Saturday, December 17, 2005


had some free time to help out at the compassion ministry today. busy morning this week, between 120 and 150 guest families. lots of workers, though too. bunch of cub scouts came out to help. very cool watching them pull the wagons and help give out food. got to pray for a number of people, pack groceries, chat. always experience Jesus' pleasure in that context, subtle but unmistakable. maybe it's just all the love in the place.

also went with Jon and Paula to a hospital to pray for a man in a battle with cancer. was hoping for dramatic instant healing. nothing obvious that way, alas. but we were definitely meant to be there; i was overcome with what i can only describe as compassion a couple of times while we were praying. the sort of thing where i was crying, but not out of sadness or pain, but more like out of love mixed with a little anger. can't wait for Jesus' kingdom to come in fullness and do away with death and suffering altogether. in the meantime, it was inspiring to see this man and his wife facing it with such grace and faithfulness.

watched the Pistons whip the Bobcats tonight. the've been thoroughly enjoyable to watch this year. and they sure seem to be having a lot of fun too. hoping i'll get to catch some of the game on Christmas day against San Antonio, in the midst of all the festivities.

Thursday, December 15, 2005


'tis the season for nasty colds, by all indications. maybe half the people i've spoken with this week seem to be suffering from one variation or another. been about a week and a half since i've had a good night's sleep, due to a bad cough. Elle's had a high fever the last couple of days too, although she seems to be doing much better today.

i'm listening to an interview with Jack Groppel, a fitness expert who has some really interesting things to say to ministry leaders about the role of energy in ministry. for example, instead of managing time, Jack suggests that we manage energy. time management only takes you from being absent to being present, whereas we give life to whatever we give our energy to, and growth always follows energy investment (which may require time, but that's a secondary consideration). really looking forward to hearing what he has to say further on in the interview. i expect he's got some insightful thoughts about how to recover, recapture, and renew emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical energy.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

catching up

after a certain amount of time goes by without a post, i start to think, "wow, i've got so much to write about, that i need more time to write it than i have available right now." and then the next time i have to write a quick post, there's even more to write about and so the snowball grows. perhaps the only solution is to pretend i've been posting all along, and just move on. so without further ado, all the things i would have been blogging about had i been a little less neurotic:

moving in. much help, from family and church. Joe painting our whole house. gratis, an extension of blessing from Abba. spectacular results, living like royalty now. Roxie and everyone who knows her and/or is related to her landscaping our yard, pouring a patio, planting stuff. at cost or less. all the shrubs, trees, etc. paid for by people from the church. waiting til spring for grass. all around, this whole new home experience has been soaked in soul-blowing generosity. makes Ronni and i get teary eyed when we think of it all.

trick or treating. meeting neighbors. eating Colin's candy. prayer waliking the neighborhood. serving in small ways.

installing a water line for the fridge, lights, and a cat door. only lost my salvation a couple of times, temporarily.

small group joys and growth. whole string of prayers being answered recently in the group. very cool.

flying with Mike and Arnie to Jackson in a 172 Cessna. taxied, took off from Jackson, navigated and flew at night, under snow clouds to A2, landed, taxied to hanger. with much encouragment and guidance from Mike and Arnie. serious beauty in the sky. serious rush. serious relief.

first second saturday outreach project that happened without me...and was a rousing success. cleaning gutters for elderly homeowners.

Amy and Ben watching the kids so Ronni and i could have a real date. Red Lobster and Pride & Prejudice. best chick flick i've seen, maybe ever.

Elle falling down the basement stairs. unharmed. Thanksgiving. Elle turning one. most delightful daughter. ever.

new sermon series re: advent begun this week. prayer early wednesday mornings at the church. first one today. Holy Spirit present in power. got all blubbery at the end; excited for Jesus to return, inspired to work hard so that he will find faith in this corner of the earth when he shows up.

Friday, October 28, 2005

in brief

fantastic fall free-for-all on saturday (over 400 attendees, great weather, much fun, the whole 9 yards). baptisms on sunday. U2 on monday (cheapest tickets in the arena landed me front row, inside the ellipse, hand to hand contact with Bono, the whole 9 yards). closed on our new house wednesday (45 minutes, smooth as double churned butter). prepping the house this week, moving in on sunday after church. there is no way in heaven's name i deserve a "maker's 7" week like this (think: baker's dozen = 14, maker's 7 = 8 ... i don't know; maybe it'll catch on). but i'm gladly receiving it. oh, and a right turn on red in a no right turn on red ticket just to keep me from thinking i'm above the law.

must go to Lowes. must write much much more, especially about U2 concert. must find some time next week, assuming internet connection gets turned on, computer set up, etc.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

fall evening

sitting in the front yard of my parents' house, browsing the new itunes video store, watching Colin play with the neighbor kids, keeping an ear out for Elle who's sleeping inside. Ronni's leading worship team rehearsal tonight. really proud of her, love seeing her explore and stretch her giftings, love seeing her serve Jesus. Grace and Dad are playing catch in the driveway...Dad's throwing it as high as he can and Grace is snagging them all, quite impressive. Mom is in Midland for the state equestrian championships, which start tonight. she's a big Alias fan, which for some reason strikes me as humorous, so i've got to remember to record it for her tonight.

Grace, Ronni, and i did another photo shoot this afternoon, for a game called Nymble, sort of like Scattegories but with synonyms, antonymn, and homonymns. much fun pretending to have fun. funny how forcing smiles for an hour puts you in a good mood.

looking forward to the U2 concert on the 24th. looking forward to moving into our new home, too. it's pretty much finished now, just waiting for our closing date which was moved up to the 26th.

Elle seems to be waking up...gotta run!

Saturday, October 8, 2005


drove Ronni and the kids down to Milan this morning to pick up our van from the repair shop for the 3rd time in the last two weeks. this one was on the house, as apparently the last repair didn't take.

we finally won a basketball game today, in overtime no less. hard fought contest, dramatic ending. Gordon, Hartman, Bartholomay, Landingham, Brennan, and Sheilds were clutch. Gordon, especially, was a monster in the overtime period. Eric hurt his shoulder at the end of the first half - hard foul/tackle - and had to leave. hope he's alright. prayed for him. still waiting for an instant healing on the court. on my "before i die" list. wasn't expecting to play because of my ankle, but brought my uniform and shoes along just in case. saw a few minutes of action in the second half, after Eric had to leave, mainly to give some tired players a quick rest. wasn't too much of a liability, thankfully. felt really good to get out on the court after a game and a half layoff.

8 of us or so went out later in the afternoon to repair roofs at a modular home community in town. fixed up 5 or 6 roofs. really seemed to make an impression on the families we served. had a great time doing it together. what a remarkable group of people - hard workers, compassionate, giving, fun loving, eager to serve. the kind of experience that makes you feel lucky to be a part of a church.

feeling pretty under the weather tonight. praying to be well for a busy day tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 5, 2005

Arthur and other things

went out with Arthur, the new pastor at People's Presbyterian, last tuesday to clean bathrooms downtown, partially to join with the Holy Spirit in infusing the community with Jesus' life and love, but mainly because it was good for our souls. went to an auto dealership, a new restaurant, a hardware store, and a hair salon. got turned down by a video store and a vet clinic. ran into lots of curious strangers and surprised friends alike. we had a blast together. loved seeing Arthur's heart for the community, passion for Jesus, enthusiasm for the kingdom to come. discovered he's a fellow disc golfer (although he did use the "f" word, so i'll have to talk to him about that).

continuing to grow in my love and appreciation for the vineyard tribe, too. been getting emails from a friend in Maryland, Steve, who's gaining a heart to plant a church with his family down the road. Steve's one of those way-smarter-than-I-am guys, and he's been churning out these high quality daily devotions/meditations chock full of depth and insight. i got to spend a few days with my dad at some conferences in the southern Ohio/northern Kentucky area recently, and i was so impressed with some of the pastors and leaders i got to hang out with and listen to. humble, tenacious, hungry, faithful, gifted...the whole 9 yards. and people in here at the Milan Vineyard who are just amazing. generous, fun, loving, self-less, compassionate, eager to grow, eager to serve. very inspiring.

my mom coaches the Pioneer High equestrian team, and they won the regionals last weekend. state finals in a week and a half. Mom is so proud of her team, as i am of her.

Grace is dominating at field hockey again; i think her team is still undefeated. if you've been following local controveries, you may be interested to know that it is her team that's been getting all the press about the boy on the girls' squad.

fun living at home with all these goings on, getting to play foosball with my dad and sister whenever we get the itch, etc. learning how cool Grace is, too. she pre-read my sermon this past weekend, and gave me some great feedback that was really helpful.

had a cool dream about worship two nights ago. the setting was a sunday morning celebration, and we were singing "beautiful one". really singing it, wholeheartedly, wholevoicedly, everyone alltogether, band, congregation, new and old. as if Jesus was bodily present among us, receiving our worship. i was weeping in the dream as i sang. happy kind of tears, tight throat, loud voice. right up there as dreams go, even better than the flying ones. a completely convincing kind of dream, nothing odd about it all. like i was really worshipping as i slept. i could sleep that kind of sleep forever.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

feet, etc.

had a great time at the relay for life last weekend. about 20 people from the church showed up to massage tired walkers' feet, rotating in teams from noon til 6 p.m. it was especially heartenging to see a couple of people show up to help who have always had a serious distate for feet of all sorts, but who set that distaste aside in preference for taking on the attitude of Christ, who clearly is willing to get close to even the most distasteful parts of us in order to serve us. we had a blast. lots of double takes, disbelieving looks, and comments like, "free? for real?!? sign me up!" lots of very blessed people. some even came back for seconds later in the day. we probably massaged over 100 pairs of feet by the end of the outreach. and gave away hundreds of bottles of water and lolipops to kids.

next month our plan is to fix some deteriorating roofs in a modular home community. a couple guys in the church have all the tools, shingles, and other supplies we need. looking forward to learning how to do it, not to mention serving people, too.

played our first church league basketball game today. lost, alas. close, within 10 points, but we just weren't that sharp. we played a really good team, Living Rock, though, so it could have been worse.

Colin's still kickin' it on 2 wheels. has it down totally, now, slow, fast, turns, starts, stops. on a related note, Elle's getting close to crawling. kind of scoots around on her diapered tush...kind of like a clock: can't see it move while you're looking at it, but turn away for a couple of minutes and it's definitely cruising around.

closing date is set for october 28th on our new house. woohoo! siding and bricks are all on now, dry wall is done and painted, trim, doors, cabinets, countertops, bathtubs, windows, porch, railings...amazing how quickly things progressed over the last couple of weeks. waiting on floors, carpets, sinks, hotwater heater, lights, switches, outlets, that sort of thing. i hear this is where it slows up quite a bit, but we sure are looking forward to seeing it all come together. it's kind of fun, because everything was picked out ahead of time by the developer, so it's a surprise whenever something new shows up. we keep thinking, "that's what we would have picked!" a friend mentioned today that God must have been working way ahead of time for us. no doubt about it. and no signs that he's about to let up.

Thursday, September 8, 2005

look out, Dave Mira

"can you take off my training wheels, Dad, and teach me how to ride a 2 wheeler?" Colin asked me when i got home from work.

"Sure, Colin, no problem." found a wrench, whipped off the battered training wheels, and held the bike steady as Colin mounted.

i started pushing, holding the seat, expecting to have to hold it steady while he tried to balance. but his little legs started pumping, and the bike bucked forward under the force of surprisingly vigorous pedalling. seconds later he was out of my grasp, weaving, correcting, leveling out, oh my, riding on his own. running out of room, he began to turn around. and amazingly, kept on turning, and more amazingly straightened out again and headed back toward me. his eyes wide open in wonder and surprise. my mouth open in much the same fashion, too, i'm sure. just when I thought he'd run me over, he put on the brakes, let the bike tip over and hopped off. holy retired training wheels, Batman!

he's had a few wipe outs this evening, but no broken skin and no broken will. what a thrill. more for me than for Colin, i think. took a little video on the digital camera to show Ronni, since she was off at worship team rehearsal...maybe i'll post it if i can find a way to upload it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005


been trying to do an outreach project of some kind every second saturday of the month, which had to be rescheduled to sunday this month because of a wedding this past saturday. i hadn't gotten much response from people in the church yet, so as i drove to church sunday morning i still wasn't sure exactly what we'd do after church. passing the Sunoco station off U.S. 23 & Carpenter Rd in Milan, though, i felt a sense of conviction that we should start by washing the bathroom there.

after church, i could find only one person who wanted to join me, a 10 year old named Sarah. (a little background: Sarah, who loves Jesus with all her heart, had heard about our last servant evangelism project a couple of months ago, and then the next day she'd called me saying she read an article in a magazine about a vineyard church in another state doing the same kind of outreach, and how God had done something awesome through it. she made me promise to take her along the next time we washed bathrooms.) i knew Sarah was really eager to go, but i also knew it probably wasn't a good idea to go out if it were just going to be she and i. so i told her and her parents we could reschedule for another time when there was at least one other person available.

as we were talking about it, servant evangelism veteran Jon overheard and said, "oh, you're not going?" as i explained the situation, he told me he was up for it, if we still were. alright, we decided, it was getting late, but it would be worth doing at least one bathroom, if only so Sarah could get a taste of serving Jesus this way.

we loaded cleaning gear and some chocolates into my car, and pulled out of the church parking lot. on the road, i shared about my sense earlier that morning. we agreed to go to the Sunoco station, and prayed that God would use us and that we'd be allowed to clean their bathroom, since it was the only place we had in mind.

inside the station, there was a small line of people waiting to pay. we got in line behind them so that we could ask the cashier permission to clean the bathroom (funny, huh? you can dirty bathrooms without permission, but you've got to ask to clean them). the line took some time because the cashier was on the phone for a while, writing something down on a sheet of paper. eventually the line moved, people payed, and we got close to the front. only one young woman was in front of us--she'd been up front the whole time in fact, as people we're paying their bills. she hadn't moved. that is, until it was our turn to talk to the cashier.

she turned to face us, and seemed to be on the verge of tears. our eyes met hers, and she seemed to be pleading. "are you o.k.?" we asked.

"no," she said, and began to cry.

"what's wrong? is there anything we can do to help?"

"i'm lost. i just moved to Monroe a month ago, and now i don't know where i am or how i got here or how i'm going to get home." there was panic in her voice, and despair, like she was confused and trapped.

"it's o.k.," we said, trying to reassure her that Monroe was only 20 minutes or so from Milan, and that we were sure we could help her find her way home, no problem. that seemed to produce no relief whatsoever. then the cashier told us that she already had directions (that is why she'd been on the phone, writing down directions on the paper).

"is there something else?" we asked.

"i ran out of gas, and i don't have any money..."

aha! it suddenly became clear why Jesus had sent us to this gas station today. "no problem at all," we said, "your gas is on us today. that's why we're here. will you let us pay for it?" as we gave the cashier money, the anxiety and hopelessness melted away from the young woman's face, giving way to relief and bewilderment.

"would you like some chocolates?" Sarah asked, handing her a gift box of Godiva chocolates. the tears on her cheeks seemed to change midstream, from sadness to joyful surprise as her face brightened.

"would you like us to pray for you, too? we'd be happy to."

"yes...please. that would be great..." so we did, briefly and simply, there in the checkout line, and her whole person seemed full of peace when the prayer was done. Jon said he looked at the cashier while we were praying and her eyes were tearing up as well.

after the young woman went out to fill up her car with gas, the cashier asked what we wanted. "oh," we said, "we're here to clean your bathroom for you...may we?"

the expression on the cashiers face was genuinely priceless, as she nodded, temporarily too discombobulated (is that a real word?) to speak. we gave her some chocolates as well, and attended to our business, cleaning the bathroom to the best of our ability.

we thanked her for the opportunity to serve her afterwards, loaded the car back up, and drove back to the church, praying for the people we'd served and rejoicing that God had met us at Sunoco. rejoicing that he'd loved that young woman enough to send us to express his love and care to her. and rejoicing that he'd loved us enough to let us play.

senses, part 2

continuing from the previous post...

one of the striking things about that sunset experience for me was the realization that the sunset conveyed to me the same feelings as the primary images we've used at church for our mission statement: "infusing the milan area with the life and love of Jesus by faithfully creating breathing room for the disconnected to connect, the disfavored to find favor, and the discounted to count." more specifically, when i was searching for those particular images, what i had in my mind was, in retrospect, like a pre-vision of that overwhelming sensory experience i was yet to have. or something like that.

anyway, i'm growing in awareness that "home" for me might be connected to mission. as if mission (God-directed purpose) is an integral part of what it means to have a "home." makes me think of Israel's longing to be in the promised land during their wandering - not only was it to be a good land "flowing with milk and honey", but also that God's purposes through them were to be accomplished there. obviously, there is much more to home than that - and at some level, we'll continue to have a longing for home that is only satisfied in God, and even at that, only fully satisfied when his kingdom comes in fullness. but i imagine we'll continue to have a mission when the kingdom comes in fullness - what kind of kingdom would it be if we have no purpose, nothing to do creatively in cooperation with God?

so enough rambling on that for the moment. got a good story to share from this weekend. next post, though...have a lunch meeting to get to.

