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Friday, February 29, 2008

a Fiefdom...

I’ve noticed some trends that I would categorize as fiefdom-oriented…

In a fiefdom, there is…
- a fixation on conversion without conversation.
- a preoccupation with death instead of life.
- An afterlife theology void of a during life theology.
- A meanness about it…people are either sad, sour and seething with anger.
- A positioning of pastors that sets them apart as this elite group of untouchables.
- A concentration on Christian community without a consideration of their cultural community.
- A tendency to try to get everyone else to believe the exact same interpretation of God as they have.
- A dead language used that was formed by some holy dispensation of Christianity in the late 60’s, early 70’s.
- Either the feeling a funeral or a revival…it has a hard time existing in the natural rhythms of an ordinary day in the life of a human.
- A killing of time until the rapture…the second coming of Christ seems to negate the glorious incarnate first coming of Christ.
- A weird pleasure found in employing relationally suicidal techniques in sharing their faith.
- An odd desire to dress up for God to show him how special he is to them.
- A love for the epistles all the while slighting the gospels.
- A resistance of story, replacing narrative with nuggets of propositional truth.
- A love for the gospel so long as it doesn’t become social in nature.
- Monopolizing of people’s time with the hyperactivity of the Christian subculture.
- A wholesale lack of recognition that the image of God is found in every human regardless of how religious or irreligious they are.
- A tendency to overuse the war metaphor as the consummate picture of the Kingdom.
- A forgetfulness of Jesus quoted mission found in Isaiah 61…when this is tossed aside, all hell’s breaks loose in the church.

Well…these are just a few thoughts this morning…

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

my God...

I hope to always hold this as my image of the relationship I have with God...I am always interfacing the paradoxical God...strong and soft, infinite and intimate.

I love Him dearly...yet fear him greatly.

That's why I'm a Christ-follower.

My friend's album...

My friend Shawn's new album is coming out March 11th...it's amazing.


On Easter, he will be a part of our weekend services and then that evening he will be having his first concert of his Spring Tour. I can't wait to minister together and see lives enriched.

My lifeblood...

It don't get no better than this...

My family is my lifeblood.

Lucky...


This is Heidi and I just before we got run over by a train. I'm the luckiest man alive and I don't even believe in luck.


The Word...

I hope my interactions with the Scriptures can always have this sort of relationship...

Monday, February 25, 2008

sicker than a dog...

Our family is sicker than all get out. Heidi and I went down harder than we've ever concurrently gone down before. I could hardly care for her, she could barely care for me. Yesterday, we just coughed and hacked and sneezed and moaned together. Last night, Taylor, woke up with a cough that sounded like a wounded animal in the Amazon. It woke me out of a deep sleep and sent my heart racing at a rate that I haven't experienced in a quite some time. She then woke up crying (next to our bed at this point in the night) and said that she had wet her pants, only to find out she was sweating so much that it confused her as to whether she urinated or perspired...that took a second for Heidi to clear up the confusion...we're glad it was the latter.

I'm on a medication right now that is boosting my heart rate...I'm jiddering and achy...my head feels like it's going to explode, my throat is raw from coughing up chunks of infected flem and throat fragments, my nose is draining like an infected war wound, my eye balls feel like leaking water ballons, my nerve endings are so sensitive I can feel the difference between my skin and the muscles it gently covers, my joints are arthritic, sore and slow moving...all and all, I'm a wreck. And Heidi, if you can believe this, is much worse. She is fixing to get a sterioid shot or something this morning...I hope it gives her a much needed remedic boost.

This has been going on for weeks now...in and out, up and down...first me, then Heidi, then a couple of the girls, then back to Heidi and then over to me and then all of us...it's crazy. I was thinking about writing a book about the Apocalypic End of the World as we know it, but this morning it struck me as a slight over-reaction to the common flu. Although, when you're sitting in the fat middle of this sickness, you want someone to just put you out of your misery and death doesn't seem as far away as it typically does. "For me to live is Christ, to die is gain." I wonder if Paul had the flu when he wrote this morbid verse. It makes all too much sense to me today.

It's amazing how hard it is to imagine that everyone is not feeling as bad as I am right now. There's something about being human that makes it so natural to project your current state of emotions on the world around you, when in actuality, many of you reading this right now are even having a hard time feeling sorry for me you're doing so well. Why, you're fighting to conjure up even a shread of compassion! That's so crazy for me to make room for that sort of logic...but I'm trying to do so.

But this is one thing that I'm getting better at lately...realizing that everyone else doesn't have to go on a diet the day I do for the reasons I do. Recognizing that just because I'm struggling with lust on a given day doesn't mean the world of men are pining for porn. I'm getting better at not reading my life into others and vice versa. This is especially important as a pastor. You can easily have trasference issues which starts to eat away at your congregation...they get the sense that you're trying to make them feel exactly they same about what is currently a big deal to you. They are forever trying to keep up with your mood swings which vacillate from one issue to the next. You are forever starting out message or conversations with the phrase, "This is one of the most profound things I've ever experienced" or "I've never encountered something this important" ect. Everything is urgent, Everything is critical. And what was critical last week get's trumped by what is urgent this week. The upmanship of urgency starts to feel like the "crying wolfe" syndrome and before long...humans start to develop an immunity to it all. I don't want to be like that.

