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Enjoying the Process

Pay Close Attention

While pounding out seven miles on my treadmill yesterday I listened to C.J. Mahaney’s message from the recent T4G conference, Sustaining a Pastor’s Soul. It was the least dramatic message I’ve listened to by Mahaney (albeit out of only a dozen or so from Resolved, Shepherds’ Conference, and various mp3 downloads) but it had/is having appreciable effect on me.

The central point of his message was that God is best served by glad pastors. He asserted that it is simply not sufficient for a pastor to serve faithfully, he must also serve joyfully. I’ve heard that before, but God graciously opened the eyes of my heart anew. The entire sermon challenged the soul by considering the apostle Paul’s joyful ministry in the midst of demanding responsibilities, hard sufferings, and even imprisonment for sake of the gospel as seen in Philippians 1:3-8.

As I’ve heard him do previously, Mahaney urged each pastor to ask those closest to him–wife, ministry team, personal assistant–a series of simple questions about whether he lives and serves joyfully or irritably, with happiness or moodiness, gladness or discouragement. This time I took his advice.

I didn’t have to ask Mo for her answers. I just went ahead and asked her forgiveness immediately after I finished my run yesterday. But earlier today I arranged for some of the guys who work with me on a daily basis to listen to Mahaney’s message with me and then invited them share their observations about my life and ministry. I warned them in advance that a quiz would follow and when it was over I printed the questions and even initialed the disclaimer at the bottom so they could hold me to it.

Here’s the quiz. Click on it to see it full size.

I won’t go into specific successes or failures, but suffice it to say the process was less painful than it would have been three or four years ago. One thing they all agreed on is that my attitude is “ridiculously influential” for better or worse and that I should wield that influence with great care.

Since the door’s already open I suppose you are welcome to participate as well. The condition, however, is that you’ll need to email me so that the comments don’t get carried away in either direction. I’m not looking for praise or pettifogging criticism, but for signs of grace and areas needing growth. Of course God is the ultimate and only inerrant judge as well as the only One who can see my heart. Even so, my progress is supposed to be evident to all (1 Timothy 4:15). Some very important things depend on my paying close attention and maybe you can help.

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Enjoying the Process

Like Father, Like Son

Two years ago today my dad died. We had less and less in common after I answered the call to pastoral ministry but I still miss talking to him. There were so many things over the last year I wanted to share with him. I think that’s because for all I learned from him and everything I prayed for him, most of all I really liked him.

More than a few things have kept him on my mind recently, most of which relate to Calvin. One of my greatest disappointments is that my father never met my son. They lived together on the planet for almost four and a half months, but were separated by three time zones, dad was too sick for travel, and our scheduled visit in June wasn’t soon enough. Just like my son, though, I never met my dad’s father.

There’s no doubt my dad would not have entirely appreciated Calvin’s thundering (“shake the gates of hell” kind of) ambition, yet there is much he would have liked. They could have watched ball together all day. The specific sport doesn’t matter so long as a ball’s involved: baseball, football, basketball, golf. All three of us love the game like our fathers.

The sons love the yard like their dads too. My dad got me started as early as four months. Calvin already has his own John Deere.

There’s also the injuries. When I was 14 I wrecked my bike pretty bad. When my dad saw the wounds he told me he didn’t remember being a “human scab” when he was a teenager and that if I wanted to see 15 I should probably slow down some. My son can’t even ride someone else’s knee without getting black-eyes and big scabs. I guess like father, like son.

And the other night at dinner I realized both my father and son are fascinated with belly-buttons. My dad enjoyed looking at his, keeping it free from lint, and talking to other people about theirs. So far Calvin follows his grandfather’s preoccupation, however, this trait apparently skipped a generation.

My dad wanted better for his son; so do I, though my hopes concern spiritual things more than earthly ones. My dad was too often cranky or even angry; so are his son and grandson. But for all the similarities (and differences), and though in God’s providence it didn’t work out, it would have been nice to get together. I know we would have liked each other.

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Enjoying the Process

What’s Like the Sun

This afternoon at Starbucks the barista compared my outfit to the sun in a bright blue sky. I responded that no one would ever make that comparison with my personality, so I’d take what I could get.

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Enjoying the Process

What I Did over Spring Break

My post on Monday hinted at some travel; boy was there traveling. Sunday afternoon I left Marysville around 2:00 pm, picked up Tim Lugg in in Woodburn, OR, and drove through the night to Santa Clarita. Our mission was to attend Monday morning chapel at The Master’s College where Micah was on tap to kick-off Spurgeon Fest. We conquered the Grapevine in time for a breakfast of champions at Noah’s Bagel’s (cracked potato peppercorn, toasted with spread) and Starbucks (quadruple shot grande Americano with light cream) and slipped into a back row in chapel right after it started.

We enjoyed and were edified by Micah’s message and I think he was surprised and encouraged by our presence. I decided to Twitter the message for the sake of the time stamp and because it’s easier to post line by line on the iPhone. You can read my notes here, and for those unfamiliar with the Twitter format, start at the status for 09:16 AM March 31 and read up the page. After chapel we took the preacher to In-N-Out for double-doubles then headed north a little after noon.

We took a slight detour to Seaside to drop Tim off with the rest of his vacationing family and I finished the course around 9 am. When it was all said and done the Passat covered almost 2400 miles over 38 hours with the four hour layover for chapel and lunch.

UPDATE [10:26PM April 8]: Micah posted his own account of chapel with a link to the video. [11:54PM April 10]: Even better, now you can download the mp3.

proof of parenting?