Friday, August 5, 2005


reflecting back over this past week, a multilayered God encounter has revealed itself to my sometimes well insulated mind. last saturday, the milan vineyard worship team led worship at the ann arbor vineyard church's saturday evening celebration. i came along for the sheer pleasure of it all, and to help take care of our kids while Ronni did her thing.

my dad's sermon (which was excellent) was about the role of the senses (sight, hearing, taste, touch, smell) in experiencing God. the senses like the gates to the temple that we are. enjoyment of God-provided pleasures (through nature, people, words, music, etc) as way for the joy of the Lord to be our strength. afterwards, during prayer ministry time, Don (associate pastor at the a2 vineyard) anointed me with oil and prayed a blessing over my senses that they might be awakened to holy enjoyments.

driving home to milan that evening, as i exited u.s. 23 onto willis road going west, perhaps the most beautiful sunset i've ever seen arrested my attention. the light was gold, brushed with the oranges and reds of wood embers, soft, almost fluffy, and warm, flooding the woods surrounding the old psychiatric hospital. the sun was melting on the horizon like a glob of honey, swelling, pulsing, singing, slow dancing with the tall, lanky trees as they glided past my window. the air seemed to glow and swirl along the ground, leaving thousands of droplets of dewy light to settle on the grassy ground. for the eighth of a mile before the stop sign at platt, i was enthralled. my thoughts stretched out like a cat awakening from a nap, my breathing slowed, my heartbeat found some ancient rhythm and settled into it's grooves. at platt, i let the car idle and drank in the pleasure. how long, i'm not sure. it felt timeless. probably just a few seconds. then another car drew up behind me, and i turned south towards home, the glory slipping back behind me.

that night was / will be / will have been? the last night we spent/d? in milan for a couple of months. we moved after church sunday morning into my parents home in ann arbor, and we'll be here until our new house is completed near the end of october. this is one of the houses i grew up in, in the city i was born in and spent my entire childhood living in. and strangely, though the house is full of love and peace, and though everytime i've visited for Christmas or a birthday party or some other such occasion, i've felt in some sense like i'm coming home, and though i have great affection for the city of ann arbor and though i'm cheering on God's activity here, i feel distinctly 'away from home'. blessed? yes. happy? yes. loved? yes. in God's will? yes. well provided for? yes. home? yes at one level that's real and true, but also no, at another level that i've never really realized before. and i've noticed that every time i drive into milan now, whether to go to the office, or clean up something at our old house, or to check out the progress on the new house (682 Poppy Lane, btw), i feel like i've come home.

and then driving through downtown milan the other day, the thought came to me, perhaps for the first time, God wants to make this city great. great in what sense, i have no specific idea. but great, for sure. i have the impression the Lord must be up to something significant over this brief time away, either doing something in my heart, or revealing something in my heart, or probably both. looking forward to it all.

more on the sunset significance in the next post...but have to run now, off for the closing on our st. louis street house. praying the new owners experience as much blessing and joy there as we did.

Tuesday, August 2, 2005

back online

just a quick note to say that computers are operational and connected to the net again, so blogging should re-commence with regularity now. (i'll give more details tomorrow, but in brief, we've moved to my parents house while we're waiting for our new home to be completed in October. as a result, i didn't have access to the internet for a bit as offices were being moved around and set up.)

Friday, July 15, 2005

vacation, etc.

here at Surf Cafe in Alpena, sipping a SoBe lemonade (with a blend of melissa and lemongrass - poor melissa, eh?), renewing library books online, reading about Carl Rove's controversy and Tiger Wood's extraordinary play so far in the British Open.

so far on vacation:

an emergency vehicle pulled into Lorien, responding to a call about someone choking. must have had the wrong address, as everyone in our set of cabins was fine.

golfed Monday with Linc Smith and Nick Collman, shot a 91. Linc shot an 84. on borrowed clubs.

Monday was also my parents' 35th wedding anniversary. decked out a bunch of picnic tables with roses, tablecloths, nice dishes. Ben cooked up a succulent feast. Mom and Dad renewed their vows, everyone got choked up. shared stories about their marriage, their love for one another, dispensed solicited advice - maybe i'll recap it sometime when i have more time. Dad wrote a story about their wedding day 35 years ago, called year zero. fantastic. made Mom cry.

played doubles tennis with Ronni against Nick & his dad, Richard. won 6-4, 6-0.

golfed Tuesday with Linc, again. 9 holes this time. shot a 40, best i've ever played i think. 3 pars and a birdie all in one stretch. Linc shot a 39. on borrowed clubs.

on the 4th hole, met a guy named Dick Dubine while we waited for the hole ahead of us to clear. also vacationing, up for a family reunion. hails from Atlanta, just flew in from China. in his 60's probably. decided to play together the rest of the way. found out we were both staying on long lake. didn't happen to have an emergency at your family reunion on Sunday, did you? i asked. sure enough, it was his 37 year old nephew, had a seizure. then another at the hospital. scary. and quite a coincidence that we would run into him because of the beginners golfing ahead of us. shook hands when we were done, best wishes for the rest of his stay, his nephew, etc.

get back to Lorien later that afternoon, go swimming with Colin and my dad. telling my dad about running into Dick, his mouth agape. says to me, "what are the odds of that!?" but i can't hear him very clear, because a jet ski has just rumbled past, quite close. "what are the odds?" he repeats. yeah, no kidding.

jet ski turns off now. hard to tell because of the glint of the sun, but it looks like the rider is trying to get our attention. sure enough, it's Phil Cook. worship leader at the Vineyard in Milan when we first moved to Milan, in the mid 90's. moved up to Alpena for a teaching position 8 or 9 years ago. "Phil!" we say. " funny, we were just talking about coincidences, and here you are!"

"how'd you like golfing with Dick this afteroon?" Phil asks. now my mouth is agape. "What? How do you know Dick? How do you know I golfed with him? What's going on...?" i think i said all that. at least i thought it. i may have just been stammering. Phil's laughing, that much is for sure.

"he's my wife's uncle," Phil says. "he's here for her family's reunion this week. when he got back from golfing and told me he met a Linc from Ann Arbor and a Jesse from Milan, i figured i knew exactly who he was talking about. so i hopped on the jet ski thinking i might catch you cooling off. and sure enough..."

after catching up, Phil offered us some rides on his machine. very cool. got to take Colin and Grace for rides, and then again the next day too.

saw war of the worlds for the 3rd time, with my dad, who was seeing it for the first time. we both loved it.

took Colin canoeing this morning, played some tennis and Tiger Woods 2005 with him, too. beautiful day once again. having a great vacation.

oh, and the inspection contingency on our house is all signed off now, no issues. no pests either, praise God. just a matter of closing on the 5th of August. oh and finding a place to live, securing a new mortgage, and all that. just minor details. at least it sure feels like minor details, given God's great provision along the way so far.

Friday, July 8, 2005


we signed a sales agreement today: whoohoo!

after a conversation with Ronni about the particulars, prayed about whether or not to accept the offer we received today. held hands, Ronni, Colin, Elle and i, and asked Jesus to show us what to do. listened quitely for a minute or so, then polled everyone.

said she felt peaceful about it - felt a reassurance of sufficent grace for the unknown ahead (finding a new house to live in, etc.).

"Jesus say anything to you Colin...?"
"great...what did he say?"
"Jesus said 'yes' we should."
"really? cool."

"Elle...?" big smile. of course, she always smiles. but confirming nonetheless.

"How about you, Jesse...?" Ronni asked. "Yeah, i felt good about it too...nothing specific, just peace, but nothing negative for sure."

"hey Colin, did you hear anything else?" i asked him.
"yes, i did. he said we should live with Gramma and Grandpa and Grace while they're making our new house..."
"yeah - building it."

hmmm, thought Ronni and i, we've mentioned those things as possibilities, but certainly not definites, especially the building thing. have to file that away for future reference in coming house hunting process, i suppose. just awaiting the buyers inspection next week while we're on vacation. hope there's nothing major wrong with the house we've been living in for 5 years :) sure would be a bummer to find out... if all goes well, scheduled to close on August 5.

Lentz's came by to pray over us this afternoon for a great vacation. we are almost crazy blessed. in the really good sense of crazy.

best decade

ten years ago today, on a sunny day in Rockwood, Michigan, Ronni and I each said "I do" to the various questions posed to us, made our vows to one another, and exchanged rings. the presiding pastor, though experienced, was apparently quite nervous, as he tried to announce us husband and wife without first letting me kiss my stunning bride. "ummm..." i whispered, turning to him, "Dad, don't I get to kiss her...?" much laughter, shuffling of papers, and blood to cheeks ensued, followed by a most satisfying kiss and the stately guitars of Europe's "Final Countdown" as we left the building to raucous applause.

phone ringing, hold on...

that was aunt denise, our realtor. offer on house just came in. below our asking price, but worth considering. hmm. very exciting. offers, counter offers, etc. will give full report in due time...

heading up north to alpena (long lake, specifically) for vacation in the morning. Mom, Dad, Grace, Amy, Ben, Ben's parents, maybe Ben's brother Nick will all be up there too. can't wait!

