1 Month Ago...

a lot changed for us.

A few observations:
* I love my wife
* I love my daughter

* I love house church
* I love our house church
* House church is our niche
* I can't imagine...
* I love preaching in strange places (Kenton last week) to people I don't know. It is refreshing and exciting to meet new people and speak the truth.
* I love using my gift of encouragment and friendship more in district and local ministry areas.
* I love the eccumenical amazingness that is going on in Findlay
* I can't believe how much hope God has infused into our future
* I am really into my job.
* I am a workaholic. It was not the church's nor God's fault. It is my nature, especially if I enjoy what I am doing... and get paid for it.
* I am very driven and assertive in the workplace
* I like responsibility
* Sometimes I am confused about what the truth is lately
* Sometimes I feel a bit bewildered
* Sometimes I am afraid I could lose sight of "my call" if I weren't careful, and get too caught up in my work
* Sometimes I sense that I am too critical of others and other churches.
* Sometimes I feel that if I really shared my gut level feelings no one would like who I truly am.
* Sometimes I am confident I know nothing.
* I found a lot of value in being on staff/a pastor/clergy. I have had to deal with the fact that I can't misplace my worth in that vocation any longer. I must find my worth/value in God alone. I just really don't know what that means half the time.
I really didn't mean for this post to go half as deep as it did.
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A Sign of Hope

Many of my friends question the sanity of remaining a part of the Church of the Nazarene. Brandon and Chris have discussed this recently and I included some links in a previous post. NTS recently held a 2-3 day conferece called The Emergent Nazarene Conference... that wasn't the title, but it was the point.

A site that Brandon referred many of us to a few months ago, Emergent Nazarenes, has an amazing summary of the conference. Brian Hull, a friend of mine who is the director of NYC, and on staff at headquarters, also wrote a breif review and reflection. Brian has been an encouragment and source of hope for many already in the youth world of the Nazarene church, and I was glad they invited him to speak at this conference. I find both summaries very helpful and very insightful. For those who weren't there, but would have liked to be, it will be encouraging. It is like the CliffsNotes for the conference.

Also, check out this video by James Diggs. He grew up Nazarene, has been on staff at a non-denominational church for a few years, and is planting a Nazarene church out of the non-denominational church. I have never heard of the Nazarenes partnering with anyone like this. I had heard that the Mid-Atlantic district was stepping outside the box, and is encouraging to see this partnership. This video is the one presented the entire district assembly to launch the idea.

Well... I am off to my first day of work! This is so crazy.
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Trick or Treat

Some Christians get pretty bent out of shape about Halloween, but the Smith family from Findlay doesn't have a big problem with using this night for a little bit o fun.

We started inviting our friends over for dinner, dessert and to hand out candy with us 3 years ago, and it is a blast. I think it is a little intimidating for some of the kids when there are 8-10 adults outside the house laughing, singing, playing guitar (last year) and offering them candy, but when they are walking away I am pretty sure they are glad they stopped by. We bring a lot of energy to Trick or Treat Night. We tell every single kid how cute they are, joke around with them, talk to the parents and try to spread a little joy throughout the evening.

Last Thursday night (our Trick or Treat night) I realized something.... Trick or Treat is the only time of the year in our culture/country where the majority of Americans open their doors and give away their possessions for free. Sure, it is just a couple hundred pieces of candy, but it is still something. For many people it is the only time of the year that they even see, let alone talk to, their neighbors. We handed candy out for an hour and 15 minutes last night to over 160 kids. Then we hit our street with our cute kids (see my updated pictures). Kelly and I know quite a few of our neighbors, but we met three new ones last night (4 & 5 houses down)!

We always focus on the bad attributes of Halloween, but we have chosen to just celebrate the positives of Trick or Treat. There is so much good about that night if you don't get all caught up in the fright and fear, but focus on the spreading of joy and giving away of some enjoyable item. If you were here with us last night I think you would agree!

One last thing... my daughter spread some joy last night for sure with this outfit below, (made by her mother dearest ). For more pictures you can visit Halle's own site. Oh yes, I just posted a picture. I am stepping it up on this blogging thing finally.
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Wow! Who could resist giving this girl all the candy they had. I couldn't!
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Abandoning The Church?

I have been reading blogs today... for much of the morning, and it has been so good to catch up, read the conversations about faith and peek in on many of your journeys.

Brandon's blog and Chris' response got me to thinking, so I am reposting my response on Chris' blog. As I read their blogs referring to conflict of abandoning vs. remaining in/redeeming the church (not exactly, but it is what I have read into it or seen in the comments) I felt the urge to join in the conversation, due to my recent life transition. There have been many question thrown our way concerning this issue in our lives. Are we leaving Findlay First? Yes. Are we leaving the denomination? Nope. Why not? Long story, but I hear many others who share many aspects of it (Brian Hull, Brandon Sipes, John Ballenger, Brian Postlewait, among others). Anyways, if you want the context for this post read Brandon's post and Chris' response above, but here are my thoughts...
I have appreciated being a part of a "group of people with whom I often disagree" for the past 5+ years, but it has also been draining. What I have found is that the draining element was not the people, but the other staff, pressures on the staff as a whole, the expectations of what questions could or could not be asked, and what issues could or could not be raised. I loved the people of my church family, and felt that we could not choose to leave them (and perhaps would not have for quite some time, even a few years), but the freedom we now feel is a constant confirmation that we were faithful until our time there was complete.

The finances of our church encouraged Kelly and I to take this leap now rather than later, but even if they weren't an influence the leap was needed. We do not see it as abandoning them because they are still our friends, our family, our extended body of Christ. We realize our presence has brought that community of believers to very new places. Our questions have become their questions. Our crises of ecclesiology their crises of ecclesiology. Our refreshed understanding of being a disciple, theirs as well. We have received from them and given to them and we are both the better for it.

We remain Nazarenes, although we don't have a "home church". We remain a part of this tribe because we believe there is hope. We believe there is an acknowledged need to discover new wineskins. We believe there is a hesitant desire to birth new communities that do not replicate the old, but are a fresh discovery of a new way of "doing church". We believe there is value in our spiritual heritage and theology, much of which we have lost through poor practice and the desire to be all things to all people. So, we have chosen to leave our place of worship, but not abandon our tribe.

We plan to travel, to spread the Word, to encourage deeper community, to rediscover the life of a disciple, to re-examine loving our neighbor. We aim not to replace the old wineskins, but to help our people discover new ones and to help repair those that are broken if needed. To help our people connect with other tribes in more meaningful and central ways. Most of all to be disciples ourselves, following our rabbi, seeking His path for our lives, to live life with an intentional community of fellow travelers, to bring light to dark places, to love the loveless and to further discover the Kingdom of God in the process.
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Last Sunday

Tomorrow is my last Sunday/last day at FFCN.
5 years. 3 months. 22 days. Done.


Life changes quickly, but this change is so clearly led by our Lord.
We are more excited about the Kingdom of God and living life within the body of Christ than we have been in a really long time. The Lord has been moving in our lives at such a rapid rate we are just hanging on for the ride, surrender to his direction and ready to see to where and what kinds of things He leads us.

In 25 hours I am officially no longer paid staff at a church, for the first time since I graduate college.
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I can start blogging again. I had a major block because I felt like I couldn't mention the company on here until after I was hired. So, I just couldn't blog because I was withholding such a major item that was domination my conciousness.

It is official.

My last day in the office was today. My last day at church is Sunday, buy my last day in Findlay may be a long, long time from now. Time has flown by!

For now Kelly and I feel like the Lord wants us to stay put. I accepted a position today at the fastest growing company in town. I am blown away that the Lord has opened this door for me so quickly. The name of the company is The Right Thing Inc and we do employment process outsourcing, which is a fancy way of saying that we streamline human resources for other companies. The company is a little over 3 years old and was voted the 3rd best small company to work for in America this past year. I absolutely fell in love with the way they do things during the interview process and can't wait to start.

The really cool thing is that they have a unique part-time employee system which allows you to choose your hours. You can work 1 hour a week or 40 hours a week, or more if you receive the ok. The real benefit of this is that if you have something important going on, you can just take that day off, and hopefully make up for it on the other days that week. The reason this is so appealing to me is that is allows me to travel on the weekends if I have the opportunity.

I really feel the Lord leading me to travel and speak/teach/preach at churches, youth events, seminars and any other opportunity that comes my way. In fact, this is going to me my primary ministry. This job will provide me with the flexibility to make this happen. I have been feeling the pull to do this for quite some time, and can't wait to put it into action. I have already recevied three invitations in the past two weeks, which once again blows me away!

The Lord is doing great things and we are excited to see where He leads us. Keep us in your prayers through this transition. I am going to attempt to complete 75% of my thesis for my M.A., during the month of November, before I begin working full-time at the end of the month... just to relieve some of the pressures while starting a new job. I trust the Lord is doing great things in your lives as well. Keep us updated! I would love to hear from you. I will share more about what life is starting to look like for us in this new era in the days ahead.

My new e-mail is:

Peace to you friends.
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Did I mention...

I resigned. For those of your who called, e-mailed or posted I already sent you the details, but I thought I should catch the rest of you up... if you didn't already read my wife's blog. I may post details later, but if you want to know more about why let me know and I will forward you the e-mail I sent out.

The big news happened post-resignation Sunday. I was so afraid that I wouldn't be able to find a job that would capture my interest. Last Tuesday I was talking to a friend who is planting a church in town and he told me about this company his wife was working for in town. It sounded interesting so I went to their website that night to look around. I was so impressed with them that I applied the next day. Today a friend of ours called to let me know he talked to the owner today and told him about me. The owner wants me to call him tomorrow for an interview. Tomorrow! I am so excited. I can't wait. Send up your prayers for me tomorrow between 9:30am and 10:00am, because that is when I am going to call him.

We really covet your support and prayers friends.

P.S. I also went to MVNU and spent a couple hours with Joe Noonan today, which naturally brought some much needed clarity to my thought process.
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A Significant Visit

So... I had a visitor last night for a couple of hours. The visit will result in some major changes in our lives. I don't know who reads this, so I really can't post details on here. So, this is how I will do this. Post your e-mail or send me at e-mail using the link on the right and I will send you my "unpublished blog entry". I value the extended community that we share on-line with many of you and don't want to neglect that, but I also do not want to reveal details on such a public forum.

I hope this makes sense. If you would rather call, that is fine as well. 419.788.0390.

I don't want this to take away from the conversation three posts ago with Brad and others. Please feel free to chime in on that when you get a chance.

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Tick, Tock

tick, tock, tick, tock, tick, tock...explanation coming
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Tomorrow could be "life-changing".
I can't say why yet, but I am so anxious I am not sure I can sleep. It is an excited type of anxious though, an anticipatory anxiousness, either way, whatever happens.

I kind of feel like I did the day before Cedar Point Day. I was always so excited/anxious for the day to be there. I would go to bed and try to make myself fall to sleep, so that when I woke up the next day would have arrived... Christmas was the same story.

The problem about tomorrow is that I have to wait all day/night and perhaps until the next day! Oh gosh. Details will follow, but please pray. Pray for direction, clarity, peace... peace.

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Our sermon today was about not being Lukewarm, which was ironic for me. I wouldn't say I am lukewarm though. I am just dry... I think there is a difference. I hope so.
Well... P. Mike came right out and said that our church is lukewarm. He said it.

At small group we processed it a bit. We all feel it is sadly true and tried to track down why that is and how that changes. We talked about those who have been "hot" at some point, only to see it doused by someone else's cold shoulder, harsh words or intentional smirk. We talked about what we could do to make a difference. We talked about what it is that sucks life from believers when they get sucked into the vortex of the institutional church. I shared that I think it is mostly because most of what we do at church is not natural, most of the way we "do" church is not natural. There didn't seem to be much dissension on that point, much to my surprise.

It was a great time together. A great conversation. An honest look at who we are and who we need to be as a church.

There is other news to share concerning our church, but I think I am required to wait a few days before I can't vent it on here.
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I have been "dry" for a couple weeks, but it feels like much longer. Do you know what I mean? I mean... really, really dry. Spiritually. Emotionally. Mentally.

The way that manifests itself in my life:
* I am more selfish
* I am short with others
* I am touchy
* I am self-conscious (the slightly more manly way of saying sensitive)
* I am somewhat mean
* I am easily angered
* Kelly gets the brunt of all of this. I have been tough on her, which sucks.

It seems to me like all of these manifestations point to a poor spiritual state in my life. They pretty much represent opposites of the "fruits of the spirit". It has probably been building all summer and I kept looking for quick fixes (3 weeks of stored up vacation, mission trip high, camp high -youth pastors still get to have those-, visits with friends). All of those things temporarily remove me from the pit of dryness and give me an mental/spiritual buzz. Those things fill me with energy and good "feelings", which have masked my downward trend.

One time Dr. Sanders said, "There is no standing still in your relationship with God. You are either moving toward him or moving further away." I don't know what I think about that statement. What do you think? If it is true then I have moved away this summer, but that has not been the desire of my heart... Honestly...

...but everything is dry: Scripture, relationships/friendships, prayer, teaching, youth ministry, discussions, debates, life.


I am not looking for pity, but I wouldn't mind some fresh opinions, insights or wisdom.
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The Kingdom of God

I just finished listening to Brian McClaren's message when he spoke at Mars Hill recently. He just makes sense. He hits the head on the nail.

He reminds us of what it means when Jesus invites us to join the Kingdom, not in the next life, but in this life. He reminds us that we are called to help those in distress and release the opressed . He reminds us that our perspective of scripture often shades our understanding of it, which often impacts our response to it.

If you have 40 minutes go here, listen and let me hear your thoughts.

May I notice those in distress. May I see those who are oppressed. May I respond to those in need. May I be more selfless, less egocentric, more Kingdom minded.
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So Sacrificial

I am so thankful for great friends. I am so grateful! I am so thankful for the Body of Christ.

I was trying to rush Chip to the airport in Columbus tonight and get back to church for youth group in a four hour time slot. Everything was going fine, we were engrossed in one last conversation and we suddenly heard a strange noise. This was followed by the brief sensation that we were dragging something, then the noise, then the sensation, and then one more repetition of it as we pulled to the side of the highway. As we were pulling over the power steering stopped, the car shut off and we drifted to a stop on the birm. As we got out radiator fluid poured from the front passenger side of the car, as if my Plymoth Breeze's water had broken. To summarize a very long ordeal, we went to work on the phones for the next two hours trying to figure out the solutions to get both of us home. 50 excruciating minutes on the phone with AAA. Countless answering machine messages pleading for a prompt response. Frustration. Frustration. Frustration.

In the end, the AAA guy came and took me the hour back to Findlay with him as we left Chip stranded on the corner of 229 and 23, waiting for 20-30 minutes for a stranger (my close friend Kevin) to pick him up. I kindly made a bubble letter sign, that read "KEVIN", for Chip to hold up to passing cars.

I got home. Kelly picked me up. I made it to youth group.
Chip got to the airport. Chip missed his flight. Chip got rescheduled to fly out at 6:45am tomorrow and problem number two began. Where would he go? Who could take him in the morning? What would he do tonight? In the end it all worked out, thanks to the Petersons and Hendricksons, but here is what struck me tonight... I have truly amazing friends.

The Peterson clan (Lucy included) picked up everything, and drove and hour & a half one-way to bring a complete stranger to the airport. The Hendricksons surrended a lot of sleep by commiting to leave at the buttcrack of dawn to take Chip to the airport. The Ballmers sprinted over to the church to cover me in my delay. The Caesarezes, Stetlers and others offered their time, energy and home to host Chip tonight and get him to the airport in the AM. So much sacrifice, and even more sacrifice was offered, which tastes just as sweet as the real thing. I feel so surrounded, supported and loved by my friends, my body of believers abroad. It is so cool to know that two of my closest friends, who didn't know each other, spent most of the evening together, and that tomorrow two others will share an early ride to the airport together. It is so awesome that those amazing people get the opportunity to know one another.

Thank you for your sacrifice. Thank you for the offer of sacrifice, whether it was today or some other day past. Whether it was small or large. Whether it was difficult or simple. Thank you.

May I be selfless in my life. May I learn to serve as you have been served me. May I love, as I have been loved. May I be selfless, as you have been selfless. Thank you Lord for selfless friends. May I grow to be one.
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Chip Chop

Chip is one of my closest friends and my roommate from California.

I called Chip on Friday night to tell him some good news. He didn't answer, so I called him 4 more times. Finally, he called me back. The next day he called me in the morning and left a message to see what I was doing this week. I called him back at 9pm (EST). He asked if he should come visit. I said "Heck yes you should!" He got on a plane 3 hours later, flew through the night through NYC, and onto Columbus and Benji and I picked him up after church today. Amazing!

One of my best buds came up with a great idea and we get to hang with him till Wednesday, and best of all him and Halle have already started bonding (she is over her sickness... I have it now). Some friends came over tonight (Cornwells, Hunsakers, Jess) to meet Chip, eat dessert and hang out.

I love times like this. Spur of the moment ideas, close friends, great conversations, late nights. Ahhhh, the college days.
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Sick Baby

My daughter has been sick for three days... barfing style. It is so sad. She doesn't have a fever. She doesn't have any other symptoms, but on Monday night she threw up at 4, 5:30 and 7, then she was fine all day. The next night she did it again at 4am, and then Kelly joined it twice. Then, yesterday she did it again right after her morning bottle, all over Kelly, the loveseat (one pillow in particular), the floor and herself. Disaster.

Result= The doctor tells us we shouldn't give her anything but water for 24 hours. I return home to one of the most conflicting sights I have ever beheld. My daughter, the non-cuddler refusing to not cuddle, void of all energy, deprived of all food. She laid on mine of Kelly's chest for most of the night, taking breaks only to look up at us every 25 minutes and whine 2-3 whimpers or weakness. I loved the cuddling, but I knew it wasn't my daughter. I knew it was my sick, starved and sad daughter seeking solace in her parents. Parenting is difficult at times like this.
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Living Life by Faith

The mini Ballmers were in Texas and Colorado for two weeks, Kelly was in Dayton, I was in Mississippi, the Cornwells and Hunsakers were busy. It was nice to be reunited tonight. We ate Dominoes, the guys took the three babies swimming in the pool (Halle absolutely loved it for the 1st time!!!) and then we sat down to chat.

