Because life is a series of edits

Archive for the ‘Places’ Category

The Condition of My Sole/Soul

In Calling, Church, Family, Friends, Health, Humanity, Oklahoma City, Places, The Academy on September 8, 2013 at 8:37 pm

DSC_0002 As I’ve done before, I took a picture of my shoes tonight. My daughters wondered if I was going to try to sell them online. I’m actually thinking of making a display box for them to remind myself that shoes are no more good without an intact sole than I am without mine (intact soul, that is).

I noticed these shoes breaking down at the beginning of summer (the heel on the the right shoe had already begun to decompose), but I hit August and never seemed to have or take the time to buy a new pair once the hole developed.

To compensate, I spent more mental energy than I had making sure I didn’t cross my legs with my foot up in the air, advertising the color of my socks that day. I was careful on rainy days (and we had several of them this summer) as to where I stepped, as I was vulnerable not just to the biggest of puddles, but to the dewiest of grass as well.

Having made the aforementioned adjustments, I thought I could just keep going, which I did…until the remains of the inner liner gave way and all that was left between my foot and the pavement was my sock, which didn’t last more than a day during car line of the opening week of school. Concrete and cotton are not friends, and my foot paid the price for their dysfunctional relationship.

Two weeks ago, I finally went to the shoe store. I proudly announced to the staff there that I thought it was time I bought a new pair of dress shoes. I showed them the bottoms of my old shoes. They were amazed. They took pictures. They said they had never seen a pair of dress shoes that beat up. I beamed with pride even as my feet hurt. My sole-abuse was (or seemed) justified.

Just like my sole, my soul – the essence of who I am – has worn through some as a result of the past two-and-a-half years in Oklahoma. Sure, the shoe still fits and functions, but that doesn’t mean I should keep wearing it as it is.

I took time this weekend to sort some of this out. I spent a lot of time thinking, writing, editing, praying, and resting. I consolidated a majority of my digital life and re-read and re-evaluated what – good and not so much – had brought me to this time and space. While my work and call are far from fulfilled (God asks for and is doing so much!), for the first time in a very long time, I caught a glimpse of a few adjustments I need to make so as to avoid burnout in fulfilling them. They won’t be immediate and will be more of a months-long process than a weekend project, but I liked being able to identify the need and the difference. It felt good.

To be clear, I’m not even close to fizzling or frying; hardly. I still love God, my wife, my kids (biological and foster), what we’re doing at The Academy of Classical Christian Studies and City Presbyterian, and with whom and why we’re doing it. I’m also looking forward to heading to Merrimack, NH, this weekend as we start up the third leg of the Biblical Imagination conferences, which are always personally edifying.

The fact is that I’m encouraged most days, Oklahoma continues to grow on me, and we’re paying our bills and eating. God has just shown me a few important things in the midst of all the good things, and I felt led to share them with you, ask you to pray, and encourage you to glean from my experiences what God might show you concerning yours.

No need to worry; no need to call.

It’s just time to get some new shoes.

Meeting Needs (“Sexy” or Otherwise)

In Calling, Church, Family, Humanity, Oklahoma City, Places, Thought on July 20, 2013 at 12:15 am

HandsBobby and Jennifer just welcomed home their soon-to-be adopted son. Another couple in our church are two weeks into parenting their just-adopted newborn daughter. Megan and I just received our tenth placement (a newborn) since we began emergency foster care in January.

We’re glad to be part of a church that cares about children. But what other congregational care is happening – or should be – at City Pres?

There’s no question God calls the Church to look out for children – Jesus rebukes the disciples in Matthew 19 for not doing so, while James at the end of James 1 in part defines true religion by how we care for the orphan.

But Jesus talks about caring for all people (many of them not children) throughout the Gospels, and the second category of James’ religion equation has to do specifically with widows (and no one else).

As a friend recently remarked, adoption and foster care can seem more “sexy” than ministering to the adult/widow crowds. How are we doing in supporting church members doing the latter?

When was the last time we got behind the middle-aged parent caring for an aging parent or grandparent (sometimes in her own home) out of regard for Exodus 20:12? Who’s supporting the young man visiting inmates in prison a la Hebrew 13:3 (actually, is anyone visiting inmates in prison these days)? Are we trying to help the health care professional in our midst serve the mentally or physically disabled, or is David’s concern for Mephibosheth lost on us (and therefore them)?

Since January, Megan and I have received money, clothes, diapers, car seats, baby swings,notes of encouragement, and pats on the back for our emergency foster care efforts. City Pres and her members have been in our corner from the beginning, and this has meant the world to us and our  four girls as we’ve cared for the ten little ones through our home the past seven months.

How far would this same support go for the mom caring for her kids, husband, and mother/grandmother at home? Or for the twenty-something trying to make a difference with a weekly visit to one of the six corrections/detention centers in the OKC metro? Or for the professional counselor in our congregation working with those whose minds or bodies just won’t?

