Thursday, December 31, 2009

War Against the Roaches

"Roaches check in... [cocks gun]
[cocks gun] ... But they don't check out."

I was awoken this morning feeling like Will Smith's character from Men in Black.

Two days ago I was startled to find a cockroach scurrying around inside my kitchen sink. This morning I woke up to something tickling my arm. IT WAS A COCKROACH!!! I lunged out of bed and quickly found a shoe lying on the ground and made direct contact with the roach... in the middle of my bed (I think I need to wash my sheets).

Monday, December 28, 2009

Lessons of Compassion from the 'Secular' World

Since I started working at Trader Joe's a couple months ago, I've several times been astonished by the lessons of compassion that I've learned from my co-workers, as well as stories included in the company's weekly internal bulletin. Here are a few stories I'd like to share:

The first lesson of compassion I learned was from my supervisor Amanda (the same supervisor that recently bailed me out when I accidentally made the incorrect change for my unemployed Psychic friend). She told me about how someone knocked off her car's side-view mirror. The person who hit her car was responsible enough to leave a note. When Amanda called, she told her that her gift for "doing the right thing" was not having to pay for for the damage. Amanda's only request was, "keep doing what's right."

Another lesson I learned second hand was about a women who was shopping at a Trader Joe's store when she fainted. Turns out the women had suffered from fainting spells for much of her life. She had come to the store via bus, but a few of the employees called a cab and stuck twenty dollars in her pocket for the ride home.

Another women at a different Trader Joe's store was caught in an embarrassing moment when her food stamps were not sufficient to pay for all her groceries. Flustered, but before she could finish telling her children that they needed to put some of the food back, the employee discreetly said that the remainder of her groceries were paid for and whisked out the door with all her groceries in hand.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Most Ironic/Contradictory American Invention

Having spent an extended amount of time in Walgreens today, I have decided that the modern pharmacy is the most ironic/contradictory invention that American capitalism has ever created (I'm not knocking capitalism, just saying...). A pharmacy, as I understand it, is a place where sick people go to get their prescriptions filled so they can take medicine that will make them better, or at least less sick. Unfortunately, very often it's the pharmacies and pharmaceutical companies themselves that stand to benefit the most, not sick people. Turns out, a balanced diet and regular exercise are prescriptions that don't earn pharmaceutical companies much money. The allure of a quick fix (a magic pill, so to speak), however, has the power to turn a generous profit. Furthermore, have you ever considered the "food" that is sold at pharmacies such as Walgreens or CVS? The grocery aisle looks remarkably similar to the convenience food-mart found along side many gas stations. Junk food galore! But it's cheaply made food sold at a premium price. Again, profit seems to win over making people healthy. But as long as people continue to buy unhealthy food they are more likely to continue filling their medical prescriptions at the local pharmacy. It's a vicious cycle, but it's one that undoubtedly generates a lot of revenue for the modern American pharmacy.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

2 weeks later...

Well, now that my first semester of seminary is finally over, I feel 100% free to write a rambling post...

In my last post, I shared about my laptop and TV getting stolen. In the immediate aftermath of discovering that my computer was gone (I didn't care so much about the TV), I was anxious, angry, and let loose a mouth full of obscenities. But to my surprise, my frustration quickly subsided and my concern became less about the loss of a material item, and more about the loss of important papers for school, pictures and other documents that I wouldn't be able to reproduce, and the safety of my identity (I do my bill-paying online). I think I'm finally learning to put less stock in material possessions.

I've also gained new perspective in several other areas. For starters, I no longer check my email obsessively, allowing me to focus on more important matters. Secondly, I have had to rely on the generosity of others (professors to grant me extensions to rewrite my papers and Carol's willingness to let me take over her computer from time to time). Thirdly, the whole situation has reminded me how blessed I am to even own a computer in the first place.

Additional thoughts: Some have asked me if I am angry at the person(s) who stole my computer. My answer is mixed. Yes! I am angry that someone would invade the privacy of my apartment and take my stuff. And also, no, because thievery is only a natural consequence of in living a world that is broken. More than likely, my stuff was stolen by someone out of desperation. The laptop and TV were probably sold for a few hundred dollars to put food on the table of a poor family, or to sustain a life-draining addition to drugs and alcohol. At the very least, this theft was the result of greed. In any event, the theft of my laptop is a direct result of human depravity. So here's my concluding thought: To not be affected by the the broken condition of this world means not to be in a position to bring healing to this world.

Eventually, I think I will need to purchase a new computer (If I wasn't in graduate school I'd consider going longer without one). But for the time being I'm almost enjoying the freedom of going without, trying to be more intentional about storing up treasures in heaven, as it were.

Saturday, November 28, 2009


I officially joined the Hey this sucks, my laptop just got stolen... and my TV, too club this morning. It's my own fault, though... I was next door hanging out with Carol and didn't lock the door behind me. Anyway, I'm not nearly as upset as I figured I would be. I think it has to do with reading scripture and placing less stock in material possessions.

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:19-21).

Now if only my research paper that I had just finished yesterday would rewrite itself...

Friday, November 27, 2009

Who Killed the Electric Car?

I finally got around to watching a documentary that came out a few years back called Who Killed the Electric Car? I'm usually skeptical of conspiracy type films, but this one is really good. My response? Fascinated. Confused. Outraged. Angered. However, the movie also leaves me feeling inspired. After poking around on the internet looking for information about plug-in electric cars, I am now determined to own the soon-to-come-to-production Nissan Leaf. Check out the video below:

Monday, November 23, 2009

A Lesson of Honesty From an Unemployed Psychic

After some small talk and the mentioning of her struggles regarding unemployment, she handed me two twenty dollar bills (or so I thought!) to pay for her groceries. When I handed back her change she looked confused/concerned and said, "I only gave you a ten and a twenty." She was right, and I had given her too much change! After sorting out the mishap with my supervisor she said, "I never miss and opportunity to network," and handed me her card with the image above on one side, and on the other the word "Psychic."

