Holy Pascha

It’s about 4 am. We got home from our first Pascha service about 3:30 am. It was absolutely stunning! The candles, the songs, the priest banging on the church door with the cross, the choir, the flowers. Amazing!

We sang this great song over and over throughout the service as we held our candles above our heads:

“Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death,

And upon those in the tomb, bestowing life!”

Now we’re exhausted and will try to sleep for several hours and re-energize before the Agape Service at 2 pm and the Pascha party at 4 pm.

Below are a few pictures I snapped with my cell phone during the Pascha service.


And now I’m off to bed.

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Great & Holy Saturday

This morning’s service was the Vesperal Liturgy of the Harrowing of Hell. During this service, we watched one of our new friends receive Baptism and several more of our new friends receive Chrismation. I’ve posted a few pictures I took on my cell phone. I apologize for the poor quality.


It was at this service that everything we’ve been experiencing through Lent, and especially Holy Week, finally caught up with me. The services on Thursday night and through Friday were absolutely intense. I have nothing in my personal history as a Protestant to compare with the depth, richness and beauty of these past few days. We have read so much Scripture, sang so many hymns, said so many prayers, and bowed and crossed ourselves so many times that we have virtually lived in a continual atmosphere of worship, prayer and Scripture the past few days. In addition, there are the layers upon layers of symbols, details and meaning that everything holds in the Orthodox Church. Everything is done for a reason, often many reasons, that ties every gesture, word and act back into the Gospel and the life of God.

So this morning, as service began, I happened to be standing near the large cross that had been placed in the center of sanctuary. I stood looking at the cross, simply bathing in all that has come before and in preparation for what was to come. As I gazed at the cross, my eyes lowered to the small image at the foot of the cross. It is a small image of a skull and bones, symbolizing death. And like a massive wave, the magnitude of Jesus’ life, crucifixion and resurrection washed over me. He has defeated death through death! Death is vanquished. He didn’t just forgive my sins. He completely and absolutely destroyed death and its power!

During one of the previous services, the entire congregation participated in a procession with candles outside the Church. As we re-entered the sanctuary, everyone walked through the sanctuary doors under the icon of Christ’s burial. This symbolized both our participating in Christ’s death and the fact that as we go through that death with him, we then enter his life, which is in his Church.

So my friends’ Baptism, Chrismations and first Communion as new members of Christ’s Holy Church pulsed with such meaning this morning.

As the service was drawing to an end, our priest was gifting each new member with a cross that is to be worn at all times. As he put the chain around the neck of one of my friends and hugged him, I heard him whisper, “Welcome home.”

At those words, tears welled in my eyes and I felt such an ache in my heart. I have been searching, for what I now know as “home,” for as long as I can remember. I was searching for it as a young teenager before I had ever heard of Jesus. I was searching for it after accepting Jesus into my life over twenty years ago. I have searched for it as God has lead me on my journey into Calvary Chapel, the Baptist Church, Youth with a Mission, the OMS Holiness Church, the Vineyard and the Emerging Church. And each step has brought me a little bit closer.

I yearn to hear those words, “Welcome home,” whispered into my ear one day. I long to find the place where the yearnings of my heart to be like Jesus are truly and fully met. Debbie and I hope to find a non-consumerist church community, where all of us — men, women, and children — train to follow Jesus together into his world. Will that be the Orthodox Church? A huge part of me hopes so. And if the last four months are any indication, it looks like it will be so. I feel everything has been preparing me to embrace such a spiritually and theologically deep, rich and full-life form of Christianity. Perhaps I have found home.

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Great & Holy Friday

This morning we participated in the Service of Royal Hours. The following is a hymn we sang as we knelt before Jesus on the cross:


“Today he who hung the earth upon the waters is hung upon the tree.

Today he who hung the earth upon the waters is hung upon the tree.

Today he who hung the earth upon the waters is hung upon the tree.

“The King of the Angels is decked with a crown of thorns.

He who wraps the heavens with clouds is wrapped in the purple of mockery.

He who freed Adam in the Jordan is slapped on the face.

The Bridegroom of the Church is affixed to the cross with nails.

The son of the Virgin is pierced by a spear.

“We worship Thy passion, O Christ.

We worship Thy passion, O Christ.

We worship Thy passion, O Christ.

“Show us also Thy glorious resurrection!”


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And We’re Off!

Wow! What a great weekend. Holy Week has finally arrived for the Eastern Orthodox Church. Friday night was the Little Compline with the Canon of St Lazarus. Then on Saturday morning, we gathered for Lazarus Saturday. When Fr Patrick began this special Divine Liturgy with “Blessed is the Kingdom of Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit both now and ever and unto ages of ages,” I felt this powerful rush of excitement and anticipation. Lent has been escalating to this moment. And with Lazarus Saturday, Lent ends and Holy Week begins. A hymn that we sang during the service and throughout the weekend services brings it altogether so well:

“By raising Lazarus from the dead before Your passion,
You did confirm the universal Resurrection, O Christ God!
Like the children with the palms of victory,
We cry out to You, O Vanquisher of death;
Hosanna in the Highest!
Blessed is He that comes in the Name of the Lord!”

