Friday, June 24, 2011

Great day

(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

Why Washington?

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.

End of a season

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.

My former pastor Harold Bullock talked of a man's life being broken down into decades. I don't remember exactly what he said, but I think this is close:

In your 20's, you're learning to be a man, in your 30's you're getting established, raising a family; in your 40's you're hitting your stride, growing as a leader... I'm a little behind that schedule, but my seasons have all lasted about ten years:

18-27--growing up. I spent two years in the army, then 4.5 in college, then two doing youth ministry. I learned. I experimented. I was pretty selfish. I got into ministry and discovered that I loved working with people.

27-37--The Texas years. A lot of trial-and-error. Trying different things. Still growing up. I went to seminary for a while, then dropped out. I worked several jobs, the main one as a high school English teacher. I loved it. I also worked with special-needs children, sold souvenirs for the Texas Rangers, and umpired high school baseball.

I faced and dealt with my immaturity and selfishness. I grew up some more, had some big ups and downs. I had a challenging and beautiful relationship with God during that time.

37-46--The season of change. Moved from TX back to VA. Got back into seminary (and finally graduated!) Got married. Bought a house. Had three children. Lost my father. Had some great (and sometimes frustrating) experiences in ministry. Still learning to be a husband.

These last nine years have been amazing. After twenty years of living on my own, responsible only for myself; I've quickly become responsible for a family of five. Sometimes I think, "whoa! How did that happen?!"

But I wouldn't change a thing. My wife continues to help me be a better person (the whole iron sharpens iron thing. We have some pretty great sword-fights :-)

My kids have taught me to be selfless. To put others first. We have struggled financially. But we love each other. We have fun together. We have family and friends who have helped us through difficult times. Even in the midst of life's challenges and frustrations, I often look at my wife and kids, and our home, and think how about great I've got it.

It is scary to see this season end. I've become pretty comfortable--my parents are close by and always willing to help. I've got fantastic friends who encourage and support me. I have a season ticket to GMU basketball. I've been fortunate to do work I love doing in both teaching and ministry.

In three weeks we'll drive west and begin a new season. We'll move to a place I've visited but never lived, where I know only a few people and a new job that will be exciting and challenging. We'll search for a new church. I'll learn the new job, and start with a new umpiring organization. We'll meet new neighbors and make new friends, and find new places to shop and eat and play.

While it's both exciting and scary, I am OK. I've got my wife and my kids, Jamie's parents, and Chad and Linde (and Ira). I've already made a few friends out there. thanks to Skype, we can talk to everyone here whenever we want.

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.

spiritual diversity

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.

Remembering Clarence Clemons

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?
Cash: No.
Brady: Clarence died yesterday. He's in heaven now.
Cash: Why?
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

Leaving Mountain View

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.

I enjoyed riding to school with Ashley (and having her drive this past month!) We got some good time together; it was great being in the same school together. She is so much fun to be with, has a great sense of humor, and is getting smarter every day.

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!

I'm excited about our move, but I will miss coming here each day; this has been a great place to work. The two years since leaving my last regular job have been difficult, but being here at Mountain View has been wonderful. I have enjoyed getting to know so many of the students, and feeling like part of a team, especially with the English teachers.

(Today is also tough because I'm grieving the loss of Clarence Clemons. I'll write about that later, in another post.)

So I will miss this fantastic group of teachers I've been able to work with. I will miss laughing and sharing stories with the students. I will miss watching Ashley play soccer, and her friends, and her coaches. I will miss getting up every day and going into the school, knowing I could make a difference in the lives of some young people. I will miss the crazy clothes and styles, talking to some of the guys about football and baseball, and re-reading great literature like Gatsby and Mockingbird.

As I get older I understand more the idea of seasons that my former pastor Harold talked about. Life is made up of seasons, some longer than others; each one shaping who we are, and preparing us for what's next.

So while I will miss much about this past year, I am grateful that I got this season. Rather than regret leaving here; I will be glad for this past year--the friendships, the conversations, the memories.

My season at Mountain View was short, but very sweet. I will smile whenever I think of this time. And that's something to be thankful for.

Tomorrow I'll write about the larger season of my last nine years in Virginia.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Going west

Bellingham, WA, where I will be working

On July 12 we will head west for Burlington, WA, for our next big adventure. I will be working for Logos Bible Software in ministry development--building relationships with people at conferences, seminaries, churches, denominations, and universities; to discover and share how Logos can help them.

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 haven't written in a few weeks; just been really busy, and a lot going on with decisions we have to make for the future. I can't really say a lot now, but I needed to write, just to get some things out there.

Too often, it's not until I get into stressful situations that I realize how lazy I have been in my relationship with God. My journey over the last 10 years has taken me to a place where I have a lot of questions these days, where I wrestle with things rather than just find an answer.

Why is this happening? What is God doing? What should I be doing? How do I make this decision? ... these have been running through my mind for the last month.

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.

What do I need to talk with my wife about at this point? How can I best love her and value her and learn from her, with where we are today? How can I best love and teach my kids today, especially when I'm stressed and short-tempered?

How can I breathe, relax, let go, and be myself; trusting God for today?

Simply pausing long enough to write this out helps. As I often do when stressed (and now is one of those times--big time), I ponder the good: an amazing family that blesses me every minute of every day, a job I love going to (even though it's short-term, I love it today!), baseball, friends, a great network of people praying for us and supporting us, weddings (I had one a couple weeks ago, and another this weekend), sports to watch (Go Mavs!), books to read (Dallas Willard's The Divine Conspiracy), good TV (watching Rescue Me on Netflix).

Next week may be stressful; heck, tomorrow will probably be. But today I'm enjoying all the great things in life, and trying to give tomorrow to God.