Saturday, December 31, 2011
I thought I'd share a few parts of his message that spoke to me:
this church, this place, this community, was once simply a
hunch. a dream. a vision.
a picture in the mind of a new kind of church for the new world we find ourselves in.
a church that was fearless in confronting the injustices and systems of oppression that lurk around every corner and at the very same time deeply committed to the personal, intimate experience of following Jesus, of experiencing the joy and peace that transcends space and time.
a church that found the stale, old categories of liberal and conservative boring and irrelevant because we'd experienced resurrection, which includes and affirms anything and everything that brings liberating, new life wherever it's found irrespective of whatever labels and categories it's been given because of an abiding conviction that the
a church where the main thing was actually the main thing.
a church that understood that there is a simplicity on the other side
aware of all of the various interpretations
and theological perspectives and complicated systems of thinking and analyzing
and yet with a clear, resolute sense that Jesus is doing something in the world, bringing water to the thirsty, food to the hungry, peace to the restless, presence to the lonely
and we are invited to join his movement.
that Jesus is ultimately not a proposition you intellectually assent to but a person you say 'yes' to.
I love Bell's messages. This last part, which I put in bold, is an important piece for all of us--whatever labels describe our theology. We easily get caught up in thinking, intellectualizing, arguing, debating, defending, and questioning--our beliefs, our interpretations, our preferences...
I need to remember that what is most important is knowing, experiencing, following, pursuing, longing for, crying out to, imitating, and living in Jesus.
It's not about what I think about Jesus, but how I relate to Jesus. And it seems that as I get older, this doesn't become easier, as I used to think it would. My always-present questions about life, death, God, the Bible, people, religion, everything, make my pursuit of Jesus more challenging than ever.
So while my understanding might not be as simple as it used to, I want to grow in my ability to say "yes" to Jesus, no matter what.
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Tonight I spent some time reflecting how I am feeling a lot of different emotions at once. During the past week I have felt humbled, proud, nervous, grateful, angry, defeated, determined, happy, peaceful, anxious, eager, and tired. That's probably not it, but all I can think of now.
Getting into basketball season reminds me how much I miss my friends in Virginia. I miss going to GMU's games with the guys. I miss Andy's goofy sense of humor. I miss just sitting with the guys, feeling so great about everything in life.
I miss my parents, and my brother, and all my friends in VA.
But I also love our life here. I got a promotion at work last week--my boss has shown me a lot of trust and been pleased with my work, and is giving me more responsibility. I am excited about that.
I really enjoy the people I work with, and the challenges of my job, and the feeling of accomplishment.
I am having a blast with my kids. I love going to work, and I love coming home.
Jamie and I are having fun with her family--having people over for dinner, hosting game nights, being able to get together with people spontaneously.
We are stressed about Christmas, still last minute shopping to do; but it will come together.
In the midst of the time when everything is supposed to be about Jesus, it's so easy to get busy and push him to the backburner.
So I pause tonight to seek Him.
In gratitude to God, empowered by the Spirit,
let us strive to serve Christ in our daily tasks
and to live holy and joyful lives,
even as we watch for God’s new heaven and new earth,
praying: Come, Lord Jesus!
—from A Brief Statement of Faith
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
"A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
'Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.
Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight,
the rough ways smooth.
And all people will see God's salvation.' " (Luke 3: 4-6, TNIV)
In less than two weeks we celebrate the biggest event in history—the Incarnation. The event where God took human form, being born as a baby. We need to prepare to celebrate His coming.
But the goal is for all people to see God’s salvation!
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Good day, but tiring.
I'm not going to attempt to write anything tonight...but I have been thinking that I don't like the title of my blog anymore. I have no new ideas, but want to brainstorm. Here are some words/ideas that go through my mind these days. I'm open to any and all suggestions--doesn't have to be a complete title, but even partial thoughts and ideas. Thanks!
asking, seeking, searching, learning, wondering, working, playing, wrestling...
not much tonight. I'll come back to it tomorrow.
Monday, December 12, 2011
I recently read Stephen King's latest novel, 11/22/63. It's about a guy who goes back in time to try and stop the JFK assassination. (More about this book later). But reading it, and thinking about it after, I was thinking about how I grew up with Stephen King.
OK, not literally, he has no idea who I am. But I grew up with him, or actually, his books. My memory continues to fade as I get older, but I remember my first King book--The Shining.
I was in seventh grade. I remember sitting in art class hiding my book under the table and reading--I couldn't put it down as I followed Jack Torrence's dark journey to insanity.
I remember being afraid to turn the lights out at night, as images of the Overlook Hotel filled my mind.
When I finished The Shining, I went to the library and read King's two other books at the time, Carrie, and Salem's Lot. Both were terrifying--yet fascinating.
It wasn't just about being scared. King drew me into the stories, into the lives, the towns, the relationships of the characters he created. They were just so real.
Since then, year in and year out, I have read every book King has published. Over 60 in the last 35 years. I remember the anticipation each time I learned a new book was coming.
I remember getting absolutely lost in the post-apocalyptic world of The Stand--still my favorite of King's books. I go back and read it again every few years.
I remember feeling like a kid again in Eyes of the Dragon, King's beautiful nod to the traditional fairy tale.
And every few years, for the last 30, I have traveled through Mid-World with Roland, on his quest in the Dark Tower series.
I remember the thrill of discovering there were more King books out there, secretly published under another name. I had one of the first editions of Thinner, published before people discovered Richard Bachman was King. I remember the excitement of finally getting a copy of The Bachman Books.
I have experienced joy, wonder, amazement, fear, anger, and peace as I lived through each of King's stories.
