Saturday, October 30, 2010

family update

Hello to you faithful few who check in here once in a while. I keep meaning to write more...well, good intentions and all that.

Life is beautiful and stressful these days. Still no full-time job. A few interviews, but no results. Had one church ask me to be their pastor, but the situation wasn't right for my family. We are still hoping to move to Washington, so we're looking in both places.

I'm looking at more school--CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) at Mary Washington Hospital; and a secondary education licensure program at Mary Washington University.

I'm getting sub work most days at N. Stafford and Mountain View (Ashley's school). In fact, next week I'm going to be subbing in Ashley's English class--on her birthday! How cool is that!

Baseball is winding down; I got lots of umpiring work this fall, have games for the next week or so, then it will be done until March.

The kids are great--Ashley ran cross country and did very well--she had a hip injury and ran through the pain most of the season. In the district meet, she was obviously hurting with each step. When she crossed the finish line she burst into tears from the pain. I would not have been more proud if she won the race. Hopefully she can rest and heal some now (although she still has a few weeks of soccer).

Ash is loving high school and doing great in her classes. She and I get along better than ever, talking and laughing about school, boys, and teachers. We watch Modern Family together--it's great!

The boys are doing well; they go to preschool three days a week and love it. Their teachers say they are bright and fun and sweet. We got both boys baseball gloves this fall and they love playing ball. We're cheering for the Rangers in the World Series; getting a little worried!

Jamie is working part-time as a shift supervisor at Starbucks. She's great at it; but we're all feeling the financial stress. We've put the house on the market, hoping to sell soon. She's also trying to do a lot with her Stampin' Up business; she is really creative and loves it.

Even with the stress, life is good. The kids give us so much joy. We've had fun going to high school football games; they love it--cheering for the wildcats, talking to the teenagers, drinking hot chocolate. Today we're going to Kings Dominion for the last time this year.

I'm trying to spend more time praying and being aware of God's presence. There are a lot of "why's" and "what's next" and "what do we do" questions these days. I'm trying to not get caught up in the questions--but trying to pray and look and listen.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Fresh Starts and Second Chances

Here is a link to a video of me preaching on Fresh Starts and Second Chances at FBC Springfield a couple months ago. First time I've seen myself preach on video. Feels weird. I like the message, but I said "umm" too many times.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Jesus and Establishment

First night of my final class at Leland; Who is Jesus. Should be a good class, last night about archeology; good stuff.

Got me thinking about Jesus and how he was perceived by his peers, and how people today perceive him. Very differently. Jesus was anti-establishment. Strange how we have made him the center of the establishment.

I'm not saying he shouldn't be the center of the church, he is and should be. So perhaps I'm saying the church shouldn't be so "established." It doesn't get much more established than the way many of us see and do church.

But Jesus didn't lead an organization. He led a wild, diverse group of rebels and revolutionaries. He and his followers rebelled against the established religion of the time--not by bringing a new religion, but by bringing truth and honesty about the relationship between God and his people. He pointed out how God's followers missed the mark, and tried to help them see God more the way He wanted them to.

Jesus taught that what mattered was one's heart and actions. It was about loving God and loving others, not about following all the laws just right. He talked over and over about helping, serving, giving.

I grew up hearing that the Christian faith was about getting right with God--being born again, living righteously, doing what I was supposed to...good things, but it was all about me doing what I was supposed to in order to please God.

There was little focus on others--ministry and missions was kind of an afterthought, and still more about me doing the things I was supposed to, than it was about the people I was to serve. I think this attitude is still prevalent among many evangelicals.

Over the last 10 years my perspective has changed radically. The black and white, cut and dried, questions and answers faith I had is gone. I still believe in Jesus, I still love and worship him, but I have more questions, more wonder, less clarity and simple answers.

Brian McLaren's book A New Kind of Christian really captured what I've been thinking and feeling. This description from his recent book A New Kind of Christianity does as well:

My disillusionment was intensified by what was happening in the Christian community in America during the 1980s and 1990s. A large number of both Protestant and Catholic leaders had aligned with a neoconservative political ideology, trumpeting what they called "conservative family values," but minimizing biblical community values. They supported wars of choice, defended torture, opposed environmental protection, and seemed to care more about protecting the rich from taxes than liberating the poor from poverty or minorities from racism. They spoke against big government as if big was bad, yet they seemed to see big military and big business as inherently good. They wanted to protect unborn human life inside the womb, but didn't seem to care about born human life in slums or prisons or nations they considered enemies. They loved to paint gay people as a threat to marriage, seeming to miss the irony that heterosexual people were damaging marriage at a furious pace without any help from gay couples. They consistently relegated females to second-class status, often while covering up for their fellow males when they fell into scandal or committed criminal abuse. They interpreted the Bible to favor the government of Israel and to marginalize Palestinians, and even before September 11, 2001, I feared that through their influence Muslims were being cast as the new scapegoats, targets of a scary kind of religiously inspired bigotry.

