Sunday, December 31, 2006


Just the other day, I was talking with a friend of mine believes about "superpowers." So I had to chuckle to myself when I came across this super-hero test. You can see below who I would be, who would you be?

Your results:
You are Spider-Man

The Flash
Iron Man
Wonder Woman
Green Lantern
You are intelligent, witty,
a bit geeky and have great
power and responsibility.

Click here to take the "Which Superhero are you?" quiz...

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Preparing for Christmas... that is why I haven't written much lately - working on getting Sunday's services ready as well as preparing to be out the first week of January, when I hope to spend a little time at the monastery. While there I hope to spend some time working my brief reflections on ebenezers to be posted upon my return.

So, I hope you and your family experience much blessing, peace and wholeness in the celebration of Christ's birth and eventual return!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Amnesia No More...

Earlier I posted about my spiritual forgetfulness. In that post, I challenged others and myself to remember. So I made a list of things I wish to make "ebenezers", or spiritual markers in my life. I hope over the next several weeks to be able to post a brief reflection on each. Here they are in chronological order:
  • my baptism (Age 5)
  • my parents divorce (Age 6)
  • my conversion (Age 14)
  • call to work in youth ministry (Age 22)
  • awareness of call to ordained ministry (Age 25)
  • appointment to Rectortown Church (Age 32)
  • a second repentance (Age 32)
  • a call to remember (Age 32)
I hope to give better titles to each section, but each of the points above will be the center of my reflections. If like me you suffer from spiritual amnesia, I invite you to join me on this journey of remembering. Although some journeys must be traveled alone, most are more fun with fellow travelers.

My Papers Part 3

6. Describe your understanding of clergy leadership from a Biblical and Wesleyan perspective.

From a biblical perspective clergy leadership is helping God’s people take the next faithful step, to borrow a definition from Lovett Weems. This is true both individually and corporately. Moses led the people out of a land of slavery eventually to the edge of the promised land. He did so under God’s direction, meaning he looked to God and listened to his direction. Thus he interpreted God’s faithful steps for the Israelites to lead them to the place God prepared for them. He helped them to take the next faithful step.

Jesus, as part of his earthly ministry, invested his life in 12 men. He taught them and showed them the way towards the next faithful step. Because of Jesus’ leadership (and the fact that he was the Son of God) Peter and James were instrumental (with the power of the Holy Spirit) in the founding, leadership and building of the church. From John we have several important (and much discussed) canonical texts. These men took the next faithful step.

Thus clergy leadership is helping the church as a body and as individuals to take the next faithful step to which God is calling them. We do this through participating in a relationship with God from which we gain our vision and understanding. We do this by spending time and investing our lives in other leaders who will then invest their lives in other leaders, etc.

From a Wesleyan perspective, clergy leadership seems to be the specifics of how to help God’s people take the next faithful step. For instance, preaching and the sacraments were very important to share God’s grace with others, thereby enabling them to follow the movement of the Spirit.

Additionally accountability and discipline as a community helps people to take the next faithful step, because it helps us to focus on where we are going. Disciplined accountability helps the church and individual believers, as Stephen Covey once said, to “keep the main thing the main thing by keeping the main thing the main thing.”

Sunday, December 17, 2006


The longer I live, the more I realize that my story is like that of the Israelites. They had this amazing experience where God rescues them from slavery, yet they continued to grumble and forget what God had done for them. Their story is my story. I forget.

I forget the lessons that I have learned about life and faith. I forget that when I trust in anything other than God I wind up disappointed. I forget that God's power and love are bigger than me and my mistakes. I forget.

This is why I love worship on Sunday mornings. I remember, if but only for an hour, that God is God, and I am not. I remember that Jesus is the cure to the disease of sin that infects the world and me. I remember that God's plan for creation is one of redemption, renewal and ultimately resurrection. I remember...

...then I forget. But, maybe tomorrow I will remember. In the desert the Israelites built piles of rocks called "ebenezers" to commemorate the events that took place. They gave those rock formations names that reminded them of what happened there. What shape might my ebenezers take? How might I name them? (I must admit my first thought is that tattoos would make good ebenezers. Don't worry, Mom. I'm not planning on any tattoos in the near future.)

This week I am going to work on remembering. As I do, I invite you to join me and ask you to ponder and maybe even share how you mark the ebenezers on your journey.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Soul food...

Preparing for Sunday's sermon, I stumbled across the words below; they fed my soul. Possibly they will feed yours too...

It all starts here out in the hot sands of repentance. The gospel begins here, if it starts up in your life at all, that is. The gospel begins not with the cry of a baby in a manger, not when shepherds hear the angels sing, and certainly not when the stockings are hung by the fireplace with care or any other such cozy holiday image as we usually think of them. The gospel begins, the gospels say, with John. The gospel begins out in the desert, out in that place that, throughout the entire Bible, is associated with death, chaos, and danger. The wilderness is not the place to go if you're looking for a good time. The wilderness is not safe. But the prophet Isaiah once predicted, and the man John the Baptist later fulfilled, the promise that it would be precisely in the desert, in the place of death, where God would build a highway to new life. You go into the desert to die, the gospel says. But in baptism, you not only drown, you rise back to new life.

Have you ever heard John preach? It's the most refreshing thing in the world! It's new birth, gospel-style. It's a fresh start. It's good news. It's like going to the doctor convinced you've got a tumor the size of a basketball pressing on your abdomen only to be told it's just gas. Take some Rolaids and go home. A new start. Good news! It's like getting called into the boss's office convinced a pink slip was coming only to get promoted to be the head of a whole new department in the firm. A turn-around, a reversal of fortune, good news. You get on the phone and gush, "Honey, you won't believe this but . . ." and then you go on to make her believe it anyway because it's true.

John offered that. A new start. A fresh beginning. The Messiah is coming, John says. He's coming soon and he's going to dip you right into the life-giving waters of no less than the very Holy Spirit of God. But don't get me wrong: none of this means that everything will become instantly hunky-dorey in your life. For instance, if you are celebrating Christmas this year without a certain loved one who died since Christmas last came and went, that's going to hurt. The gospel doesn't say it shouldn't hurt, but only that through the hurt shines the light of Christ. For now at least, even the gospel can't fix everything. Relationships fracture. People up and die on us before we get the chance to say we're sorry. It hurts. John the Baptist knows that. The One for whom John prepared the way knows that, too. Jesus doesn't leave the room in disgust if you find yourself weeping in front of the Christmas tree--as though your sorrow is ruining Jesus' holiday cheer. Instead, Jesus catches a salty tear or two on the tip of his finger and quietly whispers, "I know. I know. That's why I came in the first place."

John helps us to see and remember that. John takes a buzz-saw to the tinsel and glitter of it all, but he's not finally wrecking anything but building something more lasting, more real, more full of the gospel. John is the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It starts here or it starts nowhere. Because if it starts here, the gospel will have some longevity to it. If it starts here, the gospel can endure long after we put the decorations away on January 1. If it starts here, the gospel will have depth to it even if we find ourselves merely going through the motions this month because of how sad we feel on the inside. If we start out right, we may finish right, too. And then in between the start and the finish, our lives will bear the gospel fruit of repentance, showing that we really do get it.

Have you ever heard John preach? If you haven't, you should. Because the gospel tells us that the only way to get to Bethlehem is to travel through the desert first. Well, that's not really true. You can get to Bethlehem without going through the desert. But if so, then once you get there, you won't find Jesus.

(Adapted from “Have You Ever Heard John Preach?” A Sermon by Fred Craddock.)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

My Tech Buzz...

For those who are not interested in my paper responses, here's something about technology. (You may not be interested in that either...sorry.)

Over the past couple of weeks I found two need tools I have enjoyed working with and I hope to use more. The first one is Airset. This on-line personal information manager is pretty cool. It is great for keeping track of calendar, making group calendars and I can even make a public link to the group calendar from my church's website. Cool stuff.

The other cool program is Skype. This program allows you to call either other Skype users or regular phone lines over the internet! For free!!! (Please note that as of 1/2007 Skype calls to regular or cell phones will cost money.) The other thing that is incredibly cool is the video portion of it.

