1 year later; 1 death later

July 31, 2010 at 2:12 pm (Uncategorized)

It’s been almost exactly a year since I last posted. Another friend died of cancer almost exactly a year since Joel passed. Kandice Robinson passed away late Tuesday night after battling breast cancer. I’m leaving in just a few minutes for her funeral.

I’m impressed by a sense of peace about death right now. I am starting to realize that this world is short and painful, and the next is eternal and full of joy. Kandice was a cheerful worshiper of God, and she doesn’t have to spend any more time suffering on earth waiting for the chance to worship in peace. My heart is burdened for her family who must go on without her from now on, but I praise God for his promise that our pain will be limited to this world.

Kandice, you inspired us all to live better. We miss you.

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Loss, Sorrow, and Hope

July 26, 2009 at 3:21 pm (Uncategorized)

I’ve spent all week trying to wrap my brain around the concept of loss.

I posted previously here and here about my friend Joel, who has been fighting a war against Lymphoma this past year or two. Joel died last weekend after a couple of infections attacked his weakened body.

I won’t try to encapsulate my feelings entirely in this post, as I haven’t even taken the time to truly feel them yet. The day before Joel’s passing, when I heard he was doing poorly, I held my wife and just wept for him. I had intended to visit him that very weekend, since Amy and I had the opportunity to travel to Indiana, and I was just a day too late to see him one last time. But since that day, I haven’t been able to find the strength to open my feelings to what was happening. The next morning, when I awoke to a text message from a mutual friend letting me know that he had just heard of Joel’s passing, I instantly went into a bit of a shell where I insulated my heart from really thinking about what had happened.

This is the third death that Amy and I have been connected with in the last 15 months or so. My aunt Paula passed away last spring after a battle with Pancreatic cancer. Shortly after (or before, my memory is a little fuzzy…), Amy’s great-grandmother died in her late 90s. Up until this last year, I had never really been around death much at all. And all at once, it seems like God is taking life away from people I love.

My heart aches for Joel’s wife Kristen, and the immense sense of loss that must be chewing at her every minute of every day. She is the last person on earth who deserves to lose her spouse this young. And yet, here she is. I’ve never seen such an outpouring of prayer for justice as I was a part of for Joel in the last 18 months. And yet, he is no longer alive.

I’ve come to the conclusion (whether any of you agree or not) that prayer doesn’t change our circumstances whatsoever. There’s not a shred of evidence that if we pray for something, even for something good like the life of a saint, that God will deliver any more often than he would if no one prayed. I don’t believe that there is any difference whatsoever in what we experience, whether we are praying or not.

This was a difficult conclusion to come to.

I was always taught that if you ask, and have faith, you’ll get what you prayed for. And the more righteous you are, the more likely that God will deliver. Being a mathematical mind, I instantly imagined an equation that God keeps up in the sky, and if you plug in the right values for all the variables, out comes a sure bet that God will pull through for you.

I was mistaken.

It’s so easy for me to feel like God let me down. Let Kristen down. Let all of us down. This is an injustice! If anyone on earth deserved life, it was Joel. It was Aunt Paula. It was great-grandma Taylor. Faithful christians don’t have any more of chance of surviving the struggles of this life than the worst of pagans. This is injustice.

Faith, in times like this, is difficult to maintain.

So, if God doesn’t deliver justice in the short-term, then what is he doing? I believe that God is in the business of bringing redemption to his creation right now. Things aren’t as they ought to be, but God will make them right in the end.

When Jesus came to earth, and was killed by the Romans, his mission, like every other pseudo-Messiah springing out of the Jewish tribes, was over, right? It should have been. If he had stayed dead, there is no explanation for Christendom. His disciples expected a messiah to conquer the romans and reign in Jerusalem. Since he died, they had every reason to quit.

But he did not stay dead.

Because God is in the business of redemption, and he started it by resurrecting Jesus. The beginning of the redemption. The kingdom of God was being brought to earth.

