Gossip Girls
Oct14

Gossip Girls

As I walk the last of our dinner guests out to his car and wave goodbye, my attention is stolen  by my giant stirring neighbors. It’s both unseasonably warm and unseasonably windy on this mid-October eve. The Oaks and Maples are passing not-so-hushed messages to one another in the melancholy moonlight. There seems to be a story in the wind. Apparently everyone knows it but me. Even the wind chime at 317 knows—there’s no denying that wistful airy tune. Instead of going back in the house, I decide to indulge my curiosity and eavesdrop a bit with an innocent walk around the block. I overhear dozens of conversations, but they’re all talking over each other. Blustering. Gesturing. Their looks are as muddled as their words. Like a hairdresser who’s ready for bed, all the bold colors these girls flashed during the day are gone. The reds and golds, and even the greens and browns are completely imperceptible at this time of night. Their entire mass ripples and vacillates between nearly identical shades of gray and silver. Every one of them is in an uproar. Stress will age you prematurely. The proof is right here in front of me. Thousands of green leaves that had no business falling for another week or two pepper every yard and car in our neighborhood. The fuss continues, but as I round the corner toward home, I’m no more informed than I was when I began. My stroll isn’t entirely fruitless however. I’ve discovered something even more valuable than their secret. Inspiration. And that’s definitely worth the walk. photo...

Read More
Small grouping it up!
Jul17

Small grouping it up!

This fall is going to be great season in our family’s life for a lot of reasons. Yes, we’re out of our minds excited to welcome a new little life into our home. I cannot wait to meet this kid!!! The girls are happy and excited too. We don’t have long to go now, and it’s getting REAL!! We have all the baby stuff ready. We have names picked out. Let’s hold that baby!! 🙂 On top of that, Clemmy and I are going to be leading two amazing small groups come September. We’ll be stepping into a leadership role in the group we’re in currently, and in addition, we just met with a handful of great brothers and sisters in Christ that will compose the core of a new group we’ll be launching when summer ends. The more time I spend with my small groups, the more I love being part of them. I know not all groups are sunshine and roses, and ours isn’t always either, but I can honestly say I’ve never been more excited about my faith journey than I am right now, and the wonderful people in these two groups are a big part of that. Because I’m so excited about these groups, I’ve been devouring information about what makes a healthy group, how to lead well, how to deal with common issues, etc. One of the books I’m reading right now that has done more than anything to shape my mindset regarding small groups isn’t even a book about small groups (per se). It’s called “Reimagining Church” by Frank Viola, and it’s all about analyzing and defining what the body of Christ looked like in the early church, and how we can translate that into our lives today. It’s really blowing my mind, and it’s shaping so much of my philosophy when it comes to group life. For those of you who love small groups and  may be considering leadership, I wanted to post the text of a handout I gave my new group this past week. This group will probably look quite a bit different than other groups I’ve joined and led, but these are the ideas and the format that has yielded the best results in my experience. So take a look, leave a comment, ask a question, and let me know what you think 🙂 photo...

Read More
Fire Hydrants, Magicians, Toppers, and Wikipedias
Apr01

Fire Hydrants, Magicians, Toppers, and Wikipedias

We had simply said yes to a friendly dinner invitation—I had no idea SHE was going to be there. We walked through the door and immediately into the line of fire. From the moment we entered the kitchen, this friend of our hostess bombarded us with unbelievable stories, unsolicited advice, unremarkable trivia, and unyielding domination of the “conversation.” At one point, Clemmy decided not to give a verbal response for 10 whole minutes to see if it would have any effect on the torrent of gab gushing our way. It didn’t. For real. Zero. I like to call people like that “Fire Hydrants.” They’re a constant stream of verbosity. But they’re just one colorful member of the motley crew I’ll profile in this post. Whether they’re Fire Hydrants, Toppers, Wikipedias, or Magicians, we all know people like the lady at dinner that night—people who talk way too much. They have NO conscience about verbally vomiting all over anyone in a 3-6 foot radius. Right now, Pastor Rex is preaching a series about dealing with difficult people. I wish he included major league talkers in his list, but since he didn’t, I’m going to open the conversation here 🙂 So even if you don’t have a Fire Hydrant in your life, I’m guessing that between your job, your family, your small group, or your circles of friends, you can put a face to one of these delightful caricatures: The Magician The Magician is first and foremost an entertainer. He enlists the help of ordinary volunteers, and they help him put on a performance. Sure, he’ll ask you a question or two, and you may feel like you’re part of the conversation, but the idea is to get you to say something that he can build a show around. It doesn’t have to be a story for him to top…any old noun will be enough fodder for him to put on a fabulous feat of verbal prestidigitation. “You have a house? That reminds me of the time I was in a house that was collapsing. Come to think of it, it wasn’t a house actually, it was mountain. It was during the summer I spent in Saipan…” And this is actually pretty cool for the first story or two. After that, you kind of get the same feeling as when you’re at your niece’s middle school play. You know you’re supposed to think it’s awesome, and it was cute for like 10 minutes, but now you just want to go home. Aha—but there’s always another trick up the Magician’s sleeve! The Wikipedia It’s as if this person swallowed Wikipedia. Or the Bible. Or...

