Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas from the Riedls

A few funny pics from Christmas Day at the Riedl household...

We made a snowman since it was a White Christmas in Portland:



The best Christmas cookie I made this year:


Don't eat the yellow snow! Ho ho ho!!! Jen didn't like this cookie so much. I guess I'll be the one eating it! Yum!

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Dance of Headship

The husband is the head of the wife. --Ephesians 5:23a

Headship in a marriage covenant is often misunderstood. Many people see the verse above and are immediately turned off. It is unfortunate because these words are very important when read in context. Here is the full verse, along with a similar one:

For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. --Ephesians 5:23

But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. --1 Corinthians 11:3

Clearly, the husband and the wife are both under some type of leadership. The wife is being led by her husband, her husband is being led by Jesus, and Jesus is being led by God the Father. Many women are upset that Scripture tells them to be led by their husbands for one of two reasons: 1) They want to lead instead of being led, or 2) They want to make every decision together, 50/50, completely equally.

We came across this issue in my Family and Gender Seminar course in college. I proposed an analogy that helped some people understand the roles that God calls husbands and wives to: dancing.

The man is the leader on the dance floor and the woman follows the man step for step. The man is responsible for any mistakes that occur in the dance routine (just ask any professional male dancer and he'll apologize even if the woman makes a mistake when it is clearly her fault) but he takes responsibility for the mistake because he is the one that should be leading her in the correct way. This does not mean that she does not have her own responsibility to do her part in the dance, it is just a different responsibility. It's like the responsibility that completes the "leader/follower" diadic interaction. They are both equal because they are just two people dancing, but in order for it to work, one needs to lead and one needs to follow. There can't be two leaders or two followers. That's what makes it an efficient interaction by avoiding conflict and confusion.

The problems occur when they do not work together. If the woman does not want to follow the leader, then the dance doesn't work and it looks ugly. The same thing happens if the man leads the woman in a way that she doesn't want to follow. Communication and compromise between the two dancers is the key to dancing successfully.

They both need each other and it is a balanced relationship because it takes each one and their contributions in order for the dance to become a beautiful work of art. The same thing occurs in marriage: If one does not lead and one does not follow, then confusion and conflict occurs when it doesn't have to.

There will always be inequality no matter how hard we try to make things equal. One person will always be more controlling or more of a "leader" in a relationship, so why not use that to an advantage? We can see that this "inequality" in dancing (one is a leader and one is a follower) can be used successfully in order to make something beautiful. However, if this inequality is abused (and in marriage it too often is) it can cause obvious problems in the interaction, resulting in dancing that looks horrible (as does the marriage).

God created us differently in order for us to use our unique attributes in different ways. In God, there is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and each of them are equal. Yet, they each have unique attributes and also are all One at the same time. Marriage is very similar: Christ, the husband, and the wife all must be united together in God's perfect leadership structure. In order for it to succeed, however, husbands and wives must lovingly desire to fill our God-given roles with humility, sacrifice, and patience. After all, dancing is hard work! So is marriage.

Photo from etonline.com

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

I Have Poland Syndrome

Most of my friends already know of my birth defect. Even some of the guys I shared my college dorm with called me Nemo because of my "lucky fin." I have had lots of laughs around the topic of my dead sexy deformed body, but I realized that I have never written about it on my blog. Well, here you go: I hope you are encouraged and learn something new.

There is very little known about Poland Syndrome. According to the National Human Genome Research Institute, it is a rare birth defect named after Alfred Poland. It is estimated to affect between 1-in-10,000 and 1-in-100,000 births. The cause is unknown, but "most evidence supports the idea that something happens during the 6th week of fetal development," possibly an interruption of the embryonic blood supply, stinting growth in a certain area.

This congenital deformity is characterized by many features, but here I will list the ones that specifically apply to me:
  • Absent pectoral muscle
  • Brachydactyly (short fingers)
  • Humerus, radius, ulna bones abnormal
  • Upper limb asymmetry
Based on pictures I have seen of other people online and looking at the few other frequent features, it seems to me that I have a relatively mild case. I am missing my right pectoral muscle, my right arm bones don't rotate properly, my right arm is noticeably smaller, and my right hand is abnormally small with some crooked, short fingers. However, I can still do most normal physical activities that others can do.

I am very physically athletic and use my arm as if it is normal. I play sports, do push-ups, pull-ups, handstands, and even back handsprings. I have found that other muscles compensate for my missing pectoral, allowing me to have enough strength to perform basic activities. However, there is a significant lack of strength in my right arm muscles. I find myself using my left arm a lot more when maxing out on push-ups or pull-ups.

One of the most fascinating things is that I am predominately right-handed. However, because of the crooked fingers and the slower responsiveness of my right hand, I switched over and learned to write with my left hand. I still kick with my right foot and often still carry bags with my right arm because it feels natural to me. But because my left arm is stronger, I usually carry heavy items on that side.

Very few people notice it when my shirt is on. I used to be nervous to take off my shirt in public. For example, when playing a fun game of ultimate frisbee, I would be bothered if someone declared, "Okay let's make two teams--shirts versus skins," and hope that I got on the shirts team. But that was years ago. Now I am comfortable taking off my shirt because adults don't tease the way that kids do. Most people are fascinated with it.

I have come to appreciate my deformity. It's funny saying that because it doesn't really seem like a deformity to me. I am who I am. Everyone is different. Some people have big ears, some people are bald, some people are big, some are small, and some people are missing their pectoral muscle. Not a big deal to me.

What makes me sad is when people are ashamed of their Poland Syndrome. There is one guy I found online that hates his deformity so much that he had tattoos put over 98% of his body to cover it. In one article I read, he said that he feels more valuable and special because of the tattoos. He also said he got the tattoos in order to hate his body less. Such a sad story.

I believe that God made me this way for a reason. I am humbled every day when I look into the mirror and am reminded of what's really important: our life mission. One day our bodies will waste away and return to the dust of the fields. How do we want to be remembered? How will God remember our lives on the earth? These little physical issues in my life are nothing. They are worthless in the grand scheme of things. So, why take my body so seriously? Who cares what other people think of my deformed body? Who cares if I can't look like those ripped underwear models? God cares about my heart. What I want to do with my life is use it to worship and honor the Lord of all Creation ... no matter if it's perfect or if it's deformed.

Absent pectoral muscle is the
most common deformity in PS

Related Posts:
My Tattoo

Friday, November 21, 2008

Are Kids a Big Deal?

Question: What's wrong with this Toys R Us commercial?


youtube link

Answer: "Where Kids Are a Big Deal"

Based on this tag line for the popular children's toy store, it says that at Toys R Us, kids are important. The problem with this is it infers kids are not important outside of the store.

Obviously, this advertisement is targeting kids, because it would likely be played in between cartoon episodes or something. This tag line is used to persuade kids: It tells them that when they visit the store, it is then that they are important. Because when they are just at home with their parents, they aren't important.