I have had dozens of conversations over the years with people who think King only writes horror. I love telling people that don't read his work (especially those who piously say, "His stories are evil,") that he wrote the books on which the films Shawshank Redemption, Stand By Me, and The Green Mile were based.
Not horror or evil at all, but stories of love and loss and perseverance and beauty and life and death and hope. And that's the bottom line in all of King's stories. Hope. Hope that there is more to life than my pain and struggle. Hope that love really will conquer. Hope that good really will win out over evil.
If you have never read any of King's books, you are missing one of the greatest storytellers of our generation. Give him a shot, I promise you won't regret it.
Here is my current ranking (because it may change based on my mood) of my top 5 Stephen King books:
1. The Stand
2. The Talisman (written with Peter Straub)
3. The Shining
4. The Eyes of the Dragon
5. The Green Mile
Getting back to where I started, 11/22/63 is probably in my top 10; in time I'll be better able to assess it's place in the body of King's work. But right now, I think it's the best thing he's written in 15 years. While the premise sounds like science fiction, it's really a love story, and a very good one. And the conclusion is one of King's absolute best--a beautiful, haunting, perfect ending.
I'd love to hear from other King fans--what are your top 5?
Sunday, December 11, 2011
So I'll just say I'm writing today, and I may or may not write tomorrow. or next week.
I always struggle with what to write. Not because I don't have any ideas, and not because I don't know how to express them, but because in this world where everything is accessible, I do sometimes worry about how what I say will be taken by some.
When I peruse my friends list on Facebook, I see that I have an incredibly diverse group of people who I consider friends (or at least acquaintances, or people I'm interested in or curious about or respect or admire--or just like to see what crazy stuff they say).
I also work in a job where I network and build relationships with people from all over the landscape of American church life.
Recently I had two phone conversations at work--doing my job of networking and trying to get to know people and learn how Logos can help them,
The first conversation was with a gentlemen who works for a very conservative para-church ministry. They are very dogmatic, and somewhat controversial in their methods. Their faith perspective is very black and white.
I do not read the Bible the same way this gentleman does. He would probably consider some of my views heretical. I believe his heart is good, and that he longs to follow God, but I don't agree with some of the ways he perceives God, faith, salvation, and doctrine.
After I got off the phone with this gentlemen, I called a woman who teaches in a progressive seminary. She is an older African-American woman who has achieved a lot in ministry and education.
She told me some of her story, the things she has fought for, the adventures God has led her on. I loved listening to her, and felt a spiritual connection.
I'm pretty sure my theology is much closer to hers than to the gentleman I talked with earlier. Near the end of our conversation, after we had developed some trust and comfort with each other, she told me that she had googled me before we spoke, and that what she found helped her be open and trusting with me.
After we talked, I thought about that. I am pretty sure that if the first gentleman I spoke with had googled me, he would not have been very positive about some of what he found.
I once had a church revoke in invitation to serve as an interim pastor after reading some of my blog posts on religion and politics a couple years ago.
All this makes me cautious about what I say, knowing anyone could read it. I don't really care if people disagree with me personally, (although I want to make sure I am always communicating in love, and not judging those who disagree with me).
But I do want to be careful to not alienate people with whom I work and network.
I had a conversation today that spoke to this topic. A family member who is a talented musician was recently asked by a Catholic church to work there part-time providing music in worship.
Another family member became very upset when they heard this. I don't know what was said, but I think that this person has a very negative view of the Catholic church and was concerned for the other person's spiritual well-being if they did anything for or with a Catholic church. The second relative urged the first to not take the job.
This is the kind of stuff that makes me wonder. There are thousands of Christian denominations. Not hundreds, but THOUSANDS.
Each one believes that they honestly and accurately seek and follow God as directed by the Bible. Each one does it a little differently. There are a lot of smaller differences, and a lot of huge differences among churches and denominations.
I've written about this before, but it's still on my mind. I believe more and more that God is far more OK with our differences and disagreements than we are. I believe God is big enough and forgiving enough and patient enough and accepting enough to put up with all our conflict and confusion.
And personally, I believe he is OK with our questions and doubts and confusion; probably even more than he is with our certainty and dogmatism and determination.
My faith has more questions than answers these days.
I am dealing with this as we search for a church. This morning in worship, as we sang carols and hymns, I sensed God's spirit more than I have in a while.
Yesterday, at a day of training with my team at work--made up of conservatives and liberals (well, at least one--me), Calvanists and dispensationalists, baptists and sort-of-charismatics--I experienced God's presence.
I sensed his joy and laughter at this room full of very different people, with different views of God, working to get to know one another, learn from each other, and accomplish goals together.
I think God might be more present in our differences and diversity than He is in our uniformity and agreement.
Saturday, October 01, 2011
After time with my family--the baseball field is one of the places I most love. I love being on the field, under the sunshine, smelling the fresh grass, listening to the kids laugh and play and compete.
It's almost like I have a relationship with the game. I played baseball as a kid and loved it--but I wasn't going to have a long career (I was a great catcher, but a lousy hitter).
I umpired Little League when I was in high school, and really enjoyed it.
In my 30s, I decided to get back into it. I actually looked into going to professional umpiring school in Florida, but was told I was too old to ever make it to the majors. So Durwood Merrill, a retired MLB umpire, suggested I get into high school baseball.
I umpired for several years in Texas, and had a wonderful time. I had good training, and got really good at it. But in 2002 I moved back to Virginia. I intended to get into baseball there, but life got really busy, fast. I started working in a new ministry, met Jamie, and soon we were engaged.
A year later we were married, and soon after started having more kids. Baseball kept getting put on hold.
I remember driving home on spring evenings, and seeing the lights on at the baseball field at the local high school. Each time I felt a longing to be out on the field, in the game.
After seven years away from baseball, I finally got back into it when I was out of work and we needed any money I could earn.
I joined the local association and began working as much as I could. I got good training, and was soon getting as much work as I wanted. It was wonderful to be back on the field, working, learning, getting better.
I spent two years umpiring in Virginia. Again, I got good training, and developed a really good reputation. I got a lot of good games, including some good playoffs.
Then we decided to move to Washington, where I'm starting over again.
It went well Saturday. The games were fun, the weather perfect. I quickly felt comfortable, even after 2 months off the field.
So once again, I'm in a new chapter of life. We've found a home, and I'm settling into my job, and our routines with work and school. Hopefully baseball will be a part of that as we move forward in our new lives.
Thursday, September 22, 2011
But two months ago we moved to Washington where I got a job as a Ministry Development Negotiator for Logos Bible Software. I've had many conversations with friends and family members where I try to explain what that means. Heck, I didn't even really know what all it entailed until I was a couple weeks into the job!
So I'm going to take some time now to explain what I do. If you're not that interested, feel free to stop reading now.
First some background on Logos. You can read more detail here on the Logos website; and this video gives a good feel for what the company is like.
This video shows what Logos's products can do.
Logos makes an amazing product--it's not just Bible software (although it is the best Bible software out there), it is a huge library of over 17,000 resources, instantly available because of the incredible technology.
I wish I'd had Logos in seminary.
My department, Ministry Development, works primarily to connect with conferences, churches, and schools to present Logos to groups of people and show them how Logos can make a huge difference in their ministries and studies.
Logos has a publishing arm. Writers can publish their work digitally through Logos.
So what do I do? I co-lead a team of people who try to partner with organizations, setting up opportunities for Logos to present, sell, and train people to use Logos.
I spend a lot of time on the phone talking with pastors, professors, seminary deans, conference coordinators. Listening, getting to know them, helping show them how Logos can help them.
I write a lot of emails. I record a lot of data. I talk with members of my team, learning from each other, encouraging one another, laughing together.
I work most of the time with a guy who is both very different from me (he's conservative, I'm liberal. He's a talker, I'm a listener. He's a Cowboy fan, I'm a Redskin fan); but also somewhat similar. We love sports, movies, fatherhood, and have similar senses of humor.
I work long days; usually 9-10 hours. But I'm so busy, and there is so much variety, that most days go by very quickly. I always feel like I need to get more done, but I have done a good job of leaving work at the office and letting it go when I'm home.
I enjoy going to work in the mornings. I go in early--usually leave about 5:30--and listen to yesterday's Mike and Mike podcast as I drive.
I get off about 3/3:30, and pick up the kids from school. Twice a week we watch Ashley play soccer for her high school.
Life is busy and fun these days.
Thursday, September 08, 2011
I'm still here. The last six weeks have been a whirlwind. I was talking with a good friend back home in Virginia a few days ago, and after I caught him up on everything we've done since moving to Washington, he was amazed.
I hadn't thought about how much change and activity such a transition involves; but after some reflection, I'm amazed at how much has happened in just 45 days...
We packed up everything we own and drove 3000 miles across the country. As Brady loves to tell, we drove through 11 states: Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and Washington.
We unloaded almost everything into a storage facility, and took the essentials to Jamie's mother's house. I started work at Logos on July 25.
We went to the Logos company picnic in Fernwood--great time.
We went camping with a couple other families--wonderful time relaxing on the Nooksack River--tubing, cooking s'mores, riding 4-wheelers...
We went to two fairs--the Skagit County Fair, and the Northwest Washington Fair in Lyndon. We had a blast looking at horses and cows, eating great/awful fair food, listening to fun music and riding scary rides.
Ashley joined up with a local travel soccer team and played in a weekend tournament.
We enjoyed great food at A Taste of Bellingham.
We have visited three different churches so far.
Jamie has attended a wedding and a funeral.
We found a great daycare/preschool for Cash, and for Brady before and after school.
We got Brady enrolled at the only 5-day kindergarten in town.
We looked at several houses and found the perfect one. We signed a lease and move in Sept. 15!
Ashley tried out for soccer at Burlington-Edison High School and made the JV team. They are 1-1. She's a superstar.
I went to my first Mariners game when my friend Dale came up from Texas for a visit. They lost to the Angels 4-3.
We drove up Mt. Baker and played in the snow near the top on an 80 degree Saturday.
We got approved for the sale of our home back in VA, then found out our buyer lost his loan; so we're back on the market.
I have settled into my job, accomplishing some neat things, and getting more leadership responsibilities.
We are enjoying family here, missing family and friends in Virginia, loving the beauty and summer weather of the Northwest. It still hasn't really sunk in that we live here, but I'm sure it will over time.
I'm glad that I get to keep in touch with people--thanks for the encouragement.
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
I've been fighting a cold all week--tired and congested--but I'm drinking tea nonstop and pushing through.
Work is going really well. I'm kind of on information overload; but excited about what I am learning, and about what I'm going to be doing. I will be searching for and connecting with people with conferences, churches, ministries, universities, seminaries, denominations--building relationships and looking for ways that Logos can partner with them and help people with Bible study, theological research, sermon prep, etc. The potential is huge to help people and help Logos achieve more.
I am working on a team with some great people--young and eager and fun to be around. I'm the old guy in the group, but as always, I never feel that much older.
We are getting settled into Jamie's mom's house, she has been very generous in giving us lots of space and helping us feel at home.
The boys are getting adjusted--having fun playing with their cousin Ira and getting to know some kids in the neighborhood.
