Posts Tagged ‘theology’


Hard work and the New Year, Happy 2013

In Uncategorized on January 3, 2013 by mstevensrev Tagged: , , , ,

More than other years I have had a hard time brushing off the holiday tinsel and getting my groove back. Pretty sure today that has changed, not that the transition is easy.  Times of rest are important, and this holiday season was wonderful for that.  Now I am able to re-examine the goals both personal and professional I worked on at the end of 2012, having some space from them causes me to do the hard work of examining what I was thinking when I wrote them, and especially as it has to do with my personal goals I have plenty to write.  The deadline of New Years Day is silly to me and frankly I prefer to spend that time with family and friends.

ImageMy clearest personal goal for 2013 is to complete and Olympic Length Marathon.  I have done multiple sprint triathlons, marathons, and an ultra-race, so this race should be a ton of fun and one that I hope to be somewhat competitive in.  In December I transitioned to Vibram Shoes, that are minimal with very little issue.  Now that I am putting on more mile (this week) my calf muscles are tighter then they have ever been.  As I have read my suspicions were correct and the removal of the padding at my heal is causing my calf muscles to stretch like never before.  This and the added elevation I am running since taking to more trails, and I am in some pain…good pain.  Like I said knocking of the tinsel is not easy, also since my ultra race I have enjoyed the holiday food and drink and have probably put on fifteen pounds which will be gone shortly, but it makes these New Year workouts more challenging.

Tonight Karin and I are off to Seattle Art Museum for First Thursday, and got tickets for the Elles: Women Artists From the Centre Pompidou, Paris.  Checking out the installation will be great and perhaps an opportunity to connect over family goals or at least plan a time for that.

This year will be filled with lots of fun: really finding my stride in my still fairly new job at Moravia, bringing to life some side projects, youngest daughter entering preschool, middle daughter entering kindergarten, oldest daughter in her first professional play, and fourteen years of marriage.  Excited does not describe how I feel, there is so much hope.  Writing will be an area that I not only continue to create but also an area I seek to improve a great deal.  Had a goal of knocking out my book by February, will see how that goes:) I already have one international trip on the schedule and am pitching a talk for a second trip in London. 

Who knows what this year will have in store, but here on the third day of 2013, I’m ready for you 2013…are you ready for me?



Gun Violence and stupid responses

In Uncategorized on December 21, 2012 by mstevensrev Tagged: , , , , ,

The amount of finger pointing and accusations in our country is horrible.  There are smart people who live here that I hope would take a few minutes to pull themselves away from the latest geolocation game about cats and try to address this.  Anyway I am so disappointed by many friends I read both conservative and liberal, similar to how I felt during election season, that there is little true conversation happening just the public discourse that sure could lead this entire country over a cliff.

I grew up in Baltimore, MD born in 1976. So for the first eleven years I spent my childhood in what was one of the most violent cities in the United States.  The reason my family moved out of Baltimore is because my father was shot at in front of our house.  Having ducked just as the robber fired the bullet grazed my dad’s knuckles before the kids ran off with his wallet and the twenty bucks in it. To this day I’m not sure what year this took place, what I do know is that my family was not financially able to move immediately.  So my father a former U.S. Marine was forced to live in a violent neighborhood where he had been attacked with all of the anger and fear that goes along with that kind of an attack.  Yet to my knowledge my father did not go and purchase a gun. In my opinion my father is one of the ‘good’ people who would be a responsible gun owner, but he chose not to have a gun in our house. 

After moving out of Baltimore my father realized that I had a very unhealthy perspective of guns as a middle schooler, since all I ever knew in Baltimore was that criminals and friends of mine that were criminals had guns, I had a fear of guns.  To address this my dad arranged for me to join a 4-H shooting club that competed in marksmanship competitions.  This was an amazing experience, I learned  not only how to shoot, but how to assemble and clean a 22 rifle. Also the team president had a large arsenal that he allowed us to shoot, so I have had the opportunity to shoot various assault rifes and hand guns.  Needless to say my fear of guns faded as my knowledge grew, it seems I begin to understand a place for them other than in the hands of the violent.  