When I heard this commercial on tv, my ears perked up and I was immediately saddened. It's sad because it's so true. Many kids are not valued by their parents. I see it every day at work. Jen sees it every day with her kids as well. Parents are much more focused on other things. To be a parent should be such a joy, yet a serious responsibility. Parents should be enveloped in their kids' lives by teaching, interacting, disciplining, and loving them so they will grow up to be responsible and self-sufficient. They are a big deal.

Unfortunately, it took a subtle advertisement to remind me how selfish parents can be sometimes. It encourages me to be much more loving and caring when I interact with them every day.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Kid Quote: Counting

The other day I was reading a book to one of our 1st graders for YMCA child care.  The book is called How Much is a Million? and it's all about putting things in perspective for kids about how large the number "one million" actually is.

In the book, it describes the fact that if a person tried counting from one to one million, without eating or sleeping, it would take about 23 days.  Personally, I was pretty shocked by that. But after thinking about it, it does make sense because all of the bigger numbers, such as "seven hundred eleven thousand, five hundred sixty-three," would take a long time to say.

Wanting to involve the 6-year old in the story, I asked him, "Do you think you could count from one to one million?"

He paused for a second to think. "Yes," he confidently stated. "One time I counted all the way up to 150!"

"Oh, wow!  Nice job," I said, congratulating him.

"I had to stop and start along the way, though. I had to catch my breath," he admitted.

It's pretty amazing how limited our human minds are when we are kids.  It amazes me thinking about how now, as adults, we think we know so much but in comparison to what God knows we are still just as limited as this 6-year old.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

End of Another Era

Well I certainly didn't expect this to happen. I sold my car! But not until after it smoked, overheated, and died on I-205. We had it towed to the auto shop. The repairs were beyond our price range, so we were planning on donating it. Thankfully, one of the mechanics offered to buy it.

So now we just have Jen's car. Which is fine. We can live without one more luxury. However, it will be sad to not have my Nissan 240SX anymore. I drove that car for over 4 years with lots of good memories. Most notably, on my second date with Jen, I drove her to go ice skating. It was then that I told her about my gimp arm while showing off my shifting skills. She was impressed... but only by my Nemo arm.

Anyway, this was only the second car I've owned. The first, my sweet mustard-yellow Datsun pickup truck with my awesome flower garden in the back and my witty cheesy bumper sticker. My truck was obviously too cool for school, because it didn't last long. That rad vehicle was my high school transport, while my 240SX got me through college.

I could've been upset and discouraged by this unfortunate event. I would've loved to keep it, but we just didn't have the money to repair it. Now Jen and I will have to trade off the car with public transit. But why be discouraged? We'll be saving a bit of money on gas and insurance, and we'll get a bit more exercise by walking more often. And most importantly, living life without one more luxury reveals to us the most important things in life... I much rather would've had my car smoke, overheat, and die instead of that happening to Jen! My wife is so much more important to me than any other possession.

Sometimes it takes losing things that we take for granted to realize that. Change in life is good. It keeps us on our toes. Alert. So we don't get into a comfort groove. And this is coming from me! I am all about routine, repetition, and organization in my daily life. This whole car ordeal was a big deal to me, and yet at the same time I know, "shit happens." I like that bumper sticker because it's so blatantly true. But the question is, how are you going to react when the shit happens? Or what about when it hits the fan? What are you going to do? How are you going to represent yourself? How are you going to represent what you stand for?

Are you going to trust that God is sovereign, or not?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Consuming Jesus by Paul Louis Metzger

Consuming Jesus: Beyond Race and Class Divisions in a Consumer Church
by Paul Louis Metzger


I enjoyed this book. It stretched me to think about things I didn't really want to think about. Namely, thinking about serving the needy by working together with other churches.

The only problem I had with the book is that the first half of it was very theological. While not a problem if I was better trained in that area of study, it seemed difficult for me (and I think also difficult for the average person) to grasp some of the advanced terminology and ideas. As a result, I felt somewhat confused in the first chapters. For example, he uses terms like "fundamentalist-evangelical heritage," "modernist theology," "denominational seminaries," and "intensifying antagonism" all in the same sentence (p.18). While those terms may be relatively easy to understand by themselves, it slows me down significantly when jumbled together. It seems to me a bit difficult for a casual reader.

That being my only criticism, I thought there were many positives. Since there are so many topics in this book that I resonated with, I will simply list them by bolding the main points and provide an excerpt.

What struck me when reading this book was his huge desire to join the fragmented Church that exists in the world today. Churches need to unify, cooperate, and fulfill God's purpose in a wicked world.
Instead of pointing the finger at the secularists and materialists, we evangelicals need to point it more at ourselves. Jesus did not die to save us from liberals. He died to save us from ourselves. The prophets and the saints of old--I'm not speaking here of America's founding fathers--identified themselves with their sinful nation and asked God's forgiveness for their own wrongdoing as well as for that of the masses (see Ezra 9, Neh. 9; Dan. 9; see also 1 Pet. 4:17). Not only do we need to give ourselves on behalf of the poor, but we also need to be poor in spirit and seek God's forgiveness. Such humility will go a long way as we seek to address the race and class problems plaguing America.

As an evangelical, I struggle with materialism: I am too often fixated on wanting my kids to be well trained, my wife to love life, and my own finances to be in order. I am not often fixated on seeing the church family reordered in view of a nobler vision of being consumed by Jesus and consuming race and class divisions. The evangelical church, including me, must awaken to a missional existence and see itself as a peculiar people with a particular politics, an institution and a people whose mission includes shaping one another's lives through conversion and participation in the crucified body of the risen Jesus, being consumed by him, and consuming race and class divisions. (p.34)

The church should be the setting where Jesus' Good News can work in our lives.
Preachers must deal with problems and bad news from their pulpits--and in their ministries to their communities from the get-go. The Good News does not hide from our brokenness of hide our brokenness from us: the gospel deals with broken people and fallen conditions, and it addresses those human conditions by proclaiming Christ's transforming power. That is what makes it the Good News. Perhaps Baby Boomers do not wish to hear more bad news; but those reaching out to Generation X find that the young want to deal with their pain and brokenness--even on Sunday morning! The preaching and practice of a Martin Luther King, Jr., and a John Perkins do not skirt brokenness (nor do they revel in it, for that matter). Rather, their preaching and practice address our brokenness and pain in order to shape the beloved community in view of our everlasting hope: "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream!" (p.52)

It is important for the church to be diverse and unified.
While we evangelicals should guard our strengths, we should critically engage our weaknesses. We should address structural evil as we recognize that individualism structures us negatively and often fosters the negative outcomes of homogeneous small groups. While I see the need for some homogeneous groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, given the shared need for confidentiality and sensitivity to members' individual addictions, we need to be intentional about creating diversity groups that include members from different ethnic and economic subcultures in order to nurture sensitivity and build understanding and reconciliation among these groups. Lastly, we should address our own consumerist impulses. Rather than quickly leaving our consumer-oriented, homogeneous churches--thus becoming connoisseur Christians ourselves--we should do everything we can, working patiently and lovingly to become transforming agents, helping our own churches transform themselves from the inside out.

