Modern Marvels

I am sitting here working on my notes for a wedding that I am officiating on New Year's day, so I decided to turn the TV on for some background noise. I flipped through to the history channel which normally has something moderately interesting on it. I have found that the history channel often has programs that make you look up every 3-5 minutes, but can't keep your attention for 30 minutes straight. Of course there are exceptions, and tonight was an exception.

It was a Modern Marvels show, which can be quite interesting. For instance, I watched one of Thanksgiving Break about Hoover Dam. This one happened to be on a Turkey Factory. Normally this type of show would cause me to turn it, but something piqued my interest. They were showing a Turkey farm and how they take the eggs from these tens of thousands of turkeys and incubate them in large heaters , on shelves like the ones they bake the bread in at Panera, until they hatch. Then in a little over 38 days they transform from 1 ounce babes into 10 pound birds. Not natural.

From the farm they went to the processing plant and this is what grabbed my attention. I was watching the workers do their portion of the assembly line; cutting the top, cutting off the wings, etc. Finally it came to this man standing at a station in the assembly line. A bird came to him every five seconds. At this point it is only the torso and legs left. He takes it off the hooks and places it on a conveyor belt that then brings it into an automated process that takes off the legs and moves the torso on. They paused on this man for an extended amount of time as they explained this part of the process and over a couple minutes I saw him continually doing this repetitive motion and I felt so sad.

I thought about that job and why it was created and why he may have applied for it and how he is probably a hard worker who is providing for his family the best that he can. I was thinking about how a job like that would possibly drive me insane, but that sometimes in life you just have to do things that seemingly may drive you insane, because in the end you need a job and you need to provide for your family.

Tonight we had some new friends over, Brody and Emily (Rhoton) Boggs and their kids. We were sharing about our current jobs and what led us here. One thing I shared was that I felt this need to do something where I could directly see how I was positively impacting other people's lives and "making a difference". Brody shared this same need and motivation for him to pursue his current job, working with mentally handicapped people. Watching that show I realized that everyone may not have that same need or motivation that Brody and I do. I realized that if we all did there would be a lot of jobs that would be hard to fill. I realized that a lot of our society is built on those types of jobs that potentially wouldn't be filled (which leads to another post altogether about industrialization). I remembered that many people would never want my job. They wouldn't want the stress. They wouldn't like the need to be creative, to think outside the box, to look for process improvements. They wouldn't want the awkward conversations, the need to confront at times, the need to back off at times. They wouldn't want any of it.

I am glad God made us different. I hope that God always provides a job for me that fits how he made me. I am thankful he opened this door, and put me on the path I am currently walking on. I don't know what I am really trying to say, other than, watching that guy repeatedly move turkeys, and thinking about doing that for 8 hours a day really disturbed me. I think I hurt for him, but perhaps I was mourning the idea of every having to do something like that myself. Or maybe both. I think part of it is that I just wanted more for him... which may lead me back to that other post about Industrialization... which I will probably never get to writing.

I also saw how Turkey Bacon is made... I may never eat it again.
Read more

Dance In The Rain Melissa

If you do not know Melissa Prater or are not aware of what is going on in her life right now follow this link and read the most recent post, so the rest of my post makes sense.

I admit that I am just plain mad right now. That is my primary, dominant feeling.

Kelly is crying in the other room, but I am mad. I am aware that these are the different stages of grieving, or working through pain and disappointment, but it doesn't change how I feel. I sit here typing angrily. Kelly lies in the bed with Halle cuddling through the tears.

I am helpless. We are helpless. Only God can do miracles and I am not very clear on how much our prayers influence him in those decisions. Am I allowed to say that? I feel like I have to right now to be authentic and real, because I definitely feel it.

I am reading "Jayber Crow" by Wendell Berry right now. The section I am read last night/this morning is so applicable right now:

"But the worst day of all was when it hit me that Jesus' own most fervent prayer was refused: "Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done." I must have read that verse or heard it a hundred times before without seeing or hearing. Maybe I didn't want to see it. But then one day I saw it. It just knocked me in the head. This, I thought, is what is meant by "they will be done" in the Lord's Prayer, which I had prayed time and again without thinking about it. It means that your will and God's will may not be the same. It means there's a good possibility that you won't get what you pray for. It means that in spite of your prayers you are going to suffer. It means you may be crucified.

After Jesus' terrible prayer at Gethsemane, an angel came to Him gave Him strength, but did not remove the cup...

But now I was unsure what it would be proper to pray for, or how to pray for it. After you have said "thy will be done," what more can be said? And where do you find the strength to pray "thy will be done" after you see what it means?