Cingular and Palm just began offering a Treo 680, a cheaper version of the Treo 700. I have been wrestling with whether or not to get this. My plan is to wait until January to make any decisions. (Waiting is killing me! My poor wife has to listen to me talk about it until then.)

Finally, a very good friend of mine is blending and stretching the boundaries of education and tech with a colleague of his with a new website. Check this out!

How about you, any cool tech discoveries?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

An Excerpt from My Papers - Part 1

How has the practice of ministry affected your experience and understanding of God? (¶330.4. a) (1) for deacon; or ¶335 (7) a) (1) for elder).

My understanding and experience of God has been shaped in three ways as through practice of ministry over the past three years: the preparation for the proclamation of the word each week; leadership of corporate worship, including celebrating the sacraments; and finally through the practice of pastoral care.

As I prepare for sermons, I enjoy spending time with the text and other resources learning the cultural context and trying to gain a better understanding for the way it spoke to its original audience. This shapes my understanding of God, because it becomes easier to connect with the Biblical witness and seek practical applications for my/our contemporary context. This connection with the text helped me to realize that God has an overall plan (I know it sounds cliché, but I think I better see that overall plan, not necessarily the specifics) for the renewal and redemption of Creation.

Leadership of corporate worship has changed the way I experience God. Previously I used to mainly seek God in personal devotions and “quiet times.” However, I now experience God more fully in corporate worship (in conjunction with regular devotions). I think it has something to do with the discipline of gathering each week in expectancy – somehow be shaped by that act of corporate worship. The idea that we have set aside all other things to gather before the throne of grace and seek to be shaped and molded in community. And when the hour ends our shaping and molding doesn’t stop, but we continue to try and live out our worship in the world around us. There is something very beautiful to me in that idea.

Finally, the practice of pastoral care has affected my understanding of God. As I have sat with families who just lost a loved one, or individuals who are crumbling under the weight of guilt, or people seeking meaning in the midst of tragedy, I feel so very small. There are no words I can offer, no comfort I can give other than my presence and a spoken prayer. As I sit in those situations and as I now reflect back on those situations, I realize that I have come to understand God as One who sits with us in our pain and brokenness, yet the Living God is not bound by that grief, sadness or despair, because just as Jesus was resurrected so God can and will help us to experience little resurrections from the figurative deaths we experience living in a creation that is ravaged with the effects of sin.

I am sure that as I continue to grow, mature in all areas of my life, my practice ministry will continue to affect how experience and understand of the Living God, the Author of Salvation.

An Excerpt from My Papers - Part 2

2. What effect has the practice of ministry had on your understanding of humanity and the need for divine grace? (¶330.4. a) (2) for deacon; or ¶335 (7) a) (2) for elder).

Over the past three years, I have noticed a trend in people’s responses to me when they find out that I am a pastor. They inevitably have one of three reactions: they either look for a way to exit the conversation as soon as possible, they try to make sure I understand how good they are and how they are so active in their home church, or they want to make sure I understand why they are not active in church or faith. This says something to me about humanity – we are constantly looking for some king of assurance that we are okay. Or else, we will avoid those things that might tell us otherwise.

Another example of this is the story of a young mother who came to my office in my first year as an associate pastor. She had been suffering from extreme depression which required medication. While under treatment for this depression, she became pregnant. The medication she was taking for her depression was hazardous for the baby so she stopped taking the medicine. While off the medicine she fell into deep, deep depression. She could not function. She could not be a mother to her children. She could not be a spouse to her husband. This woman went to the doctor seeking help at which point she was asked to choose between her unborn child and the ability to function and be a mother and a spouse. She chose the latter. Which brought her to my office.

A year after choosing to abort the child, she was still wrestling with guilt. She was afraid that God was angry with her that he hated her for her choice. That somehow she had made God not love her anymore. She came to my office desperate for some assurance that God might still love her.

My heart broke for this young woman. To have to make a difficult choice and then to have to wrestle with whether or not her decision might have somehow stopped God from loving her.
I wonder if much of humanity is not in this same situation – we are afraid we have somehow angered God and prevented him from loving us. We are seeking some assurance that we are okay.

Which leads to our need for divine grace. I believe there is nothing we can do to stop God’s love for us; if there were that would make us somehow stronger than God. I believe God freely offers divine grace to humanity to give us the assurance that we are loved, not by virtue of what we did or did not do, but by virtue of God’s infinite capacity for love and mercy. To be sure, I imagine God is not pleased by much that we as humans think and do, yet in spite of our sin and brokenness, divine grace is offered freely, without cost to us.

My practice of ministry over the past several years has helped me to this understanding. As I study the Scriptures and experience God in corporate worship, service and Bible study I think I see that God had great desires and plans for humanity – the biggest of which is right relationship with the God who made us, our fellow humans, and the created world. Yet I see how we turned away from God’s plans and tried to follow our own plans. The story of the fall is my story as it is every human's story. We abused the gift of freedom of choice to choose wrongly.

Thus our need for divine grace. We need our hearts, our very core to be renewed in that image in which and for which we were originally created! We cannot do this ourselves – only the God who made us can set us back into the right relationships for which we were created. This grace rescues us from our waywardness and reorients us to face in the right direction.

This grace enables us to be in right relationship with our Creator. It then allows us to be in right relationship with our neighbor. Finally, it changes our hearts in such away that we then see the need and the purpose to be in right relationship with the creation.

Papers Submitted...

It is good to be back writing for fun again. Friday I turned my papers to apply for ordination as an Elder in the United Methodist Church. I enjoyed the practice of reflecting on some of the questions. I will post some questions and my responses in later posts over the coming week.

In addition, I hope to get back to posting semi-regularly as before.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Who knew...

...that I was an amillenialist! (see below.) The scripture passage I am preaching on this week is Mark 13:1-8. This text is somewhat apocalyptic in nature. I have been doing some really interesting reading on the subject. My plan in preaching this passage is to share what we, as followers of Jesus who are of a Wesleyan bent, understand about 'end times.' In my research, I came across this little quiz. Here is how I scored:

You scored as Amillenialist. Amillenialism believes that the 1000 year reign is not literal but figurative, and that Christ began to reign at his ascension. People take some prophetic scripture far too literally in your view.



Moltmannian Eschatology








Left Behind




What's your eschatology?
created with QuizFarm.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


...but not a substantial post. I enjoyed these, maybe you will too. I believe they are from Community Christian Church.

christian v. christ-follower…

(ht to marko)

Caution: Man at Work...maybe

I had fully intended on putting up a post saying I probably wouldn't be doing much substantial blogging over the next few weeks because I am working on writing my papers for ordination. But then I was reading through some blogs and came across a friend's post that struck something in me which I felt I had to express (see my post below.) Of course my wife would probably wonder when I have ever felt the urge NOT to express myself!

The timing of these posts are rather ironic because just today I was working on my papers where one of the questions was - How would you describe the nature and mission of the church? Let's just say my response did not contain quite as much uncertainty as the post below.

Anyhow, I may or may not post much over the next few weeks. We'll see how my papers go.

Reflections on the work of a friend...

NOTE: Before reading this I feel I must make a disclaimer (this comes from my fear of being misunderstood) The following post is a part of my grappling with the mission and nature of the church. I do believe that the church is something that God has put on this earth to be the incarnation of Jesus, meaning it is a divine institution and we get to participate in it. That said, I am working through some cynicism about the way we have chosen to live out that institution. (i.e. denominations, doctrine, etc.) My fear is that we have mistaken the means for the end. In other words, rather than focus on Jesus and the kingdom of God he proclaimed and pointed us to, many have chosen to focus on the church as the end. Currrently, I understand the church to be the means through which the prayer is to be answered "thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." However, right now I am grappling with whether or not we are really being the means to that end or not." Clear as mud? Good. Consider the following and please comment your thoughts or ideas. I would love some good discussion on this.

