Sunday, December 30, 2007

Who is worse?

Today we hit Sea World during our little vacation in Orlando. Brennan was a little tentative for the first couple shows - which included Elmo and dolphins & birds, but the third show we saw - Shamu, he was digging big time. In fact, he made a huge fuss when it was over and we had to leave. Which was also part of the problem. Because it seemed like everyone in the entire state was taking highway 4 East into Orlando when we left the park. And that led to the above, well kinda.

The picture is thanks to A Driver's Journal, but it depicted quite well what happened. All of the sudden, with a little over a mile to go before our exit and traffic at a stand-still of 3 lanes, I saw some nut go screaming by me on the right - the shoulder. That was followed intermittently by a number of cars, probably 30-40 in all, using the shoulder as their private passing lane. I knew it was wrong, so I wouldn't do it. But inside I seethed as each new car cruised by me doing 45mph while I crawled at maybe 5mph. I kinda got out once or twice to attempt to block their path. Once, I actually got honked at, and Bridgette didn't want me out there because she was concerned about getting hit - it wasn't worth it.

So, my question is this - was their breaking the law worse than my anger and feeling like I needed to stop them? I still think they were dead wrong. And I'm still frustrated about it as I sit here and type - they actually had to get back into the lane at the exit when they ran out of shoulder. But, I mean, should I have really gotten that bent out of shape about something that someone else was doing? I know it infringed on me a bit, but it was probably more theoretical infringement than real. I was more offended that they were doing something I wasn't willing to do and getting away with it. When it gets right down to it, I recognize that there remains a huge log in my eye, which gets right back to what I was thinking about earlier in the evening during the whole Believe Shamu show at Sea World. They talked about all of us being family and one world and peace and stuff and also did a tribute to the Armed Forces who protect our right to keep people out of our stuff - keep us safe from the "bad guys." Jesus said we're all sinners, and when we figure that out we can get on with our lives. Although I can intellectually assent to that, I'm kinda stuck not being able to live it out...

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Quick Observation - 200

We've been in Orlando for 4 days now and I've quickly come to a realization. Orlando is the kid version of Las Vegas - minus the gambling. Everything here is geared toward tourists - over-sized and colourful. It's crazy. In both of those places you can do so much without spending a dime, but there's so much other stuff that it's tough NOT to spend that money. Anyway, that's my observation. That's my 200th post ever. I'm not very deep and insightful on vacation - at least not on this one. Maybe the new year will change that...

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Craziness

It never fails, every time we fly, no matter how much we "plan" out the schedule, we're running around like chicken's with our heads cut off as we get ready to head out of town. Now it's time to see grandma Kathy in Orlando...

The good news is we've arrive safely and I've found a broadband connection I can borrow. The bad news is that I may have to sell my unborn child for a rental car. Who would've thought that it'd be tough to get a rental car in central Florida during bowl week...

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Road to 200

I've increased my posting here this week and I've realized it's a catch 22. When I post more, somehow I prime the pump and it's easier to post - I have more ideas and it seems like I'm constantly thinking of things to write about. Whether many people read these or not, I figure it's great preparation for sermons, devotionals and other material I'll write and use in the future. And if nothing else, it keeps me thinking. I've got a small goal of hitting 200 by the end of 2007, so to that end...

I was in worship today, listening to John preach. We're finishing up our Advent series on John 3:16, "...would not be lost but have eternal life" was the final phrase in the verse and it was the the focus of the sermon. John's main point, as I saw it, was that we need to have more of an imagination about what "eternal life" really means. He made a comment about some people not being excited about heaven, simply because they had a weak view of heaven. And I started thinking.

I've gone back and forth about heaven - being excited and not. And I think part of it has to do with how ready I am to be unselfish. Because really, as John was saying, free ice cream and no bedtimes are weak ideas of heaven - no imagination. But, if life on earth and our mission here as Christians has ANYTHING to do with heaven, I've got to think that our highest and most important mission will continue to be service to others and be outward focused. Life here, despite what the Westminster Shorter Catechism says, is not simply enjoying God as if we're some kind of spiritual consumer. Heaven has got to be about serving others - working out what Christ showed us on earth. And if that's the case, I'm thinking that heaven will look like hell to us who are unwilling to set ourselves aside. However, hell will probably still feel like hell because we are unwilling to to serve others...

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Not again...

I'm so sick of the terrible decisions made by network executives. There are currently 2 shows on tv I care about, 3 if you include Lost which won't be back for another month still. Bridgette got me into Heroeswhen it first began, and I'm glad I did. This year, with our DVR, I decided that Journeyman, which followed Heroes at 10pm on Monday nights, was worth a chance. I stayed up REAL late to watch it - and I am REALLY glad I did.

I'm not sure if I've watched more than one or two episodes live, sometimes watching them up to a week later - but I've watched every one of them, and I love the series. I'm hooked. So, today I'm scrolling around through my DVR and found a Journeyman episode that I hadn't watched - even though I'd already watched this week's episode. I checked it out, it really was new and it aired on a Wednesday night. I was confused.

Later, I googled Journeyman and found that there was a possibility it would be canceled. Supposedly NBC (Nothing But Crap), hadn't agreed to pick up the back nine of the season. But there was a huge grassroots campaign started to Save Journeyman. I really hope this show returns. With all the crap that's out there - I mean, NBC has been airing ER for centuries and you couldn't PAY me to watch it, and they cancel something new and well-written? It's crazy. I hope it doesn't end up in the same place that so many other good shows like Arrested Development and Firefly did - on the scrap heap. I know it's all about ratings and whether they can sell commercials, but man, you'd think they'd figure out a way to keep the good stuff on and weed out the real crud...

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Good Shepherd?

I was just reading John 10 and it's Jesus talking about being the Good Shepherd. Interestingly enough, the chapter continues, referencing Hanukkah, essentially Christmastime, which gives us a very different image of shepherds than what Jesus is getting at. Usually around this time of year we hear about Shepherds in the fields, getting scared by angels, leaving their sheep and worshipping baby Jesus. Here, Jesus talks about himself as THE Shepherd, the Good Shepherd and juxtaposes his care for his sheep with someone who is simply hired to do so. And it got me thinking...

The most often used image of a pastor is a shepherd. The pastor shepherds his or her "flock" or congregation. But unlike Jesus - we're paid to do it. And what does Jesus say about the hired hand?

"[He'll] run when he sees a wolf coming. He will leave the sheep because they aren't his and he isn't their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock. The hired hand runs away because he is merely hired and has no real concern for the sheep."

So, what can this say to us as pastors, as "shepherds"? Is it true, that not being THE Shepherd, being merely "hired hands" or stewards of someone else's flocks makes us less concerned with their care? Do we really run away when things get tough? Do we really simply leave and allow our flock or congregation to scatter, to disintegrate? We do. We do it all the time. Whether it's for a better position with more pay or benefits, a congregation that looks "nicer" or a "better fit" or simply because we're "burnt out" from serving in that context. I think that's a horrible model of Christ's love. Yeah, sometimes we need to "move on" for one reason or another. Sometimes God actually calls us somewhere else, but that doesn't mean we're not left with the responsibility to leave that flock in a better place than when we found it, and seek to provide for them the care they need, so they won't be scattered.

There is definitely something to be said for emulating Christ's shepherd metaphor - but we've got to be careful to do more than live up to the image of a hired hand...

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Best White Elephant EVER

I've done a ton of White Elephant gift exchanges over the years. Some of them are fun, some of them are not. Some take awhile, some are done before you know it. I once came away with canned calimari, generic pepto-bismal and a styrofoam cooler. Not exactly a home run. Today, I hit the jackpot. Not only did I get a 6 pack of Starbucks coffee samplers (6 x 2.5 oz = 15oz of coffee!!), I also got a LARGE hand-painted mug that is perfect for the office. I picked 7 out of 19 and NO ONE stole it, except for Bridgette, as part of an elaborate play for her to get this giant candle & candle-holder. I got the candle, she got the coffee & mug and we traded at the end. I don't know if it's Ohio or Liberty, but I heard at least 2-3 people say "I don't like coffee" as they recounted the reasons for not stealing my gift or the Starbucks gift card that was also out there. Whoa. I'm stoked. If I don't get anything else for Christmas, this was a good haul.

Truth be told, I'm finally getting to the point where I'm more excited about the gifts I give other people (Bridgette & Brennan) than what I get myself. And I'm REALLY excited about some of that stuff...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Ability or Desire?

Just today, I was confronted with a question that I've thought about before, but this time I started to wonder about it in a slightly different light. First, I've always thought of myself in many ways, as someone who has abilities in a lot of different areas. I've often found myself good at a lot of things, but not particularly great at many - if any. At different times in my life I decided to eliminate some areas of my involvement in order to focus on others, hoping this would not only simplify my life and giving me more time to breath, but also allowing me to get better, dare I say become great, in the remaining areas.

Fast forward to today, where I'm a pastor over a number of different areas which require varying degrees of leadership gifts and talents. As I've been kicking the tires on Bill Hybel's Courageous Leadership, I had some trouble thinking of the areas of leadership that I truly had gifts in and those that I didn't - weren't these titles somewhat arbitrary? Do they fit everyone? And then I had an encounter the other day where I was challenged to have more obvious ownership over some things, and I saw how some people have such intricate systems of administration - obvious evidence of this kind of leadership. And on top of that, I was confronted with the premise in Hybels' book, that leaders make decisions based on values and decisions they've made over time, increasing their abilities to be "right"... and the wheels for me continued to turn - maybe, I'm simply not a details guy. Or is it that I don't want to be a details guy, and so I slack off in this area sometimes and it's a liability because of my desire? Which is it?

The question, for me, strikes at the heart of two things. First, if there is an issue of desire, then I am not making the most of the gifts and talents I have. I am not living up to the potential I possess and dishonoring God in my ministry. Second, if there is an issue of ability, then this goes straight to the heart of where God, presumably, will lead in the future. And six months into my first pastorate is not exactly the right time to be thinking about "the future" - but I admit that it's something I do. Not that I'm looking for anything - I just had a conversation with a family, sharing that I think it's abhorrent for pastors to be like College Football & Basketball coaches (and not that good for them either) with their resumes out and always with an eye for the next gig. But I admit that one of the reasons I'm here at Liberty is the opportunity to learn and prepare, for a call down the road where I may have to answer all the big questions myself.

Anyway, these were the thoughts swimming through my brain just now and I wanted to get them down and out. I desperately want to be a good steward of my gifts and talents, not wasting them but developing them. But the question I find myself asking is whether I actually have some of these gifts or not, and if not, should I be seeking to develop them, or instead, seeking to find people who have these gifts and I can delegate duties to - increasing the ownership of our shared ministry together. If anyone reading this has any insight or personal experience, I'd love to hear...

Monday, December 17, 2007

Simply Tired

A friend of mine once said that you could read something into his spiritual life by his blog entries - no entries in awhile said something. For me, you can definitely read into my busyness by my lack of blog entries. This past week, and weekend in particular was extremely busy. Maybe I'll blog about that tomorrow. Unfortunately, last night was the sleep night from Hades and I'm just too tired. Maybe you can see it in my bloodshot, bagged eyes.
Initially, after staying up later than I should have, I couldn't fall asleep. But when I finally did, I was awoken by Brennan, crying out for Daddy. I then spent nearly 3 hrs "sleeping" on the floor of his bedroom with him, so as not to bring him in our bed and disturb Bridgette. I later found out that our cat was doing a fine job of disturbing her already. Man, I can't imagine how people with insomnia function...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Let's hope that adults still can learn. I'm at an interesting place right now, that goes beyond the "big picture" - new Associate Pastor in the throws of learning the ropes and all - and requires some learning on my part.

With this position at this Church, I have the opportunity in many ways to construct the entire adult education model - nearly from scratch. Depending on where your leadership gifts lie, this could be either very exciting or extremely scary - I think I bounce back and forth regularly. At this point, I'm trying to discover all I can to put in place something that will work - not simply as a system that provides the necessary elements - but something that will work for the church in this place. And the VERY unique situation that Liberty is.

So, while I wrestle with it, I'm trying to do all I can to learn the needs (both real and felt) of the church, map out the pitfalls and mines (OSU football...) and discern where GOD is leading in all of this. Yeah, I probably shouldn't neglect THAT part of it. Which of course is a huge reminder to me. Because, if God does not build the house, the workers labour in vain. And no matter how good a plan looks on paper, if it's not got God behind it, it will NEVER be truly successful...

Monday, December 10, 2007

In Stereo

This is a quick hitter because I've been away for a few days and realize it's been a week since I've posted.

First, I finally experienced XM radio for the first time. This may be better than cable tv. The background is that our car was hit in the parking lot in October by a car dealer who never heard the 4 horn blasts of my wife blared as he backed into us. His insurance paid for a rental - which had XM radio. We happen to live in the largest market in Ohio, the outskirts of Columbus, but at night, there's only 1 AM radio station that you can hear and it's not ESPN. Couple that with the fact that we travel a lot by car and I HATE how station's fade in and out and I think the appeal of Satelite radio (XM or Sirius, or whatever) is huge. Down the road, if it becomes more affordable, I think it's something I'm going to get.

Second, I've been luck enough to take over administrating the New Member class here at Liberty. I wasn't entirely sure about it when I began, but after 2 sessions totaling 37 New Members in 6 months, it's easily been a highlight. What was especially neat about last night, the 4th and final class, was the sharing of Faith Journeys. The class has heard 4-5 of us pastors & leaders share ours already and then they have the opportunity to share their own. We broke the class into 3 groups and went around sharing. On two separate occasions, the person in my group was sharing their journey at the same time as their spouse was sharing their own in the group next to us. You'd catch a couple words here or there of the other one, and it was so neat to see how you got bits and pieces "in stereo."

Certainly, getting to hear people's faith journeys and getting to share my own in a VERY non-threatening environment has been an awesome experience so far at Liberty. I can easily say that it is a foundation for sharing your faith in a less forgiving situation - and probably preparing me for doing that down the road. It is certainly not an excuse or a substitute for sharing the gospel with those who have not heard the good news of Christ, but when you look at it as part of a longer-term process it is great. Now, if I can only figure out the back end of that "longer-term process"...

Monday, December 03, 2007

You know you live in...

Here's the deal. We were heading to the church Saturday to make an Advent wreath. On our way in, driving along a nice, scenic highway, I saw a hummer driving towards us. This is not all that unusual, but as it got closer, I could see something was different. Finally, it got close enough for me to see what the difference was. On the hood of this hummer lay a buck. It looked to be dead. It also looked like it wasn't strapped down. I guess guys in Ohio take their Hummers out into the woods and hunt down deer, drop them on their hoods and parade around town. Since the last time I was in a double-wide, I've never felt so in the presence of a wealthy redneck...

Thursday, November 29, 2007


It crossed my mind last night, at a Session meeting of all places (isn't that where most profound theological insights are born?), that somewhere along the line we may have missed the mark with this word. Aside from "Holy cow" and all of the secular-profane-profanity misuses of the word, I think there are still other ways that we've missed them mark on what it means, so I'm setting up some time to do a little study into this. It could become a sermon or a study or simply some personal insight that I will hope will change my perspective on things. Either way, whatever comes of it will, in some form or another, end up on this blog. I already found Young's Bible Dictionary (thanks Greg!) to be pointing in the right direction...

Am I Famous?!?

Q: What do you think a 3-4 with Rucker-Peko-Fanene up front and Jeanty-Johnson-Brooks-Geathers as backers would look like?
- Don, Delaware, OH
A: It's certainly intriguing, especially now that they've got more backers than Penn State's attic. All eyes will be on that defensive huddle when it breaks for the first snap of May's OTAs.
Read More

Ok, so here's the deal. I'm a fan of the Cincinnati Bengals and check out their website and read articles on a regular basis. I've also gotten into the habit of randomly sending out queries to the guy who runs the site. He posts responses weekly to a couple questions he gets. Once, I actually got an e-mail response from him to a question, but I've never had my question and a lengthy reply posted on the website. That is, until now. When I saw it, my jaw dropped and I can't describe how I felt. I'm not exactly much for celebrity, but this was a pretty cool feeling - seeing my "name up in lights" so to speak.

