Thursday, January 31, 2008

Visiting Chicago and NPU

I just got back yesterday from a little trip to Chicago. Every year around this time the denomination that PCC is a part of and that I serve in has a conference. It's usually held in the cold of Chicago (my roots) to give true meaning to it's name: MidWinter Conference. It was cold and snowy--and thankfully I got in an out by plane with no major delays. Amidst workshops and large gatherings sessions meant to teach, equip, and encourage pastors and church leaders I got to hang out with family and friends. This was probably the most refreshing for me. Although it is so hard to leave my wife and daughter, I fully appreciate Wendy's sacrifice of being a single mom for five days (not easy with no daddy breaks) so I could go! I missed them a lot but had a lot of time to brag on them and show slideshows of Isella through my computer :)!

The most significant times were spent with a some good old friends from college just praying and talking about what God is doing in their lives, churches, and families. Another highlight was visiting my Alma Mater -North Park University--and doing dinner with the college students from PCC. Along with fellow PCC friends/co-ministers--Gary and Marilyn, we made our way to familiar territory of Chicago's north side. Re-entering the famed Anderson hall dorm was like a dejavu!

Holly, Elle, Christy, Jenny, and Justin (honorary PCC member as a former intern) went out to my favorite Mexican restuarant Garcia's. We had such cool conversation. I was reminded of the "good old days" of college life. Those years at NPU were so formative in my understanding of God and the church. I lived among great lovers of God who weren't just talking--they were walking. Even at a Christian school it is not easy to find people who are serious about their relationship with God. As we talked (over some of the best burritos ever), I was so encouraged to hear these college Christians wresling with issues on campus and dreaming about their future. I pray that this generation goes deep into God's heart (Ephesians 3). I pray that they would truly understand his love and respond appropriately and authentically. I pray that they are protected from the enemy's seduction and deception (Ephesians 6 and 1 Peter 5) and I pray that they enjoy God's love and live in their identity as his Child (Ephesians 1-2)! What a time well spent. Talking about life, future, the church, and good issues. Add some laughs about Christian culture and some good music and youtube suggestions ( I spent an hour on itunes later that night looking up their suggestions and found some new favorites) and it was an all around good night to connect with our church family!

Awesome part is that it snowed and made the town look beautiful.

PS. I welcome your comments--and I am always looking for good music suggestions. What kind of music selections? Any really--but mostly--funk, blues, rock, dance, alternative, Euro, Latin, folk, electronic, jazz, and pop. I'm picky about rap/hip-hop, oldies, classical and country. I like some selected few. I've been into maybe a handful of hard-core. So any you can send my way would be great. I've got an itunes card to use.

Monday, January 28, 2008


I have found myself (again) in need of some rest both in the Lord--a spiritual refreshing--and a physical respite from working, studying, and doing. I got on a plane for a conference and thankfully built in the time was pockets to find peace and prayer. I was looking forward to getting out of my routine (although desperately missing my family) I hadn't had much time to do some writing, journal, movie watching, and just getting horizontal for an extended amount of time with some good tunes. In the midst of life's routine, one of my biggest challenges is that I am continuing to find myself challenged in the pursuit of my "higher education." A masters degree requires a lot of work in general. A master's degree in theology just comes with added pressure for me. I feel this need to give it my all, after all it is not just a piece of paper I am after but a depth in my understanding and relationship with God. I also want my studies to be worshipful not just hoops to jump through. At times I resent Seminary. I get frustrated how much emphasis I/we (who is we? I don't know--just some people that I assume think like this--possible another issue I should address) put on seminary. As if sitting in a class and writing papers qualifies anyone for ministry. (I mean, sometimes I wonder what happened to Jesus' way of making disciples--taking ordinary people and spending life, teaching, healing, and loving people. Please don't get me wrong I see the value of my education and really appreciate what I am learning, but I have to be careful not to miss God. In other words it is easy to do God's work (studying, helping, exerting energy, etc) and miss interacting or seeing him, God, face to face--for whatever that means.

For instance, I am desperately trying to finish papers and read 1000 page books --just to finish them so I can move on to other parts of life--like just laying on the couch, playing with my daughter, and enjoying my wife. Well, all that to say that I want to learn to balance the aspects of
my life--my family, and then ministry in community all the while CENTERING my life on God--consciously knowing he is in, involved, around, within, and over all that I do. I'm learning to be fully present and in the moments of my life--not lingering in the past or fearing anxiously the future. My word for this season continues to be AT HOME. I am called to be at home with myself, at home in God and his love. God wants me to be loved, secure, humbly confident, and satisifed--and it is is still a struggle. The struggle- juggle can be overwhelming. Guilt wants to be my (pseudo-) friend. Guilt likes to remind me that I'm not good enough at studying. Guilt enjoys pointing out how much more could be done in our community, guilt lies to me about what others think and the how my choices my affect my family in negative ways. (I have this nagging fear that my wife or daughter would feel second or third to my work or anything else. (Let me just say that I love my wife and Wendy is such a huge encouragement and support and helping me try to maintain a healthy balance and believe truth).

