. I think it perfectly describes my understanding of the relationship between grace and sin. Plus it plays with some explanations of the Trinity. Most of all, I think it's a fun way to explain communion and how through the bread and wine/juice we are able to partake in the peace of the Holy Spirit as we meet with Jesus at the table(or counter in this case). There are some things I would adjust after my seminary explorations and more experience with children, but I think it is worth sharing as it is--a snapshot of my understanding at the time of God's desire to fulfill our true hungers in life. So, here's a picture of my mother with one of the puppets they used in VBS to get you in the mood, and enjoy this skit with a joyful and thoughtful heart. Feel free to laugh, criticize or groan…I know I did;)

JC's Pizza

(Customer walks up to the door, sees a sign that says, "knock and the door will be opened to you". He reads it aloud, and then the man at the counter, JC, comes to open the door.

JC: Come on in, how can I help you? (as both walk to the counter)

Customer: Do you have any specials?

JC: You’ve come just in time for our Pizza the Holy Spirit Combo. It includes our famous Pizza the Holy Spirit, plus free breadsticks and Grape juice to fill your soul. It's the combo that will make you so full that you'll never go hungry again."

Customer: (after a brief pause) Grape Juice?

JC: Yeah, you could say it's kinda our gimmick, whenever someone eats the bread and drinks the grape juice they think of this place and my father.

Customer: Your father?

JC: Yeah, He really owns the business and used to run everything until he had me, and when I was old enough he put me to work for him. Now people come to me when they want the Pizza the Holy Spirit. Speaking of, would you like the combo special?

Customer: No thanks. What's the "Forbidden Pizza"?

JC: Well to be honest, it has a really bad after taste and makes a lot of people sick. Still a lot of people order it because they think, "Maybe this time it will be better," but it just gets worse and worse. I wouldn't recommend it. One of Dad's old friends came up with it, and knowing him explains why it's so un-fulfilling. After you eat i,t you're even hungrier than before you ate the pizza. I had one once, and I think I suffered enough for the rest of this town, even enough for the rest of the world. Trust me, it's not worth it.

Customer: So why are you telling me this? Why does it make a difference to you?

JC: I just don't want anyone to suffer like I did.

Customer: Thanks! Thanks kind of you, but I think I will just have a large pepperoni pizza for me and my friends.

JC: Okay, one pepperoni pizza (shouts to the back) One Large Pepperoni.

(Deep voice from back): The pepperoni has gone bad, try the Pizza the Holy Spirit.

JC: Sorry, Did you hear that?

Customer: Sort of, but I couldn't understand what he was saying.

JC: Oh, He said that the Pepperoni has gone bad and asked if you wanted to try the Holy Spirit Combo.

Customer: Well that's okay, but what about the Hamburger or Sausage?

JC(yelling to the back): How's the hamburger and sausage?

(Voice): Unclean, try the pizza the Holy Spirit.

JC: So what do you think?

Customer: I'm sorry, I still didn't understand him.

JC: He said the meat was unclean, which means it would probably go under the Forbidden Pizza Category, if you know what I mean.

Customer: Ah…I see.

JC: Oh, he also asked again if you would like the Pizza the Holy Spirit?

Customer: Um, what about the four cheese pizza?

JC: Well, one of the other workers left the special cheese out too long and they spoiled, so you know, unless you want a plain cheese pizza, you should really try the Pizza the Holy Spirit.

Customer: Well, we definitely don't want a plain pizza. We want something more exciting. OK, I'll try the Pizza the Holy Spirit.

JC: Great! (yelling to the back) One Pizza the Holy Spirit!

Voice: Coming Right Up!

JC: And I'll even throw in the Breadsticks and Grape juice on the house, so you'll have something to remember us by.

Customer: Wow, thanks. So, how much is that with tax?

JC: It's free.

Customer: What do you mean it's free?

JC: All you had to do was ask, then the whole deal is free.

Customer: Wow, that's very gracious of you! How can I ever repay you?

JC: Just go and get the word out about JC's Pizza and the Pizza the Holy Spirit Combo. And your appreciation is enough for me.

Customer: Wow, thanks! You really made my day! I can't wait to enjoy the Pizza the Holy Spirit with my friends.

(Man dressed in Red enters from back with pizza box and bag, and then leaves)
Customer: Was that your dad?

JC: Oh no, that was Pentecost. He brings out the Pizza the Holy Spirit.

Customer: Man, I was kinda hoping to get to meet your Dad.

JC: Well, I'm a lot like him. Pretty much knowing me, lets you know him. He likes to stay pretty incognito and only shows his face to a few people. But I know everyone will get a chance someday when the time comes.

