Friday, December 7, 2012

Thoughts on Thirty, Part 3

As you undoubtedly know by now, I recently turned 30 and have been blogging about some thoughts I've had regarding this landmark. My first post was a reflection on the personal changes I've experienced over the past decade, while the second post was an exploration of the nature and function of my 20s and an anticipation of what is to come in my 30s. In the final part of this series, I will further examine my closing statement from the previous post: that I am hoping to continue living a fun, adventurous life as I commit to planting semi-permanent roots with my family, friends, church, neighborhood, and city over the next 10 years.

I never want to be boring.

This was my greatest fear in becoming a parent. Call me selfish for caring about myself, but I don't care. I wasn't overly worried about being a good dad. I wasn't terribly concerned about continuing to be a good husband. Perhaps I'm a bit too self-assured, but I was confident in my parenting and husbanding abilities. But what really freaked me out was the idea that settling down, having a child, working a full-time job again, and buying a house would turn me into a monotonous drone of a human. While all these things are inherently wonderful and mean the world to me, I was worried about 'gaining the world but losing my soul.' Mandy and I had lived an exciting life throughout our twenties and I didn't want to lose that sense of thrill and passion. We had lived well, an abundant life, and I did not want to sacrifice this in the process of raising a child.

Can I find a way to BOTH plant roots AND be adventurous and always-changing?

I'm not totally sure I can answer this question yet. I know the answer is yes, but I'm not sure what the adventure will look like in this new phase of our lives. Ask me in a decade and I should have a better idea. But for now, I know for sure that I am blessed to have had the experiences I've had and I'm so grateful to have had wonderful people alongside of me on the journey. I have the most amazing friends in Montana, South Dakota, and Washington, I have an incredibly supportive family, and most of all, I am married to my best friend and have an unimaginably special daughter. Life is good - and I don't think that is changing anytime soon.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Thoughts on Thirty, Part 2

If you happen to number in my miniscule readership, you know that I both turned 30 years old this past week and am in the midst of a 3-part blog series about this milestone in my life. In the first installment I discussed the idea that the 20-year-old version of myself would probably not recognize the 30-year-old version of myself...and that I'm both okay with that and am hopeful that I continue to change and grow so significantly that the 30-year-old version of myself would not recognize the 40-year-old version.

The second thought I have been pondering for the past week is about the role and nature of the past decade (my 20s) and the future decade (my 30s). As I've reflected, it seems that my 20s were a time of finding my own individual identity. I was finding myself. I was figuring out who I am. I was discovering who is important to me, what I am passionate about, and how I will spend the remainder of my life. I went to school, I found my vocational calling, I fell in love, I went to more school, I traveled a lot, I tried new things, I lived in some cool places. In short, my 20s were an experiment in living.

So if this past decade was an era of exploring my individual identity, it seems like the next decade will be one of exploring my communal identity. As I have come to some conclusions about who I am with myself, I now feel ready to finally search for who I am with others. Who am I with my family (when I see them much more often)? Who am I in a church (when we aren't planning to leave anytime soon)? Who am I in a neighborhood (when we finally own a home and aren't moving each year)? Who am I (especially with others) over the long-haul? Who will I be year-in-and-year-out? The process of moving back to Montana and beginning to finally put down roots is affording me the chance to dive into relationship in a way that I never have before. And I couldn't be more excited.

The experimental decade I have recently departed was full of life and love and adventure, but was not a sustainable lifestyle. The question is will I be able to continue an adventurous life as I transition into this new, sustainable, consistent, and communal way of living? I think the answer to that question is 'yes,' and I'm excited to figure out how.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Thoughts on Thirty, Part 1

Just two days ago I found my way across the invisible threshold from my 20's to my 30's. In anticipating my 30th birthday, I assumed I would feel no different upon reaching this milestone, that this birthday would feel insignificant and common, no more important than any other previous birthday. But I was wrong.

Turning 30 naturally, yet unexpectedly, led me to some deep soul-searching and thoughtful reflection. I found myself pondering the previous decade, reflecting on where life's journey has brought me, and wondering about what the next 10 years have in store. Through this process of reflection, three significant thoughts came to mind, which I will divulge in a 3-part blog series over the next week (hopefully).

The first thing I have been thinking about recently is that I seriously doubt that the 20-year-old version of myself would recognize the 30-year-old version of myself. I've changed. I've grown. I've been transformed. I've lived a world of experiences that I could never have dreamed of 10 years ago. I had no idea I would be living in a big city, generally, or Seattle, specifically. I had no idea I would graduate from one of the more creative and progressive seminaries in the country. I had no idea I would work in so many various denominations, coming to love, appreciate, and need a more ecumenical approach to ministry. I had no idea I would leave Montana, spend time in the Midwest (Sioux Falls, SD), and venture out to the West Coast (Seattle, WA), only to ultimately arrive back at the place I started - an American Baptist Church in Montana. Life is weird and unexpected, but Mandy and I have just tried to keep our eyes peeled for what's next, listen to the Spirit's prompting, and say yes to new adventures.

I'm really proud of the person that I have become in the last 10 years. I love better than I used to. I work for peace in the midst of a violent world. I am a better listener and more caring than I ever was before. I've been transformed into someone who more closely patterns my life after the life of Jesus. But please don't hear me say that I finally have life and the world and faith figured out. I surely don't. I hope that the 30-year-old version of myself wouldn't recognize the 40-year-old version of myself. I hope that I continue to be open to change and transformation. I hope that God continues to poke and prod at my theology and ideology and that I am not too stubborn to listen and be molded and shaped. I hope that at 40 I will still be a work in progress. And I hope that I will be proud of who I have become over the past decade.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Evolution of Perspective

For those of you who have reached this post via Facebook, you possibly already know that I was in a car accident last night. I was stopped at a red light and was rear ended by a college girl. And I don't mean that she gave me a little 'love tap' on my bumper...I mean that she didn't see me soon enough and then accidentally hit the accelerator instead of the break. So she hit me going about 35-40 miles per hour.