On top of this, I am finding myself in some situations where I am at a loss of how to respond. I am seeing the battle of the Spirit and my flesh and I am asking God to fill me and help me.

So, today-I had some time of sitting and resting in God. I got in the green book, which got me in the word. Reading number 10 on page 88 is titled: Come and Rest while. Hmmm..How appropriate.

Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. From the end of the earth I call to you, when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I;

for you are my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy. Let me abide in your tent forever, find refuge under the shelter of your wings. (Psalm 61:1-14)

I then attached an ipod to my head and let truth sink into my mind. I love this sound. I played it over and over and over and over and sang at the top of my lungs claiming it as my heart's prayer asking God to take my life---all that I am and align my will with his.

Take My Life Lyrics by Passion

Lead Worshipper: Chris Tomlin

Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee
Take my moments and my days
Let them flow in ceaseless praise
Take my hands and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love
Take my feet and let them be swift and beautiful for Thee

Take my voice and let me sing always, only, for my King
Take my lips and let them be filled with messages from Thee
Take my silver and my gold, not a mite would I withhold
Take my intellect and use every power as You choose

Here am I
All of me
Take my life
It's all for Thee

Take my will and make it Thine, it shall be no longer mine
Take my heart, it is Thine own, it shall be Thy royal throne
Take my love, my Lord, I pour at your feet its treasure store
Take myself and I will be ever, only, all for Thee

Take my life and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee

Here I am Lord. I'm yours. I'm at home. In you, I'm complete and satisfied. You are good, enough, and more than good enough for all of me and my needs and struggles.

I love your peace. I love you God.

Friday, January 18, 2008


It's past midnight and I just can't sleep. I've been in planning and future prep mode all day. Wendy and I have been talking and praying all night. It seems like God is leading me (and any others that want to join) back to Italy this year. There have been some fun and significant signs that it is time to organize a team and return. (Not even kidding--besides that I had a dream where I was talking Italian with our friends there last week, I've had numerous people ask about Italy, and then a candle yesterday dripped wax in the shape of a boot!)

Each trip has amazing special memories and God's supernatural encounters (plus great food! Que Buona!)

We went four years in a row as a community (2003, 2004, 2005, 2006--some pictured here from 2004, 2005, and 2006), and then we didn't go this past year because we had our baby. Wendy and I have been praying a lot about this and it seems that the best option would be for me to go and lead a team with out her and Isella. Although this will be really hard for me to be away for two weeks, I know God will enable me and take care of them. Wendy is totally for this and I really sense God guiding. We have always had this in our prayer and we feel very connected to our friends and church there. In fact, I talk with Marco from Catania by Skype a lot and Antonio by email and phone every so often!
(Team 2003)
(Team 2004 above)
(team 2005 above)
(team 2006 above)

So I am inquiring to see who out there would be interested in joining the team, raising the money, and doing the hard work to prepare for ministry and unity! Anyone? Soccer players, musicians, actors for dramas, and anyone with a heart to help people know God's love who is willing to learn another language (or use a lot of hand motions and a dictionary).

We are still praying through this but here is a rough time line--

3/2: Deposit & Registration due March 2nd-$500

March-June Fund raising ($4000) Daddy Daughter Dance, letter writing and other creative ideas.

Secure passport

Training meetings April, May, June, July

Full payment by June 29th

Depart for Italy August 22 (Ponte Tresa/Lugano and Catania/Sicily with possible day or two in Rome)
Return September 6th Home

Please contact me so I know if God's will for our community and so I know who our team might be! I am praying for the right people to go! God, call them I pray!
(These types of missions require people to be very patient, flexible, humble, able to travel fast and well under hard circumstances (like long flights and sometimes uncomfortable lodging), self-controlled, not easily discouraged to quit, and a team player).

Visit the Basile's blog (Marco and Cinzia and Sofia from Catania here)

This is totally exciting!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

LeadNow 2008

Today I was planning out my year with all the gatherings, retreats, events, and personal and family travel (which will be fully released soon, I hope). Last year, Jeff, (friend and PCCYA leader and servant), and I attended this cool conference that we plan to return to in Dallas. So I went to their link to find out the dates and found me in their promo video. Hey, do I get any residuals for that?

LeadNow 2008

Either way, we have spots open for this trip. Are you someone aspiring to be a leader in this generation? Do you love God and his peolple and want to know how to make a differece in our community and in the world? Then consider going to Dallas Texas November 13-15! Roughly costs $400 with food, flight, and lodging.

