Fourteen Years and…

the family

Fourteen years and…

Sixteen attendants (eight each)

Four ushers.

One flower girl.

One ring bearer.

Two guest book attendants.

One wedding coordinator.

One pastor.

One beautiful bride.

One anxious/excited/humbled groom.

Two people became one.

Two families merged into one bigger family.

Two dogs (RIP)

One apartment.

6 Houses.

Two States.

Lots of Jobs.

One Record.

One Book in progress.

Two lawnmowers.

One pool.

Four health clubs.

Several churches.

One Masters Degree.

Two bands and one solo effort.

Six guitars, two keyboards, one drumset, a PA, dozens of effects pedals a few amps and one piano in need of tuning.

Half a dozen bicycles.

Three grills.

One bedroom furniture set.

Half a dozen sets of couches.

Thirteen cars and one fairly short-lived motorcycle.

Various Apple products.

A few speeding tickets but no accidents. (well the one minor one that the girl on the cellphone hit us).

Paris, Cancun, New York, D.C., LA, Chicago, Dallas, Boston, Jacksonville, Portland, Cleveland, OKC, Tulsa, Branson, Vail, Breckenridge, Frisco, Durango, Winter Park, Steamboat, Buena Vista, Cape Cod  Orlando, Clearwater, Divide, Denver, Ouray, Telluride, Guthrie, Lake of the Ozarks, Grand Lake, Lake Tenkiller, Keystone Reservoir, Lake Dillon, Lake Vallecito…

A few blizzards.

A couple tornados.

Some hailstorms (sorry VW Passat).

One house fire.

Some CRAZY wildfires.

A couple leadership scandals.

A shooting.

9/11

Two wars.

Three Presidents.

Five Governors.

Four Mayors.

Three Popes.

$0.89 to $4.00 in gas (and about the same for milk).

Dozens of weddings, baby showers and celebrations of wonderful friends and family.

187 viewings of It’s a Wonderful Life.

Even more (for Jenn) of Sweet Home Alabama, Family Man When Harry Met Sally.

Nine Seasons of Everybody Loves Raymond.

Three, err, well “4″ seasons of Arrested Development.

Six seasons of Big Bang Theory.

One Avalanche Stanley Cup

One Broncos Superbowl.

One Rockies World Series (appearance).

Two Red Sox World Series.

A thousand tears.

Millions of laughs.

Two years of absolute hell.

Which yielded…

A birth:

One fantastic 9 year old boy with a blue belt in Taekwondo and a heart of gold.

An adoption:

One joyous 2 year old boy with the best hair and smile ever.

Two people turned into four.

One Jesus.

One Marriage.

Two best friends.

One life to share together.

One very thankful man who recognizes he doesn’t deserve any of it.

 

Steve and John

“Hi there.” Steve said.

“Hey, how you doing?”  John replied.

“Pretty good.  Man, it’s beautiful out today, isn’t it?

“Yeah, feels nice to get some sun. Just wish it weren’t wreaking havoc on my allergies.”

“Dude, I totally get that.  I love spring visually. Not so much in the respiratory department.”

“Ha, yeah, me too. Sorry, I didn’t catch your name, I’m John.”

“Hi John, I’m Steve, nice to meet you.”

“Nice to meet you too.”

John and Steve spoke for another 10 minutes, while waiting for tables to open up for lunch meetings.  Steve could tell John was probably gay, and although he’d always been uncomfortable with the topic, he felt instantly comfortable with John.

John thought Steve was probably an evangelical, he seemed to have some quirks in his language which belied an underlying church background.  John had always been wary of Christians, and particularly their stance on homosexuality, but Steve seemed like a genuinely nice guy.

They both liked the other immediately.  When their other parties arrived, they introduced one another and went their separate ways.  The never saw one another again, but were occasionally reminded of one another when conversations came up about “those other people.”  Which caused them to personally question what that meant.  After all, that guy I met at Chili’s seemed pretty cool…

What if we were kind to one another?  Would it help, over time, repetition and depth to diminish the various cultural divides we experience?

 

What’s Your New York Times Attribute?

 

I was glancing through my Twitter feed this morning.  Every now and then I’ll get curious beyond the tweet, or I’ll take a gander at the “who to follow” menu and become eager to know more.  This morning was one of those times.  I looked at @NYTimes.  

