Random Update

Originally posted on my long dead Xanga page.

Gee golly, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted. (That’s what all the cool kids are saying these days – gee golly… when you’re a youth minister it’s easy to stay hip.) So much has happened that I’ve had very little time to document it because I’ve been too busy living it. To save time and clear out all the cobwebs, I’ll just give it to you in brief factiods before I start my major rambling.

1) I’ve officially graduated! I got my diploma in the mail a few weeks ago and now it hanging up in my office at church. Speaking of my office…

2) My officially title at church is now Youth and Children’s Ministry Coordinator. That means that I am working more at church and having to spend less time in another job. It also means I get to play a lot of silly games with small children. Finally, I’m working with people I can relate to! As far as who I’m working with…

3) LifeWay no longer has its shackles on me! To quote Mary Mary, “Take the shackles off my feet so I can dance!” And I literally did dance around the room when I found out this job was going to work out at church because I knew it meant I could give my two weeks notice. (I was at home at the time… I actually was so involved that I ran right into the door frame of the computer room. It’s hard to stop me when I’m gettin’ my groove on.) Don’t let The Man bring you down! But with every good thing there must come complications, such as…

4) My pastor resigned the day I was announced as Children’s Dude. (That’s how I see myself.) No, I didn’t run him off. ( I don’t think… then again, one week before I put in my notice, my manager at LifeWay resigned too… hmmm…) He’s going to a church in Dickson. I think that all the difficulties at my church – lack of commitment, laziness, inconsistancy, etc. – just got to be too much. That makes me the senior staff member now. Oy vey! (That’s what all the hip Orthodox Jews are saying these days – oy vey.) Actually I think it’s going to be for the best. We’ll just go from scratch with a fresh start. Additionally…

5) I am now a substitute teacher for the Knox and Anderson County school systems. I gots to pay the bill somehow, so I figured at least this way I’m still playing with kids most of the time… or hiding from them under the desk. Anything else? How could I forget…

6) Right now, my current obsession is Mel Gibson’s new movie The Passion of the Christ. I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited about the release of a movie as I am about this one. It opens in just a little over a week on Ash Wednesday, February 25. If it wasn’t for the fact that I have to teach the youth on Wednesdays, I’d be at the theatre that night. The movie’s getting great reviews from advance audiences (at least the Christian ones) and stirring up controversy everywhere else. Be sure and check out the website (www.thepassionofthechrist.com) if you want to find out more. I just can’t wait to see what kind of impact this movie is going to make. I’ll be sure and post after I see it too.

Anyway, I guess we’re all up to date now in the world of Jody. I really need to work on making my site less ugly now that I’m not using the free Xanga premium. Right now though, I have a very sleep pug in my lap that I need to put to bed.

The LifeWay Rant… Uncensored!

Originally published on my long dead Xanga page.

The countdown to freedom is on… I only have four more days left as an employee of LifeWay Christian Stores. I think I’m keeping everything in perspective pretty well. I mean, the night that I found out that I was going to be able to give my two weeks notice the day, I only danced around the house for two or three hours (so much so that I accidentally ran smack into the doorframe.) Now, I only have to worry about one thing about LifeWay – exactly what I should include in my letter. The temptation is to simply say thank God that’s over and never finish my magnum opus against The Man (a.k.a. LifeWay). However, I think I almost have some kind of responsibility to look beyond myself and write this letter, maybe to improve LifeWay, maybe just to find out if they really care at all about a former employee (I love the way that sounds… former *sigh*). To help me keep focus, I’m watching Shaft and listening to Public Enemy. Fight the power! Even white kids like me have to fight The Man from time to time.

Just to get a little feedback, here’s what I have so far in my letter. Please leave some comments about what I can do to make it a little better. I know I’ll have to tone it down a little bit for it to be taken seriously, but here’s my unedited, uncut version. And now without further ado, I present…

The LifeWay Rant – Uncensored!