I invite you to take a look at this post from my good friend, Jim. I think sometimes its easier to see Jesus in real life stories than in the institution of the church. (Which ideally is supposed to be the incarnation of Jesus in the world.) I believe Jim's story is a good illustration of missional - going out into the world and living like Jesus. (I'm not saying this is necessarily Jim's intent, but this is my interpretation of what he's doing.) The sacrificial love Jim is demonstrating will have more impact on those students than any number of talks they would hear at most church youth groups.

This is something I wrestle with as a clergyperson in the western church, more specifically a main-line denomination. I spend a majority of my week preparing for a worship service where Christians gather sing some songs, say some prayers, read Scripture and hear a sermon and hopefully by the power of the Holy Spirit encounter a taste of the living God. Am I helping others to follow Jesus with reckless abandon by living the full lives of selflessness and service that Jesus calls us to? Or am I just helping people to "self-medicate" with their Sunday morning dose of religion that helps them make it through the week, but does not lead to the transformed life to which Jesus calls us? (I hope that no-one from the board of ordained ministry is reading this!) Moreover, am I leading that transformed life as a follower of Jesus or am I "hiding" in my office preparing my sermons, staying safe behind the "title" of pastor?

I guess time will tell. Check back in a year. If the church I am serving is the same or a smaller or bigger version of what it is today, then we'll know the answer. In the mean time - Jim, keep up the amazing work. I admire you and thank you for being Jesus to those kids.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Good Times...

Quality time with family is always good. I had a great time with my dad, brother. Here's a pic from the weekned.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Its What We Do...

Today and tomorrow I am in New York visiting my dad. Visits with Dad are filled with projects working on his house. That's what we do. Some fathers and sons work on cars or watch football together. We do home improvement. (Tim Allen eat your heart out!)

For me these home improvement projects are good bonding time. We get to do something together that we both enjoy. I get to learn new things from him. We play with cool power tools. This is manly stuff...and memories I will cherish.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Pura Vida...

The evening air felt crisp as the click clack of Daisy's paws sounded against the road's surface. The stars were shining their little hearts out as if to say, "Pick me, pick me, " like children raising their hands to be called on by their beloved teacher. Daisy's eager tug on the leash wakes me from my day-dream. (Is it still day-dreaming even if its 11 PM?) Our walk continues along the slumbering street lined with homes whose eyes are filled with the darkness of sleep.

Thoughts from the day swirl around my mind. Its been a good day. I can't pinpoint exactly why, but right now, as the world sleeps I feel alive. Not just "taking breaths and heart pumping blood alive", what the Greeks call "bios". No, its bigger than than. Another Greek word "zoe" is more appropriate. Life that is more than just the biological functions; life connected with the sustenance of the Divine Creator.

So, maybe its the combination of creation's beauty and the feeling of a day well lived - not wasted - all converging at this moment. Maybe its some chemical reaction to the food I have consumed this day. Maybe its a touch of God, an affirmation of life. Either way, at this moment, walking the neighbor's dog surrounded by stars and dark houses, and silence I feel alive.

Friday, October 27, 2006


Good news from one of my good friends tonight - he and his girlfriend are now engaged! Jill and I are so happy for them. We have watched this relationship blossom from the very beginning. It is exciting to continue with them as they enter this next leg of their journey together! God's blessings to you my friends! May your life together be filled with rich experiences and much joy!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Various and Asundry Thoughts...

1. I posted earlier (here) about my Mac needing to go to the "Mac-infirmary." I was attempting to track it while it was gone, and I could never get any information where it was. Needless to say, I was a little worried. Well, Thursday afternoon the delivery guy drops off my Mac fixed and ready to go - I could have kissed him! That was great! (I sent it out on Tuesday.)

2. The fall is beautiful up here - the crisp cold air, the blazing yellow and orange leaves, the smell of smoke in the air...beautiful.

3. I think that the only difference between adults and children is a driver's license, the right to vote and buy alcohol legally. More on this later.

Well, that's all for now on this Tuesday afternoon. I need to prepare my sermon and Bible study. Enjoy your day.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Friday Night...

Could it get any better? My wife and I are sitting around the dining room table blogging, feasting on hot cinnamon roles and sipping tea. Geeks? Probably, but at this moment this geek is in heaven.

Apples, Gollum and Me...

You never know when your dark side is going to rear its ugly head. This past weekend we continued the ritual of going to Carter's mountain orchard and picking apples. The experience was complete with apple donuts and a beautiful day. As we were picking apples a kind soul gave our group a pole-picker. This instrument is a long pvc pipe with a jury-rigged wire contraption to grab the apples. It is very helpful to get those perfect apples way up in the tree, beyond human grasp.

We had lots of fun using this new contraption, testing our dexterity, seeing who could get the most apples in one attempt, etc. I began to grow quite an attachment to the pole, after all I was the one who received it from the benevolent giver.

After a while, a teenage boy approached me and asked to borrow the pole to get just one apple. I most graciously agreed. The pole was a great tool. Who couldn't resist wanting to use its reaching powers to harvest ripe apples. It was even possible that apple picked by the pole tasted better. So I relinquished my precious pole for this one time use. One apple wouldn't hurt.

Yet once I let this marvelous tool out of my hand anxiety began to build inside. What if he wouldn't give the pole back? What if he wanted to -gasp- pick a second apple? I already began wondering how I could use the apples as a weapon to immobilize him so I could liberate my precious pole from his pubescent clutches.

But, true to his word, the young man picked his one apple (under my hawk-like gaze...I mean careful supervision. In the wrong hands the pole could be dangerous. We don't want anyone losing an eye, now do we?) He then returned the pole to its rightful steward (me). Now that I was reunited with my pole, I began to realize what a precious commodity this was. I had to beware of people eying this precious pole. I had to protect it at all costs.

Even more, I shouldn't pick any more apples with it lest others would see its amazing apple-picking powers and they would want to use it. No, I would just hold onto it. Plus, I may need to use it as a weapon to fend off the family to our left with their toddlers. Surely the phrase “terrible twos” is descriptive of something, right? And I see those toddlers coveting my apple-picker.

Even as I plot my defense against the toddlers, the teenage boy approaches again. Can you believe it? He has the audacity to ask if he can use the pole again. What's worse, he asks publicly in front of my friends. Who does this kid think he is to want to borrow this pole again? But at the risk of appearing selfish, I go against my better judgment and hand over my pole. How dare he make me have to choose in front of my friends.

He stood there clumsily groping the trees for their precious bounty. He was not worthy of this instrument. Yet it was in his possession and we all know that possession is 9/10 of the law. Now my friends began to leave the “pink ladies” section and move over to the Fuji's. Torn between trying to get the pole back or go with my friends, I realize this young man, my nemesis, is smarter than I gave him credit for. His “strategery” is no match for me. Dejected, I droop my shoulders and turn to follow my friends, like a dog with its tail between its legs.

I mentioned to one of my friends how hard it was to give up the beautiful, precious, jury-rigged pole. My friend looked at me and laughed at me (not with me) saying, "But that pole wasn't yours, somebody gave it to you!" Conviction!

Could my pettiness sink any lower? How often do I cling to something that is not mine, trying to claim it and make it mine? How often do I allow myself to become Gollum over something that is so insignificant and meaningless? And how ironic that my dark side, my selfishness, surfaces in a garden (orchard) surrounded by apples.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Good news and bad news...

The bad news first:
I had to ship my mac back for repair. The guy on the phone said it could be two weeks. D'oh! Then when I called the shipping company to track its progress, they had no record of it. Aahhrg!!! They promised to call me today to let me know where it is.

The good news:
I have a couple of things that I have written with pen and ink that I am shaping and molding to post soon. This is kind of a fun process. I look forward to getting then posted. Luckily my wife doesn't use her computer during the day (she's kind of busy teaching!) so I have comandeered it while she's at work!

Monday, October 09, 2006


At the end of last week a group of 5 colleagues and I attended the Catalyst conference outside of Atlanta. It was a great trip for at least three reasons:
1. Connecting with colleagues
2. Amazing Worship
3. Great Teaching

It is always a blessing to be able to go to such an event and experience a time of renewal. Andy Stanley's talk was great! He kicked of the conference talking about leadership. (Which is always a good idea for a leadership conference!) His comments were directed not just to pastors, but leaders of all kinds.

