Monday, April 17, 2017

Hello, Goodbye

It was sadness and anticipation that I am announcing that this is my final school year with InterVasity. I have accepted the Director of Family Ministry position at Moscow First Presbyterian Church, beginning June 1st and will be continuing my seminary education with Fuller Theological Seminary. Donan has accepted my current Area Director position and will also begin June 1st.
At a later time, I will post more about my new job and future hopes. I am very excited to work with families and have experienced multiple points of confirmation concerning this calling. For the time being though I would like to look back on the past 13 years (17, including my student involvement). InterVarsity has been my primary community and I am deeply grateful for every student, supporter, and staff partnership I have had. I hope these memories drip with the gratitude I feel to God and to my friends.

A Christian Community. I had no interest in Christian community entering college. Four years of Christian High School left me burned out on faith and skeptical that grouping Christians together was ever a wise proposition. Dan, Monica, Shamieko and Scott became the foundation of a community that challenged my assumptions. I accepted the invitation to a “Co-Ed Naked Bible Study”, along with a cold cup of lemonade on a hot day (I should note there was a footnote on the flier indicating that we would indeed remain clothed). These new friends flipped much of what I assumed about faith. They swore. They laughed. They confessed sins vulnerably. They cried. They prayed for each other. I slowly came to the realization that I was becoming one with them. By Thanksgiving I began to use the dreaded term “Christian” to describe myself.

Bible Boot Camp. After completing my freshmen year, I attended “Frosh Project” in the Tacoma Hilltop neighborhood. Frosh Project was described to me as “Bible Bootcamp”, an unfortunate name for what was essentially my Christian Confirmation course. As a community we worked (I worked for a low-income housing project), we cooked together simple meals (sorry for not soaking the lasagna noodles), we slept on hard church floors together and we cannonballed into the Sermon on the Mount. It was this bible study that messed me up. The somewhat ambiguous high call of Jesus came into stark clarity. To have life, I would need to lose it. I wasn’t sure I wanted that. I became so convinced that I didn’t that I packed all my stuff in the dark of night to leave. As I prayed in my stuffed car I heard Jesus invite me to stay. The next day I shared this story with friends. Annie began to cry. I was sure she was angry with me for thinking about leaving. She choked out: “I am just so happy that Jeremy chose Jesus”.

Me? A Leader? Shockingly, InterVarsity asked me to be a leader. For the next three years I would lead and live in different dorms throughout WSU. I collaborated with Megan, Terri, Becky, Julie, Zac and Jon. For three years I wandered halls knocking on doors, inviting myself to parties and gathering people bible study. I led weeks where no body showed up. I led weeks where 20 people showed up (the “Bible with Balls” was quite the hit in Waller). I clumsily attempted to disciple younger students. I saw friends become Christians! I saw friends leave angrily. I loved people well and authentically. I led people poorly and manipulatively. I tearfully prayed for some people. I avoided others. I was led by Shawna, Steve, Alex and Mae, who each in their own way shaped my leadership. I spent hours with Mike, Chris and Justin in discipleship, attempting to sort out what following Jesus should look like. And how to date girls without being a-holes. Quite a bit of time on that second one.

China. I spent six weeks in central China. Yes it was on this project that I met a beautiful, thoughtful, feisty Whitman woman that I quickly decided I wanted to spend as much time as possible with. But since we had a “no falling in love in China” rule, I will gloss over meeting my wife. What I won’t gloss over was how transformative it was to see my Chinese roommate begin to weep while singing “At the Cross”, or that amazement I felt when he wanted to pray to Jesus. In America, it is almost impossible be with someone when they first grasp the idea of God dying so that they can live. I also remember praying deep (and I mean DEEP) into the night with Eli. I should also mention Jen and Shamieko. These two women of giant faith were my friends throughout all of college. We traveled the world together and prayed together. I fought with both them and was sharpened by their wisdom. Jen challenged me to be more of the person God called me to be. Both her and Mike (they would later marry) never allowed me to get by on charm. They demanded substance of me. It was (is) an amazing gift. Shamieko chose to be an honest black woman in predominately white chapter that was attempting to open its eyes to injustice and race. Shamieko rarely lost patience with me and challenged me to see WSU not as a white dude, but to experience the campus from the margins (and such see my faith from the same perspective). Shamieko gifted me with honesty and modeled perseverance. These two women were “there” for every major college story I have.