And what did these questions do to my understanding of all the prayers I had ever heard and prayed? And what did they do to the possibility that I could stand before a congregation...and pray for favorable weather, a good harvest, the recovery of the sick and the strayed, victory in war? DOES PRAYER CHANGE GOD'S MIND? If God's mind can be changed by the wants an wishes of us mere humans, as if deferring to our better judgment, what is the point of praying to Him at all? And what are we to think when two good people pray for opposite things- as when two devout mothers of soldiers on opposite sides prayer for the safety of their sons or for victory?...

"Father, remove this cup from me, " I prayed. And there I stopped. For how would I know what God's will was, even provided I could have the strength to submit to it?...

By then I wasn't just asking questions; I was being changed by them. I was being changed by my prayers, which dwindled down nearer and nearer to silence, which weren't confrontations with God but with difficulty...of knowing what or how to pray..."

Any yet... I prayed with Halle tonight... like every night...for Melissa and Doug and the kids and many other things. I prayed for healing. I prayer for a miracle. I did not pray "but thine will be done", because THAT IS NOT WHAT I WANT MOST RIGHT NOW! If God's will is not to heal this AMAZING WOMAN then I can't honestly say I want it. Who honestly could? Honestly?

I want your will, but I don't understand how that can possibly not include Melissa's healing. I can, on the other hand, clearly see how it could/should include her healing. You and I have been here before, at this place. This is where faith and common sense collide, and the collison breaks me and confounds me. My faith persists, but my heart and head and body hurts. I beg that your will and my will are aligned on Melissa's healing. I beg you Lord!
Read more

Community, Loving Your Neighbor, Family

I realized recently that I am passionate about things in my "preaching ministry".
Christian Community
Loving Your Neighbors (Holiness in Action or Active Holiness)
The Role of the Family in Discipleship (both biological and faith families)
(EDIT: I also preach about the Body of Christ quite often, which Kelly just reminded me, but I kind of connect that and flow it into Christian community)

I have known this for a while and felt guilty about it, but realized recently I don't need to. Those are passions God has placed in me. Those are topics I continue to dwell on, research, discuss and grow in. I don't need to know all things, and certainly don't need to preach about all things. This is probably one of the most daunting things to me about the idea of preaching every week, if that were my assignment. I think I would want to talk about these three things every week. Perhaps, if that were my call/assignment I could just rotate them on a once per month basis and then throw in a wild card every fourth week to mix things up and cover other key tenants of the faith. Then, on a fifth Sunday we could just all eat a meal together and allow people to share their stories and God moments of the month.

Another daunting aspect about preaching every week is this... I honestly just don't find that preachers are dynamic enough to preach every week and truly keep most people's attention. Sure, there are some who can do it, but even in those cases I generally think it would be healthier to hear multiple voices from the body sharing from the Word and their experiences. So, I guess that if I ever was the pastor of a Sunday morning church I wouldn't preach every week anyways. Because
a) I don't believe God only, or primarily speaks through one person per congregation/body of believers and
b) I think people need variety, they need different flavors, different perspective. They need to hear from Christian brothers and sisters of different ages and genders and backgrounds and personalities.

So, for me, every time I would/do speak I think I will continue to explore what I know and care about most:
Christian Community
Loving Your Neighbors
The Role of the Family in Discipleship
(EDIT: Body of Christ)

So, if you ever ask me to speak be prepared. If you want something outside that range, make sure I know ahead of time. :-)

I may write my thoughts on each of those topics in the days ahead, but I am done making blogging promises at this point in my life, so we'll see.
Read more


has been flying by in our new town, new life, new pace. Lots of good things. Lots of new friends. Lots of new opportunities. Not a lot of rest.

Overall, God has reminded me that I need to pace myself. I need to take time to slow down. I need to take time to breath deep, to reflect, to dream, to sleep, to relax... all those things we were much better at the last two years.

We are excited about our life here, both what we are experiencing and what we have yet to experience. We are living in a small 3 bedroom apartment, waiting on our house to sell, waiting and waiting, and wondering when we will be able to fully shift our lives to Mt. Vernon. I am still trusting God's timing, but each week, or at least month makes it harder to wait. We feel the need to be more settled here, to be in more of a position to invite other's into our home, to have college kids and the Admissions Staff over, to sleep on our own bed again... but I still trust that we are where we are for a reason, not only in Mt. Vernon, but also at Glen Road.

I love my daughter... I can't deny that she has my heart.
I love my son... his smile can melt me.
I love my wife...I simply love her.
Read more

Big News!

Our Family has been busy! Lots of life change is happening, but we find ourselves feeling peace in these moments as we celebrate…

1) The Birth of our NEW BABY BOY!!!

