My Routine

I preached today. Whenever I preach I tend to have a routine for preparation.
1) Start asking the Lord sometime that week what in the world He is going to have me preach on.
2) Something is revealed to my through Scripture and often through a conversation with someone else.
3) I set a slot of time aside (preferably 5-8 hours) and get away. This time is usually a lot of fun. If it is later in the week (Friday or Saturday, which is often is) then I get a bit nervous and pressured while I am preparing, but I am usually calm. I typically go to either a coffee house or a library. While I am there I give myself breaks every hour or so to check e-mail, go to espn, call someone... basically anything. This time is always alone though.
4) If this time is cut short (3-4 hours) I will go out one more time for 2-3 hours alone.
5) When it is finished I print it and then go through it with Kelly, usually this is Saturday night. This is actually quite funny. I would never do this part of the process in front of anyone else, because it is basically me practicing my sermon, without the calming presence and power from the Lord I feel come over me when I am actually preaching. I am wound up when we do this. I am moving all over the room. I say things like, "Uhmmm...sooo...then I will probably say something about such and such and then... well, I'll just do it... listen". I laugh non-stop. I say, "this part is probably stupid alot." I basically just a big goofball who doesn't know what to do with himself.
6) After I get through it we talk about it. She gives some awesome insight and helps me see where it wasn't connecting, and how it could a little better. She let me know which parts seem long, or more likely, parts that could go long because of the potential for story telling... which I love. Her feedback is so comforting, so helpful and so fun. It is probably my favorite part of the prep. I think we both look forward to it.
7) The final phase is putting the finishing touches/reviewing it that night in lieu of my time with Kelly. I usually take the five pages and condense them to an outline of 2 pages, so that I can simply look at my notes on my way past the pulpit.
8) The morning over I review my printed outline a lot; during tithes and offering or a special, etc. I am on that edge of excited and nervous the entire time.
9) Finally, when the time is coming close a calm comes over me. I am excited to share, but not nervous in the least. I continually ask the Lord to take my words out of the equation and make it only his words. I can actually sense the power of the Holy Spirit filling me as the time comes.
10) I always surrender the sermon to God in prayer before I begin and then off we go.

I wrote this more for me than anything else. It is fun to sit back and see how it all cycles through. I never planned it, it isn't scripted, but this is generally how it works every time I am asked to preach. It is a bit different or camps/retreats/etc.

It was fun preaching today. I could really sense the Lord close. I could sense His Spirit releasing power as we got deeper into the Word. It feels bad or wrong to say that, like I am somehow exhalting myself or being cocky, but I don't mean it that way at all. I could just really feel HIS POWER and I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt it wasn't my message, my words or my power. It was His time, and he allows me for some crazy reason to be one of His messengers at times. I am honored for the privilege. I struggle with the responsibility. I usually feel unworthy of the call, but I surrender, I seek, I serve, and sometimes that means I preach, but I refuse to ever do it without HIM!
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I have thought I added comment to this blog numerous times, but they never start showing up as an option. I am going to post this simply to check it out on this third or fourth attempt to do so. I am so out of it, and so unblogcool aren't I. I know that is what you are thinking!
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Beer & Bull

I was writing on Kevin P's blog last night and shared some stuff I should have put on here, so I thought I would:

I have been meeting with a mentor/friend in my church lately on Tuesday mornings. It has been an enourmous blessing on my life. I look up to Him so much, he challenges me so much, but it feels like I am sitting down with one of the guys from our apartment in college. It is relaxed, amusing, sometimes hilarious, often really challenging, but in a shared way.

I told him about Beer and Bull a couple of weeks ago. He came back last week and said, "I talked to my wife about it and we think you need to start it!" He mentioned it three times before we left. I think he is serious. It struck a cord in him and his wife. The cool thing is that Kelly and I pretty much do that every night as it is, but his response showed me that we need to share the depths of it more, and not just the food. Folks are hungering for that interaction. I am hungering for that interaction.

Our dinner group is still meeting every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. We still invite other over and have actually had more guest in the past few week than we had in a while, but something is missing. I feel the need to share more, to lay more on the table, to share more Scripture, lessons learned and struggles experienced. I feel we have been a little unintentionally guarded lately, because we don't want to be negative or whiney and some of our community is hurting a little bit. I feel that when others join us they would want in on that... the soul bearing. I met with a good brother today and he shared those very sentiments with me, the longing for intimacy and brotherhood.

