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!