On Saturday night we returned to church for the Great Vespers for Palm Sunday. At the end of the service, we venerated a striking icon of Jesus calling Lazarus from the tomb. Then Fr Patrick anointed our foreheads, palms and the back of our hands with oil.

This morning was Palm Sunday. A special feature of today’s service was a procession with palm branches out of the church and down the sidewalk. What a sight! And such incredible joy! Also the Lenten fast was lifted slightly, allowing fish, wine and oil. (During Lent, Eastern Orthodox fast from meat, dairy, wine and oil.) Coffee hour was crowded and bustling. In addition to some normal Lenten food, those who prepared coffee hour also brought some delicious salmon and several bottles of wine. It tasted so good! The anticipation of the coming week was palpable. We sat around talking and laughing and our family was one of the last ones to leave. Our family is making great friends at St Peters.

Our plan was to go home afterwards and get chores done, but my parents called. Yesterday I told my mom about our family’s decision to explore Orthodoxy during 2008. I wasn’t sure how she and my dad were going to react. My mom called wanting to get together today to talk. Debbie and I shared with my parents about the fullness of Christ’s life that we’ve been experiencing in the church. Both were positive and my mom admitted to a deep yearning for something more in her relationship with Jesus. After our talk, we went shopping for the girls’ Pascha dresses.

Then we bolted down the 210 Freeway to meet Mark, Barb and Maribeth for an enjoyable dinner of good food, talking and laughing. God has blessed our family with such great friends. And right now, my life feels so deep and rich. I feel like I’m drinking deeply from a well of crisp water.

The rest of this week will be very, very busy. There are two services (morning & evening) every day until Holy and Great Friday. Debbie and the kids are hoping to make it to some of the morning services before the kids start school.

By next weekend, we’ll be going full steam ahead. Three services on Holy and Great Friday followed by an all-night vigil of reading Psalms at Jesus’ tomb, all accompanied by a strict fast. On Holy and Great Saturday morning, we’ll experience the Paschal Vesperal Liturgy of the Harrowing of Hell. (What a great name for a worship service!) During this service, we’ll witness some of our new friends receiving the sacraments of baptism and chrismation as they join the Orthodox Church. Then we go home, sleep, cook and return at 10:30 that night for a candlelight Rush Service followed by Paschal Matins and Divine Liturgy. Then around 2 am, we break our Lenten fast together with a grand feast! Then we go home and sleep some more and finally gather for an afternoon Agape Service where one of the Gospel accounts is read in as many languages as possible, followed by a party in the park.

I’ve been a Christian for over 20 years. But this year will prove to be one of the fullest, most meaningful, most joyous Easters we will have ever experienced. Glory to God!

Oh… and by the way, this is my 500th post since I started blogging in 2003. Yeaa!

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“You Can Never Worship God Too Much”

That’s what Chris, my eight year old son, said today. I was talking to the kids about our family’s experience of Eastern Orthodoxy during the last four months.

Wow! He’s so right. Exploring Eastern Orthodoxy has opened up our experience of corporate worship more than we could imagine. We’ve moved from an experience of corporate worship being 30 minutes of singing followed by a sermon to services (often a couple hours long) filled with incense, icons, candles, an altar, bowing, crossing ourselves, ancient prayers and hymns, vestments and the Eucharist. Worship is now such a full experience.

And it’s all about and for God! You really can’t worship God too much.

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A Much-Needed Update

I can’t believe it has been over a month since I posted something here. Things have been going well on all fronts for our family. And one of the reasons why I haven’t made the time to post anything is that I’ve been spending all of my spare time enjoying my family. I can’t think of anything else I’d rather do than spend time with Debbie and the kids. So for those who are interested, this post is an attempt to bring you up to speed.

Our family had a wonderful Christmas vacation. Prior to the break, Debbie was working double hours at her job and I was working my new full-time job at the school district and putting in part-time hours at Asian Access. It was nice to have ten full days off to spend with the family.

January started off being much more manageable. Debbie is now working her normal hours and I only have the school district job. But the wedding season is quickly approaching and I’ll be spending several Saturdays beginning in March filming weddings. But I don’t feel as burned out as I did last year and I’m approaching this season with a much better attitude.

 A couple of weeks ago, our family got to spend time with Debbie’s childhood friend, Deanna, and her husband Alan. Deanna and Alan were in California for a conference and we got to spend an afternoon with them. We went out to Newport beach and explored the tidal pools.

 Michael is doing pretty well as a sophmore in high school. He started a science fiction class this term and is enjoying it. For good or bad, he seems to have inherited my geek gene. But unlike me, he makes being a geek look good.

 Cathy is in 8th grade. She’s in a dancing group at school. They had their first competition a couple of weeks ago and her group finished 1st place in their division! I can’t believe she’s going to be in high school next year.

Danielle is in 5th grade. Her school just held a talent show last night. It was such a blast watching her and her friends having a great time dancing. I can’t believe she’s going to be in middle school next year.

 Chris is in 3rd grade. Last week, he was invited to his first birthday party without his siblings. And the day before, he decided to stay after school without his siblings to help in the book faire. Being the fourth child, Chris is very social and does just about everything with his brother and sisters. So these two moments seem to be marking a shift in his growth. Next year, he will be in his elementary school without his sister.

