Training Day

And it’s the first of many. I’m mentally exhausted.

But I’m really thankful.
I’m thankful that long before now I began recognizing there is a spirituality in doing this kind of work. And it’s not a less-than spirituality but one in which we created for. A spirituality which pushes back the fall and expands the kingdom. This is a little sliver of the gospel I’m having to remind myself of.
I’m having to put my money where my mouth is…very literally. But I’m glad. Lord knows — and probably y’all do too —how much I need the humility. Not because the job itself is humiliating. No, it’s my absolute and utter ignorance of the field I’m working in now which is humbling. 
I could talk at length on most subjects theological, educational, philosophical, artistic and literary. And I could do it without making a fool of myself. But now? Geez…the 22 year old training next to me is moving far more quickly through the curriculum than me.
Have I mentioned how humbling this is?
By the way, I know this seems a little Narcissistic. Believe me. I can feel that pull. But I keep getting notes telling me how helpful all these thoughts are to people — pastors and no. So bear with me for a few days.

And thanks for all your prayers.

Tuesday’s 10: Day 1

You are reading this on Day 2 but Day 1 was yesterday.

Day 1 was the “ground zero” for all the myriad of emotions vying for attention and taking aim at every second guess.

I would have never imagined I’d be where I am.

As I sat there alone in my suit waiting for the orientation start – I wasn’t alone alone, I just was the only one in a suit who didn’t already work there – as I sat there alone, I had to keep reminding myself what I was doing.

“I’m starting over.”

I had to say it over and over because I kept forgetting and thus the whirlwind swirling.

Don’t get me wrong…from where I stand the landscape in front of me is panoramic, brightly lit with all the fire of future hopes burning bright on the horizon.

Heck, one day we may be able to afford a vacation – instead of taking one we can’t afford and then hating the regret.

But that horizon is a gift of peace from the Prince who promises such things.

And it all felt like a grace I have not known in so very long.

My Resignation As A Pastor

Last night I informed the members of Branch Life Church of my resignation and today I will begin a full-time job outside of vocational ministry for the first time since Bethany and I left our home to begin studying at Covenant Theological Seminary.

Before I really get started, I ask you – please do not jump to any conclusions.

No one has asked me to resign. This is not due to any ethical or moral issue. I have not lost my faith. This is not a result of any dissatisfaction or loss of love between Branch Life Church and myself.

This has been brewing for almost a year. Two main factors have been the catalysts. And while there are lots of little things here and there contributing, it is entirely truthful to boil this down to emotional and financial health. We need both and my resignation is a move toward them.

I have now been on staff at three churches where the lead pastor has left shortly after my arrival. In only one of these was I even remotely involved. Regardless, they all taken their toll on Bethany and I emotionally. Maybe they shouldn’t. But such thinking is neither here nor there because it has taken a toll mercilessly and even though we look for the wherewithal to pay it continually, we just cannot afford it. I am sure I own some of the weight we have labored under. The result is I do not want to be a pastor. And for this reason I do not need to be a pastor.

For some of you, this is unfathomable. Part of your lack of being able to understand comes from you just not knowing everything. There are variables and arcs of the story few know. I assume much will be made known and then you will understand more. I sure hope this happens. For others, you think the height of spirituality is being a vocational pastor. I will not be able to ease your mind. So I won’t try. To you, it is the highest sign of spirituality for a banker to become a vocational pastor. But it is the mark of worldliness for a pastor to become a banker. Maybe I’ll argue with you later.

Our finances are wrecked. There is no other way to put it. In coming onto staff at Branch Life Church, we knew our savings account would take a hit. It has. The moments when we have been able to live paycheck to paycheck have been few and far between. Some of you will understand — the euphoric feeling when you are able to pay all your bills without dipping into savings is an oasis in a dessert parching the soul. I do not tell you this so you will pity us merely, it’s part of our story.

Not caring about money is the luxury of those who have it. But I have a wife and 3 kids. And so for a number of months I’ve been looking for other employment. (It will take another post to explain what it was like.) Finally I found a job at a bank, thanks to an old friend, who took mercy on me. Starting out, I will not make much more than what I make now. But there is the possibility of more in the near future.

Add to this — it would financially irresponsible for a church of BLC’s size to continue to pay me any amount whatsoever. The writing was on the wall for 2012. No one approached me about it. I saw the writing lit stark like fire scrawled across the night sky about 6 months ago.

So even If I wanted to continue to be a pastor I would have to look elsewhere. But I will not move again. I cannot do that to my family. Heck, I can’t do it to myself. No, we are here for good. Place is far more precious than position for us. I would rather work three jobs in the shadows of Red, Shades and Oak Mountain than relax anywhere else.

I’ll be staying on for a little longer at BLC as a very part-time pastor – just to finish up some responsibilities and help transition.

My faith is intact and alive and kicking. Grace is more precious. Mercy is counted upon more. And no longer is my vocation a fig leaf.

Last, would you pray for me? This is going to be a weird transition. By the time you read this I will have had to get ready very early, put on a tie and go to the orientation for a job in a vocational field which I know so little of. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad. Being a theologically trained banker sounds very interesting to me. But it is going to be all so new and so very different. Pray for my nerves and that I would honor the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and bankers in all of this.

More to come.

10 Thoughts About Tuesday September 11, 2001

I know it isn’t Tuesday. But it iss a Tuesday I want to reflect on. Here are 10 thoughts for that day:

1. I find myself emotionally staggering between the desire to not forget that day and the near paralyzing fear of watching video of the towers being hit and then falling.

2. Bethany was sent home from work because she worked for a financial institution. We only had one car so I skipped class and picked her up in silence. So we spent most of that day glued to the TV. But at some point we had to get out. So we took our bikes down to the Katy Trail just west of St. Louis and rode till the dark came. All that calm and quiet and beauty was good for us.

3. I can remember being very glad Bush was our President. And I’m still glad he was.

4. It is easy for  us…me to poke fun at those who reacted with bravado and a simple desire to defend our country and whip the tails of America’s enemies. But such a reaction may be far more profound than the detached philosophical posture so en vogue today.

5. It is impossible to take seriously the position of those who think we should have taken no military action in response. Sometimes you have to do things you will never enjoy for the good of others.

6. I remember only being able to smile as a nervous habit over the next few days.

7. The most painful images are still those of people having to jump from the Twin Towers. One moment they were working and then they were having to decide whether to burn in unimaginable fiery temperatures or hurl their bodies into the sky and experience the cool breeze previous to instant death. That is why they call it terrorism.

8. Just eight days earlier we had casually flown in from a labor day vacation.  Because of my own fears and precautions taken by airports no flight since has been casual.

9. Less than 3 years later I spent some time at Ground Zero. I wanted to go but I did not enjoy it and was eager to leave. I felt as though I was gawking at a fresh wound.

10. We checked in with our parents at some point during the day knowing we were enjoying a luxury now thousands could not afford.

Linkage

1. Jane Fonda’s Crush on Che Guevara (If you don’t ever read anything else I post,  at least read this.)

2. Winnie the Pooh’s Ingenious Culinary Invention

3. I’m wondering what my worship-leader friends think of this article.

4. I ain’t the only one asking big questions about evangelism.

5. Use the word “mundane” in a post about The Beatles and you will get linked.

6. 40 Behind the Scenes Photos from Star Wars.

7. Ryan Adams on 9/11 and His Reluctant ‘New York’ Anthem

8. Just three days after Labor Day, this.

9. Looks like there is a credible threat of terrorism for this weekend.

10. “Every day, iPhone users spend at least 1 million hours playing Angry Birds,” according to this article. Sounds about right.

Thursday’s Random Thoughts

1. Grace is big enough to nestle in between the tiniest of comforting words.

2. I like Winnie the Pooh more than an almost 40 year old should. My kids don’t like the bear with no pants enough.

3. I have an inordinate amount of anger towards spammers. And it looks kinda like this.

4. Beauty is medicine for a weary soul.

5. There are three men in the library that I’m in. They look like they could credibly play a serial killer in one of those crappy network dramas…CSI: Vestavia.

6. Last night I had dinner with my wife’s cousin. He’s a firefighter. I told him how to better do his job, you know… how you might be tempted to tell your pastor to do his.

7. When you begin to doubt if God is good, remember bacon.

8. One of the great mysteries of the Universe is why every mexican restaurant has thin salsa everybody loves but every “Restaurant Style” offered in grocery stores is thick and chunky. C’mon Obama, get on that problem!

9. Just kidding about #6, I actually just looked at him in awe.

10. Started watching Battlestar Galactica last night. Not sure yet how I feel about it. But every time the new President was on screen I wanted her to say, “Tatonka.”

They Are Discussing My Articles on Evangelism Over At New Reformation Press

Over at New Reformation Press they are discussing my articles on evangelism.

This is great for a couple of reasons. I’m a writer and anytime someone is talking about what I’ve written, I’m getting paid in high value (and high yield?) currency. But even more I really like New Reformation Press. They are a breath of fresh air in a religious climate full of noxious fumes.

Please go join in the discussion.

Tuesday’s 10: Talented Musicians I Don’t Like

(I know this is going out late today. No power at the house thanks to Lee. I’m at the library now with all the other serial killers. Hopefully the rest of my posts will happen earlier.)

And when I say don’t like ’em, I mean just that. They are just meh. I don’t hate the music they make, I just can’t seem to care about it much.

These are all super talented people. I just don’t like their music enough to ever miss it. Maybe’s it me. Maybe I’ll like it at some later time. Maybe I’ll win the lottery, get that pet dragon I’ve always wanted and my wife will dress up as Princess Leia (ROTJ?) for Halloween.

Regardless, here they are…

1. The Avett Brothers. I just don’t get it. OK, OK, they have a few songs that are pretty decent. But hipsters quote them like they are the Oracle of Delphi. I’ve literally tried a dozen times to get into them. All were failures.

2. Sufjan Stevens. While some of his music is interesting, I need more than interesting. Talented? Yes. It’s just all too clever and ironic and quirky.  I get the feeling he’s bored with music (much like Radiohead) and now is just trying to get people’s attention. The whole edgy ‘christian’ musician using profanity to shock is tired.

3. Mumford and Sons. I’d rather listen to Taylor Swift any day. Seriously. On paper, it appears as if I should love this band but I don’t. I do have hope for their second album.

4. The Fleet Foxes. The first time I listened to their album, I liked what I heard. But with every subsequent listen, I enjoyed it less and less till now I’d rather listen to silence. Often beautiful but never does it grab me.

5. Rush. Sorry, outside of Tom Sawyer, it’s just painful. Maybe if I were a musician, I would like ’em.

6. John Mayer. Guitarists swear this guy is awesome and I’ve heard a few songs that prove he has some serious guitar playing skills. But I’ve always felt like he’s just using music to bed women. However, my wife does often sing “Your Body Is A Wonderland” to me.

7. Jimi Hendrix. I have a lot of respect for the guy, just don’t like anything I’ve heard. Actually I prefer to hear other people do his songs.

8. Paul Simon. The Obvious Child is a great song but really no other song I’ve ever heard makes me want to play it again. Even the new album which lots of folks are raving over escapes me.

9. Arcade Fire. I can’t remember the last time someone said anything about them. This makes total sense to me.

10. Nickelback. I just don’t get why you hipsters like ’em so much.

Happy BBQ Day!

No real post today.

Actually that’s not true, because this is now a bona fide post.

I’m conflicted about Labor Day. I’m not a fan of labor unions but I do have a lot of respect for BBQ. As a matter of fact they are polar opposites in my universe.

The Universe of AwesomestuffIlike.

It’s a great place.

So. I’ll be celebrating pork and fixins’ and some time with my parentals and my brothers and their families.

Protip: Don’t trust people who don’t eat BBQ.

And Happy BBQ Day!

Linkage

1.  If you are keeping up with what is going on with Sovereign Grace Ministries…actually if you don’t give a rip, you need to read Taylor’s Story and Why Sovereign Grace Ministries Doesn’t Like Victims.

2. Paul McCartney’s Interview With Doris Day.

3. A TV Appearance By the Last Living Eyewitness of Lincoln’s Assination.

4. Get a raw deal from your parental units? Why not sue ’em? Good grief.

5. So you say you want an exciting vision for the church, huh?

6. Four Myths About the Crusades

7. Don Miller Remembers Tolkein on the Anniversary of His Death

8. “We will not change until we choose our heroes not by how cogently or fiercely they defend our position on this issue or that, but by how much they reflect the grace of Christ whatever their position.” – R.C. Sproul Jr.

9. “Adele’s ‘Rolling in the Deep,’ Non-Sexualized Music Has Major Influence on Pop Culture”

10. My good friend David Mackle knows music (he is also a great realtor). And he knows me well. So when he recommends music, I listen. A few days ago he told me I should check out The Decemberists‘ new album, The King Is Dead. He was right. It’s magnificent and simple and lush and full of musical landscapes for the ear and heart. Below is video of the whole album done live.