u t h p s t r
in His grip, thankfully!

Apr
08

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     so here i am in lancaster, pennsylvania on a research and reading week.  i’m spending some time with walt mueller and derek melleby talking about culture, ministry to young adults, discernment, worldview and more.  the hope is to start to put a framework around some of the thinking i want to do in able to bring back some structure and best practices to harderwyk.

     driving around the outskirts of the town on the way to my hotel, this is nothing like i would have imagined.  i had a much more rural and pastoral image in mind instead of the hustle and bustle that i’ve seen. now maybe that’s just the route i took to get here, but when i thought of lancaster, pennsylvania what DIDN’T come to mind was outlet malls, music halls [with the beach boys performing last night], strip malls on every corner and a huge amount of over-commercialization.

     i imagined something simpler, something more relaxing and something that would bring peace to my soul from the surrounding area.  was i expecting too much?

     in our crazy, encroached, pressured and tempting world, people like the Amish and places like I imagined Lancaster to be, seem like a touchpoint to the past and an idyllic way of living, at least for a short time. but that’s not the case here and it’s not the case really in this world.

     oh we can take a retreat, vacation or sabbatical and intentionally find places of quiet rest, but in general, the world is moving and sin and culture will always be pushing against grace and biblical truth.  so what do we do?

     over the last week i’ve read the book “prodigal God” by tim keller and am 1/3rd of the way through listening to eric metaxas’ book “bonhoeffer: pastor, martyr, prophet, spy”.  both of these books are running around in my head and though the picture isn’t clear yet, the phrase “gracious, generous engagement” is running through my mind.

     this phrase might be the way that we begin the journey of working on the areas i’m dreaming about on my sabbatical: reclaiming young adults, helping parents become faith agents and encouraging the church to be an adoptive and inclusive body.  this might be the attitude and action we do to push back against the encroachment and take back things for God that were given to us and we’ve let go.

     as i listen to the book on dietrich bonhoeffer, his time and ours aren’t that different.  no, we don’t have an imposing nazi regime breathing down our necks, but we do have a time of flimsy theology, weak faith, cultural morass and many who feel like the church is outdated, outmoded and must change to be tolerant and accepting of any and everything.

     the way i would have looked at this in the past, would be to dig in my heals, marshal my thinking in fundamentalist/ultra-conservative ways and turn everything black and white.  you’re either on the side of truth or your on the side of sin.  but i’m starting to think that there might be a better way, a more Christ-like way and one that takes a different position between dogma and grace.  we have the truth of scripture and the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ but when we look at how we’ve preached it and presented it, we might have lost the attitude and candor of the way Christ presented his message. he didn’t tolerate sin, but he didn’t bash, hurt and demean people who either didn’t want to listen, didn’t want to accept or who were outright hostile towards him.

     he showed a better way of engaging that was gracious and generous and it’s a way we need to develop in ourselves and our relationships!

     there are big issues in this world that christians will have to wrestle with in our lives and in the lives of those we love and come in contact with: abortion, alcoholism, homosexuality, justice for the poor, racism, divorce, adoption, gay marriage and many more.  these issues involve people, lives and many tremendously difficult circumstances with people we truly love.  and in the bigger picture of our nation and our culture, my guess is that they won’t go away or go our way.  we already live in a society with abortion on demand, homosexual marriage will eventually become available everywhere and many other issues will come and enter into our national experience that go against what we believe to be true based on God’s word.

     so do we keep fighting in the way that makes us become like the westboro baptist church and completely remove us from any ability to speak into issues, or do we find a better, more gracious and generous ways to engage this culture and our country in a dialog that speaks the truth from God’s word and keep the doors open to listen, learn and be available to anyone who wants to work together to talk about these things.

     i’m inspired by the life of bonhoeffer and how he realized the cost of what it means to be a disciple [my next book purchase needs to be “the cost of discipleship” by bonhoeffer] and i’m inspired that he could be a man of deep relationship with Jesus, hold unswervingly to the truth of the bible but yet still be able to listen too those who were completely opposed to that truth and be loving and gracious to them.  i have a LOT more thinking, reading and discussions to have on this!

     i want to be that kind of generous man and i want to think in these ways as we work with our children, students and young adults to help them take hold of God’s truth and graciously carry it into their lives in God’s world no matter where they go.

pax: ty

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Mar
24

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     so with one week of work left and 16 weeks of sabbatical on the horizon, i’m realizing that an important skill that will be necessary for my time away i’m also completely unprepared for and haven’t thought much about…

unplugging • how to disconnect electronically and personally.

     last night we had dinner with good friends, one of whom has taken a sabbatical and helped make mine a reality. as we were talking, he asked if he could help me with shutting down my email and phone so i could really “unplug” during my time away. all of a sudden i started getting a little anxious about not being in constant contact, knowing what’s going on and trying to always be in-the-know. that made me realize that oops, i really haven’t prepared myself and my habits for the importance of temporarily separating myself from harderwyk and from all of the electronic noise [email, texts, facebook, etc.] so that i can really focus, rest and renew. ultimately that’s the point of the sabbatical: rest and renewal that comes from being able to see and hear from God.

     so, i’m gonna jump in and stretch myself by and cut the electronic tethers that are really such a waste of time and focus in my life.  what does that look like?

  • leave my iPad and laptop at home.
  • use a throw away phone for communication.
  • set up email to notify people not to expect hearing back from me until july.
  • minimize my time with things like facebook and twitter while keeping off my laptop and iPad.

     there you have it, not a perfect plan, but an intent to not be distracted, not be connected and use this amazing gift for the intent it was given.

     i would also like to ask your help in a couple of ways. first, please help hold me accountable if you notice me not living up to this or if you see me on line or lurking around harderwyk. [except the community garden, which is part of my plan to unwind].  tell me to get off line, go away and keep focused.  second, please be gracious with me when you don’t hear from me during this time and try to hold off on contacting me until i get back. 

     part of this is a trust issue as well. trust that God is more than able to take care of things without me, trust that i will find him in the silence and that i can be content with being unplugged. sometimes i think there is a level of comfort or distraction that comes in all the noise that i allow into my life.  so now as i begin that silence, quiet and the break from the distraction, i have to trust that i’ll be up for the challenge of what i hear from God when i am taking the opportunity to listen and reflect.

pax: ty

 

 

 

Mar
11

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i’m pretty excited today. why?

because three weeks from today i will officially be on sabbatical [sabbath rest] from my position at harderwyk ministries as youth pastor.  my prayer on this coming time away, that like my garden plot from last summer: life will grow and renew what God intends to flourish.

i’m starting to read through a preparation book and the word that keeps coming up and makes me keep thinking to myself, well duh, is sabbath.  that is where the word sabbatical comes from originally.

sabbath, rest, change of pace, renewal.

all of these terms resonate right now, but not because i feel like i need a vacation. [those are always nice, but not what i’m looking for out of this time i’ve been granted] i’m looking for renewal, a new rhythm for a time, a chance to get away from the constant noise, the normal routine and the pace of moving always from one event, one meeting, one lesson and one sermon to the next.

i LOVE what i do, but i’ve felt that if i want to continue to be able to do this, a rest and sabbath will have to come.  and now it has!

i’m very excited about heading into a different pace and experience than i’m used to and i’m very excited about coming back to a place that has very much become my home and my family.  it’s hard to believe that i have 16 weeks to travel, dream, read, plan, interview people, hike, learn, write, kayak, garden and rest.

excited to return and be refreshed and ready for another 12 years serving and being engaged in what God has in store for harderwyk and this little corner of holland, michigan.

i started down the road of ministry when i was asked to be a volunteer youth leader long beach christian reformed church,when i was just barely 21.  that means i’ve been doing ministry for almost 27 years, more than half of my life. [i would say adult life, but if you know me, adult is a word that doesn’t always quite fit for me!]  i would have never dreamed that 27 years later i would be a seminary graduate, living in holland, michigan, still be in full time ministry, let alone 20 years as a paid youth pastor and nearly 12 years serving the same church. if that isn’t something that could only happen through the power and grace of God, then I don’t know what is!

so the dream is to gain some perspective and some practical insight on how to do ministry in these three areas and then bring those ideas and dreams back to those i work and live with here at harderwyk and see where God will give us traction and action.

  • ministry to emerging adulthood • mid [18] to late adolescents [28].  engage with and empower this age group to be active in church by use of their gifts and empowering them to serve, develop ministries and lead where gifted.
  • 5 to 1 plan of mentoring and intentional investment to students. engage the church to become a group that adopts, nurtures, invests and raises up students [and everyone]  for a lifetime of faithfulness and service in the kingdom.
  • developing sticky faith families.  work with and train parents to understand the new cultural and developmental shifts that affect their children and how they are brought up to be fully devoted followers of Christ.  bring back the research and methodology to work with children’s ministries to enhance and strengthen our plan of interaction, training and encouragement of parents.

please pray, that God will allow me hear him differently and passionate when the normal noise goes away and i can hear from new voices and new experiences that will feed the dream for what is next to come.  and i mean that.  i would be honored if you would pray, that this time will be blessed by God and i will make use of this gift of renewal to sustain myself for the ministry yet to come!

so if you want to follow along while i share where and what i’m doing during this time, please feel free.  i don’t know how interactive i’ll be, but i’ll be honest and i’ll be regular about putting my thoughts and questions on here so that i’m keeping record of how i see God leading me during this time and what’s going to come from it all.

no guarantees, but if you want to find me from april 1st to july 21st, the two best places will be in the community garden out by the harderwyk woods or kayking around the pigeon river up near port sheldon. i’ll be the guy smoking my new pipe [a sabbatical gift from an elder friend of mine.] must be that i’m getting old if i start smoking a pipe!

pax: ty

Oct
16

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so my sabbatical journey begins officially today!  why?

because at our church council meeting last night, my 11 page plan [that i’ve been working on for almost a year now] was approved and financially supported. so now i’m will be starting a journey to breath, research, rest, gain some perspective and enjoy my family in a different way for 16 weeks this spring and summer.

i’m amazed, pumped and humbled all at the same time. why?

because after 11 years at my church, they have given me a huge gift in sending me away and not making me have to beg for all the money.  they are investing in me and the ministry that God has called me to in their midst!  that speaks volumes.  it even made me start tearing up when the shock of it all set in.  dawn started crying again to when i explained the details to her.  it even means more when you look at the last few years we’ve had at our church: conflict, spiritual warfare, miscommunication and in general a very difficult and exhausting place to do ministry.  but God is good and harderwyk has been a wonderful place.  it’s my home and my family and now i get to study and grow so that i can [with God’s help and leading] dream new dreams and refresh for the next 11 years serving my church.

so this will be my spot to start sharing what will be going on with my sabbatical: my plans, thinking, reading, conversations, experiences, funny stories and communications back to harderwyk from these first days of preparation all the way to my time re-engaging the congregation when i return.

so here are a few details…

  • they journey begins on april 1st. that is 5 and 1/2 month away. yikes!
  • i am planning three major conventions and at least a dozen in-depth conversations with cutting edge youth ministry leaders, thinkers and researchers.
  • i have a stack of over 20 books to read.
  • i told ella that we get to go camping, spend time california, do beach week at holland state park, spend time in a cabin, go back to mackinaw island and go to two different friends cottages.  she thought that sounded like the best summer every and i got a very big hug.  meg won’t really realize what is going on yet.
  • i get to be a volunteer! i’m planing time to go to roseland, my old camp and lagrave crc’s service site and just be a little helper.  not lead, not plan, not be responsible for anything more than my self and what i can do.
  • in my travels i get to have some fun doing some stuff i like to do.  time in gettysburg seeing all the historical sites, a few train museums and displays around the country, hiking, fishing, camping, kayaking, eating and catching up with friends.

so that you don’t think it’s gonna be just one big party, there are three action plans i will be developing and returning to my church with to implement. wanna see my goals?

  • ministry to emerging adulthood • mid [18] to late adolescents [28].  engage with and empower this age group to be active in church by use of their gifts and empowering them to serve, develop ministries and lead where gifted.
  • 5 to 1 plan of mentoring and intentional investment to students. engage the church to become a group that nurture, invests and raise up students for a lifetime of faithfulness and service in the kingdom.
  • developing sticky faith families.  work with and train parents to understand the new cultural and developmental shifts that affect their children and how they are brought up to be fully devoted followers of Christ.  bring back the research and methodology to work with children’s ministries to enhance and strengthen our plan of interaction, training and encouragement of parents.

so all in all, this is a blessing beyond what i was hoping for and a shot in the arm after a long year both at home and at work!  let see what God will allow me to do with this amazing gift!  keep watching for more to come.

pax:  ty

Feb
24

i realized we have a big crybaby in our house these last months, and it’s me!  this morning i’ve been feeling sorry for myself because i’m still a little congested, ella is coughing up a storm and had a bad runny nose, and blah, blah, blah.

then driving to my office i realized: shut up, you’re pathetic.  the list of reasons for me to be pissy lately would be laughable at best or rage inducing at worst to anyone with real problems.  and really what is this self-pity and melancholy about?  i think it’s about the very thing that walt mueller was here talking about last weekend:  narcissism • the love of self.  i’ve getting mopey because i don’t get to do what i want when i want to as much anymore.  waaaaa!

it’s time to suck it up and realize that it’s not about me, my way and my agenda. life has changed in overwhelmingly good ways in the last 5 years but it means i’ve needed to change along with it.  sometimes my changing and acceptance of the changes has lagged very far behind. when i look at it, i have no real problems in the bigger picture.

a wonderful and loving wife • healthy and energetic little girl • job • house • faith • a God who opens my eyes to my stupidity • friends • and on and on i could go with what God has handed me despite myself.

the things that matter, my soul, my faith, my family, my wife are things that endure over these little bumps and i need a major attitude adjustment.  no here is the hard part, changing my outlook so that i stop living like a crybaby and start living like someone who’s got the hope of Christ living in them.

it’s go time!

pax:  ty

Oct
14

it’s so very hard to believe that our little ella will be six months old tomorrow.  it’s also hard to believe that it wasn’t that long ago that i was single and had not met dawn. [yeah i know it’s 4 1/2 years but it doesn’t feel that long]

the pace of life is kinda a blur now and although it is so very good, there are some days where it’s just been feeling like you’re watching it go by without participating.  with dawn teaching, me trying to get everything done in 4 days to take care of ella on fridays and then just trying to be a family together, the blur factor has really hit hard.

i’m happy that dawn loves her job and that ella is doing well at day care, but there is a part of me that would like to go back 50 years to a time when there wasn’t a need for two breadwinners in the house and that one of us could be home with ella all the time.  and yes, i would prefer that to be dawn!  but life is very different now and the ability to cope with it and adjust to it is necessary.  and all the time working on making sure that my two girls get some of my very best time, love and attention.

happy half birthday ella!

ella the tiger's fan!

ella the tiger’s fan!

pax: ty

Apr
25

so we have had ella home now for a week today!   what an incredible amount of joy this precious little girl has brought to our family already.  it’s even strange saying the word family because even though dawn and i were a family all along, the addition of ella has added so many new dimensions to that word.  pretty cool.  as new parents we are being psycho [in actually many ways] about each smile, burp, facial expression, poo and other thing that she does.  i’m snapping a million pictures and we’re both in awe of what God does in making little ones.

but there have been tears too!

with all of the emotions running so high taking care of something so fragile [actually not as much as we think but we don’t know any better yet!] we’ve both been on edge and tears have come much easier lately.  and it’s not just dawn.  i’ve cried holding her, cried about live, cried about dumb stuff and been ok with it all.  i learning it’s a part of how i’m wired to be a dad i guess.  and it’s a good thing.  being tender for my wife and for my daughter shows them a deeper kind of love, a different expression of strength and lets them know how much i care about them dearly!

and then the timebombs…

i start getting an impending sense of doom after dinner each night.  the closer the clock gets to 9 the more i get stressed and anxious.  why, you ask?  sleepy time for ella.  actually, not putting her down.  she does that ok.  it’s the staying down that she needs to learn how to do.  bath, nurse, wrap, rock and paci and she “SHOULD” be good to go.  but she’s still flip flopped days and nights so she’s not with the plan yet [or maybe it’s we who need to realize it’s about her plan?]  anywho, most nights have sucked from a sleep and stress standpoint.  it’s like we are laying in bed for a bomb to explode each night.  it all starts with a few whimpers and then escalates rapidly to full on eardrum shattering wailing of an unhappy newborn.  the timebomb has been happening from her inability to calm herself, sleep, dirty diaper or whatever else she’s not happy about.  the timebomb has happened at every hour of the night and has been pretty consistent as far as every night.  it’s a phase, i know, but wow does it take a toll on you fast and deplete every energy reserve you had stored up.  oh, and i’m back to drinking caffeine again.  in coffee, pop and whatever else.  shoot, i’d even sprinkle it on food it it would help!

the nice thing is that last night, i got nearly 6 un-interupted hours of sleep.  i didn’t hear dawn get up at two so i was out from about 10 to 4 last night and then out again from 4 to 5:30.  that’s about 7ish hour of sleep!

and then when the light of day comes.  this little precious beast will turn back into being nothing but precious.  until dinner time.

when the countdown begins again!

pax: ty

ps.  we’ve put more pictures on the flikr page…

http://www.flickr.com/photos/uthpstr/

Apr
20

after our 5 day doctor check-up, ella is perfect in every way that they can tell.  she gained back weight and weighs 6 lbs 8.5 oz.  they said they haven’t seen a 5 day old look this good in a long time!  we’re so incredibly excited and blessed.  add to that a night with much less crying and fussing [by daddy too!] and some ability to sleep in spurts and you have a very good day today.

it’s amazing to see her and not keep thinking that God does the very best work and put his fingerprints all over her.  anyone who thinks there is no God is a fool!  creation, birth and the world around us is far to marvelous and wonderful to not see him clearly in it all.

pax: ty

Apr
19

there have been several significant moments in my world in the last few days since ella’s birth.

the one i’m thinking about right now is how my world just shrank considerably.  i doubt it’s permanent, but for the moment it’s very tangible.  this house, and our living room to be more precise, is our world for the time being.  it’s a very strange feeling.

not that dawn and i were people that were out on the town all the time or go getters who were heading off to the gym, jogging, visiting friends or a number of activities.  but there was a level and sense of freedom and spontaneity that existed even if we didn’t take full advantage of it.  there were also just the two of us, who could easily take care of ourselves or the other one. and when we did we did it because we got to, not had to.  that’s a loving, fun way to live.

right now, that’s all gone.  not bad, but gone.  ella matters, dawn matters, our family of three matters and every thing beyond that is blurry and out of focus. not only do we “get to” take care of ella, we have to or else she wouldn’t make it. we still have to figure out what parenting means, how not to make life-threatening mistakes, routines for a newborn [if possible] and what it’s like to care for each other when we have to focus on caring for ella’s survival.

weighty thoughts but not oppressive.  but when you couple it with a small crowded house and dreary, rainy day, it’s definitely a new feeling and experience for my life.

and that’s a good thing!  so would be some sunshine too.

pax: ty

Apr
17

ok, so i  want to state it officially…

there was no place i would have rather been than with dawn having her c-sections while having ella!

i thought i would be squeamish, i thought it would be too messy, i thought i would pass out.  but it was great and i couldn’t imagine being anywhere other than being right by her side. it’s right where i was suppose to be and it didn’t phase me.  granted i didn’t see much of the icky parts, but God was good and kept me from freaking out and kept both of us calm all morning.  i even manned up and cut ella’s cord!

so i’m eating my own words, happily!  not it’s time to go see my girls.

pax: ty

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