Monday, May 31, 2004

confessions of a hot dog eater

I wonder when it happened. I wonder when hotdogs just were not enough by themselves. You might be able to relate. This has probably happened to you. I can't quite remember when it happened to me, but I know there used to be a time when hotdogs were enough. That time is no more.

My nieces and nephew eat hotdogs differently than I do now. I used to eat hotdogs like they do, but something changed and now I do it differently. I remember eating that warm delight of processed meat-leftovers as a kid. The dog would go into the bun and then I would eat it as I would a sandwich or a hamburger. I would turn the bun so that it was on the top and the bottom containing the hotdog in the center. This is how the shortest members of my family do it now-a-days.

But something changed. A moment in time happened in my growing up experience when the usual ketchup and mustard wasn't enough. It may have been relish. Yes, I think it was. I was too young for beans or chili and cheese. But relish was a new mystery waiting to be explored. I think I saw my dad put relish on his hotdog. And with this added element, the whole world of hotdog eating changed.

With the various additions to the hotdog like relish or chili, I could no longer eat a hotdog like a burger. No, the careful balancing act required that I eat the now decorated treasure with the bun on both SIDES of the hotdog rather than on the top and bottom. This way, the tangy relish or the warm beans could rest comfortably atop their new found friend.

And now, it doesn't matter what is on my hotdog. I still eat it sideways. Over the many years of sauerkraut, baked beans, chili and cheese, my hotdog has learned to accommodated all the additions. Even if I just put a simple condiment like mustard on my dog, I can't seem to bring my hotdog bun to the full upright and locked position.

In the end this sideward consummation...this "spooning" if you will, is just another reminder to my poor dear hotdog that it is not enough. No, hot dog, your fatty pig and rat bi-product just isn't enough for my greedy taste buds anymore. And soon, my nieces and nephew will follow in my snobish footsteps. I don't know what it will be. It could be any of them...tiny chopped onions, melted cheese, spicy chili, baked beans...and yes, quite possibly my first indulgence... the tart, green relish.

Sunday, May 30, 2004

old friends new

It's been a good past few days. My life has been busy with building relationships, helping to plan the next sermon series, and trying to figure out where I can help Horizon. God has definitely been faithful to me and is always a constant presence. Thank you to those of you who have been praying for me.

I got a call today from an old friend from college. Bekah Ives was my swing dance partner, fellow RA, and friend at Messiah. She was a year ahead of me but we were still good friends.

We had a sort of falling out her senior year/ my junior year. She was a bit angry with me for many reasons. It finally came out into the open that for the previous three year she had had feelings for me. Those feelings of affection toward me were basically met with my rudeness and harsh words. This led her to transition from deeply caring for me to being deeply hurt. That hurt turned into frustration and frustration into anger. Needless to say, although we hung out quite a bit my first two years of college, I rarely saw her my junior year.

But time and grace have a way of healing things. We slowly became friends again as she visited a few times my senior year. We also met up for a wedding one time and had some good quality time together. All the awkward feelings had long since been forgotten and the lasting friendship remained.

I am back on the east coast now, my home. I had been away for three years while doing seminary in Texas. I didn't know it until she called, but Bekah has been taking weekend trips up here to Baltimore from her home town of Virginia Beach, VA. She is really into ballroom dancing now. I guess her love for that began with our swing dancing experiences back in college.

So she comes up to Maryland about twice a month or so to do lessons and competitions. She is here so much that she might just move up here. How crazy would that be? Bekah Ives, if she did move, might even be a part of Horizon. Fun thoughts. She is a great girl and one of the smartest I have ever met.

Its funny how in Christ old friends never quite leave your life. God always seems to set up little talks on the phone or little reunion meetings now and again. I think God finds joy in the reunion of old friends. I can just imagine Him smiling as he gently orchestrates these wonderful reminders of the past. Its as if He is reminding us that God has never forgotten the friendships that He has given us and that these mini-reunions are merely a foretaste of the coming Kingdom. These fond flashbacks are but a hint of the amazing wedding feast of the bride of Christ.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

update...part 2

That last update post was a general overview but not really as much about me personally. Someone asked me tonight, "How are you?" I said the usual, "I am good." And I was. Or at least I thought I was. On my drive home from a Link Group (about a 20 minute drive) I got to thinking about this question a bit more and do some inventory.

