Sunday, September 08, 2013

Building the Kingdom

After almost a week to reflect, I'm still trying to process all the experiences from the Lion and Lamb Festival last weekend. As both a part of the planning team and a participant, I've been thinking about it from both of those sides. Both of those views have a different focus and generate different trains of thought. For the sake of clarity, I'll focus on the participant side in this post and address the planning team side in my next. If you're reading this and maybe aren't so fond of Christianity and/or the Church, do me a favor and read it through to the end. It rambles at times, but I promise it goes somewhere. And maybe that somewhere speaks to you like it does to me...


As an introvert, I know myself enough to know that I need a few days to sift through all my thoughts and experiences after events like this. Two very full days (though I was there about 4.5) of working, talking, moving, worshiping, praying, thinking, resting, worshiping together. The constant interactions with people are a blessing, but in order for me to get anything lasting out of them, I need time afterward to process the experience. So I have spent my down time this week thinking things through. Trying to cement memories and moments in my mind to draw on in days to come.

One of the beautiful things about events like this where people gather to wrestle with common ideas, issues, and interests is the ease of a common bond. I had the chance to talk, pray, worship, work, and fellowship with others who wanted to wrestle with questions of peace, justice, love, hope, etc. It was an incredible experience and one I can't wait to being working on again very soon. I hope that Lion and Lamb 2014 is even better than the 2013 version. I want us to continue to invite others to join us as we engage this issues and work to build the Kingdom of God around us, to work on the future of the Church. While I don't know if everyone who attended knew just what they were getting into by so doing, I feel like it's a pretty safe assumption to say that everyone at least had some interest in the Church and where it is going.

That's been a big question on my mind for some time.

A brief survey of the church world would probably show you the following trends: congregations are generally shrinking, fewer people attend a church regularly or would even call themselves a Christian, the ones in the pews are getting older, public perception and opinion of Christianity is, shall we say, less than stellar. Before anyone gets all worked up, these are general trends, and there are always exceptions. there are plenty of churches growing, people growing in their faith, and people who see the Church as a powerful force for good and change in this world.

Those "exceptions" are truly what interest me. I'm tired of the constant negativity. I'm tired of dwelling on what we don't have instead of embracing and utilizing what we do. I'm tired of hearing about the impending death of the church. Ain't nobody got time for that.

You see, God is at work doing a new thing...

Monday, September 02, 2013

Your Kingdom Come

Sitting at home now after a long, exhausting, and incredible weekend, I find myself trying to concisely put into words my reflections on the first Lion and Lamb Festival. I want to capture some immediate thoughts before they slip away into the day-to-day routine of "normal" life. This isn't by any means an exhaustive list, but in my current state of exhaustion, it will do for now. I'll think and process over the week and add a more substantial response this weekend.

Here are five initial things that I want to share:

1) Hope Still Flies

I'm physically and mentally tired, but at the same time, I'm so incredibly motivated/excited/pumped about the future of the Church. Like many others, I have concerns about the current state of the Church, how we have failed to live out our calling, how we have harmed so many, how we have failed so many. But in light of this weekend, I feel a new day dawning. No, we did not solve all the problems of the world this weekend (give us a couple more days though...), but I do know that we have a great and powerful hope. Hearing all the speakers, artists, vendors, participants, volunteers engage issues of peace, justice, love, theology, mission, etc. reminded me once again that what is is not what has to be. To quote Five Iron Frenzy, hope still flies. I needed that reminder.

2) Keeping It Real

It's awesome to meet people you have observed from afar and find out that they are even more awesome in person. My main responsibility over the weekend was to be the host/chauffeur for many of our speakers and artists who came from all over the country. It was amazing, because that meant that for the length of our trip, I had chance to pick their brains in a confined setting. Getting to know brilliant folks like Erica Granados De La RosaBruce Reyes-Chow,  Richard Kentopp and Rachel Held Evans was a huge blessing to me. There were many other very interesting and fantastic folks as well but I had the most time with these four people. If you don't know about them, I highly encourage you to check them out and revel in their brilliance.

3) Fast Friends

I think I had the most one-on-one time with Rachel, and I just want to say that the Rachel you read on her blog is the same one you meet in person. She was a delight to get to know, and I think she and my wife might have been separated at birth. She's so genuinely nice and willing to share her journey with folks. Whether we were talking about the big important issues of life or the newest episode of Breaking Bad that we were both missing over the weekend, I felt like I've known her for years. She's so easy to talk to and she has a true gift for communication. She might tell you she's just a writer who maybe begrudgingly got into speaking, but I think she's selling herself short. She does a fantastic job of telling her story and experience and inviting others to both share in hers and express their own. She is a true woman of valor.

4) The Power Of Community

One of the coolest things I saw was the ongoing development of a community. One of the most important, maybe THE most important, things we wanted to do with this festival was to gather a community of people who were wrestling with the same questions, issues of how the Church should speak for justice, work for peace, inspire hope and share love in the world today. The "voice" of the Church has as of late been dominated by ideas that, in my opinion, do not match up with how I read the message of Jesus Christ. I feel like the people gathered there were asking those same questions and trying to figure out how we can live out what we believe in the midst of perhaps louder voices of so many varieties, as well as how we can listen to what those voices are saying in an open and inviting manner. I've written before how the life we lead can be isolating and frustrating. This weekend was a beautiful and powerful reminder that I am not alone in this. I am not the only one who gets frustrated. I am not the only one who wants something more. I am not the only one who doesn't know where to start, and feels like I am but one drop in a vast ocean. The power of community has a multiplying effect, and that was certainly evident this weekend.

5) Giving Birth Is Hard

Having never been a part of creating something like this, I am honestly just a bit relieved to have one under our belt as a team and so pleased to see it go so well. Most of our team had never done something like this. We were newborn foals, learning how to walk but needing to run due to a tight time-table. This event was conceived, planned, prepped and executed in less than 10 months. Basically, we gave birth to the event in just a bit longer than it  takes to birth a child. And like I imagine most parents of a newborn feel, I am totally proud of our baby. It is a beautiful emblem of hope, full of promise and potential. I cannot wait to watch it grow.


This weekend was a brick laid toward building the Kingdom of God. One brick doesn't seem like much when you're building a city, but one brick joins another. And another. And another. Foundations take shape. Pieces take form. Buildings are built. It does not happen over night.

But it does not happen if we do not place our brick.

And so we work.

May Your Kingdom come.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Feeling Creative

I feel like I want to create something. It started months ago (with the post about writing on writing) with a desire to write. Since then it has reformed? Reshaped? Reconfigured? It has become a need to create something.

Millions of avenues.

No direction.

Just a desire to make something. To build something from nothing.

I kind of want to write a comic book.
Or make a movie.
Or start a podcast.
Or really learn to play an instrument.
Or write consistently on this blog or another blog.
Or build something.

It is basically an unfocused desire to take thoughts and ideas and do something creative and constructive with them. I just need to figure out what to do.

For pretty much as long as I can remember, I have felt like I've been moderately good at many things, but great at absolutely nothing. A jack of all trades, master of none sort of situation. What's my thing? What's that one thing that, when people think of me, they think I'm really great at it?

I have no clue.

Maybe this desire to create something is really just a desire to figure out that thing at which I have the potential to be great? Start something new and maybe, just maybe, I'll be really good at it. Or at least realize the potential to be really great at it. Obviously, I don't expect to just take up something new and be awesome at it. But it would be nice to figure out what in the world I have some real talent for, and find a way to put it to work creatively.

The most recent thing has been considering starting a podcast. It's relatively cheap to start, it is seemingly easy to do, and open to a variety of avenues. I've been listening to a lot of Kevin Smith podcasts for a while now, and he seems to love just sitting down with folks and talking. That seems to be the thing that drives him the most. I can see the appeal. The appeal of sitting down with friends and strangers and delving deep into a subject and plumbing the depths to see what one can find.

The issue is figuring out what focus to take. Do I make it faith/church/theology centric? Or indulge my love of gaming/nerddom/film/music/comics? Do I make it about people and their stories? Or about people's passions and vocations and how they intersect?

What's the hook?

What would people enjoy listening to and engaging?

What would I like to listen to? Getting back to Kevin Smith, he often goes on these rants about people chasing whimsy and doing something for the love of simply doing it, chasing a passion or an idea and making something happen.