Thanks Aria, for your honesty.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Surfing can be a frustrating sport. Never mind if you have Saturday afternoon free, if the necessary ground swell isn't there, you're out of luck. So what makes a wave suitable for surfing? Typically, it's a tropical storm or hurricane that has formed hundreds of miles off shore. It's the churning of the seas miles and miles away that eventually create the waves ideal for surfing.

So what's this have to do with baptism? The waters of baptism are a physical sign of God's grace. Helpless and undeserving, we are cleansed and made righteous before God.
In the same way that surfers are dependent upon a great force outside of themselves, we who undergo the waters of baptism are dependent upon God to supply us with the grace that is unmerited and not of ourselves.

Think of the wave in the picture above as God's grace. It's huge, powerful, and a little scary...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

America: The 'Good' and 'Just' Society

A couple of weeks ago I was summoned to meet with three representatives from a foundation that provides scholarships to Master of Divinity students committed to congregational ministry. The foundation’s president spoke about how the United States has historically been a “good” and “just” country, and that the enterprise of the foundation was about sustaining America’s standing as a good and just society. I would not have thought much about his comment a few months ago, but now with a greater sensitivity toward racial issues in America, I was quite disturbed by his statement. I thought to myself, Was is ‘good’ and ‘just’ when European immigrants stole land from the native Americans? Was the enslavement of Africans brought to America to work the cotton fields ‘good’ and ‘just’? Was it ‘good’ and ‘just’ for the African Americans who fought for this country to be refused equal housing opportunities? Was it ‘good’ and ‘just’ that women for so long were denied the right to vote? In all fairness, the foundation’s president was partially right in saying that America is “good” and “just”--for him and people like him with white skin.

Monday, November 2, 2009

10 Kinds of Soy Milk That all Taste the Same

I subliminally announced about a month ago that I got a job at Trader Joe's. I'm happy to report that I really like the job and that things are going well. As I'm learning more about the product line and TJ's ideal customer, I'm realizing what an odd and unique grocery store it is. I just watched this video and got a good laugh out of it. If you shop at TJ's on occasion, I hope you get a laugh out of it, too.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

An Eagle in Chicago?

Alright, so maybe it wasn't an eagle... but I'm telling you, this thing was the largest bird of prey I've ever seen up close in the wild (if you can call Chicago "the wild"). I took this picture with my crappy point-and-shoot, so that should give you an idea of how close it was to my apartment. And don't forget to note the little mousy it's ripping to shreds with it's massive eagle talons (I still think it was an eagle).

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


I've never given it much thought, but lately I've been learning just how privileged I am in my American context. I suppose I've just taken it all for granted, but now it just seems so clear to me that I am incredibly privileged. By virtue of my race, gender, education, citizenship, native language, etc., I have more privileges than I know what to do with...

This became very apparent to me today when I was in the DMV registering a new (10 year old) car (yup, I sold Subie Rojo) and acquiring an Illinois drivers license. The whole experience was rather dreadful. As I moved from line to line I could sense my anxiety level rising. To obtain the new drivers license I had to take a exam. Although I took drivers education and have since been confidently behind the wheel since age sixteen, I was surprised when I missed several of the answers.

The women of Asian decent next to me argued in her broken English with the exam proctor about failing the exam by one point. But he said that she would need to retake the exam.

I couldn't wait to get out of the DMV; I can only imagine what this Asia woman's experience was like. It just doesn't seem fair. Here I am, a confident English speaker who has lived in the U.S. for almost his entire life receiving a Master's level education taking the same test as this transplanted Asian women. Something doesn't add up.

On a lighter note, I got to stand on stage with the Rev. Jesse Jackson and get my picture taken. Don't know if I'll ever see that picture, but I can display a fuzzy one I took from my seat during the live TV broadcasting.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Job Search Is Finally Over!

I got a job today! I'm really excited about it, but I'm not going to say where I'll be working. You'll just have to guess. But I'll give you a hint. I'll be wearing a snazzy Hawaiian shirt.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Sip & Scan

Now that Carol and I have set a date, and locations for the ceremony and reception following, we're out to conquer other wedding related tasks like creating a gift registry. Apparently, brides and grooms to be get to make this list with everything you want on it, and then people buy those gifts. The whole thing still sounds too good to be true. So, when Carol got word of Macy's Sip & Scan event I said sign us up! I thought to myself, what could be better than running around Macy's with a laser gizmo in one hand and a martini in the other!? Sadly, there was only yucky non-alcoholic cranberry stuff to drink and the task of running around picking out household items was nearly overwhelming. I felt uneducated to make so many hypothetical purchases, and deep pits of American consumerism seemed to be at the bottom of every escalator.

Questions swirling around inside my head trying to create wedding registry at Macy's: Where was this made? Is it safe for the environment? Is it over-priced? Will someone actually buy us a $300 10-piece cookware set? Should we shun this whole ordeal and take a trip down to Village Discount? Why is there nothing good to sip at this event?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Surfing Great Lakes Style

Last night I talked with a guy who surfs Lake Michigan. When I left New Hampshire for Chicago I didn't think I'd try this fabled lake surfing, but now I'm reconsidering. I still have a my wetsuit, so if I can find a board maybe I'll get back in the water. Don't believe you can surf on a lake? Check out this video:

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Awkward Side Hugs

This video is a must see for anyone who has worked in youth ministry or currently serves as a youth minister. Enjoy!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Chicago: The first Two weeks

She didn't come out to see me, but I did get a chance to hang out with my sister Hannah in Chicago last week. Hannah was visiting Chicago with her boyfriend, and Carol and I took a break from unpacking long enough to spend some time with them downtown. Here is a picture of Hannah and I in front of Chicago's famous bean.

After a quick photo in front of the bean we headed to the Willis (Sears) tower.

Hanging out on the new Skydeck addition:

Fast forward to today, Carol and I and some friends from the seminary joined a faculty member on his sail boat for some sailing on Lake Michigan.

Friday, August 21, 2009

A Gift from the City

Well, as much as I would have liked it to be, the orange and white envelop secured to my car beneath the windshield wiper was not a gift from the City of Chicago.