How am I doing? Hmmm.... I am trying hard to build some much needed relationships here, but its only been a few days so I need to be patient. I realized, driving home tonight, that I am starting over. Similar to your first day at kindergarten, or first year of college, or first semester of seminary. I am beginning...again. I am trying to discard the previous mentality that I had. It is a struggle.

The previous mindset included a few things. 1. I am used to my daily schedule. 2. I have enough friends. Anyone else I meet will simply be an acquaintance or a secondary friend. 3. I understand why I am here 4. People know me 5. I am confortable with who I am. This was the old mindset. I have carried this mindset with me for the past few days here but it is quickly breaking down. Why? Because they are not true anymore.

Lets examine them more closely: 1. I am not used to my daily schedule. It is very fluid right now and very transitional. It will change week to week, day to day. I don't have a work out schedule or classes to anchor it. But I will soon have to establish some sort of pattern so that I don't go crazy.

2. I don't have great friends here yet. It is true that I do have friends. I consider Dave, Clay, my sister, Christina and a few others friends. And there are others who are on their way to being friends. With time that will happen. But right now my relationship tank is low yet I am used to it being full. I have to keep reminding myself that it is indeed low and that I need to let others in.

3. I don't really know what it is to be a pastor....let alone a pastor at Horizon. I am low man on the totem pole right now. I am not used to that either. I am used to being a student. I used to be a well respected student. But now I am supposed to be a pastor yet not exactly. I am not a pastor yet. Even if they were to call me a pastor in June, I still wouldn't be one. A pastor is someone who pastors. I don't. Not yet, anyway. I have to earn that relationship. That too will take time.

4. People don't know me here. And this will hopefully change with time. But I am basically a weirdo when it comes to people knowing me and understanding me. So it is weird being around people all day long who don't know me. Definitley not used to that.

5. I am not comfortable with who I am. I was comfortable with who I was in seminary. Especially the last year of seminary. I had found my place and found my people. But now, I feel like I am off balance for some reason. I don't see myself as a person who is good at loving people. Essentially that is what Horizon is asking me to do. I just keep waiting for them to figure out that they got the wrong man for the job. Right now, it seems like some of them already know this. Mabye I am just being insecure about all of this. But I must be honest and that is how I feel. I wish I could pretend as though I am confident in doing what I have been called to do. I am not.

I basically suck at loving people. I am not very friendly. I am not very kind. Patience is not a virtue of mine. I find myself saying things that other people don't understand. I am finding my language a little out of touch with most of the Horizonites. I am having a hard time just having fun right now. I usually have to go deep before I can go shallow. What I mean is that, typically, it takes me knowing your deepest darkest secrets and you knowing mine before I can laugh at your jokes. I am kind of backwards that way. When I know there is substance then I can be light hearted. Until then, I struggle. I feel like everyone else at Horizon knows what is going on and they are all doing it at light speed. And I am a little turtle trying not to get run over.

So how am I doing? Well, THINGS are good. And they really are. Things in my life are great. But me personally, the jury is still out on that one. I feel like I just woke up from a peaceful dream only to find myself in the middle of someone else's house, which happens to be on fire. All around me are firemen who know what to do and where to go. I am crawling out of bed slowly and trying to orient myself. I am not sure which way is out and which way is in. The smoke is irritating and the flames are loud. I feel as though I should get busy doing something. Stop, drop and role maybe. ANYTHING really. But all I can muster is to stand in the middle of this strange burning house and watch it fall down around me. I do admire these firemen. I just don't think in this state of mind I am ready to be one. I am still in my PJ's and the sleepy crust is still wedged in the corners of my eyes.


I appologize for not posting earlier. I wrote a big long post a few days ago and just as I went to publish it I got kicked off line. I lost the post and was pretty frustrated.

Update: The drive back home was long but good, 11 and 1/2 hours each day for two days. The driving is a bit different up here in Maryland. Imagine a bunch of people who drive like Chad mingled with a few people who drive like me.....well, more like me on crack. So my driving skills have reawakened after being dormant for a few years while in Texas.

I thought I would take a few weeks just to chill, but that is not the case. I have jumped in with both feet and am already going like a fat boy at Golden Corral. I have already had some great meetings with key people in the church and am working on a roommate situation. I hope to be living in an apartment or townhome in Towson by the end of the summer.

We just layed out the sermon series for the next 9 weeks, which covers the rest of the summer basically. I think they will be good. I won't preach until the summer is over and that is cool with me. It is good just to try to get to know people and build some relationships.

I will start visiting Link Groups this week and see which one I need to plug into. We are gearing up for Launch in the fall and things are getting exciting. Next week I will go to a GCM (Great commission ministries) conference and see if we will partner with them as fellow church planters.

God is doing some cool things as well. We found out the other day that they guy who was going to back the magazine with 26,000 dollars (which we would pay back to him by selling advertising space) decided to just give us the 26,000 dollars. CRAZY!!! So now all the ad space we sell for the Relevant Magazine in the fall will help to fund our current and future church planting opportunities.

I am helping out with the Relevant Magazine deal. I am going to begin to help sell some ad space. I will also help with the design and selection of the articles that will go in our 32 pages of the magazine. Horizon gets its own section at the back of the magazine. I will probably submit two articles and see what happens. They may make the cut and they may not. I will let you know if they do.

So as you can see, things are already busy and I am not on staff yet. I will be on staff, I guess officially, in June. All of this has happened since I got home 5 days ago. I still feel a bit out of place because I don't know people that well yet. I am also still figuring out how Horizon functions in terms of their decision making and leadership style. Needless to say, I have much to learn and haven't even scratched the surface yet. But I am excited and feel like this is where God wants me.

I am currently playing with the idea of a part-time job. This wouldn't be for financial reasons. I am brainstorming right now about how a pastor at Horizon (or any church) stays in touch with people on a regular basis who don't know Christ. It may take a part-time job for me to do this. I don't know. Any ideas would be appreciated.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

new every morning

It's 2am...again. Not much is on t.v. but I still manage to catch Last Call with Carson Daily. My body is tired, my day was long and yet I still don't want to go to bed. My contacts are the consistency of soggy potato chips, but I must press on into the night.

This habit of staying up late began in high school, was perpetuated in college, and still haunts me today. I am not sure why I don't like to go to bed. I just know that I try not to as long as I can. I stretch the evening hours out as long as they will provide me with more day.

I know that the morning will come eventually and that I will hate myself for staying up. It hurts to get up in the morning. I dread the first sit up of the day. It is the hardest. So why not just get to bed earlier? I am not sure, but I have been asking myself that very question lately.

Part of me thinks that there are latent feelings of rebellion rapped up in the night. It was fun and exciting to stay up late when I was younger. It was a mischievous act. Now it just means less sleep and a tomorrow full of droopy eyes and a caffeine overdose. Maybe I stay up because I want to revisit all those nights I was forced to go to bed by my parents. Like a drug, this rebellious, nocturnal instinct, which was once exhilarating just becomes a destructive, habitual addiction.

This may indeed be the reason why I stay up late. Yet, something deeper cries out for me to resist the pillow. In the end for me it is about holding on to the day. Not that tomorrow is terrible. Tomorrow will probably be just fine. But I know that as soon as I allow my eyes to close, the day will end. If this day ends then the next will begin. And I know that this is the cycle that makes me older.

I began to fight the inevitable when I was 17 years old. I am now 24 and realize that my fight is in vain. I am growing up and getting older. All the late night runs to the 24 hour Quicky Mart can not stop time. Soon I will have to be what I never wanted to be; a responsible adult.

In an age that exalts youth and agelessness, going to bed means accepting defeat. I will get older. My responsibilities will increase and my fun will decrease. This is the inevitable that I am trying to fight. I hope that Conan O'Brian and Carson Daily will help me in this battle. But even these late night friends eventually abandon me to re-runs of Gilligan's Island and infomercials.

Have you ever found yourself staying up late for no apparent reason? Do you try to hold on to your day as tightly as I try to hold mine? Is there hope for people like you and me who would rather watch a man cut through a leather shoe with a knife than get our much needed rest?

God reminded me the other day that there are new mercies every morning. I went to bed late again with my head aching, eyes hurting and my heart troubled. Even exhaustion couldn't put me down. I tossed and turned for a good hour before I gave in to the next day. Something refreshing happened to me the next morning.

