Friday, December 14, 2007

Wedding Time

Our wedding is now 17 days away. Yesterday and the day before we recieved from thoughtful gifts from Amy and Sarah Thompson.

They included:

A talking Homer Simpson Pizza Cutter

A football crock pot

A pizza tray for oven cooking

What good friends!!!

That got me to thinking that others on my blogroll (although I know Amy and Sarah personally as well--I went to college with Amy, spent Thanksgiving with Amy and Sarah, went to for ritas in Boulder with both of them etc.), and that you might want to send us congratulations as well (a guy has to try doesn't he?)

There are a few ways you can do that! You can:

2. Send us a small gift via our registries at Amazon or Target

3. Send us a card or note. Send to:

Clint Walker and Jennifer Adler

4630 Templeton Park Circle


Colorado Springs, CO 80917

We would love to hear from you!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Five in a row for the Seahawks!! What now?

YWAM/New Life Shootings

We are all doing fine after the shooting. Both shootings were tied to well known ministry centers here in Colorado affiliated with the charasmatic/pentecostal movement. Many people are grieving, shocked and sad here, as the church has many members. Keep them in your prayers.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

"Best of" my blog world

A photo essay of a person wrongfully convicted for 14 years who is learning to live in the "real" world (ht Marko)

David's thoughts his emergence from fundamentalism

Internet Site Rankings (ht Non Prophet)

Losing Baby Jesus

Reflections on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Advent

On Endurance

This is a picture of the Grand Mesa as we left Grand Junction in October. Pretty, huh?
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A Sight to See

One of the things that we struggle with in our congregation is trying to be both full of grace and compassion, and yet at the same time actually call the people to holy living. If I am honest, I believe most often we have erred on the side of being nice instead of being faithful. Then, when we strive to be more disciplined, it seems to come from more of a political motivation than a spirit-led one.

In groups I lead, whether young or old, we tend to often find ourselves in these grace vs. law types of conversations. Last time I led Sunday School with our high schoolers was one of those moments.

As we discussed, I could see one of our shy kids pondering what was being said. She did not say much, but eventually I coaxed her into sharing. What she said surprised me in its depth.

Amy said, "I think...more than anything...choosing to follow Jesus is about seeing things differently. When we choose to believe in Jesus, everything looks different than before. We view the world differently. We look at our lives differently. We see other people differently. And then we act differently based upon what we see."

I think what she said is thought provoking. Isn't that what the imagery of light is about in both Greek thought and Scripture? That the light, which is Jesus, helps us see the world differently?

Some more words from teens to ponder....

Sitting Next to My Belief

Even though teenagers are relationally driven, sometimes getting them to understand God in terms of relationship can be a challenge. This is one of the reasons I like to use imaginitive prayer exercises when I get a chance--to move teens from an understanding of faith as rules to faith as relationship.

This evening I had an interesting experience. We did an imaginitive prayer exercise in youth group, and Emily said, "sitting next to Jesus was like sitting next to my belief(s)".

I am still pondering what exactly that means. It can be taken a number of different ways. I asked her, but when she tried to explain it she lost steam.

Maybe what it means is that sitting next to your beliefs means that your "beliefs" are vested more in a person than they are in abstract concepts. That I don't have "beliefs", that what I have is a relationship with Jesus.

It could be that her beliefs are not "inside" of her, but "outside" of her. Thus, her beliefs are something that influence her and act on her, but they do not come from the core of her being. They give her comfort, peace and guidance, but somehow her beliefs are outside of the core of who she is.

Personally, I think both things are probably true in this particular persons life right now, and that is fairly typical of adolescents. Most adolescents have core beliefs and/or spiritual commitments, and they see them as something that is acting upon them and in relationship with them. They do not, however, see their beliefs quite yet as something emerging from within them. Maybe that is more of an adult faith.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Sometimes the point is that there is no point

I am preparing a Bible study based on I Samuel 21 and 22. And as a person reads the story, there is definitely a hero (David) and definitely a villian (Saul), but nobody really acts in a way that is morally pure or that anyone could commend as a role model.

David lies.
Ahimilech disobeys the law.
Doeg gossips and commits mass murder.
Saul orders the slaughter of holy men.
Saul's soldiers refuse to obey the orders of their king.
David pretends to be mentally ill.
David draws to himself a guirilla army of misfits and appears a lot more like Osama Bin Laden than George Washington.

So, how is one supposed to learn from a passage like this? My Reformed/Calvinist upbringing tells me that the Scripture is more about God and his work than about hero worship or finding moral role models. So what might God be saying? I do not seem to see an explicit message in that regard either.

Here is what I think. Sometimes God's Word is more descriptive than prescriptive. Sometimes God's word simply shares stories like David and Doeg with us to let us know that life does not always have easy answers. I think what we are to learn in a story like this is that live is confusing and we are to do are best to be loving and faithful in the midst of situations where the answers are not clear. And as we do so, maybe our job is to simply (or maybe not so simply) trust in God's grace when we don't quite get things right and keep trying to be faithful.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Creative Thoughts on Genesis

I tried to start my new devotional last night, but I got to caught up in the passage I was reading to do the work that I was supposed to do.

After teaching on Genesis for 7 months in the last year and a half, as well as having questions about it in another Bible study I am reading, I am thinking more and more about how the original authors intended us to understand the book.