Less than 24 hours since moving to Chicago, I received my first parking ticket. Supposedly the cars along W. Carmen Avenue needed to be moved in order to clean the street, but I'm not buying it. I'm choosing to see it as a shameless attempt at making up for the city's revenue shortfall.

Despite my irritation, the city does make paying your ticket a breeze by providing an option to pay online. How nice of them.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


Carol and I arrived Tuesday afternoon in Chicago. The drive out was less than exhausting, but I am still so glad that the trek is over and that we're finally here.

I feel disoriented in this new big city and at times I feel a little overwhelmed with all the little things that need to happen in the next week or so. Moving can be hard work and right now New Student Orientation just feels in the way.

There's a lot I want to write about, but this is all for now...

Monday, August 17, 2009


Ugh... It's been two weeks since I last posted something to this neglected blog and the last thing I wrote about had to do with a silly fire that had the potential of burning down the camp.

So much has happened in the past two weeks. The most noteworthy event of course has been my engagement to Carol. I came to camp with a ring and I've playing dumb for about the last 3 months. Surprises are hard to make happen, especially when the surprise is for the person you tell nearly everything to. In a strange sort of way, I wanted to tell her everything I was planning. She's passionate about social justice issues and the environment, and so I wanted to tell her that her the diamond was certified conflict free, that the gold was recycled and that even the silly little box these things come in was wooden and sourced from a sustainable forest. I wanted to tell her about how I was going to jump out of a box at the end of magic act at a talent show and ask her to marry me.

Now I'm just glad the secret is out. Surprises are fun, but also very hard to keep. I felt like I was organizing one big conspiracy theory: Pretend I was broke, that I didn't know what a carat was, act insecure about our future together, and then plan to maybe get engaged in the fall.

If you haven't see the video of the proposal already, it's on Facebook. Hopefully this link works.

There are so some spiffy engagement photos on Facebook as well.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

There's a Fire on The Mountain Tonight

My days on maintenance crew consist mostly of random odd jobs around the camp. From one day to the next, I never know if I'll be mowing lawns, digging ditches, or scrapping paint off one of the old lakeside cabins. Exciting, I know... But one of the more spectacular things we've done so far involved setting a massive burn pile on fire. Being a pyro at heart, I got really excited for the blaze and snapped a few pictures.

The flames reached about 40 feet high!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Swanzey Lake

I had wanted to write something more substantial about my experience at camp, and yet I don't know what to write. I guess I'll just say that things are great--really great. It's not raining so much any more and besides an achy back from all this manual labor, I'm feeling mighty fine.

The picture is of Swansey Lake taken from the camp's waterfront.
Isn't it beautiful?

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Life at Camp

I don't have long. I need to get to bed soon. I have enjoyed my day off, but my 6:15 AM wake-up is easier to accept when I get to bed nice and early. I'm working on a maintenance crew at Pilgrim Pines Conference Center. I've never been more over qualified for a job. But I appreciate the opportunity to work with my hands and see projects to completion. I'm on a staff of about 30. Only one other person on staff is older than me, many of the others are still in high school, and my staff coordinators are younger than me. It's kind of weird. I live with two other guys on the maintenance crew in a cramped room above the dinning hall. It constantly smells like B.O. and I don't have much private space. Did I mention that my phone doesn't really get reception? If it sounds like I'm complaining, I'm really not... I like it here. It's been a fantastic experience so far. I've enjoyed getting to know everyone and it's an experience I won't soon forget. For the time being, I love the lack of responsibility. I like that my food is prepared for me and that I know that I can always jump in the lake after a day of intense manual labor. Carol is here, too. That's a bonus. I don't drive nearly as often and my schedule is predetermined. Well, that's all for now... A more constructive post about life at camp should be soon to follow.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Dear Joe & Amy

Your wedding was great. It was more than great. Many couples would covet a ceremony such as yours. I felt like I was surrounded by something mighty. Maybe it was the sound of the organ that accompanied your special day? (The organist told me that it's the largest pipe organ west of the Mississippi with nearly 7,000 pipes). I know it was more than that, though.

Thank you for allowing me to read scripture in your wedding. What a gift. The text you had me share was most appropriate. Reading it in the context of your wedding gave me new insight into what it means for human beings to find a unique partnership in one another.

As the pastor remarked, you have indeed done well in choosing each other. And now you have entered into a covenant relationship that God promises to bless and strengthen. Your marriage will forever be a means of grace.

Enjoy Chelan!


Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Passing of the Board

Moving to Chicago means that I won't be needing a surf board. So, I was happy to see Doyle the 8ft funshape go to an up-and-coming surfer. Morgan has already been surfing for about a year, so I expect to see her rippin it up in a pro comp some day.

Monday, June 15, 2009

A Strange Connection to a Strange Kid

Jake's sister, Leah, shared this video with me last night. It's definitely one of the funnier things I've seen in a while. But more than being a hilarious video, I think I like it because I too was a strange kid growing up (some would say still). Enjoy!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The City

I'm in Seattle for my sister's graduation, but much of me is still on east coast time. I'm having a hard time sleeping in past 6 AM. I'm staying at Jake's house for the week, and with time to spare yesterday morning, I wandered down to Market street in Ballard. Having lived in rural New Hampshire for these past two years, I can't tell you how refreshing it is to again be in an urban area where walking to the grocery store or your local coffee shop is possible. However, as I walked I came across a women who was just waking up from a night spent on the sidewalk. Bam! The reality of human need comes immediately into focus.

Seattle, like nearly every metropolitan area, is home to all kinds of problems: homelessness, poverty, violence, and under-resourced schools, to name only a few. These are real and painful issues. Seeing that woman on the street made me think Now this is where I need to be to do real ministry. Look at the needs of the city. This is where it's at. Although it's true the city has a way of making certain issues in-your-face, it's a mistake to overlook the human needs that exist in rural and suburban communities.

Homelessness, poverty, violence, and under-resourced schools exist in all areas. However, the greatest issue poisoning the non-urban areas of our country is the endeavor to create safe, comfortable, insulated communities and neighborhoods that have little consideration for the plight of others. To paraphrase something I heard not too long ago: indifference toward injustice is worse than the injustice itself.

