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.