A couple of months ago, I encountered a person who struggled to believe in Christ based purely on the story in Genesis. This person is a literal thinker, and not highly intellectual. However, they had a hard time understanding how God could "walk with Adam" in the cool of the evening and be God at the same time.

As I read Genesis generally, I try to stay focused on the story. The story of sin and redemption, and of struggle and hope. However, the more I read the beginning part of Genesis, the more I keep noticing mythological language. Which tells me maybe some things are written with the understanding that we are not to take things quite as literally. Thus, the question of orgins may have a new frontier. The debate may not be so much about an argument about what to teach in schools, but about what the text really says in and of itself. I think an argument can be made that the text itself leads us to believe in an interpretative framework that looks a little different than historical development. Maybe that is why Genesis is in the Torah instead of the Historical Books.

Anyway...something I am thinking about......

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Thursday, November 08, 2007

An odd lesson from grieving

It's strange. I am in love. Jen is just about perfect for me. I am going to be married in less than two months. I am excited about being married. I have no regrets. And yet, at times while the date of our wedding approaches, and I can't help but feel some sense of grief at the loss of singleness.

This struggle came as a surprise for me. I thought that I would be so blissful about being married (which I am), that I would not have a worry in the world about married life as my wedding day approached. Furthermore, the things that popular culture says I will grieve as a married person I am not that worried about. Since I have not been sexually active for most of my adult life, I am not grieving the loss of options or variety of partners. I am not that worried about money when I get married. I think, at least to start with, we will both be healthier financially. My social life actually has a boost from being in a couple, as I serve as an Associate Pastor in a family-centered church.

What I struggle with are other things. I like to spend time running away and hiding from everything, and yet the longer I am in a relationship the less able I am to do that. I like long periods of time where I don't have any human interaction. I like to have all my money for myself. I don't like being accountable for how I spend my free time. I like burying myself in my work.

In the process of trying to understand this I had an "everything you need to know you learned in kindergarten" moment. I really have a hard time sharing with others. When you are single, much of your domestic life is centered around self-care. Now another person and their thoughts, feelings, and emotional needs come into the picture. In the process, you find yourself, in many ways, responsible for two instead of one. And, your spouse does too. When you are single, you think of the convieniences and pleasures of being in a relationship. Even though you know a relationship is work, you are unprepared for some of the work that needs to be done in your soul. As I am preparing to be married, I am realizing that it is more soulwork than I anticipated.

Married life is an adjustment I am eager to make, but many of the adjustments still take me by surprise.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Quote of the Day

Luther noticed that:

"whenever the gospel is taught and people seek to like according to it, there are two terrible plagues that always arise: false preachers who corrupt the teaching, and the Sir Greed, who obstructs right living....Spiritually...the great problem is the false teaching that corrupts faith; physically is is the greed that corrupts its fruit."

(F. Dale Bruner, Christbook, page 320)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Sermon on The Mount

I have been leading a study (and begin another this Sunday) on the Sermon on the Mount. The Sermon on the Mount is a study about a section in the gospel of Matthew (chapters 5-7)where Jesus lays out several challenges about what it means to be his disciple. Even if you are not familiar with Scripture, you might be familiar with several images and quotes from the beginning of Jesus's teaching ministry in the Gospel of Matthew.
Such quotes include:

"Blessed are the meek"
"Blessed are the peacemakers"
"salt of the earth"
"you are a city on a hill"
"turn the other cheek"
"rain falls on the just and unjust"
"don't toot your own horn" (paraphrase of Matt. 6:5)
"you can't serve two masters"
"judge not that you be not judged"
"do for others as you would like done unto you"
"consider the lillies of the field"
"knock and the door will be opened"

Anyway, I have been teaching a 6 week series on this section of Scripture, and have found one book to be the most helpful in both understanding the text, and in helping me with ideas on how to teach what Jesus said to people. That commentary has been the Christbook. The Christbook was written by F. Dale Bruner while he was a professor at Whitworth College in Spokane, WA. It is excellent because it gives lots of teaching hints, in depth study, as well as historical background in the interpretation of each verse. There are several reviews of the commentary, and now it is revised and updated. The best Bible commentary I have ever read.

The Most Dangerous People on Earth

I read through some lengthy portions of the book Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters in the bookstore the other day. It was a very interesting book. The premise is that evolutionary biologists can come up with the best explanation to some of the most confusing questions about human behavior. I am not sure I buy the answer to every question (such as the size of human testicles and the shape of the human phallus assume that human females are biologically hardwired for multiple sexual partners), but several of the explanations of human behavior were compelling.

Perhaps one of the most interesting things I discovered is how much of our nature is hardwired to percieve adolescent, young adult, and single adult males as a threat. And, how subsequently young, unmarried males (15-35??)become the most dangerous folks on the planet.

As I read, I first began to think about this as I was agreeing with the author's assesment of why most suicide bombers are muslim The book says terrorists are willing to sacrifice their lives for the promise of 72 virgins because they are young males without status, whose reproductive possibilities are limited by polygamy among older wealthier males, and who live in societies with very little mobility among social strata. (So, if we want to win the war on terror provide wives for young muslim men. Also, I wonder how the broad gender descrepancy in China with young men outnumbering young women 2 to 1 is going to change the world if this is true.)But, as I read, I discovered many other ways folks percieve younger males as a threat.

