Saturday, December 29, 2007

WHO DEY!

oh yeah! tomorrow my wife and i get to go watch the "toilet bowl" between the miami dolphins and the cincinnati bengals. obvious from the picture who i am rooting for. hopefully we don't get beat up by the rabid south beach dolphin fans (they might scratch my eyes out!!).

WHO DEY! WHO DEY! WHO DEY THINK GONNA BEAT 'DEM BENGALS!

(this year... most)

Friday, December 28, 2007

what a bum

i know, i know. i haven't published in a few days. you might be thinking that i have just been sleeping all day, but it's not true! i have been on a crazy cleaning streak. i set up an office for myself (of course kristy is welcome to use it too) in our little studio cottage, cleaned everything except the bathroom and reorganized everything so that it seems like we actually have more space than we do. it's such a satisfying feeling to work hard. it's easy to forget that when you are in the middle of a 20 year nap, but to actually finish something... to go all the way with it is an awesome feeling. accomplishment is the word that comes to mind. now to do it in the harder parts of life.

Monday, December 24, 2007

the real reason

i absolutely love "the Charlie Brown Christmas Special" that is on every year. i think it's my favorite holiday special. why you ask? linus. when charlie brown is at his wits end with the reason for Christmas, linus puts it all in perspective. Jesus. God incarnate. The Word made flesh (and, as eugene peterson says in The Message, "...and moved into the neighborhood."). it is the event we date time by and it is the real "reason for the season".

thank you linus for this great reminder.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

packing

i am far from a perfectionist. any of you who know me and read this (does anyone read this??? ) know that this is true. however, i have discovered that once i get going, if it is possible to do something perfectly, i do become a bit of a fanatic about it until it is no longer perfect.

one example is cleaning. i never had the cleanest room growing up. my room mates in college know i was not the cleanest room mate (i was also not the dirtiest thank you very much). my wife has gotten frustrated with me throughout our marriage because i can just step over something on the floor and honestly not notice it. the flip side of this is that when i start to clean (and this is something that was true when i was younger and i've recently experienced about myself again), i want it to be perfect. so i will go and go until it is. once it is "perfect" (or at least my interpretation of perfection), i am a bit fanatical about keeping it that way. that is until my idea of perfection is tainted (like kristy leaving her clothes on the floor in the bathroom or me letting the dishes go a little too long). once this happens i lose all motivation to keep the perfection going.

would this qualify me as a lazy perfectionist? or a perfectionist without hope?

i am packing up my office at the church and i want to do it exactly right. not just to leave it excellent for whoever is next, but to make it easier to move the stuff into storage or home. one of kristy's favorite games is tetris. packing is very similar in that i get all these different size boxes and miscellaneous things and have to make them fit just right. we are going out to the storage unit today to re-organize it. this is dangerous because i could spend a week doing it. i don't have a week though so i'm gonna have to be okay with it once we are done, but also keep the motivation up for keeping it as organized as we can. my idea of perfection may not be possible, but that is no reason not to strive for great (not perfect, but excellent).

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

just like family

kristy and i are in a great small group. it formed in the fall of '06 and we are still going strong into '08. we lost a couple (to a job move) and we added a "couple" (TWINS!!) as well as a few more kids, and have really grown to love each other. we've had some great discussions about God and scripture and life, and some great discussions about how annoying Dr. Emerson Eggerichs is (women, the problems in your marriage are not completely your fault as some would have you believe). kristy and i don't have kids and it has been a real joy to get to be around our friends with kids and see the love they have for each other. just in the last year, we've gotten to see their kids grow and mature. it's such a blessing to "do life" with these people. i highly recommend community. the small group seems to be the model we get from the early church. people coming together, supporting each other, loving each other, and reaching out to others... together.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

S. A. T. U. R. D. A. Y. NIGHT!!

everybody's working for the weekend. it's true. we work hard all week knowing that the weekend will come when we can sleep in, catch up, relax, whatever. it's the motivation to go to work on wednesday... you know you are going to be closer to the weekend at the end of the day. i live like this as well.

i heard some one talking about sabbath one time that changed my whole outlook on it. our lives are not meant to be lived out of a desire to get to rest. we are to live out of our rest. that last day of the week isn't an opportunity to crash from the hard work, it's a chance to replenish so that we can keep working hard. we work out of our rest, we don't rest from our work. our work is never done... it's just something we must realize. we were created with purpose (to quote rick warren), purpose entails a job to to which leads us to believe we were created to work. we were not created to strive towards rest but to rest with the intent of being able to work harder and be more "productive" (this doesn't necessarily mean putting out more widgets, it just means that whatever we are called to do, rest lets us do it better).

so i encourage all of us (myself especially since i tend towards laziness), whenever you sabbath (saturday, sunday, tuesday, etc.) to rest hard. be intentional about your rest. it is not a chance to crash, but an opportunity to put yourself in a position to have more of an impact.

