Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Tonight we WRITE!

I'm stepping through the door tonight - I have an 8-10pg paper due tomorrow for my "Kingdom of God" class. When I had it in, I'll be officially done with the class. So in that sense, I'm stepping through a door in that class. But I'm also stepping through a door in what I'm doing. I'm going to write a paper that will draw heavily from what I've done in other classes, one in particular. I am going to seek to make a conection between the Kingdom of God and the Church.

Now, that's not all that profound. I've got John Fuellenbach and Howard A. Snyder to help me out with that. Both of whom we read for this class, particularly for our group presentation on Kingdom ethics last week. But, in reading them both, Fuellenbach spelling out the 3-fold Mission of the Church from Vatican II and Snyder's 5 points of Kingdom Consciousness, I believe there is one glaring omission. And here's where I'm going to step through the door. I'm going to contend that Lesslie Newbigin best explains this, particularly in his book 'Foolishness to the Greeks' What he does is emphasize the Church as a Sent Community. This isn't new, in fact I'm going to draw the connection from Luke 9:1-2 - Jesus CALLED the twelve together and GAVE them power over demons and SENT them out to PROCLAIM the Kingdom of God and to HEAL.

That's a paraphrase of course, but the key ingredients are there. The Church's (or called community's) relation to the Kingdom of God here is fairly well articulated. They are empowered and SENT to proclaim the Kingdom and then to heal and therefore live out the Kingdom. It's this aspect of being sent that is somewhat lacking in these other discussions. Now, would they disagree? I don't think so. But they don't say it so explicitly. And I think, especially today, it's important to do so. And it's important to articulate it in a good way. That's what I'm going to try to do with this paper.

So, stepping through this door is a way of integrating some stuff I've already done/read (Newbigin) with something I'm doing now. I'm hoping this will be good because when I leave here, integrating what I've learned before with what I'm doing now will be particularly pertinent. So, I'm off to write this paper. But I may need a short snooze first...

Monday, December 11, 2006

"Here Future, future, future..."

Yes, that's me. Yes, my eyes look like that when I read, and it doesn't even have to be Barth. It's really just when I've got too much to do & read tired - of course I always end up falling asleep reading, but whatever. (Don't get me wrong, I love reading this stuff, it's just not always easy. Heck, I'm taking an Independant Study next semester on Barth's doctrine of Vocation - IV.3.2). I spent a couple weeks away from the books and just got back into stuff last week. It felt good, but the stress was lurking at my door, waiting to devour me - it continues that way. Simply having too much to do in too many different realms of my life. So I keep it at bay by thinking of the future, what we've got going on next - or hope to. One of those things is Spring Semester.

I always fight with myself to keep from just dropping whatever I'm doing to focus on the next new, shiny thing. Spring Semester is close enough. I'm hoping to have most/all of my classes on Thursday, leaving Tuesday free to be at Trenton Psych (& Wed Afternoon) and M,W,F to stay home and take care of Brennan, thereby not needing a "babysitter" 'cept for Daycare Tues & Thur & our friends for a couple hours Wed afternoon before Bridgette gets home. Tonight is registration, online, big coup for Princeton Seminary. 9pm... I'll be cramming onto a server that will inevitably crash, to be one of 25 students to get into a limited enrollment Pastoral Care class (Marriage, Family &...) Hope it works out, I'm nearly screwed if not.

But there's this other class, another Limited Enrollment, this time by Application. It's a Youth Ministry class, "Readings in Theology and Youth Ministry" - I've never "applied" for a class before. It's interesting. But it got me to thinking, crystalizing might be too strong of a word, but at least putting down some ideas I've been thinking about in the past - all for the application. One of the quetsions was - "If you taught a seminar at Youth Specialites - what would it be?" This is what I wrote:

I would want to teach a seminar entitled “The Mission of the Church.” I think in many ways the Church has lost the sense of mission that pervades the Scriptures, the idea of being elected to serve, chosen to bless others. I would really want to discuss how to do ministry, youth ministry but really all church ministry, outside the box of the building, outside of the Sunday morning service, up on the hill. Instead of focusing on doing “service projects” as if they are an addendum to what the church “really” does, these instead being the very heart of what the church is called to do. One of the best experiences I had in Youth Ministry was the final Fall Retreat I ran where after talking about being “in not of the world” we lived this out by sending our students out to the neighbours (we were staying in a condo complex in Palm Springs) to offer their help in any way they could. One woman was so thankful because she had to get her furniture back in after major renovations and wasn’t sure how she would do it without our offer of help. I think more youth leaders and pastors in general need to see ministry with an “off the hill” mentality that sees our call to serve as essential and not peripheral and that’s what I’m passionate about and what I’d want to teach.

I don't know if this will help me get in or not - but I figure it's better to be honest. In either event, I'm sitting here, on my couch, just begging for the future to get here, my present is a little too stressful right now...

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Poorly Developed

This photo bears no resemblance to either the current geography of Princeton nor the title of this post. Bridgette took this amazing photo down by the canal a couple weeks ago. Now, we're in the middle of a "heat" wave where during the day we're hitting 60's but of course all the leaves are gone - it's wierd. Also, the title has to do with the fact that although there's been time, I'm not sure if I can articulate some of what I'd been thinking earlier, any better than before.

About 2 weeks ago I had a couple meetings with some churches about positions they're looking to fill, positions I would be available for upon Graduation (and completion of my Internship/CPE @ TPH, passing final assessment in January, etc). I can't tell you how many times I get asked by my non-PC(USA) friends what happens next, and I have to explain to them where I am in the process. From my end I'm feeling good. I passed all my Ordination exams 1st try (by God's grace alone) and I'll be ordainable by graduation as long as everything goes smoothly in my January 27 meeting back in LA. I have other friends that aren't in those boats. And yet, as I explain for the umpteenth time just all the pieces that must fall into place by June when our housing runs out... Let's just say it's a little different than some others...

But it was a very interesting week when I skipped 2 classes to meet with people, talking about being a pastor, about possibly being one of THEIR pastors. I was reminded that I'm spending 3 years here for a purpose that looks very different from the actual time I spend here. You read & write, discuss & argue, dissect & deconstruct - and you're supposed to come out the other end able to apply constructively to real people in their real lives in a manner that is helpful and hopefully moving towards some kind of a positive outcome. So when I sat down and tried to answer "what would you do with a subdivision where 150 families live 20 miles from the church that is not easily accessible..." or "how do you make Jesus relavent to a 13yr old who only sometimes wants to go to Youth Group and doesn't know what he believes..." well, it reminded me that what I do here isn't always a 1:1 with what I'm expected to do in a few months out there. Just like the Bible - it must be translated.

Now, I'm absolutely psyched about getting out there, getting out of here. I've loved it here, I've loved the people. I've loved the opportunity to set aside time to read, study & think which never would have happened had I been doing fulltime work at the same time. But I'm absolutely ready to get back out there, in the parish, interacting with people & actually living this stuff again. Not that I haven't been here... but as I've said, it's different. Being PC(USA) of course I sometimes wonder exactly what kind of church I'll be returning to - in tatters... I dunno. But that's for another post.

What's kind neat is that I have two main requirements for next semester - a Pastoral Care class and an Education class. Both Practical Theology classes, both, hopefully, very focused on what I'll actually be DOING when I get out of here. That combined with doing an internship, and I'm really set up to be slowly shifting my thinking from hypothetical to the real nitty gritty of ministry. There's only 6-7 months left before I'll be in a church again, and I'm very much looking forward to it. And I think this Spring semester will be a great preparation for it too. Now, if I can just get all that I need done for this semester in these next 2 months...

Friday, November 17, 2006


I've got a lot of things I've been thinking about lately, from watching "the Constant Gardener" to having "informal" discussions with a few churches about possible positions upon graduation to my work with patients at a state psychiatric hospital. Right now, I'm processing some things - but I know if I don't write about them soon, the thoughts won't crystalize. So, I'm making the committment to do that very soon - just as soon as the OSU-Michigan game is over Saturday...

Monday, November 06, 2006

Blessed with time

I was remarking to some friends today that I was stretched in many different directions and I couldn't give anything up in fact, the only way I'd be able to give up something was to ditch class. Well, after having my first class' presentation postponted until Wed, circumstances conspired for me to skip my second class of the day and come home early - to my friend who was watching our children - where we would swap for the afternoon. Up until today, I have been blessed with 3-4 hrs of at least one child being awake - and often fussy. But right now, as Andrew has left for class, I sit here on the couch in relative silence (save for Snickers cleaning himself and the rustling of squirrels in our ceiling).

