The Most Important Lesson

We have been taught many lessons in our life.  Every family has a set of values that they try to abide by and friends have influences on us as well.  However, I believe the most important lesson we have learned is in Kindergarden.  Enjoy this poem and try to imagine how you can apply these important lessons in your life.

Teacher plays with children in kindergarten.


All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sand pile at school.

These are the things I learned:

  • Share everything.
  • Play fair.
  • Don’t hit people.
  • Put things back where you found them.
  • Clean up your own mess.
  • Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
  • Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
  • Wash your hands before you eat.
  • Flush.
  • Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
  • Live a balanced life – learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
  • Take a nap every afternoon.
  • When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.
  • Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: the roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
  • Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die. So do we.
  • And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned – the biggest word of all – LOOK.

Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation. Ecology and politics and equality and sane living.

Take any one of those items and extrapolate it into sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your family life or your work or government or your world and it holds true and clear and firm. Think what a better world it would be if we all – the whole world – had cookies and milk at about 3 o’clock in the afternoon and then lay down with our blankies for a nap. Or if all governments had as a basic policy to always put things back where they found them and to clean up their own mess.

And it is still true, no matter how old you are, when you go out in the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.

What do babies think about?

I have been a father for about five and a half years.  I have two wonderful kids who I love very much.  The one question that I have asked myself over and over again as a parent is…..what is going inside the head of my children?

I know that babies don’t have the ability to think as we do —  but what would they be thinking if they did have a developed language?  I know this is not a new idea.  There is a 1989 film that brought this idea to life in the movie Look Who’s Talking. But it is one of the first things I ask myself  when I see a new little baby.

The time that I really wanted to know what a baby was thinking happened during the summer of 2005.  As a part of my training to become a pastor I had to spend a summer as a chaplain in a hospital setting.  Now I have to be honest with you – before I started this experience I was trying to do everything I could NOT to actually be in the hospital.  Before my Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) experience I had only bad experiences in hospitals and I was not sure how I would handle the summer.

I ended up going to Cooper Hospital in Camden, NJ.  This hospital met many of my requirements.  First I could get to it by public transportation.  This was important because at the time we only had one car.   Another thing I liked about this program was that I could do half of my CPE experience in the hospital and half could be in the community serving in another capacity.

Anyway, I got to the hospital and my the group of others that I would be spending my time with for the entire summer.  We did some training and then we had to choose which department we would be in for the summer.  I ended up in the pediatric unit and the psychiatric unit.

I want to share two of the many experiences that really impacted me that summer.

The first had to do with a baby less than a year old.  The baby was sick,  not injured and she needed fluids and antibiotics.  She was in the hospital for about 2 weeks.  The one thing that stuck out in my mind during her hospital stay was that I did not ONCE see her parents, or any other family member.  I can’t remember how she got to the hospital or how she left (I assume her parents did that).  But I would visit her everyday and I would talk with her and hold her little hand and sometimes I would cry with her.  Babies that young need constant care and attention and I thought that I could give her some of that when I could. I knew that the nurses were doing their best at spending time with her as well but they were caring for many, many children at the same time.

I also prayed for/with her.  Now this brought up some issues in my group because I was making assumptions about the faith practices of this baby and the family that she belongs too.  Since I did not have any information about a faith practice and I did not have anyone to talk with about about it, I thought it was okay to pray for the wellness of this baby and for the family unit.  But the question that was posed to me was “is it appropriate for me to impose my faith on someone who is not old enough to choose their own faith?”  I still wrestle with that question because I am not sure how to answer it.  I am making that choice for my own children but do I have a right to do that with a complete stranger?  Would I be offending the baby (or more likely the family) by praying with this baby?

My answer is no –

I say that because  I was praying for her health and wellness, but I say that with a slight hesitation…….  I can see the other side of the argument as well but if I had the opportunity to do back and do it all over again I would still make the same choice.