Debbie is doing well in her job. She does so well with children and is a caring and mature presence in otherwise very immature and broken families. I’m glad God has provided her this job to be Jesus’ presence to these babies and their teenage moms.

And I’m absolutely loving my new job as a computer tech for the school district. I enjoy the people I work with and I enjoy the challenge and satisfaction that the job brings. The other day I was setting up computers in a computer lab at one of the elementary schools. While I was there, one of the teachers brought her class for a walk-through. It was so cool hearing these kids “ooh” and “aah” and see their looks of anticipation, knowing they would get to work on these computers next week. Knowing that I help provide support for the teachers and their students in their educational environment is a wonderful thing.

Our family has been attending Saint Peter the Apostle Antiochian Orthodox Church . Our “journey east” so far has been a mixture of wonder and challenge. I absolutely love the worship. The entire experience engages all of one’s senses. I love the icons, the incense, the altar, the vestments, the music, the prayers, everything. I didn’t realize how much I was longing for a deeper and richer kind of Christianity, especially for something that was non-American. This is basically the way the Church worshipped the first several centuries of its existence, a historical connectedness that is very important to me.

But I must also say that the foreignness of Eastern Orthodoxy has eclipsed much of our experience thus far. Every time we visit, it feels like we’ve moved to a different country and culture. There is so much we don’t understand and, quite frankly, can’t understand from a western Christian perspective. I’m glad we’ve decided to take at least one year to explore Orthodoxy. It would be too easy to make a premature decision in the midst of our immediate confusion and discomfort.

We also like Fr Patrick and the people at St Peter’s. Although it is a small parish, there are several families with children our age and a few “newbies” that are just a few months ahead of us. Debbie and I have also begun attending their weekly parish study. Our goal at this early stage in our exploration is to try and view things from their eastern perspective and forgo judging everything from our western perspective. And when I’m absolutely honest with myself, any points of disagreement or challenge that I have found with Orthodoxy really flow from my own issues. Bottom-line, I don’t want to die to myself.

While our Orthodox experience is strange for us right now, I agree with something Deb has said — Eastern Orthodoxy seems to be the only form of Christianity that will help us raise our kids spiritually the way we’ve been wanting to raise them. That’s because Eastern Orthodoxy is not a Christian faith based on ideas of God or emotions of inspiration as we’ve been accustomed to in the west. Nor is it merely a set of doctrines or beliefs. Rather, Eastern Orthodoxy is a full-life, community-based experience of communion with Christ through worship, sacraments and spiritual disciplines that holds spiritual formation (or what Orthodox call theosis) at its heart. And as part of that experience, Eastern Orthodox theology of the Incarnation, the Trinity, the Atonement, the Gospel, salvation, the sacramental life, Tradition and many other core doctrines are absolutely spot on. So onward and upward we go.

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Our Gingerbread House

Last night at group, we changed things up a bit for Christmas. Barbara bought a Gingerbread house kit for our kids to assemble. It was a fun time, especially since I see my kids so little right now as I work two jobs. It was a nice experience in gourmet architecture

Thanks, Barb, for the house. Thanks, Mark, for taking the photos. And thanks, Kerri, for encouraging the kids’ creativity through the process.



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My Courageous Wife





 My friend, Steve, made a comment in my last post about how courageous Debbie is. I want to say how grateful I am for my wife. Being married to me, she has been on one wild ride. I know each pastoral/spiritual move we have made has been challenging. I also know the changes in my theology have been challenging. And now our decision to explore Eastern Orthodoxy will probably pose even more and greater challenges. But through it all, Debbie has expressed her love, respect and trust as we attempt to find what is truly best for our family. I am such a blessed man to have her for my wife. She’s my best friend and her strength constantly astounds me.


There’s a chorus from a Sister Hazel song that expresses my feelings:
“I wanna tell everybody everybodythat you’re so much more than they’ve ever even seen beforeAnd I wanna tell everybody everybodyIf they touched your hand then they’d never want to let you go.”
I love you, Deb!

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Life Change #2

I’d like to share another change our family is experiencing. Debbie and I haven’t shared it with too many people, partly because we are in the very beginning stages and partly because of the potential misunderstanding our new journey may create. But it’s an important part of our lives right now and will become increasingly significant after we move into 2008.


Debbie and I are exploring the reality of our family joining Eastern Orthodoxy. Our journey together has brought us through Protestant evangelicalism longing for something deeper, richer and more significant.


But I’m jumping ahead of myself.


Several years ago, as a professional pastor, I experienced severe burnout. I emerged from that experience questioning both my practices as a pastor and a Christian. I was doing everything I had counseled others to do in order to be strong and mature Christians — church attendance, small group attendance, tithing, participation in ministry, evangelism, prayer, practicing spiritual gifts, regular Bible study, daily quiet times, worship, etc. And yet, while doing all of these activities, inwardly I was angry, stressed, jealous, competitive, greedy, lustful, afraid, insecure, and manipulative. Even though I loved God and truly desired to follow him, everything I was practicing was having virtually no effect upon my inward life.


