Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Figuring Out Life with Others

I was recently listening to a podcast by a 70 year old man that I have a great deal of respect for. He mentioned during the podcast that in all of his life, he would be happy if he just had two things: Jesus and relationships.

As one who has at times, struggled greatly with relationships, there are a couple of things that I have learned over the past few years.  These are things that have come to shape how I try to approach relationships these days.

Relationships must be a value
For years I was a loner and was content. I have come to realize over the years however, that life is better with others. In order to share life with others though, I must value relationships and the ongoing pursuit of them.

Relationships take time
This one may seem obvious, but time is something that many usually aren't willing to part with. The truth is, it just takes time to get to know other people. 

Relationships take commitment
It's going to get hard at some point so there must be a willingness to work through the tough patches. 

Relationships take money
I understand that some may balk at this one, but sometimes I might need to actually invest -yes, even money - in relationships. Part of developing friendships is having a good time together and some times these things might cost a little bit. 

Relationships must be a priority
If relationships are not a priority and are not intentionally pursued, they will not happen on their own.

Relationships take the ability to shut up and listen
Most people want to be heard, but have difficulty hearing. In order for relationships to work, it has to go both ways.

Relationships only work if both parties get to be right sometimes
Nobody likes to be in a relationship with someone who already knows everything. (I used to be that guy and still can be sometimes. It's not cool). 

Many of us would say we value relationships. The problem is, our lifestyles don't necessarily their importance. Someone once told me, show me your calendar and your checkbook and I'll show you what is really important to you.

Being a loner is easy for me. Intentionality in relationships is a bit harder and more challenging. But in the end, I am hoping that a change in lifestyle early on will lead me to hopefully being 70+ years old one day and though I might not have a lot of things that others might have, I am hoping that I at least have others.

What other things might you add to the list? Or take off of the list?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

It Takes a Village

This past summer, Kristy and I packed up the car, loaded up the boys and headed out of town with two other couples for our annual beach trip. What makes this trip so exciting - sure, we can use that word - is that between our 3 couples we have 11 children - all boys - all under the age of 6.

These are two couples that we are quite intentional about sharing life with. We're to the place where we trust each other with our own kids, allow one another to correct/discipline our kids and actually play a part in raising one another's kids. 

One night on this particular trip, Kristy got into a beautiful conversation with the other two girls. I think us dad's must have all gone to sleep (tired from keeping up with the kids all day, cooking, keeping the condo clean, etc.). The conversation made it's way towards how we are going to train our boys in the ways of God, how we will instill kingdom values in them, and teach them how to live. The question came up at one point, "How will 'I' be able to train my boys to do something or to a choose a particular path that I myself (and/or my husband) might have messed up or not chosen correctly." Another one of the girls replied, "Perhaps, but what if we share in the raising of our boys. Between the three of us, we have all had different experiences and made different choices. So I can give a whole different perspective. This way our kids can learn from all of our stories and lives."

As the girls discussed they came to the conclusion that when we truly invite one another into each other's lives we all bring different things to the table. 

Since then I have thought a lot about the ancient "African" proverb, 'It takes a village to raise a child.' Some believe this proverb originated from the Nigerian Igbo culture and proverb "Ora na azu nwa" which actually means 'it takes the community /village to raise a child.' This tribe went so far as to name their children "Nwa ora" which means 'child of the community.' It has been in existence in Africa for centuries.

Adopting a daughter from a completely different culture (Africa, actually) has led me to thinking this thru at even deeper levels. It's raised a number of questions:

In our context today, what is it that causes us to think that our children are better off only learning from us (their parents)?

Is it possible that our collective experience and wisdom would actually work to make our kids better, not worse?

How does our modern day, individualistic, American culture hinder us from engaging in the centuries old practice of raising children in community?

Do you have a community of people that you share life with and allow to speak into your kid's lives? If not, would you be willing to? If not, why not?

How can we be more intentional about being a part of a 'village' to share life and the raising of our kids?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Working Together for the Good of Others

This is a blog about a good friend of mine who has started a non-profit in order to provide food and critical vitamins to malnourished children in Zambia, Africa. You can actually help in very simple ways - simply by liking Umweo Bags on FB and sharing the link. Grace and peace - Brian

In an effort to raise awareness, friends of Umweo Bags will donate over $600 to this amazing cause if Umweo Bags receives over 250 likes on their Facebook page, along with receiving at least 60 shares on FB and 20 new followers on Twitter by December 25.

Umweo Bags is a non-profit organization (pulling together the final paperwork for being incorporated as a 501(c)3 as you read) that was started in 2010 by Ana Rich. While on a mission trip in Zambia, with her church - the Vineyard Church of New Orleans. Ana had the opportunity to visit a malnutrition clinic in the town of Kitwe. This clinic is a place where children in the community who are malnourished are brought, most often by their parents, to be given a chance at surviving in life. While at the clinic, children are cared for by nurses who do all that they can to provide care, nutrition, vitamins and food to these children; to nurse them back to health so that they may return home to their families, healthy. At the time that Ana was visiting the clinic, there were close to 15 children being cared for and nursed back to health.

Upon returning to New Orleans from her trip to Zambia, Africa, Ana had an overwhelming desire to help, to work to figure out how she could play a part in helping these children survive. While in Zambia, Ana had the opportunity to go to market one day. While there she purchased a handmade bag from one of the local merchants. It was this bag that enlarged Ana’s imagination as she considered ways that she could help those children who are clinging to life over 9000 miles away.

After weeks of thinking and praying, Ana pulled out her old sewing machine, though she had only minor sewing skills, and began to play around with fabric and designs to try and replicate the bag that she had purchased at market. Within a few days, Ana had finally landed on her own unique pattern for the purses. And thus Umweo Bags was born.

