Journey to the Gateway

A postmodern journey of faith...


Here’s the intelligent post: Don’t take it personally.

This piece is the devotion I was privileged to share yesterday at our church staff meeting.

I had a lousy day yesterday…I mean, a REALLY bad day. It ended up OK, but the majority of it was pretty rotten. I don’t need to get into details…but it was one of those days that puts marriages and families on the rocks. I’m thankful that our marriage is built on THE Rock and has the foundation to stand through times like yesterday.

The issue, as a few of you may have gathered from an email you received from me, revolved around the discipline of children—though the issue had not yet come to a head when I sent that email. After all of the dust had pretty much settled from the day, Elicia and I were talking it over and I said, “The thing is, I’ve got to learn not to take it personally when the kids misbehave. It’s not like they’re intentionally out to hurt me. On the other hand, it also speaks well of the depth of love I have for them that they are able to hurt me so deeply.”

It seemed like a good topic to discuss today…not child rearing, per se, but relationships and hurt.

We take a lot of things personally in a context like ours here. The team here at First Assembly is far closer than many other church staffs. We like to think of ourselves here as family, not just coworkers or even friends. This fact alone is one of the biggest reasons I was excited to return to Yankton. But as you all know, in the context of family sometimes you really just want to kill each other. Those of you here who worked in close contact with me while I was a part of the pastoral team here know exactly what I’m talking about…because I’m pretty sure there were times when some of us were ready to throttle each other. But the fact that we’re all still family today speaks of the depth of our love for each other, and of Jesus’ love for us.

A few weeks ago, Pastor Randy put out a piece in the bulletin about using care not to fight in front of your children. It’s great advice, because not only does it create feelings of insecurity in children, but also we often say things in an argument that we maybe don’t mean…or at least that we don’t mean the way they come across. Why is this? Because, our feelings get hurt due to the depth of our relationship and we end up reacting out of those hurt emotions rather than out of our understanding of the other individual. It’s easy to feel abandoned by those you love in those times, but it’s important to remember that the issue would not even exist if the other person didn’t care about you. The opposite of love is not hate and anger; it is indifference. I’ve never been hurt by someone with whom I had no relationship. Sometimes, we have to learn to not take things personally. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” It’s important to understand that this verse isn’t advice to avoid vulnerability at any cost. It’s advice to use a filter…to look deeper…to remember relationship…and to consider intentions.

Rather than putting our guard up against relationship and being defensive, it’s critical that we use what we know about the other party and consider their intentions…because folks’ actions often don’t represent their intent very well. We have to learn to see each other they way that Jesus sees us…which is admittedly easier said than done when someone says something that you find hurtful. I’m thankful that the Lord is able to discern the thoughts and intentions of my heart (Heb 4:12). Not only does this mean that He can see through my fa├žade when I’m being superficial, but it also means that He can see my true good intentions when my actions don’t represent them so well. When conflict arises among people in relationship, it’s important that we step back and ask the Lord to give us some of His insight into their heart. We need to seek to understand their true motives. Guard your heart, because sometimes people are just creeps. But also guard your heart against the temptation to jump to conclusions about those you love—even people in this team here. Sometimes, the best advice is simply, “Don’t take it personally. They didn’t really mean it that way.”

New jewelry

Ok, so we’ve got our website and shop up and running for Scraps & Jewels! I’m pretty excited…just put up 3 pieces in our online shop…go take a look! And posted a lil blurb on our website…which you should also look at b’cuz you’re my friend. 8P

Let me know what you think…I’m planning to have at least one more piece done before the end of the week.

And no, this wasn’t the “intelligent” post either.


Back Again…

Hi, it’s me. We have a lot of catching up to do. I’m not posting on the other blog…I decided to let it go, largely for technical reasons. Honestly, Blogger is just a whole lot easier to work with.

I’m in Nebraska now, on to the next chapter. Looking to get back in to ministry, somehow. Taking care of mom-in-law. Trying to focus on being a dad and a husband, pretty much. And a child of God…that’s probably the toughest job of all.

I’m making jewelry now, as well. Hoping to make some spare cash (whatever that is) on the side. I’ll keep you posted on that, as I’ll be starting a new blog for our little side business.

My goal for this year is to write at least one intelligent post for this blog per week. This isn’t that post for this week, just so you know. :-)


New Blog, New Stuff, New Day...

Hey, I'll make this quick and not waste your time. Some time ago, I tried to start a weblog called "Re:thinking." What I was trying to do with "The Gateway" is long I'm trying to restart "Re:thinking." I'd love it if you'd join me. There's not much there yet, but I'm trying to discipline myself to be a good blogger and actually get some content on there. I'll probably move some of my old talks over there, and a few posts from here that are worth keeping around.

Join me at "Re:thinking."


Bloom Where You're Planted

So, I'm going to try for a kind of a stream-of-consciousness thing here. It's extremely late, and I'm very tired and in desperate need of sleep (I have to work tomorrow), yet I feel compelled to write. Perhaps it's the discipline of the thing. Perhaps I'm a glutton for punishment.

It's probably the latter.

Regardless, I'm here. The time is insane. And I'm writing.

I don't even know what I should write.

Perhaps it's about conflict. Lots of that nowadays.

I've been pretty conflicted lately--about, y'know, stuff. I've got a decent job, but I'm not sure I want to be a manager at a pizza joint for all of my life. Perhaps owning one wouldn't be bad, but being a manager--well... It's not the job. It's the stature, I guess. I get somewhat ashamed to tell people what I do for a living...not sure why.

"Hey, my name is Sam."

"Hi, Sam. I'm Tory. So, what do you do?"

"Well, I'm a high-level-and-extremely-well-paid computer tech at State Farm." (Everyone here works for State Farm, except for me. I just feed them.) "And you?"

"I'm an...astrophysicist. Yeah."

"Really, here? Where do you do that around here?"

"I'm on...sabbatical. Yeah. Advanced brain work, heh, it's a recipe for burn-out, you know? So, I decided to take a break and...I'm filling in as a manager at a pizza joint. Yeah."

"So, how much longer will you be on sabbatical?"


Bloom where you're planted, Sherlock. Bloom where you're planted.

The problem is that I really don't know what I want to be when I grow up. I spent about a decade as a pastor--and about half of that was a good experience. The other half was something akin to living in the bottom of a baby's diaper...but I won't go there (for the sake of time).

So, let's do a little inventory. Years and years ago (yes, I'm getting older), I could program computers. I do some desktop publishing and web design (basic stuff--nothing modern). I can fix computers. I've been a "professional" pastor. I do customer service. I've been a recording artist and record producer. Now, I'm a manager at a pizza joint. Oh, and I did oil changes and tire repairs as a teenager.

I'm a jack of all trades and a master of none.

Now, what do I like to do? Well, the common thread through there is computers, but I really prefer the creative stuff to the mundane. Specifically, I'm into "usability" and "human user interfaces" on anything from computers to toasters. I'm very passionate about mobile tech--especially the kind that gets work done. I like to cook really good food. And I like art of all kinds. I'm into faith--but the practical kind that people can really use. Oh, and I like to write.

What does it all add up to? A mess, that's what. One big, funny mess.

So, I've thought about going back to school for programming--but the barrier is money and time (kids and wife...gotta take care of them, too).

I've thought about culinary arts school--but don't want to sell my soul to a restaurant.

And I've thought about going back into ministry, professionally--but I'm not sure that's where I'd be truly happy, either.

Writing. Yeah, right.

My conclusion? For now, I guess, I should bloom where I'm planted. And figure out what I want to be when I grow up. I'm tired of bouncing around, trying things. I'd really like a career that's dynamic, consistently challenging, and lucrative. Ministry fits some of those things, but carries with it a series of headaches I'm not sure I want to deal with. And it's rarely lucrative.



I like this...I think I might start using it. Like, "I severiously want my kids to behave!"

Read more here:
jkOnTheRun: Coffee break- overheard in Starbucks


Being Reverent

"In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence." Hebrews 5:7, ESV

Reverence. It seems like a lost art these days. Really, there are two extremes. The first is that God is so revered and holy that we forget that He actually wants to be our friend. The second extreme is that we treat God as if he's our buddy, and forget that He's still God.

What really strikes me here is:

1. Jesus prayed. While on Earth, He talked to the Father on a regular basis. The Son of God Himself brought his needs and concerns (supplications) to the Father;
2. Jesus was passionate. This was no sedate prayer, no murmur, no mumbling under the breath. Those were "loud cries" and tears. I'll be frank: my spirituality has been so neutered by western Christianity that I have trouble being that passionate about God. I can be that passionate about my marriage, but not my faith. Ouch, that hurts.
3. BUT, Jesus was heard because of His reverence, ultimately. It was because of how He approached the Father that His prayers were heard. To shed a little light on this, understand that the other correct cultural rendering of the Greek word eulabeia (rendered as "reverence") is "caution." My point: Jesus wasn't flippant. He was respectful. He was careful about how he approached the Father.


Americans hate accountability.

Americans hate accountability. It's a fact. Point-in-case: tonight at work, I began to implement a new system designed to give accountability to the kids on our crew to be sure they do their work. Our goal is to raise our standard of customer service and help people do their jobs better. As things stand now, there is really no way to put the spotlight on those who work poorly, because everything just is thrown into a "big pot." It's the classic, "Somebody should do these things; anybody could do them, but nobody did." We're aiming to identify somebody, anybody, and nobody.

The system is simple: it's a list of tasks for each job area. The crew person will simply initial each task as it's completed. If their doing their jobs, it's really no big deal, except for one detail...

Did I mention that Americans hate accountability?

Yeah, there's the problem. Tonight was a "dry run;" it didn't matter, as I was only looking for help getting the list to a place where it is simple and concise. I approached three different employees, asking them for help. "Just go through the list as you do your tasks tonight and see if I missed anything or if anything is unclear. Leave some feedback on the paper if there's anything that needs changed."

One guy got out his cigarette lighter and was going to burn it.

Another person balked, told me that they were insulted, and then tried to get me to reassign the tasks on their list to other employees. (I wonder why they balked...hmmm...)

Ironically, the only person who didn't object is the person who had extra work added to his responsibilities. He was very agreeable. Of course, he's also in a position where his primary job may prevent him from completing the list--and that's just the way it is. There's nothing we can do to change that.

But I think the bottom line is this: people hate knowing somebody is watching. I know I do. Sometimes we avoid situations we should really be involved with because we don't want to feel "inspected." I think about my life--I don't want my pastor or my wife to know that I almost looked at some things online I shouldn't have last night. (No, it wasn't porn...but it was bad enough.) And if I tell them (of course, now I just told the world...), then I'll feel like they're looking over my shoulder every time I turn around. Of course, if they're looking over my shoulder, that probably means they are also watching my back. My honesty keeps me accountable--and that causes me to avoid stupid things because I know somebody's going to check me out.

My dad once said, "Locks keep honest people honest." Somebody who is going to do the wrong thing will do it, regardless of their situation. Accountability is like a lock; it helps protect us from ourselves.

An insomniac's dream...

I'm sitting here, up again. I should be sleeping.

A few updates are in order. A few weeks ago, I struggled with knowing how we were going to make looked too tight. So, I "threw it up" and hoped for the best. I guess if I were being honest, I'd have to say that I really didn't expect any results.

I'm really glad that God doesn't cater to our expectations, aren't you?

So, about a week later, I received a call from my boss at Godfather's--offering me a significant promotion and increase in pay. So much so, that I could quit my other job and have just one place of employment for the first time in about three years! So, for the last week, I've been "officially" one of the full-time managers at Godfather's Pizza in Normal, IL. Sounds like it's not so great, but really, it is. Here's why:
- I'm enjoying it. (Can't put a price on that.)
- It's flexible.
- It's salary, so it's steady income.
- The owner, who is actively involved in the business, is a Christ-follower.
- His goal is to get me back into ministry.

(Ever feel like you've been set up???)

So, life is pretty good. My mood is better. I can relax at home now, which is significant. I left Office Depot, one of the biggest sources of stress in my life, and didn't look back. Don't get me wrong, I'm thankful to have had the job when I needed it. But this situation is far, far better. Plus, I'm in the lead in an organization again, where I feel like I can really make a difference. It's the first time in a few years that I've been able to say that.

Other than that...

I've been asked by my pastor to:
a) travel as a sponsor to a youth retreat in Wisconsin in a few weeks.
b) accompany him to Anaheim, CA to the Vineyard National Conference.

Feeling good...and the picture is finally beginning to become clearer. And that feels good, too.

Thanks for the good stuff, Lord.