12 Witnesses

Let these stones be a witness to what we have done here this day.

Goals for my 45th year

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The day after my birthday, Friday, I spent some time in introspection and came up with a list of goals that I wanted to accomplish in my 45th year on the earth, if God is so gracious to leave me here that long.

I shared one of these goals that had been bouncing around in my head for a while with some friends last week and one of them replied, “It’s good to have goals.”  The unspoken phrase that followed in my mind:  It’s better to actually achieve them.  Or at least attempt to do so.

So here are my goals.

Spiritually

  • Continue to grow in the practice of Spiritual Disciplines.  This is something that has been a point of growth for me over a couple of decades, but I have much farther to go, I feel.
  • Take at least 2 Spiritual Retreats by myself.
  • Explore the Spiritual Discipline of Silence.  I don’t know much about this and I can tell you that my mind is rarely quiet.  I want to study and begin to practice this.

Financially

  • Eliminate (certain $ amount) of spending.
  • Apply above described saved money to debts. For reasons I won’t enumerate, though likely obvious for those of my generation, we took on a lot of debt early in our lives and have been working our way out of it for years.  While we have made significant progress at times, I am frustrated with how slowly it is going.  I want to move faster.
  • Give more to opportunities beyond my normal avenues.

Family

  • 1 Vacation with just us this year. Typically our vacation is spent visiting extended family, which is a good thing.  Still, we need some time with just us together.
  • Read more on marriage.  While I love my marriage and think it’s pretty awesome, everything is capable of being improved and I can do that best by improving me within our marriage.
  • Date Bonnie more.  We’ve been dating quite a bit since our kids got older, but we need to do this more.
  • 1 event (big, not small like an ice cream cone over 45 mins) per month with each child – just me and them.

Physically

  • Eat better, lose weight.  Again.  My weight is like a yo-yo and I struggle with it.  I need to get better control of it.
  • Continue to exercise regularly.  I’ve joined a gym for $10 a month and have been working out there.  Got to keep going.
  • Start running triathlons.  I know.  That sounds crazy, especially for a person struggling with their weight.  But it features running, swimming and cycling and variety keeps me engaged.  Also, I am not running Iron Man level triathlons.  Whenever people hear that word, they think of Hawaii and the Iron Man they do there.  That’s for elite athletes.  They have much smaller events (sprint triathlons) that are manageable for beginners.  Still, this is likely to be the most demanding goal on the board.

I have a few other thoughts about lifestyle issues.  I intend to read more, take more pictures, paint more, write more, etc. but they aren’t goals, so… I’ll just stick them here at the end.

Life Lessons on my Birthday

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It’s my birthday, and I’m 44.  According to the Insurance Actuarial Tables, I’m probably more than halfway through.

That just sounds depressing.  Especially if you are older than me.  Sorry.

Let’s look at it another way…  About half of my life thus far was spent just learning the basics, let’s say to my early 20′s.  After that, I’ve been in adult life graduate school, learning the more intricate things that I need to know.

That means that probably have 2/3 of my adult life left (let’s hope and pray) and I’ve learned a lot of good stuff on the way.  Here are a few lessons off the top of my head as I write this the night before.

  • Life’s not easy, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad.  Sometimes the hard things make life easier later on.  I could never have dealt with some of the things I deal with now on a regular basis, had I not been through what I thought was horrible earlier in life.  Now I think I was a wimp before.  Which I probably was.
  • Marriage is cool.  Be sure you get the right one.  It’s hard at first for everyone.  It gets easier if you just have one rule:  Nobody gets out alive.  That’s actually in the vows, if you look them up.  If you know that you are in it for the long haul, you work hard to make it better.  Go to counseling if you need it.  We did and it made an enormous difference for the better.  And remember that your family is the most important thing you are responsible for in this life (I’m including taking care of yourself in this sentence on the family).  If you don’t take care of that, what point is the rest of it?
  • Do what you love, if you can make a living at it.  If you can’t, then do what is helpful and do your best to love it.  It’s easier to do a job that you love and wretched to do what you hate.  A lot of the attitude you bring to the job is up to you, though.  Be positive in your mind about it, but if you just can’t do that then find something else as quick as possible so that you and everyone around you aren’t miserable.
  • Argue less.  A lot of things I used to think were life and death aren’t even close.  Most stuff that we get upset about isn’t worth the energy of being disconcerted and probably, if we are honest, we don’t have a right to be angry about it.  Let it go, if you can.  If not, deal with people in a way that brings reconciliation.  Don’t dump people if you can help it.  It’s probably a mistake to cut them out of your life.  Unless it’s not, in which case you should choose carefully who influences you.
  • Have a hobby.  Have twelve.  You need something to enjoy and accomplish that isn’t tied to work or making ends meet.  Consuming media (tv, music, internet, etc.) is not a hobby – it’s a pastime.  You accomplish nothing and get no sense of self worth from it, nor do you get to be creative and do things without limits from others.  You need creative, accomplishy sorts of things and lots of them.  My list of hobbies (some I am doing more than others) are:  cycling, exercising at the gym (I know, don’t laugh), frisbee golf, golf, photography, guitar, water color painting…  I’m sure there’s more.  Oh, yeah.  Writing.
  • Be outside more.  I had become accustomed to air conditioned office life and the heat was not fun.  Then, last summer, I started doing a lot of outdoor activities and my body adjusted to the heat.  It was awesome.  I loved it.  Outdoors is way more cool than indoors.  WAAAAAYYY more cool.  In the “hip” sense of cool, not the temperature sense.  You probably knew that.
  • Take care of your body.  It declines quickly and the more you ignore it early, the harder it gets later.  A 50 year old that has been fit all his/her life is in much better shape than the 50 year old that got in shape in his/her mid forties.  I learned this the hard way.  I’ve got so many things deteriorating on my body, it’s silly.  One of my biggest regrets is not staying shape.  I used to be in shape. Then I got married.  I did marry the right one.  The one I married is an awesome cook.  I quit even trying to burn off anything I consumed.  18 years later (the day after Christmas is 18 years), one of my hobbies is working out at the gym.  Ugh.

That’s all I can think of at the moment.  Any you’d like to add?  Feel free.

The Bumpy Road

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Interestingly, my wife said that she got something from my sermon on Sunday that I wasn’t trying to communicate.  I said “interestingly,” but perhaps I should have used the word “ironically.” Except that I’m sure such a thing happens all the time.

While speaking on the first Sunday of Advent, I was expounding on Joseph. How he was described as a righteous man. Was unwilling to humiliate Mary publicly when he thought her pregnant by another man.  The phrase that spun my better half in another direction was, “God chose wisely when He entrusted the watchcare of His Son to such a man.”

Bonnie, struck by the difficulty of Joseph’s situation, realized that he was in that situation because he was trustworthy.  And in that moment she was grateful for the bangs, crashes, jolts and thuds we’ve faced, realizing that God has considered us faithful enough to be assigned the bumpy road.

For this to occur, we must trust that God knows what He is doing.  Easier said than done, for most of us.

Phriday foto: 11-12-10 The Rogers Family

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A few pictures I took of my family about a month ago.

Click on a thumbnail to enlarge.

If you like these, you might like to browse my flickr or photoblog.  (Same pics, different layout)

Normal and the Preacher’s Kid

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My friend Cole Hedgecock posted an article detailing the causes of PK’s (Preacher’s Kids for all you non-churchy folks) leaving the church when they become adults.  Fascinating stuff, you can read it at his blog, Colemine Extractions: Why PK’s leave the church.

There’s a lot there, but I think you can reduce it all into the ability to make the home of the Pastor a “normal” one.  Where the experience of growing up at the center of the church’s perspective is not all that different from being the “average” kid in the church.

Here are some things we’ve tried to do in order to make sure our kids are as close to normal as possible.

  1. Make sure that you don’t ask your kids to be “perfect.”  Pastors are often times perfectionists (typically first borns) and they can be demanding.  Don’t be unrealistic.
  2. Be honest about your spiritual ups and downs.  They have them.  If they know you have them, they know it’s “normal” and don’t feel like they can’t live up to your seemingly abnormal spirituality.
  3. Be good talkers and listeners.  All parents need to be good listeners, but you need it more.  If you notice that your kid is not telling you something, then gently work harder to build the trust that allows them to talk about it.  And when they tell you something that sends you reeling, don’t freak out or it’s the last thing you’ll hear from them until they’ve made some huge mistakes.
  4. Communicate to the church that your kids don’t have special expectations from you and that you are telling them that they don’t have to live up to anyone’s special expectations from the church.  The church needs to expect the same from them as they do from the next kid in the Youth Group.
  5. Be there.  It is a must that your job is not 40 hrs/week and that you are always on call, however… you must lock out  time to coach their little league or soccer teams.  Attend their extra curricular events.  Take pictures while you are there and put them all over Facebook or Flickr.  Let them see that you value them.  If they know that you value the church over them by always being at meetings and other responsibilities instead of their things, you can expect that they will resent it.  Your first responsibility as pastor is to pastor your family.  The church has to accept this as well.  Not all churches do.  If they don’t, perhaps they aren’t the church for you.
  6. Laugh.  A lot.  We keep running jokes in our house and celebrate our kids’ senses of humor.  Nothing feels good like fun and a fun family is cherished, not resented.

Those are a few of my thoughts.  Anything you’d like to add?

Skelly Serves Fall Festival/Block Party

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Sunday, Skelly was serving our community by hosting everyone to a free Block Party.  We had inflatables, games, candy, cotton candy, popcorn, grilled corn, caramel apples, bbq sandwiches and funnel cakes.  All of it given to everyone as an opportunity to serve our neighbors.

We had over 450 register and we conservatively estimate another 50 or so enjoyed the festivities without registering.  A lot of them checked that they would like to know what is going on in the future.

Hard work by dedicated Skelly Servants.

Here are just a few of the pics.  You can see all of them here.

Phriday Foto 10-29-10 :: XC

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Little Photography for ya today.  My son’s Cross Country team.

Click on a thumbnail to enlarge.

If you like these, my flickr account is here and my photoblog is here.  (Same pics at both places.)

Why I tell my teenagers “I love you” … in public …

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Last week my baby daughter – the pink princess – turned 13.  She’s been moving too quickly toward this date for some time, but there is no help for it now.  Both my kids are teenagers.

Serving for 19+ years in Youth Ministry kept me younger and more able to relate, but that only goes so far.  It’s like saying I’m the Limburger Cheese that stinks the least.

Nevertheless, I have adopted a particularly uncool behavior to my relationships with each of my kids:  I tell them I love them.  All the time.  In public. While they are with their friends. While they are getting out of the car on the occasion that I drop them off.  All the time and in every place we happen to be.

And they don’t disappoint.  In typical teenaged fashion, they bow their heads and move along as quickly and quietly as they can to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and the occasional snicker from their friends.

I know a few parents who might choose not to say this to them because it is clear they are embarrassed.  The kids might even request it, which is a wound suffered deeply, no doubt.

Another slight is experienced by the parent that expects a return promise of fidelity. The “I love you, too” that doesn’t come and whose absence hangs like an offensive odor before the parent now left alone to endure it.

I don’t care.  It doesn’t bother me one bit that they are embarrassed or that they don’t return my expression of affection.

I tell them “I love you” against their will and without any concern for reciprocation because I say it for them.  They need to hear it from me and they need to hear it often.  Who they are is greatly shaped by the confidence they are cared for and accepted, especially from their parents and especially in their teens.

So I give that affirmation to them even when they don’t give it back and I am the “uncool” Dad.  I can be that, if they will be whole.  Easy trade.

Sorry, Jimmy and Hannah.  You are going to be openly loved and hugged and cheered for and claimed.  I am unashamed.  It may not be what you want, but I am sure it is what you need. So just take your medicine and I’ll check you again when you’re 20 or so.

Oh, and I love you.  Always will.

Why I appreciate Pastors by Marty Duren

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Marty’s got a new Examiner article up focusing on Pastor Appreciation Month (October is it, by the way).

Good article with an excellent representation of a hard working pastor and his family:

Why I Appreciate Pastors

You don’t “grow a church” with Children’s programs…

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Did I actually just say that? Yup.  I’m pretty sure I did.  I might clarify by saying that I don’t think you grow a HEALTHY church that way.

The thought process has gone, for decades, that if you have a great Children’s program and then a great Youth program, you will draw the kids and then get the parents.

It appears that when it works two things happen, and neither of them are healthy.  1) Families transfer from a smaller, dying church to a bigger church with better programs, and/or 2) reclamation of church dropouts.

While the reclamation of dropouts sounds like a good thing, my observation has been that they only reconnected when their kids got to the age where church programs became a part of an already overcrowded schedule of their kids’ activities.  Because their reconnection was just part of the general “busy-ness” in which they enrolled their kids, they typically pursued a nominal Christianity as a tangential part of our congregation.  That is to say, they attended sporadically, they rarely gave and they never served.

Neither transfer growth nor nominal reconnection produce a healthy church.

In a recent study published in USA Today, it was revealed that 70% of people aged 18-30 had dropped out of church by the time they were 23 years old.

The survey addressed a small group of these dropouts who return, but the question was not related to the role of children in their return to church:

The news was not all bad: 35% of dropouts said they had resumed attending church regularly by age 30. An additional 30% attended sporadically. Twenty-eight percent said “God was calling me to return to the church.”

The survey found that those who stayed with or returned to church grew up with both parents committed to the church, pastors whose sermons were relevant and engaging, and church members who invested in their spiritual development.

That last statement is paramount.

To grow a healthy church, we are going to have to 1) grow healthy families, where 2) discipleship is a process that takes place within community and happens over a timeline from cradle to grave and 3) the worship is going to have to be relevant.

That sounds to me like a church with family based small groups (parents discipling their kids in an engaged community) and relevant worship.

Conversely, that would include a scaling back of programs.  Churches aren’t programmed to grow.  They are programmed to die.

The mashup of my observations and the survey is that even if you grow by transfer or by nominal reclamation, the program model is going to produce 3 out of 10 real disciples, and of the 7 out of 10 who wander off, you might see a fraction return in a positive way.

Program driven churches have been withering in America for decades.  To depend solely on those programs is to follow that well worn path to the death of our churches.

We need a more organic, healthy, family inclusive and holistic mindset and structure.  We need to re-shape the church.

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