It's a small blessing, I know. But I need them - the small ones. I'm frankly pretty jealous of all my friends who are struggling more with motivation to do work than anything else. They've all finished their internships (a summer-long one going into your Sr. year will do that) and their wives are not working fulltime. I'm stretched between School, Internship @ Trenton Psych, Brennan - oh yeah, and preparing for next year, whatever that looks like. I need these small little blessings of time to remind myself that the "feeling" of being stretched in so many different places, is only for a time. That soon, I'll be able to focus again. Soon, I'll be back "working" not in school, not "interning" and probably not the "fulltime caregiver" of our son. All things that by themselves I will miss - but together, I probably won't miss them all.

But it also brings to mind a simple fact that I know about myself - the grass is always greener - and I'm always admiring it from a distance. I don't know if it's something about our culture, my upbringing, or simply my inability to be satisfied, but from a young age I've always spent a lot of time daydreaming about what was next - next season, next year, next job, next school, next city, next, next, next. Since I have not lived in the same place for more than 2 yrs (over the past decade) or even the same city for 4 years in that span - I've begun to wonder if this transient lifestyle will continue. I don't know that I want it to, but I know that I enjoy new places, new challeneges, new people... and so I look for that new, that next.

And as I sit here typing, thinking about my current busy schedule, I can't help but think of what will be next year - and then the first baby wakes up...

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

SOMEONE thinks I'm ready

Actually, the truth is more like AT LEAST two people think I know enough about Theology/Exegesis/Polity/Worship to be an ordained pastor. Here's the story - Monday was the date we were "supposed" to hear back about our ordination exams. They were graded a month ago, written two months ago, but we'd find out Monday if we passed or not - the actual exams will be returned in about a week from now. Well, all morning we're sending back and forth e-mails, text messages and phone calls trying to find out if the results had come in yet. But finally, just before 2pm the e-mail was sent out - we could come in to claim our "prizes" anytime before 4:30pm that day. Which was great, 'cause I was looking after both Brennan & Denali until about 4:15pm or so...

Well, our friend Rachel came to pick up Denali at about 4:10pm, I grabbed Brennan from his crib (where he'd been sleeping peacefully) threw on his jacket, into his car seat and sped to campus. I reached the office just in time, and was handed an envelope with the contents of the picture inside. What you may not be able to read is that I received a Satisfactory grade on all 4 of the exams I wrote in August. Not that after writing them I had any more angst about passing them than any other exam I've ever written - I mean, once they're out of your hands, there's pretty little you can do. In fact, I felt like the questions were more than fair and that especially on the Theology, Polity & Worship exams there were not many enormous pot holes. In fact, as of right now I'm not sure I know of anyone who has failed those three - of course, my sphere is kinda small right now, so who knows.

But as I looked at those results, it was kinda freaky too. People have read my thoughts and arguments and believe that what I said so conforms to the standards in our denomination as they abide by Scripture that they feel like I'm worthy to be ordained... that I could possibly be THEIR pastor. Whao! Over the next few months I'm going to be preparing more paperwork for my Final Assessment, the last real hurdle before seeking and accepting a first call to be someone's pastor. I know I've grown a lot in these past few years - but it's still a little surreal to think that I'm not far off from being someone's pastor. There is a lot of responsibility with that and I know I'm not quite ready. I know that this last year has taken its toll on me physically, emotionally and spiritually and that these next months are going to be crucial in preparing for the pastorate. Princeton doesn't do a particuarly good job in preparing people to be pastors - great thinkers/writers/communicators, great at deconstructing ideas, great at dialoguing - but not necessarily great at the skills needed to survive and thrive in ministry. That's where one has to be intentional, and so that's what I'm about to do right now...

Monday, October 23, 2006

What's UP?!

Ok, so there are two main reasons - well 3 really, that this blog has been empty for the past 3 weeks:

1. I've been crazy busy, getting back into the groove of things, classes, chaplaincy, taking care of Brennan & our friends' daughter Denali...

2. Blogger has been sucking on and off lately. We've had a ton of problems loggin in & posting blogs - especially pictures...

3. But the biggest issue has been my Macbook - argghhh!!

Believe it or not, Apple is not perfect, and definitely not above criticism. My new Macbook caught the "Randomly Shutting Down" problem that I guess has been fairly common among the new Intel based Macs. I guess there's some issue and they need to replace the Heatsync - whatever that is. Anyway, after experiencing this shutting down at numerous inopportune times, I finally put the call into Apple and they eventually told me to send it in. So, I also didn't have it for nearly a week. Kinda hard to do anything online w-out a computer.

But I must say, once I finally got the box (which took about 5 days once it was "overnighted" by DHL) it was back in 4 days, not bad. And since then (Friday) it hasn't shut down once and I've gone back to using it the way I did before, not changed anything. So I can only assume that the problem's fixed.

As for the rest of my life right now - I'll find out today whether I passed my Ordination exams. I'll also stay up late tonight working on a paper for my "Kingdom of God" class - where I plan to look at the story of the Transfiguration in Matthew, Mark & Luke and see how the identity of Jesus affects the idea of the "Kingdom of God" or if it does. I've done some of the prelim work, but I doubt that I'll be finishing it tonight - which means that I'll have to fit it around Game 3 of the World Series which has been one of my major distractions (not that I need any new ones) but it's hard not to watch when MY TEAM (the Detroit Tigers) are playing in their first World Series since 1984 - when I happened to be 6, and honestly don't remember it at all. Probably 'cause it was smack dab in the middle of my parents splitting up for the second time - yeah, that might be bigger to a 6 year old than the World Series.

Anyway, I'm hoping to get back to this blog more regularly, now that I have the tools to do so again. I'll try and carve out some time AT LEAST once a week. I do have a bunch of things I've been wanting to write about, like my surprise trip to Canada, my friend Karl Barth and even my trip to a Hindu temple - not to mention the kickn' Flag Football team I'm playing on on Saturday mornings... go RED Team!

So, more to come later...

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."

Today I was reminded of the power of God and the ability we have to stop up that power in our own lives. I should be careful here because I don't want to come off all "prosperity gospel" or anything because I believe that's a crock of $#!%. But the simple fact of the matter is that in this world, especially with our mass communication via internet, television, radio and print media, there are more and more things that we can think on. We have the ability to go anywhere we like and hear these voices, refraining from silence and not allowing the Spirit of God a minute of solitude to speak to us. It is not difficult at all. I've realized the especially negative slant that each of these often take, whether it's Sports Talk Radio, Rush Limbaugh or the new Progressive Talk Radio - the name of the game is complaining. Straight up negativity. Go to your local or national news and its the same. The internet is flush with stories about the problems in our world - real or imagined...

Now, please don't get me wrong, we absolutely need to keep abreast of what is going on in our world. I will not, cannot advise us to put our heads in the sand. That is simply idiotic. But there's a great difference between keeping informed in order to do something and simply being a passive conduit for gossip - a fly attracted to the ever-glowing orb of sin that is in our society - moth to the flame. It's not necessary to know of EVERY murder in order to know that there are people suffering the loss of a loved one. We do not need to know the details of every celebrity divorce to know that our fratured society contiues to press incredibly on the bonds of marriage. We do not need to watch ever police car chase, in-store robbery video or surveliance camera to know that people are running and hurting each other...

What I was reminded of today, after a great time of sharing and prayer with my good friend Jeff, was that we can be even more effective ministers and servants of the Lord when we actually dwell on those things that are good, pure, lovely, true, noble... When our mind is thinking of God, we can have the eyes of God to see the hurt, the heart of God to be moved to action and the hands and voice of God to act in the way that God knows is best. I thought of this today on my way to Trenton Psychiatric Hospital where I will be interning as a chaplain this year. I was nervous - scared really, with the prospect of being on a "floor" for the first time, coming face to face with patients in "their" environment, with no structure or no other people to hold on to... but as I finally rolled up and parked, I was singing Chris Tomlin song, about our Awesome God... and the fear seemed to be a distant memory. Instead it was God, the ever-present help in trouble, the one who cares so deeply for these people, who wants more than anyone to bring healing and restoration to their tormented lives - that God was on my mind, and somehow the idea of meeting with these people seemed to be so much less terrifying. As it turned out, I only got my ID card, said high to my supervisors, picked up some bulletins and headed out. No visiting floors, no stopping in to see patients, not today.

But I realized in all of this, that I've spent a lot of time lately thinking on things other than God. Not always terrible things, not necessarily dwelling on the dark side of our society, watching horror movies or something - but simply not on God - not on THE Good. And I was reminded of the power of God to fill our minds with joy and hope when we only choose to think on God. When we cease to fill our minds with all the other stuff, when we allow God room to work, room to move in our lives - we can begin to experience the joy that God so desperately wants to give us.

