New Website

Welcome to the new, revised site.  If I can get myself into the discipline of blogging (something I really haven’t done over the course of the last very hectic year) then I really have some great things in store.  The revisions are not finished, mainly right now there is a new aesthetic and the old posts, but I will be working on constructing the site to fill it on out.  Since I don’t yet have the other pages built out and ready to go here is a bit about me for those who don’t know me.  Husband of one and father of three, I work full time for a family resource center, teach Ethics part time at a community college, own and run a website business (we focus on building top of the line professional websites for smaller churches that couldn’t afford the site from larger companies) and I will be back in the saddle serving as pastor come June.  For now enjoy the stuff I have previously published, hopefully I’ll have some new stuff up soon.

Ash Wednesday Reflections

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, from the earth you came, to the earth you shall return.
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of lent, a 40 day preparation towards the cross and ultimately resurrection.  It is a time of preparation, it is a time of in some ways dying. 
Because death is the engine of life.
Unless a seed falls to the ground and dies it can never be anything more than a seed.  Lent is a somber time in which we make an inward journey, dying to self so that come easter we might find new life in some form.
But we hate when death comes around.  You get a phone call that a loved one has died, or you get a diagnosis from the doctor and suddenly everything changes.  What you thought you knew about life and faith all come into question.  You now find realities that you never imagined could even be possibilities.  Your world is shattered into a billion pieces and you don’t even know if the pieces can be picked up, much less where to begin. They are gone.  You are going.  
Everything has changed.
Death in this moment seems so big.  In an instant it is able to change your entire world.  And the life you lived, the faith you believed, the dreams you had held dear are gone.  You can never be that person, you can never believe quite the same as before, and those dreams are now no longer a possibility.  In this instant, you suddenly realize how precious and fragile life is and how quickly and easily it can be taken away and everything change.
And in this moment we have to decide how to react.  For many of us we become worriers.  We have come face to face with death, it has destroyed our life, and we know it will be coming again, it’s only a matter of time.  Each time a loved one doesn’t answer their phone your heart sinks and you think, ok, I knew it was coming.  We begin to take every precaution we can to keep death at bay.  We become fearful and serious.  Constantly afraid, constantly worried, constantly trying to control every aspect of life because we’ve lost control of it before and we are determined to do everything we can to keep from losing it again.
To keep from feeling that pain, that loss again.
When death comes near it bleeds onto us.  The loved one dies, but so do you.  You receive the diagnosis and you’ve got a certain amount of time left, but in that moment in many ways you died already.  
The question isn’t whether you die in those moments, you do.  The question is what kind of death do you experience?
Oddly enough when we are faced with death and we become aware of the frailty of life and the fact that we might not make it through today we actually begin to enjoy life less.  We let the fear and anxiety and worry overtake us, we try to control everything and in the process we lose the joy that makes life worth living.  It is in these moments that we should become determined to make each moment more enjoyable and meaningful precisely because it could all end tomorrow.
Lent is a somber time where we die in many ways, but the point of facing our mortality is that we will appreciate the life we’ve been given.  That instead of becoming bitter by our encounters with death we actually become better.  Instead of giving up when everything comes crashing down we realize that it is an opportunity to re-evaluate our lives, to figure out what’s truly important to us, and re-imagine what life could be like if we were to realign our lives around those most important things.  It is an opportunity to live a new life, discover a new faith, and dream new dreams.  
This doesn’t meant that we become glad tragedy has happened.  I’ve yet to meet a person who is glad that tragedy struck because of the new opportunities it gave.  Even if their life overall has become better because of it, most of us would still rather have that person back, or the additional time they thought they had.
Yet, with time we also begin to realize the truth of something that my father used to say regularly, 
“Death is a part of life.”  
Death comes.  It comes to our loved ones and it will come to us.  We can try to fight it, but no one cheats it.  Hopefully, our worst nightmares won’t come true.  However, if it does we want to make sure that the time we’ve had has been well spent.  And hopefully, if we truly learn to live life well, by the time it truly comes for us we can be ready and embrace it as an old friend,  
knowing that resurrection lies ahead.

Is Bigger Better?