Then, I began to take a look at the world we live in. What do we fear? Gangs? Gangs are populated by adolescent and young adult males. Terrorists? How many suicide bombers are men with families over 30? Very few to none? War? Wars are fought primarily by males under 30. Who are the primary victims of murder? Young men (even though the murderers are often older).

There is another half of this equation that we learn from history. Young men are often the folks that are courageous and bold enough to bring about social change. Martin Luther King Jr. was 26 when he led the bus boycotts. Calvin was the same age when he led the Swiss Reformation. Jesus was 30 when he started his ministry with men in their late teens and early twenties. The Biblical David was a teenager not yet able to grow a beard when he slew Goliath. Martin Luther was in his twenties when he began his wing of the reformation. Adolescent men and young adult men are the ones historically that have brought about social change.

If you doubt my theory on the power of young adult men in world history, look at where many of our great influencers have been found. Marx and Darwin were university professors. Osama Bin Laden, for all intents and purposes, is a youth minister funding camps for unpriviledged boys and young men. Hitler's Nazi party was a youth movement made up of low-income young men. Martin Luther was a professor/priest before the reformation, influencing young adults with profound questions. For good or for ill, and despite of the political incorectness of the statement, the future of our world is going to depend on how we listen to, treat, and share power with young men. Especially young men on the margins of society.

Now look at our society. Look at our rates of divorce. Look at how many young men are raised without fathers in the home (like me). Look at how we devalue young men in our society. Take time to think about how much more difficult it has become for young men without a trade and without money to go to college to get by. Then ask, what does that say for all of us in the future?

Anyway...this is something I have been thinking a lot about, and I would love to hear if you have any more input.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The innadequacy of words

I just returned from visiting someone who is dying. Bart was moved to hospice yesterday, and he is probably not going to make it through the weekend. He has a rare lung disease, and he has cancer in his liver and kidney.

His wife Edna was frightened. It seemed most disconcerting that they were giving him morphine, because in her mind giving someone morphine means that it is the beginning of the end of life. Bart was barely coherent, but Edna was scared.

When it was time for me to leave, I asked Edna if I could pray for her. I started to pray, and every word I seemed to utter seemed to be so inadequate. I started to doubt myself. I started to doubt I had the words right. I started to doubt I even had her name right, even though we had spoken several times.

Yet, when we got done praying, she started sharing conversations her and Bart had recently about when he dies. I always see this as a good sign, especially when it connects with the prayer I prayed. When prayer prompts thought and memory, I tend to trust the Holy Spirit is active in ways I cannot describe with words.

As I left, I started to think about the nature of these kinds of visits. It does not matter how many hospitals I have been to, I am always on the edge of my seat as I visit someone in them. It does not matter how many classes I have taken about dealing with death, when the death angel is in the room my words seem pitiful. I feel helpless.

Leading worship often creates the same experience. I do not want to go through the moments as I am in worship. I want my words to be led by God's Spirit. Yet, there are many times when Iam praying over the offering or leading the invocation that my words seem very hollow.

Maybe I am helpless, and maybe my words are hollow. But, I also believe that words have power. Power to heal, strengthen, and comfort. Power to hurt and harm. And it is by God's grace that somehow he take the words of my heart and communicate them as love and grace to someone else. A miracle.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

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Last Sunday we participated in an activity called "Crop Walk" at our church. Basically it is a fundraising walk that helps combat world hunger and local homelessness. Our youth joined in with the walk, as did other people from our church as well as 14 other churches throughout our community. CROP stands for Communities Responding to Overcome Poverty. In total, our church had 26 people contributing $880 dollars to the cause. Most of that was raised by our teens.

This first picture is of Dawn Martinez, Reggie Hale, my fiance Jennifer and I. The total walk was just over 3.7 miles. Dawn, Jennifer and I finished just ahead of the 70 year old women with walkers.

The second picture is of James and Reggie resting and waiting for their youth leaders (Jen, Dawn and I) after they finished the walk.

The third picture is of Tiffany and Lindsay. They are both 8th grade girls. They finished strong and had fun!

This is a picture of Julia, one of our high school gals that hates to have her picture taken.

This is a picture of me with a full water bottle just before we left on our walk. It is important to stay hydrated when it is over 80 degrees and you are walking in a big crowd!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Clint's NFL Picks

Houston at Atlanta
I think Atlanta wins their first game at home in a close contest.
I called this upset! Yeah Baby!

NY Jets at Buffalo
This will be another close one, but I think the Bills win this game because it is at home.
I was all over this one, wasn't I?

Baltimore at Cleveland
Cleveland in an upset at home.
I could have made big bucks if I would have bet on this one. Woot!

St. Louis at Dallas
Dallas wins big!
This one was a gimme!

Chicago at Detroit
Detroit wins this game and goes to 3-1. Maybe John Kitna was not that far off with his prediction!
Did you know Detroit is now my #2 team. It is the least I could do for my Jenny!

Oakland at Miami
Culpepper gets sweet revenge as Raiders even their mark for the year, and tie their win total from last year.
Ok, again I called this upset as Oakland gets better and better.

Green Bay at Minnesota
I think Minnesota upsets Green Bay in this game.
I was wrong with this one. My first loss of the day on Sunday.