As you can see from the photo, the back end of my car is pretty mangled and the car is inoperable. I'm currently involved in the annoying process of working with insurance companies, finding a rental car, and getting my car repaired. Hopefully this process does not drag on too long. We can't afford too much hassle as we are also currently in the process of leaving Seattle and moving to Bozeman, MT.

The scariest part about this whole ordeal was that Zoe was in the backseat in her car seat. It took me a second or two after the collision to catch my bearings, but once I realized we had been hit, my first thought was for the safety of my child. I instantly rushed around the car, whipped her car seat out of its dock, and scooped her into my arms. She was doing great, but just a little startled.

I find myself thinking about this accident in light of now having a child. If this would have happened a year ago, I would have been annoyed and pissed that this idiot driver just ruined my car and would have been focused on the hassle of needing to contact the police, my insurance company, and a tow truck. But when you have a child, none of that stuff matters much. As long as Zoe was safe, everything else was okay. I was relatively calm. I didn't get angry. I was patient and forgiving with the girl who hit me. I was grateful for the witnesses that were so helpful. In general, I wasn't my normal self! Being a father had suddenly changed my perspective and transformed me into a better person with better priorities.

Everyone always says that having a child changes everything in your life. They may be right.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Porcupine Pastors

Another great, thought-provoking cartoon from Naked Pastor:

I've known pastors who believed this very thing, but it is surely not the approach I take in ministry. Pastors must use some discretion when interacting with their congregations, but to totally avoid any sort of friendship or vulnerability with those they are leading does not seem healthy for the pastor or for their flock.

HT: Naked Pastor

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Doing the "Biblical" Thing

It's been a while since I have shared a cartoon from Naked Pastor or ASBO Jesus, but this one was  too good not to share.

Whenever the word 'biblical' is used as an adjective for a way of doing something, I am immediately reminded of the complex and confusing nature of the Bible. Regardless of what people might say, the Bible is just not simple. It isn't black and white. It isn't an easily-understood moral road map for life. It just isn't.

What does "biblical marriage" look like? Is it the polygamy of the Old Testament? Is it the complimentarianism of Paul? Is it the egalitarianism of Ruth?

What does "biblical church" look like? Is it the drunkenness and debauchery of the Corinthians? Is it the legalism of the Galatians? Is it the communalism of Jesus? Is it the socialism of Acts?

Being "biblical" just isn't as simple as it seems.

So can we simply agree that the Bible is challenging and confusing, beautiful and inspiring, yet difficult to live out? Can we simply agree that we can believe different things and behave in different ways and still love Jesus just as much as those with whom we disagree? And can we simply agree to to be civil and hospitable with one another as we all endeavor to live out the way of Jesus together, regardless of how our paths slightly diverge?

HT: Naked Pastor

Friday, October 19, 2012

Prayer is Happening

I am currently reading a beautiful and contextually appropriate book by Barbara Brown Taylor called An Alter in the World. Taylor helps the reader wrestle through how normal, everyday practices can be re-imagined as spiritual practices, which is incredibly helpful for me in my life as a stay-at-home parent. Near the end of the book she includes a chapter on the spiritual practice of prayer. Prayer, in the normal, religious sense, is always something with which I have struggled. But Taylor's definition of prayer is an eye-opening, life-giving, and freedom-producing way of thinking through this spiritual discipline. In this one brief description, she has finally put beautifully, eloquent words to what my heart and mind have been sensing for the past few years. Without further ado, I'll simply let her words speak for themselves.
" waking up to the presence of God no matter where I am or what I am doing. When I am fully alert to whatever or whoever is right in front of me; when I am electrically aware of the tremendous gift of being alive; when I am able to give myself wholly to the moment I am in, then I am in prayer. Prayer is happening, and it is not necessarily something that I am doing. God is happening, and I am lucky enough to know that I am in The Midst."
Beautiful. Simply beautiful.

This way of thinking about prayer has certainly become a liberating way of engaging with God and the world. No longer am I bound and oppressed by my inability or unwillingness to "pray right." No longer is a lack of quiet time or daily devotions loaded with guilt and shame. No longer is prayer about setting aside life for a moment of escape with God.

Instead, within this new paradigm, prayer is everywhere, always. A walk in my neighborhood becomes prayer. A meal with friends becomes prayer. A ride on the bus becomes prayer. A conversation with a stranger becomes prayer. As I open myself up to the ongoing goodness and revelation of God, I simultaneously open myself up to God's presence. God ceases to be some stagnant and static idol that I kneel before daily, but rather, is liberated to be living and active, a constant presence and not a summoned machine. Prayer plunges me into life with a minute-by-minute longing for engagement and connection, rather than pulling me out of worldly interaction for a manufactured moment of personal piety.

And finally, this is a practice of prayer that is, for me, unquestionably sustainable. By this I mean two things. First, this is a way of thinking about prayer that I can commit to on an ongoing and long-term basis. It is not the newest prayer fad that will dissolve into oblivion as quickly as it was commenced. It is a way of life, rather than a behavior. It is an identity rather than an action. And secondly, this way of thinking about prayer is sustainable in that it has actually sustained me. Engaging with the world in this way has actually produced more goodness and life, more vigor and passion, more grace and love. Rather than prayer being a hollow routine, this way of prayer has nurtured my soul. It has carried me in my moments of pain and weakness. It has assured me in my moments of doubt and questioning. It has spoken to me in my moments of silence. And it has been a dynamic process. Prayer has not happened. Prayer is happening.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Ensnared Between Seasons

These trees spoke to me this morning. Perhaps on most days they are simply trees, not meant to convey any sort of message. But today, they are for me. Today, they tell stories. Today, they tell truth. These floral spires stand at a crossroad between seasons. One clings to the warmth and goodness and life of summer, while the other sings of a new season arriving, the winds of change that will assuredly bring the death of winter but will ultimately invite the renewed vigor of spring. They are trapped in the moment. They simultaneously cling to the past and long for the future.

And here I stand.

Both basking in the goodness of what has been and unsure of the future that approaches. Both fervently clinging to the safety of the known and completely curious about the promise of the unrevealed. Both profoundly content standing at the edge and incredibly inquisitive about the life that awaits if I have the courage to leap.

