Monday, December 15, 2008



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Saturday, November 08, 2008

What a week!

Had a great week, I think.

-Started with the uncertainty of the political process that is America, can't say I miss those ads, and talk of the "what ifs".
-Next was election day voting, and a free cup of Starbucks; by the way, the worst cup I've ever had from there.
-Then the results, with a feeling of hope for some, and despair for others.  
-Then went to the city to get Terry's visa for her upcoming trip to Brazil.  Chicago had a renewed sense of pride Wednesday.  
-Then spent two days with a former student for the purpose of officiating her wedding; thanks to Greg, Glenda, Lindsey and Brandon for the invitation.  It was a fun day.
-It ended with the reception, and more political talk with some older Christian folk.  I heard some things.

We talk like God is sovereign, yet we say we struggle with whether we should pray for President-elect Obama.

We believe our government is corrupt, yet are admonished by Paul in his letter to the church in Rome to pray for a government and it's leaders that were more corrupt than what we have, at least, that's my read.

We talk about where our country is in big trouble following "this" election, to be honest, I'm not sure what we've been watching the last two years, because it appears to me that we have sufficiently arrived in that city.

Why is it that we are all quick to judge the motive of "them", and always give "our guy's" motive the benefit of the doubt, even when given good reason to question it?

I struggle at deep levels with issues like abortion, same gender marriage, infanticide, and government controlled anything.  At the same time, it seems like we could all use a little more compassion.

We either believe that God is at work everywhere at all times, or we don't.  If he is, that means my prayer for a "place" or "position" shouldn't change because of a "person".  Maybe it means I should pray more.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Go Bucks, Beat Penn State!!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I hate that sound!

Well, I recently lost my battle to remain out of a chair that I don't like to sit in; the dentist chair. It's one of the areas I'd rather not have to maneuver in my life. It's complicated by the fact that my brother-in-law is one, you know, one of those guys. I'm always afraid of what will be found, I'd almost rather live without knowing.

So, last week, I went. It was a rainy, gloomy, cold, damp day. Just the kind of day it should have been when you're going to the dentist, at least, that's how I think. Now my dentist is a great guy, and the ladies who work with him are just as nice. It's just, that sound. I hate that sound.

Probably not the one you're thinking of, I'm not referring to the drill. Thankfully there was no enamel and decay being drilled into while I was there. It's that sound of scraping off the plaque. The sound of metal against bone. It makes me weak in the knees to think about it as I write. It's a sound that keeps me out of the chair, to be honest with you. And when the sound deadens, sticking to the "soft spot", that makes you want to jump out of the chair, oh you all know what I mean.

Well, the first time in 5 years found me cavity-free. Nothing showed up on the x-rays. My fillings seem to be holding up. The only thing I was told was to go a little easier on my gums. The scrubbing only weakens the enamal that's left on my teeth. But the result is I feel better about my mouth, the floss goes through easier, and I'm using a softer brush.

Now, that wasn't that bad, was it. So what do you think happened when I went home; Terry asked me if I'd scheduled my next appointment. Are you kidding?!?! Give me a break! A week to recover, please.

It probably won't be five years before I go again, I'm sure of that. But I'm not looking to go back next month either.

What's next for me; can you say colonoscopy?

Friday, October 17, 2008

I have blogger block.  Just thinking more about the church, how much I love it, and how I'm worried about our game tomorrow with Michigan State.  

Is that random enough for you?

Looking out my window at the beautiful colors of fall starting to pop out.  I love this time of year. I have a friend yesterday tell me that you are naturally drawn to the season in which you were born.  Maybe that's why Fall is my favorite; and the fact that I get to wear my sweatshirts.

Happy weekend to you all.  I'll be in Lombard, IL on a Faculty retreat with around 200 other faculty and spouses this weekend from ONU, and we are heading into "Homecoming" week here on our campus.  I also get to go see my cousins new daughter, Abby, on Saturday.  So this should be a great weekend.  Hope it's the same for you.  Go to an Apple orchard with the fam, drink some cider, throw some hay, eat some candy corn, and smell the decaying leaves.  Fall is alive and well.  

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Something to remember. . .

I have a good friend who commented on one of the posts, saying that he hopes our "standards" are always founded on scripture and not on the opinions of man.

I agree, but it's impossible to get away from our "opinion".  I want what I believe to be based on sound interpretation of Scripture, but it's my interpretation.  That's why it's important that we do this in community, with the best, albiet not always the safest place, being the church.  I need to work this out with your help.  I need accountability, I need friendship, I need correction, I need your insight.  That can only happen in community.

Let's not fool ourselves into thinking there is a perfect place for that to happen.  If you read church history, there has possibly never been a time when that was done "perfectly".  Ever read Galatians or Corinthians.  That's the church, the church many of us say we'd like to "go back" to. Not the church at its best and/or worst, its just the church.

The church is messy because the church is you and me.  There have been times in its history when it was more institutional and mechanistic, read its history.  There have been times when it was less forgiving, read its history.  There have been times when it was more violent, read its history.  There have been times when they way Scripture was interpreted was downright scary. I don't want to lose perspective on what the church is and what its gone through.  The church is what it is, ours.  Ours to love, ours to change, ours to pray for, ours to live within, ours to cry over, ours to own.  Its us.

I want to remember today that humanity will always be a part of the church, as long as we are. So because of that, there will be times we don't get it right.  There will be times we fail.  There will be times we have to seek forgiveness.  There will be times we need to redefine ourselves. But we cannot survive as people of faith, without the church.  Let's not fool ourselves into thinking we can.

What a group!

I've been privileged over the last three days to spend a lot of time with some incredible people, our regional NYI council.  They are passionate about their relationship with God, the students they minister with and to, and the church.  My faith is always stronger after spending time with this group.

Just want you to know that I believe in the future of our church, because I've seen it's heart this week.  Thanks!

Sunday, October 05, 2008

100 years old!

I love my church!  I believe in what my church is about!    Today, my church is 100 years old. This morning, we were reminded why we were here.

Let me give you a little personal history lesson from my past, as I recall it.  See, I'm a 3rd generation Nazbo, but my own spiritual heritage comes from the heart of my church.

Some time during the 19 somethings, Chicago 1st Church reached out to a 19-year-old young man, asking him to play in their basketball league.  They believed that their message and resources weren't just for themselves, but they were intended to be shared.  So they did.  They built a gym, shared it with those from their community, and one 19-year-old was loved into that church, and it all started on the basketball court.

That's the beginning of my spiritual heritage.  That 19-year-old was my grandfather.  

I come from a church that understands that it wasn't, and isn't created for it's own purpose.  It wasn't and isn't for those who are already there.  It has been and is for those who aren't.  A church that reached, and is still called to reach out, to prostitutes, drunken men and women, the homeless, gay, and many other marginal groups, inviting them to join us on this incredible journey of rediscovering who our God is, and how much he loves us.   A church that started with 10,000 members, and has grown to 1.8 million in 152 countries.  That's still a blip on the screen, but the reality of a dream for those called Nazarenes.  It's the realized dream of a group of people who believed that their purpose for being was for "them".