One last reason evangelicals have a hard time seeing these things and taking them to heart is the long-standing suspicion in many evangelical quarters of social involvement (as I have noted in the last chapter). But the gospel is social, and we must exhort the church to live out now what will one day be true in all creation, which is how Paul exhorted the Corinthians: he told them to restructure their socioeconomic arrangements in view of God's restructuring of human society through Christ's reconciling work, to which the Lord's Supper bears witness. The gospel promise offers energizing hope that mobilizes the church to participate in God's eschatological future, which has already dawned in Christ's mighty acts on our behalf in history. We need to open our eyes to the triune God's multifaceted kingdom work in our midst, which will expand the homogeneous small group's vision so that it becomes the fellowship of the King. (p.66)

Stereotypical materialistic churches are what we will resort to if we aren't gospel-focused.
Some homogeneous units that are meeting behind closed doors in suburban or exurban megachurches act out the concept of Sartre's play No Exit, which depicts hell as three self-consumed individuals who are locked up in a room with no escape and whose eyelids cannot close. These Christians gather there, with eyes wide open, some of them hanging out around the coffee bar to check out the possibilities for future dates, perhaps in hopes of building cozy Christian homes. Some others plan evangelistic ski trips to Vail, with the only aim of showing their non-Christian homogeneous friends that Christians can have fun, too. The predominance of this mindset in many evangelical circles today makes it very difficult to see how diabolical this orientation is, and it blinds us to the fact that by turning inward we close ourselves off to making an exit and entering into true freedom.

Those who look inward today are also often looking upward. While books that warn people not to get left behind when Christ returns may prompt some to put their homes in order and to give to the Master's cause, they may also be used by some as a stimulus to escape this world, to leave everything behind in order to build bigger homes and churches in the suburbs (or now, in the gentrified inner cities), to await that day when they are raptured to that great country club/ski resort/bistro in the sky. Can we even talk about personal holiness without also talking about holistic lifestyles? (p.98)

There is a big problem with outsiders not feeling welcome.
This missional orientation will include greater attention to what we wear and how we relate to the community around our church if we wish to have a sacramental and salt-and-light presence in the community. While it is certainly true of many "white" churches, I know of an African-American church in the inner city that is made up of middle-class commuter members who have virtually no connection with the community around their church. Members moved their families out of the community some time before for greener pastures as they became more affluent; now they come back only for Sunday morning worship services, and they are always very well dressed. The inner-city blacks and whites who have remained in the neighborhood cannot relate to them. An Anglo friend of mine who moved into that neighborhood and attended the church for some time told me that he had invited a black woman from the neighborhood several times to visit the church. Finally, she agreed to go to his church with him. But when he went to pick her up that Sunday morning, he had to wait for some time as she tried to make herself presentable. She finally appeared in a dress, but it didn't fit her. He could tell that she felt very awkward and uncomfortable, apprehensive that she would not fit in with their "dress code" and could not meet their social expectations. She never attended the church again. The problems we face are not simply white and black, but green as well (the separations of cash and class). (p.126)

Metzger explains ways that the church community can reconcile itself in a broken world:

Relocation:
"Individual church ministries need to get beyond their church walls." "Each assembly should be concerned for the total church in a given region, not just for those physically present."
Redistribution of Need:
"A humble spirit of giving and receiving will replace the haughty spirit of charity and snobbery toward the poor," which is something God is teaching me right now.
Redistribution of Responsibility and Blame:
"The church must re-envision its understanding of communal identity in view of its communal and co-missional God as involving solidarity with society at large." "Christians must take responsibility ... we are responsible."
Redistribution of Resources, Talents, and Goods:
"Churches in affluent communities must work together with churches in downtrodden communities to foster and maintain an 'incarnate' presence of healing and hope." "We all say that we hate poverty, and many of us try to relieve the suffering of the poor. But do we hate the conditions that make people poor?"
Redistribution of Ownership:
"Churches can work together in particular areas of need; that is, affluent and poor churches can together take ownership of depressed communities." "The key to explosive and long-term community-development vitality is to ensure that the people in a depressed community fully believe that they are responsible for repairing the foundations and walls of their community."
Redistribution of Glory:
"[1 Corinthians 3:5-7] must come to dominate the church's imagination and its discussions of church growth. It is not about you or me; nor is it about this or that church. In fact, it is not even, in the end, about the church of the city. It is about the Lord. Christ's all-consuming glory captured Paul's imagination, and it led Paul to seek cooperation between Christians in a given church and among churches. We can share with one another because God shares his glory with Christ, and Christ, as the incarnate agent of the communal and co-missional God in the world, shares it with us. As John 17:22 makes clear, 'I have given them the glory you gave me, that they may be one as we are one." (p.139-161).

Thankfully, he consistently states that the real solution for this issue is found in the Holy Spirit. Inward change in the hearts of Christians in the church is how a true community can thrive and mature.
It is God alone who can sustain us, coming to us through the indwelling and empowering Word and the Holy Spirit, the God who enlivens our practices, inspires our imaginations, and gives us hope to pursue beloved community in our own day. This community sees no divisions between race and class, between black and white and Asian-American and Native American, between rich and poor, between healthy and diseased, between young and old. Meeting us in our time of need as we stand firm in the struggle against the fallen powers of base consumerism in the church and beyond, this God will be with us always, even to the end of the age, and beyond it to the eternal dawning of the new age. (p.172)

I am very encouraged by Paul Louis Metzger's passion for seeing God's power in our hearts change things in the church. He is right on when he tells us that the best, most diverse community stems from Christ's redeeming change in our lives. There is a long journey ahead of us that we need to become more aware of in our pursuit toward unity in the church.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Who are the Homeless?

Last night was the second time I helped out at Operation Nightwatch, which is "an ecumenical night ministry of friendship and community for the street population of downtown Portland." In other words, it's a small church service with a meal afterward for homeless and/or low-income people who need some social interaction.

Lately my heart for the homeless has really been changing.

When I was in college in Seattle, I helped out with a few service projects for the homeless. I was happy to help at the time, but I didn't think that it was "my thing" and I assumed that my spiritual gifts were better suited elsewhere in God's plan. I figured there were other Christians out there who were more capable than myself to talk with and help those "less fortunate."

This is relatively understandable being sheltered as a kid in the suburbs, growing up thinking that most homeless were on the streets because they were moochers. I didn't know how to talk to them. I didn't know what life was like being homeless. I couldn't identify with them.

But my heart and my mind is changing.

When I realized I started thinking differently about the homeless, it occurred to me when I did something I did so many times before: drive up to a traffic light and saw him standing with his sign. Usually I would be driving up to the intersection and hope for one of two things: 1) The light would stay green so that I could pass by without stopping, or 2) A car would be in front of me if the light was red, so that I didn't have to stop my car right next to the man. And if I did stop right next to the guy with the sign, I could always hide my eyes behind the side edge of the windshield and pretend he wasn't there. How selfish is that? How unlike Jesus is that?