So even on this day when I wish you could all enter into the desperation of my sickness with me, I am forcing myself to agree with the truth that it's my cross to bear this week and I'll not try to make is yours as well. In all honestly, I hope you feel healthy and optimistic this Monday morning in the month of February. I hope God at work and at play in your life like never before. I hope you're feeling more energy than you've felt in months.

But if you're not, and you need a place to to identify with someone else in the slough of despond...jump in and lets wade around in the quagmire of negativity together.

I need to go and blow my nose.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

iTunes...pedantic rants.

I don't think I've mentioned this before, but if you ever want to hear what my voice sounds like and listen to my pontifications and pedantic rants as a teaching pastor at my church...you can hit iTunes podcasts and search for "Impact Church - Lowell". That will connect you to my messages each week that can be subscribed to and downloaded.

If just checking in here is plenty enough for your liking...don't sweat it...I get bored with me, too.

Random Ruminations

It's another frost-bitten day in the land of Lowell. It was below zero this morning when I woke up and the sunrise was brilliant yet again. It's so weird to look at your window at a gorgeous sunrise only to walk out your door and have your snot freeze to the inside of your nostrils.

I walked outside to start the car and by the time I grabbed the handle of the van door, it felt like I was wrapping my hand around something hot...it was so cold, it felt hot! What's up with that? The car was so sluggish to respond to being turned over. Pistons had to be slogging through thick oil. My engine was in a stupor only to be awakened by spark plugs and fuel injectors...what a wake up call.

But the colder it is outside, the better the taste of the coffee. And that's where I find myself on my first day off...sipping some good strong coffee and readying myself for a get together with a couple from my small group, Matt and Cassie Nanninga. They've been coming to the church for a few months and really growing. I love the surge of unchurched, dechurched people that have plugged into the body the last several months...Brad and Amy, Randy and Katie, Matt and Casey...the list goes on and on. What hungry hearts they come to Life Group with. Eyes wide, souls soft...eager to learn. It's a privilege to be a part of such a contagious community of Christ-followers. I look forward to our encounter in just a few moments.

Well, I thought I'd check in and spout off a couple random ruminations. Tootles.

Friday, February 15, 2008

redeeming the time with Tay...

I'm in the coffee shop with my youngest offspring, Taylor. She is sitting at a table across from me to my left. I'm against the wall because the battery on my computer dies abruptly if it's not plugged into an outlet. I'm sipping some good strong coffee and eating a yummy pastry. The sun is bursting throught the windows and the sky is as blue as I've seen it in months.

Yesterday there was a sunrise that made you stop in your tracks and get lost in a stare of worship. Hues of purple and orange and red and yellow were dancing together on the horizon glowing brightest at the center where the sky met the earth's surface. I gathered the girls together as they were getting dressed and directed them toward the beauty. I find it important to direct them toward beauty...to teach them to lust for it and live fueled by it. I love to remind them of how great a God could be that makes such glorious things. A God who thought up color schemes and trees and atmosphere and dust particles that catch light and reflect it in such a plethora of brush strokes that it makes even the most accomplished artist bow in reverence.

But here I sit. Looking across the room at my little darling coloring Disney pictures. She is sipping my coffee now that it's cooled down. She's on her knees in her chair weilding her crayons like Gwynnevere her sword. Her eye's are wide with joy, her little voice echo's off the hardwood floor and the sheetrock walls...it has the purity of sound that few things possess. She's learning to stay in the lines...that is quite an accomplishment to a 4 year old. I hope she doesn't stay in the lines with her life.

I hope she lives outside those boxes of limitation imposed upon us by the machine of society. I hope she "rages against the machine". I hope she doesn't lose her passion to see beyond prescribed perspectives. As I watch her now, she is so lost in her own world of wonder. Just watching her living in it takes me there. I get to enter the Wonderland portal right behind her. I get to visit Oz drafting behind her little heart. I follow her into the Wardrobe and into her own little Narnian world of joy and innocence and imagination. Her eyes are sparkling with the remaining remnants of childlike pleasure...I'm sad to say that I can already see parts of it leaking out of her heart. When the awareness of the "System" sets in...another part of her heart spills out onto the floor...I hate watching it. Sometimes I try to stop it...and I can be successful to a degree, but it's overwhelming and eventually overcoming.

Her face shines. Her little fingers still learning to control erratic movements and shed palsy motions accosiated with toddler motor skills. Her little legs prop her up and serve as stilts to push her body up and over the table top so that she can look down on her masterpiece. Her feet are adorned with little boots and her legs are covered with brown leggings that hug the shape of her pudgy little legs that are loosing the baby fat and stretching to take shape. Our little baby is becoming a little girl...soon, and very soon, we are going to have a little woman on our hands. Oh, God, no.