The other baby that will forever have an imprint on my heart came to the hospital because of an accident.  She was the same age as my son at the time.  I walked into the situation about 15 min after the baby came to the hospital.  Doctors and nurses worked on the baby for awhile but they could not bring her back to life.  This was my first experience with the death of a child.  It was worse for me because my son was the same age and I could not stop myself from imagining him in the same situation.  I went home that night and I held Logan so tight telling him over and over again that I loved him.

I was glad to be there on one hand because I was able to be a support for the parents and the hospital staff.  I talked with them, cried with them, and tried to listen to them and talk with them as they asked the unanswerable questions.

Besides my own upbringing, I feel these experiences have had a significant impact on how I am as a father.  I have realized from them the importance of contact with my children and cherishing every moment I have with them.  I don’t have a constant fear of them getting hurt or dying.  But I do appreciate all the time I have with them.  They are going to be young for so long and then I will lose them to teenageism, collegeishness, and adulthood.

What do babies think about?  I don’t know – what I do know is that we can learn from babies just as much as anybody else.

My Twitter Experience at the National Youth Gathering

Twitter was a BIG thing at the ELCA National Youth Gathering.  I was glad to take part in it.  If you want to see all the twitter posts click here.

But below you will read about my experience through twittering.  It was one of the ways I tried to stay connected with people from St. Mark’s Baldwinsville and others who wanted to follow along with what we were doing.
Made it to JFK @ 1:15am. -next flight leaves at 1:49am but we will see #jjj09  1:20 AM Jul 27th from TweetDeck

Starting the long trip home ETA in Syracuse- midnight #JJJ09  2:58 PM Jul 26th from TweetDeck

AmazIng to commune with 38 thousand people- we ARE the body of Christ #JJJ09 12:21 PM Jul 26th from TweetDeck

RT @edkay77: the closing worship altar is made of painted house door and a drop cloth for the linens. nice touch. #jjj09 awesome!  11:02 AM Jul 26th from TweetDeck

We are Worshiping with 37,000 Lutherans at the Louisiana Superdome worship with us #JJJ09  10:21 AM Jul 26th from TweetDeck

We are Worshiping with 37,000 Lutherans at the Louisiana Superdome worship with us… #jjj09  10:19 AM Jul 26th from TweetDeck We made it on the floor for worship!!!! #JJJ09  9:48 AM Jul 26th from TweetDeck

RT @lenmason: Ever see 37,000 people take communion at one time? Live Web cast now. All are welcome. #jjj09 9:39 AM Jul 26th from TweetDeck

RT @Schnekloth: New Orleans has shown us true hospitality and accompaniment this week, and we are blessed. #JJJ09  7:59 AM Jul 26th from TweetDeck

Join us for the last night in the SuperDome: Live Webcast of #JJJ09  7:21 PM Jul 25th from TweetDeck

It is hot in Baton Rouge LA – But the painting is done and it looks gooood.  1:42 PM Jul 25th from TweetDeck

On our way to Baton Rouge, LA for service. #jjj09  8:29 AM Jul 25th from TweetDeck

Up since 5 to begin Day 3: Servant Life Launch! A day of service for the city of New Orleans #JJJ09  7:03 AM Jul 25th from TweetDeck

@ELCAyouth nope please add away!  6:23 AM Jul 25th from TweetDeck in reply to ELCAyouth

Blog Update on our church’s Youth Gathering Experience #JJJ09 12:02 AM Jul 25th from web

Awe yea Skillet!!!! #jjj09  8:54 PM Jul 24th from TweetDeck

RT @nealffischer: Looking forward to the Live Webcast of #JJJ09 at the New Orleans SuperDome! 7:28 PM Jul 24th from TweetDeck I have been singing “oh them lions for more than 15 years and I still love it! #jjj09 7:19 PM Jul 24th from TweetDeck I have been singing “oh them lions for more than 15 years and I still love it! 7:18 PM Jul 24th from TweetDeck

Great day today! Sausage Gravy and biscuits for breakfast – I saw Bill Bixby, Chelsea Q, and Bishop Jerge! Relaxing until the dome #JJJ09 4:40 PM Jul 24th from web

Waiting for the interaction center #jjj09 11:32 AM Jul 24th from TweetDeck Vanderkamp Rocks! #jjj09  8:51 AM Jul 24th from TweetDeck worship with Tangled Blue @apakans #jjj09 8:44 AM Jul 24th from TweetDeck

Going to bed so I can worship with Tangled Blue tomorrow morning!! #JJJ09 1:25 AM Jul 24th from web

RT @gbrenna: Know that you’re loved. Receive it… Then give it away. (@jaybakker) #jjj09 8:25 PM Jul 23rd from TweetDeck @jaybakker is on talking about love 8:17 PM Jul 23rd from TweetDeck

RT @erikullestad: The lead singer in the House Band looks like Coach Taylor’s wife in “Friday Night Lights”…I’m just sayin’. #JJJ09/agreed  8:06 PM Jul 23rd from TweetDeck

I love the house band #JJJ09  7:36 PM Jul 23rd from TweetDeck

RT @ELCAyouth: Live video from #ELCA Youth Gathering will resume Thurs (7/23) at 6:30 p.m. CDT. Watch at 7:32 PM Jul 23rd from TweetDeck at the superdome ready to hear @jaybakker much better seats tonight 7:13 PM Jul 23rd from TweetDeck

Driving the trolly in NOLA #jjj09  3:26 PM Jul 23rd from TweetDeck
Headed to do some touristy stuff in the French Quarter #jjj09 1:55 PM Jul 23rd from web walking along the riverwalk #jjj09 10:53 AM Jul 23rd from TweetDeck

@ Adult Leader Orientation – 7:30AM I hope they can answer all our questions #JJJ09.  8:29 AM Jul 23rd from TweetDeck

RT @Schnekloth: Hoping tomorrow the words are on the BIG screens we were in nosebleeds and couldn’t read the lyrics to songs #JJJ09 us too  12:44 AM Jul 23rd from TweetDeck dinner a the crazy lobster # jjj09 10:49 PM Jul 22nd from TweetDeck Landed in NOLA #jjj09  5:35 PM Jul 22nd from TweetDeck

Meeting up with other youth groups in JFK to fly our last leg to NOLA 1:42 PM Jul 22nd from TweetDeck

in the airport getting ready to go to the gathering #jjj09  10:57 AM Jul 22nd from TweetDeck

RT @christinaauch: RT @netzercurator: AP calls #JJJ09 “largest service ministry even ever attempted in three days…” // Please RT  8:41 PM Jul 21st from TweetDeck

RT @twirlingforfun: Quote from the street, “The town is filled with Lutherans, we are safe.” #JJJ09 #TCLC– awesome!!!  8:38 PM Jul 21st from TweetDeck

RT @lenmason: Bishop sighting! #JJJ09 (via @j8ke)  4:36 PM Jul 21st from TweetDeck

RT @j8ke: Bishop in the house #JJJ09 4:32 PM Jul 21st from TweetDeck

New Orleans Day Three

Today is day three of our trip to New Orleans.  It has been exciting to say the least!!

We got up bright an early to see Tangled Blue at worship this morning.  It was great!!  They remembered us from Vanderkamp just a few weeks ago.  To our surprise another Lutheran Church from our conference (King of Kings) was at worship with Tangled Blue.

We then proceeded to have a sit down breakfast.  Now for those who know me well – if I could have just one meal a day it would be breakfast.  I LOVE breakfast!!  This place had a buffet and I was SUPER excited when they had my favorite – Biscuits and Sausage Gravy!!!  Needless to say this was a start to an awesome day!!

We proceeded to the Interaction Center after breakfast.  At the Interaction Center there was a setup of satations that the kids could go too.  There was stuff to get them to think about Justice in their lives and then there were things they could do as “hands on” projects.  It was HUGE and included a zip line.

We stayed there for a few hours and then we came back to the hotel.  Everyone was saying that they needed a break so we chilled for a bit and then went to the Super Dome.

We had another amazing experience at the Super Dome (again I will reflect more on these after I return home).