Friday, December 14, 2007

authority

bob dylan, in his much aligned "Christian" phase (which might not have been a phase at all)
wrote a song that said "You're gonna have to serve somebody". "It may be the devil, or it may be the Lord, but you're gonna have to serve somebody."

we all are under some sort of authority. whether it be government, employer, parents, teachers, credit collection agencies, pastor, priest, etc. we put ourselves under certain authorities. i believe that... we put ourselves under authority. whatever or whoever is over us is there by our choice. i know it sort of sounds weird because many of us like to play the martyr and view life in a way that it just comes at us, but we really do choose.

now comes one of the more important questions in life... what authority should we trust enough to place ourselves under?

God? how do we know if we really have done that? what does that look like?

the Bible? whose interpretation? aren't we really putting ourselves under that person's interpretation of the bible?

the church? which one? there are many similarities among Christian churches (i am staying within Christianity, but the question could go into all faiths... i have just chosen to place myself under the authority of Christianity because i believe that is the most trustworthy) but there are differences and a myriad of claims by each one.

do we just "trust ourselves" as in "the bible, Jesus, and me" approach?

i fully trust that there is a God, it is the God of the bible, He desires a relationship with us, and He honors us humbly searching for Him. it's just so hard to know who or what to trust when trying to follow God. there is so much division within Christianity... who has it right?

just something i'm thinking and praying about.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Immunization


so, apparently you have to have all of your immunizations to attend a public university. i was definitely under the impression that i'd had all of them growing up, so when i was not allowed to register i got pretty frustrated. i sent them my immunization card and they said i was missing the second shot for measles/mumps/and rubella. after calling every school i ever attended and the office of my old pediatrician, it was revealed that i actually had never gotten the 2nd shot. so i walked into a clinic today and got a shot in the back of my arm. apparently i was in danger of developing rubella at any moment.

now what i'm about to talk about i hope you understand is with full belief in immunizations (especially those that have completely revolutionized the world, like polio, small pox, etc.). is it so bad to get sick every now and then? by taking away any and every contact we would have with germs (and the people who carry them), we actually open ourselves up more to be sick. some germs in our system is a good thing. it helps to develop antibodies that can kick in when we are really sick. although, ultimately, when we care about our own well being so much that we forget to live life, we miss out on the whole point of being well. i worry about the people who are so afraid of germs that they actually will shut people out of their lives.

Jesus touched the lepers.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

integrity

on this journey of life, one of the goals is to learn ourselves more and more. who am i? what can i be? where do i fit? the first question is one i am really wrestling with right now. my wife is a woman of integrity. the definition of integrity is this: "adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty. " the key word being honesty i think. she is virtually incapably of lying. she either gets so nervous and guilt-ridden that she has to confess (usually within about 30 seconds... seriously, i've seen it) or she just starts laughing when the thought of lying occurs to her (which we all know would completely ruin the lie). if she is nothing else, she is a woman of integrity.

this is not a quality we share. i thought i had it. i thought i was an honest person and tried to be upfront with people. when i fail, i confess. but i was wrong. integrity does not flow from me as it does others. in fact, i would say what flows out of me naturally are a distortion of truth, excuses, and the desire to be believed (not to tell the truth, but to be believed... these are very different).

last year, a great man succumbed to ALS (lou gerig's disease). i encourage you to read dave chilcoat's online journal of his battle with this disease sometime... it will change your outlook on life. there is this video on youtube where he talks about this same struggle in his own life. this was encouraging to me (not in the way of making it okay to not have integrity, but to know you can develop it).

the martyrs of the early church had to possess this characterisic. to be so committed to something as to give your life for it screams of integrity. they were the same people when alone, when with other believers, and when in front of accusers. they didn't change their stories to fit the situation, they simply were themselves all the time, and that quality is what changed the world. that quality withing the early church is what brought down the greatest empire ever known to man. i pray for this quality to be developed in me and for the evil that dwells within to be ripped from me. it will be painful, it will be hard, and i don't know if i will come out the other side or if i will just give up. i just don't know, but i have to hope.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

the good book



it's only been recently that i have discovered how much i love to learn. i always knew that i liked "knowing" things, but i never really loved learning. knowing doesn't involve a dependence on others, learning does. knowing says that i have it all together, learning says i need more. knowing is great for spouting off knowledge or winning at jeopardy, learning is great for actually connecting with people. it's only been recently that i've learned to love learning. so many giants have gone before us. there is so much more to everything than we think.

i have always (usually) only studied things that i already sort of knew about or believed. i am now in a place where i desire (as scary as that is) to be challenged a bit. i was raised catholic and eventually left the church (in my heart, around 16. in practice at 19) to begin attending a protestant church. the latter seemed so much more alive. the people more friendly. the message more relevant. i have, though, come to see the depth of the catholic and orthodox churches. do they have their issues... you bet. but so does every group of people that classifies themselves as a "Christian church". the thing i've discovered i miss within protestantism is the meditative, the mysticism, the reverence. not that these are totally absent within protestatism (just as the more historical churches have aspects of alive congregations and relevant messages), but they are not pushed at all. if you want to experience any of this, you have to go to sources outside your circle. maybe that's a good thing.

i have been learning about the prayerful reading of the Bible, also known as Lectio Divina. slowly reading and drinking in the text. truly meditating on the words and the meaning behind them. prayerfully seeking God to speak through the books He inspired. i have always thought i tried this, but i realize now i haven't. this is new and challenging to me.

Friday, December 7, 2007

special day


oh, and happy birthday to the love of my life.

homecoming

i wrote a little bit about pilgrimages a few days ago. i wonder what is would have been like to come home after a journey like that. leaving family, profession, friends for months or years to journey across the world must have required a deep commitment. i can sort of understand the commitment it would take to leave (at least i hope i can understand that and would be willing to live it if God called me to), but what would it be like to come home from that? would it still be home?

our journeys are not like that today. as i said before, it is so much easier to go somewhere. we schedule a flight, rent a car, get our oil changed and fill the tank and go. journeys that would take months or years can be done in hours and days now. the commitment is not as deep. i think that makes the homecoming easier. but is that a good thing? does that lead us more and more into a "comfortable" life?

i know that i have times where my biggest concern is comfort. i feel that i have been slipping into that within the past few years and, because of that, God continues to lead me into places that will break me of that. calling me to leave the comfort of salary and insurance and home ownership to a place of dependence on Him and others is breaking me of that. more and more i see comfort as the enemy.

my wife comes home today and for that, i am happy.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

the end

things end. it's just the way life goes. we all know this, yet we seem to struggle against the end. sometimes endings can be good as we see when war ends, particularly tough times, bad relationships, etc. it was just announced (even though some folks have known for a while) that i am going back to school full time and won't be in my ministry position after this month. the kids and parents found out late last week. i am sad that i won't be in their lives to the extent i am now, and i know that they are feeling a tad bit abandoned (i am the 4th to come and go in the last few years), but they are also excited for me (because they love me as i love them... i thank them for their love) to get to pursue this dream. the goal is to end strong. i don't want to be a lame duck. no one wants that legacy yet we all tend to slip into that when we know something is ending. we stop caring, we begin focusing on what's next, and we tend to leave with regrets. i heard a story once (and i am going to completely butcher it) about a wealthy young man who was raised in a Christian home. he had not really been taken with his parents' faith and had graduated college and was ready to make his own mark in the world. his parents presented him with an opportunity to travel around the world and he took it (who wouldn't?). his chaperone on the trip was a strong believer and through their conversations, this young man became a Christian. he began to pour over the scriptures and, more importantly, began to live out his newfound faith in a manner of such great love for others that it was infectious. he loved everyone he came in contact with as though it was Jesus Himself. people were so inspired by him that many came to faith through him. he, while still a young man, was diagnosed with a rare, incurable disease. because of his faith, he had a confidence of his eternal future. he could have easily began to focus on heaven. he could have easily moved into an "exiting stage" by saying goodbye to family and friends. he could have easily backed off loving every stranger, every beggar, every man, woman, and child as Jesus. but he didn't. after he passed, some one picked up his bible to read it and saw what this young man had written in the very front. it's a quote i have yet to live up to but pray that i will:

No Reserves
No Retreats
No Regrets

God, i pray that i don't leave anything on the field. that i give everything i've got and more. i pray that i never back down, never give up, never give in. and i pray that i can leave knowing that i've done everything i could possibly do.

i love the scene at the end of Schindler's List when Schindler looks around at all the people he saved and began to weep because he could have saved more. "This car," he says, "this car could have saved 10 more. This ring, 2 more people. 2 more people if I had sold this ring." the man saved over 1,000 people (just think of the generational impact of that), but he is right... he could have done more. we can all do more.

Monday, December 3, 2007

bone of bone, flesh of flesh

i miss my wife. she went on a retreat this past weekend (thursday through sunday), came home, packed, and i had to drive her up by the airport because she flew out today for work until friday. she is going to iowa for training in her new position at work (she was promoted into marketing... congrats!).

as much as i miss her, i am so glad that travel is not as long and dangerous as it once was. to make a "pilgrimage" to the holy land or rome, it just takes some cash and a computer to schedule it. then, all you have to do is get on the plane, get in the rental car and go. of course there are dangers in travel, but almost no more dangerous than crossing the street. does that take some of the excitement out of travel and especially pilgrimages? will it mean as much to me when i go to israel or rome as it did for francis of assisi or martin luther? i hope so but i am skeptical.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Writing

i actually like to write. it's just the getting started that is the hard part. i have a paper to write for a class. it's due wednesday and i have to do a 10 minute presentation on the material. they say the #1 fear of most people is public speaking. i actually don't mind it at all. maybe i just like the sound of my own voice (it is sexy). i have done the research for the paper, but i am completely putting off writing it (i am sitting at Panera now under the guise of writing said paper, but i am writing here instead). once i get going, i will really enjoy writing it.

it started me thinking about writing before computers, word processors, and typewriters. i remember not having a computer in high school and having to go to my mom's office to use her typewriter. i did this through my 2nd year of college when i finally bought a computer. it's crazy to think about the amazing works of literature, science, theology, etc. that were written by hand. the time it must have taken! these men and women must really have believed in what they were writing (or been getting paid serious cash to do it). i hope i can say the same for the words i take the time to put on paper. (especially the cash part!)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

the fam damily

So I really want to be regular in this whole "blog" thing, but I went out of town for Thanksgiving and just got back into the office (yes, the one I'll be leaving in a few weeks).

My wife and I drove from Jacksonville to Cincinnati to spend the weekend (like 4 days really) with my family. Her parents moved to Durango, CO (and go to church here) 2 years ago, so we don't get to see them as much. On Wednesday, we packed up and left for Cincy (home of the Bengals!!). This year we decided to stay in a hotel instead of staying with my parents or my sister. What a great choice!! To have that small sanctuary at night made the whole difference. Not that I don't love being with my family, it's just that when you try to put a whole year of not seeing each other into 4 days, it can get overwhelming and to be able to go somewhere else at night and rest really does make the time with each other better.

It got me to thinking about Sabbath. It's one of the commandments to remember the Sabbath and make it holy. But why? Mark Driscoll did a great sermon on the Sabbath not too long ago that you should check out. The point was that we were created to be able to work harder and better when we take regular rest. I have started to call this (and I'm sure I stole this from somewhere) "Work Hard, Rest Hard". If you work too hard, you are a workaholic and will burn out (and burn out those around you). If you rest too hard, you are lazy and you disappoint the people who count on you. It's the combination and the balance of the two that allow us to do the most, with the best results. Being able to leave my family at night and rest allowed my wife and I to be more "present" when with them during the day and evenings. It made for a great trip, and I hope the more I learn this lesson it can translate into a better life.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Change #2


One of my favorite ministry experiences actually came as a volunteer. I was a part of getting Young Life started in Northern Kentucky (right across the Ohio River from Cincinnati). The Area Director sent me to a school that had never had this ministry before. Beechwood High School (go tigers!). A small school with a huge football program (I think they've lost count of the number of state championships they've won). I walked into this school cold. It was a year before I met a kid who would actually talk to me. This kid brought his friends around and soon we were taking folks to camp and running weekly club and campaigners. Things grew fast and it was awesome. I became extremely close to a group of guys. They were Juniors and Seniors and primed to change their school (which they did... if anyone from Beechwood reads this and is thankful for YL being at their school, you need to call some of these guys and thank them). Well, those high school guys are now 27 and 28 years old and have kids. It makes me feel old when some one I "ministered" to now has a baby, or a house, or a wife, or (insert anything else grown up here). One of these guys just had a kid and named him Spike. Seriously, Spike. Now, if you knew this guy, you wouldn't be surprised (and hopefully many of you will know him someday when his films become critically and financially successful). I don't want to get all "Lion King" on you but it really is a circle. We have impact on others, who have impact on others, who have impact on others, etc. My friend is now working for one of the guys who had a huge impact in my life. It's funny to think that my friend would never be working for this mentor of mine if it hadn't been for the mentor himself. Things change, things grow, things become different, but we are a catalyst for that change. Change doesn't just "happen" to us.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Change


Change is more than for toll booths. Change is good. Change is scary. I have started this blog to chronicle the changes happening in my life. After doing youth ministry for nearly 14 years (7 as a volunteer and 7 as full-time), I have decided to go back to school to further my studies in History. What i end up doing when this process is over is still very much up in the air. Will I teach? Will I pursue even further degrees? Will i go to seminary and re-enter full-time ministry? I don't know the answers to these questions. They are a few of many questions of which I don't have answers. I am not writing on this blog because I have answers. I write because I have ideas. If left to my own ideas, I can get pretty prideful and think that I have answers. I am hoping that people will challenge me here, push me to think. I firmly believe in some things and I hope I can share them with love and respect. I have come to respect the blending of the past and the future (trying our best to not lose the beauty in either) and I will focus much of what I write on that subject. I hope to debate, discuss, and befriend people here so please join me for the ride.