It's been a great 100 years.  Not perfect, but God has used the people called Nazarenes to work with our other brothers and sisters in the faith to redeem our world.  As good as the first 100 has been, with God's help, may the second be better.

Praise be to God!

Saturday, October 04, 2008

. . . more thoughts today.

Can I throw something else in the hopper today. (Not like you can stop me, it's my blog)

I'm reading a book my friend wrote called, A Century of Holiness Theology, which is an historical look at what Entire Sanctification has meant to my particular tradition. Can I quote from a part of this book to add something to what I'm thinking about these days related to the church? (I know, I did it again, sorry)

The first quote is a warning from 1979 by Dr. Rob Staples, who was my theology prof at seminary. He is not speaking of universal creeds, but of our particular denominational creedal statements.

"Creeds are but the church's human articulation of the message of the Bible. . .The church (Nazarene in this particular reference) must keep alert to the priority of the gospel over the creeds. The church's demand for loyalty to the creeds must basically be a demand for loyalty to the kerygma." (parenthetical emphasis added)

He goes on to say; "Attitudinally, we must draw upon Wesley's 'Catholic Spirit' and reaffirm that when we cannot think alike we may still love alike, and when we are not of one opinion we are still one of heart."

May it be so for us.


Okay Aaron, this is for you.



It's the way it is

Sometimes we spend our life apologizing for the decisions we have made in the past, for a variety of reasons. Parents, friends, and children. Sometimes apologies are very appropriate. Sometimes, they're not needed.

When talking about how everyone was raised in the church, at least those who grew up in my era, not going to movies, dances, not smoking, or drinking; I don't think an apology is needed for the decisions that were made, it's just the way things were. That was how we lived if we were Christians, these were the new "disciplines". Those boundaries defined what it meant to be holy. Be it right or wrong, and thank goodness the church continues to mature, it was just the way things were.

That's probably why when I was growing up we, at least from my tradition, had problems with the Lutheran minister who lived down the street from us and was an alcoholic. Or that's why we struggled with the Catholic family, who's son happened to be one of my best friends, but whose dad smoked. The issue wasn't that they were "bad" people, it was because of the "things" they did, that were different that what we did.

I remember when I had that conversation with my dad about not being able to go to Jungle Book that Saturday afternoon with Eric Friedland. I was 9. I remember where I was standing in the front lawn of our home in Hillsdale, MI. I remember how much it hurt; but that was the way it was. My dad, as a minister in the church, had to uphold the standards of the church, which not going to the theater happened to be one of. I didn't understand it, may not have agreed with, was inconvenienced by it, but it was the way it was.

Here's where I want to get with this conversation: isn't that the way it always is? Shouldn't there be standards that "mark" us as people of faith, and distinguish us from those who aren't. No, we haven't always done it well (orthopraxy), but I think we've really been trying. Is it still okay to try? Is it still okay to "work out our Salvation with fear and trembling"?

Oh, maybe movies and dancing weren't the issue, is that safe to say? Maybe smoking and alcohol aren't either, which is more controversial to say. In saying that though, there will always be standards that mark us, and some mark us even more distinctively as different members of the same Body. Some will think nothing of drinking wine, or more than wine on occasion, while others have deep convictions related to the drinking of alcohol. I hope that's okay, because it's just the way it is.

In my Christian Formation class, we use one of our creeds, called the Apostles Creed, to unite us. When I take a poll in that class, I have a variety of denominations represented, from the most liturgical of traditions, Catholic and Lutheran; to those identified more as evangelical; EV Free, Baptist, and Nazarene. Yet, in that class, there are certain truths that keep us one. There are also certain "truths" for each of us that distinguishes one from the other. I think I'm okay with that. We need to hear from all sides in this, don't we. I just don't want us to start thinking the eye is more important than the nose, if you know what I mean.

So all that being said, as I sit and write on this Saturday and continue to reflect on the church and my childhood, I'm the first to admit that there were some quirky issues the church had when I was growing up. There always have been, ask your kids. My parents did make mistakes, and I followed right in their footsteps with my kids. Yet in all that quirkiness, I never doubted the heart of my parents, I knew they loved me. And with all the blemishes in the church, these same issues make us who we are. I hope today, we remember that. It's the way it is.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Bread Breaking

I hear a lot these days about emergent, and some of my friends align themselves with the Emerging movement, I just don't know what it is.

We react to it, respond to it, critic it, argue with it, argue over it, read about it, confront it, disagree with it, and resent it. We also admire it, resemble it, agree with it, talk to it, wonder about it, wish we were it, and a whole host of other "its". I just wish I knew what it was?

Oh, I've read the books. I know what they say. I just don't hear anything that new. I really don't. Sometimes I'm amazed how we become so enamored with "their" churches, thinking they are so perfect. They aren't perfect, they're just young. Young things always have their advantages.

Marriages, children, franchises, stores (Walmart Grand openings, please), restaurants (can't wait for the new Culver's to open here); see what I mean. New smells different, looks different, tastes different, because it's new.

But I really don't hear anything coming from this segment of the Church that a lot of us haven't felt for a long time, we just weren't eloquent enough to write about it. I see new churches popping up in the name of emergent, but they're trying to figure this out like the rest of us. Tell me, how is that different?

I mean, come on. Haven't a lot of us been frustrated with the church for a long time. It's unwillingness to even allow a certain type of song to be sung. I remember when I was growing up, we weren't allowed to sing choruses, not because they were too fast or too loud, or we couldn't have "those" instruments in the church, but it was because that's what the Charismatics sang. Ridiculous, I know, but true. Am I the only one that remembers this.

Back to the Nazarene history, "Pentecostal" was dropped from the name because that was beginning to refer to the group that spoke in tongues. We've been isolating ourselves from each other for a very long time, long before you or I were on the scene.

Maybe what emergent is, is a way to actually get us all in a room talking. Maybe it's a way we begin to major in the majors again. Maybe it's a way for me to appreciate that the Roman Catholic church has something to offer the greater body, that the Baptists can teach us a thing or two about security in Christ, that we can learn from the Episcopalian's that those in the homosexual community are humans too, a place where I learn that Democrat's aren't sinners, a place where I realize that God transcends government, politics, economics, and gender. A place where we can learn to love each other again.

I remember something my dad used to do, "back in the day". He wouldn't announce it, because I think he was afraid no one would come. But when they got there, they knew what was up. They'd see the loaf of bread (one loaf was enough, we were a small church) sitting in the front, and they knew we were in for an interesting evening. Ever been a part of a "love feast", like my dad used to call them.

The object was this; everyone would gather in the sanctuary, and once the initial formalities were taken care of, my dad would announce that we were breaking bread with each other. The purpose was reconciliation. My dad always had a sense when his congregants needed this most, and he'd say something like this.

Maybe there is someone in here that you need to seek forgiveness from. Maybe there is someone in here that needs to seek forgiveness from you. Maybe you haven't talked to someone for too long because of a grudge, or maybe you just need to tell someone you love them. Then he'd turn them lose, and it was always a beautiful thing. I, as a child, never fully understood what was going on, except there were a lot of tears, hugs, and back slapping. We guessed that was a good thing.

If emergent can be our "love feast", so be it. But I'm just tired of us thinking it's an either/or proposition. Maybe emergent can help our churches, in their present form, experience a healing as well. Maybe it's not just for the macro church, but it's for the micro churches as well.

