Thursday, March 31, 2005

My Meandering Existence

Have I mentioned that we are coming up on five years of ministry in this location. That's pretty interesting considering how random the move was then. We knew two people down here basically, but we moved anyway for the job. We know a lot more than two people now. We have been absolutely swallowed up by the area. Our kids have southern accents. Amy and I are from Nebraska and Michigan, respectively, but we have children with southern accents. Micah is registered to start attending preschool in the fall in town. Then his southern accent will get more southern-y. Not that there's anything wrong with that. It's just that I couldn't have told this whole story to someone five years ago. Five years ago today I was enrolled at Western Nebraska Community College. Amy and I were coming up on our wedding in about a month and a half. We were singing in the choir together. In fact, I was on a full tuition choir scholarship singing in three choirs, voice lessons/recitals and a barbershop quartet. By this time I had moved into our apartment. I was settling in the apartment we planned to share after the wedding. Amy still lived on the other side of town with Laura.
If someone asked me then where we would be in five years I don't know what I would have said. I probably would have looked puzzled and assumed the person was joking. If they proceeded to tell me this long story I definitely would have thought they were crazy.
But are we better, is the world better for this experience?
I have to say that I know we are. We have been away from family for the past five years. We have learned to trust God and take care of each other. We haven't had any family to support us or help us fight or get in the way. It's just the two of us. Or, rather, the four of us.
That's another thing: four years ago I wouldn't have pictured my little boy a rambunctious four-year old getting ready to start preschool.

Through this whole story of my last five years I can see God has led me. It didn't start five years ago, either. Christ has guided me through my days and weeks and years with gentle proddings and a few spurs.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Feeling well?

I'm not so fired up today. I just don't feel very excited about any of this life stuff today. I have class in 45 minutes. I got a thing today that told me I had 48 hours. That means at the end of the semester I'll have 55 hours. How depressing. I'm so far off from even a dang associate's. It will take me forever. Today I want to quit my jobs and move to a college town to focus on college more until I at least have a bachelor's. Who knows what Amy and I would do for a living. We would need to figure something out in that area.

I definitely feel like God has some long range plans I need to find my way into. I think studying and getting myself prepared is a part of being faithful right now, but it's dang hard while I work two jobs and try to spend time with my family. When do I have time for college?

So, I'm in a quagmire here. Do I continue stumbling along through college while I work or do I quit working so much for a while so I can finish my education in preparation for whatever God has for me? I can't discern this one. I know both the ministries need me. Or I feel like they do. But, then God will not working with one group or another because I am not present. And I'm not being all that effective while I'm super-busy all the time. Maybe focusing on one thing at a time would make me a better minister/servant of others.
Anyone who's reading this have any ideas?
I definitely am convinced that I need to finish some education to get ready for the future of living in God's plan.

Missional Church

At best I would say my ideas about ecclesiology are nebulous. The views I do hold are probably more informed by my non-denominational independent church background than by anything I've read in the Bible or theological books.

That said, I am reading Missional Church: A Vision for the sending of the church in North America in my spare time. This idea of a missional ecclesiology seems right. I can see the contrast of a missional ecclesiology with a denomination-building, society-dominating, or even church-growth approach, because they all tend to come from an establishment mentality of doing/being church. It's all too building-/institution-minded. That's not the community which Christ initiated.

At any rate, I am working my way through this very interesting book, and my mind is being stretched all the time.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Good Friday

Okay, this year I went to the Holy Thursday Mass at Sacred Heart. It was a beautiful service that has served to focus me more on "the true meaning of easter."

Last night my wife and I led a Good Friday service with the youth of our church. It was extremely dark and melancholy- it was a service written by Steve Case. Anyways, the service went really well, except for some reason very few people came.

Our young people definitely grew from the experience- they always do- but I feel bad having them lead a service that not even all of our elders were at. And only one deacon.

This morning I'm going to a Resurrection Breakfast in my town. It usually has good food, a couple of hymns and some speaker. I think it's supposed to be evangelistic. I can never really tell. I probably wouldn't take my lost high school friends there unless I knew them really well (had earned the right to be heard- and ignored).

Friday, March 25, 2005

Family Pic Posted by Hello
The two most beautiful women in the world. Posted by Hello


So, I stood there watching my little angel have a seizure, something I've never witnessed and hope to never witness again.

Tom, Kyle, and I are convinced something is seriously wrong.
The ambulance arrived.
"She sure has beautiful red hair."
The EMTs assure me that the seizure was probably caused by the fever and there's nothing seriously wrong with her.
The ER doctor said the same.
Our family doctor agreed with the ER doctor in Nebraska.

Thanks be to God.


A trip... that's how I would describe our visit out west with my in-laws and the various other people we know in the Western Nebraska Region. Let me tell you the whole story with my own crazy commentary. (Note: some elements and occurences have been extra-dramatized to make them funnier than perhaps they were.)
First, we were leaving on Tuesday. Tuesday before last, that is. I had class all day and Amy had MOPS, so it was a busy day to be leaving. I got home around 3:30.
"Okay, I'll take a shower and a nap, then we can go."
After my shower is completed and I'm getting ready to lie down for a nap I say, "Why don't you check when the car rental place closes just to doublecheck?"
"It closes at 6."
(The car rental place is a good 1 1/2 drive away and it is currently 4 PM. Barely any of our stuff is packed.)
"That means we need to leave in thirty minutes," I say, as I get up from my two minute nap.
While driving up to Cape to pick up our rental car, I call the rental place,
"Uh, yeah, we're like coming up to rent a car we reserved and we're running a little late."
"Well, we leave right at 6. So, we won't wait for you."
I mumble something I shouldn't type here and set my cruise at 80.

We made it to the rental place okay, got a pretty nice car, and moved all of our stuff into it.
Soon we were on our way.
At about 6 AM we stopped for gas somewhere near Sidney, NE. It was beginning to get light outside. Our kids were awake for the next 1 1/2 hours. The worst of our ever-loving lives.
We got to the farm around 8 AM. The folks were glad to see us. We were glad to see them, especially since they would probably take our unruly kids all over the farm while we slept.

I won't comment on the wedding rehearsal or the wedding itself, except to say that it was a beautiful (perhaps too beautiful?) service and I wish Brian and Mandy all the blessings and guidance God can provide.

Saturday was our day. We had invited out scores of people to come see us at the farm. Troy and Dayna never showed up.
Before the crowd started coming Neil and I drove to Scottsbluff and had some Taco de Oro. Yum.
It wasn't long after we got back that the friends started showing up, their children playing with the chickens as the parents visited with Amy and myself.

Saturday night was hard. Alexis and Micah had been sick with the flu the whole time we were there. That afternoon she refused to take any medicine. Amy and Donie left to go to the school musical. After most the people left it was Kyle, me, Tom, Alexis, and Micah was asleep. Tom laid Alexis down in his bed to sleep. She had a bit of a fever.
A little while later Tom looked in on her and said "Something's wrong with Alexis." My heart immediately started racing. Going into their room, I found Sissy having a seizure on the bed. I was terrified. I had no idea what was going on. My brain stopped working.
"Tom, call 911."
Tom went to get the phone and call 911.
I was holding Alexis- something had to be seriously wrong.
Tom got on the phone, "Hello, yeah this is Tom ----, we have a two year old girl out here at our place passing away."
Hearing Tom say that didn't help my nerves any.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005


That quote captures/distills something I have been feeling about my own Christian tradition for a while. Did Jesus really come just to "save my soul"? That seems so crass these days. What about that strikes me as arrogant? I guess it's the idea that Jesus' lifetime ministry of loving the oppressed, poor, and outcast was worthless. He didn't do me any good until he died on the Cross. Those 32 years were wasted. He didn't mean the part about setting captives free, proclaiming peace to the oppressed and freedom.
But I see now that God was in Jesus Christ reconciling the entire world to Himself. Creation longs for the ultimate redemption which is in the consummation with Christ.
That means I'm not better or privileged for having found Christ. It's not about me in the least. Christ found me anyways. In spite of worst/best efforts he reached out to me and cleansed me.

This Morning

This morning I got up a bit too early, then went to my usual prayer breakfast. It's kind of an interesting thing. It's just me and some older guys. We start out by singing a few hymns/crusader songs (the book actually says "Crusader Songs"), someone gives a talk, then someone closes in prayer. I have no idea why anyone would call that a prayer breakfast. A breakfast yes, but a prayer breakfast, no.