Judah James William...

He was born at 4:39pm on Monday, 7/7/2008 in Bluffton, OH.
He weighs 6lbs 6ozs and is 19 inches long. He has dark brown hair, a dimpled chin and really soft skin of course.
Kelly is doing well and is thoroughly enjoying bonding with our new son.
Big sister Halle has enjoyed holding him and gave him his first birthday present on Monday night.

Thank you so much for your prayers and support!

Here is the hospital link to view his picture, but I have also included another pic in this e-mail:

We should be going home with him later today!
2) A NEW JOB for James!

I have accepted the position of Director of Admissions and Student Recruitment at Mount Vernon Nazarene University.

I accepted the job during the Regional BLAST event on June 12th and we announced it to the crowd that night. My first day working for MVNU was June 30th, but I was speaking at a church camp all week, so I really haven’t completely settled into the office yet. This was to be my first week in the office, but Judah altered those plans. We have been on a home repair blitz with much help from our church, friends and family. I will be traveling back and forth over the next month. We hope to have our house listed this week and are praying it will sell by the end of the month. We have already seen 15+ houses in Mt. Vernon and have a few favorites, but won’t offer until ours sells. Most of you know how vital house church is to our DNA, so we are looking for a house with this in mind. Please pray with us that the Lord would lead us to the right neighborhood, the right neighbors and the right house. We are still figuring out temporary plans for us to all be together in Mt. Vernon starting in August until our house in Findlay sells.

We are so excited about this opportunity for multiple reasons. Vocationally it is a fantastic fit for my heart, skills and passions. I have been working in the RPO/Recruiting industry for a year and a half and enjoy it, but now I can take those skills to MVNU (which I have always had passion for) and work with teens and college students (whom I have always had a passion to work with). It is a great mix for my administrative desires and my ministry desires. If you know me, you know I love MVNU, so this makes sense on multiple levels. MVNU has been a part of my life since I was 4½, when my parents went back to finish their degrees! In addition, Kelly will no longer need to work. She has desired for quite some time to stay at home with our child(ren), and this move will provide that opportunity, with a few adjustments in our spending habits. J This is huge for us and something that has dominated our conversation for a couple years. Finally, we can’t wait to join the MVNU community. We have missed it through the years and always had a desire to return. We hope to be a positive influence in the lives of the college students, faculty and staff there in the same way our mentors there influenced our lives. I will also continue to serve as the Regional Big Picture Trainer and be available to speak at youth events, both of which are a natural mix for this role.

Here is the press release for the job:

Lot of stuff going on and we are just hanging on for the ride. Kelly just looked at me as she is holding Judah and said softly with tears in her eyes, “I am so happy”.
That pretty much sums it up for us!

Peace and Love.

Read more

You know you are bald...

when your wife is applying sunscreen to you and she begins to rub it into your hair without warning... like you expected her to.
Read more

True or False

I found this written on a piece of paper today. I am not sure if it was a thought that came to me one day that I was trying to think through, a quote or a comment in a conversation, but what I am wondering is...


"Church bodies have life cycles like physical bodies have life cycles.
They are born. They grow. They live. They die (whether literally or essentially)."
Read more

Benji's Letter: Part I

A close friend of mine (Benji) from our house church recently wrote a letter to a friend of his who is several states away. I am going to post it on here in a series of 2-4 posts. The entire letter is so good, but it deals with a couple different things that I would love to share with you. As Bemji read this letter he had written to our church one night I could hear myself saying these exact same things to any of you. Benji and I have been living life together for 5 years now, and we don't always agree on everything, but this letter reminded me how much we have grown together and share a common heart and path to where we find ourselves. Anything in parentheses is a comment of mine. As you read these words please hear them as words that I would use to explain to you where I have been and where I am headed...

"First of all, let me tell you a little about what is going on in our lives to bring you up to speed. About 15 months ago we left the church that we had previously being going to, and also the church that I was raised in because we felt like the questions that we were asking about God, ourselves, and the world we live in were not being addressed. (I wasn't raised in this church, but it is a mirror image of my own church in immeasurable ways. I often feel their people, struggles and issues have reflected one another.)

Since then we have been meeting in our living rooms with about 5-10 other families who are asking some of the same questions. We are attempting to listen to the voice of God throughout history to see what he has repeated…what is it that he is really saying…through the lives of his people in the OT… the prophets, the kings, the political and religious systems…where Jesus fits into the story historically…and what Jesus actual message was to his people."

This is a great summary of what we have been trying to do, how we got to where we are at and the journey we have found ourselves on. I will pick up from here next time I post. Not anything major, just a good summary of my journey/our community's journey this past year and a half.

Read more