Many people think that the mission of a Christian is to take people to heaven. I disagree. I believe the mission of the christian is to bring the kingdom of God to people. To bring redemption to the world. To usher in an era of radical change. All of creation groans for it. We get to bring it.

This world is still broken. It’s so broken that good men suffer. Godly women are robbed of their beloved. The work of redemption isn’t done yet.

The reason I still have hope is because of the continuing work of the church to bring redemption to earth. Enough with all the ridiculous preaching against gay rights, or whatever other pet issue the church gets behind. I call all christians to join with Christ in the redeeming of creation. God’s promise is that Christ will return to earth in some way, and his kingdom will be established forever.

And we have a part to play in that redemption. The setting will be uncomfortable, because our role at this point is in a broken world. We are here in this mess of a planet, in this mess of a society, because our job as the church is to bring redemption to the broken. Every loss we sustain, every pain we endure, and every sorrow we suffer, they are all a part of the brokenness that will one day be taken from us.

This I call to mind, and therefore have hope: Because of God’s great love, we are not consumed. His compassion is new every morning. The Lord will not reject us forever. Though he causes us grief, then he has compassion on us.

Please consider what you can do to be a part of redeeming the world with Christ. If you are doing it, you are a follower of Christ. He said himself “those who are not against us are for us.” Bring redemption to the relationships around you. Bring healing to those who are hurting. In doing this, you will be following Christ.

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things i believe in: a creator

June 11, 2009 at 8:34 pm (Uncategorized)

Haven’t posted in a while. (i know i’ve done a post commenting about how often people start a blog post with that phrase.)

I’ve been thinking. There’s all this stuff I believe in, and I want to express them to people. It’s not hard for people to observe me or talk to me and get a feel for things I believe in, but there are so many good ones, I can’t think of a reason why I shouldn’t make a blog post about each one. No guarantee I’ll keep this up, or anything, but I’m launching today with “a creator.”

I was brought up in a christian family, and I was taught to believe in a creator God. I’ve gone all sorts of different directions in a lot of things I’ve beleived, and I’ve been willing to challenge every belief I was raised with, and this is one that hasn’t gone anywhere.

I don’t have a huge problem with the idea of evolution (small e) because it clearly happens on a small level. But I don’t accept The Theory of Evolution because it’s so convoluted and contrived. I love when I see a new “missing link” fossil that’s supposed to somehow explain it all for me. Invariably, it’s simply a species that we don’t have anymore that has characteristics of two other species. I’m supposed to react with an “OMG, it has fingers AND a tail?!? It must be a link…” or something, but I don’t. I just see similarities. Similarities don’t prove anything about history.

I once met someone who looked JUST like me. Like, seriously, just like me. I couldn’t believe how much we looked alike. It was a little creepy. But we weren’t from even the same region of the country and had totally different family histories. We could have tricked people into thinking we were twins easily, but just because we were similar doesn’t make us the same.

But this post isn’t about why I don’t believe in Evolution. That’s ultimately an irrelevant question in the conversation of “is there a creator god or not?” conversation. A creator God could easily exist, create, and then let things do whatever they wanted from there.

What makes me beleive in a creator god is the fact that creation exists. Everything we are, and everything around us exists, and it had to come from somewhere. Everything has a source, or a cause. It makes a trail behind us for as long as time has existed. Somewhere, way back in time, maybe thousands of years, maybe millions, maybe billions, the first thing existed, and something caused/created it.

That something, I call “creator god.” Creator god has to exist without cause. That’s the first thing I can think of as an attribute for him. He is uncaused. He simply exists. He simply “is”.

I’ve heard it argued “Patrick, you’re just pushing it back one more level, but the problem still exists: “where did HE come from?”

Logically, there HAS to be something at the beginning of all this that doesn’t require a cause. That exists outside the structure of causality. I call it god.

I can’t come up with a way to understand reality that doesn’t start like that.

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Jobs, Genesis, and Depression

March 25, 2009 at 10:39 pm (Uncategorized)

I can’t find a job.