The big topic tonight was finding the balance between living by faith vs. living by godly wisdom. i.e. If God opens and closes the womb, do we trust him to do his job and trust him to provide if we end up with 16 children? If God provides food and clothes for the sparrows and lilies, does that mean that we do not need to work and we will be provided for? Our questions weren't that simple or simply point, but you get the idea.

When 1 of our friends moved here they were CLEARLYwalking by faith . They were so free, so joyous, so infectious. As life went on he got married, had a baby and received a lot of "sound" advice and he can feel the departure and distance from that lifestyle of raw faith he once lived by, but he feels that it has possibly been traded in for godly wisdom. Can you live by both? We have a friend who says he lives by faith and trusts God to provide, but when he is present he sucks life, resources and energy from everyone around and gives little in return. His "life by faith" does not reflect life to others. It seems the Stetlers are living by faith, and God always provides for them, even when it seems he couldn't. I am trying to live like that... Live by faith and not by sight.
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Rare Form

The mission trip to Pascagoula was amazing. Convictions about life and community and church that I have been discussing with my family and little community over the past few months became a reality for me. Hard work was done, roofing homes was truely an act of worship, unity was realized, relationships were formed, solidified and nurtured.

I don't want to start writing too much about it because I couldn't stop. The result was a clear sign of new life in me. I was in rare form. I entered into a state I have not been in a few years. I began to operate out of this pure joy. The realization that what we had done in Mississippi is what we should be doing back home, became so real and natural to me.

On the 17 hour trip home I enjoyed one of the most entertaining road trips I have ever been on. My actions were reminiscient of me during my freshman year of college or my Point Loma days or the early days with the Ballmers and Hunsakers here in Findlay. If you were a part of any of those times in my life you may be able to identify what I am getting at. When I know I am doing exactlly what the Lord wants me to be doing and I am doing it in community and I feel united and at peace with my community a fire is ignited. My joy turns into pure enthusiasm for life and laughter and honesty and bonding. I develop this unquenchable need to spread joy to others and to give love selflessly. Somehow this mission trip unlocked that part of me. To be honest, it is a little embarrassing, because I can become quite hyper and a little out of control when I am in that mode... but it sure felt good to go there.

An hour after I was home the reality of the awkwardness surrounding the life of our church right now, but somehow The Lord was able to overcome that this morning and I was able to give life rather than suck it out of others, as I have fallen into the habit of lately.

So... the mission trip was AMAZING

Things my eyes were opened to in the past week or so:
*My attitude/actions at church/home have been very selfish rather than selfless for a while.
*My frustration/tension over church and what it could/should look like has pushed me toward a negative and critical nature
*I have been rather dead to most of those I go to Sunday church with, for quite some time... I just haven't invested myself in anything beyond hello and a quick smile.
*There is a need for renewal in me, which was begun, but not completed on the trip
*I have no clue what the Lord wants to do with our lives right now. I am in the wilderness, waiting for directions, but having a hard time discerning God's voice.
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I am on a mission trip to Pascogoula, Mississippi. I am excited, yet unprepared. I have been working on a huge Master's class project every extra moment for the past 7 days. I stayed up till 1am, 3am, 1am and 6am consecutively... I also slept in a couple of those days to make up for it.

I am excited to be going on this trip, but ashamed it has taken us so long to respond. The moment the first hurricane hit the coast I knew I needed to be down here. I knew we needed to repond. It has taken so long to transpire. I know there is still a lot of work to be done, but coming down now seesm like it is more for us. Coming down immediately would have seemed like it was more for them, more for him. It seems like we fit it into our schedule, more than we adjusted our schedules to respond to a desperate need.

I am still excited about this time. I am excited to work outside, in the hot heat, with dirty hands and a worn down body. I am excited to be outside my comfort zone. These seem to be the times I can actually put myself aside and listen more intently to my Savior. It seems that I need to broken, physically/mentally/emotionally, in order to truly surrender my ego, my agenda, myself.

Dave & John B lost this grandfather this week. Pray for them and their family please.
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Coffee & Conversation: The Bible

We had Coffee & Conversation tonight. It is a spin off of Beer & Bull, which was a pasttime for me & my apartment mates in college. It began as something we did every 3-4 weeks, became every other week, became most weeks and now is at a point that it feels weird when it doesn't happen... at least once in a week. We gather. We eat often. We drink coffee always. We converse... the topics range from the authority of the bible (tonight's topic), to revelation, to the church, to propriety in worship. The Word is read, opinions are shared freely, and occasionally tension is subtely present. Tonight was such a night, but that is not why I am writing. I am writing because I have been a slacker... and because I realized I should always post our topics and major discussions on here. This is my community. This is our life together. This is why I began this blog in the first place to record our collective journey.

Tonight Major Topic: The Bible
Present: Five Couples and a Single Guy (mainly in our 20's) & 1-10 yr. old girl was in the room.

Major Questions:
1) Is the Bible inerrant?
2) Is the Bible absolute and authoritative?
3) Is the Bible literal (using Genesis 1 as the primary text for debate)?
4) Should Scripture norm everything else, or can Tradition, Experience, History, Archaeology, etc norm Scripture?
5) Can the Bible be both Historical and Narrative?
6) Is metaphor used in the Bible (ex: Job)? If so, how do you know when it is metaphor and when it is not?

It got intense. Whew! But, in the end it felt good and we were glad we brought it to the table. We experienced the Body in a special way. We debated. We disagreed. We got frustrated. We recognized truth from the other side. We understood one another more. We understood God more. Any thoughts on any of these questions from any of you. I am not looking to fight. I just want to hear where you stand on this and why. I will admit... i am still working this thing out.

Also... please pray for Dave & John B.'s grandad and family today.
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Two Week Vacation

We have been on vacation for two weeks now. We have the next two days off as well. I go back on Wednesday. I have never felt more disconnected, more distant, more removed from my church in the 5 years I have been here. I think it is because we have stayed in town to work on our house most of the time. When you are out of town everything is out of mind for the most part. When you are in town you still drive by the same places, see the same people, etc. We have intentionally not been present, and I think it has been good for us. I did start missing my teens this past week, but I think that is natural probably. There have been some somewhat major things going on at the church and I am completely out of the loop. That is a little wierd, but feels really good at the same time.

It has been a strange two weeks, but it has felt good to be mentally and physically removed from my vocation these past two weeks. Just some thoughts.
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Signs of the APOCALYPSE

This is easily my favorite section of my occasional read of Sports Illustrated. It is a simple little rectangle somewhere in the first 30 pages entitled: "Signs of the APOCALYPSE".

I thought most of your would appreciate this one from the June 5th issue, involving one of our favorite icons and heroes:

"Televangelist Pat Robertson, 76, claims he recently leg-pressed one ton-- twice what most elite atheltes can press-- thanks to a portein shake containing flaxseed oil."
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Birthday Cheese

I promise I am going to clarify and expound on the 2nd to last post, but for now...

My 29th birthday has been a little wierd for me. I feel old. I feel that if I die when I am 60, then it (life) is practically half over. If it is half over, then I really want to enjoy more peace and joy and authentic living in the next half than I have in the past 7 years.

One thing that has made my birthday more bearable is my sister's birthday gift. A basket of cheese. One block of Smoked Cheddar and one block of Black Diamond (white) Cheddar, as well as some crackers and Honey spread (a memory of our youth). It is all from the Cuba Cheese Company, which is in the small town of Cuba close to Houghton where she lives. As I cut into the Black Diamond Cheddar last night and put the first piece in my mouth I knew that all was right in the world. I knew that as long as I was eating that cheese everything inside me would be peaceful and joyful. Who knew that cheese could mean so much... but boy is is good. I love the fact that my sister knew the perfect, creative gift for her brother... cheese. Thanks Sunshine. Kelly and JP thank you as well (for the small morsels I have shared with them).

By the way, JP is a former student from my first ministry in Marietta, who is interning with me this summer. He is also living with Kelly and I, our first experiment in communal living of any sort. We are loving it. He is a good friend, an awesome big brother for Halle and a natural part of our lives already (2 weeks in).
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My blog was infiltrated by an anonymous commenter trying to insult me so I have now changed my settings to only allow comments by registered users. I am not the first to have to do this in the past few weeks. Blogging has been a great way for many of us to connect, reconnect and keep one another updated on what is making us tick. I hate that we have to protect ourselves from critics, cynics and mean people alike.

If you want to comment... register with blogger and start logging in... I know it is an extra step for you livejournal and xanga lovers, but... Ben Spain I did it for you on livejournal.

Anonymous poster. Call me. 419.425.8828. Don't be a wimp.
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A Fatal Shot

I have always been very eccumenical and led that charge wherever I was at, but...

I grew up Nazarene.
I have always been committed to the Nazarene church.
I have always felt obligated to the Nazarene church.
I have always felt I could/would help "change" the Nazarene church.
I have known no other reality that this.

I recently realized that no matter how committed I am to the Nazarene church, it is not committed to me. I have seen a few close "Nazarene" friends rejected, ridiculed and dismissed due to differences that contradicted tradition, but not Scripture.

Tonight James the Nazarene took a fatal shot.
It was a little conversation, with a few eye-opening statements that fired the trigger.
I feel like James the Nazarene is stumbling around right now, but it only a short time before he falls.
I don't know if healing is possible at this point, perhaps survival, but I am not sure about healing.

I have no clue what life will look like when I get back up. I have no clue what kind of impact this will have on the future of my family. I am not saying I am moving or resigning or running. I am just saying I am really broken right now, really stumbling around, really dizzy from it all. Tonight hurt.

I really don't know what all this means for me. It may only look different on the inside for a while, or it may look different on the outside very soon.
All I really know is that James the Nazarene took a fatal shot.
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I Am Least in the Kingdom

The Shema
Deuteronomy 6:4-9
4Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

It is simply worded Scripture. It is clear Scripture. It is spelled out, specific, effective
Scripture. It is a command and charge in Scripture, but I don't see the vast majority of American Christians, following this very basic command. This passage says to me that each Christian parent is called to impress the ways of the Lord on the hearts of their children. We are called to talk about it every chance we get, surround our kids in it and bathe them in the Word. I think we often dismiss it because we throw it out with the rest of the "law", but I think the results we are now experiencing in America is confirmation that we have been wrong in doing this. Very wrong.

Jesus' words:
Matthew 5:17-20
17"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven."

Am I on track to be called least in the kingdom of heaven, because I am teaching/enabling parents to continue to abdicate their role as Spiritual Head in the life of the children?

Can I change the way we do things and use my role to establish those kinds of relationships in the families of our church?

This is my quest right now. I am not comfortable being the spiritual head for all of these teens, or training other adult/student leaders to. I feel Scripture is pretty clear that this role belongs to their parents. Just because the parents have handed me the batton, it doesn't mean I can't hand it back to them.

Thoughts anyone?

A Little Stat = A does of reality:
How many "regular youth group attendees" stayed in church after high school?
Best Statistics say18%
Worst Statistics say: 8%
The system seems broken to me...
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One Family

It is only one family, but it is tearing me up.

I found out this afternoon that a family from our church has essentially left our church primarily because of my ministry. They have been gone two weeks "church shopping" for a youth group where their daughter "fits in" better. This is the first time I have ever known what this feels like. I have had a family consider this once before, but I had the opportunity to talk to them and explain about how the body of Christ has a responsibility to work through issues rather than run from them, which is what we then did. This time it was just like, BAM... they were gone. They didn't even mention one sniff of it to me or P. Mike.

The thing is... they say it isn't about me. They like me. They have told me they love when I preach. They enjoy my company. I even exchanged e-mails with the mom last week where she thanked me for my ministry and concern for the youth of this community.

It isn't me. It is my kids. They say that the kids who come to our youth group are the "scary kids" from Findlay High School and their daughter doesn't fit in with them. The "scary kids".

