Monday, October 26, 2009

My Problem with Worship Music

I guess that even this title is a harsh way to start a blog post.  But recently I have been told by a mentor and an assessor that I need to work on my boldness and take a stand for what I feel and believe, so I need to learn to be less apologetic about the things that I am feeling strongly.  So here goes…

I really have not appreciated worship music for a long time.  If I am being bold, I should say that I just can’t stand a lot of worship music lately.  Personally, I think that I have an even stronger reaction on this topic because of how many people make it sound like a sin to dislike a worship song or a worship experience.

How many times have I heard someone make some sort of statement like:  “on Saturday, you went to your favorite sports team’s home game and screamed your voice hoarse cheering when your team scored or kept the other team from scoring… then why is it on Sunday, you sit in church like a bump on a log, quiet and relaxed?  if we cheer for our team, why can’t we cheer for God?  Do you love your team more than God?”  or I hear this: “why is it that you scream and dance and sing along for your favorite rock band, but stand like a frozen statue in a worship service singing quietly and barely participating?”

Statements like these truly upset me.  I feel like I am right back in High School at the pep rally.  “We’ve got spirit. Yes we do!”  I didn’t hate my high school, but I desperately hated the pep rallies.  The pep rally was the school’s way of parading the best looking, and most talented athletes and cheerleaders in front of the student body and saying: “don’t you want to be like us. don’t you want to worship us?”  My answer was always “NO!  Not even a little.”  I liked my high school team.  I wanted them to win.  I actually wanted to cheer for them.  But pep rallies made me want to walk away in disgust.  I felt bad for not jumping up and down and screaming like lots of students did.  I felt bad for being attracted to every cheerleader physically, but literally hating everything they said or did at these rallies.  I felt bad for thinking less of myself and my talents because I would never be asked to stand in front of this rally in a letterman’s jacket to receive the praise of my peers and the phone numbers from the girls. 

The school was saying:  “Cheer for what we tell you to cheer for.  Cheer for the strong, good looking, athletically talented.  Cheer for the ONE flavor of life that we can all appreciate.  If you want to get on this stage and be praised you’d better bench press more, run faster, hit harder, win more, (or for the girls) you’d better have a clear complexion, great legs, great hair and all of the other features that enhance how you look in your cheer leaders outfit.” 

“Like what we tell you to like, or there is something wrong with you.” 

About six months ago, I met with a Pastor who confirmed these parallels in the church without even flinching.  He was the pastor of the largest church in the East Valley in Phoenix.  He was telling me that he wanted to offer me some money to plant a church in the Phoenix area.  But in order to get that money, I would have to do things “his way.”  He said that “his way” included:  “you will play the worship music we tell you to because it is loved by early 30-something women with children.  Normally men don’t like it as much, but if you get the wife excited about church, she will drag her husband there.”  When he talked more about the music, he talked about the sound and style, he never addressed the content or the tradition. 

This is how it is in Christian Worship Music.  Very little variety, very little talent, very little that is interesting, but a solid tune that is catchy and memorable.  And we are told that if we don’t sing our hearts out to it, raise our hands with it, and are emotionally impacted by it; there is something wrong with us. 

“Like what we tell you to like or there is something wrong with you.”

It gets worse than this in church though.  If you are being “contemporary”, your worship team is all young, dressed like emo-rock stars, and pop stars, and this music and look is what makes you relevant to our culture.  Just like high school, the church’s pretty people are trying to get you emotionally stirred up.  Not cheerleaders and jocks, it’s the attractive and musically talented that are leading the pep rally.  That dude in the second row who started his own business that is succeeding, and thriving has no relevant gifts for the stage, the guy in the back row who works nights and cleans floors at businesses and is a great father to his children and a great husband, has no relevant gifts.  But the guy on the guitar kind of looks like one of the goo goo dolls if you squint a little. 

Not only can the look and feel be superficial, but some of these songs:

Shout to the Lord – undeniably has a very memorable and singable melody, but “I sing for joy at the work or your hands, forever I’ll love you forever I’ll stand. Nothing compares to the promise I have in you.”

