Monday, August 29, 2011

I miss blogging

I miss blogging. I'll get back to doing it tomorrow.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Daddy God

So I'm typing this in my daughter's room. I just put her to bed.

Putting my daughter to bed is one of the most precious times in my week. It's a time of connection, relationship building and intimacy. It often reminds me of what is really important.

As I was putting her to bed, I just had some random thoughts. They were really too personal and complex for a Facebook post. So if my Facebook friends want to think deeper thoughts with me, they must leave the medium of Facebook and enter this world of multiple words and paragraphs. Honestly, I'm not going to spend a long time crafting this...I'm sure the usual spelling, grammar and punctuation mistakes will be there. I'm just processing -- and if you want to read my thoughts, you may do so if you so choose.

So just some quick musings...

1. Scripture suggests that God loves me far more perfectly and completely than I love my daughter.

Wow. No way.

If that is true (and I take it by faith that it is), that ONE concept is so far beyond my comprehension. So far beyond my comprehension that, quite honestly, I'm not sure I will ever grasp it. Or (and this sounds like heresy, I know), really believe it.

I want to believe it... but I'm not sure I do most of the time. Or I believe it in an intellectual way, but not really at the core of who I am and how I live.

Confession: I often struggle with seeing God as more than Big God.

Sovereign God.

Powerful God.

I can kind of "get" the forgiveness thing -- I mean, I believe and know that God forgives -- but mostly because He has to forgive me because it's in His nature.

I sometimes struggle with God as Gentle Daddy.

The Playful Daddy.

The One who really just wants to spend time with me because He delights in me.

Moments ago, I was laying there, watching my daughter sleep. She was cuddled into me because she was afraid of the storm. She quickly fell asleep, knowing she was now safe with her Big Dad.

I get that.

I see God that way. God is strong. God protects. God is big.

But then...

Then I just laid there. I watched her sleep. And honestly, there was no other place in the world I wanted to be more than right there in that moment with her. We weren't DOING anything. I wasn't doing anything. We weren't relating in any conscious way. She was just laying there, quietly snoring in my ear. And my love for her in that moment was overwhelming.

And I think, "God loves me more than this?"

Honestly, it is overwhelming to me.

And it should be to you as well.

2. When I take Lydia to bed, we have our routine. My wife also has a routine with her. I found out they are very different. But both routines connect us to our daughter.

Sometimes, when I go to put her to bed, I'm in a hurry. I want to get through the routine. I'm busy or distracted or I have things to do. Sometimes, quite honestly, I don't initially want to go through our routine...

But the routine gives space for relationship. It almost forces (facilitates?) relationship.

And sometimes, in the midst of that same-old, same-old routine, we find moments of true intimacy and connection. It becomes a channel for us to express love and care.

I wonder if this is how God sees our devotional life? The metaphor doesn't fit perfectly, but it seems to me that the goal is not a quiet time. A routine. The goal is connection and relationship. But the regular practice of spiritual disciplines (routines) can place us in a position where, every now and then, we have true connection with God.

The routine is for us. Not for God.

3. Final thought for now. In the past several years I've moved away from Father language for God. Some of it is theological. I believe God is MUCH bigger than one image or ideal. Some of it is pastoral - in fact - there are significant populations of people for whom God as Father is, at best, not a helpful image. At worst, it defames the character of God.

But the thing about most of my God language now is that it depersonalizes God. It makes God in to Big God. Powerful God. Sovereign God.

You see where I'm going with this, right?

So maybe... at least in my own quiet time (routine)... I will return to God as my Daddy. And maybe it if say it more, I'll believe it more.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


I've spent much of this past week writing a grant to fund a sabbatical I'm taking next summer. To say that it was this last week is misleading... I've been thinking about it for a year or so.

So the thing about writing a grant for your dream sabbatical is if you don't get it you dream is gone. This is a once in a lifetime chance. When I started it, I was kind of, "Well, if I don't get it it's not that big of a deal." But as I have finalized it... it's a big deal.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Sick Kiddo

Lydia has always had this allergy thing. She gets it multiple times a year and it's pretty bad. It starts as a cough and then she usually has a fever at some point. When I got home from work yesterday, she had it. I made her dinner and put her to bed by 7:30. I gave her this breathing treatment and some medicine the doctor recommended; we keep a large stash on hand.