My burnout became the catalyst for my journey into spiritual formation. I soon discovered the practices of spiritual disciplines and community that were beginning to reshape and renew my inward life.


But this journey quickly led me to realize that even deeper than my false practices lay my false theology and worldview from which those practices were nurtured and strengthened. And this theology and worldview was deeply ingrained within the entire structure of popular Protestant evangelicalism. It’s popular music, books, teaching, radio programs, and even local church infrastructures perpetuated theology, practices and ultimately a life that claimed to be biblical, but was far removed from anything Jesus and his early followers envisioned.


In my search for a theology that would sustain a life of spiritual formation, found myself drawn to theologians and church leaders such as N.T. Wright, Alexander Schmemman, Bishop Kallistos Ware, Father Thomas Hopko and others. Soon I found myself mentally embracing a fuller theology and faith that was significantly different from my Protestant roots. It seems that every facet of my theology underwent tectonic shifts. And all of this while pastoring a Protestant church.


The last four and half years away from professional ministry, while difficult in regards to understanding my calling as a pastor, have been wonderfully liberating in my personal exploration in theology and practice. The emerging church has provided an extended conversation that fueled my theological shifts. I love the faith-community in which God has placed my family. I love the new avenues of influence God has opened through my blog, writing and work at Asian Access. I have loved walking with two Fuller Theological Seminary students as they worked on their field education projects.


Yet, in all of this, there has been something missing. And it was especially noticeable when our family attended a local church on Sunday mornings. Debbie and I decided a couple of years ago to attend a local Vineyard Church that was pastored by my friend. This would allow our kids to participate in a youth program and allow Debbie and me to join in larger corporate worship, both missing within our small home church.


I discovered that the more I was away from professional pastoring, the more difficult it was to attend a local church. Don’t misunderstand me. My friend is an excellent pastor. He is perhaps one of the healthiest pastors I have ever met. I wish he had been in my professional life earlier on as a mentor. I probably would have avoided a lot of pitfalls.


Despite his excellent pastoring, I would leave Sunday morning worship meetings miserable and depressed. It is very difficult to explain what I was experiencing. At first, I thought Sunday mornings simply reminded me of everything I had lost when I left my last pastorate. But it was something else.


The worship, sermons, and fellowship at the local church were superb at one level. But everything was… how do I put it?… unreal. I kept seeing a structure with programs and budgets and people all perpetuating something that wasn’t real. It wasn’t real to Jesus’ vision. It wasn’t real to the Bible. It wasn’t real to the early church and to those who lived, labored and died for the doctrines and practices we now take for granted. It wasn’t real to any authentic spirituality. And it wasn’t real to life. It was like entering some weird fantasyland reality that didn’t make sense anymore.


Again, please don’t misunderstand me. It wasn’t a problem with my friend’s church. In fact, of all of the evangelical churches I have visited lately, his was the most comfortable and healthiest.


As I met with my pastor-friend for coffee over the last year or so, he would tell me repeatedly that because of who I have become theologically, it would be very difficult for me to find a church that I would fit. The truth of his statement hit me one day as I was emailing Mark. I suddenly realized that I embrace and believe more core Eastern Orthodox theology than I do Protestant evangelical theology. And although I disagree with some Eastern Orthodox theology, they are more peripheral areas. On the other hand, I disagree with most core Protestant theology. (I’ll need to unpack that in a future post.)


I was leaving Sunday worship meetings depressed because I was so out of sync with everything there — the music, the teaching, the subculture, the worldview — that it was a constant reminder of how much I don’t fit anymore.


Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of Eastern Orthodox podcasts from Ancient Faith Radio. As I listen to their discussions of faith, practice, theology and sacramental worldview, I’m discovering that I’ve believed this stuff a looooooong time already. In fact, I told Mark that I think theologically, I’ve been Orthodox for quite a while and it’s just taking time for the rest of me to catch up.


So our family is beginning a slow and cautious journey into Eastern Orthodoxy. We have visited a friend’s church for Vespers several times. It is so foreign and strange. After spending my entire adult life both academically and professionally pursuing ministry in a Protestant context, it is weird being a “beginner” all over again. But there is such promise in Eastern Orthodoxy for both me and my family. The thought of being part of a faith-community whose entire reason for being is to become like Jesus and to live and practice toward that goal together within a rich and deeply historical system excites me.


But I’m very anxious as well. In many ways, I feel there is no where to go from here if Orthodoxy isn’t for us. I cannot go back into evangelicalism. And because Roman Catholicism is inherently a western worldview like Protestantism, moving there seems to be only a lateral move.


So as our family explores Eastern Orthodoxy, I will be posting our experiences and reflections.

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Life Change #1

This is probably the longest I’ve let my blog go silent. But life has been crazy. And as I mentioned in a previous post, our family has been experiencing some significant changes.


So let me try and share what’s been happening. As mentioned before, one huge change has been in my career. After leaving professional ministry over four years ago, Debbie and I have been praying that God would reveal his will to us. For the first few years after leaving, I really wrestled with my perceived calling into ministry. Those years were filled with a sense of failure, doubt and quite a bit of depression. Fortunately, through a friend, God placed me in a wonderful work environment at Asian Access. I discovered a Christian organization where, believe it or not, everyone actually acted like Christians. The last three and a half years there were so essential to the healing I needed.


