Monthly Archives: January 2013

On the road

The BeginningIt was warm, sunny, and the beginning of a 1,500mi trip through the mid-atlantic and back.  The driving was broken up by regular visits over the six days I was on the road.  I had a great time visiting some of those who support us in the church planting works, as well as making new contacts.  Here are some of the highlights:

-Silence.  The movie theaters try to tell you that it is golden, but you actually realize its value when you have loud young children.  Twenty hours alone in the car may not sound like a respite, but it was.  I enjoyed praying, talking on the phone, listening to lectures (via i-tunes), and taking in the scenery.  I learned about the history of Old Princeton Seminary, listened to speeches as I drove around DC on inauguration day, and caught up with a sizable list of phone calls.

-Technology.  We recently upgraded our old and dying phones for smart ones and it is amazing the difference such a device makes when you travel.  I had my directions, lectures, email, to do list, and calendar come along on this little device.  With so many places offering free wi-fi I was able to keep up with a lot of loose ends while traveling.  I can see how it is a temptation always to bounce between different tasks and loose track of what you are doing when it is all at your fingertips.  But when I stay focused and use my phone purposefully it is an incredible help.  For those of you interested in multi-tasking and its shortfalls, check out this article.

-Hospitality.  Through my trip I was refreshed by the welcome of friends and family.  There were significant conversations about the future, the past, joy, sadness, and God’s presence in the midst of it all.  When you don’t see someone for a few months or even years then have a few hours to open up, you see more of the overarching trajectory of God’s work.  In the moment difficulties can seem pointless and devastating, but with time the thread of God’s love rises.  Through church conflict, loss, sickness, depression, uncertainty, and loneliness the strength of God’s mercy is cast in greater relief.  So much of the hospitality went beyond good meals, accommodations and engaging conversation.  It was a privilege to have such hosts.

-Calling.  As I talked about the past two years and God’s direction through this season of transition, I was reminded of the many ways in which God has lead us.  As I serve in this church planting fellowship and explore the next steps it is important to remember all the ways that God has brought me here.  I can see the succession of choices we made to enter this work but when it is added together God’s clear leading and superintending jumps to the foreground.  We didn’t expect to be here and this is reassuring because I know that I’m not just pulling the strings and making things happen according to my plans.

Gas-Cheap.  Gas in Virginia… add anywhere between twenty and forty cents cheaper than what I paid at other points on the trip.

Advertisements

The hope within the church

Through the Generations

When I’ve asked different Christians to tell the story of God’s work in their lives, there is a certain reticence among those who grew up in a Christian home and took hold of the faith that was passed from their parents.  Unless there was some significant period of rebellion or wandering, they often say that there is little to tell.

Compared to the stories of dramatic reversal, where a life is pulled from the brink of destruction through the grace of Jesus, the more mundane accounts of God’s faithfulness in and through families appear dull.  What sort of story is it to grow up in a Christian home and then end up a Christian?

My first answer is that people need to know that God must rescue “good people,” as well as those who’s lives are falling apart.  Someone who grows up in a family who loves and serves Christ will usually have a life that looks moral and upright.  One of the unique aspects of Christianity is that our good deeds do not endear us to God.  He is not impressed when we act as if his favor could be earned or bought.  So, it is incredibly important for Christians who have grown up in stable families with moral lives, to tell of their desperate dependance upon the grace of God.  The skeptical world needs hear that mercy is a gift, setting good people free from the cycle of pride and insecurity that comes from relating to God on the basis of our religious performance.  As a Christian I need to hear again and again that the grace of God forgives and renews good people who come from good families.

Macrina, elder sister to Basil and Gregory of Nyssa. She profoundly influences all three Cappadocians and therefor plays a significant role in Christian History.

My second answer is continuing to develop but it is connected to three men known as the Great Cappadocians.  In the midst of great opposition they defended and developed Christian Orthodoxy in the fourth century.  The lived amazing lives and as I was covering them in a class at church I was struck by the influence of their families.   Two of the three Capadocians, Basil of Caesarea and Gregory of Nyssa, were brothers who came from a preeminent Christian family.  Their paternal grandparents along with their father and uncle (who would become a bishop) lived in the forests for seven years, hiding during persecution by the Roman government.  One of their maternal grandparents died under this persecution.  Their older sister founded a monastic community and was so known for her wisdom that she was called, “the Teacher.”  Both Basil and Gregory were bishops along with another of their brothers.  The other Cappadocian, Gregory of Nazianzus, also came from a Christian family known for their devoted service to Christ.  For each of these men, their families were instrumental in their nurture and growth as leaders in Christ’s church.  Where would they be were it otherwise?

So, as I study further in the history of God’s work in this world I will pay further attention to the families of the faithful who have gone before us.  I need to remember to tell the stories of God’s work within families and not just the sensational “darkness to light” reversals.  Finally, I need to pray that I would be the sort of father who sets up his children to love and serve Jesus in greater ways that i have.


