Saturday, December 29, 2007

just checking in...

wow, it's been a busy week of celebration and gathering!  too much fun to keep up with, not to mention all of us except Colin being way under the weather with nasty colds for the last 7 days. haven't even checked email since before last Saturday - hope there isn't anything urgent going on :)  this will be brief - just wanted to pop in and say hey amidst the flurry of activities.

christmas eve day at my parents, with aunts and uncles and cousins and sisters.  then the candlelight christmas eve service - Ronni's favorite service every year.

christmas with the kids in the morning on christmas day, and then with Ronni's mom, and then at her late grandmothers house with extended family. 

followed later in the week with a bingo party at her aunt and uncles with more extended family.  and a full day christmas party with Ronni's immediate family. 

hanging out with my sister Judy in from New York, and her new boyfriend Josh, and my sister Grace who is off of school for the break.  oh, and the gift of Guitar Hero 3 from some friends, which has been going non-stop in the living room, it seems, ever since. 

helping at Compassion today with Colin to restore some sanity.  having some friends over who we haven't seen together in years this evening, and then church tomorrow, and a christmas party with the church board and spouses after that.

oh, gotta run, I think that's my parents at the door.  speaking of which, my dad is setting up a blog, finally.  I'll put up a link when I get the green light.

merry Christmas, all.  definitely an event worth celebrating for all 12 days, don't you think? 

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

mystic believer priest

ok, so you've got to check this out.  my Uncle Bill has a new blog called mystic believer priest.  it's feisty, to hear my dad describe it.  doesn't pull any punches.  maybe kind of like a new martial art form.  here's a taste, just to get you curious (from his first post, dated December 11) :

This freedom. This frightening, exciting nakedness before him. In him. Around him. This dancingness in his presence.

And dancing here. There. All around. I don’t want him removed. Obscured. I don’t want someone telling me that I can’t dance. That I can’t dance naked in his presence. I don’t want someone turning off the music. I don’t want someone trying to talk over the music. I don’t want someone trying to tell me to sit down please and let me tell you what God is all about.

And so I’m tired. I’m tired of ministers and pastors and priests. Aren’t you?

Now that you mention it, yes I am.  dancing is so much better than stopping the dance, any day.  every day.

He wrote a great book, too, called Taking Note: A Year At Home With Strangers.

Sunday, December 16, 2007


well, when we arrived at church, Tom and Cathy (who just arrived back from spending a week with the Mercy Response team in New Orleans at 11 pm last night) were waiting outside the church doors to get in.   arriving shortly after them was Lynn, and then three high school students, followed by Nick, Jon, Cathy, and Sara.  seemed only fitting, since we were all there, to spend some time worshipping, so Ronni turned on the keyboard and led us in some singing.  Tom and Kim arrived midway through, and then Heather, Xander, and Matthias.

After singing for about 20 minutes, we read most of the 1st chapter of Luke while the kids ran around the sanctuary.  Then we shared prayer requests and prayed for each other, watched a video I'd prepped for the message (that we'll save for next year), and closed with a song.

All in all, 10 who hadn't gotten the message plus 7 of us who were there just in case.  Not to mention Jesus, who most certainly wasn't kept away by the storm. 

Here's a couple of pictures (the iPhone doesn't take great shots in low light) from before some of the late comers arrived.



worship services canceled this morning

just a heads up for those of you with RSS readers that might not get the word otherwise: the Vineyard Church of Milan will not be having worship services this morning due to the weather.  read the first couple of chapters of the book of Luke with your family, give thanks to God, and have fun shoveling!

on a side note, a couple of years ago the church got us a snowblower as a pastor appreciation gift.  that sure has been a gift that keeps on giving!


looks like a friend plowed a path from our driveway, through town, to the church for us.  so Ronni and the kids and I are going to head over to the church building in case anyone shows up.  kind of curious if anyone will be there...  I'll report back later.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

new(ish) links

if you haven't browsed the 'links' or 'friends' section of the blog recently, you may have missed a couple of new and noteworthy updates.

one is the vineyard blogroll & aggregator.  it's been dormant for a while now, but someone new has picked up the concept and moved it forward.  it's kind of cool - lists a whole bunch of blogs from people connected to Vineyard churches.  if you're part of a vineyard church and have a blog, consider being a part of it and expanding the community. at the very least, check it out.

another is Stephanie's new blog.  She and her husband and son are part of our home group. her first post is about the advent prayer hour (see 'sacred space / sacred time' below).  speaking of which, Amy (also part of our home group) has a great post on that today as well.

and finally, the 'friends' section has a link to Rachel's blog now, too.  Rachel is a member of our local church who is serving on staff at a YWAM (Youth With A Mission) base in Ghana.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

sacred space / sacred time

the sweetness of the advent prayer hour this morning got me thinking about the sacred.

the idea of the sacred is mysterious to me.  I'm learning to appreciate it a great deal more than I ever have, but the mystery of it only thickens.

