cold (doesn’t always) = bad

There are plenty of irksome aspects to the current cold snap we’re experiencing in Chicago, but this morning Maggie and I experienced a few silver linings.

After dropping her off at the Kedzie Metra stop at 6:30, Maggie called to say that the train hadn’t arrived.  The -15 degree temps made this a problem.  When I returned to the stop I found Maggie crammed into an SUV with her tribe of fellow commuters.  They were bonding.  Maggie and another guy got in our car and tried to figure out what to do.  Maggie really needed to get to the office, so she asked a commuter who had decided to drive to work if she could ride with him.  He gladly gave her a lift, driving out of his way to deliver her right to the office door.

I gave the other guy a ride back to his apartment.  On the way we figured out that he used to attend our church and now is a part of Willow Creek Chicago with his wife.  Not only that, but he’s pretty close with a friend of mine from New Community.  We traded phone numbers and plan to meet up for drinks with our wives in the near future.

Later in the morning I stopped by the New Community Warming Center.  Libby, the center’s director decided to remain open during the night to provide a safe and warm place for some homeless folks to spend the night.  She told me how impressed she was by the many folks who volunteered to help out last minute in order to keep the Warming Center open during the night.  They will be open tonight as well and then the weather warms up enough for the center to return to its normal hours.

Again, there are things about the extra-cold weather that are a pain.  But there have been these pleasant surprises as well.  Has the chilly weather (for those of you experiencing it) led to any unexpected experiences for you?

merry christmas

We walked up the stairs to our apartment on Monday evening to find this extra-large gingerbread man by our front door.  Our landlord and his daughter had left it for us.  Best landlord family ever?


Because of all our traveling this fall, we are staying home for Christmas this year.  The almost constant snow and sleet has made me thankful we’re not getting on a plane today.  Tomorrow we are having some close friends over for Christmas dinner which we’ll cook together.

I hope you have a wonderful and restful Christmas wherever you find yourself tomorrow.  As always, thanks for reading.

your suggestions for 2008’s signs of life

Last December, as part of rednoW’s best-of series, I posted my favorite (Surprising) Stories of 2007.  With the daily dose of bad news we’re all subject to, this was a pleasantly cathartic list to compile.   I hadn’t looked at the list for a while and it was nice this morning to be reminded of these signs of life.  Last year’s stories included the Mother Theresa biography, the Rutger’s women’s basketball team, and the diversity of the presidential candidates.

I’m compiling a similar list this year and would like your help.  In the rednoW list I asked,

What were the stories from 2007 that didn’t make sense? Events that gave you hope or made you smile? People who acted in ways that pointed to something better than business as usual?

What are your suggestions for 2008? Leave a comment with your suggestions for 2008’s signs of life.  Thanks!

a long/good sunday

I’m never sure how much personal stuff to share on the blog.  By “personal” I don’t mean deep-dark secrets but the day-to-day stuff that makes up life as a pastor in Logan Square.  I generally lean away from these kinds of personal details and instead write and share about interests in theology and culture.  While I’m OK with this, I’ve noticed that many of the blogs I read regularly (see the “regular reading” list on the sidebar) occasionally share personal stories.  I always appreciate these personal notes; they add an element of context that works nicely in the blogging format.  My friend Brian strikes this balance of context and content quite well.

With this in mind, I’d like to find ways to share some of the life stuff that leads to the thoughts and links that get posted on signs of life.  I’ll leave it to this blog’s readers to let me know if symptoms of that ugly blogger’s disease, narcissism, are ever observed.

Here’s something: Sunday wore me out.  It was a good day, but probably the busiest since joining the New Com staff in May.  Maggie and I got to the SDA building (our church rents the sanctuary of a Seventh Day Adventist church on Logan Boulevard) at 8:30.  She was helping out with the kids as she does once a month.  As has become normal, I gave the announcements at both services.  During the morning I met with two folks from the church; one is interested in participating in the prayer ministry and the other is volunteering to help with children’s ministry.  Following the 2nd service I drove to lunch with one of our community groups.  This group is going through the Bible in a year using the Disciples curriculum.  In addition to a great pot-luck style lunch (Do churches still do potlucks?  I hope so.) we talked about their experience thus far of going through the Bible.  After a brief stop at our apartment for an abbreviated Sunday nap, I went to the church offices to prepare for a couple of meetings.  Our team of small group coaches came at 6:00 to talk and pray about our community groups.  At 7:00 the community group leaders showed up for our monthly meeting.  Meeting with these folks is generally very encouraging.  It’s always good to spend time with folks whose commitment to community is so high.  Following the meeting I drove to some friends’ house where Maggie had been hanging out.  They had saved me some delicious Korean barbecue and a glass of red wine.  Eating their food and listening to their account of the Obama rally on Tuesday was a great way to end a long day.

how do i get into ministry?

On Friday a reader left an insightful question/comment on the blog.  I’ll share a few thoughts about his comment later this week, but I wonder if any signs of life readers have insight to share.  No need to be a pastor to share your thoughts; a variety of perspectives is always helpful.  Here’s Michael’s question:

It’s not so much a comment as a question mixed with an observation – but how I do actually get into ministry?

