Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Chasing Francis: Book Review

Book Title: Chasing Francis

Author: Ian Morgan Cron

Pages: 253

Publisher: NavPress

Recommendation: Yes! Read it! 

Favorite Quote: "Thomas, why does it feel like God's abandoned me?" I asked at last.
Thomas sighed. "Sometimes God's presence is most strongly felt in his absence."

During my sabbatical I read only a few books (in addition to the Bible) and this was one of them.  Now the interesting thing about this book is that is spoke deeply to my heart given the condition of my heart.  The even more interesting thing about this book is I have no clue who recommended it!

The book is a fictional story about a lead pastor from the Northeast area.  He (Chase) is about 38 years old and comes to a crisis of faith.  The tough thing about this is that Chase comes to this crisis while leading the church when he encounters the death of a young girl.  This culminates when Chase stands on stage, one Sunday morning, and announces to his church that he is not even sure if he believes in God.  After this he walks off the stage and leaves the church.

This obviously leads to an interesting outcome in the life of the pastor.  His elders encourage him to take some time off so both they and he can figure out what is going on.  During his time off he calls his cousin, who is a Franciscan Monk, in Italy.  Chase ends up going to Italy for a couple months (I think) to seek God and figure out what is missing in his life.  I am not going to give the rest of the story away but I will encourage you to pick up the book and see what it would like to seek after God in news ways. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

As for Me and My [Crazy] House: Book Review

Book Title: As for Me and My [Crazy] House

Author: Brian Berry

Pages: 154

Publisher: Group Publishing

Recommendation: Read it Now!

Favorite Quote: "So how about you? Did you sign up for the marriage you're living? If not, it's time to rethink some stuff and remind yourself that the best gift you can give your kids is not whatever they want, but the marriage they don't know that they desperately need you to have." (page 84)

This was one of the books that I bought while I was still working on seminary and thought I wouldn't get to until I finished.  Once this book arrived at our home Charity picked it up and started reading it; her enthusiasm for the book sparked my interest to begin reading it while writing my final paper (it was better than what I HAD to read).  There are books you read because you have to and books you read because they speak to your soul; this book spoke to my soul in a much needed way.

If you read my blog last week you will see how important this book was to me; it honestly came a critical time in my life.  I started this book before I graduated seminary but finished it on the plane ride to Hawaii.  It was cool reading it on the plane and reading how Brian affirms the need for family vacation (page 135) it made me feel like I was doing something right in the chaos of my own life.  I am pretty sure that the cover talks mentions youth ministry but I am going to just say that this book is a must read for anyone in ministry.

The principles that Brian shares are from a man who had tried and tested them; they come from a man who is leading out and doing what he writes!  Here are some quick thoughts: Brian Berry is a stud!  I love Brian, I love his heart for ministry and I love that he is doing ministry in the trenches.  The book is broken into three understandable parts:
  1. The best gift I can give my marriage is a healthy self
  2. The best gift I can give my family is a healthy marriage
  3. The best gift I can give my community and ministry is a healthy family
I am committed to getting this book into the hands of as many people as I possibly can because I believe that what Brian is talking about here can help our communities find and follow Christ.  I really believe that the world is sick of they way they are living and they are looking for men and women to model something new to them.  Its going to take time to implement these aspects into my life but I am committed to making that happen for the health of my family.

Thanks Brian.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Spiritually Empty

Three months ago if you would have asked me how I was doing I would have given you the answer that most Americans give when asked that question: "I'm good"

If you would have pushed me a little on that answer you probably would have gotten: "I'm tired"

As I reflect back on the last couple years of my life I realize that I was constantly "tired".  I was tired of school, I was tired from being woken up at night by our daughters, I was tired of ministry being tough and I was tired of not spending time with Jesus.  The day after I left for sabbatical I took a picture of my phone and it was a good representation of where my life was at; I was empty.  You could also say: tired, drained, exhausted, depleted, empty, not full and pretty much any other word that relates to those words.

Now I understand that writing about this subject makes me vulnerable but I have to image that I am not the only one out there who has experienced this.  Now I also understand that not everyone is given the opportunity that I have been given (a sabbatical) to address this issue.  In reality it took me about three weeks of sabbatical before I actually realized how drained I was.

One glaring issue was that I had made my quiet time just that.  I would read the Bible, try to pray and failed to sit and have a relationship with God: it was definitely quite.  Let me share a handful of things that I began to realize on sabbatical that is going to change in my personal walk with Christ as I move forward in life (at this point I am not talking as a pastor but a believer in Christ).

Maybe you have called the time that you spend with God on a daily basis your "quiet time" I want to push back on that verbiage.  Over the last couple months I have become convicted that I do not want the time that I spend with God to be quite.  I want the time I spend with God to be interactive, communicative and uplifting.  I want to sit on my face before God.  If I feel I am not hearing God's voice I want to read the Bible out loud.  I am going to switch up my relationship with God to be multi-faceted and interactive but in ways that will require me to shut up and listen.

During my sabbatical I was able to get a few days in Utah, by myself, to connect with God.  There is something important about not just getting away but about being intentional with that time.  I'm not going to take too much time here since I will go more in-depth in a few days on this topic.  To wet your appetite go check out Mark 1:35.

While on sabbatical I realized how important friendships are to my life.  When we are busy some of the first things to go are our time with God and then our time with others.  You cannot read the Gospels and tell me that friendships are not important.  Jesus calls us to a life with others, share meals with others, be real with others and walk with others.  I had neglected that in my life and realized that is going to change as I move forward.

I'm not sure if most people would include this in their spiritual health but I cannot see it being separate from my spiritual health.  I make that statement because as the leader of my home it is my responsibility to take care of my family.  One thing that God spoke clearly to me is: "Love your girls."  That will be a main focus in my life from here on out.  I have put other things above the needs of my family too many times and moving forward I am going to make sure that is not the case.

In conclusion I want you to think about this verse and ask yourself: "Who is in control of my life?"

"Come to me, all you who are wearied and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."  Matthew 11:28-30

Monday, July 23, 2012

Hawaiian Vacation Round Two

As I attempt to recap most of my sabbatical I wanted to take another post to talk about the blessing of our Hawaiian Vacation.  It was so rad to have our family there to spend time with, but also, to watch our kids so Charity and I could get some "us time".  One of those times was taking a helicopter ride around the island of Kauai.

One of the blessings of the ride we took is that the helicopter actually lands at the waterfall featured in Jurassic Park.  Having never ridden in a helicopter before this was a treat for me to experience.

Charity and I sat shotgun in the helicopter and it was such an amazing view of the island.  Heading into sabbatical I was pretty tired/exhausted and taking this ride was a great reminder of all that God has created.  Its interesting to me how a ride like this was able to lift my spirit some and show me more of the beauty that God has created.

Check out this video of the Na Pali Coast from our ride

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Hawaiian Vacation

The day after my graduation from seminary our family jumped (we actually walked) on a plane that was headed to Kauai.  Looking back on my sabbatical leaving town immediately was the best decision we could have ever made!  We spent the next ten days in Kauai with my family and had a GREAT time.  The girls loved hanging out with their cousins, I loved seeing my sister and it was great having Oma and Opa there.

Kauai was filled with adventure so I think its going to take more than one post to share but for starters I had a great time with my kids!  Kauai is filled with chickens; they are every where and Sophie and I had a great time catching them.  This is a pic from the first morning we caught a chicken.  Sophie was so excited to hold it!  Leah held one but quickly let it go to watch her sister.  My sister (Beth) also has some made chicken catching skills while holding her son!

One thing I promised the girls was that we would get shave ice every day.  Shave ice is pretty much the best invention in the world and I enjoyed every time we ate it.

Finally, for this post, I have to mention how much fun I had snorkeling with my wife and my sister.  I love being out in nature, I love chasing fish around the ocean and I love being able to see more of what God has created!

God knew this was how we needed to start our sabbatical!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Seminary /// Support

The other day I wrote about how I finally graduated seminary.  That post didn't allow for the time to really thank some of the people who have been a huge support (my cheerleaders) while I was working on my degree.  I am sure that I am going to forget some people in this post but there are three main groups I want to thank!

My Family
Seminary took a toll on my family.  That is probably not what you expected to hear but its true.  I am eternally in-debt to my family for the sacrifices they made for me to finish school.  My wife was extremely supportive when I had to read books, write papers, be gone for weeks at a time and stay up late to finish up a project.  Charity was my biggest support and I am so thankful to you wife!  My kids also took a blow during these last four years of their lives.  Sophie came up to summer school once but in the other eight times I had to travel to Redding I did it solo.  Leah is still young and may never remember but I will never forget the times I missed with them.  Thank you girls for making the sacrifices for me.  Thank you for letting me use our families resources and thanks for Skyping with me in the mornings when I was away; that kept me sane!

Extended Family
Thank you to everyone of you who encouraged me during these last six years.  My extended family was super supportive when I would explain to them what I was learning; they always extended a listening ear to hear what God was doing in my life.  They understood when I would have to leave family vacations to go to Starbucks and finish up a paper or stay up late to write one last book report.  They also took their time, and resources, to attend my graduation and that was a huge blessing to physically have them all there!

South Hills Church Community 
My Church was key in my completion of seminary!  They supported me when I needed to take a day off to finish a paper.  They gave me weeks (yep, weeks) off every year so I could travel to take courses. They understood the time commitment that was involved with seminary and they understood the Kingdom value of school.  I didn't have to fight with them about the importance of seminary because they understood the value it presented in my life and the benefit it was to the Kingdom to train up leaders.  More than that, I am so thankful that Pastor Brandon Gallup took the time to travel up to Redding for my graduation also!  Church; thank you for believing in me, investing in me and all your support these last six years!

If you are going to take the plunge into seminary I was to remind you that you are not meant to do it alone nor should you ever think that you can!  Seminary is costly (not just financially) and it requires a deeper commitment but if God is calling you to take that commitment start now because we are ever in need of Theologically sound pastors!

Monday, July 09, 2012

I did it (finally)

On April 28th 2012 something monumental happened in my life!

My journey in seminary is totally different than what I expected!  In September 2004 I started working on my Masters of Divinity at Azusa Pacific University's extension program in San Diego.  After taking two course God lead me to Las Vegas to minister with students which put a halt to my studies.  After getting the ministry up and running I chose to go back and work on my degree but now I was heading to Fuller Seminary.  March 2006 I took my first course at Fuller and my time there was amazing!

Once I realized I would not be able to complete the program through Fuller I transferred to a new seminary in Northern California called Tozer Seminary.  That was the most enjoyable, difficult, time of my life.  Seminary stretched me, shaped me, frustrated me, challenged me, gave me new friends, took lots of time, and encouraged me (Did I mention that I started Seminary as a single man and graduated a marriage man with two beautiful daughters?).  After three years at Tozer I graduated on April 28th 2012 with my Masters of Divinity; this is one of the top ten happiest days of my life!

I have referred to Seminary as the modern day discipleship process in my life; I needed Seminary in my life.  There were times that I wanted to quit but it shaped my Theology.  It helped my understanding of Scripture.  It provided a route to learn the Biblical Languages.  I wish that every new Christian would take the time, make the commitment and go to Seminary so that they can grow in their knowledge and love for Christ.

Seminary taught me how to think Theologically.  It helped me understand Scripture in a new way and make it understandable to the world around us.  My heart breaks for the lack of Biblical literacy in our society and I feel that God has called me to help combat that; I think Seminary has helped prepare me for a life of that.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Slow Return

I almost titled this post "I'm Back" but the truth is I am not back.  I really still have two weeks left of my sabbatical but some of the advice I was given was to come back a week early and work part-time for two weeks.  With that said I figured I would sit down and blog to prepare myself for my return.

Since I am not really sure where to begin I am just going to write what comes to mind...

These last few months have been some of the best, and toughest, times of my life!  I have spent more time with my wife, kids and God than I have been able to in the last eight years.  I have been able to get away and hang out with just me and God.  I have been able to sit and talk with my wife and just dream.  I have been able to spend precious moments with my children.  I have been able to see most of my family members, sit with them, grab a meal and talk (miss you sister).

Here is an overview of some of the things I have been able to do while on sabbatical:

This is what I plan on blogging about more in depth in the next few weeks.  I want to breakdown my sabbatical and share what God taught me.  I want to share some memories that our family made.  I want to share some convictions that God has been working in my life.  I want to share some books that I read that I think might be helpful for you to read.

Bottom line is my life has changed since I've been on sabbatical.  My priorities have shifted and my life is going to reflect that from now on.