("sacred": from the Latin for "holy", meaning set apart or separated to God, same root as "consecrated")

in Jesus' conversation with the Samaritan woman (John 4), he announces the good news that God, who is breath/wind/spirit, is and will be worshiped no longer only on a mountain, but now everywhere breath is breathed, everywhere wind blows, everywhere spirit is present.

now that the kingdom has arrived and is arriving, in other words, the whole world is being made sacred.  humanity included, thankfully, allowing us to worship "in spirit and in truth."  certainly newsworthy - something genuinely new, a fundamental restoration of the creation taking place.  and certainly good news - subverting many footholds for evil, flinging wide open the door to favor, the reality of forgiveness.

but in no way, I think, diminishing the power of the sacred - rather, increasing it's possibilities without diluting it's potency.  everything now has an inevitable sacredness - all will be set apart for God when the kingdom comes in it's fullness; all, that is, that is purified, redeemed...all that remains that is good and true, touched by the life of the ages. and even now we can, it seems, by the authority we have as image bearers, as Jesus' agents in the world, confer sacredness on space and time.

when we do, the power of it is surprisingly palpable.  like this morning during the advent prayer hour.  the space made sacred: a building breathing, resonating with decades of singing, prayer, scripture, sermons, and love; candles glowing and flickering, lovingly lit; music ebbing and flowing, carefully chosen; words well used by saints coupled with beautiful images displayed on the screen.  the time made sacred: people rising early, gathering before the gathering light; given to a single holy purpose; made pregnant by silence. 

invariably, in the center of such sacred time and space, God appears.  having already been there, of course. but making himself known.  as we make ourselves known to him. bowing towards him, to kiss. a lovely beginning. 

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Virginia Mae Wulff

I just returned from a memorial service for Ronni's grandmother.  I am in her debt for various reasons, not least of which is the fact that she taught Ronni to play piano. Grandma was 90 when she passed away last week. A longtime member, organist, and choir director at Allen Park Presbyterian Church, the service took place there.  an impressively substantial building; majestic, made of stone, wood, stained glass, and echoes.  Today, filled with beautiful music from Ronni and her sister Paula, as well as tears, laughter, hugs, prayers and remembrances.

Ronni, Grandma, and Elle

here's the notes for the eulogy I shared this morning, if you're interested:

Eulogy for Grandma (Virginia Wulff)


A couple of years ago, Grandma called me up and invited me to come by the house to talk for a while. To talk about herself, her life, some of the things that were important to her, in case they ever needed to be said at a memorial service.

Not a funeral, mind you. Didn’t like the notion of a funeral. Churches and music and family and friends, all that was just fine. Better than fine. But Virginia Wulff was a no-nonsense kind of woman, and it was some of the nonsense of funerals that she had no taste for. All the weepy faces and sentimentality and sadness, the tears, and the hugging, too, I think. Maybe especially the hugging. Entirely too much hugging at funerals.

Because she’d lived a good life. Been the kind of person she wanted to be. Done pretty much everything she’d ever wanted to do. The way she wanted to do it. Married a good man, and made a good life for them together. Told me that she and Henry had never argued [story of him grumbling at her shortly before he died… “Henry, I’m not going to argue with you.” Got the sense that arguing was perhaps the worst kind of nonsense to her…]. Raised the world’s best kids. Taught the world’s best students. Heard the world’s best music. Mastered and played it, too, on the world’s best instrument, the piano.

Why spend time being sad about a life like that? Perhaps the idea that she would be missed, deeply missed just wasn’t part of her perspective. A perspective that was shaped by growing up in the Great Depression. When you didn’t have time to wallow, when you had to pick yourself up by your bootstraps and do what needed doing. Scrounging for things to sell, to trade, to get by. Making garments and selling them door to door. When you’ve got that kind of perspective, time spent dwelling on death is just nonsense when there’s living to be done.

But a memorial service, that was alright by Grandma. At a memorial service, the good she was, the good she’d known, the good she’d experienced could be acknowledged, remembered, celebrated. That made sense to her, like a good piece of music makes sense. Like good posture makes sense. Like a piano in the living room makes sense.

I was curious what it had been like to experience the changes in the world over the 90 years of her lifetime. So I asked her, thinking she would comment on the rapid advances in technology, the way the world had shrunk, the pacing of modern life. “Cell phones,” she said, with a hint of something I couldn’t quite put a finger on. Wonder or amazement? No. Disdain? No. Grandma wasn’t the sort of person to answer a question the way you wanted her too, was she? Some people march to the beat of a different drummer; Grandma had the drumsticks in her own hands, and beat the head of the drum whenever she felt like it. “Cell phones,” she continued, and now I could tell the feeling in her voice was pride. “I thought of those long before anyone ever had one.”

And people don’t get dressed up anymore,” she said. “I miss that.” Maybe that’s why she loved taking her grandkids shopping for Christmas and birthdays. Always for nice clothes, from nice stores. And never for toys. You didn’t even think about asking for toys; they were just too much nonsense for Grandma.

She was sad that things used to be safer, and now there was so much violence that she didn’t feel safe walking the streets even in the daytime. She didn’t live in that fear, though. Trembling with fear was nonsense to Grandma. Living on her own for so many years, she knew exactly what she’d do if someone broke in. One of her favorite hymns, she noted, was “God will take care of you.” Do not be dismayed, what e’re betide, for God will take care of you. Beneath his wings of love abide, for God will take care of you. That, and “What a Friend We Have In Jesus.” “If someone tried to break in,” she told me, “I’d just get down on my knees to pray. Then I’d be secure. Safe.”

But most of all, perhaps, she missed the time when pianos were part of the living room furniture. [Holler outside and students came running] Pianos made the music that captured and expressed the sense of the world. Her favorite singer was Marian Anderson, a ground breaking soprano – the first African American to perform with the New York Metropolitan Opera - whose best loved songs were always accompanied by piano (iTunes info…). Pianos were the place where children – often so full of nonsense – could be exposed to something that would shape their character, fill them with pride, and if they applied themselves, give them pleasure for a lifetime.

I asked Grandma how she’d like to be remembered. True to form, she had an answer ready. As her son Bryant said, she was nothing if she wasn’t honest. And her first answer was nothing if it wasn’t honest. “I’m stubborn,” she said. A trait from the Webber side of the family, she explained. A stubbornness that’s probably part of what made her so independent, what made her take pride in being able to take care of herself. And also made her come across as stoic, not very touchy feely.

She also said she wanted to be remembered as someone who didn’t take things too seriously; but at the same time, someone for whom things had to be done her way. And Grandma had a very clear idea of what her way was most of the time, didn’t she? Her chief complaint to me was how often people complained about things. Complaining was just nonsense to Grandma. One of her favorite quotes, she said, was “Taste your words before you say them.”

There’s an irony in complaining about complainers, isn’t there? Which maybe gets at that first part, the part about not taking things too seriously. Sometimes you could see Grandma’s sense of humor dancing behind her eyes, peeking out in twinkle. Sometimes it was more obvious, like an 80 year old flirting. First time she met John: “They breed them handsome in Colorado.” And if you’d ask her, “How are you doing?” she might reply, “Everyone I can.” Maybe a little nonsense never hurt anyone too badly, after all.

She wanted to be remembered as someone who was happy to be by herself, and equally as someone who enjoyed being with her family and friends. Loved family gatherings, loved taking people to the DSO, to “the Club.”

And finally, she said, I want to be remembered as someone for whom the piano was a companion. Will any of us ever look at a piano and not remember Grandma’s piano room? Will we ever hear one played well and not see the smile on her face?

The piano was surely Grandma’s gift, and each of us has much to be thankful for in the various gifts that she gave to us. Whether those gifts came from her love for us, expressed in her way, or from the things we may have learned from her about honesty, strength and independence, or from the relationships we treasure with one another that happened so often in the gathering circle of her influence, or from the nice clothes from nice stores some of us still have today. Thanks, Grandma. Thanks God. And for those of us who have the good sense to mourn loss of Virginia Wulff, even while we celebrate the gift of her life, may we take comfort from the final verse of that hymn:

No matter what may be the test,

God will take care of you;

lean, weary one, upon his breast,

God will take care of you.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

date night

had a great date with Ronni last night.  her grandmother (grand Virginia Wulff, Ronni's dad's mom) passed away on Monday afternoon, and that's been kind of heavy on her heart, so it was nice to just spend some time together, the two of us.  Amanda watched the kids for us while we buzzed around the south eastern Ann Arbor area.

went to Wendy's to eat (love that value menu), where we stood in line next to someone who works at the Milan post office.  Chad, if I remember right.  (Wendy's has got to put their drink machines out so that the employees don't have to do all the refills.  get with it already, Wendy's!)

stopped by Lowes to get some light bulbs - we've had a ridiculous number of burned out bulbs in the last week.  while browsing for bulbs, ran into someone we know from church who we hadn't seen in months - what a wonderfully God-arranged encounter.

