jacob’s well.

outside of a couple book reviews, i’ve been rather silent on the ole blog. life transition will do that to you, i suppose. i hope that as life moves into it’s new phase that i’ll slowly find my rhythm and writing again. writing is truly a value to me. i’m not entirely sure that i’m even a good writer, and i’m also uncertain if i write for the benefit of others or simply for myself. regardless, i enjoy it and i tend to find myself living a fuller and fresher life when i get to write. so here i am.

as you may or may not be aware, over the last 4 months i’ve transitioned from my role at Hillcrest Covenant Church in Prairie Village, KS, into a new role at Jacob’s Well Church in Kansas City, MO. different states, yes, but only a few miles away from one another. i am so thankful for Hillcrest and the years i was apart of the culture and life of that church. it will always feel like home being around the people of HCC.

being a Jacob’s Well is terrific. such a fun and lively climate, and it is truly an honor to be apart of that community and that staff. my new role has me taking on more responsibility and ownership of the ministry i’m involved in, and i’m quickly learning and growing in ways i haven’t been able to in my previous years of ministry. being apart of a new culture is so interesting – learning, listening, and discerning every little detail of a culture that i am trying to infiltrate. i’ve made my short term goals to get to know all the kids names and connect with anyone who could have something to say as far as the youth ministry goes. i have loved getting to knew a new staff and group of volunteers, and can’t wait to see what God has in store for the youth ministry at Jacob’s Well.

i’m also learning that i don’t exactly know what i’m doing. gasp. which if funny to think about following a month of interviews trying to make myself sound like everyone’s dream hire answering all questions like i have a clue what i was doing. which, at the time, i tried to convey as best i could that i didn’t yet know what the answers to their youth ministry needs were. students would ask me, “will you take us to worlds of fun/power play/the moon?” and i would respond with, “probably, but i can’t guarantee anything yet because i don’t yet know what will or won’t work around this place.” i am slowly meeting people, developing relationships, and trying to discern what’s next for a ministry that i am learning more and more about every day.

the last thing i’ll mention is what i’m learning about the importance of relationships in ministry. everyone who read that sentence is like, “well duh.” i guess what i’m saying is that its really hard to teach, love, learn and grow together when we haven’t actually experienced any life yet together. even something as simple as teaching on sunday morning is proving to be difficult until i know my audience on a deeper level. until we have some fun together, i don’t have a clue what these kids are interested in hearing or how i can best speak into their life. without relationships, ministry is next to impossible, and jumping into a new environment has taught me that first hand. as i’m getting to know each student, my love for them increases and so does the ministry capacity within me.

ah, i’ve just written 650 words in 5 solid paragraphs. clearly this won’t be a well read blog post – that’s why twitter is so effective. all that to say, i am so thankful for this new opportunity. i get really excited every time i think about how God opened doors and aligned everything for me to step in at Jacob’s Well. what a joy and a blessing to be apart of this new place.

-apc.

review: water for elephants.


check out my Water for Elephants review over on the Ultra Manly Book Club blog, or read it below. if you’re a dude, i recommend checking out the site.

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Disclaimer: I feel I am required to adopt somewhat of a defensive persona when beginning this post. Yes. We are a bit embarrassed to have included this in our book club. However, part of our guidelines for iUMBC is that we are culturally aware of the “popular” books of the day. Sara Gruen’s 2006 novel, Water for Elephants, is considered by many to be “so hot right now. “ So hot, in fact, that felt the need to make a movie out of it starring the Twilight Heartthrob himself (who shall remain nameless due the fact that his name escapes me and I refuse to increase his popularity by Googling it). The convictions of those affiliated with iUMBC tend do disagree with this “so hot” notion. Also, this review contains *spoilers*.

 The book’s protagonist goes by the name Jacob Jankowski, and although his surname would suggest it, he does not play hockey. Instead, Jankowski is a disgruntled old man living in a nursing home. The majority of the text is spent in Mr. Jankowski’s flashbacks to the time he spent in the circus as a college kid. In his final year of vet school tragedy strikes in his family and he copes with the difficulty by running away and boarding a circus train. Seems reasonable enough.

Through a series of events, young Jacob discovers himself working amongst the carnies. He is torn between the circus hierarchy: Workers and Performers. His friends are all workers; Camel, an old sick drunk addicted to cough syrup, and Kinko, a midget whom Jacob once encounters masturbating in their sleeping quarters. So awkward. The reader learns to love and cherish these two quirky men. The tension mounts when Jacob falls in love with a performer, Marlena, who rides an elephant in the circus finale. Unfortunately, Marlena is married to an abusive man, August, who is also Jacob’s boss.

Thus far, this book probably sounds fine, and I will admit that the first 2/3 of this book is decent. The tension builds, it’s an entertaining read, and there are even a couple split lips in the first 200 pages. It’s what happens next that derails this book completely.

The two most lovable characters are easily Camel and Kinko, and at this point in the novel they are both living with Jacob in a storage car near the back of the train. Camel has been poisoned by his cough syrup addiction and is losing feeling to his entire body. Jacob and Kinko are able to make contact with a relative of Camel’s who agrees to meet up with them on their tour and take Camel away to help him recover. Kinko has just overcome his initial hatred of Jacob (partially due to the embarrassment of being caught in the act), and is turning into a terrific companion. What’s going to happen with Camel? Are they going to make it to Camel’s cousin in time? What is Kinko’s roll going to be as the plot develops further?

The answers never come. One night, while Jacob sneaks off to the Performers’ cabin, the author decides that it would be a good idea to have the two most likable characters thrown off the train.

So that’s what happens. Rather than finish their story and have them play a role, their characters are just inexplicably killed off like the unnamed extras in a Predator movie. Only these aren’t just unnamed characters; they’re important names in the book who have storylines of their own. Rather than try and tie all the loose ends together in the end, