what adoption is showing me about good friday

img_54761Late last week we received our Foster Home license from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.  In order to adopt a child in Illinois we have to be licensed as foster parents, so it was pretty significant to get this piece of paper in the mail.  The main criteria for this license was the completion of our home study.  We’d heard from a few people that the home study can be fairly challenging as the social worker asks about issues related to family and marriage.  Someone told us their home study process was like having a stranger hang out in their bedroom!  This certainly wasn’t our experience at all.  Either we had a super kind social worker or we’re just used to being introspective about the kinds of things he asked about.  Regardless, the home study shouldn’t deter anyone from considering adoption.

We arrived at this late stage of the adoption process quicker than most because it seemed we may be a good fit with a particular birth mother.  Because we want to completely respect this mother and the complex and sensitive decisions she is making, I’ve not been at liberty to share much about this situation on the blog.  And that’s how it needs to stay for now.

Here’s what I can share: Waiting is hard!  As we have thought, prayed, and talked about this baby we have continually been reminded of our powerlessness.  There is nothing we can do except to wait for this birth mother, or another birth mother in the future, to make some difficult decisions.  We’re aware that our anxiety must pale in comparison to those mothers who are choosing adoption.  Even so, it’s been hard to know how to experience these past few weeks as the emotions we’re feeling are many.

Interestingly enough, this season of waiting and wondering has coincided almost perfectly with Lent.  It’s felt enormously appropriate to experience this process during a time of fasting and reflection.  And now it’s Good Friday and I’m anticipating Easter Sunday more viscerally than ever.  Reading through the crucifixion accounts in the Gospels this week, it’s been surprisingly easy to feel something of the loss and confusion experienced by Jesus’ friends and family at his death.  I too am ready for resolution.

Whether or not you share my faith in the resurrected Jesus, I wish you an Easter weekend filled with genuine and beautiful hope.  Adoption is teaching me a lot about that too!  Happy Easter.

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?

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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?

Michael

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.