Wednesday, June 25, 2008

No Time Like a Year Later

Well, it's been a year since my last post, so I thought I'd, you know, put something on here, as if someone's still reading.

The first thing is to say that my son, Micah, is doing great. He's currently eating all of his meals by mouth, and drinking milk out of a straw cup. This has been an amazing transformation over the last two or three months. DeAnn and I no longer have to worry about calorie counts, tube feedings, or anything else. Over the last five days we've even been able to keep from giving him any liquid through the G-tube. We need to keep an eye on hydration (we can do this by seeing if he's getting constipated), but other than that he's doing fantastic.

DeAnn, my wife, has had some medical issues. She is doing a little better, then a little worse, back and forth. She's been able to work some, which is a great blessing for both of us.

As for me, ministry continues to go well. Center Chapel is a wonderful church that is wanting to reach people with this awesome message that they are loved by God. We're seeking God's direction this Saturday, and I hope that we'll be willing to trust God when something big is shared.

I'm going to try and write more. For me. As for you, well, you can decide if you want to read it or not. I might even write something by June of '09.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Micah update and personal update

I apologize for not updating lately. I have begun to realize how myopic your life can be when you've got a sick child, plus have a lot of other stuff going on.

A quick update on Micah: he will be having surgery at 8:00 am July 3rd at Riley Hospital. This surgery will have two parts, inserting the G-tube and removing adenoids and tonsils. Two separate issues, one surgery. It should take about an hour or so, we hope. In the meantime, we've seen incredible strides in his motor skills and eating lately. His OT said, "You must have a lot of people praying for you because I've never seen a child respond this quickly to therapy." We do believe that God has been gracious to us, and for that we have no reason why, only thanks to God.

On a personal note I was ordained as a full elder in the United Methodist Church a couple of weeks ago. I found myself thinking about humility and leadership in this context. The term "servant leader" gets thrown around a lot about pastors. And the more I think about this designation, the more I realize how much I have to grow as a pastor and person. I don't mind being a servant, but often I can become a doormat. I don't mind being a leader, but sometime I can be pushy and aggressive. My prayer is that I will learn to be a servant leader, developing others in the mission of God. I think I have a long way to go, but would love to hear from some of you and what you're learning about this aspect of ministry.

Please keep praying for Micah. We're going to have a feeding study next week to help us see if anything has changed in his swallow as we've seen him get stronger lately. We'll see.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Latest Micah Update

Thanks to all of you who have been asking. Here's the latest:

Micah had two tests on Friday, May 18th. Both have gone well. The tests were mainly about making sure his stomach is in the right place and working the right way. So far we know it's in the right place (on the left side of the body), we're still waiting on test results of the other, but if it was really bad they would have stopped us right away.

We have to do one more test on Wednesday, May 30th. This is a bronchial scope we have canceled twice because we thought we didn't want to worry about two things at once. This scope will focus on his adenoids and airway and address his sleep apnea. We only wanted to focus on the feeding tube for now, but the doctor feels that if there's a problem with the adenoids the surgeon could take care of it as well as insert the G-tube during the same surgery.

So for now we wait on this test and then schedule a surgery sometime after June 2nd, the day I am to be ordained. Yeah.

Thanks again for the questions. Please continue to pray for Micah's health, Corbin's patience with Mom and Dad, and that DeAnn and I would continue to find the strength we need in God. Thanks.

Monday, May 21, 2007

To Merge or Not to Create a New Conference. That is the question.

Well, this does lack much of the drama of a good Shakespearian play, but in a couple of weeks North Indiana Conference of the United Methodist Church will be getting together at Purdue to discuss and vote on "creating a new Indiana Conference" with the South Indiana Conference. The Imagine Indiana (II) team has presented their ideas for how and what could happen. I think my problem is the why.

