Tuesday, June 28, 2016


"He refreshes my soul." Psalm 23:3

I'm a pastor. My week, according to some is sitting around reading a Bible and then coming up with something to say for 20-30 minutes on Sunday to get people to behave.

I recently went through a little exercise with our C3 Resident processing all the hats a church planter wears in the first years of the church.

It encompasses everything from

CEO, Vision caster, Vision protector, Vision champion, CFO, fundraiser, counselor, pastor, leader of leaders, lead evangelist, one who models the way with predictable patterns of Up, In and Out, host, teacher, preacher, website overseer, social media strategist, pre-marital counselor, post-marital counselor, hirer and firer, discipler, fireman (always going to be some kind of fire to put out), systems and logistics overseer, venue search team leader, liaison between church and the city, custodian, first one there, last one to leave. And all this is with people who are essentially volunteers, who could abandon ship, seek greener pastures, be relocated because of career in a heartbeat.

And the national average for success rates in church planting is about 1 in every 2, still with open doors 5 years into the process. The infant mortality rate of baby churches is significant.

It's a grind. An absolute blast...but undoubtedly a grind.

Shaina and I have been on the ground In Columbus since 2012. We've watched loved ones die, the miracle of a dead heart beating again, the family addition of a little guy who is still not convinced he can trust our love because his previous track record has had trust sabotaged every step of the way.

And I'm tired. Not in a give up and throw in the towel kind of way, but in a "this isn't sustainable to keep going this way" kind of way.

My management team (think elders) has graciously understood this weariness and the need to recalibrate and revitalize. They granted me a 6 week sabbatical. Rest. Taking my hats off and staying awhile. They gifted Shaina and I a trip to Blessings Ranch (a place that pastors pastors) and have embraced the idea that in order for me to run the race for the long haul, I have to take strategic pit stops.

So July 1-August 15 I am out. Off of social media. Off my phone. Off my email. Hats off.

It's a win-win-win. C3 gets a better version of me on the other side of this break. Shaina and I get a window to catch our breath and figure out how to be a family of four with a couple of kids from hard places. And the C3 Resident gets to lead everything for 6 weeks to get his feet wet on leading the day to day operations of a church plant.

I would appreciate your prayers. For vitality. For rest. For restoration. For vision. For the land to produce a greater harvest because it had a chance to rest.

I believe it with all my heart: Change starts here.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

More than Game 7

I was 5 or 6. Wearing my Bernie Kosar jersey (with helmet!)

We were playing the Broncos. I don't remember much of the game. I do remember that we had gotten my sisters' Barbie horses and hung them on the ceiling fan. Probably so moral question marks there, but we were going to beat the Broncos, political correctness be damned.

So we lost. In heartbreaking fashion. Again the next year. In ways that cause people to make documentaries and deem a city and sports franchises cursed.

And that was how my dad and I forged a bond. He took me to an Indians game against the Mariners in 95. We beat them and advanced to the World Series to get smashed by a ridiculous Braves team. Then in 1997, we lose the 2-1 lead in the 9th inning of game 7 of the World Series and the best team in Cleveland in my lifetime came up short. And my dad and I talked sports virtually every day on our lunch break when I worked with him in the summers. That bond translated into him showing me how to throw a curve ball, coaching my little league teams, teaching me the ins and outs of basketball, going with me at 9 in the evening to the gym to work on my shot in high school.

I remember him coming up to me before the first game of my junior year of high school basketball. He found me in the hallway right before we were going to run on the floor for warm ups. He told me, "Make this your coming out party." I was so pumped. I went out and missed my first 8 shots. We lost. NBA career was decisively put on hold at that point.

But my dad taught me sports and it was through the lens of the Browns, the Cavs and the Indians.

And 11 years ago in June, he had a massive heart attack. I spent 10 minutes performing CPR to try and keep him alive. He died.

And now I have two kiddos. And Chaia is to the age where I can start to tell her about what my dad told me about. She knows the Cavs need 4 wins to be champions and that they have 3. I let her go to Buffalo Wildwings for game 1 with me and we got slaughtered and I couldn't decide if it was a terrible or terribly perfect introduction to Cleveland sports fandom.

And we fell behind 3-1 in the series and there was this odd feeling in me (I even posted it on Facebook) that either we would have the most monumental turnaround in NBA history and have the most amazing story of curse reversal for Cleveland sports...or we would lose game 5 by 30 points. In my mind there was no other option.

And we started winning.

And now it's Father's Day, and I know it's merely a dumb sport and there are so many more important things in life than if Tristan Thompson can get a double double and defend adequately when they screen and roll him into mismatches or whether JR Smith can get it going offensively or if LeBron can continue to play at the insane level he has played at in the last 2 games.

I miss my dad. And the thought of the Cavs taking a crack at history tonight makes me excited and nostalgic and sad all at the same time. I'm invested in the game because if we win it will bring some sense of closure and satisfaction to a bond that my dad and I had that was taken away too soon. If we lose, it will give Chaia her first taste of the bitterness of Cleveland fandom.

I had my plans all laid out to go watch the game in Cleveland and then had a change of heart Saturday night. It's Father's Day and I want to be with my family. And share this thing with Chaia.

So enjoy the moment Cleveland. Savor it Ohio.

I need to go find a couple mouthguards to hang from my ceiling fan.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Thing About Family

Fostering M has been interesting. Especially as we're leading a church.

This past Monday was more bug than windshield. (See previous post.) We had a discipleship meeting at our house in the evening. We had dinner with the folks from C3 we're investing in and M was a train wreck. Hot mess. Crying and screaming. It probably wasn't as bad as it seemed, but it had literally been all day. We actually just apologized and canceled the rest of the evening.

And here's what I'm thinking on. Here's the thing about family. It takes work. Tenacity. Resolve. Grit. Commitment. Love. Fierceness.

We're committed to this idea that one of the most redemptive stories in the world is articulating to someone that hasn't found safety and comfort and love and purpose in a family that these things actually exist and are what God wants His kids to experience. That sounds incredibly beautiful. Until you try to communicate safety and comfort and love and purpose to someone who has zero trust and zero attachment to you. My friend who is also fostering put it really well...the very thing that these kids need is the very thing they seem to be trying to sabotage. It's heartbreaking, but it's also expected. M has been calling everyone mama including me and lots of strangers. It's a word that doesn't have much meaning for him. There's no safety or nurture or woman that he identifies with that word.

The thing about family is that it doesn't just happen. It takes work. Predictable patterns. GRACE. Patience. Love. Creativity. Consistency.

This is either about fostering or about church.

Jesus has brothers. Pretty clear in John 7. And they aren't entirely convinced that Jesus is the Messiah. "For even his own brothers did not believe in him." (John 7:5). See? I wasn't kidding. So Jesus is seeking to usher in this new movement of God and a primary metaphor he wants to use to convey what this movement will look like is FAMILY. It's why he calls God his Father. It's why when he is told his mother and brothers are looking for him, he says that those who hear God's word and put it into practice are his mother and brothers. (Luke 8:19-21) He's redefining family. Fascinating. Family isn't just a gift we're entitled to, it's a gift that he have to participate in.

I think on my naive days, I believed M would embrace this gift we were offering and there would be great bonding and healing and gratitude. But us declaring to him that he was part of the family didn't warm his heart and transform his life and make a bow on the story. We don't bestow family. We show family.

We grieve together, bleed together, laugh together, serve together, eat together, acknowledge to each other that our expectations of what family should be might be sabotaging the family that is available right in front of us.

M may be with us for a season or for a lifetime. And we will only experience the level of Family that we are willing to participate in together.

Again this is either about fostering or about church.

The anthem I feel like God is calling us to at C3 is to be a Family on Mission.

And this kind of family doesn't just happen. It takes work. Predictable patterns. GRACE. Patience. Love. Creativity. Consistency.

And sometimes our ideas of family will sabotage the chance at family right in front of us.

We've tried to be incredibly intentional in our home. Establishing a specific culture with specific rules that are reenforced with consistency and calmness (most of the time!). We say the same things over and over. "Gentle and Kind" "No hurts" "Teamwork makes the dreamwork" "show respect" "asking or telling?" We are trying to implement routine and structure. Language creates culture. Predictable patterns create culture. The likelihood of someone coming around to desiring to participate in the family they see is to do the same right things over and over.

Take it from Jesus, Not everyone will participate. Some will resist. Some will never trust. Some will never overcome their fear. Some will sabotage the thing they so desperately want. Some will believe there is better family out there somewhere else. There very well may be. But all we can do is seek to be family right here in front of them. Chances are they will find fault with whatever family they find themselves in or near and eventually move to the next one.

All I can do is seek to foster a family that offers love, safety and home. We have to lead the way in participating in family and my hunch is others will often desire to participate too. Stay the course friends and let family happen.

For each and every child and each and every child of God.