Thursday, April 21, 2011

What are you doing for Easter?

This is a question that I get asked every year, from those inside and outside of the church that I pastor. "What are we doing for Easter?" I always want to reply, "I was thinking we would worship the risen Lord. It seems appropriate on this day."

But what people really want to know is, "What kind of fireworks are we going to be setting off?" "Are we giving away a car?" "Are we paying people 10 dollars to come to our service?" "Is anyone going to be rolling in with a tank?" Or simply fill in the blank with any gimmicky attempt that you've heard churches try to get people in the doors since apparently a risen Savior and new life just isn't drawing people anymore.

And unfortunately as a pastor, you FEEL this kind of pressure. I'd like to be able to prepare a sermon like I normally do, with prayer and study and reflection. But you can't help but feel the pressure (possibly imagined) that people are expecting something BIG, even in your sermon. And so there's added stress to write a GREAT sermon. The biggest problem is, I'm not the one who decides which sermons are "good" and which sermons aren't! Typically, most of the ones I think turned out mediocre, God uses in a powerful way. Dallas Willard says that the most important thing that happens in a sermon is what God does with the words after they leave your lips and before they reach the listeners ears. I think that's a powerful thought and makes "trying harder" on a sermon because it's Easter seem kind of silly.

I like to follow up the question "What are we doing for Easter?" with, "What would you like to see us do?" The answer is always the same, "Uh, i don't know."

The impulse that that Easter service should be special is natural seeing that it is the biggest redemptive event in the Christian story. I understand that. But HOW should it be special? Should we have lots of "special" music? Should we have videos and laser light shows? What do people want? I really don't know.

But what I want to suggest is that if you want the Easter service to be special, come ready and prepared to worship the God who gave his life for you and then conquered death so that we may have new life. If you've participated in dying to yourself during Lent for the past 40 days and come prepared to engage in worship with your entire self as you "come to life to the reality of God", you can expect a special Easter service.

In light of that, I am rejecting the outside and imagined pressure to do something BIG. Because honestly, until I can think of how I can do something bigger than what Jesus did on Easter, any attempt to do something BIG is going to look pretty pathetic by comparison.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Summer Reading 2011

Never too early to start that summer reading list, right?

What's on yours?

Bright's Passage - Josh Ritter

The Pale King - David Foster Wallace

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay - Michael Chabon

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius - Dave Eggers

The Beach - Alex Garland

Martin Eden - Jack London

Fight Club - Chuck Palahniuk

The Border Trilogy - Cormac McCarthy

Here I Stand; A Life of Martin Luther - Roland Bainton

Finding Our Way; Leadership for Uncertain Times -Margaret Wheatley

Failure of Nerve; Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix - Edwin Friedman

The Truth Shall Make You Odd - Frank Honeycutt

Sunday, April 17, 2011


My vacation in Florida is over. :(

We realized early on in the trip just how much has happened in our lives in this place.

In college, some college buddies and I drove down to Clearwater three of the four years for spring break. This was my first venture to Florida. Jon Hentrich knew a youth pastor who let us sleep in the basement of their church building making it rather affordable. In this church building we also staged a very late night mock church service that we regrettably recorded and would probably get us all fired at most churches. That video still exists somewhere. :)

My senior year of college I spent 6 months in a preaching internship at Journey Church in Tampa. It was a very memorable and formative time in my life. A month later, Kelli, who was just a college acquaintance at the time moved to Tampa to take a job with Impact Ministries and pursue her MBA . Little did we know 5 years later we would be getting married in St. Petersburg and spending our first year of marriage in Tampa working for Journey and Impact at the University of South Florida.

All that to say, we have a lot of history in Florida and it was nice to be back and remember so many of them.

Some of the highlights of this trip (in no particular order):

1. Gram swimming (and pretty much doing anything else). The longer he is here, the more comfortable he becomes in water. For whatever reason, he doesn't care for the beach or the sand, but loves the pool. He also got to take his first trip to the aquarium where he spent more time walking up and down the stairs than looking at fish. Maybe next year...

2. Rum Runners. When you find a good rum runner, you plant yourself for a while. This is an amazing beachside drink that is hard to overestimate. Light rum, dark rum, blackberry brandy, banana liquor, orange juice, pineapple juice, grenadine, and a cherry. Are you sold?

3. Celebrating Kelli's birthday at Shor restaurant. King Crab Legs, Red Snapper, Grouper, Wine, dessert, scotch....mmmmm. A bit of a splurge that we’ll pay off someday. Well worth it.