It's been an eventful month--lots of stress, lots of fun, lots of change. But I am at peace. Each day I leave Logos and take a scenic drive down I-5, surrounded by beautiful mountains on both sides. I go home to an amazing family, and thank God for my fantastic life!
Friday, July 22, 2011
The last three days have been kind of a blur and a whirlwind. Tuesday we arrived in Buffalo, Wyoming, to visit Jamie's sister Marty, her husband Harv, and their four kids. We had Elk and Antelope for dinner--really good! The boys had a blast playing with their cousins.
On Wednesday I left Buffalo, WY at 6 AM and drove 1030 miles to our new home in Burlington, WA. Long, long day; but a very beautiful drive. Montana was gorgeous; I've never seen such beautiful country. I took my time and stopped every couple hours to eat or fill the car.
Idaho was really beautiful as well. Eastern Washington reminded me of Kansas, pretty flat and not much to see, but I drove through it at sunset, so the sky was amazing.
It was a long day; I got into Burlington at 1 AM.
It was also a very emotional day. As I began, I reflected on everything we were leaving--our home, my family, friends, the boys' preschool, Ashley's school...and started to think, "What the heck are we doing?!"
The magnitude of the change we are going through fully hit me for the first time, and I was feeling pretty anxious. But after a while I calmed down, and started looking ahead. I thought about new opportunities for relationships, ministry, places to go and new things to do.
My anxiety eased and I began to feel something else--hope.
Hope that God is going to take care of us, even through all the confusion and uncertainty.
Hope that we will all get along well while staying with Grandma Vicki (who has been incredibly generous with her home).
Hope that we will find the right place to live.
Hope that Jamie will get a good working situation (transferring with Starbucks).
Hope that I will like and succeed at my job.
Hope that we will find a church that is right for all of us.
Hope that Ashley will like her new school and make good friends.
Hope that the boys will adjust, and that we'll find a preschool for Cash.
Hope that Brady will enjoy kindergarten.
Hope that we will build deeper relationships with family here.
Hope that we will enjoy a new life in a new place.
Thursday, my brother-in-law Chad and I met the mover and we unloaded the truck at the storage facility. One of the guys that we hired to help unload was a former professional wrestler named Mark Lewin. (For you wrestling fans, here's a video of Lewin wresting Ric Flair in the early 80s.)
I spent much of Thursday and Friday unpacking and putting my stuff away. I spent some time with Chad and Linde and their son Ira; Chad was a huge help these last couple days. Grandma Vicki had us all over for dinner Thursday.
Jamie and the boys got in late Friday night; it was a great reunion. Grandma gave everyone the tour of her house (she has done an incredible amount of work and sacrificed a lot so that we can have comfortable space for all of us).
We're still incomplete--Ashley will arrive from Texas on Wednesday. Then the whole family will begin our new life together in Washington!
One prayer request--we are all struggling with colds (my voice went out; I could hardly speak yesterday). Hoping to feel better when I start my new job Monday!
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
The temperature as we crossed Kansas was 103. Yesterday we started in Hays, KS; crossed into Colorado; turned right at Denver and headed north. We stopped for the night in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Kansas may have some neat places and things to do and see, but none of them are near I-70. It was pretty flat and plain all the way across--about 400 miles.
I spent most of the day by myself in the Civic, with Jamie and Grandpa Lyle in the van with the boys. We stopped at a McDonald's and let the boys play and run around.
Once we got settled in the hotel in Cheyenne, Grandpa Lyle took us to dinner at the Village Inn, where they serve "The Best Pies in America." (They've even copyrighted the phrase.) It was really nice to get away from fast food and microwaved leftovers and eat a good meal around the table. Thanks, Grandpa!
The boys had a really good day yesterday, and everyone went to sleep pretty quickly.
Today we will drive about 4 hours to Buffalo, Wyoming, and visit Jamie's sister Marty, her husband Harv, and their four children.
Tomorrow (Wednesday) will get interesting. We found out yesterday the movers will be in Burlington Thursday morning. We had planned to arrive Thursday night, but are now altering the plan.
After spending the night in Buffalo, we are going to split up. I'm going to get up early Wednesday and drive straight through to Burlington, arriving there late Wednesday night.
Jamie, Grandpa Lyle, and the boys will take their time, stopping halfway for the night, and arriving in Burlington Thursday evening.
I'll miss everyone else for those two days, but will enjoy the alone time while driving!
So far we've driven 1881 miles. More than halfway!
Sunday, July 17, 2011
We are in Kansas, right in the middle of the country, and about halfway to our new home. Got a slow start today--Cash woke up about 4 AM with a bad cough. We gave him a couple inhalers and we was able to go back to sleep.
We drove through the rest of Missouri and into Kansas. We had planned to go north at Kansas City, but there are some roads out because of flooding, so we are going west instead, all the way across Kansas, into Colorado, and north at Denver.
It was really hot today--almost 100. Kansas is flat, and not really exciting, but parts of it are pretty. A lot of it is still wide open; I thought of Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie, and imagined that parts of what I saw probably looked the same as they did when the Ingalls built their home in the middle of the prairie.
We made it to Hays, KS, before stopping. Grandpa Lyle, the boys and I swam for a while, then we came in, ate, and everyone went to bed.
Everyone is getting a little tired and grumpy from the traveling, and being cooped up in the van and hotel rooms together. Jamie and I take turns driving the Civic--that gives us a little alone time.
I'm hoping tomorrow we can kind of take it easy, and try to make it halfway to Buffalo, Wyoming, where we will visit Jamie's sister Marty and her family, hopefully on Tuesday.
I had a great conversation with Ashley tonight; she is visiting her father's family in Texas. She had a great time at a wedding yesterday, and is now spending some time with her grandmother. We all miss her and can't wait for her to rejoin us in Washington!
Saturday, July 16, 2011
Fading fast; long day. Got up and had breakfast (Krispy Kremes) with Grandma Dorothy (my grandmother) in Nashville, then hit the road--up through Northwest TN, into Kentucky, Illinois, and Missouri.
It was great seeing Grandma, but hard saying goodbye.
We had lunch at a Steak 'n Shake in Illinois, then found a park to play in for a while. The boys did great.
We were hoping to make it to Kansas City, but didn't. We stopped in Kingdom City, about about 140 miles short. Try to make up some distance tomorrow.
Jamie fixed a great dinner with leftover brisket and chili; we swam a little in the hotel pool, now off to bed.
Enjoying the driving, but I'm tired.
Friday, July 15, 2011
After a challenging few days, we are finally on the road. I think the last 10% of our stuff took longer to pack than the first 90%. We had help from several friends, and Grandpa Lyle (Jamie's dad) was a huge help. With the help of some friends, we finished up at our house at about 2 AM Thursday morning, went to my parents' house to sleep, and left Northern VA about 2 PM that afternoon.
Saying goodbye to my parents was really hard. As we all began hugging, Cash went up to Grandma Helen and said, "I'm going to miss you so much." Everyone started crying. I am so thankful for Mom and Jerry!
We drove to Wytheville, VA the first day and spent the night at a Comfort Inn. It was a nice drive--I was by myself in the Civic (well, the cat was with me), while Jamie, Grandpa Lyle and the boys were in the van. I got caught up on Mike and Mike and Stuck in the 80's podcasts.
We stopped at a rest area and played baseball; then had a nice dinner at Cracker Barrel.
I saw a beautiful sight while driving around Blacksburg. The sun was going down in the distance, the sky was full of different shades of reds and yellows. Jamie, Lyle and the boys were ahead of me in the van. At one point they were the only vehicle in my sight, driving up a hill with the sunset as background, they drove under a bridge that framed them like a beautiful piece of art.
Today we got up and had breakfast at the hotel, then hit the road. This time I was in the van with Grandpa Lyle and the boys; Jamie drove the Civic. We stopped a few times for gas and food and restrooms, and got to Nashville late in the afternoon.
We had a wonderful dinner with Grandma Dorothy and Aunt Sheila, then came back to the hotel where I took the boys swimming. Everyone is in bed; I'm going to follow soon.
Tomorrow we hope to get to Columbia, MO.
Monday, July 04, 2011
For about the fourth time in my life, I begin a new chapter, a new season. The first was going into the army after high school. The second was moving to Texas after college. I spent ten years in Texas, teaching, umpiring baseball, doing ministry, growing up, having fun.
The third was leaving my life in Texas and going back to Virginia, to a new job, some old friends, my parents, and a new role--husband and father.
Now, nine years after beginning this chapter, I start a new one. Moving as far as possible while still being in the continental US--2,837 miles to Burlington, WA. I've written, and will write more, about why we are going, what I will be doing there, etc.
But today, I write about what I leave behind. Why, even though I am excited about the new adventure, leaving Virginia is probably the hardest thing I've ever done.
Nine years ago, when I left Fort Worth, that was the most difficult change I'd ever made. This is bigger, harder, more challenging. Nine years ago I was single, and was going home. I loved Texas, and enjoyed my decade there, but while leaving many friends and my church, I was coming home--to my parents, my college friends, the place where I grew up.
Now I leave for a place that I have enjoyed visiting, but has never been home. I've spent 34 of my 46 years in Virginia. I left twice (for the Army, and grad school), but always come back. I probably won't come back to Virginia this time (except to visit). Of course nothing is certain, but it there's a good chance that this is my last big move.
We'll probably raise our boys in Washington. When Cash graduates high school, I'll be 60.
So this parting seems bigger. More permanent. The things I leave behind are things I will probably never come back to, except to visit.
I will miss Virginia, the place. The trees, parks, beaches, mountains.
I will miss the places I love to eat. I will miss Hard Times Cafe, and Carrabba's, Fat Tuesday's, Penny Lane, and ice cream at Gary's and Carl's.
I will miss DC--the stadiums, the museums, the history.
I will miss downtown Fredericksburg, a place I used to walk around with my dad.
I will miss driving through Dale City, where I grew up.
I will miss the campus at GMU, where I spent 4 years as a student, then another 4 as a campus pastor.
I will miss the churches in Virginia that have impacted me--Parkwood Baptist, FBC-Alexandria, New Hope Church, Convergence, Waterford Baptist Church, and Little River Baptist Church.
I will miss Leland, where I learned to think about God and theology in ways that finally made sense to me. Where I made great friends and had wonderful discussions.
I will miss Kings Dominion, where I laughed and played as a teenager, and where I experienced joys of fatherhood while riding and swimming and laughing with my children.
I will miss Northfork Camp in Front Royal--camping out, swimming and tubing on the river, relaxing by the fire with my parents, my wife, and my kids.
I will miss the house I grew up in. My mother and step-dad are still there, 38 years after we first moved in. I walked through the house the other day, looking at the room I grew up in. The walls that were covered with my posters, the window that looked out at my elementary school. Wherever I have gone, that house has always been home.
And I will miss this house where I now sit, writing in the dark. The first house that Jamie and I moved into together. Where our two boys first lived. I will miss the gravel roads, and the trees, and the lake where I first took our boys swimming. I will miss the backyard where we have had cookouts and picnics, played baseball and burned leaves.
I will miss this house which has become home over the last seven years.
But more than any of this, I will miss people. I will miss the people who have encouraged me and supported me; some over the past nine years, some for much longer.
I will miss my basketball buddies--Kenny, Andy, and Johnny (and more recently, Mark and Jerry). For ten years we have cheered the Patriots at almost every home game. We traveled to Richmond each spring to watch GMU in the CAA conference tournament. Those weekends were some of the best of my life.
I will miss my Leland friends--too many to name--but especially Josh, Tom, Seth and April.
Dozens of fantastic ministers I met and worked with through NorthStar and its churches...
Dear friends through New Hope and Convergence...
Teachers I enjoyed working with at North Stafford and Mountain View...
Great guys I got to know through umpiring in northern VA...
And some who have been there for much longer than this last season in Virginia--Dan, Elise, Mike, Rusty, Bryan--people I have been close to for half my life or more.
My brother Eric, with whom I've grown closer over the years; I'll miss our times talking, eating, and watching UFC together.
My step-brother and step-sister, and their families--people I love and enjoy seeing when we can.
And of course, most of all, Mom and Jerry, who have loved me unconditionally, who have supported and encouraged us, and always been there for us. It will be strange to live so far from them, and I will miss them terribly.
Next week I leave many of the people and places and things that have made me who I am. I am already grieving over that. I have shed a few tears and know I will shed more in the days to come. But I am also excited to take all of that with me, to a new town, a new job, new ministries, new relationships, and new opportunities.
And the sadness over leaving is made a little easier knowing that God, and the people closest to me, most important to me--my bride and my three amazing children--will be with me through this new adventure.
Friday, June 24, 2011
(This same post, with more pictures, is on our family blog, which is by invitation only. If you'd like an invitation, just let me know.)
Every once in a while I have what I call best days; days where something happens that makes me so thankful to be alive. Days with memories I want to capture and hold onto and rejoice in. Days when I sit back and thank God for how blessed I am. These days usually involve tears of joy at some point.
Yesterday (Wednesday) was a really rough day. I spent a couple hours bringing everything down from the attic. We had twice as much as Jamie and I expected; the house is filled with stuff--Jamie is going through everything, deciding what we can get rid of at a yard sale.
I was sweaty and smelly and exhausted before breakfast. Then we had several moving companies come give us estimates, and discovered we can't afford to hire movers.
The boys were hungry for attention since we were so busy, and acted up a lot.
One of the cars was in the shop, and our usually reliable mechanic didn't get it done on time. (He did make up for it by loaning us a car).
But today....TODAY was as good as they get. A few days ago I got an email from the Nationals advertising $1 kids tickets, and decided to take the boys to their first major league game. Ironically, they were hosting the Seattle Mariners, who will be our hometown team in a couple weeks.
My step-dad Jerry joined us. I was nervous to begin, the forecasters were calling for thunderstorms; which would not be good, because 1--Brady would go nuts if the game were canceled, and 2--Brady is deathly afraid of thunder and lightning. (A couple years ago we were at a soccer game when we heard and felt the biggest and loudest thunderclap I've ever experienced. I think it traumatized Brady.)
But the day was perfect--cloudy, so it wasn't too hot; with an occasional cool breeze. We parked close to the ballpark and walked down the street where you can see into the park--the boys were amazed at how big it was. We stopped and the boys high-fived a couple of the Presidents on the way in.
We bought another hat so both the boys had Nationals hats. Once inside we walked around, looking at everything. Our seats were in the top deck so we took the escalator up. We found some picnic tables on a porch overlooking left field and sat down to eat. The boys were in awe of the view.
At game time we went to our seats to watch. While living in Texas I became a Rangers' fan, and my favorite player was Ivan Rodriguez (Pudge). It's so cool that he is now with the Nationals. He's not the regular catcher anymore, but plays once or twice a week. Brady has come to like him as well, and we were thrilled that he got the start.
The game was great--a pitchers duel that went quickly. Brady has learned all the players' names and was cheering them on. He understands the game and loves to talk about it as we watch. His enthusiasm is so much fun.
Cash wasn't as interested in the game, but liked all the sights and activity, and did really well. They took turns sitting on my lap and Grandpa's, or sitting in their own seats. Cash lay down to rest for a while.
We ate sandwiches and grapes and trail mix and cotton candy. I neglected to watch Cash with the trail mix; after a while I discovered he left all the nuts and raisins and was picking out all the M&Ms.
After the 7th inning we moved down to the lower level and found seats really close to the field. The boys loved being that close, and it was really exciting when the Nats loaded the bases and won 1-0 on a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth.
After a rough Wednesday, Thursday was a perfect day. Several times I just sat back and looked at Jerry and the boys, the game, the park, and was filled with joy. And yes, there were a couple tears.
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Several days ago I said I'd write about the desire/calling/inspiration to go to Washington. Here goes.
In 2004 we went to Washington on vacation. I fell in love with it. It wasn't any one thing in particular, but more the way I felt there. I liked the landscape--it felt wide open, light, relaxed. I loved the mountains, the endless fields of berries and potatoes, the beautiful water. I even liked the rain, which cools things off rather than leaving a hot, muggy feeling.
I love Virginia; it has been home since I was a baby. I left twice (once for the Army, the other for grad school in Texas), but each time I came back. The second time, after ten years in Fort Worth, I found my wife, who is from Washington.
It was about a year after we married that we traveled to Northwest Washington to see where she grew up. And though I love Virginia, I felt something I'd never experienced while I was in Washington. A sense of home. A feeling as if God were saying, "This is home."
I am not one who says, "God told me..." I've never heard God's voice, or had a revelation that clearly revealed God's will about something.
But there have a been a handful of times when I have sensed God's spirit leading me in something, or planting a seed in my mind.
