Oct 3, 2018

paradoxes of relationships

Paradoxes of relationships...

1) Time ≠ Quality

2) "How I see us" ≠ "How you see us"

3) More Commitment ≠ More Belonging

And...

4) Language -> Thoughts

5) Pursuing self -> Wanting more than self

6) Clarity -> Questions

The simplicity of community is complex

Aug 1, 2018

one year later

Once upon a time, I lived in Ohio...

I was a senior pastor...

I drove a small aqua car.


I did other things, too. I led regional serving days that brought churches together. I wrote a weekly newspaper column that impacted our region for Jesus. I enjoyed the fine menu at Smoothie King.

I'd somehow also developed friendships with amazing people from all walks of life, from the average Joe or Jane making it through their day to so-and-so's who were thinking about everybody's tomorrow.




And I kept my office in our home. It allowed me to be continually around my favorite people in the world (my family) while deepening and widening my ministry to my next favorite people in the world (God's family). Together, we'd committed to reach people for Jesus.

And we saw so, so many people come to Jesus through it.



For ten years, I lived this kind of life out as best as I knew how.

It was a blessing. I didn't deserve it.

Now I live in Minnesota.


I'm a pastor overseeing an incredible student ministry...


I drive a Ford Escape.

I do other things, too. I'm finishing a book I've been writing for almost four years with my son Daniel. This is in addition to other writing I somehow get to do, too. And I travel when I can, trying to mentor others around the country in what I've learned.


And I keep my office in a great church. It's allowed me to continually be around an amazing team of people who give their best daily. Whenever I can, I pop home for lunch - always eating at least one meal with my family.

We've seen so, so many people come to Jesus here.


For one year, I've lived this out.

It is a blessing. I don't deserve it.

Today is the anniversary of my "start date."

And that's why I felt compelled to write all of this. Nothing good that I just mentioned was because of anything I did, but because of who God is.

So in reflection, after 365 days of making the most of Minnesota I got to thinking about how I spent my last Sunday with the church I was blessed to lead as it's pastor for a decade. They blessed my family so, so well with an amazing sendoff. I responded in kind by taking a moment to celebrate each person who showed up. It blew my mind at all the ministry we did together. They were so generous at blessing us with a Minnesota care package.



I'm also reminded of my last few moments I privately spent in the church building we'd created together. I was reminded of how we'd navigated three building projects to keep up with what God had been doing over the years. So much of it was a learning curve, as we did what we all could to help lead this, and maybe that's why those last few moments were so tender.

It was just the Lord and I... and so I walked through the building, starting at the stage. I saw the chords and lyrics to a worship song and it felt appropriate to sing it... so I did... slowly and meaningfully.


I paused where I'd preached for years just about every Sunday, thanking the Lord for the gift that opportunity was.



I gazed at the chairs that different people sat in over the years. Some were only with us a short time. Others came, left, came back again, and so on. And then there were those who were there all throughout the years. Every person in every chair was a miracle that I got to stare at as I spoke... knowing the story under their story and how amazing it was that they even showed up for church that day.


It again occurred to me that I was on holy ground. So I had to respond accordingly.


I then journeyed through different classrooms where my kids had learned their faith through phenomenal people who invested into them as teachers/helpers.








It all brought me back before the Cross.

I sat there for a while. I wept... I wasn't sure I was done being a senior pastor.

And yet I knew this was what God was calling me to do - to trust that my time in Ohio in that role was over... and that whatever was next in Minnesota was where He wanted me.

"I'll get the lights," I said to Him, leaving my key on the counter and closing the door behind me.

I honestly wrestled with this for a bit, especially when people seemed to regard my new role as a "lesser" role than being a senior pastor. "Do you think you might ever go back to that role?" I sometimes get asked.

I get it... sometimes that's just how people think of things. I wrestled with that question, too. And then I didn't worry about it anymore. Whatever I'm doing and wherever I am is up to God - He's put a passion in me for the future of His Church, and I'll live that out in whatever role He asks of me.

I'm not position hungry, nor am I position-shy. It's about being Jesus-centered and outward-focused.

Just a couple weeks ago someone randomly texted me about a senior pastor job they thought I was perfect for. It was perhaps an attractive offer, but at the same time a no-brainer that I didn't even have to spend a second on.

