Author: Jason Janz

I am a husband to Jen, father of four boys, a pastor at an urban church, and an Executive Director at a non-profit that helps people escape poverty for good. I'm a 30-year+ Denver resident and enjoy friends, books, travel, and loving my neighborhood.

Oh Manual, Our Manual

By Jason Janz

 

As the NBA finals kick into gear, I’m reminded of the fervor that arose in our neighborhood just a few months back. In March, we were privileged to witness an outburst of hope in Northeast Denver. It was the time of year when high school basketball takes center stage for the district and state tournaments. The hopes of thousands of students rise up and take the floor with the anticipation of seeing their endless drills and late night practices pay off by gaining them a trophy.

 

As a long-time Colorado resident, I remember going to the CHSAA tournaments and cheering on my high school team. Never very good at basketball, I knew my spot was in the cheering section. It’s been twenty-five years since those days, but this weekend I found myself in that same cheering section, except now I was cheering on my 11th grade son.

 

Hudson is a student at Manual High School and he is a Thunderbolt through and through. We moved to city eight years ago and placed our children into neighborhood schools. As newbies to urban education, we have experienced the highs and lows, the beauty and the pain, of a turbulent educational environment. One of the beauties of the city that my son discovered is the brotherhood that develops around sports. As our son found his “bros” on the ball court, we found ourselves inextricably linked with a community that’s as strong and deep as we’ve ever experienced.

 

The boys’ basketball team has had a growing year. We’ve watched as they have improved each game and played better as a team each week. However, we still finished the season with just a 10-9 record. In our league, we were just 3-5. In Class 3A, we were ranked 26th out of 63 teams – just a tad above middle of the road. However, at the end of the season, everyone gets a shot at the playoffs.

 

The playoffs start out with Districts. Manual won their first game, but lost their next two. To their surprise, their performance gained them a seed in the state tournament ranked as 21st.

To go to State was an unexpected thrill for our team.

 

Their first game was against the 12th ranked team. We thought this would be the end of the road, but we ended up winning 68-57. The next night, we took the court against the 5th ranked team. The boys fought hard and to the surprise of everyone, we went into overtime. However, it looked as though our hard work would be for naught and we would be knocked out. We were down by three with 3.7 seconds to go. In a moment for the Manual ages, the inbound pass ended up in the hands of a freshman who had limited game time this year, Sebastian Mahan. Just before the buzzer sounded, he hurled the ball 60% of the distance of the court and swish! We were headed to double overtime where we would eventually win 97-90. We were going to the Elite Eight!

 

Manual High School has a marvelous history. In spite of popular belief, it wasn’t named after a Latino named Manuel. It was part of a nation-wide blueprint that placed a North, South, East, and West high school in metro cities with a Manual High School in the center of town. At it’s core, it was a strategy of stereo-typed low expectations on urban students who could only make it in the “manual trades.” In spite of this mindset, Manual has left an indelible mark upon our city. Our first black mayor walked these halls. Our current mayor is a proud alum. As you enter the foyer, you will see tributes to it’s storied students painted on the walls. At one time, actually eleven times, they were the best basketball team in the state and are tied for the most Colorado high school basketball championships.

 

But those days seem so far away. The last few decades have been rough for Manual. The school was closed down because of low academic performance in 2006 in spite of a community uproar. Promises were made for the re-opening and hope was high. A Manual alumnus was selected as the principal and the school quickly gained autonomy so that it could make bold and innovative changes. But, after a couple of years at the helm, our leader resigned in disgust because of district bureaucracy. This began a pattern that would repeat in the ensuing years. Manual has now had five principals over the past nine years. As attendance plummeted, so did the number of times we would win championships. While we all like to brag about our championship trophies, we haven’t won a basketball title in twenty-five years.