I say it's about time we break some bread.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Is God big enough?

I heard a sermon one of my friends preached, and he was talking about the things we used to believe.  One of them was, that God was bigger than sin.

There was a lot more to that than just that, he said it more eloquently than I'm writing, and I'm representing him poorly.  But it did make me think.  

Do I really believe that God is big enough?  Bigger than my backache?  Bigger than my financial woes?  Bigger than my worries?  Those bigs seem so small.  What my friend was talking about was much bigger than these; like. . .

Is God bigger than sin. . .really?  I guess there was a day that people in the church believed that.  I'm wondering if we still do; cause if not, then sin wins.

What kind of a God is my God if sin wins?

Being a Kid

I remember early on my faith being shaped by things that I'm not sure were really all that important.  You know, or maybe you don't; stuff like not being able to go see Jungle Book when I was in the third grade because it was in the theater (sorry mom).  I remember what that town was like, and I remember what the church was like.  There were a lot of people doing a lot of things because they thought they were the right things to do.  No one was permanently scarred because of what we were doing, or maybe better said, what we weren't doing; at least I didn't think so at the time.  I don't think we were legalistic, we were just doing what people did.

It wasn't long after this when my dad moved to another church in another town, and not because he wanted to, or because he felt God was moving him, but because his superior thought he was ready and it would be a "good move" for him.  Well, let me tell you, it wasn't good for any of us. So, what was I supposed to make of that?

Well, one is that I grew up.  For reasons I'm not sure I'll ever fully understand, I was never one to question whether God existed.  I never really wanted my life to be without God.  Not sure whether that was driven by my strong sense of hell (after all, I did grow up in the Thief in the Night era), or whether I was afraid of my dad finding out, or whether I just had an incredible sense of who God was at a young age, and never wanted to walk away from that.  That sounds good, let's go with that.

At any rate, the things that happen to you when your young shape you, never leave.  Sometimes for the good, and sometimes for the not-so-good.   

You know one thing I realize, reflecting on what it was like for me to be a kid, is that I grew up in an era when our parents understood that part of their role was to protect us from what might harm us.  They were stern, you bet.  But it was for my own good, at least that's what they told me, and I think I believe them.  Using discipline for protection; sounds like sound advice to me.  Not a bad picture of God either, is it?

Thanks mom. 

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Looking to fry the bigger fish!

I think I'm on to a book idea. I'm reading Mike King's book, Presence-Centered Youth Ministry, and I'm kind of getting ticked off, again. Not at Mike, because I think he's really one of us now, but he's really making me think about us.

I'm tired of my church getting blistered. I'm tired of good people in the church getting blistered by the church (maybe that's why the church is getting blistered, but I don't think that's the only reason). I think we've just gotten away from who we are. Call me Captain Obvious if you must, but roll with me as I rant, hopefully more than once a month.

Before I go any further, can I just say, I'm speaking for myself. I love my church, and I love what I get to do in the church. All that being said, here's what I'm feeling today.

We don't have an orthodoxy problem, I think what we believe is sound. Not sure I'd still be here if I didn't believe that. You can go to sound bites from guys ranging from Ghandi to Tony Campolo on that. Ghandi's quote is classic, Tony was quoted in 1987, saying that he believed that the Nazarene's have it right doctrinally, they just don't live it out. Ouch! And what did we do with that? We made that a matter of pride in our doctrine instead of that leading us to some serious self examination.

Like I said, we don't have an orthodoxy problem, from where I sit, we have a problem with orthopraxy. Here's my question for the day. Will you chew on it with me?

Have we compromised our "orthodoxy" in our attempt to bring correction to our "orthopraxy"?

Again, I'm not saying that I'm even the first hundredth person to ask this question, but I'm thinking about it now. I hope there are some out there who will think about this with me. What would it look like for us to live out who we claim to be? And come on, please, let's not water this down to whether we can drink alcohol or not? Please? I think there are bigger fish to fry.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Owning my Stuff

My mom had to tell me that I spelled cabbage wrong the first posting (cabage)! Guess I have to own my stuff, and maybe own the statement as well.

Thanks Mom.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

. . .stupid as a cabbage,

Read something today that made me laugh, then think. Wanted to post it to see what it's effect might be on you as well.

I'm reading a book by Kelly Kullberg, called Finding God Beyond Harvard. She is a former chaplain at Harvard. Not very far into the book to be able to recommend it, but she quotes one of my favorite authors, Dallas Willard, and like I said, it's worth sharing.

"We live in a culture that has for centuries now cultivated the idea that the skeptical person is always smarter than one who believes. You can be almost as stupid as a cabbage, as long as you doubt. . .Today it is the skeptics who are the social conformists."

True that!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

It's a Sad Day

I'm not going to say too much. Olivet lost one of it's recent graduates this morning, and it's a sad day for many in our extended community. No answers for this one. How do you explain a 22-year-old athlete dying in his sleep. This just sucks, so I'm leaning on the words from Psalm 46; maybe you can too.

"God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in
Therefore we will not fear, though
the earth give way,
and the mountains fall into the
heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with
their surging.

There is a river whose streams
make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most
High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar,
kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth

Come and see the works of the
the desolations he has brought on
the earth.
He makes wars cease to the ends of
the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters
the spear.
Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.

The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our

Today, be assured friends, that as we mourn and cry, our God cries with us.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Well, it's been a while since I last posted. All is well. Wedding plans for Kelli and Chris are progressing along quite well, with the invitations going out this week.

I'm tired, think I'm fighting a summer cold.

I've been able to connect with some old friends this past month, see family, visit Chicago with a friend from Australia, and spend some time with Terry. I'm not around much over the next couple of weeks, so thought I'd check in to let you know I'm still alive.

Hope all is well with you too.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Can a Church be Changed?

Sang a song Sunday for the first time, and I'd like to share the words with you:

Can a nation be changed?
Can a nation be saved?
Can a nation be turned back to you?

We're on our knees,
We're on our knees, again.
We're on our knees,
We're on our knees, again.

Let this nation be changed.
Let this nation be saved.
Let this nation turn back to you!

We're on our knees,
We're on our knees, again.
We're on our knees,
We're on our knees, again.

As I was singing this song, I started crying, wondering why we're praying for the nation, when the church is in need of the same prayer.

I'm reading Nelson Mandela's autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom. On a side note, it's a long walk to the end of the book, over 600 pages, so I find it appropriately named. What I read this Sunday morning had to do with the way Mandela maneuvered between those loyalist in the ANC (his political party), and the new generation of protesters, that were mostly responsible for the 1976 riots, connected to the oppressive government, known as Apartheid.

The thing that intrigued me most about this part of his journey, was his steadfast determination that he would stand in the gap between the old guard, his comrades who had been in prison with him for 40 years, and the new guard, the active protesters, willing to use violence when and where needed. Not easy, considering that Mandela had taken many of his cues from Martin Luther King and Ghandi, who both insisted on the path of non-violence.

It was his standing in the gap, his unwillingness to let the younger "rebels" go unheard that caught my attention. He listened to and respected them. They were angry, didn't always think things through, and were very young. So, he listened to those that had been a part of the struggle on the outside, while for 40 years he was imprisoned for the same.