Using a text from Daniel 4 & 5, he suggested that leadership is:
1) a gift from God;
2) it is temporary; and
3) there is accountability to God in leadership.

Because of these three things, we as leaders should be:
1)humble (because our leadership is not from ourselves; its from God);
2)fearless/bold for the Gospel (God placed us where we are and therefore we must seek to please him, not men); and
3)diligent (we are accountable for the work we do as leaders, therefore we should strive to do our best for God).

As my friend Mike said, that one talk was worth the price of the conference!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Thirst Quenching Moment

Have you ever had one of those moments as you were reading or listening to a speaker and something was said that touched you? I don't mean in a an emotional way. I mean in a way that something inside you absorbed the statement life a parched plant absorbs water. A moment in which you can't help but utter an audible "ahhh", signaling a thirst quenched, a filling of some sort.

I do get those moments. Typically they happen when I have set aside time to read or listen to someone online. This morning one such moment filled me as I was reading. In the midst of this book, I came across a quote from CS Lewis (an author whose writings seem to inspire many such moments.) The quote was this: Love by definition seeks to enjoy its object.

Three words struck me in this statement. First, enjoy. In Lewis' Reflections on the Psalms he provides a fantastic chapter on praise where he links praise with the enjoyment of the object being praised. For instance if I really enjoy a particular book/song/movie, I will praise it to you (what a beautiful song/book/movie/etc.) and possibly invite you to enjoy it with me ( you have got to see this!). He then goes on to apply that to the way we praise God. So, enjoyment and praise are linked.

Second, love. Love is a word that seems to be used in so many different ways. I say I love my wife, but I also say that I love The Simpsons. Both statements are true, but the love referred to in each statement is extremely different. Yet both statements refer to things which I enjoy. I enjoy the company of my wife: her laughter and playful silliness, her resilience and discipline, her wisdom and patience...the list could go on. Yet I also, enjoy The Simpsons - the multi-layered humor, the poking fun at various instituions, the pop-culture references. While my love for my wife is much greater than for the Simpsons, I thouroughly enjoy both.

Finally, object. The oft quoted John 3:16 starts out - "For God so loved the world..." God loves the world. If we apply Lewis' description of love here - God enjoys his creation. I am sure there are many things about fallen creation that God does not enjoy, yet the thought that God might enjoy you and me despite our bent towards sin is a pretty powerful idea.

Another powerful idea (one that may have been obvious to you at the start - I'm a little slow soemtimes) is that my praise of God is not some disconnected and cold litany of utterings that I say because I am trying to appease a cold and distant God. Rather my praise comes because we are wired to be a part of something bigger than ourselves; we are wired to be in relationship with God. And when we seek that, no matter how imperfectly, we connect to that for which we were created. Therefore in relationship with God, I praise him because of the things in him that I enjoy, things we were meant to enjoy - Creation, love, justice, mercy, presence...the list could go on.

All of this from one thirst-quenching phrase from C.S. Lewis.

I would like to end with a quote from Psalms as a blessings and encouragement - "Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will grant you the desires of your heart." For if we are delighting in God, then our desires are him - and they have been granted.

What are your thirst-quenching moments? Any thoughts in response to this one?

Friday, September 22, 2006


This is probably a superfluous post (some might say all my posts are superfluous. ha!) But I wanted to follow up on this post from earlier in the week to be somewhat accountable to what I had written. Anyway, here is my report card:
1. Denying self by being more giving of my time - B (I feel like I have made a conscious effort in this area.)
2. Bearing the cross of the ordination process - C (I haven't complained about the process, but I haven't done much with it either.)
3. Following Jesus by serving at a local non-profit - F (I thought about the non-profit thing, but I never followed through to contact one.)

A new path...

Today I took a new path. I've looked at that path many times over the past several months, and then taken the familiar way. Today I took the "other" path. I didn't know where it would lead. All I knew is where I started from. (Much like most of my posts...I'm not sure where it will eventually end up.) So I decided to be adventurous.

I realized something as I explored this new path: I don't take new path's very often, because I assume I know where they lead. Sometimes I'm right, but other times I'm missing out on the blessings that come with new paths because I'm so busy trying to control outcomes.

Come to think of it, I spend a lot of time trying to gain control: control over a situation, over understanding, over others, over my life - but I am convicted by the ancient words I preached on not even seven days ago - Whoever wants to save his life must lose it...

Hard words, especially for me, one who likes familiar paths and the safety of assuming I know what lies ahead on new paths. I've spent the better part of 32 years "controlling", "assuming", coasting down easy or familiar paths. I think I'm ready to give that up. I want to be a part of something bigger than myself. I don't want some institution whose rules and procedures seem to exist purely for its own preservation. I want to live in the dangerous wonder of Jesus.

The thing is, I don't even know where to begin. Its hard to change 32 years of thinking in one simple thought, or one blog post. But as the old saying goes, "A journey of 1000 miles begins with the first step." Maybe this is my first step?

Getting refilled...

I am thankful (most of the time) for the internet, podcasts, and MP3 files - instant access to sermons online. Now that is not always a good thing. Yet, it's always refreshing to hear a sermon that renews me. I have been enjoying this guy's sermons at Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, MI for awhile. They are now a podcast in Itunes! I just listened to his sermon from the beginning of September - "What is it to you?" (John 21). Fantastic.! I highly recommend checking it out. If you don't have itunes, you can download all the sermons from the listen section here.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Seeking feedback...

I'm not sure how many people actually check this site regularly, but if you do you must be somewhat web savvy. Therefore, I would love your feedback. I have just put up a rough draft of our churches website here. If you are interested, please check out the site and shoot me a note using the e-mail link on the Contact Us section. As you look, please consider the following questions:
  • Is it visually pleasing?
  • Is the info well organized and easy to understand?
  • What do you wish were on the site?
  • What do you wish were not on the site? (the vbs photo of me doesn’t count...I know that needs to be changed!)
  • Any suggestions (other than hiring a professional!)?
Thank you in advance for your feedback!

Monday, September 18, 2006


Yesterday, I challenged my congregation to wrestle with and answer the following three questions. This was in light of Mark's account (Mark 8:27-38) of Peter recognizing Jesus as the Messiah, Jesus description of what the messiah must do (suffering, crucifixion, resurrection), and what Jesus' followers must do to come after Jesus (self-denial, bearing a cross, and following Jesus).

The questions were:
1) Where is God calling you to deny self?
2) What cross is your path of discipleship?
3) How will you follow Jesus this week?

Now I can't ask the congregation to do something and not do it myself. So here are my abbreviated answers:
1) God is calling me to deny myself through being more open and gracious with my time. Recently I have become very selfish with my time. So I am not going to see interuptions as distractions, but as ways to allow God to shape and mold me. (This is going to be easier said than done!)

2) (NOTE - I am using a definition of "cross" that I found while reading Lawrence Stookey's This Day; "the cross we bear is something we could evade but take up willingly despite our misgivings." Since it is something we take up willingly we can't complain about it!)
Right now, the cross to which my path of discipleship calls me is to take the UMC's process for ordination more seriously. I get frustrated with the institution and politics of the UMC, but this is where God has called me. Therefore, I am going to quit my grumbling and take this thing seriously. This is tough for me because I have allowed cynicism to be the lense through which I have viewed the process. So I am going to work to shed that cynicism, write my papers and prepare for my interviews. (Please note, this will not be a solo effort, I will be relying mightily on God for help with this!)

3)I am going to follow Jesus this week by attempting to practice what it is that I say I believe. So, I am going to find a local non-profit that helps the poor, hungry and/or homeless and volunteer to work with them however they need me. I haven't practically done much of this over the last few years. Believe it or not, I think this will be the easiest of the three!

How about you, how will you answer these questions, this week:
1) Where is God calling you to deny self?
2) What cross is your path of discipleship?
3) How will you follow Jesus this week?