I Am A Friend of God – This song is probably my least favorite.  I always imagine that the writers of Barney rejected the lyrics because they were condescending to children. “I am a friend of God, I am a Friend of God, I am a friend of God, HE calls me friend.” 

Here I am to Worship – “Here I am to worship. Here I am to bow down.  Here I am to say that you’re MY God.”  In case God didn’t know, I am singing about how awesome of a worshipper I am. 

Open the Eyes of My Heart – Never mind that the Bible tells us that we couldn’t handle seeing God because we are inadequate.  “Open the eyes of my heart, I want to see you. Pour out your power and love as we sing holy holy holy.” 

Beautiful One - “Beautiful one I love. Beautiful one, I adore. Beautiful one, my soul does sing.”  Singing in Yoda, is by far the best part of this song. 

Trading My Sorrows - “ I’m trading my sorrows, I’m trading my shame. I’m laying them down for the joy of the Lord.” 

What kills me in these songs are that these are some of the most popular worship songs.  They all are catchy and singable, they have all been sung countless times in churches.  And for the most part the songs are songs about how great of worshippers and christians WE are.   When I sing these songs, I feel like I am singing praise to myself and praising the church and the musicians. I literally and truly feel that I am doing nothing more important than participating in the pep rally. 

And it’s true.  These songs are popular for a reason.  They are popular because people who have been in churches that are unemotional and boring through most of their lives will find them catchy and singable and probably easier to understand than some of the liturgy that they may have grown used to with no explanation of why it was created.  They are also popular because they are easy for a bad band to play well.  They make the good looking musicians look like they are good at what they are doing. 

What I hate is that somehow I am less of a Christian if I don’t get emotional and sing these songs and raise my hands.  I am told that even if I disagree with the song, or don’t like it as much as my favorite band that I need to sing it louder because I don’t want God to think I like my favorite band more than Him.  This reasoning is not uncommon in churches.  I have heard it literally expressed over a dozen times.  I just want to raise my hand and say:  “are you serious?  because I don’t like the Newsboys’ rewritten psalm and don’t want to sing to it and it doesn’t make me closer to God, because of that, I don’t love God enough?  So what you are saying is that “good Christians” fake their feelings about God by singing louder?  You are saying that I can hide my true feelings about God and my favorite band by how I behave in church?  Doesn’t God already know if I like my favorite band more than Him?”

But this would be refuted by saying:  “this is what we do in church. we sing praises to God?”  And I would say: “these seem more like praises to me and the band than to God.”  But of course, I would hear: “most of these songs are written with the psalms of David in them, they are scripture, are you saying that singing scripture is lame?”  And I would reply: “Is that what you think the Psalms were written for?  To be sung in corporate worship for 20 minutes per week? Am I supposed to believe that my poor relationship with a coworker is similar to David being chased by King Saul and hiding in the caves?  Were the psalms written because without them we could not find other ways of singing praise?  I often wonder if perhaps rather than reciting the words of David maybe we should be finding our own way to praise God for what He has done and is doing for us today.  Are you also saying that before Jesus preached the sermon on the mount, He broke out the old guitar and Peter got on drums so that the crowd could get misty eyed and sway as they sang “Draw me close”?  Is it not church if we don’t sing these simple poppy songs? 

It’s hilarious to me that “modern” churches have gone so far to prove to us that the old liturgy and hymns were irrelevant to us, and what they have replaced them with is “The Newsboys greatest hits.” 


OK.  There’s my deconstruction.  Here’s how I would love to reconstruct…

The blue haired 90 year old Edith at the organ pulling out all of the stops on the final verse of hymn #491 is another scenario wrought with problems.  I’d probably go to the mega church and endure the “hillsongs wanna-be band” if I had to make a choice between the two.  But the beauty of it is that I don’t have to make a choice between those two.  For the first time, it’s up to me.  I get to decide why we do what we do, and what we actually do, do.  I am excited and scared about this at the same time.  What scares me is that I think that I could have our worship leader play 4 songs from the worship top 40 each week and we could do it better than the churches in our area, or at least AS good.  I think that we could do this in a way that would bring in many people from those local churches, and also some people who aren’t churched as well.  I think that it would be the easiest thing to do.  Kind of a color by numbers kind of thing. 

But what I want to do… Is … AW crap.  In order to tell you what I want to do.  I have to tell you why, first.  I am not seeing many people do this right now.  Most people that are deciding what to do seem to be going with the: “I’ll do church better than it is being done by having a better band play those same songs, and a better website saying those same things, and sermons saying what they already expect to hear. I will just do it better than the church down the street and we will be bigger.”

Here is what I want to have.  A church where people feel that they are a part of something meaningful, something fun, something real, something original, something where their gifts are as important as the church jocks and church cheerleaders.  I feel that too often church services seem like a pep rally before the game.  I want to recognize that this is not a game, and church is not a rally.  Church should be preparing us for real meaningful interaction in the real world, and celebrating what is being accomplished, by us and by others in the real world.  In church we should be challenged and encouraged.  (I could write more about this, and will, but this is off of the top of my head.)

I want to use testimonies from real people, stories, art, films, humor, examples from the lives of others, food, celebrations of the accomplishments of people and especially children, and I want them to be used in worship as artistically as any piece of music. 

For instance:  The Topic of the Week is “Love Your Enemies.” (not in any particular order)  The business owner tells a story about what happened when he applied this bit of scripture to a shoplifter, or a competitor.  (live or on video) A comedian tells a couple of jokes about being bullied as a kid.  An artist’s painting about Peace in the middle of Chaos is used and featured and described, either on stage or in the bulletin, the child of the janitor tells the story of how his dad gave him advice on how to deal with a bully at school.  A family passes out the same kind of cookies that they baked and gave the angry neighbor down the street.  There is a shortage on worship songs about loving someone who is an enemy, because this is one of those scriptures that does not lend itself to trite 3 chord songs; and churches didn’t need to talk too much about it because it means loving Saddam and Osama and Nancy Pelosi; and those are a little too radical for most churches.  So maybe the band plays a fun version of “In the Name of Love.”  And because the congregation already preached a beautiful message, the sermon is split up during the service.  Maybe this is a two week topic, not because I have 3 more points to make, but maybe because the congregation has more amazing stories, humor, art, or food.  Maybe in week two, we sing the hymn “It is Well” which addresses injustice and our reaction to it. 

With those ways of worship, we don’t need to fill 25 minutes with music choruses.  I’m certainly not saying that we don’t need worship music.  Some weeks, might lend themselves to singing 2 songs, and some weeks we might want to have 5.  Some weeks might have a popular song, 2 worship songs, and a hymn done well (that is also explained.)  But some weeks, you will say:  because the church is learning to worship using their lives and talents in non-traditional ways, there isn’t room for more than a song or two. 

The real challenge of doing this will be creating a culture at church that recognizes what is being done and wants to participate with their lives.  It will take some serious vision casting and explanation, but it is a goal I will shoot for.  Not because I don’t like worship music.  But because of the unbelievably huge variety of ways that God gives us to worship.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Good Stupid Movies

This has been a topic that has been bugging me lately.

Stupid movies.

There are a lot of movies that I love that other people criticize as being "stupid" or dumb, or whatever. Movies like:
Dumb & Dumber
Hot Rod
Super Troopers
Austin Powers
Brothers Solomon
Happy Gilmore
Kung Pow
The Stupids
Billy Madison
Spies Like Us
Land of the Lost
Ace Ventura
Joe Dirt

Trust me, there are tons more.

I love all of those movies. But after making comments about any of these movies or quoting lines from them there is always someone who says: "That movie is stupid!"

Which almost always elicits the same response in my mind. My first thought is always: "if you went to that movie to see a movie that was not a 'stupid movie' YOU are stupid."

Of course they are stupid. That's the whole point. The plots are not overly complex, and the characters are somewhat simple and straightforward, most of the time it is the performance of the writing and the acting that are on display here. And by acting, I am not talking about Meryl Streep and Deniro, I am talking about slapstick, physical comedy, voice acting etc.

I understand if these maybe aren't the genre that you would most love to see. I get it, you don't have to love these movies. They may just not be your thing. Cool, fine, but don't tell me that they aren't good.

These movies take a ton of talent from an actor. Show me any other actor who could have pulled of Ace Ventura, better yet, show me any actor who has won an academy award who could do it. Tom Hanks could be in a stupid movie and Robin Williams has pulled off great stupid movie characters, but Deniro, Pacino, DiCaprio, Daniel Day-Lewis, Denzel, none of them can pull off that level of physically demanding stuff. Any of them could be in a movie and say funny things, but could they really pull off a stupid movie? No!

So there is certainly a great performance talent involved in stupid movies. You can't question that.

But what about writing? I know, I know, sometimes that plot is silly. But often, you need to admit that it is brilliantly silly. A writer of a stupid movie is there often to build a story around a character. The point is to put the character into situations where they are incongruous or ridiculous. Ace Ventura at the high society dinner looking for snowflake. Joe Dirt in Buffalo Bob's basement cave. Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunn living it up in Aspen. Ron Burgundy in the Bear Pit.

And the one liners! Can you quote from any movie the way that you could from watching Anchorman, or Dumb & Dumber or Austin Powers? Very few movies have presented that many memorable moments. Those moments are due to funny writing and good performances.

The snarky and mean side of me watches people bash these movies and thinks: "you are so desperate to sound smart and above others that you are not willing to enjoy something silly."

The even less politically correct side of me notices that women often are the ones who have a problem with these movies. Ladies, show me how in the world anyone can think a romantic comedy with Sandra Bullock and Keanu, or Ryan Reynolds or any one else has as much talent as a stupid comedy.

I also need to point out that just because some movies get called stupid, I am not necessarily going to like them. The Scary Movie , Epic Movie etc franchises are proving that they can be as equally paint by the numbers as a Sandra Bullock movie. I saw about 15 minutes of a Larry the Cable Guy movie the other day and noticed that there was absolutely nothing to the movie, poorly written and poorly acted by someone who does the one character for a living. Pretty weak stuff.

All I am saying here is: don't get hung up on the one gratuitous gross-out scene that seems to be mandatory in every stupid comedy these days. Get beyond it and enjoy a fun movie. No one said it had to be "No Country for Old Men" every time.

Wait, that just made me think of something. You can't get passed the vomit scene in Team America, but somehow you're OK with "friendo" blasting people's heads apart in that movie. That was disturbing! "The Departed" was a great movie, but there are blood and brains and more foul language than any stupid comedy I have ever seen. I'm just sayin'.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Where We're At.

I have been asked recently by a few people that I have not done a good job staying in touch with: "Where are You?" Here's the answer...

Yep. I'm gonna tell the whole story. Well at least the whole highlight reel of the story and I will let you make up your own mind about where we are, because it has been a crazy few months. I'm also going to begin posting on this blog. Some posts will be repeated on a church plant blog that I am also going to create just to sort out posts about just church planting stuff.
But here we go...

Some of you know more of the story than others, so I am going to fill all of you in on the last few years and months of our lives, just to frame what we are doing in a way that makes sense.

Keep in mind for this retelling that I grew to know and experience God through a church that I was at when it began (a church plant). That particular church had a different feeling at that time than any other church that I have ever been at. (I am not saying that to put down other
churches that I have been at. Some churches should feel different than others, no question. But this particular church is a church that desperately cared for people, broken people, needy people, hurt people, questioning people, confused people, ANY people. There were good things and bad things about that church, and I honestly believe that because of the people at that church who mentored me, and the people that I worked with and spent time with, I got an even different feel from that church than many other people had. I realize that my nature is to set this feeling and this perception of this church on a pedestal, and to idealize my skewed remembrance of this place. But I have thought those things through and that is not what I am doing.

There was a feeling at that place that made me know and believe that there are people who want to live as a community of God in very Matthew 5 types of ways, honestly confessing to each other, helping each other and growing together. That feeling and those people were a big part of starting me on a path of growth.

All of that was a preface...

That past feeling has created a need and desire in my life to see others live that way. Expecting God to do something, expecting people to open to each other and live deeply together, and reaching out to not only draw other people in, but also going out and infecting other people with that spirit and feeling.

I should stop talking about the feeling, because you are probably thinking that it is some unobtainable and over blown sentiment that I have built up too much.

In many church moments that I have been in since, it wasn't just that there was a different feeling, many times, there was no feeling, or a feeling that a church should be something that exists for itself. Some of the feelings that I have experienced from chur
ches that I have been in since at their best moments have been:
-desires to fill seats
-goals of increasing budgets to support programs and facilities
-desires to make the people on the outside of the church look and act like the people on the inside
-a blind eye to incredible amounts of selfishness and sin of church leaders
-the attitude that the people in the congregation are ignorant compared to the staff
-a desire to disciple people who have more primary needs
-a desire to educate people who have more primary needs
-a desire to rebuke peoples' sin without dealing with bigger issues
-a desire to placate people because of their financial support of the church

Whoa, whoa, whoa...Mike. Are you saying that these churches were this depraved, that they cared more about money than people?!
NO! That's not at all what I am saying. I need to qualify and explain this so that you don't get the wrong idea. In fact, when you look at all of these statements, there are good and bad parts to each of them. Most of these statements characterize churches who want to bring more people in, churches that want to educate, and disciple, churches that want to deal with the things that separate people from a relationship with God.

What I am saying is that there are times when the necessities of money and facility get in the way of people, there are times when good people with good desires get tunnel vision that makes them lose perspective on what the church is about.

And of course, I was the angel who always maintained the Biblical, Jesus perspective on all of these issues.. Right? Nope, that wasn't me at all. I got caught up in almost every one of those feelings at one time or another. I wanted my program to be the biggest and best and holiest. I wanted to be recognized for my ability to do ministry. I wanted people to pour their money and time into my ministries so that other people would come in and say: WOW! This place must have the best youth pastor ever!

I was corrupted by wrong motives over and over again. I was filled with selfish and self gratifying desires time and time again.

I wasn't immune to all of that stuff. I was participating in it, I was justifying my own ambitions by saying, and trying to make myself believe that it was all for God. But there
was too much of me in there.

I want to be sure that you know that I don't hold any of the pastors that I worked for or with as responsible for all of that. All three of the pastors I have worked for over the past decade were gifted and talented in so many ways. Craig was one of the warmest and caring and genuine Pastors that I have ever met. John was an incredible visionary and manager who could inspire commitment in people's lives, Allan is one of the most talented and funny communicators I have ever been around. None of them were perfect, all of them were special and taught me a lot. All of them cared deeply about their church and the people who attended it. No doubt.

At each of those churches I have met and worked with amazing people. People rich with personality and passion. Unique people who can't be duplicated anywhere.

Each of those churches, talented and gifted leaders, amazing and unique people in the congregation. But in each of those places, I tried to create something like what I had felt before. I'll make it clear here that, no, I don't live in the past and don't think that I can have those feelings back. What I was trying to create, was that kind of passion and purpose. I could be like many youth pastors or church staffers that I know who complain that the Senior Pastor, or the Board, created a place where this could not happen.

But when it comes down to it, it was not the fault of the Senior Pastor, they are supposed to cast the vision for their church and teach others to communicate it well. It is certainly not the fault of the board or congregation. Though all of those entities change the persona of the church by their presence and decisions, a vast majority of board members and church congregants, seemed willing to follow and grow.

If you are looking for someone to blame, there are two choices that I will give you:
-You can either say: "it is too difficult for one staff member to change the ethos or persona of the whole church themselves! It is a systemic fault in all large churches." And I will agree, it was not my place to overstep leadership and demand my way so that everyone can conform to what I want all of us to feel. I will also agree that large churches in today's culture have huge challenges to keep the focus off of programs, budgets, staffing, facilities and ON people.

-Or you can say: "The common denominator in all of those situations is YOU Mike!" And I will also agree. I certainly got distracted and caught up in all of those challenges. I certainly was full of selfishness at times. But, I will say, to be honest: the bigger problem with me was that there were too many times where I could have taken a stand and didn't, where I could have made waves and valued harmony too much. There are too many times when I saw w
rong things happening and just wrote it off as: "that's just who they are, or how they see things." There are too many times when I could have risked, but I chose to remain silent, or stationary, or even worse went along with things that I did not agree with.

I can not tell you the number of times when I knew that I should have, or could have done, but I remained silent because it would create too much disharmony, or because it would put a key staff member or volunteer against me, or because it would overshadow other ministries or take an inordinate proportion of budget away from other good things that were happening.

I didn't risk, simply because it would have put me in a place in which I am not generally comfortable, in conflict. Some of these risks may have cost me my job, or would have painted me in a poor light to my superiors. Risking my job, meant risking my house and f
inances and the comfort of my family. But by not risking those things, I have been living as something that I am not. Or rather, I have not let myself or my family be who they could have been.

I have not only deprived myself of happiness for the sake of other people's harmony, I have also deprived my family of the husband and dad that I truly am. I have deprived my churches of knowing the leader and pastor that I know that I am. This isn't to say that I have not let myself out at times, or that relationships have been fake or untrue with me. What I am saying is that everything has been watered down. I wasn't living a lie at all. But I wasn't living fully in the truth. When it comes down to it, there have been few people that I have known that have lived in the honesty and truth that I am talking about. Seriously, most of the people that I have known, and have worked with, the staff members, the parents of the youth that I have ministered to, most of them have made it clear that they lived in the same paradigm but in different circumstances. Whether it has been working at a job that they don't like because they don't think they could qualify for another, going to the "safety college" because it is closer and cheaper than the place where they really want to go, tolerating sexual harassment at work, tolerating disrespect from their spouses, believing that their kids couldn't become obedient or motivated because of their personalities, or many many other reasons or circumstances: most people I know live in this paradigm where staying safe, tolerating less than what they are
worth, and asking too little from themselves at work or in relationships characterizes their everyday lives. I didn't want to live like this.

I want to make it clear here that I wasn't living with some major gross unresolved sin. But my regret is that i did not step up more often and risk. When we created small groups and Flipside in Port Orchard, and when we changed FlipSide and made it better and better, and when we moved to Phoenix, and when we changed Hot Church and created new groups. All of those were bold moves were glimpses into what God was doing in me. Those all took hard work and passion. But, I often wonder how much different or better each would have been had I stood up and moved forward daily with the same risk and passion that it took to create those groups and the trips and the moments that came out of them. Risking more would have brought me more disharmony and discomfort, and who knows, it may have gotten me fired at times. I would probably have more scars. Hopefully, I would have picked the right times and issues for which to take a stand. I always did pride myself on knowing which battles to choose, but more often than not, that may have been a justification to stay out of any battles.

So recently I took a chance. I felt a call to step out and take every risk in the book at the same time. I will talk about this call in another post at another time. The short of it is that not only did I feel a call to plant a church, I felt a need to do it. I felt a real choice inside of me that said I could either continue on doing what I was doing only taking the smaller risks and only letting the watered down version of me out; and I could do this for the rest of my life and the rest of my ministry. OR, I could finally take the risk.
Maybe God sets things up like this. Maybe there was a sense in God's call that because of how long I had been sheltering myself and my family and my churches and the people I ministered from the whole me, maybe I would have to take every risk in the book. Maybe I would have to risk our home and financial security, and good salary, and our place at a nice and fun church in a safe and good neighborhood, with our putting green and pool. This risk, presented itself as the hurdle to getting to where we wanted to go, and also as the very clear choice that I could continue in safety, knowing that there was more of me to give; or to let go of everything that seemed so stable, risk it all and be the real me.

Let me make it clear. God called me to risk it all. But it was not the risk I trumped it up to be. I was not risking my relationship with Kim, she has always been in my corner and I have never felt that so solidly as right now. I was risking her finances, and I was risking my kids security at many levels. But, one thing I have learned in the last few months is that God has ALWAYS stepped up and been a provider and protector. I was done working half way through May, Kim was done at the end of July and somehow we have still made it this far.

For those of you who don't know the logistics...
We were asked to interview for a Church Planting position in Washington State, which basically meant that there was some funding in place, provided by a church that wanted to see a new church start and reach new people. We interviewed and the opportunity was put on hold. We didn't know what we should do.

I had felt a call to planting for quite a while, but never was the call so strong. I quit my job, without knowing where we were going, but knowing that the only way to move forward was to quit my past and move ahead. We then had a choice: figure out how to plant a church in Phoenix, or figure out how to plant a church in Washington state (which is where I felt a real desire to go to.)

The easier plan was to plant in Phoenix. So we started thinking this way. Until a couple of friends suggested that we not do the easiest thing. We got confirmation when we started thinking this way. The original group who called us about the plant in Washington, and not long after, I was offered a solid job where I could be a bi-vocational pastor. A friend would pay me to manage a pizza store, and would pay benefits for my family too.

This would be difficult, but it was real and it was a way. So we started planning this way. Until our friend from Washington State called us again. Because the Pizza job was a one year commitment and would start almost immediately (and was not able to be postponed), I had a choice. I could pursue the Washington church plant which was like a dream come true, or I could take the pizza job and see what happens. Let me make it clear, because the Pizza job was a sure thing offered by a such a good person with a good heart, it was safer. The risk was to try for the Washington church plant for which I would only know if I was able to do it after I went through an assessment. This assessment could have told us that we were not able or ready or qualified to plant a church.

We went to the assessment. We risked it all again. We were moving to Washington regardless, but this would determine whether we would have a job when we got there or not.

The assessment was grueling. We threw our whole selves into it. We were given assignments late in the day to be ready by morning. We could have done the minimum, but we stayed up almost all night, both nights, we spent money on them, we worked as hard as we could. And we did well.

I don't know whether we would have gotten the thumbs up from the church planting assessment if we did the minimum, and I don't know if us going all out with effort made the difference. But I will tell you this, it made the difference for me. It not only showed me how much I wanted this, and how much I was called to do this and able to do this, it showed me that I am ready to go all out. I am ready to risk it all and put myself out there. Putting ourselves out there helped convince me that I will be better when I fully put it all on the line.

They did give us the thumbs up, or green light or whatever. And I have to tell you that even though it was only 3 days. It was more meaningful to me that any graduation I have ever been through. I never put it all out there in High School or College.

So I moved us here. Knowing that I had risked it all, and we are only just beginning. There are a lot more risks to come. There is a lot more of me to pour out there.

There are a couple of times in this move where I have forgotten how much God is providing for us and have been filled with worry or fear, but at every level, God meets our needs. Even renting a house, I was tempted to go the easy road and choose second best. But I decided to risk it and negotiate for the owner of the house that we liked to bring it to the same price as our lower priced "safe" choice. I told them that I would walk away, if they didn't. We did get the house.

We are in Marysville, right next to Lake Stevens. We are clearly seeing an area of need in this place and area ready to go all out to be a part of this community and to start a church where people will feel like I felt 15 years ago.

I want to feel at home in my own skin. I want to love the place where I live and love the people in this place. I want to pour everything I have out here. There is not even a part of me that imagines that this road is going to be easy. But I already made that choice. I said bye, bye to easy and chose risk.

If you are asking where we are at, there is one simple answer: We are home.

** My Disclaimers
1. By saying that I did not risk and put myself out there in relationships, I want whoever reads this to know that I was not "fake" in my relationships. In fact, I feel very fortunate to have the friends that I have. But I have not risked enough to move relationships to deeper levels. I don't regret any relationships that I have made. My regrets are the ones that I either didn't make, or never had more depth of discussion and care.

2. I want to make it clear that in no way am I faulting any church, pastor, board, or congregant for anything. In fact, I really treasure time at each of those places. If anything, I fault myself for not investing even more of myself.

3. I also want to make it clear that I am very proud of many things that I have been a part of in ministry over the years. The groups, small groups, trips, the way the spirit moved in Mexico more than once, the creation of small groups and FlipSide in Port Orchard, the changes that we made in Hot Church. There have certainly been times where I have been moved to be a part of very special ministries at each of these churches. All of those things took a lot of hard work and were glimpses into what I was called to do.