I’ve been trying to find something that fits me perfectly for 2 years now. I knew that where I was at couldn’t be long term. I knew that I couldn’t afford to work for nothing at NHCC even though I’d never been happier in my life. I’ve set out over the last 18 months to find a ministry position that fit well, and I’ve failed horribly at doing so.

I blame Adam.

Let me explain. When Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden, EVERYTHING was awesome. They had it all. God literally WALKED beside them. They didn’t have to wonder if he existed. He TALKED to them directly. He gave them a colorful and beautiful world to explore and to rule over. He gave them the entire world’s supply of animals as pets. He gave them all of the coolest fruits and greens to eat (SO my style!) They had it all.

Then the whole slithering serpent situation came up and Adam screwed it up for the rest of us. First of all, he got chill in the best environment ever with a hot naked chick, and no SHAME! Without getting too graphic in your head, you’ve gotta admit that that would be pretty cool. That’s out the window. Thanks Adam.

Also, we ended up being punished. Child-bearing now sucks for the ladies. My wife and I have only had the chance to experience the first 7 weeks of it, and God has managed to make even the easy part suck for us. Thanks Adam.

Also, mankind has been cursed with WORK. I’ve been reflecting today how life’s not supposed to suck, and work’s not supposed to suck. But I find that hard to believe when I’m staring at spreadsheets all day, knowing that my perfect job is just 30 miles away and it’s probably out of my grasp. But God changed the world so that work would suck. THANKS ADAM.

I know I’m not the only Christian struggling with depression, right? I know some of you out there are doing everything you can to Get It Right, and Make God Proud, but you just can’t seem to shake whatever it is that is holding you down. I wish I understood it better. I feel like I SHOULD understand it better. After all, I’m most of the way through a Master’s Degree in church ministry, and I spent 4 years teaching teenagers how to climb out of whatever pit they were in.

I get close to quitting sometimes. I want to quit trying so hard, because I see a lot of people who aren’t trying nearly as hard as me that are getting by just fine with whatever job they’ve managed to put together. Some of my close friends are pursuing one life long dream of mine with their bands. Others are in full-time ministry at great churches where their skills fit perfectly and the vision and direction of the church is right in line with what they want. But I get close to quitting, because it doesn’t seem like I’ll ever get where I want to be. I’ll get close, for sure. I’ve interviewed for 14 different ministry jobs in the last 2 years. I’m 0-14 so far. I’ve got resumes out at 5 different churches right now. Only 1 has gotten back to me at all.

I always feel like I’m right on the edge of getting that dream position that I can work hard at the rest of my life. It’s always just one phone call away, but the call never comes. I have to wonder sometimes if God wants me to serve him at all, or if perhaps he just wants me to fill the role of Lesser Vessel for my few decades here on earth. I’ll certainly never quit trying to follow him, but I am so close to quitting my search for meaningful employment in full-time Christian ministry.

In my experience, the stuff I want most is the stuff that God won’t let me have. I can’t have kids, and I can’t have the job I want. God has managed to make pursuing Him REALLY PAINFUL, and I just can’t understand it sometimes. I always think back to the story of Job. Is it possible that God is just trying to prove something in some cosmic argument about what his followers will put up with? I know I’m not quitting on following him, so maybe he’s right, and I’ll be a good example of how low he can bring someone who is honestly trying his hardest.

Maybe he wants me to REALLY appreciate the job when he finally brings it my way, so he will reduce me to some semblance of what Job was like at his lowest, and then show me how rich his blessings are when I finally get what I’ve been toiling for all these years. Maybe.

I’m only 26 years old, so my experience is still pretty limited, but in my experience being Godly only pays off in the long term. Meaning eternity. I’m still unsure whether I’m going to continue holding out for anything to be sweet here on earth. So far, I’m still struggling, but I may not bother after a few more months.

My thoughts are now public. With my luck, this will be the reason that some church turns me down.

“We’re really shooting for someone who’s got his stuff together…You aren’t strong enough for the job”

I just paused to consider what it would feel like to regret clicking “publish” in this moment.

Oh well. If I’m not authentic, I’m nothing. I’m posting it.