Umweo Bags are all made out of fabrics full of vibrant colors that in some way reflect the culture of Zambia.  Bags are sold for $30 and every penny that is profit is now sent to the malnutrition clinic in Kitwe and is used to purchase the necessary food and vitamin supplements for the children.  Over the last year and a half, Ana has empowered a number of other women in the community to also make bags and today, every Umweo Bag is handmade by Ana and 5 of her friends.

To date, Umweo Bags has sent $2,675 to the malnutrition clinic which in turn has allowed the clinic to purchase food. The clinic usually only has enough funding to purchase formula. However, children over 8 months old are in need of solid foods in order to get the nutrients they need to regain their health. The money that Umweo Bags sends to the clinic enables the clinic to purchase the necessary solids, such as, fruits, mealie meal, ground nuts for protein and more.

Here are some other sobering numbers:
·         People travel anywhere from 10 miles to 150 miles in order to find help at the clinic
·         Children stay anywhere from 7 days to 30 days at the clinic
·         There is a dietician and 3 nurses that work at the clinic
·         The clinic has anywhere from 12 children to 32 a time 
·         There are only 25 beds at the clinic

Since Umweo Bags partnered with the clinic in 2010, over 95 children have been nursed back to health and have returned to their homes nourished and healthy.

It is our heart at Umweo Bags to continue to provide as much as we can financially to this clinic to provide these children with the food and vitamins they need to survive - to provide life.

Here’s how you can help:
1.       Like Umweo Bags Facebook page (here)
2.       Share Umweo Bags page on Facebook (here)
3.       Follow Umweo Bags on Twitter @umweobags

In addition to this, you may always purchase an Umweo Bag at or donate directly to Umweo Bags at

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Freedom from Answers

Whenever I approach life with a certain sense of arrogance and know-it-all-ness, I realize that I miss out on a good many things that I could actually learn from others. This tendency I have towards being the man who has all of the answers and none of the questions is certainly a tendency that I have enjoyed losing much of over the last few years. In exchange, I am gaining knowledge, answers, rich relationships and most of all - life.

Last week as I flew home from a trip to Mexico with some of my friends, I had the opportunity to sit next to a man and his family who were in the states so this man's oldest daughter could undergo her 22nd surgery for Spina Bifida. Though we had never met, this man and I had the most amazing conversation on our way from San Diego to Salt Lake City. The commonalities between us were incredible. Born just 10 months apart, we are the same age. He has been married for 10 years. I have been married for 9. He has 3 children - all girls. I have 4 children - all boys. He is a runner. I was holding my latest issue of Runner's World magazine. His connection with his God is important to him, as mine is to me.

As we sped down the runway and lifted off, I looked at him and said, "I really don't enjoy flying." We both laughed it off and continued in conversation. About 6 minutes into our flight as we came close to our cruising altitude, we hit a small pocket of turbulence. I became fidgety which was quite evident to him. He leaned over and said, "You know, Mr. Brian, in my religion, we believe that our God is in control. We believe that nothing happens to us apart from our God knowing about it and we believe that we can trust that things will be okay because our God is in charge."

I replied, "In my religion, we believe the same thing. I'm just not very good at it."

From that point on, we conversed for the entire hour and a half flight. We talked about everything from raising our kids, to our vocations, to our favorite hobbies. It was the most beautiful 90 minutes of my day.

I learned a great deal last week from this Muslim man from Saudi Arabia. I learned a great deal about love and life, about family and priorities, about sacrifice and selflessness, but most of all, I learned about faith.

It causes me to wonder how many times I have missed out on opportunities to learn from others who were different than me because I thought I was the one with all of the answers?

These days, I feel as though I am on a continuous journey of learning just how much I don't know. And I must say, I am loving the process and finding great freedom in this journey.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Katrina: Becoming Who We Are Going to Be

In some ways, the storm that changed our lives forever has made us who we are and we are better versions of ourselves because of the fury of Katrina.

Lots of things were wrong about Katrina. The way she destroyed our city. The way she took lives and homes and hearts from people. There is nothing that can prepare you for an event like that in your life. The best you can do is hope that something like that never happens to you and trust that if indeed it does, you will have the grace to walk through it. I hated that storm. That storm crushed my heart and angered me. That storm threw my life into confusion and created enough doubt to last for years on end.

And at the same time, that storm saved my life and led me to my heart. I could literally write for hours about how Katrina has impacted my heart and life over the last 6 years, but for today, on this 6th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, here are just a few thoughts on how Katrina has impacted my life.

Katrina changed my life... bringing new relationships into my life. Had it not been for Katrina, I might not have met some amazing people, many of whom still play a significant role in my life today. giving me a greater imagination for what humanity can do when working together. giving me a greater imagination for what the community of faith who follows after the teachings of Jesus could really look like when we put aside our individualistic, independent, it's- all- about- me lifestyle and actually live our lives for the sake of one another. allowing my beautiful Kristy and I to realize that our marriage is not made out of where we live, what we drive, what we own or any of those externals, but our marriage is built on our love for one another and an amazing friendship. You always hope that you're marriage is built on something solid, but until you come face to face with the reality of life in your marriage, you just don't know. I realized one afternoon after the storm as I sat on my refrigerator out on my front lawn, looking at everything we owned piled up in a trash heap, that my life and my identity were actually not wrapped up in my stuff. It was as though chains fell off of me in that moment and I was free. I realized that our relationship was built on nothing but who we are together. We cried about our stuff and then we embarked on a richer, deeper life of togetherness that I don't know we would have ever found apart from Katrina.

It's been six years and I honestly believe that I am still processing. Those days were difficult. We still realize on a regular basis new ways that the storm impacted us and our family. I think this story is still being written as we continue our journey of becoming the people we are going to be. 

We lost much. Many lost more than we did. I'll never forget what was lost.