I think it's a good idea that I figured this out now. I need to be careful that I'm never driven by this kind of thing in my ministry. The last thing this world needs is me getting excited about seeing my name on the front of some book or on a poster or marquee for some speaking engagement. Although, I've got some ideas...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

One of those days

I've felt like today has been the slowest day in creation. I'm not entirely sure why that's the case. It's certainly not for lack caffeine. And I HAVE done work today, so it's not simply because I'm bored and twiddling my thumbs. I'm uncertain if this is true, whether anyone else has experienced it as well as me, but I'm starting to think that there has been some odd warp in the space-time continuum. "Oh" you say, "One of those days..."

Monday, November 26, 2007

Here we go again

Have you ever noticed that life is full of victories - followed very closely behind by defeats (unless you are the '07 Patriots). Anyway, I had a little bit of that experience last night. The background was that I'd had a wonderful time this weekend with family & friends celebrating Thanksgiving. My sermon, that I'd been excited to preach for months, until the night before when I was concerned it would fall flat, ended up fairly well. Unfortunately, the following rough sketch happened last night:

the Scene: two people visiting our house, sitting at our kitchen table
[small talk]

Person A: "I hate X people... they're..."

Don: "Whoa...[somewhere in the middle]... racist bigot..."

Person B: "[person A] is getting mad at you..."

Don: "Well, I'm shocked that [person A] would say something like that..."

The dialog continued for awhile. Unfortunately, I didn't realize soon enough that no matter what Person A had said, my words were hurtful and poorly timed. I doubt my apology did much - too late and not empathetic enough. That whole "sometimes you just need to keep your mouth shut and not say what you're thinking" is something I'm STILL working on. It was, yet another reminder that you need to, especially as a pastor, be so careful of what you're doing, when you're doing it, because at any moment you can end up flat on your face - and some of us are better at ending up there than others...

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Who knew?

Tomorrow is Yankee Thanksgiving. While it's a little late for my Canadian blood (you have to cook frozen corn & green beans, pumpkin pie from a can and bruised apples for pies)there is the luxury of having the day after, Black Friday, off from work. 'Course, I work Sunday through Thursday which means that's no different from any other week for me.

Anyway, this US Thanksgiving will be a little different for me - now that we've moved to Ohio. At Liberty they have an actual Thanksgiving Day worship service. No, it's not long (30 min). It's actually held outside amid the fallen leaves, mulling cider in a cauldron that would fit in any rendition of Macbeth, and possible rain and hallowing winds of late November. Coming from Canada and presbyterian churches on both coasts, I'd never heard of such a service. But here in the heartland, and particularly at Liberty (where last Sunday we had a "Scottish Harvest" parade, led by bagpipers and a couple men in kilts)... well, it's kind of fitting.

So, while many are preparing turkeys and watching parades, I'll be worshipping and reading Lincoln's Thanksgiving Address at a special worship service. Which is where I'd rather be anyway - there are few things more boring than watching a parade on television...

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Oh Well...

I guess there's always next year, eh? Of course, Lloyd may be watching someone else coach the Wolverines then. As much as I've been frustrated in the last 10 years about him not coaching up his team in big games. He is the only Michigan coach in the last 50 years to bring Ann Arbor a National Championship in football. So, at least once, he got it done. Unfortunately, 1-6 against Ohio State is tough to swallow. But, what can you say except that Les Miles better come up with a way to beat them - or stay in Louisiana!

Oh Boy!

I've never lived in Ohio or Michigan before. I've visited both often over the years while living in NY, NJ, CA & in Canada. But I've never been quite this "close" to the BIG game. I have to admit, and it probably has more to do with OSU's loss last week than anything else, but I'm surprised at the lack of intensity I've seen. People have been so crazy about these Buckeyes, and there's some kind of counter that people keep leading up to this game around here - but it's almost as if it became some kind of afterthought. I dunno. But what I do know is that I'm going to be watching this game and hoping that I get to go to church Sunday with a little smirk on my face..

GO BLUE!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Finally here

Low 28° F
Precip: 30%
Snow flurries or snow showers.

This is the evening forecast for Columbus. On my way into the church this morning, huge snowflakes fell from the sky. No, they didn't stick and it's more wet than anything out right now, but it IS cold. I've been waiting for this for quite awhile and I'm glad it's finally here. Just in time for Michigan - OSU...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

What is Success?

I just read this article and it got me thinking, yet again. Having worked in a psychological hospital as an intern last year, I often thought about what our world would look like if we made room in it for those that didn't quite fit. What would our world look like if we were more concerned with caring for others than in securing some kind of success for ourselves. It certainly wouldn't look like the world we live in now. I've played sports all my life and there's this huge divide between those that play for fun (everybody bats, everybody plays, etc) and those that play to win (whatever it takes, if you're not good enough you sit, etc). Most of my life I've been on the latter side. I'm competitive. I want to win, I NEED to win. Or at least that's the way I feel. But when you're confronted with other people, as human beings, and reminded of the fact that winning means someone loses... it's a different story.

If winning and success were all that mattered, there'd be no room for people that weren't deemed "good enough." But as Christians, we're supposed to believe that everyone has intrinsic worth, that everyone is a Child of God and loved by God. But, do we really treat everyone that way? I mean, if we did, we'd probably come up short, we'd fail to be as successful as we possibly could be, right?

Reading that article by Mitch Albom from the Detroit Free Press reminded me that, whatever the cost, we need to make room in our lives for people who wouldn't normally fit. We need to enlarge our circle of friends and family - which may mean that we lose some of that "me" time or we become a little less "successful" in some people's eyes. But I truly believe that in doing so, we can actually be much more successful than we ever dreamed - in the eyes of the only One who really matters...

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Sometimes I miss Youth Ministry

Yesterday, I met with someone that Liberty supports through our Mission budget. Now, you'd think that after 5 months I'd have a hand on all of what we do, seeing as Missions was one of the four areas on my job description. But you'd be wrong. Anyway, we met with someone who's in Youth for Christ, downtown at this really neat ministry center. This center is in a rough neighborhood of Columbus. Not a lot of good outs for these kids. So, they've got a ministry to teen mothers, getting them to finish their education. They've got an auto mechanic shop where they teach kids to fix cars. There are other things they do but there was one statement made that totally hit home to me - when you work with adults, you can "give them Christ" and have them walking for years, but all of the sudden their lives fall apart because all of the social baggage they've accumulated and they're right back where they were, but if you get a kid, share Christ, keep them away from those things that can trap them, and you can be so much more effective.

I heard that because I've seen it. It was just another one of those moments I've experienced in the last four years or so that have reminded me of why I enjoyed Youth Ministry and that I do miss it. Whether or not I'll ever "go back" I don't know, but I will always have a place for it in my heart - and I'll never haze a youth pastor...

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Overheard @ Panera

I'm not entirely sure about you, but it seems that Panera is overtaking Starbucks as the premier place to have a business meeting or simply sit, drink & eat and do some work. And I think it's completely attributable to the free wi-fi that they offer, while Starbucks has sold their soul to T-mobile. Anyway, I was over there last week for an aborted meeting and as I poured over a book and my coffee I heard a conversation between two men and their laptops. While this isn't verbatim, this is a rough recount of a key segment of their conversation:

Guy A - "Yeah, that sun is bright and it either gets my eyes or my screen."

Guy B - "I had to move onto this side because of that."

Guy A - "By the way, I found an attachment for my computer for my car that I was thinking of having put in, take a look."

Guy B - "Not bad, have you ever seen mine? I actually have it set up so I can have full use of my laptop & type while I'm driving..."

That was the point where I was like - "Huh?! Are they talking about what I THINK they're talking about?"