After I got out of the shower I did an inventory check on my bodily systems. I wasn't tired anymore. My headache was miraculously gone. My eyes were bright and my heart was at peace. It was true. God does offer his mercies new every morning.

This is good news for those of us who end each day riddled with guilt and sin. Though the day has ravaged our spirit and sin has made a mockery of our character, we still seem to hold on to the day. This day was crappy enough. This day was nearly impossible to get through. Why would one want to go to bed and face the crap that tomorrow brings? We have at least made it to the end of this day. And that in itself in an accomplishment. But that triumph will end as soon as our eye lids collapse and our body is still. So we fight the day on into the night.

Rest, my friend. Tomorrow brings hope. God waits for you in the morning. His mercy is fresh and his love renewed with the rising of each days' sun. Your screw ups are forgotten and your clothes are washed clean on the other side of a dark night's dreaming. Welcome to tomorrow. God was greater than the night and His mercy will be enough for your day.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

church planting movement

I have been at a church planting conference these past few days. Some of it was good. Some of it was great! The weird thing was being around church planters that were not just part of church plants but church planting movements. Here I was, having just finished my last final in seminary and not even graduated yet, and I was rubbing elbows with folks doing some amazing things for the Kingdom.

Did you know that in the last 10 years there were 9 churches in the US which planted more churches than all the major denominations combined. Those 9 churches planted 303 churches in the last decade. And not just regular churches, but churches that will be multiplying and planting churches of their own. Imagine what that number will be in the next 10 years. And all of that started from just 9 churches.

I was humbled to be around these guys. I used to call myself a "future church planter." I used to call the church I will go to a "church plant." But compared to these "movements" both Horizon and myself pale in comparison. They challenged us not just to plant churches but to plant a church planting center which would be the center of mobilization for a church planting movement. I hope that Horizon will be such a center in the future.

I thought planting a church every two years was daring and edgy. Nope. That is almost boring to these guys. They are leaders of churches that are planting 5-10 churches every year. And those churches that are getting planted are planting another church within a year. They are all networked together and they call themselves Glocalnet.

Not only are they multiplying here in the states, but each Glocalnet partner church adopts a nation. They go into various nations and build schools, hospitals and the like. They call it Nation Building. Some churches are even helping to rebuild Afganastan and Iraq. Churches are literally transforming those nations.

They have a three fold approach to church. Transform people from the inside out. Transform local communities from the inside out. And transform nations from the inside out. Its not just a crazy dream or an optimistic casting of vision. No, its a practical reality. God is moving. And his moving dwarfs our expectations and limitations. I just hope I can be a part of what He is doing in and through the Church today.

Monday, May 10, 2004

divine divorce... part 2

Why is it in vogue to be distant from God these days? We postmodern types use a lot of "journey" language in describing our relationship with Christ. And our "authentic" obsessed culture demands a "dark night of the soul" before your spirituality is accepted. If you never doubt God's existance or His validity, then you just aren't "cool" enough or "deep" enough to be a real seeker.

Its like before I become a "real" person I have to go through Postmodern, Early-Twenties, Spiritual Boot Camp. Or PETSBC for short. If you haven't gone on this wonderful "journey" let me tell you the stages.

1. Become extremely proud of your individualism. You are like no one else and no one else has ever gone through what you have.
2. Question whether prayer is valid. Since you just don't feel like praying, maybe you should just stop.
3. Doubt the importance of scripture. After all the classes you have taken, you finally realize its just a book written by a bunch of sexist, egocentric Jewish men.
4. Dismiss "formal religion." You don't need the stuffy confines of your mama's religion. You just need "spirituality."
5. Believe in nothing AND everything. You are rapidly approaching "cool" status. You can accept everyone not so much because you love them but more because you have found a way to accept every belief that is out there, while not really believing anything at all.
6. Question the existence of God. Hey, Freud was probably right. God is just a projection after all.
7. Find meaning only in pleasure. Since all ideas of the transcendent are utterly pointless now, might as well indulge.
8. Find "god" again. This is the final stage where you realize that no god at all means no spirituality. And since it's trendy to have a "spirituality," you become a deist who prides yourself on your openness and your authenticity.

Does this ring a bell to anyone? If it does, welcome to PETSBC. Why do we celebrate the struggle but not the absence of it? Even if you have been on a "journey," if it isn't filled with skepticism and doubt then it isn't valid. This sounds like Enlightenment thinking (Decarte) if there ever was any.

Moving beyond the "struggle" is like moving beyond your twenties. You are seen as over the hill in our culture which celebrates the "confused youth" period of life. Culture tells us, "Deconstruct your faith incessantly but don't even think about reconstructing it into something vibrant and life-giving. No, if reconstruction does occur, be sure that it just meanders around in an impotent pseudo-deism."

If you do finish PETSBC, allow me to be the first to wish you luck on your life that is now full of transitory meaning and vague happiness. Give me a call sometime if you ever snap out of it and realize the emptiness of your life without calling or purpose.

Saturday, May 08, 2004

divine divorce

I have been thinking lately about the reflections of God in the world. Beauty has been the latest topic. But I also thing that emotions can reflect God. I have been thinking about how I will miss my friends when I graduate. I will miss them because I care about them and they are close to me. There have been many shared experiences and shared conversations. We carried each others burdens and listened to each others stories. I will miss my time with my friends.

So should it be any less with God? I have friends here that have distanced themselves from God and, more specifically, Christ. These people assert that they were Christians at some point in their life. Yet, there is no sense that they miss God. I can understand the struggles and questions of faith. But if there was a real and authentic relationship with Christ, won't there be a overwhelming sense of loss upon detachment?

Even when there is a little distance between me and God, I can feel it. I begin to miss Him. And this happens to me even without a total rejection of who He is and His role in my life. I can't imagine what it would be like to "divorce" Him. This would cause a severe trauma in my life. Not because I am some "saint" by any stretch of the imagination. Its just that my relationship with Him is such that I would miss Him if I left Him.

So many of us grieve when we leave friends. Why is there not grieving when we leave God? Shouldn't that clue us in on the kind of relationship that may have been there before we left? If indeed we were a Christian before we bailed out on God, I can't imagine that we wouldn't miss Him terribly. And maybe this is why people go through with the divine divorce in the first place. Like many divorces, the separation and dislocation happens long before the papers are signed and the furniture is moved.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

beautiful are the girls....part 2

Last night I was thinking about the last post that I offered on the beauty of girls. While thinking about this I thought about how I compared beautiful girls to awesome mountains and wild flowers. And it dawned on me that there is so much more that I was not addressing. So I will attempt to continue those thoughts which were started in the post just below this one.

What I thought about last night was the fact that the imperfect beauty of this world, points us to the perfect beauty of God. Just as the love we receive from friends and family is just a foretaste of the complete love of God, so too is the beauty of those around us. The physical beauty I see in the girl that is sitting to my left at this moment, is just a fraction of the beauty of the face of God. I smile at the sight of beautiful girls, but I will joyfully weep at the beauty of the Lord.

And physical beauty seems to be less of a reflection of the beauty of God than a beautiful character. This reminds me of one of my Common Grounds friends (Beth). You can hear her beauty enter the room before she does. Her character and personality are striking. She always has a good word and a smile for everyone she knows. She is one of those girls that would never have to tell anyone about Christ. It is evident that something different is in her life as soon as you meet her.

This kind of beauty seems to be a clearer reflection of the beauty of God. I am often awe-struck by the physical beauty that I see. Its like a lightening bolt that hits me unexpectedly. But it is a different feeling when I interact with a person of beautiful character. Its less like lightening and more like the warmth of the sun. You probably have experienced this. Someone of beautiful character lights up a room in an instant and then their presence slowly warms the room. When you speak with a person such as this, they warm up your whole day just with their smile and grace.

This warmth is a foretaste of the warmth to come. It is a sign of the Kingdom. God's beauty is all around pointing the way to Christ. Physical beauty, like a masterful painting, brings delight to the eyes. But character beauty, like an enveloping hug, brings delight to the heart. The former has the power to transform the aesthetics of one's environment. The latter has the power to transform the attitude of one's day and, possibly, one's life.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

beautiful are the girls...

As I have mentioned before, I live in the land of the beautiful people. That, of course, is Baylor University. As I type this at Common Grounds, the three people closest to me in proximity are all girls. And ALL THREE OF THEM are beautiful. And I don't use that term lightly. I don't just mean cute or mildly attractive. One is a striking brunette with amazing green eyes (they look like contacts made to be the color of the Caribbean ocean). She is sitting to my left. To my right are two girls on the same couch. The one closest to me is a ridiculously attractive brunette with blue eyes that make me want to hit my head against the wall. And the third is a blond with subtly curly hair. I can't tell what her eyes are like from here, but no matter, she is beautiful.

I have come to expect this sort of world in the last three years here at Baylor. Its not the real world. I am not sure what kind of lala land we can call this. But I know it will not be the same in Maryland. And to be honest, I am not sure if I am sad or glad about this. On the one hand, it will be easier on my attempts to be a man of God who retains some sort of holiness about him. On the other hand, its like leaving Hawaii or the Rockies. You know the beauty just won't be the same. The visual picture of your world somehow lessens a bit.

Oh well, I will enjoy it for the next few weeks. I am tired of people rolling their eyes at me when I speak of beauty. As if I am some sort of lustful heathen or a typical shallow-Hal. Neither are the case. I just enjoy beautiful things. God has created beauty in this world for us to enjoy. For too long our Puritan roots have stifled this ability to enjoy what God has created. Of course taken too far can lead to lust. But not taken at all can lead to lust as well. Let me explain.

If I can't enjoy these three beautiful girls for the visual delight that they are, then I would have to pretend they don't exist or that their beauty is wrong. As I try to suppress the perfectly fine desire to enjoy beauty, it tries to bust out of the chains in aberrant forms. One such disfunctional liberation comes in the form of lust. Lust objectifies women as objects of sex. This often happens because guys can't seem to see women as something else, something more natural, something more pure. I think if Christian fellas could learn to appreciate beauty for what it is, God's Creation, it could cut down on the lust factor.

When I enjoy the beauty of a flower for its own sake and because it is a masterful creation of God, I move away from the tendency to want to own or dominate it. If I can wonder at the beauty of mountains, its harder for me to scheme about the profits of mining. If I can glory in the beauty of a flower grown in the wild, I may be less likely to try to pick it and make it my own. And the same is true for humanity as a creation of God. If I can appreciate the beauty in these ladies to my right and left, then I am distancing myself from the desire to selfishly lust after them.

Monday, May 03, 2004

the long goodbye

It has begun. All of the wonderful phrases that begin with, "This may be the last time I (or we)...", fill in the blank. It's all coming to a close. It seems harder to me to say goodbye to good friends than people that aren't really close. Now before you say, "Duhh," allow me to elaborate.

People I don't know so well I can say goodbye to because I really mean "goodbye." I don't plan on every seeing those folks again. But for close friends, it doesn't seem like a "goodbye" moment. Upon our departure, it seems more like a "see ya later." Granted, the later is a MUCH later. But even still, I plan on keeping in touch with my close friends no matter where they are in the world. I imagine that we will hang out again in the future.

So the dilemma is knowing that it is a "goodbye" moment but not really "feeling" it. It seems kinda rude to say "see ya later" at the point of departure. I mean, "see ya later" doesn't really encompass the gravity of the moment. So what words do I use? Peace out!? Outtie!? Word to yo' mama!? Catch ya on the flip side!? (Whatever the heck that means.) See you in heaven!? (the favorite Crosspoint departure phrase).

Or maybe the moment doesn't require words that express leaving for some allotted amount of time. Maybe the moment of departure is simply a time to express what we mean to each other. It seems to me that what we mean to each other in the present is a combination of what we have meant to each other in the past and what we will mean to each other in the future. The present expression of feelings sort of encompass all the great moments of the past and an expectation of the future.

I guess Chad does this the best. He says goodbye and see you later and all of that. But more importantly he says things like "I love you man" and "I care about you holmes." He flavors this sentiment with just enough masculinity to not feel "gay" about it. And he says those statements in the present tense. Those kind of expressions of care sort of summarize the past and extend into the future.

And that is really what we mean anyway, isn't it? When we say those long goodbyes, we don't really mean "goodbye." We don't really mean "see ya later." That may be what our mouth says, because its easier to say. But what we really mean is, "I will miss you," "I care about you, " and "I love you."

Father, thank you for the many memories that I have packed away with friends in the last three years. Thank you that it will me a lifetime to unpack them.