The @NYTimes bio blurb starts with a fascinating line. “Where the conversation begins.”  Then it goes on to the more obvious; news, reporters, etc.  But that one line is genius.  You may or may not be a fan of the New York Times, but the point stands…conversation begins with what they report.  They have the highest reputation for journalism in America, and one of the best in the world. Again, whether you agree or disagree with their editorial bent is irrelevant, they are still the New York Times.

nytimes logo

This got me wondering, what is it that I do, or that our church does, or your business or organization performs that is “where the conversation begins?”

Jim Collins , in his much read book Good to Great, talks about the Hedgehog Principle.  Basically it’s the same concept – what is it that you do better than anyone else?  If you can discover and develop that one gift, skill, process or talent that you or your organization does better than anyone, and focus your attention on getting that right, you’re highly likely to be very successful in that endeavor.

So what is it?  Do you know?  If not, why?  What’s holding you back from discovering, or perhaps rediscovering your New York Times attribute?  What would your life look like a year from now if you spent the next 12 months discovering, developing and implementing that attribute?

Good Salsa And Other Reasons I Enjoy Cooking

meryl julia

I just made some of the best salsa ever.  I borrowed a recipe form my friend Larry and adjusted it to my liking.  Basically, I took half a bag of assorted peppers from Costco (red, yellow and orange) added about 8 serrano pepers, 24 cherry tomatoes, a big handful of cilantro and a clove of fresh garlic.  Then added a touch of salt, pepper and a couple tablespoons of lemon juice.

My favorite part, and this is ironic since I’m not really detail person, is the preparation.  It’s critical that before I put an ingredient in the blender, I have to really, really finely chop all of it.  This takes a lot of time, and I have to be careful not to slice my finger off (close call today btw).  The garlic has to be peeled down to it’s moist center, cilantro has have leaves and stems separated (but not completely). It’s highly detailed and repetitious.

There’s something calming, peaceful and highly fulfilling about the process.  I love to take a couple chips and taste-test along the way.  Add a little more garlic, maybe a few more tomatoes, etc.  The tactile nature of it all engages all 5 senses, taste, touch, sight, hearing and especially smell.   Knife in hand, cutting board beneath the ingredients and with each crunch and slice of the knife the pungent garlic, the unique spicy smell of cilantro and the the peppers waft up from the countertop filling my mind with memories of past recipes.

Each ingredient reminds me of other dishes, and the satisfaction of the final product, savoring each bite of the newly amalgamated dish and realizing that I don’t have quite the appetite I thought I did because of all the quality control testing along the way .

All of this is so satisfying for me, I don’t even mind doing the dishes after – and if you know me, that’s a big deal.  Sometimes it’s just nice to forget about the other cares of life, work, finances, projects, etc. and just engross myself in a simple process and harken back to simpler times. Plus, I really, really like good food.

Thankful

Proverbs 28:20a says “A faithful man will be richly blessed.”  I hope that I am a faithful man, but regardless of my faithfulness, God has been gracious to me.  I believe, although we aren’t wealthy by American standards, I am richly blessed. I have a wife and two sons whom I love profoundly and who love me.  I sit in an office that provides constant reminders of God’s goodness.  Pictures of family and friends, decorations and trinkets that have value not only in their aesthetics but in their meaning, their shared history with me.

Looking around my office this morning I took the time to briefly remember the people who matter so much in my life, the experiences that have enriched my time thus far on earth.  I see all of these things and I am so thankful for my life.  I am so thankful that Jesus rescued me all those years ago, and that he continues to rescue me from myself, and from situations that could harm me or my family. I am thankful, and I hope that remaining thankful helps me to be faithful.

Silence

elipsis thought bubble

A recent twitter conversation with two fellow artists/musicians got me thinking.  It all started in discussing this NY Times piece on silence, solitude, technology and creativity.  It reminded me of an interview I heard on NPR a few years ago with acclaimed director Martin Scorcese.

In the interview Scorcese was talking about media inundation.  He said that we live in a world in which we are constantly bombarded with new information.  At one point it was normal for the average american to receive 2000-3000 media messages per day including billboards, signs, web banners, radio spots, TV spots, etc.

Think about that: several thousand messages a day.

Scorcese went on to say that because we are so inundated, “we never really feel the full impact of any work of art because we’re incapable of processing that much information.”  As remedy he recommended intentional times of silence in order to emotionally recharge and be able to absorb the fuller impact of the art with which we choose to interact.

I took that to heart.  At that point I was a serious talk radio addict (hence my NPR listening as well as many others).  I was also commuting about an hour to an hour an a half round trip every day.  So for that period of time I decided to follow in the words of Depeche Mode and “enjoy the silence.”

Cheesy puns aside, the next several months were some of the most creative I’ve experienced.  I’ve always had a notebook and recording device full of half-finished (at best) song ideas.  That year I wrote, produced and recorded my first EP. And other areas of creativity flourished as did my ability to emotionally interact with the art I was choosing to consume and I was growing in my ability to better understand that of which I partook.

Since then, I’ve mostly held to the no radio rule I made for myself.  I’m not legalistic about it; sometimes I’ll take that time to really digest a new album, or occasionally splurge on some talk radio in political seasons, or sports radio if my teams are doing well.  But mostly. I am intentionally silent in the car, and it’s become a welcome respite for me.

Thoughts on Community

community

We hear a lot about the idea of community.    Whether you’re talking about the fantastic sitcom of the same name, social networking, neighborhoods, churches or social interaction, we hear the term bandied about with great frequency.

But what is community?  How do we define it, measure it, adjust it and make it better or worse?  Should we do those things?

In the church, especially in big churches, we talk a lot about how to create community or how to help people experience community.  But again, what does that mean?  How should we go about that?  Or does it happen more naturally than we understand?

Sociologists (or as I like to call them, “Fancy-Named-Facebook-Addicts,” just kidding) have long discussed the idea of the third house, or third place.  The thinking is that our first house is our home, our second house is our place of work and our third house is our          “Cheers.”  It’s “where everybody knows your name.”  So the third house could be a pub, a coffee shop, the gym, a church, etc.  Traditionally in America the third house was the church.  It was a neighborhood center, potentially a place for public discourse, a place where most people knew one another and could be known.

This has changed over the last 30-40 years.  And the advent of the mega church, where it’s virtually impossible to know the majority of members has complicated it as well.  We find ourselves spending a great deal of time assessing the need for authentic community.

But what is that?  I’m reading “The Search to Belong; Rethinking Intimacy, Community, And Small Groups” by Joseph R Myers right now.  In it, Myers describes four the basic modes of belonging that make up a person’s sense of community and connectedness. Below are some very basic definitions of each:

Public:  The sense of belonging does not have to be mutual.  You can belong to a large church or group and no one there even know that you belong, but this does not change your personal sense of belonging.

Social:  This space allows for “snapshots” of reality.  We choose which snapshots to portray about ourselves and in turn take that information from others as signs.  We then choose to keep relationships in the Social space, or to assign them to another category

Personal: In this space, others know private, but not naked, information about us and us them.  Very close friends might occupy this space, but likely not spouses.

Intimate:  In this space we are “naked and unashamed.”  Myers notes aptly that shame and embarrassment are not the same.  “Shame,” he says, “is the experience of the intimate self exposed in an inappropriate space.”

As a sidebar, I can’t help but think of social media when I see these definitions.  For instance, the average American Facebook user has over 200 “friends.”  How many of us can imagine really knowing all of them?  Sharing personal or intimate information or experiences with 200+ people sounds exhausting if not impossible.

It is interesting/disheartening to see how many people on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, et al are willing to share highly intimate and sensitive relational information in what is, by these definitions, a public space.  What does this say about us?

Many have assumed, incorrectly, that the goal of community is to have as many “intimate” relationships as possible.  To them, “intimate” represents the paramount human relational experience and we ought to then seek as many intimate experiences as possible  and give that to as many people as possible.  Myers debunks that thinking this way, “Insisting that real, authentic, true community happens only when people get ‘close’ is a synthetic view of reality and may actually be harmful.”

Myers says that our lives are in harmony and balance when we allocate the spaces appropriately.  That is, when we have the most interactions in the Public space, next largest in the Social space, a smaller group in the Personal space and only a select few in the Intimate space.

With this in mind, how should we then look at building community?  Should we seek to get every person in our churches into a small group?  Or should we seek to intentionally  validate the sense of belonging that people experience in each of the four spaces?

And if so, how?