I Visited a Church as a Layman Last Sunday

I wonder if the youthful infatuation with Christ and the disdain for anything semi-institutional is nothing more than a disguised rebellion.

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The-Edinburgh-Reporter-street-Morningside-1After about a month in Edinburgh, my wife, son, and I finally began our search for a local church to put down roots. In the last month, I have missed being a part of a local spiritual family. I am convinced more than ever that if someone doesn’t care about the church (i.e. the Bride of Christ), then Christ doesn’t rule in his/her heart. To neglect the church or to merely “attend” might rightly be classified as sin. If you genuinely love Jesus, His passions and affections will be constantly growing in your heart. In other words, if you don’t love what He loves, how deep can your love for Him actually be? Sorry Millennials, but if you love Jesus, how can you have little regard for His wife?

I wonder if the youthful infatuation with Christ and the disdain for anything semi-institutional is nothing more than a disguised rebellion. In other words, we want Jesus and the spiritual feelings that can accompany such a quest. But church? Someone that preaches? Or leads a discussion? Or confronts my sin? Or says that certain lifestyles are wrong (i.e. the gay lifestyle)? Or that I should care with my wallet about starving children on the other side of the world? You get the idea. When you are not part of a spiritual community, it is easy to avoid several of the difficult “one-another’s” in the New Testament (the ones that are impossible to fulfill apart from the dynamic power and continual internal influence of the Holy Spirit).

Moving on.

I actually desire to obey Christ, so we are looking for a local church.

We visited our first church in Scotland this last Sunday. We got off the bus in Morningside (area in Edinburgh) and began the 50 meter (metric system! I am adapting and so proud of myself) walk toward the church building. I was a little surprised at what I felt: nervousness. 

That is right. I felt nervous.

I was a youth/college/small group/associate pastor for over a decade in Texas and Mississippi. I am accustomed to being a part of staff conversations and plans to make other people feel more comfortable. Now I know just how important those conversations, people (door greeters), and strategies are.

People approached us. People took time to ask about where we came from and why we are here. It was wonderful. I noticed the power of someone making you feel like your presence (not just God’s) is important.

This week we will attend a different church. Our desire is to visit a few churches over the course of the next 2-3 weeks. After that, it is time to choose.

We will not church-hop.

We will not drag our feet in deciding.

May the Holy Spirit guide our quest as we search for good “soil” in Edinburgh.

Thy will be done.

How Can I Read Faster?

Though I love to read and learn, I have a horrible habit of reading quite slowly.

reading-fastWould having more money be nice? Yes.

Would losing a few pounds be nice? Yes.

Would living closer to my family and friends be nice? Yes.

But for completing a doctorate, there is something else I need more than anything: the ability to read faster. Throughout this week, I will be watching (and posting) various videos in the attempt to get my eyes moving. For those of you who are also asking the question, “How can I read faster?” I hope you find this series of blogs beneficial.

Though I love to read and learn, I have a horrible habit of reading quite slowly. When you are expected to cover hundreds, if not thousands of pages within a few weeks, reading faster is a necessity. I love to learn, but I bog down in the material I want to learn the most.

So today, I decided to turn to YouTube. I will be watching different videos over the next week that have been created to transform reading habits. I am not trying to become a speed-reader. The video below addresses this. However, I do want to develop the skill of “reading discernment.” In other words, there are times I need to be skimming and other times when I need to slow down. There is a time for both. Getting these two activities confused is probably much to blame for reading dissatisfaction.

So, how can I read faster? This is my question. If I read faster, then I will be able to cover more material. Also, I will have more time to slow down and really “crawl” through the material that is really, really important.

If the question, “How can I read faster?” resonates with you as well, then click here.

 

 

Home Sweet Home

We have not had a home to ourselves in quite some time. Over the past 26 months, we have had our own place for only eight months.

We have not had a home to ourselves in quite some time. Over the past 26 months, we have had our own place for only eight months. Here is a snapshot:

  • Four months at my in-laws in Picayune, Mississippi.
  • Six months at the house of Thomas, Rachael, and Titus Lambert (among our very best friends) in Spokane, Washington.
  • Eight months in a house that we rented in Spokane, Washington (just our family of three).
  • Two months at the Lambert’s.
  • Three weeks at my in-laws once again (my wife and son; I was still in Spokane at the Lambert’s).
  • Three months at my parent’s home in Winnsboro, Texas.