Have we gotten to the place in our society where we need to have fully functioning mobile offices? Man, if there's one thing we need to continue to encourage people to do is to somehow slow down their lives. Take a breather. How else are we ever going to experience God...

Monday, November 05, 2007

So Glad, I don't have to fix this!

First off, and I'm sure I've mentioned this before, but I'm a fan of the Cincinnati Bengals. I became a fan back in the 1988 season, in the middle of that exciting year featuring Boomer Esiason, Ickey Woods & the Ickey Shuffle and a host of great players. They lit up the Houston Oilers late in the season for 40+ points in the Jungle. I was 10 years old in Canada, the game was the one game broadcast on Global TV at that time and I was hooked. I've been a fan through the 2 win seasons, Ki-Jana Carter and Akili Smith debacles and watched in horror 2 years ago as the Steelers clawed their way to the Super Bowl, through the Bengals first Division Championship in 15 years and through Carson Palmer's left knee on an excruciating double-whammy play. And I'm still a fan today.

But after yesterday's game, and the frustration and anger I felt at a team that just two years ago was compared to the Indy Colts, and is presently 2-6 and on its way to a top draft pick in next year's draft, I came to a startling and very freeing realization: "I don't have to fix this!"

Now, part of being a sports fan is that whole "I would've done X on that play" or "If it were my team I'd sign Y" And to an extend, that's ok. But at some point you have to wake up and say, "That's not my job and I can't expend wasted energy on that." And I also realized how much that carries over into other places in my life. As an Associate Pastor, I have some very specific areas of ministry focus. Those are areas that I need to expend my energy. But I'm not there to "fix" the church or to somehow pine about what I would do if I were in the position to enact whatever. Just like in politics or in other arenas, I have a limited scope and limited ability to enact change and I need to exercise it and leave the rest up to God. If I try to take over as God in those areas, I'm only going to become more and more frustrated when things don't go right - even if the decisions I thought were right are made - because since I didn't actually make them, they're not up to me and I remain free to criticize.

So I was reminded that I need to "change the things I can, accept the things I don't, and understand which is which." Hey, that's kinda catchy...

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Our New Baby

Yeah, this was the news. Ok, so maybe it's a bigger deal to us than anyone else on the planet, but living without a vehicle has been, quite possibly, THE most difficult part of our move to Ohio for Bridgette. Today, we rectified that - provided our Credit Union doesn't drop a hammer on us.

But, I've got the car parked in the parking lot right now. We've got a ton of paper work signed, wrote a check and have the insurance. It's just up to our Credit Union to overnight us the final financing stuff (man, I just wish I had cash lying around to pay for stuff like this, oh well). But since they let us drive away with it, I think it's official.

If you want to see more pictures of it, try here, or you can stop by our place to see it in the driveway (or garage) as it'll be Bridgette's car for getting groceries (actually, that's my job) and getting to the park and stuff - and our new family vehicle. It just might fit a second car seat AND all the gear for 2 kids. But there's nothing imminent there folks, sorry to get your hopes up. But at least we're "ready"...

Monday, October 29, 2007

I want to share some news...

...but until all the i's are dotted and the t's are crossed, I think I'm going to wait. Suffice to say that we've been contemplating and praying about a decision that has caused a little bit of stress in our lives for the past few months. Today, I got a phone call that might have been the news we were waiting for to move forward. Hopefully, by this time tomorrow we should be able to share. But until then, I'll leave you guessing. Don't you love cryptic blog posts? Kinda makes you want to e-mail me, eh? Go ahead...

Friday, October 26, 2007

Brennan & Daddy time

While this picture was actually taken last weekend, it's a pretty accurate look at Brennan and me and our day today. No, we didn't hit up another corn maze, but we did spend a bunch of time together. I've owed him - and particularly Bridgette - a little bit over these past two crazy weeks. And I'm really glad we got to spend some time together. This morning we hit up the park together for an hour or so. He ran nearly the entire way there and back, which is a brisk walking pace for me. He tired himself out so much that he nearly fell asleep eating his lunch afterward.

When he finally woke up from his 2.5+ hr nap, we went outside and raked leaves. He loved just walking around the backyard while I raked it all. He toted around some of his outdoor toys (frisbees, baseball bat, etc) but particularly loved saying hi to our neighbour's dog Ginger and walking in the leaves. Then, I mowed most of the backyard (the part that actually grows) and Brennan did an excellent job of staying out of the way and staying near the pile of leaves.

After our outdoor activities ended, we came inside and I made dinner. The entire time, Bridgette was out and about. This would be unheard of a scant 6 months ago. I found it next to impossible to cook dinner or do virtually anything worthwhile around the house while I was home alone with Brennan if he wasn't napping. I'm amazed at how much more able he is to play on his own when he wants to be. This of course is not always the case - but at least there are times now. He's actually growing up - and I'm enjoying every minute of it...

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

It wasn't that long ago...

When this story was all over the news, and we were only a scant few miles from the fires, with friends who were very close to losing their homes. California is a beautiful state and we enjoyed living there greatly, but stuff like this is so regular it's scary. Mudslides & forest fires in the West, hurricanes (east) and droughts (west) in the South, snowstorms and blackouts in the East... I'll stick with the Buckeyes as being the main problem in the Midwest...

Monday, October 22, 2007


Long night - made only longer AFTER I fell asleep - and Brennan kept waking up. I'm not even going to begin to explain because I have no clue. The Bengals game was awesome - well, at least half was. Down 23-10 after the Jets scored a field goal on the opening drive of the second half (which I missed in the VERY SLOW concession line), they came back to score 4 straight TD's and only a last second hail mary TD made the game look close - 38-31.

Anyway, the day was great - but full. The Young Family potluck was fun - although my head was on a swivel as Brennan ran around and outside every chance he got. Luckily, he was more interested in the little rocks than in playing in the actual parking lot. My sermon went well. I got some good feedback - although I'm curious to get John & Becky's in a couple hours when we have our Monday meeting. Unfortunately, Bridgette said it was actually more confusing in the pulpit than when I read the original manuscript to her while she was driving. Hmm...

If you're interested yourself, feel free to read on:

I have a favourite morning ritual at home – and it involves leaving. It’s not exactly that I love to leave – it’s more so what happens as I’m leaving. It begins with me telling Brennan that I’m leaving – and I give him a kiss. Then, I turn to Bridgette and kiss her, reminding Brennan that ‘the last kiss is always for Mommy.’ Somewhere in the midst of this, Brennan begins to say ‘Bye Daddy’ – which I reply with ‘Bye Brennan.’ This continues as I walk out the door, into the garage, get into the car… all the while, Brennan with his face smooshed up against the screen yelling ‘Bye Daddy!’… and me replying “bye Brennan!” As I pull out the driveway, Brennan rushes to the front window where he continues to emphatically call out ‘bye Daddy!!” – waving while, I too, wave and say good-bye. It’s a pretty neat routine. It makes it so much easier to leave in the morning, knowing that he’s happy and excited. And I think it comes straight down to one thing – he knows that I’ll be back. We have a very similar routine in the evening when I pull in – Brennan pressed up against the screen door, yelling “hi Daddy!” as I exit the car replying ever-louder “Hi Brennan!” Brennan can be excited when I leave in the morning because he knows I’m coming home at night. It’s our little routine.