Beer and Bull is something my apartment did every week for a while in college. On Tuesday night, I think between 10 or 11 we would meet and do whatever together. Sometimes we met earlier and went to Columbus for Skyline Chili and a Movie. Sometimes we talked about deep, hard to share stuff, sometimes we talked about what the Lord was doing, sometimes we talked about whoever didn't make it that night. The constants were two things: 1) IBC Cream Soda 2) Great conversations. We covered every topic imaginable during those times, from silly to sad to sadistic (not too much of that). It was an awesome time of brotherhood and bonding that I have always cherished and often longed for since. The idea is from a bunch of Bostonians I think from the 1800's who used to do it... only at a pub with the real brew. I think the likes of Benjamin Franklin, George Whitfield and some other names some/most of your would know. I will research that little and post it on here sometimes.

Everyone needs a little Beer and Bull in their life. Time to relax. Time to listen. Time to share. Time to hear. Time to Be.

Our church is actually moving in that direction full steam ahead with our small groups... although I think that they will avoid the name :-)
One group has already made the switch. Others have been encouraged to do so. We want to focus more of our teaching during the Sunday School hour and leave the small group time for fellowship, sharing, hearing and living life together, with our neighbors, family and friends. We want it to be open to anyone and comfortable for everyone. We will see how it goes, but the release has happened and the small groups are free to transition from lesson based to community based at will. Sounds like a great movement for our church, especially for me. We will see. Wow! The Lord is doing some cool things.
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About 2 months ago I misplaced my journal. Although I record some of my thoughts on here I had been relying pretty heavily on that little leather bound beauty for a quite some time. It kind of sucked the desire to share right out of me. I hate the thought of my more intimate thoughts floating around out there somewhere. I have only sort of dabbled in blogging compared to many of my devoted blogging friends, and reserve that next level of soul-bearing for the written page. I actually really want to open up more on here, bear more, share more, be more consitent. I think it is a great way to share with those we love about the things we love... and hate... and are indifferent to. I think that I always feel a pressure to write a lot or write all of what I am thinking, so then I rarely write anything. I couldn't possible catch you all up on the past 2 months, but I will begin to write a little by a little.

I really want to share my cup. I guess I just have a few inhibitions. So, I must make some blogging declarations for myself. I will cast aside my fears. I will promise to blog at least once every month, and then if/when I blog more I will feel like an overacheiver. I will not be afraid to post something that sounds stupid or isn't well-thought through or is too risky. I won't feel that writing two sentences isn't enough to log on. I will share the high lights and the low lights.... and if I live up to at least half of this I will give my blog out to a couple more of my friends and truly begin this blogging adventure with them and their friends.

We'll see.
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The Continentals

We had a group called the Continentals at our church last night. They are a group of 27 Christian young people (15-25 years old), from around teh country and actually 2 other states, who travel for 3 months straight performing in churches, community centers, etc. They sing, the dance, they dance some more, they speak truth, the dance some more.

I loved the students. I even hosted two of them (both guys) at my house and had a great, great time with them. We played on the X-box until 2:2o am at Joe and Heidi's house and then came home to crash.

I just question that kind of ministry. I don't know what role it serves in the Kingdom. Kelly asked me if the purpose of this group was to give Christians kids a place to perform and travel. It really seems that way. It clearly doesn't connect with my students, and as I talk to other youth pastors they feel the same way. So, is the ministry justified even if it primarily impacts those who travel in it? I guess yes. It is just painful for the rest of us to sit through those type of things sometimes.

Positive Observations:
I will say that they had about a dozen good dancers.
Some tremendous singers.
An amazing Kenyan dance/song.
Great smiles.
Good hearts.
And they made me laugh...

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We're Having a Baby

Kelly and I found out that we were pregnant last Friday. It was confirmed by our doctor yesterday. Friday was the one year anniversary of the day we found out that we lost our son Elijah. I was out of town. Kelly took a test to begin this dreaded and dismal day. The second pink line suddenly appeared. She looked. Blinked. Looked again. Called my cell phone numerous times (I was in class and it was off) leaving 911 messages for me to call her. I called her on a break and we celebrated. We can't believe it! What timing. What perfect timing. The very weekend that we have been fearing, dreading, avoiding any discussion about... came and went with more to celebrate than to mourn. The Lord wanted us to celebrate life, rather than wallow in sorrow. This does not negate Elijah's death. It does not minimize it. It does not lessen its impact on us. It does not make it less meaningful for us. It simply give us life when we needed it most.