So I'm trying to figure out where to channel this creative energy into something creative and productive.

Any ideas?


Saturday, March 23, 2013

Hope Still Flies...

It's 6:00am on a Saturday, the one day a week now where I can really sleep in. And I'm wide awake, my mind racing from a weird dream, the substance of which compels me out of bed to process it. I'm one of those (unfortunate?) people who, once my eyes are opened, cannot get back to sleep, regardless of the time at which said eyes open. I'm generally a morning person. If I could get by without sleeping, I often think how much more productive I could be, an extra 7-8 hours a day to do with what I may.

I fought this compulsion to get up as best I could, but eventually I had to cave. I can't really explain it, but I felt like I had no choice but to get up and think about what I had dreamed. To chew on it. To break it apart for meaning, this strange amalgamation of vision and words and experiences. The details themselves are of little interest (I've already forgotten some of them) but safe to say the overarching idea was about closing the door on the last 9 months.

The last 9 months were, safe to say, generally terrible. A soul crushing search for gainful employment, coupled with a move to the middle of nowhere. Car trouble. Family struggles. Wondering if I should go back to school. Examining my vocation. Each assurance that "God has a plan for you" or "It will all work out in God's time" another stab in the heart. Rough times, in all. A life uprooted and tumbled, spilled over and poured out. It was probably the toughest consecutive 9 month stretch I've endured in a long time, if not in the entirety of my 30 years so far. I've done enough whining and venting and ranting about it to fill a novel, so I will leave it at that.

But this dream.

Man, this dream...Whatever it meant, whatever my subconscious was working through..

It felt like hope.

And I was beginning to wonder when I might feel that again.

But it is surging through me right now, and I don't remember the last time I felt this good. I know in large part it is because I now have a job, and one I believe is going to be incredibly fulfilling (though filled with more spreadsheets than I imagined a fulfilling job might) and rewarding and a way to do a LOT of good. But it's more than that.

Something's going on.

I don't know where it goes or what it looks like, but something is at work now that was lying dormant over the last few months. Maybe some grand adventure starts now. Maybe some next step in figuring out who I am. Maybe I just had a confluence of properly timed synapse firings. Whatever it is, I am interested to see where it goes.

Fittingly, as the dream drew to a close and I felt myself awaken, I began to hear (feel? imagine?) the lines from Five Iron Frenzy's "It Was a Dark and Stormy Night." For those of you unfamiliar, below are the lyrics to the song, followed by a link to listen to it. Since waking up around 6 am, I have listened to it probably 25 times.

I can't imagine a more perfect way to wake up, and know that hope still flies.

Hope still flies...

"It was a dark and stormy night last night.
Bitter dark.
Rain fell in torrents, stabbing it’s ghosts through the cold,
And straight through our hearts.

I've been waiting, in halfhearted sleep,
For a promise I half meant to keep.
Just for hoping that hope still flies,
Wipe the sleep out of our sleeping eyes.

Fog that is lifting,
The spectre of dreams we once had,
Speaks into the night,
Slumber is over, sunlight is streaming through,
Come into the light.

I've been waiting, in halfhearted sleep,
For a promise I half meant to keep.
Just for hoping that hope still flies,
To wipe the sleep out of our sleeping eyes.

I know,
Hope has not forgotten me,
I know,
I’m waking from the longest dream.
I know,
I know,
I know,
I know...

I've been waiting, in halfhearted sleep,
For a promise I half meant to keep.
Just for hoping that hope still flies,
Wipe the sleep out of our sleeping eyes.

And hope still flies
And hope still flies

And hope still flies..."

Achievement Unlocked: Obtain Gainful Employment

Finally. After a long, difficult, soul-wrenching search, I have a job.

Last week Jill and I were with her family in California, having a family vacation. Of course, when you're unemployed, every day is a vacation. But not every day is spent in southern California, and least not for me. Anyway, I had been in contact with this prospective employer for a few months, moving from introductory meeting to interview to another interview, etc. The normal employer-employee courting process.