And so here is where I'm personally at with all of this: If you want to make a difference in the cities and in the concentrated places of human need, work to bring people out of their self-indulgence and apathy who live outside of these areas. Bring you and yourself out of your selfish desire for safety and comfort. The Gospel of Jesus wants you to get outside of yourself and live for the healing of others. Help people to see that we are marked by Christ when we reach out to the stranger. Create a one-world way of thinking--a kingdom of God way of thinking and living that transcends regional boundaries, race, gender, religion and socioeconomic categories.

Give a city a fish, feed the city for a day. Teach the world to give the city a fish, feed the city for a year... This makes sense in my head.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The New GPS

As a parting gift, some of the youth group students and their families pitched in to buy me a GPS. They knew I wanted one, and since I'm moving to the mid-west in a couple months, it's probably one the more thoughtful and practical gifts I have ever received. For kicks I followed the GPS's directions into work this morning. To my surprise, the GPS found a quicker rout than I normally travel. It would have been nice to have discovered this short cut twenty-two months ago. Oh well...

A Day to Remember

Sunday was my last official day on staff at Rye Congregational Church. After two years, it was time to say goodbye. I received some very kind words and some incredible gifts from everyone. When it came time for me to share my reflection, I was feeling so overwhelmed that I just couldn't get through it. After trying to regain composure a number of times, I left the last paragraph unsaid. However, I think my tears made up for what I couldn't say out loud. Below is my reflection in its entirety:

In May of 2007 I came to Rye Congregational Church for the very first time. Despite what people tried to tell me about New Englanders, I found you all to be a warm and welcoming bunch.

After my visit and during my flight back to Seattle, I was reading a book by Henri Nouwen about Christian leadership. Because of my visit to Rye, Nouwen’s words struck me with immeasurable force. He writes: “The servant-leader is the leader who is being led to unknown, undesirable, and painful places.” For me, New Hampshire was certainly unknown. Prior to my invitation to come east, I couldn’t even point at New Hampshire on a map. Rye was also undesirable. It was thousands of miles from home, and the prospect of leaving behind friends and family was certainly painful.

Although God sometimes calls us to unknown, undesirable, and painful places, I believe God is faithful to meet us in these difficult seasons of life. God has richly blessed me in these two years. God has used all of you to bless me with the gift of community and friendship--with the gifts of your love and affirmation. Thank you for becoming my second family. Thank you for being my second home.

There is not sufficient time to recognize each individual that has contributed to my personal growth and development as a pastor, but I do want to say that I am especially thankful for Pastors John and Chris and their guidance and mentorship over these two years. Together you have given me the opportunity to exercise my gifts for pastoral ministry, and have allowed me to greater discern God’s calling upon my life. I am indebted to you both for the investment you have made in my life.

In the beginning of this journey, I felt the sting of the unknown, undesirable, and painful places that Nouwen wrote about. But now, at the end of this journey, I have a great joy for knowing all of you and for being known. Now, Rye, New Hampshire is a desirable place--a place that I have come to love and appreciate. And whatever pain there was in the beginning has given way to lasting friendships and unforgettable memories. I thank God for all of you.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Pentecost and the Joys of Teaching Confirmation Class

In many churches throughout the world, today was celebrated as Pentecost. At Rye Congregational Church, the sanctuary was changed to a pageantry of red to symbolize the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. For our local congregation, we also recognized the accomplishments of our graduates, and celebrated the achievements of our confirmation students. It's been a privilege to work with these two students as we've studied the Bible and considered the greater things of faith. I experienced almost a paternal pride as I heard them publicly share their faith with the congregation through personal reflection and confession of faith. Teaching confirmation class has been a source of joy these two years, and I will miss the opportunity to connect with students at such a meaningful level.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

A New Name

With a new life circumstance comes a new name for this blog. In a little over a week, my time at Rye Congregational Church will come to an end. Following some time off in Seattle, and a summer job at Pilgrim Pines Conference Center, I will be moving to seminary in Chicago. So, I figure this time of transition is a suitable occasion to give this blog a new name that better reflects my life experiences.

From this point forward, I declare this blog be known as Lingering Providence (unless I feel like changing the name again at a later date).

As some of my readers already know, Lingering Providence is a term stolen from a dear professor at SPU, Dr. Frank Anthony Spina. When Dr. Spina talks about Lingering Providence, he likes to tell the story from Genesis when Joseph is sent out to find his brothers who are grazing the flocks near Shechem. Along the way, Joseph is found by someone who is simply identified by the narrator as "a man." This mysterious character directs Joseph to Dothan, and this is where Joseph finds his brothers. You know the events that follow. In the end, Joseph becomes number two in all of Egypt and rescues his entire family from the grip of famine.

The strange thing about this story is that Joseph doesn't find his brothers without the help of the man. We easily overlook the importance of his role in the story, and yet we don't get this amazing story without him.

Sometimes God works in mighty, direct, and unrestrained ways. However, from personal experience, God's dealings with humanity seem to be less obtrusive, like the role of "a man" in Joseph's narrative. We try to dismiss the events of life as happenstance or good fortune, yet the work of God persists. Sometimes our acknowledging of God's providence comes in a lingering fashion; it takes us a while to see where God's hand has been at work in our lives. Whether it is God whose providence lingers, or simply our inability to observe it right away, it would seem that we are not left to our own devises. Our lives intersect with the divine, and our own stories are forever altered because of this encounter. Examples of this from my own life would be worth many subsequent posts. If you keep reading, I'm sure you'll come across more than a few.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

My Final Visitor

Joey is here. I've been fortunate to have several of my good friends visit me here in good old New Hampshire within the last year. But now that I'm counting down the days before I move, Joey will more than likely be my final visitor. In less than an hour we're off to do a beach clean in Rye. After that we'll move on to do some New Hampshire/Maine exploration.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Does Anyone Remember What the Pastor Said at the Wedding?