The doctor took another test and then transfered us into the ultrasound room. We thought we were 3 weeks pregnant. They told us we are 5 1/2 weeks pregnant! As we stared at the ultrasound of the "perfect, round, centered" embryotic sac the doctor saw something. The nurse and I peered in. There was movement where we weren't expecting it. We didn't know that it was 5 1/2 weeks old yet, but this confirmed it. The heart develops between weeks 5 and 6. We were staring at a "heart flutter" or "cardiac movement". I was witnessing one of the most basic, earliest detectable signs of new life... the formation of our babies heart. The movement or the heart, in its pre-heart form stage. It was amazing. It was life giving. It was real. I can't wait to share it with everyone... when I am allowed.
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75% is a C... Right?

Living in community sharpens, cuts, chisels...

It is a raw challenge at the core of who you are...
in your relationship with God
in your relationship with your spouse
in your relationship with others

We don't live in the same house, apartment complex or even the same street as our community. We began this experiment in intentional community last February... almost 9 months ago. Our commitment to one another was simple...
Share supper with one another 4 days a week (M-F, except Wednesday)
Always be honest
Always be open
Always be REAL
Always be willing to make your own sandwich if you don't like the food
Seek Christ
Share what you find

Those simple beginnings have blossomed into amazing relationships. We were friends before and now we are family. We shared stories before and now we share our lives. We talked about our strengths before and now we challenge each other's weaknesses. We hugged and smiled at our spouses in front of one another before and now we fight, enter with obvious wounds and leave hugging and smiling usually.

It is amazing to me, that with all we have been through with these brothers and sisters I can still leave embarrased. After all we have shared and accepted about each other I can still leave wishing I didn't share that one last feeling. After all the intense weaknesses that we have laid bare, I still wish they didn't know that I sometimes choose to stay up and watch sports rather than go to bed with my wife.

The community that we are experiencing is one of the most exciting things in my life and one of the scariest things in my life. Society has raised me to hide my feelings, to "be a man", to work on my weaknesses in private, to keep a cloak over my sins... all of these are impossible in true community, and that is why those who follow that code of conduct often lack true communion with God. When you aren't honest with other, you usually aren't honest with yourself. When you can't admit your weaknesses to a group of fellow travelers who can and will pray for you, over you and with you, then you probably can't admit them to yourself. True community draws you closer to the heart of God, as you reveal the deep parts of your heart to others and God reveals the deep parts of Himself to you... often through each other.

Tonight the questions was simple... Do you guys go to bed together?
Joe and Heidi... 98%
Benji and Sarah... 99%
Chris and Summer... Absent, but 98%
James and Kelly... 75% (which is up from 50%, since I sacrificed fantasy football this season)
... I love sports. Monday night football, the baseball playoffs, Saturday or Sunday night football show... there is always something, some lame reason a couple nights a week that I surrender the priviledge of going to bed with my beautiful bride and talking until we slumber. I don't want to do that. It isn't a sin, it isn't a trap that leads me into sin, it isn't going to send me to hell, and no one is saying any of those things. In fact, no said anything and no one had to. I got the point. I knew why the question was asked and they knew why they were asking it. We all already knew the response that each couple would give. We all already knew who would leave pondering the question the rest of the night.

I hate community... or I love it.
I hate it if I don't want to be challenged or change, if I am satisfied for what I know of God, if I am complacent about my relationships with others.
I love it if I want to be challenged on the things that matter. The things that will change my life, improve my marriage, push me toward the heart of my Savior, form deeper bonds with my Christian brothers and sisters. I love it if I desire to constantly be growing, pursuing, seeking, journeying, leaping on my God-walk. I love it if I am okay with not always appearing perfect. I love it if I am okay with the fact that I will never live up to the expectations I have of myself. I love it if I realize no one else has those same expectations for me. I love it if I come to grips with the fact that I really should boast about my weaknesses, rather than coyly reveal my strengths and victories. I love it if I really think that the book of Acts is true.