Now, mind you, I'm not talking about being happy. Happiness and joy are miles apart. Joy is deeper and more lasting and it can remain even in those times of unhappiness. Joy is what is found in God - happiness, well that's probably best described as the good feelings you get from other things - which are always fleeting, the brief highs from those things of this world. But the joy of the Lord...

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Week 1 in the Books...

[Note: Blogger has been crapping out on me lately, this post was from yesterday]
As I sit here, taking care of not one, but two infants, I'm getting just a taste of the fact that so few of us live a charmed life. For the most part, I've done pretty well for 28 years. I've never been stuck in a Katrina-like Natural disaster. I've never found msyelf without a job or a home. I've never faced a major physical injury or disease, no pronouncements of cancer, not even a broken bone. Instead, I've been blessed with enough brains and athletic ability to enjoy high school sports and music and attend college in another country. I got married to my college sweetheart, lived in Los Angeles for 4 years, working at an amazing church, and now have the luxury of attending one of the most prestigous seninaries in the nation (I'll make no claims to whether it deserves the prestige). And of course we've been blessed with a wonderful son...

So, when I look at my current situation, being a full-time seminary student, with an internship this semester and taking care of our son while my wife works full-time, with the addition of course of our friend's daughter 2 days a week as we baby swap so that we can attend our classes, I'm gettign at least a little reminder that most people don't have the luxury of having things handed to them, and being able to screw around every day, looking for something to do. I used to experience some of that, but no more.

Now, I don't say this to complain. I still believe I've got it pretty well compared to many others. I say this in many was as a reminder to myself. Looking back, I don't think I can remember a time in my life where I've had such a packed schedule, day in and day out. In High School I was pretty busy, but I never had to worry about paying any bills, making dinner, taking care of a little baby who depends on you for everything... This is definitely the busiest I've ever been. And yet there are people out there who work 3 jobs as single parents to take care of their kids. They can't afford a babysitter or new clothes. There are people who are caring for aged relatives inside their cramped home, where they never thought they'd have to find another bedroom...

I think this year may be a very good opportunity for me to not only learn to be discipline (or die trying) but also to learn something about those who don't have 10-20+hrs/wk to devote to "hobbies" or other things of little importance. And those are the people most likely I'll be serving in the parish a year from now. And figuring out how to serve them, how to be a minister of the gospel to people who are suffering, and busy with life, things that they simply have to do to survive...Hopefully, I'll learn something of that this year. I'll certainly be in the rice places for it...

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

First Day of "school"

Brennan went in to Daycare this morning for his first time. He'll be going 2 mornings per week (Tuesday & Thursday) this year while I attend class and study. It was a big day for all of us, but his teacher said he had a "great day." Here's a breakdown of what he did:

"Brennan listened to the story "Spot Goes to School" and to the song "Good Morning." He had fun playing with stacking cups and soft animals. Brennan played in the exersaucer, took a stroller ride up and down the sidewal and had a busy morning!"

It' so cool that they give us a report like this EACH day. They also tell us what he ate & what time, along with nap and diapers (which I figured no one was concerned for me to recite. As hard as it is for us to give him a way for the day (well, it's not THAT hard) we know he's in a good place with good people and he'll have fun and be safe.

I got another one of those moments today, when he came back, the "I'm a dad" moments where you start thinking about the enormity of the task. There are going to be many more of these "first days of school" and one day a "first day of college" and in between I'm going to be responsible for teaching him about life. It's a big responsibility, and I know I'm going to fail a lot. He's probably going to learn some bad habits from me and maybe some bad words (uh... but I don't know any...) So I just gotta keep praying that somehow he'll turn out alright. Luckily, I'm not alone, I've got a little help...

Friday, September 08, 2006

Simply Out of the Loop

Between Ords, vatationing and spending eight ours per day taking care of my son - I've simply felt out of the loop on a lot of things lately. I've gotten out of a good rythm which for me is one of the most important things for me to be feeling good about things. I thrive in a set schedule but when I get out of that, I get into a funk. It's not that bad right now, but I walk around the apartment continually thinking of things that I need to do but either a) aren't able to do or b) just don't want to do.

I know it's only going to get tougher in 2 weeks when classes start - so I guess I've got just a few weeks to get myself in order. Oh boy...

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

EXIT-gete This!

(You can't read it, but it says "THE END" have you ever read a non-fiction book that contains that - especially a schollarly work? ha!)

This photo pretty much describes the way I feel right now. I'm sitting in the CN Center - the PTS computer lab, and my 13page Exegesis Ordination Exam has just been sent to the printer. The time on the computer, as I type this, is 2:17am.

I've chosen Hosea over Luke to exegete (fancy term for interpreting, getting the meaning out of the text) the specific passage is 5:15-6:6. I chose it mainly because I'd done Hebrew more recently than Greek. But I'm no language guy, so demonstrating "a working knowledge of Hebrew" has been in the forefront of my mind as I've done this. I hope I have, but that will be up to two (possibly a third) grader to determine in October - which I'll hear back about October 23 (hopefully).

When I hand this in it will mark my final Ordination exam and a reminder that my "fate" is no longer in my own hands. If I pass all 4 exams, I may be able to be examined in February and begin the process of seeking a call to a PC(USA) church. If not, I will have to retake an exam (or more)in January, further pushing back that process. But in the end, if indeed this is God's call, then this will work out. I just need to trust that God works in all of these ways - in my mind as I study & take the exams, in committees and graders and communities that might seek to call me to serve them.

One thing I have found, and this I may write more on later, is that I have never felt more Presbyterian (or Reformed) than when I was writing these exams. It has confirmed in me God's call to this particular "league".

Now, as I head off to bed, I will be able to enjoy myself just a little more knowing that I've "exited" this little stage. I'm now looking forward to NYC and the Tigers game Wed night and of course Labour Day weekend in the Adirondacks. I think I've earned a little R & R...

By the way, this marks my 100th Post on this blog - here's to 100 more...

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Testing testing...

First of all - this better not be me in 12 hrs. In 12 hrs I better be pounding down coffee, grabbing my bag and heading to the shuttle to catch a ride to my Ordinaton exams. 9 hrs of exams spread (kinda) over 27 hrs with an additional exam in either Greek or Hebrew due 4 days later. Yes, I've come home from 2 wonderful weeks in Southern California to my own private IdaHell. I've spent this week taking care of Brennan and TRYING to bone up on my Reformed Theology, Worship & Polity... we'll soon (or not so soon, the grades won't come back 'til October) see if it's worked. I do think that no one can or should question the scencerity of someone's commitment to a denomination after willingly undergoing such rigors, especially when you have to pay $280 (that's WITH a discount) to do it.

Anyway, that's where I'm at - our new apt. still looks like a wreck and all the mess is doing nothing but adding to my stress. And you can only imagine how Bridgette must feel. By Wednesday night we'll be enjoying a ballgame in NY, watching my beloved Tigers whallop on the Yankees - and by then it should be all over but the cryin' - and I hope to be doing none of that...

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

"Vacationing" in SoCal...

So yes, it's been awhile since I posted anything here, and I think in my last post I made it abundantly clear why. Of course there had been the attempt a couple of weeks ago to make post as well - but sometimes Blogger has problems, and so it never made it up. But right now, we're in Los Angeles, away from work, away from studies, away from home. It's been great to see friends and family, especially getting to introduce them to Brennan. It's also been challenging, chiefly because of Brennan.

We ventured up to our Church's Family Camp last week in Scotts Valley (near Santa Cruz) and the ride up there took 7 hrs - but the ride home took us 11hrs!! While we were there we were able to enjoy some great times, relax and for the first time since I was in High School I was able to be at a camp or retreat where I got to just be - not lead or teach or anything like that. It was great. It was also neat in that it was my third time up there, Bridgette's second and with Brennan we were now part of the "familiy" part ad we did adult things like the other adults - very neat. It was such a blessing to be invited.

We're now back in L.A., spending time with friends and family and staying with our good friends Richard and Lindsey Surendranath. The only problem is that there are so many people to see and only a week to do it in. No matter who we see or don't see we will probably feel guilty. For each person we do see it will mean someone else won't be seen and sometimes we'll only have a couple hours to spend with anyone - bummer. But people understand - if they're real friends they do. We all have limited time and we do the best we can. If Bridgette wasn't such a loveable person, we never would've been in this mess to begin with. I know for a fact we have these friends because of her. I probably would only have 1 friend if not for Bridgette...