 

What made the school go downhill? Let’s just start at the top. Chalkbeat published an article entitled, “Two decades later, a school boundary decision that isolated poor students reverberates.” They highlighted a school board decision that was charged with issues of race and class. After forced busing was removed from public education, boundaries had to be determined. After long debates, Manual was left with a small boundary which doomed it to low enrollment and a low-income boundary which kept it from becoming socio-economically diverse. Those board members who voted for it now admit it was a big mistake. However, DPS has shown their absolute unwillingness to fix the problem – change the boundary and cap enrollment at East. So, now you have East High School just a mile down the road busting at the seams with 2000 students and Manual with under 400.

 

Sometimes when you see the injustice and the price that is paid by those who suffer under it’s weight, you can grow discouraged. You can easily feel like you are battling a beast that you will never defeat. It’s a true David vs. Goliath, but for some reason our stones always just miss. Board meetings, parent meetings, community organizing, protests – you name it. We’ve tried it all. After awhile, although you hate to admit it, you begin to lose hope that you will get the resources and the attention needed to make the school a success. As you try to rally parents and community members to affect change, you see the faraway look in their eyes. It’s as if they say, “I once had your energy and hope. But, I’ve been lied to, taken advantage of, and shunned. And I’m tired.” I didn’t initially understand it, but now I do. However, the last thing you want the students to see is how hopeless you begin to feel inside. After all, they need to know that the big kids got their back.

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The tournament moved to the Coliseum. Bigger stage, better teams. You could sense that everyone felt it was almost too good to be true. We couldn’t help but pinch ourselves. We went up against Colorado Academy in the first game. No stranger to us. They sit inside the 3A Metro League and we play them twice a year. And if you’ve been around Denver long enough, you know who goes to CA. $18,000 a year, private school, athletes with college scholarship offers – you know the type. In our previous two meetings, they had schooled us beating us by a combined total of 42 points in both games.

 

It was a battle and at halftime we were actually keeping up. To our delight, our boys were not backing down. Six sections of the Coliseum, peppered in red and blue, started to shout and chant. Could it happen? As a parent, you know the feeling of seeing the hopes of your children dashed and sometimes, you’d rather they didn’t hope. But, in the second half, we couldn’t help it. The lid came off and we we all started to believe. We were hanging with them in the third, and we couldn’t restrain ourselves. Our hoarse voices cheered with every turnover and as the ball would would drop for another basket, we started dancing. With just minutes to go, we were in the lead by a few. And then it became seconds. We were up 70-66 and the buzzer sounded. We won!

 

Pandemonium ensued! We couldn’t hold ourselves back. I immediately leapt over the retaining wall and bounded over the scoring table and ran onto the court hugging the players. My mind recalled the many times they hung out at our home through the years and this was a moment for celebration. Dozens more joined the mob at center court and joy was unleashed. Over the loudspeaker, you could hear, “Fans, please stay off the court, please stay off the court.”

We weren’t fans. We were family.

I entered the Coliseum the following day for the Final Four game and a CHSAA official was waiting. He pulled me into the tunnel and gave me a talking to about rushing the floor. I was told how dangerous it was and he asked me if I understood the danger of what had happened. I pondered giving him a mini-speech on the danger of low expectations, systemic injustice, and not making a big deal out of students who, over the course of their lives, have had to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, but I wasn’t sure it was going to fall on listening ears. Also, I felt that I would be ushered right out of the room and nobody was going to take away the privilege of watching our team take the court for the Final Four.

 

Our luck would run out that day and we ended up with fourth place. In the movies, we have Hoosier moments, last second buzzer beaters, and legendary stories. Most of us don’t ever get to experience that. We get the almost instead of the utmost. This was our lot in the tournament, but the point had been made.

 

In the movie, The Dead Poets Society, Robin Williams re-instills a desire for learning and growth in the young boys in a private boarding school. His bucking of the system and unconventional style cost him his job and he is forced to leave. In the movie’s closing moments, a remarkable scene unfolds as he is leaving his classroom for the last time. The dean of the school has assumed his teaching duties and is forcing the boys to go back to the traditional text. You can read the unrest in the students as they watch their prized teacher and friend pack his belongings and shuffle out the door. All of the sudden, the students ignore the new teacher and begin to stand on their desks as they look toward Williams. They spontaneously proclaim their love for him – “Oh Captain, My Captain.” He had sparked hope in their lives and they would never be the same.

 

As our Final Four game was wrapping up, it was obvious we weren’t going to move into the championship game. The boys hung their heads. The road was going to stop here. And we could sense their defeated spirits. Our hearts went out to the boys who had resurrected a small part of the dreams of a historic neighborhood. And then spontaneously from the stands, a droning chant rose up – “T-Booooooooollts, T-Boooooooooolts, T-Boooooolts.” This went on for several minutes drowning out the cheers of the winning team.

 

What was this?

 

This was the sound of a community long neglected by the powerful, rising to their feet and thanking a group of ten players for helping us believe that keeping the faith is always worth it. The students had become our teachers. “Oh Manual, Our Manual.”

 

To the players and coaches, thank you. Dez, Novaj, Hudson, Jadedon, Sea Bass, Masiah, Jerome, Losseny, Nashon, Sufyan –  we know you wanted a ring, but what you gave your community was so much deeper than that. Don’t hang your heads. Because, as you walk our streets, there is nothing but respect.

 

The Poverty of the Rich: Minecraft Founder

In 2014, software giant Microsoft paid $2.5 billion to acquire Mojang AB, the Swedish company that created the worldwide gaming sensation Minecraft. The deal made Markus Persson a billionaire, with a personal net worth of about $1.3 billion, according to Forbes. Persson promptly outbid Beyoncé and Jay-Z for a Beverly Hills megamansion—a $70 million home that’s been described as an “overwhelming sensory experience,” as the listing read, outfitted with insane amenities like M&M towers, vodka and tequila bars, a movie theater and 15 bathrooms, each equipped, we’re told, with toilets that cost $5,600 each.

But on August 29, 2015 Persson posted a series of tweets that captured his gnawing sense of unhappiness and dissatisfaction:

4:48am: The problem with getting everything is you run out of reasons to keep trying, and human interaction becomes impossible due to imbalance.

4:50am: Hanging out in Ibiza with a bunch of friends and partying with famous people, able to do whatever I want, and I’ve never felt more isolated.

4:52am: When we sold the company, the biggest effort went into making sure the employees got taken care of, and they all hate me now.

4:53am: Found a great girl, but she’s afraid of me and my life style and went with a normal person instead.

Profiting from The Profit: Point #1 – by Jason Janz

I’ve recently been captivated by a CNBC series called The Profit, a reality show where Marcus Lemonis turns around failing small businesses. He starts by assessing the operation, making a partnership offer, taking absolute control of the turnaround, and executing the plan. For me, it’s a fascinating show to watch, not just as it relates to business, but as it relates to human behavior and psychology. I want to write about several lessons I have learned from watching over 20 episodes.

Profit Point 1: If your business is failing, get someone involved who is smarter than you to help you.

This is priority Numero Uno. After watching over twenty episodes, the profile of the owners share some characteristics. They are stressed out, unable to see the forest for the trees, trapped in a survival mindset, and pretty opinionated. When Marcus begins to assess the mess, the owners look at him like he has just slapped them. “Why are you selling jewelry in a hair salon?” “Why do you not have a system for inventory?” “Why don’t you know your margins?” “Why haven’t you let that person go?”

One thing is obvious. Nobody like Marcus has shown up in a long time. Within what appears like a short period of time, Marcus has sized up the business and determined if the cancer lies in one or more of his three categories: People, Process, and Product. So, why don’t owners do this before the situation becomes dire? My gut tells me that most owners (a) lack the know-how to fix it or (b) misjudge the urgency of the situation. For those who lack the know how, their pride, exhibited by insecurity or arrogance, keeps them from reaching out. For those who misjudge the urgency, they seem to think, “I’ll fix that when I get these other pressing issues out of my hair.” And these are devastating mistakes. The cancer metastasizes.

I am on the board of a church and a non-profit and the Executive Director of a non-profit. Together, we have 30 employees and a multi-million-dollar budget. When I look at the major pivot points in our work in the urban core since we started eight years ago, I can always point to someone smarter than me looking in and seeing what I couldn’t see. My only regret is not bringing them into my problems sooner. The Hebrew scriptures say, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” I want to cultivate that discipline.