4. Tampa Bay Rays vs. Minnesota Twins. John Volstedt has a friend that works for the Rays and was able to hook Kelli and I up with a few free tickets. Out of respect to my friend Rob Grant, I was rooting for the Twins, but Johnny Damon hit a walk-off in the bottom of the ninth that ruined Rob's day.

5. Hanging with Adam Randall at the Dunedin House of Beer. Good to catch up with Adam and experience a good Florida beer bar. 40 taps of mostly east-coast microbrews. Adam is also one of my most talented friends and a great musician. Click here and listen to "Hope is Your Last Visitor" and "Bodies and Souls".

6. Visiting Journey Church. This was the church that I did a 6 month preaching internship in. At the time we were meeting at Gaither High School, but in the last few years they built a building which we got to see for the first time. There are still many people there that we've known for years and who we love greatly. I am always struck when we go back and visit how little time seems to have passed even though it has been 5 years. There's some good people at Journey. How do I know? Because they heard some pretty lousy sermons but encouraged me nonetheless!

7. Knowing that capable and gifted Evergreeners were coordinating and leading the gathering at Hawthorne in my absence! I hope they did good, but not TOO good. :)

8. Getting to do some pleasure reading. More specifically, Douglas Coupland's Generation X, Michael Chabon's Manhood for Amateurs, and Jack London's The Road. One day I even came up with a summer reading list that I'll post soon.

9. Moe's. This is a burrito place that actually had a location in Beaverton for a very short stint, but for some reason Beaverton folks don't know what's up, so it closed. The sour cream flows like cheap wine and the sweet tea....oh the sweet tea.

10. The Sun. It was about 85 and sunny EVERY DAY we were here. Amazing. I almost forgot what it was like to have that many sunny days in a row!

Back to Portland....

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Odds and Ends 7

In less than 40 hours we will be sitting on the beach in Clearwater, FL soaking up some sun for an entire week. I plan on leaving my iphone off, no computer, no distractions from vacation. So if you're waiting for a return phone call or email, you won't get it! :) See ya when I get home.

To gear up for our vacation (and celebrate Devin's upcoming 30th Birthday), we (Kelli, Gram, and myself) spend a lovely evening up at a condo on Mt. Hood with the Vaughns. Nothing like sitting outside in the hot tub while it's snowing! I suppose it would have been more romantic if the one I was with would have been my wife rather than Devin, but win some, lose some. We were expecting Gram to go into "vacation sleep mode" which is when he wakes up screaming every 1 1/2 hours, but he slept extra-ordinarily well, which I hope is a good sign for next week in FL.

Speaking of Mt. Hood, we ate at the Ice Axe Grill in Government Camp and sampled all of their beers and I've got to say that I was impressed! I appreciate the fact that they were all beers in the 5% range. I'm tired of only seeing beers on tap at Portland establishments that are 6, 7, or even 10% alcohol. I want to enjoy a beer and relax with friends, not feel like going to sleep at 7:30pm. As Mark Sherwood wisely pointed out (as a fellow home brewer), it's much tougher to create a beer that tastes just as good at 5% as it would at 7%. That's very true!

See ya in a week!

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Odds and Ends 6 - Good News Edition

-My home group is amazing. Had a great night last night eating fried chicken, collared greens, mashed potatoes, sweet tea, drinking some home brew created specifically for our group, and even playing Goldeneye on N64. It's not just about what we do though, but about the quality of people in the group. Fantastic people!

-I'm honored to have been asked last night to marry Steve and Krista this September at Timberline Lodge! Should be a great time!

-Excited for my friend Chris Leonardo who got the job he wanted yesterday! Congrats!

-While I'm bummed that Clay and Emily are moving, I'm excited to hear that they're having a boy! What is a Clay Jr. going to be like? :)

-Just three days until we leave for sunny, hot Florida for a week. What better way to prepare for that than to go to Mt. Hood for a few days in the snow?

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Odds and Ends 5

My Twitter/Facebook fast for Lent continues and so does my outlet for random facts, quotes, and links.

This quote from the Ecclesia Gathering in D.C. really struck me: "Maturity is willing to take responsibility for your own emotional being and destiny." - Mary Kate Morse

Another one was from Todd Hunter who was quoting Dallas Willard: "There is no 'you' apart from your present life."

Marc Cortez gives us 5 Reasons You Should Study Karl Barth. Very convincing. :)

Here are 40 statements made by Nietzsche that will ruin your day. One of them however relates to the series we're currently doing through the Sermon on the Mount. "The Kingdom of Heaven is a condition of the heart — not something that comes upon the earth or after death." What do you think?