So 3 am I hear her cry out, "Daddy!" (Which is some sick, I-need-to-be-needed kind of way, is one of the most beautiful sounds to me.) I go in and take care of her. Get her her medicine. Do the breathing treatment. Mostly, I just cuddle her and try to get her to relax so she doesn't cough as much.

As she is doing the breathing treatment, I've built us a little "nest" on the bed and she is cuddled into me. I read her a story and am stroking her head. I turn off the light. Then we sit quietly in the dark for a good 15 minutes or talking... just being with each other. (One of the best times of my week.) I'm stroking her forehead (which she loves) and she is doing this thing where she strokes my arm (which doesn't exactly bother me either).

At some point, I decide that both she and I need sleep, so I gently say to her, "Lydia honey, I think you need to lay back down and get some sleep."

To which she replies, "Awwww! 'Cause this was really working for me!"

It was working for me too.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Yeah, this will go down in the record books as a pretty good day.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Lessons Learned - Day 2

So, this morning I went to church. I went three times. Because I'm a sinner and need it. Or an overachiever pastor. Actually both. And I'm going to another in a couple of hours.

I'm sinner and an overachiever... OR I don't have much of a life.


I plan to write more when I process this more, but some quick, general observations.

1. If John is any indicator, my Saturday night preaching experience is pretty common.

Like mine, John's Saturday sermon was longer and not as tight as on Sunday. I actually liked it more. There was more historical stuff. He cut stuff on Sunday that I liked a lot. He also got more animated as the services progressed and ad libbed more. Interestingly, they use the Saturday message for the other video campuses, so even if it's not as good, it can't suck as hundreds of people will see it.

2. Prediction: video venues are the way of the future (if not the present).

Menlo is out of room. Saturday was probably at 50% capacity. The traditional 8 am service at 80%, I went to a second site at 9:30 and then back to the main campus for 11, which was at 90% or more. I think the balcony had some seats. The only way for them to grow, is to plant other campuses or build a bigger building (which they can't do as there is no land -- and the world doesn't need another pull barn).

This is only my third time visiting a site where the teaching was done on video, but all three times I WENT asking, "Why would people come to this?" and LEFT thinking, "You know, this might be the service I would go to if I went to this church." I watched John give the same message live on Saturday, and then watched the exact same message on video at one of their video sites. It was better on video. It was just uncanny. But honestly, people were more engaged watching the video.

Now, I think video works for a really large church where the sites are smaller. I'm not sure if it would work for, say, Central. But each of their video campuses are about the physical size of Central... and they were packed. I mean packed. I mean really, really, "I can't find a chair I think I'll sit on the floor" kind of packed. (Again, probably 90% capacity if everyone moved in and sat next to each other).

Here is the thing: What the satellite campuses had, that they main campus didn't have, was informality and intimacy. (You can bring in coffee, it's smaller and more intimate). The reason I wonder if video would work with a church the size of Central is that Central already has informality and intimacy.

But I actually think that video venues work.

There, I said it.

3. If people are excited about something, or if they get the big picture, they will put up with inconvenience.

There are a number of ways I saw this played out, but a big one was children's ministry. I had this idea for our second site and my staff "poo pooed" it -- but Menlo has their children's ministry for their cafe campus, at their main campus (about 3 blocks or so away). So people drop their kids off at the main campus, and then drive or walk to the cafe campus. When I asked, "How do you get this to work? Don't the parent complain? Don't they fear leaving their kids?" the children's person looked at me with this dumb look and said, "No. But we don't have a choice."

This kind of plays into the consumer mentality. I could go on and on about this, but I won't. But it was interesting to see what Menlo didn't offer.

Which leads me to the last one (for now), and this is a big one.


Cause I'm going to say it.

Here we go.