Coming from a broken home myself though, I know that this is not exactly a routine that plays out in all of our lives. It’s not so easy to say goodbye to someone when we don’t know where they’re going – or when or if they’ll come back. It’s not easy to say goodbye to a parent – or a spouse, not knowing whether this will be the last time that we see them. I think that is why the faith question put before us this morning is so poignant. We find it roughly in the middle of John’s gospel. John has described Jesus calling the first disciples, turning water into wine in Cana, baptizing, healing and teaching – all the while moving closer and closer to the final night spent with his disciples, explaining what will happen in the next few days – the betrayal, the trial, the crucifixion and his resurrection… Jesus has just finished predicting his betrayal – Judas has left the room and Jesus explains that he is going to leave and in the meantime, his disciples must love each other…
Simon Peter said, “Lord, where are you going?”
And Jesus replied, “You can’t go with me now, but you will follow me later.”
“But why can’t I come now, Lord?” he asked. “I am ready to die for you.”
Jesus answered, “Die for me? No, before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.”
(John 13:36-38)

Ouch. I can just imagine what Peter must have felt like. Sitting there, yet again, singled out by his own big mouth, fated to deny that he knew Jesus in what may prove to be one of the most critical moments in Jesus’ life. But at this point, this is really just an aside to the story at hand – to the true dialogue between Jesus and Peter. You can see from Jesus’ initial response and Peter’s second statement, that the issue of geography is not what is at stake for Peter. It’s not really a concern where Jesus is going – it’s more important whether Peter can continue to be with Jesus wherever it is. Peter only wants to know where so that he could join Jesus.
I think it’s the same in our own lives, isn’t it? When my mom asked me where I was going when I was a teenager, she really wasn’t asking “where are you going?” –What she was asking was “Who will be there? What will you be doing? Will you be safe? Will I stay up half the night worrying about you?” Those are not the questions of geography – those are the questions of relationship. They are the kinds of questions we ask people who we care deeply about when they leave – whether we actually come out and say them or not. Sometimes, the question is simply “Where are you going?”

What Jesus is essentially saying is that his leaving is not going to break the relationship that they share. By his leaving in fact, it will begin a new kind of relationship – a deeper relationship than was previously possible. Jesus continues…
“Don’t be troubled. You trust God, now trust in me. There are many rooms in my Father’s home, and I am going to prepare a place for you. If this were not so, I would tell you plainly. When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know where I am going and how to get there.” (John 14:1-4)

Now, before we continue I want to backtrack a bit in the gospel of John. I mentioned earlier about Jesus’ first recorded miracle – it was a wedding feast in Cana – Jesus turned water into wine. You jump ahead a bit and you have John the Baptist talking about himself being the best man to Jesus – the bridegroom. And now we have Jesus, addressing his disciples and using the same type of language as you would find in the betrothal ceremonies of that day. At that point in Jewish culture, the process of becoming married looked quite different than it does now. It would usually begin with a negotiating process between the groom and the father of the bride. When they had agreed on a bride “price” the groom would be presented to the bride and he would offer her a cup of wine. She would have the opportunity to drink the wine, and accept the proposal, or refuse the wine and decline the proposal. If she drank the wine, they would be legally betrothed – bound as husband and wife from that point – but something very interesting would follow. Instead of the two of them running off to Maui for a two week honeymoon – the groom would tell the bride that he is going away – to prepare a place for her in his father’s house – in approximately 12 months he would return with his groomsmen to take her back to live with him – her entourage would follow and the party would take place once they consummated their marriage.
Is this not fascinating? Jesus’ words to his disciples – “There are many rooms in my Father’s home, and I am going to prepare a place for you… When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.” Jesus is actually taking the Jewish betrothal liturgy and applying it to his relationship with his disciples. Peter asked “Where are you going?” – Jesus replied with “I’m preparing a place for you – because you are my bride – I have chosen you – and I am going to come back for you” Jesus is taking the relationship of his disciples to an entirely different level – no longer are we talking about children – maybe Peter’s question was something like a child’s, asking a parent where they were going – like Brennan asking Bridgette & I where we’re going when we go out on a date… but Jesus has an entirely different response, it completely reorients the whole dialogue – Jesus is looking at this relationship not as a parent and a child – but as a bride and a groom – on a deeply intimate level here – that is the kind of relationship that Jesus is talking about having with his disciples.

Now, I need to make an aside here that I think is very important. We have a tendency to look around us and see our world, our circumstances, and to imprint what we see onto God – onto Jesus. We use the word Father when we talk about God, which of course is fine if we’ve got a great father, but if our dad left when we were 6, or abused us, it’s tough to take that father image and put it on God. We’re talking about marriage here – which is fine if you’ve got a great marriage – where you’re still blissfully in love – but what about being single? What if you’re divorced? If all you’ve seen of marriage has been painful and bitter – how can holding up marriage as this intimate relationship that Jesus desires with us be helpful? Well, the truth is, all our human relationships are faulty. Family, marriage, friendships – we can’t look to these to describe God’s desired relationship with us. Instead, we have to look to God to understand what is intended of our human relationships.
You see – when Jesus turns the tables on Peter here – when he reformulates the image of their relationship – Jesus’ relationship with all his disciples – with you and me for that matter – he is actually going back to the original image that God provides with Israel. With Moses on Mt. Sinai – God created a covenant with a people who had just been enslaved in Egypt. This covenant bound the people of Israel to God – and more importantly God to this people. Time and time again, like you and I, they broke the covenant – they didn’t live up to their responsibilities – but God remained faithful. You see, that’s what Jesus is saying to Peter here. Jesus is saying – you may deny me tomorrow. You may be unfaithful to me and abandon me. You may betray me and cause me great pain. But the point is NOT what you do. The point is NOT your fickle feelings or your ability to live up to what you have promised. The point here – is that I love you so deeply and so intimately – so much more than anyone you have ever known – that I am telling you, right here and now – you are mine.

“Where are you going?” When we ask that question to Jesus, the truth is, we’re not talking about geography. Thankfully – Jesus’ response isn’t about geography either. Jesus response is about a profound love that will drive him to the cross to take on our sin – so that we can be invited into that intimate relationship with him and receive that deep and abiding love from him.

Here again the words of God through Hosea the prophet,
I will show love to those I called ‘Not loved.’ And to those I called ‘Not my people,’ I will say, ‘Now you are my people.’ Then they will reply, ‘You are our God!’”

Friends – God in Jesus Christ has claimed you as His own. He has loved you as his own – and he has prepared a place for you who are his own.

Liberty Presbyterian Church
Faith Questions Series #6 - “Where Are You Going” 10/21/07
John 13:36-14:4
[Hosea 2:14-23]

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Go Bengals!?

Tomorrow is a big day. It ends with a VERY generous opportunity to go cheer on my beloved Bengals in Cincy - my first ever live NFL game. I'm psyched. I'm especially excited that there are like 40+ people going to be at this simple little "young family" potluck. I'm blown away at the response so far. I'm trying to figure out ways that we can minister to and connect this growing segment of our church. Being in the midst of it myself I realize that it might be the most difficult stage in life - you've got young kids who have schedules, aren't quite playing by all the rules yet and you're in the early to middle stage of your own career which means time and money are usually factors. Throw in the fact that you're probably disconnected from your extended family and many of your college friends. The need is definitely there. Now to figure out how to minister in the midst of it. Maybe my sermon will be helpful - I'll upload it in the next couple days in case you're bored...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

New Look

I love the environment (hey, I just sat through Al Gore's "In Inconvenient Truth") but I'm done with the green blog. I hope you like this one - feel free to let me know. With my very little skill in html, and much help from friends, I've made some changes that I've been wanting to do for awhile. But please let me know if there's something else you think needs to be done...

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Have you ever had your eyebrow twitch? I do. It's not an everyday thing, but I've had it happen for over a week before. It came back yesterday. It's been intermittent. but today, during our staff meeting, I really was getting frustrated. I think it's stress related. This week is a doozy. I've mentioned it already - that this is one of those weeks where everything comes together - but not exactly in a good way. There are a lot of great things happening, and had they been happening, say, in consecutive weeks, they'd each be awesome. But when they converge - it kinda makes you crazy.

Going down our Order of Worship - I've got 5 stars beside things I'm doing. That includes the sermon. I've got a meeting tonight, one tomorrow night, a possible meeting Sunday BEFORE worship (if tomorrow night's meeting doesn't net enough Elders for a quorum) then a potluck after church for young families - which is either going to be awesome or a mess - we'll see. Then of course, I've been invited to the Bengals game that afternoon. So, the day could either end up as a smashing success - or with me smashing my head against a brick wall somewhere in Cincy.

In either event, I'm just hoping my eyebrow will quit twitching...

