Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Remembering rich after 20 years

It was on this date in 1997 that Rich Mullins lost his life in an auto accident on a lonely stretch of road in central Illinois. Earlier this morning I watched one of his videos and for some odd reason just started tearing up. I mean, it's been twenty years! I didn't even know the guy! I'm not sure why he had - and still has - such a profound impact on my life. He most likely would have irritated me if we'd known one another - from what I've heard. I'm sure I would have irritated him too. And, again, I can't even pretend to know him. But from his writing and speaking and singing... it seems we had similarities of thought and heart.

I was wondering this morning what he might be like if he were still alive today. What would he think of the president, and politics in general? The state of the church today? Or would he even care? It's hard to say, and in a way it seems more natural that he isn't here anymore...

There are so many things to link to in this post, but for some reason I feel like sharing this story from James Bryan Smith's book An Arrow Pointing to Heaven. It's a book about Rich, and one I need to read again.
 I remember one time Beaker and I were hiking on the Appalachian Trail, and he met some friends of his, so I walked into town. It was about a five-mile walk from the campsite down the trail... down into town. And when I got there I went into a restaurant and I was having a steak, and this guy started talking to me and we had this great conversation. We were having a good time, and he said, "Hey look, it's dark and it's five miles up the road to your campground. Why don't I drive you up there?"

And I said, "Hey, great!"

And so we got in his car, and just as we pulled out from under the last light in that town, the guy said, "You know what, I should probably tell you that I'm gay."

And I say, "Oh! I should probably tell you that I am a Christian."

And he said, "Well, if you want out of the car..."

I said, "Why?"

And he said, "Well, I'm gay and you're a Christian."

I said, "It's still five miles and it's still dark."

Then he said, "I thought Christians hated gays."

I said, "That's funny, I thought Christians were supposed to love. I thought that was our first command."

He said, "Well, I thought God hated gays."

And I said, "That's really funny, because I thought God was love."

And then he asked me the big one. He said, "Do you think I will go to hell for being gay?"

Well, I'm a good Hoosier, and I puckered up to say, "Yes, of course you'll go to hell for being gay." I got ready to say that, but when I opened up my mouth it came out, "No, of course you won't go to hell for being gay." And I thought to myself, Oh my God, I've only been in New Hampshire for one week and I've already turned into a liberal! What am I going to tell this guy now?

Then I said to him, "No, you won't go to hell for being gay, any more than I would go to hell for being a liar. Nobody goes to hell for what they do. We go to hell because we reject the grace that God so longs to give us, regardless of what we do."

Monday, September 18, 2017

Job interview

I had a job interview this morning. I think it went okay. Most of the questions were pretty standard, though I did have to rack my brain on a few. It took about 45-50 minutes.

I felt very comfortable before, during, and after. In fact, I was a little concerned I maybe felt too comfortable. It's odd, but I feel this strange sense of... confidence. Yeah, I know. I mean, I am familiar with the place, and I liked the guy interviewing me, but - and I'm not trying to be arrogant - a part of me honestly thinks I am a perfect fit for this job. It's an odd feeling (in a good way, I guess).

I suppose it's possible I'm being delusional and have overestimated my worth/value. I suppose it could be equally possible I am right where I'm supposed to be. I guess we will see.

The position I applied for is an early morning job, and though I would officially be a 'membership enrollment specialist,' this particular location requires that everyone do a little bit of everything. That's kind of my specialty. We also discussed the idea of 'wellness coaching.' I hadn't even thought of that but... yes! As we discussed it, THAT seems to fit me to a "T."

So, I still need to pass a drug test and background check, as well as have my references pan out (I was surprised they wanted five references). I suppose they actually need to offer me the job too. I am still oddly unruffled. Until then, I will just keep doing what I've been doing.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

On being a pastor

I haven't linked to any articles on the blog in awhile (or though it seems). Blogging has changed, not as many people read blogs like this anymore, and to some degree I suppose I stopped caring so much (or something like that). At any rate, this morning I ran across an article from Christian Century magazine that a friend shared on Facebook. It was a pretty lengthy read, but I read it anyway. That's what I want to link to.

It took my mind to a different time and space in some ways but also raised to the surface thoughts I've likely been having subconsciously. I don't really know if I'm still a pastor or not. I'm not all that sure I even know what one is anymore if I'm honest. "Church" as I used to think of it, and as many "churched" people think of it, is not even on my radar anymore in regard to a life of faith. The term "pastor" is even more muddled.

I know for sure I am no longer paid by a church to do anything. I do meet with several people who are considered pastors - some of whom I coach, most of whom I simply try to listen to (which is what I think most of them need). There are three right now on a regular basis, and I've recently been asked to meet with a retired pastor whose wife is dying, so I suppose it could be construed as pastoring, but it seems more like "just being there." I have also been asked to help form a sort of "ministry leadership group" at a church that has no such thing. I put that in quotation marks because though those aren't the actual words that were used, and I doubt anyone has a clue what it will look like, it was the only way I knew to describe it.

Our "Church" is a unique animal. It was formed as a non-profit organization and a church formed out of it. Um... it's been a long time since I've typed the words "church planting," but... hmm... wouldn't that be a thought?? Nah, it could never happen...  Anyway, our "church" doesn't even have 'church' in its name. It's called a 'ministry.' There is a pastor - or maybe more than one, I'm not really sure - but even the pastor doesn't fit in any sort of traditional sense. He probably spends more time selling concert tickets on the phone than doing actual "pastor" stuff (because we run a concert hall). So, I guess I say all this to say, I don't really know what a "ministry leadership group" is going to look like here. And I like that.

Alright, so this has been a whole lotta words and I've still not said anything. Yes, I was going to link to an article. Christian Century posted this article by Winn Collier entitled, "Do You Actually Want To Be Our Pastor?" It is an excerpt from one of his novels and is a story about a search committee and a pastoral candidate. As I said, it is long, but it kept me reading. It also made my eyes tear up and tugged at my heart. I'm not sure if it made me want to be a "pastor" again, or if it simply encouraged me more in the direction I currently seem headed. It did remind me of Eugene Peterson's writing in regard to pastoring, and I've been wracking my brain trying to remember the piece of paper I always kept on my office wall that was my underlying vision/value/goal/guide. It went something like, "As your pastor I want to spend time praying to God, contemplating the Scriptures, and living among you," or some such thing. You'd think I could find it on my blog somewhere, but so far it has escaped me.

And I'm getting distracted again... I should probably just stop for now. I've too many things I "need" to get done on this lazy Saturday. I will attempt a dissemination of the article at a later date (maybe), but it reminded me that I did have some good moments as a pastor - times where I think I got it right. I remember when I first started I always seemed to be telling people, "I don't want you to follow me, I want us to walk together." Unfortunately, I can also recall too many times later on when the words "us" and "them" would escape my lips, and it was not always pretty.

So, I guess this is how it's going to be today. Lots of rambling, some bad memories, but perhaps the slightest glimmer of hope that there still might be something there... somewhere.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Prepare instead of plan

I got a call for a job interview yesterday. It's not until Monday, but it's something I'm pretty excited about. As I was driving to a meeting this morning I was thinking about how I might address some potential interview questions. I have no idea if it will come up (I'm not too 'up' on interviewing anymore), but one question I remember from back in the day was, "Where do you see yourself in five/ten years?" 

For me, this requires a two-part answer. First, I don't view this in terms of job title, position, or pay scale. I prefer to PREPARE myself for the future, rather than have a plan in mind. In the spirit of James chapter 4, trying to determine where or what I will be in the future can be a foolish preoccupation - especially at my age. However, preparing yourself for the future will never be out of style. So how do I prepare? 

As a follower of Christ, listening is the place I always want to start. What is God trying to say to me? Where is he leading me? How can I serve him in this time and place?

For different people, and at different times in your life, this can look completely different. I believe the decision to leave my last job fits here. As I've thought about it, it wasn't a bad job. Was I a younger man, or at a different point in my life, it would have been great. It WAS a good job for me at the time I took it. I think I reached a point where God was leading me elsewhere. That does not mean it's a bad place to work, but it wasn't a good place for me any longer.

The second way to prepare for the future is to always be learning. There really is truth to the saying, "You learn something new every day." As long as we're paying attention! Once we stop learning, you might say we begin preparing to die instead.

I have been fortunate to be in a position to continue learning. My wife and I both earned degrees later in life. It keeps our minds fresh and feeds our souls. Of course, learning doesn't have to take place in a classroom. It can be done by reading, asking questions, and a general openness to new ideas and technology. We can learn much simply engaging other folks in conversation!

Listening and learning lead to the third way to prepare for the future. It would be nice if we only had to do those things we love doing. However, again, as a follower of Christ, I'm not sure that's necessarily being faithful. Doing labors of love means doing that which we believe God has put in our heart to do.

A labor of love might be the hard work of raising a family. It might mean volunteering in an environment outside our comfort zone (but within our calling). Essentially it is living out of who he has made us to be, and leaning into the life situation we currently find ourselves. Work is good for us; working out of who we are is even better. Rather than sucking our soul dry, it FEEDS the soul and prepares us to face whatever God may have in store for us.

So, whether this ends up being an interview question or not, I'm glad my mind went here today. This is how I want to always be preparing myself for the future: listening, learning, and laboring in love.

Peace out, friends; and in.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

U2 at lucas oil stadium indianapolis

Holy cow!

That's all I can think of in trying to write about this concert. Holy. Freaking. Cow.

Let me see if I can muster some semblance of sum-up, but understand that even by my standards it will not do justice. This was without a doubt the most phenomenal experience I have ever had musically and among the top overall!

M'Lady and I splurged and treated ourselves to the U2 Joshua Tree Tour 2017. Chalk this one up in the 'good decision' column. Concert tickets are expensive (for us), and while we could have gone for cheaper seats (or more expensive), we went all in on General Admission floor tickets at $70 each. I am sooooo glad we did. Being stuck to seat-space would have limited the experience, and a nose-bleed would have ruined it. It was more than worth the elbows, swollen feet, arriving-early-jostling, to be right in the field of play near the stage. If I'd had a better camera (or phone) I would have had some incredible pictures/video. As it was, it was an experience I hope to not soon forget.