“get ready, God is preparing you for something really, really small” – shane claiborne

In a moment of indiscretion I did something horrible in college. I applied to a large university. Now I really say that as a joke, because in actuality I don’t have anything against this particular institution. As a matter of fact I rather like it a lot as well as it’s cross state rival. However, I applied and was accepted to this institution and I thus I began the gauntlet of requirements being part of the school necessitated. Park in this are, then walk/run all the way across campus to get the TB test, then head over to a different corner of campus to file the change of address form, after that make sure to go see a counselor over at a different part of campus, then you can go back to your first area to actually register, etc. etc. And there was this sense that if I were to make one misstep in this horrible process filled with red tape that I was unworthy to be part of the institution. And of course no one was going to help in any way. Often times employees would refuse to give any clearer directions than go to the such and such building, which is great if you know which building that is and/or where it’s at, no help at all otherwise. So I did everything. I did it all right, I filled out my change of address forms and moved just down the road from the school.

Then one day I received a notice that my classes had been dropped. I go to investigate and find that despite me doing everything right, they had sent my bill to the wrong address, and since it had not been paid my classes had been dropped. Now the classes were full and I could not get any of the classes I needed. This was all due to their mistake, they were even able to find the change of address form I had filled out and submitted.

At this point I decided I did not like being treated like a number rather than a person, so I transferred to another smaller school where people were helpful and you felt like a person.

Now I don’t think institution number one is evil or anything like that, I simply believe it’s large. And when things get too large people become smaller and smaller, worth less and less. There are great advantages to being large, but there are also drawbacks.

I think by and large in the U.S. we tend to think that bigger is better, and we fail to see the impact that small things can have. But over and again in the scriptures Jesus seems to refer to the Kingdom of God in terms of small or hidden things, bursting forth and changing everything else (mustard seed, etc). When we look at Jesus we see that he did draw large crowds, but it also seems like whenever the crowds really start to grow he begins to teach things that will thin them out (John 6).

I don’t deny that God wants to do big things in our world. The mustard seed does grow and spread, the disciples were told they would preach in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. However, I think that God might be even more concerned with the small things, that’s where the big things begin. At the same time, a mustard tree only grows so large, then it reproduces. While the disciples were told that they would do big things, those big things were to happen through the making of other disciples.

Again, don’t think I’m demonizing big. There are advantages that come with being big, I’m well aware of it. However, often the good that comes with being big comes at the cost of our humanity, so it’s important that we find ways to grow smaller while/if we grow larger. Very often we forget that often times the big things that happen take place because of a few very dedicated people. Jesus’ core was 12, um . . . make that 11 disciples and a few women. And yet they completely changed the world as we know it. I think Mother Theresa said it best, that we can do no great things, only small things with great love. But that small things with great love can change the world.

Update

About a month ago I started a new blog series that I hope to continue in the not too distant future. It’s full of really good stuff. However, shortly after I started it a lot of things happened and life has become quite hectic. So, for all our friends out there I just wanted to give a quick update.

Over the last month Katie has truly started her new job as well as another semester of evening classes in pursuit of her Master’s Degree. Cari started Kindergarten, so we are working diligently on learning our letters and simple words. I turned 30 and collected money to help provide clean water for people in Africa who could likely die without it. Also, I’ve been independently ordained thanks to some great friends, Don Brock and the great folks at Synergy Ministries, thank you so much, it means more to me than you know. My Parent Project® classes have started and are going well which takes up another evening, and I got called from a local community college to teach an Ethics class which I am absolutely loving. It may not pay much, but I can’t remember the last time I’ve actually earned money for having so much fun. On top of all of this, I plan to start a small business doing full service web hosting and site design. I have to wait until September to get a business license, but getting everything done on that has been taking some time as well. The plan is to offer web hosting for $5/month. However, what I’m really excited about is that I want to offer to churches a full service package where I do a custom site build to what they’re looking for and I do updates each week for $30/month. With a one year agreement I will build the site for free. My hope is that I will be able to help small churches that don’t have the money or technical resources to have a quality site that is regularly updated get exactly what they want and need that the large churches pay thousands of dollars for.

So, life is hectic but really great. Once we get more into the rhythm of all these new schedules and adjustments I’ll try and continue the series.