I guess I love it.
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Many conversations lately. I couldn't even begin to list them all, let alone give an adequate picutre of their impact. I have been blessed with so many voices in my life. Voices that spark radical living, voices that shun the mundane, voices of welcome reason, voices of loving support, voices of challenge. I have those who push me to new places and those who help me process the dead ends and complicated mazes I find myself lost in. I feel blessed to be on this journey. Kary Oberbrunner calls it a Journey Towards Relevance, for me it is simply a Journey towards the heart of Christ. If He allows me to be relevant on the journey I am blessed. It He allows me to feel liked by others I am thankful. He has allowed me to begin this journey though and for that I am grateful.
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A Wedding

I officiated my first wedding today. Kevin and Andrea asked me quite a few months ago. It was fun. It was exciting. It was a blessing to be a part of such an amazing celebration of unity. Weddings tend to blur together for me (which of course this one will not). In general, there is an older minister who likes to expound on things, has heard a million pastors use a million different illustrations, a million different charges and a million different approaches to the exchange of rings, communion and the "message" and then tries to combine the best of them and drag the ceremony into an uncomfortable length for sitting and watching. Hmmm... sounds like many of the sermons my ears heard growing up.

Things felt different for me today. I realized Thursday that this wedding wasn't about me. It was about Christ, Kevin and Andrea and the cool buisness that was being done there. It helped me to feel much less nervous, a little less self-conscious and peaceful that the focus would and should be on them. I researched the various ways to say the various elements and expound on them, but I chose to go simple... which is what they wanted in turns out. The older system values being the best, using the best, looking the best, impressing the most. I have fallen prey to that pursuit in many areas of my life, but I am constantly reminding myself lately that I don't have to be the best or look the best in others eyes. I just have to be His. He will make me what He wants me to be and sometimes that means I may not look too smooth, or cool, or excellent, but I will have the glow of the Christ who guides me. I want to please Christ with my life, and allow Him to please others through me.

Although I am a man who bucks the system at times and runs from tradition, I do like traditions. I hopefully started two of those with this wedding. The first is that I used the chalice that I designed and painted for my wedding in August of 1999 to serve communion. The second is that I used my favorite blessing immediately following the Pronounment of Man and Wife. I guess I don't care where it goes, but I hope that I can always use it somewhere in the weddings I officiate.

A Reception
I have some strong thoughts on this crazy thing. I will have to write about this tomorrow. My friend Jimmy called from Cali and I miss him, so I must go.
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The Simple Stuf

The original title of this blog was Wildfire. My subtitle read... "It starts with a spark, passes to a flicker, grows into a flame, and explodes into a Wildfire. The Spirit of the Lord is untamed, outrageous, peaceful, intense, fierce, gentle, undomesticated, unruly, uncontrollable, calming, unpredictable... wild. This journey is for all those who wish to be the same." This blog is still, and always will be, about that journey.

January 13th, 2004- Jesus changed me profoundly, which prompted me to move to our study to create this new journal of what the Spirit was about to do in and through me. I named it Wildfire, because I didn't know how else to describe the Wild excitement that was rushing through my body to live radically for Christ. My journaling turned to the written word in the days that followed, and in the 5 months since.

Jesus has radically changed my life.

I am not the same person. I am not the same man. I am not the same husband. I am not the same minister. I am not the same friend. I am not the same.

One of the most profound things Jesus has revealed to me is that life isn't just about the biggest and best, the greatest and most, the largest and loudest... its about the small stuff.

Its about down time, family time, dinner with friends, the company of strangers, games that don't make you think to hard, conversations that do, seeking wisdom from wise people, living by their advice even when it doesn't exactly jive with me. Its about individual lives being united by the individual life that lived life to the fullest, loved others to the extreme, served with the a heaping helping of mercy and humility and died for the most significant purpose in history. Its all about Jesus.

That is the Simple Stuff.


We make it too hard. Too confusing. Too legalistic. Too demanding. Too restrictive. Too linear. Too top-down. Too controlling. Too BIG. Too detailed. Too much.

It is actually quite simple. Its all about Jesus, and how the person of Christ impacts the very core of who I am. His life, His love, His Kingdom, His Body. Its about love, and community, and unity. Its about the things he spoke of and lived by.

It is all about JESUS!

That is "the Simple Stuff".

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I feel fresh.
I feel forgiven.
I feel free.

I felt trapped.
I felt negative.
I felt rotten.

But God had a plan tonight. Through a simple hour of open gym at church, a small negative encounter with a teen and a silent (cell-phone less) ride home…

He sought me…
He found me…
He spoke…
He drew me…

I responded.
I will never be the same again…
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