We bought the original Joshua Tree album when we were 22 & 24 stupid years young. Not that young and stupid have to go together, but the shoe fits. We lived in a 2-bedroom house at the end of High Street with one small child and another on the way. For some reason, whenever I think of that house though, I picture THIS album cover on the front of our stack laying beside the strategically centered stereo setup in our small living room, which was, of course, next to the black and white console TV with the portable color TV sitting atop (didn't everyone do that?). This album was not only one of the few good decisions we'd made to that point, but it may have defined our generation. It was more than mere music, but a mind-warping mantra of dreams for a malnourished mass of malcontents caught between young-adult naivety and life as it really was. You might even say 'Joshua Tree' gave "America" a meaning we'd never considered.

At any rate, this band of Irishmen brought to us a voice, and a spirit, and knit for us an anthem to belt. Even if we never found what we'd been looking for, it was a call to seek, nonetheless. So the chance to gather with some 45,000 (est.) other folks equally yolked and stoked, regardless of the 30 year time-lapse, felt an awful lot like God's country to me.

Indianapolis is an almost 2-hour drive from our home, and we went down early probably out of giddiness. Lucas Oil Stadium - home of the Colts - is easy to get to just off I-70. We came in on Missouri Street, opted for $20 parking because not only was it close but also gave us an easy exit afterward, and were at ground zero around 4:30 pm. Gates didn't open until 5:30 so we walked a bit, then joined those camped in the rope maze around 5. Fortunately it was a beautiful midwest afternoon with blue skies and 70-degree temps perfect for layering into the 50's after the show.

Those of us with GA seats entered the stadium through the Southwest tunnel that opened right onto the stadium floor. The roof was open and while we were ready to rock, we realized we had quite a wait until the 7:30 opener (Beck). At first we tried to stake our claim to floor space near the end of the catwalk where they would do the opening set, but eventually our hunger led us upstairs for pre-show pizza. We meandered back down and found an equally good spot to stand... and then sit... and then get jostled, stepped on, and otherwise irritated by people's stupidity, so we finally decided it wasn't worth an few extra feet. We meandered about and saw a few other people we knew from Fort Wayne, and settled about 50 yards back just in front of the sound board.

I was not overly excited about Beck. I was a little familiar, but didn't realize until he started just how many songs I knew. I was pleasantly surprised at how good a show he put on. He had people dancing and singing and I'd say was a grand choice to open. He started promptly at 7:30, and I'd guess played until 8:30. It seemed just about right. Everyone was ready...

I found it interesting that, after he was done, the crew tore down the ENTIRE stage setup. The instruments, lighting, lifts and everything. All that was left was the giant backdrop for U2. We wandered over to the right side of the stage (facing it) and were watching them take everything off the side. A fork truck driver was removing the light stands Beck had used, and those of us in the area were momentarily mesmerized. We swore at least one of them was going to come crashing down as they bounced and swayed on the end of the forks. It was a nice little distraction to pass the time.

It was probably around 9:20 when U2 took the stage. This was earlier than we anticipated because we'd heard complaints they didn't start until more like 10. They did the first few songs from the end of the catwalk - with no video. We'd been warned of this too so we weren't surprised, but we actually had a pretty good spot to see them. The start was electric... and it did not fade...

This is where words start to fail. It was simply an amazing show, incredible sound, perfect vibe, and... if I didn't know better I'd think they were piping at least the aroma of weed into the air. :) Not that artificial high-ness was needed anyway. From the giant video screen stretched across the endzone, the pounding beat reverberating through your body, sheer joy of being in the midst of a throng lost in dancing, singing, swaying, and dream... I can't imagine anything being able to top this.

We ended up staying on the right side of the stage. Fortunately each of the front-men made at least one stroll over to where we were. A time or two we managed to get right up front. We also opted to move back now and then to try to take in the enormity of the video. There was just too much to see, to hear, to do and be and know!

I suppose they ended around 11:30. After doing the entire Joshua Tree album, they wrapped up with some of their later classics, and even debuted their new single "You're the Best Thing About Me" for the first time live, right here in Indianapolis! I will post the set list below, but it ended the only way it could: much too soon, but contentedly simple, as the entire evening seemed.

We stayed til the end and didn't have any trouble getting out of the stadium and back to our car. I think we pulled out at 11:45 or so, and after a hideously long wait at a McDonald's on the way home (26 minutes!), we arrived at our bed just after 2 am.

THE SET LIST (via http://www.u2.com/tour/date/id/45561461)


Beautiful Day
You're the Best Thing About Me
Ultra Violet (Light My Way)


These video's behind the band were so awesome!

Actual shot of Bono (not on the big screen).

Actual shot of Bono (not on the big screen).

Actual shot of The Edge (not on the big screen).

Actual shot of Adam (not on the big screen).