Perhaps I would have become more involved with gun culture but the son of the president of the 4-H Club was not emotionally stable, my father picked up on this clearly and felt like it was too much of a risk to be involved in a club with teenagers and guns.  Looking back on what seemed like a small fact to me know, it blows my mind to think about all the gun violence perpetrated by those with mental disabilities and emotional instability.  My dad, I believe was ahead of the curve recognizing this risk, frankly he just witness very basic violations of rules for guns that caused him concern. So we left.

Since then I have had very few interactions with guns.  During high school and college I had a opportunities to go skeet shooting which I enjoyed…and frankly was pretty good at.  And when I lived in Oakland there were a few incidents of gun violence on a street where we lived.  During seminary I spent a great deal of time studying social justice and learning about how people of faith live in communities of violence, while there is no one set ethic that governs the lives of the folks, some of their views surprised me.

One family that lived in the 9th Ward of New Orleans, one of the most violent communities in the U.S. before Hurricane Katrina, said that they would not buy a gun because they believed that God would protect them.  In sincerity they asked, “How do white Christians that don’t live in violent communities justify owning a gun? Do they not believe God will protect them?”  That question made me think. Also it made me realize that while social conservatives claim to be people of faith many of their actions appear to be the least faithful in our society.  This is not just a criticism of owning a gun to protect your family, I can understand that, but the use of fear and the doomsday mentality when the suggestion of government imposing on your “god-given” right to own a gun.  There is so much fear and thoughtless dialogue going on, my hope is that people of faith will think this through and be gracious in their conversations.  My other hope is that the government officials that we pay will take the complexities of this problem in mind and find a way through.  There are good responsible people that own guns and it is an unique right in our country to be able to do it.

To me the larger issues our country is facing and it just continues to grow is hopelessness.  We live in country that has more to offer than any nation in the history of the world and yet human life is not valued by many and there is a growing apathy toward everything.  This hopelessness is pictured for me in the movie Menace II Society, release in 1993 it is clear that the director understood this hopelessness was already present in communities of violence, now our country is waking up to it as even the suburbs are invaded. The problem is not from any of the ten things that the NRA blamed and throwing more people with guns into the mix will not solve the problem. BTW was the NRA volunteering to pay all those people at our schools, oh no we need to put that on the already underfunded education system of our beloved country…again stupid responses. The problems are evil people and our own sinfully complicated heart that creates obstacles to solving real problems because of our dogma.

Back to the movie, just after the main character Cain is shot, he is sitting with his grandfather and the following dialogue is shared,

Now what I want to talk to you two about is the trouble that you’ve been getting into. Boys, the Lord didn’t put you here to be shooting and killing each other. It’s right there in the Bible, Exodus 20:13: ‘”Thou shall not kill.’

Grandpa, I ain’t never killed nobody.

Oh, I doubt that. And Kevin, I’ve heard stories about you.

Sir, I don’t think God really cares too much about us, or he wouldn’t have put us here. I mean, look where we stay at. It’s all fucked – It’s messed up around here.

My grandpops was always coming at us with that religion, and every time it would go in one ear and out the other.

Caine, do you care whether you live or die?

I don’t know.

I’ve also included the clip of the scene from the movie if you are interested.  Start with the question, “Do you care whether you live or die?” if so how do you work toward that end both for you and for your neighbor in this world?


Suffering: further thoughts after the school shooting today and a wonderful heartbreaking note I received from a new friend of facebook

In Books,church,Community,devotional,facebook,faith,principles,Theology,Uncategorized on December 15, 2012 by mstevensrev Tagged: , , , ,

Being an information worker events like today are very hard to remove yourself from, there are two many questions and no answers.  It is far to easy to listen to the latest reports or scan facebook to see how others process evil.  This is one attempt to follow up on a note I received related to my previous post, Suffering: a devotional primer, and make some sense of the tragedy from today.  In respect to my friend I will not share the note that inspired these thoughts, but rather will share my response:

Your note lead me to two thoughts.

First, there is great power in the example of Christ. Each week at our church I am reminded of your exact point during the Eucharist and the priest states “On the night he was betrayed.” Jesus put walking in the midst of suffering into practice in a way that we strive for, as scripture reminds us he was faithful…even to death.

Second, the topic of forgiveness is one that I may address at some point but is so very difficult. The easy part is our responsibility in working toward justice for others, when we are witnesses to wrong doing that does not involve us we must take the role of prophet and speak, “Thus saith the Lord…this shit is wrong.”

The hard part is the ongoing posture of forgiveness. My experience in this area is very rocky, there are people who I have worked very hard to forgive in a moment when circumstance in my life change I realize that I need to forgive in that present moment. I’m not sure how much of Dan Allender you have read but his thoughts on this topic have been helpful for me. In the last year I went through a dark period and realized that my forgiveness needed to move deeper.

Tied in there somewhere is wisdom gained from being wounded, often times the Christian way of forgive and forget leads to unhealthy patterns…I am sure you would never go to work for/with that guy again…yes he deserves grace but that does not mean you need to bear the brunt again of his sanctification. I have also worked with people that have done tremendous evil, personally as a steward of God’s Kingdom and of the family God has provided me it is my responsibility as best I can to not submit to evil authority. Jesus only had to go to the cross once, there are appropriate sacrifices and martyrdom…and then there is a unhealthy martyrdom complex that I find with many Christians. (and I myself have bought into during times in my life, suffering comes you don’t have to chose the path)

The word may not be ‘shocked’ by the presence of sin, but there is an appropriate place to call out to God, we pray ‘thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven’. The kingdom again is in the here and now, so today I did cry for those families who’s children are not coming home safe from school, also I sent out my holiday cards for work because that was my way of spreading some good while feeling completely powerless..seemed the only way for me not to run to my daughters school and bring her home:) I really like how you put it ‘be a living example to all men of how to actually live in our daily tempos’, we are different and our lives should reflect that. We have the ability to grieve like no one else and we have the ability to party like no one else.

Obviously I am grateful for the discussion. Feel free to let me know if you have any thoughts.


A reflection on embracing your inner self, from a middle ager inspired by middle earth

In art,Books,C.S. Lewis,Community,culture,devotional,faith,Fun,Lord of the Rings,movies,poetry,The Hobbit,Theology,Uncategorized on December 14, 2012 by mstevensrev Tagged: , , , , ,


This last week I was inspired by listening to Malcolm Guite‘s talk from Kindlings Summer Fest, the third of a series of three.  We attended Summer Fest but were out ‘living’ the topic he spoke of, primarily being the recipients of amazing Orcas Island hospitality from our hosts…they took us on a tour of the island on the boat, simply amazing!  If you have not heard of Malcolm or The Kindlings it would be worth checking out.  The podcast is in the archive and joining Kindlings as an Associate is well worth the $2/month to listen to the content.  His talk was titled,

Malcolm Guite – Finding our Way Forward Beyond Generational Apartheid – Live from Kindlings Fest 2012 


In the talk Malcolm covers some amazing points on how to reconnect across generations, his first two points will be the focus of my thoughts today:

  • You Yourself are Intergenerational! Start by remembering and befriending your inner child, the one that dreamed Dreams and saw visions.
  • If you are a youth still in touch with your inner child, how about getting in touch with your outer adult?

There are parts of who you have been created as a person that were transparent when you were a child and over time you ‘learned’ that those things were wrong, immature, or even shameful.  While yes there are ‘childish’ ways that we are encourage to let go of, that is not what I’m talking about here.  I’m talking about that calling from Jesus to be ‘childlike’.  When you ask a kindergarten class to raise their hands if they are an artist, almost every hand will be in the air…yes this is probably because they love raising their hand but also that there is a love and passion for creating and learning.  By middle school that entire poll completely changes as perhaps a few kids will raise their hands while most will look around to watch what their peers are doing.  How does that middle schooler get back in touch with that kindergartner?  A better question might be ‘how do I get back in touch with that child in me’?

Last night as my wife and I went to the midnight showing of The Hobbit, an unexpected journey, I was struck by a few small points around this topic.  First, the story is told generationally.  The way it is framed is Bilbo Baggins is writing his adventures to his cousin Frodo Baggins, they are more than seventy years apart and therefore this connection is intergenerational.  Also it is a time for Bilbo as he is entering a late stage of life to reflect upon his adventurous middle life experiences.  Lastly, when Gandalf describes why he chose such an unlikely home-body as Bilbo to Bilbo himself, Gandalf reminds Bilbo of his youthful adventurous spirit that had been all but replaced by reading and looking at maps as an adult. Bilbo is brought face to face with the need to embrace the passions of his childhood and realize them as an adult.

