Change is Good


Change is the one constant in life and as much as we like things to remain the same, sometime a change is necessary. I am the type of person that likes to change it up.  I need new and fresh as much as I want things to stay the same. I haven’t been blogging on my site for a while because I have wanted to do something different and peruse what I am really passionate about and incorporate that into blogging.

The things I am most passionate about are being a Dad, Men and Leadership  and building community through all of these my belief and faith in God is fully infused.  So starting November 1, 2011, I am moving to a new blog that will merge all of this.  My current blog has been a good one , I did some things I really enjoyed, but it was one I put together when I came back to blogging after taking a break and wasn’t something I put as much effort and thought into.

For the last 3 months I have worked hard to come up with what I really want and so my new blog will reflect all of those things.  If you have followed me here on this blog, let me just say how incredibly thankful I am that you have chosen to follow me as I write here.  I am not the biggest or best, but I do try to provide quality content.  I would be honored if you would continue to follow me at my new blog.

Empire of the One – http://empireoftheone.wordpress.com/

Thursdays you can continue to find me posting at Hardcore Christian Men – http://hardcore-christian.com/

Thank you for your support. I look forward to your comments and feedback as I move forward.


Negativity isn’t really living


Oh the humanity, my day has been ruined because Facebook decided to change its layout.  Today as I read posts and tweets on Facebook and Twitter I saw a ton of negativity around the changes that had been made. It got me thinking to what really matters most in our lives today?

Facebook is a free social media outlet.  It’s F R E E, we don’t pay for it and yet we have the ability to connect with folks from all areas of our life as well as chat online with them.  How sweet is that?  I have no complaints and I appreciate they try to be innovative and change it up every so often.

Crime, poverty, homelessness, murder, drug addiction, prostitution, sex trade industry, porn, addictions,  injustice, mental health, cuts to social services and education, marriages falling apart, child abuse – real wickedness and evil that are present in each and every one of our lives. There is not one person I know who hasn’t been touched in some shape or form by something from that list.

If we are truly followers of Jesus shouldn’t we be caring about things that matter most in life? Shouldn’t we be living out love, extending grace and mercy?  Where is our perspective?  How much time and energy are we putting into making comments about how upset we are over changes to Facebook, yet fail to put that much energy into fighting for things that really matter?  Are we putting that much energy into loving our neighbors as ourselves?  Are we putting that much anger and hatred into the things that destroy lives?  That breaks the heart of God?

We are called to love one another.  Hate should be saved for the things that destroy our world.  Grace is cheap and free and we should never stop extending it.  Unkind words and unkind actions are like ripples in water they permeate far beyond what we can imagine. Mercy – who are we to not give this, for we have been extended mercy time and time again far beyond what we deserve.  It is not my job to judge others but to love them, to stand up and use my voice to silence the evil of this world.

I know the paths I have walked and the evils I have done in this world.  I also know that love, grace and mercy have changed me beyond anything I could every imagine.  Not only does God’s love change us, but the love of those around me.  When I deserved to be kicked to the curb, have it all removed from me and burned at the stake.  what really changed me was being loved even when people didn’t want to.  If it changed me how can I not do the same to others?

We don’t know how much time we have on this earth, only God knows that.  Where are our energies being focused?  Are we really and truly upset because Facebook changed its outlook?  What purpose does negativity serve?  What good does it do to just constantly complain yet never do anything about it?  Rise up, use your voice for things that truly matter, look at all you have been blessed with and give back more than you think you are capable of.  Stop acting like the worst thing possible in your life is Facebook changing its layout.  If that is truly all you have to worry and complain about, you aren’t really living life.  Life is messy; it’s time to get your hands dirty.  Live today as though you were really living.


Popularity that isn’t


Since who knows when the thing a lot of people have wanted was to be popular, to be liked, to feel like they belong.  To know what they say and think is important and heard.  There is nothing like going to school and quickly learning where you stand in the order of the world.

Popularity is something I struggled with growing up and is something I have and will continue work through with my kids.  There is something appealing about being part of the “in-crowd”.  It is glamorized particularly by Hollywood but in so many other realms as well.  If you are not hip, up on all the latest, part of what’s going on right now then obviously you are not cool.