I was hoping to hear from them before leaving for California. And obviously I was hoping the news was positive. Had it been negative, I may have just stayed in California (side note: I don't know if you guys have heard, but California is pretty freakin' awesome.). But no news before we left. At this point, I suppose no news was better than bad news that may have put a dark tarnish on my mood for the week.

About half way through the week, I get an email entitled "Let's talk about the position." Crap. Ominous. Foreboding.

Turns out my suspicions were incorrect. It was actually, "hey let's talk about this position because we want to offer it to you."

And so, I am beyond incredibly pleased to announce that two days after returning from vacation, I began working for the Community Foundation of Morgan County,  as their Program Officer. What does that mean?  What does a Program Officer do? Well, I've been on the job for a grand total of 5 days so far, but I think a fair summary would be to say that I work with the Foundation to help administer their scholarship and grant programs. The Foundation has many different funds that it manages that are designed to provide grants and scholarships for students and groups in Morgan County. Simply put, I get to help students go to college, breaking cycles of poverty, increasing their education and future prospects. I get to help local non-profits reach out to the community to provide a wide range of incredibly important services. I get to be part of an organization that makes a tremendous difference in our area, and I am incredibly honored to be a part of it.

You can check out our website at to learn more!

A huge thank you to everyone who helped Jill and I during these last few difficult months by way of prayer, support, networking, putting me in contact with people who might be able to help, prayer, food, pats on the back and such. I appreciate everyone who listened to me rage against the machine, who didn't give me cop out platitudes, but instead commiserated with me and provided their ministry of presence, even when they didn't know they were doing so.

Thanks. Many times over.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

This horse is dead...

And yet the beating continues.

Still no job, though I have a couple of prospects in the works. It's the same thing every day. Get up. Eat breakfast. Hunt for jobs. Apply where appropriate, and in some cases, where only tangentially appropriate. Confirm that they received my application. Wait. Distress over how long to wait before contacting them again, seeking to find that balance between showing initiative and interest without being annoying or seemingly high maintenance. Wait some more. Get rejected.

So much rejection. More rejection than I have ever faced in my life.

It's demoralizing.

I'm a skilled, highly educated worker with 10+ years of work experience in a variety of fields (ministry, business, banking, libraries). And yet I can't seem to even get my foot in the door for an interview in most cases. I've had some interviews, even made it to the final 2 of one position (where they ended up hiring someone else from inside, so, yeah...). But mostly it has been one rejection after another.

And at this point, I don't know what else to do. Try to get a job flipping burgers? I'm not even sure they'd hire me. I'm either over qualified for something or under qualified for another.

There are a whole series of issues related to this job hunt: the United Methodist Church itinerancy process and the apparent lack of common sense associated with said process, social isolation, financial problems, family stress, having to drive 25-30 minutes to practically anything, etc.

But the issue weighing most heavily on me is this: what in the world am I doing with my life? 

I don't know, most of the time. If I had a choice, I think I would most enjoy travelling the world with a group of friends having adventures and experiencing awesome things. Sadly, I don't think anyone is going to pay me for that, so I'm left trying to find other gainful employment that I find fulfilling. Which, for me, means that it has to have some sort of positive impact on the world. I want to be a part of something bigger than myself. Some way, some small way, where I can make this world a better place. It's just part of who I am. Part of my faith that, as a follower of Christ, it is incumbent upon me to help, to serve, to make this world more like the Kingdom.

Finding that balance between paying the bills and making a difference is a challenge. And at this point, I am just so frustrated at the 9+ months of spinning my wheels and getting nowhere. As soon as we found out where we were moving, I started looking for job prospects. And I'm still in the exact same spot.

You can make a human being in 9 months. My last 9 months have given birth to nothing but frustration, demoralization and an intense wrestling over my self worth. I know without a doubt that I can be a worthwhile addition to a non-profit or college. But at this point they don't yet seem to agree. So am I just way off base in my self-evaluation? Am I doing something wrong in the application process? Is it really impossible to change your career field (and if so, someone please let college students know before they leave)?

I wake up each day wondering if this will be the day that a job offer comes through. If I'm employable. If things are going to get better. If we will ever truly adjust to living in the middle of nowhere with no friends in the area. 

If there's a point to any of the last 9+ months.

And that's really hard.