One small aside this embracing of childhood passion can be a perverted immaturity as a grownup child plays with expensive and dangerous toys at the expense of others to fulfill selfish desires, the guard against this is clear from the movie…other centeredness.  Bilbo embraces the adventure for the sake of reclaiming a home for the dwarves, be a child and then live passionately and childlike for another’s good!

Let’s also remember what I just described is the part of “getting in touch with your outer adult”.  There is a beauty that comes along with age, that of wisdom, loyalty and integrity.  These are also why Bilbo was chosen for the journey, fear would cause him to doubt his place at moments.  The beauty of having a hobbit on the journey..and in this world is that they are the only ones of such great character (especially the Baggins) that they can carry the ring.

Today there are a few practical things I want to encourage you in.  First, reflect on your passions from your childhood. One for me was the grandfather clock in our house, hands down the most valuable possession in meaning to my family.  I grew up with a love of that clock and when an opportunity arose to be involved with making a clock, my passions from childhood were ignited.  Second, sing a song or read a poem or riddle…today. There is a beauty and inspiration that cannot be captured in words by doing this.  Christopher Alexander in his masterpiece, The Timeless Way of Building,  captures this well…he spends an entire book describing how this nameless power is present in good (true) architecture.

I will leave you with the powerful  words of C.S. Lewis in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, “It means,” said Aslan, “that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge only goes back to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards.”

Seek the deeper magic today.


Growing into the person you have been created to be

In art,Bible,Books,business,church,culture,devotional,Evangelist,faith,familiy,Friends,Fun,fun video,leadership,Lord of the Rings,movies,principles,Proverbs,Reading,Theology,Uncategorized on November 4, 2012 by mstevensrev Tagged: , ,

During the past week I have been thinking through many of the experiences of my life that have been used to bring me to where I am at. This morning as I am reading I came across a passage in 1 Samuel 21, that clearly reminded me of something out of Lord of the Rings, and it was a passage of scripture that I never have remembered reading.

In a previous post I spoke about King Saul, who had been chosen the leader of God’s people Israel really for no other apparent reason other than God chose him by placing God’s Spirit upon Saul.  Later in the story a new King (a different King) is ordained and the Spirit of God leaves Saul, only returning temporarily in the story.  The kingship essentially is passed on to a young boy named David.  Now just about everyone in western culture knows of David because of the story of David versus Goliath. In a battle between God’s people and their most brutal enemies, the Philistines,  a bet is made to decide the war, instead of all the warriors fighting the Philistines make an offer that if an Israelite warrior can defeat the best of the best of the Philistines it will settle the dispute.  Sounds like a good way to spear blood shed the only problem is the Philistines have a weapon of mass destruction named Goliath. He is essentially an indestructible giant that leads God’s people into fear and cowardliness. Except for one pre-pubescent boy named David, who as everyone can remember defeats Goliath by relying on God and using a slingshot an one stone.  This is often used culturally as a parable on bravery, when it is actually a story of relying on the work of a powerful God in impossible circumstances. Through the event David is thrust into popularity that creates almost constant tension between the old King, Saul, and the newly ordained not yet King, David.  Multiple times Saul tries to kill David, and the story I’m about to share takes place after one particularly intense attempt on David’s life by Saul where David flees.

While on the road David and his men are starving so he stops in to see Ahimelech the priest for some food. The part of the story that gets most of the attention is Ahimelech the priest allows David and his men to eat the holy bread, a big no no.  Then Ahimelech realizes David has no weapons:

8 Then David said to Ahimelech, “Then have you not here a spear or a sword at hand? For I have brought neither my sword nor my weapons with me, because the king’s business required haste” 9 And the priest said, c “The sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom you struck down ind the Valley of Elah, behold, it is here wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod. If you will take that, take it, for there is none but that here” And David said, “There is none like that; give it to me”

The sword that David won in battle during his youth, is only given to him once he becomes a man.  There is no explanation as Ahimelech just provides it.  The part of the story that is not mentioned other then not being given a reason that David didn’t know about this sword beforehand or already have it, is that it appears David is now ‘big’ enough for the sword.  Going back and reading the story of David and Goliath reminds us that Goliath was a giant, therefore Goliath would have possessed a sword worth of his stature.