I began to realize that that man on the corner with the sign is an actual human being. Like me. And that man has a personal story. Like me. And Jesus died on the cross for this man's sins. Just like He did for me.

Jen and I have been learning how to be very self-controlled with our finances since we've moved to Portland. Our incomes have taken cuts since we lived in Seattle, and we've been hovering close to having nothing in our checking account. And it has been now that I finally understand what it takes to be homeless. For us, it'd just be not having enough money. If something happened to us and we were required to pay a large amount of money, we wouldn't be able to pay our bills. Imagine if we didn't have any family or friends to help us. If we were socially isolated, where would we go? Probably on the streets.

God is making it clear to me how fragile and temporary our luxuries are in our lives. One day we are playing with our Wii in our warm home and the next day we could be selling all our possessions just to pay bills and stay warm.

It was cold last night. I have a very nice home with a heater and a cozy bed. There are people on the streets right now whose feet were cold last night. They don't know when their next meal will be because they don't have a refrigerator. They don't have a kitchen.

What I found amazing was that many of these people attending this church service at Operation Nightwatch were thankful to God for what they had. And of what little money they had, many still gave offerings to God. In Ephesians 1:3 it says that God provides for us our spiritual needs through Christ. Is there anything else more important? No. And that's why these homeless people praise God. It makes me sad because this homeless community understands God's blessings so much more than wealthy communities. I guess that was Jesus' point when talking to the rich young man in Matthew 19.

There were two men that I talked to at Operation Nightwatch.

The first man's name was Michael and he had a broken leg. He was hit by a car when he was drunk one night. He went to the hospital and got his leg fixed, but couldn't afford any pain killers. So he has to just deal with the pain. He currently lives with a friend and knows that he needs to kick his alcohol addiction. He knows that his life sucks because of it. He's a smart guy. We talked about where he grew up, his opinions about stuff, etc.

The second man's name was Leonard. He was a 40-something ex-Army staff sergeant with PTSD. He was telling me what it's like living on the street daily, where he gets food, and how much he wanted to go home to Montana. We talked about my job, kids, and how he should've listened to his mother better when he was younger

These are just two guys that have made mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. I raise my voice at my wife, I belittle something my sister is excited about, or I forget to do something at work. But the mistakes that these guys made have cost them much more than mine have. Different consequences, but still mistakes nonetheless. I am no better than these guys.

We all make mistakes because we are all sinners. And Jesus bent down to help those homeless people who were sick. The same kinds of people scraping by on the streets of Portland. We can't turn our heads to them. We can't just hope that we'll get a green light to pass them by. God calls us to be servants to one another. Our culture is so distorted that even Christians have a hard time knowing how a Christian should act. But by just reading the Bible we can understand so much better.

We need to be the change that we want in this country, in this world. The church is where the change starts. Christians are set apart to be God's people to change the world. And it can start with just seeing homeless people as actual people who need some help. How can I sit and waste my life with meaninglessness? God has a better plan us. It's all right here.

Monday, October 20, 2008

1 Year Anniversary: My Ring

I love my ring. Jen gave it to me one year ago today.

The gold band [see photo] was Jen's promise ring that she had worn since she was 16 years old. We asked the jewelers to remove the amethyst in her promise ring, make it into just a simple band, then solder it to the ring I picked out. This little item is super special to me. However, something I realized a few weeks after our wedding is that it's even more special to her.

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About 11 months ago, as I was getting used to wearing a ring, I often played with it. I fiddled with it, rotated it, and even sometimes took it off my finger to toss it in the air like a coin. Bad idea.

We got into a huge argument about how she expected me to treat my ring. She was afraid I would drop it and lose a valuable item, while I was upset that she would think me incompetent enough to drop it. You know... silly fights on the outside but deep, understandable feelings on the inside.

Of course I dragged on the argument by belittling her feelings, saying, "It's just a piece of metal. It's not the end of the world if it gets lost, you know." Another bad idea. We responded to each other back and forth with heated opinions, only trying to prove the other person wrong.

After too much time was wasted on being selfish, we finally saw the ridiculous hole we dug ourselves into and decided to forgive each other. We confessed our sin to each other, apologized, and renewed our commitment to be humble and kind.
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Jen loves it when her ring looks flawless and sparkles in certain lighting. But my ring is different. I love having the scratches and dents on the surface. Up close, it looks battered and used. To me the scratches represent the tough fights and arguments that we have been through in our marriage so far--much like the one that happened to be about this particular item.

Marriage is not flawless. Two imperfect people trying to work together in life is bound to be difficult. I am thankful that on my wedding day, one year ago, my wife and I didn't expect our lives to be perfect in marriage. What we did expect was to be humble, serving, and forgiving to each other (with the power of the Holy Spirit) no matter when times were good or bad.

Now, looking at my ring with all the scratches on it, I am thankful that God is the One who gives me the power to treat my wife lovely. Our marriage has a purpose that is not for ourselves. It is for the Lord God that made the heavens and the earth. And there's no other woman that I'd rather have with me than my cutie Jenny Penny.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Kid Quote: Strength

The cutest kindergartner at our school is a 5-year old tiny little boy. He has big eyes and reminds me of the big-headed-little-bodied title character from Bobby's World.

After school let out and he came to the cafeteria where we have the YMCA after-school program, he came straight to me and told me about how exhausted he was after carrying heavy stuff for his teacher. I praised him for being a good helper and suggested he rest his muscles.

Later, after snack, he came up to me again.

"I am strong because I fight with my daddy every night!" he stated.

If you can imagine the smallest, cutest, gentlest little boy that always follows directions, never fights with other kids, and always has a big smile on his face, then you can understand why this quote is so meaningful.

Now imagine if this boy didn't wrestle with his dad. Imagine if this boy didn't have fun spending time with the man he looks up to the most. He wouldn't think that he is strong. He wouldn't get the encouragement from his dad that he desperately needs to grow up to be a strong, responsible man.

Likewise, we must wrestle with God in prayer and through His Word to us to get the encouragement we need to be strong.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Parent Quote: Nurture vs. Neuter

One day the father of one of our kindergartners joined me in watching his son wrestle for fun with another 6 year old outside on the grass. It was fun to watch because they were having a good time wrestling as friends, much like dogs having fun play-fighting.

After a few minutes, the boy's father watched him accidentally twist his ankle, resulting in the little guy crying in pain. His father and I went over and made sure he was okay as the other boy was clearly sorry by apologizing to him over and over. He was okay, but still obviously in pain.

I mentioned to the father, who was comforting his son by rubbing his back, "Well, maybe no wrestling next time."

He reassured me, "No, it's fine." After a brief pause, he added, "We've got to nurture them, not neuter them. Right?"

"Very true," I smiled.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

View of Russia From Alaska

I thought this was an interesting article on the island of Little Diomede in Alaska, which is only two miles away from the island of Big Diomede in Russia. Tonight there will be a program of a visit to this little island of about 150 residents.

UPDATE: Here a link to the AC360 video story.

AC360 Blog Article

Photos of the island




View Larger Map

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Obama/Biden vs. McCain/Palin on the Issues

There are few things in this world that I hate more than uneducated voters. So many people in this world vote for an individual candidate for ridiculous reasons.

Just because someone is a Christian who loves Jesus, that doesn't mean they'll make a good president. Likewise, just because I am a Christian who loves Jesus, that doesn't mean that I would make a good quantum physics professor. In order to be good at your job, you need to be well-qualified and deserved of the position.

According to the Exit Polls in New Hampshire in January, the Republican's most common response for a top reason for voting for a particular candidate was, "personality." What the...!?

We must be more educated by looking deeper into the candidates' lives as well as their beliefs and stances on the issues.

I try hard to be an independent voter and not be swayed by the media or public opinion. That's why I am going directly to the sources of the candidates when looking up information: their own websites.  


My hope is that YOU will be better educated when it comes to the ISSUES we are voting on come this November. Add that to a good dose of conversation with friends and family.  I had great conversations last weekend with three generations of family members.  It was very educational.

P.S.- Be loving when talking about politics. Not critical. It's much more fruitful.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Kid Quote: DNA

It is tons of fun to build Legos with my elementary school students. Anything that I create is light years ahead of them developmentally, so they think I'm the coolest Lego builder ever. One day I happened to build a tall tower. One of our 4th grade boys slipped me a comment as he walked by.

"Oh, that looks just like DNA! Umm, what does that stand for again?"

Feeling excited to actually use my biology degree in some form after graduating, I said matter-of-factly, "Deoxyribonucleic acid!"

He responded, "No, that's not it."

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

It's Good to be Poor

As I watched my VCR recording (a.k.a., "poor man's TiVo") of last night's World Series of Poker episode, I realized something today. If I won something like $100,000 in the Main Event tournament, it would probably give me more trouble than you'd think.

Sure, it would certainly be nice to pay off our student loans, invest into something, and put some money down on a house. But, of course, we would leave a tiny little bit left for splurging. Here comes the problem... 

The first fun thing we would probably buy is Mario Kart Wii. The reason is because it is something very high on the list of things we'd love to have but don't have the funds for. It'd be super fun to play with Jen since it's her favorite video game, however, I would likely begin playing it every waking minute. I would likely stop reading the Bible regularly, stop spending time with my sweetie in the kitchen after work, and stop snuggling with her on the couch after dessert. 

There are many positives to see when God only provides enough money for absolute necessities. We have both learned self control and we have both learned what's really important in life. I certainly don't want to ruin that by winning $100,000. Do I?

Monday, September 1, 2008

Summer is Over

Well, summer is finally over. Along with my full-time summer job.

My lack of blogging is a result of me finding my priorities. My priorities have been working an exhausting (yet rewarding) job all day, playing a little poker online before my wife gets home, and then spend time with her the rest of the night. That sums up my summer.

And I am thrilled because it's so wonderful not being a slacker, but instead doing what I'm supposed to do as a husband. It feels so good to be glorifying God daily and watching my wife grow in maturity. Even when it seems way too hard sometimes, it actually feels like this life is worth living.

Now... next priority: finding a second part-time job.

The Road to Divorce

There have been many times in our marriage so far that could have ended up on the road to divorce. It happens every day.

I am a firm believer that what it takes to make a marriage work is making a new commitment every day to love and forgive one's spouse. It's very difficult, however, especially if the two people have a hard time compromising in arguments. The key is sacrificial love.

Sacrificial love is giving up something you want in order to meet your spouse's needs. Who likes to give up something you want? Not me. I am selfish. I want respect, I want a back rub, I want my wife to kill the spider when I'm in the middle of my TV show. I want, want, want.

Thankfully God gives me the power through the Holy Spirit to suppress my wants and focus on her needs. She needs a gentle voice. She needs a caring man. She needs an example of Christ leading His bride.

There are many forks in the road of marriage life. I am thankful that I can give credit to God for leading me down the road that glorifies Him instead of the road to separation.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Kid Quote: Bread Tree

We were on a field trip a while ago, at Westmoreland Park. There are hundreds of ducks that live there, likely scavengers to humans that don't want to encourage the ducks to find their own food. We told our kids not to touch or feed the birds. One of our 6 year old boys was digging a hole in the ground.

"You want to know something?" he asked me as I peered across the playground.

"What?" I responded.

"If I had a bread seed, I would plant it in this hole. Then I would water it and it would become a big huge bread tree and then I'd chop it down and then the ducks would have lots of bread to eat," he explained.

"Yes! That would be so awesome!" I laughed.

Kid Quote: Jesus

We were on a bus, riding back from a field trip. One of our 6 year old girls was being disobedient, which resulted in her sitting next to me and staring out the window. After a little while we passed a church and she turned to me and asked, "Do you know who was dead and then came back to life?"

"Who?" I asked with a smile on my face.

"Jesus!" she whispered to me.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Tales from the Little Rebels

Today at YMCA Summer Camp, a little incident with one of our girls definitely reassured me that humans are born rebels who need to be trained to do what is right.

We are getting ready to go on a field trip to the park. All of the K-5th grade kids attempt to line up, but like usual, get horribly distracted and off-task. We make sure to visit the bathroom before we leave because we certainly don't want any urinary accidents on our way there. All except one of the girls try to go, leaving me with our rebel at the end of the line.

This girl, who will be going into 1st grade next year (let's call her Jane), tells me that she doesn't need to go to the bathroom.

"Well I need you to go in and try to go anyway," I tell her.

"But I don't want to! I don't need to!" she exclaims as the last couple of girls leave the bathroom and head back to our classroom.

"Please Jane, you know that everyone needs to try before we get on the bus."

She ends up huffing and puffing on her way into the bathroom, directly into the stall. Less than five seconds later I hear her pee echoing through the halls. I didn't know that a kid could pee so long. I mean, their bladders aren't that big, are they?

I hear the toilet flush. Then she comes out of the bathroom and tells me again, "I didn't have to go."

"What are you talking about? I just heard you go! Now go wash your hands."

Like Jane, these kids lie so easily. They don't think it's a big deal. They don't understand that it hurts others, causes more problems, and ultimately dishonors God. Kids remind me of purity. Pure happiness sometimes, and pure selfishness other times. It's certainly good to see the joy, smiles, and innocence that beam out of the kids' faces. But it's also very important to look at the selfish, rebellious behavior that bursts forth from each and every one of them.

After all, we used to be kids too. Have we fully grown up?

Monday, June 23, 2008

Weekends Are Boring

Aside from the days that family or friends come over for dinner and hang out, our weekends are pretty boring. Which is nice.

When I read my friend Matt's latest blog post about him getting married next weekend, I was reminded about how busy our lives were when we lived up in Seattle. We were also very stressed before our wedding with all the preparations and unexpected problems. We were enveloped in commitments at church, work, and with family and friends.

The honeymoon was relaxing, but when we got back we just replaced our wedding planning stresses with new marriage stresses. So we were still just as busy. The next few months continued with more stuff hanging over our heads... thank-you cards, organizing two people's stuff into one apartment, and putting into practice all that we learned in our pre-marriage classes.

Then we decided to move to Portland. Oh my, moving is not an easy or relaxing task. Every minute of every day felt devoted to packing and organizing. Looking for jobs, quitting our jobs, and moving without a job waiting for me certainly added to the stress. Moving in with our friends, then finding an apartment, moving a second time into the apartment, finally finding a job, and eventually settling in, we started to finally relax.

And now our weekends are boring. No big commitments. No money to spend to fill up our time. It's such a blessing. We enjoy the free time. We enjoy just coming home from work and looking forward to hanging out with one another. We have the time to focus on our marriage more than anything else because we know how crucial it is to build a strong marriage that positively affects our kids and grandkids.

Yes, we'll eventually get plugged into our church and start serving again. Yes, we'll eventually look for ways that we can get more involved in our community. Yes, we'll eventually have kids and see our free time disappear once again. But right now actually feels like a real honeymoon. And it's nice to not have to swallow life in one big bite.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Why the City?

Many people have asked us why we moved into the city instead of choosing a quieter, safer suburban area. Back in December I wrote about why I love living in the city (Seattle at the time), which is part of the reason--because living so close to so many opinionated people forces me to know what I believe. But it's more than just that at this point in my life. We wanted to live in the city because of three main reasons: more diversity, better influence, and stronger boldness.

Diversity is something that is much more prominent within the city than in the suburbs or rural areas. So many different types of beliefs, educations (or lack thereof), socio-economic backgrounds, and other varieties make up an atmosphere that is somewhat uncomfortable. The movie Crash is one of my favorites because it makes me feel uncomfortable after viewing the racial stereotypes and slurs, knowing that deep down it is sin that causes people to be bitter towards others that are different. It's so real and true. It happens every day.

Because of this sin, it makes me want to be a better influence in this place. The city is a place where culture develops. Cities thrive, they grow, and they are highly valued. Education and knowledge pours out of the city. Businesses compete to become better and better at what they do. Technology is utilized in new ways. And along with all of these good things, it is also where God is neglected and sin is frequent. We want to live here not because there is more crime and less morality, but to be an instrument of change in this place. There is, of course, sin everywhere and sinners are everywhere, so to try and avoid it would be silly. At least here it is more obvious that we are living lives that are different than our neighbors.

Which leads me to my last reason for wanting to live in the city: to develop stronger boldness. Throughout my life I have been short and scrawny. I didn't feel like I could be much of an influence on my peers because of this, so I hadn't worked on being bold. Now, I am grown up. I have a wife. A family. I am the leader of my home and I'm working towards leading and teaching kids. It's a given now that I should know how to be bold when I need to be. All Christians should especially be bold when it comes to defending Jesus' name in their lives. Living in the city, where you get swept aside if you aren't bold enough, is right where God wants to spark growth in me. I want to be a bold example for Christ in a city that doesn't understand true purpose.

I love the city of Portland. I am excited about what TriMet is doing. I am fascinated by Metro. I am pumped about getting involved with the education system. I am looking forward to becoming an informed voter. I enjoy drinking beer. Jen and I are both pumped to go explore the various unique neighborhoods here. I am thrilled to be a responsible adult. I want to make a difference in this place, even if it ends up being a little tiny difference, at least it's something.

I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler--not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.
1 Corinthians 5:9-13 (NASB)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Moved to Portland: New Jobs

I have never worked so hard for a minimum wage job. I recently was hired at the YMCA of Columbia-Willamette as a Program Aide for a before- and after-school program at an elementary school. It's about five hours a day and I've never been so tired. It's good though, because it's tons of fun working with the kids and I am learning something new every day from them. I could start a whole new blog solely devoted to telling learning experiences from working with school age kids. I love it.

My goal with working with this age group is to gain experience. I could probably get a job that pays better right now, but I'm thinking more long term. After many talks with my wife, friends, and family, I'm heading in the direction of becoming a middle school teacher. Most people are afraid of middle schoolers, but I find it to be a pivotal time in their development. I want to be an influence on the lives of kids, and I think that this would be a better opportunity for me than a counselor or a pastor. The younger elementary school kids are a bit too high-pitched, crazy, and pee-their-pants problematic for me, which is why I'm more drawn to having good conversations with the 4th and 5th graders in our YMCA program. I am very appreciative of this experience as I can see the phase before they transition into middle school. But who knows? Maybe I'll end up doing something completely different! But right now this is the path I'm on.

Jen hasn't had as much luck with her job. It has been very draining on her physically and mentally. She works with Pre-Kindergarten kids at KinderCare and unfortunately there is just too much chaos every day in her particular classroom. We have been working through trying to figure out what she will be doing in the future. This is one of the reasons I have been so proud of her this past month. She has been so strong and diligent in going to work even when she often feels that it is the last place on Earth she wants to go.

With both of us now working with kids, you can certainly guess correctly that our stress levels are high when we both get home. But we are actually doing relatively wonderful! Yes, we have had our fights and arguments in the recent weeks that we've both been working with other people's psycho kids. However, we have been working hard to resolve our arguments before we go to bed and make sure that we are both on the same page and in peaceful agreement (Eph 4:26-27).

I can only credit our successful and joyful marriage to God and His gift of Jesus' sacrifice to us. How can I get upset at my spouse when I myself am just as sinful? I must show her mercy and grace just as God showed us grace through Jesus. I have no excuse not to be patient, kind, and humble towards my wife.

Lastly, don't get me wrong about working with kids. I absolutely love it even if they are psychotic sometimes. Anybody who works with kids knows that. Just today, I had such a fun time teaching chess to a girl in my class. She is one of the most disruptive, disobedient, and devious Kindergarteners I have ever known. But today I saw a glimpse of intelligence, respect, and humor in her that reminded me without a doubt that this is a job is worth doing well.

[Photo: Artwork on my fridge, given to me from some kids in my group]

Moved to Portland: New Apartment

We are moved into our apartment. Finally starting to feel settled. It almost doesn't seem real.

About a week and a half ago we packed everything up into carloads and delivered them from our friends' garage to our new townhouse. We found a great deal on a place that we hope to live in until we start having kids. At that point in time we hope to be looking for a house. It's good to remember that we can plan out our future to the best of our abilities and then know that they'll go wrong in one way or another. So we'll see how the coming years pan out.