Modern evangelicalism tries to rationalize that not everyone’s called to be involved with foster care and adoption (an excuse I don’t buy, per Jesus’ and James’ own words), but to not be called to care about anyone? No way.

Pray, search your heart, ask around, find a need, work to meet it, repeat. It’s not hard and should be what we do at City Pres for everybody (not just us more “sexy” types).

What I’ve Yet to Learn on Summer Vacation

In Family, Friends, Health, Holidays, Places, Thought, Vacation on June 23, 2013 at 6:51 pm

Vacation

We're set to go on "vacation" in another week, which only means we're seeing a few friends and family in a few places we've already lived. When it comes to "vacation", we stopped using the "v" word a long time ago; we're always taking "trips" instead. (For the antithesis of our experience, Google "Vacation".)

Our initial plans for a break were to start this week and go through the Fourth of July week for a total of 12-14 days away, but that schedule got thrown out months ago because of a board meeting this Friday, as well as that, summer or not, we've got a limited amount of time to launch a new school two months from today. And that's okay…or at least reality.

I don't know if it's a blessing or a curse, but reality is where I tend to live and move and have my being, often at the expense of my many idealist dreams. I wanted to take Megan to London for a week for our honeymoon; we ended up renting a cabin in Arkansas for three days because we had neither time nor money to do otherwise. I went to Africa and planned for our family to spend six months in Uganda in the fall of 2001 (with an eye to possibly staying years as missionaries); Megan, however, became pregnant with our third that summer and 9/11 happened in September, so those plans changed.

After a nice "trip" back to Colorado Springs (where we lived for 12 years) last summer, we hoped to return this summer so the girls could finally go to Eagle Lake together (the last year it would be possible because of their ages) and we could get some time alone as well as part of a major staff reunion; however, school merger necessities made that trip impossible, especially if we wanted to also get back to the family farm in Illinois, which we haven't been to since Christmas (another "trip").

Our plan next week? We just finalized it this weekend (which gives you some indication of how little it actually entails): see a few friends in St. Louis, spend 4-5 days on the farm, catch Megan's parents in Tulsa on the way back. That's it…and usually what it always is.

I feel like a failure when it comes to the Great American Vacation, largely because I'm not sure I have the courage (among other things – time, money, people-quotient) to actually take one. We've made noble attempts – the aforementioned trip to Colorado, for instance, or an actual "vacation" in the summer of 2009 to Florida so we could take a few pictures and prove to the girls that they, indeed, had once stood on a beach and seen an actual ocean – but in 16 years, that's about it.

I remember one year before we had kids, Megan and I got a phone call from a timeshare company inviting us to make a trip from Colorado Springs to Pagosa Springs for a free weekend getaway if we sat through their presentation. We went, but the only thing I remember from the time was the company representative asking me how "committed" we were to "vacation." Committed to vacation? As a farm kid, I had never heard those words used in the same sentence before. We didn't buy a timeshare.

I get that people need breaks (and maybe it's my pride that wrestles with that fact that I do as well), but taking time off (especially when I love what I do as much as I do) is a very unnatural experience for me. Even when we leave on "vacation" next week, it's going to be a working trip: we're unveiling new uniforms for The Academy that Monday and if there's anything people have opinions about more than what their students are learning, it's what their kids are wearing while they're learning. It's too early in our school's one-month-old existence to make this kind of announcement and not be available (at least by phone, email, or online) should there be any questions.

What is it I've yet to learn on summer vacation? I suppose it's just how and why (not to mention where and when) to actually take one. For those who have figured it out, I welcome your rationales.

And if you're on vacation, well, I guess, enjoy it (somebody has to).

Mizzou-Rah

In Friends, Holidays, Places on May 19, 2013 at 8:44 pm

I would have completely forgotten I graduated from college 20 years ago without this note (which, of course, also included a petition for funds) congratulating me upon the anniversary. While I doubt I'm too specifically "remembered," I'll give a shout out to all my MU peeps and offer a "Mizzou-rah" for all those times that seem like ancient history now.

20th---

(Shameless self-promotion: If you want to read more about my time at Mizzou, order a copy of TwentySomeone and skim it before you give it to your favorite graduate this May.)

Sticky Note Processing

In Calling, Church, Education, Places, Theologians, Travel on May 5, 2013 at 12:07 pm

Minnesota

After finishing up another Biblical Imagination Conference (our largest to date – 150 wonderful people!), I'm sitting in the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, enjoying the Upper Midwest accents and waiting for my flight back to OKC. After a full travel day on Friday and the conference that evening and all day Saturday, I got to sleep in at bit this morning in my hotel room (which rarely happens at home), so I'm feeling fairly rested and reflective as I enjoy the free wi-fi.

I've been a part of these conferences for two-and-a-half years now, developing the program and serving as emcee/educator for the first year-and-a-half through the gospel of Luke, and now finishing up in another two weeks the past year with our final Mark conference. Matthew starts up in September and will run for a year-and-a-half, and then we'll finish out with John for almost two years. When it's all said and done, it will be a total of six years that I've been involved with this initiative.

Stickies 2

One of the things I try to facilitate during the conferences is a warm, funny (often "punny"), and vulnerable atmosphere that lends itself to folks being comfortable enough to listen without defense and contribute without suspense. A great way I've found (or more accurately, stolen from my friends Bill, Bruce, and John) that lends itself to meeting this goal is "sticky note processing" – asking conferees to write down a thought on a sticky note in response to a question, discuss it with each other, and then post it on the wall for all to read. Everyone can then check the stickies out over the breaks, and I read a few at the beginning of the next session and comment so folks know we're taking them seriously.

Yesterday afternoon, after a session on the "unmiraculous miracles" Jesus did in the New Testament and now does in our daily lives, I asked attendees to complete the sentence, "Lord, give me the eyes to see your miracle in/concerning…" The responses were both heart-breaking and, if you're involved with people to any degree, sadly all too familiar:

Lord, give me the eyes to see your miracle in/concerning…

…bringing faith to unsaved friends and family.

…my prodigal sister disowning our family.

…giving our children the daily knowledge and experience to grow up healthy and happy and desiring to know You more.

…my joy.

…contention in the church body.

…the lost in our state, country, and the world.

…my daughter being critical of everything that her husband says or does.

…the lives of my grandchildren.

…healing my relationship with my ex-wife to be able to communicate over family matters.

…the healing of our son-in-law's body and finding a job for him.

…Your vantage point always in every moment.

…my 3-year-old adoptive daughter and her progress and ability to talk.

…our daughter and son-in-law's marriage and how they treat and talk to each other.

…our children's lives.

…the two years of pain and suffering and death of my mother because I don't understand it.

…my job search and where you want me.

…our daughters.

…giving me the courage, wisdom, and opportunity to teach my young grandchildren about You.

…my wayward daughter.

…my youngest daughter as she truly is, not as her illness makes her.

…the effects of a Christian friend on a unbeliever.

…bringing my brother and his wife into relationship with You.

…my child.

…our church, its growth and vibrancy, and how it can touch our community.

…how to stop the persecution of Christians.

…in our finances and living situation.

…my faith in Your plans and times for the future.

…my personnel problems at work, my family conflicts, and my own depression.

…my prayers to open the eyes of close family members.

…our son watching our daughter-in-law crack under the pressure of living overseas in such an oppressive culture that devalues life.

…our budget despite the loss of income.

…our son's death.

…my son in med school who seems so far away from his Christian upbringing.

…Your work through my work.

…the loss of a visa and job in east Asia.

…my husband's careful and loving provision for me – always a model of how You love us.

…the starving people in the world.

…restoration, healing, and wholeness for my children who grew up in lots of chaos and crud, that they would be able to forgive me for their past pain.

…my 21-year-old son, who is very introverted and not motivated to move forward in life.

…returning our pastor to our church.

…the broken relationships with my youngest son and my two daughter-in-laws; I stay away to avoid troubles, even at the expense of not seeing my only granddaughter.

…my oldest son, who struggles with You, his faith, and himself.

It can be overwhelming reading all these, but when shared in the temporary community of the conference, it's amazing how God enables people to find and hold each other up in the midst of the hurt. My prayer is people can do the same in their local church communities, but it isn't easy when all of us wrestle with our own versions of the list above and have to relate longer-term than across a short weekend.

Still, by God's grace, perhaps folks can get a taste at the conference of what's possible at home and pursue this potential within a local expression of the Body of Christ. It's a lonely and lamentable existence otherwise. All it takes are a few sticky notes to figure that out.

Something of the Marvelous

In Family, Nature, Places, Travel, Vacation, Young Ones on March 21, 2013 at 9:14 am

"In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous."
Aristotle

Few things take my mind off the past and the future like camping does. I've just returned from spending two days and two nights living almost
exclusively in the present, and it was so good I didn't want to come
back.

I'm late to the joys of camping. Some of this is not my fault (I only remember one camping trip my family took when I was a kid and it was eight miles from my house); most of it, however, is (I lived 12 years in Colorado Springs, worked at a camp for 10 of those, and never even owned a sleeping bag, for crying out loud).

Come to think of it, I still don't even own a sleeping bag. I really am (and always have been) a camping lightweight.

Lightweight or not, when I hit my late-30s and felt the need to do something unique, experiential, and (let's be honest) cheap with Megan and our growing girls, camping suddenly became a legitimate option. Megan found a great family tent on Freecycle, we borrowed some gear, and presto – we were campers.

Our girls – all four of them – absolutely love it. This blessing is not lost on me, as it would stink if even just one were only slightly amused or (worse) completely repulsed by the idea of hiking, eating, and sleeping outside. In addition, while I wouldn't say it's her favorite thing as she longs for a Winnebago, Megan's usually good for at least a couple days and nights without a shower, so I've got that going for me.

This most recent trip (our first over a Spring Break) was different for a variety of reasons, most notably the addition of a set of young foster boys (4 and 3) to the mix. While overall a positive experience for everyone (especially the boys), let's just say there's another reason I didn't start camping until after our girls were five and older – taking two little kids camping overnight was a boatload of work for all of us.

We decided to go to the Wichita Mountains
Wildlife Refuge
– 60,000 acres of southern plains set aside to preserve buffalo, longhorn, and elk – about 90 minutes southwest of Oklahoma City.

Cacti

We didn't see any elk, but we saw enough buffalo and longhorn to say we did.

Tatanka 2

Longhorn

We got to the Refuge on Monday late afternoon and promptly set up camp. The girls know our routine and helped the boys find a place within it.

Campsite

Tent Building

Old Blue

After getting set up and taking a walk down to the lake, we cooked some hoboes…

Hoboes & Chairs

Hobo

…then built a fire and roasted some s'mores (the boys' first).

Campfire

Laugh by Light

It was a cold evening (mid-40s) in the tent…

Tent Girls

…but everyone made it up for a breakfast of eggs and bacon.

Bacon

That first morning, we took the boys on a nice little adventure up Little Baldy, which was about a twenty minute hike from our campsite. As it was the first activity of the day, the little guys managed, but the girls ended up carrying them some on the way back.

Little Baldy

Backpacks

We hung out at the campsite some and then grilled some hotdogs for lunch.

Hot Dogs

After lunch, Megan offered to lie down with the boys in the tent so the girls and I could jump in the van to drive six miles to the Sunset trailhead to hike Elk Mountain. This was a longer hike (about four miles roundtrip) and a little more of a challenge, but the ladies love them some hiking, so it was fun.

Hikers

On Top of Elk Mountain

After being gone for a couple hours, we came back to camp and the boys just waking up. We hung out for an hour or so in camp before loading up for a trip to the visitor's center and a drive up to the peak of Mount Scott.

Visitor Center

Mount Scott

Directions

We then headed into Medicine Park to experience a little southwest Oklahoma culture and Ann's Country Kitchen. Good food, lots of local color.

Ann's

Restaurant

After picking up some ice and water, we drove back to the Refuge, built another fire, and had another round of s'mores. We were all pretty wiped and called it a night around ten, though the girls could have stayed up longer playing cards by lantern light.

Lantern Laughs

The next morning, we had a muffin breakfast, broke down camp, packed up (it's amazing how much stuff we brought for a two-night camping trip – again, we're lightweights), and made the drive back to OKC. We got the van unloaded, started some laundry, ate lunch, and then the boys took a four-and-a-half hour nap while I took the girls to see The Hobbit at the dollar theater – a nice end to three days of fun.

OKC: A City on the Rise

In Calling, Family, Oklahoma City, Places, Thought on January 25, 2013 at 2:17 pm

Idyllic overkill, but there are worse places to live. Glad to be part of the renaissance.

Things I Got to Do in January

In Calling, Church, Education, Family, Friends, Oklahoma City, Places, Television, Thought, TV, Young Ones on January 18, 2013 at 9:09 pm

I know the month is hardly over, but I'm not sure I'll have time to post again until February. In the meantime, here's a visual record of some things I got to do in January:

Sell an old car (our 1998 Delta 88 threw a rod and died a peaceful death in our driveway)

Olds

Buy a "new" car (meet "Victor the Volvo," a 23-year-old car whose official color is "wine")

Victor

Chronicle blatant church hypocrisy (best picture ever)

Hypocrisy

Take part in City Pres' first-ever leader retreat (I'm the one about to throw up on the right)

City Pres Leadership Training

Eat (and live to tell about it) at a place featured on Man vs. Food

Catfish Barn

Care for our first foster child (this 3-year-old was cute as a button)

Fostering

Study with daughters at Starbucks (also known as caffeinated homeschooling)

Starbucks Studying

Launch a new school (The Academy) with friend and fellow Head of School, Nathan Carr

Craig Launching Academy

Nathan Launching Academy

All in a month's work…

 

Keeping Track of Our Kids

In Family, Places, Pop Culture, Young Ones on November 4, 2012 at 9:33 am

Unattended Children

I snapped this picture in a coffee shop near Franklin, TN, last week (for a few pics from my trip, click here) because I thought it was a clever and diplomatic way to remind parents to keep track of their kids.

I wish I could be so clever and diplomatic. Unfortunately, this will be more bumbling and annoying instead.

Do you know where your kids are? I'm not talking about which
part of the house they're in or who they're staying overnight with this
weekend. I'm also not asking about where they should be or what they
should be able to do at this stage in their development (nothing diminishes our kids' humanity more than speaking of them in terms of "percentiles").

Honestly, I wonder if someone giving espresso and a free puppy to
our kids would be enough of a wake-up call to ask the question. How long until we noticed the smell and the barking?

The sign above made me think. Megan and I are to the point now (and
it is a glorious one) where we are comfortable leaving our 13-, 12-,
10-, and 9-year-old daughters unattended at home for short periods of
time. So far, no one's burned down the house, physically maimed another,
or run away thinking this was their one-and-only chance at freedom.

But we still have to attend their hearts and help them deal with things like disappointment, frustration, and anger. We know this because we still have to attend ours regarding the same things.

During this "fall back" weekend, why not invest your additional
hour by attending your child's heart (and not just their activities)?

Espresso and a free puppy are the least of our concerns.

Reunion Blogging

In Marriage, Places, Pop Culture, Thought on October 14, 2012 at 3:43 pm

So last night was the twentieth-year reunion for Megan's high school class of 1992. Seeing as how I grew up in a town where a good percentage of the class gets together every weekend at The Bucket anyway, I'm not much for the whole reunion gig. Still, I went and ended up posting these updates for anyone who enjoys such things more than I.

6:43 pm: In Owasso for @MeganDunham's twenty year high school reunion. I'll be the one spiking the punch and dancing on tables.

7:40 pm: Arrived at reunion w/ worst of rain – clothes
drenched. Good news: someone just turned on disco ball by flipping
"atmosphere" switch. #phew

7:42 pm: Third Bryan Adams song in 25 minutes. Long live 1992. #reunionliveblogging

7:48 pm: Can't handle pressure of accompanying former Miss Owasso High School (@MeganDunham) to reunion. Room spinning; must sit down.

8:05 pm: Food disappointment: promised "heavy hors
d'oeuvres" turns out to be something in crock pot, plate of Ritz
crackers. #reunionliveblogging

8:08 pm: Still dripping from deluge outside. Hoping party pic gal has "Anti-Wet Rat" filter in Photoshop. #reunionliveblogging

8:16 pm: That awkward moment when the reunion emcee
tries to yell over the crowd and forgets that the Best of the Early 90s
CD is still playing.

8:21 pm: That awkward moment when emcee instructs everyone in attendance to vote for sexiest male/female present. #reunionliveblogging

Soiree
8:33 pm:
The scene of the crime…a step up from The Bucket in Griggsville (but only a step).

8:49 pm: Can't remember the last time I was around this many 38-year-olds all in one room. #reunionliveblogging

8:58 pm: Almost two hours into inane conversation. Bring on Wayne's World imitations, Kurt Cobain lip sync contest. #reunionliveblogging

Queen and Court
9:02 pm: Former Miss Owasso High School and her court (actually these were just people at our table – I have no idea who they are).

9:12 pm: Program highlight of evening so far: 1992
yearbook. I honestly can't remember the last time I had this kind of
fun. #reunionliveblogging

9:16 pm: Finally: someone remembered an hour-and-a-half after turning it off for the drunk emcee that there had been music in 1992.

Joe Don
9:19 pm: Had absolutely no idea that Megan had gone to school with a young Joe Don Baker. #reunionliveblogging

9:33 pm: Pseudo-theological reunion thought: glad we're
going to have work to do in new heavens, new earth. I couldn't take an
eternity of mingling.

9:43 pm: Possibly most unfortunate thing of the
evening: only being able to make out bass line (and nothing more) to
Prince's "Purple Rain." #sad

10:24 pm: Drunk emcee nowhere to be found, so party
over. Probably catch pneumonia from three hours of sitting in wet
clothes. Thanks for reading.

A Matter of Desire

In Calling, Friends, Humanity, Places on July 16, 2012 at 11:49 am

"Are you on staff here?" asked the man, sticking his head in the door of the Coachmen's Lounge in the Carriage House.

"No," I said. (Not "No, but I used to be," or "No, but I sometimes wish I were." Just "No.") "I'm sorry I can't help you."

"That's okay," he said nonchalantly. "You just can't answer my question. Thanks." He smiled and left in search of someone who could.

This interaction sums up the gist of what hurts the most about returning to places in my past that I love: I can't help and I can't answer. To a wannabe maven like myself, this is the death knell of the soul (or less melodramatically, part of the heartache I've felt on this trip).

I didn't realize it until we were on the road, but on this family vacation (the longest – two weeks – we've ever attempted and I've felt the guiltiest about), Megan and I are essentially re-tracing our geographic, emotional, and spiritual history together.

Starting in Oklahoma City (where we now live and move and have our being), we spent two days in St. Louis (Covenant Seminary, teaching at Westminster) before spending four days in Illinois (where I grew up and we lived for six weeks before transitioning to the Lou).

DSC_0101

Seven years later after starting seminary in the summer of 2005.
DSC_0125

The new entry way to Westminster Christian Academy.
DSC_0194

Cousins Ryan and Tucker filling water balloons with Maddie and Chloe.

Following our time on the farm, we headed out Colorado way, getting into Colorado Springs yesterday afternoon (where we met, started our family, and worked with The Navigators for 12 years at Glen Eyrie and Eagle Lake, the two Nav properties threatened and very nearly consumed by the Waldo Canyon Fire a few weeks back). We've already seen a bear up close and personal, and the girls are attending Day Camp through the week before we begin the trip back to OKC Friday evening.

DSC_0255

A black bear taking a stroll in front of the Pink House.
DSC_0293

Eagle Lake Day Camp at Glen Eyrie.

As much as these places in my past have stayed the same, they have all changed as well. When we stopped off at Westminster in St. Louis to see where I would have taught had we stayed, it was very different ($70 million dollars buys quite a campus and facility).

DSC_0162

The Grand Hall at Westminster.

When we arrived at the farm, we barely made it in before the oil and chip crew finished my parents' driveway (something my dad repeatedly said he'd waited 39 years to do).

DSC_0225

Maddie, Millie, Tucker, and Chloe getting wet (notice the new driveway).

Here at the Glen, we had the place to ourselves on a Sunday evening, but it's a very different (and much improved) place from when I was here in the first half of the 2000's.

DSC_0289

Walking with Katie and Chloe through the Glen Eyrie grounds.

Being a recovering narcissist, I keep wondering how much of any of the change would or would not have happened had I stayed where I was? How would any of these or a thousand other decisions been made differently had I been around to be more involved in the discussions? And what does it mean for my ego that the decisions that did get made without me seem to have been, by and large, good and right ones?

It's a timely reminder, I suppose, that none of us are irreplaceable and that we should not think of ourselves as such. This does not mean that we are unimportant and unable to serve in God's grander narrative, but it's humbling to relearn again and again this lesson: though I want to matter, mattering is not what matters most (or even at all) in the economy of God. He is the only real Matterer.

I know and believe this, but my heart struggles with the feeling and truth of it. Forgive me, Lord, for allowing my desire to matter to be such a matter of my desire.

On the Road Again

In Family, Friends, Places, Travel, Vacation on July 6, 2012 at 8:54 pm

IMG_0480

Not sure if a roadtrip through these five states – the five in which we've easily spent the majority of our lives* – counts as a true and exotic "vacation," but it will have to do. We're looking forward to seeing some familiar roads, places, and faces these next two weeks.

(*We've never lived in Kansas, but when you've driven across it as many times as we have, it's felt like it.)

Come Hell or High Water

In Friends, Places on June 24, 2012 at 3:02 pm
Fire Near Eagle Lake

(photo by Andrew Brown)

We've been following from afar the wildfires near Colorado Springs. Not only did we once live there for 12 years, but the two properties we formerly helped run, Eagle Lake Camp and Glen Eyrie Conference Center, have been evacuated with our old west side neighborhood just down the street from the Garden of the Gods about to be so. (As you may have read in my previous post, we're due to be at both in a couple of weeks, and really hope to find all places still standing and intact, with our friends still involved with them in one piece.)

Staff LeadershipEL Staff 2000During our time in Colorado, we went through a fire scare once before: in 2002, a massive wildfire came within several miles of Eagle Lake and we were forced to evacuate camp down to Glen Eyrie. I coordinated things on the bottom end, handling communications with those coming down from camp and making sure we had what we needed to handle the extra influx of 250 campers and 100 staff in the midst of hundreds of guests already at the Glen. We had a good team (pic) working together on both ends of Queen's Canyon (the nine-mile-long canyon running between the two properties), and things went as well as we could have hoped, with camp back up and going a week later.

Five years previous in 1998, we dealt with another crisis – heavy rains and flash flooding with 250 campers and staff only halfway down Queen's Canyon. I was monitoring the hike from above on Rampart Range Road and was in radio communication with them and it sounded awful. Judging by what I heard in radio conversation and considering what the weather looked like it was going to do, I made the call to bring in Search and Rescue, but again, it was our team (pic) who did most of the searching and rescuing; even after S&R determined it was too dangerous to do anything with the last of our group still in the canyon, our guys were going back up and bringing folks back down. It was such a memorable experience that we printed T-shirts to hand out to campers and staff at the end of that week's camp.

Being so removed from this summer's action as I am now in Oklahoma reminds me of the summer of 1993 when I was at Eagle Lake (elevation 9,600 feet) while my family back in Illinois were doing everything they could to help sandbag and hold back the Mississippi River from flooding more land than it already had. The Flood of 1993 was surreal and hard to imagine sitting on top of a mountain in Colorado, but after 2002's fire, I don't have to imagine the the kind of fire and damage Colorado's experiencing (you could see and smell it). I am, however, struggling to imagine Eagle Lake and the Glen – places that have meant so much to hundreds of thousands of people over time and so much to me for the 12 years I was there – possibly being swallowed by a fiery blaze.

Earlier today, I sent an email to some of the guys I labored with during those developmental years. Knowing they were up to their eyeballs in details and decisions and not necessarily anticipating an answer, I typed: "Following from afar with all the fire stuff. Sorry to hear camp this week is canceled and both properties were evacuated. Hope they get it contained. Thinking of you."

An hour or so later, I got a response back from my friend and mentor, Jack McQueeney, executive director of Glen Eyrie and Eagle Lake. Ever the optimist, Jack sent back the most faith-filled of email messages: "We need a T-shirt!"

Lord, get them through this and I'll be happy to design one.

Un-Manic Monday(s)?

In Books, Calling, Friends, Oklahoma City, Places, Writers on June 11, 2012 at 1:34 pm
Craig and Doug 2011

Craig & Doug, 2011.

So I'm sitting in an enormous but quiet room at an undisclosed location with Doug Serven, my former college roommate, co-author, and friend of 20 years sitting 50-feet away on the other side. Doug and I have committed to take Mondays this summer to work together – not necessarily on the same thing but in the same room – if for no other reason than just to be together doing it.

It's taken us a year of living in the same city to figure out our need for this – for our personal sanity, for our friendship, and perhaps for the sake of another book. We probably realized it was a good idea a while ago, but in the challenges of our first year in Oklahoma City (his as lead pastor planting City Presbyterian; mine as Head of School leading Veritas Classical Academy), this is the first day out of the past 365 that we've finally been able/chosen to schedule this length of regular time.

After a morning of working on different individual church/school responsibilities and then stepping out for a bite to eat at lunch, we came back to digitally dust off the pseudo-manuscript we had started almost four years ago for ThirtySomewhere. Five minutes in, Doug leaned forward, put his head on the table, and declared how overwhelming this all felt.

And it does – writing a book at 41 seems a whole lot different than writing a book at 31. It shouldn't in theory; after all, we have more life experiences from which to pull. The challenge is stepping out of life's experiences in order to pull from them.

Thus, the Mondays idea…or whatever part of Mondays we get in the midst of everything else. We've walked through our summer calendars and blocked out what we could, but with trips and everything else, we can only grab four Mondays across the whole summer. Still, we're starting with those and will see what happens.

(If you see ThirtySomewhere on a bookshelf somewhere in a year-and-a-half, it worked.)

Have Biblical Imagination, Will Travel

In Calling, Church, Friends, Musicians, Places, Theologians, Travel on May 18, 2012 at 6:28 am

Off again this weekend, this time to Willowick, OH. Here's a new video with Mike filmed at March's Biblical Imagination conference in Normal, IL, for a peek at what this is all about.

Pulled Over & Waiting Here in Tornado Alley

In Nature, Places, Pop Culture on April 14, 2012 at 1:27 pm

Tornado

So we're supposed to get major storms and other various and sundry severe weather this weekend, beginning mid-to-late afternoon today and throughout the evening tonight. Always one to completely underestimate the power of nature, I have been pacing around all morning trying to figure out how to speed things up and get there. I've thought about jumping in the old Delta 88 and driving around looking for one, or even standing out in the middle of my cul-de-sac with a sign reading "Do your worst!" directed at any apporaching mesocyclones.

In my brazen ignorance, I've subjected my family to a not-so-bad-B-movie called Tornado Valley (my personal tornado favorite, Twister, is not available for streaming) and an old NOVA documentary on the F5 that hit Moore in 1999. I've downloaded a couple of tornado alert apps on my phone and even thought about chanting some old high school cheers from back in the day (ironically, we were the "Tornadoes" at Griggsville High, but that's as close to seeing any as I've come).

For all you Okies out there, what do you do while you sit around and wait to get blown away? I'd like to start a list to get me through the rest of the day…after which you may never hear from me again. Ideas?

When Presbyterians Rock

In Church, Musicians, Places on March 23, 2012 at 1:36 pm

I always have a good time visiting different churches and meeting some really neat people as part of our Biblical Imagination conferences. This weekend, we're in Normal, IL, and I got a kick out of my fellow Presbyterians' attempt to rock.

When Presbyterians Rock

(For those not in on the joke, you usually don't put a digital piano up on an x-rack.)

A Dispatch from January

In Books, Calling, Church, Education, Family, Movies, Oklahoma City, Places, Pop Culture, Sports, Television, TV, Veritas, Young Ones on January 21, 2012 at 8:03 am

I have over 150 "have-to-answer" emails in my inbox, so it would seem a good time to work on the blog. (I'll just think of this as a warm-up rather than a put-off. Note: If you're waiting on an email from me, it will come today). Some items of late to mark the days:

I just finished two books, both with a financial theme: The Price of Everything, a parable of economic emergent order, by Russell Roberts, and The Third Conversion, a "novelette" by R. Scott Rodin about fundraising as ministry and not just money. The first book is a very readable text that our seniors are reading in Economics; the second is a more semi-hokey series of conversations between a seasoned fundraiser and his up-and-coming protege.

While recovering from my first kidney stone surgery, I found myself with some time to actually watch a few things on Netflix via the iPad. I'd heard of Joss Whedon's Firefly series (only one season of 15 episodes, capped off for resolution by the movie, Serenity) and enjoyed this "space western" well enough. I also had time for a few Shakespeare films (Kenneth Branaugh's Henry V and Patrick Stewart in Macbeth were excellent), which were fun and novel to watch.

There's been a lot of "launching" going on this January. A week ago, City Pres got off the ground with our first official worship service (I helped serve the Lord's Supper) and our Tuesday night CityGroup started back up; this past week, we kicked off our Veritas capital campaign and website, which we hope will come to first fruition in early March; and I've  enjoyed getting back in the classroom twice a week teaching the second semester of our senior American History course (two very different but engaging texts: A Patriot's History of the United States by Larry Schwiekart and Michaell Allen and A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn).

Other highlights so far this month: 70-degree weather, my four capitalist daughters selling three (and counting) enormous boxes worth of chocolate for their homeschool band program, Megan clearing off and cleaning my desk (she loves me), NFL football playoffs (which is really the only time I'm interested enough to watch), the daily newspaper in my driveway, cold milk on hand, and people who call me "friend".

Okay. Guess it's time to deal with email, to which I say (in my best British accent): "Do your worst!" Thanks for reading.

New Kevin Durant Commercial Filmed in OKC

In Oklahoma City, Places, Sports on December 4, 2011 at 8:57 am

Pretty cool ad from Nike featuring OKC as the backdrop for Thunder superstar Kevin Durant. Thank you, KD, for being classy enough for Sam Cooke‘s “Good Times” tune.

Lessons from the Wilderness

In Nature, Places, Writers on October 24, 2011 at 12:04 am

Got an email today from an old acquaintance from back during my Christian camp and conference center days. Here's what he wrote:

Hey, maybe you could offer some advice on an article I've been asked to write for 3CA (Christian Camp and Conference Association). I'm writing on "best practices" of how those who work at Christian camps and conferences can grow and nourish their own faith. From your experience in Christian camping, would you do me a favor and answer a few quick questions?

How can they do it?

What might it look like (paint a word picture from your experience)?

Any particular Scripture that inspires you in this area?

Here's what I wrote back (complete with a pic from my old program director days – circa 2004 – and a trivia question: Can you name the Christian pseudo-celebrity in the picture?):

God Knows What Retreat

From what I remember about my time in the 3CA world, the biggest irony of camp and conference work is its potential personal hypocrisy: working ridiculous hours so others can get away from their ridiculous hours; never wanting to recognize one's own limits (physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual) while encouraging others to repent of their anger at theirs; downplaying one's need for the Church and Sabbath while trying to meet them for others.

Christian camp and conference workers – much like health care professionals or pastors – can be the worst patients. Go to a 3CA conference and check out the physical shape so many directors and staff are in. While harder to measure, the same reality is often true of their spiritual shape (or at least it was of mine): little discipline in Scripture reading and meditation, less dependence in prayer, rare trust or submission to elders of a local church, and minimal personal evangelism. When camp and conference workers lack resolution in their own lives in these or other areas – all while trying to solve the same problems in others' – they risk hypocrisy. This was the tension I felt and fought for years on a daily basis.

In terms of solutions, for me, "best practice" started with personal repentance before God and others that a self-made martyrdom and "Oh, Lord, beat me so I'll feel better" mentality was far from biblical, as it made ministry more about me than about God and those he might use me to help.

Practically speaking, regular reassessment of (or perhaps creation of) job descriptions, evaluations of schedules, and emphasis on personal and communal responsibility to ensure that all heed Christ's call to "Come with me by yourselves (plural) to a quiet place and get some rest" (Mark 6:31) is foundational, but must be committed to and carried out at all levels of the organization to really be effective.

I can think of no better warning for camp and conference center staff than this quote from C.S. Lewis:

"Those like myself, whose imagination far exceeds their obedience are subject to a just penalty; we easily imagine conditions far higher than any we have really reached. If we describe what we have imagined we may make others, and make ourselves, believe that we have really been there."

In my mind, this is and always will be the potential curse of the camp and conference center staff, but it takes courageous leaders to call it what it is and care for their staff (and themselves) in honest ways concerning it.

Felt good thinking through some of that – should probably do more before I forget some of those lessons (there's plenty of opportunity for personal application here and now).