Finally, here are famous world ideologies as explained in reference to cows. Love it.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Odds and Ends 4

Apparently we had 29 days of rain in March here in Portland. Does that mean the rain-purgatory will end early and we will have a beautiful April?

Looking forward to being on the beach in Florida next week. Excited to see some friends. Especially looking forward to burying Gram in the sand. And sitting with my wife, drinking a rum runner while Kelli's parents watch him. :)

Bummed that Clay and Emily Reed will be moving to Connecticut. Losing a good friend and a brew buddy to the east coast. Will also never forget the 10 mile Rock of Ages hike we did together (what I refer to as hell). I was however excited to get to take him to the Horse Brass Pub for the FIRST TIME last Friday night. How many years have they been here? 3?

I'm excited for how the Palm Sunday service is coming together at Hawthorne. Aubrey Peth, Steve Strand, Brandon Johnson, and Chris Schepman (and probably some others) have been planning and will lead it that morning. Can't wait to hear how it goes!

Finally, an update about O'Bagby Brewery (my house), my Saison is taking FOREVER. I was hoping it would be done by Easter, but doesn't look like it. In better news, Clay and I brewed a Munich Dunkel (dark german lager) in January that is just now ready to drink and it is GOOD! Let me know if you'd like to try it (although supplies are very limited).

Monday, April 04, 2011

Odds and Ends Pt. 3

First of all, I am about to win my NCAA bracket pool for the first time ever. It's like a weight has been lifted. Also, thanks to my friend Doug Blocksma that means I will win a fantastic seasonal beer from Odell Brewing in Ft. Collins. Woohoo!

Second, Marc Cortez linked an interesting article on some myths that surround the Crusades. Seems that conversations about the crusades are being reinvigorated, no doubt due to the increasing tensions surrounding current Muslim/Christian affairs. Rodney Stark recently wrote a book on the subject as well that's i'd like to make time to read.

Third, we are finishing up the Sermon on the Mount at Evergreen this upcoming Sunday. Jesus' most famous teaching has an interesting arc beginning with a wide-invitation into the Kingdom and moving increasingly toward the challenge of discipleship. This last Sunday is TOUGH stuff but it makes sense in light of Jesus contrasting the superficial, external religious righteousness that leads to our own destruction and the kingdom, generative righteousness that leads to full life. The entire sermon really hinges on Matt. 5:17-20. In light of that, and all of the illustrations Jesus used to make that contrast, Matt. 7:13-29 makes total sense.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Odds and Ends Pt. 2

The Twitter/Facebook fast continues and it's been a nice break. It's a freeing thing not to read and clutter my mind with the thoughts and problems of 600 people, many of which I don't even really know.

First of all, it was fun to watch Cubs opening day with my little bro (regardless of the result). I'm under no delusions that the Cubs will have a good year. I'm thankful we're in such a weak division though where they won't look quite AS bad as they could in another division. The Cubs are not good, but why can't they beat the Pirates?

Second, I'm beginning to think it's impossible to restore a weed-filled lawn. Weed and Feed? Fertilizer plus Crab Grass Preventer? They might as well have me sprinkle rice on my lawn, it would be just as effective. I'm beginning to think Scott's products are the biggest racket ever invented.

Third, related to this; home-ownership is an anxiety-ridden, expensive, and frustrating venture. Don't get me wrong, I'm thankful to have a place that is "ours" (Bank of America's to be precise), but the problems and the ants and the lawn and all 6 million things that can go wrong can drive a person nuts.

And finally, life is feeling pretty good right now. Regardless of circumstances and the normal and not so-normal pressures and pains of ministry, I feel very content, happy, and satisfied with life. I'm sleeping well at night, enjoying the time I have with Kelli and Gram and am excited for this summer. Lots of great stuff happening !

I'm always tempted to say, "there's a lot of change going on", but isn't the nature of life change? Isn't death the only thing that stops change (maybe?)? Why are we surprised that there is always change happening? A better question perhaps is, what does "stability" look like, or feel like amidst the constant change? Where do we find our center?

Circumstantial stability never lasts long and isn't something to always be sought in life in the way of Jesus anyway. However, some people choose the other track, trying to avoid any feeling of stability, or not understanding what a life looks like that has stability. Instead they seem to thrive (not in a good way) on chaos and drama. But unhealthy boundaries and stretching yourself to exhaustion isn't a long-term answer either. Nor is introducing new drama into your life by making bad and unwise decisions. I can sense a longer, more thought out post coming on this, but I'm going to leave it for now and let it marinate longer.