Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Ordination service

I participated in a friends ordination service Sunday afternoon. It was the typical formal affair and very similar to the service I had when I was ordained in 2000. My part was to read two sections of Scripture - 2 Timothy 4:1-5 and Ephesians 6:10-19. It went well and I was happy to be a part of it for my friend.

I had all kinds of things going through my mind during the service. For starters, it brought back some memories of my own service. The only blog post I could find about it was this one from 2008 where I wrote about finding a journal entry (in my paper journal) from December of 1999. I recall feeling very awkward that day, and I was most proud of the fact that son Isaac and I played and sang together - he played bass and I played guitar. It may have been one of the first times we'd played together. I also remember having a lot of family there. One thing I will likely never forget, though, is that I included the following piece from Frederick Buechner's 'Alphabet of Grace' (p. 109) in the program:
The most crucial thing is always the thing that is not said. They are simply getting on with their lives, and it is not so simple. Maybe that is the most crucial thing.

"I hear you are entering the ministry," the woman said down the long table, meaning no real harm. "Was it your own idea or were you poorly advised?"

And the answer that she could not have heard even if I had given it was that it was not an idea at all, neither my own nor anyone else's. It was a lump in the throat. It was an itching in the feet. It was a stirring in the blood at the sound of rain. It was a sickening of the heart at the sight of misery. It was a clamoring of ghosts. It was a name which, when I wrote it out in a dream, I knew was a name worth dying for even if I was not brave enough to do the dying myself and could not even name the name for sure.

"Come unto me, all ye who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you a high and driving peace..."
That always resonated with me for some reason, and still does. I'm not sure I can even explain it, but it's one of the most powerful pieces of writing I know. 

Anyway, this service went about as expected. There were the usual big wigs there, and plenty of friends and familiar faces. We had the pleasure of visiting with several pastors we hadn't seen in a long time too.

The person being ordained was one of the pastors I have breakfast with each week, and he was nice enough to include the other two of us in the service. I thought it interesting that Tom opened with a pretty splendid prayer that really covered well the whole concept of being ordained and the level of service and sacrifice that goes with it. However, the person who shared the message still seemed to cast it pretty heavily as an 'achievement.' Not that it was bad, but it's just interesting how different people view different things.

Overall it was a good time and I was happy for the newly ordained pastor.

Monday, August 03, 2015

It's a new day

Well, how do you like it? I just changed my blog template for the first time in...... I don't know how long. I haven't done any tweaking yet, but I kind of like this simple look. Not all that different than the old one, but it might even be a touch cleaner looking. I also don't think I lost anything in the transition, but I did pick up a new feature or two. So, here's to another 10 years of blogging.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Template change

Lately I've been thinking of updating the template for this blog. I use one of the old, old, old templates blogger offered, and it has some customized html. I've held onto it because I like the simple look, and also because I'm afraid of losing something in the transition (not to mention the 'vintage factor'). However, there are some new features I would like to take advantage of and my old custom template doesn't allow them to work. I've resisted the urge to do so for a long time by telling myself I don't really care how functional or popular my blog is, but I suppose it's a little vain to resist changing for the sake of resisting too. So.... one of these days things will probably look a little different. I'm hoping not too much, and that I don't lose anything, but... if I do... so be it. And, for what it's worth, I have always been pretty happy using Blogger as a host. No complaints so far - which will be 10 years in October - so I probably shouldn't worry about it.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Where I'm at

Just kind of thinking about where I am currently. Not just spiritually but sort of life in general, I guess.

Activities -
  • I've been reading the Bible on a daily basis again. I am using a "2-Year Bible" where I read a section of OT, NT, Psalms, and Proverbs each day. It is the New Living Translation. I like it because it's not as long as the 1-year plans. I generally do this early in the morning.
  • I've started reading Eugene Peterson's "Living the Message" for daily devotions. I have it at work and look at the day's reading at some point.
  • I meet with a pastor friend and we exchange coaching with one another once a week, over breakfast.
  • I still meet with 2 of my pastor friends for breakfast every Thursday morning. We have been doing this for probably 15 years now.
  • Jane and I are involved in a Discovery Bible Study with another couple once a week.
  • Jane and I are also involved in a small group from church now. It meets once a week in someone's home and involves sharing a meal, fellowship, and Bible study.
  • We are still greeters at church once a month (except during the summer when we do it every other month).
  • I am still working at the self-storage place. It is not a bad job but... I am starting to wonder...
Am I A Pastor -

I still get asked occasionally if I am thinking about pastoring a church again. Um... not really. I currently have no inclination to do so - at least not in a traditional sense. Which doesn't mean I would be opposed to it if the opportunity presented itself. I guess it just means I am not seeking it out. In all honesty, I don't know how I would feel about it. This is an improvement over how I used to feel, but I don't know what that means beyond that.