And here I stand.

I know not what to do.
Both are good. Both are bad.
Both are good and bad.
Both have beauty. Both have pain.
Both have promise. Both have gain.
Both are wrong. Both are right.
Both are easy. Both take fight.

And here I stand.

Ambiguous enough for you? I'll let you know if I come into any clarity.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Lessons Learned Now That Will Impact My Future

As the father of a new baby, it seems like they are doing new things almost every day. For sure, each week she is a new person with new activities. One thing that Zoe has been doing a lot of lately is talking. Now of course she isn't saying any real words yet, but her cooing and grunting and babbling have us plenty excited regardless. This new phenomenon is so fun and exhilarating for me as a parent that I sometimes get caught up in the moment and interrupt her talking in the course of my celebration and excitement. I feel the need to jump in and respond to any noises she makes with my own oohs and aahs, instead of allowing her to continue using her voice. Sometimes me making noises in response causes her to be silenced. I'm finding that when I give Zoe the space to talk, without immediately responding with my own noises, she often continues talking for much longer than she would have otherwise.

I'm learning to let her find her voice.

This point of self-discovery has caused me to think about how this similar posture will be very important as she grows older, and especially as she moves into her teenage years. I will need to give her the space to explore, discover, and use her own voice. I will need to allow her the time and opportunity to realize who she is, what she is passionate, and how to interact in the world...without dad getting in the way. Too often parents can stifle their children by never allowing them the freedom for exploration and discovery. While I want to help shepherd my daughter into maturity and healthy living, I will need to temper my desire to be too hands-on in this process. At times I will need to simply back off, give her space, and trust that we have raised her in a way that she will be able to make wise choices. I'm positive this will be a challenge, but hey, no one said this parenting thing was going to be easy, right! I'm just hopeful that our family will be one of grace: where we help Zoe to understand the immensity of God's grace, where Zoe gives her parents much grace as they stumble through the task of parenting, and where we, as parents, give ourselves grace when we falter.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Finding God in the Ordinary

I'm currently about half finished with a book called An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith by Barbara Brown Taylor. I was alerted to this book by a fellow blogger a few months ago when the electronic version was on sale for $.99. After reading a brief synopsis, it seemed like I might have learned of Taylor's book at just the right time. Plus, you can't go wrong with spending a buck on a book!

An Altar in the World is essentially a book about finding God in the ordinary, plain, mundane things of life. Sometimes faith and spirituality are pedaled as things that only come through grandiose means or through activities that are inherently and explicitly spiritual, like reading scripture, prayer, or church attendance. Taylor argues that God is found in a myriad of places that we might not expect to find God if we have not made ourselves available to finding God anywhere. So far she has argued that God is revealed through activities like paying attention to the world, being aware of our physical bodies, walking, getting lost, and community. In the words of Taylor, "Anything can become a spiritual practice once you are willing to approach it that way—once you let it bring you to your knees and show you what is real, including who you really are, who other people are, and how near God can be when you have lost your way."

This is just the message I needed at this time as I begin a season of life as a stay-at-home dad. Having a child has already slowed life to a grinding halt, but when my wife returns to work in less than a month, my life is about to enter a world of monotony that I have never known before. My world will shrink even small than it currently is as my daily routine with revolve around the sleeping, feeding, and changing of my little one. I will need to find ways to be reminded of the inherent spirituality of raising a child. I will need to find ways to see God in the daily grind. I will need to encounter Christ on our daily walks, our trips to the store, and our more-frequent-than-desired diaper changes. I believe this can happen, but it will take more intentionality than I am used to. May God grant me the eyes to see and the ears to hear the (extra)ordinary ways that the world might become an altar over this next year of parenthood.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Our Africa Photo Album...Finally

If you will remember, Mandy and I traveled to Tanzania last February to visit our dear friends Brian and Nicole. Immediately upon returning we began talking about turning our trip pictures into a photo album using Shutterfly or iPhoto. It took us a year (and a free coupon from my sister-in-law), but we finally got around to making our book. Shutterfly gave me the option of embedding the book on a blog, so I thought I would share my creation with you. Enjoy!

Photo books are the perfect gift for any occasion.

Monday, June 25, 2012

What A Crazy Month!!

In looking at my blog, I see that it has been about a month since my last post...and what a month it has been. To say that this past month has been been crazy would be one of the greatest understatements of my life. The most significant event of the past 30 days is undoubtedly the birth of my first child, Zoe Hope Bowker. She graced us with her presence on Wednesday, May 30 at 12:39pm, weighing in at 7 pounds 1.5 ounces. She has been amazing thus far, and parenting has been an incredible journey. She is now almost one month old and is doing great. Mom and baby are both really healthy and we are loving our life. I am sure that as I settle into a better routine and get back to a relatively normal life again I will be blogging plenty about the joy, pain, and humor of raising our daughter.

As a result of Zoe's birth, our apartment has been a revolving door of friends and family. We have the greatest friends in the world, and feel so fortunate that they were with us throughout this entire process. They brought us food each day, ran errands for us, and were a constant presence of love and support during our initial period of adjustment. Our families came to visit about two weeks after Zoe was born, so our friends were incredibly helpful over those first weeks of her life, serving as our Seattle family. My parents were then in town for a week, followed by a week with Mandy's parents. They are all so excited to be grandparents again, so it has been really fun to watch them interact with their granddaughter.

The final thing that has added to the chaos of this past month is that I officially graduated from seminary this past Saturday. After four great, yet challenging, years of graduate school at The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology, I graduated with my Master of Divinity degree. This was a very special day for me as it marked the culmination of a daunting journey--one that led us to sell half of our possessions, quit our jobs, leave our home, and move half-way across the country to a city where we knew no one and had no pre-arranged source of income. It has been a beautiful story of adventure, risk, and courage, and I am so glad that Mandy and I decided to venture out together.

So's been a crazy month. I'll keep you all posted on the continued unfolding of my story. Looks like it's gonna be a wild ride...just the way I would prefer it!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Word of the Democrats

Brian McLaren has long-been one of my favorite Christian authors. His book A New Kind of Christian radically altered my theological perspective and imagination and set me on a course that has taken me to a new city, a new seminary, and a new denomination. I am eternally grateful for his profound thoughtfulness and powerful writing.

His newest literary endeavor has taken him into the new and exciting world of e-books. In our current technological world, with print material taking a backseat to electronic media, e-books have begun to emerge as a creative alternative. There is no publishing needed and the promotion and marketing process can be much different, since the author does not need to deal with traditional book stores. With a presidential election on the horizon, McLaren has written three short e-books as a part of his The Word of the Lord series. One is directed to Democrats, another to Republicans, and the third to Evangelicals. He has written them all as fiction, much like his original and popular trilogy. I just finished his book directed at Democrats, a quick little read that probably only took a few hours to finish, and I look forward to reading the other two. While this was by no means a classic McLaren piece, it is well worth your time.

SPOILER ALERT: here is the money quote at the end. If you plan on reading this book soon, perhaps you will just want to skip reading this quote.
"A new day is dawning, and that new day presents a new possibility. We must leave behind the stale, standard politics of partisan candidates who seek victories for themselves and defeat for their opponents. That's yesterday, but the times are a'changing, my friends. This new day calls us to employ the creative power of movements, movements that build unexpected alliances among previously disconnected communities, movements that seek a good far more precious and far less common than victories. What is that uncommon good? It is the common good."

Friday, May 25, 2012

Playing the Waiting Game

Well, we have officially passed 38 weeks and are now within 2 weeks of our due date. But still no baby. Its not that we actually expected the baby to come by this time, or really anytime soon, but our lives have definitely slowed to a grinding pace as we anxiously await the coming of our first child. It is strange not knowing when she will arrive. There is no other big event in life (other than death) that you can't plan ahead of time and generally know what to expect. But with this...we have no idea. We don't know what day she will come...or what time she will come...or how big she will be...or how difficult labor will be...or that she will even be a she (let's hope the ultrasound tech wasn't wrong or our boy will have a lot of pink outfits!!).

We have done all we can to ready ourselves for parenthood, but now we get to sit and wait. We've read the books, taken the classes, had the showers, bought the stuff, decorated the room, cleaned the house, and packed the birth bag, but I'm sure nothing would ever truly prepare us for the blessed and welcomed responsibility of caring for a fragile, little life.

On another note, this weekend marks the first time that having a child (or being close) has forced us to say no to an activity that we wish we could do. This will be the first Memorial Day Weekend of our marriage that we are not traveling out of town for some sort of camping trip or vacation. Many of our friends are heading to Whistler, British Columbia for a weekend of fun and mountain biking, but we had to decline their invitation since we are so close to delivery. I must admit that, while I am immensely excited to be a dad, this change does not come without a great sense of loss and grief in the transition between one way of living and another. I liked my life. I liked being able to take off for the mountains on a beautiful Saturday without a care in the world. I liked the spontaneity of hurrying off to our favorite restaurant just before happy hours ends. I liked being in control of my own schedule. I liked my freedom.

I hesitate in writing what I just did for fear of looking like a terrible parent, but I am positive I am simply naming aloud the thoughts and feelings of most expectant parents. I am sure I will quickly settle into a new, amazing routine and rhythm with my child, but I first just need to acknowledge the loss and pain that this new transition has brought with it. It's not easy. It's not always going to be fun. There are going to be times I will wish I could just go back to the way it was before. But there are of course going to be a million magical moments that I wouldn't trade for the world. And those are the moments I am currently longing for. Enough of this waiting. I want my little girl to be here!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

God at Gunpoint

I haven't posted a cartoon from Naked Pastor or ASBO Jesus lately, but this one was too good to not share. While I am an adamant supporter of the Bible, we do often hide behind it, using it as a shield from actually knowing and encountering God. Scripture is definitely a great way to experience God (maybe the best), but it is not the ONLY way, and should never be used as a weapon to hold God hostage and support our own theologies and ideologies.

HT: Naked Pastor

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Integrative Project Presentation

The official conclusion of my seminary experience was marked a few weeks ago with the presentation of my master's thesis, my Integrative Project. Here is a video of the presentation I delivered. Enjoy!

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Violence of Football

Let's get this out of the way upfront: I LOVE FOOTBALL! I grew up watching and playing football and have loved it ever since. Each Fall I find myself completely and fanatically devoted to my beloved Denver Broncos and my own fantasy football team. But, having said this, I would prefer that my sons (if I ever have sons) never actually play the game of football. I have been thinking about this for the past few years, as my wife and I have been nearing parenthood, and it has only been confirmed within me with the latest concussion issues and 'Bounty-Gate' in the NFL.

Football is an inherently violent sport, both physically and mentally. To truly be excellent, players must psych themselves up into a frenzy and be willing to literally and figuratively destroy the opponent. They must be mean. It's kill or be killed out there between the lines, and I want none of that mentality in my family. I'm not interested in my sons dominating and destroying others, or being dominated or destroyed by another. No thanks.

Of course, if my sons really want to play football I will undoubtedly allow them, but this will not come without conversation about the difference between competition and war, between aggressiveness and violence, and between passion and anger. There are plenty of other sports where my kids could experience teamwork, competition, and fun, (i.e. soccer, basketball, baseball), without succumbing to the inherent violence and danger of football. Two-time NFL MVP Kurt Warner echoed my thoughts perfectly in his most recent statement on violence in football:
"I am constantly concerned about my kids and the violence of the game of football. I worry about them suffering head trauma and developing any long-term issues as a result of that injury,” Warner writes. “So yes, I love this game and all the things that it taught me and afforded me along the way, but regardless of all that I have a responsibility to my kids. I cannot be oblivious to the risks of the game of football simply because it was good to me. . . . I love the X’s and O’s of the game. I love the strategy of the game of football. I love the competitiveness of playing the greatest team sport in the world, where 11 guys must come together at the same time for the team to have success. I love the chess match within each game, the moves and countermoves and the pressure filled responses that dictate who will be the victor. I love the discipline and hard work that is required to succeed in any sport, especially the game of football. Yet, at the same time I am fully aware of the one aspect that I do not love: the violence."
HT: ProFootballTalk

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Two Thoughts on the Lakers

As someone who is neither a Los Angeles Lakers fan nor hater, I rarely find myself with an opinion about them that would be worth sharing...and especially not two. But there are a number of things happening with the Lakers right now that have caught my attention and seem worthy of a few moments of my time.