"Thanks, but I'm not looking. I'm right where I need to be."

Yeah, that's Minnesota. I know the stereotypes like so many of you who warned me, "You know, it's cold there." Yes, it can be... and it can also be quite sunny and breathtaking.

It's been an intriguing year. I ended up teaching a class at a Christian college. I ate a Juicy Lucy. I went boating... more than once. I enjoyed the beauty of the state with my beautiful wife. I built storage - as if I actually knew what I was doing. I figured out how to take care of a pool - because I had no clue what I was doing. I made some great new friends. I did road trips. I realized Minnesota has all my favorite foods, including Portillo's. I grew to respect the pastoral and administrative staff of our church.

I grew in my love for my family. I watched them all grow into a new season of life. I became a part of our church's teaching team. I led people to Jesus. I got pranked in the office and pranked back.
















I have no clue what the next year holds, but I know Who holds it.

And I trust that being fully faithful and trusting in God's grace is the key to figuring out anything I need to figure out.

Tonight I'll invest into students, leaders and others they're connected to. It's an honor I pray I make the most of.

One year later...

I'm finding that the best "position" to be in is on the heels of Jesus, wherever He steps.
"Come, follow me,” Jesus said... 

at once they left their nets and followed Him. (Mark 1:17-18)

Apr 10, 2018

my last moments with Carrie Fisher


It felt like a dream.

The story of how I arrived on the set of The Last Jedi is a blur to explain. What's most important is I was there, sitting next to her - Carrie Fisher. Fumbling around like any Star Wars fanboy on set, I didn't know what to do or say to steal even just 30 seconds of time with her.

Looking back on it now, it felt like nobody knew she would die in the near future... and yet everybody somehow knew. The details are hard to put together, like sometimes you just feel the weather is going to change, and there it goes... making you feel as if its your own superpower.

In that moment, I knew this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Like a creepy stalker with nothing creepy or stalky (is that even a word?) in my heart, I ended up near her for a brief second. She was in her full costume on set, seated on a "spaceship" and leaned over a particular table of random importance. Everyone was shuffling around getting ready for whatever was next, and I was magically a foot away from Princess Leia.

Princess. Freaking. Leia.

Only, I was now leaning over. I really was going in... "What am I thinking?" I dared to ask myself, yet not daring myself to stop. Before I knew it, I was gently kissing the top of her head. "Who does this?" I again wondered, yet "Thank you for everything," is what I courageously spoke.

No one stopped me. Everyone kept walking about. Her head just nodded. I noted that her hair was uniquely tight, as if it was exhausted from days of having been put together for the role. She seemed done filming anything at this point. Maybe that's why there were little pigtails up top in her hair, as if she wore this to be again be spunky under the grandeur of the role. It all made sense and was pure fanboy trivia I couldn't wait to share.

Moments passed. Nothing happened. No one asked me to leave or harassed me for the foolish thing I'd just pulled off.

I wondered... could I perhaps get a picture with her?

I sat down next to her, determined that nothing would stop me in my quest to make the most of this opportunity. She didn't seem bothered by it, but took a moment to herself to finish whatever she was doing with the papers in front of her. She then tilted her head my way and simply said, "If we're going to take it...." and then she nodded, appearing too sassy or tired to finish her sentence, yet too alive not to ad lib with me.

"Yes, thank you," I said. I moved just a bit closer and pulled out my phone to take a selfie.

First of all, I hate selfies. Even in this moment, I couldn't figure out the right angle or how to get my arm just two inches longer to encompass the regal gift of what was happening.

And I heard footsteps behind me. I half-panicked, wondering if security was about to bust me. The distinct sound corrected my fears, though. It was the sound of a female's heels and not a male's flatfoot. "Do you want a lift, Carrie?" the voice asked.

I turned and saw the rather tall Laura Dern in her costume as well, offering Carrie a firm arm to grab onto to stand up. "Clever," I  thought, "this is their way as actresses of helping each other get away from odd fans who sneak on set."

Except instead of standing up, Carrie Fisher used Laura Dern's arm to stand and wiggle just slightly enough to sit closer to me. "I needed to twist my leg over this crazy space bench," she said, giggling under her breath. With the best smile she could muster, she said, "Let's take this picture already."