I do know that I still feel very well informed and aware as a Christian / possible church leader. Even though I am not involved in leadership in a local church, I still have a sense of APE to me (apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic leadership). I love the meetings I have with other pastors, and enjoy talking about Jesus and the church every chance I get.

So I guess whether I ever pastor again in a traditional sense or not, I feel a part of the Kingdom and am open to ministry work. I also consider my coaching to be largely from a "pastoral" sense. Not occupationally, but in terms of mindset (if that makes sense).

Physically -

I could still stand to lose another 10 lbs or so of fat around my mid-section, but other than that I'm feeling pretty good. My foot pain is gone (both feet), the shoulder/arm pain I was having is gone, and I'm basically feeling fairly fit. I have been running 3-4 days a week, and nothing too long yet, and I usually start every day with some basic stretches and yoga moves.

Free -

I have been pondering some churchy sort of things lately - which I'm not really ready to discuss - but I do admit that I like the sense of freedom I have. Not that I don't have any accountability with anyone (I think I have plenty), but I don't feel the burden of having to try to please anyone, or keep anyone happy. I think that weighed pretty heavily on me when I was pastoring - especially toward the end. So, overall, while I am not where I would like to be spiritually, emotionally, or physically, I am feeling pretty good all the way around.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Healthy eating

I've kind of been on a healthy eating kick lately. I've been trying to get plenty of protein, vegetables, and limit my sugar intake (thus the minimal fruit). Here is a rough list of my regular foods - at least during the week.

Breakfast -
- Eggs (scrambled or over-medium) & toast, if necessary
- If not eggs, it's probably a protein shake of some sort

Lunch -
- Raw Vegetables (usually an assortment of celery, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, cucumber, "power greens" (spinach, chard, kale & mizuna)
- Protein of either a hard-boiled egg or almonds
- Possibly an avocado half
- Fruit - blueberries, and maybe a kiwi (with skin)

Supper -
Jane usually makes a scrumptious meal including a meat (beef, chicken or fish), and a vegetable (broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, brussell sprouts, or something). Will will occasionally have a carb in pasta or something.

Night-time snack -
- Cup of hot water with honey and lemon
- Mixed nuts (almonds, walnuts, brazil nuts)

Liquids -
- Coffee in the morning (2 cups unless I am meeting someone at a restaurant - then I have quite a few more)
- Hot green tea (most days I will have 2-4 cups at work; sometimes it's just hot lemon water)
- Water (I drink probably 80-100 ounces per day - and always at the beginning and end of each day)

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Description of the church using only the bible (according to chan)

A couple years ago (7.18.15) I had the pleasure of hearing Francis Chan speak in Fort Wayne. If I remember correctly he was just starting up a church in his home, and the gist of his talk was based on this question: "If someone asked you to describe church using only the Bible and not your experience, how would you do it?" That's what he intended as the basis for his church. I happened to run across my notes the other day...

According to Francis, the average person could spend 3-5 hours a week leading a church like he had in mind. He believes it should be built on 4 things:
  • Love/Family - Basically the "one another" passages. He asks, "What if we REALLY loved one another?" Hmm... good question.
  • Training/Equipping - According to the Bible the gifted people were equipped for works of service. Just like in a family, where people (kids) are trained in order to be released into the world.
  • The Mission - Everyone should be making disciples (the Great Commission).
  • Gathering together regularly. Acts 2:42 "They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer."
 Anyway... I'm not saying whether Francis is right or not, or even if I agree with these four descriptors. But I'd been looking for them, and thinking about this, and am glad I found them.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Feeling inhospitable

I've been thinking lately about hospitality. I remember when we started searching for a home in Fort Wayne, there were several things we wanted: a home in a neighborhood, a front porch, and sidewalks, just to name a few. We wanted to live in a neighborhood where we could get to know the people, and through nightly walks, visits, block parties and such, we wanted to sort of develop a sense of community around which God might make himself known.

When we found such a house and neighborhood, one of the first things we did was make a map for our refrigerator and keep track of all the neighbors names. Then we made a point to go visit with several of them. We always tried to leave our garage door open when we were home as a welcome sign that people could stop in for a visit. We invited neighbors to parties we had and tried to wave and speak to everyone we saw on our nightly strolls.

I believe hospitality is a pretty foundational aspect to living out ones faith. I think it is at the heart of Jesus teaching, and his very incarnation (being present in the world). Certainly there are plenty of Bible verses speaking of such. Just a few are...
  • "Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling." -1 Peter 4:9
  • "Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality." -Romans 12:13
  • "Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it." -Hebrews 13:2
  • "We ought therefore to show hospitality to such people so that we may work together for the truth." -3 John 1:8
So, I say all that and I have to admit... I just don't feel very hospitable anymore. I've become one of the people in the neighborhood who walks with their head down, I no longer wave at cars as they go by, I pull in the garage and shut the door when I get home to avoid seeing or being seen by the neighbors. Even at church... there are occasions where people will come up and talk to me, and I just don't feel like socializing. Yes, I can be somewhat introverted, but it's not that. I'm just... tired. I'm tired of being misunderstood; unknown; unheard; maybe even alienated. I suppose it's a defense mechanism I use to avoid others before they avoid me.

There are a handful of people I do feel comfortable around, and I certainly WANT to be a part of a group. I just feel awkward and... tired... around the rest. Kind of like it's not worth it anymore.

I know that it is worth it. I know it's just a phase. I even know why I am feeling like this (or at least I think I do). It doesn't make it any easier though. So I'm writing about it; and praying about it; and hoping God can somehow use this phase in some way (and also bring it to a close). I long to be part of a community where we can "stir up one another to love and good works" as Hebrews 10:24 encourages. In the meantime... meh.

Monday, July 27, 2015

3 new fort wayne eateries

I love living in Fort Wayne. It's an almost perfect-sized city for finding things to do, but not so big that it loses it's charm. In the last month or so we have found three new spots that opened within the city, and I believe each offers their own unique niche to make our fair town just a little better. Let me provide a brief review of each (based upon my own personal tastes and wallet):

BAR 145° - Burgers, Bands and Bourbon
I LOVE Bar 145! It is my kind of place. It's a gastro pub on North Clinton specializing in burgers, bands, and bourbon. Their tag line is "Red Chucks, White China" - emphasizing the culture clash of serving their food on white china while the employees are sporting red Chuck Taylor tennis shoes. There is a spacious patio, a 50-seat oval bar, plenty of flat screen TVs, and a stage for live music. You can create your own burger, or choose from a variety of others options on the menu. It's also a great place to simply meet some friends and enjoy a drink. It's not outrageously priced - probably similar to an Applebees or Cheddars.
Rating: *****

This is a very neat place, conveniently located in the Harrison building on Jefferson Blvd, with outdoor seating along the lovely Parkview Field concourse. Wine Down is a classy joint with a casual atmosphere, featuring over 50 wines available for tasting or by the bottle. They have state of the art tasting machines with "tasting cards" available in either prepaid or open tab formats. It really is a wine lovers paradise. They also sport a full bar with several signature drinks (I love the Smoked Old Fashioned), and a lunch and dinner menu with unique food selections for each. There is bar seating and plenty of cozy nooks inside, and a spacious outdoor seating area. They even offer several couches with fire pits. It's a little on the pricey side, but this is a fun and classy place for a nice night (or day) out.
Rating: ****

To be fair, we did not get off on the right foot with The Hoppy Gnome, and we've only been there once (unlike the other two places). I'm not real sure if we will go back, but I will try to give them a fair shake. I had heard good things about this place - another creation of the people who operate Bakerstreet Steakhouse. It's also nice to see something go in downtown - at the corner of Clinton & Berry Streets. They do offer spacious seating indoors, as well as a nice patio area outside. But... let me tell you about our little adventure: We moseyed in on a Sunday evening. It was a nice night, so we asked to sit outside. Perfect. Until we tried to get in our chairs. The hostess warned us they were a little heavy. Yeah... apparently they don't want anyone running off with them. So, strike #1 is the chairs are way too heavy and difficult to maneuver. Then the server shows up and asks what we would like to drink. I noticed the menu just listed wines, and asked if they had a beer list. Strike #2 - he gave some lame excuse that they have too many brands on tap to have a list, so I should just tell him what I like to drink. I said I'd like a flight, with something along the lines of lagers to dark. He was stumped, and finally says, "Well, most lagers aren't very dark." I just looked at him for a second, and then ordered whatever it was my wife had. So that actually counts as strikes 2, 3 & 4 (no beer list, lame excuse, poor customer service). At that point I was not in a very good mood, and it didn't appear the tables on either side of us were either (hard time with the chairs, and also asked for a beer list). I tried to look at the food menu, but honestly, I couldn't make heads or tails of it. Okay, so it's just not my kind of place. I get that. So, just as I'm prepared to have one drink, leave the waiter a lousy tip, and leave... some friends of ours drove by and saw us sitting outside. They joined us and we had a couple more drinks. That not only improved my mood, but also salvaged a decent tip for the waiter. In his defense, he was a good server, and it's not his fault they don't have a beer list. Really, there is NO EXCUSE to not have a beer list!!! Print one off on a stinking piece of paper every day, for crying out loud!!! Then, strike #5, one of the other servers overheard us talking about the lack of a beer list, and out of the blue he walks by and says we could just go take a picture of the tappers inside if we wanted to know. Um... I didn't know if he was trying to be a smart-ass or helpful, but it didn't help. Okay, okay, okay... Yes, this is too long. Let me just sum up by saying, our first experience here did not go well. It *could* be a neat place. I would like it to be a neat place. At this point, I have no real desire to go back though.
Rating: **

So, there ya go. My little attempt at adding to what's been added to our lovely city. I invite you to try them out yourself. Peace out; and in.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Cake: good grief

Jane and I had nothing to do last night, so we decided to see if there were any mediocre movies on Netflix. We stumbled onto the movie "Cake." I don't think I had heard of it, but Jane said she'd heard it was supposed to be good. It has Jennifer Aniston and Anna Kendrick in it, so I thought "How bad can it be?"

Wow. It is powerful! I wouldn't exactly say it is a "good" movie... It's dark, emotionally gut-wrenching, and should leave you weeping... It was very worthwhile and thought-provoking though.

The iMDb storyline reads:
The acerbic, hilarious CLAIRE SIMMONS becomes fascinated by the suicide of a woman in her chronic pain support group. As she uncovers the details of Nina's suicide and develops a poignant relationship with Nina's husband, she also grapples with her own, very raw personal tragedy.

I particularly liked one reviewer's comment:
Our culture asks us to forgive. Sociopaths want us to forgive and forget. "Cake" explores the difficulty of navigating the real and brutal emotions we face when a tragedy crashes in to our lives.

Yes. That is how I felt while watching this movie. My mind went over the 5 stages of grief coined by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. I was trained in understanding these at seminary and as a pastor. I've heard countless professionals and church leaders talk about helping people deal with and move through the process. Unfortunately, when Jane and I were trying to navigate a very ugly period in our lives (being let go by our church), we saw very little of this extended to us by those very same people.

I can still remember the person who was/is supposed to be my "supervisor" (the pastor to the pastors) repeatedly telling me, "Dan, you just need to get over it and move on!" This was just a couple weeks after the incident happened. I was trying, but it hurt. At one point I lost it and apparently said a "cuss word." He basically cut off all contact with me after that.

Yes, I understand that it is not healthy to get stuck in any one of the stages, and that we are still accountable for our actions... But do we really want to acknowledge ALL five stages? There seems to be a hesitance to allow for the middle three: Anger, Bargaining & Depression. I know I have trouble accepting those myself, in others. We want the grieving process to be almost... neat. We certainly want it to be peaceful, and probably nice (especially among church leaders).

I know I do not always handle things well. I didn't handle the church departure well. What I still have a hard time with, more than anything, is the alienation by supposed friends and colleagues because I had the audacity to wear my grief openly - to actually go through all five stages. Maybe someday it will make sense. Maybe not.

Anyway, the movie 'Cake' does a good job of showing the grieving process in a very raw and probably honest way. I can't imagine losing a child or a spouse. I'm sure movies don't do it justice. However, I was moved by watching 'Cake,' and glad we spent that time together last night. In the future I hope to be better at not only accepting the behavior of others going through the grieving process, but also showing support to them while they do. I know I am thankful for the few people who have and are assisting me. May God bless them.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Faith coaching - review

I finished reading the book Faith Coaching: A Conversational Approach to Helping Others Move Forward in Faith, by Chad Hall, Bill Copper, and Kathryn McElveen. I am not very good at providing reviews, but thought this a worthwhile read, so... here are my 2 cents.

Overall, the book fit my definition of a good read because it was well laid out (chapters evenly spaced and not too wordy), the type was easy to read, and it was not overly long at 200 pages. It was also easy to understand. If there is a negative, it's that it was put out in 2009 (and I'm just getting around to it).

As a coaching book, I thought it equally good. They didn't push their own business (or anyone else's), and didn't make it only for those who do coaching professionally. You don't even need to be a "coach."

Perhaps the best thing about the book is how they present a way for almost anyone to coach anyone else in "moving forward in faith." 

In fact, they define it very much the way I define discipleship:
"Moving forward in faith means you are becoming a better person, a better human being, a better version of yourself in the most holistic and healthy way possible. It means you are becoming more like Jesus (John 3:30)."

As I said, the book was laid out very well. They begin with "What Is Coaching?" and end with a very practical "What Is My Next Step and How Do I Take It?" It can't get anymore practical than that.

Towards the end (p. 176) they sum up with a brief synopsis of everything covered in the book:
  • God wants you to be godly, and one very important aspect of you being godly is that you help others grow in faith.
  • Coaching is a specific way you can help others grow in faith.
  • Coaching is effective because it's a more personalized way you can help others grow in faith.
  • Coaching requires you to shift your beliefs, your behaviors, your relationships and the results you expect.
  • Coaching is as simple as listening, asking good questions and providing some guidance in the conversations you have.
  • When you have a coaching conversation, you'll move through three basic phases: narrow to a focus, explore options, and design actions.
  • Your coaching can cover a wide range of topics since everybody starts somewhere on their journey forward in faith.
  • When you explore options, the best places to look are within the person being coached and toward their relationships with God and others.
  • The person being coached will design actions that build relationship with God or community to form him or her more fully into the image of God.
  • There are people all around whom you can coach forward in faith, starting with those closest to you.
  • You can take coaching to a whole other level when you work to create a coaching culture around you.
So, that's it in a nutshell. A good book. I recommend it to anyone interested in coaching, or simply anyone wanting to help others grow in their faith.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The next book

I am just about finished reading 'Faith Coaching: A Conversational Approach to Helping Others Move Forward in Faith' and I'm trying to decide what to read next.

I have a ton of books I've either bought or had given to me that I've still not read yet. I have a couple more coaching books I need to read. Or I could go back to some of my old favorites - the spiritual formation books. We also have several that Jane has recently read: Rachel Held Evans' 'Searching For Sunday,' Kathy Escobar's 'Faith Shift,' or Donald Miller's 'Scary Close.'

I could also venture into some non-faith/church reading for a change. E.L. Doctorow just passed away, maybe this would be a good time to read something from him.

So... I dunno. I will have to think about it. It's nice to have options.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Signs of hope in the church

I happened across this Facebook group yesterday called Nomad Podcast. You can find their website HERE. What caught my eye was the Greg Boyd video, and this little blurb:
Every few weeks we’ll bring you Signs of Hope, a 5-minute (ish) video from a leading thinker or practitioner, reflecting on what they see as signs of hope in the Church.

First up, Greg Boyd. Greg sees hope in the death of Christendom and the rise of a beautiful new peace-loving, non-violent, Jesus-centred, global movement.

The video itself is actually less than 4 minutes long, and Greg manages to word it in a way I have tried to say for years now. I can remember when Reggie McNeal's book Missional Renaissance came out. I was involved in a discussion group about it and I was surprised at the tone of negativity and fear surrounding the demise of christendom. I was like, "Why? Isn't that a good thing?!"

So, regardless of what I say or think... I recommend this brief video from Greg...