Idahome. In 2003, Donan and I accepted an invitation to intern with InterVarsity at the University of Idaho. It would be impossible in overview form to write enough about Amy and Eli Awtrey, so I will keep it short: Donan and I based our marriage and ministry work on what we saw and learned from them. They demonstrated faith lived well. Sometimes we loved them for it. Occasionally we hated them for it. But we were always watching and learning. The student leaders when we arrived at Idaho were John, Adam and Audrey. They are my friends to this day. The believed in something that didn’t yet exist. I am always inspired by students who can do that. Now time to bullet point my favorite Idaho memories:
  •          Worship at Fall Conference 2003. I started that conference more interested in catching up with my WSU friends. By Saturday night I was weeping watching my UI students singing to Jesus.
  •           Eli teaching me to throw a better forehand (frisbee throw)
  •           Feasts at Merv (the trailer)
  •           Playing Tiger Woods golf with Amy and Eli
  •           Shalom Conferences. Idaho students engaging in multiethnic worship and sitting under the feet of teaching they could have never expected
  •           Urbana 03
  •           Working graveyard to pay the bills
  •           Singing the Idaho and WSU fight songs at my wedding reception
  •           Sarah coming to intern
  •           Breaking my leg playing frisbee
  •           John coming on staff
  •           Jesustherevolution and a month straight of 24/7 prayer in my basement
  •           Tutoring in the CAMP program with Erik

Return to WSU. In 2009 I was really, really going to leave. But “they” (Scott and Kim) pulled me back by inviting me to staff with WSU chapter. Within my first week I met Andrew and Taylor (who would be the foundation of the next generation of leaders), walking around campus wearing nothing by short shorts and a pizza box, talked with 60 freshmen about sex and the bible and began to see the beginning of a chapter. I am so thankful for being able to partner with John (again), Donan, Erin, Tyler, Annie, Amy and Jessica. Pullman Presbyterian Church and specifically Matt and Amy McNelly have been foundational friends and partners. Simply put…an incredible chapter of my life.
  •           Forcing Andrew to walk around campus with me in a pizza box
  •           Inviting to Summit by smashing a piggie bank
  •           Preaching on Woman at the Well by smashing a jar
  •           Our community becoming “4th circle” Christians
  •           First Summit with WSU
  •           Coffee/Settlers every week with Abigail and Kelati
  •           Spending the night on Andrew’s dorm floor
  •           Every time Alex came to Andrew’s bible study
  •           A year of study and discipleship with Jesse and Brandon
  •           LaFe!
  •           Inn Dinner!
  •           5 weeks of Summit leading with Donan (and infant Moira)
  •           Amanda’s Summit mohawk
  •           Taylor, Amanda, and Rebecca’s apartment. For two years, these women of God used their hospitality to make God’s love known to dozens of students. Amazing faith and sacrifice.
  •             Rachael, who literally did everything to serve students at IV. One story would not be enough.
  •           Everything about Summit with Tyler, Brandi and John. All stories have been sealed to protect the innocent.

The Best Co-Workers I will Ever Have. This is getting long. Really long. 13 (or 17 years) is pretty long. I am going to mention some people I have worked with. This is not exhaustive.
  •           Shawna: you taught me to pray and how to love. You saw me in mighty armor…and saw that I was actually using it to hide, not to battle. You invited me out into the world instead. Thank you.
  •           John: you’ve been my student, my intern, my landlord, and my colleague. Mostly though, my friend. You are my go-to for crazy hypotheticals for over a decade. You are probably the kindest of all of us.
  •           Sarah: wisdom. You are wise.
  •           Erin: You’ve been “shooting your shot” long before it was a thing.
  •           Dale: You gave a year to help me get well. Thank you.
  •           Nick: I have missed your enthusiastic passion
  •           Tyler: I have missed your tireless desire to learn
  •           Annie: I wish that I could be a student in a small group you lead
  •           Amy L: I boldly predict that in your lifetime you are going to open a restaurant and plant a church. I would gladly go to both.
  •           Jessica: Been a fan since Summit.
  •           Vince: You are my soccer Yoda and my big, bleeding heart conscious.
  •           SL: I want to keep praying with you.
  •           Daniel: You have taught me to begin to see the world as artist
  •           May: You decided to trust me. That is one of the great honors of my life.
  •           Adri: You are one of the most trustworthy people I know
  •           Angela: You showed me that it is possible to melt cynicism with love, not just smash it with logic.
  •           Marshae: Leading intercession with you was a privilege.
  •           Adam B: If the measure a person is saying “yes” to God no matter the cost, then you are one of the most complete people I know
  •           Tim: I glad California gave you to us.
  •           Scott: I am sorry for the late PCard Report. Your humility and willingness to keep learning helps remind me that there is always hope for the church.
  •           Brandi and Benita: Leading Summit with you was one of the great privileges of my staff career. I hope you know that you “led up” and taught me so much.
  •           Alex: Not sure if you remember leading evangelism training at Fall Conference together, but to this day it is most in sync I have ever felt with another staff. Thanks for the Sports Illustrated’s.
  •           Christian: I respect your courage and the fight you gave to see your vision come to reality.
  •           Joel: You’re in a lot of staff pictures with me. I am glad we have been on the same track. I am also glad that you always take my call, even though you have no idea what level of emotion is coming from the other end.
  •       Debbie: Thanks for letting me teach your students and believing that I had something to bring. You're a great friend.
  •           Ellen: I don’t know anyone who couldn’t benefit from you as a life coach.
  •           Kim and Pauline: Thanks for believing in me.