He wasn't near as concerned to convince someone that his argument was the right one, as much as he was that they remain together, because in the end, they all wanted the same thing; a unified, equal, and just government where every person had a vote.

I was checked and challenged at the same time, realizing we are at the same place in our church. Too many of our young voices have been alienated for the sake of proving someone right or wrong, when in the end, just like the struggle against Apartheid, we all desire similar outcomes.

So my prayer for myself today is that I am an ear, and not just a voice. That I'm in a conversation, not an argument. That I seek the common ground and unity, and not "theological pride", if I can quote a friend.

I believe there is more common ground than not, and my prayer is that for the sake of the Kingdom, and my church, that we hold fast to our core beliefs, but also listen for the new prophetic voices crying in the "wilderness". I don't want to miss them.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

I Tried Again

I tried again, being at the same place for the second week in a row. I had people telling me that I looked familiar (couldn't be from the week before, since I didn't meet anyone), but they weren't sure if I was new, if regular, they just weren't sure.

That's okay, we have the same problem at my church. I'm not sure who is new, old, or indifferent. Just not sure that's how I want to do church.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Three Cups of Tea

Just finished this book by Greg Mortenson. It's a pretty fascinating read, and I'm more intrigued about the subject about which he wrote. He is raising money and building schools in the poorest locations in Pakistan and Afghanistan, places not to popular around here.

He was reflecting on his travels, how many of the areas he has been able to travel into both before and after 9/11, and how they have been war torn by both American carpet bombs looking for Bin Laden, and Taliban missiles killing their own. Here is what he says in regard to conflict and war:

""In times of war, you often hear leaders - Christian, Jews, and Muslim - saying, 'God is on our side.' But that isn't true. In war, God is on the side of the refugees, widows, and orphans."

Check it out yourself at

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Shoe on the Other Foot

Had an interesting experience today; I went to a church I had never been to before. Got a very awkward greeting, you know, one of those that said, should I know you, have you been here before, but no direct question. No introduction. Just a handshake, and a hello.

I then proceeded to walk into the foyer, not knowing where to go. They had two services, no one explained the difference between the two, so I guessed. That didn't matter much since they had the sermon from the sanctuary simulcast into the venue I was in, which I figured was the contemporary option since there were guitars and drums in place of the piano.

I met no one, got no ones name, even after hanging around a while after the service. I got nothing.

It was intimidating and awkward, and I know the songs, the language, and even the slang. No wonder "they" don't come to "our" stuff much. I wasn't sure when I left whether I wanted to go back or not.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Balancing piety and justice

Again, Foster has offered some good words for me today, and I thought I would pass them along. I think it helps bring shape to what I was trying to talk about yesterday.

"We can no longer allow people to engage in pious exercises that are divorced from the hard social realities of life. Nor can we tolerate a radical social witness that is devoid of inward spiritual vitality. Our preaching and teaching needs to hold these elements in unity. If our teaching is centered in the Biblical text, we will find literally hundreds of examples to follow."

Thanks again to Foster for helping bring some shape to me, and some of what I've been feeling this past year. I've ranted about just this issue, and what I see happening on a university campus when students get these two out of balance. He says this much better than I do.

Is justice to be a part of who we are, you bet. But not at the expense of our inward spiritual life. The opposite is true as well. Like it says in James, "faith without works is dead". Or Paul in Corinthians, when he talks about love being spoken without being lived as just banging on a drum. I'm praying that these words come to life for me today.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

What are we doing with sin?

"Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires." Romans 6:12

There is a lot of debate in our culture today concerning what is and isn't sin. The debate is also alive and well in the church. Again, I think we are asking the wrong set of questions. I read an excerpt today from Foster's book, The Freedom of Simplicity, and I'd like to share it with you. He says:

"Thomas Merton writes in the introduction to his Wisdom of the Desert, 'Society. . .was regarded by the Desert Fathers as a shipwreck from which each single individual man has to swim for his life.'"

He goes on to say, "They were seeking to revive true Christian devotion and simplicity of life by intense renunciation. Their experience has particular relevance, because modern society is uncomfortable like the world that they attacked so vigorously. Their world asked, 'How can I get more?' The Desert Fathers asked, 'What can I do without?' Their world asked, 'How can I find myself?' The Desert Fathers asked, 'How can I lose myself?' Their world asked, 'How can I win friends and influence people?' The Desert Fathers asked, 'How can I love God?'"

Sound familiar?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

6º Dia da Colheita

This is a video from our "Day of Harvest" in Campinas, at Brazil's NYC. The song is in Portugal, but thought you might like the pics.

Pretty cool, besides, I like Donald Miller.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Journey of the Hat

Thought I would have some fun with this. I was looking through some pics that Joice sent from the NYC in Brazil, and realized that the hat Pastor Obaulio gave me had made its rounds. Here are a few pictures to show what I mean.
Hey Alex, maybe that smell was more than just leather!

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Luke off to Iraq

Our thoughts and prayers have been with our kids from the south, even more than usual today. We think of them often, with that sweet little boy down there, but especially on this day. It's the day that we haven't been looking forward too, but knew was coming. Luke leaving for Iraq.

His travels take him from Ft. Hood, to Maine, Germany, Kuwait, then into Iraq. He is going to prepare and set up a camp for the arrival of several platoons of ground troops. Luke's batalian, at least as far as I understand it, is ground support for the troops. He provides supply and service for all their vehicles and equipment. The above picture was taken on the family's last day before he left for his one year deployment.

Kristin and the family have big shoes to fill with "daddy" gone. Like Kristin has shown in her blogs, Luke and Brayden are, to use her words, "thick as theives".

We praying for protection for you Luke, as well as a year that goes by so fast your head spins. We look forward to your return, even though you have just left.

We're also praying for you Kristin, as you try and wear the hat of two parents for the next year. We'll help you check off days on the calendar.

We're also praying for Brayden, that your memories of the first year with your dad are lasting and deep. We're praying that pictures like these are ingrained deep in your mind, and when Luke comes home, you pick up right where you left off. Who wouldn't remember a dad like this one!

We're also praying for the Sanders side of the family. Our emotions are shared, although not equaled. Luke is the man for our daughter, the father of our grandson, and adopted by all of the Holcomb's. Thanks for the gift of your son to our family. You aren't walking through this alone.

We're also praying for both families as we work together to make life as easy as possible for Kristin and Brayden as their husband and dad are gone.

We love you Luke! See you soon.

Friday, June 06, 2008

How do I know I'm right?

Had a conversation yesterday with some great people, about the church's response to the homosexual community. Almost wrote, "or lack of response", and caught myself, because we've not been short on our opinions, have we. The conversation revolved around all of our desire to be as convinced that we are right in our view, as much as the homosexual community is that they are. How do we know we are right?

I'm not sure that is the "right" question. Is being "right" all that matters these days? Don't get me wrong, I believe that there are some things that are core and central to what we are about, as Christians, that we don't need to apologize for, but also can't prove.

Can anyone prove the virgin birth; really?

Can anyone prove that Christ rose from the dead, or for that matter, if he was ever dead in the first place? Is there physical evidence proving that; really?