I just have to mention the weather on our moving days because it has been so strange. Our first weekend moving from Seattle to Portland was super cold with hail and snow. Our second weekend moving, just two weeks later, was super hot with temperatures around 80 degrees. The first move we were worried about our fingers falling off and the second move we were worried about dehydration. Pretty weird, but relatively normal weather for the Pacific Northwest.

Anyway, we are so thankful to have found such a great place to live. We love the neighborhood, which is very ethnically diverse, relatively close to downtown, and just a hop, skip and a jump away from the MAX! My dad and I have already set up times to meet every other week for breakfast that includes me riding the MAX over to Beaverton. So cool.

Jen is excited about getting to live in a townhouse because it's the first place she has ever lived with stairs inside. It is very cute inside with all new appliances. The good things easily outweigh the bad in our place here. There's always going to be little things that we don't like about where we live, but in this case we both felt like God made it clear to us that this was a great opportunity. And it turned out too that we have the best apartment manager ever. She has been amazingly helpful with miscellaneous issues that we have had since moving in (i.e., water heater problems), and certainly put any burdens on her shoulders instead of us having to deal with them. She has been a huge blessing.

All in all, we are really battling financially, but it is good for us. We are very thankful that we thought ahead before our wedding by saving money and wedding gift certificates for this time. We had to go over our budget multiple times before we signed the lease to this apartment. We talked to God and to each other long and hard about this big decision and were both at peace with it.

I really don't know how anybody lives in an unharmonious marriage. It would just tear me up inside. Jen has been so strong through this transition time and I am so proud of her. And I am especially proud of how we have worked hard to keep Christ as the focus of our lives. The mission that we are on right now, how we work together to solve arguments, and how we plan on using our apartment as a ministry to our community, friends and family are all things that we are thrilled about.

I will talk more about our new jobs in my next post. Yep, I got a part-time job! Since we just got hooked up to the internet, I'll be posting more frequently. Stay tuned...

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Moved to Portland: Success

Just a quick update for all of those wondering how our move went last weekend...

We woke up on Saturday morning to pick up the truck at 7am and spent all morning/early afternoon loading up the truck and packing the last few items into boxes. Since it was just the two of us driving, Jen drove her car and I drove the Uhaul with my car strapped to an auto transport trailer on the back. Thanks to our gracious friends who happened to be visiting Seattle the same week we moved, they helped us out and we left the city about the time we were planning to.

The weather was perfect for us whenever we needed it to be. It was dry and occasionally sunny when moving stuff outside. We headed onto I-5 around 4:30pm, and then it immediately began pouring down rain and hail. This was one crazy weathered weekend. It was my first time driving such a big vehicle, so I wasn't enthusiastic about the conditions, but it ended up being a good drive. I had fun. We ended up in Clackamas around 9pm, with snow on the ground! Too late, dark, and cold to unload, we put a lock on the Uhaul door and got a good night's sleep. Again the next day, it was dry and partly sunny when outside unloading the truck, with rain, hail, and/or traces of snow falling from the sky after we finished.

Thanks to some other gracious friends, we are currently residing in their basement and storing most of our stuff in their garage. Early this past week we found a nice East Portland apartment that we applied for and are planning on moving into next Thursday. Jen will be transferred from her job in Seattle to a location only 10 minutes away from the apartment. I got word back from the OHSU job that they offered the position to someone else. Which is unfortunate, but not a big deal. Something will pop up, as I have applied to several jobs this past week. It really sucks being unemployed. I've only been without a job for a week and I'm already going crazy (although some would say that it's just my normal goofiness).

Anyway, our move to Portland was a flawless one that we are happy to be done with. Jen and I have learned a lot from our stresses so far. We have grown closer in this time, realizing that having a good relationship with each other is much more important than having the security of a place to live. We have had an obvious demonstration that material things, like an apartment or a house, can disappear. And having good relationships with friends is not only beneficial to us in times of need, but it is also beneficial to furthering the Gospel to be an example of what the Church does practically in peoples' lives. True home is having a community of believers, sacrificing for each other.

Moving from Seattle to Portland was much more stressful than just taking a few car loads of stuff to a new place in the same city 15 minutes away. Thankfully we are done with the former and are looking forward to the latter this upcoming week. And hopefully we will enjoy keeping the boxes unpacked for the next few years.

More to come on our transition into the apartment, new church community, being closer to family, and lots more in our new life in Portland...

Friday, March 21, 2008

Moving to Portland (Part 3)

The pressures and stresses have become blatantly obvious. My wife and I have been biting back and forth with each other the last few nights. And we have been doing it out of nowhere...one minute we are cuddling, and the next we don't even want to touch each other. Especially me last night, I lost my patience with one stupid little thing that Jen didn't do, and instead of being loving, patient, and gentle, I blew up and started yelling. Before we went to bed, I asked for forgiveness and we made up.

I have discovered what has been happening the past few nights. We haven't been praying. And as it is my role as the husband to lead my wife and to wash her with God's word, I am realizing that my lack of quality leadership is sinful. I have been carelessly expecting her to be perfect when I haven't been responsible with the role that God has placed me in. I have been distracted by worrying about my job instead of just praying to God and giving it to Him every minute of every day. I have been distracted by our stupid Wii and our stupid new video game, Super Smash Bros Brawl (awesome game, but a horrible distraction). Actually, I shouldn't call these things stupid, because they are just things. It is my fault for focusing on them more than God and my wife.

A relationship with God is NOT when you get up in the morning, drive to work, work, drive home, watch a little tv, and go to bed. A relationship with God is a life of conversation with Jesus. It's acknowledging every day the role that He was placed in to sacrificially die so that we don't have to die. And thanking Him for that. With our lives. I'm starting to think more and more that the "little luxuries" in our lives are just more crap that get in our way of our relationship with God.

I don't feel like I have a good relationship with God. I have a good relationship with Jen because I actually talk with her and spend time with her. I can't say that about my relationship with God. Over the years I have let myself believe that I talk with God by "thinking in my mind" all throughout the day with Him. I'm starting to believe that is ridiculous. A real life sold out for Jesus is a constant thankful conversation with Him. Prayer is essential because it is how we communicate. There is no relationship apart from communication.

We are going through tough times now. We are moving to a different state without enough income yet to apply for an apartment. These are the kind of stresses that test a marriage. If we can't have a good relationship with God in these tough times, then what is it going to be like when we have kids? What is it going to be like 10 or 20 years down the road? When we are more tired and more exhausted from the many more stresses of life?

Jen and I keep saying how we can't wait for all the stress of moving to be over. But that's silly because once this problem is gone, another one will pop up. That's what life is: dealing with stress. We just need to know how we are going to deal with it. Will it be with or without a good relationship with Jesus? We know that we want to build our marriage and our future on a rock that won't collapse in times of pain and stress. We need to do things differently.

Moving to Portland (Part 1)
Moving to Portland (Part 2)
Moving to Portland (Part 3)

Monday, March 17, 2008

Moving to Portland (Part 2)

Jen and I both dislike relocating. In the past 5.5 years that she has moved away from her family in Arizona, she has moved 5 times. In the past 6.5 years that I have moved away from my family in Oregon, I have only moved once. However, I am a creature of routine and any change is hard on me.