During that time, I applied for the senior pastor role at a couple of churches. And although I was the primary candidate at both, God spoke and told me very clearly that the timing wasn’t right. It seemed more and more evident that I would not be re-entering professional ministry anytime soon. Fortunately, Asian Access allowed me to stretch beyond my job description to contribute in a variety of pastoral ways. They allowed me to write, teach, lead worship, and screen applicants. Also during that time, I was able to contribute a chapter to two books, The Relevant Church and Out of the Ooze . And I had the incredible privilege of supervising two students from Fuller Theological Seminary in their field education projects.


Over the last year, I’ve become increasingly comfortable with the idea of not re-entering professional ministry. I know I’ve been called to pastor. But that doesn’t necessarily mean to do it as a career.


About two months ago, an opportunity arose to begin working as a computer technician for a local school district. Because of the circumstances that brought this opportunity to us, Debbie and I knew almost immediately that this was from God. So at the beginning of November, I began working for the school district as a consultant, waiting for them to post the job as a permanent position. In mid-November, they posted the job. Last Friday, I interviewed for the position and was later offered the position.


This kind of brings my professional career almost full-circle. Many people don’t know this, but I graduated from high school with an intended career path in computer science. In fact, I attended U.C. Irvine for one year with the goal of graduating with a degree in Information and Computer Science. After that year, God got a serious hold of my life and I spent the last 22 years of my adult life preparing for and enjoying professional ministry.


But I really sense that that part of my life is over, at least for now. I have absolutely no desire to go back into professional ministry. In fact, a month ago, I did something I couldn’t do for the last four years. I sold virtually all of my pastoral books! All of my commentaries, church growth books, ministry books, sermon books and even Emerging church books. I only kept a couple of commentaries, a few books on spiritual formation, all of my N.T. Wright books, and all of my Eastern Orthodoxy books. I sold about sixteen huge boxes of books!


The decision to sell my books was a huge one. Those books were the last connection to my identity as a professional pastor, the last emotional string to my heart. And you know what? It feels really good. Pastoring is completely about relationships now, not about mission statements, programming, or all the other stuff that has become associated with the modern church. And, I feel finally delivered from the crazy evangelical sub-culture that you find in most churches — the music, the language, the mixed up worldview, the distorted theology. (I know this may be somewhat difficult to hear for some who read this and I apologize. I’m not trying to offend. But being away from that sub-culture for a few years has made me realize how out of sync it is.)


So now I’m a computer technician, kind of like the Geek Squad for a school district. I work on a team with some great people in a district office with great people. Our team supports over 10 schools. We also support both the Windows (98, ME, 2000 & XP) and Macintosh (OS 8, 9 and X) platforms. Working there the last month has been very cool and I look forward to a long-term work relationship with the district.


Hopefully next time, I will talk about some spiritual changes our family is beginning to experience. (Although anyone who has read my last several posts will probably guess what those changes are.)

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I’m Beat

I really enjoyed my first day today. The people are real nice, the work is challenging and I can’t wait to learn everything I can.However, I’m tired. I got to Asian Access by 5:15 this morning. Then started work at my new job at 8 am. Then I went back to Asian Access from 6 to 8. Now I’m going to eat dinner, watch Heroes, and drop into bed.And thank you to all of you who are praying for our family during this transition.