But for everything that we lost, we gained much more...we began to find ourselves and we found an imagination for what could be.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

8 Miles, Eminem and Reconciliation

When I started listening to Eminem, it was simply because of his undeniable ability to tell a story. With unrivaled passion and heart, he is an artist who is capable of drawing one into his story, allowing others to feel and touch and experience what it is to live his story. I figured, at most, I would develop a richer ability for storytelling and at the very least I would have some good music to keep me running strong miles.

A few Saturdays ago, as the sun set, I laced up my running shoes, grabbed my ipod and headed out the door. It was a Forrest Gump moment, through and through, as something inside of me was compelling me and 'I just felt like running.' I set out with no predetermined route as I figured I would simply run until I didn't feel like running any longer. 

About one mile into my run, my thoughts took me places that I had not intended to go. I became overwhelmed with thoughts and feelings about relationships from my past that went wrong. In many of these relationships I had been offended or hurt by the other party. In all of these relationships, I retaliated - defended my hurt and struck back. The way in which I was best able to defend myself was by becoming an expert wall builder - building walls around my life and my heart, severing the relationships and moving on.

As my feet pounded the pavement, stride after stride, I felt my heart pounding within my chest. These faces of people that I really loved and yet banished from my life kept flashing through my thoughts. I sensed that something needed to be done to reconcile, but had no idea how. Some of these relationships had been severed over 12 years ago, with no words spoken since. So, I kept running.

My running playlist is quite diverse. It has everything from 'Christ is Risen' by Matt Maher to 'I Need a Doctor' by Eminem and Dr. Dre and everything in between. At around mile 4, Eminem's 'Not Afraid' made it to the top of the playlist. The story behind this song is fascinating (as is much of Eminem's whole story:, but what struck me most on this night was the powerful heart of the bridge: 

And I just can't keep living this way
So starting today, I'm breaking out of this cage
I'm standing up, I'm a face my demons
I'm manning up, I'm a hold my ground
I've had enough, now I'm so fed up
Time to put my life back together right now

As his words resonated within, I knew that if I was going to truly break out of the cage that was barring me in, I would have to lay it all down. The hurt. The pain. The resentment. The need to be right. The desire to win. If there was going to be reconciliation, I would have to allow myself to forgive and I would have to ask for forgiveness, because no matter how much I might have been hurt, the truth is, I was also guilty. 

Eight miles later, I was done with my run. The next 36 hours proved to be 36 of the most powerful hours of my life as the silence was broken between me and all eight faces that came into my thoughts that night. Emails. Facebook messages. Phone calls. Different communication with each. Same result with all: Forgiveness. Reconciliation.

I've never experienced the power of reconciliation at this level and I am so deeply grateful for the forgiveness that was so quickly extended towards me.

I've hesitated posting this particular blog because some will be inclined to hail me as some type of hero for taking certain steps. For the record, hero's don't take 12 years to get their crap fixed. I do believe that stepping away from relationships is necessary sometimes when one has been hurt, but I also know firsthand that allowing those relationships to float away into some obscure land of silence without ever going back to forgive and ask for forgiveness is a sure way to keep oneself behind bars. The interesting thing about life behind the bars though is that there is a fuller life of freedom just on the other side. I decided to post it today because I can't help but think that there are others who may be trapped in this land of silence and perhaps it's time to move to a new land. 

Friday, August 5, 2011


I was recently reconciled to an old friend after 12 years. I happened upon the lyrics to a song that this friend wrote during the time we did not speak. Twelve years is a long time. It gives people a chance to change, maybe mature and hopefully grow. It changed me. It kind of sucks to lose 12 years and relationship. But reconciliation is quite beautiful and I'm grateful at very deep levels for it.

"But I am older, I am wiser, a whole lot smarter
And I thought it through
And there's been a change in me
Because you must examine all the evidence you can see
And I nailed you down and pinned you up and questioned
Is this love for you enough for me
Cause there's so many good things and true things
And I want to hear them out and see how they play out in me
There's been a change in me, I'm no longer who I used to be
Cause I'm wide open now
I am utterly convinced of you"

The music is much richer when you know the story behind it and even sweeter still when you find yourself in the story.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Lessons from Mohammad

About 3 weeks ago, my Kristy decided to completely renovate our kitchen. In the early phases she made countless trips to Home Depot. After her 5th trip or so, she mentioned to me how pleasant her experiences at Home Depot had been as everyone had been so helpful. Having been a long time customer of Home Depot, I know first- hand that people at Home Depot are not friendly. People at Lowe’s, yes. Home Depot, not so much. There have actually been many times when I would rather walk out of Home Depot without the part I needed because I didn't want to ask for help and get that whole 'are you really that dumb' look.

A day or so after Kristy explained how wonderful everyone at the Home Depot had been, we took a trip together to work on obtaining cabinet shelves. The project turned out to be slightly challenging and we needed help. And help is exactly what we got. A wonderful woman helped us as much as she could and was so amazingly helpful. When she couldn’t figure out exactly how else to help us, she called a man over by the name of Mohammad. This man, was incredible as he assisted us for the next 45 minutes, striving to wrap his mind around our project, understanding what we wanted and needed, finding the materials we needed, cutting the wood we needed and even helping us carry it to check out. 

During our time with Mohammad, it became overwhelmingly clear to me that I needed to get in my own life whatever the heck had gotten into these employees at the Home Depot. The importance of becoming increasingly aware of the people who enter my life on a daily basis allowing myself to be available to listen, understand, relate and serve. This is something that Mohammad taught me on the lumber aisle of Home Depot.

I wonder what would really happen if more people practiced the true art of hospitality? How might this change our lives? How might it change our world?

*I told a friend about my Home Depot experience. He went to Home Depot tonight and had the same wonderful experience. He asked the employee why everyone was being so nice. It turns out it was a management decision to put a new face on. Good job Home Depot. I'm happy you figured this out, because Lowe's is much further away from my home.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Top 10 Reads

There are many times on this blog that I write things that are met with some level of resistance or skepticism. I certainly understand these feelings as most of the time the things that I am writing are things that people might be reading and therefore thinking about for the first time. I have used this blog on the rare occasion for actually processing outwardly, but for those who know me, it is very rare for me to process a thought outwardly, especially in a forum like this. The truth is, most of the things that hit this blog are thoughts that I've been processing for weeks or months, if not years. Usually, my processing begins with something that I read, hear in a podcast, discuss with a friend or experience in real life.

I am an avid reader. I believe that the best way to be challenged in thought patterns is by getting outside of myself, moving out from under the thought patterns and beliefs that I hold to and allowing other's thoughts and views to challenge what I may think about something. I believe that questions are good and questioning our own thoughts and beliefs can be healthy and positive. For this reason, I choose to read a variety of books, some of which I agree with, others of which I don't. 

Since I have not had the opportunity to actually process thoughts and experiences with many of you who consistently read this blog, I thought it would be helpful to give my top 10 book recommendations. These 10 books, along with my reading and understanding of scripture have radically impacted my life and my understanding of who Jesus is and his kingdom message. If you are one who is continually looking to have your mind and heart challenged, I would encourage you to consider these books. You will probably love some of them. You will probably not love some of them. All the same, my encouragement would be that you allow yourself to be challenged in heart and mind. If you choose to pick up any of these titles, I would love to hear your thoughts as you read through it and upon completion. Happy reading!

Top 10

  1. Simply Christian (N.T. Wright)  
  2. The Myth of a Christian Nation (Greg Boyd)
  3. Surprised by Hope (N.T. Wright)
  4. Christianity Beyond Belief (Todd Hunter)
  5. Imminent Domain (Ben Witherington)
  6. The Last Word (N.T. Wright)
  7. Evolving in Monkey Town (Rachel Held Evans)
  8. The Myth of a Christian Religion (Greg Boyd)
  9. Love is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community (Andrew Marin)
  10. Jesus Wants to Save Christians (Rob Bell)
Bonus Round
  1. Velvet Elvis (Rob Bell)
  2. This Beautiful Mess (Rick McKinely)
  3. Blue Like Jazz (Donald Miller)
  4. One Life (Scot McKnight)
  5. Not the Religious Type (Dave Schmelzer)
Now, it's your turn. What are your top 3 book recommendations?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Engaging Life

Life moves so fast these days and I find that I have trouble keeping up. The subtitle of this blog is 'Learning to live and love and be engaged in the everyday, ordinary moments' and yet I find that many days I forget to engage. Engaging seems to be a conscious decision that I have to make. Thankfully, this has been a week full of conscious decisions to slow down and engage and for this, I am so grateful.

This week I experienced fullness in life in a number of ways through engaging:

  1. Being fully present at my boys swim meet (which means I left my phone in my pocket!)
  2. When texting a long distance friend, I accidentally called him. I noticed before he answered but decided not to hang up and talk if he did answer. That conversation was wonderful and it was refreshing spending time actually dialoguing instead of texting.
  3. A visit to the hospital to spend about 20 minutes with a friend who was there turned into an hour long stay as we laughed and talked. I learned so much about this amazing person as I just had the opportunity to sit and listen.
  4. Having breakfast with a friend who I haven't shared a meal with in over a year. His life stories were amazing to hear and I learned so much from him about life, redemption and second chances through our conversation.
  5. Relaxing on my back porch one evening with a couple of friends talking about politics, travel, religion, girls (our wives) and more. 
  6. Falling asleep aware of the sound of rain on my roof.

Engaging life is a beautiful thing. May we all spend more time practicing engagement.

How about you? Where did you engage life this week?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Church of Beautiful Letdowns

I began working on this blog about 4 weeks ago. In that time, one blogger that I follow posted a blog in which she posed the question 'Have you found a congregation in which Jesus and his friends would be welcome?' Today's post has turned into my response.

Not long ago, I had to go to the doctor. I had not been able to taste food for 39 days and I finally figured that it was time to get it checked out. As I sat in the waiting room, there was a lot of sniffling, coughing, runny eyes and Kleenex. None of us were well; all of us were in need. We needed whatever the doctor could give.

The week after OBL was assassinated, the pastor at the church I am a part of spoke about how uneasy he felt with the celebrations that were taking place in the streets and the way facebook lit up with 'christians' encouraging OBL to enjoy hell, rotting and forever torment. His comments were not political. They were not about whether or not he personally believed bin Laden should have been killed or how he personally felt about bin Laden's meeting with death. His comments were in the context of his teaching about how those who are citizens of God's kingdom should be shaped by kingdom of heaven values and how we must fight against being shaped by our cultures values. He spoke about living in the tension of kingdom realities. He encouraged those who follow Jesus to be challenged by Jesus' teaching on loving our enemies, praying for them and blessing them as opposed to dancing in celebration that they may spend forever apart from the love and mercy, grace and beauty of the same Jesus who willingly gives those things to us, though we do not deserve them either.

Within days, people were leaving the church. Some even said that church is no place to be talking about that kind of stuff.

Fast forward 5 weeks in this same church. It was a pretty cool day as close to 40 people were being baptized, choosing to align their lives with God's kingdom. I walked up to one woman and asked her why she was being baptized. She said that she'd lived a horrible, horrific life and she didn't want that life anymore. She told me that she wanted a new life - one where she follows Jesus. She said that she found hope for this type of life in this particular church.

Her response was sobering and exhilarating. In the same month, I saw people who have it all figured out and are convinced that Jesus' love has limits, choose to walk away from the family, while others whose lives are a wreck choose to believe that maybe, just maybe, Jesus' love has no limits, so they walk into the family.

I got to thinking about the kind of church I want to be a part of. It's kind of crazy and it's pretty messy, but it seems right. It's the kind of church that stumbles and bumbles its way through life and to Jesus. It's the kind of church where people who live really crappy lives can find Jesus and experience new life. It's a group of complete letdowns who have been made beautiful by the love and mercy and grace of Jesus. Everyone there has a story; everyone has wounds, has bled and has scars. It's a place where you can belong before you believe. It's a family of ragtag screw-ups that have a few things in common. Our desire to know Jesus. To be like Jesus. And to see heaven invade earth in our everyday, ordinary lives. We also share a common desire to be challenged and changed.

I'm convinced that people like this don't eventually leave churches because the pastor (or anyone else) encourages them towards love or forgiveness or mercy or grace or beauty or kindness. I'm convinced that the people who are so acutely aware of their need for God are actually the ones who have the biggest hearts for change and the most outstretched arms to anyone else who wants in on it.

The church that I want to be a part of is a lot like the waiting room at my doctor's office. It's full of people who must see the doctor because if they don't their day or week or month or life will be miserable. And once we've seen the doctor and healing has come our way, we still walk with a limp, but our limp is our best friend, because our limp is our constant reminder that there was a time when we couldn't walk at all. It keeps us humble. It keeps us grounded. It keeps us real. It allows us to love as we live in the tension between kingdom realities.

That woman's story was one of many like it that I heard that weekend, which leads me to believe that the congregation that I am a part of is becoming one that I think Jesus and his friends would be welcome at. I pray that we continue to move in that direction. I pray that I continue to move in that direction. I pray that all of God's beautiful church would move in this direction.
"We are a beautiful let down,
Painfully uncool,
The church of the dropouts
The losers, the sinners, the failures and the fools
Oh what a beautiful letdown"
                                                     Beautiful Letdown by Switchfoot

Friday, June 17, 2011

Theological Humility

Last week, a friend said to me,
"...theological humility is what allows God to challenge and change us."
It immediately dawned on me....this is probably why I didn't change for years. Because a person who already knows everything doesn't need to change and I knew it all. And then this interesting thing called life happened to me. One of the greatest movements in my life over the last 6 years has been the journey towards admitting and being okay with the fact that I might be wrong about certain things and that there are a whole lot of things that I just don't know.

I was once the King of Opinions. I had opinions about things that I was well versed in. I had opinions about things I had no idea about. If we were talking about it, I had an opinion and my opinion was the right one. Period. My opinions didn't stop with thoughts on parenting or marriage or the cats vs. dogs debate. My opinions ran in all directions including theological issues about why God does what he does, who's in and who's out in God's economy, why my way was right and everyone else's way was very wrong and on and on.

Arrogant people can be such asses. So, if you caught the arrogant ass version of me along the way, I am truly sorry.

I am still a work in progress, but I am happy to say that today, things are a little bit different thanks to a number of people who chose to love me through my arrogance. Along the way, I have had good friends tell me that they didn't like me because I knew it all. Co-workers have expressed how much of a delight I was not to work with because of my opinions and ability to trump all others thoughts and ideas with my self perceived better thoughts and ideas. And here I was thinking that I was God's great gift to my little universe. At least, that was my opinion.

Lately, I have been challenged on some of my previous dogmatic stances when it comes to life and theology.

Questions like:

What if people in the far reaching places of the planet never know the person of Jesus before they die nor had the opportunity to hear about the redemptive, restorative plan of this resurrected Jesus?

Why are some people born with passion for the opposite sex while others are born with passion for the same sex? If God controls these things, but then says that one should not have relations with the same sex, doesn't this make God kind of cruel?

Does God actually control all things?

Does God really think that whole 'love your enemies and literally pray for them' thing is going to work?

If God is so good, then why do babies die in their mother's wombs sometimes?

I could list hundreds of these types of questions.

Recently, I was reading my boys a story out of the book of Genesis. We read about a time in which there was famine in the land of Egypt for 7 years for lack of rain and many people were without food. My 6 year old son asked me,

"Dad, people had no food to eat because there was no rain?"

"Yes, son."

"But doesn't God make the rain?"

"Yes, son."

"So, if God loves everybody, then why didn't God just make rain so people could have food and not go hungry?"

Now, here's the deal. Theologically, I think there is an answer to this question and the other questions posed above. Now, for those of you who are concerned at this point, let me reassure you - I believe that Jesus is God's son. I believe that he came to the planet to crush sin, death, evil, tyranny and oppression through dying and ultimately coming back to life. I believe that Jesus is the way to God and restored life. Beyond this, there is a whole lot that I'm just not sure of.

These days, I don't think that theology is enough. Because theology misses the most important part of a person. Theology misses the heart. Theology hits us square in the cranium and for the most part, it stays right there. I could have loaded up my son with all kinds of theological answers, but let's face it - theology will never satisfy the heart of a 6 year old (or 56 year old) who is struggling with why a loving God would intentionally withhold waters from the sky to cause a famine in which people die for lack of food. How do we explain this to our boys who know their sister - whom currently resides in Ethiopia - is in an orphanage with barely enough food to survive the night?

How do we answer that question? Can we answer that question? Should we answer that question?

Or is it okay to let some questions, be just that? Questions. Mysteries. Spaces of tension.

So, how did our conversation end?

"So, Dad, if God loves everybody, then why didn't God just make rain so people could have food and not go hungry?"

"I don't know, son. But I do know that Jesus promises us that no matter what happens to us in life, he will be with us. We might not always feel it or even think it, but I can promise you that Jesus loves us and will be with us through all of it."

And when he gets a little older, I'll give him a little more. At least the little more that I might know. But one thing is for sure....I don't ever want to give him or anyone else just something to satisfy the head. I want to be a person who engages hearts. But in order to be that person, I think we have to first, have our hearts engaged.

How about you? What has your experience been with engaging God with your head vs. your heart?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Waiting for Zoe

So, it turns out that the adoption process can be very fun and exciting and at times discouraging and drawn out. It's been fifteen months since we made our decision to pursue adoption and applied with America World Adoption Agency (AWAA). We spent five months pulling together all of our paperwork, meeting with our social worker and getting all of our ducks in a row. In September 2010 we mailed our dossier to Ethiopia and began the process of waiting. Eight months later, we are still waiting and at present, there does not seem to be an end in sight. 

For those who are interested in keeping up with our adoption journey on a regular basis, you can follow us over at our adoption blog here.

These days we have started a new tradition to help us keep our heads up during the waiting. Our dossier went to Ethiopia on the 24th of September, so we have declared the 24th of each month Zoe Moon day. On Zoe Moon day we take the boys out and we celebrate with ice cream. It has turned into a much anticipated family night and Kristy and I look forward to it just as much as the boys. 

So, until we are able to actually meet our Zoe we will continue to wait and while we wait, we will continue celebrate her arrival with ice cream.

And for all of you dads who already hold your're doing a good work that matters greatly. Keep up the good work and don't forget to spend some time eating ice cream with your daughter. Here's a little John Mayer for you.

John Mayer - Daughters (Official Music Video). Watch more top selected videos about: John Mayer

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Your Turn

Now that summer is here, I thought it would be cool to go back and look at your favorite blog post that you wrote this spring.

If you're a blogger, leave a comment with a link to your favorite blog post that you wrote in March, April or May. (If you're not a blogger, leave a comment with a link to a favorite post that you read on someone else's blog over these last 3 months.)

I'm looking forward to reading your favorites! 

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

How Can We Raise Centered-Set Kids?

For those of you who enjoyed, 'Did Jesus Die Because of the Cookies', I have tweaked that blog and it is running today as a guest post over at Not the Religious Type. It's called How Can We Raise Centered-Set Kids? Check it out when you get a chance.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Letting God Off the Hook

I recently listened to a podcast of a roundtable discussion between a pastor of a christian church and 4 members of his church who are part of the LGBT community. It was an interesting dialogue as this pastor so lovingly engaged in honest conversation with his four friends who are all seeking to follow Jesus and are lesbian, gay and/or bisexual.

During the course of the conversation, one of the women said that she went to this particular church simply because someone invited her. She described her experience that day in that particular church as 'profound.' Having very little previous exposure to church she said that day she decided to 'allow herself to encounter God', but in order to do so she felt as though she had to 'let [God] off the hook for all the stupid things people say about him.'

I wonder....

As a follower of Christ, am I more of a hindrance to people connecting with God or an aid?

Do my words and life express God as some angry, unattainable deity that is full of wrath and judgment or is he as approachable as Jesus was to the prostitutes, poor, thieves and bums?

Do people in my life need to let God off of the hook because of stupid things I say about him (or ways I portray him)?

Finally, if you are not one who follows God, I'm curious what kinds of 'stupid things that people have said' would you need to let him off of the hook for in order to investigate him further?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Navigating the Waters of Public School

As parents of 4 boys, Kristy and I spent a good deal of time praying about, talking about and figuring out which avenue we would take for educating our children. Our options were, magnet school, public neighborhood school, homeschool, private school or unschooling. (Wikipedia: Unschooling)

From the very beginning, I sensed that God was leading us to put our kids in the public neighborhood school for a couple of reasons that I'll mention shortly. That being said, public school was a scary option for me. I grew up a private school boy. Pre-K - 12th grade. All private. All the way. I had very little experience with public schools but what I did know (think I knew) was not good. I saw Dangerous Minds and Lean on Me. I knew some stuff about public schools. The only thing that public school had going for it in my mind was that my wife went to public school and she seems to be doing fine these days.

With 4 (soon to be 5) kids, we had no choice but to eliminate private school as an option simply due to the cost. Unschooling was never a real thought. Homeschool was also easy for us to eliminate for two reasons. The first was that Kristy and I didn't feel cut out for it. The second reason, which is why we also felt led from the beginning towards the neighborhood school was that we wanted our kids in an environment where they would be able to experience life and practice their faith with people who do not all believe or live like we do. (We have lots of friends who have chosen both private and homeschool for very good reasons that work very well for them. We also will not rule either of these options out for the future, however at this time we simply felt led in a different direction.) 

That left us with the magnet school or the neighborhood school. We went back and forth for a while but upon touring our public neighborhood school, we were immediately sold on it. We really liked the school facility and faculty and we loved the idea that our kids would go to school with other kids who they live in the same neighborhood as.

Some have asked how, as a Christian, I feel about what my boys will be taught in public school. I'm actually okay with my kids learning about evolution and humans coming from monkeys. I'm okay with them learning about GLBT issues and orientations. I'm totally okay with prayer not being allowed in school and think that Happy Holidays is actually a better way to go than Merry Christmas. These things don't bother me, they just remind me of how important my role is as a parent to actively pursue God and to continually lead my kids to the heart of Jesus so that they may learn how to ultimately be led, not by rules, but by his spirit. I don't mean to sound like I take these things lightly, but this is the world that my kids will grow up and live in, so I want to teach them early how to navigate these waters in everyday real life situations.

Our first year at the school was a very good one. Our oldest 2 were at the school this year in Kindergarten and Pre-K. We loved their teachers. We loved their friends. Both of our boys became best friends with kids in their classes that were of different races. This totally blessed my heart because my boys will not grow up seeing color (which is also good considering their sister will be black). On the whole it was a great year!

Last Friday our family was there on the second row for our oldest son's graduation from Kindergarten. He was so cute on the stage with about 50 other Kindergarten students, singing songs, reciting poems and stories and receiving certificates.

And then it happened....right in the middle of the program.....a fight broke out.

But this wasn't just any public school fight. This one was even better because it was between parents. Right there on the front row, 10 feet from where the children were standing and watching and learning. One man was actually hauled off to jail, another woman escorted to the back of the room and two other adults were watched closely for the rest of the ceremony.

I'm sad to say, but my initial response was that we needed to get our kids out of this school. We needed to place them somewhere where evil and stupidity couldn't touch them. After calming down though and getting back to God, I feel even more strongly that this is the very reason we need to keep our kids right where they are and as parents who follow Jesus, our role is to continue becoming more engaged in the lives of our kids friends, their parents, the teachers and so on. This is where the rubber hits the road. This is where our hope that life can be different actually gets played out. This is where the kingdom of God touches the kingdom of the world in very real, very tangible ways. This is the tension we've been invited to live in. These are the waters that we feel we have been called to navigate through with grace and mercy, hope and light.

So, the journey will continue. If we continue to feel this is the direction God is leading us, we will have 3 at the school next year. Four the year after that. And five the year after that. My prayer is that Jesus in the Jeansonne's is evidenced by more of his kingdom touching that school and the lives of those involved at the school in tangible ways every year.

And for those who are curious...yes, it is still scary for me.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Smell of Rain

I originally posted this blog in January of 2007. Today, I was saddened to realize that I have not progressed as much as I had hoped. This morning, my son, Micah - who is now 6 years old - graduated from Kindergarten. I saw all of the important parts and was very happy to be there. However, at the post graduation celebration, Micah asked me if I saw one of his friends during the graduation. When I replied 'no', he looked at me and said, "That's because you were playing with your phone. You should really throw that phone away." Emails, text messages, tweets, FB messages. All a whole bunch of things distracting me from the moments that I so desire to live in. The following blog spoke life to me again today. I hope it does the same for you. Grace and peace.

A couple of weeks ago, I started a new tradition with my 2 year old son Micah. We have started waking up on Monday mornings and heading off to Dunkin’ Donuts – just the two of us. We’ve been doing this for a couple of weeks now. We turn into the parking lot and Micah begins yelling ‘donuts, donuts!’ As soon as we walk in the door he turns to his left, opens up the cooler and takes out a chocolate milk. I then sit him on the counter and ask him what kind of donuts he wants. The answer is always the same – ‘chocolate.’ After we get our six donut holes and our chocolate milk, I give the bag to Micah and he leads me to our table where we sit and talk about donuts. Sometimes Superman goes with us, sometimes it’s Woody and other times it’s Buzz, but the most important part of the morning for Micah is that we’re together and we’re eating donuts. It’s all about the moment.

Kids are funny people. I’ve always liked kids, but I didn’t really appreciate kids until I started having my own. When you have your own kids, it’s really cool because you finally have someone in your life that has to do what you say and you get to practice counting to three a lot. The most amazing thing about kids though, is just how much you can actually learn from them. If my boys have taught me one thing then they have taught me a thousand things. But one of the things that I love most is that they have taught me (or are teaching me) how to slow down and live in the moment.

This morning I left my home around 6:30 am. It was cold and rainy – a typical January morning in New Orleans. This morning for whatever reason, I was not in a hurry. As I stepped out of my front door, the cool morning air brushed across my face and I felt alive. As I stood on my front porch looking out at my car through the falling rain drops, I was filled with a sense of awe. It was cold as I stood there in that place, but I experienced an overwhelming sense of God’s presence as I realized that today was another day of life, full of opportunities, full of possibilities. I pondered running as quickly as possible to my car or just waiting it out for the rain to stop. I chose to wait. And in that moment, I could smell the rain. I don’t know how to describe that smell to you. All I know is that it was the aroma of life. It was fresh. It was refreshing. It was the moment that I was in. It was the only moment that I was being guaranteed.

On Monday mornings, Micah is so content to eat his donuts. He has no idea that there is more to do that day. As far as he is concerned, it’s just him and his daddy enjoying chocolate milk and chocolate donuts. His finite mind cannot fathom that there would be anything more, anything better than where he is at that precise moment. I hope that one day; I can be just like my boy.

Thank you, Micah. I love you.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Hoping Jesus Doesn't Return....Yet

Harold Camping has predicted that Jesus is coming back and the world is going to end on Saturday, May 21, 2011. Yes, for those of you reading this post on it's published date, that is in 2 days.

I, for one, certainly hope this guy is wrong. (Actually, in no way do I believe this to be true, since Jesus says that he doesn't even know when he's returning but only God the father does. It seems odd that God would tell Harold before he told himself.)

The idea of Jesus coming back has always been a bit difficult for me. I've often heard people say they 'can't wait for Jesus to come back' or they 'so look forward to the glorious day when Jesus returns'. I get it - kind of. But honestly, I've never felt that same level of excitement about it. For the longest time, I figured it made me a bad Christian. Over the past couple of years however, I have become quite comfortable with my feelings and actually believe that it's okay to hope Jesus doesn't come back quite yet.

The problem for me is that there are a number of things that I still want to see, do and experience on this beautiful planet before God comes and restores it. Now, I certainly understand that a new heavens and reclaimed earth are going to be much better than the current one(s) however, I can't help but think that there are still a few things here and now that I would like to see how they play out:

  1. I want to know what kind of men my boys will grow up to be.
  2. I want to know what it's like to walk through a lifetime and grow old with the woman that I love.
  3. I want a number of people in my life to have a real, tangible experience with Jesus that brings healing to them and leads them to an even richer, more beautiful life journey.
  4. I want to know if the Saints will win another Superbowl (It's still so surreal to be able to use the word 'another' in that sentence.)
  5. I want to experience more of the church actually being god's people and reflecting his beauty and glory and representing him well to all of creation and humanity - drawing people to the resurrected Jesus, this side of the restoration of all things.
  6. I want to continue learning how to live more the way of Jesus, having my heart and character transformed in the middle of crap.
  7. I want to meet and raise my Zoe.