An Interdependent Life. Finally, I would like to thank my supporters, both in prayer and finances. As I give you into Donan’s care, I am grateful for 13 years of dependency on God’s provision through you. Despite all the names listed above, staff can be very lonely. You have supported and encouraged me. You risked on God’s work in the Inland NW. You have sacrificed. I know that most of you give not out of abundance, but out of sacrifice. I have felt an obligation to live a life worthy of God’s call and your sacrifice for 13 years. Thank you. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Post Sabbatical Changes: Photography

My sabbatical ended last friday. I will miss so much about that rich time. I miss the profound moments of clarity, but I also miss space. The space to walk, rather than drive. The space to sit and drink coffee, rather than throw it in the tumbler. The space for a long bike ride. 

The most tangible fruit of space has been a developing love of photography. I recently sold much of my childhood toy collection to purchase my first DSLR camera. Below are some of my favorite shots. Most tell a story. 

The majority of shots are from my deck. I have grown in love of my home over sabbatical. My view is spectacular. Specifically, the shots of Isaac playing on the deck and the sunrise that looks like fire are from the morning after the election. I woke that morning scared for my marginalized friends and wondering about my call to study to be a church pastor. My son playing and God's fire spoke to me. I wish I could tell you what they said...I can't. It wasn't peace. It wasn't anger. The closest word I could use would...resolve. A resolve to be the church in some consistent way. The Lord woke me early to show me His fire and my own son. I came in from that chilly morning sure I want to be a pastor. I can't totally say why. 

Other shots are of Moira exploring. She is at the science center. She is climbing a tree. She is throwing leaves. Watching Moira attack life has become one of the great joys of my life. My daughter is ferocious. Her ferocity can at times be exhausting, but it also reminds me that no day is normal. There is more to discover and more to see. 

Hodgins Drug and the Corner Club are Moscow institutions. They are part of my weird, divided, eclectic North Idaho home. I like the shots, but I enjoy the city that birthed them more. 

Thursday, October 06, 2016

If you think that Luke Cage is too black...

Tony Stark:

  • Inherited a large sum of money from his rich family
  • Was educated in the best schools
  • Grew into a successful capitalist, making most of his money developing weapons for the United States
  • Attends wild parties and sleeps with mostly white women
  • While his best friend is black, the rest of his inner-circle is white
  • Gleefully thumbs his nose at United States government authority. Is celebrated as a hero by most. 
  • Hangs out with his super cool friends. They are all white for the first movie and 7/8 (no, Nick Fury is not an Avenger)
I love Tony Stark. You probably love Tony Stark. Tony Stark is white male wish fulfillment. 

(Don't even get me started on Steve Rogers...)

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

How to be a Big Vegan (who eats fish)

I love food. And not in a foodie way. My friend Joel loves food. He will brave dark alleys to find shady food carts that will someday become Michelin starred. I will only do that to catch an Abra.

No I love grocery store food. Hot Tamales. Cool Ranch Chips. Deschutes Brewery Seasonals. Even some Top Ramen (but only with some Sriracha and hoisin sauce. I'm no savage). Basically, I love carbs and sugar. And your probably do to.

However, for as long as I remember I have had issues. Sometimes minor, sometimes "stay home from work and sit in the fetal position begging for a fart". Sub-optimal.