Jason Janz lives in Denver, CO and is pastor of a church and Executive Director of Upstream Impact, an urban non-profit that empowers people who live in poverty to move to the middle class. 

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The Poverty of the Rich

The story is told of a father of a wealthy family who took his son on a trip to the country to show his son how poor people can be. They spent a couple of days and nights on the farm of what would be considered a very poor family. On their return from the trip, the father asked his son, “How was the trip?

“It was great, Dad.”

“Did you see how poor people can be?” the father asked.

“Oh yeah,” said the son.

“So what did you learn from the trip?” asked the father.

The son answered: “I saw that we have one dog, and they have four. We have a pool that reaches to the middle of our garden, and they have a creek that has no end. We have imported lanterns in our garden, and they have stars at night. Our patio reaches to the front yard, and they have the whole horizon.

“We have a small piece of land to live on, and they have fields that go beyond sight. We buy our food, but they grow theirs. We have walls around our property to protect us, but they have their friends to protect them.”

With this, the boy’s father was speechless.

Then his son added, “Thanks, Dad, for showing me how poor we are.”

Ron Blue,Faith-based Family Finances (Tyndale, 2008), pp. 29-30

 

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Perhaps It’s Time For Africa To Convert Us

Once a month, our African choir, newly named Echo Of Heaven, sings at our weekend service. Many of them come from East African refugee camps and are trying to make a go of it here in the US. When I listen, it’s a deeply spiritual experience for me. I can’t clap on their rhythm, keep up with their lyrics, or match their passion. It’s a metaphor for the mismatch of our faith. I’ve settled for a faith born out of the upper 5% – the globally rich. They’ve cultivated a faith at the opposite end. After 42 years in the American church, I have to say that what they have is more attractive than what I have. 165 years ago, David Livingston went to Africa as a missionary explorer. After that, streams of Protestant missionaries followed in his footsteps. But perhaps it’s time for the stream to flow in the opposite direction. Perhaps it’s time for Africa to come here and convert us.

(I took pictures of some of the lyrics so you can see the difference between American praise music and that borne out of suffering.)

Dedicated Fans, Fractured Families, and Snowball Fights: How Sports Brings Us Together

 

by Jason Janz

Eight years ago, Juan Pena and I, our families, and a small team of people banded together to start a church and non-profit work in an urban neighborhood in Denver. Juan and I have become a tag team as we’ve worked together on urban education, poverty alleviation, and community development. We’ve become great friends and have seen each other in the best of times and worst of times.

Our wives would tell you that sometimes our biggest challenge is unplugging from the work. Our staff team has discovered that there’s an “on-call” nature to the work coupled with an endless amount of work to be done. Without creating intentional spaces for rest and relaxation, one can develop unhealthy patterns pretty quickly. One of the ways, we both relax or “chilax” as my sons call it, is through sports.

I am a 30-year Denver resident and a dedicated Bronco fan. Juan lived in a Boston and is a die-hard Patriots fan. Both of our teams are competitive and both sit inside the same conference. So, since we started working together, our teams have been in the playoffs twelve times and actually have played each other three times in the postseason (Denver won twice, Pats only once).

So, we good-naturedly poke at each other all season long. I have plenty of fodder as long as Belichick is at the helm. And Deflate-gate. What a gift! More fun than I could’ve asked for. Of course, Peyton has plenty of chinks in his armor and so it comes back my way.

About three weeks ago, things took an interesting turn. Our teams were both in the running and looking strong going into the playoffs. As you know by now, we faced each other in the AFC Championship. But something was different this year. As the game approached, word got out that Juan’s 5-year-old son, Ezzy, was entertaining the thought of cheering for the Broncos. The parents put on a full court press and bribed him with ice cream and candy to be a true blue Patriots fan. You can see their manipulation played out here –

So, many of us Denverites banded together to “save him from the dark side.” We created a GoFundMe site (https://www.gofundme.com/5ekpeezg) and people pitched in from all over. $150 was given to purchase Broncos gear for him. After we purchased these gifts, we invited Ezzy over to our house to present the gifts. This is how that went down.

Well, as you all know, the Patriots choked and the Broncos went on to be in the Super Bowl. However, out of the blue, Juan received a call from CBS news asking if they could use his YouTube video from the Super Bowl last year where he recorded his family watching the game. It’s one for the ages and has received over 100,000 views. CBS will be using it in the pregame show to talk about dedicated fans.

Well, Antonio Johnson, Juan’s co-worker and friend, couldn’t let it rest. He reached out to local news stations and told them about the video and our journey with Ezzy. Could we use this to make him even more of a Bronco fan? Plus, Ezzy needed encouragement before the big day.

So, Antonio planned an event to further embed Ezzy in the Broncos cheering section for life. The Denver Post picked up on the story and arranged for a photo shoot with Juan in Patriots gear and Ezzy in his new Bronco gear. Antonio decided to plan an ambush of the photo shoot (which the Post was in on) by bringing a cheering section to the house. About thirty of us, decked out in orange and blue, gathered to spring the surprise. Well, when Juan saw us coming, he quickly commandeered a counter-offensive.

 

After our melee, we gathered in the house and celebrated Ezzy and our joint humanity. Sports has a way of bringing people together and bringing joy, light, and celebration into our lives.

 

Nelson Mandela once said that “Sport has the power to change the world…it has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than government in breaking down racial barriers.”

Indeed, we have seen both here and around the world the important role that sports plays in this journey we call life. I’m thankful for Juan. I’m thankful for his friendship. I’m thankful that in the middle of serious work, we don’t take ourselves too seriously.

Oh yeah…GO BRONCOS!!!!!

 

 

Redeeming Love

We met twenty-seven years ago on a college trip. As high-school students from different states, somehow we connected on a campus basketball court and we’ve been friends ever since. We counseled at summer camp and attended college togethCamper. He often traveled to my home in Denver and I went with him to his home and family in Abilene and Dexter, Kansas.

Life rolled on and we both got married and started our families. Occasionally, we’d get a chance to connect. He would take a trip to Denver. We would stop by on our way through Kansas. As my wife and I and our four boys were traveling to raise prayer and financial support for a new church plant, we stopped and crashed at their house and had a wonderful time.

But we’ve had our hard times too.

He was there at the funeral after my brother died in 2008. I rode in the passenger seat of his minivan as we drove to his wife’s graveside after she died unexpectedly three years ago.

So, when Ellis called me and asked me to perform the wedding for he and Karen, I was delighted and honored. Life’s clouds often seem more dark than fluffy and white and so when sunshine breaks through, those moments become pretty significant.

In our conversations prior to the wedding, I became more acquainted with how they fell in love. The story was so moving to me that I thought it’d be beneficial to tell it so many more can hear and be blessed.

When I perform a wedding, I endeavor to find out what the couple is all about. What brought them together? What can we, the watching world, expect to see out of this new creation as two become one? The theme that kept surfacing in our time together was redeeming love.

Redemption can be defined many ways. As Christians, they would testify to the fact that God demonstrated redeeming love by purchasing their salvation from a life of slavery to sin and their own desires. This truth has anchored their lives through its many twists and turns. However, they have seen for themselves that redemption doesn’t just happen in a moment of surrender. God continues the process of redemption and, as Webster defines it, he takes something and “makes it better.”

I was captivated by how this story of redemption unfolded in their lives. Because sometimes the work of redemption doesn’t look like things are getting better, but rather much worse.

Karen and Ellis both suffered the dissolution of their marriages. Karen through divorce and Ellis through death. She had to begin a new normal as a single mom that would last for seven years. He became a single dad to four children and, by his testimony, the help was scarce.

Where was God? Where was his “bettering” work? They would learn in this valley that God’s redemptive workshop often looks different than what we would design. What He is creating in us often feels like confusing and misguided work.

In this valley of doubt, Karen found a church family to lean on who helped her when she was short on her mortgage payment. Friends at work shoved busy work her way to help her get the hours she needed to keep food on the table. God used a community to show her a broader definition of family.

Ellis would start to feel the redeeming love of God in a grief group at his church. Always one to be talkative, Ellis underwent a transformation as he sat week after week and just learned to listen. When he was eventually asked to lead the group, he stood up in front and heard the stories of people’s loss. He told me that for the first time, he felt the pain of others in his own heart. What used to be mere sympathy turned to real and deep empathy for those who are hurting. Someone was getting better.

But where was this leading? Could this good God who walked with them through the darkest valleys provide complete healing or would the hurt overwhelm them? Would God’s redemptive work ever involve bringing love back into their lives? Could God take two dark stories and make one bright light? Karen and Ellis would see for themselves that even though there are times when it’s difficult to believe that God is working, it doesn’t mean that He’s not. His power is often slowly, steadily working on our behalf to see all things come together for good.

By this time, Karen had given up on romance until her kids were grown and out of the house. After all, who could she ever trust with her kids? And it seems as though few men she knew understood the lonely land of single parenting. A mutual friend, Debbie, took a gamble and introduced Ellis and Karen over email. Both had experienced the loneliness, despair, and frustration that comes with just entertaining the thought of getting remarried. So, when the intro came, to say they were hesitant would be an understatement. Yet, as the correspondence zipped back and forth over several weeks, something seemed different. Ellis called Debbie’s husband, Tim. “Is she for real? I really like her heart and something’s happening here.” Tim assured him, “I’ve seen her in action for years. I’ve watched her sacrifice to help my wife when she was ill for a time. She’s consistent. She’s the real deal.”

It seemed too good to be true. The writing turned to phone calls which led to the obvious. It was time to meet in person.

Ellis made the trip to Kansas City several hours from his home in Abilene. As he pulled up to her house, his nervous excitement was almost more than he could bear. He parked the car and glanced toward the front door. There she was. Standing on the front porch waiting for him.

He said his first thought was “Whew! She’s pretty. That worked out!”

But then it hit him. Here was a woman who had every reason to not trust men standing there waiting for him. It was as if she was saying, “Welcome home!” For Ellis, that meant everything. “Home” for Ellis growing up was not a place of security or solace. Dad wasn’t around and let’s just say that times were always pretty tough and lean.

Ellis thought to himself. “Could this be it?” After a pleasant time together, they began to see each other more regularly. And it was time to put this to the real test. They exchanged their objections seeing if one could scare off the other. She said it was like Jack Nicholson in “A Few Good Men” where he exclaimed, “You can’t handle the truth!” They were trying to see if they could handle each other’s “truth.”

“We have too many kids. You have three and I have four.”

“We live 2.5 hours away from each other.”

“You don’t know my dark side. So here, let me tell you.”

They got it all out. And neither of them ran away.

Ellis bald

They would soon discover that this match would make each of them better. He was trusting of others and demonstrated an “all-in” kind of love. She needed to see this as she had let hurt push her into a guarded corner. And Ellis parted clouds. His whole life, he has brought joy into dark places as he has endeavored to make the best of the tough cards he was dealt. She, on the other hand, brought order to his free-wheeling spirit. He said that the amount of lists and calendars she pulled out was a shock to his system. He was also moved as he watched her serve others. While he usually found himself up front and in charge, he watched her demonstrate a behind-the-scenes service that brought excellence and harmony to what she touched. There was no doubt that if these two became one, a lot of things would get better.

Ok. First test passed. “But what about our kids? This is about more than just us.” So the time came to see if a blended family was possible. At Spring Break, they rented two cabins on a lake and gave it a whirl. As the first meal was being prepared, nine humans were crammed around a small kitchen island with a cacophony of voices clamoring to be heard.

Karen thought to herself, “This is awesome!” She looked over at Ellis and caught his eye. They smiled. This might just work! Seven kids? Three 14-yr-old girls in one house? That sounds crazy! And it would be.

But sometimes crazy can be beautiful.ellis and karen baseball

It soon became obvious that “something better” was forming. They were clicking. The families were blending. On the Spring Break trip, the three 14-yr-olds became like sisters. Ellis and Karen decided it was time to take it to the next level. He began looking for a job and a place to live in Kansas City. After several months, God opened the door and he found a great job.  He struggled though in finding a place to live. They made it a matter of prayer and, to Karen’s surprise, one night she heard pounding outside. As she looked out to see what was happening, she saw her neighbor putting a “For Rent” sign in his front yard. For her, this was confirmation – a perfect environment in which to see if this “blending” could really pass the final test. Soon, Ellis and his crew moved in next door!

Once this was completed and a path became worn between the two houses, it was obvious this was meant to be. So, Ellis decided it was time to make it official. He gathered the courage and cash to make the ask. But he also needed words. Karen had referenced a Casting Crowns song during one of their conversations.

Maybe you and I were never meant to be complete
Could we just be broken together
If you can bring your shattered dreams and I’ll bring mine
Could healing still be spoken and save us
The only way we’ll last forever is broken together

These words provided context to this story of redeeming love. As he pulled out the ring, he referenced the song and said, “even though we are broken in different ways, our jagged edges fit perfectly together.”

And with that, she took him up on his offer.

Fast forward to January 2nd. Everyone’s dressed to the nines. The church building couldn’t be more beautiful and the wedding party couldn’t be more unique.

Seven kids.

Seven children all stood on the platform as they witnessed their mom and dad tying the knot.

IMG_2971Redeeming love took center stage that day. And it’s a story we all need to hear and believe in. It’s what the world needs. A hope that things can get better. A hope in a God who is working even in the dark places to see redemption come to full fruition. I realize that not every story culminates at a marriage altar and have two people riding off into the sunset. Sometimes, we stand at caskets and question “all things working together for good?” But take heart, God’s full work of redemption is always in motion.  Sometimes we see it in stories like this and sometimes we just have to trust that one day, all will be made right. The redeeming love of God has the power to make the most difficult stories better…much better.

EM with K signing

 

Give Refugees Rest

I was blessed to participate with Anthony Grimes and the Fellowship of Reconciliation in seeing this video come to fruition. I long to see a land that loves and welcomes the refugee and the immigrant. Let’s give them rest.

http://www.giverefugeesrest.com

 

Friends In The Fray

Friends In The Fray

I’ve recently finished reading one of Christianity Today’s books of the year, a biography on George Whitefield by Thomas Kidd. Whitefield was one of America’s most prominent itinerant preachers. I plan on writing a bit about what Kidd brings to light about this notorious evangelical. Kidd is making the claim that George Whitefield was the headwaters out of which modern evangelicalism flows which makes for an interesting perspective. If Kidd’s thesis is true, it has positive and negative implications for our movement.

Before I plunge into the waters very deeply, I wanted to call out attention to something that resonated with me after almost twenty years of ministry. Kidd writes,

“Escaping the dangers of lukewarm religion, Whitefield insisted, required surrounding oneself with like-minded believers. They could bolster a Christian’s faith as he in turn bolstered theirs. He lauded the benefits of belonging to such a group: ‘It [is] an invaluable privilege to have a company of fellow soldiers continually about us, animating and exhorting each other to stand our ground, to keep our ranks, and manfully to follow the Captain of our Salvation, though it be through a sea of blood.’ To Whitefield, Christianity was not for the faint of heart: it was for the manly and the martial.”

Unlike Whitefield, I have ministered with many women who would also fit this mold. However, his point is a great one that I believe many underestimate. To avoid lukewarm religion, you must choose your friends wisely. In our ministry, our motto is “Live Different.” We fight hard against the gravity of American consumerism and individualism. It’s pull is so seductive and subtle that one of the only ways to avoid it is to do life with a bunch of people who are “animating and exhorting each other to stand our ground.” It’s truly a battle to live biblically in America without getting consumed by the culture.

I might add that finding a like-minded tribe also makes the journey more fun, memorable, and enjoyable. Here’s to those who take the road less traveled…together.

Kidd, Thomas S. (2014-10-28). George Whitefield: America’s Spiritual Founding Father (p. 39). Yale University Press. Kindle Edition.

 

 

George Whitefield