Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Starting A New Chapter

 In two weeks, I am embarking on a new journey. A new chapter in my life is being turned. As I begin to share with you what I will be doing and the impact that it is going to have on our family, I know that many of you will shake your head and numerous of you will not understand and a handful of you will be tempted and may even say, "that is the craziest thing that I have heard".

Before I share with you the next step, let me assure you that this decision was not made lightly. I am fully aware of the ramification. But, I have also weighed the options, have asked questions, listened to the critics and paid attention to all the voices that have asked, "is this a wise choice". My response to that is that I have prayed and listened to the inner voice, the whisper and I believe the prompting of the Holy Spirit. I fully believe that God has provided this amazing opportunity and has answered my prayer and without a shadow of a doubt; this is the step that I need to take. Now, I will be honest, I am not 100% why this is the place that God has opened and this may not have been the ministry or location that I would have put number one when this journey began almost 7 months ago. But, I do know that God knows a little more than me.

I shared the following quote on my Facebook wall last week and want to share it again. I then want to share with you the prayer that I have prayed multiple times a day for the last six months and then share where I am headed:

“Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising, which tempt you to believe that your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires courage.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
We are mapping out a course and it is going to take a huge amount of courage to do and we are hoping and praying that our friends and families will surround us with the love and the encouragement that we need to make this transition.

The Prayer
God, I am putting this job search into your hands. I am not going to limit where I send my resume due to location, ministry description or where I am wanting to land. I also am putting this into your hands by asking you to rain down the no's - no matter how many - till the right yes comes. I pray that there is one offer and not multiple; so this is your will and not my will.
There you go, that was the backdrop. Some may say that is a crazy prayer. Some may say that it is just a coincidence that you received all no's and one yes. Or some will point to the "job market" and say that is how it is working now-a-days. But, in my heart, I fully believe that God has answered my prayer. Numerous times though through this journey, I came out of the interview and thought, this is going to be the yes and was very excited because of the position or the location; but the no's kept coming till this yes rang true.

Resumes Facts

400 resumes sent (250 to churches / 150 to businesses)
Applied for children, youth, family, mission, outreach, senior, campus, and church camp positions
Resumes went out to 4 continents
Resumes went out to 37 different states
In person interviews in 10 different states
35 church resumes in Indiana WITH 13 close enough we would not have to move
75 churches did not even respond with a receipt of resume
Received 100 NO's from churches (God did rain them down)

The Yes 

I have accepted a joint ministry position. Lutheran Campus Pastor and Youth and Family Coordinator.

Both the church and the campus ministry is in the same town.

The Church: St. Stephen Lutheran (ELCA)
The University: Southwest Minnesota State University (Lutheran Campus Pastor)

While some of the responsibilities and expectations of this position will be specific to the campus or the church, it truly is a shared position with a solid foundation of partnership between the two ministries.

The church and the university is located in Marshall, Minnesota. Below is a picture of the small town (downtown) and below the photo is a little information on the town.

Marshall is a city in Lyon County, Minnesota in the United States. The population was 13,680 at the 2010 census. Marshall is a regional center in southwest Minnesota, and the county seat of Lyon County. Marshall is the headquarters for Schwan Food Company and home of the mustangs: Southwest Minnesota State University.

Below is an aerial view of the prairies and Southwest Minnesota State University

The campus is laid out beautifully and the buildings are very open and inviting. A little about SMSU:

Southwest Minnesota State University is a public, four-year university that is part of the Minnesota State College and University System. The school has a full-time enrollment of approximately 3,700 students and employs 148 faculty members.It is divided into two major colleges, the College of Arts, Letters, and Sciences, and the College of Business, Education, and Professional Studies. SMSU is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

