35 years of discovering nuance

Yesterday I turned 35, and I’m answering the question my father-in-law asks, which is “What you have you learned in your 35 years”, and this year it’s the value of understanding nuance. With the loud arguing happening on public forums, with often black and white dualistic thinking being the standard approach, I more than ever hold the importance of nuance close to my thought process. I’m incredibly grateful for the circumstances which lead me to this understanding. You see I’m a problem solver by nature, professionally, and in ministry (discipleship, counseling). Originally my primary motivation was to please people, but over time I discovered this was not fulfilling. This also lead to times of being used by people, and putting little value into who I was. Through the school of hard knocks, and a lot of grace, I eventually learned that my value was not in what I did, and that I couldn’t do what I did to please others to feel accepted.

The great transformation of realizing and owning my value came when I began to see the world while commuting to and from downtown Portland by light rail (MAX) in 2008. I had just started a new job at Smarsh (where I still work as a consultant). I wanted to know how MAX worked (and why it broke down from time to time), so I “geeked” out by researching how public transportation systems around the world were developed, built, and operated. By researching the reasons behind why different transport system were built, I learned about the incredibly complex world of public discourse, input, how some public entities are good at communications, while others fail miserably.

Often I would naturally try to solve all the problems I saw, and naturally I’ve always paid attention to details. What I didn’t always do was realize that within humanity, within individual people, the nuances and problems we each face, and the problems and friction in society are incredibly nuanced as well. While geeking out and learning about the human element of public transportation I learned the value in being slow to judge and apply “solutions” from a black and white perspective. From property disputes, “NIMBYism” (Not In My Back-Yard – ism), and needing to solve transportation problems in densely populated and land-starved areas the nuances and problems were never solvable by black and white answers.

So while I began educating myself on the incredibly complex decision-making, public outreach, and processes that are needed to build a successful transportation system, I learned more than just what makes a good government process. I also learned to apply listening, understanding, and the viewpoints of many into my problem solving skills. Which proved to be invaluable to me professionally, personally, and in ministry. The other side effect of riding MAX was that I saw many kinds of people, under various kinds of stress, and in various situations of social and economic status. The world went from being black and white to many shades of gray.

During this time I also read the book “Blue like Jazz” by Donald Miller, this book really put into words some of the feelings I was having about the intersection of the Church and society. From what I had learned about various kinds of public processes, my observations of people and society riding MAX every day, and being part of a large, and demographically/characteristically “evangelical suburban” church – I began noticing the overly simple way people in the church sphere would propose solutions to incredibly complex social conflict and problems. I also noticed (thankfully) that those in leadership usually were more keen to address the nuances, yet the typical “church goer” often did not demonstrate the same skills.

At the same time while I was undergoing this realization, one of my best friends entered a season of incredible struggle, caused by incredibly nuanced and complex actions by others and at the same time requiring him to take ownership and responsibility. For years I stood by, along with my wife and his wife, through scary times, confusing times, and incredibly hurtful times. Nothing I knew from my own life could be used to solve this problem, only walking along side. Some people took a simple approach, either based on fear, misunderstanding, or their own unaddressed problems interfering with the ability to humbly just walk.

It was during this season that the intersection of what my faith in Jesus and the very real and complex problems of the world came to a head. I was more and more irritated by the political tones that some in the church would propose for societal conflicts, often in a black and white way that failed to recognize the underlying nuances that were multiple problems. I was also incredibly encouraged by the leaders in my life who were well aware of the underlying issues, and were slow to propose overly simplistic answers, and willing to walk alongside individuals, rather than propose systematic/governmental/legal “solutions”. Just as Jesus walked alongside people.

In 2010 the same friend I mentioned earlier entered a very dark time of his life and deeply broke my trust. I was deeply affected and hurt – at the same time I knew there was only one way to restoration. In spite of our human emotions in the situation, and with the peace that only comes from the Holy Spirit I knew the only way forward was with full forgiveness. Without the lessons on nuance I don’t know if I would have had the capacity to seek forgiveness and restoration. It could have easily blown up into a drama that would have hijacked everything in my life and in my future, which makes it obvious it was a plan of the enemy. Thankfully Jesus had been preparing me.