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

In my Father's house

Sunday, I'm preaching a sermon in a series about faith questions. I came up with "Where are you going?" It's what Peter says in John's gospel when Jesus mentions that he's leaving. I figured, why not, eh? Don't we ask that question of each other all the time? Don't we ask that question of God all the time? There are tons of times in our lives where we wonder where God has gone. We feel alone, like God left us. I'm not interested in preaching on the poem Footprints I think it's a great poem but it can be a little too easy sometimes. But in reading through this passage, and in looking at what Jesus replies to Peter's question, I end up coming to a fairly different place than I'd expected.

Interestingly enough, Jesus' response comes out of the Jewish betrothal ritual. It's just one in a list of images and references throughout the NT of Jesus as the bridegroom - and therefore as the church as the bride. The idea of the intimate covenant of marriage being extended to God-humanity. This of course is not new - Hosea is all about it and so is Song of Songs. So, I've decided to take a passage from Hosea and use it as our Scripture reading. Then, I've selected some passages talking about God's turning/returning to Israel and their's to Him to run during the prelude. Interestingly enough, we've got new members joining Sunday too. so, I've got juxtaposed to the question "Where are you going" and the idea of God leaving us, with some imagery of the radical covenant between God and humanity, and the decision on our parts to be part of that.

At this point, it's all mixed up in there (there being my head). I'm not sure where I'm landing with it - but it IS only Tuesday. But I just can't get over this idea of Jesus being so intimately involved with us that it can be compared to marriage. I'm only 7 years into mine, and I'm still discovering what that radical covenant can be. And it's amazing to know that I can look at God and see how intimate it can be - and see how intimate God wants that relationship to be with us.

Is there something in that agony of the ecstasy of separation. Something about the heart growing fonder? As Jesus goes to prepare a place for us - to return some day to take us to be with Him - is there something on our parts, as we wait and eagerly anticipate - where our longing for him grows? Is there something there to be preached? Is there something there that we need to be reminded of - that in the empty silence there remains a presence that is too deep for words? Is there something there, in the promise of faithfulness - the words of promise given by THE Word that quenches the thirst of our ears to hear truth?

Monday, October 15, 2007


It's just one of those weeks. I wish I had twice the time. I'm not usually the guy in the office until dark, but I doubt I'm going to get it all done this week. But the one thing I've got to make sure happens - is a good sermon is preached on Sunday...

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Let there be an office!

And Liberty said - let there be walls and a window, let there be furniture in that office, and let it wrap from corner to corner, and let there be light in that office, and more light once the fire inspectors come. And let there eventually be chairs for people to sit on to meet. And let there be a computer, but not a Mac, and an all-in-one printer. And so it was... after Liberty township took its sweet time with permits.

And that is where I write this post from - my new office. I no longer office-squat in the youth "office" with its beaded tapestry, pink, orange and green walls and incessant flies (amongst other creatures I have only "heard" about). It was a great office while it lasted, except for the flies, but it is nice once again to be in a space that is mine, where I can feel comfortable "making it my own" and not worry about anyone else needing to stop in and use the computer or have a confidential meeting. We aren't exactly overflowing with meeting places. I even conducted my first "meeting" in here last night, but I'm going to have to work through the logistics of stuff because it felt a little cramped last night, but I'm sure once everything is in, all the kinks will get worked out...

Monday, October 08, 2007

Take a Compliment!

Whenever a man's friends begin to compliment him about looking young, he may be sure that they think he is growing old.
Victor Hugo

I'm not entirely sure what it is - I've philosophied about it with friends before, but I have this thing about compliments. I think I've gotten better. I try to be very gracious when I receive them, not say stupid things and all - but I have this general feeling, much like Hugo's quote above, that there maybe two sides to the coin.

I mention this because I received a compliment from the sound guy Saturday after the wedding I officiated. He said I did a good job. I'd actually been extremely hot and messed up slightly on both of their names early in the service. I did realize and corrected right afterward, but there seemed a few awkward moments, for me anyway. So, when the sound guy said "you did a good job" what I heard was "don't worry, it wasn't that bad." The funny thing of course, is that he repeated this to John (co-pastor at Liberty) and John repeated the compliment to me. I mentioned this to Bridgette on the way home from church Sunday, and she agreed that I need to stop distrusting people's compliments.

I think part of it happens to be a little "glass is half full" kind of thing. I have a general rule that I expect the worst and hope for the best - that way I don't get disappointed if bad things happen. Throughout my life - except for in sports - I feel like I've been blessed beyond my expectations. Of course, if you have no expectations...

Anyway, I share this because I've been reflecting on it and I'm curious to know if anyone else feels the same - or completely opposite of this. Do you always trust a compliment? Or are you of the "glad-handing" variety, where you expect that people just say that kind of stuff? I'm interested to hear...

Thursday, October 04, 2007

"I lovee"

Ok, so today was a particularly busy day. Thursdays always end up like that. It's my last kick at the can so to speak before Sunday, and I was cutting out early Thursday for an afternoon meeting. I don't like to go into the "office" on Friday (my "day off") or Saturday, provided I can help it. I try to create a "weekend" with these two back-to-back days off. It works most of the time, and with this weekend coming up, where I've got a wedding, and therefore a wedding rehearsal, there are a lot more things I have to have prepared, and a lot more opportunities to be back in the office - not how I like to spend Fridays and Saturdays.

Anyway, in light of that I thought it appropriate to remind myself and others of why we all need to take time away - and who it should be with. I hope you'll enjoy this as much as Brennan does...

Monday, October 01, 2007


Ok, it's official, official. Yesterday, amid a houseful of family (8 adults a toddler & an infant, only 2 being US citizens... almost felt like a refugee family...) I had my installation sevice. I was installed as the Associate Pastor of Liberty Presbyterian Church. It was the final "step" in this whole process. Unlike being ordained, being installed will (hopefully) happen again when I take another call (down the road, no time soon) to be a pastor at another church. It's not quite as big a deal as ordination - but you still repeat all 11 vows and the church answers 3 of their own. It's pretty neat - and especially so when you are given a charge by another pastor.

I appreciated very much, everyone's participation in it and was so glad my family was there to witness it - and my mom won a prize at the ensuing Chicken BBQ! How cool is that!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

What the?

Today's Weather Report:
Mostly Sunny High


Wind: SW 10 mph
Max. Humidity: 54%
UV Index: 6 High

Sunrise: 7:23 AM ET
Avg. High: 73°F
Record High: 90°F (1939)

Anything there seem out of the ordinary? How 'bout the end of September in Ohio having a high of 90 degrees! I mean, are you serious? I woke up this morning a good 40 minutes before the sun rose (6:45am) and was blown away when I looked up the weather report to find I would, yet again, be sweltering in heat. What happened to the Fall?

I love the warm weather like everyone else. I don't want to wear a parka & tuque all year round, but come ON. Bring on the crisp cool air of Fall. If I've got to wake up to the darkness, at least I can have a little cool air - especially as I sleep!

Hmmm... maybe the truth is inconvenient...

UPDATE - Today's Quote

"Humans, I discovered, need stories the way we need air."
-Sue Monk Kidd

Thursday, September 20, 2007


I was asked to preach at my friend's Installation Service up in Northern Michigan. We made a weekend trip out of it, which except for arriving and returning at 2am, was a blast. For the sermon, I chose to preach on Ephesians 3:16-19:

I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth adn length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

As part of my sermon, I cited Eugene Peterson's, Working the Angles, which is by far my favourite book on pastoral theology. Interestingly enough, the two retired ministers who gave the chargs (one to Andrew, one to the congregation) ALSO cited Eugene Peterson. It was particularly interesting since we had no knowledge of what each of us were going to say ahead of time. It's pretty cool to see God work like that.

When Bridgette and I were returning from the service, I was reminded of something very interesting. As Petereson talked about, and I had mentioned, being merely a professional minister, or posing as a pastor is not what we are called to do and not what people need. But it is very easy to do. That is why we must not only strengthen our inner being but also plumb the depths of God's love in Jesus Christ. But as we were driving home, I was reminded of how intoxicating preaching can be - it's almost like meth. Not that I would know what meth is like, I'm purely guessing here... Anyway, I can totally understand the pull to the ministry that can get ahold of our flesh. When you stand at the back of a congregation or whatever and receive all that praise after a "good" sermon - heck, the rush of adrenaline that kicks in as the "Spirit" (and I can only hope it's the Spirit) moves through you as you preach - it's like drinking 3 cups of coffee. An hour later in the car I still felt hyped up. It's stuff like this that reminds me of how careful I need to be. I think it's another reason why I've begun my pastoral ministry as an Associate Pastor. Yeah, I could be at a church of "my own" right now, preaching every week, getting all the accolades (and taking all the heat of course), but I still think I need preparation. Some people, and some of them are my close friends, were ready right out of Seminary. I on the other hand was not. Maybe, I'll be ready after serving a number of years in this congregation. Maybe, I'll be ready after serving in a few churches as an AP. Maybe I never will be. But in any case, I'll always need to beware of the intoxicating fragrance of the pulpit...

Monday, September 17, 2007

THIS is Ministry!

Just a quick note to share with everyone how I spent last Sunday, at church. September 9 was Rally Day which included, among other things - pie the pastor. It's not a particularly theological endeavour. But it's great fun for kids to be able to throw heaping plates of whipped cream at a "pastor." Everyone laughs and appreciates you when you take yourself a little less seriously. Except for the small lacerations on my face because we were using aluminum pie plates - it was great fun. I'll share tomorrow how I spent this past Sunday...

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Problem with Evolution

Maybe I should have titled this "A Problem..." I'm not trying to debunk the theory or anything and I really should begin with 2 caveats. First, this is absolutely not some kind of "flat-earth, fundamentalist propaganda, anti science rant." I'm not trying to prove or disprove anything about the theory of evolution, the age of the earth or whatever. Second, the degree to which this is coherent and valuable is based on the degree to which I can recall my musings of yesterday evening.

I don't exactly recall how I got thinking about Evolution - so is the way my mind works. But I realize there is a fatal flaw in the theory - or at least in its extrapolation into the rest of our spheres of knowledge and ideas about our world. But in truth, it's not so much the theory itself that is particularly flawed - well, that is not exactly what I'm concerned with here. Whether or not macro evolution as well as micro evolution occurred/s, whether or not all life originated as the descendants of single-celled micro-organisms that through millions and millions of years of accidental mutations got to humanity - well, I'll set that aside. What I want to raise up is something slightly more foundational - something that I can only believe was planned in the mind of Darwin, well before he ever ventured onto the Galapagos Islands.

As a 19th Century intellectual, Charles Darwin was brought up under the enlightenment ideals - of which the linear movement of human progress was one. Whether incrimental or exponential, everyone understood that we were moving forward as a species - to a better place, one that was to be more prosperous and more advantageous. New worlds were literally and figuratively opening up (at least for white-European males). Progress was obvious. You might say that nothing much has changed a century and a half later. We still believe in the limitless possibilities of our intellect and our ambition - if we just try hard enough we will eventually be able to cure cancer, vacation on the moon and eat whatever we want and still look like Hollywood actors.

In Darwin's theory particularly, there is the idea that through genetic anomolies, members of different species will inherit traits that will be advantageous for their survival. And hence, Surivival of the Fittest. It's hard to argue that in a "natural" environment, where the laws of said amorpheous being/entity/book as nature is followed, the strong - or well equipped will survive and those weaker - less equipped will eventually die. But I believe there is an assumption here that is not being admitted - one that we all might be making equally without admitting to it - one that if we are to be intellectually honest, we must accept as an apriori assumption.

The assumption is this: Life, and life in our environment on this earth, in this situation is good. The idea of course, if we are the supreme example of evolution - the height of natural selection, is that we - as we exist now - are inherintly good because we have been able to adapt to our surroundings. This is an assumption - and one that can be thrown on its ear with this question:

What if our world is NOT good. What if the environment we inhabit is corrupt, dying, decaying. If natural selection is true, and again, my goal in this post is not to refute the theory but to expose a fundamental flaw in its foundation - which leads us to believe something that is quite possibly very far from true - If natural selection is true, and our world is NOT good, then we are actually breeding the fruit of corruption, death and decay. If those of us (and I'm talking both about humans and animal/plant species) who have survived, who have been selected by nature for fitness, are being bred to survive in a - well, "bad" environment, then we too must by extension be bad. We would actually be breeding the very things that we would not want, should we take this to another arena - like ethics.

But in our fragmented world, these kinds of connections do not take place. All we need to do is look to the news to see that the 19th Century Liberal (I'm not talking politics here) idea that the world could be perfected, that we are moving towards that now, is all wrong. Do I need to name Rwanda, Somalia, Hiroshima, Auchswitz, 9-11 or the myriad of sensless violence we see on the news every night? But we still cling to some idea that eventually - through technology or medicine or sheer force of will - if not collectively, at least individually, we will wake up tomorrow better than we go to bed tonight - we will evolve into something better.

I think Charles Darwin was right - natural selection occurs. What I think he failed to see, was that evolution by natural selection, instead of leading towards a better place, is breeding creatures that are adept at surviving in a fallen world. And maybe, just maybe Jesus was right when he claimed, "Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it." (Lk 17:33)

*This is an aside*
I couldn't find anywhere else to put this, but there is one more unintended consequence that is particularly troubling in the whole idea of progress - and that is the infatuation of the new and the denegration of the old. There is the belief - felt if not always uttered - that if someone said it today, it's probably more accurage or valuable than if someone said it 100 years ago. Even worse is that an opinion held today is more valuable than tens of millions of people who had an opposing view 100 years ago. Somehow, by virtue of our continued evolution into more intelligent beings, whatever trite we propose now is surely more advanced than what one believed a century ago...

Monday, September 10, 2007

Elijah, Part III

Elijah replied,
"I have zealously served the LORD God Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed every one of your prophets. I alone am left, and now they are trying to kill me, too."
1 Kings 19:10

A couple weeks ago, I preached on this passage. I gave a message that was a simple reminder - you are not alone! Here's Elijah, warn out, burned out and depressed. He pretty much sets aside his mission, goes off by himself, and ends up in a cave. He's not impressed with the wind, rain, lightning, fire - only in the silence of a small voice does he emerge from his cave to encounter God, and repeat this message of his own despair.

What God follows with though, after his commissioning of a new task, is to remind Elijah of this - "YET I will preserve seven thousand others in Israel who have never bowed to Baal or kissed him!"

The message for Elijah is simply that despite how he feels, he is NOT alone. And it's not simply that - God's there. I doubt Elijah ever questioned that. But knowing that God is there with us is NOT necessarily enough. I mean, isn't that part of why Jesus came? The "hand" of God, the "voice" of God, the pillar of fire by night and cloud by day of God, simply were not enough. We needed that physical, human example - FLESH. And now, we need the flesh of others, other Christians, the human touch so to speak, as a reminder that we are not alone.

I realized something today about this. I've always fancied myself as somewhat of an intra-extra-vert. Someone who belongs in the middle. I enjoy being with others and yet I also enjoy time on my own. What I've realized this past couple weeks, and especially today, is that this is not the truth.

I've always been told that you can recognize whether you're an intra or extra-vert by where you "gain energy from." After spending time with people, are you excited, or is it draining. Well, I always reflected on how tired I was after events and spending time with people and figured it was more evidence that I kinda have that balance. Yes, I enjoy being with people, but the truth is, I both gain and lose energy. But this week, I've struggled with that human contact. I've been looking to connect with more people here at the church and it's been a mixed bag. I didn't realize how proactive I'd need to be. It's taken more time than I had expected, and therefore, I've been drawn out longer than I expected and it's highlighted the fact that I NEED that contact.

Today, I had a wonderful lunch with another local pastor, a guy who has planted a church in the area a year ago. It was great. I then went straight into a meeting with our co-pastors. It's a "business" meeting in the sense that we plan, calendar and catch each up on our areas. But it's not all dry and boring. We laugh - it's enjoyable. And after 2.5 hours between those two meetings, and some looking ahead to continuing education events with other friends - I realize that I'm a DEFINITE extravert. I absolutely need those times of human interaction to keep from ending up like Elijah - wasting away in a cave somewhere. I need to be reminded sometimes that there ARE others out there to connect with, who WANT to connect. And people out there who God is calling me to connect with - who I am uniquely prepared to connect with. The fact that I also enjoy being alone, being quiet, doing my own thing - I think is simply evidence that I am a healthy extra-vert. But if I dwell on that too much, it can easily become unhealthy. That's where I think Elijah was, and I recognize in myself, that's where I need to be as well - connecting with people...

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Dancing to the Depths of Love

Catchy title, eh?

So, I was asked by a good friend, fellow PTS alum and Tigers fan, to preach at his installation service in a couple weeks. It's pretty cool. We used to swap our kids to get to our classes Fall Semester of our Senior Year. We're heading to Comerica Park to see the Tigers play in 3 weeks - they're actually the closest of our friends up in Michigan, now that we're in Ohio.

Anyway, as I was contemplating a text to preach on, I came across this from Ephesians:

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner bgin, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and etablished in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge - that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Eph 3:16-19

I don't have a great depth to preach from when it comes to knowing what it is to be a minister. Heck, he was ordained before I was and will be installed 2 weeks before me. But I can at least echo the words of Paul in relation to what I believe is the meat of our message - the well from which we need to drink and derive our message - the music that must fill our ears and be the platform on which we dance together:

Knowing the depths of Christ's love for us - But is it even possible? Just sit there for a moment and contemplate on that.

How great is the Father's love, that we should be called Children of God?!?

NOTHING can separate us from God's love - not height or breadth or depth - or anything in all creation!

We know love, not because we love, but because Christ first loved us - because God gave up his son, his very SELF - to experience pain, humilitation, separation from Himself so that we could be brought near!

Is our problem today as the Church that we have laxed in our theology, or polity, or ethical standards? Or is it that we have FAILED to experience the depth of Christ's love for us - and therefore failed to be filled by the fullness of God!

I cannot speak for anyone else, but I want to be broken anew - engulfed and submerged in the depths of Jesus love, so that I might be able to declare to others the wonderful truth of the gospel - the good news that is found in no other place, and in no other person, than in the one who loved us before we ever even knew ourselves...

[by the way, the above picture is my friend, a couple years ago while starring in the PTS theatre production]

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Goodbye Lloyd!

There were a bunch of significant things that happened in my week - but none quite as significant, at this moment, as the debacle yesterday in Ann Arbor, Michigan. My only solace is that this should be the final nail in the coffin of a coach who couldn't get his team up for ANY big game. Not Ohio State, Not USC in the Rose Bowl - even though it was billed as National Championship 1a.

Words cannot express my frustration at how this man has been able to ruin a once proud football tradition. He gets recruits - he just doesn't make them any better. Goodbye Lloyd - and GOOD RIDDANCE!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Tunnel Vision?

Ok, these are somewhat unrelated thoughts, but here goes:

1) Bridgette & Brennan left for the long "weekend." I have a wedding to perform Saturday and duties at Sunday worship, so I was unable to accompany them to HOT-lanta for our college friend's 30th Birthday Bash. Last time they were away, I was looking forward to it - but by the end, I was REALLY missing them. I've been looking forward to this too - it's nice to have a little time to yourself, to do the some of those things that don't seem to fit into your schedule... BUT - more than that, I will & already am missing them. I dropped them off at the airport this morning. I hugged and kissed them, prayed with them, and talked to them when they touched down (I also tracked their flight...) - it's nice to have time to yourself - but I love and miss my family. Simple as that.

2) I've had a few conversations lately and been reflecting a bit on "end-of-life" stuff. As a pastor, it's amazing how much you end up talking about people and their family and friends who are sick/dying/dead. I think it has a bit to do with prayer - how we always seem to be interested in doing it - praying for others, but there's more to it than that. Anyway, I've reflected a bit on my own life - what it will be like when I'm in that place - not my friends or family dying, but me.

Recently, one of my Senior pastors remarked that everyone figures they'll die quickly, in the night or in a car accident - but you have to plan for the long illnesses, etc. I go back and forth about the whole being "scared" of death and all. But when you get right down to it - everyone dies, so you might as well buck up and face the fact. So, when I think about myself, coming down with cancer or something else, some other debilitating disease, I think of two things. The first is that I want to make sure that my family is alright. If it were to happen when I was still relatively young, kids still in school, etc - I'd be sad. I'd be sad that they wouldn't have me at their graduation, wedding, there for their kids - as the crotchety old grandfather who tells stories about going to school, uphill barefoot in 6ft of snow back in Canada...

But I also have a very strong feeling about quality of life and the natural inevitability of death. It comes - no matter who you are, no matter how much money you make, no matter what you do. You're gonna die. If I've got X amount of dollars and I can spend it on treating my disease, getting another 6 months or 6 years - or giving it away to help others... Well, that question comes down to where I am in my life. If I'm young, my kids are young, we're probably talking about trying to get a few more years out. But If I'm older, I'm probably talking about grabbing a dark beer, sitting on the porch, inviting my friends and family over to enjoy the sunset and let ol' death come.

I've waxed eloquently with people before about how I believe our Western culture has devalued life by devaluing death. We're so scared of death - that we ruin our lives running from it. A good death is still something worth celebrating. Not that we should somehow seek it or anything - but I think Jesus seemed to say it best when he said - "those who seek to save their lives will lose them, and those who lose them, for my sake, will gain them." Something like that.

I should end with this disclaimer though - a) I'm not telling anyone how to die. This is just what I'm thinking for myself.
b) I am not, at least not that I know of, in any significant health crisis of my own. Yeah, I need to be a little more active, but I'm fine. These are just thoughts running through my head...

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Shot in the Dark

I've been MIA from this blog for about a week now. The reasons are two-fold. First, my family was in town which meant that I had a little less free time for being online, etc. The second is that once I get out of the habit of something, it seems to get harder to get IN to the habit of it again. It's certainly been that way in a number of areas of my life. I've heard it said before that it takes 30 days in a row to creat a habit - or whatever you want to call it. That may be true - I'm not sure I've been able to do ANYTHING 30 days in a row over my entire life, so I'll have to take their word for it. But I can defintely vouch for the fact that it takes significantly less time to get out of a habit. I'd say a day or two. Which makes sense that it's taken me a day or two just thinking about posting to make a post.

But, I'm still stuck as to what to write about. It's almost as if my creative juices get sapped up if I'm not using them. Kinda like a foreign language - "Use it or lose it." So, this is my shot in the dark. Yes, I've got a couple more Elijah posts to write and throw up. Yeah, I could post on my family visiting - fun but not really something I'm reflecting on, or on my Tigers or Bengals, but I'm not there. Better to just throw something up there, see if it sticks and come back - you know, get back into the habit. I'm sure after a day or two, now that I've hit "post" it will get a little easier...

Monday, August 20, 2007

Set on You?

So, I just got this song stuck in my head. It was made popular in the 80's by former Beatles lead guitarist George Harrison, while it was originally performed by James Ray and written by Rudy Clark. It has always fascinated me, the "evolution" of a song - how it resonates with certain people in one form but morphs into another and resonates differently with others. But that's not why I posted this. There is a particular part of the song that got stuck in my head:

Its gonna take time
A whole lot of precious time
Its gonna take patience and time, ummm
To do it, to do it, to do it, to do it, to do it,
To do it right child

I got my mind set on you
I got my mind set on you
I got my mind set on you
I got my mind set on you

So, my question to myself is - What do I have my mind set on? And is it what I should have my mind set on? Or am I getting my priorities mixed up? It's not an easy question - and it's one I don't answer lightly. But I like something about this portion of the song that I think speaks to it - patience and time, to do it right.

Getting your mind set on the right thing - the right thing, isn't something that happens overnight - nothing of significance, especially any change happens overnight. You need to keep at it, working, and allowing for the inevitable pitfalls and slipups that occur - but not succombing to them. On that note, I'm going to get back to some of those first things...