Tampa Bay at Carolina
Tampa wins another game led by Jeff Garcia.
Another insightful prediction!

Seattle at San Francisco
Seattle wins in a high scoring nail biter.
Ok, so it was not as close as I thought, but oh well.

Pittsburgh at Arizona
Pittsburgh wins this game, but it is closer that most might think.
I did not listen to my first instinct here, and it cost me.

Denver at Indianapolis
Denver gets an upset against the Colts.
See if I ever give the Broncos the benefit of the doubt again!

Kansas City at San Diego
San Diego goes to .500

Philadelphia at NY Giants
Philidelphia wins and also goes to .500
Philly is always so unpredictable!

New England at Cincinnati
New England wins in a rout!
This one was easy for everyone I think.
I started well, but finished poorly in the late games! I am so proud of the upsets I picked!

total record 9-5. Not good. Not bad.

Bea Bogart

One of the most memorable funerals I ever attended was George Bogart’s funeral. Toward the end of the service, Bea stood up and shared about her husband. She shared about how her husband sent for her when he had his affairs together to come and be his wife. As Bea was discussing this major life change with her mother, she said her mother told her, “You better go to him Bea. He is a good man, and he will be the kind of man who will always put your needs above himself”. Bea left soon after, and a happy marriage of several decades began.

Bea went on to share that her mother was right, and that her husband always put her first every day of their lives together. I am not a man who cries easily, but I had to choke back the tears that day. As I heard about their loving relationship, I felt like I was on holy ground.

At the end of last month, as Bea entered hospice care, Pastor Barbara passed on a message that Bea wanted to see me. A few days later, I dropped in to see Bea. She was having a rough time. Illness has limited the use of half of her body. Her hearing aid worked intermittently at best. She was sleeping most of the day. Yet, as she awoke her face quickly filled with a grin. It took her a little time to recognize me, but as she did she had a story to tell.

She decided to congratulate me on my recent engagement. “Clint, I have been praying for you for years. I hear such good things about your Jen. She sounds so kind and so pretty. I am so happy for you!”

She reiterated her joy for me several times. I attempted to turn the conversation toward how she was doing. Over and over again, she would return to how God had answered her prayer.

Eventually, I asked if I could pray for her. She nodded her head indicating that I could. I began to pray for her healing and strength. In the middle of my prayer she interrupted me, and began to pray for my future marriage. She said and repeated in her prayer that she wanted me to have the kind of marriage that she and her husband had experienced. What a prayer! What a gift!

I was deeply moved. I was touched not only because she thought of me, but because of the person she was. Noticing that she was in failing health, she called me into her room to give me a blessing. And not just any blessing, but a blessing like the saints of old offer in their twilight years. Even as she lay in a hospice bed, unable to care for her self physically, she was seeking to be a minister of Christ. As Bea struggled to stay awake, she was seeking to love rather than be loved, and to bless rather than be blessed. May it be so with each of us.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

On Stewardship

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
(I John 4:18)

The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?
(Psalm 118:6)

If most people were asked what the opposite of faith is, what do you think they would say? The traditional answer would be to say that doubt is the opposite of faith. You may be surprised, maverick that I am, that I would look at things a little differently. I believe that acknowledging doubt is part of having honest faith, not the opposite of having faith. Faith is an action word. Although we often morph faith into some sort of noun so we can define and tame it, faith is actually more of a verb in Christian spirituality. Faith is actively trusting when we do not have all the answers. Doubt is about being unsure. That sense of being unsure, otherwise known as doubt, can either lead us to trust (have faith) or lead us to be fearful. What is the opposite of faith? If you were to ask me, it is anxiety and fear.

Anxiety and fear are some more of those action-words that we have tamed by trying to make them into nouns. How much of our lives do we live based on our fears? How much of our energy do we put toward feeling safe? How much time do we put toward increasing our financial and personal security? How much energy do we devote toward worrying about what people think? How many great opportunities do we avoid due to fear of failure? I think if we looked, we would discover that sometimes our lives are governed by fear. We struggle with fear of ourselves, fear of others, fear of the unknown, and maybe even fear of God. We prefer the scarcity of what we can control to the abundance that God has to offer--if we would only have the courage to trust him.

As I said in the worship service a couple of weeks ago, many churches tend to order their programs and their ministries around their anxieties. They are afraid of their church dying, so they hire people to work with children and youth. Churches are afraid of feeling old or insecure around younger folks, so they do not volunteer to work with them. Many children and youth are afraid of adults in church for many reasons too. Students are afraid they will not be valued or heard. They are afraid of what truly trusting in Jesus may cost them. Kids are afraid they will be a part of a church that is passionless and pointless. A lot of ministry is based on where our fears are.

In the years I have served at First Baptist, there have been some of our decisions that have been based upon our anxieties about one another. Sometimes worry someone else will be angry with us if we do what we think is right. Once in a while, make decisions that will alter the future of our church in one direction or another based on our worries about one or two individuals. Sometimes we have a difficulty trusting one another enough, to speak the truth in love. Both stewardship and our relationships in our churches can based on our anxieties.

Sometimes we also worry about money. Every August of each year I have been here, we have begun discuss how much money we have, and whether we will have enough. I believe we need to be good stewards. I believe we need to be responsible with our money, and at times even be frugal. I also believe we can be good stewards of our resources while living in faithful action instead of being ruled by anxiety, guilt, and fear.

As we look toward our annual stewardship time in our church, let us not simply look at the bottom line. Let us look at the abundance God has given to us. Let us celebrate how God has seen us through some difficult losses in the last year. We can also celebrate that God has kept this church in existence for the last 135 years. Then, let us look beyond the facts and figures, beyond the bottom line, and begin to ask how God may be leading us have courage to face the future at First Baptist Church. What changes is God asking us to make? What dream is he giving us to achieve? What adventure is he calling us to be a part of?

After we have looked at our church, let us look at ourselves. How is God calling us to be good stewards of our lives? How is God calling us to face our fears in relationship to our church? How is he calling us to face our anxieties about other people and begin to have the courage to serve where God is calling us? What is God saying to us about having the courage to build closer relationships with friends, and break down barriers of hostility with folks we do not get along with at church? And, how is God calling us to be a part of God’s dream for First Baptist by committing to support our church financially? Listen to God. Trust how you feel led. Step out in courage. Know that God is a God of provision and abundance.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Pick-up Artist

The man in goggles is named "Mystery". Mystery hosts a show called "The Pick-Up Artist", in which he is an expert in picking up chicks. He is the role model for several single men who have struggled in their relationships with women for most of their lives. When I first flipped through this show, I thought "what the h**l is this?" There is this androgenous, metrosexual man coaching young men on how to be successful ladies. What would he know?

It turns out, the show is really good, but not for the reasons I might have anticipated. It is a good show because it helps the men who are involved grow and feel better about themselves. Mystery seems like a manipulator and a player. The men involved, however, seem to grow in there abilities to connect with and relate to people. They begin to see themselves as persons of value, inside and outside of the romantic realm. The skills that they learn work not only because they are basic assets of good "game" with the ladies, but because they free the men to step out from behind their fears and confidently relate to women.

I think there is something that is very primal about this. A lot of times psychology tries to build confidence through self-esteeem enhancement. If you want to build confidence in people, build a sense in their lives that they are competent with things. Give them skills. Allow them to have small sucesses and build on them. Don't just give them daily affirmations.

Monday, September 03, 2007

I am engaged

Yesterday, I asked Jennifer Adler to marry me. She said yes. We have not set a date yet. But we are having a lot of fun thinking about the future.

I am working on establishing a new charity. It is called "sponsor the groom". The goal is to help grooms pay for their weddings and honeymoons. My sponsor number is ALPHADOG00001. Cash donations are acceptable, especially with unmarked bills. :)

Have a great Labor Day!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Green Lake Trip

At the end of July, I went on my summer trip with the teenagers in our church again. We went to Green Lake, WI via Minneapolis for the Quest Leadership Program, and we had a lot of fun. The kids were really easy to work with this year, which was really nice considering everything else that has happened at First Baptist. Here we are as we arrived at the Green Lake Camp and Conference Center in Green Lake, WI.

The program had us in small groups in the morning after worship. The kids had workshops in the afternoon, and then everyone had free time for about 2-3 hours in the afternoon. Here are a few of the kids swimming:

Here is a morning worship service after our prarie prayer walk:

Each evening we would have a worship time as well. The last evening we had worship around a campfire, as is traditional for church camps. Here I am with the girls that were on the trip:

In the coming days I will be adding some journal entries that I wrote during the week.

Obedience and Worship

I have been reading about worship and celebration in the classic book about Spiritual Disciplines called "Celebration of Discipline" by Richard Foster.

As I was reading I ran into this quote, "Just as worship begins in holy expectancy, it ends in holy obedience. If worship does not propel us into greater obedience it has not been worship. Holy Obedience saves worship from becoming an opiate, an escape from the pressing needs of the modern life. Worship enables us to hear the call to service clearly so that we respond." (173).

One of my frustrations with being a leader and a teacher in churches is I feel the constant demand from people to give them the "easy button" to a closer relationship with God. People want five purposes that are easy to apply and utterly change their life. They want one structural change to our churches programs that will make the "big difference", and will change everything. Furthermore, they don't want that easy thing to cost them very much.

Nowhere is this attitude more pervasive than in worship. Maybe if there was better music people say, than more people would walk through the door. Perhaps if there was a more dynamic sermon, than our faith journeys would be a little easier. In other words, if I had my way in this, that, or the other, than my life would be easier.

The truth is though, many of treat worship like the "opiate" or drug described in the quote. It is something to make me happy. To make me feel good. To make life a little easier. So we come to worship saying we want to hear God, but when we say we want to hear God what we mean is that we want God to whisper daily affirmations in our ear. We don't want to obey. We don't want to follow. That might mean we have to deal with our drinking problem, our greed, our anger, and do the hard work of choosing God over our destructive habits.

That is not an easy word to hear.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Journal Entry for July 29, 2007

I wonder a lot about the importance or lack of importance of adding value, and of being of value. Actually, if I am honest, this is an inner struggle I wrestle with quite often. I have a deep desire to add value to the organizations I am with, and the missions I am a part of. Yet, there is a deep sense in which I should avoid this "need to be needed".

I have been pondering this a lot on this trip in particular. I think this tension between wanting to add value, and at the same time wanting to avoid the need to be needed makes me hard to read at times. I want to step up, be a leader, and take charge when needed. Yet, I do not want to be one of those people who has a need for power.

When I think about my next step in my calling to ministry, there is a strong desire on my heart to be a senior/solo pastor. As I think about this, I wonder if part of this stems from a need to be valued. Valued for my contributions. Valued for my leadership. Valued as a human being. Then I wonderif a desire to be valued and to add value is a selfish thing or a healthy thing? Is it something I should be comfortable with or shy away from? Is God speaking to me through these thoughts and feelings about changing my situation or myself?

Should I consider a solo pastorate that pays even less?

Should I look at an associate pastor position and risk going through what I have went through in Colorado all over again?

At First Baptist, is my concern more that I am not adding value, or that I am not being valued, especially by those in leadership? I think my greatest fear is that at some point it may become both.

Should I pursue something new and different?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Reverend Green Thumb

A couple months ago, I considered whether having plants was too big a commitment for me. With as little time as I have, I wondered if I could really invest a lot of time in caring for some houseplants.

After careful consideration, I made the plunge into being a plant owner. I have found that I enjoy them more than I thought I might have at first. They make my apartment feel more like a home, and maintaining and caring for the plants is great for stress relief. I can just focus on the little things I need to do in caring for the plants, and forget about the stuff that is happening at work.

Here are a few of the plants

This first plant is my mother's choice from her visit this summer. She kept saying she wished she had a bigger pot to plant them in. I have a bigger pot now, but I prefer to save those for my plants instead of my annual flowers.

The second picture is a very poor image of something similar to a rubber plant. Will be great inside during the winter this year!

The third picture is not an aloe vera, but it is something in the same family. It is a little darker green, and seems to be a popular plant this year.

One of the tricks I have learned with houseplants is that if you want something generic, you can pic that up at Lowe's or Walmart. But, if you are looking for a plant that is a little bit more special, you are better off going to a nursery. I got this lupine at the nursery. I had to prune it back to only two shoots, but now look at it! It even has a flower that is starting to emerge.

I wanted a flower box or two for my small patio. Mom went shopping with me when I was here. I picked about 3/4 of the flowers, and then mom started taking over the whole project. Our combinded tastes went pretty well together, although I think she would have wanted a lot more fragrant plants. She did the arranging with the flower boxes. Looks good doesn't it. Both my mother and father have a good eye for such things.

This is another unique plant. It is some variation on the pink quill section of the bromilead family, although the quill looks more red and yellow than pink. This is one of the few versions of this type of plant that are potted. Many others of them don't have roots, and get their moisture from the air to grow and survive.

This plant is my sucess story. I got it with maybe four leaves on it from Walmart, but look at it now. It just keeps growing and growing.

More pictures later....

Journal for July 30, 2007

I chose to build off of my question from yesterday. With the kids, I asked them to carry one question with them through the week, and offer it as a question they could seek the answer for during their week at this conference.

My question is: Am I adding value in ministry to you, Lord? Do I really matter in your church's ministry, or are you finished with me there?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Beauty of Adolescence--Journal July 31, 2007

I have been thinking a lot today about the beauty of adolescence and adolescent people as a group. Over and over again I am in awe of you, Lord, but none more than when I think of my kids that you have put into my care and smile. I love watching them grow. I love watching them bumble and tumble into adulthood.

I was watching James today, and I had to laugh. There he was digging around and diving underwater, picking up rocks in the swimming area, and moving them. He is some ways is like a little boy. But then there are times when I sit around and talk to him and I am in awe of the man he has become in the last four years. Thank you Lord for letting me have a small part in his life, and a small role in pointing him toward you.

There is so much I lose patience with in youth ministry. I get tired of all the goofy games. I get tired of challenging kids to care, and feeling like they never do. But I love loving teens with the love of God. I love sharing my life with them. I love sharing my faith with them. I love sitting and talking with Emily her relationships with boys in the coffee shop, and struggling with Brad through all his heartaches and frustrations.

All in all, Lord, I love them because you love them. And this stage of growth that so many fear and despise in our churches and our culture I think is more beautiful and powerful than I ever could imagine.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Sitting in My Angry Chair--August 1, 2007 Journal

I went on the prarie walk at camp today. Robin found it deeply moving. I found it heartwrenching, but in an informative way.

The thing I noticed, and have noticed whenever I have tried to practice the disciplines of silence and solitude, is that anger is never far from me.

As we were challenged to set everything aside as we went on our walk, there were lots of things I could set aside. As much as I tried to sweep anger away, it seemed that anger continued to want to be my companion. It was like I could hear anger breathing heavy behind me, and crouching over my shoulder whenever I tried to do anything on that walk. Anger may not even be the best word. It might be better to say that rage was my companion.

I am angry because in many ways it feels like I have been drawn into a beautiful wooded area on a camping trip, and in the middle of the night everyone decided to pick up camp and leave without me. And here I am in my personal life, on my journey of faith, and in my ministerial journey, left alone and abandoned in a vast wilderness I cannot find my way out of.