Leaving Asian Access

  I’m in a season of significant changes right now. My hope is to journal about some of them as I process through them.One of the largest changes is that today is my last day as a full-time employee of Asian Access. (The photos were taken during my “good-bye” party yesterday.)A little over 3 1/2 years ago, I applied for the Staff Accountant position at Asian Access. I had been unemployed for nine months, having decided to leave my career of professional ministry. At the time, I was getting desperate. Nine months of unemployment had completely dissolved our savings and was beginning to amass a sizable debt. God had been incredibly present and faithful during that time. But things were tough.My friend Jeff, who works at Asian Access, had told me about a Staff Account position that was open. I was reluctant to apply for a couple of reasons. First, I had just come through a very difficult and painful season at the last church I served at. I was very cynical of Christian organizations and didn’t want to step into another unhealthy situation. And second, after working in full-time professional ministry for 14 years, I wanted to try working in the “secular marketplace.” So I put off applying for a while. Fortunately, Jeff was persistent and circumstances got more difficult, so I applied. And surprisingly, they hired me — an ex-pastor with no professional finance experience or education.God knew what he was doing.Asian Access is the healthiest organization I have ever experienced. It is a Christian organization that really embodies Christ. My co-workers are awesome. Everyone cares for one another. The entire time I’ve worked there, no one has been grumpy, cross, harsh, or just plain jerky. Sure there have been times of stress, but everyone embodies such a Christlike presence.And I needed it more than I knew.I didn’t realize at the time how wounded and hurt I was. I needed a job in which all that was expected of me was my eight hours of work and no more. I could go home and be with my family, friends and life without carrying my job with me.I needed to be part of a healthy Christian organization. There has been so much joy, love, prayer and laughter at Asian Access. As a mission agency, we have staff spread out all over the U.S. and Asia. It is amazing that with such diversity, everyone genuinely likes each other and looks forward to being with each other. It’s the closest I’ve ever seen an organization actually live like a healthy family.I needed new co-workers and friends who would affirm God’s work in me. Over the years, my friends at Asian Access have both affirmed and created opportunities for me to share my pastoral experience and my theological exploration. Even though I worked in the finance department, they made room for me to screen applicants, teach, lead worship and influence through conversations, writing and blogging.I needed Asian Access and my friends whom I worked with daily. Through them God has brought about such deep healing in me. I feel so healthy again. I feel ready to move to the next phase of my journey.A couple of months ago, my friend Jeff took his family and followed Jesus to Japan to be Asian Access missionaries. While we were excited about his new calling, it was a deep blow to all of us in the office. Things haven’t been the same. I remember walking into his empty office the day after he left and being flooded and overwhelmed with immense loss. It was then that I began to perceive that deep changes were coming.Little did I know that the next change would be me.Today is my last day as a full-time employee of Asian Access. On Monday I start a new job, one which potentially could be the new career path that Debbie and I have been praying about since leaving full-time ministry. As you can imagine, I am very excited.But the excitement is mingled with sadness and some fear. I am leaving my friends, people who took a chance on me, trusted me, affirmed me, and loved me and my family back to health. I am leaving the safety of a healthy organization filled with authentic caring Christlike people. But I also know that their prayers and care are with me.Asian Access still needed someone to help do my job while they discern how God will fill my position. I offered to keep working part-time in the evenings and weekends through the end of the year. Our family could use the extra income and Asian Access could use the extra help. So they agreed.But while I’ll still be fulfilling my normal job responsibilities, I will be doing so after-hours and alone. I will no longer be part of the daily conversations, the laughter, the coffee breaks, the prayer times. And right now the prospect of that creates an ache in me that I didn’t anticipate.As I look toward my future, I am very excited. I am looking forward to my new job and my new friends. And I know God is already “over there” waiting for me as much as he is “right here.”There is so much potential in what awaits me. “Excited” can’t even communicate what I’m feeling. My new job is only one of several significant changes taking place. And in all of it, I feel free and liberated and more capable of following Jesus into new territory than I have felt in years. (And that hints at some of the other changes that are taking place in my life as well. But for that, you’ll have to wait.) 😉

The Little Things

Only 30 minutes to go in my last full day at Asian Access. You know, it’s the little things that can broadside you emotionally. Here are a couple of examples:

1. The Asian Access office is only 5 minutes from my home. Occasionally, Debbie will bring the younger kids by my office to say “Hi” on their way to school. Today, Debbie brought Danielle and Chris to the office before school. I was talking with Chris and I said, “You know, today is my last day here at Asian Access.” He said quietly, “I know.” I asked him, “How does that make you feel?” “Sad.” “Why?” “Because I won’t be able to visit you at the office anymore.” Gulp.

2. Since I live so close, Debbie will often bring breakfast to my office and we’ll eat together before she goes to work. This morning, I was involved in some busy stuff when the phone rang. It was Deb. She asked, “So what do you want for our last breakfast together at your work?” The realization that I wouldn’t be having breakfast with my wife at work for a long time hit me like a ton of bricks. Gulp.

3. Washing out my Asian Access coffee mug. Usually every morning around 10:30, the office staff stops everything to have coffee together and share each other’s lives. Usually my mug sits on my desk. But this afternoon, I washed it and put in the work room with all the other mugs. Gulp.

Large Spider!

Yesterday, at the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Gardens, we encountered a very large spider…. Usually these spider will hide in their funnel webs when disturbed, but this one also attacked.

Yesterday, at the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Gardens, we encountered a very large spider. It was cool and creepy at the same time. Usually these spider will hide in their funnel webs when disturbed, but this one also attacked. We took a couple of quick videos of it.

Happy Father’s Day

I opened the last gift from Deb and the kids last night…. But I believe I’ve got the best wife and kids around.

I opened the last gift from Deb and the kids last night. It was a commentary on Revelation by G.K. Beale that I’ve been wanting for quite a while. I know, I’m a geek. But this is a cool, non-futurist commentary on Revelation. Or in Beale’s description, it’s a “Redemptive-Historical Form of Modified Idealism.” Coooooool!

Okay, okay, I’m a geek. But I believe I’ve got the best wife and kids around.

Early Father’s Day (6)

We went up to Lake Gregory for the afternoon where we ate lunch and walked around the lake. Then we got back around 6:30 for a BBQ at Deb’s parents’ house.

We’re back. Whew! What a fun day. We went up to Lake Gregory for the afternoon where we ate lunch and walked around the lake. Then we got back around 6:30 for a BBQ at Deb’s parents’ house. David had ribs on the grill. Ummmmm!

Then on the way home from the BBQ, Deb and the kids surprised me with one last clue. Inside were wonderful letters from Deb and the kids and a clue about one last gift at home. I haven’t opened it yet…

We Love You, Buttercup!