Intersecting Currents: literature, letters, and preaching

Each of us realizes there are areas in which we need to grow.  In some ways I want to avoid and excuse my weak areas, hoping they’ll just get better or won’t be too visible or debilitating.  On the other hand I don’t want to be stuck where I am, so it is beneficial that part of my work in church planting involves a learning contract.  One aspect of my learning contract focuses on development in my preaching.  So I’m reading, reflecting, and writing.  I just finished Why Johnny Can’t Preach which diagnoses a lack of skilled preaching in American churches – specifically among the denominational and theological groups with which I’d identify.  His basic argument is that most pastors are unpracticed in reading texts and in thoughtful composition due to cultural shifts in reading and communication.  Gordon’s argument is persuasive, especially as I’ve interacted with two other works.  First, I’ve been reading Dracula by Brahm Stoker, which came preloaded on my nook.  This books is wonderfully written and has prompted other trains of thought, on which I’ll write later.  In Dracula the whole story is told through the journal entries of the various characters.  These are thoughtfully and beautifully composed entries (see a few quotes below) stand as a significant contrast to Gordon’s picture of our society where few regularly sit down to write.  I don’t think a contemporary author could believably tell a story this way.  I’ve also been listening to a series of lectures on Christian Manhood illustrated from three figures of the Civil War. The basis of these lectures largely originate in diary entries and correspondence.  As I listened to quotes and excerpts from these varied materials I was struck by the elegance and gravity of their speech.  Here is the description of the death of one of these men:

A few moments before he died he cried out in his delirium, “Order A.P. Hill to prepare for action! Pass the infantry to the front rapidly! Tell Major Hawks”—then stopped, leaving the sentence unfinished. Presently a smile of ineffable sweetness spread itself over his pale face, and he said quietly, and with an expression, as if of relief, “Let us cross over the river, and rest under the shade of the trees.”

Both the description of his death and the parting words carry incredible weight.  I would like to write and speak in such a manner.

From Dracula

Today is a grey day, and the sun as I write is hidden in thick clouds, high over Kettleness.  Everything is grey – except the green grass, which seems like emerald amongst it; grey earthly rock; grey clouds, tinged with the sunburst at the far edge, hang over the grey sea, into which the sand-points stretch like grey fingers.  The sea is tumbling in over the shallows and the sandy flats with a roar, muffled in the sea-mists drifting inland.  The horizon is lost in a grey mist.  All is vastness; the clouds are piled up like giant rocks and there is a “brool” over the sea that sounds like some presage of doom.


Praying for us in January

ChurchOur Overall Status:  Regrouping and Grateful

Moving is always a little disorienting, especially so in the abbreviated timeframe we were working with, but it came together very well.  We are mostly unpacked in our new place  and thankful to be here.  We clearly see God’s kindness in bringing together all the details and in bringing so many people along to help us.  We’re starting to feel settled in our place and are now working to pull together the different pieces like family time, grocery shopping, preschool, chores, our budget, cell phone plans, library cards, working out, and all the other things that make up life in a new place.

Give Thanks to God:
-Our moved happened safely with the various stages and time frames coming together.  We were dependent on many for their help and God brought just the right people we needed.

-Jarrett had the privilege of preaching the past two Sundays at Trinity as well as starting a Christian education class yesterday.  God was at work through these and it was a wonderful way to begin his ministry here.

-The kids are adjusting well to the new place.  Sharing a room has been a little challenging at bedtime, and they are on edge more than usual, but Wesley and Briana are handling a lot of new things.

-We continue to experience the love of Christ through his church.  We are meant to bear one another’s burdens and so many have been doing this with us.

Pray for us:

We want, and need, to grow in faith.  Pray that we would have a deeper understanding of all that is ours in Christ and ardently seek him.

-Ask God to deepen and strengthen our marriage.  The past year or so has been wearing on us and we want to invest extra time and energy in our relationship.

-Ask God to lead us in establishing healthy rhythms for the time we’re in RI and beyond.   We desire a ministry that lasts and know that personal health is essential to serve with endurance.

-Pray that God would connect us to the people who will help us discern where we should begin a church.  In deciding where we’ll land we need prayer and will follow up with some more specific requests.

-Ask God to quickly bring a renter for our house in West Hartford.  We just completed a lot of little projects, touch ups, and cleaning so the place looks great.

-Pray that our children would continue to adjust to life here, especially when it comes to their sleep.

-Ask God to continue blessing our fundraising efforts.  We still need to raise about $14,000 for this year and to establish contacts for funding down the road.  Pray for Jarrett’s trip through the mid-atlantic Jan 20-26 as he seeks to broaden his contacts and connect with supporters.


