Saturday, June 25, 2011

Reflection and Celebration

This weekend we get the chance to celebrate the marriage of our friends, Matt and Rachelle.  Summer is the time for weddings and this summer hasn't been any different.  It is a wonderful chance to reconnect with old friends and meet new ones.  You see who has influenced your friends to become the people that God has made them to be.

This mixture of serious commitment and joyful celebration is important in life. Formal times like this give us the chance to see our lives in their redemptive context and affirms the small decisions we make everyday to keep loving our spouse or continue following Christ.  In these moments, we gain a perspective on life that the daily grind doesn't always afford.  God truly does know how to give His children good gifts.

What times cause you to reflect and rejoice?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Thoughtful, Funny and Surprisingly Christian

I was just watching Conan O'Brien's recent Dartmouth commencement address to graduates and "old people who come to these things."  Besides being completely hilarious, Conan opened with the self-deprecating humor he is known for, observing that while a decorated war hero and former president sit on stage, a cable TV host is giving the commencement address.  Based on this, he observed, "I pray that I never witness a more damning example of what is wrong with America today."

Something surprising starts to happen about two thirds of the way into the message.  Conan goes from self-deprecation and shameless pandering of insider collegiate references (if I was giving a commencement address, I don't think I could shy away from these either), to a completely different speech.  He turns on a dime.

Conan shares very candidly about his dream of hosting "The Tonight Show" and watching that dream crumble around him.  That moment of failure brought clarity and forced him to innovate and strike out into the comedic "wild wild west".  His failure to live up to the ideal ultimately led him to cast the vision for his redemption and his future. It led him to strike out into new territory, living in freedom from his failure.

With these concepts, Conan crossed into grace territory. Parallel to his words, it is not our ability to please God or to live up to His standard that makes us right before Him.  When we embrace the free grace of God and accept our failure and inability to achieve God's standard, we are given a chance to live freely and be redeemed.  This profound embracing of failure is not defeat, but it sets the tone for sin's ultimate defeat.  Death destroyed by death.

I'd encourage you to watch Conan's speech and ponder. What stands out to you from Conan's commencement address?


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Lessons Learned from First Year of Belief Blog

This grabbed my eye recently:  One year ago (and about 5 days) CNN started their Belief Blog.  I have to say, I haven't visited CNN's "Belief Blog" very frequently, but their observations about the climate of faith in the US today interested me. Here are a few that stood out.

Photo credit: clarita from

#3 People are still intensely curious about the Bible, its meaning and its origins.  

So often we hear that the youth are walking away from the church and that church has lost all relevancy. I think rumors of the scripture's (and the church's) demise have been grossly overstated.  People are searching now as much as they ever have been.  Recently, I heard in a sermon, "it isn't my job to coerce you or trick you into showing up on Sunday or to meet in small groups." The gospel is compelling, even to those that will ultimately reject it> The question of meaning and existence is something we are all wrestling with.  It is a part of the human experience.  And people know that the scriptures address these issues.

This is counter balanced by...
#4: Most Americans are Religiously Illiterate.

If you are involved in the local church, you see this all the time.  Many people are not able to lay out the basics of their faith.  The Belief Blog pointed out that oftentimes the ones with the most 'religious literacy' are atheists.  And most of that is in the form of tools meant to fight belief. 

In the name of sensitivity, I think we have stripped out "unpopular" areas of the church that ultimately make the church stronger and feed Christians that need knowledge.  I am excited to see ways that we can feed the quest for meaning and not just stop at "spiritual milk", but build strong and mature believers in the church.

Monday, June 13, 2011

A nomadic year begins...

The time has come... We are packing up our apartment, selling many of our belongings, and preparing for a year of travel. We will spend the next year staying with friends and family all around the country, sharing the story and building our team of ministry partners.

We are very excited about this year. We know that there will be challenges and that we will miss having a place to call home, but we are excited to connect with people who we don't get to see often and to continue to share about what God is doing in Austria. It will be an exciting, nomadic year!

Here is a map of the places we will be and approximate dates in each location.  
(Click the map to see a larger version...)


Please pray for us as we begin this big transition!

Speaking Well

It is here again, wedding season leaps into action right about... now.  And it doesn't feel that long ago that Bethany and I were walking through this same adventure together.  With friends getting married very soon and others just popping the question, weddings and new marriage advice floats through many of our conversations with friends.

Photo credit: earl53 from

As I was flipping through my RSS reader recently I stumbled across this post from Michael Hyatt about speaking well of your spouse in public.  This post caught my attention because this was something that our marriage counselors had recommended to us and it is something we intentionally include in our conversations.  As we continue sharing with friends and family about our missions plans we include a section where we talk about our gifts, strengths and how we compliment each other in life and in ministry.  It encourages me to have a chance to speak well of Bethany and to hear her speak well of me.

What are are you intentional about for the health of your marriage?    

Friday, June 10, 2011

Holga Vol 3

I love my holga.  I have had it for a few years ago.  I love getting film back from processing.  I love the adventure of turning ordinary moments extraordinary.  Here are my 3 most favorite shots from my last roll.

from Holga vol 3

What gives you a sense of adventure and exploration?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A Ministry Opportunity - Aspern Seestadt

When Bethany and I traveled to Austria, we met with the leaders of a new and exciting project.    On an old airfield east of Vienna, the government will build a brand new development with offices, store fronts, housing, schools and even a man-made lake.  In the midst of this community that is yet to be built, Austrian evangelical church leaders will plant a thriving church.

We were excited to hear how God is preparing the way for this new ministry.  The leaders are assembling the team, praying and trusting that God will raise up the right members for this wonderful new ministry opportunity.  We are pursuing this project and pray that God leads us in how we should be involved.   

Please pray that God will lead clearly and raise up the team He has for this 2015 church plant.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Mental Exhaustion

After our 2-week trip to Austria in April, we were often asked about our trip and what we learned. And I think the best way I’ve come to describe it is to explain the sheer mental exhaustion we felt at the end of some days in Austria. We were learning and absorbing so much every day that by 8 or 9pm, we were eager to turn off our brains and crash into bed! Conversations with missionaries on our team, missionaries from other countries or organizations, church and ministry leaders, and Austrians were consistently teaching us new things and it was a lot to process, but SO VALUABLE

I believe we came home from our two weeks better equipped to share and answer questions about Austria. Before our trip, all of our knowledge came from the words and stories of others, but now we can share our own stories and speak from personal experience. We learned a lot about…
  • Cultural expectations, traditions, and standards in Austria
  • Church dynamics in Austria and the differences between Catholicism there and in the U.S.
  • The complex ties between church and state and how is has affected many Austrians perception of the “church”
  • What evangelical church looks like in Austria and how the gospel is manifested in their culture
  • The role that missionaries play in the evangelical church in Austria and why more are needed
  • The challenges we should be prepare for when crossing cultures
  • The adventure of language acquisition and culture study, which will be our focus for our first 2 years in Austria
This only scratches the surface of what we absorbed. Our learning may not be something we can tangibly show someone as a result of our trip, but I believe it was the most valuable part of our time there and the take-away that will most impact how we prepare over the next year.

I'm sure this is only the beginning of our mental exhaustion. Once we begin two years of full-time language school, I'm sure our brains will feel "fried" at the end of the day most times as we try to master the German language. But it is all so worthwhile and even though it will be hard, I'm so excited to begin. Bring on the exhaustion!