Their stridency and selectivity in choosing issues and priorities at first annoyed, then depressed, and then angered me. They had created a powerful, wealthy, and stealthy network dedicated to mobilizing fighters in their "culture war."

So now we have growing numbers of churches and communities pushing back against this mindset--typically labeled the emerging/emergent church. In many evangelical circles, McLaren and those who think similarly are branded rebels, revolutionaries, even heretics.

It seems obvious to me the establishment that the emerging church is pushing back against has a lot in common with the established religion of Jesus' time and place.

Many of us are asking questions and exploring different ways of worshiping and fellowshipping and being the church; not because we want to destroy Christianity, but because we love Jesus, and long to create a church that continues to become more of what Jesus lived. A church that is not focused on itself, but on doing anything and everything possible to live out the Kingdom of God. A church that takes risks and asks hard questions and is willing to try something different, even radical, for the sake of Jesus and His Kingdom.

I have said things like this before, and fear I am doing too much deconstructing, and not enough building up. That's where I want to try to go. I want to find new ways of doing community, or church, that focus on others, seek to serve and give, aren't so concerned with organization and structure, but on relationships.

I think it starts close to home, so Jamie and I are talking about getting something going with our neighbors. After three years of pastoring a church that is an hour away, I am eager to do church with people down the street, even next door.

We're just starting to talk, but I need to make sure we take some action.

One example--we have some friends who are not currently plugged into a church. They are committed Christians, but are looking for the right community. So lately, they have been seeking people and organizations to whom they can give their tithe/offering.

Knowing we are in a really desperate financial situation, they gave us their most recent offering. That's what the church can be; people who live in community together sharing, giving, serving. I'm so grateful for the gift, and also thinking of how we can give or serve them in some way. Maybe they'll be a part of whatever church community we get going.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

thoughts on the "ground zero--mosque" controversy

Matt Sledge at Huffington has a great piece on the "ground zero--mosque" controversy.

here are a few of my thoughts on the situation:

I think there is a big difference between "at" ground zero and a few blocks away. Much of the conversation I'm hearing assumes that the community center/mosque is going to be right where the towers stood, and that's not the case. I would hope that hearing that fact could impact people's perception.

I want to believe that we as a nation can rise above and continue to promote the freedom and liberty we always have--for all people, regardless of religion or race.

I guess the big difference here is that some people cannot or will not separate the terrorists of 9-11 from all Muslims. For me, it's like holding all Christians responsible for the actions of one who kills an abortion doctor, or identifying all Christians with someone like Fred Phelps, the Baptist pastor who disrupts soldiers' funerals, preaching that those deaths are God's judgment on America.

For those of us who are Christ followers, I think we share His love when we relate to others, even Muslims, with peace and love rather than with protests and exclusion. I think Jesus would condemn the actions of the terrorists, but not hold it against other people who were not involved, just because they share a common race or religion.

I realize my perspective is different than a lot of Christians, and I want to have the same grace and understanding toward them that I am asking for; so I don't mean to come across too strong.


I posted the following under the comments of a recent post, but realize few people probably saw, I want to add some thoughts.

I think one of the struggles is building authentic community as an organization. community happens best organically, naturally.

I have four friends that I watch GMU basketball with. We have known each other for years, love and support one another, feel totally comfortable together. That's real community.

The few churches that I've seen that have done well at building community started with a commitment to selflessness and serving. They also encouraged people to be deeply involved in each others' lives on a daily basis, not just on Sundays. It's hard to build these things into an existing community if they are not part of that community's DNA from the beginning.

But even those churches struggled when they got bigger. I am a big fan of smaller when it comes to church/community. (Take a look at Dave Browning's Deliberate Simplicity; great book)

My friend Joey was working on a model of bringing Jesus and the Kingdom into existing communities--families; neighborhoods, businesses, etc.--rather than building new communities and inviting people--giving them one more group/thing that cuts into their time. This really intrigues me.