Anyway, aside from visiting and traveling, God taught me something neat while we were at Camp this past week. I mean, it was kinda a reminder in some ways. It's simply the fact that sometimes, those areas of our lives that we struggle with sin in - they will never be removed. Some people talk all about the amazing healing God does in their lives, some supernatural thing that removes all desire for something (alcohol, drugs, etc) and how God blessed them that way. But the truth is, that's not always the way God works. Paul said he prayed time and time again to have his "thorn" removed and God told him that God's grace was suffcient. Essentially, that it was not going to go away - Paul would always have that struggle, and it would be a reminder that Paul needed to rely on God, a reminder that God would perfect Paul in his weakness - not in his strength.

And as I hear that this weekend, I thought to myself that maybe my greatest areas of weakness, my strongest temptations would never completely be removed. Not that I would continue to stumble, but that I would never stop hearing that temptation, I would never be completely immune, I would always be one step from falling. But that in that I would need to rely much more on God, that in that weakness, I'm humbled and reminded of my humanity. That I will be kept from getting haughty and too big of a head. Which is a distinct possibility and many people who know me might say is too late anyway...

Monday, July 17, 2006

All in the family

So, it won't be long before the world knows the truth - the truth that my wife is a far better writer than I. But of course if you ever read this you'll know that I am not really a very accomplished, and definitely not a very disciplined writer. I'm much more of a person who's just going to come out and say it rather than sit down and craft a well written comment on said subject.

But, I think it's safe to say, my wife is officially a blogger. My beautiful, blushing, bride, the pride of Syracuse, NY, Graduate of Roberts Wesleyan College with a Communication degree and vast experience as a Copywriter - she has begun her very own blog and you can check it out here.

Today, she made a post about our charming (read crazy) cat and his adventures with our son's first haircut. Unclear? Check out her post and you'll understand, she does such a better job of telling the story. I know she's been feeling bad lately about not being able to be around as much - having to go back to work and all and leave Brennan home with me all summer - not feeling as if she's living up to all her responsibilities as mom. But it's stuff like this, the haircut, which she so obviously cared way more about than me, that just proves how great of a mom she is. Truly, if it had been up to me I'd have cut his hair weeks ago, but it would have been with the clippers I trim my beard with and there would have been no clippings left to save.

In many ways, I am blessed to be able to share my life with her and to have this awesome family. It's so nice to think that even though we were a family before (just the two of us) we REALLY feel like a family now that we have Brennan. And Bridgette is such a great mom, that there's no one I'd rather be having a family with...

Thursday, July 13, 2006

"What kind of man will I be?"

The more time I spend with Brennan at home, the more I ponder those types of questions for him. I mean, what will he like, what will he dislike. What will he excel at, where will he fail? What will he do with his life? And what kind of man will he be?

I think that's the big one. I mean, whether he'll be a garbage man or a senator, it's all kind of moot. It matters so much more what KIND of man he will be. Will he be honest, trustworthy, hardworking and sincere? Those are the types of characteristics I hope to help him to learn (many in spite of me most likely).

Which leads me to another question I've been pondering lately - what kind of man will I be? I've got 1 more year here, more like 11 months and I know I'm not ready. I know I'm not ready yet to be a pastor, to serve others in that capacity. And instead of asking what subjects I want to learn about, I'm thinking more and more about the kind of man I want to be in a year, and therefore what kinds of things I need to be doing to become that man. Stuff like being more disciplined, listening better, caring more - the kind of stuff that falls under the heading of "submitting to the Lordship of Chirst"...

Monday, July 10, 2006

Learning to Appreciate the "L" word

In years past - many, many years past - I was introduced to the concept of a lectionary. Actually, more accurately, I was introduced to the idea of preaching from a lectionary. Coming from a church and a background which (at least more recently) preached with far differing rhythms, I found the idea of a lectionary, well useless. It seemed to eliminate the reliance on the Holy Spirit, it seemed to downplay the use of the mind of the preacher to dicipher what was appropriate at a given time or season in the church or community and most of all it smelled of top-down, beuracratric popery!

Now, I have to take a moment here to step aside and point out that these many years ago when first I was introduced to the idea of preaching from a lectionary, I was quite young, arrogant and foolhardy. You might ask if there is any difference between then and now - and I can honestly say that I am much older now - the rest hasn't changed that much, no. I have also broadened my perspective and vision in regard to the Bible, Church History and the work of the Holy Spirit since then. Oh, and I don't hate the pope... but the Colonel - ah, I hate the Colonel, with his wee beady eyes! He puts an addictive chemical in his chicken that makes you crave for it nightly! "Ohhh, you're gonna buy my chicken..."

Got side-tracked a little there. What I was saying was simply that in the course of the past few years, I've gained a greater appreciation for the lectionary - the concept itself, and it's greater advantages. While I don't anticipate ever becoming a preacher who preaches from the lectionary exclusively, I still contend that there are a greater number of factors that should dictate what one preaches on than that book contains, I feel it is of much greater value. Particularly during the rest of the week. I had originally understood the lectionary to be simply a listing of chapters and verses for preaching from Sunday to Sunday. But that is far from the truth. I have since become aquainted with the fact that the lectionary actually has daily readings - for each day of the week.

My good friend Jeff recently reminded me that the PC(USA) has a link to this on their website and so I've slowly began incorporating it into my daily routine. VERY slowly. But I've realized that it's a great way to get a breadth of Scripture read and that if follows sequentially so that you're reading through both Old Testament and New Testament passages from day to day and not simply jumping around. I think there's definitely some value in it, simply to keep you reading. There are both Morning and Evening Psalm readings as well as OT, NT and Gospel readings. Currently the readings are from Numbers, Romans & Matthew - and it's neat to draw comparisons across the books.

Anyway, this is what I'm trying learning to appreciate right now. If I could only get up consistently early enough to read and pray for it to become a good habit and replace one of those lazy, bad habits I've picked up over my 28 years...

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Busy, busy, busy

So, since the computer went down and we got this new one, we've been to Canada & D.C., hosted Bridgette's family from L.A. in between - along with 2 different couples whom we went to school with, and of course helped a new couple move to CRW. It's been a whirlwind last two weeks or so and it's not about to stop anytime soon. We have t-minus 23 days until we move across the courtyard into a 2 bedroom (which is LONG overdue) and just 5 days after that we will be on a plane to L.A. for two weeks. Oh yeah, did I mention that we will be hosting family (my sister & brother, and Bridgette's sister and 3 kids) for two separate weeks before we move?

Now, sometime in there we're supposed to get our apartment ready for the short move - not a small task when we sometimes feel we're so crammed in here we can't move. And I also need to begin studying for my Ordination exams which come smack dab, right after we return from Los Angeles in August. I say all this not to bore anyone, but as kinda the reason for the fact that this blog has been and may continue to be somewhat stagnant. It's not just the loss of the computer, although that was a significant factor. But as I spend most of the day between trying to entertain Brennan and trying to get normal household stuff accomplished like dishes, laundry, sweeping and simply eating my lunch, I sometimes don't have the energy or the inspiration to write. Hopefully that will change, but I see no rhythm being established in the next 2.5 months so who really knows?

But I can say this without equivocation - I love my son and despite the difficulties it has been a joy to be able to be with him so far this summer and I wouldn't have exchanged this for anything and I'm still looking forward to the rest of the summer and the rest of the time I get to be with him. Now if I could only get him to take more than a half hour nap...

Thursday, June 29, 2006

It's HERE!!!

And it's awesome. It's so thin - it's stays closed by a magnet. The built-in camera rocks. iPhoto is way better. Dashboard and all the widgets are awesome. I can't wait to figure out all the new little things. I'm so excited and so thankful to have been able to do this. Oh - and it came in only 3 days!!! Apple Rocks...

Monday, June 26, 2006

It's COMING!!!

Just now - sitting in the Computer Lab in the CN Center, where I've had to come to check my e-mail and do any computer work I've needed for the past month - I've placed my order for a brand new MacBook!!!

The long and short of it is that we believe the iBook had a hardware problem that we do not have the skills or $ to fix. So, we sold it on eBay (thanks in HUGE part to Andrew Z) with full disclosure and it was picked up for the Buy-it-Now price - AWESOME! With a little help and further sales & rebates the new MacBook (more than x5 faster than our old iBook) will not bankrupt us. Thanks Dad!

This paves the way for me to be updating this more regularly and to return to posting pictures - especially of our awesome baby boy - Brennan - who continues to grow like a weed. Stay tuned...

Friday, June 09, 2006


For 2+ weeks my iBook has been on the fritz. I haven't been able to post, it may be awhile still. Arrrggghhh...