Monday, June 20, 2005

honey stop the car!

phew! took the big plunge today and put our house on the market. met with my aunt Denise today (she's a realtor) and signed all the paperwork, took all the pictures, etc. my mom and Grace took care of Colin and Elle for us as we went out looking at houses available for sale in Milan, as well as some of the new developments under construction. Ronni and i laughed at the signs in the front yards with slogans like "i'm gorgeous inside!" or "honey, stop the car!". then we realized we'll probably have one like that in our front yard :)

why the move? space. more specifically, the need (desire, really) for more since our family has grown. another bathroom with three of us and four in the not to distant future competing for one would be great. another bedroom for Elle when she outgrows her crib, too. and if we can swing it, a room where Ronni can teach piano lessons and put her computer. figured now would be a good time to go for it, since interest rates are still so low, and as we've prayed about it gotten nothing but green lights as best as we can discern.

there's a lot we're going to miss (assuming our house sells, of course). we've got awesome neighbors that we really love. we've got a great yard, the likes of which is hard to find in the new construction areas. and this has been a really happy house for us. bright and open, trouble free, with lots of unforgettable experiences taking place inside. bringing Colin and Elle home from the hospital for the first time, for example. youth team and high school kor group meetings. parties. gaming fests. sweet times of prayer. etc, etc.

strange combination of joy and anticipation / fear and trepidation / bittersweet feelings brewing inside. have to spend some time talking with Jesus about all that, do some surrendering, let him do some sorting. should be fun :)

no idea how quickly or slowly this process will go -- never sold a house before!

as an aside, we've been so busy i haven't had time to blog about the full motion flight simulator i got to visit, or the pistons, or our come from behind softball victory, or my old man / clumsy injuries, or the fun outreaches at church, or the upcoming week in Cincinatti (leave tomorrow) with the middle school and high school students for the summer of service, or our amazing board at church, fathers day, etc. etc. oh well, better busy than the alternative.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

good meeting

find myself really growing to love some of the other vineyard pastors in our area as we get to know one another over time. it was refreshing and encouraging to meet together in Owosso today. much laughter and love (ask me in person some time about what I learned from Jim Pool about how penguin reproductive practices reflect deep truths about the nature of faith). Don Milton (New Life Vineyard in Midland) is our new area pastoral care leader (my dad was doing that previously, but is now the regional overseer, so he's passed it on to Don), and he's doing an excellent job. he obviously cares for all of us a great deal, and led a great discussion on protecting / fostering / nourishing moral integrity within our lives as leaders. also a sweet time of worship and prayer for one another to close the meeting. it sure is invigorating to be in the company of such humble, excellent servants of the King.

quick update

heading to owasso for a meeting with area vineyard pastors this morning and afternoon...i've been way slacking on posts, and have much to give updates on. but it will have to wait, alas, until tomorrow sometime.

Friday, June 3, 2005


we won our softball game tonight, after getting mercied in our last game. sure feels better to win. great group of guys, great group of fans and supporters. especially great since the game we got mercied, most of our wives and families at the game weren't paying any attention, or at least feigning ignorance really well. and tonight, when we did alright for ourselves, it seems they were actually taking notice, or at least faking it really well. warning - late night post sermon prep preacher rabit trail ahead: occurs to me that it must have been tough on Jesus, being the alpha of alpha males, to have the whole world, including his closest friends and family, think he'd totally failed. beyond the excruciating physical pain, experience of seperation from his Father, weight of human brokenness, and all the rest. just the plain old "losing" bit of the experience would have been devastating, i think. on the other hand, sunday morning must have been really sweet. a long lasting kind of sweet. safe to read on...

introducing vineyard class tomorrow. makes for an exhausting weekend, energy wise, but i really enjoy the introducing vineyard class experience. invigorating to talk about the most important enterprise in the world with a group of people who maybe never realized how close they are to the center of God's activity in human history, who maybe will discover that God's got a role for them to play, who maybe will get swept up into it, who maybe will begin an adventure that will change the face of this area forever, because of their contributions. invigorating to remind myself that i couldn't be more significantly priviliged than i am. i like the pithy way Bill Hybels puts it: "the local church is the hope of the world, and the future of the local church rests primarily in the hands of it's leaders." maybe i should stop blogging and get a good night's sleep tonight...

Thursday, May 26, 2005

trying not to let it go to my head

after a grueling campaign, full of handshaking, babykissing, and more mudslinging than i'd care to admit, the members of the milan ministerial association elected me to serve as president this year. i'm sure most of the votes were a result of the new first lady's off the charts approval rating, but i'll take what i can get, especially since there appeared to to be nothing i could do to get out of it. not sure exactly what all the duties are yet (still have to sit down with Dale, who served with distinction for the last couple of years, and go through all the national secrets, have the official transfer of vestments, hand over the keys to the popemobile, etc.), but i'm genuinely excited to have an excuse to more intentionally support and encourage the pastors in this community. have to pray about the best way to do that, being a relative newcomer and all. we've got a great group of servants in the association, pastors who really love Jesus, who care about his kingdom and his people above everything else.

unrelated note: Colin's got strep throat and an ear infection, although, amazingly, is in as good a mood as always, and taking his medications like a champ. i'm pretty under the weather too, but the doctor cleared me of strep today and gave me several prescriptions to battle this nasty bug. defcon 1, 2, and 3 he called them. up to defcon 2 tonight; defcon 3 is for saturday if things still haven't turned around and i need something to get me through sunday. have i mentioned Dr. Scuccimari before? one of the best healers i know.

related note: my dad was president of the mma, too. sort of a GHWB - GWB thing going on, i reck'n. not sure that's entirely flattering to either of us, depending on your particular persuasions, so maybe i shouldn't have brought it up. but then again, better to get it out in the open before someone writes an op-ed piece...

Friday, May 20, 2005

one for aunt becky

the following may be old news for those of you who are part of the milan vineyard (happened to mention it last sunday), but our 4 year old son Colin has one relative in particular who will be quite proud of him after hearing this:

tuesday evening, just returned from Chicago, trying to prepare for our home group that evening. Ronni's cooking dinner, but i don't really notice. or if i do, i'm too preoccupied to do the math. preoccupied with myself, as it turns out.

"dinner time," she calls.

"oh, didn't i tell you? i'm not really hungry. too much to do to get ready tonight," i say, as i look at the beautiful spread on the table. spaghetti, homemade rolls, steamed vegetables. Colin, seated across from me, eagerly waiting to say grace and dig in.

an incredulous look spreads over Ronni's normally placable face. a sinking feeling develops in the pit of my stomach. hmm... i think, maybe that was the wrong answer.

"you're not hungry? didn't you see me cooking for the last hour and a half!? why didn't you say something? save me from all that work? i only did all this for you."

good questions. to which an intelligent, emotionally balanced person would reply, "i'm so sorry. i got all wrapped up in myself, and totally ignored you. please forgive me. my appetite seems to have returned full force. let's eat!"

but here's what i say: "oh yeah?! well, why didn't you notice how much i had to get done for home group tonight? couldn't you tell there's no way i'd be eating dinner tonight?"

remarkably, Ronni doesn't slap me. instead she just says, "Jesse, please stop. you're not making things any better. i had just put a lot of work into this, and was hoping you'd enjoy it. please don't make me feel worse."

stop, who me? no way. i'm like a tired kid who missed his nap, all filters are gone. i'm just getting rolling. "(dripping with sarcasm now) yeah, that's my goal in life, to make you feel awful. i thought to myself, look how hard Ronni is working because she loves me. i wonder what i can do to really hurt her. oh, i know. i'll tell her i'm not hungry. yeah, that's the ticket."

it gets kind of foggy at this point. i think i go on, i think i'm like a train that's been derailed, all self control has jumped the tracks. bodies are piling up, until the voice of God comes booming out of Colin's mouth, like Jesus' voice silences the infamous storm on the sea of Gallilee.

"Dad! Dad!"

"what, Colin?" irritably, because he's interrupted my narcissistic flow.

"Dad, you should stop. when Mom tells you to stop doing something, you need to stop it." bright eyed, confident, cheerful. says it like it's self evident. as if he's explaining gravity to a four year old.

i squirm, hem and haw, babble something about how yes, those are his rules, but they don't apply the same way to dads, etc.

"no, Dad. you should stop right now." assertive, firm, his eyes putting a half-nelson on my soul. "you're letting your emotions be in charge of you."

"my emotions be in charge of me?" I exclaim, flabbergasted. or maybe just gasted.

"yes, Dad. you need to be in charge of your emotions. then you can stop like Mom says."

Ronni and i have lost it now. she's laughing, smiling triumphantly (as she should), and i'm laughing, cringing, humbled, melting like so much margerine in the heat of my son.