Dear sir or madam:

I recently quit my position as an employee at a LifeWay retail store after several months, and during that time, I have noticed several things about the chain that raise serious concerns. The first of these objections is over plus selling, the suggestion (read “pushing”) of particular products to all customers as they check out. At my store, this is talked about with utmost seriousness and almost worshipful reverence. We are repeatedly told that we should push the products selected by corporate to “every customer, every time.” We are constantly reminded that the money earned from selling these items goes to the cooperative program. We are frequently informed of the ministry that comes from one of these low-cost (and frequently low-quality) sales items. However, I believe that there are times when plus selling is, at best, morally suspicious or, at worst, just plain wrong. If an unchurched customer comes into the store grieving over the death of her only child, I will be there to minister to her. I will guide her to resources to help her deal with her loss, I will give her insights from the Bible, and I will pray with her. After all this, I absolutely REFUSE to pitch a Veggie Tales movie or a Bible cover to this person. To do so would be insensitive and irresponsible and possibly detrimental to the ministry we could have provided. The “every customer, every time” philosophy ignores the individual and his or her specific ministry needs. Despite these objections, plus selling no matter who the customer is or what they need is continually promoted in our store with a Pharisee-like rigidity. When I am on the sales floor, I am there to minister to the people in the store at the time. Some customers might genuinely benefit from our plus sell items, and to those I will suggest them; others neither need them, nor will they be forced upon them by me.

Additionally, I am disturbed to see that by mid-October, our store was already completely decorated for Christmas and much of our sales floor was filled with Christmas gift product. Christians are constantly noting that the secular world has forgotten the true meaning of Christmas. We complain that our culture has over-commercialized the holiday and replaced the baby Jesus with Santa Claus and presents. At LifeWay, the baby Jesus is there in a variety of beautiful porcelain and stained glass gift items. We also have 344 small glass angels arranged in a Christmas tree shaped floor stack. We have two lighted Christmas trees, garland with bows, festive music, and even a special sales training meeting to prepare us for the Christmas rush – in October. Over-commercialized? Guilty! We have copied the world’s model for Christmas celebration, only we have justified all the gifts and decorations by taking on a cheap religious sentiment. I have heard the argument that we have to be ready this early because all the other stores have their Christmas product out and we don’t want to be left behind. Since when are we supposed to copy the world? Just because secular stores push secular Christmas with unrelenting eagerness doesn’t mean that we should do the same with a religious one. I am as festive and celebratory as anyone when it comes to Christmas – when the time is right. However, this year it seems that I won’t be able to celebrate very much of Christmas at all. With all our emphasis on Christmas and family for our customers, employs are forced by corporate into a schedule that forbids them from taking even one day off from the day after Thanksgiving until Christmas day. Hypocritical? Guilty. I have been told that this is simply the way that retail works, but shouldn’t Christian retail be different?

If our primary goal, our only goal, is ministry, then why does LifeWay place such an emphasis on appearance and image? Would an associate be any less effective as a minister with tattooed arms or a pierced face? Can God’s word only be life changing when presented by clean-cut men and women in ironed button-down shirts and pressed khakis? LifeWay has become a bastion of conservatism in dress and appearance, and has effectively isolated those who do not fit that image. Conservatism of doctrine need not be linked with conservatism of appearance. I have seen applicants’ resumes be rejected because they didn’t wear a tie to drop off their application. At the same time, I rarely see teenagers in the store, especially those who would not fit into the mold that many Baptists believe we should all fit in. Though we stock CDs by artists like Disciple and Living Sacrifice (industrial heavy metal) and T-bone (West Coast rap), I believe that we would prefer that the people who would most benefit from this style of music not come into our store because it might upset the conservative older customers. God’s word is for all. Jesus’ appearance was never made to conform to a public perception of what a religious leader should be. He ate with tax collectors and conversed with prostitutes. He went into the streets, bringing His message of hope to those who could benefit from it most. LifeWay takes great care to uphold an image, but that image is one of church, not of Christ.

On the whole, what LifeWay says and what happens at the store level do not match. Is it about ministry or sales? Do we really believe that family should be a priority in our own lives even if it means that work becomes less important? Remember, Jesus himself spoke most harshly to those Pharisees who claimed one view but did not live it out in their lives. Having a corporate philosophy and goal of ministering to customers is admirable, but if it is not lived out, it is completely and utterly useless.