Greenbook reflection January 14-20

Green book reflection!
Hey Community! I hope you will join with us in reading and sharing the scripture and reflection from A GUIDE TO PRAYER FOR ALL THOSE WHO "SEEK GOD, or better known as the GREEN BOOK!
I am encouraging anyone and everyone to read it, share it, and pray it!
It's a weekly devotional book with dates that leads us into scripture and reflection from some of the greats like Dallas Willard, Henri Nouwen, Mother Teresa, and Brennan Manning. (Don't judge the book by it's cover-pictured above-check it out here Amazon link: if you'd like to buy it or I have a few copes for $10).

This weeks reading, January 14-20th
reading 8, starts on page 74

It starts out with James 1 saying that if you need wisdom ASK GOD FOR IT!

I am asking God for wisdom for my/our family's/pccya ministry's future and I am asking for wisdom in balancing out a healthy paced lifestyle, wisdom for financial provision, and my dental issues! PLEASE God I pray for your wisdom. I know 1 Corinthians says we have the mind of Christ, and I really want to think and reason like Jesus.

A quote that stuck out for me that really encourages our need for intentional personal time and time in community is on page 77 by M. Shawn Copeland.

He starts out saying, "Daily personal prayer, examination of conscience, and participation in a faith-sharing group: these smaller practices can be of real benefit to us in sustaining the larger practice of saying yes to life (God's will to love him and others) and no to destruction (the lies of the evil one-sexual impurity, drunkenness, gossipping, bad money making decisions and more). ..."


"It is unlikely that we will deepen our relationship with God in a casual or haphazard way. There will be need for some intentional commitment and some
reorganization of our own lives. But there is nothing that will enrich our lives more than a deeper and clearer perception of God's presence in the routine of our daily living."
William O. Paulsell

I pray that our community is one that seeks God's wisdom together and truly participates in the community of faith.

God, I pray for those in our church to mature in their faith, to identify the thorns that prevent (Luke 8) their bearing fruit and experience you to full satisfaction so that they can say yes to you and NO to all ungodliness. In the powerful name of Jesus! Amen

Titus 2:11-13. For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ,

Thursday, January 10, 2008

2008 Winter Retreat

Oops we did it again. We had a great weekend of connecting with God and each other in Twain Harte. Great food, laughs, fun, discussion, tears, and renewal. Although I am currently fried, Kentucky Fried out with so much that has gone this week (hence taking me so long to post the fun) I have good memories and continue to love what I hear and love what I see. One really cool thing is that we are attempting to all get on the same page devotionally and prayerfully by uniting around scripture through a very cool book! It's this random little book that I got as a gift and it took me 6 months to actually read it while it sat collecting dust on my shelf. It's called, "A Prayer Guide for all those that Seek God." It's a weekly devotional book with dates that lead us into scripture and reflection from some of the greats like Dallas Willard, Henri Nouwen, Mother Teresa, and Brennan Manning. It has been revealing and reminding me of some amazing truth. (Don't judge the book by it's cover--check it out here Amazon link: if you'd like to buy it or I have some extra copies I'll make available at the Deep or at La Tartine). My desire is that we use it this year, bring it to every deep, every retreat, use it in our small groups, individually and all together. Once you read it then share and pray it with others, blog about it and give feedback to others. I love the reflections in this book! I've actually given it to a few of my other buddies and we try to email periodically things that stand out and pray for each other with the scripture and topics.

This retreat I borrowed these awesome pictures that we used to tell stories about our lives. We picked one picture that represented where we were in life currently and another picture that represented where we hoped God would take us this coming year. Some very cool conversations.

It is true, a picture has 1000 words.

My first picture was this poor trapped seal with wood in it's mouth. Looks like it was captured to be scalped. For me is represented how bound I feel with my dental issues and how lame it can make me feel as if I was trapped and bound sometimes. My second picture represented the freedom and peace I desire that can only come from God's peace and a slower pace of life attained by finding my acceptance in God's love not in how much I can do or what people think of me. It is sad to confess, but I have found myself believing lies about my worth. I wonder how long this will take me to believe. I still don't really believe that God's love is enough when I see in my behavior poor choices with my time. Although I never think this intentionally or consciously say this, what is underlying in my actions is the belief that I need to earn God's love and the love of others by working hard for it. This week is great evidence of that. In my mind I am not doing enough or I feel like I am barely working. So as I am trying to catch up and plan out the start off my year I was totally over-doing it to the point of exhaustion. So when I finally had some moments to pause, evaluate, and connect with my wife on Wednesday-she helped me to see that I have been going non-stop and been out way too many hours. Isn't that scary how you don't even realize you're going too fast until you crash. I know I need to give myself grace --I had back to back overnight trips this week with also starting Seminary again and some papers due for my ordination process and the beginnings of Summer Ministry planning. I still am unpacking my bags from the retreat. UG-I just want to put the brakes on. -One of my hopes this year is that I can live with God as the center of my life and have a healthy pace of life. To me life wants more and more of me it feels like I need to do more and more to keep up BUT this lie robs me of peace, my family of time, and God as the center of my life. Oh, Father--have mercy on me and let me see you and see my life in truth. I pray that our community can reflect this, too! SELAH!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Starting off 2008