I've tried stuff. I have (mostly) bailed on dairy. I was Paleo for a bit. I was gluten free for awhile. Intentional eating usually helps, but not really. My standard stomach's issues always seem to return. This leads to a pattern of trying something new, getting pretty militant about it, then encountered old fashioned pain and back-sliding into normal eating. After all, if an expensive Annie's Natural diet isn't going to help, store brand sugar is better-tasting and cheaper. No-brainer.

About a year ago I went to Seattle for a Sounders game and some time with friends. I ate HARD. Hot Dogs outside of C-Link? How about two. Beer? Did I mention it was a Sounders game? Pizza? Every Friday night with Bremerton family (all-meat, fire oven). As I drove back on Sunday with the familiar bowling ball in stomach I wondered if I should keep looking for something better, cause driving through Eastern Washington needing to birth a pizza-stadium dog-dark beer-baby is only about 132% as bad as it sounds.

Around Vantage I had the insane fever dream idea to try being a Vegan. Vegan? Why not? I already was usually off diary (the pizza baby was an exception. I swear). Being a vegan was going to only require not eating meat.


Asada. Crispy Chicken Sandwiches. Buffalo Chicken. Pepperoni.

Okay, maybe this was going to be really, really hard.

But I militantly did it for about 4 months. Super clean. No bacon with the hash browns. Fajitas without chicken. I ate something called bulger. Not burger...bulger. I still don't know what that is. But I cooked it. Excellently.

And I felt great. So good. Even after the honeymoon period. Tried some meat (it was a brat at a BBQ) and I felt like a gained 15 pounds (the baby was back). So I didn't do that again. Donan suggested fish. Felt great! Tried again...felt terrible. Someone reminded me about eggs in tarter sauce. Tried fish again...and it was all good!

So I  think  I am a "Pesca-Vegan", but I cannot call myself that I like who I am. Technically, most days I don't meat, cheese, eggs or diary. But sometimes I eat fish and chips. And sometimes I go someones house and they wave cookies in my face and I eat a few. Or a dozen.

This is a quick guide for being a profoundly unhealthy eater who eats a niche diet. I weigh 220 pounds. Most vegan's don't. At least most vegan's who blog about don't. So here is what I have learned.

Reasons to be a Vegan:

  1. Ethically-Opposed to Eating Animals: I am not one of you, but I see you. Fight the good fight. Eat your conscious. Know this though...I feel so inadequate around you. If there was a pill that would allow me to eat a double bacon cheeseburger with pepper jack cheese, deep fried jalapenos on a pretzel bun that had been lathered in butter I would sell my car for it. Can we still be cool?
  2. Social Justice Reasons: I respect you even more than number 1. 
  3. Trying to lose weight. Stop it. Meat doesn't make you fat. If I could swap some beef jerky into my diet I could cut some noodle weight easily. Stop eating ice cream, keep eating meat. 
  4. Your Doctor told you too: Living is better than the above mentioned cheeseburger. 
  5. Save Money: Unless you eat meat 12 meals a week and ear gourmet ice cream every evening being vegan isn't going to save you money.
How to be Vegan:

  1. Don't eat meat: Relatively easy. Meat doesn't hide in things. Meat isn't a character actor who you missed in a movie. It Robert Downey Jr chewing up every scene. It is no one's co-star. 
  2. Don't eat dairy: Hard. My parents were cleaning their garage and found black mold hiding in one of the walls. Probably been there 10 years. In the walls where no one can see it. Growing. Destroying stuff. Maybe making them sick. Butter is black mold. It is hiding in everything. If you want to be a "good vegan" you will never eat a pastry you don't cook. The good news is that no one is actually keeping score. 
  3. Don't eat eggs: You know how comics need to create metals like adamantium and vibranium because real metals aren't hard enough to withstand a punch from the Hulk? That is how hard it is to give up eggs. Remember what I said about butter? Same with eggs. But add every batter you love. Or just go out to breakfast. Find something you can eat. Then find something you WANT to eat. Not eating eggs sucks. When the mythical pill is released, I am going to scramble a dozen eggs and slice some bacon up and eat every square inch. 
How to exist as a Vegan:
  1. Sauces: Sriracha and BBQ sauce will save your life. They have two special powers: first, they mask new and unfamiliar flavors (like bulger!) and secondly, they taste like things you used to eat. If you are going to go from a drive-thru habit to vegan, bland food will derail you in a week. Make NO bland food. Turn the flavor UP.  
  2. Learn to cook Tofu: without protein you will sleepwalk to winco and wake up next two four empty beef jerky packages. You probably eat way more protein than you need right now. That is going to be an adjustment. Peanut butter will help, but your probably don't want to gain 10 pounds your first week off of meat. Tofu tastes like nothing. You get to make it taste good. Corn meal with help. Fry it in some oil. Or cook it in some soy sauce and sriracha. Learn to cook it. 
  3. Take it easy: unless you think meat is murder or you have some allergies that will immediately kill you, don't be afraid to let some contraband sneak past the goalie. Did that cookie have some egg and butter in it? Probably. Did that curry get cooked in chicken broth. Maybe...but is it good? Are you in the middle of a 300 mile drive and you need some chicken nuggets? I am not one to judge. 
  4. Order off the appetizer menu: your friends and family want to eat at restaurants. Foodies will take you places where the vegan options are phenomenal. Fresh veggies that are seasoned and prepared perfectly. Fresh, hot, pipping bread. Did I mention curry? You miss NOTHING with veggie curry. But if you aren't eating with Joel, you are going to end up at Applebee's. Your options are going to be green salad or green salad. can order a couple of appetizers. Onion Rings (yes, the batter has eggs. Get over it.) or chips and salsa, or pretzel sticks, or something else that is deep fried and amazing. 
  5. Noodles, frozen veggies and sauce: trade off between marinara or soy sauce. If you go with red sauce, throw in some fresh garlic and basil. You feeling soy? Great, add some peanut butter, lime juice and hot sauce. This is called "lunch" and it costs about the same as a turkey sandwhich and chips. 
  6. Pick your cheats: my favorite food is Pho'. I will endure Pho' without meat, but I am not going to eat vegetable broth. And you shouldn't either. I eat some fish now. Hot Tamales may or may not have gelatin, which may or may not be made from horse hooves. I sleep fine at night.  
How to Behave as a Vegan:
  1. Bring your own Food: No friend, family member or camp should ever have to cook for you. Bring stuff. Be happy if someone actually cooked for you.
  2. Assume most people don't care that you are a vegan: because they don't.
  3. Make meat for people when they come over to your house: don't host a bbq and serve people tofu. Or your "special cookies". Your taste buds change over time. Be nice to people you claim to like. 
No I will leave. And by leave I mean eat homemade curry, coconut rice and drink a citrus IPA. Never cheat on flavor and you will be fine. 

Thursday, July 07, 2016


Quick note: I want to write a post about the recent killings of black men by police, but I don't have words yet. Yes, I believe the system is rigged against black men. No, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile did nothing to deserve their death sentences. Black lives matter. Black bodies are not criminal. These men were deprived of their right to due process. People of color in America have to follow so many spoken and unspoken rules that I will never understand. 

I lack answers or even suggestions. I am collecting thoughts. I am using Twitter as a place to listen and learn from my brothers and sisters. I suggest that everyone do the same. 

Kevin Durant was my last favorite Sonic. I bought his jersey in 2008. The Sonics had a 9% chance to obtain the second overall pick (where Durant was drafted). While the 2007-8 was miserable for Seattle, the future was bright; Durant was clearly a generational talent. For the first time since Gary Payton was traded to Milwaukee, the Sonics had a future.

But of course they didn't.

In 2006, Howard Schultz sold the Seattle SuperSonics to a group of Oklahoma businessmen led by Clay Bennett. While this ownership publicly promised to look for a way to keep the team in Seattle, private emails pointed to a deep desire to move the team to OKC. Then NBA commissioner David Stern also appeared to be in favor of a move and was key to setting up the sale (likely as a "thank you" to OKC for hosting the New Orleans Hornets during the aftermath of Katrina). Finally in 2008, the Seattle City Council released the Sonics from their Key Arena lease and just like that they were gone.

I was devastated.

The Sonics were the first team to ever make me cry. The 1990's Kemp-Payton Sonics teams taught me to love sports. Shawn Kemp was a pre-teen boy's dream basketball player. Huge dunks, crotch grabs and screaming intensity. As I got older and grew with the team, Payton became the guy. Exquisite passing, the best low-post point guard I have ever seen and a PHD in smack talk. Even when the Mariners had their run between 1995-97, the Sonics were Seattle. 1996 was the first time I ever rooted for a team that made it to the championship series. To this day I wonder how that series turns out if Payton guards Jordan from the beginning. The city loved that team. I loved that team. They were going to be in Seattle forever.