In my minds eye I never picture David as a large man, actually after reading this morning I realized that most of my images of David depict him as a handsome late teenager or twenty year old of average stature.  I’m uncertain of any descriptions of David’s stature later in his life but there are many details that provided this picture for my mind: in spite of being a successful warrior David was a musician and poet, David had a way with the ladies, and David had a deeply intimate emotional relationship with Saul’s son Jonathan.  All these details combined with being introduced to David when he is a boy have lead me to always picture him as a smaller man, until now.  In this story he is handed Goliath’s sword without concern that he is ‘big’ enough to yield it when necessary.  David has physically grown into the great manly character he demonstrated as a youth when he defeated Goliath.

This morning I am struck with the connection to the story line in The Lord of the Rings, where Aragorn the misanthrope ranger, who is a human son of the king of Gondor destined to lead the Kingdom of Men into prominence in Middle Earth, receives Anduril.  The sword that defeated Sauron in the ancient epic battle of middle earth that freed the ring of destiny from the possession of the evil King Sauron. Embedded in this post is the scene where Aragorn is given Anduril.  This is a picture I have of David receiving Goliath’s sword from 1 Samuel.

One other brief note on this is related to David’s use or lack there of use of the sword.  After being handed it I would be very excited to go out and yield it at the first opportunity.  Yet David does not, he understands that God has given him many ‘swords’ at the moment and in the next conflict he is faced with he does not use Goliath’s sword as justification that God intends him to go and start a fight with all those who oppose him.  David understands that just because you have the sword doesn’t mean that you are meant to use it.

12 And David g took these words to heart and was much afraid of Achish the king of Gath. 13 So he changed his behavior before them and pretended to be insane in their hands and made marks on the doors of the gate and let his spittle run down his beard. 14 Then Achish said to his servants, “Behold, you see the man is mad. Why then have you brought him to me? 15 Do I lack madmen, that you have brought this fellow to behave as a madman in my presence? Shall this fellow come into my house?”

David when faced with conflict while holding Goliath’s sword at his side, uses his cleverness to avoid getting killed by Achish by acting crazy.  It reminds me of a friend’s explanation of wisdom, “Wisdom is not merely knowing the correct action to take, but rather the correct action at the appropriate time.”  Everyone has a destiny, something that you have been created to do, embrace it.  When you are given a physical reminder of that destiny use wisdom because possession of the great gift does not necessarily mean that you are meant to use it in that circumstance.


Not another blog post on leadership, ugh

In Bible,Books,business,Community,culture,devotional,faith,leadership,principles,Theology,Uncategorized,work on October 30, 2012 by mstevensrev Tagged: , , , ,

Leadership is such a popular topic that for me it is beginning to lose any meaning.  Organizations that I respect like use it as core to their hiring practices, just check out their values and Jeff Bezo’s ten leadership principles that never go out of style.  Over the years I have spent a ton of time learning and studying the topic, I have The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell and other books on the topic right next to my desk in the office.  Continually I go back and forth with embracing these ideas as a rule of life and going contrarian to the popular thinking.  Needless to say I am still learning and somewhat tormented with the concept of leadership.

This ambiguity increased when I read a story this morning from 1 Samuel 10 about the anointing of King Saul:

10 1-2 Then Samuel took a flask of oil, poured it on Saul’s head, and kissed him. He said, “Do you see what this means? God has anointed you prince over his people.“This sign will confirm God’s anointing of you as prince over his inheritance: After you leave me today, as you get closer to your home country of Benjamin, you’ll meet two men near Rachel’s Tomb. They’ll say, ‘The donkeys you went to look for are found. Your father has forgotten about the donkeys and is worried about you, wringing his hands—quite beside himself!’3-4 “Leaving there, you’ll arrive at the Oak of Tabor. There you’ll meet three men going up to worship God at Bethel. One will be carrying three young goats, another carrying three sacks of bread, and the third a jug of wine. They’ll say, ‘Hello, how are you?’ and offer you two loaves of bread, which you will accept.5-6 “Next, you’ll come to Gibeah of God, where there’s a Philistine garrison. As you approach the town, you’ll run into a bunch of prophets coming down from the shrine, playing harps and tambourines, flutes and drums. And they’ll be prophesying. Before you know it, the Spirit ofGod will come on you and you’ll be prophesying right along with them. And you’ll be transformed. You’ll be a new person!“When these confirming signs are accomplished, you’ll know that you’re ready: Whatever job you’re given to do, do it. God is with you!“Now, go down to Gilgal and I will follow. I’ll come down and join you in worship by sacrificing burnt offerings and peace offerings. Wait seven days. Then I’ll come and tell you what to do next.”Saul turned and left Samuel. At that very moment God transformed him—made him a new person! And all the confirming signs took place the same day.

The background of the story is rich, the nation of Israel had a long string of bad leaders called judges, the people began to bitch about wanting a king like other nations because they though that would be best, finally God relented giving them what they asked for, and Saul a really tall good looking young man is anointed king of the nation. This morning as I read the story I was struck with how little Saul did to become their leader.  He was lost looking for his father’s donkey’s when the prophet Samuel finds him and anoints him, Saul did nothing. Then God orchestrates a number of signs for Saul to confirm the anointing: finding the lost ass, people giving him bread, and even an ancient rave with a bunch a prophets where Saul prophesies as if he is a holy man.  All of this happen ‘to’ Saul but most striking to me is, “When he turned his back to leave Samuel, God gave him another heart.

Saul had nothing to do with getting into leadership and this flies in the face of popular theory I have studied and the theological concept of servant leadership.  Saul was neither a great leader nor a servant, rather Saul’s life (and heart) were consumed by a powerful and living God in order to lead.  Even as I write this I know that I should not be surprised as David, the greatest leader ever to live, was nicknamed a man after God’s own heart.  God raises up leaders as fit for God’s plans. As a side note it is no wonder that followers of God are admonished to pray for our leaders, if God has placed them there we are to pray whether they are a blessing or a curse to us personally they are part of God’s greater plan.  This is key to have in mind during this election process in the United States, more prayer and less banter.

To borrow some of the best thoughts I have heard recently on leadership I want to share a sermon from St. Pauls Church Seattle, Rev. Melissa M. Skelton is one of the best leaders inside or outside the church I have ever had the privilege to meet.  Her sermon two weeks ago said this:

Robert Greenleaf, a retired AT&T Executive, championed a similar model of leadership during a time when more authoritarian models of leadership dominated corporate life. In his thin little pamphlet entitled The Servant as Leader, Greenleaf, consistent with his title, wrote not about the Leader as Servant but about the Servant as Leader—a crucial distinction for him. Greenleaf says this: “The servant-leader is servant first… Becoming a servant-leader begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first… The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant first to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served. The best test, and the most difficult to administer, is this: Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?” Check out the entire manuscript of the sermon here.

Personally I will continue to wander through the waters of what it means to lead.  I will pray for leaders, I will pray that God will ‘change my heart’, and I will evaluate my life through the lens of whether those I serve are more likely themselves to become servants.


Meet fear…a new frenemy

In Uncategorized on August 27, 2012 by mstevensrev Tagged: , , ,

There is no fear where love exists. Rather, perfect love banishes fear, for fear involves punishment, and the person who lives in fear has not been perfected in love. 1 John 4:18

A journey began in my life about two years ago, that has led me into a more contemplative and slower pace then I have ever walked when it comes to my personal life.  I have never been a person to avoid risk from moving overseas at a young age, to driving across the country to start a  new life after college, getting married extremely quickly, and even to pursue a job in community development in Oakland after graduate school – those were just a few of the risky, adventurous decisions I made in a flash.

These decision have been amazing, but due to the rapid pace that I entered them and my immaturity I took major blows from these decisions and other similar ones.  This leads me to my growing familiarity with fear. Ken Chlouber, Colorado miner and creator of the Leadville Trail 100 mile race is quoted as saying, “Make friends with pain, and you will never be alone.”  I have known pain since a young age, it has been fear who has introduced himself to me more recently.  

Perhaps fear has been there on some underlying and ignored level in my level, affecting actions/decisions in both smal and large ways but it was not something that I knew.  These days he looks me in the eyes, especially when I hope.  The good news is since he has introduced himself, he can be overcome…or as the verse in 1 John says ‘cast out’, shown the door.

Over the last few weeks I have started training for 2013 triathlon season, I am very excited and it has been going very well.  My long runs have been joyous and I even called a friend to go biking with, so I’m over coming my lone ranger attitude.  In the back of my mind I know that open water swimming is my weakest area…though bike isn’t that strong.  I can easily swim for 60-90 minutes in the pool, but open water is another story and fear camps out there.  

So this past Sunday morning I connected on Meet Up with a group that swims Lake Washington.  I went, and did not make the full one mile length with them in extremely choppy water, but I did get in a solid half mile swim.  Fear was not the issue, my limited ability both physically and mentally was the issue and now I have a good bench mark for improvement.  Up until the moment I pulled off my street my going to the swim was in question, as I had a million excuses to not make it.  Underlying it all was fear.

It is a corny exercise but doing one thing a week that scares you I think is very healthy and a goal I have.  The more we get out of our comfort zones, intentionally hush the negative voices in our head, and move forward through fear in courage, the more we will cast out fear.  Not because we are achieving…but rather we are in more opportunities to recognized how loved we are.  In spite of slowing down the group when I swam with them and then not even going the full distance, afterward everyone had a kind word for me and they even turned me on to some great training tips/resources!  I left encouraged and ready to get back out there!



Inspiration of Scripture and the arts

In Uncategorized on August 15, 2012 by mstevensrev Tagged: ,

Over the past few weeks two friends have engaged me in conversation on the inspiration of Scripture which was interesting, but outside of what helped me pass ordination exams and some loose thoughts I have had recently, I did not have much to say. This morning in my reading of Exodus 38-40 I was struck with the detail that Moses described the craftsmanship of the Tabernacle. In the past I would have imagined God “telling” Moses these details, whereas today I had a different thought.

Moses the elder of Israel, he was slammed with meetings on the mountain with God and serving as judge for the disputes of the people of Israel. These two ‘jobs’ would have been enough for anyone to call it a day, and yet Moses has a detailed knowledge of the work and craft that went into the building of the Tabernacle. While Moses was not a craftsman himself perhaps he understood what he was writing, describing materials and details in a spectacular way. Perhaps Moses studied, learned, appreciated, and committed himself to a deep understanding of the art that was essential to the worship of God’s people.

The descriptions in these chapters are more detailed then my minds eye would allow. I can picture Moses actually looking at the final product and sitting alongside the craftsman to provide the description we have in Scripture, or perhaps he learned it during the process of creation. The only frame of reference I have is the work that my family did on our new house, even then my description of our kitchen leaves much to be desired regarding the details when comparent with Moses description. What would it mean for me to have an appreciation of art and craftsmanship that would inspire worship? What are the parts of my life I would have to slow down and pay attention to in order to learn? We all have our excuses for not engaging the beauty of the world around us, but today I am inspired to take a moment, ask a questions, and learn from those reflecting the beauty of God in their craftsmanship.


Monday encouragement

In Uncategorized on August 1, 2011 by mstevensrev Tagged: , , , ,

Life can only be understood backward but it must be lived forwards. -Soren Kierkegaard

This morning we walk in ways that we do not understand, many people fool us into believing that they know exactly where they stand. They are fooling themselves. We walk in the mystery of the unknown longing for the day in which we no longer look dimly through a glass but rather see if fullness.


Realizations about church

In Uncategorized on April 5, 2011 by mstevensrev Tagged: , ,

The life of my family has been deeply impacted by church planting. Karin and I met at a church plant, a church plant is what led me into ministry full time, and we are passionate about the impact that church planting has for God’s kingdom.

After yesterday and our family worshiping with a great group of folks that are starting a church plant we came to the realization that it is not for us. We have only know the front line of church planting outside of our years in seminary. In many ways it fits our passions, and we have sacrificed a great deal for the sake of this movement. So while everyone who may know us well might have come to this conclusion, it is a new one for us.

In some strange way it is a humbling realization for me. There have been so many things God has called us to walk away from in this time, so many areas in which he has left only questions. God uses that space in our lives, I believe to make himself more present, bigger, and holy. My God is small, certainly not the God of the Bible. Though even as I’m walking into what feels like a vast expanse I am struck with the question, Is God really that big?