Thursday, September 14, 2006


Its difficult to articulate why this video fascinates me. I think it has something to do with the eyes and the music - they go together well. Enjoy.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

striking out...

As a pastor I realize that it is important to be able to handle rejection and not take on too much blame when people say, "no" or stop coming to church. Just because they say no or stop coming, it doesn't necessarily mean they are rejecting me. I intellectually understand this. But don't always emotionally get it...STRIKE ONE.

That's the people pleaser in me (which is characteristic of many pastors) which again I intellectual acknowledge and realize, but emotionally haven't yet adjusted for...STRIKE TWO

And finally as a pastor who has dabbled in psychology and pastoral care classes, I realize that "rejection" that I sometimes emotionally respond to is really just me projecting what I "think" people are "thinking." Again, I intellectually realize that I tend to do that yet I still catch myself doing it...STRIKE THREE

There are about eight inches that physically separate the brain from the heart...those are the longest eight inches.

Good Monsters...

This is going to be a great new album! As far as the video goes, I like the end with the furry monsters and robots. Possibly some symbolism there?

The Work of Devotions

The other day in the midst of some Scripture reading and praying, I realized that this felt a lot like work. I don't mean work in the negative sense. I mean work in like exercising and pushing one's heart rate so that it makes the heart stronger. Or work like the work I put into my relationship with my wife.

As I reflected on this feeling of work during my devotion time, it started to make sense to me. The work that I do in devotion is what makes space in my life for me to recognize God's presence in the everyday. If I'm not spending regular time with God, how could I possible recognize him in the midst of the little things. I can only be aware of God's presence if I can recognize what to look for, which ultimately takes work.

Now this may be an obvious point and readers may be saying, "Well, duh!" But for me this is a good lesson/reminder. I want my time spent praying, reading, etc. to be earth-shattering every time. I want each day to walk away feeling like I'm totally and completely filled with God's presence. But what am I seeking? God or a good feeling?

Certainly "mountain top" experiences will occur, but in the rhythm of life valley's occur, too. Therefore consistency (and discipline) are what ultimately produce growth. Otherwise, I'm using devotional time as a drug; trying to get that next fix of "feeling" God's presence while completely missing the point of practicing the disciplines - a transformed life through the practice of spending time with God.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Rule of Life

I just finished The Sacred Way by Tony Jones. It was a wonderful book with concise chapters on spiritual disciplines. Something I am finding is the need to be intentional about following Jesus. Its easy for me to talk the lingo and put on a nice "Christian" outside for people to see. Yet, following Jesus is about so much more! I want my inside and outside to match! Congruence is the fancy techincal term for this. I want my heart and my actions to be congruent.

All this to say, that my heart needs a little...ok, a lot of...intentional work! Spiritual disciplines seem to be ways that God and I can use to work on my heart so that it becomes a kingdom heart - a heart out of which a desire for the kingdom of God flows.

So Jones's book was helpful in that it gave practical information about ancient traditions that followers of Jesus have practiced for centuries. Now I am in the process of working to develop a rule of life to guide this work.


I am in the process of ordination in the UMC. Here is my autobiographical statement which is required to apply. I had fun writing it. It could use some more work but its due tomorrow, so it will do. Not sure why I feel compelled to post it, but here it is:

In the space below, write an autobiographical statement regarding your Christian experience, call to ministry, formative Christian experiences, and plans for service in the Church. (You may single space this statement but use Times New Roman 12 point font.). Please keep this to one page.

The metaphor of a journey seems like an appropriate way to describe my Christian experience. Typically on journeys, milestones mark the path as reminders of significant places along the journey. Looking back at my journey, several such milestones readily come to mind.

First, and probably a fitting start for my journey, is baptism. I was baptized around the age of 5 in a Presbyterian church in Lynchburg, VA. While this particular event did not appear to have significance at the time, I treasure the memory of it. Reflecting on my journey it is a humbling experience to see how God is fulfilling his part of the baptismal covenant. Unfortunately, my parents were not practicing Christians, so I have very few memories of a faith community growing up; an occasional service here and there, but nothing consistent. I had very little contact with any religious organization until high school. (So much for the other side of the covenant!)

Which leads to a second significant milestone. My freshman year of high school, I became a Christian through the ministry of a para-church organization that reaches out to high school students. This is the point when I became aware of my journey. Ever since then, I have been attempting to follow Jesus; sometimes well, sometimes poorly.

Both those markers are significant in that they are about starting the journey. Some markers further along the journey are about becoming more aware and intentional about following Jesus.

For instance I will never forget the inner-tension I experienced as I grappled with a call to service during a Harvest of Hope mission trip before my senior year in high school. Likewise, I vividly remember a United Methodist pastor explaining grace to me; a significant shift in my understanding and practice of the Christian faith.

Finally, I can never forget (no matter how much I want to some days) the milestone of the still, small voice that calls me to ordained ministry. This marker seems to move. Sometimes it seems to be out in front – leading me on the journey towards the marker of ordination. Other times it seems to behind me pushing me on into the unknown.

All of these milestones are a part of my Christian formation. They shape who I am today and who God is molding me to be. I am thankful for the journey and the reminders along the way of God’s activity in my life and in the world.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Power of Story

This morning I finished reading Orson Scott Card's The Enchantment. I really enjoyed the book. Have you ever had a feeling of joy and contentment at the conclusion of a story before. A feeling of warmth and home. I had that feeling this morning.

As I reflected on where such a feeling might come from it hit me - maybe this story has things that connect it to THE STORY: Good triumphant over evil. Reconciliation. Love. Mystery. Healing. Maybe, there was truth in OSC's words. Not factual truth, but the truth of the story that in some way points to THE STORY. Such that when that truth is read it connects us with God's story in some way and in that place there is a sense of peace and contentment.

Any thoughts?


I just witnessed something that bothered me very much and I can't quite explain why. without going into too many boring details - i just saw a panera employee curse out another employee, dropping the f-bomb and calling her white trash. i can't explain why, but I was rather offended. I don't consider myself a prude and its not like I haven't witnessed people's meanness to each other before. but for some reason this interaction made me really sad.

I think the woman behind the counter could sense my discomfort and disgust, because she gave me my order for free.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Holy Cross Abbey-Part 3

As I mentioned earlier, there is a certian rhythm of living at the monastery. It is initially a strange rhythm. Mealtime is one of those things that is a part of that rhythm. Breakfast is help yourself. Dinner (lunch) is promptly at noon. It is also the main meal of the day where a meat dish is served. Supper (dinner) is at 6:25 PM and is lighter than dinner but still very good!

All meals are spent in silence. At dinner and supper Brother Steve's (the guest-house keeper) gravelly voice reads Henri Nouwen to us. The clanking of forks, spoons and knives on the plate seems somehow amplified by the silence. (We decided that the plates are somehow louder than regular plates.) Because the silence saves us from the burden of small-talk, one is left to concentrate on Brother Steve's words and/or the taste of the food. The food always somehow seems more pure there; maybe it's the silence, maybe it's the food, maybe I typically eat really bad food...

Holy Cross Abbey-Part 2

Prayer times -
The monks at the abbey gather together for prayer several times a day: 3:30am, 7:30am, 12noon, 2:00pm, 5:30pm, and 7:30pm. Guests are invited to attend all the services except the noon service. Mass (the eucharist) is celebrated at 7:30am, however it is not offered to those who are not catholic.

This past week we made it a habit to attend all the prayer times after noon. The chapel where we gather for the prayer times is a room right out of the 60's or 70's. Its difficult to describe…its kind of dark, with paneling, and (in my humble opinion) a cheesy statue of Mary and Jesus. Despite its retro feel (of course, I guess retro to monk would be something out of the 12th century) a peace does exist in that place.

One of the monks rings a bell in the bell-tower which is the call to prayer. One enters in silence and sits in the pews. Once prayer time is ready to start, then a monk begins chanting the liturgy. The other monks respond at the right place. For an observer, its kind of cool, yet very different from our protestant extremely participatory worship services. At times I would try to concentrate on the words being chanted (from the Psalms I think;) other times, I was daydreaming.

By the end of the week, I felt completely in the rhythm, even if I didn’t completely focus during the worship services. This may sound contradictory, but there seemed to be a freedom to ordering one’s life around the prayer times. I was a free agent, I didn’t have to go to the prayer times but in choosing to order the time at the monastery around the prayer seemed to be good. I guess its good theology, in Genesis, we see God as one who creates order out of chaos. For me, Holy Cross Abbey was a place to go where I could experience God in the order of the monastic life, leaving behind the everyday chaos that comes with life.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Holy Cross Abbey-Part 1

Arrriving at the monastery for the first time can be rather intimidating. However, arriving for the second time almost had a feel of coming home (plus it was a treat to get to see friends we hadn't seen in awhile!) Guests who come to the abbey for a retreat stay in the guest house, which is separate from the actual monastery where the monks live and work. Each person on retreat is given their own room with a private bath, a desk, reading chair, closet and bed. The facilities are really nice. The guest house has a dining area and kitchen where all meals are prepared (by someone else – woohoo!) and eaten. The abbey and guest house sit on a beautiful farm which is leased to local farmers to tend. The monks got out of the farming business a while ago. They now spend their "free"-time making...I kid you not...fruitcake. Go figure!

Monk for a week...update

I have been threatening to write a post about the monastery for a week now. Well get ready, here it comes! I am going to break this up into several smaller posts over the next couple of days. But the short of it is this: Last week my wife, a good friend, his girlfriend, and I met up at Holy Cross Abbey. It was a wonderful time.

The rhythm of life is very different than I am used to, which is a most beautiful and challenging thing. But the focus on community, spiritual reflection, and personal discernment were really great! So please stay tuned for more...

I should be in bed...

...but I find myself with an alarming lack of self-discipline this evening. Friday's are my day off, so its kind of a treat to stay up late. (At least that's what I tell myself!) Mostly I am spedning way too much time on the computer searching the apple website searching for cool programs like this one. Yes, it would seem I have way too much time on my hands. Tomorrow I hope to spend some time writing about the monastery and other reflections over a cup of coffee at Freestate Coffee, my new favorite coffee shop. Until tomorrow, cheers!

Monday, August 14, 2006

blogging from my dashboard...

Some good friends were in town this weekend and we stayed up late Friday playing on the computer. I found this little widget to go on my dashboard and thought I'd try it out. It makes posting a little easier although the functionality is limited.

So. I am doing this as a test run. I have several posts coming up including thoughts from the monastery. I hope those will be coming in the next few days!


Sunday, August 06, 2006

Don't judge a book by its title?

Okay I need to do one last post. Late last week I finished Isaac Asimov's I, Robot. Very interesting read. There is a sermon in their somewhere. Also, I am still reading about the Orthodox church as well as spiritual disciplines. But I was in a bookstore today and I picked up Brian McLaren's new work. I haven't started it yet, but the title makes me a little uncomfortable - The Secret Message of Jesus. I am trying to reserve judgment until I have read it. The reason the title makes me uncomfortable is becuase it sounds a little gnostic - that there is some secret "Jesus knowledge"; if we just could possess it then we could have enlightenment. It seems that Scripture is pretty clear (particularly the gospel of John) that God isn't trying to keep us in the dark or hide from us, except for those few who have the secret decoder ring. So I hope that my assumptions about the message of the book are wrong. Once I have read the book, I will put in my two cents. Okay, now I've gotta pack before I leave to spend some quality time with the monks. No more posts until Friday! Peace.

Monk for a week...

This week, I am going with some friends to Holy Cross Abbey. We will spend some time in silence, worship, and fellowship. I am really looking forward to this time. I am hoping to get some headway made on planning worship for the fall! While I will have my computer with me, I won't have access to the internet - so I won't post anything this week. Have a great week. I'll write when I return from the 12th century.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

I survived VBS...

Shew! We had Vacation Bible School this week (VBS). I realized that my superpower is not working with children. Although by the last day, I was doing ok. The women at church who planned VBS and all the volunteers did a great job. I think the kids had a great time. I know I did, however everyday I came home in need of a nap! I have a new respect for teachers, parents, and anyone else who works with children - that definitely requires having some superpowers!

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Procrastination or the movement of the Spirit?

A friend of mine once said, "God honors plans." (I think he stole that quote from Andy Stanley, but I'm not sure of that. ) I have been thinking a lot about planning and preparation now that I am the solo pastor, particularly when it comes to sermons. And I think I'd like to amend my friends statement - God honors preparation.

I say this because for the past several years, my sermon writing has consisted of reading a passage, thinking about it, praying about it...and waiting...and see what "the word" for Sunday morning will be. Usually it would come at midnight on Saturday, or worse, 7:30 a.m. Sunday morning. However, the message that came was what needed to be said. God's Spirit moved. Sometimes through me and other times, I'm sure, in spite of me.

Yet, if I had my plans all laid out, I might have missed something that I was supposed to say or some opportunity to follow the leading of the Spirit, just to stick with my plan. Now, the flip side to all this is that maybe I am just rationalizing the fact I can't seem to get a sermon written 24 hours before I deliver it.

Its not that I haven't prepared - I have done the reading, meditation and prayer on the passage - its just that I can't seem to get the outline down until the last minute. Next week, I am going to a monastary with some friends, where I will attempt to begin the rumination process a little earlier than the Monday prior to preaching.

I am going to spend some time reading and reflecting on the lectionary for the fall through advent. I am hoping that by beginning my preparations more in advance, I can be better prepared for preaching and thus a better preacher. We shall see what happens!

Friday, July 28, 2006

The Wisdom of Silence

I am still reading Tony Jones book on spiritual disciplines. I just finished the chapter on silence and solitude as a spiritual discipline. As I was reading I was reflecting on the power of silence and how I struggle with silence. I am an expressive person. I process my ideas by expressing them. So silence is a challenge for me. (That is why blogging and journaling are a big help for me!)

I can remember as a small child going to visit my dad for the weekend. My dad is not a talker. I remember rambling to fill the silence - talking about anything and everything. It was obvious that I felt a need to fill the silence. One day he said to me - You know, Christopher, you don't have to always talk. Its okay to sit here in silence." That was a foriegn concept to me. It was really hard - silence was uncomfortable.

Over the years I feel that I am better with silence. I am no longer uncomfortable with silence in a conversation. Rather it is learning to be silent in the sharing of my opinion or assessment of situations where I need growth.

I once read a proverb on the wrapper of one of those little chocolate candies; it said: Wisdom has two parts - 1)having a lot to say and 2)not saying it. So recently, I feel that God has been leading me towards wisdom (not mine, his). Not the wisdom of knowledge, but the wisdom of silence. I think this silence has two parts: 1) quieting my words so that I can be open to how God is moving in and around me; and 2) setting aside regular time in solitude quieting the world around me - no movies, music, tv or cell phone - by myself. I'll let you know how it goes.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Rambled Thoughts on Spiritual Growth

I just started reading Tony Jones' book about spiritual disciplines, The Sacred Way. I didn't really choose this book it sort of chose me. It's been on my shelf for over a year, but as I was cataloging my books (yes, I am a geek) it piqued my interest and I had just finished a book so it was time to pick out new one - so I grabbed it off the shelf. Good timing...

Recently I have been pondering the idea of spiritual growth. It seems kind of odd that I could pick actions and map out a plan for my growth - like following a training plan for a marathon. It seems almost like telling God what he's going to do in my life. Yet, there is something to the intentional practice of seeking God. I guess when one opens oneself to the movement of God great things happen.

In the second chapter, Jones quotes a monk named Henri Nouwen:
In the spiritual life, the word "discipline" means "the effort to create some space in which God can act." Discipline means to prevent everything in your life from being filled up...In the spiritual life, discipline means to create that space in which something can happen that you hadn't planned on or counted on.

I like this idea that by attempting to practice spiritual discipline growth can occur, but that growth occurs only because God takes our willingness and works in ways that we had not planned on or counted on. My plans for spiritual growth can not confine God in some box to make me grow according to my plan. Rather God takes that small, feeble attempt to seek him and turns it into something wonderful. How cool is that?!