Buttercup died late last night.

Buttercup was our Siberian hamster. We suspected Buttercup was nearing the end of her life about a week or two ago. Her fur was graying. She was moving much more slowly. She just seemed tired.

Yesterday morning, while I was at the coffee shop reading, Michael IM’ed me saying that Buttercup was dying. I rushed home knowing this would be a painful time for my kids.

When I got home, Cathy was holding Buttercup in her lap. Everyone was around her crying, telling Buttercup how much they loved her. Buttercup could barely lift her head, so the kids hand-fed her snacks and water whenever she would eat.

Buttercup was a great hamster! She had a wonderful temperament. She was just cute all the time. You couldn’t help but laugh and smile as you watched her explore her environment.

So we sat on the couch taking turns holding Buttercup and sharing stories about how she rolled around in her little plastic ball, how she escaped from her cage a few times and explored our home, how she stuffed food in her cheeks, how she came to you when you called her.

We didn’t want Buttercup to die alone. So Cathy fashioned a little nest for her in a denim purse and we took her on our day’s activities. The kids took turns gently carrying the purse, checking on her comfort and giving her food and water.

Moments like yesterday cause me to swell with pride as a dad. My four kids have learned how to love deeply. Buttercup was not just a hamster. She has been a part of our family the last 18 months. They cared for her. They saved what little money they could to buy her special treats. They held her, played with her, laughed at her antics. My kids reflected God’s image onto that little portion of God’s creation.

It still amazes me that in this large world, a tiny hamster could so deeply capture the heart of my children, and in her passing, leave such a gargantuan hurt. My children remind me of a God who mourns the passing of little sparrows.

Last night, before bed, Buttercup was barely breathing. She wouldn’t wake up. We knew this would be her last night with us. So each of us held her, stroked her soft fur, and told her how much we loved her and would miss her. And we cried and prayed and hugged and cried some more. My kids fell asleep crying.

Perhaps the hardest thing as a dad is to watch your children in pain. It tore me up watching my children grieve. Their pain created such an ache in my heart.

As I was getting ready for work early this morning, I cried again, knowing that my children would wake up, rush to Buttercup’s cage, and discover what we all dreaded. And I knew they would cry and grieve again as they prepared for school. And there is nothing I can do to remove the pain. All I can do is be there with them through it all.

So I made this video to help my children remember Buttercup and to help them grieve her passing. But more importantly, I made this video to honor my children and their deep love. And in a way, I made this video to honor a God who creates hamsters and children who love them.

Father, your creation, even in its broken state, displays your goodness and glory. Whether it’s a spectacular sunrise, majestic mountains or the gentleness of a hamster, we see you and know you. May we always be able to respond with deep love.

Baptizing My Kids

By re-enacting the climax of Jesus’ Story, you are saying that you are joining him on a journey of renewal that began with his death and resurrection, will change who you are from the inside-out, and will one day cover the earth with God’s glory. You are saying that you want to become like Jesus, that you’re joining the worldwide family he created, and that you are joining his mission to renew his world.

I had mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I was going to have the awesome privilege of baptizing my kids. On Sunday, October 28th, I helped my kids express their intention to faithfully follow Christ through water baptism. Our family was really blessed because both my parents and Deb’s parents and Mark & Barb came.

Needless to say, it was a pretty emotional moment.

All week, Chris had been telling me that he was nervous. I kept reassuring him, telling him that there was nothing to be nervous about. But as I stood there in the doorway to the baptismal, I suddenly got nervous. This wasn’t just a “dunking.” My kids were stepping into a reality that would forever shape their lives.

Earlier that morning, as I worshipped with the congregation, I felt the Lord remind me that my children are his. There would be moments in their lives when I would not be able to be there for them. I wouldn’t be able to instruct, teach, comfort, care or even hold them. There will be moments when I would be completely absent. As a dad, this breaks my heart. The thought of each of my children facing this broken world alone agonizes me.

But then I felt him whisper, “I will be there.”

And with those words comes a rush of relief. They need to trust him. They need to follow him. And even at their young ages, they are saying they will. And regardless of the pain and hurt they may experience in their lives, they are forever safe in his care.

And as they learn to trust and follow Jesus, I also need to trust Jesus with my children. I need to remember that he can care better for them than I can. And I need to follow Jesus alongside my children, not just showing them how to follow him, but being sojourners with them.

Below is a little “thing” I wrote for them, kind of like wedding vows. We talked about it beforehand so they knew what it meant:

“Today is a special day. It’s like a wedding ceremony. You are publicly declaring your love and loyalty to Jesus. And you’re showing your love and loyalty by re-enacting Jesus’ death and resurrection. It was at that moment that Jesus climaxed his Father’s plan to renew the world and people he created.

By re-enacting the climax of Jesus’ Story, you are saying that you are joining him on a journey of renewal that began with his death and resurrection, will change who you are from the inside-out, and will one day cover the earth with God’s glory.

You are saying that you want to become like Jesus, that you’re joining the worldwide family he created, and that you are joining his mission to renew his world.

So this morning, I’m going to ask you a few questions and if this is what you want, I want you to say, “I will.”