went to Starbuck's to grab a drink and chat for a while.  had a fun conversation about this year's "Bachelor" show.  looked up and saw Hannah Metler ordering a drink - she was a student when we served the church as youth leaders, and now is all grown up, has a place of her own and everything.  she's responsible for the website.  way to go Hannah!

funny, three places, three very different but enjoyable encounters.  not to mention a sweet time together.  none of it planned, really, all of it sort of spontaneous.  kind of cool when life works that way. 

oh, and did I mention we're expecting a new birth (number 3 for us) in June?  thanks, God.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

new birth

since the topic of new birth (John 3)  has been on my mind at this point in the current sermon series (the secret of the kingdom), it seemed like as good a time as any to begin blogging again.

using a new tool to blog, called windows live writer.  recently released by microsoft, I think (and free, too).  seems ridiculously easy to use.  we'll see how it works.  by way of a test, I'll try inserting a video I've been working on to kick off the message this weekend.

my daughter Elle just climbed in my lap as I'm writing.  she's pure gift. going to be 3 this month.  which is probably why she's already jumped out of my lap, gone out of the office, and is on to some new and exciting activity.

Speaking of gifts, Phyllis Tickle recently gave the kids a copy of her new fixed hour prayer book for children.  One simple, poetic prayer each for morning, afternoon, and bed time.  Colin's been loving it. he's just at the point where he can read all the words himself.  just at the point where he's beginning to treasure brief times of prayer.  good timing all around.  thanks, Phyllis.

in closing, it's only appropriate to give a shout out to my sisters, all of whom have accomplished remarkable and varied things:

Maja, featured here in this youtube video:

Amy, who spoke recently at the Cloud 9 youth retreat (she generally hates seeing pictures of herself - which is ridiculous given her beauty - so I'll let her off the hook this once, as a way of giving her props)

Judy, who recently completed the New York City Marathon:

Judy Marathon

And Grace, who scored 13 of her team's 27 goals in field hockey this season (and against whom zero goals were scored):


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

kindness is eternal

while trying to brainstorm a servant outreach project for August, I came across this article by Steve Sjogren, entitled "Kindness is Eternal." great quick read - especially recommended if you took part in the parade water giveaway we did last Thursday, or if you're planning to take part on Saturday (1:14 p.m. kickoff at the church office, if you're interested - we'll be going downtown to give away drinks as a practical expression of God's love).

the outreach last week was a blast. there's not much hyperbole involved in saying there are very few experiences in life that can compare with joining others in extending God's grace through simple acts of kindness. we made a quick video about the experience; maybe I can find a way to shrink it down for web viewing and post it on the blog.

celebrated 12 years of marriage to Ronni this weekend. no hyperbole at all in saying that she is the loveliest person I've ever met. we had a great getaway over Sunday night and Monday - the first time we've had a chance to do that for our anniversary since we've had kids.

my parents' anniversary is today, now that I think of it. happy anniversary, Mom and Dad!

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

no strings attached

Colin helped me with the trash bin pickup endeavor for the first time today. it made me laugh how completely enthused he was to tag along and help however he could, and at the same time how clueless he was as to what we were doing or why. eventually though, he did ask. "no one likes to pick these up when they get home," I explained. "so we're picking them up to show people God's love in a simple way." it seemed to satisfy him, and his enthusiasm never waned - although he did lose focus and breath a few times. what a blast to do together with one's son.

made cards to drop in the bottom of the returned bins. likely never to be seen, but that way if God wants to draw someone's attention to his love, it may help. not like he needs help, but he seems to welcome it from us, it seems to me.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

this midday moment of rest

love this prayer from the midday office today, the concluding prayer of the church (originally found in the liturgy of the hours, volume III):

God of mercy,
this midday moment of rest
is your welcome gift.
Bless the work we have begun,
and make good its defects
and let us finish it in a way that pleases you.
Grant this through Christ our Lord.

and this just in from the "for what it's worth" department. the root of the word "liturgy" is perhaps best translated "the work of the people." I like the idea that rest is in some sense part of the work of God's people.

farewells and the beatitudes for ecologists/conservationists

we had dinner with my parents, my sister Grace, my sister Amy, and my brother-in-law Ben last night. Amy and Ben are moving to Groton, Connecticut today (Ben, a scientist working for Pfizer, was transferred there this summer), so the get-together was a pretty emotional affair, with much laughter, tears, and prayers. and by candlelight, to boot, since the thunderstorm knocked out the power (interestingly, the power returned the moment we said a final "amen" after praying blessings over Ben and Amy; that was pretty cool). I'm gonna miss them both a heap.