I didn't have the eyes to see "scary kids" when I was in high school, because my parents never let me. My parents blessed me with eyes of equality. I didn't think someone was too wierd, too smelly, too loud, too quiet, too black or too Amish. Don't get me wrong. I didn't like some people, I was mean at times, but overall I had eyes of equality. I couldn't see "scary kids", because to me they were normal kids.

I have seen this over and over here though. This is probably the 6th or 7th family who has commented on our scary kids. My scary kids don't do drugs, they don't start fights, they don't have sex in the youth room. You know what makes them scary? They dress in black a lot and they are poor. As far as poor goes... I mean middle to lower-middle class. Now, no one will admit this is a factor, but it is clearly a factor, but class is clearly a factor. We have some amazing kids in our youth group, with a heart for God, who don't have the right "look", who are grouped right in there with the others. As far as the clothing... I am not talking chains, piercings, black make-up and tatooes either (well, maybe a chain on a special occasion). I am talking about black jeans and a hoodie. Are they easy to talk to? No. Are they bubbling with holy joy? No. Are they calm, quiet and attentive? No. But neither are my preppy kids. In fact, if anyone is doing drugs (marijuana) and pushing the limits our parent's are fearful of, it is probably some of the preppy kids. In fact, it is some of the preppy kids.

Here is the thing. The preppy kids are the scary kids to the dark kids, because they are unapproachable, because they generally do avoid them, because they are the "cool" kids at school. I walked into the "scary kids" small group four weeks ago because there were a lot of them there and I was going to split their group for the night. In one voice the shouted (behind a closed door) "Rejects Unite!" "Don't split the rejects." "Don't split the rejects." "Don't split the rejects." They were laughing the whole time and I came back with "you guys aren't rejects". One of them responded, "James, yes we are. Do you see anyone talking to us? We are the rejects and we are proud. At least we know who we are."

I just don't understand. Am I supposed to reject those kids, just like everyone else does, so that our youth group is more comfortable, smooth and clean?

I don't want to.
I can't.
I won't.

It is only one family, but it is tearing me up.

---------------------------------To anyone from My Church--------------------------
I don't know if anyone from my church reads this to be honest. I have battled with whether or not to post this, but there are tears in my eyes and I feel compelled to be honest with my friends who I know commune with me on here. So, if you are from the church. Call me. Don't run and tell someone else about this or report me to the pastor. These are my feelings and if you found this blog somehow, somewhere on-line, respect what it is... a letter to my close friends, sharing my blunt feelings. If you want to talk, I want to talk to you.
Thanks for honoring that.
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I like conversations.

I like honest, raw, intense, peaceful, meaningful, real, connecting types of conversations. I have a had a lot the past few days. My busy weeks have led to lots of questions. Lots of distaste for busy weeks and busy lives. Lots of conversations about those things. Friends. Small Group. Our Body. My Pastor. Other Pastors.

We are talking it out. We are praying it out. We are fleshing it out. We'll see what "it" is.
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It is warm outside. I am locked inside. I have so much to catch up on. My past two weeks have been constant motion.

I have basically been away from home for two solid weeks, not literally, but practically. Probably the busiest two weeks of my ministry here at Findlay. It is strange mostly because of how opposite this is of our way of life. Our ministry is slower than most folks. We don't overprogram. We don't over entertain. We spread out events out (1 big one every 2-4 months, 1 smaller one on the other months). We take it easy, but the last two weeks have not been easy. There have been some sweet times on the ride, but not much sleep, and even less rest for my mind and soul. I am still waiting on the rest.

It began with two days of prep and execution of our 2000+ person Upward Awards Night, for which I was the MC. Two days later our church hosted our District BLAST, with over 400 students and all their competitive parents in attendance. If you have ever been to our church you will realize it is a decent size, but perhaps not for 600+ attendees. I can still smell the sweat in the sanctuary. The next day was Sunday, The Lord's day, and the day of the matinee for Hello Dolly, which three of my teens were in, for their last performance. I capitalized on the moment and went with a couple other teens. It was actually quite good and yet annoying at the same time... hmmmm.
I left that night for class in Huntington, Indiana, where I was at until Wednesday night, when I got home just in time for youth group. I actually really enjoy going to class, especially when I am taking one with my friend Darren K. from Troy. We play about 90 hours of racquetball when we aren't in class, have a ton to talk about and stay in this old monastery turned retreat center, that is cheap, but really freaky if you are alone.
Done yet? No. Off day on Thursday and then off for Acquire the Fire/Battlecry in Detroit, a 35,000 person, pump em up, equip em for the "battle" (language I am personally REALLY annoyed by), lots of loud music and jumping around, little sleep two day youth event. We brought 40, came home with 38 and called it even.
My highlight was worshipping with Delirious. I love the freedom of worshipping with 35,000 people. I love the freedom to jump when I feel like celebrating. I love the freedom to kneel when I feel humbled. I love the freedom to scream out my praises to God or whisper them softly below the roar of other voices. I am not addicted to that kind of experience, but when it comes along I cherish it. It happens three places: Really Big Youth Events, My house, Vineyard Churches (or at least some of them).

I just needed to vent all of this to remember that whenever I feel slammed and stressed I can look back to these two weeks and feel sweet relief. By the way, my daughter has decided to change a lot the past two weeks of craziness: crawling, pulling herself up on couches, entertainment centers, legs, coffee tables, her bed rails, tv trays, etc., using the next level of car seat and she is potty trained... okay not exactly the last one, but the other developments have seemed huge! Check out her sweet pics (thanks to my hottie wife) at her blog: If you do check the site out make sure you look at the October pics in the yellow dress... they are my favorite. I want to warn you if you haven't seen her before. She is really cute. I'm serious. Really cute.
Peace Friends.
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Thursday Morning

Our heart's desire is be in Columbus today with the Landing Place community and all those gathered to honor and remember Mark Palmer. But we are here. In Findlay. In Prayer for the friends and family gathered there. I never met Mark. I have never met his Amy and Micah, but I knew them. Through the journal. Through stories. Through mutual friends. It is striking to me how many lives Mark has touched through his desire to live more simply and live more authentically in community. It is refreshing to see someone have such a profound impact on so many souls without selling and promoting themselves. We were talking about what it means to be Christlike at youth group last night and I now see the connection. Jesus never had to draw a crowd to Him. They could see that there was something different in Him and they were drawn in. It seems the same can be said of Mark. He didn't have to seek a crowd or an audience, but many of us were naturally drawn to the light and life we saw in him, whether on his journal, through stories or in person.