Happy New Year. Every so often my life gets a little jolt. This can happen in many ways. Just today it came from a book. Over the past few years two books stand out as shaping who I am (outside of the Bible). Becoming What God Intended by Dr. David Eckman is a foundational book about God's love, character, and our identity and relationship to God. The Present Future by Reggie McNeal is a foundation book about the Church, our mission, and God's call on his people for the world.

Today I have just finished this book.

THE SHACK by William P. Long

I laid on my couch speechless, in awe with tears on my face, feeling loved and satisfied and still wanting more all at the same time. This book has now become another, what I believe, foundation book in my understanding of God, his character, my identity and yes--the mission of the Church. What a way to start the new year.

It was given to my wife and me by a good friend just a few days ago. The way she detailed parts of the story, I knew I had to read it asap. The main character has a weekend with God. Yes, a full interaction face to face, voice to voice, physical experience with Him...or all three of him, or her...or..Papa, Jesus, and Sarayu. You simply must read it.

I can't really explain it and I don't want to give it away. You just have to read the story. The tag line to THE SHACK, is "Where Tragedy Meets Eternity."

I already want to read it again and I have re-read pages over and over for some of it's amazing reminders and explanations of truth.

This book deals with questions about evil, forgiveness, God's goodness in tragedy, God's awareness of our pain, expectations, devotion, religion and religious institutions, the Holy Spirit, hell, sin, rules, freedom, priorities, the Trinity, and ultimately God's love for us.

It has been my life's quest to understand God, to know him, and to experience a true relationship with him. But somehow, sometimes, there is a faint, sometimes deep confusion, or sadness, maybe even guilt and distance that pokes it's ugly head interfering in this journey of mine. Why do I feel incomplete, dissatisfied, not enough, and even mad at God sometimes? Why do I sometimes experience seasons where it seems that God is far? Why even though I desperately want and claim that God is good, do little questions and frustrations cause me to lash out toward God when circumstances are hard or seem "unfair." It is because of my choices, my wrong perceptions. This book helped realize that I must admit, yes, I do blame God for evil. I blame him for not acting like I would and I even, when I am honest, think he's NOT ALWAYS GOOD. I shake my head even looking back at that last sentence. Perhaps this is why I sometimes feel bouts of shame. That I, a confessing and practicing follower of Jesus--a Christian--and A PASTOR NO LESS have lingering confusion about God and his goodness. It is because I don't (and never will fully) be able to understand him. This book helped me, blessed me, and set me free. I feel like an infomercial, but on so many fronts I was confronted with truth in my life, my life that sometimes is filled with lies, self-absorption and self-protection. I even realized that as an Evangelical Christian-(one who believes in God's unmerited favor: GRACE)-do have falsehoods in my mind that cause me to have a tendency to work hard to earn God's love and the approval of people. Why else would I get burned out, feel overworked/exhausted, or act judgmentally as if I myself were God?

Seriously, after reading this book what I sense God saying to me (among a myriad of things) or what sticks out right now is that he wants me to be at home with myself (with no comparison or condemnations toward others) and this can only come with trusting him and his unconditional love for me (and the world).

I was confronted with how often I feel the need TO DO SO MUCH STUFF or BE somebody I'm not. I see the potential that I have to become a "personality" for God rather then simply God's person. I have been noticing, or maybe it is the Holy Spirit pointing this out, that at times I can actually feel within myself a tension to be someone I'm not. It comes in when I turn on some internal switch to be who I think I should be or who people want me to be instead of being the loved child of God, safe, and content with the gifts, abilities, and physical make up that I have. It's a huge difference that brings peace to my whole being when I am enveloped in God's love, enjoying the same intimate, fun, serious, and intentional relationship that God has within the Trinity.

This is deep, too deep to fully even spout out on this blog. Wendy has yet to read it and plans on starting soon, because I am yearning to process this with her. I keep bringing things up and she says, "Wait!"

For now, I am processing it with my Papa! And, seriously I have a renewed sense of love and peace today. Godronic that it would happen today, the first day of 2008. Who needs resolutions. I just want to have God as the center of my life. Not as my 1st priority among a list of other things, but as the center! (A great discussion on this in the book. I'll have to blog about it another time). What a great way to start the year.

My word for this next season is AT HOME and also TRUST.

Please do yourself a huge favor--READ THIS BOOK because I would love to process this with you!