A little background…
I am a thirty-five year old man with a BA in religious studies from Mercer University. I have spent the last fifteen years working in various marketing jobs (graphic designer, artist, communications specialist) while doing lay ministry in the local church (music, teaching, preaching,etc.) A year or so ago I began to feel the call to full-time ministry and during that time the economy tanked leaving yours truly in the unemployment line and sending my wife back to work in the health care industry where, thank God, it was easy to find work.

I started sending out resumes to churches only to find that the only position you can fill without a MDiv is janitor. I started back to seminary this fall and I’m scheduled to graduate in December. But honestly it’s ridiculous to think that my ability to minister will be that much more enhanced by a few more classes in Hermaneutics and Systematic Theology. Why so much emphasis on an education that only shows that you are willing to jump through the hoops and toe the religio-political lines?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying belittle the seminary educational experience, I value it. But seminary is no different than law school in that it only teaches you where to find the answers not how to deal with the interpersonal relationships that are really the key to effective ministry. You can’t really be a pastor until you can understand the parishioner. I have a great deal of experience with people, teaching, preaching and ministry in general. I just don’t have the piece of paper to say I spent 10K on an education in how to use a concordance.

Any advice?


thinking about fear

Some friends at Leadership Journal were kind enough to ask me to write a monthly post for their blog, Out of Ur.  This month’s post, Urban Exile: Following Jesus in the Face of Fear, went up today.  It begins like this:

Pulling up to a busy intersection recently, my wife and I were startled to see a car with its rear windshield shattered. Out of the damaged car leaped a man with a baseball bat, yelling and chasing the two apparent perpetrators. As we slowly drove by, my wife reaching for her phone to call the police, we saw into the back seat where a young girl sat trying to make sense of the chaos that had erupted around her. Arriving at our apartment three blocks away I became aware of an emotion I hadn’t felt in a long time: fear.

In the next few days I hope to post some thoughts on the first third of Eugene Peterson’s The Jesus Way, tell you about our experience visiting a farm this weekend that exists to do some pretty interesting social services, and ask some questions about how Christians are responding to the Sarah Palin nominiation.

As always, thanks for reading.

christian faith and the election (5)

This is part five of this series of posts by some friends answering this question: In what ways does your faith in Christ impact how you think about and engage with the upcoming presidential election? See the introduction for more info. Also check out part one, part two, part three and part four.

On November 2, 2004, I stood at the little booth in the basement of the Lutheran church on Francisco Ave, looked at my ballot, and cried. If we’ve met, you’re not surprised at this, because you’ve probably seen me cry a million times at anything from a cute puppy to a cell phone commercial. But this time, I cried because I felt helpless. I looked at my choices and considered whether each candidate could make this country a better place for anyone to live. I wondered if either would make it easier to get out of bed in the morning. I thought about the 50 homeless guys I knew were hanging out around the corner, and wondered which choice would be better for them. I thought about my dad and his buddies, many of them disabled veterans, and thought about which choice would honor them, and which choice might actually help them. I wondered whether either of my choices was the “Christian” choice- what was I supposed to do, compose a list of Christian values and pick whoever came closest to embodying more of the items of my list? I thought about people who felt so passionate about one candidate being the right one, and who wondered out loud, “How could you possibly be a Christian and vote for HIM?” There was no good choice. I picked, went home, and cried some more.

On March 18 of this year, I cried once again in a random location. I had been visiting a student who was doing an internship in the pediatric intensive care unit of the University of Illinois Medical Center. After we met, I stepped off the elevator into a packed, silent waiting room. The crowd was diverse- patients, staff, and guests; every age, many races and ethnicities…all sitting in silence, mesmerized by the television. It was as if they were watching the moon landing. No one spoke, and no one looked away from the screen. Barack Obama was talking about race, the issue we can “no longer afford to ignore.” I grabbed a spot on the floor (every seat was taken) watched, and cried. I was listening to this man talk OUT LOUD to the entire country about things I have cried about in private, or with close friends, and wondered if they would ever be an acceptable topic of conversation in the public forum. The issue of race, in all its depth and ugliness, is so entwined in the way this country became what it is today and in the way it continues to operate, and yet it has become so taboo that we aren’t supposed to talk about it, and we certainly aren’t supposed to vote with race in mind. But on this day, I felt like all of us in the hospital waiting room and in the United States were being invited to start a conversation, or to bring our private conversations into the light. I felt like, for the first time, someone was saying out loud to the world that because of faith in Christ, we HAVE to talk about it. No more colorblind handholding; it’s time to get real with each other.

So Barack Obama is getting my vote. I’m not just voting for him because he gives me the warm fuzzies either; I agree with much of what he stands on. But not everything; I don’t think he’s perfect. I don’t think his opponent is perfect either, nor do I disagree with everything he says. But this time, I’m pretty sure if I cry in the voting both (who am I kidding; I should say WHEN I cry…), it will be because I feel like I am making a choice that will lead us to “a more perfect union”- if everyone would just participate in a conversation that before has been taboo, un-Christian, or has seemed irrelevant their own life, I think it will be a little easier to get up in the morning.

Katie is involved with community development and affordable housing issues. She recently moved home to Boston’s South Shore from Chicago’s Logan Square.