That sums it up. Yesterday we were given the keys to our own 2-bedroom flat. It sits next two an 11-hector park with cherry trees, a beautiful and clear brook, little bridges, walking paths, foxes, and brown trout (so I hear). IMG_1600In addition, it is only a five-minute walk to the nearest bus stop so that commuting, especially for me, will be easy. Bus 11 and 16 go straight through the Morningside district which has great shops, local restaurants, and our favorite cheese shop! It would be easy for Allison and Ezra to hop on a bus and take little adventures.

So today it happens. With a 3-year old and one on the way, my wife finally gets to create “home” again. She has given up so much. The first half of her pregnancy has been without a home of her own. As a man, I can’t really imagine what she must be feeling. At this point, a woman really wants to “nest,” to start preparing the space for the new family member. All of this has been on hold for Allison. Suitcase after suitcase, air bnb after air bnb, move after move, she kept going. She is the reason we are here.

I tell her all of the time, “I would not be getting my doctorate and we would not have the opportunity to live in Scotland if I were married to any other woman.” She, unlike most, is willing to sacrifice comfort and security for the great unknown.

I suppose this post has concluded with more of a tribute to Allison than anything else. It is well deserved. Thank you Allison for being a woman who was willing to trade material items for adventure. The American dream is overrated (stuff, stuff, stuff).

We will now create a home again with our little lamps, chairs, books, wooden toys, and a simplicity that now constitutes the fabric of our family. May the Lord use us now in our new, little mission field.

Our First Ten Days in Edinburgh, Scotland

You think things will go one way and they don’t. They hardly ever do, right?

Where do I begin? The idea of trying to share everything from the last ten days is overwhelming. As wonderful as it has been, it has not been easy. One challenge is always followed with another.

IMG_1440We traveled for almost two days. Before flying from Boston to Iceland, we had a chance to hang out with Joe and Megan Weidemann. They really took care of us. We would have left Boston worn out if not for them. After all, we had a three-year old son, five suitcases (almost everything we own), and two backpacks. They made that step easy.

After leaving Texas on Monday around 7pm central time, we arrived in Edinburgh at noon Wednesday (Edinburgh time). We were tired beyond words. When we arrived, Allison’s cell phone and my computer were dead. However, we did not have universal adapters for the electrical outlets in the UK. Again, it is the little things that add up with an international transition that can wear you down. We decided to crash. We feel asleep around 2:30pm and woke up at 9pm. Yep, we were that tired. We woke up, walked to the Morningside District, bought some groceries, returned to our air bnb rental, ate, and went back to bed.

Not having a power adapter was a major problem. My work is remote/online, so without it, I could not do my job. We checked at the grocery that night and they did not have any universal adapters. We saw one more shop open in Morningside. We entered the store and there they were…plastic gold! Each adapter was three pounds ($3.96). Little did the young man know that I would have paid any amount for that adapter that evening. We bought two.

We quickly realized that it was going to take an act of God to secure a rental property. The market moves SO FAST. I had to spend hours each day scanning different property websites, calling property managers, setting up appointments, and then studying google maps to find out which bus goes where and coordinate the time of it all. It was mentally and emotionally exhausting. On top of that, more than once we would receive a call that the property we were supposed to see that day or the next had gone under contract. Again, the market moves at the speed of light.

By our first weekend, it felt impossible to secure a rental. We were a bit discouraged. Family and friends really began to pray for us. I got up early Monday morning and made a list of properties that fit our criteria (I had been doing this every morning upon arrival). I called and set up as many viewings as possible. Awkwardly, when you view properties in the UK, you do so with several other individuals/couples/families. Whoever is interested then submits an application. Even if you like the property, you are up against so many others. The chances of securing a property is slim. We felt this pressure because until you secure a property, you are jumping from one air bnb to the next. That is exactly what we had to do yesterday.

Our goal was to be in our permanent rental before school started (tomorrow).

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We were so naive. There was never a chance for that. However, thanks be to the Lord and all of the people praying for God’s favor, our application was accepted for a property that we absolutely love only six days after arriving. We were so relieved. However, we can’t move in until this Friday, September 15th, so yesterday we had to pack up everything once again, book a large taxi, load up all of our belongings, go across town, and move into another short-term rental. We are tired and a bit weary.

You think things will go one way and they don’t. They hardly ever do, right? After 2.5 years of keeping the dream alive and living out of suitcases, the extra week felt like a bigger deal than usual.

To give you an idea of how difficult an international transition is, we still don’t have cell phones. So listen to this. Before getting a cell phone, you have to have a local bank account. But as an international student, I can’t get a bank account until I have secured a rental property and have a fixed address. This felt nearly impossible. On top of that, once the rental property is secured, you have to make a special trip to the school to get a Bank Introduction Letter. You then have to take this into the bank of choice and then you can set up an account. Then you can get cell phones.

Needless to say, everything is like this. You need A to get B, but without C, you can’t get B. This has been the transition life.

Another difficult part of transition is that we really miss family and friends. You can’t have everything in life. We could have stayed close to our friends in Spokane. We could live close to family. However, we would have never taken this leap. With every gain, there is a loss (and I suppose the opposite is true; with every loss, there is a gain). Right now, especially because we are not yet settled, the “losses” feel heavy.

In the middle of it all, we have stopped to take everything in.

In Morningside, we found the most amazing cheese shop ever. We have already been to that shop three times to get “Prima Donna Maturo.” This is a hard cheese produced by a family in the Netherlands. Whoever the family, they are God’s gift to the world. This cheese is brilliant (as they say here in Edinburgh).

We went to Holyrood Park and saw Arthur’s Peak first hand. It was breathtaking. We cannot wait to set aside some time to scale the peak.

We are a bit proud of ourselves regarding public transportation. Thanks to Allison, we wasted no time learning the system. We arrived on a Wednesday and by Thursday, we were using the Lothian buses. During my doctoral years, we will not own a car. Public transportation is splendid and so simple. We are figuring our way around and Ezra is having the time of his life. The busses are “double-deckers.” When we have a longer trip, we go upstairs. We sit in the very front when the seats are open. It brings my heart joy to watch him. He comes alive. He loves the simple things.  Traveling with a young child has its challenges, but at the same time, he brings something to the experience that you could never have otherwise. A child is truly amazing. No wonder Jesus told people that they had to be like kids to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Adults are no fun. Adults are too serious. Adults are too hard to impress. Adults would rather be anxious while missing the beauty around them.

That is enough for now. We move into our place Friday. School starts tomorrow. We are going to go view the building where I will be studying for the first time today. We wanted to see it as a family first before I report in. After all, this is our accomplishment. We did this together.  Now one of the deepest desires of my heart is for the Lord to make Edinburgh a very special place for Allison and Ezra.

 

Concerning the Relationship Between Psychology and Christianity

We reach into the mud, pull out different subjects, and wash them off with the water of God’s word/truth. Psychology is no different. 

maxresdefaultThe purpose of this post is to share an online article that I came across today. Before doing so, I would like to say a few things.

I currently work for Enlightium Academy, a “premier accredited private online school for grades 3 through 12. Students in PreKindergarten through grade 2 utilize a parent-led, book-based program.” It is a great company where I and several of my friends work.

One of my tasks over the last year at my job was to write various Psychology courses from scratch. I have thoroughly enjoyed not just the writing, but also the opportunity to refresh my knowledge as well as continue my learning in this field. One of the topics I am passionate about is the relationship between Psychology and Christianity. There are different views. Some Christians think that Psychology is “of the devil” and nothing more than Satan’s ploy to lead Christ-followers away from the truth of the Gospel (i.e. a modern idol). Other Christians believe that as with any “secular” field of study, there is much that can be redeemed and used in the context of a Biblical worldview.

As I was working online this morning, I had the desire to find an excellent article that presents an integrated view of Psychology and Christianity. After all, from a Christian perspective, is God not the creator of human nature? God knows more about the human person and how we were designed to tick than anyone else no matter how many degrees one might have. Besides, did Jesus not say,

“My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.”

We do not retreat. We engage. We reach into the mud, pull out different subjects, and wash them off with the water of God’s word/truth. Psychology is no different.

The following article, Can A Christian Really Be A Psychologist?, presents what I believe is a true Biblical vision of how we as Christ-followers need to view Psychology. The author of this article, Sergio P. da Silva, is a professor of Psychology at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. This article also does an excellent job explaining the missionary attitude that Christians ought to have toward all areas of culture.

All truth is God’s truth, so we must not be afraid of taking what we can from different fields of study and “reclaiming” them for the purposes of Christ.

We need not be afraid.

Writing One Last Time from Winnsboro, Texas (a reflection about “prizes”)

After 2 1/2 hard years, the prize for all of our perseverance is less than a week away.

Today is Friday. We fly out on Monday. We will land in Boston, stay the night with Joe and Megan Weidemann (who have literally worked for days to arrange so many details for us), and then hop the pond.

winnsboro_tx

After 2 1/2 hard years, the prize for all of our perseverance is less than a week away. You know, life is not all about the journey. There are destinations. Of course, those destinations become new starting points for the next chapter. But my point is this: you don’t sacrifice for the sake of sacrifice. You give up things and suffer through things because there is a prize waiting. Sometimes the prize is on this side of the grave, sometimes the other, and sometimes it is different than what you thought it would be. The point remains: we persevere, struggle, fight, and keep getting up one more time because God is faithful to take our wholehearted efforts (whether they end in success or failure) to move us into his purposes.

What matters more than, “Are you doing God’s will?”

Are you clinging to safety? To comfort?

Are you afraid of losing what you have to go after what the Holy Spirit keeps whispering to you in the dark? At some point, you have to cut the rope, jump, and know that God will be pleased with the faith whether you did in fact hear him or missed it. I mean, lets be honest, seldom are you 100% sure that you have heard God. 90%? Impressive. 75%? Still amazing. 50%? Yikes, this will take some risk. 30%? Yep, this is hard.

Quite often, you sense that Jesus is walking around in the fog and you are catching quick, light impressions of him and his movements. You think you see. You think you hear. But faith is required. You have to trust in God enough to know that even if you miss it sometimes, Daddy is so big and his arms so strong that he can take your faith “missteps” and redirect. At least you are moving. It is easier to steer something already moving.

I fear that some Christians are so afraid of missing God that they can’t obey. Are you trying to obey God or simply not disobey? There is a big difference.

May we be people of faith. May we long for adventure that has Christ at the center and not ourselves. This doesn’t mean you will move anywhere. It might, but living by faith could mean that you start serving, forgiving, giving, listening, helping in your local church, pursuing your degree when it doesn’t seem financially wise, or __________________. You fill it in. Better yet, let God fill it in.

And remember, prizes come. God rewards. One way or another, it will be worth it.

The next time I write, it will be from Scotland. Oh, and I am hoping to finish the book by October. There has been a lot to do to prepare for this jump.

 

Lessons My Dad Taught Me 

One of the best ways to love your children is to love your wife. 

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My dad keeping my son occupied!
Yes, I am aware, Father’s Day is past. But who cares. The real dads know that there is really nothing special about that day. Fatherhood, like motherhood, is an everyday affair. Besides, I was too busy playing Guesstures with my family last night, Face-timing my brother and his family, and talking with my father-in-law and mother-in-law to stop and write a silly blog. Life happens when technology is in the other room.

I am one of the lucky one’s (i.e. blessed!). I had a great dad. I have a great dad. I learned several life lessons by hanging around, observing, and listening to him.

When I think of fatherhood, here is what my dad taught me:

  1. One of the best ways to love your children is to love your wife.
  2. You father differently based on the age of your children. As they grow and mature, you adapt.
  3. Laugh and have fun.
  4. Live outside!
  5. Fan the flame of their dreams. There are already enough nay-sayers.
  6. Let your kids ride places with you. Life happens in the little moments.
  7. Have serious, strategic talks when the time is right (birds and the bees, respecting authority, etc.).
  8. Listen to your children.
  9. Don’t expect the church to do your job as a parent.
  10. Be the person you want them to be.
  11. Raise them to know that if they don’t live wholeheartedly with and for God, all is wasted.
  12. Be willing to apologize to your children when you are wrong.
  13. Coach your kids little league team.
  14. Don’t share financial struggles around your children.
  15. Teach your kids how to tie a fishing knot.
  16. Let your kids see you disagree and go back and forth (within limits; of course much of this needs to be hashed out behind closed doors).
  17. Teach your kids when they get older how to safely handle a gun.
  18. Allow your older kids to disagree with you so long as they remain respectful.

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Dad and I catching rainbow trout in Spokane, WA.
This list is by no means exhaustive. I left out numerous stories that my friends have encouraged me to turn into a book. I might, so I can’t share those now (lol)!

I am reminded of John Maxwell’s quote, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” In the context of fatherhood, what a powerful statement. Be sure to share your love before you try to impart any lessons.

Love opens the heart.

Love earns the right to be heard.

May we as dads love our wisdom into the hearts of our children.

Thanks dad for loving me and my siblings the way that you loved us.