Thursday, January 31, 2008

Anyone Out There?

Laurie is out of town in Florida visiting her friends from our time in Princeton. In the past, I have relished the opportunity to step up in order to take care of my two daughters. I was in that same position until something went terribly wrong this morning.

Avery climbed into my bed and was talking my ear off at 5:45 AM or so. She then vomited all over the place before I realized what was happening. Hours later, we were running an errand when she decided to provide a follow-up vomit explosion. Once again (10 minutes ago), she brought her very best again all over my couch.

The odd thing is that she seems to feel completely normal besides the random spouts (literally) of sickness.

I am doing well in spite of the insanity but I am realizing once again just how much Laurie takes on every day as a full-time parent.

I would have written something more theologically sophisticated if I had some brain power remaining but I am definitely in survival mode right now.

I am blogging on my church's new website ( so that is competing for posts at this point.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Now I know...

During my years at Princeton, I could never figure out why everyone from Seattle wore fleeces (and drove Subarus). I now completely understand the benefits of wearing a fleece.

Today was supposedly one of the coldest days ever in the Seattle area (low near 25 degrees). I have learned quickly that big snow jackets are a rarity, if not an embarrassment out here. I probably would have worn on my big East Coast jackets today if it didn't make me look like the type of person that I am - an East Coast person.

I received a fleece as a Christmas gift and I have been wearing it every day. Today, I wore it up to the mountains and I didn't feel cold at all. In fact, I could barely tell that it was below 20 degrees.

This may seem like a boring observation to a majority of the fleece-wearing world but I am in total awe of the fleece.

There is nothing deep to this posting except perhaps the basic truth that I should never judge anyone too quickly because I always find out that my initial judgment is wrong and that I end up often discovering the truth behind another person's perspective. In this case, I judged my Seattle friends for wearing a fleece every day...

If I had a fleece back in the Princeton Seminary days, then I would be wearing one too...

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Years ago, my friends and I would talk about the "GTW" mindset where GTW stood for "Guaranteed To Win." In short, it became a life philosophy that was marked by an expectation for success in any and all situations.

Years later, I thought about the same three letters but this time they led me to "Get To Work." I am in that mindset right now. I have been observing great things at Maple Valley Presbyterian for the first 5 months of my time on staff. I have a lot of work to accomplish. I spent this morning in prayer over my areas of care and responsibility and I experienced a fresh vision of what I need to be doing.

Today, our staff took a day to be together in the mountains. We went snowshoeing for the afternoon in the pouring rain and I had the chance to grow closer to some special teammates at my church. There are many good challenges ahead and I am ready to bring the GTW philosophy and work ethic back to the table.


Monday, January 07, 2008

A Different Kingdom

Bill Gates gave his final keynote at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Newsweek provided this quote about Gates,
Now, of course, after 11 appearances—eight on the eve of the show's formal opening—the Bill Gates keynote is a fixture here. Someone was quoted last week as saying that he's like the pope of the industry—which would make his regular Sunday-night presentation the benediction that blesses the orgy of commerce to follow. But this year's appearance marks an ending. Gates is leaving his full-time work at Microsoft this summer, and 2008 will be the last time he kicks off CES.

The pope reference reminded me of what I thought the moment that I met Bill Gates in the summer of 1997. I was software test engineer intern with the Microsoft Exchange Server product group and I had the opportunity to meet Gates at his home on Lake Washington. I clearly remember him walking down a path toward us (the interns) and talking for 15 minutes about technology, the future of Microsoft and the future of the personal computer industry. I was in awe.

I couldn't help but think then that I was in the presence of greatness. In an odd way, I could somehow identify with the disciples who listened to Jesus by the Sea of Galilee as he talked with authority about the kingdom of God - a new in-breaking reality that would change everything.

Gates' teaching by Lake Washington had a parallel feel even though he was sharing about a completely different kind of kingdom.

What are the marks of a leader who can speak with authority on subjects that can truly change everything?

Who am I...?

I had the humbling privilege of leading Maple Valley Presbyterian Church in the Lord's Supper today during our worship services. I describe the experience as "humbling" because I was truly overwhelmed by the reality that I had the opportunity to announce the good news of Jesus Christ through the sacrament. Who am I to lead the people of God in such a holy moment?

This was only the second time that I led this sacrament. I was going to post some thoughts after my first experience in December but I failed to get my thoughts onto this blog. My experiences today were very similar to last month's.

I can't even begin to capture what I felt as I guided the congregation through the sacrament. I truly believe that the Lord Jesus encounters his people through the Lord's Supper beyond an intellectual remembering by the those who participate. I believe that just as the Holy Spirit works in and through the spoken words of sermon, the Holy Spirit works in and through the sacrament. A sermon is not merely a group of words that happen to have a meaning. Instead, the Holy Spirit reminds us what of what Jesus taught and forms us disciples for witness through the preached word. In a similar manner, I believe the Lord's Supper is not merely a ritual that helps us remember what Christ accomplished for us on the cross but that the actions, by the working of the Holy Spirit, shape Christ's disciples.

One of my mentor's demonstrated to me during my years in New Jersey how to lead the Lord's Supper with conviction. His conviction was rooted in Scripture, the gospel message, and reality that Christ was present in a significant way in that moment. My prayer was that I could follow that example and I sensed that God strengthened me to do that today.

Who am I to play that role? Thousands and thousands of leaders have led God's people in what I did today and I felt the weight of that privilege today. Thank God (literally) that he carried me along as I led others today.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

In God's Presence

I meditated on Psalm 24 this morning. I have come back to this Psalm over and over through the Company of New Pastors daily readings that include a Psalm.

Psalm 24:3-4
Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift his soul to an idol.

I have reflected on this passage many times. Who may come into the presence of the Lord Almighty? Only those who have a pure heart. Who is responsible for the pure heart? God or the person? This is a classic question.

David, in Psalm 51, asks God to create in him a pure heart. God creates the pure heart. David asks for the pure heart.

I have experienced chapters of my life when I have felt close to God. I have experienced joy and freedom. I have been creative for him. I have been open to his leading.

In those moments, I could see - both physically and spiritually. In particular, the colors of the leaves seemed more green, red, orange, yellow, whatever. The individuals with whom God put me in contact seemed more real, more alive, more like who they truly are - God's creation who he loves more than I can imagine, no matter what they've done.

The song "Everything Glorious" by David Crowder is playing in the background. These reflections from Psalm 24 and that song lead me 2 Corinthians 3:17-18. "Now the Lord is Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is, freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, and are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit."

That's my desire, my prayer, my true need - to have a pure heart, to have freedom, to be transformed into God's likeness with ever-increasing glory...

God Almighty, Heavenly Father, I praise you for your holiness that requires purity in your presence. I praise you for your Son who made the way for me to come into your presence with freedom, confidence, and boldness. Create in me a pure heart, only you can do it. I want to know you. I want to live in freedom. I want to be transformed for your purposes. I want to experience the joy of being known by you and knowing you. I love you. For your name's sake. Amen.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

2008 - Closing the Gap

I talked with a close friend yesterday about the good, the bad, and the ugly of 2007. We then turned our attention toward 2008 in light of what happened in 2007. One common theme was our desire to increase what I call "closing the gap."

The "gap" is the difference between what I need and want to do every day, week, month, year, forever and what I actually do. I always envision what I should be doing but actually following through on those ideas is a discipline that needs my attention and energy. The key word is energy.

Like all New Year's days, I set goals for the upcoming year. In 2008, I want to intentionally work on taking action in energy-creating activities as opposed to energy-draining activities so that I can have more energy to close the gap in all of the different aspects of my life.

Let's see what happens...