The Mariners wanted to leave for Florida. The Seahawks actually had trucks fueled and ready to take them to LA. Those two franchises felt precarious. But the Sonics? No way. They were our only champions. They had two the 15 best players in the NBA. They would never leave.

The Sonics left Seattle in the franchise's 40th season. I was 27 at the time. They felt as permanent as the Space Needle.

It stung. But losing Durant stung even more.

Sure, Kemp and Payton both left. But you knew even as a 19-year old rookie that Durant was going to be better than either of them. Kemp and Payton were top-15 players in 1996; Durant might be a top-15 player of all time. He had more in common with Ken Griffey Jr. Nothing felt impossible with him wearing the Green and Gold. In 2008 the Sonics were awful, but because Durant was on the team they felt closer to a championship than the Mariners or the Seahawks (you know how crazy that is? The Hawks had been in the Super Bowl just three years prior). In basketball you need a star. The Sonics had him. He was 6' 9" and growing. The shot looked good, even if his percentage was low. He looked like he could rebound, even if PJ Carlesimo tried to make him a shooting guard. He could lead us to championships, but more importantly I believed he could save the team. That 9% chance that led to us drafting Durant felt like it meant something. How could the team beat the odds like that and lose the franchise? Impossible. The Sonics staying in Seattle felt pre-ordained. Durant would save the team.

But he didn't. The Sonics moved. Kevin Durant became a superstar in OKC.

It's asinine to ever get angry at a player for leaving as a free agent, it really is. In professional sports young men (and women; I see you WNBA) are drafted. Which is really a fancy word for "told where they have to spend the next three years of their lives". In the NBA, once their rookie deal expires they become a restricted free agent. Under that system they can sign somewhere else, but if their team still wants them they can match the offer and force them to stay. But of course, this rarely happens because the home team can offer more money and years to the player. About year 8 or 9, a first round draft pick is finally able to choose where they work. Even then, the system is designed for the player to stay. Their current team can still offer them more money and years during their unrestricted free agency.

And if they have the gall to leave? People burn their jerseys and call them a traitor.

(Future blog post fun: about 440 players and 30 owners split revenue close to 50-50. Raise your hand if you pay to go to an NBA game to watch Steve Balmer give uncoordinated high fives or to check out what t-shirt Mark Cuban is wearing.)

I am not going to get into why Durant chose to play in the Bay Area over OKC because when I said "Bay Area" and "OKC" I already articulated why most people would have made the same decision. Beyond that, Durant doesn't need to justify his choice. He got to decide where to play basketball for the first time since he enrolled at the University of Texas as an 18 year old. Good for him. Oh, and lest we forget, the team that did draft Durant moved him after one season. As a 20-year old Durant learned that the NBA is a business.

This post isn't about Durant's decision, it's about closure. I am a bigger fan of Kevin Durant than I am of any NBA team. He and Nick Collison are the last Sonics in the NBA. And they have been stuck on the team that was taken from my city. I could root for their personal success, but not the team. Does that make me bitter? Probably. But...sports.

And you know what? I am not bitter anymore. The Thunder are meaningless to me now. I will take no joy in their fall off, nor would an eventual ascension bother me. My favorite player was held hostage for 8 years, but now he is free. Honestly, that team is of no consequence to me anymore. OKC is now Charlotte, or New Orleans. They are a team somewhere else with players I may or may not enjoy (and let me tell you, I LOVE Stephen Adams). Their wins and loses are meaningless to me. They are no longer winning with Durant, so they no longer matter. At all.

Clay Bennett, David Stern and Howard Schultz still suck though.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Commencement talk

I am giving a commencement talk at Spokane Falls Community College Pullman Campus tonight. Here are my words! Enjoy!

