Category Archives: Personal

The Relevance of the Resurrection

The Garden Tomb - from Wikipedia

The Garden Tomb – from Wikipedia

As a pastor’s kid, I was immersed in Christianity from an early age. But only recently, I realized I was missing a very important part of the story.

I was missing the importance and relevance of the Resurrection.

Growing up in a religious culture, we each pick up narratives about who God is and how he interacts with the world. For better or for worse, some of these narratives are false or show just one side of the story.

Around Easter, I have tended to focus on Jesus’ death as an atonement for my sin, which it is. He took the punishment that I deserved. Too often though, if I focus on this true narrative, I view God as a judge who loves me when I obey and punishes me when I disobey.

But there is another part to the story that must be viewed in tandem with Jesus’s death. Today we celebrate it, yet for many years, I didn’t see the power in it.

In the context of Martha’s brother Lazarus dying, Jesus tells her,I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die” (John 11:25-26). Then Jesus demonstrates his power over death by raising Lazarus from the dead.

Soon after Jesus himself dies and rises again to new life.

For too long I focused on Jesus’ death and missed the power and relevance of Jesus’ resurrection.

The narrative I missed was that Jesus’ resurrection and sending of the Holy Spirit enables me to begin living life the way I was designed to live. This has amazing ramifications. It is no longer I that lives but Christ living in me. When God the Father sees me, he doesn’t see me with my sin, but he sees His Son Jesus in me. God the Father smiles when he sees me. I am his creation. We are all his creation. He takes pride in his design.

Our new church community at Mile High Vineyard puts a lot of weight on this piece of the narrative that Jesus is alive and living in us today. The Spirit that Jesus gives us speaks through believers in prayer. Prayer is no longer a one way conversation but a two way conversation where the Spirit engages with us and speaks truth.

And the Spirit enables us to join Jesus in rolling out his Kingdom that is breaking back into our current reality. We don’t just sit back and pray for Jesus to come quickly, we engage in Kingdom work through the Spirit’s power. This Kingdom fights injustice, brings equality, humbles pride, lifts the poor and restores our world’s original design.

Too often I’ve sat in church and wondered, “Is this all there is? Is this what Jesus died and rose again to create?” There seemed to be something missing, and I am beginning to realize that what I was missing was the Resurrection.

Jesus rose again to give us Life.

The Life we were created to live.

The Life that we can’t live on our own but only through the indwelling and filling of the Spirit.

Easter is about a death AND a resurrection AND a kingdom that is unfolding that we can participate in.

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Why Do We Have to Go to Church?

This morning, as we were getting ready for church, our eight year old daughter blew up in frustration and yelled, “Why do we have to go to church?”

Instead of responding with a quick answer, I was actually glad she asked the question. I would rather have my daughters ask good questions  and learn to think for themselves.

After leaving a full-time church job a few months ago, our family hasn’t really had to attend church. Each Sunday we have a choice whether to attend or not. And our girls know that.

So why do we attend church? Even the author Donald Miller has written about his personal struggles with attending church.

This month we are focusing each week on one of our family values. This week we are focused on the value of faith and answering Anna’s question of why we need to go to church is definitely part of the conversation. Notice it is really about why we NEED to attend church instead of HAVE to attend.

So here is my attempt at how I would answer the question of why church attendance is important to our family. Read the rest of this entry

Jeffco Schools and the Search for Leadership

Children

I am a parent of two daughters in a Jefferson County elementary school. My wife is a paraprofessional at that school. I substitute teach in Jefferson County Schools on occasion. The nonprofit I lead trains and mobilizes reading tutors to work with K-3rd grade students who struggle in reading.

Though I am not a Jeffco graduate myself (Go Arapahoe Warriors!), I care deeply about Jeffco Schools and want to see all 85,000 children succeed in school and in life.

Since the election of three conservative Board of Education members in November and the early resignation of Superintendent Cindy Stevenson this weekend, things are starting to get interesting.

The divisive climate of politics has become local and it is very hard to stay in the middle. The camps are forming. Either you are supportive of the new board majority or you are not. You are with the unions or you are not.

The sad part is that many of us are in the middle. We don’t think charter schools are the magic antidote for education and we support our neighborhood schools.

But we also think that education is due for some reform. Any organization or company needs to remain on the cutting edge to innovate and keep ahead of a changing culture.

I also believe in education innovation when I look at our Edgewater schools. At our three Edgewater schools, over 90% of the children receive free or reduced lunch because of poverty in their families. Yet when you compare the test scores at these three schools with three schools in southwest Littleton where we used to live, you see a big achievement gap.

This is a moral wrong. Children growing up in poverty have every right to a great education. The achievement gap should not exist yet in reality it does.

We have some great teachers and school leaders here in Edgewater but we can do better. I believe that if we can rally our community around our schools and change the education paradigm, we could see the achievement gap bridged.

Continuing to do things the way we always have done it doesn’t cut it anywhere. My daughters’ friends deserve better. Don’t lower your expectations just because we are poor. Right now a Jefferson (our local high school) graduate is on the Colorado Supreme Court, another is a Congressman and yet another is the bodyguard for Peyton Manning. With a great education, imagine where the next Jefferson High graduate might end up.

So circling back to the events of the weekend, I am frustrated on many levels with what happened. What I am most frustrated with is that the focus is now away from the 85,000 kids in our district. Union members are spreading fear and rumors. The three board members are demonized and any change they bring up is automatically thrown out. And because this new majority is silent on their agenda, then people assume the worst.

Finding common ground is possible. I’ve seen it happen in Jeffco Schools in the last month. I am part of the Choice Enrollment Steering Committee and have seen people from different education philosophies work together for 85,000 kids in the district. We sit down and listen to each other without jumping to conclusions. We have built relationships and stay focused on the task that unites us.

To each of the current Jeffco Board of Education members, I implore you to lead and focus the district on the common good of 85,000 children. To the Board majority, build bridges and start to dialogue in public about your ideas for the district. Board President Ken Witt has already started to do this by appearing on KHOW on February 11 (listen here). To the unions in Jeffco, don’t fall to the level of spreading fear and speculation. To quote the wise Yoda, ““Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

What we need right now in Jefferson County Schools is a leader.

Someone to unite our community around the common good of 85,000 children with hopes and dreams.

At this point that leader needs to be one of you sitting on the Board of Education.

Ken Witt. Julie Williams. Lesley Dahlkemper. John Newkirk. Jill Fellman.

Which one of you will step up and lead?

Connecting at Church and Wimping Out

hello-visitor

 

Ever have those moments when you are transported back to your awkward middle school stage? I had one of those tonight. Driving downtown to a brewery, I couldn’t find a parking spot so I just turned around and drove home. I was supposed to meet a group from church that shared my interest in craft beer. But I wimped out.

Connecting into a new church is hard.

For eleven years of marriage, Hillary and I were always part of churches where I worked. Connecting with people took work but is wasn’t that hard because I was on staff. We developed relationships with volunteers or people in that specific ministry area and it happened naturally.

This fall though we started attending a great church just north of us in Arvada called Mile High Vineyard. Walking into church on Sunday mornings for a few weeks we were anonymous which was actually kind of nice. No one had expectations of us. We were just another family at church.

But then Hillary and I realized it was time to be part of the church community not just a place to worship on Sunday mornings. Mile High made it easy to connect and meet staff with a Connect Lunch on the first Sunday of each month. There were only 15 or so of us and we had the opportunity to meet one of the pastors.

We are still trying to figure out how to meet other families. How do you do that? There are so many fears that run through our minds. If we show up to a small group what if they all know each other really well and we don’t fit in? And do we even have time for more relationships when we are trying to connect with our neighbors in meaningful ways?

Our kids are having a hard time too because they are so used to being the pastor’s kids and all their teachers having to report to their dad. They have to figure out their own identity at church which is even harder when they are in separate classes.

All of this has a point.

Connecting into a new church is hard and it takes time for it to happen naturally. It takes effort and it doesn’t happen overnight.

I also think it is important for pastors to understand how hard it is for people to connect into a church. Create easy avenues for new people to connect with other new people. Pastors, if you haven’t experienced what it is like to connect into a new church when you aren’t on staff, listen to the stories of people in your church who have experienced it.

We are meant to be in community. Church isn’t really about singing and listening to a lecture. It is about discipleship that happens in the midst of relationships.

But like everything that is good in this world, it takes work.

Faith Motivation and Edgewater Collective

New Logo

This past Sunday I preached my final sermon at Mountair and explained what our family is stepping into with Edgewater Collective. Though the organization is not faith based (find out why here), my work with Edgewater Collective is faith motivated.

You can listen to sermon below:
Listen to this episode

Goofiness, Baseball and the Magic Chair

IMG_1002

 

 

Dads, do you have a chair in front of the TV that your kids don’t dare sit in?

I spent Monday through Wednesday going through basic chaplaincy training with the Colorado State Patrol in preparation for my new role as a volunteer police chaplain with Edgewater Police. Police officers have unique stress that can have a destructive role on themselves and their families. One of the ways they cope with this stress is zoning out in their “magic chair” and tuning out what is happening around them.

I don’t think this is unique to police. I do it. Just last night Hillary bravely told me to turn off the World Series and be present with our girls.

And boy was it worth it last night.

We found out that Apple’s GarageBand app for the iPad is free and we had a family jam session on our iPads. Then we found out that there is a vocal recording part of the app that allows you to record your voice and then make it sound like a chipmunk or a monster.

The sounds that we made together were hysterical. At one point I thought Norah was going to wet her pants she was laughing so hard.

All it took was me getting out of my “magic chair” and engaging with my family.

Pastor to Community Developer

When I took the Associate Pastor position at Mountair Christian Church, we knew we would take it one year at time. The church was taking money out of savings to fund my position and we didn’t know how the ministry at the church would change. This summer, Trevor Lee, the Lead Pastor at Mountair felt called by God to transition to the Lead Pastor position at the church in Littleton called Trailhead Church.

So I transitioned into the Interim Pastor role at the beginning of August.

Over the last year, I have spent a good amount of time in Edgewater building relationships and learning about the needs and assets in the community. As I have developed relationships and built networks, I have realized the need for an asset based community development organization. Instead of just rushing in to meet needs, an asset based organization looks to connect the assets or strengths of a community with its needs.

So we started Edgewater Collective as a way to connect these assets and needs in seeking the common good of all in Edgewater.

I love doing community development. Ironically my senior paper at Taylor University laid out of dream of mine to do community development in a neighborhood just like Edgewater just south of where we are now. It took 11 years to get where we are now, yet this is the position I believe I am uniquely created for.

Our family is ready to jump into this new role in Edgewater.

Mountair Christian Church is starting to look for a new Lead Pastor and I will be transitioning to leading Edgewater Collective at the beginning of November.

You can read our letter to the Mountair congregation here.

We are excited to step into this role within our community. The open doors to invest in our community are amazing!

  • Today I began serving as a volunteer police chaplain with the Edgewater Police Department.
  • We are launching the Edgewater Literacy Initiative and sending trained volunteers to help K-3rd grade students read at grade level by the end of 3rd grade.
  • This spring I will be leading our community garden at the local high school and helping students sell their produce at the local farmer’s market.
  • We are working with the local high school to connect local business owners and students every Thursday morning later this fall. Our dream is to offer up to a $1000 Innovation Award to a high school student to develop a business idea in the community.
  • Hillary is a paraprofessional (teacher’s aide) at our daughters’ school and is learning first hand the needs in our local schools.
  • I am now a Planning and Zoning Commissioner in Edgewater and am learning more about how our city operates.
  • I also represent our area on the Jefferson County Schools Strategic Planning and Advisory Council.

As you can see this is quickly becoming a full-time effort! We need your help as I step into this new role with Edgewater Collective.

Here is how you can help:

Invest Time

If you live in the Denver area, here are some ways you can serve in Edgewater.

Invest Financially

We are looking to raise $14,000 by 2014 to launch these initiatives in Edgewater and allow me to work full-time in the community. You can donate to Edgewater Collective here.

Eating Like a Cave Man and Losing Weight

paleo-pyramid

I blame over five years as a youth pastor and endless pieces of pizza for my weight gain. I tried to exercise and even ran a marathon but losing weight was virtually impossible. According to my BMI(Body Mass Index), I was overweight and it really began to bother me.

My last hope was to change my diet.

I had heard friends talk about the Paleo Diet so I did some research. The idea of the Paleo Diet is to mimic the diet of early hunter-gatherers to optimize health and lose weight. So here is what this means:

 Can Eat

  • Grass-produced meats
  • Fish/seafood
  • Fresh fruits and veggies
  • Eggs
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Healthful oils (Olive, walnut, flaxseed, macadamia, avocado, coconut)

 Don’t Eat

  • Cereal grains
  • Legumes (including peanuts)
  • Dairy
  • Refined sugar
  • Potatoes
  • Processed foods
  • Salt

Taken from The Paleo Diet

 So basically I am limited to eating meat, fruits and vegetables. But the amazing thing is that since starting the diet in June I have lost over 20 pounds. For me it really comes down to self-control and the Paleo Diet really makes this manageable.
To be honest, I cheat a little on the diet. I drink beer and take half & half with my coffee. Once a week I eat sweets and pizza with the family. I don’t want to be one of those crazy, legalistic diet people.
So if you want to lose weight without having to count calories and feel better about what you are putting into your body, check out the Paleo Diet.

Why Edgewater Collective Isn’t Faith Based

Over the past couple of months, I have been investing a good amount of time in launching our grassroots community development organization, Edgewater Collective. Thankfully, the mistakes and lessons learned from starting, maintaining and closing a coffee bar has helped me in starting this new venture. This time around I am seeking advice from those who have gone before me and done the same type of community development organization.

One of the big questions from the start has been, “Are we a faith based organization?”

I sought advice from others, talked with our board and came to the conclusion that some of our board members might be “faith-motivated” but our organization will not be faith based.

Wait! What?! Why would a seminary trained pastor with over ten years of experience in the church not start a faith based organization? Read the rest of this entry

Dad Gets the Groceries: Becoming a Dual Income Family

'Wedding Rings 2' photo (c) 2007, firemedic58 - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

In February Hillary picked up a part-time position at our our daughters’ elementary school as a paraprofessional. Neither of us knew it at the time, but this change to a dual income family has changed our marriage and family life in some significant ways.

At the beginning Hillary only worked about one hour a day helping a teacher with iPads in the classroom. With testing and other needs in the school, Hillary quickly started to work more hours. For the past month she has been at school for six hours a day. Before working outside the home, Hillary managed our finances, shopped for our groceries and many other responsibilities around the house.

Now that she works during the day, many of those responsibilities have changed. She no longer has time to get it all done while balancing work and home life. Through the last few months we’ve learned a couple of things about surviving in a dual income family and I think it has actually been a good thing for our marriage and family life.

Here’s an eye into what we’ve learned and are continuing to learn:

Communicate, Communicate, Then Communicate Some More

For this to work Hillary and I both need to communicate honestly about our roles and responsibilities and how the changes have impacted us personally. This is easier said than done when we both have a long day and just want to veg in front of the TV and watch Duck Dynasty. But to thrive and not just survive, we need to communicate daily about our struggles and what needs to be done.

Delegate Responsibilities

I shopped for the family groceries for the first time since our kids were born. Stay at home dads you can laugh at me now. Hillary gave me the list and I pulled it off and just forgot to get Wheat Thins. This was a huge step for Hillary to hand over the grocery list. It was hard for her to give up control of the list. When our girls were sick I was the one who stayed home so Hillary could work. To make this work, we had to take a look at the family responsibilities and see who could accomplish it even if it meant that I bought the weekly groceries.

No Lazy Dad

It is easy to come home and just let Hillary take care of the girls. Hey, I work all day and deserved to rest. There is so much wrong with this scenario. Honestly, it is just plain selfish if I buy into these ideas. And now that Hillary works with kids all day at school, there definitely isn’t any room for me to just sit back and be the lazy dad. Hillary deserves to rest and get a break. It truly needs to be a partnership at night until the girls go to bed.

Finding Purpose

Last fall Hillary was struggling to find her purpose and connection to what I was doing in Edgewater. But now that she is working at the school and investing in neighborhood kids, she is finding her purpose. Though it is hard to work with kids all day, she is finding fulfillment in her work and is excelling in her role. In just two months she is known for her encouraging spirit and excellence in the classroom. We are truly a team now in reaching out to the kids in our neighborhood.

After two months as a dual income family, we definitely haven’t arrived in figuring this all out. But as we communicate and change our roles and responsibilities, our marriage and family life is better for it.