Friday, July 21, 2006

The Shadow Mission

Good friend and fellow blogger, Gordon ( - my html buttons aren't working) posted earlier this week about the "shadow mission", that which keeps you from fulfilling your God-given mission. Interesting thought... What is your shadow mission? What is your God-given mission?

Thursday, July 20, 2006

farming as a spiritual discipline...

Okay, so you can tell by the title of the post that we have moved to a rural area. Much of the land around us is dedicated to one sort of farming or another. As far as I can tell, they are mostly horse farms or cattle farms. Now, my knowledge of farming is limited to the Fisher-Price toys I used to play with as child. However, over the past few weeks, I have had the opportunity to learn more about farming. And the more I hear, the more farming reminds me of a spiritual discipline in at least four ways.

First - Farming requires daily discipline - "The cows can't water and feed themselves." Everyday the animals have to be watered and fed...several times. This requires daily discipline to go out and do the daily chores.

Second - Farming requires patience - "You can't hurry nature" The hay grows when the hay grows. Cattle go to market when they are ready. One can't rush nature's processes which is what most farming relies on - the natural growth of plants and animals. Not to mention unknown factors such as drought or flood, too hot or too cold, and other natural phenomena. If you are a farmer, you have to be able to wait.

Third - Farming has a rhythm - Each year the same cycle happens (Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring) and the same things have to happen during the same times of the year. There is a natural progression which include periods of intense work and times of sabbath.

Finally - Farming allow plenty of time for reflection - It seems that on a farm, while one works, there is always plenty of time to reflect...on what needs to be done, on life, on the beauty of creation, whatever. Countless hours are spent fixing fence lines, mowing acres of grass, moving animals from one field to another.

Okay, so farming probably doesn't qualify as an actual spiritual discipline. Richard Foster is probably not going to add a chapter to his book, Celebration of Discipline. BUT it does seem that there are some things about farming that lend themselves to helping shape one's spiritual life. What are some parallels you might draw between farming and spiritual disciplines?

Saturday, July 15, 2006

middle school kid gets married...

This weekend, Jill and I are down in Blacksburg for a wedding. Blacksburg is where I attended undergrad. I haven't been in here in years. It has changed immensely, yet the memories are flooding back. Ahhh, memories.

The wedding we are here for (and which I am co-officiating) is for one of the students who was in the youth group of which I was the youth director. Seeing some of these guys who were in middle school when I was in ministry to them is somewhat surreal. Technically they are young men in their 20's. But I remember them as awkward, frustrating and ultimately endearing middle school kids! (And as for the title of the post, obviously the groom is not a middle school kid, but he was at one point and that was when I first met him.) Ahhh, memories.

Its kind of weird how three different times of life are converging into this one moment: college years, my years in youth ministry, and now. The rehearsal dinner was surreal - talking with these and their girlfriends and fiancees. It is ironic that for as much as they have chnaged over the years, the more we talked the more they seemed to be the same guys that I went to see the Beavis and Butthead movie with. (Not my most shining moment in youth ministry!)

After the dinner, wedding party (inclduing this co-officiant and his wife) went to a local establishment to catch up on old times and imbibe various beverages. That was a lot of fun, becuase I got to talk one on one with these guys and their significant others. We talked about their plans for the future, what they were doing now, how they met their girlfriends. I got to sort of know them again. As Jill and I were listening to their stories, I couldn't help but thank God for this weekend.

I don't know if I'll ever see these guys again after today, but I am thankful for the opportunity for the memories I shared with these guys years ago and the memories we created this weekend. What a blessing!

Picture-hanging phase...

Well, we have been at our new home and church for almost three weeks now. Living in northwestern Virginia has been a lot of fun. First, it is absolutely gorgeous to see rolling hills everywhere we go. Second, the people are wonderful. We have been so warmly welcomed by the people of the church and the community. I can't speak for Jill, but I am feeling very comfortable in this new setting! Finally, we are in the "picture-hanging" phase of unpacking. This is good phase. It means that boxes are unpacked (except for one or two strays) things are basically put away and now we can focus on getting picture put up. So, since we are in such an "advanced" phase of unpacking, all friends and family are welcome to come and stay with us!

I'm back...

Well, it had been far too long! In the midst of our transition, I have fallen out of the habit of writing and thus posting. Today I hope to get back into the routine of regular reflective writing and regular posting!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Picture on the front of the whaling museum.

Which way to go?

Our bed and breakfast, a delightful little place.

Another foggy Nantucket morning.

Blogging from Nantucket

For the past few days, Jill and I have been enjoying the island of Nantucket. It is a wonderful place with a rich history. Its a bit posh, but we have been enjoying ourselves and keeping plenty busy. Today we checked out the whaling museum, the lighthouse basket museum (almost as exciting as it sounds!) and an old Greek-revival mansion. I'll post some pictures later. The weather has been wonderful. We come back home tomorrow. Back to reality...sigh...

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Jewish Wedding...

sunday i had the opportunity to attend a jewish wedding. it was really a fascinating event. the richness of the tradition - the hoopah, symbolizing the open home of the new couple, the blessing of the wine, the cup of sweetness and blessing, etc.

as i sat there watching this beautiful ceremony, i was struck by the richness of the symbolism and the connnection with such a rich tradition. these sacred acts connect this couple with thousands of years of those who have gone before them.

it made me want to be jewish. i longed to be connected to something bigger than myself. i longed to be a part of a community united by its identity in faith. suddenly my faith seemed so shallow in the presence of such a ceremony. the christian or pseudo-christian wedding ceremony which i am used to seemed like an act, an empty symbol in light of such strong symbolism.

for instance, 'christian' weddings typically have several well-groomed men and women that process in up front like a call line. then the bride and groom stand in front of a robed figure who says words that they then repeat. (and promptly forget before the reception.) anybody can do this. it seems not to have any 'gravitas'. it's too familiar.

so, what is the difference between these two ceremonies. for one, this experience of a jewish wedding was entirely new to me. so possibly the difference between the two was my familiarity of with 'christian' ceremonies and the newness and mysterious nature of the jewish ceremony.

a second difference, related to the first, is that one must be jewish to have a jewish wedding. whereas, one doesn't really have to be christian to have a 'christian' wedding. very rarely does someone who has no affiliation with a synagogue or the jewish faith seek out a rabbi and say, 'i have always dreamed of a jewish wedding. your building is so beautiful, i would love to get married here. can i join your congregation to avoid paying the fees?' in our culture, christian wedding ceremonies have become the default, the cultural norm, which because of their familiarity, seem devoid of any deeper meaning.

finally, the jewish wedding ceremony was connected to something deeper - a rich tradition (tradition defined as the living faith of the dead.) the rituals practiced have been a part of that culture for so long, yet as newcomer, they seemed so rich. (like a seven-layer chocolate cake!) whereas in the 'christian' ceremony the only rich act is communion but most of the time people choose not to do this for fear of offending someone. (yet, it seems no one really fears offending God when they are planning their ‘christian’ weddings.)

in reflecting on this, i must ask, how can we recapture the power and meaning of two people making a covenant with each other and God to love, live and share life together until the end of their days? what do you think?

(it is not lost on me that there may be some in the jewish community who experience frustration because of those who are jewish by tradition and not practice having a jewish ceremony. yet even still, it seems that the ceremony in some ways can redeem that.)

Annual Conference...

Posting may be a little spotty this week since I am at Annual Conference (the annual business meeting for the church in Virginia.) This year conference is in Hampton, VA. Next year we'll be in Roanoke (I knew you couldn't wait to find out where it would be!) I will post later on some of the more "controversial" topics.

Friday, June 09, 2006


As you may or may not know, my wife and I are moving to serve a church in a village in northwestern Virginia called Rectortown. Our house will be four miles south, in a town called Marshall. As part of this moving process, we had to sell our house. Well, I am happy to report that as of 12:00 today, we will have a signed contract on our home! This is a huge relief since we move in 17 days. I have to admit that everything with this move to serve Rectortown UMC has been very easy or as some would say, providential. I will post the full story at a later date, but for now I will say that I'm certain beyond a reasonable doubt (98% certain) that God wants us to be at Rectortown. I am anxious to see what he has in store for us there. (I'm sure you'll get to read all about it if you keep reading this blog over the next few months!)