We finally came back to the hotel and had devotions and going to bed.  We are getting up at 5am to be at the Super Dome by 6:30am to leave for our Servant Project.  We really have no idea what we are doing at this point, but whatever it is I hope it will be fun and I know that it will have a major impact on a community and the lives of many, many people.  Thanks be to God.

New Orleans Day Two

Yesterday July 23rd was our second day at the National Youth Gathering.  It was another great day.  If you are following me on Twitter then you would of seen lots of pictures and updates.  But I will try and give you a recap here.  Before I go too much further I wanted to let you know that there is a live feed on the web for our gathering time every night.  Click here to access it

I got up early on Thursday to go to the adult meeting.  There were about 50 of us at the meeting and the leader said that this was his 25th adult leader orientation.  It gave us the overview of our time here, things to do and not to do and where to go if we needed help.  We then picked up our bags for the week which included a new Lutheran Bible – Jesus, Justice and Jazz style.  We also picked up our t-shirts for the service day.

After distribution of the materials we went to our learning time.  This was a section of the gathering where the kids had an opportunity to learn.  There were workshops, self guided centers, and integrators.  The workshops were great, the kids got alot out of them.  The learning centers were fun.   It was basically a self guided workshop that the kids could participate in, there was one called “Making space for strangers” that I heard alot about.  The Integrators were an opportunity to tie everything together.  I thought that was very helpful for the kids.  Overall it was a good time and some of the kids shared about their learning experiences at our evening devotional time.

After the learning center time we took a trolly to the French Quarter area for lunch and shopping.  We had a great lunch and spent the afternoon at the French Market.  It was great and everyone was able to pick something up to take home with them.

After that we walked 1.5 miles to the Superdome for the closing time. The closing time was great and I will share more details about the speakers in a later post.

After the Super dome closing time we went to the Hilton where about 5,000 kids were running around going to different activities, eating snacks, going to a dance and just hanging out.

We finished our night with a devotional time and had some pizza and went to bed.  It was a perfect end to a great day.

Tomorrow (Saturday) we head out to our service day.  There are lots of people doing service projects around here.   S0 many in fact we are a part of the largest convention in the city of New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina.

The Associated Press is calling this youth gathering the “largest service ministry event ever attempted in three days”.  Now that is amazing.

New Orleans Day One

As I mentioned earlier I have had some Internet problems so I was not able to post a “wrap-up” after each day.  But I hope I have straighten that out so I am able to bring you up to date information about our trip.  I was going to post pictures in the blog posts (and I might add them in later) but the connection that I do have at the hotel is very spotty at best.

Day One

Things actually started out pretty well.  Everyone made it to the airport and we went through security with no hassle what-so-ever.  We were actually on the same flight with King of Kings Lutheran Church in Liverpool.  I did feel somewhat sorry for all of the “non youth gathering” people flying with us, but the kids did really well.

We flew from Syracuse to JFK and had a VERY short layover.  We joined up with even more Lutheran Churches at JFK and made it to New Orleans with no problems (thank you Jesus).

We got on buses and we were driven by our bus guide L. Jordan.  It was nice to get a local perspective on what we saw as we were driven into the city of New Orleans.

We did not have very much time to spare once we got to the hotel.  We rushed up to our rooms and then made the 1 mile walk to the Superdome.  We were late getting there but it was a good taste as to what we were to expect later on.  What we did see we really enjoyed.

For me it was amazing to see 36,000 youth and adults all there for the same reason.  It is crazy for me to imagine the service work that we are doing and the excitement that is in the air.  (more and more reflections as we go along)

After the events in the Superdome we walked back towards the hotel looking for something to eat.  There were 36,000 other people looking for the same thing.  We ended up at the Crazy Lobster for dinner.  They were planning on closing at 10:00 and we arrived close to that time.  However, about 150 others showed up so they stayed open to serve us food.  It seems like they were not expecting us but they did welcomed the business.

After dinner we headed back to the hotel exhausted, so we basically went to bed.

Day one was great!  I can see why groups do leave a day early – I did not like the rushing around but we made it with no troubles and that is the best thing that I could ask for.

Tomorrow I will write up day two (today) and share that with you!  Stay Tuned.