•Will you love Jesus with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength?

•Will you learn from Jesus how to become more and more like him?

•Will you join Jesus’ family, loving, praying and serving others who also love Jesus?

•Will you participate with Jesus as he works to renew God’s creation in love, peace and beauty?

Then in the name of the Father, Son and Spirit, I immerse you into Jesus’ life. Who Jesus is, you will become by grace for God’s glory and for the sake of the world.”


Next week, the Live Oak Vineyard is having a baptism service…. I’ve been waiting for this moment and I’m thrilled that I not only get to experience it, but that they want me to baptize them.

Next week, the Live Oak Vineyard is having a baptism service. And all four of my kids want to be baptized! And I get to baptize them! I am so stoked. I’ve been waiting for this moment and I’m thrilled that I not only get to experience it, but that they want me to baptize them. And Pastors Steve and Floyd will let me do the honors.

I’m Camping! I’m Camping!

It’s the scene where Bob returns from “sailing” for the first time…… Later he explains to Dr. Marvin’s son, Siggy, “My secret was to let the boat do all the work.”

“Camping is nature’s way of promoting the motel business.”

Dave Barry

There’s a scene in the movie “What About Bob?” that reminds me of my first camping experience this past weekend. It’s the scene where Bob returns from “sailing” for the first time… wrapped in a life-jacket and tied down to the main sail. He’s yelling, “I’m sailing! I’m sailing! I’m a sailor!” Later he explains to Dr. Marvin’s son, Siggy, “My secret was to let the boat do all the work.”

So upon my return from my very first camping trip, I wanted to yell “I’m camping! I’m camping! I’m a camper! My secret was to let nature do all the work.”

Actually this weekend was very enjoyable. Our family went camping with six other families. Yup. Our group totaled thirty-two people (18 kids and 14 adults — the adults were definitely outnumbered). We arrived at Lake Casitas Friday afternoon and began setting up camp. Since Michael is gifted with superhuman powers of figuring out how things work, we had put him in charge of setting up the tent. It was the only guarantee my family had of actually having shelter this weekend.

One of the enjoyable aspects of our camping experience was that one of families brought a pick-up truck full of supplies — extra tents, air mattresses, easy-ups, lanterns, hammocks, chairs, etc. I know, I know. I’ve learned very quickly that in any conversation about camping there is someone in the group who will eventually say, “That’s not really camping,” about virtually any camping scenario. So please don’t leave comments about “not really camping.”

Lake Casitas was beautiful! Although only about 15 minutes from a major freeway, it was a quiet and secluded area. I especially enjoyed the mornings — the cool air, the hush over the campgrounds as people were stirring awake, the warm coffee in my hands!

Oh, I need to mention the coffee. There was a brand new Starbucks only three miles away from the camp’s entrance (six miles from our tents). Yeah, baby! So on Saturday morning a few of us made a Starbuck’s run. It was so goooood!

Then on Sunday morning, one of the families brought Starbucks coffee to brew. It was so goooood! (Again, please hold your comments about “not really camping.”)

Although we camped at a lake, we weren’t allowed to actually go in the lake. It seems it’s a source for drinking water. Therefore, you can only fish or boat on the lake. So the camp has a water park. (Man, I can hear it now, “Please, you’re not really camping!”) We spent most of Saturday at the waterpark.

Saturday was also Debbie’s and my 17th wedding anniversary. So our group surprised us by clearing out one of the easy-ups and setting up a romantic table for two. The table even had a candle… a citranella candle. But hey, “I’m camping!” Jim Tinker played the part of the hilarious french waiter. After dinner, the group watched our kids so Deb and I could have a romantic sunset walk down by the lake shore. Dang! That was awesome! I love my wife!!

The downside to our weekend was that Catherine took a nasty spill. It was a combination of a steep hill, a scooter and flipflops. She’s okay, but pretty bruised and scratched up. But I’m told that every camping experience isn’t really camping unless someone is injured. I’m just sorry it was her.

Camping wasn’t without its moments of stress. Perhaps the greatest stress was getting ready for bed each night. Our tent was crowded with two large air mattresses. Combine this with almost zero visibility in the dark and six people rotating into the tent to find their pajamas, change, brush their teeth and use some pretty gross bathroom facilities, all mixed in with a healthy dose of irritability… well, let’s just say no one was at their best at that time.

On Sunday, we broke camp after breakfast. Our family visited the Ventura State Beach for lunch and a little fun looking for rocks and shells down by the ocean.

Once we got home, we scrambled to wash four loads of laundry (it was a very dusty campsite so everything was filthy), wash our borrowed van (thanks Mark and Barb for letting us use it), unpack all the gear, and shower six filthy people. And we accomplished all of this in time to have dinner with Mark, Barb and David that evening. Whewww!

The highlight of this weekend were: 1) the people, 2) creation’s beauty, 3) watching my kids having fun their first time camping and 4) did I mention the coffee?

Would we do it again? Definitely. It looks like this may turn into an annual event with all of the families. Would we do it again just with our family? Maybe. We’ll probably give it a try one day.

But I did it! I finally did it! I’m camping! I’m camping! I’m a camper!