Southwest Minnesota State University provides undergraduate education in the liberal arts and professional studies for the following areas: Accounting, Agribusiness Management, Anthropology, Art, Biology, Business Administration, Chemistry, Computer Science, Criminal Justice, Culinology, Economics, Education, English, Environmental Science, Foreign Languages, Global Studies, History, Hotel and Restaurant Administration, Humanities, Indigenous Nations and Dakota Studies, Interdisciplinary Studies, Justice Administration, Marketing, Mathematics, Music, Philosophy, Physics, Political Science, Psychology, Rural and Regional Studies, Social Work, Sociology, Speech Communication, Theatre Arts, Wellness and Human Performance, and Women's Studies. The university also supports a Center for Rural and Regional Studies, and offers masters degrees in Business Management, Education, and Special Education. The most popular majors are Business Administration and Education.
The Transition

It all begins in the middle of September. September 16th is my first Sunday.

What About ....

There are a lot of these that can be listed. What I will put here and you can contact me about the specifics is that for at least the next nine months, Stacey and the kids will remain here. Thus, the kids can finish up their transitional years in school (8th and 4th) and Bee can remain at Riley for her chemotherapy treatment.

I currently do not have a plan of action for me and housing. I am going to play that by ear. Financially, I cannot afford two places.

God's Prompting, Ministry, and Family Interest

In the end, we feel this is where God is prompting us. We are looking at this as a very long term partnership with the church and the university. Thus, a small time apart is small (many families do it). The ministry is a great fit for my gifts, talents and passion. In all honesty, I am not sure that I could write up a better combination and ministry description that is in front of me. From a family interest, this is going to also provide the much needed health insurance (group) that my family so desperately needs. We are working on arrangements where we will get to see each other a few days each month.

Can't Wait

It is going to be tough being "separated" from the family.
It is a little unnerving, not knowing were I will lay my head down when I get there.

But, I cannot wait to begin the journey with the church and the university; it is a golden opportunity and I am blessed that they have asked me to serve in this position. Even though the last seven months have been draining and hearing all the no's was tough; I know that God answered my prayers.

The Church Building

Building on Campus 

Go Mustangs

Friday, August 17, 2012

Goyte: Naked Pastor

This is from the Naked Pastor. The song is very catchy and very popular right now and I think that this cartoon describes the feelings of many and that is a shame :(

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

2012: First Day of School

Jacob & Isaiah entering 8th grade

Bethany entering 4th grade

They are growing up before our eyes.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Tumors, Scoliosis, and Chemo ... What Gives

This post is going to be a little message to God ....
This post is going to be a little raw about my feelings
This post is going to be a little about not understanding
This post is going to be a little about what Bee's situation is doing to me


To the left is a picture of my fighter - Bethany. This picture was taken by my wonderful wife on her first chemotherapy day. Each chemotherapy patient at the hospital receives a gift bag filled with multiple goodies. It is to help them begin their journey. For Bee, this journey is 70 weeks, but this is not her first fight.

God, I really have no clue what is going on and what is happening. I know that you are big enough to handle it; so I will tell you that THIS SUCKS and I have no clue why Bee has to go through this or any of the other children in this world. I mean, come on; have you truly strolled the halls of the Children's hospitals and truly looked into their eyes and see the hurt and pain in their eyes and their families eyes. Many of them are struggling and do not know what is going to happen. These are kids.

As, I look at Bee, we found out that she had tumors at a very young age and have continued to monitor her. For information sake, from the time she was one till now; we had 14 MRI's or so to monitor the situation. Thankfully, we received the "no change" message until recently. For me, all the no changes may have given me false hope that she was going to fly through this and everything as going to be "fine".

Of course, monitoring the tumors and keeping a close eye on that was not enough. She also had severe scoliosis and it kept getting worse and worse. So, at 7, yes, 7 she had to have growing rods in her back and had to limit her activity for a year; yup; just what every 7 year old wants to hear. But, she came through it and even has gone through 2 procedures of lengthening the rods.

But, then came the news that we dreaded. Yes, there had been a false hope but at the same time; knowing the words could eventually come and they came. There is a change and we believe that we need to start a 70 week chemotherapy treatment. Yikes.