My oldest daughter who just started high school struggled with this in middle school.  She saw the allure of being part of the in crowd and being popular.  After having been through this myself my advice to her was to find some solid, good friends and enjoy the time with them, make memories that will last.  Don’t worry about trying to fit in, once you are out in the real world and living your life it does become less about being popular and more about being comfortable with who you are and how you want to live your life.  Good advice right?

I’ve been contemplating the advice I gave her and our discussions about it.  To some degree I believe there’s a lot of truth in it.  To a degree I wonder if it really never ends.  For me I see this happen at work, ladder climbers who will step on others to get to the top. Always trying to be the best and do things to get them recognized.  There’s always a group of folks who are living it up and seem to be the “in crowd” who have an edge on everyone else.  The neighbors to keep up with the latest toys and gadgets that my kids think are totally awesome.  Trips, parties and the ones who everyone seems to talk about as if they are royalty.   Even in church there seems to be an élite crowd.  I’ve had experiences in churches where I had to compete and prove myself worthy to them.  They won’t talk or acknowledge you on Sundays even when you pass by them, you can come close to touching them and they look right through you.

I feel like that transcends to the online world and social media that I take part in.  If you are a writer or blogger you are trying to promote yourself.  For those that aren’t but engage in it, we project an image.  If you write and write well you get lots of comments, feedback and people will promote you as well as tell others they should read what you have written.   It can be intoxicating, you can feel like a celebrity who is incredibly popular – having a lot of followers and friends can also reinforce this.  The drawback is when you try to engage or take part and feel like you are not part of the conversation or what you had to say or share was completely ignored.

In many realms of life there is always going to be the in-crowd, those who are at the top of the game and seem to gain attention and notoriety.  The are the ones who everyone else talks about, wants to emulate and drops their name whenever theirs an opportunity.  Does all of this matter; I guess that depends on how you look at it.

I believe we are all valuable.  God created and designed us all by his very hands.  He gave purpose and value to us when he brought us into this world.  We all have gifts and talents we can use to impact the world.  No two people were created the same and for good reason.  We are all important and no one is more important than anyone else even though it may seem that way.  Just as a parent looks at each of their children with tremendous love and doesn’t choose favorites instead realizes the uniqueness of each of their children.  I believe God looks at all of us the same way.  While the world may try to tell us that some or more important or valuable than others it’s important to remember as quickly as the latest fad passes is as soon as the person passes.  We are not fads we are God’s handiwork and we matter.

Popularity is a man-made thing and one day that will end.  In the end I come back to having true and lasting friendships.  Using my gifts, talents and the story of my life to reflect what God has done in my life.  I don’t need to worry if I am not the most popular for the things I do have are more valuable than being the “it” person.


The problem with me


True story – I get stuck in the way of allowing God to do the work he needs to do.

Many of us talk about depending on God to get us through, the reality is, it’s just words.  When it comes down to it, we rely on ourselves much more than we rely on God.  Truth be told I would say that many people will come and cry out for God when life isn’t going the way they have it planned.

Most of us live in two worlds, remembering the past – living in our memories and looking towards the future – the hope of better things to come.  We get so busy living in either of these worlds we don’t live in the moment.  We remember how it used to be and hope for how it can be.  What about this very moment, are we living in that, are we fully engaged in present in this very moment.  If we are so busy living in the past or worrying what the future brings how can we enjoy the here and now?

Life seems to get faster and faster and we move in that direction or we get left behind.  We pack our schedules full of work, activities and even church and God things, but does that really allow time for God.  Where and when do we actually engage with God?  Where do we take time to set aside and just be present with God?   It is so easy to fill our lives with so many things we forget God is there.

I am someone who schedules my life out.  I wish it wasn’t always the case but I have my life planned out from month to month.  I have the kids events scheduled for the school year entered into my calendar.  I even have church related activities scheduled in.  I know when my bills are due, when I get paid and when those bills will be paid.  I even have date nights with my wife and kids entered into the schedule.

In doing so my life is planned out, I have it worked out.  I know what’s going to happen from day-to-day.  I can look at my phone or online and see what today is going to bring. In all of this I am learning to trust in myself and what I can do.  I leave little room for God to actually show up and do something.  I am busy relying on me and therein lies the problem.  I am so busy relying on myself and the things I do that I don’t have a need for God.  Honestly it’s what I hate the most.  While God has blessed me with many great skill sets, the one that I lack the most in – making God the priority.  I can say it as much as I want, but unless my actions demonstrate it, that won’t change.

I do have a need for God; I need him to continually pour out his love, guidance, direction and wisdom.  I need him to get through life.  I have tried to do it on my own and all I do is make it a mess.  God has been a part of my life for many years, but my reliance and dependence on him can change like the seasons when it should be the oak tree.  Rooted deeply, strong and standing firm in place.  Unshakeable.

 


Guest Post Tuesday – Nick Maestas


I wash my wounds with tears of hope

I often wondered how I would mold my children as a dad. How badly could I screw it up? You go outside, throw a ball around, go camping, go to a few ballgames…and poof, you’re Superman. I never really had the opportunity to see the blueprint. But I took it upon myself to become my own architect. I looked at fatherhood as a privilege, a blessing, a once in a lifetime opportunity to show my children how to live a happy, meaningful life that others respect. Not having the tools that a father passes down to his child, I feel like I’m going about this blindly. But one thing was for certain-my children would grow up knowing their Heavenly Father.

One thing about being a dad is that you quickly realize that your plan sucks. I learned that when taking our oldest to church with us the first few times when he was still a baby. He was, and still is, a tough boy to please. We officially hold the record for the number of times our number was displayed in the church auditorium. There was one simple solution for this…quit going.

We stopped going to church because it was just simply easier for us to not go than to be interrupted 15 minutes in.

Now our little boy is 2 ½ years old and he can definitely handle it a lot better. We also have a 5 month old who is very easy when it comes to things like well…being in public. He smiles on command and is a hit with the ladies. Both of my boys would do great in a daycare situation now. But the truth is, we still haven’t gone back.

I could be a real terrible dad and blame this on my children for falling so far from God (after 5 hours in a car with them yesterday, it’d be easy to blame anything on them) but I won’t do it. Instead I will look at myself and my commitment to Him. In the time that we weren’t in church, I could have dove into the Word with my wife, worshiped with my son singing hymns with them, but I didn’t. I didn’t step up and be the spiritual leader my family needed me to be.

Now we are left wondering how we fell so far. How our sons have no idea who Jesus is. How we no longer feel the Holy Spirit dwell within us. We have time for concerts, video games, and the internet, but no time for worshipping the One who provided us with a new home, healthy boys, and a job that allows my wife to stay at home.

But how do you dig yourself out of a hole that you put yourself into? How do you get back on track when life itself gets in the way? We found ourselves in the middle of purchasing our first home, having our 2nd child, going to school full-time as well as my full-time work. How do you find time for Christ in the midst of all of the madness?

I guess we take it one Sunday at a time. We open our Bibles a little more each day. We spend a couple of minutes each night in prayer. Until one day…We find ourselves back in the loving arms of the One who was always there.

*I always end each blog with lyrics that somewhat mesh with the theme of my blog. This is from my favorite Christian band-Blindside.

All of Us

As soon as you stepped through my door,
I saw You for the first time all over again.
And time well spent seems
Lonelier than the way it used to go.

As I smell you for the first time all over again
I’ll begin to remember to be alive
So if you don’t mind
I think I’ll wear my heart on my sleeve,
‘Cause I’m tired of not being able to breathe.

All of us are searching for an open arm.
Well, it’s a shame how I curl up in the dark
When it’s the same old word giving me the spark.
All of us are searching for an open arm.
Well, it’s a shame how I curl up in the dark

I’ve felt a loss for some time
I slipped, stumbled, but fell face first
straight into your hand.
Then I hit my head on your palm
And waking up to the smell
Of tears drying up in the sand

All of us are searching for an open arm.
Well, it’s a shame how I curl up in the dark
When it’s the same old word giving me the spark.
All of us are searching for an open arm.
Well, it’s a shame how I curl up in the dark

I washed my wounds with tears of hope.
I washed my wounds with tears of hope.
I just …

 

Nick is a husband and father as well as a follower of Jesus Christ.  He has an intense love of baseball, good music, a good book, and a delicious cup of coffee.  He is an awesome guy who I have been fortunate enough to connected with and have some very real and deep conversations with.  He’s the kind of guy I hope to get to hang out with in person one day.   He strives to live out his life as an example to his children.  On his journey he is trying to live out the best possible story he can.

You can follow Nick on Twitter @nmaestas or check him out on his blog Coming Home – http://nmaestas.wordpress.com/

 


Love after September 11, 2001


There was no one I knew personally who lost his or her life today in those tragic and horrific events.  In my life, I have seen tragic events.  The attempted assassination of President Regan when I was in the 3rd grade, the Space shuttle Challenger exploding as a freshman in high school.  However, nothing has quite shaken me to my core like the events of September 11, 2001.  I attribute this event to what it was for your grandparents when John Kennedy was assassinated and it devastated the world.

That year I woke up just like any other day and went off to work.  Mom was home with Ashleigh, Reece, and Sophie.  I had picked up folks and was headed out to the farm to start the day.  I was out by the Wood Village exit when I turned the station and heard the news.  They did not have enough information so we were just getting breaking news.  I called your mom and woke her up, none of you were awake yet, and I told her to go and turn on the TV and find out what was going on.  I made it to work, turned on the radio, and listened off and on throughout the day to hear more, but because of our jobs, we had to focus on the clients.  The events sounded horrific and like nothing, I could even begin to imagine.  After work was over, I took clients home.  Traffic was really horrible and it took me an extra hour just to finish.  I was going to head to my men’s group, but due to traffic decided I was going to head home.  When I got home none of you were there, mom had taken you to visit your grandparents and I was home by myself.

I turned on the TV and watched repeatedly the events that I had heard described through the radio all day.  I sat there motionless staring, unable to move, tears pouring down my face, sobbing at what was happening before my eyes.  I was shaken to my core in a way I do not know that I can even begin to explain.  To this very day any time I talk about it, close my eyes and see those images I am moved to tears.  Why I have no idea, but there is nothing else I have ever experienced in my life that has had the effect this does.

Here it is 10 years later, so much has changed.  Three more children have joined our family, we have moved, we have international students living with us, we have changed churches twice, you 3 older kids have all been through grade school and are now in middle school and high school.  Life has changed for so many people.

As the days unfolded after the events, for the very first time in my life I was actually proud to be an American.  I saw our country come together, support, love, aid, and comfort and turn back to God, looking for answers to questions that appeared to have no answers for many people.

One thing to be sure of, since that day, much has changed for many people.  I think it made people realize EVIL really is in this world.  EVIL seeks to destroy whatever it can get it hands on.  Bad things happen because sin entered the world years ago when Adam and Eve made the choice to disobey God.  Bad things happen to good people and bad people alike.  No one in this world is immune to the effects of sin.  It is hard to accept and understand many times, but you do not have to live very long to fully understand it.

While I wish, I could protect you from the evils of this world I cannot.  I can tell you it is not fun and on some occasions, it feels like a living hell.  From my experiences, you cannot always make it better.  Time will pass and soon life with throw something else at you that will shake your life.  My hope is that you know and experience love.  Your mom and I love you more than anything in this world.  You were loved and wanted from the beginning and you will be loved and wanted until my dying breath.

Hate is horrible and can destroy people, worlds and nations.  If left unchecked, it has the power to take the very life God breathed into folks.  Hate is all around us, waiting to get its grip on us, to squash the love inside us and motivate us to see and treat people in ways you would never think of.  Hate can taint your view of others, it can cause you to want to lash out and react.  Hate can destroy the very life God distinct hands created for a purpose.  Whatever you do, rid your life of hate.  See all people in the light of God’s eyes.  See them as unique, gifted, talented, and full of hope and purpose; see them as something special to enhance the world in which we live.  Love them with all your might; love them when they are unlovely and despicable.  Love them even harder when you feel even the slightest bit of anger or bitterness creeping up inside.

Your love for another person may be the one thing that changes his or her life forever.  As I reflect back on this day, I am still moved.  I am sorry men held onto hatred so bitter and wicked they took the lives of others.  I am sorry they believed in and followed hatred so strong, the ripple effects of it is still felt today.  Love each other, because after your mom and I are gone, you are all you have of our family.  Take the love your mom and I have for each of you and spread it everywhere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Tired, lonely and …


I’m not sure if it’s the time of year or something larger.  Last year at this time I went through some very painful and tumultuous times.  I disconnected from all forms of connecting with others.   A handful of people I was closest too, ended up not being the support system I thought and had hoped for.  It was as though I wrapped myself in an old quilt and stayed wrapped up.  I passed a significant milestone in my life, it seemed as though things were beginning to change.

Life is truly never what you expect.  The highways we travel along don’t always bring us to some sun drenched golden valley.  Some roads take us to dead ends and take us on a detour.  If feels as though I have been left stranded along the roadside with no one in sight.  The journey I thought I was on has gone awry and I no longer have the internal compass I once believed I did.

I find myself standing here looking all around, holding on to memories in my mind of faces and people I once held firm to and treasured.  Reflecting back I remember feeling a sense of hope, new life being breathed into my soul as we walking and experienced life together.  Traveling down life’s terrain with a companion was much sweeter.  How happy I had become with my new companions, really beginning to feel and experience life.  They would be for me what I would be for them.    I am brought back to the reality it didn’t quite work out that way, those people and relationships left me cold, lonely and longing for more.  The memories weren’t reality; they were a bitter reminder of the reality of it.

I walk for a very long time and look up to the heaven and cry out to God. Hoping the one to whom I have run to in the past when I have been lost will speak.  The clouds will part, the sky will open up and his voice will ring so loudly it will shake my very soul. I continue to walk, feeling once again all alone.  I need him, I know I don’t follow him like I should, I forget the very truths I know.  More times than I can count I choose my own roads believing they will bring me a sense of fulfillment. Along my roads I find the sting of poison, working its way through my entire body.  Each time I venture down these roads the poison hurts less and less.

I remember feeling and being alive at one point, experiencing God in ways word fail me to describe.  That time too has long since passed and for many seasons of life I have manufactured a relationship with him based on what I was told would bring me true joy and happiness, yet has left me feeling empty and alone.   I pass a stream, seeing my reflection, but it isn’t really the man I recognize.  The face I see is dirty, tear-stained, swollen from poisons and toxins, weathered and worn.  Not the face of young boy any more, and not yet like the face of my Grandfather, worn and leathery but full of love, life and wisdom.  For that is the face I hope to see reflected back one day.

I am unsure about which path to take, the path that leads guides and directs my steps is the one northern star I have always been able to return to when I have been lost on my path. The path I long for most leads me to the one who will embrace me in his loving arms, just like my Grandfather did when I was a young boy.  His love will be like a torrential downpour that will wash away all the poison, dirty and pain and when the storm is over, breathe new life into this parched and dry soul.


Etiquette, Social Media and Friendships


As my kids grow and we continue to discuss the issue of friendships, this has given me pause in regards to friendships I have created.  In working with my kids I try to teach them to observe actions and make sure they back up what comes out of their mouths.  I repeatedly remind them to find friends who will remain true and enjoy your time with them.  Those are priceless and meaningful and impact our lives in significant ways. I would venture to say that no one makes it through life without learning the hard way about true friendships.

In my opinion true friendships posses healthy attributes like loyalty, trust, honesty, reliability, dependability and being able to call each other at any time.  When you make plans you stick to them and follow through.  You do life together, you share experiences and they help enrich your relationship.  Even during difficult times you work through them so your relationships are deepened and as a result those difficult times produce relationships which stand the test of time.

It does make me wonder how people look at friendships and the value placed on them today.  I’ve watched as well as dealt with what I consider to be rude and tactless.  Plans made in front of others that don’t include them.  Asking your friend to do something, make plans and at the last-minute cancel, even plans that have been made a year in advance.  Texts that make it sound as though it’s a really bad situation and when asked if they want to talk, never respond.  Telling someone you will always be there for them and then when they need you, you are to busy or something else has come up. These actions remind me of the Golden Rule – (treating others the way you want to be treated).  Now granted things do come up and we should extend grace to others.

Today making friends is different in the sense of how Social Media plays into all of this.  From MySpace and Facebook to Instant Messaging and Twitter and now HeyTell and Skype.  There are countless ways to stay connected.  We can make friends with folks in a matter of minutes and connect with them instantly at the touch of an app or a text. I have made connections with people through a variety of them and as I continue to build and deepen those I believe the rules of friendship still apply.  If I ever meet any of them in person (I have met some and plan on meeting more in person) I would still hold to my rules of friendship.

So what are your rules/expectations on friendships and how has social media played into that?


Camping with my girls


A few years ago, I took my oldest son camping at a state campground on the beach along the Washington coast.  We enjoyed our time together.  After returning, my older three daughters wanted to know when I was planning to take them for a weekend camping trip.  I was a bit surprised they wanted to but I was up for it.  Camping is something we have enjoyed as a family over the years and something I hoped and my children would want to do, so I was extremely happy to know my girls wanted to go.  For the last year, we have had it on the calendar and planning on this weekend.

Most of the state campgrounds in the PACNW (Pacific Northwest) fill up fast.  Early in the year, you have to call and make reservations.  You can plan to be on hold anywhere up to an hour to place your reservations.  It is a bit on the insane side.  Most places are booked by April for the entire summer, so if you want one you better be up and going the day the phone lines open.  I chose not to do this but take a risk.  I actually took my son in September after school was back in session so it was not a problem.  I did call and check to see if I might get lucky but there was not anything available.

I knew my Aunt owns property up near this area and she was fine with letting us use her property.  The property is strictly that property, neighbors on either side have developed their property, but her property has a lot that could be done with it still.  She told me she would inform her neighbors of our coming.  The night before we leave she calls to tell me when speaking with her neighbors they said they’ve seen a male black bear roaming around on her property and reminded me of it having no facilities (bathrooms/showers).  She was not sure if I still wanted to go, but I assured her we would be fine.  With my West Coast Hipster Dad Ninja Skills and growing up in Montana, I was not afraid of any bears bothering us.

Friday morning we loaded up the van, placed my I pod on shuffle and took off.  The drive takes around 2 hours and I had planned to stop along the way and do some site seeing and show my daughters different sites.  We stopped and visited the Tillamook Cheese Factory, which is always a cool place to visit, get some great samples of cheese, and eat some delicious ice cream.  Continuing north up the coast, stopping at one of our family favorite places – Mo’s Chowder House in Cannon Beach, the weather was gorgeous and we sat outside right off the beach and ate a delicious lunch.  We got to see a guy surf using a very large kite he had attached to himself.  After lunch, I drove until we made it to our destination.

We got camp set up, unfortunately, my girls forgot to pack their camping chairs, and there was not anything to use for a fire pit.  We drove back into town, purchased a shovel and a few other supplies, went back to our site and I dug a very large pit in the ground.  As we explored a bit, we found a couple of larger trees that were down and had been cut, these were used as our chairs, just like I remembered watching Grizzly Adams used.  I got the fire going, we had dinner, and the girls went to bed.  I began thinking about the black bear and that took me to a scene from the movie “Never Cry Wolf” so I marked our territory and stayed up for awhile with shovel in hand.  Having camped out in the forest before I know it is not wise to leave food out as it not only can attract bears but other little friends, so I cleaned up camp, locked everything back up in our van and spend some time just being quiet and talking to God.

The next day I got up, made the girl’s breakfast, we got dressed and headed out for a day of adventure.  We explored Oysterville and up walking out on the bogs.  I always find it is most beautiful in the early morning to walk around there as the sun comes up on the bay.  Walking around we had some great conversations and commented on how it reminded them of Sarah Plain and Tall.

We continued exploring other little towns went on a walk on a trail to the “Metal Tree” which is where Lewis and Clark ended their expedition and marks the spot of that once they had reached the West Coast.  The tree is completely metal and stands about 8 feet tall.  Next up was Long Beach and exploring the little town, doing some shopping and checking out all the little stores along the main street.

We made our way to the state park where my son and I had stayed.  It has two Lighthouses, one on each end of the park that I wanted to show my daughters.  We drove up to the first area and as I drove up I began seeing signs that you were now required to purchase a pass to park their.  I could see the Park Ranger engaged in a heated discussion with some very frustrated women and I saw other folks walking towards the sign to pay for the parking.  As I was walking back to our van a man was standing in a parking space, another man was in his car, and trying to park in the space, only he was not patient enough to wait for the guy to move and bumped into him.  They began yelling at each other and the man in the car continued to try to inch his way forward.  The man standing in the spot had some friends with him who ran over and started yelling at the guy in the car and some guy leaned inside the window of the car.  At this point, the Park Ranger who was near my van talking to one of the upset women, dropped his clipboard, yelled he was a police officer, and ran over to the situation.  As he approached, he pulled out his Billy club and began hitting the guy who was leaning into the car in his calf area.  He ordered him to lie down on the ground with his hands behind his head, to which the guy complied.  The Park Ranger began yelling at everyone to back up and was radioing for backup.  It was at this time I decided I was not going to stick around for any more drama, I got in my van and left.  As we drove away, back up began arriving.

We ended up going to the main park entrance, purchased a park pass, and then ventured onto the other lighthouse.  We got to go on a great hike and explore the area and then hiked down to a small cove.  This cove is one of the absolute best areas all along the coast.  I could spend hours just sitting there.  As we made our way back from the hike and to our van, we decided to head to the main beach area in the campground.  We ate lunch, swam and played around for quite a few areas and then made our way back to the lighthouse we had not gotten to see.  Thankfully, there was no drama this time and we got to go check it out.  We left and headed back to our campsite.

We ate dinner, hung out, had S’mores and the girls went to bed.  In the morning, we packed up and headed out.  On our way back, we crossed the 4-mile Astoria Bridge, which can be a bit nerve-racking to drive across.  My oldest daughter kept her eyes close the entire time.  Once in Astoria we went to the Astoria Column, climbed all the way to the top, and looked out over the entire town.  Once we made it down, we began looking for the house filmed in the movie Goonies; the address I found and plugged into my GPS did not take us to it, but rather a museum.  Although we did not find the house, we continued on our way back home.  As we drove home, I asked my daughters what they wanted to do next year and they all agreed they would prefer to go to the beach house.  So much for the love of camping being passed on.

Reflecting back over the weekend with my girls reminded me of a couple of things –

1 – I love these girls with all my heart and I would go to any level to protect and take care of them and I always will.

2 Even though I can protect them and as a loving father should, it is limited and I have to trust God on the rest.

3 – Somehow I feel safer in my house protecting them, than out in the woods camping.

4 – Driving along the coast I was reminded of many camping trips we had taken on the coast over the years, but when I asked my oldest if she remembered our trips, she couldn’t recall them.

5 – The coast was one of the main reasons I moved to Oregon, it has always rejuvenated me.

6 – Apparently I have watched a lot of movies and they tie into my being outdoors

7 – There is nothing like getting away from life, disconnecting, and focusing on those things that mean the most to you.


Church Disconnect


I’ve never really seen anything talked about or discussed on the subject of leaving church.  I’ve never seen a Hallmark card or a book on the issue.  I’m don’t’ know it’s a subject people are uncomfortable with or just aren’t sure what to do with it.

In my experience growing up in Montana, small towns offer limited options for church. The town where we went to church had 4 (Mormon, Catholic, Lutheran and a Community/Non-denom).  Most folks that attended those specific denominations still do to this day.  You either went to church or you didn’t go; no one I knew of switched churches.

I might have been one of the few exceptions.  I started attending the Lutheran Church with my family when I was in 5th grade and stayed until I was a freshman in high school.  The end of my freshman year we moved from the country into the town where we attended school.  I went from living on 28 acres in the country to living in a trailer court.  The Lutheran church did not have much to offer my age group, I knew the Community church did and so I began attending the church and attending the Youth Group – “Youth for Christ”.  Since I had yet to obtain my driver’s license I walked the mile to church on Sunday mornings.  I felt grown up and mature as I ventured off into my experience.  It actually helped my relationship with God by having that time to spend with him on my walks.  I stayed there until I graduated high school and then moved on.