There are some things that I enjoy about the moving process. For example, last night I was packing up our books into boxes. I have fun packing boxes because it is similar to working on a jigsaw puzzle. I kept moving around the books inside the boxes until finally they all fit in! Success! Thankfully that's one way that I keep from going crazy in this transition period.

We both like to compare this time with the stresses of finals week when we were still in school. The date slowly builds up and we realize how much work we actually have to do before we move, and we can't wait until it's over.

Since we are both still in the "interviewing" stages of getting a job, we aren't financially stable enough to apply for an apartment. So we are planning on staying with some gracious friends who are willing to take us in until our financial situation stabilizes.

I was reading Acts 9 this morning, and at the end of the chapter it mentions that Peter stayed with some guy that likely was another believer who opened his home to him. It's verses like these that we usually overlook. It's not a big deal, he just stayed with that guy. So what? But it's tough times like these that I am in with my wife, that we appreciate seeing God's work through our friends who can open their home to us in our time of need. These little verses mean a lot more to us now, being in the same position as Peter...without a place to live two weeks from now.

Seeing God working through the tough times of life is refreshing. I'm not saying that we are really going through that tough of a time. I know that we are relatively wealthy. I know that we are in a situation that isn't as bad as many others less fortunate out there in the world. But what is tough on us right now is the fact that we can't control our future. We don't know if I'm going to get the job I interviewed for. We don't know where our next apartment will be. We don't know how long it will take us to find solidarity in the future. Life is fragile and there are so many unknowns. The only thing left to do is to trust in God's sovereignty, look from an eternal point-of-view, and realize that this is only a little speed bump in the grand scheme of things.

Moving to Portland (Part 1)
Moving to Portland (Part 2)
Moving to Portland (Part 3)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Conference Video/Audio

If you're interested in watching any of the video or listening to audio from the Resurgence Conference I attended a few weeks ago, they just posted all of the media on their website. You can view it here.

Related posts:
Day 0: Sunday
Day 1: Monday
Day 2: Tuesday
Day 3: Wednesday

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Moving to Portland (Part 1)

Another big thing that happened to me at the conference was that I received a call for a job interview down in Portland!

I drove down last Friday morning, had lunch with my mom, and then ventured onto the OHSU West Campus for my first job interview since graduating from SPU. The position is very similar to what I am doing right now. Instead of social science office work, which is what I do right now at SDRG, the position would be life science office work. I have been much more interested in administrative work recently, after discovering that biology research isn't for me. I love interacting with people. I love working on the computer. I love detail-oriented work.

Anyway, I feel like the interview went well. I was comfortable talking with all of the 9 people I would be working with. They seemed like great people who all love working together. And did I mention the interview was 3.5 hours long!? Needless to say, I was exhausted afterwards, but excited and thankful that I didn't say anything stupid.

I did my best in the interview. Now it's up to the Lord whether or not I get it. I can rest in His sovereignty. It would be an especially sweet commute to work every day if I did get it... MAX Light Rail five days a week! That'd be the best thing ever!

We are doing things a bit backward in our move to Portland. Most people usually get a job before they move. It makes the process a whole lot easier. But no, not us... we knew that we would be moving in March whether or not we were employed. My current position ends at the end of the month, so Jen and I decided that it was the best time to pick up and settle down closer to family and friends. We have been looking for jobs over the past couple months, but with the date getting closer and closer, the stress builds more and more.

Moving to Portland (Part 1)
Moving to Portland (Part 2)
Moving to Portland (Part 3)

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Post-Conference Thoughts

Well, one of the big impacts the conference had on me was the fact that I know that God isn't calling me to be a pastor right now. After wrestling and praying over what I should do with my life in the future, God confirmed it for me.

I could argue that it was just time that passed which solidified my direction, or maybe just the anticipation of the event. But I think that it was the fact that I was seeking God's path for me.

There were many wonderful pastors at the conference who shared their hearts to us. Since the conference was generally directed towards pastors and prospective pastors, they talked a lot about what it takes to be a pastor. They talked about needing the power of God through the Holy Spirit to stand up for the Bible in the face of obstacles and critics. It is God who should be calling the pastors to this position. A pastor is a shepherd leading a flock of sheep. They are held responsible for how they lead. It is a big deal.

Even coming back to work after the conference, I had a chat with a co-worker of mine. He seemed deeply hurt by the wrongful behaviors done by pastors such as Ted Haggard and priests like the ones who have abused children in the church. It is so sad to see men who represent the name of Jesus only to see them hurt others around them and misuse the authority that Christ gives them as leaders.

The Bible is clear on the qualifications of leaders in the church. And I don't believe that I am qualified yet. A pastor "must be above reproach," which means being such a good example that they don't have a reason to be criticized. This doesn't mean that they have to be perfect. The key is repenting, being involved in community, and striving to be like Jesus.

I still need to work on some things in my life. I still need to grow deeper with my wife. I still need to read the Bible more (I haven't even read the entire thing, for goodness sakes!). I still need to deepen my relationship with Jesus. Maybe later on in my life God will call me to that honor. I'll wait and see. I plan on going where He wants me to go.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Resurgence Conference Day 3: Wednesday

Jim Gilmore, author of The Experience Economy and Authenticity: What Consumers Really Want, spoke for a second time this morning. He is a business man from Ohio (pretty sure he's a Tribe fan since he's from the Cleveland area and Mark said he's a big baseball fan) who used his background to look at the church and the work pastors do. It is amazing how much is out there in the world that can deviate our perception of God's Word and His plan in the world.

Just a small plug for the food service we got for our lunches during the conference, OrganicToGo.com was so tasty and all organic! Even the plastic sack that the lunch came in had written on it, "Our Earth friendly bags are biodegradable and compostable." I wouldn't expect anything less than that from a conference hosted in the Pacific Northwest. Gotta be good stewards!

I briefly talked with a guy named Dwight who was an older pastor from a small town in Southeastern Washington. It was encouraging talking to a guy that loved Jesus and loved what was going on at an event like this one. It has been great to see such a wide variety of ages and races here, showing the broad diversity that the Gospel reaches out to.

Mark Driscoll ended up not preaching one last message, but instead did Q&A for almost 2 hours. It was such a treat when his wife, Grace, came up with him to answer marital questions. God poured out so much wisdom through the Driscolls to me and many others in the audience.

This afternoon was especially exciting because I received a voicemail about coming down to Portland for a job interview! God certainly has good timing. I'll write more later about how it goes and whether or not God ends up making that the path I travel down. Great ending to such a wonderfully Gospel-centered conference.

In all, it was reported that 46 states and 11 nations were represented there! Wow!

Day 0: Sunday
Day 1: Monday
Day 2: Tuesday
Day 3: Wednesday
Video/Audio here