Read More
You’re killing me
Mar16

You’re killing me

Once my friend Tony told me about a time when he almost drowned in the Pacific ocean. He was out swimming near a stretch of natural shoreline with a friend, and the two of them got caught in a riptide and began to be pulled out to sea. Tony realized what was happening and tried to keep his cool, but the girl who was with him panicked. There were no lifeguards nearby and no one within earshot who could save them. No matter how Tony tried to calm her, her panic level seemed to multiply by the second. She began screaming and crying and flailing against the water. It got so bad that at one point she grabbed onto Tony and literally began to climb onto him for security. In her hysteria she began to cause Tony to go under. Tony said he actually thought she was going to kill him. In his own terror and primal drive for survival, Tony turned in the water and with every ounce of energy his adrenaline-infused frame could muster, he punched her square in the face as hard as he could—nearly knocking her out cold. As a matter of fact, he dazed her enough that he was able to get free of her grasp and begin to pull her in toward shore. With every stroke, his muscles burned deeper and his strength faded a little more. Tony prayed for strength and finally for an impossible rescue. Despite his very best efforts, Tony couldn’t save himself or his friend that day. He blacked out while they were still far from land. When he woke up, they were both on the beach—alive. To this day, he can’t recall what happened between the time he blacked out and the time he woke up. I thought about that story tonight because lately it seems like I’m hearing so many stories like this one. But they’re not happening in the ocean. They’re happening at home. Sometimes in life we find ourselves way too far out to sea. We thought we were having fun, but somehow we got caught in a riptide, and just like that, s*** got real. We’re not smiling anymore, and suddenly we genuinely begin to doubt if we’re actually going to make it back alive. We go into panic mode. Survival mode. No one close to us is safe because we’ll do whatever we need to do to survive. It may mean drowning the person who is closest to us—dragging them down so we can lift ourselves up. It may mean hitting them back with everything we have—not because we hate them or want...

Read More

Comeback

I’ve been out of the blog game for a while. In reality, I haven’t posted very much at all in the past year or so, but that doesn’t mean I’ve had nothing to share. It seems that for some reason, I’ve needed more time lately to let things settle before I go blasting out a fiery post. At this point, the topics that are ready for press are a bit daunting—Hurricane Irene and the flooding of our home, my courtship and engagement to a wonderful woman, and New York State legalizing gay marriage. In the last year, my daughters have grown older, and loved ones have passed on. I’ve learned lessons about shame and regret, pride and humility, happiness and contentment, faith and fear. I have new thoughts about tolerance and acceptance, love and passion, heaven and hell. It’s all going to come out on the table here in the comeback. Be warned, though—time spent in the slow cooker doesn’t mean everything has turned to mush. In fact, instead of a slow cooker, I’d say a still is a better analogy. What will come out is going to be strong. I plan to write posts that are both candid and succinct. I’m hoping to stir up some good discussion without necessarily offending anyone, but I’m not quite sure that’s possible given the ground I plan to cover. To you, my faithful reading friends, I appreciate your attention after such a long lapse, and I look forward to hearing your ever-enlightening reactions and responses. So keep an eye out for my next post. It won’t be long...

Read More

Languages of Loooooove

Right now at church we’re in this series called “The Language of Love.” It’s based on Dr. Gary Chapman’s bestselling book “The 5 Love Languages.” When I read this book about 5 years ago, it really blew my mind. Somehow I had gone through life with the idea that everyone either was like me, or should be trying to be like me. Not sure how that happened, but as you can probably imagine, life didn’t let me retain the point of view too far into adulthood. I came to realize that people feel differently, communicate differently, process information differently, take action differently, even ordering at the drive-through window can be done with WILDLY differing technique (my brother Fip who used to work the window at Sbx once bestowed on me the crown of worst drive-through window customer ever. Grr. What’s wrong with slowing things down a little?!? Anyway). You name it, chances are most people do it differently than me. This revelation breaks on me on a pretty regular basis now. At work. With my family. With friends. But the first time I really really got it was when I read this book. It really opened up my mind to understand that people generally feel and understand love in enormously different ways. My primary love language is quality time. I put that on a priority above just about everything else. Showing love to the people who are closest to me is a really big deal to me, and for the longest time, pretty much the only way that I did that was with quality time. More recently, after reading this book, I’ve realized that while quality time is nice and good for everyone, it’s not as big of a deal for some people as it is for me. Wash my car, and I’ll be thankful, sure. But play a game of basketball with me or go out for a meal, and that’s something that really means something to me. By the same token, I’ve come to realize that no matter how many game nights or movie nights or whatever I plan with my family, it may all pale in comparison to the love they feel from one genuinely appreciative comment, or one truly thoughtful gift. If you’re curious about this idea, and you want to find out what YOUR love language is, take a look at this link. It’s a love language assessment. I just took it, and it really reinforced and clarified some ideas for me. It also kind of surprised me as to how things have shifted in my life in the last 5 years, and what...

Read More