4. Central, we do NOT have a parking problem.

Quit whining. No really. Seriously. I mean it. Quit. There are people who parked 5 blocks from the church. Their lot is the size of a postage stamp. (Okay, that is a huge exaggeration, but it's way too small for the church). Now, granted, it's California and the walk was really, really nice. They don't deal with snow. But seriously, if the early church can meet in catacombs under persecution, we can walk a block or two. Really, we just need to get over this.


Top 10 ways to make this lunch really, really, uncomfortable for John.

#6. "Thanks John for having lunch with me. So I have this one question that I really, really, have always wanted to ask you. So... [pause], what's it really like to work with Bill Hybels? Is it as cool as I imagine? I mean... you must be so honored to have worked with him...." [gushing about Hybels continues on through the entire lunch].

An open letter to the Time Zones

Dear Time Zones,

We need to have a little talk. You see, 5:30 a.m. may be a good time to wake up normally, but because of YOU, it's 2:30 a.m. here in California. This is unacceptable.

So here's the deal: I'm going to try to explain this to my body. If it doesn't listen by tomorrow night, I'm just going to ignore all of you. You heard me, I will ignore each and every one of you.

So, I suggest you put in a good word for me and get this worked out soon OR you are dead to me. Hear me? DEAD TO ME!



Saturday, April 09, 2011

Everybody's Normal

Normal is good.

So today I flew to California to take a few days to study Menlo Park Church and, more specifically, to have lunch with John Ortberg. The flights were good... but man... I'm not sure you can cram many more people into that space. Sheesh.

By the way... my administrator rocks. She did all the logistics: booked my flight, car and room; and handed me a folder with all my stuff (in order) that I would need. She even included a sheet of bonus material, including an excellent Indian restaurant which I tried tonight. I can't tell you how much I hate doing that stuff... what a great gift to me. I don't want to post her name, but you Central people know who I'm talkin' about. Well done! Go give that girl a hug!

Tonight I went to the Saturday evening service at Menlo. I plan to go to 5 worship services this weekend: tonight, 3 on Sunday (including their satellite campuses) and their Sunday night "next gen." service.

Full Disclosure: It. Was. Not. What. I. Expected.

First, it's a traditional presbyterian church. Yes, they installed lights, screens and cameras.... but it feels "small church" in every way (Granted, it probably holds 700?) John's name is on the little sign out front. A lot of older people. I came early (of course), went around beforehand and just struck up conversations with people asking about Menlo from an insider's perspective.

They talked about it like it was the church down the street.

And what surprised me is that they talked about John just like he was another pastor.

This is very different from my other experience with John, which was while he was at Willow. Willow, by its sheer size and prominence, breeds a kind of "unapproachable pastor" aura. The pastors are the people on the stage. They are celebrities. Now, I'm not saying they are arrogant or even that they reinforce this image... but the medium is the message in this case. Put a person on stage in front of 7,000 people with their image on two huge jumbotrons... and you just can't help it.

John is a normal pastor here. He stood down front and talked with one or two people after the service... just like I do. People didn't crowd around him to get his autograph. (This is different from my common experience at Central, of course... where people clamber to get my autograph).

Actually, I spoke with 3 people for some time before the service and the first two people I met said, "Honestly, I'm not crazy about John's preaching. I liked the last guy."


So honestly, this makes me feel better about my life. Because, if John can't please everyone... man... I'm not sure who can.

With rare exceptions (none of which I can even think of right now, so maybe it's "without exception"), I have never visited a church and wished I was the pastor there. I love Central. I love my community. Yes, there are days when I have wondered if it was time to move on. Yes, there are days when I'm sure Central wonders that as well!

But the grass is not greener on the other side.

Even if you are a famous author.

Or if you are in a church and you get a new pastor who is a famous author.

Leaving, on a jet plane...

So I'm sitting in the Columbus Airport at AA gate 32. My flight doesn't leave for an hour, but I'm one of those, "get-to-the-airport-really-early-so-you-can- leisurely-stroll-to-the-gate-and-watch-the-people-who-show-up-5-mintues-before-boarding-run-like-their-hair-is-on-fire" kind of guys.

I'm actually flying to California to have lunch with John Ortberg (see previous post). I'm also visiting their other sites to see if I can get a better sense of how they do the multisite thing. Turns out I also get to attend an meeting of the executive team to do some strategic planning, meet with some staff and attend a creative team meeting. I'm pretty excited.