"and what should i stop doing, Colin?" i ask.

"stop making things worse for Mom," he explains, matter of factly. matter of factly, indeed.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

an hour well spent

Steve Sjogren and Rob Lewin write in their recent book, Community of Kindness, "We believe that a church that doesn't do outreach is a waste of time," and " of the foremost qualities that makes for church-planting success is great humility of heart." with that in mind, Jon Bartholomay and i spent an hour today trying our best to communicate Jesus' love to our city, Milan, Michigan. here's a recap of 1:10-2:10 p.m.

1:10 load two buckets with windex, paper towel, pine-sol, sponges, toilet brushes, toilet cleaner, and garbage bags into my car, as well as a bag with 35 gift boxes of Godiva chocolate. each box has this card slipped under the ribbon:

1:11 drive main to wabash, over the river, and into the city complex.
1:14 walk into the police station, and wait for the dispatcher to get off a phone call. "here for the pager?" she inquires (i'm on a once a month rotation as a chaplain for the police department).

"no, actually here to drop off some chocolates for everyone on duty this weekend," we reply, showing her the chocolates. "all free, of course." give her 6 boxes of chocolates, one for each police officer working the weekend shift. wish her well, and thank her for her service to the community.

1:17 walk to the library, and Jon gives the surprised librarian and his coworker a couple boxes of chocolates. "what's this all about?" calls the one furthest away.

"rainy day." I say. "thought you might enjoy some Lady Godiva chocolates"

"really? why?"

"just because God loves you," Jon says.

"wow, thanks!" she says as we leave.

1:20 back up wabash, left on main, park in front of the downtown laundromat. we give chocolates to the two men doing laundry. they look pretty surprised. "this sure makes having to do the wash a lot better," comments one guy as he thanks us.

1:22 wind our way through the back streets to dexter / carpenter, heading north. pull into the other laundromat in town and give chocolates to the 5 or 6 people there. everyone accepts, gladly. "your're from the vineyard church?" asks one woman as we're leaving.

"you know it?"

"i've been to the one in ann arbor once," she says.

we talk for a couple of minutes, introduce ourselves, discover she lives in Milan, works at the adult care facility. we tell her about the church, let her know she's welcome anytime, and offer to pray for her. she enthusiasticaly accepts the offer of prayer, telling us about her children and mother. Jon and i bless her as we leave, and stop at the car to pray for her and her family. we also grab the cleaning supply buckets.

1:30 pop into the coney island restaraunt, and one of the waitresses recognizes me from waiting on me a few times, asks what we're up to, and gets the owner's attention. we give Jonny (the owner and head cook) chocolates for him and his staff (which they seem really surprised and happy about), and tell him we'd love to wash his bathrooms for him. classic servant evangelism double take. priceless. seriously, we persist. free, no catch, no strings attached. go for it! he says, and points the way. Jon and I divy up the work, toilets, sinks, mirrors, and garbage. we work fast, so the customers aren't inconvenienced. we work thoroughly, too, though, so that God's love gets a good reputation, if you know what i mean. many enthusaistic thanks from waitstaff, chefs, and ownership alike on the way out. we thank them for allowing us to serve them. and we mean it. we're having a blast.

1:45 run back to the car to get the bathroom cards, because the next place, Marco's Pizza, has an employee only bathroom (i feel funny leaving cards in public restrooms, since the cards can seem like sneaky advertising--but they work great for employee only bathrooms, since the employees always wonder what in the world we're doing). the cards look like this:

1:47 chocolates for the Marco's employees and a clean bathroom too. still no rejections, which is amazing in this line of work. hard to believe how difficult it is for many people to receive things for free, whether because of skepticism, or lack of practice, or whatever. but we're on a roll, having a great time together, talking, serving, laughing.

1:55 Subway is up next. the manager seems skeptical about the chocolates (maybe it's a language barrier, maybe cultural, maybe it's just outside his categories, who knows). but when one of his employees hears Godiva chocolate is being offered, there's no stopping the love.

"Godiva!? seriously? i'll take some!"

the manager's resistance drops, and he accepts the offer. then we ask about cleaning the their bathroom. another questioning look from the manager.

"our bathroom?" asks the younger guy, incredulously. "why?"

"just a way to show you God love you," answers Jon.

"wow, that's so cool!" he exlaims.

again, the manager softens. points the way to the bathroom. "go ahead," he says, resigned.

10 minutes later, as we're walking out, offering our thanks for the privilege, he beckons us over, points at a new employee behind the counter. we hand over the whole bag of boxes of chocolates. a big smile explodes on the manager's face, and he grabs a box of chocolate out of the bag, handing one to the new guy. go ahead, we encourage him. his smile broadens and he grabs a couple more. he thanks us vigorously, and then asks why, again, are we doing all this. Jesus loved to wash peoples' feet, we say, loved to meet their needs in surprising ways. we're just trying to be like him, best as we can.

2:08 a dry cleaner is the last place on that's open nearby. we stop in and give the woman there some chocolate. seems like she's not exactly sure what to make of us. no, her bathrooms don't need washing. it's free, we clarify. no, still, they are quite clean, nothing needed. no problem, we say, wishing her well and heading back to the car, praying for the people we met, praying for them to meet God's love personally, back to the church, back home.

it's good to get out.

vertigo in chicago

thoroughly enjoyed myself at the U2 show in chicago on Monday. my dad (53), my sister Grace (12), and I (34) must have been quite the odd triplet to observe as we entered the United Center. each of us as excited as the others for the show to start, even if we showed it in different ways. my dad offering conjectures about what method lies behind the particular madness that is U2. Grace trembling, bouncing, quivering with awe and anticipation. me dribbling out bits of trivia about the shows so far on the tour picked up from scouring various fan sites, burning the sequence of songs that comprised my best guess as to the set list that night for us to listen to on the 4 1/2 hour drive into the very windy city.

met up with Cathy Bartholomay, her brother Eddie, and Rachel Smallish once we got in there. i sat with them for the bulk of the show, as my membership only allowed me to get two pre-sale seats, which Dad and Grace used (didn't mind them having the prime real estate, since Ronni and i have floor tickets for the Detroit show in october). Eddie was almost as wired as Grace, i think. which added to the fun, because he's got the kind of energy that's contagious.

what a sweet experience, as Cathy said in an email later. here's a link to a review of the show we saw, if you're interested in the blow by blow details. two highlights for me: (1) singing elevation, Bono holds the mic out to the crowd, and 23,000 people sing the word "soul" in unison. had a witness, as they like to say in more spirited churches. sensed the Holy Spirit's presence and the Father's delight as we like to say in ours. "God walked through the room," as U2 like to say. (2) as the concert closed with "Yahweh" and "40", had the wonderful joy of freely worshipping Jesus with a bunch of human beings whose souls were likely making intentional (if surprising) conscious contact with the living God for the first time, and who had probably entered the arena with no such intentions.

Thursday, May 5, 2005

thursday update

conference continues to be excellent. all about God's mission in the world today. paradigm shifting kinds of stuff. pastors in africa praying for God to stop sending converts because they can't handle all the new believers. arch bishops close to resigning because of being overwhelmed at the number of new churches they have to dedicate. last century, africa went from 10% christians to 46%; something like 10 million students of Jesus to 390 million today. christianity and islam competing to care for the sick and feed the hungry, leading to Philip Jenkin's line of the day: "Truthfully, it's an alms race. May the best religion win." amen to that.

hoping to get DVD's of several of the main sessions, and find a way to watch them together with all the leaders in the church. see how we can respond together to what God is up to in the Vineyard movement, in the church at large, in the world. very encouraged by what i'm seeing and hearing. finding myself so thankful to be part of this tribe, Vineyard. thankful to be associated with so many leaders humbly, passionately, head over heals in love with Jesus and eager to risk everything for his kingdom.

Tuesday, May 3, 2005

small group stuff

great workshops on small groups today, led by Jim Egli who is a pastor at a Vineyard church in Illinois. remarkable statistical research and insights on what makes small groups and small group leaders successful. can't believe how inept i've been at caring for and developing the small group ministry in the church. so many wrong assumptions about what characteristics make a good leader or contribute to a healthy small group.

for example, education, age, time as a believer, personality, etc. have no correlation with success as a small group leader. but how much time you spend praying for the members of your small group has a high correlation. time spent in bible study / content preparation has no correlation with successful small groups. but time spent praying for the small group has a high correlation. what gives? apparently, God gives. interestingly, talking about small groups publicly does absolutely nothing, according to the research, to increase participation in small groups. having a good small group infrastructure and support for leaders does a lot.

find myself with much optimism about getting better in this area personally, being a better encourager, supporter of existing small groups, adding leaders, etc. looking forward to learning more, too, and trying some ideas on for size.