The rest of the week has been no less tiresome as I’m fulfilling the role of Mr. Mom while Mo endures the throes of the first trimester. I’m doing the kind of things I’m least good at and least naturally patient about. So like any dad in my situation would, on Wednesday we went to breakfast at McDonald’s. Otherwise we’ve played in the yard and on the swing set, watched Mary Poppins and Cars, repeatedly wiped the boy’s head and tail, and generally tried to enjoy the process.

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Enjoying the Process

This Too Shall Pass

We interrupt our regularly scheduled post of substance to report this recent medical incident.

I took my first trip to the Emergency Room via ambulance Tuesday morning. On my way to work I was in so much pain that I pulled off the road. Quickly realizing that I could not continue I drove home and immediately dropped to the floor, writhing and wriggling, sweating like nobody’s business. Unable to diagnose the sure problem, my mom-in-law concluded that calling 911 was the best option and I agreed reluctantly. The EMTs arrived shortly thereafter and concluded that I should take the Aid Car to the ER. After a few hours and a CT scan the doctor concluded it was much ado about a kidney stone.

Had I known it was only a kidney stone I would not have ridden in the ambulance nor probably even visited the ER. But it makes for another good medical story as well as another large medical bill.

For those interested, my status is still in the “working things out” stage. The doctor suspects this too shall pass sometime in the next hour to one week.

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Enjoying the Process

Little Girl Bike Helmets

In seven previous snow retreats I had never visited the tubing hill at the Double-K. For years I’ve heard stories, seen pictures, and watched video. But I never made the trek across the field and gone down for myself.

That changed last week.

Now there’s a story circulating that Phil’s sons gave him significant grief for wearing the helmet. Darlene took pictures with her iPhone and apparently the family sent emails back and forth amongst themselves all afternoon questioning the preacher’s manliness. For the record, I not only embraced the little girl bike helmet, I’m glad I did. Note especially the stage six and seven pictures below.

So far so good.

Starting to get a little bumpy.

The beginning of trouble.

The feet are not supposed to go over the head.

You know what’s coming next.

The face plant. (Click on the picture to see a larger image).

Thankful for the little girl helmet now.

All the way around.

Going around again.

More roll than flip this time.

Almost done.

The end.

You can watch the slideshow here. And thanks to Jesse Martin for the photography.

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Enjoying the Process

Winter Pleasures

Winter pleasures have made blogging sparse here at the void. Last weekend I was in -25 temperature with Dave Cleland in White Lake, WI for his annual Snow Fever high school retreat. It was very much a pleasure to hang with Dave (as it always is), including our dinner at Lambeau Field two nights before the NFC Championship.

Last Thursday Andy Bowers, Jonathan Sarr, Curtis Wentling and I celebrated five years of weekly, early morning meetings. Those guys, along with previous summer interns Chris Martin and Micah Lugg, as well as recent addition Jesse Martin are some of my favorite people on the planet.

Of the original guys, two have gotten married since we started meeting, three of us have had kids, and the other has his first on the way. Along the way we’ve talked theology, planned ministry, and seen iron sparks fly. As a group we’ve read (at least that I can remember): Hard to Believe, When I Don’t Desire God, The Forgotten Spurgeon, The Book on Leadership, The End for Which God Created the World, and are a third of the way through a two year tackling of The Institutes. We’ve met mostly in my office, but also frequented Denny’s, Buzz Inn, Cedarcrest Restaurant, and at least three different Starbucks. In my office alone we estimate–conservatively–at least 225 gallons of coffee consumed. I really do give thanks daily for these minister partners and personal friends.

And then today (road conditions depending) we leave for the Double-K Ranch for our annual Snow Retreat and we’re pleased to have Phil and Darlene Johnson with us for a second year. We’re back on Friday, so continuing winter blogging will have to wait until then.

UPDATE [10:40PM February 2]: We did leave on Monday. We barely returned on Friday. It’s good to be home.

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Enjoying the Process

Ordination Images

Friend, fellow GBC member, and Maggie’s fantastic art teacher, Joan Dabrowski, graciously photographed and uploaded pictures from my ordination last night.

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Every Thumb's Width

Seconds and Inches

Last Thursday night I was in a somewhat significant car accident. I was not injured and as far as I know neither was the other driver. But there were major consequences to the Fahrvergnügen.

God uses many things to make sure that He has our attention; traumatic crashes certainly count. Even though I avoided life-altering injury, death, or even a visit to the Emergency Room, when I replay it in my head I realize I did nothing to protect myself. Seconds and inches completely out of my control were the difference. If the crash had occurred moments earlier or later, if my head would have jerked just another inch into the driver side window, or a million other possibilities, things might be really different today.

The collision occurred as I was on my way to meet a friend to discuss the final few chapters of The Sovereignty of God by A.W. Pink. As my Passat was towed away the mom of the other driver saw the book and said, “That’s a good book.” Indeed.

My last few days (especially when driving) have been constantly consumed with thinking about moments and breath and providence. I’m thankful for big and small reminders to be God-conscious and I’m thankful for God’s gracious sovereignty over seconds and inches.

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Enjoying the Process

Miracle Mug

In July I made one purchase at our student ministry’s World’s for Sale. I affectionately call it my miracle mug.

The glory:

The guts:

In case you’re uncertain, the caption reads: “Enjoy the miracle of each new day” to which I would add an exclamation point! Consider how many Bible stories this 10¢ cup communicates:

  • the rainbow references the flood
  • the through-way illustrates crossing of the Red Sea on dry ground
  • the clean outside and dirty inside pictures the Pharisees
  • the “each new day” line reminds one of the morning mercies of coffee

If you think about it, it’s like a wordless cup…with words. I still pinch myself each time I use it. Perhaps one of the times I’ll pinch myself so hard that the cup will fall and shatter. And be assured, that future joy is preceded by the current joy of being able to delete these pointless photos off my iPhone.