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ender’s game

March 3, 2009 at 1:51 am (Uncategorized)

My last post was my favorite 50 books of all time.

As soon as I finished writing that post, I started reading Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card. 24 hours later, I’m finished with it, and it was amazing.

I decided that it’s in my top 3 or 4 works of fiction that I’ve ever read: The Lord of the Rings, The Stand, The Dark Tower Series, and Ender’s Game. I’ve read a few other things that come a little close, most notable Insomnia.

Ender’s Game is ranked by many lists to be the best science fiction book of all time. I tend to trust this site, and it has it at the top.

I strongly recommend it to anyone who enjoys fiction at all. Even if Sci-Fi isn’t your thing.

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patrick: and his 50 favorite books

March 1, 2009 at 4:31 pm (Uncategorized)

I thought I’d make a list of all my favorite books to share with you all. I’m sure I won’t get them all on here, but here’s a good start:

  • The Lord of the Rings Series (Including The Hobbit) by J. R. R. Tolkein
  • Dune by Frank Herbert
  • Magician by Raymond Feist
  • The Kings of New York by Michael Weinreb
  • Going Postal by Terry Pratchett
  • The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  • Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell
  • The Apprentice Adept series by Piers Anthony
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  • The Revolution: A Manifesto by Ron Paul
  • The Amateur’s Mind by Jeremy Silman
  • Bringing Down the House by Ben Mezrich
  • Poker Nation by Andy Bellin
  • The Dark Tower Series by Stephen King
  • On Writing by Stephen King
  • Insomnia by Stephen King
  • Dreamcatcher by Stephen King
  • The Stand by Stephen King
  • Rage by Stephen King
  • The Long Walk by Stephen King
  • Congo by Michael Crichton
  • Sphere by Michael Crichton
  • Timeline by Michael Crichton
  • Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt
  • Naked Economics by Charles Wheelan
  • The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
  • The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allen Poe

There’s dozens more that I love but this list stands apart from all the rest. I read hundreds of pages every week because I love adding to this list. I have hundreds of books that I love, and it’s a joy to discover new ones.

Please leave your comments and tell me which of these you’ve enjoyed as well. Also, leave me comments with your favorites that didn’t make my list.

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patrick: unemployed

February 24, 2009 at 10:18 pm (Uncategorized)

Again.

Technically, I still have a job for a few weeks or months, but not for very long. We just found out yesterday that the budget cuts from the state mean that Amy and I will be out of work. It’s unclear whether our company will be staying open, but at the very least, Amy and I will be out of work very soon.

We’re not sure whether we’ll stay in Phoenix or move back to Indiana. Neither option will be cheap. If we stay here, we both need to get full-time jobs, but the jobs we’re looking at pay less than what we currently make, and we’d have to both drive to work every day. That means buying another car, paying for gas, reducing our health care, and probably moving into a smaller apartment in a worse neighborhood, and paying our current apartment complex $1000 to buy ourselves out of our lease. If we go back to Indiana, we’ll have to find someone to let us live with them until November, when our house will be free from renters, still pay $1000 to buy ourselves out of the lease, still buy another car for when we get jobs at home, and pay for a moving truck to get our stuff home.

It seems right now that moving back to Indiana will actually be cheaper. On top of that, we’ll have all of our close friends nearby, Amy’s family will be close, and I could even finish my degree.

What I don’t understand is why God wanted us to come here if he’s just sending us back to Indiana. It’s been a good experience, but I honestly can’t afford good experiences right now. Amy and I are not in a place financially to be able to afford any more good experiences. The move to Phoenix was supposed to mean saving money for us, not losing another 5 grand. After this experience, we’re going to be just a few steps away from declaring bankruptcy. Cool, huh?

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are you kidding, god?

February 20, 2009 at 1:50 am (Uncategorized)

The State of Arizona is experiencing massive budget problems, which is no surprise. What IS a surprise, however, is how deep they’re willing to cut to end the year in the black.

We just found out tuesday that they are cutting the rates we can bill for therapy by 10%. The therapists are absorbing about half of that, and we in the office are absorbing the other half. Sounds kinda crappy, huh?

Get this: today, we find out that the state is cutting ALL funding for kids in the 0-3 age range, except for in extreme circumstances. Suddenly, the entire bottom dropped out of our industry. We are going to lose at least 30% of our business to this cut, and we’ve got 35 days until it goes into effect. But it’s not just those kids that we will lose. Full-time therapists absolutely require that they can see some kids in that age bracket, since all the kids older than that are in school during school hours, and therapists can’t get in 40 hour weeks using only after-school hours, unless parents of 6 year olds with cerebral palsy want the therapist coming over at 9pm to provide services.

We are probably going to lose close to 60% of our business when this is all over. I never imagined that this would happen, especiallly after the 10% rate cut we took tuesday. We were thinking “well, at least we know what they are going to do, and we know we can get through it.” I couldn’t have dreamed that they would cut off all early intervention funding. It’s scary what this means to families of children with developmental disabilities. Providers will be going out of business one after another. Kids will suffer. The entire business model has shifted to the point that full-time therapists are just a memory, and everyone will be working part-time, billing after school hours only. All the therapists who used to work part time in the mornings, and then pick their kids up from school will have to either retire at 30, or give their children house keys for when they get off the bus alone, and hope that PBS can keep them occupied on Saturdays when they are out trying to make a living.

I’ve seen god pull off some crazy things in my day, but I’m not sure where he’s going with this one.

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on my walk: there was shouting

February 17, 2009 at 6:58 pm (Uncategorized)

My office is in Downtown Phoenix, almost directly in the middle of all the excitement that comes with living in a large city. I am 2 blocks from Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Another block west is the US Airways Arena, home to this weekend’s NBA All Star festivities. I took a bunch of pictures at the big block party we had downtown outside the arena. I’ll upload those later if I remember, so you can see what it was like.

Well, today, right outside my office, I heard loud shouting and swearing, as if there might be a fight brewing. Remember when you were young enough that fighting people was an honest possibility? Like if you hit someone too hard playing playground football, or if someone called you a name? It reminded me of that. Everyone goes quiet except the one kid yelling.

Well all the shopping center commotion got quiet, but there was one man yelling and swearing. Naturally, I ran outside to see what was happening, cause you CAN’T miss a fight!

I looked over the balcony down onto the main sidewalk, and there was a homeless man walking through the middle of the sidewalk, between Starbucks on one side, with lots of outdoor seating, and Hooters on the other side, again with dozens of people seated outside in the shade.

The homeless man was looking over his shoulder shouting about someone framing him for something, and saying “you ain’t gunna git me!” and things like that. But he wasn’t talking to anyone in particular. He was just shouting at whoever was around him. I listened to him as walked another 100 feet or so, and he continued shouting to the universe that it wouldn’t “mess wit da back of me!” or something like that.

The best part, though, was after he was gone. There were a few businessmen standing around, as well as a man with his 3 year old son standing next to him, watching and listening to all the crazy things the drifter was yelling. After he was out of ear shot, the 3 year old scrunched up his face and yelled “HEY!” in protest to the man’s chaotic outbursts.

I shared a chuckle with the businessmen watching, and got back to work…well, back to my computer anyways. I couldn’t resist blogging about it before I got back to work.

NOW, I’m getting back to work.

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burj dubai basejumpers

February 14, 2009 at 4:35 pm (Uncategorized)

I’m absolutely fascinated with big buildings. I love skyscrapers. When I moved to Phoenix, which is the 5th largest city in the country, I was disappointed that no buildings in our fine city are taller than the Chase Tower, which is 483 feet high. Here’s a pic of the Chase tower, which I walk by every day.

 

483 feet...not big enough!

483 feet...not big enough!

In my last post, I talked about the Burj Dubai, which is right now my favorite building in the world because it is the tallest. Scroll down for some pictures. Well, I found a video just now of a couple of guys BASEJUMPING off the Burj. Insane, right?

Check it out:

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