Sunday, May 1, 2005

buckeye country

leaving for scenic Columbus, Ohio in the morning, site of the national vineyard leadership conference. really looking forward to it--have the kind of feeling you get on your way to a big family gathering (the kind of feeling you get if you really like your family, that is). Colin is staying with neighbors and friends, and Elle is coming with Ronni and me.

loved church today. worship team did a new song called Amazed--the song really took off when Amanda and Rich started kickin' it vocally. sounded really, really nice.

gotta pack, catch ya later...

Friday, April 29, 2005

zap zone

played laser tag with the church's middle school students tonight at Zap Zone in Ann Arbor. very fun. held my own, too. played some air hockey and arcade games, as well. stayed far away from the dance-dance-revolution or whatever it's called, though. didn't want to embarrass my family or my church.

drove one of the guys home afterwards, and really enjoyed getting to know him. what a sharp mind! asked him what he's reading--turns out he's reading C.S. Lewis's "the Great Divorce". chatted about his family, and asked him what he thought of his step dad. he replied, "he's a really impressive man. really impressive." when i asked him why, he told me his step dad was the first person to teach him about ethics, to help him develop his "moral compass". wow. in eighth grade, i would have been lucky to know how a magnetic compass worked, let alone one of those moral ones.

Pistons got beat tonight, alas. Philly's shooting was off the hook, what can you do? doubt they can keep it up, so i'm not too concerned at this point. much fun to watch Iverson do his thing, and Ben Wallace, too. loved when he drew the charge one on one with Iverson in the front court. don't laugh, but i actually found it inspiring. o.k., you can laugh. i'd laugh, if it weren't me.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

grace in the news

my sister Grace's photo was on the front page of the Ann Arbor News yesterday...

lo rez pic taken by my smartphone, but you should be able to make her out in the center, wearing a hardhat. she's breaking ground for the new high school in Ann Arbor. (wow, i never made the front page. or any page, now that i think about it. way to go, Grace!)

wish i could have snapped a pic of the photo just below it - someone protesting the plight of the salamanders who are reportedly being displaced from their ancestral home by the new school (and who are being called, apparently by the less than tactful, "bugbait") holding a poster that reads: "bugbait!? so's yer mama." ouch! them's gigglin' words.

and no one should miss the article's closing quote from my dad. as my sister-in-law commented, he really knows how to capture a mood. a true example of an oratory master.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005


Ronni seems to be on the mend, praise God. like the feel of the air after a storm, the scent of wet ground, the growing translucence of the clouds, the sweet sound of drips and chirping and the occaisional rustling of leaves making harmony together. of course, there is still the assorted lawn furniture and downed branches to pick up, maybe some leaks to fix, but hey, rain is good for growing things right?

on an unrelated note, great post on u2 at 21st Century Reformation (scroll down to friday, april 8th's post). have tickets to see them in Chicago with my dad in May, and in Detroit with Ronni in October.

Thursday, April 7, 2005

learning curve, part 2

so far...

1. ronni's job is harder than mine. what she handles with such grace, i stumble through at a snail's pace.

2. going to the bathroom at one's leisure (when there are small children to be cared for) is a luxury that seems to be afforded only to those with nannies. i will never take newsweek for granted again.

3. we are very well loved. i knew this, of course, but i knower it now. ER doctors (plural!) calling to check in. family helping, offering to help, praying, calling, even sending cash to cover extra expenses (a check arrived today, covering all of Ronni's missed piano lessons, our ER bills, and prescription costs to date). church family taking Colin during the day (Kim two days in a row, Amy today, and others scheduled for the next week), helping out at night, too (Jon tuesday night, Roger & Danni last night, Heather tonight and others on and on), and making meals, praying, sending cards, etc.

4. fish need food and plants need water. somehow i missed out on all that behind the scenes stuff. life needs care and attention to continue; i suppose that's half the lesson. God's giving us what we need every day, no fail; i suppose that's more than all the rest.

sticking with me from today's vespers office, like those gooey spider things you throw against the wall and watch them walk down, leaving an invisible trail:

(the refrain) surely, there is a reward for the righteous; surely, there is a God who rules in the earth. -psalm 58:11

(the cry of the church) o God, come to my assistance! o Lord, make haste to help me!

learning curve

for anyone who knows Ronni personally, several things are obvious right off the bat:

1. she doesn't deserve this.
2. this can't be about God teaching her something or refining her like gold or anything like that.

if I'm wrong about 1 or 2, then i can only think that the rest of us are in serious trouble, relatively speaking. which leads me to the following conclusions:

1. i definitely deserve this.
2. (a) this is about me learning something or getting refined like gold or at least tin, and (b) i am a slow learner.

so in the interests of helping Ronni get better (which isn't happening at all yet, alas), i will detail for God the various things i have learned so far.

but that's going to have to wait 'til i can get back to this again...which could be a while...

Tuesday, April 5, 2005

better half

it's been an eventful number of days since easter; hasn't been much time for blogging. quick blow by blow: the resurrection celebration was wonderful, full bellies, full house, and full hearts. then, shortly after church was done, Ronni started coming down with a very bad sore throat that cut short our dinner with her mom and sister. up all night, scheduled an appointment with the doctor on Monday, but then the doctor called in sick. went to urgent care, diagnosis: strep. antibiotics did the trick and by wednesday all was well. until thursday night, when a fever returned. things got worse through friday and saturday, when pain in her abdomen sent us to urgent care again. urgent care sent us immediately to the emergency room at St. Joe's out of concern for apendicitis. after a round of bloodwork and other fluid tests, an iv, an ultrasound, and a CT scan, we were sent home at 5:00 sunday morning, diagnosis: bad case of flu. no improvement sunday, up all night with various not fit for a blog agonies. talked to a friend who works at the ER and had looked at Ronni's tests. he asked a few questions and suggested we get back to the ER as soon as possible for a lumbar puncture. diagnosis: viral meningitis. nothing to be done but ride it out back at home.

so, we're riding it out. Ronni's riding out the pain - never seen her this sick before. can't eat, can't sleep, can't watch tv, can't read a book, can't hardly even drink. Colin and Elle are riding out the bumbling care of their hopelessly helpless dad. drew a bath for Colin last night, then forgot to actually get him in the tub. realized this morning, after an innocent question from Ronni, whose feverish brain is still working better than mine, that I hadn't had Colin brush his teeth in over 3 days. tried to give Elle a bath tonight, and couldn't figure out how to fit the thing in the sink. running around like a chicken with my head cut off. apparently it's possible to do more than just dishes and laundry while taking care of children, but to be honest i can't even keep up with those two simple chores.

thank God for great friends, family, and church. Colin's out putt putting with Jon B tonight, spent the day at the Griesers, Heather G. brought us dinner tonight, dad brought me dinner last night, mom's coming in the morning, etc. etc. etc.

gotta run...crying baby...

Saturday, March 26, 2005

easter eve

whew, busy week. like the calm before the rainshower tonight, the sort where you can smell the ozone, the air pregnant with the promise of wet. sermon notes and multimedia presentation are completed, uploaded, printed, etc. looking forward to breakfasting and worshipping with the church. looking forward to preaching. looking forward to the baptisms. looking forward to the second coming...

while driving home from our basketball game this morning (which we won; so good of you to inquire), the song "to Zion" by Lauryn Hill came on my shuffle. what a great song, i'm thinking (pretty much every song sounds great after a win). this would be a good one to do a powerpoint video/lyric thing with, i'm thinking. then the chorus hits, and i'm weeping. suddenly, no warning, sobs, the whole nine yards (isn't there a liquid equivalent to that expression?). surprised, as i always am, at the realization that to some part of my soul, some part that every other part reports to, Jesus really is everything. two thoughts, dancing? fighting? in my mind as i'm trying to avoid ditches and other cars. thought one: what's wrong with me? thought two: man, i sure hope this is what's right with me.

anyway, gonna chip away at a video for this song over the next few weeks. looking forward to finding out what it'll be for. maybe just for me. maybe just for Jesus. maybe something else.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

maunday thursday

after much wondering over many years, recently got around to googling "maunday thursday origins" and discovered that "maunday" is simply a corruption of the Latin word "Mandatum", meaning "command". so called because at the last supper, which is celebrated today, Jesus washed his disciples feet and mandated them to similarly wash one anothers' feet. it seems a latin hymn was often sung at early holy thursday services, and the chorus began with a form of mandatum, and so the day itself began to be called maunday thursday.

[edit: Val notes that "maunday" should be "maundy". i think she is probably right, as a search on google for "maunday thursday" returns 6,880 results (for an example, see this page: and "maundy thursday" returns 225,000 results. but there is something both comforting and disturbing about being wrong with 6,879 other people]

off to a church board meeting tonight. great board. wonderful group of disciples who keep trying to outdo one another in service. they've got the edge on me, in my book.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005


been a while, not because there's nothing going on; quite the opposite. we dedicated Elle on Sunday (Mom & Dad came to Milan to do the honors). lots of family at church, even my aunt Pat from Fort Wayne was there. upgraded the dedication ceremony this year, incorporating a great suggestion from my mom about having parents offer a personal prayer of thanksgiving and dedication, and compiling a blessing from the book of common prayer. what a great gift to the church that book is. also, finally got around to making an image for dedications:

the whole celebration was really rich with the Lord's presence. nice thick slice of heaven on earth.

not exactly related to Elle, but close enough seeing as she's my daughter - lots of sister news i've been slow to report (i have 6 sisters, including sisters in law). first, Paula had a baby girl a couple of weeks ago (Rebecca). extraordinary girl, bright and beautiful. second, Becky (not to be confused with Rebecca, although they share a name and likely some DNA sequences in common) is moving to Colorado in a week or so. is there right at the moment interviewing for a job, in fact. third, Maja just received a contract from a prominent educational publisher to write a book critiquing rubrics (a method of establishing and communicating grading criteria for assignments, as best as I understand it). fourth, met Judy's boyfriend Dan and was suitably impressed. fifth, celebrated Grace's 12th birthday and noticed her nearly straight a+ report card. sixth, thought it was worth mentioning that Amy is really cool and looking very buff these days, even though i don't have any actual news to report.

enough for now, off to bed.

Saturday, March 12, 2005


second saturday today - cleaned toilets downtown. 3 new businesses that i hadn't gotten to yet. no one turned me down. happy about that. none of the bathrooms were in terrible shape. mixed feelings about that.

would've been nice to serve alongside some other people, though. you know, equip the saints and all that. got to figure out a better way to invite others along (better than announcing it and posting it on the web and in the bulletin). now that i think about it, figure out is the wrong phrase. more accurate to say, got to do a better job inviting others along. personal invites, vision casting (see "cool God story" post at donnell's blog), etc. an easier access project like handing out cold soft drinks this summer won't hurt, either, i'm sure.

maybe it's just me, but i genuinely enjoy this kind of outreach. probably the extrovert in me. wonder if the small town dynamic makes it awkward for people? washing the toilets of strangers is one thing, but being recognized as you walk along the sidewalk, cleaning tools in hand might be another thing altogether. good for the soul is what it is, if you ask me.

anyway, had a great time. how lucky am i to get to do this kind of stuff for a living?

Saturday, March 5, 2005

the lion sleeps tonight

had to put Aslan (our first cat) to sleep last night. got home from a dinner with my parents, and he was stretched out on my office floor, howling intermittently. after calls to the emergency vet clinic and goodbyes to Colin and Ronni, i drove him to the clinic, cried, prayed, petted him, signed some papers, turned over my i.d. and credit card, told him i loved him, gave him a final rub on the head, and said good bye. more attached to that ambitiously named cat than i ever expected to be. he sure didn't go out of his way to make friends outside the immediate family, but he was a blessing to us.

brought Aslan home from the humane society eleven years ago after graduating from college, on Ronni's encouragement (we were dating at the time, and a guy will go to great lengths to impress a pretty girl). he couldn't stand near me without purring loudly and nuzzling me, behavior that continued for the rest of his life. caught on fire once (man, cat hair sure does stink), had one emergency surgery. other than that, didn't really make the news much. weird not having to fend him off from my cereal bowl as i ate this morning, though. now i'm wondering about pets and heaven and all those things (no doubt inspired by Colin's penetrating questions). as with most things, just have to let Jesus sort it all out, i suppose. good thing He's good.

Wednesday, March 2, 2005

vespers office

missed the vespers office in my daily prayers today, but returned to it after finishing the night office, and concluded with this extraordinary prayer by the German writer Jacob Boehme, dating from sometime in the early 1600's:

I thank you, my God, for your care and protection this day, keeping me from physical harm and spiritual ignorance. I now place the work of the day into Your hands, trusting that You will redeem my mistakes, and transform my accomplishments into works of praise.

And now I ask that You will work within me while I sleep, using the hours of my rest to create in me a new mind and heart and soul.

May my mind, which during the day was directed to my work and activities, through the night be directed wholly to You.


Wednesday, February 23, 2005

tipping point

spent a good chunk of the day working on the church budget for next fiscal year. as we considered investing in some cosmetic improvements to the building our church community uses for our worship celebrations and offices, i was reminded of some interesting ideas about the power of context that i recently came across in Malcolm Gladwell's excellent book, The Tipping Point.

in it, he notes the precipitous decline in crime that New York City experienced last decade and sheds light on it's most direct cause: a crackdown on subway fair jumping and grafitti-free subway trains. apparently, the new head of the subway system at the time decided to invest a sizeble chunk of his budget and leadership equity towards making sure that anyone who tried to avoid paying a fare would be rounded up, taken to a police station, and prosecuted, and that no train would make its route if it had grafitti on it. as soon as a train had any grafitti on it, it was taken out of service until it was cleaned up, so that the grafitti artists' nighttime work never saw the light of day. the remarkable result in a very short period of time is that every kind of crime in the city declined. and dramatically. murders, robbery, assault, you name it. in other words, those small but noticeable changes to the environment created a "tipping point", such that a large number of people who might otherwise have been inclined to criminal behavior (and in previous years, had been) simply did not commit those crimes. simply because the environmental changes communicated ideas like: "someone is in charge here", among other things.

so anyway, got me thinking about what impact the physical environment in which we worship has on our worship and even on our common life together. what small things might create a "tipping point" that frees people to worship wholeheartedly who might otherwise have a low level of distraction or preoccupation or whatever, just enough to keep them from engaging with what God is doing at any particular time? could the transition from 2-ply to 3-ply kleenex create a tipping point? how about good lighting? fresh paint? well trimmed grass? what small things communcate ideas like: "God matters to us", "people matter to God", "there's more mercy here than we know exactly what to do with", "broken things get fixed with love", etc? seems like a fun idea to experiment with.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

february 17th

taking Ronni out to dinner for her birthday tonight. Tracey, a friend with whom we served in youth ministry a few years ago, is coming to watch Colin. it'll be nice to get out together, sort of alone, for a bit.

earlier this morning, met with Mark, a board member who serves as treasurer for the church. enjoying developing a friendship with Mark. his dad and my dad were both elders at emmaus fellowship (the church that eventually, in a meandering sort of way, became or gave birth to the church that is the milan vineyard), so it's kind of cool to be serving Jesus in similar capacities together.

like everyone else, trying to shake a bad cold. hasn't robbed any of the joy i'm taking from the awesome winter warmth event. hard to imagine being any prouder of the church than i was on monday night. love, enthusiasm, passion, tirelessness, excellence in service to Christ.

hard to imagine being more in love with Ronni, come to think of it. here's one of my favorite pictures of her, taken on a date one fall before we were married. doesn't do her justice, really, but captures something of her bearing, joy, felicity, zest.

Thursday, February 10, 2005


had a conversation with Colin yesterday about his favorite people, and why they were his favorite. happy to say i made the list at number 2 (why? apparently because i play counterstrike with him and because i love him). you may be wondering who number 1 was. let's just say aunt becky must be letting him stay up way past his bedtime when she babysits.

the more interesting answer, to me, was number 5. "me," he said, seriously, but also a little like he was a surprised to discover that it was so.

"why?" i asked

"because I'm cool, and ..." here he paused to consider, and what followed were perhaps the most revealing, unexpected and thrilling words a dad might hope to hear. "...because I really love myself." matter of fact, unselfconscious. even sanguine.

just for fun, here's one of my favorite pics of Colin:

Sunday, February 6, 2005

super bowl party

went to Jon & Cathy's warm new home to watch the super bowl tonight. great fun had by all. must have been 20 people there at various times. i suspect Elle was as popular among a certain demographic as the game itself. excellent game, all the way around. the Pats make winning look like a character trait. dug the classy approach to the national anthem, and was surprised by how much i enjoyed the halftime show.

loved the mustang commercial with the frozen driver. Colin couldn't figure out why the guy wouldn't have pushed the button to bring the top up. he was also concerned that the spring thaw would result in him melting into a puddle in the driver's seat. hard to fault his logic on either score. the ameriquest mortgage ads with the don't judge too quickly tagline were brilliant as well. and who doesn't love chimpanzees in the workplace?