That’s it folks. Let me know what you think. Peace out, brothers. Don’t let The Man bring you down. Word.

Great Job, Stockboy

Originally published on my long dead Xanga page.

I’m not sure that I have anything very specific to write about tonight, but I feel like I shouldn’t leave this page alone for too long or it might die on me. I won’t be able to write any more long prolific posts during my lunch break because I am no longer allowed to bring my computer with me. My boss, in his infinite wisdom, has decided that all problems at LifeWay can somehow be traced back to me, and so now he wants to remove any possible “distractions.” It must be working though. *cough* I was told today that I was doing a “great job” after being told only two days ago that my performance was “mediocre at best.” (Yes, he actually told me that.) Oh well, hopefully something will work out in the very near future that will allow me to turn in the keys that I am “very privilaged to be holding” and walk out the door that I am “very privilaged to have a key to.” You better believe that letter I’m writing to LifeWay grows a little more each day.

On the plus side, I recieved a bootleg CD copy of the long out of print (and banned) Disney classic Song of the South today. I haven’t heard Uncle Remus’s stories about Brer Rabbit and the briar patch or the tar baby since I was a little boy. I’m really excited! Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah….

I guess that’s about it tonight. I better go get some rest so I can do another “great job” again tomorrow. (By the way, for those that don’t know, I work in the stockroom. The reason for my compliment for the big chief today was because I took a lot of boxes that were sitting on the floor, and I moved them to a shelf. I know this sounds like a huge feat that I should be very proud of, but, well… it’s not, and, well…. I’m not. I gotta be able to use my brain a little more each day or it may just turn into stockroom soup.) Time to go for now.

Change on the Horizon?

Originally published on my long dead Xanga page.

(I intended to make this post last night, seeing as I wrote it yesterday, but sometimes you just don’t get the kind of copy and paste time that you need. C’est la vie.)

I’m back in the employee break room for another bowl of Bi-Lo chunky soup eaten out of a fine china bowl. Doesn’t that sound like the beginning of some very sad novel? It’s the type of story beginning that involves a very depressed man beaten down by society doing… something. No one ever said I had the thing written. I just like the line.

Actually today is not one that would fit into that particular novel, unless it was to add some kind of cruel irony to the story. It looks like freedom from LifeWay may be closer than I had originally hoped. (Today I was told that I needed to be careful because the khaki pants I wore yesterday weren’t khaki enough. Those dark pants won’t cut it at LifeWay.) The children’s minister at my church just resigned. I know that normally doesn’t sound like good news, but when you’re the underpaid youth minister; it has a glimmer of hope to it. You see, once I heard that the position was open, I spoke to the pastor about the idea of combining that position with my current one, making me the youth and children’s minister. He spoke to the personnel team and apparently some kind of meeting has been held to discuss this possibility. Last night at church I was asked how the meeting went so someone could see if I was “it” yet. I didn’t even know there was a meeting. Another person asked if I was leading the Wednesday night children’s program now. On top of this hearsay, the personnel director asked for an updated resume. Sounds promising to me. Hopefully, last night was the herald of some new chapter in a much less ironic story than the soup-and-china one.

Our new little puppy has been providing Alanna and me endless entertainment. He’s tiny enough to fit in one hand, and he loves to bite and gnaw on anything you put in front of him. I was awakened this morning by the little guy chewing on the hair on the back of my head. Just gentle little tugs; he’s not big enough to do any real damage. Brownie, our other dog, thinks he’s a new chew toy that just happens to be made out of flesh instead of cotton. She bats him around and attempts to fit his entire head into her mouth. He responds by trying to nurse on her – I don’t think I’ve ever seen her jump so high. Oh, and he squeaks. Too small to have a real bark of any kind, he just squeaks. Eventually we’ll be able to get some sleep around the house again. 🙂

After work I plan to stop by Blockbuster on the way home to rent a Looney Tunes 2-DVD set. Maybe I won’t be sleeping tonight after all.