Can anyone prove that God literally created the earth in six days; really? Could he have created it in six days and made it look like it took thousands if not millions of years, you bet. Did he, who knows?

Can anyone prove that Jesus was as much God as he was man; really?

These are some of the questions that are core to shaping who we are, but there are a whole host of other questions that we ask as well, such as:

Did Jonah really live in the belly of a fish for 3 days; was there really a Job; were Adam and Eve's names Adam and Eve; did a donkey really talk?

Or how about, why is one person healed of cancer, while another, praying for the same thing, dies?

Or, why when a hurricane hits New Orleans, some statements are made in the name of Christianity regarding the punishment of debaucherous behavior, while injustices continue to occur in the Darfur with seemingly no response from the same God?

I'm sure you are thinking of your own list of questions as I've written just a couple of mine. The reason for these questions, is that how some of them are answered doesn't necessarily change what we believe, while others are core and central to who we claim to be and believe in.

See, if Jesus wasn't physically dead and raised, then I'm wasting space on this blog. But at the same time, determining how many were at the grave following his resurrection isn't ever going to be known, even though the account is told in all four gospels, nor will the number of angels present ever be clear. What is clear, is that he was dead, and was then raised; on that I have chosen to put my trust, and on that the four accounts do agree.

So, back to our conversation of yesterday; being right shouldn't always be what this is about. Being faithful is. What that means for me, is that for too long the church has failed an entire segment of the population in our attempt to prove ourselves right. Because of that, we have lost our voice to speak into their lives any message of hope and joy. We have failed to love in the name of Jesus. We have given a message that says there are some sins that are worse than others, and I think that goes against one of the messages that is pretty core to who we are as well; we've all sinned, falling short of God's glory.

So who is "right" is the "wrong" question, who will be faithful is the one we should be asking. I'm praying that God enable me to be faithful to his calling to every man; black, white, man, woman, gay, straight, single, married, young and old.

I confess to you there are some things I need to own about this issue, maybe even before my desire to be faithful in all things can happen. I sure am glad I don't walk through this alone. Thanks for the conversation, friends.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Power Supply

Heard a message this morning at a conference that made me think about how I live my life. I've been living reflectively since returning home from Brazil, and have a couple of thoughts today.

One, now I love my church, but man, I really struggled this past Sunday. One of our board members got up after worship, and talked more about the band, and the person leading worship, than the one we were there to worship. It was the _____ ______ show, not worship. Now, maybe our worship leader needed strokes this past week, but my re-entry didn't handle that well. Was I there to be entertained, to feel good? Is church just a show? I'm not sure.

I'm also growing tired of how stale my faith has become. Don't get me wrong, there are times I feel extremely close to God, and actually, this is one of those times. I'm not feeling down, not struggling, my marriage is great, my family is healthy, generally life is good. But I don't want my faith to be bland.

Have you ever wished that maybe your faith was actually a threat to the enemy, so much so that he had to come against you? Well, that's where I'm at. I'm not looking for a fight, I just want my faith to be on the map when it comes to the adversary. I want the enemy to know that Mark and Terry are out there. I want to be driven to my knees because of my need for dependence, not because of my independence and it's convenient. I want to need it. I want to "need" to pray!

This morning our speaker talked about 2 Peter 1:3, the fact God's "divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness." Everything we need. Do I believe that? Do I live like that? Do I resemble that?
I watched a group of people who believe it, live like it, and resemble it. Don't get me wrong, they aren't perfect, but I want the faith I saw them live out. I didn't listen to them debate theology, not that there is never a place for that, but they don't have time for that. There's too much to do for the Kingdom, and they're about building it. They were delivered from alcohol addictions, the occult, witchcraft, so why would they debate whether they could flirt with destructive behavior, like we do. I didn't see them question God's ability to deliver someone from cocaine, witchcraft, alcohol, tobacco, or disease, they just believed he would. I didn't see them reading books about how to pray, I watched and heard them pray. I didn't hear anyone complain about the music being too loud or too fast, and it was; they just sang.

I want that in my life. I want to live from the reality of God's presence giving me what I need. I want it.

I've heard a lot of talk recently about how we shouldn't ask God to be active where we are, but we should look and seek out places where he is already active and join him where he is at. I think that is good, sound, theology. I know one place where he is active, I saw it, but my prayer is that I see another much closer to home.

Will you pray for that with me? Any takers?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Day 12, We're home. . .

. . .and missing our friends already.

We made it home, well most of us. My suitcase is somewhere between JF Kennedy Airport and Midway, hopefully here by tomorrow.

We are back safe and sound, showering and resting from our 18-hour trek. The way we were reintroduced back to the US, we were ready to jump on a plane and head back to our friends. Between the lady in immigration yelling at our Brazilian visitors, losing all my luggage, having our first attempt at take-off aborted in Cincinnati because the "computer sensed a problem", and almost getting a ticket while trying to get our stuff in the car in Indy by a Nazi Airport Security officer, our arrival was filled with fixed emotions. They were quickly matched, though, by the sound of our daughters voices and the use of our cell phones to "reconnect". Terry missed hers, I'm not sure whether I did or not. At any rate, we're back in Bourbonnais, and I hope my luggage isn't far behind.

I'll be reflecting on this trip for a while, so tonight I'm heading to bed; later on the thinking. I'm too emotional and tired right now. Just wanted all our readers to know that we made it back in one piece.

Thanks Fonseca's for one of the best weeks of our lives! Can't wait to be introduced to Juliana.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Hats, hot dogs, and new friends

Our Last Night in Brazil

This is my friend, a pastor from northern Brazil. The first day he was at the camp, he had this really cool hat on. He was told I thought it was cool, and at the last service, he gave it to me. Again, putting the unbelievable generous spirit of the people down here on display. It's a traditional hat worn by them to keep their head cool, because where they live it is exceptionally hot. He if from the same part of the country where the girls who led worship with hats, gloves and winter coats on when it was 65 degrees outside. Cracked me up. Thanks Pastor, love the hat!

Had a great day. Went shopping in a little town called Petreira, known for their glass, and man did we shop. I have some pics, but will have to post them later, I'm having problems downloading them from the memory card. Technology.

Back to the shopping. Terry kept saying that we didn't want to take any of our money back with us, and I think she about kept her word. It was just another fun, relaxing day. I'm really glad we stayed around for another 3 days.

The evening was just as much fun, and now I'm working with Alex to get his blog set up so Toni's family can keep up with the what for here, and we will be able to as well. Writing this while he's playing with his.

How did I spend my last night in Campinas? Well, we went to church, ate prendado dogenos, pressed hot dogs. They basically take two hot dogs, and a whole bunch of ingredients, smash them together, and cook them like a calzone. Mine was stuffed with chili, except down here it's shredded beef, unbelievable. Another 10:00 dinner, again, more unbelievable. I've eaten later here, more nights in row, than I can ever remember doing before. We eat and laughed together, having an absolute blast. Tonight I was there with Alex, Gary Hartke, Walmir and his wife Daisy, Lico, Maria, and Pastor Pedro. We ate dogs, drank guarana, and told stories. I'm so glad that we were able to come to this place, and already can't wait until we can come back.