I'm a big fan of small--small communities, small groups, etc.

I have a good friend who stopped going to church recently. Bottom line--he loved it when he knew most of the people--when the church was 200 people, there was a real family feel. Now that there are 800 people, he feels lost, not as connected. I understand.

I would prefer to start a community rather than join one--with people who are like-minded, who want to share their lives; live near one another, serve each other, worship and fellowship together.

Ideally, I'd love to find a non-church job and have the freedom to start something new--a community that I didn't have to depend on for income.

OK, lots of random thoughts; still thinking about how this would really look.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Springsteen in London

If you have never seen Bruce Springsteen in concert, than you have not seen the greatest live show ever. Plain and simple. You may not agree, but you'd be wrong. I've seen over 75 concerts in my life, many of the biggest performers over the past 30 years, and no one puts on a show like Bruce. No one's body of work over the last 35 years compares to his. And the energy of Bruce and the E Street Band in concert is unparalleled. The guy is 61, and rocks harder than most people half his age.

A high school friend introduced me to Bruce's music in 1983. Up to that point, I usually just listened to the radio, and Bruce has never been much of a mainstream radio guy.

But when Jeff played "Born to Run" for me, I was hooked. Here was great, driving, rock music with stories and characters and images--all very real and powerful and fascinating.

On November 11, 1984 I saw Bruce in concert for the first time. I cannot describe how amazing that experience was. 23 years to the day later, I took my daughter to see Bruce in concert (it was my 10th time; I've now seen him 11 times).

Each time he puts out an album, I get it immediately; each time he tours, I try to get tickets. His music has become the biggest part of the soundtrack of my life. Each song takes me back to the time of my life when I first heard it.

Last week I got Bruce's latest concert video, from a performance at London's Hyde Park last year. It is truly the best of his concert videos. And the best part is that my boys love watching it--so we've spent a lot of time the last few days listening to Bruce and the band.

If you get a chance, give it a look/listen:


London Calling

Waitin' On A Sunny Day

Born To Run

Sunday, July 11, 2010

uncomfortable thoughts about "church people"

OK, this may be just a time to vent. If so, feel free to move on. But I promised to write, and right now this is on my mind. I've been a "church person" for 25 years. I've been in ministry for 22. I have loved most of the churches and ministries I've been a part of. I have known many wonderful people, developed beautiful friendships, been taught and loved and encouraged and challenged.

But right now, I'm struggling with church and church people. Leaving my last ministry has been extremely hard, even over a year later. I know it's impossible to be objective, but I still feel like I was wronged by some people that I loved and trusted. It was hard watching people I really respected and admired make some choices that looked very poor.

I have seen a couple people that I considered good friends turn their backs on me, refusing to communicate at all--phone, email,'s hard, not knowing why people don't want to be friends anymore.

What prompted some of this was thinking about different people in my life; especially some who have been incredibly supportive and helpful over the past year, or even longer. What was interesting was realizing that many of them are not "church people," or even Christians.

There is K; a good friend who doesn't consider himself very religious--although he is becoming more and more spiritual in his thoughts and actions. He has helped me out financially and emotionally over and over for many years. He has supported me and put up with me and loved me unconditionally.

My friend N, who is not a Christian, and who I rarely see these days, but continues to follow me on facebook, and always has words of encouragement.

My relatives C and L; not church people, but the kindest, most giving people you could know. The always give and encourage and serve.

And several of those who have been there for me, who are Christians, are not necessarily ones I have been in church with. They come from other backgrounds and traditions--but have truly lived out the Kingdom in our relationship.

These are people I have close, open relationships with--regardless of church connection. So what does all this mean? for me, I realize that church is not where I am finding my spiritual support these days. Now, part of that is because I speak in different churches on Sundays; so I'm not at the church where we belong a lot. And it's hard because we live 45 minutes away. I would like to be in a church that is closer, but our kids are really invested there, and it has been great for them.

Now, I do have many wonderful Christian friends who continue to love and support and encourage--especially J, M, A, K, D, E, T....and others.

But it struck me that the spiritual support in my life is mostly outside of a church community. I have mixed feelings about that. I have some thoughts, but want to spend some time with them before writing more.

I am always curious about feedback--who is supporting and encouraging you? Is it happening in church? out of church? both?

I'm off to umpire a baseball game, which is usually a very spiritual experience for me!