Amy and Micah, may comfort come to you in a way that only God can give it, in a way that you can not explain it, in a way that you can breathe because of it.
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So it took 3 days

I know I said I would write later that day or the next day, but hey three days later is about the same thing... right?

So, why are we staying where we are at?
It really ended up having more to do with where we are at than where we were thinking of going. I called the pastor of the church in Boston back on Tuesday night to talk through many of the issues/concerns/ideas I had. I had called Kyle Myers earlier that day and gotten pretty pumped up from our conversation, so I had to know where the pastor stood and whether or not I was glamorizing the situation, which I have the tendency to do. The pastor and I talked for close to an hour and a half. I had a whole list of questions I had written in my journal. We discussed some of the Non-Negotiables for my family and some of my Step 1 questions (pre-resume discussion). I also had questions for Step 2 (after I send in my resume and before I would interview) and Step 3 (at the interview, basically laying every card on the table), but I left them for a latter time. I figured I had freaked him out enough with some of my thoughts, and I didn't need to freak him out anymore unless we decided to get more serious.

The call went well. After I got off the phone Kelly asked me how it went. I said, "I couldn't tell if he got me, or if he really wanted me to get me." Kelly had begun to enter into shut down mode while I was on the phone. She realized how serious this was getting and that I was a lot more excited about this than anything else that had come down our path the past two years. She could tell I had put a lot of thought and prayer into this one and was torn on whether or not to dust off the old resume and work on it a bit. She could tell our lives could possibly be about to radically change. She remembered how good we do have it, how amazing our community of fellow believers really is, how hard we have worked to gain what we have here and how difficult it would be to start over. Within an hour of the end of the phone call we both knew where our hearts were. It was an amazing marriage moment as our shared excitement about this open door simultaneously changed to peace about where we are and excitement about what God is doing here. It was actually eerie how sudden and simultaneous is a God-thing...hmmm?

I want to share the reasons, the reservations, the realizations, the conversations of the days that followed, for the lessons God is teaching us are ones we could only learn through this experience, these emotions, this invitation and the conversations that have surrounded it. It has helped us to clarify our direction and our vision for our family. I am excited to share some of that with you, but a cold bed and a short night await me, so I must go. Thanks for your comments and insights. They are helpful and encouraging. I love that we can journey together on here, even from far away. Peace.
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An Explained Absence

My silence has not been for intended suspense but because of a conversation that needed to take place before I posted again. That conversation finally happened last Wednesday, but this is the first opportunity I have had to write since that time.

The knots I spoke of were caused by a possible opportunity for Kelly and I. An open door. An enticing option. We have received quite a few calls in the past year, but this was the first one that made us a bit nervous, because it was the first one that seemed to potentially fit some of the ideas we have about how and where God might want to use us. The call was from a church, it is on a college campus (ENC), I know the pastor personally, they are wanting to start an "emergent" service (their term), we are drawn to that city (Boston) and it was a call to be their youth pastor. The pastor is an old friend/acquaintance whom I was honestly honored to have think of me. So why was it appealing?

1) The college. We would love to serve on a college campus. Kelly and I feel that the church has a long way to go if we truly want to reach the generation of kids, teens, young adults and many older adults whom we live beside in today's world. We feel that a college campus is an awesome place to help free young minds, encourage young minds and impress upon young minds with the words and call of Christ.
2) The church. It is actually on the campus, so the form of youth ministry I would do would be radically different. I would be empowering college students to live life with these students, invest in them and mentor them. I would be an equipper of people called to care for teens.
3) The community. Boston has always seemed enticing to me. I love the idea of Boston. I love the idea of living in the city. I haven't truly lived in a metropolis for almost 7 years now and I miss it. Even more so, the Myers live there. Although we haven't spend any time face to face since college we hang out rather regularly through these blogs and was pumped about the idea of diving into deeper relationship with Kyle, Kelsie and the family. In fact, Kyle was one of the first people I called about this opportunity. Our conversation honestly made the decision immensely more difficult, because even as our desire faded for the work at that church, our desire to live life with the Myers grew.
4) The"Emergent Service". I feel that the way "The Church" lives as the body of Christ does need to radically change and it is difficult constantly trying to convince people of that. I was impressed that this church sees the need for something new and different. I don't pretend to know what that looks like, and I am definitely not convinced it will be found in another "service", but the idea is something to work with. It seemed like a good place to begin.

So, why not? Why are we staying where we are at? Well, this is already too long and my carpal tunnel is starting to rebel (we seriously think I may have this... Ridiculous), so I will write later or tomorrow, but it will definitely not be two or three weeks, because I am so excited to how the Lord worked in our lives through this and what I think He is wanting to do right here where we are at... Possibly. :-)
You never know. It could all change tomorrow, but I sure hope not.
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Tightening Knots

Those knots are tighter now. I am tense today in that unhealthy, verge of shutting down way. I feel something big stirring in my life, but I hesitate to divulge any details because I don't know them. All I do know is that my mind has been racing the past few days. I am talking fast- forward, back and forth, running in circles racing. I don't know what is stirring, and whenever I try to talk about it I tend to contradict myself every couple of minutes, because I am little confused about what it is.

I feel pressure. Pressure to make some big decision. Pressure to say "yes" or "no" or "I have a dream" or "Here is my vision" or something that is decisive and different and changes my life and the lives of those around me, or those who I wish to be around.

Today could be a big day. I appreciate your prayers as I have some important conversations coming my way. I really just want to be a simple Christ follower, but the transition from where I am to simplicity seems anything but simple.
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I have some knots in my stomach and a little tension in my body, but a good tension. I am excited. I feel good about how the Lord is pushing me right now. I feel good about the things He is making me think about. I feel good about the areas in my life I have felt checked on in that gentle way that only a completely loving and in-love God can do.