Just a minute ago, I was preparing my sermon for the wedding I'm officiating this weekend and it dawned on me, Does anyone remember what the pastor said at the wedding? Oh sure, there are a few memorable lines like Dearly beloved (actually, I don't even say that), and You may kiss the bride (hmm, maybe this is the only one), but when Sunday morning rolls around, I don't think anyone will recall my precious sermon that right now I'm stressing out about.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Some Good News, And Then Some REALLY Good News

First, the good news: I got a second-hand blender that only cost me $3. It's a beefy Osterizer Bee-Hive style that weighs about 10 pounds and looks like it could agitate a cell phone into a million pieces (I don't know why you would want to, but just knowing you could counts for something in my book). Anyway, I always get excited when I score a high quality kitchen appliance at a good price.

Now, for the REALLY good news: I just received a phone call from North Park Theological Seminary, informing me that I was awarded a full-tuition scholarship! Thanks to the Kern Family Foundation, I won't be paying the roughly $37,000 it would have cost to complete my MDiv.

Friday, May 8, 2009

What If?

I'm almost through reading a book called Who Stole My Church. It's a fictional account of a church in New England struggling to move into the 21st Century. As a staff member at a church in New England, it's been astonishing to read the many similarities between this fictional church and the church I work at.

One of the issues detailed in the book highlights the internal "worship wars" many churches are entrenched in today. Typically, the disputes about worship (music) are drawn along generational lines. In the book, and in my church as well, the older folks prefer singing out of the hymnal and appreciate organ accompaniment. On the other hand, the younger generations gravitate toward "contemporary" music with varied instrumentation that includes guitars, keyboards, drums, and lead vocalists. Although some churches have successfully integrated traditional/contemporary musical styles, most churches in my opinion, remain divided along generational lines.

In my experience, however, I have witnessed how one particular tradition of worship music has transcended the generational divide. I see this happening in the music of gospel choirs. Formerly only a part of the African religious experience, gospel choirs have been embraced by Anglo and multicultural faith communities. Not only are gospel choirs blurring racial lines, they are also reconciling the generational gaps that persist in so many Christian communities.

What if more churches trying to preserve the traditional choir/hymnal musical shifted to a more gospel style of worship music? What would happen if my church's choir abandoned songs like As the Deer Panteth For the Water, and adapted to singing songs like Can't Nobody Do Me Like Jesus?

To give example to what I'm envisioning, here's a video of my alma mater, Seattle Pacific's gospel choir:

And just for fun, here's an old video from when U2 collaborated with a gospel choir at a church in Harlem. Kind of a low-quality video, but by far the greatest rendition of I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For I've ever heard.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Swine Flu, I'm Done With You

For the most part I watch two TV channels: ESPN and CNN. But as of late, I've been watching a lot of ESPN. There are two reasons why I have been watching a lot of ESPN: 1) because the Blazers and the Mariners have been doing very well as of late (although the Blazers just got eliminated), and 2) because I am sick of hearing about the Swine Flu epidemic. In my opinion, people are bored of hearing gloomy reports about job loss and the economy, so now the networks are on to something more interesting.

Now, I don't want to disregard the sickness and deaths that have resulted from this flu; However, I feel like the whole thing has been blown out of proportion. Whenever the United States is faced with a "crisis" like the Swine Flu, it's important that we keep a global perspective. Let's examine another life-threatening disease: malaria. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 41% of the world's population lives in areas where malaria is transmitted. Each year 350–500 million cases of malaria occur worldwide, and over one million people die, most of them young children in sub-Saharan Africa.

Again, I don't want to disregard the dangerousness of the Swine Flu, but honestly, compared to the devastation caused by malaria, perhaps there is at least one other issue more pressing than the Swine Flu. So what's my response to the Swine Flue outbreak? I'm supporting malaria prevention. If you too want to provide one family with mosquito nets and education for malaria prevention and control click HERE.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

I'm Going To Jail!

On May 20th, I will appear before the MDA (Muscular Dystrophy Association) Court Judge to be arraigned on charges of generosity and supporting a worthy cause. That's right, I'm going behind bars "for good."

My bail has been set for $800. A pretty creative way of raising money for a good cause? I thought so. But seriously, I'm being picked up from work on May 20th at 1:00 PM and hauled off to the Seacoast Harley Davidson (the sponsoring organization) and placed in a makeshift jail cell. If I don't have the bail money I'm not sure what will happen. If you're able to contribute to posting my bail, please click HERE to donate.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Difficult Task of Listening

"Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak..."
James 1:19

A few days ago I met with a women from the church who was deeply concerned about her grandson. I listened for almost a solid 80 minutes as she shared about feeling overwhelmed with her grandson's actions. I appreciated her sharing with me, but I was wiped afterwards. Actually, fatigue started to set in right around the one hour mark. Listening, I mean really listening, is a difficult task. But I am convinced that simply listening was the greatest ministry I could have possibly offered her. She didn't want nor need answers to her family's problems. She needed a listener. I certainly prefer the two-way street of dialogue, but sometimes all people need is someone who will simply listen.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

It Pays To Be Honest

With five upcoming weddings (two I'm officiating, and three I'll be attending/participating in), I decided to bite the financial bullet and make an upgrade in my formal wear attire.

Last week I walked out of Express with three dress shirts and two ties. They were all on sale; however, I was puzzled when I swiped and signed for a mere $59.48. I got half way to the parking lot when I decided to turn back. I was certain the associate had rang me up incorrectly.

When I returned to the register, the associate was obviously embarrassed for her mistake, but grateful for my honesty. She said she probably would have gotten in trouble for the miscalculation.

No regrets with going back, but the decision did mean paying nearly twice as much for my purchases. In this case, I paid (more) to be honest.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day!

For a second year now, I've made a youth group event out of participating in a local beach clean that is in conjunction with Earth Day. I'm again amazed at how enthusiastic students get over serving and caring for the environment. As a bonus, two of my students made it into the Portsmouth Herald newspaper. Check out the online article HERE.