The first is regarding Metta World Peace (formerly known as Ron Artest). Artest has a troubled past in the NBA, culminated by the 'Palace Brawl,' where he went into the crowd to attack and assault a fan who had thrown a beer on him. For the past few years, however, he has been well-behaved and simply strange, rather than dangerous. That is until the other night. In a recent game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Artest dunked over Kevin Durant and was overcome with emotion and passion, began beating his chest in celebration, and then proceeded to elbow James Harden in the head with the kind of force and ferocity normally reserved for the MMA octagon. Harden hit the floor in an instant and was removed from the game with a concussion.

The strangest part of the story, in my opinion, was Artest's response a few days later (after receiving a 7-game suspension). He spoke with the media after practice and portrayed a strange, indecipherable mix of emotions. On the one hand, he was seemingly trying to show some remorse for his actions. He said he had re-watched the play and obviously was too aggressive after his dunk. At the same time, however, he never actually apologized to Harden for this grievous offense. No 'I'm sorry.' No 'I hope he is okay.' No 'I was wrong and won't do it again.' Sports analysts have commented that he seemed contrite, that he was viscerally bothered by what he had done, but I am not convinced. This kind of thing happens all the time. People make it seem like they are sorry by making an emotional and impassioned speech, but they do not actually apologize and are really just inventing excuses for why their actions weren't that bad or weren't their fault. I'm not sure why we can't just own our faults and apologize for our mistakes, without skirting around the issue and trying to justify ourselves.

The second issue of current importance to the Lakers is that Kobe Bryant is in a dogfight with Kevin Durant for this year's NBA scoring title. Durant finished his season last night by scoring 32, while the Lakers still have one game to play tonight. The Lakers have locked up 3rd place in the West, so they are resting most of their starters to get them healthy for the playoffs, but they have not decided whether Kobe will play tonight or not. He would need to score 38 tonight in order to overtake Durant for the lead, so it would take a good game, a lot of effort, and a lot of minutes to get this done, but it is definitely not outside of Kobe's skill-set. He says that the scoring title is not that important to him, but it seems like it must be if he is considering playing even though there is nothing to be gained. So the Lakers and Kobe are in an interesting predicament. I think records are meant to be broken and striving for individual and team statistics is just part of the game, so I wouldn't fault Kobe and the Lakers for going for the scoring title. But it would be unfortunate if Kobe were to get injured tonight in a game that didn't matter. If I were making the decision for him, I'd sit him out tonight and let him rest...but I can understand both sides. I'll be interested to see what the Lakers and Kobe decide, and whether they risk Kobe's health for an individual statistic about which they all claim to not care.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Preparing for Pilgrimage

The Google Map For Our Trip
2700 miles in 10 days. Crazy. Fun. Awesome. Epic.

The week of my road trip has finally arrived! Some of you probably already know of my travel plans, but for those who do not, I thought I would clue you in to what the next 2 weeks will hold for me. My best friend, David, and I have been talking about taking a road trip together for years, so it seemed like now was the perfect time. This pilgrimage is incredibly important to me as it will serve as a marker of the end of one adventure (graduate school) and the beginning of another (having a baby). And I'm so glad to be making this journey with David.

We are leaving Seattle this coming Friday, April 27, and will be gone for about 10 days, arriving home again on Sunday, May 6. Our furthest destination from Seattle will be Moab, Utah, before meandering home through California and Oregon. We will be in Boise, Idaho for about 24 hours, mountain biking and rock climbing with my cousin Nathan, before heading on to Utah. We will spend about a day at Joe's Valley, one of the greatest bouldering spots in North America, and then will head on to Moab. Neither of us have been to this area of the country, so we are eagerly anticipating great weather, epic mountain bike rides on slickrock, amazing desert bouldering, and fantastic views of God's incredible creation, especially within Arches National Park.

After Moab we will begin our long journey home with a brief stop in Salt Lake City and a night's stay in Reno, NV. The next day we will arrive in Bend, Oregon, with prior stops at Larsen National Park and Mt. Shasta in California. We will mountain bike in Bend for a day, followed by a morning of climbing at Smith Rock State Park, before heading home to Seattle. And while David and I are both really looking forward to the mountain biking and climbing we will do in some of the greatest places in the country, we are, strangely, almost more excited about the incredible amount of disc golf we are going to play along the way. There are 16 courses that we have mapped out that are potential places for us to play, and I would guess that we will actually play at least a dozen of them. While I definitely feel a little nervous about leaving my very-pregnant wife at home by herself, this is a trip that I just need to take, and I can't wait.

2700 miles in 10 days. Crazy. Fun. Awesome. Epic.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Books I've Read This Year, Part 1

As a New Year's Resolution I set out to read at least 12 books over the course of 2012. My idea was that they would be 12 books in addition to my reading for graduate school, but I also wasn't too concerned with being legalistic on this goal. Now as we are about 3 months into the year, I thought I would give an update as to what I have been reading, and the books I plan to read over the next quarter of this year.

A Game of Thrones, George R.R. Martin

About a year ago I heard about an amazing book called A Game of Thrones that HBO had recently made into a 10-part miniseries. I regrettably watched the TV series prior to reading the book, but over Christmas break I finally found the time to begin the first book in Martin's much-acclaimed series A Song of Ice and Fire. The books are in the fantasy genre, and maintain references to a time when dragons and zombies (the 'white walkers') roamed the earth, but the first installment is primarily medieval in nature and centers around the dangers and betrayal of the struggle for power.