This is probably my last blog from Brazil. I'm meeting with the administrator from the new university down here, eating lunch, and then we have to get on the bus around 4:00 to head for the airport in Sao Paulo. Our flight leaves at 9:00 tomorrow night, or I guess that's later tonight where I presently sit. We arrive in New York at 6:00a, fly through Cincinnati, and then land in Indy around 2:30. The 2 hour drive home should be a blast after spending that much time in the air. I'll get you caught up on our flight as soon as I recover.

I'll recover from the flight, but meeting these people is something I hope I never recover from. Thanks Alex, Toni, Gabbi, and Becka. Like you said Alex, you're stuck with us. Thanks also to Tiago, Rachel, Lico, Debroah, Chris, Daniella, Alexandre, and all our other Brazilian friends for making this one of the best 10 days of our lives. We hope to see you again real soon.

Day 9 in Brazil; Bar-b-que

Sunday was another incredible day here, very relaxing, went to church in the evening. The young adult service was Saturday night, and we didn't get to bed until around 2:00a, not eating dinner until midnight at McDonalds. The young adult service was packed to the gills, with over 800. Their NYI here goes from 16 to 45, and they are alive, energetic services.

This is how their services run weekly: Saturday afternoon, their teens have their service; Saturday night, their young adult service, ranging in ages from 20-40; Sunday morning, very traditional service, orchestra, choir, running around 4000 in two services, 8:00 and 10:15; Sunday night, exciting praise and worship service for everyone, much like the Saturday night service, packed to the gills, around 3500 in two services, 6:00 and 8:30; Monday night, city-wide young adult service, around 5-600; Tuesday night, Prayer and Deliverance service, again packed to the gills with over 2800 in attendance. Wednesday-Friday, they recover and get ready to do it all over again. Alex plans all the services except the Saturday afternoon service and the Sunday morning service. Most of the young adults who attend Saturday services don't come to a Sunday morning service, and the teens just attend Sunday School. Being out as late as they are, I can understand why. Crazy week, huh?

Today we're heading to a village about 2 hours from here to shop. We're still loving it here. Terry and I were talking last night before we went to bed, and there is something special about this place and these people. You know how when you've been somewhere for a while, and you get antsy to go home? Well, if it wasn't for our family, we wouldn't feel that at all.

Yesterday, we had our first real Brazilian barbeque; chicken (flango), steak (filet), sausage, rice, beans, and guarana (Brazil's version of Vernors). Yummmo! We're really kind of sad this is almost over, and yes, it's for more reasons than just the food, although I will say we have eaten incredibly well here. The one thing that I've had to adjust too is the hours that we eat. Always late at night. I haven't been eating breakfast, lunch usually around 1:30, and then we eat after the services, which is usually around 10:00, crazy.

Terry, Gabbi and Becka made a blanket for Julianna, helping them as they prepare for the arrival of their new sister. They had a lot of fun as you can tell. You notice that Terry isn't in the pictures, that's because she hasn't been "Mary Miracled" yet, as Alex likes to say.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Dia a Cohleita

Don't have a lot of time tonight, we're heading for the closing service of the congress, can't believe it. This was an incredible day, working at the street carnival sponsored by Central Church, and the NYC. They call it the "Day of the Harvest". I'll let some of the pics speak for themselves. I will never be the same.

45 converts from the evangelistic teams that went door to door, in the area that Alex called the worst in the city of Campinas. We were 200 yards from the cocaine center, and 500 yards from the marijuana center, with a Nazarene church right in the middle of it all. Alex called the pastor of the church a hero, and I believe him.

Friday, May 23, 2008


What a day I am having in Brazil! It was an incredible privilege to preach this morning, and see the response of these obedient, tender people. I'm humbled again by their spirit, and by the fact that God chooses to use me; unbelievable. I don't know what else to say, except that I always come back different after traveling, and this is no different. I'm receiving so much here, that my life is richer because of my new friends in Brazil.

I told Alex after the service, that this a sermon I'm planning on preaching this summer at a camp, but I'm not sure I'll be able to speak, because I will recall the response from here. Alex said to me, that maybe what God is saying, is that it's time in the states we quit settling. Stop making living this life so difficult. Sometimes we complicate things so much it's next to impossible to live. We're numb to the truth, because we can't see it, when it's right in front of our eyes all the time. The problem may not be that we can't find truth, maybe we are cold and blind to it.

I'm going to chew on this for a while. In the mean time, I cry for the same passion in my church, with our young people, that I see here. May it be so, for the sake of the Kingdom.

Bon Dia! Ese quatro dia en Campinas (That's Portuguese Sissy)

These are pictures of our friends Toni and Alex, our hosts in Brazil. They are great friends. I've known Alex for some time through NYI, and Terry got to know him in South Africa. She said she had to meet the woman who lives with this man. Toni is a gem, and they have two beautiful girls, with a third on the way. The picture on the left is Toni with Gabriella and Rebecca. She is reading one of the books that "Miss Terry" brought for the girls. Toni has been confined to bed rest, awaiting the arrival of the third lady to the group, Julianna.

The picture on the right is me with Alex, standing next to me, and (from right to left), Christian Ventura, from Paraguay, SAM's Regional NYI coordinator, with Alexandre da Silva, SAM's Regional NYI president. I'll get a better picture of the Fonseca family later this week.

Well, as you can tell by the time of this blog, I'm adjusting to the two hour time difference. I woke up before 5:00, Chicago time. Again, its a beautiful day here in Campinas. The sky has never been anything but blue, and it's already 65. I could get used to this.

As you can also tell, I'm doing my best to butcher this beautiful language. I'm sure the conjugation is terrible for my greeting this morning, but wanted to impress you with what little I have learned to this point. There are some similarities between Portuguese and Spanish, but not enough to help, and the pronounciation is more like Italian, which I know nothing about. The syllables are different too, so in Spanish, you can still sing the songs, not here. In some ways, it's more beautiful; sorry too my Spanish speaking friends.

Wanted to post a few pictures as well so you can have some sense of what is happening down here at the conference.

These are a couple of pictures, one from the service last night, and the one on the right is their NYC staff. A little nuts, might I add, the staff that is. I speak this morning, so if you get this before 9:30 Chicago time, a pray shot to heaven for me would be appreciated.

This is an incredible trip, with an incredible group of people. I love Brazil!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Day 3, Campinas and NYC

It's been an interesting couple of days here in Campinas. Today we went shopping in the local mall, and it was like any mall in California, you go inside to be outside. The jewelry was really inexpensive, so Terry had a blast, and our girls will benefit.

Last night I went to my first prayer and deliverance service at Central Church. It was like nothing I've ever seen before. 2800 people on a Tuesday night, singing the praises of God, an anointing service, followed by a deliverance service, and then an invitation for new believers. There were testimonies read of answered prayers and miracles, with God being praised for his working in the lives of his people.

The anointing I've seen, the deliverance I've only heard about. When I walked into the church, a half hour before the service, there were people scattered all over the sanctuary, on their knees, praying for a move of God in that service. Their prayers were answered. When the time for the prayer of deliverance came, they called people forward to be freed from disease, illness, addictions, witchcraft, demons, etc. This was an incredible time of prayer, with people brniging their cigarettes, cocaine, crystals, and other periphenalia related to their cult worshipforward for deliverance. It was an incredible move of the spirit.