This season of life will be in the review mirror before I can say, "Redeem the time", and I will be looking back with the 20/20 vision of wishful thinking wondering why I didn't make more of the moments I had. But as I write this, I'm in the moment that I will one day look back upon. I'm smack dab in the middle of this day that will one day be a distant memory. And the memory of tomorrow is the story of today.

So I will live in the story today. Bask in it. Soak in it.

My daughter just looked across the room and smiled at me.

What a story this is turning out to be.

Monday, February 11, 2008

winter...

It's below zero this morning. Never has coffee tasted so good. The tips of my fingers are sore from the sheer chill of the air mixed with the queer abnormalcy of clinging to a frosty steering wheel. The engine could barely turn over this morning with oil as thick as aged maple syrup. My windshield had a variety of icicle designs spralling like webs across its smooth surface. The leather seats that are impregnated with spiffy heaters never did quite heat up as I made the five mile trek to the diner this morning. The shifting of the gears was lazy and sluggish as if the car almost seemed to have to talk itself into caring about transporting me on the dawn of such a brisk day. My breath was instantly converted to a seen substance...a mix between spit-smoke and frozen mist. I could "see my breath" as they say, and never more clearly than this morning at 6:15am.

Why do I live in such a tundra of torture? Why do I subject myself to excruciating Michigan misery? Why have I placed my family in harm's way, frostbite nipping at their noses and threatening to remove their delicate digits if they so dare to emerge from the warm womb of our home without every protruding appendage covered with thick insulated fabric goodness? Why do I stay in the great North? Because I love it....that's why.

I love all four seasons...and just when I'm bored and done with the season I'm in, the next one comes bolting around the bend. I love the high highs and the low lows...the variety that brings spice to life. I love the ache in my frozen bones that gives way to the deep warmth of a fire. I love the piles of white snow and the way it hangs on the limbs of each and every evergreen. I'm a sucker for winter...and though I wish it to be gone when it's time for spring...it will make the entrance of spring seem so much more beautiful and brilliant.

I many ways...my heart is going through a winter lately. I'm stirred up with conflicting feelings and emotional torture. Certain parts of my soul seem frozen over, buried under drifts of doubt and depression. I feel confused by my own feelings and the feelings of those I do life with. I don't feel in alignment these days, somewhat disoriented. I think I've gotten a little too busy and taken on too many projects simultaneously. I hope to regain clarity this week...and work through some of the icey build up that is stealing some joy from my existance.

Spring will come...that is the hope.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

nostalgia...

I’m sitting in the basement of the Barrows humble home in Bellefontaine, OH. A flood of memories crash into my mind, spilling over into my heart. You know how people utter the phrase, “I saw my life flash before my eyes” when they experience a close call or a near death experience? Well, something of that nature happens when I return back to nostalgic places of my past and revisit the emotions they evoke. It’s like I survey the scenes of my short history and move my mind’s hand over the various things etched into my heart’s story.

As we strolled into town yesterday I could feel my insides sitting up and paying close attention to the subtle changes of scenery. New businesses, renovations, torn down buildings, vacated strip mall stores. I remember all too well moving to and fro around this little town that is perched on the very peek of Ohio.

I was filled with mixed emotions. Part of me drawn back to the place where 8 years of my life was broken and spilled out. Another part of me feeling awkward and nervous for some reason. The one part of me was reliving the glory days of ministry; the other part of me was overjoyed to have moved on. I’m certain everyone feels something of these conflicting emotions as they meander through their past.

I’m so grateful for what my eight years in Bellefontaine afforded me. I enjoyed such freedom here to venture out and realize my desires. I found some lifetime friends that will always be close to my heart regardless of proximity. I cut my ministry teeth here and learned valuable lessons of leadership that serve as anchors of truth.

But I’m also so grateful that I moved on in ministry. There were so many new places my heart needed to go in order to prevent atrophy and apathy from rendering me limp and lifeless. I so enjoyed youth ministry, but I was starting to get an itch to affect change in the whole of the local church, not just a student ministry demographic. And when you find yourself scratching that itch in reading and writing and dreaming, it’s high time to venture out. I remember hearing people talking about that time when you would feel drawn to move toward a new season…and it was definitely time.

So as I sit here thinking upon my life up to this point, I’m so glad to be who and where I am. I feel like I’m a part of the ubiquitous kingdom of God pulsating all around me. I love my church and how I am most fully myself when I am with my community of faith. We are seeing God at work and at play around Impact and that is what I’ve always dreamed of being a part of. Plus, I get to preach in jeans and a t-shirt…you can’t beat that!

It’s always nice to unwind and rewind. But I think what most excites me these days is what’s ahead…and it’s that forward thinking that fills my heart in this moment.