Monday, May 22, 2006

Healthy Fear

Fear is a dirty word in our culture. We believe that we should not have to live "in fear" whether it be in regard to potential terrorist threats or the threat of violence by our neighbors for being different. Children are to be reared in nurturing, loving environments where they do not fear their parents or their teachers or other authority figures.

This is all well and good, but I think somewhere we've lost a little bit of healthy fear. I think there is something good about fear, it can be a help even more than a hindrance in our lives. I'm not talking about the kind of fear that has you waking up at night in cold sweats, or panic stricken and imovable at the sight or mere thought of something. But I'm talking about a certain kind of respect - an aknowledgment that certain things are indeed bigger than you are.

I was reading my friend's blog today and he mentions about rafting, and how tricky stuff on the river keeps you respecting the river. I've guided before and part of the 'paddle talk' that I'd give before every new trip down the river was a reminder that we need to respect the river - it is powerful and if you don't, you could get injured or even die. Remembering that, keeps you from doing stupid things - it keeps you safe.

I was also reading today, Proverbs 1 (v 7 in particular)
"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge,
but fools despise wisdom and discipline."

My life is ultimately in the hands of my creator. And when it's over, I will have to give an account for it. Remembering that I'm but a breath away from having to do that, having to explain why I did my own thing instead of submitting to the LORD and doing x, y or z - it helps me at least. I need to be aware, constantly, that God is Awesome - and a little afraid of that. The kind of fear that moves you to action, not inaction. The kind of fear that keeps you away from the poison. The kind of fear that keeps you from doing something dumb. The kind of fear that makes you evaluate your actions and conform them to the One who is able to call them to account.

I don't know about you, but I need a healthy dose of fear...

Monday, May 15, 2006

Daddy Daycare Begins...

I've been busy the last dozen days. A relaxing weekend following my final paper, 2 days in Baltimore, cleaning up the apartment - not that you'd know right now, and a fun weekend with friends visiting from DC. Now it's on to a new life.

Today is the first day of nearly 4 months where I get to stay home with Brennan and take care of him fulltime. Bridgette went back to work today and I get to be with the little boy. He's so cute - but as this day got closer I began to be just a little worried. Bridgette had done so well being the primary caregiver - would I be able to do everything she did? So far, so good. He's taking his afternoon nap now, which means I may get about an hour (before I go off to my other "job" with him) to do what I want/need to do around here. Today, that's reading for fun. Imagine that...

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Done, Done, DONE!!!

I've been out of commission for a few days, finishing my last couple of papers. But yesterday (Friday) I handed in my final paper and I am officially DONE with school work for the semester! Now for a few months off with Brennan - and by off, I mean not having to study & write papers.

I'm looking forward to doing some reading of MY own choosing and spending time with my son. I also hope to have a little more of a presence on here - post a few of those things I've been meaning to write down...

Monday, May 01, 2006

Contemporary Reformed Worship? - oh my!


So again, I'm questioning how "Reformed" I am when I read a book like With Reverence and Awe that seems to be a little too... how shall I say this - narrow-minded in its scope? Now, to be fair, I did not read the entire book. I'm working on a paper for my "Worship in the Reformed Tradition" class where I have to come up with a proposal for a Pastoral Nominating Committee who's looking to create an "alternative worship service" so that they can reach the young members of their community. So, this book is just one of a number I've consulted in writing this paper, and I haven't had the time to read it from cover to cover. But I was surprised with the - how shall I say this - animosity it seemed to have for other traditions and worship. I mean, I felt like these authors believed they had a pipeline to God and that they knew EXACTLY what should and should not be done in worship. Every other tradition is whacked and only the Calvinist-Reformed have got it right.

Now, I completely agree that God is the initiator and primary focus of our worship. But, I guess not following all five points of "Calvin's" hallowed TULIP, keeps me from buying hook, line and sinker, what Hart & Muether are selling. And it begins with their interpretation of Total Depravity. What it seems like they are contending for is a return to OT worship where we have a specific set of rules that we cannot step beyond, because we are completely debased creatures, given to all kinds of lies and idolatry. But if I read the NT right, I see that believers are given the Holy Spirit, which will lead us into the way of truth. We are also given freedom - from bondage to the law of sin and death. We are NEW - the old has gone, the new has come. While we cannot earn God's grace and favour, we are able to step out and do good things for him - bear good fruit, according to the Spirit, which does not contradict the written Word, but bears witness to the Living Word - Jesus.

I also agree with Hart and Muether that theology informs worship practice and that the two go hand-in-hand, which just affirms in me that I cannot hold to everything that everyone (or at least some people) claims is Reformed. I believe that since the church is ALWAYS REFORMING according to Scripture (and might I add the Holy Spirit, because it is the Holy Spirit that allows us to interpret Scripture) we must contend that the gospel is continually being translated, in new contexts and we should not claim to simply force one context - that of 16th or 17th Century Western Europe, on every other context. If worship is to be done in Spirit & Truth as Jesus claims, and the Bible does not give us specific liturgical forms, it seems to be that we are given the monumental task of ordering worship according to Scripture with a certain diversity! Just as we have translated the Greek, Hebrew & Aramaic texts of Scripture into hundreds if not thousands of languages worldwide, so too must we interpret worship - always directed to God, always as a response to God's intiative and always seeking to conform to the Spirit's guidance.

This is why I liked So You're Thinking about Contemporary Worship" which just so happens to be written by a couple of Disciples of Christ - who just so happen to understand themselves as descended from the Reformed Tradition as well. I appreciate so much of what that book says because it acknowledges the fact that worship is based in context and that our context is changing, and we need to be aware of that, interpreting worship for our new context as it arises. Now, I don't agree necessarily, that the worship of the Christian community is to be overtly evangelistic - geared more to the seeker than the believer (that's not exactly what they say anyway) but I do believe that those outside of the community still need to have worship made available to them - just as Jesus drove out the money-lenders from the courts of the Gentiles, so we need to be careful to keep in mind those who come from outside our midst - seeking the God who is ALWAYS seeking them. I also love the Disciples' emphasis on the Lord's Supper - which I'm beginning to believe we should be practicing more regularly - every Sunday? Anyway, I commend this book to you if you're thinking about "Contemporary Worship" (whatever that means).

I however, must remain in the tension between these two places - Reformed, but not stagnant - theologically minded, but not narrow-minded - with Reverance and Awe to God, but not creating a god of any tradition.

And it is with this that I continue to formulate a proposal for "Brown Memorial Presbyterian Church" - Kudos to those that catch the significance of my fictitious church in Punxsutawney...

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Blogger troubles & Sermon

Just like this picture being - just a bit off - accessing this blog has been a little messy. I don't know if it was my end or what but for 3 days or so Firefox just wouldn't load anything from Blogger. But we're good now.

Sunday, I preached for the second time at church, this time on John 20:24-29. I think it went fairly well. No one left the sanctuary in the middle of the sermon. No one sat me down afterward to tell me I'd offended them. And no one threatened to call my CPM and warn them not to certify me to be ordained. So, all in all, I think I did ok. I trust God will use it for good. Since I'm in the middle of Reading week, preparing for my 3 final papers, I don't have a lot of stuff to write, so I figured I'd put up my sermon so anyone can read it for themselves and determine if I really am a heretic. This Sunday I'll be leading worship as the liturgist for the last time as an intern. Then my internship will be complete. It'll be nice to have one last year without responsibilities every Sunday before I dive into the Ministry fulltime...

Sermon: Who’s Story is it?

Text: John 20:24-29 4/23/06

Story is a powerful tool. We read them, we watch them and we tell them constantly. We measure them against each other and have an innate sense for what is a good story. Telling a story is an art form. Have you ever tried to tell a story and got mixed up in the details? Maybe got the characters confused and the story came out wrong? I have to confess – I’m terrible at remembering names. I’ve often found myself wanting to tell a great story but not being able to remember the names of the characters involved. There’s nothing worse than getting to the climax of the story and having to ask the person you’re telling the story for the name that makes the story make sense. It’s embarrassing. If you don’t get the characters right, you just can’t tell the story, you don’t get the right message.

Our Scripture text for this morning, from John 20, is the intriguing story of “Doubting Thomas” as he is often referred to as. It begins with Thomas being given the news that Jesus had been spotted – alive. Of course, Thomas had not been there. The other disciples had “seen” Jesus, supposedly. They had “seen” the man whom they all knew had died on a horrible Roman cross - and buried in a tomb, stopped up by an enormous stone. Yes, these other disciples had “seen” Jesus alright… but whatever mystic phantom or fear-induced hallucination the disciples had experienced – Thomas wanted none of it. Thomas lived in the real world – aware that death was present. He had been ready to die with Jesus just a few weeks ago, at the news of Lazarus’ death… it was not that Thomas didn’t want to believe – but facts were facts and dead men don’t rise – even if they did have amazing insight and miraculous powers. The only thing that would change Thomas’ mind would be cold, hard evidence. No, mere words would suffice. Thomas needed to see Jesus – the nail marks, the lance wound. But no, his eyes might play tricks on him – he would need to feel the wounds – put his finger in the wholes, his hand into Jesus’ side. That’s what it would take.

So a week later, when Thomas was gathered with the disciples in the same house – you can imagine his astonishment when Jesus appears out of nowhere! Jesus – alive? This can’t be, and yet it is. In the flesh – his wounds, visible to the naked eye. And he offers Thomas to touch him – to test him out. But by this time, Thomas needs no more convincing. And the words that he proclaims are the greatest statement of faith found in the gospel of John – “My Lord and my God!” Thomas goes from skepticism and unbelief to the greatest statement of faith uttered in John’s gospel. What a turnaround.

But the last words in the story are not those of Thomas – they are the words of Jesus himself – “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” And I have to say, that it is here, that if nowhere else gives rise to the question – “Who’s story is this?” So far, we’ve read this as if Thomas was the central character, the hero if you will. It’s all about Thomas missing Jesus’ visit, Thomas unbelief, Thomas’ requirements, Thomas’ faith… But the last words are Jesus’ and if we look carefully at the story, I wonder if we may have gotten the leading role and the supporting roles reversed.

Because, even though we began reading at verse 24, that sentence is really a continuation of the story Jesus’ appearances before – to Mary at the tomb, and to the disciples in the house. It’s almost a side note that Thomas had missed out. The primary actor here is Jesus – because it was Jesus that came to the disciples – Jesus presented himself to them to show them that he was alive. And not only that, but he came back for Thomas! I find that utterly amazing. I mean, Jesus came back for one disciple, who by all accounts had written Jesus off as dead. But Jesus’ not only comes back specifically for Thomas, he offers him to touch the nail scars, put his hand in the spear wound in Jesus’ side. For all of Thomas’ unbelief, Jesus goes the extra mile to ensure that Thomas would believe. Jesus goes the extra mile to offer Thomas all that he requires to make this magnificent statement of faith…

And this statement is about Jesus. It is not a testament to Thomas’ deep theological understanding – but to what Jesus’ has done. Jesus, God in the flesh, makes himself known to Thomas in such a way that Thomas can make this statement. Jesus, God incarnate, has done the miraculous work on the cross and in the resurrection, that makes Thomas’ allegiance not only worthy but necessary!

And the final words of this story – they belong to Jesus. It is an affirmation and a blessing, directed first to Thomas and then to those that would come after – that would not have the benefit if seeing Jesus in the flesh. Those that would be dependant upon the faithful witness of the disciples, and the story that they would tell – the story of Jesus. This passage, this story is undoubtedly about Jesus. Thomas, for all his attention, plays merely a supporting role. It is Jesus’ story from start to finish and Thomas simply adds some flavour. And if we focus too much on Thomas, we can end up telling the wrong story.

I wonder myself, if as Christians, we sometimes get caught telling the wrong story, focusing on the supporting characters instead of on the lead role… I sometimes wonder if we focus a little too much on “what God did for me” instead of what Jesus Christ has done for all of us. I feel like every time I turn on the television or pick up the newspaper – I hear another story of a person whose life was changed by a good book, a nice friend, a tragic experience. And I wonder, what is the difference between their story and my own? They were saved by 12 steps, I was saved by Jesus – their life is healthy and full because of Dr. Phil’s advice, and mine is healthy and full because of Jesus… But if this is how I conceive of the gospel, as my story against others, I’ve confused the actors – I’ve gotten the names all mixed up and the story doesn’t make sense. Because the gospel is about what Jesus Christ did on the cross. That is the central focus, not on something in my life, something that happened to me – but something that Jesus did. And I firmly believe that if we are to share our faith, we need to focus on Jesus’ story. Because ultimately, it is Jesus’ story. We are supporting actors. And part of proclaiming Jesus as Lord, is about subordinating ourselves, bowing our knee and acknowledging who the hero is…

One of the greatest statements I have heard regarding the empowering of sharing the story of Christ comes from the pastor, missionary, theologian Lesslie Newbigin, “I have been called and commissioned, through no merit of mine, to carry this message, to tell this story, to give this invitation. It is not my story or my invitation. It has no coercive intent. It is an invitation from the one who loved you and gave himself up for you.”

When we are sure in the knowledge of who the gospel story is about, who’s work is central and who’s work is secondary, we are empowered to share the gospel story without worry or fear – knowing that the God who overcame the grave is the ultimate hero.

Note: If you steal this sermon and preach it as your own... God will know.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Easter - reflections on my family

Last weekend we were lucky enough to host most of my family for Easter. We enjoyed good food together, took a family portrait and were able to celebrate both Good Friday and Easter Sunday in worship. Being 8 hours (or more) away from my family in Canada makes these times, rare as they are, all the more special, especially now that we have a baby. It was so neat to see my brother and sisters interact with little Brennan, and to see my parents, especially my mom, just oggle and dote on him. I know they loved coming down, I know they loved seeing him (for the first time) and I know they wish they could do it more often.

Easter is the most special and significant holiday in the year, we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus. And as Christians, we live and celebrate as a community - one family. But the family of our blood, when we are united in faith, has an especially significant bond. As I've gotten older I've come to appreciate this fact more and more. I can sit here and joke about the idiocyncracies of my family, the little quirks that make it odd - I can even lament not having this or that - but it's worthless. Because that is my family, and the more time I spend with them the more I realize how blessed I am to have them. I realize how much I love them.

When I look at my son, I can't help but gush with love for him. And in that, I can't help but imagine how my parents felt about me, their love for me. I realize that no one is perfect. Parents do the best they can with what they have. They do the best they can for their kids and hope that it will work out. My parents did that for me, and I love them for that.

I wish I could spend more time with them. I wish they could spend more time with their grandson - their nephew. But right now, that's not possible. Maybe in the future that will be - I hope so. In the meantime, I will have to enjoy the times we do have together. I'm looking forward to a reunion in June, and hopefully having my little sister and brother down for a week in July. They're my family, and I love them...

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Easter - 2 Years Removed

While I was busy last week, I came across a few things in some boxes. One of which was the insert from either the Maundy Thursday or Good Friday service at Bel Air Pres where I was on staff before coming to Princeton. I had made some notes on the subject of Easter and, interestingly enough, on the subject of mission. I thought I'd post them here, nearly verbatem as a testament to how God weaves certain motifs in your mind over time. The idea of mission especially.

I wrote this as something to be spoken, so I've transposed it in light of that:

You may not be able as yet to proclaim the triumph of His resurrection-
But do not go home tonight and live in the emptiness of His death.

You may be able as yet to affirm the day of His return -
But do not give in to the darkness of night.
For just as night gives way to day and darkness to the advance of the sun-
Know that the Son of Man
the King of Kings
the Lord of Lords did not remain in the tomb.
Accept the knowledge, accept the peace, accept the words that he left his disciples with.
Do not fear, do not doubt, do not worry.

Some additional notes I made concerning misssion, also concerned our new favourite disciple: Judas. But I have no comments on the new gnostic gospel bearing his name...

Why did Jesus Die and Why did the people turn on him?
-He didn't live up to their expectations

Why did Judas betray Jesus?
-He wasn't doing what Judas thought he should

Why did Peter raise the sword to the High Priest's servant?
-He didn't understand Jesus' mission

You have a choice, will you decide Jesus mission for him?
Or will you accept HIS mission for Himself and HIS mission for you?

His mission is not power but meakness
His mission is not merely justice but mercy
His mission is not merely for His glory but our redemption, our reconciliation
He came out of love, will you decide to accept that love?
Is God's mission good enough for you?

Do not mistake it for your own.
It is HIS work, HIS action, HIS love that enables.
When you hear of His pain, know that he did it for you.
When you hear of His death, know that he did it for you.
It is HIS Mission and He did it for you.

I preach in 4 days on John 20:24-29 - the exchange between Jesus and Thomas. It will be interesting to see exactly what transpires, but I think some of this ethos will flow into it, much of what I've been reading and thinking about this year and hopefully, even more of the Holy Spirit and the message that God wants the people to hear...

Sunday, April 16, 2006


So this is what it's like to be gone for a week? Not too bad.