There are five books in the series, and I am hopeful to have finished them all by this time next year. Each one is about 800 pages long, so, while they are a fantastic and quick read, it is still a time-consuming process, especially as I've been trying to finish seminary and now have a baby on the way. Great fiction. Highly recommend.

The Sabbath, Abraham Joshua Heschel

This book was assigned in a class on the Sabbath, but was a book I had been wanting to read for quite some time. Heschel is a Jewish rabbi, and his book is THE book on the Sabbath. Everything I had heard and seen said that if you want to read one book on the Sabbath, this is the one to read. And their counsel did not disappoint. This is far from a self-help manual on how to practice Sabbath, but provides a lovely framework for this important biblical and theological concept. A must-read for pastors and anyone serious about living into the rhythm and rest of God.

Shaped by Stories, Marshall Gregory

This was also an assigned book, for my Narrative Hermeneutics class, but was also incredibly powerful. I am not always excited about reading books for class, and sometimes feel disappointed in the books I am forced to read, but Gregory's book was phenomenal. He begins by working the reader through his 2 primary assumptions: 1) that we all encounter stories all day, everyday, everywhere, and 2) that stories maintain great ethical power to shape and transform us. With those assumptions, his basic thesis is that me must learn to be aware of the ways in which we are being shaped for good or ill by the stories we ingest. He also has much wisdom for those of us whose careers are steeped in stories (i.e. pastors). I highly recommend this book. Perhaps my best recommendation for it would come through admitting that I plan on reading it again in the near future...and that doesn't happen very often.

The Wisdom of Each Other, Eugene Peterson

This was a book that I quickly read to see if it would be helpful for a paper I was writing about discernment and wisdom. While it was not very beneficial for my paper, the book definitely maintained a great deal of wisdom and was a fun read, as is with most of Peterson's work. The book is formatted as one side (Peterson's) of a letter-writing-interchange between two friends. While Peterson says at the onset that these letters and the recipient are not actually real, he makes clear that the nature and content of each letter is derived from actual conversations or letters from congregants or friends throughout his life. This book was good, not great.

Killing Lincoln, Bill O'Reilly & Martin Dugard

The fifth book that I have finished in the past 3 months is a biography on the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, written by Martin Dugard and Fox News anchor Bill O'Reilly. While I am not normally a Fox News guy, my dad loves O'Reilly, had received this book as a Christmas present, and was planning on reading it. So I figured I would read it too. I have always loved history, but rarely taken time to read about the history of our country and world, so it was nice to finally make time for this. The book is arranged as a series of journal entries that begin 13 days prior to Lincoln's assassination and document the end of the Civil War, the assassination plot by John Wilkes Booth, Lincoln's death, and the hunt for, and execution of, Booth. While O'Reilly is mainly a public speaker and I Know nothing about Martin Dugard or his work, their writing was good and definitely kept me engaged throughout the entirety of the narrative.


Now that I am almost finished with seminary, I will finally have time to start reading some books that I have been wanting or needing to read for a while, including books on pregnancy, giving birth, and being a parent. Here is a quick list of some books I am planning or hoping to read over the next few months:

The Birth Partner, Penny Simkin
Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn, Penny Simkin
A Clash of Kings, George R.R. Martin (book 2 in A Song of Ice and Fire)
To Change the World, James Davidson Hunter
The Pastor: A Memoir, Eugene Peterson

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Just Trying to Survive

I haven't blogged much lately...and you shouldn't expect many posts in the near future either. I'm just trying to keep my head above water as graduation from seminary quickly approaches, with the due date of our baby hot on it's heels. My last seminary class ever will be Wednesday, April 11, but I think I have 9 or 10 big assignments left to complete in that 6-week period. This might be a rough month-and-a-half.

Two weeks after graduating I am heading out on a road trip with my best friend to mountain bike, rock climb, and disc golf our way down to Moab, UT and back. A month after that epic adventure will mark the beginning of another, with the birth of my first child. So, needless to say, I'll be a little busy for the next 3 months with reading, writing, travel, and doctor visits. Buckle your seat's about to get crazy!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Coming to the Table Hungry

I ate three meals yesterday...but they weren't breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Mandy and I now attend an evening church service, so our Sundays have become much less stressful and significantly more enjoyable than they were when we were so busy at our previous church. As was the case yesterday, we generally sleep in, eat a late breakfast, and have some free time in the afternoon to rest or play before we head to church in the evening. In the course of spending the afternoon outside yesterday, enjoying the nice weather we have had of late, I somehow managed to totally bypass lunch. By the time the service was starting my stomach was growling with hunger.

There is something mysterious and powerful that happens when you come to the Communion Table literally hungry. I needed that bread. I longed for that cup. I yearned for the nourishment of the body and blood of Jesus. I have come to love the Eucharist over the past few years, but I normally think of this meal in merely metaphorical terms, as solely a form of spiritual sustenance. But coming to the altar last night in a state of physical hunger was a striking reminder of the physicality of Jesus. I was reminded that Jesus cares about our bodies and not just our souls. I was reminded that the Kingdom of God is about holistic health, about striving for wholeness in every aspect of our lives. If the communion meal is meant to be a meal of remembrance, it definitely lived up to its purpose for me last night.

In our world of intense individualism, especially in the church, I need to be constantly reminded that my spiritual nourishment is pointless if others are not being physically nourished. If I tend to my soul while neglecting my neighbor, I have missed the point of this beautiful, sacrificial meal. May these rhythmic, liturgical reminders continue to spur us on toward embodying the fullness of Christ in the world.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Sounds Like Hyperbole...But Is It?

You would hope that this cartoon is expressing a hyperbolic, exaggerated caricature of what followers of Christ have done with the church, but unfortunately, if you look throughout church history and at modern Christianity, this might be more true than we wish. It's unfortunate that Jesus' message of critique against power, wealth, and corruption could become what it once opposed. May we all continue to uphold the radical, powerless, upside-down message that Jesus so beautifully taught and lived for us.

HT:  Naked Pastor

Monday, February 6, 2012

We Don't All Agree...And That's Okay

This cartoon was a great visual reminder that we don't all agree. And in my opinion, that's more than okay. In fact, it's probably for the best. One of the primary factors for me in choosing to pursue ordination with the Disciples of Christ was the fact that, while they maintain a diverse theological perspective, they are still committed to unity around the Eucharist table. May we all have such courage to befriend and unite with others, regardless of theological and doctrinal difference.

HT: Naked Pastor

Friday, February 3, 2012

Another Great Speech...Like Always

Yesterday was the National Prayer Breakfast, an annual event that has been attended by the who's who of religion and politics since 1953. The President is often in attendance, as was the case this year, and is usually one of the speakers at the event. President Obama's speech was, as usual, riveting and inspiring, leaving me mindful of the implications of his message. It was definitely worthy of a bit of my time and attention here on this blog. I have included the speech at the bottom of this post, but have highlighted a handful of great quotes and a few of my random thoughts and comments.

A few great quotes:

"At a time when it’s easy to lose ourselves in the rush and clamor of our own lives, or get caught up in the noise and rancor that too often passes as politics today, these moments of prayer slow us down. They humble us. They remind us that no matter how much responsibility we have, how fancy our titles, how much power we think we hold, we are imperfect vessels. We can all benefit from turning to our Creator, listening to Him. Avoiding phony religiosity, listening to Him. "

"But in my moments of prayer, I’m reminded that faith and values play an enormous role in motivating us to solve some of our most urgent problems, in keeping us going when we suffer setbacks, and opening our minds and our hearts to the needs of others. "

"Our goal should not be to declare our policies as biblical. It is God who is infallible, not us. Michelle reminds me of this often. (Laughter.) So instead, it is our hope that people of goodwill can pursue their values and common ground and the common good as best they know how, with respect for each other. And I have to say that sometimes we talk about respect, but we don’t act with respect towards each other during the course of these debates."

"As a loving husband, or a supportive parent, or a good neighbor, or a helpful colleague -- in each of these roles, we help bring His kingdom to Earth. And as important as government policy may be in shaping our world, we are reminded that it’s the cumulative acts of kindness and courage and charity and love, it’s the respect we show each other and the generosity that we share with each other that in our everyday lives will somehow sustain us during these challenging times."

A few random comments:
  • When they pan the crowd at the Prayer Breakfast, all you see is white dudes. I'm not totally sure what this means, but I think it says something about the lack of diversity in Christianity and politics.
  • Along the same lines, the Prayer Breakfast costs a ton of money to attend and is really only for the rich. There is immense irony in the fact that the majority of people in attendance are folks Jesus normally wouldn't have dined with. I doubt Jesus would have approved of a prayer meeting that you have to pay a handsome sum to attend and in which you had better wear a $1000 suit.
  • Obama did a great job of remaining true to his Christian faith and roots while also validating the wisdom and truth of other faith traditions like Buddhism, Islam, and Judaism. We live in a multi-faith country but he was speaking to a community that has not historically been abundantly gracious to other religions, so he walked this line beautifully throughout his speech. He honored the faith and belief of others without losing the distinctiveness of his own tradition.
  • I was disappointed when Obama described our global peacekeeping (i.e. war) as an effort to 'care for the least of these.' There still exists, throughout the world as a whole, the idea that war, fear, and power can be avenues toward peace. I am constantly surprised that more people don't see the oddity of that line of thinking. Why are we surprised that war and conquest does not solve the world's problems and that we have not yet arrived at world peace? It is statements like this from the leader of our great country which remind me that even though we live in a pretty good 'kingdom of the world,' it will never be comparable to the 'Kingdom of God.'

While some of my comments have been negative and cynical (sorry, that's sort of my nature), above all I loved President Obama's speech. Not as much as Bono's speech a few years ago, but it was was still great. He and his speech writers have always had a way of naming the problems of this world without succumbing to hopelessness, a much-needed quality in our current global situation. I almost always find myself spurned on toward hope, believing that there is a better way forward. May we all find ways to journey this hopeful path together.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Pretty Soon You Can Own Facebook

No, Mark Zuckerberg is not selling off his $28 billion cash-cow. At least not most of it, anyway. Facebook is preparing to sell their stock for the first time, however, so they have chosen to release some statistics to the world. The following article from the BBC offers some greater insight into this social-media giant that has consumed our fascination and free-time over the past decade. Some of these statistics are really interesting. I've bold-ed some of my favorites.


  • Facebook is an advertising company. Of its total revenues of $3.7bn in 2011, 85% came from advertising. And that is down from 98% and 95% in the previous two years.
  • The company makes $1bn in pure profit.
  • Facebook has a total of 845 million monthly users and 483 million daily users.
  • Of its monthly users, half have used Facebook on their mobile. (But there are no ads on its mobile site, so it makes no money from them.)
  • The majority of its money comes from the US, but the majority of the users are outside the country.
  • And the majority of its non-US revenues comes from western Europe, Canada, and Australia.
  • The company generates 2.7 billion "likes" and 250 million uploaded photos everyday.
  • Zynga, the games maker behind FarmVille, single-handedly accounts for 12% of its revenues.
  • The company has 3,200 employees.
  • Lady Gaga may have the most popular page on Facebook - with 47 million "likes".
  • Facebook's ticker on the stock exchange will be "FB".


  • Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder and chief executive, has 28% of the company - 533.8 million shares - which are worth $28bn based on an overall valuation of $100bn. He is 27 years old.
  • But Mr Zuckerberg is the controlling shareholder because of proxy voting rights. All in, he controls 57% of the shares.
  • Mr Zuckerberg's base salary last year was $483,333 and, with bonus, he was paid $1.49m.
  • From 1 January 2013, Mr Zuckerberg's annual salary will go down to $1.
  • Mr Zuckerberg was memorably portrayed in the Oscar-winning movie, The Social Network. The Winklevoss twins, Tyler and Cameron, are not named in the filing after settling their legal battles with Facebook. Neither is Eduardo Saverin, his former friend and classmate.
  • Napster founder and early investor Sean Parker is mentioned - but his shareholding is not declared.
  • Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer, owns 0.1% of the company. She is the best compensated director at Facebook. With her salary and stock awards, she made $30.87m last year.
  • But with her stock options and depending on the share price, she will still become one of the world's richest women. She has 38.1 million shares that have not yet vested that will do so from October.
  • David Choe, a graffiti artist, decorated Facebook's first offices and took stock instead of cash as compensation. The New York Times reports the stake could now be worth about $200m.
  • The singer Bono is also rubbing his hands. Elevation Partners, an investment firm he co-founded, spent $210m buying Facebook shares in 2009 and 2010, which could now be worth $800m.
  • Mr Zuckerberg's friend and co-founder, Dustin Moskovitz, has almost 8%, or 133.8 million shares.


  • The company has listed other social networks as possible threats - including Google's relatively-new Google+ and its older Orkut service, South Korea's Cyworld, Japan's Mixi and vKontakte in Russia.
  • Facebook has no legal presence in China - but there are already established social networks such as Tencent and Renren that locals can use.
  • Besides China, Facebook is currently restricted in Iran, North Korea and Syria.
  • The company also cited the "uncertainty" over evolving legal protections across the world on consumer privacy. It cited a revision to the European Union's privacy laws, specifically.
  • Facebook said that potential advertisers could decide not to advertise with them and instead just use a Facebook page.
  • Fame is fleeting on the internet. "A number of other social networking companies that achieved early popularity have since seen their active user bases or levels of engagement decline, in some cases precipitously," Facebook said. "There is no guarantee that we will not experience a similar erosion of our active user base or engagement levels."

HT:  BBC News

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

An Unfortunately True Cartoon

I wish this weren't true, but I fear that it is for many congregations and denominations. Before people are allowed to 'belong' within a community, they are often expect to 'believe' certain things and 'behave' in certain ways. As a pastor in the near future, I will make a concerted effort to change the flow of these three 'B's. I think people should be welcomed in with open arms, regardless of their past. People should be allowed to 'belong' to our community in genuine relationship, and then perhaps (hopefully) this will result in changed 'behavior' and 'beliefs.' But belonging comes first. Always.

Monday, January 30, 2012

A Fantastic Week

I generally enjoy life and am rarely disappointed by the happenings of a week, but I must say that the past 7 days have been better than most. This week was one of celebration and of getting to do some things that are really life-giving for me. The week began last Sunday with watching the NFL playoffs (always a joy) and the chance to preach for the first time at our new church in Kent. Over the past few years, preaching has become a true passion and something I always eagerly anticipate. I was blessed to be able to preach once a month at our church in Maple Valley, so I am excited to once again be on the preaching rotation at our new church home.

The week's activities continued on Tuesday with the celebration of Mandy's 30th birthday. Since it was a weeknight, we saved the big extravaganza for the weekend and just the two of us went to a movie to celebrate. We saw the new Tom Hanks/Sandra Bullock movie 'Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close,' which was very good. It was nice to have a date-night out to commemorate this special occasion. Mandy's birthday festivities continued on Friday evening when we hosted 10 of our best friends in our little apartment for a night of hanging out, playing games, and eating cake and ice cream. We had a great evening of laughter and fun with a special group of people we have shared life with over the past 4 years. What a blessing!

The other aspect that made for a great week was the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors. The Pacific Northwest is never short of outdoor activities, and the mild climate means that many of these hobbies can be done year-round. Last weekend I was snow-shoeing in the Cascades, while this week was spent mountain biking in Seattle and Bellingham. David and I spent Friday afternoon honing our free-riding skills at the Colonnade Bike Park under the interstate near downtown Seattle. And then the next day, David, Tyler, and I rode great, technical singletrack at Galbraith in Bellingham. So fun! I did take a pretty nasty fall on Friday at the Colonnade, however, which served to remind me that I, myself, am coming up on my 30th birthday and might need to be a little more careful in the coming years to avoid any serious injuries.

All in all, a great week. Here's to many more like it!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A Crazy Snowy Week

The view from our apartment
This has been a crazy week thus far, and the craziness is not quite over. This is all due to the Snowmageddon that has consumed Seattle over the past week. Seattle is an interesting city when it comes to snowy weather because the entire city shuts down. The city is built on hills and, since we do not get winter weather very often, it has no infrastructure for proper and timely snow removal.

So with school and work almost completely shut down for the past few days, Mandy and I have been having a blast being shut into our little apartment. We have been playing lots of games, watching a ton of movies, and eating great meals together. Our lives have slowed down immensely and we've gotten a bit of a winter vacation. I have to work tomorrow for a few hours, but other than that, the city remains in standstill, so I look forward to at least one more day of relaxation. As far as I'm concerned, this snow can just keep on falling.

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Reverse Rapture

It's been a little while since I last posted a funny and prophetic cartoon on here, but I couldn't resist this one. Here is a gem from one of the artists I frequently link to, Naked Pastor. I'm sure there is a bit of a message here for us, but, for the most part, this is just hilarious and needed to be shared. Enjoy!

HT:  Naked Pastor

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Goals for 2012

For most people, the beginning of a new year seems like the perfect time to set some goals for the year to come, and I am no different. This year is sure to bring a multitude of changes in my life, especially in the way of graduating from seminary. After 4 hard years of academic toil, I will finally finish school and officially have my Master of Divinity degree. So to prepare for a year of changes, I am committing to a number of resolutions that I hope will help round me into a more complete and healthy person. Without further ado, here are my goals for 2012 (some are things Mandy and I are going to do together):
  • Read 12 books in addition to my school books (one per month) 
  • Learn Spanish (definitely won't be fluent, but I'd like to speak and understand pretty well)
  • Read through the entire Bible in a year (I'm someone who needs rhythm and regularity, so hopefully following a plan will help me in this effort)
  • Run once per week (I stay active through mountain biking and rock climbing, but neither of these really help me stay in shape--hence, the running)
  • Have people over to our apartment for dinner or fellowship once a week
  • Do a fun activity in Seattle once a month
Hopefully I can stick to most of these goals over the next 366 days (leap year!). What are your goals for the year?