Customer: Ok, well I better get going. Thanks, JC, this visit has really made an impact on me.

JC: You're welcome, I enjoyed it too. Make sure to come back and see us.

Customer: Oh, I will. I will.
(The End or the beginning)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Reflections on English Camp 2011(#8!)

English Camp has always been more than just about teaching English. It's about building relationships across barriers. This happens so quickly in this cross cultural experience, because all are invited to live in that free space of acting outside of your comfort zone. I like to call this "active humility", because you have to be confident in looking ridiculous in front of 150 people. Once you get over the embarrassment or really the fear of doing something difficult, you feel like you can do almost anything. In that zone of discomfort, where you are speaking a new language or experiencing a new culture, you discover new things about yourself and about other people. Throughout the week the kids are invited to do crazy energizers, play funny games and interact with different generations all on a common ground. Sure there is still a teacher--student relationship, but everything is turned upside down from their normal classroom routine.

The students are invited to be creative and many of those who are still school age act as teachers. The volunteers which help us with the classes and serve as team leaders are mostly between the ages of 16 and 25. So, this is a huge opportunity for them to lead the kids as well as an opportunity to work on their own translation and teaching skills. Friendships develop among volunteers as well as among kids and Americans as we step out and do things we might not necessarily do on a regular basis.

This is what I love about camp and mountain top experiences. You take a chance and do things you've always wanted to do, but maybe don't have the chance or guts to do in your normal life. The funny thing is, the more you do it, the more you find that you have more gifts and guts than you knew you did in the first place.

And this was what I felt like made this camp one of the best English Camps ever. Not only did we all accept the challenge to do new things and develop new and old friendships, but we all seemed to grow together in a deeper way. This year some of our veteran volunteers became the leaders and they planned and lead the program. I walked with them through a lot of the planning, and I was so proud to see them follow through with everything they dreamed and planned out. If you haven't read the last post, go ahead and read what one of them felt about their progress in learning and stepping forward with the camp.

One of their ideas was to have each class make a short film in English by the end of the week. This was a huge commitment/gamble and it turned out to be a huge success! Each group had to work together as a team in order to come up with an idea, write the script and star in their own film in four class periods! At the end of the week we showed the films, and they were all so proud of their accomplishments. But, most of all, it was a wonderful memory of their courage to do something out of the ordinary and trust their own gifts as well as the gifts of their teammates.

I think this was also what we felt as leaders during the camp. All of the American and Czech volunteers had to trust their own gifts as well as the gifts of their teammates. It wasn't Americans bringing an English Camp to the Czech Republic. It was Americans and Czechs working together to provide an invitation for the kids to experience life in a new way and learn to trust one another as we all worked toward a common goal. I saw many of my students(and even myself) grow as human beings throughout the week. I know this growth happens every year, but this one seemed to be different as many of us carried new roles and responsibilities. I even feel like we had more discussions about faith, mission and life, as the volunteers(made up of half church members and half non-church members) made decisions about what to teach and how to teach it.

This time last year, I could never have imagined how the camp could exist with a new pastor who didn't speak English, no committed Americans to plan the program of the camp, and the feeling of many veterans which felt like the mission of our camps had come to an end. Instead, it has come through to a new phase and new direction. The new pastor is actually a great match to this congregation. He is energetic and has a commitment to bring new life to the traditions of the ECCB denomination. He came to faith while in youth group and his story resonates with a lot of the youth from our program--a kid from a non-church family finding himself adopted into a new family and making a difference in the world. With his creativity and energy, he seemed to fit naturally into the camp, and his English grew leaps and bounds in a very short time. He speaks perfect German, so I'm sure English comes to him easily through the connections of those languages. He is already committed and willing to help plan for a camp next summer.

And that's where it gets even crazier to me. Every year we have left as if there would not be a camp the next year, but this year seemed to set the stage for more camps in the future. Everyone seemed to be on board for another one next summer--planning team included. So, while this is exciting, there still need to be a lot of things ironed out before any commitments can be made. A Czech team needs to commit to preparing the program, the church needs to commit to hosting the camp and an American team needs to commit to coming. Many have given hopeful commitments, but we will know the team players as our lives unfold in the coming months.

One thing is clear: These relationships will continue to grow in the future. Whether the camp continues as an American English Camp delivered by Czechs or whether we all find ourselves working together once again, we will continue to grow because of the camp throughout our lives.

As I look toward the future, I'm so glad that we have these films to watch and remind ourselves that no dream is too extreme if you dare to share your gifts with others. It makes me thankful that God created us with specific gifts which empower our community to do the impossible. I don't think God is done with us yet. And I'm definitely thankful for that too!