As I have heard the information over the last year (had the pleasure of having someone on the team in my commissioned ministers' group), I have been asking a couple of questions that I'm not sure I've heard the answer to yet:

1. How will this help NIC accomplish its mission to equip local churches to make disciples of Jesus Christ? This question is one that has been continually asked by many people (most smarter than me). It was asked of the II team by Jack Hartman at Annual Conference last year, and an answer was expected for this year. The report has no answer as to how this will help us equip local churches. It basically expects accountability (which we as pastors buck at whenever it's proposed) by, well, as far as I can tell no one (it's proposed, but not described as to how it will happen). Making an organization larger rather than smaller makes it tougher to really equip churches as far as I can tell.

2. What of the proposed changes can be done only by creating a new conference and not be one by each individual current conference? None of the proposed changes are limited by only being done in a large, new Indiana conference. Would it mean changes for each conference? Absolutely. Would creating common organizational structures inevitably lead to merger anyway? Not necessarily, but it would make things easier if we felt called to a new conference later. Many of the proposed ideas for change are great (affinity groups are fantastic ideas), but they do not demand a singular Indiana conference to make them happen.

Now, let me clear up a couple of things. First of all, I'm not necessarily against a new Indiana conference. I have been in the past. Unfortunately being in my early thirties and a Gen-Xer means that my natural tendency leans toward cynicism. However as I've prayed I've been asking God to make me more open to what God's will might be. It's just that I think God has laid these lingering questions on my heart. Secondly, I am not one that believes organizational change leads to greater passion or productivity. Organizational change typically leads to fear for self, questioning of leadership, and inertia. However, passion coming from the ground up may lead to organizational change, but mainly it leads to greater activity and focus on a common mission, and that being allowing the Kingdom of God to burst forth through us and in the world.

If anyone reading this is from the Imagine Indiana team or North Indiana or South Indiana conferences, I would love some comments. I think dialog has been invited, but not really experienced. In my opinion, it seems that people are not really listening to questions, valid questions like the two above, that have been raised about this issue of a new conference. It's not about whether I'll serve on the Ohio River or if my retirement benefits will be better or worse. It's about what enables us to most effectively equip local churches to make disciples for Jesus Christ. I'm just not hearing a clear answer to that.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Stranger than Fiction

Watched the movie "Stranger Than Fiction" last night with my wife. While I love Will Ferrell, I was even more excited about this movie because I was ready to see some range in his acting. It's a fantastic movie with a great cast (Emma Thompson is hilarious, Dustin Hoffman is wonderful), but something struck me at the end of this movie.

First of all if you intend to see the movie, stop reading because I'm going to share the ending and sharing the ending to this movie would ruin it. Plain and simple ruin it. So Ferrell plays Harold Crick, an IRS agent who begins hearing a voice narrating his life. It turns out the voice is that of an author who is writing a story about Harold Crick, an IRS agent. As Ferrell goes through his life, he learns that a simple thing like changing the time on his watch would "lead to his immanent death." The movie then is about Ferrell trying to live his life knowing the end is near, as well as discovering that the author is about to kill off the character, thus killing Harold. The movie leads up to Harold knowing his fate and choosing to go through with the end of the story he knows. He ends up saving the life of a child he doesn't know because he's willing to die for the child.

Now, first of all let me state that I hate looking for the "Christ character" in art. There is not a Christ character in every piece of art. It also diminishes Christ, I believe to go looking for him in everything. Yet I do believe many things reflect (dimly) Christ, as Harold does. He is willing to die for a young boy he doesn't know, thus making his life (and death) worth living.

I find myself thinking about this, reminded of the words Dustin Hoffman's character gives to Harold: "We're all moving to the same ending. You could die in a car accident, die in your sleep. But this will make your life a masterpiece." I realize that for me, the question is am I living in such a way that I'm realizing I'm going to die. When I think about that, my perspective changes. There are things that become less important and things that become immanently more important. Now an iPod seems trivial while typing with my son on my lap seems a little more fun. Sitting with someone who waits for their loved one to get out of surgery seems light years more valuable than sitting and watching Locke get shot on "Lost." Living knowing I'm going to die means spending more time on the important and less on the selfish. I pray that I can remember that tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Update on Micah

Well, this is kind of an update, kind of information for those that haven't talked to me in a while. My wife and I have two sons. One, Corbin, is adopted from Haiti and the other, Micah, is a biological son. Micah has had some trouble developmentally, specifically with his oral motor skills. He cannot swallow thin liquids (milk, formula) without aspirating, causing him to be sick. He was hospitalized for a week in January with RSV (virus attacking the bronchial tubes that is very serious for kids under 6 months old), and since then has been on a nasogastral tube which we can feed him through. He eats baby foods well because they are thick enough for him to swallow without aspirating.

The update is that we will be taking a couple of tests soon and if those turn out as planned, Micah will have a surgery for a G-tube placement. It could be the week before Memorial Day or the first week in June (we have a Conference to attend after Memorial Day). We are anxious to have this surgery because it will get the NG tube out of the way and allow us to focus on oral motor therapy. It's a little weird to say that you're anxious for surgery for your 9 month old, but mainly we're anxious for him to get healthy and this is the best option for that to happen.

Thanks for prayers, question, and concerns. We'll share more as the updates come.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Told ya!

Well, as I confessed, I posted a couple of times and waited about five months to do it again. Two reasons:

1. I have not been doing a whole lot of introspection that seems relevant to share. Plus, couldn't think of a funny way to put it.

2. My son, Micah, has been hospitalized with RSV, a respiratory virus, and has had trouble eating by mouth. He is currently on an Nasogastral (NG) tube for feedings. It's terrible, has been a roller coaster, and we're still dealing with some issues. I'll probably post more about it later.

But, this brings me to today. I had some errands to run and one was to pick up some gifts for a couple of people. I ended up in a Christian bookstore. Nice place. Good smelling coffee, attractive layout, clean. It could be a combination of a Hallmark store and a bookstore (like Waldenbooks, not Barnes and Noble). I found what I needed, (thanks in large part to a wonderful employee), but this got me thinking...

I find it funny how often Christians feel the need to label things as Christian or not. I mean, I went to a "Christian" college, I sometimes listen to "Christian" music, I often read "Christian" books, and I even have seen some "Christian" movies. While I was in this "Christian" bookstore, I began to realize the irony of this. The fact that we choose to label inanimate things as Christian seems to be an epidemic in the last few years. There are "Christian" t-shirts, "Christian" magazines, "Christian" fill-in-the-blank. I'm reminded of something Mike Yaconelli, a youth pastor, once said, "They make WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) everything, except underwear, which is probably the thing youth need the most. At least they'd get a last minute chance to rethink their decision."

Why does this bother me? I'll tell you: by putting the label "Christian" on everything, especially inanimate things, we're missing the point. The entire goal of Christ was to animate (bring to life) the dead: us. The goal of the Christian life must be more than creating a culture in which we are bubbled off from the rest of the world by replacing everything the world offers with a "Christian" facsimile. It cannot be about keeping ourselves out of the culture of today (better phrase than "the world") so that we can stay clean. Instead, we need to be engaging the culture of today so that the life Christ is realized in others.

I'm reminded that the last words Matthew records of Jesus are, "...and lo, I will be with you always, to the very end of the age." I think some of us are afraid Jesus will walk away if we get dirty in the culture of today, so we try and protect ourselves and miss the point. Jesus is with us ALWAYS. Not dependent upon which kind of college we attend, which kind of t-shirt we wear, what kind of music we listen to, or what bookstore we purchase from. If Christ is with us always, what a great joy. We don't have to worry about losing Him. Instead, we know nothing in the culture of today can separate us. And even more importantly, wherever we go, He goes. We take him into the culture of today. Or find him in the middle of it.

Well, there's my rant. Now, don't get me wrong, I'll probably buy from the store again. I hear they're going to get some Christian cologne in soon. It smells like the River Jordan.