One time came while in Texas. I had been teaching for a year at Heritage Christian Academy. I prayed and thought about quitting my job to pursue something else, and wasn't getting a clear indication of what I should do. I quit my job, and immediately the uncertainty left and I had a clear, strong feeling that I had done the wrong thing.
It didn't go away, so a few days later I went to my boss, told her I had been wrong, that I believed I was supposed to stay at the school. She agreed, and took me back, and I taught there for five more wonderful years.
Anyway, in Washington, I had a sense that God was showing me where we were to be. I didn't know how or when. When we came back to Virginia, I told Jamie about my "feeling" or "impression."
She wasn't too interested. She didn't really have a desire to go back to Washington; she wanted to be in Colorado. I didn't push it; and the feeling kind of went to the back of my mind when we got back into life in VA.
A couple years later we went to Washington to visit again. And that same feeling came back, strong, clear, obvious. Home. This is home. This is where we belong.
I told Jamie, "Remember that feeling I had a couple years ago, that maybe we are supposed to be in Washington? I got it again last time we were there."
This time, her response was different; "You know what, I was kind of feeling the same thing, too."
I was in my seventeenth year of grad school, and didn't think my journey would survive another transfer, so we decided to stay at least until I finished my MDiv. But both of us were now thinking about moving across the country to Washington.
In the last couple years Jamie's desire to move has grown. Mine has stayed steady; I have just been waiting for the right time. We thought it was going to happen last year when I interviewed with a church in Anacortes, but it didn't.
So we tried again this year, and the pieces have fallen into place. Several people encouraged me to look at Logos Bible Software as a potential employer. My sister-in-law Linde sent me a link to the job for which I was eventually hired.
It wasn't easy; the application/interviewing process involved one video interview, two trips to Washington, and several weeks of negotiating before it was settled. Now we are in the midst of packing and selling off unnecessary stuff and figuring out how to move our family of five and all our belongings 3000 miles.
Exciting and scary. But we believe we're going where we are supposed to be.
Next up--what we leave behind. That's gonna be a hard one to write.
Yesterday I mentioned seasons of life. I spent some time looking at my life's seasons. They tend to match my location; seems I keep moving and starting new chapters both internally and externally.
And most of all, God is with us. God who has blessed us and protected us through it all. God who loves us more than anything. I look forward to seeing where God takes me in this new season.
Tomorrow I'll write about my first visit to Washington, and the very beginning of this big move.
This is a post that I thought Blogger had lost several weeks ago. Although I finished blogging through my thoughts on the book (Brian McLaren's A New Kind of Christianity), I'm posting this, since I already wrote it.
Brian McLaren on differences in church—denominations, structures, etc.:
What if the Christian faith is supposed to exist in a variety of forms rather than just one imperial one? What if it is both more stable and more agile—more responsive to the Holy Spirit—when it exists in these many forms? And what if, instead of arguing about which form is correct and legitimate, we were to honor, appreciate, and validate one another and see ourselves as servants of one grander mission, apostles of one greater message, seekers on one ultimate quest? That, I’d say, sounds like a new kind of Christianity. (A New Kind of Christianity, p. 164)
I've mentioned before that it saddens me how divided the Church is--thousands of churches and denominations; conflict and debate about issues big and small. I myself am often guilty of pride when I compare my faith/theology to that of others. But maybe diversity doesn't have to mean division. I think Brian is on to something really important here.
Most churches are pretty uniform--check out any church website--and most of them will have a pretty detailed statement of beliefs. I feel like if I don't agree with each of their statements, I won't fit in there. One of the things I loved about pastoring at Convergence, and look forward to in church again, is a group of people with various backgrounds and perspectives coming together--sharing ideas and experiences, working together to live out God's Kingdom.
I've linked to several tributes to Clarence Clemons on facebook and twitter this week. This has hit me really hard. Those who know me know that I am a huge Springsteen and E Street Band fan. They have been a part of my life since my friend Jeff first introduced them to me in 1983. I saw my first concert in 1984.
For almost 30 years, I have bought each album they put out, and seen almost every tour they've done. I saw them for the tenth time in 2008 with my daughter Ashley. My most recent concert was in 2009 with my friend Kenny (my most frequent date to Bruce shows; I think that was our fifth together).
The music that Bruce and Clarence made was a crucial part of the soundtrack of my life. Their music is always the most-played on my ipod, and the concerts are amazing, spiritually uplifting experiences.
A few months ago I read Clarence's book, Big Man: Real Life and Tall Tales. It was wonderful, and helped me better know the man whose music I've enjoyed over the years.
So when Clarence died last week, I felt like I'd lost a friend; someone who had been involved in my life for a long time. I was driving home late at night when my friend Andy called and told me. I put some Springsteen on the ipod and listened to the beautiful sounds of Clarence's sax as I grieved.
Clarence's death also impacted my boys. Brady and Cash love listening to the Bruce and the Band--on itunes and watching concert videos. (If you've never seen London Calling: Live in Hyde Park, check it out. In my opinion, the best Springsteen concert video.)
Brady has a toy saxophone; he and Cash (on drums or guitar) love playing along with the band. When Clarence had the stroke a week ago, I told the boys he was sick, and we prayed for Clarence. They prayed for him every day last week, so Sunday morning I had to tell them he had died.
Brady responded really well. He said, "Clarence is in heaven now right?"
"Yes," I said.
"So he's with Jesus now. He's OK. And someday, I'll get to see him!"
A little later, when Cash woke up, I heard this exchange:
Brady: We have some sad news. Someone died yesterday. Do you know who?
Brady: Clarence died yesterday. He's in heaven now.
Brady: Sometimes people die when they are sick and they don't get better.
The boys rebounded from their grief a lot faster than I did. We have been listening to Clarence for the last couple days.
