Monday, June 30, 2008

Finished...Courageous Leadership

Yes, this books been out for what amounts to, in our age, 22,000 years (six, but who's counting?) - but I finally finished it. And, whatever you want to say about Bill Hybels or Willow Creek, this book was good. What was particularly good was a section toward the end when he talks about people encountering God in different ways. At Liberty, I'm in the middle of putting together a team that will discern an Adult Discipleship plan - and in a meeting yesterday, one person said something that completely resonated with Bill Hybels in the book. When asked, "What characteristics would we want to see in mature disciples?" or something like that, he responded with "I can't speak to how other people encounter God, I can only speak to how I have encountered God." Absolutely!

Leadership is about discerning the gifts people bring to the table and helping them to be utilized to their fullest. That was a gift, and my hope is that we use it, along with what Hybels wrote, to make sure we don't box people into some form of Discipleship conceived of in a room of 6 people. Encouraging people to be disciples of Christ in many ways, to follow as they're being lead, is my deep desire...

Friday, June 27, 2008

Done a little painting

It's taken awhile, but finally, Aidan's blue-on-blue striped room is finished. I'm pretty excited to get it done and while it's not exactly a "professional" job, it looks pretty darn good. Now all we need to do is get Brennan's big boy bed (a bunk bed that should arrive soon) so we can move the crib & baby furniture into Aidan's nursery and out of Brennan's room. At least this time around we seem to be more ready for our son's arrival...

Thursday, June 26, 2008


Why is faithfulness so hard? I got wind of the fact that the "fidelity & chastity" requirement has been recommended to be removed from the PC(USA) Book of Order, you can read about it here. Now, the way I understand it, is that the committee that overseas this area at the General Assembly, has reviewed an overture, heard from people for and against, voted on it, and then passes it to the floor of the GA, where everyone in attendance votes. If it passes there, it will, once again, go out to each and every Presbytery in the denomination to vote on it. Whatever the majority of presbyteries decide, that will be the final outcome. So, it's far from being a finished deal.

That aside, my question remains - why is faithfulness, or better yet, why is DETERMINING faithfulness so hard? Each side of this argument believes they are being faithful to God. On one hand you have those who believe that Scripture is clear in the requirement for the ordaining of elders and deacons (and ministers of Word and Sacrament - although technically, we made that office up...) to remain faithful in the covenant of marriage between 1 man and 1 woman, or chaste outside of marriage. They believe that holding to these standards is being faithful to God in how God has called us to live. On the other hand, others believe that God is moving in a new direction, that the Holy Spirit is calling for a greater inclusion - to include those that cannot conform (or will not, that debate is separate) to these standards - mainly because of their sexual orientation. They believe that they are being faithful to God's call here & now and not being bound by outdated interpretations of Scripture which conform to the letter of the law and not the spirit of a loving God.

Personally, it breaks my heart, no matter what side this ends up on. I can't bring myself to be on either "side". My heart breaks for those who have been marginalized for their sexual orientation - but it's a tough road to hoe around Scripture which is fairly explicit. I also wonder if there is not some other way? Sexuality is such a tough subject and the church has done poorly in addressing it for 2000 years. But when it comes down to it, I just wish we could determine what faithfulness in this area really is. Because it's killing the church, and I'm pretty certain that God's not excited about that...

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Jeff used a great word in a comment to my last post that sums up what I've discovered in the last couple days - reengage. For me, it's not as much about the denomination, but about my own learning and development. I find it quite easy to be about the business of what needs to get done at a given time. I also find it pretty easy to be about things that are coming down the pike - dreaming up the next big thing. But, as Bill Hybels puts it in his book Courageous Leadership, "Self Leadership" is something I really need to continue to work at. Therefore, I'm re-engaging some of the books I've been slowly slogging through. Hopefully, before Aidan is born, I can punch out a few of these books I've been "reading" for the past 6 months or more - and get to the growing stack of Amazon purchases on my bookshelf...

Monday, June 23, 2008

My Denomination...

I'm not entirely sure where the PC(USA) is going, but with another General Assembly happening out in San Jose, CA, I'm expecting we'll see something come out of it. I was glad to hear that Bruce Reyes-Chow was nominated Moderator, mainly because it shows a desire to go young & new. Bruce is a big blogger and seems genuinely concerned about the church and the denomination, focusing on where we're going in the future, not simply the past. Anyway, I'm curious to see what comes of things, and there have been some great posts recently from those on the inside and others that are worth checking out. So, if you're part of things or just curious, give a look and see what's going on:

Adam Walker Cleaveland is Blogging at the GA
Neale Locke is keeping close tabs
and Rhett Smith has a great post about the PC(USA), the GA and technology

Tell me if this ship is gonna sink or swim...

Friday, June 20, 2008


I've always found the term to be a little bit, how shall we say, oximoronic? How do you make peace? If you make peace by force, are you not engaging in an act of violence? And therefore, by very nature, not making peace? I was reminded of my own personal questions on this when we recently did a devotion for staff from Matthew 12:15-21. The exact part is Matthew's quotation of Isaiah, one of the suffering servant songs, when he claims this servant will proclaim justice to the nations. And I thought - just proclaim justice? What does that even look like? He's not enacting justice, just proclaiming it. He's not making justice, just saying it. And then the question remains, does the act of saying or proclaiming justice, does that do something in and of itself? Is the mere proclamation efficacious? That would certainly fit in nicely with John's reference to Jesus as the Word. It also is an amazing reminder of the effectiveness of gentleness...

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Where did that COME from?

Two hilarious comments from Brennan recently:

1) I'm about to go to the Bathroom in the morning, Brennan is in our room and says "No, Daddy, you don't go in the toilet!" Of course, I reply that I do. And he says, "No, Daddy, you go on the carpet!" Bridgette & I busted a gut! No idea where that came from, seriously...

2) I'm driving home with Brennan and he says "Slow down Daddy!" I let him know I wasn't really traveling fast. To which he replies "Are you going SUPER fast?" Ha! Maybe he knows me better than I realized...

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Princeton Address...

A friend of mine recently directed my attention to Ian Torrance's address to the graduating class of Princeton Seminary this past Spring. I have to admit, I found it enormously difficult to follow Torrance's address to us at our own graduation last year. I'm also not exactly a fan of his, "preaching" - however, upon reading this, I have to say that had I been there, and been able to follow along with a manuscript, I probably would've stood and applauded.

He seems to be overflowing with thoughts & ideas that at the beginning and end, he finds difficult to synthesize into something coherent for listeners. But he says two things I want to highlight.

1) First, he comes from the same perspective (resident alien) that I do, not a citizen, can't vote in the US and criticizes Nativism, particularly during this political season, the sentiment among Americans that says "we care about ourselves and not really anyone else" - he's making the connection between iPod wearing youth, transfixed on their own music and Americans, disengaging from the Public Space of the rest of the world to cloak themselves in the Nativism of their own self interest.

2) Second, He continues to say that the concept put forth by Stanley Hauerwas of a Christian as a "resident alien" is too tame. Not that it needs to be scrubbed entirely and Hauerwas is an idiot (I think Torrance is actually a huge fan of Stanley). But he believes that since we are actually sent out among wolves, we need to be, as such, wild - with a rabid hunger for Christ in the midst of a culture that is not exactly for Christ. He's saying we can't simply be "company men" - domesticated professional ministers. I think that's actually more in line with what Huaerwas says in the book anyway.

When you get down to it, he's saying, using a ton of different imagery, that as graduates (and ministers) we cannot afford to stick our heads in the sand, be only about us, our congregations, our denominations, our "guild" or our nation. If we are to be truly the people of God, we must engage people - out there (in the public space) with the gospel. In this regard, I couldn't agree more. And so, here's a quiet tip of my cap to you, Mr. President...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Forcing It

I've become familiar with some Christian curriculum recently that made me scratch my head. It used some alliteration in order to assist us in remembering the key points. While I understand this is sometimes helpful - better yet, I've found mnemonics to be very helpful - I found this to be, rather forced. In fact, it took my wife to explain to me a couple of the words (not the meanings, just why they were used). And it made me reflect again on the whole Christian curriculum industry. Because, as much as we might hate to admit it, it's an industry. And it leads me to two completely separate thoughts.

First, I heard recently someone reflecting on a Christian publishing company, someone who should know. They said something to the effect of Rocking the boat is not exactly what brings in the money and at the end of the day, they need to print materials that will sell. I didn't put up quotation marks, because it's a paraphrase, but it's pretty accurate to the conversation. And it's just one example of our culture/society/economic system trumping the gospel. And people still think Rome is the beast?

Second, I've heard from and read on more than one occasion, a myriad of big-wig Youth Ministry writers and gurus, say it's a waste of time to reinvent the wheel. [Not a reference to my friend Lars] Essentially, don't worry about writing your own curriculum - spend time with kids and just regurgitate someone else's stuff. After all, the best stuff is someone else's anyway, right? And part of me says, yeah, spend time with kids/youth/adults. Be in relationship... But part of me also says - THINK CRITICALLY ABOUT WHAT YOU'RE TEACHING! Don't just buy the hot selling book or curriculum. Read it, digest it, ADJUST IT, if it's not good. Don't just pass it out like some kind of advertisement for a "gentleman's club" in Vegas.

It comes back a little bit to what I said about a living and active faith with you. If you're not working on yours, you can't model it for others. And if all you're doing is passing out second-hand information, you're not really getting anywhere. I think, over the years, I've become much more of a fan of writing my own stuff. Read wide, take the best of what others have to offer, critically engage it, let the dross hit the floor and come up with the integrated whole yourself - then teach it. That way, you don't come away saying "What's with that funky and forced alliteration...?"

Monday, June 16, 2008

Father's Day Fun

This past weekend, Brennan and I met up with my Dad in Detroit. We drove, he took a bus - it's almost equal distance between the two of us - and we saw two Tigers games. It was a ton of fun. Brennan did remarkably well for a two year old. Yes, he did ask to "go home" on a number of occasions, but he also cheered and interacted with other fans and generally had a great time. It helped that he rode a merri-go-round, ate pizza and ice cream, got a couple of toys from grampa (a tiger & car) and got to do some colouring at the game. All-in-all, a great time. 2 games in less than 24 hours - 7:05pm game Friday & 3:55pm game Saturday with a hotel stay in between. Not a bad way to spend a Father's day weekend...

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Bad Youth Leader Advice...

My good friend & former boss, who's now down in Texas, asked "What do we need to know" - as a question for youth leaders. Here's my answers. In no particular order, except #11 is probably most important, which is why it's last. Some practical advice, some personal advice, some specific for YM, some not. But, if you're interested, here's my current top 11 for what every youth leaders needs to know:

1) Parents are your best friends or your worst enemies - it's your choice.

2) You won't like every kid and every kid won't like you - so find volunteers who bring different gifts/talents/passions so you can widen your net.

3) Perceived needs get them in the door, real needs get them out the door - and eventually, they're going out the door, so you better equip them to live in the real world & have their real needs met by Jesus - Pizza parties & broomball aren't all there is.

4) Learn to say "I'm sorry" "I was wrong" "Please help me" - to your boss, to your volunteers & to the kids - sometimes all at once. They'll actually respect you more.

5) Be careful, be safe - dead is dead and no matter how awesome the trip was or how funny the gag, explaining how it ended up in tragedy to a parent just isn't worth it.

6) FIND a circle of friends outside Youth Ministry - friends that remind you you're not as funny as you think, friends that remind you it's ok to take a day off, friends who are mature enough to care about you, for you and not because they have a crush on you or want to grow up to be you.

7) Find a place you fit and stick it out - nothing says Jesus loves you like someone who's around long enough to say it more than once. Longevity is worth its weight in gold.

8) It's not about you. We're all screwed up, but God uses us anyway. Come to grips with this and remember it both when you're successful and when you're afraid you're about to get canned.

9) What you feed grows & what you starve dies. You can't be effective without having your own relationship with Christ. You don't have to be a superstar (see #8) but if you're not growing, you can't model growth. You can't model an active faith if you don't have one and eventually the message will get old.

10) Get married & have kids. Nothing says "I'm a healthy individual" like a spouse and kids - to youth & parents, especially if you're a guy. Give them the evidence that at least one person on the face of the earth will vouch for you. And it helps you create healthy boundaries.

11) Fall in love with God, again.

I realize, after reading this list again, that you could take out a few words here and there and it would be perfectly applicable to anyone in ministry...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Back from the brink

This past weekend we were in Colorado (Fort Collins), where a good friend of Bridgette's and mine got married. I was invited to officiate the wedding, which was fun. We, along with 3 other couples, shared a house up in the mountains, 3.7 miles from a paved road, no local phone, no television, no internet access... and no kids. It was wonderful, and it was sad. It was sad to say goodbye to good friends who you haven't seen in awhile, sad to share painful memories and experiences, but particularly sad for me by the end, because I missed my son.

We got in late last night, too late to pick Brennan up from Papa & Sandy's, where he'd stayed while we were gone (they took AMAZING care of him). So this morning, I went to the office & Bridgette drove 90 minutes to pick him up. Then, I headed to a lunch meeting... and Bridgette brought Brennan to see me. I was so excited to see him, and this time (unlike when I got back from Honduras) - as soon as he saw me, he was excited to see me too!

If I get this excited when I see my son, after not seeing him for nearly a week, how much more does our Heavenly Father get excited when we connect with Him after it's been awhile? That image of the Father, seeing his son way down the road, running to him, hugging & kissing him is pretty poignant for me. Now, I've just got to take that and live out that realization of God's amazing love. Parenting is indeed a window into the heart of God...

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Wings Win the Cup!!

Wow, that was awesome! I was up until 1:30am last night - and just as late Monday. Waiting for the moment that Chris Osgood could hoist the Stanley Cup again. I'm a huge Wings fan, and seeing that was awesome. And then, reading this article by Scott Burnside, nearly brought tears to my eyes. This is why I love hockey, this is why I believe the Stanley Cup is the greatest trophy in the world. You can't beat the drama...

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Happy me!

It's finally here, the day I've hit 30. In many ways, it's anticlimactic. Most of my good friends are older than I am, including my beautiful bride. Also, in the ministry, there's usually this reverence of things old - I've heard early 40's is like the perfect age to be a minister. So, in some ways, hitting 30 is a bit like hitting 20 - the respect factor increases, if only a bit. No longer am I just 20-something. Now, I'm thirty. I'm in that decade of stability, family life, career advancement, etc. It's in this decade that I have just enough life experience to offer suggestions, but yet still relate to "young people." So, all in all, I'm not all that put out by being... thirty.

Also, over the weekend, Saturday to be exact, Bridgette threw me a great birthday party, full of food and fun. We grilled out, tons of people came over, Bridgette made 2 delicious cakes, and she had people write a thought to/about me that she's compiling to put into a little "30 years" memory book with pictures. It's cool. Now, we're almost off to Colorado, to see a very good friend from college get married. Actually, I get to officiate the wedding, so it's going to be pretty cool. This will be the first wedding of a friend I've officiated, and the outdoor setting is reminiscent of our own reception, at Letchworth State Park 8 years ago. My guess is, if I was still only 29, they wouldn't have asked me to officiate. But now that I'm 30, I'm responsible...