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

back again

I am the world's most pathetic writer. Four months since my last post. It's been hard to get motivated when I don't feel I have much to say. Being unemployed has a lot to do with it--after a year, it's easy to start feeling pretty low about my value as a minister and teacher. There have been a couple jobs that looked promising that didn't work out. I had an interview for a teaching position today that I thought went well. I should near something by the end of next week.

I'm tutoring and umpiring baseball. Still searching, applying, sending resumes, both here and in Washington. We were hoping to move out there this summer, but it hasn't worked out that way.

One plus to unemployment is having a lot more time with my family.

The highlight recently was graduating from Leland. Twenty years after taking my first class, I completed my MDiv. (Although I still have one class to finish up; I'm taking it as an independent study this summer.)

The graduation ceremony was great, and Jamie and my mom gave me a wonderful graduation party.

I am feeling the pull to write again--actually, it never leaves me; but I ignore it, and hide from it. But all I can do is keep trying.

Still feeling out there as far as community. We are back at New Hope, but I don't feel a part of things there the way we used to be. We'd love to find something closer, but haven't found anything yet.

OK, got to run--need to job hunt, and Top Chef is on soon.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Richmond trip

Johnny, Kenny, and Andy outside the coliseum, before losing to VCU.

The view from our seats

I'm in Richmond for our annual trip to watch the Colonial Athletic Association basketball tournament. It's been a fun weekend, but we (George Mason) had a disappointing loss in our first game. After three straight years of making it to the championship game on Monday night, it feels strange to be done Saturday night. We have had some good food, and enjoyed hanging out in Richmond. We'll spend one more night and head home tomorrow.


Should have posted sooner, but with my lack of posts, I doubt anyone is reading. Maybe you have me in a feed that shows you when I post. If so, hello.

I am finally working--temporarily. I got a long-term sub job, filling in for a teacher out on maternity leave. I'm teaching 9th grade English at North Stafford High School, and loving it.

It was an exciting start. The school called me on Feb. 17 and asked if I could start March 1. I talked with the teacher and we planned to get together and work on the transition. The sub scheduler called me back that night, said the teacher went to the doctor and was put on bedrest, and could I start tomorrow.

It was a little scary jumping in with no prep time; on the other hand, we need the money so an extra week and a half was good. I have enjoyed getting to know the students and being back in a classroom every day.

The days are really long now--teaching during the day, then class and umpire training at night (I umpire high school baseball). I don't see my kids as much (that was one benefit to being unemployed). But the days and weeks go by really fast when you're this busy.

As I write this I am in Richmond for my annual trip to the CAA Basketball tournament with some college friends. It is great to get away and relax, not have anywhere to be or anything to do for a couple days.

The sub job will last until late April or early May, then I'll be looking again. I am flying out to Washington to talk with with a church about a job in April. I'm also trying to finish up several classes so I can graduate from Leland in June.

Life lately has been busy and stressful, but still a lot of fun.

Friday, February 12, 2010

winter update

I must write...I must write...

No job yet. A couple possibilities haven't panned out. Between Christmas break and all the snow days I haven't had much substitute teaching work this winter. So we're broke, praying for answers, trying to trust God.

I am going to Washington state for a week in March for meetings and interviews with several churches and schools. We're hoping to get a job there and move in the summer.

I usually love the snow, but after all the shoveling, I've had enough.

I have enjoyed good time with my family, having spent a lot more time at home than usual. And George Mason is having a much better season than I expected.

Life is good, stressful, frustrating, fun and always unpredictable.

In the midst of all this, especially with frustrating events (a church that offered me a job, then revoked the offer...a busted water heater that flooded our basement and family room...) the tendancy is to ask, "Why? What is God doing? Doesn't he know we don't have money for this? Doesn't he know we need that job? Why isn't he helping? Is he punishing us? "

But my mind goes from those questions, trying to understand why, to looking for how God is present in the midst of circumstances; even in little things: while cleaning out the flooded playroom, Jamie found my missing bluetooth...We're now forced to get started on the cleaning and purging we need to do before moving.

One of the biggest things was finding someone to help us with the water heater. Mike and Grace P. came down over bad roads; Grace hung out with Jamie and the kids while Mike helped us replace the water heater, and charged us much less than he could have. It also gave us a chance to have some good time with good people.

It's not productive for me to try and figure out why. I tend to do better when I seek to see how God is present and working in our lives, and the lives of people around us, especially when life brings challenges.