God, maybe you did not realize, but I resigned from my ministry position and am not making much money stocking shelves; especially when we are paying $419 a month to keep her insured. However, to shift from her a bit and to my wife; my wife needs insurance as well and we cannot get it. So, Ii am in a midst of a job search; we have some promising leads, but with Bee beginning the treatment; this makes the journey even more adventurous.

So, Bee had the first chemotherapy session on Thursday and the first 36 hours were good. Then the side effects took place. God, I am sure you know how much Bee loves food and how much she loves the tradition of eating donuts on Saturday. She was in so much pain (jaw) that she could not eat. Then on Sunday, Grandma took her to the buffet (oh her love) and she could not eat; tears strolled down her face.

I definitely do not understand and comprehend why this is occurring. Why does a girl so young have to have tumors, scoliosis and be in a 70 week chemotherapy treatment program ?

I am a little jaded and numerous emotions run through my mind. It is extremely tough for me as her dad to go through this. I am sure ANY parent would say the same thing that watches their child struggle. If I am honest, I am also aching because she has the tumors, scoliosis and going through the treatment process because of NF. It is genetic disorder and I am the one that passed it on to her.

It was interesting and not by mistake (led by the Holy Spirit, I am sure) that the sermon we listened to on Sunday morning was from John 9. John 9 is about the blind man from birth. Disciples were arguing and Jesus answer is troubling - especially in some translations. Here are some of them:

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. (NIV)

It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him. (NASV)

Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. (KJV)

Looking at those, it could almost be read - may needs to be read (yikes) that this was part of God's plan to bring Glory to Him. Hmm, that is just odd to me and if I may be real blunt: God, that is warped to think that you may have purposely created people for that ??

I know that many do not like the message version but, I like it a little better and it is easier to swallow. Here is the Message:

Walking down the street, Jesus saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked, "Rabbi, who sinned: this man or his parents, causing him to be born blind?" 3-5Jesus said, "You're asking the wrong question. You're looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do. We need to be energetically at work for the One who sent me here, working while the sun shines. When night falls, the workday is over.

I can swallow this. Things happen. We do not need to research or debate things. Life occurs. However, within life, we can look at it through the lens of what God can do. I think this is precious. I fully believe that God has an amazing story. He has a story of restoration and redemption. We are part of this story.

I have no clue why Bethany is going through what she is going through. But, I can tell you that she is teaching me a lot. I can tell you that she is an amazing young girl with a tenacious spirit and she is willing and able to share her story. God will touch her, lead her and give her strength and she will share that. I will continue to scream that THIS IS NOT FAIR. But, I know deep down that God is with us and I know that we can see God working it miraculous ways. I can point to numerous things and go there is no way to explain what is happening; it has to be God.

In the next few days, weeks, or months, I may be receiving a job offer and that job offer  may not be in Indiana and we will be looking at being separated for the school year / treatment process. If we do that, I am sure many will not understand and maybe question us and that is okay. We are navigating these potholes as we come to them. There is no road map on how to do it. I am so thankful for friends and family members that have gave sacrilegiously for us to keep our head above water till we (I) have a job that can provide finances and insurance for my family.

David in Psalms 40 says the following

I waited and waited and waited for God. At last he looked; finally he listened. He lifted me out of the ditch, pulled me from deep mud. He stood me up on a solid rock

I think we are still in the mud, but are slowly being pulled out of the mud. I am looking forward to the solid rock and being hosed down and cleaned as we give thanks to God. To follow Bee's story / updates / leave comments / give financially; you can visit us here: Beating The Brain Tumor

Friday, August 10, 2012

8th Grade ... Here We Go

Yesterday, I took Isaiah and Jacob to preview day at their school. I cannot believe that it is now 8th grade. They saw old classmates, walked the halls, got their class scheduled, found their lockers and more.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Bee's Needs

We are using Go Fund Me to help us raise money for Bethany's medical expenses. We have already accumulated quite a bit and will have plenty more as we journey through the next 70 weeks. We will be using the funds for the following expenses:

- past medical bills for her
- Cobra insurance payments
- deductibles
- pharmacy prescriptions
- traveling costs to the hospital

If you want to donate, please visit Bee's Needs


Interview Questions

I am hopefully winding up my ministry search. It is my hope and dream that this time next week, I will be able to announce that I have officially landed a ministry position and what the job entails. However, in this post, I want to share with you 3 questions that one church sent to me. I interviewed with numerous churches and filled out quite a few per-screening questionnaires.  Some were very good and some were just plain awful in my opinion. The following from one church though (imo) was the best introductory questions ask. I think that after receiving the answers from the candidates, that they would definitely be able to narrow down the candidates. Here they are and combined the answers could only be 2-3 pages.

1. Please tell us about your self-understanding as a follower of Jesus Christ,
and how it relates to your potential role as Family Ministry Director.

2. Please give us as many examples as possible of the following outcomes
resulting from your past ministry leadership:

a. Numerical and spiritual growth of children, youth, and/or family
ministry. Please include details if possible.

b. Effective management of a large-scale ministry program that called
for visioning, strategic planning, long-range calendaring, and
responsible budgeting.

c. Effective identification, training, and oversight of individual leaders
and leadership teams.

d. New and meaningful relationships among families in the
congregation where you were serving.

e. Effective pastoral care (outreach, counseling, crisis response) to
children, youth, and their families.

3. What are your impressions of tour denomination? Are there
any aspects of our denominationst theology or polity that you would
struggle to support? What is your general approach to theological,
political, and social diversity within a congregation?

Killing the Sacred Cow

 The article below is not all about Killing the Sacred Cow, but it is an element. Here is the article:

What Changes Would a New YP Make at your Church

Over the years, I have seen many sacred cows; have you ?

What are some of them ?
What are some of them that need to be killed ?

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Casting the Vision

Antoine de Saint Exupery said, "If you want to build a ship, don't drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea."
I think that this is such a valuable quote about leadership and vision casting. The greatest challenge that faces church leaderships today is building the right team to join you in the mission that has been cast.

One of the reasons that I went back to school after seminary and received a degree in Organizational Leadership Development was the reason stated above. We do a terrible job in finding leaders, training them and then integrating them into ministry.

This quote though puts a whole new spin on the perspective and how we should / could do leadership.

I like what Leonard Sweet says in the following sentence:

Great leadership is less trying to find people to "fit in" than finding people who can "fit together"

A few thoughts to think about and a few thoughts that I will be chewing on when I step into a new leadership role.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Portia the Port

Here is a picture of Bethany and her Granny in the chair. Bethany is playing bowling against Granny and taking Granny to the woodshed. Of course, it is not too fair to play Bethany no how good you are; she scores a perfect 300 almost every game. Anyways, we were in the waiting room waiting for the doctor to come in and give us the instructions of the day.

We had to be at the hospital at 5:45 for registration, the wait game and all the preliminary work that goes into surgery. Her surgery was set for 7:30 and it lasted about 90 minutes. The surgical procedure that she was having done was putting the port into her chest. The port is where she will receive her chemotherapy. Since, she will have the port for over 70 weeks and become very close to it, the port needed a name and she gave it the name Portia the Port.

I will be updating about here journey here but you can also follow her story a little more closely through my wife. She is sharing the experience through the caring bridge network. The link is here.

Bethany is a character and her spirit is unbelievable. Here is one small example from the day at the hospital:

The "child-life specialist" just came in to talk to Bee about her surgery and decorate her mask. She asked Bee if she remembered how she went to sleep for her last surgery, meaning breathing in the anesthesia. Bethany answered "talking". Lol. She laughed and laughed and said she had never gotten that answer before. It was hilarious.
Thanks for the prayers.