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Orthodoxy and Bart Simpson...

Today I was reading more about Orthodoxy, when I came across a discussion about the role of the human body in prayer. One side of the discussion was that prayer was a matter of the head (or mind), totally divorced from the body. (Kind of a Greek understanding of the human being as two parts: body and soul.) Whereas the other side of the discussion was that prayer was a matter of the whole person - body and soul. (Kind of the Hebraic understanding of the human being as a wholistic person which they refer to as the "heart.") Which got me thinking about the Simpsons...

There is an episode where Bart sells his sole to his friend Millhouse for $5, because he doesn't believe in such a thing as a soul. Later on in the episode, he starts to feel as though he is changing: things that used to make him laugh are no longer funny, the cat and dog both bristle at him, and as she is hugging him before bedtime, Marge says: "What's wrong, honey? You don't feel like my special little guy?" All this puts the fear of God (literally) into Bart. He goes to search for his soul which Millhouse has sold to the comicbook store guy, who has sold it again to someone else. Finally, he prays for to God to help him get his soul back...I won't spoil the ending for you.

This all got me thinking about what is our understanding of what it means to be a human being and what are the theological implications of that for prayer? resurrection? death of the body? soul?...?

What are your thoughts? What does it mean to be a human being? How are our bodies, souls, spirits, hearts connected? How does that influence your understanding of God and our response to God?

Sunday, June 04, 2006

A Withdrawal in Order to Return...

Last night we went to the Greek festival sponsored by the local Greek Orthodox church. Great food, lots of people, beautiful evening! While there I took the opportunity to check out the "agaora". Among the other vendors, there was a gentleman selling books about Orthodoxy. So being the bibliophile that I am, I bought a book about Orthodoxy, The Orthodox Church.

A particular statement in the book garnered my attention. It was in a section discussing monasticism and its importance in the history of Orthodoxy. The statement talks about how a particular pattern can be seen among figures in Orthodox monasticism - a withdrawal in order to return.

"A monk must first withdraw, and in silence learn the truth about himself and God. Then, after this long and rigorous preparation in solitude, having gained the gifts of discernment which are required of an elder, he can open the door of his cell and admit the world from which he formerly fled." ( p. 40)

It seems to me that this pattern of withdrawal in order to return seen in our Orthodox monastic brethren of yesteryear should also be a pattern of behavior found in Christians in this day and age. Now, we may not withdraw to quite the same extent, but hopefully we withdraw in times of prayer, Scripture reading, worship, etc. In these times of solitude with God, we seek to gain gifts of discernment and spiritual wisdom, not to mention a deepening relationship with Jesus. All this so that when we "return" to the hustle and bustle of life we bear evidence of having withdrawn into the solitude of the Creator. Your thoughts?

Friday, June 02, 2006

Almost got snookered...

Here is an interesting article I saw on Locusts & Honey: Presb. Church USA launches ambitious plan to lose only 5% of members . I almost started ranting and raving about the decline of the mainline church...then I saw the source of the article. What makes it so funny is that it wouldn't surprise me (or most people for that matter) if it were true! So you will have to wait another day for me to get on my soapbox about the decline of the mainline church. Lucky you!

Thursday, June 01, 2006


Today I read something from a book called This Day that made me stop and think a moment (that usually doesn't happen - stopping and thinking):

The cross is not some burden or challenge in life that we cannot escape and simply must endure. Rather the cross is something that we can evade, but we nevertheless take it up willingly, even amid misgivings."

I had never really thought about it in those terms before. It seems, I would rather the cross be something that I can't evade because then I couldn't shake it, I wouldn't have to be intentional, and I could complain about it! However, if its something I must willingly choose, that takes on a whole other level of commitment and trust. It means I have to be an intentional follower of Jesus. It means I give up my right to gripe and complain because I freely chose to take up my cross. It means that God is transforming us into the kind of people who can bear crosses, who can willingly pick them up in spite of our misgivings. That's pretty cool!

Wednesday, May 31, 2006


I just read this article at New York Magazine about a new cultural trend: grups. (HT: marko ). Basically, these are adults (30 and 40-somethings) who are still following the same cultural trends as teenagers and 20-somethings. (music, dress, activities, etc.) This article raises at least two questions for me:

1) What role does the diminishing generational gap play in the way one ministers to one's context? Particularly a rural context. (Like mine soon to be in rural northern virginia).

2) What does this 'trend' say about what people are looking for in a community of faith or in the way they live out their faith as followers of Jesus (if they are followers of Jesus)?

Granted this is just one article talking about a trend they see in New York City, but I do see some of that in the people in my current congregation and its surrounding context in suburban Richmond, VA. Not to mention I can sort of relate to this cultural trend (with the exception to paying $400 for a pair of jeans!) in terms of the music I choose, the clothes I want to wear, the freedom from "the man", etc. How do you relate? What do you think of grups?

Monday, May 15, 2006

The ultimate drug - movies

My name is Chris. I am 32. I am addicted to...movies. I find that for me, movies are a mood altering drug. That's right movies. I could abuse alcohol, nicotine, drugs, sex, etc. But no, I choose to abuse my DVD player.

I come from a long line of film-o-holics. (It must be genetic.) I remember as a kid when my brother and I would go to spend the weekend with my dad. We would watch at least three movies (one on Friday night and two on Saturday night!) a weekend. (Now I can do that in one day! I have a problem.) Surely during the day we would do other things, but after dinner we would break out the VHS tapes and go into a fictional land of bliss...

In high school and college, it was not unusual for me to spend a Friday evening with a couple of films, a pint of ice cream, and my favorite two-liter carbonated beverage of choice and live vicariously through the actors on the screen. (Yes, I was a very exciting date in high-school.)

Somehow I always felt better after watching a movie. Before watching a film I could feel uptight, anxious, or sad, but something would happen as the tape played (something other than consuming way too much caffeine and sugar). As the credits rolled, I would feel...well, better.

Escaping into a story other than my own was liberating. I could experience adventures/emotions/actions vicariously through the characters in the movie
without the expense (physical, emotional or otherwise) of really living them.

But, the point I have come to is the amount of time spent watching movies. Let's say that movies are about two hours long, give or take. If I watch a bad movie, then I just wasted two hours of my life on a bad movie. And if I watch 12 bad movies, I have just wasted one day of my life. I am ready to stop wasting time on fiction and start living reality (well, almost ready). So I am trying to be more discerning about what I watch. I am also trying to be more reflective in why I feel the strong urge to watch a film. Am I looking for escape? If so what am I trying to escape and how might I deal with it in less time than it takes to watch a bad movie?

Friday, May 12, 2006

20 Minutes

What could you do in 20 minutes? Is it enough time to shower? To get dressed? Pay bills? What could you do in 20 minutes?

What would do I do with 20 minutes (besides almost completing an episode of the Simpsons on DVD)? I have started writing. Just sitting down and writing on whatever comes to mind. 20 minutes full of randomness, venting, therapy, philosophy, theology and oftentimes, poor grammar. You see, I seem to have misplaced (if I ever had) my voice. I can't tell you the number of times that I have started to write a post and then erased because I felt as though I had nothing to say. Well, in an effort to recover (or discover) my voice, I am attempting to sit down several times a week and just write for 20 minutes. My hope is that regardless of what I write, I will do some minor edits and then post it here, as I think out loud...

What will you do with your 20 minutes?

Monday, April 24, 2006

The beginning of a new journey...

Tonight I am going to meet some folks from the church where I am projected to go in June. I am really excited about the meeting. It is certainly a different context from where I am serving now. But I look forward to meeting the people. I think this new context is going to be a wonderful opportunity to really spend time getting to know and love the people. It is small enough that I should be able to visit all the families in a month or two. The first 6 months I am going to focus on preaching and getting to know folks. I can't wait!