Our Place

So this is our living room downstairs. It’s great to have a little space just to ourselves. I’m standing right by an outside entry and next to the bathroom when taking this photo.

So here are a few pictures of our living arrangements.  Let me know if you’d like our new address.

Kid's room

For the first time the kids are sharing a room. At 9:15 this evening when Wesley was still awake he told me he was lonely and wanted to know where Briana was. I told him she was sleeping in our bed, precisely because he was awake. We’re adopting creative strategies to get them used to sharing the room.

When I first went to check out the place, Hillary couldn't make it so I drew this to give her a feel for the set up.

When I first went to check out the place, Hillary couldn’t make it so I drew this to give her a feel for the set up.

This is the main floor which we share. There is long “runway” from the foyer through the kitchen (both behind me) through the dining room and into the living room.


New race, new rhythms**

Wasatch 100mi Endurance Run

The big thing on my mind is starting well.  Here’s two verses from the Apostle Paul to the Ephesians, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.”  Ministry is both a race (maybe a marathon or ultramarathon) and a journey.  Regardless of the metaphor your stride, your pace, and your consistency have important repercussions.  The interesting thing is that miscalculations usually reveal themselves further along.  If you’re running a little too fast you don’t feel it in the first mile, but further down the road your endurance suffers.  So, this section from Ephesians powerfully resonates with my desires to begin, and continue well.  Here are some of the different rhythms I am grappling with…
-When should I work?  In at the office by 7:30 regularly or flex certain days so I have time in the mornings with kids, or keep evenings open so I’m there for bedtime, or work at night after the kids are down?
-How much time should I try to spend with people?  It is really my initiative.
-What sort of reading and study should I prioritize and where does it fit in my schedule?
-What rhythms do I want to establish for prayer?  There are daily emphases, praying weekly with others, a monthly prayer retreat?
-When should I work out?
Maybe I’m over thinking matters, but having rhythms in place helps me use my time for the best ends.  In ministry there are a million good things you can do, but you can do “good things” all day and never accomplish the specific things God is calling you to do.

 Beyond my questions that primarily center around work.  Hillary is trying to figure it out with the kids.  We’ve got preschool twice a week and a bible study that Hillary hopes to attend.  She’s looking for things to do outside the house, libraries with a good children’s section, a place to exercise, and time to work on a few projects.

**It is really interesting to look back on this as we have now moved to Worcester and are going through the process of establishing rhythms again.


Landed

View of Providence from my OfficeWell, it has been a bit since I’ve posted.  We had a restful Christmas with my family in Philadelphia then returned to CT for a whirlwind of packing.  We arrived in Rhode Island Monday and I’ve begun my first week of work for the church planting fellowship.  If you missed the explanation behind the accelerated move, check out our December Newsletter.

 The move:  It was a move (ie. tiring and stressful at points), but went very well otherwise.  Thanks to all of you who prayed for us, helped pack, clean, care for our children, load and unload.  The first stage, began Sunday when a friend helped me get both of our cars to Providence, so I could preach at Trinity, unload my books at the office, and leave one car in RI.  It snowed almost a foot the day before, so it was an exciting drive but we made it there and back.  On Monday we started loading the truck around 7:30 and with the help of great friends had everything in there by 11:30.  Then in RI new friends from Trinity helped us unload and everything generally found a place in the apartment, but the storage unit couldn’t hold the excess.  Our travel was without incident and I got the rental truck back on time.  We celebrated New Years by going to IHOP, since we didn’t have any breakfast food at the new place.

Life in RI:  There is disorientation and excitement as we all adjust to the newness of it all.  Some of the highlights include:
-The two dogs with whom we share the main floor of our house/apartment.  The kids love “Keeper” and “JJ” and always want to go upstairs to see them.  We’re living in the basement apartment of a church member and share the first floor.  So his dogs, in the eyes of our children, are now their dogs.

-After eighteen months with most of my books boxed up in our attic, I have an office again.  It was a lot of fun to unpack and begin organizing myself.  The one funny thing about my office is that it doubles as the classroom for 2nd and 3rd graders on Sunday mornings (notice the sign on the door).  This will help me keep the clutter under control.

-We have pictures out again.  When we put our house on the market in the spring of 2011 we took all our family photos down and now that we’re in our own place it is great to have them up.  The kids have enjoyed pointing out family members and it’s been especially helpful for Hillary in feeling more settled.

-3/4 unpacked.  How did this happen so quickly?  Only because we didn’t bring much with us.  It is nice to be able to share a lot of Joe’s (the guy from whom we rent) kitchen and household goods, so we didn’t need to bring much there.

-I begin the work of church planting.  I’m not sure exactly what my work will look like but feel the privilege of being in a position where I put together the daily and weekly rhythms.  There is both excitement and a sense of responsibility as I figure out what patterns to establish that will honor God and lead to a more effective ministry.


%d bloggers like this: