Friday, November 24, 2006

almost time to go

It's Thursday night and I've been in New Hampshire since early early Monday morning.
I was blessed with an opportunity to travel here with my friends Drew and Caren, and spend time with Caren's family. It's been a unique experience. Caren's mom and dad have been on staff with the Navigators and building relationships with students at Dartmouth College for over 15 years. You know how every neighborhood or small town has that one house where everyone goes to hang out? The Parker's house is that house in Hanover. For five days there's been a constant stream of people coming and going. Not just Navigator staff, but other students and friends. It's one of the coolest things I've ever experienced, and it's made me realize that I want to have that kind of house.

It's also been great spending time with Drew and Caren. Truly, they're two of the coolest people I know, and I'm so blessed to get to serve with them and enjoy their friendships.

I've learned a lot about New England. This was my first time in this part of the country. New England is an interesting place. The mindset here and the ways things are done remind me a lot of Amsterdam. One main difference is that here, people reason their way out of a relationship with God. They think religion is a trivial thing and faith is for those poor souls who aren't strong enough to think through life on their own. Where in Amsterdam religion seems to be essentially ignored, here's it's frowned upon. A large portion of New England is unchurched. It's intriguing.
What's also interesting is that there are no "mega churches" here. Again, like Amsterdam, there's simply no room. The churches are small. Quaint. Most seat 150 people max. The similarities are interesting. The differences are, too.

I like this part of the country. Tomorrow we're stopping in Boston for a short time on our drive back to Michigan. I'm excited to see Boston. Drew and Caren have talked about it so much, it'll be great to have them show me some of the city.

Friday, November 17, 2006

the armor-bearer

"Do all that you have in mind," his armor-bearer said. "Go ahead; I am with you heart and soul." - 1Samuel 14:7

This verse has always resonated with me, but more so of late.
There's something powerful about this kind of loyalty and commitment. Suprisingly, many commentaries and bible notes skip over this verse. Perhaps we get too caught up in theology and miss the things that are truly important. There's no theological mandate associated with 1Samuel 14:7. There are no doctrinal issues at stake. No intellectual reasoning in which to engage. But where the mind is not engaged here, the heart is. This is not a verse of theology, doctrine, or intellect. It is one of love, loyalty, and commitment. It is one of service. A true laying down of one life for another.

It's not enough to say that we are willing to die for one another. We must be willing to live for one another as well. Truly, this takes a greater commitment. To die for someone... that can be done in a single act. But to live for someone... that requires selflessness every day, moment by moment. It requires perseverance.

I like the idea of being someone's armor bearer. I like the idea of committing myself to the service of an individual or group. There must be extraordinary power in making such selfless declarations. To say outloud "I'm with you, heart and soul." That kind of commitment among Believers must make the enemy tremble.

As a Church, we don't often make commitments like that to one another. We have our visions and our plans, and we set to work acheiving them. But what if our visions and plans are found in helping others acheive their own visions? Romans 12 tells us to no longer conform to the pattern of this world. What is the pattern of this world? It is to choose a goal and work toward it's acheivement. So, if we are not to conform to the pattern of this world, will our visions and dreams in fact be birthed as we lay down our lives in service to others? Does God cast vision, not so that we'll run in that direction, but so that we have an inkling of where we'll end up as we serve others?

Romans 12:2 says we're to be transformed by the "renewing" of our minds. That word "renewing" means "a complete change for the better". A complete change. A complete change from the pattern of this world. The verse goes on to say that the purpose of this transformation is the "proving" of that which is good, and acceptable, and perfect. The word "prove" means "to see whether a things is genuine or not" or "to deem worthy". Is the world's pattern of acheivement genuine? Is the world's pattern for success worthy of adhering too?

My spirit cries "no!" And so maybe a paradigm shift needs to take place. A shifting of focus from my goals and dreams to the goals and dreams of others. Maybe it's time for me, as an armor-bearer, to look someone in the eye and say "I am with you, heart and soul."

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

bless you, boys

you don't have to read far, or talk to me long, to know that a portion of my heart resides in another city.


God brought me to Amsterdam just a year and a half ago. My first time there I felt drawn, and connected somehow. The day we left, I quietly cried on the train ride to the airport. Actually, if memory serves, I cried OPENLY AT the airport.

If you ask "why, Amsterdam?" I can't tell you. Yes, it's a beautiful city. But the allure of Amsterdam is not in its beauty. Rather, for me anyway, it's in the underlying disintegration and dirt. A cursory glance around the city allows it to display its rich history and wonderful architecture. But a slow walk through the city streets reveals canals that are dirty, buildings that are leaning precariously, and a people whom you won't find on the covers of magazines. Look long enough and you see a place and people that are far outside of God's original intent. I'm drawn to the brokenness of the city. And to the promise of redemption. It's not a very explanatory explanation - every city in the world fits that description - but it's the best I can do.

This past Sunday, the two lead pastors (Todd and Eric) of a church in Amsterdam called Zolder50 were officially ordained as pastors. The truth is that they've been pastors for years. Growing, and learning what it means to simultaneously serve and lead.

I wish I could have been there. I wish I could have been part of the group that laid hands on them, prayed over them, asked for God's anointing and blessing. I wish I could have offered words and hugs of congratulations.

Regardless, it's wonderful to see them receive "official" recognition for roles and responsibilities that they've had for years. They stepped in during a time of crisis and have seen Zolder50 through some tough and uncertain times. They've encouraged, challenged, and discipled so many. They, more than almost anyone I know, deserve to hear from the Savior they love so much and serve so faithfully - "Well done."

Friday, November 10, 2006


It's about 4:30 on Friday afternoon and I'm sitting in Sweetwater's Cafe in downtown Royal Oak. Eva is in town this weekend, and currently sitting across the table from me.

We've been here all afternoon. We came here to work, but have mostly talked - about God, the Church, and Amsterdam of course, accomplishing just enough work to assuage any guilt. :)

Yesterday a good friend of mine challenged my stubborness about working on-staff at a church. She had a lot of good things to say, though they were hard to hear. Scary, mostly. I was on-staff at my first church and it was rough. What started out as a good thing became drenched in politics and selfish ambitions. After I left, I vowed I'd never been part of the "inner circle" of church leadership again.

My friend pointed out that, even though I'm not currently working at a church, I'm still part of the inner circle. Most of my close friends are staff people. And not just at my church. The friend I was talking to is on-staff at a church in Cali. She pointed out that, though I say I want to stay away from leadership and keep my nose out of church business, most of my closest friends work at churches. And they don't just work there, they have significant leadership roles.

She's right. I find myself drawn to people in leadership. I like the way they think. I like the tendancy to look for solutions rather than dwell on problems. I like talking about the Church, strategizing and making decisions about vision and direction. I love seeing leaders developed, seeing followers of Christ properly discipled. I love spending time with people who's conversations naturally turn to things of God. And they seem to like being around me, too.

So, do I belong in that world? Do I need to let go of my stubborn determination to 'never do that again'? Eva just shared with me a passage from 1 Samuel, when Jonathan went to fight the Philistines. "Perhaps the Lord will work on our behalf", he said.
"So often", she said, "the Lord asks us to move based on a 'perhaps'."

Do I belong in a world to which I vowed I'd never return?

Friday, November 03, 2006

is it just my imagination (or melodramatic tendancies), or is there a direct correlation between your closeness to God and the chaos of life? It seems that the deeper and more intimate my relationship with Him becomes, the more drama and difficulty insues. The more internal peace, the more external struggle. Like the eye of a hurricane, the center is still and peaceful, but on all sides, destructive winds and rain swirl.

is it just my imagination?

Thursday, November 02, 2006

fight or...

From a business standpoint, this has been a rough week. I was fired this week. For the first time in all my years as a writer, someone fired me. Granted, he was the most unreasonable, difficult, and unpredictable client I've ever had. Still, it shook my confidence. I know I'm not the best writer out there. Heck, there are people reading this blog who are more talented than I. But having someone pull you from a project can make you wonder if you're at all good enough to make it. At least, that's what it's done to me. If I'm ever going to pay off my debt and gather together enough resources to get to Amsterdam, I need this business to work. And it can't just work halfway. I need to hit this out of the ballpark.

I don't know if now is a time for reflection, or for rolling up the sleeves and working that much harder. I currently have two on-going projects. Neither is especially time-consuming, so if ever there were time avaible for reflection and planning, it's now. But having a plate that's only half-full freaks me out a little. Still... maybe now is the time. Maybe now is the time to create clear plans. Select a target industry or two and focus only on them. Maybe now is the time for perfecting my portfolio, gathering names and phone numbers, and making personal visits to potential clients. Maybe now is the time to stop going after any client I can get, and start going after the clients I want.

Maybe it's time for a little fine-tuning.