Whirlwind in Philly

<%image(20051121-julie.barb.dog.jpg|216|162|Barb and Julie)%> Dunkin Donuts, The National Dog Show, The Golden Dawn II, IKEA, Assi Supermarket, an interview by Nydia Han, and a few short visits with family and friends. That’s how we spent our weekend. The main objective was The Dog Show actually. Julie (right in pic) and her friend Barb (left in pic) have a tradition of going to the dog show and playing with the dogs all day. I took the opportunity to meet a friend for breakfast at our favorite diner, visit family, hit IKEA with a vengeance, and then tag team the Assi supermarket with Julie before going to visit some more family. I think we need another weekend just to rest!

I had a great talk with Josh over breakfast at our favorite spot, the Golden Dawn. We were discussing how things get messy when we separate truth from love and vice versa. There’s also the problem of dividing the Spirit from truth. I think we spend a lot of time running from one extreme to the other. We have also been wrestling with the meaning of the Kingdom of God. That’s where a lot of truth and love has to come in. To give one without the other removes power and effectiveness from ministry. Implied in the love there has to be some sort of action.

And so the issue often becomes: “We care about the Gospel, we care about the poor, what should we do?” There are thousands of worthy causes out there, and it’s all too easy to get caught up in defending a nebulous group of poor people. So where is God pulling on our hearts? What brings passion to our lives? Is it sustainable agricultural development? Does it relate to the AIDS crisis in Africa? How about genocide somewhere in the world? Maybe we need to help the people in our backyard somehow. I don’t know. I’m the chief offender many times in doing nothing. And when I do something it always ends up being harder and far more costly than I would have expected. And helping the poor in your area does not always leave you thinking that you actually helped. Could I have done more? Should I have done something else to help? You may have filled a need for a day, but have you really helped them take a step forward? Have you promoted justice? Will they be any better off a month from now? A year from now? These are some of the issues that I have wrestled with.

Enough of those ramblings.

After some discussion of weighty issues, Josh filled me in on the Western Night they had at youth group. It wasn’t his idea. I was relieved.

My sisters go to this same youth group and all I ever hear about is their fun activities. I know that Josh has his focus on Jesus and letting God work on the hearts of the kids. But I fear that the youth program/culture of the church is working at cross purposes in a sense. We should have game nights, and activities. They build up group chemistry. No doubt about that. But in the midst of the high octane programs, are we missing out on God? Are kids meeting with God corporately when they gather? Or is God a side show in the carnival planned each evening?

I’m not an expert here. Tony Jones is. He wrote a great article in the Stories of Emergence book. His point: he’s a youth pastor, not a concert promoter. I know a youth pastor who took that message to heart. He focused on ministry, Bible study, worship, prayer, all of the things that kids need. Of course the complaining came. “We should go to more concerts!” “Why aren’t we going to the Creation Festival?” “Why doesn’t our group have more activities?” The youth group sacred cow was kicking and screaming all the way to the butcher. My friend in youth ministry is doing something that I know Josh wants to do. It’s hard to subvert a culture that has been in place for years. I pray that my sisters will eventually be telling stories of how God showed up at youth group, how they served someone, etc. Fun and games have their place, but I fear they have become the main attraction for some groups.

On to less weighty issues.

My big expedition for the trip was picking up maple laminate flooring at IKEA for our place. Since we’re renting the place, we just have to put it in. The owner of the place generously paid for the floor. That meant we had to drive 200+ square feet of flooring all the way back to Vermont in our Saturn SL1. It was like a tank. Stopping was a jarring experience. We made it. I can’t say the same for the brake pads.

While in the Philly area we had to feed our Asian food love by going to the Assi Supermarket (even if they’re not nice to their Latino employees). We loaded up on rice noodles, pad thai sauce, bean sprouts, fungi, and who knows what else Julie picked up. The major highlight though was the rice cake machine that shot rice cakes into a bin every five seconds. It was really, really loud. Julie picked up 20+ rice cakes for two bucks. The novelty was too much to resist.

<%image(20051121-nydia han.jpg|67|84|han)%> One of the more unusual parts of our trip was being interviewed by Nydia Han of Channel 6, ABC News in Philly. Nydia is a spunky and wonderfully nice lady who does consumer reports investigations. Our TV fast has kept us from seeing her on TV, so it wasn’t strange to meet her. She was just like anybody else to us. That helped. Sitting down to chat with her about our UHaul disaster was strangely normal, except of course for the camera and lights set up in our living room.

We told Nydia the story of our tire that was blown out, how we waited all day for help, how no one came until the next day, how we spent hours on the phone trying get the reimbursement they promised us, and how UHaul didn’t give us a quarter of the $$$ that they should have. To our satisfaction, she was appropriately appalled like any good consumer reports inspector should be. Of course the angle of her story was more on the outrage and shock of people who have been ripped off by UHaul. We’re over it, so it was hard to conjure up the emotion she probably needed.

In any case, I feel like we had a good chance to appropriately call UHaul on their negligence. I think God was honored because we spoke of the broken system and the need for us to forgive them. Our spirit was not one of angry reprisal. I truly do pray that God will prompt this company to revamp things. I also pray that more disasters will be prevented as a result of this report.

The report will air Wednesday, Nov. 30th on the 11 pm news. Go get em’ Nydia!

One other highlight of the weekend was the new route we were told about. Apparently you can go from Vermont to Philly and barely ever drive on a highway. Simply take NY 22 S to the Taconic Parkway S, dodge deer like crazy, take 84 West for a spell, and then take 209 S in PA to 33 S and then pick up 611 at 78. 611 will drop you right into the northern suburbs of Philly, our former home.