Excerpt from My Upcoming Book

I am almost finished with the book I promised months ago. It will be available on Amazon in January. It is a book about dreaming, failing, persevering, friendship, and seeing the unthinkable. The book consists  of my journal entries over the past three years. It chronicles my journey (and my family’s) from pastoring, becoming extremely unsettled, walking way from jobs with nothing on the horizon, moving to Washington, and then ending up where we are now. It is very raw and honest and quite often feels like a roller coaster. Depression, fear, anger, and other emotions marked the path.

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My heart is to encourage people to follow Christ into the unknown places that he is calling. Sometimes, like Abraham, you have to leave Ur before you can see Canaan. Frequently, God only gives you bits and pieces. He wants trust. He is jealous over your trust. He hides information so that in the end, you must look into his eyes and take the leap because his “yes” trumps the pending uncertainty.

The following excerpt is from September 1st, 2015. After pastoring for over 10 years, this was my first full day after stepping away. Yet, no door had opened.

“…this means that there is now nothing for the Fall. Now what? We have believed that it was Fall all along. I gave up both jobs. I am so far behind in academics because of the years that you had me pastor. And now, you are going to drag your feet and toss aside a semester of my life? I was hoping with all of my heart that you were going to show me great favor and even accelerate this part of my calling. I “feel” so far behind academically, yet you are not allowing me to move forward. Nothing? No job, no income, and no philosophy? Nothing? And if you don’t open a door, how am I to see your face and be confident that you will speak when the reason we are where we are at is that we thought you did speak. It so looks as if we were wrong. Why are you going to waste me?”

I will keep you updated.

PhD Reflection: Surround Yourself with Better

I am supposed to be working on my PhD thesis. However, I just finished a meeting with my doctoral supervisor and wanted to jot a thought or two.

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In the School of Divinity at the University of Edinburgh, it doesn’t take long to realize that you are just one of many. I had to quickly face the fact that I am not one of the smartest people here (understatement!). You don’t come to a place like this to rule the roost. But I find that there is great peace and joy in confessing this truth. I am here to learn. I am here to grow. I am here to get better. I am here to make connections. I am here to prepare for what God has planned. Besides, being the best is not what this is about. Rather, I want to maximize the abilities that God has given me. This is about faithfulness and preparation.

Regarding intelligence, you may think that I am referring to various professors and lecturers. I am, but my comments are not restricted to that group. I have met several PhD candidates that are several steps ahead of me from a theological perspective. Because my past education is in psychology and philosophy, I have some catching up to do. On the other hand, all of our projects are different, so there is nothing wrong with having different areas of expertise.

Today my supervisor sat with me and discussed my work for over an hour. It always amazes me when he takes this much time to discuss my research. The dialogue is always challenging, stimulating, and enjoyable. It is also humbling. I told my wife the other day, “If I studied the next ten years, I don’t think that I would know as much as this guy.” He is that intelligent and articulate. But this brings me to the main point of this blog: I am experiencing a deep sense of satisfaction and fulfillment knowing that the people around me are going to make me better over the next few years. To get better (no matter whether you are speaking of a skill, virtue, intimacy with God, etc.), you need people around you that are better than you in that specific area. Now, I could feel insecure and threatened. If I let insecurity rule, it would steal the opportunity to glean from those around me. And notice I said, “If I let insecurity rule…” I chose this wording on purpose. When you step out of your comfort zone, of course you will experience insecurity at times. But who cares. It is not the end of the world. The question is not, “Will I experience insecurity?” but rather, “Will I let it take control of me or will I set it aside and move forward?”

The bottom line is this:

Better people make you better. 

You can apply this to motherhood, fatherhood, pastoring, teaching, studying, playing a sport, learning a language, starting a church, cooking a new recipe, repairing a car, getting better at your job, etc. You fill in the blank. So you can hold on to your pride if you want. Or, you can put a little humility in your pocket and glean and grow from other people’s strengths.

Denzel Washington On Fatherhood and Family values

So, anytime someone in Hollywood says something that makes sense, it should be memorialized. Furthermore, if the statement contains wisdom, then we should probably scream it from a rooftop.

All jokes aside, after I finished my Bible reading (Psalms and Acts today) and prayer, I glanced at the news. I like to scroll through headlines and read a few articles. Most of the time, you can scan headlines to keep up with current events (a tip to leaders who need to stay up on what is happening in the world). Today, an article about Denzel Washington caught my eye.

Denzel Washington stars in ROMAN J. ISRAEL, ESQ.He has always been one of my favorite actors. Granted, I have not watched every film he has been in, but I enjoy his work. He has just recently starred in the film, “Roman J. Israel, Esq.” written and directed by Dan Gilroy. In what is called a “press junket” (language I borrowed from the link), he made the following statement about fatherhood:

“It starts at the home…It starts with how you raise your children. If a young man doesn’t have a father figure, he’ll go find a father figure. So, you know, I can’t blame the system. It’s unfortunate that we make such easy work for them.”

The sentence, “If a young man doesn’t have a father figure, he’ll go find a father figure,” is one of the most powerful statements I have ever read or heard pertaining to fatherhood.

The article where this quote is found ends with the statement, “Traditional family values, the left has long said, are racist, sexist and chauvinistic.” He is right. Of course, this will not be a popular view among feminists and the lesbian community. In an overreaction to male chauvinism over the past few decades, the feminist agenda quite often swings to the other extreme, claiming that the male presence is not needed. It is superfluous. A woman can do the job of a man.

I don’t agree.

Let me flip this around as well: A man cannot do the job of a woman. Now, of course there are jobs and roles that both can fulfill. I am not denying this. But I don’t believe this is possible in the home. My main point is that both genders offer something unique to children and society at large. It is a sign of ignorance and superficiality that on one hand, our society trumpets the message of our uniqueness and value as individuals while on the other hand attempting to eradicate gender lines that contribute to this uniqueness. Essentially, our society preaches, “Select the gender that you want to identify with in order to express your true self.” Self is central. Self is God. Therefore, self-expression takes precedent over all else. Arrange everything else accordingly. A byproduct of this movement is that gender becomes arbitrary and thus motherhood and fatherhood can now be fulfilled by anyone no matter their biology.

Being married to someone of the opposite sex and having kids truly opens your eyes to the distinctness of each gender. When I am playing rough with my son, my wife always says to me, “A boy needs a daddy. He gets things from you that I can’t give him.” This truth goes both ways. I also cannot give him what she provides. Together, he is given fullness. He is offered the opportunity to see a more complete and complex picture of who God is. I do not mean to imply that the categorical lines are thick. Different men and women have different temperaments. Some men will be strong in areas that women typically are and vice versa. But my point is that in general, both genders were created to mirror the person, wisdom, and beauty of Christ in different ways.

Back to fatherhood. If you are father, read these words and take them to heart. You may be living under the same roof as your children but be totally absent. This kind of fathering can hurt children just as badly if not worse than an absentee dad. You are there and won’t even look at them. At least the child of an absentee father can make up reasons why the absentee dad is not present.

The bottom line is this: A child will find a father. If you are a dad, you are in position to be that person. With your time, laughter, silliness, wisdom (taking advantage of teaching moments), money, worship, acts of kindness, words and tone, and the way that you treat others (including your spouse!), shape your child. Make it easy for your child to believe, love, and obey a good God.

As a parting thought, I believe that there is something to the fact that some of the most significant, anti-Christian philosophers in the Western tradition did not have a father-presence in the home during their childhood. Arthur Schopenhauer lamented the loss of his father when he was 17. He spoke of the negative impact this had on his life. Friedrich Nietzsche, who famously wrote, “God is dead,” lost his dad at age four. And Jean-Paul Sartre, the philosopher in which Atheistic Existentialism reached its peak, also grew up without a father.

Remember, fatherhood counts. If you will not be the dad of your child, someone else will.

You can find the quote from Denzel Washington along with a short article by clicking on the following link:

Denzel Washington on fatherhood, family values – Washington Times