Thank you for inviting me here tonight. About two months ago I was honored to spend an afternoon with the student government here at Spokane Falls Community College Pullman Extension. What I discovered was a group of students who loved their campus, longed for deep purpose and were working extremely hard towards their goals. I have been asked today to speak on “Success is not a Destination, but a Road to be Traveled”.
Naturally, brings me back to my college graduation. I was the first member of my family to attend college, much less finish. It wasn’t easy. I didn’t know the “rules” of the campus. I was homesick. I struggled to see how much of what I was studying related to my future. As I sat at my graduation, I was both relieved that I had finished, but I also realized that I had no vision for anything past graduating! I had been fixated on the graduating, getting over that mountain for so long, I suddenly was panicked about where this all was going!
At my graduation party afterwards, I was still spooked by the “what’s next” when my dad found me. I wasn’t sure what my dad was thinking. He has been very successful without a lick of college. He wanted me to go, but the whole experience was very foreign to him. He put his hand on my shoulder and said “I’m so proud of you”.
I never thought then, nor do I often now, that I measured up to my dad. To hear him acknowledge with pride my accomplishment changed me. It brought me peace.
So today I would like to offer you two things: a series of thoughts, but perhaps more importantly my whole hearted congratulations. What you have accomplished is now small thing. I am not your dad, but you have my respect and my pride.
 In that vein I would like to offer five thoughts:
Thought one: Everyone feels like a failure
Frauds. All of us are frauds. We all work hard to mask it and to hide it. Some wear aggressive masks. Some arrogant. Some self-deprecating. Some self-defeating. But we do so for a simple reason: deep down most of us feel fraudulent. Sometimes the successful are the worst. As money, titles and properties stack up, the creeping feeling of being “found out” becomes omnipresent. You are entering a workforce, or further educational endeavors that littered with fraudulent people.
If you feel overwhelmed, it is because life is overwhelming. Expectations are overwhelming. The business of adulthood, education and vocation breeds doubt in all of us. And that is good news! You are not alone! You are not entering a world of confident, competent, emotionally balanced adults. You are actually entering of world of people like you.
Thought two: Choose curiosity, as opposed to false competency
Be curious. Now that you see how fraudulent we all are, don’t cover it up! Be young! Be a learner. Ask all the questions. Leave none unasked. Don’t waste other’s hard-earned experience. It’s there waiting for you. Ask.
When faced with our own fraudulence, we are tempted to “fake it till we make it”. Or more simply, we pretend. But curiosity is key. Curiosity is the courageous choice. This is one thing I love about my wife, she is fearlessly and ego-lessly curious. And you know what is crazy: my daughter is now the exact same way! Curiosity is contagious.
Curiosity is also hard. It is an actual skill that requires development. When ignored, it atrophies. Thinking of questions becomes work. Asking becomes exhausting. You cannot afford to let that happen. All that you need is NOT within you. It isn’t. You don’t know stuff. Other people know the stuff you don’t know. You need them. You need your questions. They are your lifeline for navigating the world. Is everyone eager to help? Certainly not. But you cannot afford to let those people discourage you! I have found so many helpful people. Jim is teaching me how a car works. Rich taught me how to handle adult pressures. Ellen teaches me how to really listen to people. Ask. Never, ever stop asking.
Thought three: Success is a team endeavor
You are not an island. Your success will not be your own. We are in this together. Life is a group project, not an individual exam. As noted earlier, ask questions and be someone who is there to answer others questions.
But isn’t a “dog eat dog world”? At times, yes. I wish it wasn’t so, but it too often is. But I truly believe that collaborators change the world. When at work you find yourself pitted against others, work together instead. Put your fraudulent brains and experience together. Do better together. This is something I saw in my afternoon with the student government; a community that knew each other, rooted for each other and worked together.
Stephen Covey in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People calls this the “Win-Win” habit. The workplace is an interdependent environment. The more we work together, and seek results where everyone wins, the more successful the “whole” is.
Everywhere you go, your success is going to be predicated on the success of your team. You will rarely be a conquering hero and vanquishing competitors usually leads to only short-term success. Invest in “us” and you will be fine.
Thought four: Your definition of success will change
Have goals. Have a vision. Have a plan. But know that it will change. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that you are going to hold 12-14 jobs in your career. Some will relate to your major, but many will not. You’re going to be the new face several times in your working life. For some of you, that is exciting. For others, terrifying! Let’s add some more variables:
Most of you will get married. Many of your will have children. You are going to weather financial crises, wars and unforeseeable personal challenges. Your joys will change you. Your sorrows will blindside you. Your priorities are going to change. As will your passions. Your successes will make you rethink your ceiling. Your failures are going to open you to doubt. You’re going to miss things; weddings, funerals, family events. Each one will challenge you to re-evaluate.
Your present definition of success will not be able to survive the onslaught of life. And again, this is good news. The “you” you are now is ill-equipped for the reality of “you” later. As you evolve, so will your definition of success. So will your priorities. Your career may consume all of your passion, vision and purpose. The vocational “you” just might change the world. Or, it could be volunteering at a soup kitchen that leads you to throw away every goal to serve the marginalized. Or joyfully caring for your family could consume decades. Hey, you might even still become a professional soccer player. The point is, you don’t know.
Set your course. Work hard. Make plans. Pursue goals. But know that they will change! Humbly accept that life if far too large and multi-faceted to be controlled by the likes of you. And enjoy the ride.
Thought five: Success cannot be simply vocational
Your career cannot be the only way you define success. That feels strange to say at a college graduation. After all, almost all that you have been learning about has pertained to your upcoming career. I am guessing that none have you have taken courses with titles like: “How to be a good person”, “balancing family and work”, or “the unexpected fulfillment of volunteering”. That is not a critique of college or education. It is an acknowledgement of their limitations.
Spiritual idioms like: “What good does it profit a man to gain the world and lose his soul”, or contemporary ones like: “She who dies with the most toys, still dies” remind us that winning in work is only one measure of success and purpose. There has to be more that fills up a successful life than a career.
That is not to say that hard work and killing it in your vocation are without value. A recent Princeton study noted the “$75,000 happiness benchmark”. Essentially happiness increases all the way up to a $75,000 annual income, the stagnates afterwards. Financial success and the stability that brings does in fact, impact happiness. But only to a degree. It is that degree that I encourage you to note as you go forward. Anything that you do for over 40 hours a week is hugely important and impacts you deeply. Arriving at this graduation today shows that you have been working towards the right goals. But if you believe those vocational goals are the “one thing” that will bring you joy, you may find yourself disappointed before you know it.
Going back to Covey and the 7 Habits, we need to be “principle-centered”. Centering around career, or family, or pleasure leaves us vulnerable to huge gaps. We risk missing out on what matters most deeply to us in the name of success. Know who you are, set long-term goals and plans that are rooted in what matters most to you. Keep that at the center.
Community. Purpose. Charity. Fitness. Family. Success has many facets, some measurable and some not. Success will take much effort on your part in many different directions. Keep an eye towards all that matters to you.