These people pray. These people sing with a passion I'm not sure I've ever seen. They believe in freedom in the spirit. It reminded me of stories my dad used to tell of what would happen in his church when he was growing up. I'm challenged regarding my prayer life because of these incredible people, our brothers and sisters in Christ. They are making me a better person.

On a lighter note for my friends back home. It was probably 65 tonight at the opening service to their NYC, and everything is open air down here. The service was in a building, but open to the outside. I wish you could have seen how the worship team, most of whom live north of here, near the equator in northwest Brazil, were dressed. Winter coats, hats, and mittens while leading worship. I couldn't help but laugh, as I long for evenings that are 65, while here they freeze. It was 80 here today, sunny, and clear as a bell. I was in short sleeves tonight, soaking the whole thing up, watching my friends almost freeze to death. Life down here is good.

The pao de queso (cheese bread) isn't to bad either.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Day 1, Campinas

We arrived this morning at around 7:20, an hour late, after a long night of trying to get my legs to fit on those blasted plane seats so I could sleep. Exhaustion finally won out around 1:00a, and I don't remember anything until breakfast was in my lap around 6:45a.

No pics today, just a day of meeting new friends, and reacquainting ourselves with old ones. It's always great to meet the spouse of my friends, and today Terry and I got to meet Toni, Alex's wife. She is a gracious host, almost 8 months along with her third pregnancy. I'd be in trouble if I didn't mention meeting Becka and Gabby as well, their 6 and 4-year-old daughters, cute as buttons, and remind me of two other young ladies we know well.

Our day started by our meeting Vanderloci and Loche (I'm sure I absolutely butchered the spelling), the two that picked us up from the airport, and long-time friends of Alex. We were relieved to find that Loche spoke very good English. We ate breakfast at Flango Appossa, which means grilled chicken. It was very good. Fango Appossa is kind of like a truck stop, except clean. You ate right at the counter, and they also sold bread, and it was kind of like a mini mart. The food was really tasty.

I'm going with Alex tonight to their young adult service, 7:30-10:00. He is the young adult pastor at Campinas Central Church of the Nazarene, they run 12,000 every week. It's the largest church in our denomination, and I'm excited to be attending a service at this exciting church. Later this week I'll be joining students and young adults from all over South America for their NYC. It's a real privilege to be here.

Check back for pics later this week. Oh, by the way, it's winter here, today the high was 78! Rough.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

On the Road Again

Well, tomorrow we head south, a long ways south, to be with our friends from South America. They are having their NYC this week, with young leaders in the church from almost every country in South America. I'm sure this will be another one of those life-altering experiences, again. I will do my best to keep you informed on our trip as we journey.

Tomorrow morning we head to Indianapolis, fly to Atlanta, and then fly through the night to Sao Paulo, where we will be picked up and taken to the city of Campinas, just north of Sao Paulo and the coast. Campinas Central is the host church, with my friends Alex Fonseca and Flavio Valvassoura serving as the hosts, and Alexandre DeSilva directing it with his staff. We'll be recovering on Monday, and everyone begins to arrive on Tuesday, with the event kicking off Wednesday afternoon. Whenever I have the privilege of being with our brothers and sisters around the globe, my prayer is that their passion will rub off on Terry and I.

God is there, and even now preparing us for what we will encounter through the general services, plenary sessions, workshops, service projects, and the making of many new friends. I'll let you know some time on Monday how everything is with us, if possible. We'll be taking a lot of pics, hoping to keep you as up to date with our experience as possible.

This is also an exciting time for Terry, as she will be going to introduce some women there to Mary Kay, something she enjoys, and loves sharing with other women what this incredible company has done for us over the years. Should be a fun, challenging week for her as well.

We will be staying with Alex and Toni, and Terry is planning some fun stuff with their two daughters. She has definitely fit into the role of Gigi, with no respecter of person.

We're very excited about this trip, going somewhere neither of us has been before, and blessed to be able to do it together. I'll talk with you soon.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Applying for a Visa

I was a Visa rookie. I had to go to the Brazilian consulate last Thursday to apply for a travel visa, the first time I've ever needed one for a trip. It was a trip in and of itself, and man did I learn a lot. Thought maybe my "mistakes" could possible save you some of the same pain. Here are a few quick thoughts.

One, don't go to the consulate unless you have everything you need; you'll spend a lot of time on your cell phone having people fax stuff to you.

Two, bring the money order with you.

Three, we're pretty fortunate here in the US. We can go just about anywhere, which can't be said for many of our friends around the world. If we have the money, we can buy a visa, if we even need one. I've been to Bulgaria, South Africa, England, Germany, Ecuador, Mexico, Canada, the Bahamas, and now Brazil, and this is the first time I've even needed to apply for a visa. It was memory maker, one our friends do all the time.

In case you haven't guessed, Terry and I will be blessed by being the guest of our Brazilian brothers and sisters later this month at their NYC; it should be a blast. My days serving the church have been responsible for my being able to go to all the places listed above, and to think, all I ever wanted to be was a youth pastor. I've been that, and much more, thanks be to God.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Is this the right way?

I have a friend who just walked away from his church. I say it was his church, because 10-years ago, he planted it, starting with four families in his living room, so, yeah, it's God's church, but it has his DNA all over it. I read his blog almost every day, and today, it was called Q & A. It's about his struggle to give answers that people will accept. What he did just makes no sense, and it's difficult, even for those closest to him to figure this one out.

In the midst of all that, he's trying to convince all of us that he's okay, really okay. Today in particular, he said that all he knows, is what he will do today.

I wonder, how willing am I to just know what I'm doing today? I mean, don't I usually have to have my day, week, month, and even year planned out. I'm working on posting final grades this week, Graduation next week, then Celebrate Life, then I teach a module in our Masters program, then we leave for a week in Brazil, then ACSD, then I speak at a camp, then. . .

See what I mean? Sometimes it would be nice to not know for sure what tomorrow held; to not be able to worry about anything, because I'm clueless about what tomorrow brings, so can't worry about what I'm uncertain about anyway.

For now, guess I'll have to be "content" living life this way . . .then visit interns, go to Dallas, speak at another camp, go to the RD retreat, RA training week, prep for fall move in day, a daughters wedding. . .

I wonder, is there another way, really? I wonder if my friend could tell me what it feels like.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Happy Birthday Sissy!

Tomorrow is my first borns birthday. She'll be 24. This week I read a song that she sent me her freshman year in college, talked about mushy stuff that only a father and daughter understand. It basically said how much she loved me, and how I had set the standard high when it comes to finding someone for her to love.

Well first, amazingly enough, that happened.

Second, I love you too. Do you remember sending me that song? Not sure why I read that e-mail again yesterday, but it meant as much to me then as it did the first time you sent it. It still hangs in my office.

I'll be honest, I wasn't sure I wanted you to find someone to replace me, and we've had those conversations. But I'm glad you did.

Brayden is too! Happy Birthday sissy!!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Signs of Life

I was able to spend this weekend with friends in Valpo, what my friend Shawn calls, the vale of paradise. Not sure whether that is what Valparaiso means, but it is a sign of what is going on at that church.