I had a major paper due Tuesday for my Hebrew Narratives class and my family was here for Easter weekend from Canada. It was a whirlwind week and I've come across a few things that I want to post on, so - they're forthcoming, very shortly...

Sunday, April 09, 2006

The Gospel...

Just because I'm swamped with a presentation (which we finished - thank Goodness!) a Paper & sermon, internship report and post-Easter sermon, it doesn't mean that all of you out there (and I just KNOW there are a huge number of people who read this...) should suffer. So here's one of the best quotes I think I've ever come across concerning what we have to offer in regard to sharing the gospel. Feel free to tell me what you think of it, it's from Lesslie Newbigin's "Truth and Authority in Modernity - a great, short read.

Perhaps one final point needs to be made. If, in the postmodern world, we tell our story, we will be met with the rejoinder: Yes of course. That is your story. But there are other stories. Why should we believe this one?” How does the Christian respond to this? Clearly we must resist the temptation to propose some supposedly more fundamental and more reliable truth on the basis of which the story of the gospel could be validated. Certainly we may try to show how the biblical story makes sense of human life in a way that no other can; but even this becomes clear only when one is part of the story. In the end, the only answer we have to give to the question is along such lines as these: ‘I have been called and commissioned, through no merit of mine, to carry this message, to tell this story, to give this invitation. It is not my story or my invitation. It has no coercive intent. It is an invitation from the one who loved you and gave himself up for you.’ That invitation will come with winsomeness if it comes from a community in which the graced of the Redeemer is at work. Whether or not it is accepted is not a matter in our power. To be anxious about it, to fret about it, is a sign of unbelief. The one who invites is in control, not we.” P. 82-83

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Crazy New Jersey

These photos were taken outside our apartment today - April 5th, a day that was forcast to have a high of 48 degrees, 3 days after it hit 78 degrees and everyone was wearing shorts and sandals!

This is definitely the oddest place I have ever lived. So far, the entire State does not live up to its reputation as being the armpit of the U.S. but it is indeed ODD! I just thought all of you who don't live here might enjoy a small window into this world...

Monday, April 03, 2006

First Love...

When Bridgette & I first started dating, there were certain things that we did, certain things that I did for her. But as our relationship moved along, some of those things were set aside, just as most of us men do. Unfortunately, like all of us, the question comes "how come you don't do ______ anymore?"

I realized something as I was praying this morning, that this was a fairly good analogy of my spiritual life. I felt like God was saying - "you've lost your first love - go back to what you did at first" Which included a heck of a lot more prayer and reading of my bible.

As I've been at Princeton, I've kinda felt that there's a definite lack of that, there are a number of people who feel they're struggling - not with their faith per se, but more so maintaining the same kind of relationship with Christ that existed before they came here. Princeton is an academic institution, and it can sap you if you don't continue to do the things that got you here - spiritually. No one is holding your hand and asking you if you prayed, if you read the bible devotionally, if you're following Jesus as your LORD. It's not out of maliciousness or anything, it's not some kind of Liberal plot or anything like that. It's simply the way it is.

So, personally, I'm being challenged by the words of "him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks amon gthe seven golden lampstands." who calls me out saying "You have forsaken your first love... do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lamptsand from its place..."

Friday, March 31, 2006


So Wednesday, I met with my pastor over at my Field Ed. Church and we had our weekly check-in. Often these meetings have been driven by my questions - "How did you seek your first call?" "How do you juggle family & ministry?" and the like. But this day, as I drove in, for the life of me I couldn't think of any questions we could talk about. I was a little worried that our time wouldn't be fruitful.

So, I walk in and once we'd said our greetings, my pastor/supervisor turns to me and says "We're going to talk about you today. Tell me what your weaknesses are." And BAM, just like that I was on the "hot seat."

There was no need to ask him any questions because we spent the entire time talking about my weaknesses. The first two were easy - quick temper & procrastination/time mangagement. But despite the fact that I felt like I went into great detail about these issues in my life, he wanted more. So, out I dragged "over-competitive" and what I felt was a slew of generic little things that didn't compare to the first two, issues that I truly felt and feel are my biggest weaknesses.

As we wound down the hour, and has he'd mentioned before, he talked about how knowing yourself is important, especially in ministry. You can't slay the beast you don't know is there. But then he turned to me and rather matter-of-factly said "I think you need to do some more digging, because what you've said is rather generic and I don't think it's at the heart - so keep digging and thinking."

What? Are you kidding? If he wanted, I wouldn've sat there and named every sin I'd committed since Grade 1 (all that I could remember). I don't think I was hiding anything back. I think I know myself fairly well. Now, I should mention that he affirmed that he felt I was "healthy" and had many good skills for ministry... but when he sat there and called me out, I didn't know what to think - I still don't know what to think. Do I not know myself as well as I think? Are there unresolved issues that are sapping me and waiting in the wings to tackle me? I didn't THINK so, but now I'm not sure.

So, I was wondering. If you're reading this and you know me, throw me a bone. Tell me what you think my greatest weaknesses are - don't hold back. If you don't feel comfortable writing it in a reply, send me an e-mail. I'd love to hear your feedback...

Oh yeah, and the pic? The Wooly Mammoth was huge, but it couldn't adapt to the changing climate. It was strong & powerful, but its weakness, it's size and positive elements were its downfall when things changed. I don't want to be a Mammoth!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Who needs the sermon?

Today I preached for class - a funeral sermon. It was ok. But what was truly awesome was the Scripture. I chose to use 1 Corinthians 15:35-44; 50-58. I got goose bumps when I read it. When I finished reading it, I just wanted to sit down - anything I said afterwards would pale in comparison. I'm not saying we don't need to preach, we don't need to interpret Scripture - heck, every time you read it you're interpreting it. But I think there are some times, where if its read well, it speaks for itself - and here's one example:

But someone may ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?”

How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.

When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. All flesh is not the same: Men have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor.

So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.

If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body...

I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.
Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed —
in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.

When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Party Tonight...

My beautiful wife Bridgette, pictured above, had a very significant birthday back on Februrary 19. Of course, we were only a few weeks into the life of our new son Brennan, so we didn't do much to celebrate. In fact, we still have gift certificates from Bridgette's family for Dinner & a movie that we haven't been able to use yet - but we will.

Anyway, tonight we'll be finally celebrating this special milestone with a bunch of friends, some dessert, hanging out and a movie or two. And if you'd like, you can check out a special little slideshow I made up to get everyone into the mood for the evening.

Check it out here:
Bridgette's Video

Again, I'll get back to writing significant theological stuff soon, in the meantime I have a funeral sermon (for class) to write, a Sunday school class to prepare and a ton of reading to catch up on...

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

1 Minute of Wonder

This evening I put a little video together of Brennan. It's his first cries, just a little over 2 months ago. I've been busy being a father the last few days, so I haven't posted. But I'll get back to it. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the video.

You will need either Quicktime (Windows) or Quicktime (Mac) to view the video. They're free downloads in case you don't already have them.

Click Here for the Video

Thursday, March 16, 2006

I'm Missing something...

I don't know if I will ever move back to Canada. I don't think I need to know at this point. But I know that I will continue to miss one of the greatest television shows of all time. Not to mention one of the greatest television personalities of all time. Especially when this Saturday, it will be my beloved Red Wings that will be featured. If only they knew how to cover hockey south of the border, follow the puck with the camera - maybe it wouldn't be so bad. But you can't replace the music. Da Dun Da Da - Da Dun Dun Dun Da...

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Snapshot of Faith...

I'm part of a confessional denomination and that means that creeds and confessions are an integral part of the working out of their faith. In order to be ordained, I must write a Statement of Faith and present it to the Presbytery. In my ordination vows I must seek to uphold those creeds and statements of faith that have been written before and recognized as sound (we even put them into a nice book)

Anyway, as friends of mine are going through the process to write theirs, I took some time to go back over and read what I wrote last year, in preparation for becoming a Candidate myself. When I had written my statement, I took a considerable amount of time, asked friends for their input as well as mentors and pastors. I made amendments according to some of their critiques and when I was done, I felt pretty good about it.

But when I went back and looked at it just a few days ago, I realized how contextual it was. I realized how much a very few courses here at PTSem had influenced what I wrote (not necessarily negatively). I realized that it was especially 1st Article heavy and very lacking in regard to Jesus & the Holy Spirit (not to mention the Sacraments, which I didn't even list or explicate). And it was at that time that I realized just what a Statement of Faith really is. It is a document, contextually contrived and limited in scope. It measures the thought and belief of a person or people at a given time, especially related to the issues they find most pressing at that time. It cannot be otherwise, we are human and time is what we are currently bound to. Our perspective is limited.