In college I attended a church off and on.  I didn’t really make any deep connections because I wasn’t consistent in my attendance.  After college was over I moved to Portland and began looking for a church I could get involved in.  I made it a priority with any job I had to not have to work Sunday mornings so I could attend church.  I tried a few different types of churches but wasn’t finding anything I really connected with.

At this point I found a roommate, discovered he was attending church he seemed to talk highly of and I began attending a Conservative Baptist Church – whatever that meant, (I had no idea then what that really meant).  They had a new Pastor and I found a group of folks my age and began building some really good relationships.  I also met my wife through our friends at the church.

My wife and I got married, began leading a small groups, were AWANA leaders and I was stepping into other roles of leadership within the church.  All of this was important to both of us and we were really enjoying the relationships and “family feeling” the church had.  There were only about 100 people who attended each week, but it felt like just a larger extended family. Our plan was to stay heavily invested in this church and raise our kids here.

6 years into being heavily involved and taking on the Youth Pastor role, I started noticing some things were changing, the environment in the church became toxic and it was clear the leadership in the church was not unified. Problems were not being addressed, instead getting out of hand.  We lasted for about 2 more years and after returning from a mission trip we finally were in agreement it was time to leave.

We had no idea where we were going, we just knew for the health of our relationship and family we needed to find a healthy church.  Our neighbors invited us to their church and we gave it a shot.  The first Sunday we attended I felt like God was telling me this was the place we were supposed to be. The environment was friendly, welcoming and unlike any church I had ever been in. It was larger than any church I had ever attended with almost 1000 folks gathering weekly and most of the majority of folks were 20 – 40 years old.

For some time prior to this last January I felt God telling me it was time to leave and invest in our own neighborhood.  We have never attended a church that didn’t require traveling more than 15 minutes away and living in Portland I have often seen and heard people leaving churches that had been part in to invest in their local community church. I stayed quiet about what God was speaking to me because I really didn’t want to leave. My family had really enjoyed being a part of this church. As I remained silent issues began arising with my kids in the youth group that were not being addressed and after having some further discussions it became very clear God wanted us to move on and invest in our neighborhood.  After 6 ½ years, investing ourselves in small groups, being involved in leadership, we left at the end of January.

After leaving both churches I wrote letters to all church staff explaining why we left. Not one person from the conservative Baptist Church responded.  I did get a couple of responses from staff at our last church, which was more than I expected. In fact the last church we attended was often a place where many folks came after having really horrible experiences at other churches.  In some ways it was an ER or hospital and I often wondered at what point people would leave and go back to invest in the world.

After leaving our first church it took me a number of years to get over the anger I held inside towards so many people who had done horrible things to my wife and I.  To hear the name of the church or anyone who had hurt us, would set me off.  I worked hard to try to forgive folks, but some of what happened was just so difficult to really have to deal with.  Never in my life had I ever imagined what I went through would ever happen in churches and maybe that was God’s way of waking me up to the reality that church if made up of broken people who act out of their brokenness.  It’s messy and ugly and can sometimes do horrible things to others.  If my faith in God was not as strong as it was, it could have been an experience that left me walking away for good.

People leave churches for a variety of reasons, moving, God calling them to a different place, not a good fit, or unfortunately being hurt by people in the church.  When you invest your heart, soul and life into a body of people what do you do with all of it when you leave.  A body of believers can quickly become a family.  You see them weekly and many times more than just once.  You talk about heart issues, you get real and they see the good and bad in you.  It’s a place where you get to grow, develop and change as a person.  All of these relationships are valuable and meaningful. Disconnecting from them is awkward and there is no real way to do it easily.

Despite living in the same city as folks we have attended churches with through the years; it is hard to maintain those relationships.  We’ve tried and still do get together with a handful of folks who we have remained solid friends through all of it.  For the most part, most of those relationships we’ve had no longer exist.  People I invested heavily in and spent hours doing life with, I no longer have a relationship with for one reason or another and some days that’s a bitter pill to swallow.  While I can take comfort in knowing that I got to be a part of this person’s life for a period of time I still miss those relationships and at least for me it’s never been easy to disconnect completely.

 

 


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