I am angry at my family (though not everyone), and some of the things that have happened recently. I am frustrated with parents of teenagers at the church (though not all of them), especially after my talk with one of the kids last night. I am frustrated with constantly being discounted and devalued by leadership at my church. And I am frustrated I did not write this down immediately after the prarie walk, so I could have written it better.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Affirmed--August 2, 2007

Tuesday night was a real blessing to me. After flopping on Monday night, I felt like YOU were leading me to trust my own leadership instincts and abandon our worksheet they had given us to facilitate our discussion with one another.

One of the things I felt led to do, in part because I wanted to cement the bond that our group seemed to be forming through this trip, is to have a time for affirmations. Each person went around the circle and shared something they appreciated about other people in the group. It was great. I thought we could do this for our volunteer and the kids, and avoid having to sit in the affirmation chair. I was wrong. The kids insisted I take my turn.

I expected to hear them say appreciative words about my hard work in organizing the trip, and in some skills I have that they appreciate. I expected them to struggle for words in what to say to me, and for it to be forced and awkward. As a matter of fact, the opposite happened.

I was frankly taken off guard by the group's level of emotion and depth of thought in what they chose to affirm in me. More than one kid cried as they shared what our relationship with one another meant to them. They mentioned my kindness, and my willingness to accept them without judgement or compromise of my values at the same time. They mentioned that they even appreciated when I had the courage to offer them accountability and discipline.

The whole thing was very special. Among adults, I seem to get a majority of my affirmation related to my intellect, and my ability to use that intelligence in teaching, or in offering analysis or support. This time with the kids was different. It was, and this should not surprise me, all about my relationship with them. I guess what surprised me with the situation is that they truly noticed things I thought they would take for granted, including many things I had forgotten myself.

They did not remember what I taught them, and later even asked why they were not getting stuff in youth group that had been taught on multiple occasions. What did they remember? They remembered the relationship. They remembered the faithfulness of my love for them. They remembered the love.

Maybe the Bible is true when it says, "Love covers a multitude of sins".

Thursday, July 19, 2007

A Month of Sundays

There is an interesting article about all the journalists in alternative paper in Seattle going to visit churches, and then writing about their experiences. I especially like the play on words in the title of the article (A Month of Sundays is a book by John Updike), and the description of worship at the Vineyard Church (#6). Lots of sarcasm about religion here, and a little foul language, but also some interesting thoughts.

Sunday, July 15, 2007


The wind
like a
freight train
coming through
the canyon
stopping for
no one
through me
without stopping

The wind
the world
is silent
enough to hear
the trill
of invisible birds
and the hum
of hungry insects
hopping from
flower to flower

I sit
on the rocks
that once
sat on
the edge
of a
vast ocean
and moves
the speck
that is me

Friday, June 22, 2007

I am the Grim Reaper

I feel very badly. I have prayed for two people to die in the last two months, two people who are prominent Christian leaders, and they both have passed away.

A couple of months ago I saw Jerry Falwell on some television show spouting off his.. well..evil, intolerant, right-wing garbage and was getting angry as he was sharing about the importance of killing Muslims. In line with our inside joke, I turned to Jen and said, "I apologize for my people". (An inside joke: My people=right wing kooks, her people=every left wing nut job special interest groups.)A few moments later I said outloud something to this effect. "Lord, please just take him home. He has had a nice full life. Just take him home." A little over a week later I turned on the radio, and he was dead.

Having not learned my lesson, I recently prayed a similar prayer in a more compassionate sense. Having heard a rerun of a segment on Larry King Live with Billy Graham where he said that she was having a difficult time, and struggled to recognize anyone, I asked God in a brief prayer if he would take her into eternity. Less than a week later, Ruth Graham was also dead as well.

So, I feel a little guilty about Jerry, and not as much about Ruth. Strangely, although God does not answer all my prayers with expediency, this prayer when I pray it seems to have a grisly efficiency. Especially when I do this based upon an immediate, almost impulse-based prompting. And although these are the cases that stick in my mind lately, they are not the only ones. When led to pray for people in my congregations at certain times in this manner, they often die fairly soon after I pray this as well. With the exception of Mr. Falwell, these are all generally folks that are elderly and terminally ill.

Is this creepy or what?

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Finding my voice

I have a friend that studied to be a school psychologist in Montana. Toward the end of my time in Montana, she did a study on adolescent boys. At the time, much of popular thought was focused on the book "Reviving Ophelia", which is a tour de force of the perils of being an adolescent female in America.

Joy did her study on adolescent boys, and used the metaphor of voice change for boys as a metaphor of transition of boyhood to adolescence. One of the things that she found was that they also felt a profound sense of loss of their boyhood as adolescents. This was juxtaposed with this anticipation of this "new voice" they were growing into, and this since of hope that they could be the kind of men they hoped to be.

These days, I find myself seeking my voice in many ways.

Through a number of recent circumstances (for those readers that live in my proximity, it may include all of you, but this is not focused toward any one person individually), I have found myself struggling to relearn how to deal with conflict. Much of my work culture encourages me to swallow my voice in order to help other people function with less stress. My job is to keep my boss and constituents happy, and to chase the elusive dream of pleasing everyone. I have never felt good about this part of our organizational culture, but it has become painfully obvious to me that I have slowly surrendered to it without noticing. Sometimes I feel like I have slowly and imperceptably lost my voice.