Just like the photo above, a Statement of Faith is a snapshot of belief at a given time. The photo above just happens to be the same field at PTSem that we play intramural football & sometimes ultimate frisbee on - but not when it looks like that. We play in the Fall and Spring, not in the snow. That picture is of one moment in time which does not explain that field in all its entirity. That field changes. The weather changes. It gets used for different things.

When I presented my statement to my Church last Spring they grilled me on some points (even though they weren't technically allowed to ask me theological questions - but they didn't know that 'cause the Pastor who leads that committee was away and another was filling in - but it ended up being good). They asked me about capitalizing "Virgin" Mary, they asked me about my view of Biblical infallability and they asked me about the Sacraments, and why I hadn't mentioned them. And as I reflect back on those items and others, I realize that I'm not sure I believe the same things I did then, or at least the things I THOUGHT I believed then. Because I hadn't reflected on the Missional task of the Church, the atoning working of Christ or the nature of Sacraments. Or at least not well enough. And a year from now, ten years from now, twenty years from now there'll probably be other elements that I had not fully throught through, reflected on and developed that I would want to add to what I'll present next year.

My faith is developing. My faith is changing. My faith is not stagnant nor should it be. I am not perfect, I cannot perfectly interpret Scripture or know the mind of God and so I do not believe I can yet perfectly come up with anything but a Snapshot of Faith, one that is always provisional, always open to the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit and the critique of good men and women, seeking to align themselves with Scripture and submit themselves to the Lordship of Christ.

That being said, I invite you to read my Snapshot of Faith from May '05 and comment on it or critique it:

I believe in God who is one, in three. Father, Son and Holy Spirit, perfect unity in divine and holy community, always having existed and always to exist.

I believe in God who created the universe and who is continually at work nurturing and transforming everything to God’s eventual and perfect will.
I believe in YHWH whose manifest presence was revealed to Abraham, Sarah and Hagar, to Isaac and Rebekah, to Jacob, Leah and Rachel, to Moses and to Pharaoh, to the Israelite people and to the nations they conquered and were conquered by.
I believe in God whose voice both calls out in love and whose ear listens for our cries.
I believe in God whose eyes both watch us in our sleep and in our waking.
I believe in God whose hands both reach out in loving compassion and in righteous judgment.
I believe in God who both proclaims and enacts good news for the poor, sight to the blind and freedom to the captive.
I believe in God who I cannot control, cannot contain, and cannot even fully explain – but God who desires to make us and all of creation complete by following and worshipping YHWH alone.

I believe in Jesus the Christ, Son of God, who being fully God, was born some 2000 years ago in Palestine of the Virgin Mary, fully human in order to restore humanity to right relationship with God.
I believe in Jesus the Christ who living rightly before God and humanity, died on a Roman cross in obedience to the Father, providing salvation to humanity, being resurrected on the third day, is now seated at the right hand of the Father in glory.

I believe in the Holy Spirit who was sent by God the Father, upon the ascension of Jesus the Christ into glory, as the living and powerful presence of God in each and every believer, enabling us to lead lives of holiness and drawing us into communion with God and our fellow humanity.

I believe that humanity is created in the image of God; due to the fall it is under the effects of sin, but due to the work of Jesus, no longer subject to its power.

I believe that the Church is God’s chosen instrument to bring about the Kingdom of God on earth, good news for the poor, sight to the blind and freedom to the captive.
I believe that God’s call to the Church, in all its connectionality, is to both enact and proclaim blessings and not cursing, peace and not destruction, love and not hatred, mercy and not judgment to a world that is in desperate need of the saving faith and power of Jesus.

I believe that the Bible is the reliable and infallible proclamation of God’s Word, inspired and authoritative in all matters of life and faith...

(It should be noted, the final elipse is an addition today)

Monday, March 13, 2006

Things I learned over Reading Week (not necessarily for the 1st time)

1. My son is the cutest thing ever - and now that he smiles, I need to start running crowd control.

2. I need to start each day with the bible & prayer - it's not legalism it's called discipline.

3. It feels good to read stuff before the last minute - but it still doesn't keep me from falling asleep while I'm doing it, especially in a sweltering library.

4. Getting things accomplished feels good - but I need to make dailiy & weekly schedules for myself in order to make sure it happens(see #2).

5. I spend way too much time watching & reading about sports - period.

6. Johnny Cash is someone I want to learn more about, and hear more from - as Bono is quoted on Wikipedia "Every man knows he is, basically, a complete sissy compared to Johnny Cash."

7. It feels good to live in a place that, as my wife says, is "picked up" - see #2.

8. Lesslie Newbigin, slowly but surely, is offering me a response to just about every theological issue I've been contemplating - and he practiced what he preached.

9. I like to sleep - too much.

10. Having lunch with a friend, talking from the heart & praying together is awesome, and God speaks through it - if only I could remember everything he says.

11. It's NOT all about me...

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Music you NEED to check out...

So, we had a little family weekend away. It was nice to get away. It was nice that some of our family got to see Brennan. Unfortunately, there was only some family there, and one guy in particular that we really missed was Steev. He's a musician, who like many great artists has yet to have gobs of money thrown at him, allowing him to just drop what he's doing and galavant across the country to see his family whenever he wants. But his music is awesome. He's been honing his craft for quite some time now and it seems like he may be on the cusp of getting signed. Whether that's the case or not, he's got quite a following in the OH-PA-NY area.
He's also my brother-in-law... it's a long story but he's family. I thought it's about time I gave the guy a shout-out and some well-deserved pub. Go check out his website and get a listen to his music. It's REALLY good...

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

"Jehovah" - and the problem of naming

I've been reminded lately of our uniquely human penchant for naming, categorizing, labeling. It is one of the first things we do once we meet someone, we ask their name. But even after that, most of our questions are in some small way, an act of definition. We seek to categorize and package people. Jeff is a lawyer. Suzy is always late. Mike is a flaming liberal. Becky is narrow-minded conservative. We do it all the time. We name, we label and we try to sum up people and their opinions into neat little packages so that we can get on with our lives. It's a lot easier to have a summary of who Jimmy is and what he believes than to take the time to actually get to know Jimmy and live with him in the tension that is relationship - the tension that exists between what can be communicated and what can be understood, what can be vocalized and what is merely sensed. We just don't have time for that.

I was reading the other day, and I was really surprised to see God referred to as "Jehovah" - I hoped by using it in the title it would get the attention of a few. Now, a year or two ago and I might never have batted an eye. But now (and thinking back, I learned it in "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade") I know that "Jehovah" is actually a MIStranslation of the Hebrew Tetragrammaton (the four letters that represented God's divine name, the name that was too holy to speak) and so the Hebrews substituted the vowels for LORD into the actual name of God, Y-H-W-H (the vowles being a-o-a) and that gives us YaHoWaH or Jehovah. Sadly, this is just wrong. What the Hebrews actually SAID when they saw Y-H-W-H with those vowels underneath was Adonai(Lord), because they substituted the consonants in themselves. Anyway, seeing Jehovah just made me sit up a bit and go - whoa, we've still got some edumacating to do. Not everyone knows that we messed that one up.

Now, its significant because we only get the divine name from God himself - at the burning bush, speaking to Moses. God tells Moses to go to Pharoah and demand the release of the Hebrews so they can worship God. Moses says, by whose name? And God gives the most interesting name possible. It literally means "I am who I am" and "I will be who I will be". Now, is this a name? Yes. But its more. God knows our penchant for naming, for defining, categorizing - labeling. A name boxes, hems, defines and limits. "Jacob" meant deceiver - imagine spending your life being called a deceiver - straight out of the whom! That's sure to set a nature-nurture debate going. Anyway - by God identifying himself this way, God's saying "You will know me by what I will do and have done" Essentially - "I will be the one who defines me, not you". God is beyond our capacity to pin down. Not that we can't know God at all, but we can't know God in God's totality. And when the silly Western translators tried to - they got mixed up and came up with the WRONG name! Ha!

But, I can say the same thing about us humans too. Try as we might to define each other, we always fall short. Jeff may be a lawyer but he's also one heck of a tennis player. Becky may be a narrow-minded conservative but she also believes in gun control and is against the death penalty.

Yes, it's easier to pin people down and label them - but labels are limiting and they're often inadequate. And when we rely on labels we refrain from doing the hard work of living in the tension of community - of really experiencing the other person, of really getting to know who they TRULY are. That's why God didn't bother giving out the name "George" or "Gunthar" or "Sally". God isn't that easy to pin down, and as people created in the image of God, I'm not sure we are either...