All right, so the best chapter of Generous Orthodoxy is 5, "Why I Am Missional". In that chapter his description of the modern evangelical church is right on:

In this diagram, my largest concern is me, my soul, my personal destiny in heaven, my maturity, and my rewards. Occasionally, after "winning" people based
on personal self-interest, churches can entice people to care a little
about the church-- but is it any surprise that people "won to Christ" by
self-interest come to the church asking, "What's in it for me?"

Is it any surprise that with this understanding of salvation, churches tend to
become gatherings of self-interest-- constantly treating the church as a
purveyor of religious goods and services, constantly shopping and "trading up" for
churches that can "meet my needs" better? Is it any surprise that it's stinking hard to convince churches that they have a mission to the world when most Christians equate "personal salvation" of individuals "souls" with the ultimate aim of Jesus? Is it any wonder that people feel like victims of a bait a switch when they're lured with
personal salvation and then hooked with church commitment and world
(A Generous Orthodoxy, p. 107)

Monday, March 07, 2005

Reading A lot

So, while I am studying/reading Generous Orthodoxy with my pastor, I am also reading other things in my spare time. Like my psychology textbook, different articles and Donald Miller's Searching for God knows What. It is interesting in Miller and McLaren to read two different views of this emerging culture of postmodernism and its implications in the church and spirituality. Miller comes from a decidedly more relational/real life place, while McLaren is delving into more theoretical issues. All the while, McLaren's Generous Orthodoxy never gets far from relationships. You can sense the way that relationship is forming this whole emerging response, and that makes me so hopeful.
When I look at my local church, where I'm the youth minister, I see a congregation of disconnected isolated individuals who no little about each other's actual lives, outside of how we are on Sunday. This concerns me, especially considering the fact that new people who come to our little church are usually most impressed with our church's closeness. If our church is close, I don't want to see a cold, distant church. Admittedly, our church is very friendly on Sunday mornings, but if we want to talk to anyone in the church during the week, that's our problem.
So, maybe in the postmodern era we will find a way to build intimacy into our churches/communities-- I think that is the thing we need most of.
It looks to me like the Emergent Convention will be an event that empasizes community/fellowship. That has always been a joy even at YS's huge super conventions.

Saturday, March 05, 2005


Today I took a day from work-- well, sort of. Anyways, I made some of my world famous chili and hot wings, then had a couple of guys over for chili, hot wings and poker. It was fun, save for the fact that my wife won. How sad is that? I won't let her play again.
Well, that was my day.
Nothing profound to say now.

Friday, March 04, 2005

The Authority of Scripture

I just read a really great article challenging our modernist-evangelical views about the authority of Scripture.
How Can The Bible Be Authoritative? by N.T. Wright
It really challenged/increased my thinking about the authority/inspiration of Scripture. It presents what I would consider a Missional Hermeneutic that pushes the church into dialogue with the world.

Emergent Convention

Well, it's official, Amy and I are signed up for the Emergent Convention in Nashville in May. I'm super excited.
I've been reading A Generous Orthodoxy lately and discussing it with the pastor at my church one day a week. It's been really invigorating and exciting. He and I are really coming up with some direction and help for our church context. For instance:
Our church started 30 years ago with a group leaving an extremely separationist tradition. Originally they even named our church from the old tradition. Before long it became obvious they wouldn't remain a part of their home tradition, so they changed the name and bought a building. Since that time our church has been a refuge for people who left or were sent out of. So, in essence our church has a thirty-year history of being an "emerging church" as the practice and theology and methodology of the church has been in transition the entire time, always in flux (even if it is very slow flux).
For this reason A Generous Orthodoxy gives me hope for not only my seemingly dying church, but for all institutionalized churches. There is hope. We don't all need to abandon these groups- we need to work within them for reformation. That was Luther's idea with the reformation. Not that the Church was ready to be jettied, but that we should strive to rework it with new ideas, methods and messages.

On a less serious tone:
Fat Dutch Kid
Watch this video. It made me laugh.

So, I'm recommitting myself to blogging to be ready to blog to the masses my experience in my first time at an emergent convention.