In addition to the normal items of broken pieces of glass and aluminum cans, we also had some unique trash discoveries including a buoy, teeth flosser, fisherman's glove, and an ancient cell phone.

How did you recognize Earth Day this year?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

New Hampshire: Not So Tough Afterall

Despite the state's intimidating mantra of "Live Free or Die," I suppose I wasn't all that surprised to learn that New Hampshire is actually the state with some of the lowest crime and murder rates in the country. These low incident rates along with others were enough to name New Hampshire the #1 safest state for 2009.

But before you think New Hampshire has gone completely soft, I would like to point out that the Yankee spirit captured in "Live Free or Die" is still alive and well in other, less criminal ways. To give a couple of examples, there is no helmet law for motorcyclists, and automobile motorists over the age of 18 do not need to wear seat belts. And if you reference an earlier post of mine, neither do New Hampshire drivers yield to oncoming traffic. When the light turns green at an intersection it's a free-for-all!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Eating Meat

I don't usually eat meat, (in fact, I can't remember the last time I ate animal flesh) but last night was a special exception. Last night we celebrated the Passover meal (I figured, "What's a Passover meal without the lamb?") by way of a Seder. Seder is the Hebrew word for "order," which meant that our observance of the Passover and its meal followed a particular order.

The Seder is a way of bringing out the highly symbolic elements of the Passover meal. For example, The vegetable called Karpas (we used parsley), represents life, created and sustained by God. But the salt water used to dip the Karpas in reminds us that the enslavement of the Israelites in Egypt was filled with pain, suffering, and tears. The egg is another important symbol. The egg is a symbol of mourning, and is to remind us that the Temple in Jerusalem, the place of sacrifices, is no longer standing, and so sacrifices are no longer offered. But since it has no beginning and no end, the egg is also a symbol of new life and hope, and reminds us that God's grace is not confined to sacrifices in a temple.

This was the first time I had participated in a Seder. I'm finding that Holy Week is an incredibly rich time in the life of the Church. I don't know why I'm just now discovering this! And I'm wondering why we're so quick to skip to Easter Sunday.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


Today my Subaru got the equivalent of a black eye. New Englanders don't care to yield to oncoming traffic very often, so sure enough, I plowed into someone on my way into work this morning. I was going straight through the intersection and she tried to turn left right in front of me. No worries though--nobody got hurt and the Subaru runs and drives just fine. But I'm anxious to see the accident report tomorrow.

Monday, March 16, 2009


As I've already shared, my time in New Hampshire is coming to an end. At the end of the summer I'll be loading all my belongings into my Subaru and relocating to Chicago. Unfortunately, this means I won't be able to take certain things with me. For starters, I won't be bringing my ultra-comfy Lay-Z-Boy recliner or the dresser in my bedroom. Although I hate to leave behind such nice pieces of furniture, knowing that I'm limited on what I can bring feels almost liberating.

When we "detox" our bodies, we deprive our selves of food for a period of time. We starve our bodies so we can get all the bad stuff out. We go without so we can be healthier--so that we can have more life.

Instead of lamenting all that I must leave behind, I'm seeing this as an opportunity to purge my life of this "creeping materialism" that I always seem to be battling. This move is forcing me to decide what's really important in my life and what is not. I guess you could say I'm "detoxing" my life of materialism.

It's only March, and yet, I'm already pulling unworn clothes from my closet and making a mental list of other things I can give away or put on Craigslist. I'm almost to the point of making a game out of it to see how much I can get rid of.

In the future, I hope I don't have to rely on a major relocation to make me aware of how much I have, and instead, do a better job of discerning which possessions are good and useful in my life and which things are unnecessary.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Four Reasons Not To Podcast

Podcasts are all the rage theses days. Lots of people are broadcasting their audio files (video, too) all over the place. Churches are no exception. It's not uncommon for churches to make their pastor's messages available online for download. This technology has created an exciting medium for getting the [W]ord out. No longer is distance or lack of mobility a reason to miss out on a good sermon. Certainly, there are some good reasons for churches to take advantage of this technology, but I have some reservations. Here are four reasons why churches should not make their pastor's messages available online.

1. Unrealistic Comparisons
There are some gifted preachers out there. Men and women who are dynamic, charismatic, communicators of the Gospel. So why wouldn't we want to make these preachers' sermons available to everyone with an internet connection? Although there are some fantastic preachers in the pulpit, the vast majority of preachers are not going to blow you away. Did you know the average attendance for churches in the United States is less than 100? Do you think the members of these average sized churches hear the kind of preaching that could be compared to say, Mark Driscoll or Rob Bell? Of course not. Listening to podcasts from the likes of Driscoll and Bell create unrealistic comparisons. And yet we begin to wonder, "Why doesn't my pastor preach like those guys?"

2. Where Is The Relationship?
This may be be an obvious observation, but there is no way to have a substantial relationship with someone through their podcast. Unless one was very ambitious, there is no opportunity to shake hands with the person you just heard from. There are no conversations over coffee. Podcasts are a one-way road. The preacher talks and you listen. That's it.

3. Enables Passivity
For many people, Church is reduced to the hearing of a sermon or the worship music. Someone asks, "how was church?" and more than likely the response will be, "the sermon was really good this time," or "the worship could have been better." Church is about participating in a community of faith. Fewer and fewer people nowadays take the risk of engaging in real Christian community. Podcasts allow us to hear great sermons, but how do they afford us the opportunity to engage in community?

4. What Else Are We Missing?

When the sermon is isolated from the other components of the worship service, we do not experience the fullness of what is being conveyed through the message. The proclamation of the Word (preaching) finds its rightful place when it is accompanied by song, liturgy, prayer, confession, alms giving, the celebration of the Eucharist, and service. The significance of the sermon is enriched by these other aspects when properly situated in the context of corporate worship.

So What's The Alternative?

A more robust invitation to engage in authentic Christian community where the sermon is not detached from human relationships; where the the message is allowed to flourish in the hearts and minds of those listening as it is accompanied by the other aspects of corporate worship.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

I'm Down with Rick Warren

I must admit, I've never been a big fan of Rick Warren--the Hawaiian shirt wearing, cheesy joke telling, mega church pastor. I've never even had a desire to read The Purpose Driven Life. I guess I've just never been drawn to his expression of Christianity.