People have asked me if I'm nervous or if I fear anything about meeting him. Honestly, what I fear most is being perceived as a stalker. I mean, really -- I'm flying to California JUST to have lunch with this guy.

I actually think I have a healthy perspective on "celebrity." Plain truth -- in many ways John has been my pastor and mentor through his writing. (Pastors don't get a lot of pastors as we are usually pretty busy on Sundays.) I respect him a great deal. But although I deeply respect John, I really am not all that star struck.

Although, just for fun, my wife and I began a list of "Top 10 ways to make this lunch really, really, uncomfortable for John."

# 10. Have a shirt made with his head on it (older Central folks, think of the Aaron S. floating head shirt). Have something printed on the back like, "I [heart] John Ortberg."

#9. Bring a stack of his books (yes, I own all of them-- and a couple I have multiple copies) along with a pen to the lunch. Ask him to sign them all, "To my best friend Paul. I will never forget this wonderful day together. Let's do lunch again! Love, your friend, John."

#8. Bring a photographer along and stage random "grip and grin" photo ops. At various points throughout the afternoon, just throw my arm around him and smile. [FLASH!]

#7. Pull a picture out of my wallet and say, "Here's a favorite one I have of you and your family on that secluded beach. I had to use a really big zoom lens but eventually I worked my way closer."

I have a couple of more, but the plane is here. Time to fly.

But feel free to add to these. I would love your ideas. BTW, his wife nancy is joining us, so I also thought about asking for really explicit marital advice....

Saturday, April 02, 2011

One year.

Today is the one-year anniversary of my dad's death. Oddly enough, this morning I woke up at 5:32 am, the time my mom called to tell me dad died. I suspect the day will pretty much be as it is most weekends: House of Breakfast date with my daughter, work during the afternoon, Saturday evening service, dinner and hang out with Laura in the evening. And as of right now, I don't feel particularly sad or melancholy. But there is no doubt that my life is not as rich as it was when dad was around.

I hear my daughter talking. It's time for a date. Because everyone needs a secret store.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

"If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world."

CS Lewis

Friday, March 18, 2011


I've been struggling lately with dizziness. I had a bunch of test done and the best they can determine is that my blood pressure is high pretty consistently.

I've never been good at self care. Truth is, I've always been overweight. My tendency is to always put other people's needs before mine. I have a somewhat stressful job and I stress eat. There have been seasons of my life where I have exercised pretty regularly, but not lately. Really, this past year or so has been exceptionally bad in terms of self care and this has been especially true lately, on multiple levels.

So my doctor put me on blood pressure medication while I try to bring it down naturally. Honestly, I feel like a failure. I feel really, really old. Defeated. For some reason this doesn't feel motivating to me ("Wow, now I really need to make those changes!"), but more of a nail in the coffin. It has had a profoundly negative effect on my self perception. So yeah.

All of this could be a really long blog post. One that is probably a lot more personal than I want to make it, so that is pretty much it for now.

Except to say that I found the #1 side effect of the blood pressure meds very humorous:


Friday, March 11, 2011

Hearing God

"I truly believe that the onslaught of social media, constant barrage of text messages, unlimited interruptions by email and the perpetual buzzing of a cell phone…has created such a wall of sound in our lives…that we can no longer can hear from God. In the 21st Century the quest for food is no longer the driving force that pulls us from our quest for God. What pulls us from our quest for God is the quest for…connectivity. We get distracted from connecting with God to connect with our families through texting, our friends through Facebook and the world through Twitter. We allow our churches to pay for retreats, conferences and events for us to connect with God…yet commit the sin of poor stewardship by spending the entire time with our thumbs flailing on the smartphone keyboard. We stand in the pulpit and declare that God has given us a vision and word…yet we never actually hear it because we fail to shut off the computer, smartphone, e-reader or electronic tablet. We lay awake in fear at night worrying if we are leading our congregations down the wrong road…but not in enough fear to block out the beeps, buzzes, ring tones and pop-up screens."

Chris Elrod

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Happy New Year, Dad.

We miss you.