Unclefest 08

I knew I was excited to be an Uncle for the first time, but this whole deal has been way more incredible that I imagined. My little niece Maddie was born last Wednesday. I complain that the 26 hour wait in the hospital was brutal, but I guess it was worse for Heather…

Pregame encouragement kiss from bro to sis…

Aunt Janny soaking it in…

Uncle Jon spearing little Maddie with his mean beard…

Confused Vocation

Interesting how there are times/experiences that really suck the life out of you. This past week has been one of those times. It has been a week full of confrontation, REALLY difficult conversations and at times I just felt like I was getting emotionally/spiritually beat up. I haven’t yet been able to articulate why these events have happened. Maybe I will never know. There are plenty of worse instances that could have come my way, but I can’t help but wonder if they are simply “bound” to happen, or if I have found myself in a spot that I can’t win? Hmmm…

This is an insightful quote that I recently read from Parker Palmer in his book Let Your Life Speak. It is a book that wrestles with the idea of vocation. Not just a career, but truly examining the life vocation that God instilled in each one of us from the day we were created. Here is the quote, “As often happens on the spiritual journey, we have arrived at the heart of a paradox: each time a door closes, the rest of the world opens up. All we need to do is stop pounding on the door that just closed, turn around -- which puts the door behind us -- and welcome the largeness of life that now lies open to our souls. The door that closed kept us from entering a room, but what now lies before us is the rest of reality.”

Somehow is the midst of all this crap, I have to be grateful. It is these times that force me to a level of introspection and contemplation that I often overlook. I also find great support and encouragement from those that I am closest with. For now, I pray for discernment in this life of vocation that God has called me to stumble down.

Jesus for President

Last night I had the opportunity to go up to San Francisco with some friends to check out the Jesus for President tour that Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw are leading. Having read most of the book and hearing Shane speak at different venues numerous times, I was pretty stoked to check it out. After a late start and lots of traffic, we walked into San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral about 40 minutes late, but we definitely were not too late.

Their sharing, based on their recently published book Jesus for President: A Book to Provoke the Christian Political Imagination, was a type of hopeful protest. I would argue it was prophetic in many of the same ways that the ancient Biblical prophets mourned, cried and offered hope to the empires of the day that were blinding people from the love of God and the coming life of Jesus. They painted clear and powerful pictures of what a revolutionary Jesus truly was within the context of the Roman Empire and discussed His role in bringing about a Kingdom that was much greater than the ruling Roman Empire…one that was not greater because of its brute force, military strength, material possession or social status, but one that would turn the other cheek, serve the poor and oppressed and set their swords down for acts of love and kindness.

After a 4th of July weekend that was filled with patriotism directed towards the greatness of one country, I have been wrestling with Christians (myself included) beings so willing to pledge their allegiance to ideals and actions that are often so blatantly counter to Jesus teachings and way of life. Didn’t Jesus come to save the WHOLE world? If that is the case, shouldn’t we be singing “God bless the WORLD,” not just “God bless America?” I believe it is bordering on idolatry and I don’t want to subconsciously grow numb to where I put my hope. Do I put my hope in America to change the world? Or do I more appropriately put my hope in Jesus and His people to change the world? Jesus did say something about serving two masters didn’t He?

All that to say, it’s not that I’m anti America, it’s that I’m anti a nationalism that blurs and distorts my commitment to Jesus and my pursuit to live in His ways. There are alot of great things about this land we live in and I am grateful. At the same time, I am not willing to fall into a way of thinking or acting that reflects more of my nationalism that my Christianity.

Good Quote from Shane: “The Kingdom question for us is not how are we going to vote on November 4th, it is how are we going to live on Nov. 3rd and Nov. 5th? Voting is something to we do every day with our lives…who are we pledging allegiance to every single day?”

This is a good clip to check out on the topic: http://youtube.com/watch?v=SfLdVazh33E

Bridge of Hope

Wow, it has been a while…Things have been a bit hectic and in fact I am on a 5 day trip with our High School students right now. I hope this isn’t a sign of some unhealthy and chaotic rhythm’s creeping back into my life. Need to keep that in check…

So, this trip we are on right now… I have had this burning passion/vision for a “summer camp” without many of the usual “campy” characteristics. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of great things that happen at camp and many authentic people that run them, I just have a hard time with a week that is often set up to climax on the “alter call night.” It is almost as though it is one big show/entertainment with the hopes of logging a few more conversions to a post camp email update. I hope that doesn’t sound as sarcastic I it looks. There is often preaching about repenting from a lifestyle that doesn’t honor God or His Creation, while being fed sloppy joe’s and corn syrup “drink.” It can just feel disconnected.

This week Larry and I have done our best to set up an experience that takes into account ALL of life as an act of worship and repentance. This includes everything from what we are eating(lots of raw and local food), to how we entertain, to how we serve, to how we interact with each other, to how we view ourselves, all with the hopes of pointing us/connecting us to the God who beautifully put this composition together.

We obviously don’t have all this figured out, but there was an encouraging experience that gave some affirmation that we may be on the right track.

One of the first days of this experience, we participated in the Bridge of Hope. It is an organization that works through a nursing home that is designed for the elderly and the disabled. Primarily the mentally disabled. It is a beautiful place, with incredibly beautiful people that we had the opportunity to hang out with for a while.

As I sat and had a long conversation with a sweet lady named Sharon who had recently gone through back surgery, while at the same time undergoing dialysis, I experienced a moment that felt as though heaven was crashing into earth. I soaked in her story, from family history to spiritual beliefs and looked around at our students interacting and fully participating in these precious people’s lives right along side of me. At first the students were a bit scared and overwhelmed, but they tentatively began to ask names, shake hands and even give hugs. The people who lived in this home are a forgotten people. Many of them had families, but most of the families had abandoned them once they became disabled. This is a place where I could imagine Jesus would have chosen to hang out…

As I soaked in the scene I was on the edge of tears. When we serve these people, we are serving Jesus(Matt. 25:40). These students got to see Jesus first hand and I would have to imagine that these down and out folks were able to see Jesus right back through the smiles and hugs of these students.

Anyway, I am greatly encouraged to see where this “experiment” in a new way of living is headed. I am humbled and hopeful to be part of it.

Post Hibernation

There is a long standing joke between me and my good buddy Chip Johnson. We both love sunshine, shorts, sandals and long summer days. Every spring around day light savings we say that “it is finally time to come out of hibernation.” It is like the whole winter we are just hunkered down, much like my little dog harry in front of the fireplace, waiting for life to once again begin. It is like a hypothetical re-birth if you will…I will(As my sis Wendy would add). That being said, hibernation is over and it is time for sunshine, shorts, sandals and long summer days.

Apparently, this “re-birth” phenomenon is passing through the systems of my family and friends like a dried apricot. It seems that as soon there was word of sunshine and summer everyone decided to have a kid, get married or graduate from something. In the next month or so Jan and I will be attending or participating in a few weddings, what seems to be about 97 graduations and will be called Aunt Jan and Uncle Jon in the garbled baby language of our soon to be niece Maddie(hope I spelled that right).

All that to say, this may be a busy, but a very hopeful time. Lots of “re-birth” and quite literal birth. Along with our share of awkward conversations with random acquaintances, I’m sure there will be some rich sharing of life and stories of the past and future. Lots of hopeful smiles and new friendships. Soon, birth and re-birth may have a whole new meaning to me.

Cheers to the Post Hibernation Season!!

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