It is 11:38pm, which is not late, but isn't too early either. I should be winding down, but inside I am rather wound up. It feels good, because I had almost forgotten what it feels like to be wound up, close to midnight, with no caffine pumping and only your thoughts and prayers to energize you.
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Vulnerability Dump

Thinking a lot... I need Christ more. I need to rest on Him more, to talk to Him more, to listen to Him more, to trust Him more. I need to slow down. I need to stop trying to figure it all out.

I just need to relax and talk to Jesus, more than I try to figure out what He does or doesn't want life/community/church to look like.

I am so mentally tired and spiritually blah...

I also need to find my self-worth and self-esteem in Him more than I do in others or in other things. I am so sick of that battle!

-just a brief moment of simple, utter, vulnerable honesty.
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Hospital Visits in Columbus

I had a hospital visit to go to in Columbus on Tuesday and had to be there at 7:30 am. We decided that me leaving between 5-5:30am wouldn't be safe, considering my morning driving skills, so I headed up Monday night to for a sleepover at the Ballengers. I didn't arrive until 11:15pm or so, but managed to keep Dave awake until 1:30am (or later). I couldn't of handeled being there and not getting a good talk in with him. I can generally survive on little sleep, but I am not sure how that impacted Dave the next day. Hopefully he was able to snag a nap in his office, or with the wee ones during nap time.

I spent a few hours with the family and decided to head out sometime after 10am to find Eric Stetler. I met him at the house, hugged Kerri, squeezed on Trey and Riley a bit and we took off for Stauf's. We stopped by Redcay's on the way, but left disheartened by the lack of answer. I was pretty pumped standing on Redcay's porch anticipating him opening that door, but my disappointment didn't last long, as Redcay showed up about 45 minutes later at Stauf's.

Such an awesome day. I was able to spend the next 3-4 hours with 3 guys I enjoy being around so much (we all met Dave B. for lunch). Our conversation hit on many areas and topics as I laughed my butt off. It is so relaxing to be in the presence of people you are comfortable with, people you have a history with, people who knew you and still know you. There is something about having years behind a friendship that does add a certain depth and quality. When people knew you when you were 18, it just feels like you are naturally more real and vulnerable and bare, because they know the truth. They remember the first time you mooned them. They remember the first time you questioned your faith. They remember the first time cussed or at least someone else out. They know you aren't perfect, so there is no reason acting like you are. You can relax... and just enjoy being yourself.

I think we have the power to give that quality of friendship and vulnerabilty to new friends, and I feel that I have in the past couple of years here. But... there is something about having a history together that just feel good and right. I am so long-winded. I could have just said I met those three for lunch and it made my month. Oh well.
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Amazing Conversation

I had an amazing conversation with my senior pastor today from 9:20am-10:00am.
40 minutes.

Some vulnerability and honesty were laid on the table.
The door opened to show all my cards, and I went ALL IN.
I showed him the whole deck, not all the details, like if a jack has one eye or two, but I at least flashed my cards so he could see where I was headed.
Enough metaphors (is that the correct word Corbin, my wise friend?).

I spoke of dreams and visions and what I don't think church is and what I don't think church should be and what I think church could be and the things that really pump me up and the times that have given me the most hope in the past year and the changes I have seen in him that have infused excitement/hope and I even planted some ideas of what I hope could happen through us... perhaps involving me... and a house church... and house churches... and...

That's when someone knocked on the door and I had to run off to my Thursday lunch appointments (4 lunch periods, 15 students, I didn't eat much, but had some great conversations). So, the discussuion will contine, and when we saw one another again at 5:00pm it felt fresh and natural and new.

Man that feels good!!!!!!!
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Solomon, Solomon, Solomon... Where have you been?

I have rediscovered a book of the Bible... Ecclesiastes.

I am preaching on Sunday, and as I was preparing I was reading some Scriptures and following some inclinations, which led me to Ecclesiastes 3 (the "there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven passage"), which is probably the primary passage the average evangelical knows from this book. I decided to keep reading, which I am sure I have done before, but I was drawn deeper in. So I kept reading and reading and reading... No wonder our Sunday school teachers stopped at verse 8 of chapter 3. Solomon gets deep on us here. He asks a lot of questions and doesn't give a lot of answers, and when he does give answers they aren't touch, feely, comforting, happy thoughts. Some of them are dark, some are gloomy, some are bewildering, some leave you saying "huh?" In addition to that he speaks words, from his vast wisdom, that seem to condemn the American Dream in itself. His words contradict the goal of an individual in a Capitalist society. He counteracts the myth that riches bring happiness, with the reality that "whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless. " (Ecc. 5:10) It seems like Christians are willing to accept that Solomon is the wisest man who ever lived, but we aren't willing to live by his teaching, because he warns us about many of the very things The Church itself (not just the individuals), is chasing after today. He warns us of their meaninglessness, futility and lack of fulfillment, yet we press on in our ignorance. I press on in my ignorance.

I came into my office yesterday, stressed from being gone for 2 weeks, and ready to tackle my to-do list. On my desk sat Richard Foster's, Celebration of Discipline, opened to the Chapter on Simplicity. A post-it note read, "I dare you to take 20 minutes to read this. It changed my life." I took 40 minutes to read it... and then Ecclesiastes comes out of left field and smacks me across the face with the same message.

Read the passage below for an idea of Solomon's style in this book, and follow the link at the end to keep reading if you are so inclined. A great book, with great questions to challenge our minds.

Ecclesiastes 3:9-22
9 What does the worker gain from his toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on men. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. 13 That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God. 14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him.
15 Whatever is has already been,
and what will be has been before;
and God will call the past to account.£
16 And I saw something else under the sun:
In the place of judgment: wickedness was there,
in the place of justice: wickedness was there.
17 I thought in my heart,
"God will bring to judgment
both the righteous and the wicked,
for there will be a time for every activity,
a time for every deed."
18 I also thought, "As for men, God tests them so that they may see that they are like the animals. 19 Man's fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; man has no advantage over the animal. Everything is meaningless. 20 All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. 21 Who knows if the spirit of man rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?"
22 So I saw that there is nothing better for a man than to enjoy his work, because that is his lot. For who can bring him to see what will happen after him?

I will be dwelling here (Ecclesiastes) for a couple of weeks. If you are dwelling here with me let me know.
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