I'm no dummy. I understand that even if Jesus doesn't return for hundreds of years and I actually do get to see these things play out, there is no guarantee that they will play out well or the way I hope for. I also believe that if Jesus does come back on Saturday, none of the above items will matter to me anymore. I know in my heart that the restored, reclaimed, reconciled, redeemed, new heavens and earth will be quite nice, but in the highly likely event that he doesn't come back....

Well, these are just a few of the things I'm working towards, dreaming about and looking forward to.

How about you? Have you ever felt a bit ashamed by not sharing others exuberance about the sudden return of Jesus?

What dreams in your own life has God placed in your heart that you would still like to see play out?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Ordinary Moments

I was 16 years old; hauling my dirty clothes to the laundry room, grumbling about it the whole way. That's when my mom stopped me and said,

"Brian, routine is good. Ordinary is good. Life is made up of ordinary and it's in these ordinary moments that we can experience life at its fullest if we just pay attention."

We live in a society where ordinary is not really seen as a good thing; extraordinary is the goal. If we are not intentional, I believe that it would be very easy to spend all of our days striving for the extraordinary at the expense of missing the ordinary

I spend lots of time focusing on the next thing, often times hoping that it is anything but ordinary. The next meeting. The next meal. The next date night. The next paycheck. The next kid. The next whatever. I still, at times - 18 years later - get annoyed when I have to spend my time cutting the grass, cleaning the garage, repairing a broken chair or prepping a meeting, driving to an appointment or exercising. All very ordinary, mundane, routine events.  Yet, all opportunities to engage in the moment. All opportunities to experience the fullness and richness and beauty of life if I would simply engage and be present in those everyday, ordinary moments. 

Maybe today would be a good day to practice living and loving in the very ordinary moments. Perhaps, we would experience life differently and more fully if we stopped looking ahead to the next thing and simply enjoyed and experienced the current thing. Maybe today we could experience the beauty and richness of life right where we are.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Did Jesus Die Because of the Cookies?

For about a year now, I have been wrestling with how to teach my boys - ages 6, 5, 4 & 2 - about Jesus, salvation, eternity, sin, resurrection and what it means to actually follow Jesus.

Since I was a kid I have struggled with the idea that Jesus had to die because I did bad things. I started learning about Jesus and religion at a fairly young age and I remember walking down to the front of the church because I wanted Jesus to forgive me for my sins and come and live in my heart. The idea alone that some grown man was going to come to live in my heart was difficult enough to figure out, but on top of that I was always curious why Jesus had to die. I just figured that I must be pretty evil for a 7 year old so someone had to die.

Fast forward 27 years. I was recently having a conversation with a friend, who asked me, "So, why exactly did Jesus have to die?"

To which I replied, "So that he could come back from the dead."

And just like that I had my answer.

Jesus' mission to this planet was not to come to simply die for humanity's sin (although this was part of it), but his mission was to come and crush and ultimately destroy evil. And the way to obliterate evil was to beat evil at its own game....take evil's best shot - death - and conquer it. And once death was conquered, this released an overarching plan of redemption, restoration, renewal and reconciliation.

This understanding makes Jesus much more powerful and actually makes the good news good. As I'm working through how to teach my boys about Jesus, I desire to teach them about the place that Jesus takes in my life and his desire to be the center of their own lives. I want them to understand that life with God is not about sin management, but it is about walking with God in a reconciled relationship. The problem for me lies in this traditional teaching that Jesus died on the cross to forgive us for the bad things we might do. This reasoning seems quite anemic. Really? Is that the best Jesus can do? Simply forgive us for bad things? Seriously, how do you explain to a 6 year old that God killed his son Jesus because my son stole a cookie from his brother? So, now Jesus forgives you, but you need to quit doing bad things - like stealing cookies or peeing on the side of the house. See what I mean? It's weak. And honestly, who wants to follow a God who would kill his son because some 6 year old kid is stealing cookies from his brother.

So, now I am working a new way to explain Jesus and salvation; life and beauty; forgiveness and restoration; renovation and renewal to my boys. 

It’s something like this....

Death sucks. Life is beautiful. When we do things that don't line up with God's goodness and love, it leads us away from beauty and life and God. Hurting ourselves and others is not cool. Doing good and loving others is really good. Not forgiving people is harmful. Forgiving people is freeing and loving. Jesus did die. But he died so that he could actually come back to life. And it's the coming back to life part that gives all of humanity the chance to live differently. When he came back to life he invited us to actually live really powerful and different lives, just like him (and superman and batman). He invites us to live lives in which we look to love Him, as well as love and forgive others; help others and work to make this earth more like heaven through blessing, making peace, living selflessly, extending mercy, creating beauty and on and on.

So, I know you stole that cookie from your brother. Now I'm not thinking that Jesus is really pissed, but perhaps there is a better way to approach this whole cookie situation. Do you think your brother feels loved when you take his stash? No? Then perhaps the Jesus way is to learn how to love your brother and practice the life giving solution. The solution that encourages love and unity; that is full of beauty and preferring your brother. The solution that gives life. And this solution is doable when we allow Jesus to shape our hearts, minds and lives.

And here's the deal…if this doesn't work....I can always revert back to the old school method:

"Jesus died to forgive you for your sins. So, if you don't ask for forgiveness and stop stealing your brother’s cookies, you're probably going to go to hell. "