Saturday, February 5, 2005

template editing

as may be obvious to those of you who've visited this blog previously, i'm trying to figure out how to customize the template. i think i've made a little progress (new title image, footer, etc.), but i can't figure out how to change the individual permalink pages (the pages that display individual posts) nor the comment pages. click here for an example. they still seem to show up in the old template format. something about the blogger html that's mysterious to me. anyone have any insight that might be helpful?

edit: er, nevermind. simple brain malfunction. new posts seem to be showing up properly, which makes sense, of course, as the old permalinks were created with the old code, but the new ones are created by the new code, and look just fine.

introducing vineyard

very encouraged by the turnout at our 'introducing vineyard' class today. probably twice as many attendees as we've had before in our short history as a church. great mixture of folks with a variety of gifts, backgrounds, current life situations, places on their journeys with Christ, etc. also encouraging to hear from the different ministry leaders, board members, small group leaders who showed up to say hello. made me proud to be associated with the church. came away thinking: i'd like to be part of this church. every pastor should be so blessed.

Wednesday, February 2, 2005


Elle smiled at me for the first time yesterday, or at least for the first time while i was looking. eye's twinkling, her whole face lit up, dawn to high noon in one breathtaking moment. glorious. the kind of thing a camera would have loved but would have been unable to do justice to. no matter; it's branded in my soul now.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

compassion & hoops

stopped by the compassion ministry for a bit this morning. can't help but feel like the luckiest pastor in the world to serve with a church that enjoys loving people in need. saw Kevin there helping, and he is signed up for our introducing Vineyard class next saturday. joy all over his face. Jess was there too, a friend from a small group of high school students i got to lead a couple of years ago. great guitar player who might have every reason to be full of himself, but instead was pulling wagons of groceries in the cold. humilty in action. Karen, a few weeks out of major back surgery, going in for more surgery on tuesday, was there despite her pain and physical limitations. "couldn't bear the thought that i'll have to miss seeing folks because of my surgery," she said. "had to be here today. just had to be." Maxine, sick all week, thrilled to be well enough this morning to come help weigh groceries and be blessed and a blessing amongst friends. Jesus, infusing the whole place with his love. nice to be near him for a bit.

then off to our basketball game, 3rd of the year. came away with a 10 point victory, but it got dicey there towards the end--our opponnents rattling off 15 in a row to bring it within 5. still undefeated. i couldn't play the second half - some kind of calf injury at the end of the first half. probably related to bouncing Elle so much in the evenings, trying to help her sleep. or just related to aging. either way, bummer. should heal up with a little rest, i'm sure.

Friday, January 28, 2005

mundane stuff

sermon prep day today; fridays almost always are. on wednesday, took the day for prayer and study, during which i jotted down a number of thoughts that made their way into the sermon today. part 2 (or 3, if you count the sermon on prayer that my dad preached at the end of the year, which served as a launch pad for this series) of a series on the lord's prayer. in particular, the "our father" portion. enjoyed working on it today...some at the home office, and then the later afternoon at Starbucks.

i like writing sermons in public, once i've had time and place to pray, wrestle with the text, get a sense of direction and inspiration. helps me remember that the words need to connect with the kind of people sitting around me, talking, drinking coffee, living lives in the real world. otherwise, it's easy to get caught up in the world of ideas and never really answer the "what difference might this make to that guy working over there who doesn't really get jazzed about theology yet, but has a knawing hunger for God and a nose for humbly delivered truth?" question. plus, maybe the caffeine helps too.

still have to put the multimedia stuff together tomorrow. thinking about a lyric driven presentation of "papa was a rollin' stone" for before the sermon, too. that always takes a long time to pull off, though. we'll see.

Grace hung out with us tonight while Mom & Dad were at a national Vineyard meeting in Salt Lake City. she's an awesome sister. Colin & Elle couldn't be luckier to have her for an aunt. plus, i know she reads this blog a lot, so thought i'd give her some well deserved props.

speaking of props, for what it's worth, my dad is on a serious preaching roll lately. the sermon series the a2 vineyard did on the 12 steps was extraordinary, and the current series on "prayer: improving concious contact" is really something else. excellently crafted and full of "aha" insights, naturally, but also significant i think. something that may end up bearing fruit for the whole vineyard movement. yeah, i know, who am i to have a sense for that sort of thing? no one really. and it is my dad, afterall. but still, as i listen to each of the sermons when they come out online, the feeling grows, rather than diminishes. Jesus is up to something good among his students.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

winter warming

we’re getting geared up to put on an event called “The Winter Warmth”, a free event for single parents in the milan area. some cool developments today. Margie Bovee, a feature writer for the Heritage Papers, came to the office to do an interview. she’s a bundle of energy and enthusiasm, that’s for sure. much fun. also, Steve Davis, called to let me know that Tim Hawkins has been booked for entertainment. he looks like a sure-fire hit. finally, built a web page for the event. Kurt & Jessica Smith did an awesome job with the flyer for the event (the photo is actually a picture that Kurt took of Jessica for the promo materials). the big job now is getting the word out to single parents.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005


this post is mainly for me, so i won't forget this years from now.

Colin bursts into the office, finished with his quiet/nap time. "Dad! I was thinking about that I could do cartwheels. With no help! And I could walk on my hands. With no one helping me! And I was thinking about how I could ride my bike with no training wheels. All by myself! No one holding me!"

"sounds like fun stuff to think about, Colin, eh?" says i, amused.

"Yes! It was a lot of fun thinking about those things! I was thinking about them during my nap!"

then as quickly as he had entered, he's left. a whirlwind of optimism, hope, anticipation, contentedness with a good future.

inspired, i'm scheduling a little daydreaming session for myself tomorrow. 10 minutes to think about fun stuff that i'll be able to do, just around the corner, by the grace of God.

Friday, January 14, 2005

god's politics

first quote on the back of a book jacket that made me buy it without even cracking open the cover: "The Left mocks the Right. The Right knows it's right. Two ugly traits. How far should we go to try to understand each other's point of view? Maybe the distance grace covered on the cross is a clue." Bono, naturally. Desmond Tutu & Cornell West are on the jacket as well. So far, a great read. God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get it, by Jim Wallis. apparently he heads up Sojourners magazine, which i haven't read yet, and Call to Renewal, which I've heard good things about.

i suppose most of you who have interest in this topic have already read this, but it's fresh for me. nice to see someone with a national audience addressing issues that have been rattling around in my head and heart for a while. my dad and the ann arbor vineyard have been thoughtfully tackling these issues (ie, how to keep Jesus and his church from becoming a political tool, how to keep the church from being ideologically predictable or a loyal partisan, and most specifically loving across the political divide) for the last number of months.

not long ago a friend shared about someone close to her whose spiritual life has been in a tailspin triggered when his church's pastor announced during a sermon that Christians had a moral obligation to vote for Bush, and that he couldn't consider himself a true Christian if he voted for Kerry. as sincere and well-intentioned as that pastor may have been, i can't help but think that a sober reading of Exodus 20:7 would suggest such sentiments are better expressed with a great deal more caution and even equivocalness. (is that even a word, and if so, the right word? i'm not entirely sure. hopefully, you catch my drift, assuming, of course, it's a drift worth catching. which it very well might not be.)

Tuesday, January 11, 2005


oh yeah, almost forgot to mention... you can get to this blog now via,,, and so now if any famous jesse wilson's want to start web sites, they'll have to pay me big bucks for the domain names.

catching up

wow, long time no post. let's see...

spent new year's eve watching "Curb Your Enthusiasm", and then teaching Grace & my dad how to play half-life 2 while Ronni and my mom watched "Princess Diaries 2". Mom, Dad, and Grace left around 11. everyone else in the house turned in early, so when the ball dropped i silently made the rounds, kissing peacefully sleeping Ronni, Colin, & Elle in turn. got a little choked up, i was happy to discover.

Colin & i celebrated our birthdays earlier this month. 4 & 34 respectively. mine fell on a sunday. first time in my life that my birthday wasn't a "day off" for me, i think, as we had church. growing up through college, my birthday was always during christmas (or winter, for those among us with pc sensibilities) break, and for some reason since then it's always happened to be a day off too. it was a lot of fun anyway, as i actually enjoy church quite a bit, plus i picked a topic for the sermon that i mainly needed to preach to myself. Ronni threw a family party for Colin & me sunday evening. we are rich in family, almost embarrasingly rich.

Ronni got me the coolest thing for my birthday. a doo-hickey with a dorky baseball cap that lets me naturally look around the virtual cockpits of my flight simulator airplanes by simply turning my head. most of you who read this blog already know i'm a nerd--but if you didn't know it already, just click the link to the video above and you'll know for sure.

new season of basketball started on saturday. we played well as a team, despite showing signs of rust from the holiday layoff. beat last season's champs by 10.

our home group celebrated Kurt Smith's birthday tonight by playing Cranium and eating cake and ice cream. my cheeks are a little sore from laughing so much. my brightest moment? suggesting that we split into three teams of 4 by dealing cards out and making teams based on the suit of the card we were dealt. naturally, it didn't quite work out and while i'm scratching my head as to why it dawns on me...well you know the rest. further evidence that sleep deprivation causes stupidity. or at least brings it to the surface...