I worshiped today, felt included by a group of people that are on the same page, concerned for their community, and have bought into a common vision and direction. They won't reach everyone in their community, but have carved out a niche for themselves, and are going for it.

What a breath of fresh air it was to be with a group of people who are working together to build the Kingdom of God; not perfect, but working together to make sure that people in their community hear the message of hope. I'm praying that my church can become defined and described in the same way.

Shawn, thanks for including me on a picture of what the Kingdom can look like. You can get a sore throat anytime, and when you do, I hope you call me again.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Coming Together

"It is when what we have in conflict is dominant,
that what we have in common must be emphasized."

This quote is taken from Mike Slaughter's blog, the pastor of Ginghamsburg UMC, from an e-mail he received. It's a great church, and he is a better pastor, digging his heals into a community over 20 years ago, and with God's help, building a church that community needed. I lived 5 minutes from that church for 4 years, and never attended. Why should I? They were the large church in the area to be contended with, you know? I feel like I have little to add to that with his 20+ years of living in the same community I chose to remain in for only 4.

This quote is responding to the many words being said about Obama's pastor and the words he has chosen, or at least the words of his that are being quoted.

In light of this, I'm reflecting on my own church, and our present search for a pastor. A church that is struggling for identity, direction, and a future, I guess not too unlike many churches of our day. I'm just wondering if this quote can become true for the 1200 or so that call my church their home.

In the search for a new pastor, will we draw our battle lines in the sand, coming up with how we define what "church" is, or will we focus on what we have in common? Will our differences become our undoing, or draw us together in an expression of our need for the other? Can I ever again in the church acknowledge that my needs are different from yours, and have us be okay with the differences? That's just about us; what is the message the community hears in the midst of our identity crisis?

My prayer is that we will lay down our swords and come together. Admit that we really aren't all that different from one another. I'm praying for my pastor, whomever that may be. I have my opinion of who that should be, but believe that maybe God knows better than my own selfish desire. Lord, help us all!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Good Conversation

Just spent the day with some good friends of mine, Darrel Harvey, Chuck and Carla Sundberg, and Chuck Hayes to name a few. Had some great conversation around the lunch table today, and it reminded me of a couple of things.

We need to talk more together. I'm a better person when I listen to my friends talk about the things that matter most to them.

We also need to listen better. Thanks for that reminder for all of us Darrel. I was challenged by what you said.

We don't need to be afraid of our conversation. Sometimes we have hurt ourselves by not being willing to talk about the issues we are struggling with. I felt safe with my friends to be me, and tried my best to allow them to be who they are.

We need to be open to change and correction. I don't have this whole mess figured out. Can we deal with and ask the hard questions that are necessary in our friendships? It's the only way we'll get to where we need to go.

I have great friends. I love to talk with them. I love to be challenge by them. I hope I'm always willing to be changed by our conversation.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

What is the right way?

We are in a discussion these days in the church about what the "way" looks like. I can't even begin to tell you how that effects conversation on a college campus, in a School of Theology; but what does "the Way" look like? I think that is a question I've been seeking to answer my whole life. I'm not sure there is one that is completely prescriptive, but there are attempts to answer this question.

In our tradition, the "way" is about holiness, being and living like Jesus lived. At times this is confusing, because we're called to be like someone we can't be like, yet we strive to be like him anyway. So, is this "way" just one of frustration? Is it attainable? Can I be like Jesus?

I think if the way I answer that set of questions means I can live a sinless life, the answer is no. But if the way I answer that set of questions means I don't have to sin, the answer is yes.

I think if the way I answer that set of questions means I can't ever sin again, the answer is no. But if the way I answer that set of questions means that the spirit enables me to live beyond the bondage of sin, the answer is yes.

I think if the way I answer that set of questions means I reach a point of sinless perfection, the answer is no. But, if the way I answer that set of questions means sin has and can be defeated on a daily basis on my life, the answer is yes.

I've been led by my colleagues around here to some of the keys to living the Christian Life, "The Way" to keep the conversation contextual. Here is what I'm thinking about today:

Four of the things I'm hearing "The Way" is about concern posturing, position, community, and confession.

We posture ourselves, realizing how desperately we are in need of a Savior, and a Spirit that enables us to live the life we can't live without. Humility is key is our understanding of ourselves, and our God.

We position ourselves on "the Way" of holiness. What I mean by that, very simply, is that as much a player as grace is to our salvation, obedience is just as key to our growth. If we are saved by grace, and God no longer sees who we were or what we did, it's just as imperative that those who are a part of the kingdom position ourselves as those who are obedient. Like my friends says, who we are shapes what we do, but we also have to own up to the fact that we are what we do.

Community is where it all happens. One of the first disciplines that we should practice, is coming together for worship, fellowship, and accountability. We are not islands to our own selves. We do not decide for ourselves what we believe. This always happens within the community of faith, those we now see, and those who have come before us. Like Paul said, never neglect the gathering of the people of faith.

Confession shapes our life. It puts us in the right posture, positions us in the kingdom, and keeps us accountable to God and each other. We aren't about a bland, therapeutic brand of faith, where all we become concerned with is making ourselves feel better about ourselves and lives. We are called to share in the suffering of our Lord, realizing nothing we do has the ability in and of itself to save and keep us.

Our life is about the Spirit, not our ability. It's about his grace that saves, not our morality. It's about our obedient response by living like Jesus did, not a license to abuse the freedom found in the grace-filled life. And it's about trusting that the work He began in us, he will complete.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Hanging with Friends

It's the people we hang with that make us who we are. I've known that about students, as a youth pastor, for a very long time. We become more and more like the people we surround ourselves with.

Well, for the past nine years, I've been privileged to hang with some of the best. These are the people who make me a better person. They help me to think bigger than just about the US. They help me understand that the church isn't just about my little corner of the world, but it's about places like Guatemala City, Schaffhausen, Campinas, Johannesburg, Munich, Ft. Worth, Manchester, Port Au Spain, Manilla, Colorado Springs, Monterrey, Queensland, and Mumbai. Best of all, they help me better understand what it means to be a friend.

Thanks again for allowing me to be a part of your world. Thanks again for helping me see beyond my little corner of the world and into yours. Thanks for the invitation to share life with you. Thanks for not giving up on our global church, and everything that means. Thanks most of all for being my friend.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Day Seven, Ragged Point,
Hearst Castle, and Ventura

Wow, what a day of contrasts. We started "down the ridge" at Ragged Point, driving to Piedra Blancas and the elephant seal beach, spent some time at the Hearst Castle, ending our trip at Ventura on the beach, just in time for another storm. This has truly been a great trip, everything I had hoped, except yesterday, although we made an incredible memory.

This picture shows how we felt when we finally arrived at Ragged Point, and then it was one adventure after another coming down today, from the incredible surf and southern Big Sur coastline, to Hearst Castle. When we arrived in Morro Beach, we ate lunch at a Subway, and felt like we had arrived back in "civilization", or at least where food was affordable again.

We have many more pics than we can post, but hope these give you little idea of our ride through southern Big Sur and Hearst Castle.