I remember something Clarence said in his book, about Danny Federici, E Street Band member who passed away in 2008: "I will miss him every day that I am alive."
I hope you are free and at peace and still making amazing music, Big Man.
Monday, June 20, 2011
I'm pretty up and down today. I am in the closing out process at school--I spent this school year substitute teaching at Mountain View High School. I was fortunate to get two long-term jobs this year--one in English, the other in earth science.
Side note--I just got Ashley's transcript for her freshman year. She took eight classes (five of them honors/advanced), and finished with 6 A's and 2 B's. She's so awesome!
Sunday, June 19, 2011
We have been hoping and praying about moving to Washington for years, and now the opportunity has come. Jamie will transfer to a Starbucks out there, and we will live with Jamie's mother until we find our own place.
While it is hard to leave family and friends in Virginia, we are excited about living close to Jamie's family and many old friends. Our plan is to pack over the next three weeks, have the movers pick up everything on July 11, and we will roll out on July 12.
Over the next few days I am going to write about the move--the process, the decision, and our thoughts and feelings about such a big change.
Thursday, June 02, 2011
I'm trying to focus on the "What is God doing" question, specifically in the present. Not wondering about the decision I need to make next week, but what I need to do today to move me toward that.
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Saturday, May 14, 2011
From A New Kind of Christianity:
The church, then, in Paul’s mind, must be above all a school of love. If it’s not that, it’s nothing,. Its goal is not simply to pump knowledge into people, but to train them in the “way of love,” so they may do the “work of the Lord,” empowered by the Holy Spirit, as the embodiment of Christ. Perhaps school isn’t the best metaphor, though, unless we think of a karate school or a dance school or a language school—not simply a community where you learn or learn about, but where you learn to. (p.170)
Too often we think of church as a place to impart information, rather than a group of people who walk through life together. The types of schools Brian gave as examples are schools that are more about doing something, as well as learning something. The knowledge we often gain in church does little more than make us feel better about ourselves, or more sure of our position (and as a result, more critical of others).
Church should be a group of people who “do life together.” People committed to looking beyond themselves to the community and world around them, striving to establish God's kingdom and helping make the lives of others a little better.
Friday, May 13, 2011
With all the differences within the Church, what is the one common mission or message?
“To form Christ-like people, people of Christ-like love.” (A New Kind of Christian, p. 164)
Yesterday I posted a passage (which Blogger lost, and I don't have the book with the quote anymore) about diversity in churches and denominations, and how that can be a good thing. So if we celebrate diversity instead of judging or criticizing those who are different, what do we focus on? What do we seek as common ground? It’s easy to focus on the differences, but what do we have in common?
Instead of making sure that others have the right theology; what if we simply love them as Christ loves them, and walk by their side as they go through life. What if we allow the Holy Spirit to teach and grow and correct?
I’m not saying we never teach or disagree or offer correction to someone else. But we should do it in a spirit of humility, not arrogance; remembering that there are times when we may not be right, or have the only valid perspective. Our focus should be to love one another, and let God do the molding and shaping. I notice that anytime I get too focused on what I think God wants to do in someone else’s life, I lose sight of what God may be doing in my life.
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
In A New Kind of Christian, Brian McLaren describes a conversation with a well-known Evangelical theologian:
(he) upset years of theological certainty with one provocative statement: “Most Evangelicals haven’t got the foggiest notion of what the gospel really is.” He then asked me how I would define the gospel, and I answered as any good Romans Protestant would, quoting Romans. He followed up with this simple but annoying rhetorical question: “You’re quoting Paul. Shouldn’t you let Jesus define the gospel?” When I gave him a quizzical look, he asked, “What was the gospel according to Jesus?” A little humiliated, I mumbled something akin to “You tell me,” and he replied, “For Jesus, the gospel was very clear: The Kingdom of God is at hand. That’s the gospel according to Jesus. Right?” I again mumbled something, maybe “I guess so.” Seeing my lack of conviction, he added, “Shouldn’t you read Paul in light of Jesus, instead of reading Jesus in light of Paul?
I think the theologian Brian refers to is Dallas Willard. I heard Dallas talk about this several years ago, and was really impacted by his ideas about the Kingdom.
I think many of us have elevated the writings attributed to Paul above the words of Jesus in the NT. Paul is more black and white, easier to understand and apply. But Jesus’ words, while not always as clear and straightforward, reveal first-hand the heart of God.
Much of the language we use in our modern (and post-modern) Christian culture is not found in the Bible; rather, it is language that comes from our interpretations of the Bible—“personal Lord and Savior,” “make a commitment to Christ,” “the sinner’s prayer.”
While that is a core belief for Christians, and it is truly good news, it is not necessarily the good news that Jesus proclaimed. We have the idea that the Gospel is about us, about how we can overcome death and go to heaven. But when we look at the words of Jesus, it seems that His priority was his kingdom, and living it out on earth. This is important because it helps us take our focus off ourselves and put it onto others.
Much of our traditional language about the Gospel is focused on our response and reward—we accept Jesus, believe in him, profess him, and obey him—all so that he will be with us, bless us, protect us, and most of all, save us from hell.
But Jesus was most concerned with us learning how to be faithful to him, and living life focused on others. His main message was to love God and serve our neighbor, to do what we can to make the world a better place.
In this I fall terribly short. Especially over the last couple years, as I have tried to keep my family above water financially, finish my MDiv, and look for the next job/ministry/adventure. I have become very self-absorbed. I realize that I do very little to contribute to God’s Kingdom beyond my family and friends.
We are in a period of transition—there will be some new things coming soon for us as a family. I am hopeful that we can have a kind of fresh start, and commit as a family to be more involved in helping to live out God’s Kingdom in our community.