Yet, when I try to assert myself in stressful situations I struggle to do it well. My face gets red. I get light-headed. I struggle with dealing with what I am supposed to say, and balancing that with what I want to say and what I honestly feel. And I intend to say one thing, but it sounds different when it comes out than when it was in my head. In some metaphorical way, my voice cracks. What I meant to come out strong yet compassionate instead comes out awkward and disjointed. My voice quivers with frustration.

I often notice in others that when they attempt to grow, they tend to overcorrect the shortcomings of the past. The friend that suddenly learns assertiveness wants to have a 20 minute conversation on how you shake their hand, or why you did not eat the potato salad they fixed and how that made them feel. Part of learning my voice in relation to assertiveness and leadership is not being like that person. Other people I know try to be super-nice and friendly, until they blow up in rage and frustration and anger. I do not want to be that person either.

Also, I have another confession to make. One brief conflict drains me of energy for hours. I had a heated discussion with someone this week about some of the things they were saying about other people I cared about, and it took me a good hour to calm down from the discussion. It so turned out in that conversation I held my own, and the conflict brought us closer. But, even a taste of pro-active conflict does not make me eager to seek out another tense conversation.

Having said that, I have come to the conclusion that learning to assert myself in a confident and healthy manner in interpersonal situations is an important part of the way God wants me to grow. I need to find my new voice, so I can move forward with strength.

What do you do?

I have a friend who used to be a children's minister before she finished her teaching degree. She and her husband had dinner with another couple (both couples were eventually in the small group I lead), and they began to talk about work. My friend's female counterpart was an upwardly-mobile accountant that liked to work for FORTUNE 5oo companies.

During their dinner conversation, I was told the accountant asked the children's minister, "Well...WHAT is it that you DOO all day." My friend fumbled to share a laundry list of small things she did to reach out to children, facilitate our church programs, and do ministry. She came to me, angry at the woman for being condescending, and angry at herself for not having a succict answer.

As she told me this I nodded and smiled. "I know what you should say," I said.

"What?" She replied.

"Say you are spending your life working to change our world by shaping children's spirits and values forever," I said, "Then ask very politely, now what is it YOU do?"

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Pulpit Rock Hike

This summer we are doing some hiking with our youth. We have a very kind man who has initiated this ministry, and it has been exciting to see him pitch in and get excited about a project tied in with youth ministry.

Our first hike, for most hikers, is an easy hike. Not so for me. I tried to hike it with my friend who is leading this hike, and was challenged. (I guess any hike for a fat asthmatic at high elevations during allergy season is a challenge) And since it was not the actual hike, I skipped the hard part. Last Sunday, we did the hike for real. We did not have a great turn out of youth (some folks were busy, some don't like to hike), but the folks that did come had a good time of a "prayer path" experience of hiking up the mountain bit by bit while praying as we went.

I was happy because I made it to the top, did not fall down (like I did on the practice run), and got to spent some quality time with the few people who wanted to show up.

Trip to Michigan

On June 1, I headed out to Michigan with Jen to meet her parents and go to a family wedding. It was a long, yet pleasant trip.

On the first day, we drove from the airport to her mother's house. On the way I got to see all the houses that Jen grew up in, and get a feel for the lay of the land. It was nice.

That evening we stayed at her mom's place. Her mom makes a mean barbeque, which is something I can appreciate.

One thing I noticed immediately about Michigan in relation to Colorado Springs was the size of the yards. Colorado (and Southern California for that matter) have such small yards compared to most of the yards in places like Michigan and Oregon and Kansas. In addition to the large yards, Michigan is a very green place. And, since Jen's mom's place was near a lake, it was especially green.

We left Jackson, Michigan for Sturgis, Michigan the next day. The wedding was in a very small town on the way to Sturgis in a beautiful park. Since her dad was not really in the mood to talk to me, and I did not know a lot of people in Michigan, I went around and took a few photos. Some of the pictures can be seen above.

Here is a pic of Jen and I at the wedding.

After the wedding we made our way to Battle Creek to see where my friend Steve Buie's family lives and where his dad pastors a church. Here is a pic of the church in "cereal city" right past the "majestic mile" (which we were told was not as majestic as it sounds). Besides being a former home of "Super" Steve Buie, it is also home to most of the cereals in the country, and the best, most hospitable and friendly PS Mart employees on the planet.

On Sunday we went up to Jen's dad and stepmom's place up in Midland, MI. We were immediately informed that in Midland there are the "Dows" and the Dow-nots", which is a reference to Dow Chemical having plants in town, and basically sustaining the local economy. We toured houses that Jen's dad has considered or is working on, as Jen's dad reconstructs houses as a hobby and to produce income in his retirement.

The house they are in now I would never leave. It is on a lake and absolutely gorgeous. Here are a couple of my pictures looking toward the house from the lagoon and vise versa.

On Monday, we headed to Belleville, MI to go to Jen's grandparents, and then out on the plane the next day. On the way we stopped at an outlet mall and a very large Borders store in an effort of Jen's to reward me for spending several days with her family. She is a thoughtful and kind girlfriend like that.

We also watched Knocked Up (funny because if you are under 40 you know people like all of the characters in the story, and because it pokes fun at most of our common fears about pregnancy and such), went to an Indian Casino that Jen used to deal blackjack at.

All in all, it was a great new adventure.


Saying What Needs to be Said, But Should Go Without Saying           Racism is wrong. Violence based on racial prejudice is wrong. Christi...