standing around on the lawn after dinner, we were shooting the breeze about various and sundry topics, and my dad mentioned how much he's been enjoying developing a friendship with Carl Safina, a distinguinshed ecologist, author, and president and co-founder of the Blue Ocean Institute. they met at a conference for evangelical leaders and leading scientists to discuss the importance of caring for creation (which, by the way, was no small concession for many scientists to agree to the use of the word "creation" in reference to the earth). so this father's day, my dad wrote a version of/variation on the beatitudes (a famous section from Jesus' "Sermon on the Mount" in the gospels) for ecologists/conservationists and sent it to Carl, who posted it on his blog. for those of you with a love for creation and concern for its stewardship (or for the merely curious), here's a link to it for you to enjoy:

on a related note, during my workouts recently, I've been enjoying my dad's sermon series on creation care, which you can hear or download (or read written notes) from (you'll need to scroll to near the bottom of the page). alternatively, you can search on iTunes for the ann arbor vineyard sermon podcasts and get them there (it's a three part series).

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

the mundane minister

it seems to be a matter of some curiosity – especially when people are new to a church – to discover what in fact, if anything, a person in my line of work does during the work week. the same could be wondered of all sorts of professions, I'm sure, but I suppose it's especially the case when it comes to pastors because some parts of our work are very public (sunday mornings, weddings, funerals, etc.), and other parts are very private (helping people with crises, personal challenges, "spiritual" stuff, and the like). which leaves the in-between – the mundane – open to much speculation. some, I guess, tend to imagine that it's all very holy kinds of stuff, the sort of thing one might imagine someone in a monastery doing, various rituals and prayers and other high level spiritual endeavors (whatever those are!). today was a pretty typical mid-week day, so for those who are curious, here's how it's gone so far…

woke up, showered, and prayed the morning office (using a book of prayers called "The Divine Hours")

went downstairs, said hi to Ronni and the kids, ate breakfast in my office while browsing the morning news on the web.

read and responded to emails. one of them had to do with an outreach our church is participating in called "Boxes of Hope" – collecting supplies for people in need in New Orleans. someone wanted to know where to put them this week. I helped connect that person with someone else in the church helping with the project, and by the end of the days the boxes had been moved from the sanctuary of the church to the garage, making some more space in the sanctuary for a wedding I'll be officiating on saturday. another email had to do with our church's compassion ministry, and some thoughts the leaders of the ministry had about how to handle a decision related to turkeys and thanksgiving. I offered my input, which was basically a "fine with me" message, and then tracked other leaders' input throughout the day. a third email was an update from some missionaries the church supports. I read it, offered a brief prayer for them, and forwarded it on to a leader in the church for thoughts on the best way to communicate it to the church at large. A couple of other emails were related to prayer requests and scheduling details for meetings coming up later in the week.

watched a NOOMA (Rob Bell) DVD that the home group Ronni and I lead is going to watch and discuss tonight. Looked over the discussion questions that came along with it in order to be better prepared to lead the group tonight. talked with Ronni about a few other small group details related to our meeting tonight.

drove to the church office and spent a few minutes preparing for a pre-marital preparation session with a young couple scheduled to be married this fall. met with them for about an hour and a half, talking about families of origin, and how that impacts their relationship with each other and so forth.

met with my assistant and overall office jack of all trades Wendy about upcoming events in the church – weddings, outreaches, scheduling details – the bulletin announcements needed this week, newcomers, and various other tasks she is involved in. that meeting probably lasted about an hour and a half as well.

grabbed a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for a late lunch at home and returned a phone call from someone in the church who has experienced God helping them with some really cool changes in their life, and who wanted to talk about the possibility of sharing her story with the church sometime.

drove back to the church to meet with Jon, the church's youth pastor. we spent the first part of the meeting doing a debrief on his sermon this weekend (it was excellent! but alas the whole thing didn't record, otherwise I'd put a link to it up here so you can listen to it). then we spent some time strategizing about the youth ministry, talking about various situations, about ways to help the students be fully engaged with God's activity in their lives, and about ways to help the ministry be as effective as possible.

drove home to eat dinner with some folks from our small group (as soon as I finish this blog entry) and then heading off to Prarie Lane for our group tonight. prayed the vespers office.

I've been under the weather a bit with a cold, so, alas, I had to pass on one of my favorite tuesday activities, the neighborhood garbage can patrol, but other than that, it was pretty representative.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Matthew's Party

We had a cool experience of seeing God at work at the end of the Matthew’s Party last Saturday…

We called it a Matthew’s Party because when Matthew became a follower of Jesus, he threw a party for his friends and invited Jesus along. The idea first came to us from the awesome people at the Cincinnati Vineyard, who have turned outreaches like this into an art form. We (maybe a dozen of us or so from the church) tried to imitate him by throwing a party on the grounds of some apartments in town – hot dogs, drinks, potato salad, cookies, etc., along with volleyball games and other fun activities for kids – and prayed that Jesus would show up while we tried to bring his life and love in a practical way to the people who lived there.

We had a great time of course, with lots of conversations and friendly interactions, but I kept feeling like God might want to be at work in a less expected way as well. As we were cleaning up afterwards, we decided to gather in a circle (with the volunteers from the church) and pray for all the people we’d had the privilege of serving during the party. A couple of lingerers (who lived in the apartment complex) overheard what we were talking about, and piped up by saying how thankful they were for us showing up and throwing the party for them.

“We’ve had a lot of things happen here over the years – different groups coming in and stuff,” said a woman, “but this was the best one, by a long shot.”

The thought popped into my mind that maybe God was at work here, and that it might be worth exploring it a little more. We asked if there was anything we could pray for them about as we closed up.

They said yes, there was, and the woman shared about her battle with multiple sclerosis and the man shared about an addiction that he wanted God’s help with. A couple of guys from the church piped up right away that they had struggled with the same things, and that there was hope in God for him. Deep stuff. They seemed really positive towards us, and not cautious at all, so we asked if they would like us to pray with them right them. They said they wouldn’t mind at all.

The rest was really sweet. We gathered around them and prayed for them. We asked for Jesus to touch them and release his power for healing and freedom and hope. We also prayed for the other people that lived there that we’d gotten to hang out with. When we were done praying, nothing dramatic happened that would make the newspapers or anything, but they had tears in their eyes and were obviously really impacted by God’s love and presence there.

I don’t know if anything more will come of this particular chance to be part of what God was doing, but it sure felt great to be part of it, and join in however we could. It just felt right, you know?

and fyi for those of you who are part of our local church community, this post should be up shortly at (under the servant outreach tab) - so please visit it and comment on it, especially if you were there and have other stories from the outreach to add.

Friday, June 8, 2007

man of Steele

while on the phone with Ronni tonight, she tells me my brother-in-law-in-law Joe (brothers don't shake hands; brothers gotta hug...) is just now finding out I've got a blog; apparently we've been hding it from him. he's got a blackberry, and he's browsing here as I type.

so this post is simply to welcome Joe to the blog, and make him feel at home. for those of you that don't know him, Joe's real cool...maybe he'll stay for a while and even leave a comment or 2. oh, and by the way, Joe's last name is Steele. doesn't get any cooler than that.

captain Colin

fun experience for my son this week:

upon boarding the plane with Ronni, Colin was invited by the pilot to come into the cockpit and check it out. Ronni told the pilot about Colin's love of flightsimming, so the the pilot showed Colin all the controls and instruments, even letting him push and pull the throttle (currently inactive, of course, since the engines were off, but very cool for Colin nonetheless).

then came the real fun. the pilot asked Colin if he'd like to address the passengers over the cabin microphone. (it's worth knowing at this point that Ronni's mom and sister were already seated in the plane, unaware that Colin and Ronni were in the cockpit...) "hi Grandma!" announced Colin for all the plane to hear. "this is Captain Colin speaking." Grandma, and Aunt Paula, as you can imagine, nearly fell out of their seats. "would everyone please sit down and buckle their seatbelts, because big daddy is ready to go!" (big dadddy? yeah, I had the same question. apparently, big daddy is how the pilot refers to himself. i'll have to ask some pilot friends if that's common practice among pilots...)

the flight was great, and Colin and Ronni seem to be having a great time out there in Colorado. missing them a ton already, though, that's for sure.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

missing the mark

[spoiler alert – this story is almost a lock to become a sermon illustration this week or next, so just pretend you're hearing it for the first time (which, technically, you will be, unless someone reads this out loud to you) if you hear it on Sunday]

it's been said, and i agree, that the biblical concept of sin includes the idea of "missing the mark." certainly there are times when we're not even aiming for the bullseye, so missing the mark isn't that surprising. but wouldn't you know it, even when I think I'm zeroed in I can miss so wide as to endanger unsuspecting onlookers.

case in point. starting with some background. our daughter Elle recently had eye surgery to correct a condition called exotropia (basically her eyes weren't always lined up properly – which probably explains why she fell and broke her arm earlier this spring: the doctor thinks she was seeing double, so she reached for a rung of the ladder that wasn't actually there, but that's another story…). after the surgery (which was very successful), she was a little extra cranky, and we were a little extra attentive to her complaints and desires, as can only be expected. as can also be expected, she began to find ways to exploit the new responsiveness in her parents. you know, whining to get her way, acting helpless when she felt a little lazy, that sort of thing. minor stuff, but it started to add up, until we realized it was probably time to stop slacking off on discipline for fear of creating a monster.

so last week when she yelled down the stairs for Ronni to "help" her go downstairs, it occurred to us that, recently, we sure had been spending a lot of time helping a 2 year old go up and down the stairs. a 2 year old, by the way, who had been running up and down them, hands full of toys most of the time, without any trouble, for about a year now. and by "helping" I mean carrying. which had been good exercise and all, but still. so we stood our ground.

"come on down, Elle," we called.

"help me!" Elle whined.

"you're a big girl; you can do it."

"no, help!" she said, with that kind of grumbly voice only present in 2 year olds.

"Elle, either come down on your own, or stay upstairs. your choice."

now the whining turned into crying. see how much ground we had lost over the last week or so? no more. line in the sand time. time to stop complaining or its time for a time out. the complaining continued, so a timeout ensued. 2 minutes. followed by an apology, hugs, and a promise of no more complaining.

but then immediately: "help me go downstairs?" you've got to be kidding. replay above conversation one more time. replay resistence and tears. replay timeout. another apology. another hug. another promise of a new leaf.

and then, you guessed it another request for help. and more tears when we wouldn't carry her downstairs.

long story a little less long: before escalating the discipline, before lathering, rinsing, and repeating again, inspiration intervened. eye surgery…corrected vision…eyes weren't properly aligned before, but they are now… "Ronni, has she been like this since the surgery?"

"you know, now that you mention it, maybe…"

takes 2 eyes in perfect alignment for proper depth perception, after all. sweet Elle hadn't been able to perceive depth accurately until after the surgery, and the stairway that she'd navigated so easily before, now loomed like the grand canyon in front of her, in terrifyingly crystal clear 3-D.

a sinful man, that's what I am.

thankfully, after holding my hand and making our way down the stairs together on our bottoms, she's back to running up and down them without fear. as for me? thank God for mercy.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007


there sure have been a number of blogworthy events/happenings/developments over the last couple of weeks, but simply no time to sit and write about them.

for example, this weekend my mom was ordained, in recognition of decades of serving and leading and equipping the saints. she's pastor responsible for the single mom's ministry at the ann arbor vineyard church. it was really cool to see and take part in the ordination. go Mom!

my sister Grace made the nationals field hockey squad, representing this area in the u-14 division this summer. she's pretty awesome at field hockey, but still treats us mortals like she's one of us. go Grace!

a neighbor gave us free tickets to the new indoor waterpark in Dundee yesterday, so Ronni, Colin, Elle, Jon, Sara, Phil, Amy, Jack and I all went and had a blast there last night. the waterslides sure were a rush, even for the adults. and it was really cool just to hang out with all the kids and help them take new risks and experience new joys. thanks Sarah (our generous neighbor)!

Ronni and Colin are flying to Colorado tomorrow morning for Ronni's sister Becky and her husband John's wedding celebration (they were married in the winter, but didn't have time to throw a party until now). Elle and I will be hanging out here in Michigan (don't worry, I'll have lots of help, so Elle should be just fine) until they get back monday afternoon. go Becky and John!

have a couple of interesting stories to share re: a parenting mis-step, and coffee with a newcomer, but i'll have to wait for more time to write them out. hopefully soon, by the grace of God. oh yeah, and Rich (pilgrim's way blog) has laid down the gauntlett for a series of questions, so i'll see if I can get to those too.

a potentially cool outreach project is on the horizon for saturday afternoon, and I've been invited to share a message at Breakthrough Worship Center on sunday afternoon, so life doesn't seem to have any diminishing interest in the near term, nor long term, for that matter. go Jesus!

Thursday, May 31, 2007


anyone familiar with the word halcyon? originally comes from classical mythology about a kingfisher (a kind of bird I'm most familiar with from Gerard Manly Hopkins poem "When Kingfishers Catch Fire") that had the power to calm stormy seas.

since sunday, I've been trying to think of the right word to describe the impact of our small group's surprise party. halcyon isn't the right word, exactly, but it gets to some truth of the impact. its meaning ranges from calm, peaceful, tranquil to rich, wealthy, prosperous to happy, joyful, carefree (according to, at least). maybe by the end of this post I'll stumble on the right word.

Ronni and I, and the kids, showed up at Phil and Amy's house Sunday after church expecting to have lunch with them and Rich and Andrea. "you've got to see what we did in the basement," Amy enthused, once we'd come in. we followed, curious, wondering what new addition (a new home theater? toys or furniture for the kids in the small group? a mural? could've been anything…) we'd find. sitting on the floor, like kindergarteners at snack time, were Ross and Angela and Mark and Marit, two couples from our small group. "surprise!" they announced. whatever for? we thought to ourselves. turned out, a surprise party was on, to thank us for serving as small group leaders, for our service to the church, for just generally being us. crazy. we had no idea. none at all. still wondering if it really happened – that's how overwhelmingly cool it was.

we went back upstairs, and were joined by Robert and Dirsa, Jon and Cathy, Joe and Angela, and Paula. wow. after everyone ate together, we gathered in the living room. one by one, each person shared things they were thankful about in regards to Ronni and me. quality stuff, deep, touching, powerful, life-giving, rich and true. the kind of stuff you always hope for but could never know unless someone actually put it in words and looked you in the eye and said it. the kind of stuff that makes you a little uncomfortable to hear, but that you wouldn't trade for the world. no holds barred encouragement. tons of laughter, too. and the laying on of hands in prayer. it was, all together at once, one of the most humbling and most uplifting experiences of my life.

elevation, that's the word. in the u2 sense of the word. like your soul is elevated, and wow that feels good, but you realize that what's all that, that what's got it truly going on, is the force doing the elevating. love. encouraging community. the Holy Spirit. what happened on sunday is what happens when I'm around God, not to put too fine a point on it. Jesus was present in an unexpected but completely welcome way through our small group.

Ronni and I looked at each other in our kitchen later that day, spirits agape. wow, we laughed. thanks, friends.


Friday, May 25, 2007

verve and verse

a long story to get to the title…

when Ronni and I were engaged a baker's dozen years ago, we started attending our first small group. it met in the living room of my parents' house, and quickly became a place filled with friendships and worship. two of our longest lasting "couple" friendships have their origins in that small group, in fact. we met Don Bromley there for the first time; he eventually married Julie, and they have been awesome friends for years (Don is the associate pastor at the Ann Arbor Vineyard Church). Doug Geverdt led the worship on his acoustic guitar (perhaps the best small group worship leader, ever, bar none, in the history of small group worship – nothing flashy, everything glorious), and his wife Gretchen (maybe one of the most encouraging people one could ever meet – it's a close race between her and my uncle Kit and Amy Lozen) became fast friends of ours as well. which was really cool to have friends that weren't just my friends, or just Ronni's friends, but our friends.

eventually D. and G. moved to the DC area when D got a job at the census bureau. when we first visited them in Annapolis (which we try to do every couple of years, at least), they introduced us to some new friends of theirs, Steve and Chaundra. John Lennon wrote "instant karma", right? this was like instant friendship. anyway, our paths have crossed on several occasions since, and it's been sweet to see what Jesus has been doing in their lives. we even got to hang out with them and eat some strange and delicious Indian food with S and C in Anaheim at the Vineyard Leaders' Conference a couple of weeks ago.

all that to say, I just found out Steve has a blog. verve and verse it's called. a mixture of poetry and lively blogging. we all need more poetry, or at least I do. so check it out, if you have the hankering. and if you don't, go find some hankering. we all need more hankering, too.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

how i feel now that the blog is working again

click below to see it more clearly...


met with the community relations board at the Milan federal correctional institution early this morning. about 1450 inmates at the prison currently, and 330 employees. I have high regard for the new warden at the prison; compassionate, smart, level-headed, happy. seems to be the case for everyone on the staff I've met there, come to think of it. heard from the chaplain about some community service projects some of the inmates are involved in. in addition to repairing and giving away bicycles, they are also knitting blankets, booties, and hats for stillborn infants to wear for their funerals. the kinds of things that need to be done that might never cross one's mind, eh? wonder if there is some kind of outreach opportunity for the church there?

a number of people from the church work at the prison, one of whom I bumped into in the parking lot. she's really excited about a new small group at the church she's helping get started up this summer. I'm excited as well – it's a group for people in recovery from addictions of various sorts (like alcohol, for example). been praying for that for some time now. looks like the Father's really up to something in that area. sweet.

yesterday I got to meet with a young pastor who's going to be working with his dad (a senior pastor of a church in a nearby town) to help lead a church in being an outward focused church. very inspiring and humbling at the same time. got to offer him some encouragement, pass on a couple of books, and pray with him. we ate together at Big Boy, and got to pray for both our server and our busboy. felt a little embarrassed in that we asked our server if there was anything we could pray for her about, she shared something with us to pray for, and then when I asked her how to pronounce her name (it was an unfamiliar kind of name to me), she said she knew me from the church. It dawned on me that I'd seen her in church recently, but hadn't recognized her in the different context. Ah well, a little embarrassment is probably good for the soul, from time to time.

technical difficulties solved!

perhaps you've noticed the lack of entries since September, and scarcity before that. not sure what the difficulty was, but the end result was that posting took so much technical wrangling that I simply stopped blogging. blogger made some changes to its software, and maybe our server did too, but whatever the case, it seems like posting is now as simple as opening up a word document and hitting publish. let's see; we'll know in a second. here goes; reentry to the blogosphere to commence in 3…2…1…