But I've grown to appreciate Pastor Warren for the ways he is helping the Evangelical community to bridge the gap between evangelism and social justice.

The other day I read an article in Relevant Magazine that featured Warren's work in Africa. In the article, Warren identifies what he believes to be the five biggest problems in the world:

1. Spiritual Emptiness
2. Corrupt Leadership
3. Extreme Poverty
4. Disease
5. Illiteracy and Lack of Education

I was really impressed with what Warren had to say about these issues. Commenting on extreme poverty he said, "The answer is not charity. When you give money away--when you give people things they could do for themselves--you don't teach them to do it for themselves. You rob their dignity, and you create victims. You create dependency and a 'what have you done for me lately' attitude. It actually removes initiative."

So what is Warren's response to the five "global giants," as he puts them? He says that Jesus gave us a model to defeat the world's biggest problems. According to warren, "[Jesus] promoted reconciliation, equipped servant leaders, assisted the poor, cared for the sick and educated the next generation." Those five tenants are put into an acronym to create the P.E.A.C.E Plan strategy.

For Warren, it all begins with the Church. With more than 2.3 billion Christian in the world, it's the largest "network" with the potential to combat the world's greatest problems. Moreover, the P.E.A.C.E Plan is an attempt at creating lasting, sustainable, solutions that help people stand on their own two feet and escape systems of injustice.

Warren admits the problems facing our world are huge. In response to the "global giants," he says, "It gives God honor when we try to do something that's impossible."

The entire article can be found online HERE

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Liturgical Stumbling

It would be much easier if we English speakers just had a single way of reciting the Apostle's Creed. But instead, some of us like to say "living and the dead," while others prefer the more traditional "quick and the dead." And then of course there is the dispute about whether or not we should say "catholic" or "Christian."

At my church, we recently updated how we say the Apostle's Creed. "living" sounded better than "quick" and we don't know the difference between "catholic" (lower case "c") and "Catholic" (upper case "C"), so "Christian" sounded better to us, too.

Now, this might not seem like a big deal to you, but since making the change a few months ago, we still can't seem to get it right. It's right there, printed in the bulletin, but still we mess it up. I was reading out of the the Covenant Book of Worship (incorrectly), and our senior pastor was reciting from memory (incorrectly). The only people in the sanctuary reciting the creed properly were the folks in the pews. This is problematic, though, because they are supposed to be following our lead.

For me, sharing in the Lord's Table is such a high point in the life of our worshiping community, so I get really frustrated when we botch the preparation so badly. And although we're without little excuse for stumbling our way through the Apostle's Creed, I do find comfort in the Words of Invitation that beckon us to share in this sacred meal: "Come not because you are strong, but because you are weak; not because you have any claim on the grace of God, but because in your frailty and sin you stand in constant need of his mercy and help."

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Prayer For Ash Wednesday

Heavenly Father, before you all hearts are known. Try as we might, there is no hiding from you the sin in our lives. You are not deceived by our clever cover-ups, nor our elaborate justifications. We must stop pretending that we have it all together. Before you, O God, we must lay our hearts bare. As we come face-to-face with our fragile humanity and our need for forgiveness, we ask that your Spirit would descend upon us and cleanse us of our wrongdoing. Give us clean hearts and renew in us a right spirit. And as we put aside our sinfulness, give us strength to move boldly forward in pursuit of your righteousness. By your grace, give us eyes to see what kind of people we are becoming. This we pray in the name of our Redeemer, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Next Six Months

In August of 2007 I accepted an invitation to serve as an intern youth pastor for two years at Rye Congregational Church in Rye, New Hampshire. The last year and a half has been the most adventurous and exciting time of my life, but it has also been the most difficult leap of faith that I have ever taken. My time in New Hampshire has been extremely rewarding, but also challenging. Uprooting one's self and relocating thousands of miles from friends and family does not come without cost. However, from this vantage point, a year and a half later, I have no regret for moving to Rye.

But this post is not really so much about the last year and a half of my life as it is about the next six months.

On Sunday I made my official announcement to the congregation that my last day on pastoral staff will be June 7th. I had planned to stay until August, but the church is hiring someone new to fill my position and wants this new person to go to work no later than August 1st. This leaves me about three weeks short of employment until the time of my move to Chicago and the start classes at North Park Theological Seminary.

Shortly following my last day at the church, I will be coming out to Seattle for my sister's graduation and Joe's wedding. After that, I'll begin my job on the summer maintenance crew at Pilgrim Pines Conference Center (a two hour car ride from Rye). My primary responsibilities will consist of mowing, weed whacking, bush trimming, wood splitting, garbage disposal, and painting. Believe it or not, I'm really excited for my work at the Pines. But more importantly, I have a place to live and employment until the time of my move to Chicago. This also means that I'm working with my girlfriend Carol, who has worked at the Pines since last August. Although she'll probably out rank me on staff and make me do extra weed whacking or something, I don't care because I'll get to see her every day, rather than once a week.

So there it is... the next six months of my life in a nut shell.

Saturday, February 21, 2009


If human love does not carry a man beyond himself, it is not love. If love is always discreet, always wise, always sensible and calculating, never carried beyond itself, it is not love at all. It may be affection, it may be warmth of feeling, but it has not the true nature of love in it. -Oswald Chambers

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Center and Circumference

I started reading a book that was recommend to me by the associate pastor at my church. It's a book written by Richard Rohr called Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer. I find the title to be rather unpretentious, but I think this book is gonna be a real sleeper. I'm not trying to do a book review, but I do want to share a small snippet from the first chapter:
People who have learned to live from their center in God know which boundaries are worth maintaining and which can be surrendered... Probably the most obvious indication of noncentered ("ec-centric") people is that they are, franky, very difficult to live with. Every ego-boundary must be defended, negotiated, or worshiped: my reputation, my needs, my nation, my security, my religion, even my ball team. These are really all I have to worry about because they are my only feeble identity. You can tell if you have placed a lot of eggs in these flimsy baskets if you are hurt or offended a lot. You can hardly hurt saints because they are living at the center and do not need to protect the circumference of feelings and needs. Ec-centric persons are always a hurt waiting to happen. In fact, they will create tragedies to make themselves feel alive.

Reading this statement felt kind of like ice cubes running down my back. Where do find my true identity? Do I find my identity at the center where I am "hidden with Christ in God" (Col. 3:3), or do I find my identity along the circumference of my person?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Saint Valentine

I guess I had always figured Valentines Day was the creation of Hallmark, or one of the many industries that greatly benefit from this national day of love. Perhaps I'm the only one naive enough not to know anything about the true origins of Valentines Day, but reading up on the history of V-Day has been pretty interesting. If you don't know much about Valentines Day, here's something I'm pulling from
One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men — his crop of potential soldiers. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine's actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death. Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons where they were often beaten and tortured.

So there you have it. We have the martyrdom of Saint Valentine to thank for all the love that's in the air today.

Friday, February 6, 2009

.500 Ain't Bad

Basketball season is officially over...

With tonight's decisive victory over Greenland, we finish our season with three wins and four losses. However, I just learned that one of our losses earlier this season was against an "A" team that we probably should never have played. So, I'm just not counting that game. This leaves us at 3-3 for the year.

Also worth mentioning: I didn't lose a single one of the school issued basketballs entrusted to me. Last year, out of six, I only managed to return two balls. I think I've redeemed myself.

Anyway, basketball season was a real kick in the pants. I learned a lot about coaching, and the boys didn't drive me too crazy. Did I mention I get paid for this? Yup, and it's enough to cover the two tickets (yes, that's 2 tickets and I'm not bringing my sister) I just purchased to fly out to Seattle/Keizer/Twin Falls in May. I can't wait for this trip!

And to top it all off, some of the parents pitched in to get me a gift certificate to a nice restaurant in Rye. Adam, I'm saving this one for when you come out to visit...

Friday, January 30, 2009

I'm on a Bus

No, literally... The bus I'm riding on has free Wi-Fi. It's kind of a challenge to type because of all the bumps in the road, but I still think it's cool.

I'm on a bus because it's a convenient way to get back-and-forth between my home in New Hampshire and Boston's Logan airport.

I'm going to the airport because I need to get on a plane that's going to take me to Chicago for a conference. I'm excited for the time away and for the opportunity to connect with fellow youth ministers and to hear from Shane Claiborne, Judy Peterson, and Efrem Smith.

I'm also excited for Chicago because I'm going to spend time with Joe and get to know the city that will soon be my next home.

Carol is going to be there, too. I haven't seen her in 10 days (I know I need to suck it up), so that is the proverbial cherry on top...

Chicago here I come!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

My Basketball Team has a Better Record Than The Detroit Lions... Barely

I'm in my second year of coaching 7/8th grade boys basketball at Rye Junior High. The fundamentals I can teach, but some of the more complicated aspects of the game like breaking full-court presses, penetrating zone defenses, and clock management remain aloof to me. Nevertheless, this second time around I feel a whole lot more confident in my coaching ability.

Despite being a better coach compared to last year, my team's record is worse than last year. With only one "W" in the record books, I'm hoping that we can finish the year on a winning note. We are playing at home tomorrow, so I'm confident we can capitalize on the home court advantage and put up at least 30 points on St. Pat's.

Look for us on ESPN.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Obama's Inauguration Speech

There were several moments throughout the inauguration ceremony that made me cringe, but I'll spare you my cynicism. Instead, I'll focus on something positive.

I appreciated Obama's address. The following is my favorite quote from his speech:

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

I'm deeply encouraged by our new president's commitment to alleviate the suffering of our world's most impoverished. Too many people have died needlessly because people living in "nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty" have failed to act. I hope that we can change with the world by helping to make it a place where all people flourish.

What was your favorite part of Obama's inaugural address?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Snow, snow go away...

I was slated to preach last Sunday, but that plan was thwarted thanks to 10 inches of snow.

I relish the opportunity to give the message, but I wasn't too upset that our service was canceled because it meant extra time with miss you know who.

I was given another opportunity to preach the same message this Sunday, but of course, more snow... So, for a second week in a row, no service and no sermon.

Ugh, what is this!?

I was planning on talking about Epiphany. The Church celebrates Epiphany as a continuation of Christmas, which is actually a whole season in the liturgical year. It was going to be a lot of fun sharing the significance of Epiphany. I was planning on assembling a nativity scene on the alter and having the Magi travel from the rear of the sanctuary to the front. Congregants were going to have to pass the Magi forward from pew to pew.

The Magi traveled from Persia (modern day Iran), so it probably took them months or even years before they made it to Jesus, who by that time was not a baby, but a child. By the time the Magi showed up on the scene, the shepherds were long gone.

Never mind the details, the point is that shepherds come to Jesus and so do Magi, and these two groups of people couldn't be more different. It's an incredible witness of Jesus' love for all people.

I was planning on posting an recorded audio file of this sermon, but I guess this written synopsis will have to do.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Very Funny, CNN

Well it looks like CNN decided to play a funny joke on the world and write a article about more government bailouts. According to the article, now the adult entertainment industry wants 5 billion from the government to support the industry's survival. The article quotes one of the industry's leaders as saying, "People are too depressed to be sexually active. This is very unhealthy as a nation. Americans can do without cars and such but they cannot do without sex." CNN you're hilarious! I thought only the Daily Show writers were able to come up with witty material like this. You're good, CNN. You're good.

Correction: turns out the CNN article on the adult entertainment industry requesting a 5 billion dollar government bailout was true and not a joke. For a minute I forgot where I lived. Of course, now it's so clear--why wouldn't we bail out the porn industry?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Freakin Out

I just bought a brand new MacBook.

As I write this, it's still in the box.

I'm kind of scared to open it.

I cringed at taking on the payments, but I know it's a worthy investment.

I'm freakin Out.