Friday, February 22, 2008

C'mon Already, It's Only a Vacation!

I started writing this in the middle of the night to my kids, but I thought I would share it with my one or two blog readers as well.

Hi Family,
I know that we don’t have to explain ourselves to you, but something has plagued me about our trip to Hawaii.
Bottom line, for months I had been hoping for an extended sabbatical from church but the search process for the new youth guy wasn’t letting that happen. So we reassessed and took the long vacation instead. I got permission to get away for 3 weeks. With the cheaper airfares we got, we felt that we both could use the emotional break from the load of ministry and to have the chance to re-calibrate. The downside of using vacation time and resources for this was that we couldn’t include you kids with us. Aligning all of our schedules was also a big barrier to making something like this work for all of us.
Yes, I know each of you would say that mom and I don’t need to have all of our vacation plans work around you all. But on the other hand, stretching the proverb, “Better is a little where there is love than eating steaks where there is strife.” We didn’t have strife on our vacation, but we did have plenty of “steaks” that could have been richer with you to enjoy them with us. Frequently, mom and I would say things like, “Wouldn’t it be hilarious to watch Kyle break into an imitation of the hula dancers?” or, “Shannon would probably say this about now, and it would crack us up.” Or, Megan would love to be in NATURE like this.” Sharing experiences bonds people. I want more shared experiences with you.
Also, my gift of Thomas Welsh-ness made it hard to spend money like we did. We were frugal to a point, but Hawaii isn’t a cheap vacation destination. Yes, we’ve saved for something like this for 10 years and we have the empty-nest freedom to go and do things. Again, I wouldn’t trade our experiences for the world, but I am led by God and conscience to balance the money we spent on ourselves with a more earnest resolve not to make self-directed spending a habit or a focus. I really did return, thinking about the poor more and how empty it would be to have lots of money to simply spend on oneself to accumulate experiences for oneself. This self-orientation simply amplifies the loneliness we try to conceal with money. I’m reminded of how easy it is to plan out our future self-indulgences so that we always have something to look forward to that will hopefully bring some relief to our drab, wintry drudgery.
The dozens (hundreds?) of tents of homeless people on the beach 15 minutes away from one of the world's most luxurious resorts has etched itself into my mind. We found that our resort management won’t refer its guests to any business that would cause people to drive past these homeless encampments. This is understandable from a business image perspective, but it’s really sad to me.

You might think, why is Dad so evaluative about a vacation? Can’t he just enjoy a time away? Yes I can and I did. I just wanted each of you to have a glimpse into my soul. I hope you’re not sick of these Proverbs, but here’s one that started me on this rant:

Proverbs 15:21 (NASB)

Folly is joy to him who lacks sense,

But a man of understanding walks straight.

My Paraphrase:

Screwing around and random activities make the fool happy;

But even the recreation of the wise is purposeful and yields good results.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Way of the Heart by Henri Nouwen

I am re-reading this book. Here's a challenging paragraph:
"Anger in particular seems close to a professional vice in the contemporary ministry. Pastors are angry at their leaders for not leading and at their followers for not following. They are angry at those who do not come to church for not coming and angry at those who do come for coming without enthusiasm. They are angry at their families, who make them feel guilty, and angry at themselves for not being who they want to be. This is not and open, blatant, roaring anger, but and anger hidden behind the smooth word, the smiling face, and the polite handshake. it is a frozen anger, an anger which settles into a biting resentment and slowly paralyzes a generous heart. If there is anything that makes the ministry look grim and dull, it is this dark, insidious anger in the servants of Christ."
All I can say is, "Wow".
Can anyone else relate to Nouwen's description of contemporary ministry?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

God and the Oceans

Sue and I are on vacation near the ocean. As Iowans, being near the ocean gives us a fresher look at God. Over the past few days I've been beat up by the surf and I've sat, watching and listening to the pounding of the waves. So, I was led to ask, "What does the ocean tell me about Us and God?"

  • When depressed, picture yourself tossed about in the fury of His love; like being thrashed by the waves of the ocean (Psalm 42).
  • God is mightier than the breakers of the sea (Psalm 93).
  • He treads on the ocean waves (Job 9).
  • Fear God who sets limits for the seas (Job 38).
  • God stirs the sea and calms the sea (Psalm 107).

Here’s my take on the meaning of the oceans in scripture:

The seas represent, to a certain extent, chaos and damage. The seas are somewhat mysterious and hold frightening creatures. The oceans are overwhelming, unpredictable, and untamed. Their brute force is apparent and their power can be unleashed or calmed in an instant. There is nothing that I know of in the Bible that depicts the ocean as a place of opportunity or peace. The oceans evoke feelings of fear and danger.

Even the sounds of the breakers of the ocean speak a mysterious spirit-language of their own; calling to one another (deep calls to deep). Waterfalls echo this chorus. I suspect that the ancient mind would understand these passages as more than simply a personification of nature.

God’s control of the boundaries of the seas is a recurring theme. Even the Genesis epic tells about God establishing the boundaries of the sky and earth and water. But during the great flood, God allowed the waters to breach those boundaries and they overwhelmed creation with their destructive power.

But the Lord is a God who no longer will allow the chaos of the oceans to encroach upon the earth. God holds the ocean in check, protecting man from its turmoil.

Now, transport this ocean motif into the accounts of Jesus who stilled the waves, walked on the sea, found a coin in a fish’s mouth, and commanded a large catch of fish. In the OT it was God Himself who tread on the ocean waves. God alone could still the chaos of the ocean with a whisper, He mastered the creatures of the ocean.


  1. Could the instance of Jesus teaching while calmly seated in a boat tell us something about His command over creation?
  2. Why would Jesus teach the parable of the soils from a boat? All of the synoptic accounts record it this way.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Made To Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die

I'm really liking this book! Chip and Dan Heath cut new trails with this freshened exploration of the communication process. Their work is well-researched, interesting, and immediately applicable. The authors use the SUCCESs acronym as the basic outline of their book. Each chapter unpacks the 6 main methods we can use to make ideas stick: Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional, Stories. These methods will work with almost any form of communication; advertising, public speaking, writing, sales presentations, vision casting, etc.
Because Made To Stick has a simple outline, don't be fooled into thinking that it is simplistic. There is a lot to ponder here. This text will become another reference work that I'll need to return to again and again in order to sharpen my skills.