"I can take it for you," Laura Dern said. (Maybe I don't need to say her full name every time I mention her, but c'mon - this was a freakishly tall actress in a full-length space dress offering to be my photographer on a phone I bought at Costco.)

Carrie and I held our smiles as we waited for Laura to snap the picture. Only as she place her arm near mine, I felt something bumpy. Glancing down for only a millisecond, I noted she was wearing some kind of Star Wars watch. I'd never seen it before, and it looked old - like a 1970's take on the classic Mickey Mouse watch you'd wind up everyday to watch his hands move about to tell the time. Only this one had single-color images of a few droids in the upper-left background and the Star Wars logo in the lower right-hand corner.

My eyes glanced back up in time for the photo to get taken.

"Take it," Carrie said, now sounding even more tired. I assumed she meant the photo, not realizing that Laura Dern (still full name) had just finished and was checking my phone to see how it turned out.

"She already took the photo," I said.

"The watch," Carrie said. "You can have it."

I turned my head and looked her in the eye. "What? Really?"

She nodded and smiled. I stood up to make sure I wasn't dreaming. Turning to look at her, I said, "Thank you, Ms Fisher. That is... so generous. I don't know what to say." So I tried to say something noble. "This is for the fans," I said.

She grinned, nodding again at me. Yet her eyes rolled back, as if to say, "Whatever."

I looked around the room as everyone kept bustling about. "No one is ever going to believe this story," I concluded.

Just a handful of moments passed by before everything changed. Laura Dern (pretty sure at this point she'll never not be mentioned otherwise) had handed me to the phone and now was noticing something larger. From a place of relational authority versus my mere guest fandom, she took authority and began gently leading.

"We should help you to a more comfortable place," she said, speaking to Carrie. Carrie nodded, but paused and bent over in fatigue.

Carrie took a moment to again look at me. "Take it," she said, more like a mumble than a sentence. She motioned to her watch. "Take it. Take it..." she repeated and nodded, as if to emphasize the importance of the moment. "Take... it."

Laura Dern was looking beyond this exchange, giving instructions for someone else to come over. Carrie Fisher extended her hand toward me and rolled it over so I could unfasten her rather unique watch.

Instinctively, my hands went in before my brain agreed it was a good idea. I somehow easily slipped the watch off and held it a half-moment before again telling her, "This is for the fans." I mentally paused to think of ways I could somehow let others see this in the years to come. Three random people on set were already looking at me, having watched all of this unfold. "Will they verify my story?" I wondered, "or will they claim something different happened to claim this watch themselves?"

By this point, Carrie was being lifted up and away to her dressing room.

"What if I'm the last fan to take a picture with her?" I considered. "Should I post the picture? Or, maybe she isn't ill but just tired," I argued back and forth with myself, creating seconds of personal distraction.

And yet the watch was in my hands. This was really happening.

I noticed the glass on the watch was loose, though. I barely touched it and it moved, as if it had been pried up and open many times in the past. The face plate also quickly came up. Some sort of brown, grounded material that had been stashed there was underneath. Before I knew it, I was shaking it out. Then I stopped to consider if I should, and then continued shaking it out again.

"Is she okay?" I turned, wondering in her direction. She was almost off set, being respectfully walked away all at once by a few people and small crowd that had been activated to help.

I stared at the watch. I considered the photo I'd taken with her.

"Do I tell this story, given its odd ending and whatever mystery substance I just found?"

"I told her the watch was 'for the fans' - but how do I share this watch with the world?"

"Will I be accused of stealing? If so, would I fight for the right to keep this watch or just give it over to her family?"

And yes, sorry to say...

that is when I realized I was in my bed.

It felt like a dream, after all.

Believe me, I was just as psyched out as you... whomever "you" may be, reading this. Honestly, thank you for getting this far. I hope I didn't anger you in sharing this. It was a legitimate dream I woke up from on April 10, 2018 at 1:26am.

The kind of dream that you wonder if it should be shared. It was so vivid. So real.

And also the kind of dream you inner self must share. To be clear, I didn't want to get up out of bed and immediately write all of this. I just did. I just "had to." It felt imposed upon me, so to speak.

And that's when it occurred to me, only at the end, why.

I somehow easily slipped the dream off and held it a half-moment before telling you...

"This is for the fans."

Mar 29, 2018

Holy Week thought: Thursday

A group of teenagers hanging out with Jesus... it wasn't the first time, and apparently it won't be the last time.

Our church hosted an amazing Easter experience for our students during which I happened to catch these photos of two of our guy groups in a particular rotation. As they took part in watching a movie clip of Jesus with His disciples during the Last Supper, I watched as these young man all tried to dial into something they couldn't fully grasp... something none of us can fully grasp. Yet they tried anyway. The same was true for other groups of guys and girls throughout the night at different stations. 

It occurred to me that they took part in something that happened 20 centuries ago... because 20 centuries ago a group of teenagers following Jesus did their best to dial into something they couldn't fully grasp.

Ironic?

Perhaps some days you don't feel like you fully understand all that you are learning about God or can't make sense out of everything the Bible teaches. I'm not so sure that it comes down to whether or not you or I can master it all, but if we will lean into the Master... for in doing so we can be contagious students. The same is true if you are a parent or leader and don't feel like you know what you're doing some days. The real challenge, if it is a challenge at all, is to pull up to the table with Jesus everyday, enjoy His company and follow His lead to take part in whatever He is leading you to do. As both history and my photo demonstrates, if we do this next generation will have an example to show them what to do with the "food" before them.

A group of teenagers hanging out with Jesus... it wasn't the first time, and apparently it won't be the last time.
"When it was evening, Jesus sat down at the table with the Twelve." (Matthew 26:20)

Mar 28, 2018

Holy Week thought: Wednesday


Nothing. Or maybe... something?

Sometimes it seems like God is quiet. Take today, for example - on Wednesday of Holy Week we aren't quite sure what Jesus and the disciples did. The Bible doesn't record it, and some scholars assume this was due to them simply resting together after the long journey. What is clear is that much happened on Thursday, and so we know by default that Jesus was quite alive on Wednesday despite us not having a record of it.

Sound familiar?

How often in life do we not know what God is up to? We see a blank page that we assume is blank, or we wonder if He's up to writing something in "invisible ink." As if, "What a rascal." Maybe.

Or... maybe Jesus is quite alive and with you. Maybe His most important priority is not to say something new but to put His arm around you so you remember what is always true. Maybe He is creating a way for you to be simply resting together after the long journey.

Sure, "Thursday" is coming... much will happen "then." And maybe even then this page will remain blank as you look back on it. You won't know what happened or why it happened.

"Nothing. Or maybe... something?"

Feel free to ask those questions to Jesus. But... also feel free to embrace His embrace today. Perhaps that in itself is more than enough.
"Be still and know I am God." (Psalm 46:10)

Mar 27, 2018

Holy Week thought: Tuesday

We can't fool Jesus... so why not instead embrace Him?

On Tuesday morning, Jesus and his disciples returned to Jerusalem. They passed a withered fig tree on their way - an object lesson about how our lives are meant to produce fruit versus merely playing the part of a "tree."

It's Jesus' direct challenge to the phrase many of us drop out there - "You can't judge me. Only God can judge me." The catch? He actually will judge each of us. And He actually would rather you get right with Him today and get rooted in Him than bust you with accountability for living life on your own terms.

How easy is it for us to turn Easter into a time when we show how "religious" we are? How much more fruitful would it be to quit playing the game and letting every day be fruitful in Christ, through Christ, and for Christ?
Jesus was matter-of-fact: “Embrace this God-life. Really embrace it, and nothing will be too much for you. This mountain, for instance: Just say, ‘Go jump in the lake’—no shuffling or shilly-shallying—and it’s as good as done. That’s why I urge you to pray for absolutely everything, ranging from small to large. Include everything as you embrace this God-life, and you’ll get God’s everything. And when you assume the posture of prayer, remember that it’s not all asking. If you have anything against someone, forgive—only then will your heavenly Father be inclined to also wipe your slate clean of sins." (Mark 11)

Mar 26, 2018

Holy Week thought: Monday

How often are we confused, thinking we "weep" for our culture when we're actually just disappointed in our culture? Seriously, recognize the difference.

Weeping involves being changed by the ache and becoming a change-agent in the trenches. Disappointment involves being frustrated by the ache and critiquing it from a couch.

Jesus knew the difference... He took the time to weep, and then He took the time to humbly die for us. What would it look like to follow in His footsteps today?
And when Jesus drew near and saw the city, He wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes." (Luke 19:41)