It is essential for me today to never jump to conclusions (and to apologize when I do, or when I’m corrected by someone) because often it isn’t something of God. God is in the details (and in many ways, the ignorance of the details is where the devil is). Every person has unique circumstances, unique things they struggle with, and simple answers almost never fix the root issue nor bring true understanding, nor build the bridge to God we want for people. We must apply the principle of “root cause analysis” to nearly every conflict and problem in life and society. Ultimately the value we place on ourselves becomes what God sees, and we see people with (hopefully) the value he has for all people. When we realize there are nuances the black and white turns to gray, when we analyze and walk closely with the people involved, the gray turns to color. We apply grace to everything, and know that it takes trust, it takes faith, it takes patience, and in this we find peace, joy, and love – we find God’s Kingdom.

And that is what I have learned for my 35th birthday.

Proverbs 20:28

Unfailing love and faithfulness protect the king; his throne is made secure through love. prv 20:28 nlt

Proverbs is full of interesting bits to chew on. This one verse sums up the entire viewpoint and operation of God. In a way I read this as a two-way idea, it’s not just us loving the King, but it is the King loving all of us. Love must flow from the king in order for there to be security, our unfailing love and faithfulness is out of the King’s abundance of love.

A king that does not love and is not faithful in his words will have little security, his own people will riot against him and the enemies will invade. Interestingly enough people will come against their “kings” quite often based on simply what they believe about him, what they perceive to be, or because of their own feelings and/or choices.

Because God has created humanity with full free will, we often see people coming against the King because of their own perceptions, rather than seeking to become closer and tasting His goodness, and feeling His love. Our King however has a security system unlike any other, once we enter into His kingdom we are fully secured by His love and we desire more because he wants to give more, and out of this we desire to serve Him, because we love Him, and because He loves us. It’s a throne that will never fall, never change hands, and will always welcome us. Now and forever may we sing our heaven song.

Our bodies and the law

Scripture: Numbers 3 & 4 | My highlights and notes (must be logged into bible.com): Numbers 3:2-4, Numbers 3:11-13, 1 Corinthians 6:18-20

Observation: The Lord required Israel, Aaron and his sons, and the Levites to pay great attention to detail when caring for the tabernacle. This great attention to detail can also be carried forward into today’s temple for the holy spirit, our bodies (and by default our spirit, mind, and soul) as Paul points out in 1 Corinthians 6:18-20.

Application: This attention to detail, and the fact that if not followed correctly it resulted in possible death, is something which is not easily applied in today’s world of distractions and justifications. It can be easy to try and apply this universally to all of humanity, yet, what I see is this specifically applying to God’s people. This is key to how we interact with the world, we apply the things of God to ourselves, and we serve the world around us. In this service to the world we do not become part of it, but rather we elevate it, creating bridges for people to walk into the Kingdom and experience the grace of God through Jesus. Take care of our minds, spirit, and body in great detail, and we will experience God’s Holy Spirit.

And in regards to Jesus even in Numbers we see the LORD substituting requirements through chosen people for the greater good of all. Although we are never going to fulfill the law on our own, and the only man to do this was Jesus, we can see how the LORD started with a standard, and after many examples of Israel failing to meet the standard God sent Jesus, which tore the veil between God and all of humanity and offered grace to all people.

Simple, basic Christianity, yet everyday I fail to meet the standard and it is in Jesus alone that I am made righteous, not my behavior, my words, my actions, simply the fact that I allow Jesus to be my LORD and submit myself to Him, even if not all the time, I do come back because he makes it perfect with unconditional love.

Prayer: Father may you remain the one true holy authority in my life, may I recognize your standard and give you praise for the perfection you created, and will restore again in your Kingdom. I want your will to be done, for me to submit to it, praise it, and live it, may I repent of the things that are of me. May I be content with what you give to me, and forgive me for the sins which cut me from enjoying your will. Protect me, my family, and all of us from the evil one’s temptations.

The Leviathan, blessings, relying on God, and forgiveness.

Job 41 &42, and 2 Corinthians 1 & 2

Weather the Leviathan (described in Job 41) represents an actual animal, or is a metaphysical allegory (I bet it is both in some way), I continue to face my own personal leviathan(s) and take much comfort from God’s response to Job in chapter 42. The way in which God redeems Job’s friends by accepting Job’s prayers, and then also restoring Job’s fortunes because he prayed for his friends, shows God’s heart, how He values relationships, and that He loves to have people restored, to Him and between each other. Simply, and complexly beautiful.

Fast forward to Paul’s 2nd letter to the Corinthians in chapters 1 & 2, and we are hit dead on with a similar theme. Paul and his team have recently gone through tremendous troubles, even risking their lives, making the strong point that relying on God is the ultimate source of comfort and direction, not to mention rescuing them for the bigger message and mission. Additionally, Paul urges the Corinthians to hold strong through their struggle, confronting them to make amends with the man who hurt them, that now is the time to “forgive and comfort him” and he urges them “to reaffirm your love for him”.

In the natural world, both of these situations would not turn out as they did. People don’t let the ones that hurt them come back, nor do they love them more than the original pain or hurt. It is through God, and now through His ultimate sacrifice of Jesus, that we can live free and love more than humanly possible.

Father God, help me depend on you in the face of my giants and beasts, help me depend on your in the face of natural human thoughts and ideas, help me ultimately live out your will and not my own. May the rawness of reality, and the tragedy of my past be always the reminder of your amazing grace and love in my life and motivate me to live for you in full. May I see and hear you with every interaction, without judgement and without expectation.

Walking with you…

Day one in review.

Well our first day in Kraków has come and gone. We’re full of hope and love for the people of this city and although our days for the next few months will be mostly about making our home “ours” and doing administrative types of tasks, we will continue to be intentional about putting people first. I have a couple more weeks before I go back to work and we begin a regular schedule. The photos above are from our outings and we were greeted with a beautiful morning.

Right now Elena is on my lap, trying to stay awake after a 3 hour nap, Jet lag is in full swing here. Emma woke up after nearly 12 hours of sleeping, and is currently in a grumpy mood and not happy about the weather appropriate clothes Alexis is offering. More later!



Emma will be four on April 9th and it is incredibly hard to imagine life without her, so cliche, but it really just wouldn’t be the same. She’s a super happy, well behaved, very loving, and amazing girl. She entertains herself and also plays with other kids very well, she enjoys both adults and kids her age and is a social butterfly.

I’m bias but I think she’s “perfect” in all the ways we pre-conceive for children… sure she has her moments, she argues, she whines, she does all the things kids do, but in the end she is my princess. When I think about her I rarely think negative thoughts, except maybe when I’ve just sad down on a peed on couch… and even then love is not in question.

I’ve learned so much about life, God, and humanity through this little four year old, her silliness, bed-time stalls, and temper tantrums all included. We love going on walks together, smelling the flowers, the trees (like above), and she loves just watching ducks swim around in a pond and being peaceful. Yet, then when’s with her friends she’s bouncing off the walls, running around, and having a blast, we love that she can adjust to her surrounds so well. She’s certainly thought this daddy many things about how God must feel and see us, and since we’re created in his image, it can only be that much greater!

My Marriage


From rose colored glasses to the nasty pit of bitterness, despair, anger, and frustration. That pretty much sums up my marriage experience so far! Yet, I am so much more in love with Alexis, my bride, than I have ever been. There have been some very tough times, lots of frustration, and things that I can’t explain – yet through it all I have come to know someone who is committed to the beauty that is marriage. Our marriage is far from the ideal one, far from the romanticized story lines of Hollywood, and yet if it were a movie I think it would be a blockbuster.

What makes our marriage work in spite of the issues? A strong, steadfast, and never-changing foundation in the power of Christ – I know, oh gosh I went religious on you, sorry but in this instance there’s no other way of describing it (besides, religious to me would be rules, regulations, and performance – what I’m talking about is out of relationship, hearing, feeling Christ’s love – not just trying to “please” Him). Without Christ as the one truth to bind us together we would have gone our own ways years ago. Because of who Christ says I am, and who He says Alexis is, and because we believe that truth and not what we think in our weak moments, we can rise above the “moments”, the arguments, the outright crazy insane fights, and realize – you know what, she/he is NOT really that selfish, mean, hurtful, terrible, etc… those things are the aspects of our fallen humantiy; the truth is she/he is a child of God and therefore is forgiven, just as I am, in all things.

Does this truth mean accept anything that comes at you from your spouse and just “let it go” – absolutely not, it means both making sacrifices, apologizing for your own actions without demanding the other person does the same – it means giving grace, and it most of all means being humble, learning from you mistakes and lovingly letting those moments change you. As long as both parties are willing to humble themselves – there is hope. It may take time, and a lot of prayer, but don’t put God in a box (aka, don’t put your spouse in a box). Seek the loving advice of others who have gone before you, seek the Lord’s truth, and remember we’re living in a fallen world – crap happens, and we get to live in it.

That’s my two cents, don’t give up, chin up, walk the high road, and look at your marriage as a child, it needs nourishment, love, attention, and hope.

Why I never dated

Alexis and I.jpg

There’s really only three reasons why I never dated, and when I finally decided to enter into a relationship with Alexis, I decided to “court” her instead.  The first reason was all about being intentional, I had intentions, if I was going to “date” it was going to be with the intent to see if marriage was the real deal for us. Second, I wanted to make sure we had shared our callings, that they were compatible, and about serving the Kingdom. Lastly, to ensure there was honor and respect in our relationship, that it wasn’t just about “having” the girl, or “being” the man – that I was honestly seeking to honor her in my actions, and her actions honored me – and through we gave respect to one another.

Intentionality is a word that I put a lot of focus on, I always desire that my actions have a real intention to them, that’s it’s not just “going through the motions” and so I decided I didn’t want to date – dating was like “trying” on clothes and didn’t really seem fair to anyone – humanity has enough problems, I don’t need to be nonchalant in my relationships, and certainly not someone I may end up marrying! So I was intentional, I wouldn’t date, instead I would court – seek to understand a person at their deepest parts (of course I had zero idea how to do this, and in my young pride thought I was so great)… that didn’t really happen well – but I tried, the heart counts!

Another thing I tried very seriously to understand was Alexis’ calling, what she felt God leading her to do, what she thought she was gifted in, etc. Again, something I was far to idealistic about, I probably put more pressure on her than was necessarily good, but in the end I certainly made a point that I was serious about what God was telling me! It was during our courtship that I heard the Lord tell me I would be a pastor – almost nine years later I’m not quite a pastor by “title” but I know it’s where I’m headed. As for her, she’s got an amazing heart for the world, for people, and for serving the Kingdom and seeing people awaken to the Kingdom life.

Then comes what I consider the most important piece giving honor and respect to the relationship, not just to the person you’re courting, but the relationship itself, don’t go fast, explore, learn, grow. I know, it’s wishy washy, and you might be burning with “lust”. Don’t awaken love before its time (Song of Solomon 8:4) let it mature, let others give you advice and wisdom, be transparent from the beginning, and when love finally arrives you’ll know it, more than ever. Every couple will look different, but I’ve never seen a couple who gave respect and honor to the relationship by allowing God to teach and the Church to cultivate (a healthy circle of Kingdom friends/mentors) blow up into a statistic – they’ve either maturely went their ways or entered into a marriage built on a foundation of trust, respect, and honor – which is hard to break apart, even when someone makes big mistakes.