At this point, I assume you are quite done with this speech and ready to get on with your big day. Far be it from me to hold you up any longer. So from one fraud to another, here is my final word: celebrate. Celebrate this day, because you have accomplished something worthy of celebration. Celebrate promotions, new jobs, 10k’s, first steps, new moves and new adventures. Our culture knows how to party, but not how to celebrate. We are very capable of turning up music, turning down lights and tapping kegs. But so few of us really mark the moments of our lives that matter. Celebration keeps us focused. It invites others into our lives. It makes us grateful. Acknowledge the moments of your life. Make celebration a rhythm of your life. And start tonight!

It was fun writing this. I particularly enjoyed thinking about values and purpose in a way that I could give in a setting that is not inherently Christian. 

Thursday, June 16, 2016

I don't have much to say

It has been almost a month since sabbatical began.

1/6 of the way done.

About 17% of the way through.

Time flies. But I am not sure growth and healing move at the same speed time does. A month in I don't really feel "better".

Better is probably a strange term. Is the point of sabbatical to get better? What does better look like? In many ways I think the first month has been as much about what I have lost. Creativity. Hope. A sense grace. Self-control in the face of temptation and addictions. Permission to live more slowly has revealed how tired I actually am.

In The Face of the Deep Paul Pastor asks: "Are we crooked things ready to be made straight? It sounds so good until the hand of God is on on our limbs and we know that to set the break our very bones must be snapped and rehealed."

Snapped and rehealed.

Donan and I started Sabbatical on Lopez Island celebrating the wedding of friends. It was perfect. We had time to read, walk, laugh, watch movies and take pictures. We spent time with our close friends. Sabbatical felt like vacation. But recently...



The snapping isn't fun. But you know what also isn't fun? Incorrectly healed bones. Limps. Arthritis. Absent of time to heal, the real pain of the past 12 years has too often healed on its own. I have not always gone to the Great Physician.

The shooting at our church.

Dearly loved students disappearing into sin and addiction.

Two buried grandparents.

Countless student stories of abuse.

Under-funding and deep fears about money.

My brother's struggles with employment.

Student converts sliding off of my radar into...somewhere.



I have coped. But God has so much more than coping. He has healing. Restoration. Newness.

So. A month in and not much to report. Heaven hasn't opened. I don't yet have a five-year plan. Sin hasn't yet vanished. But I believe that I am under the care of the Great Physician. And that is enough.

Some new pics: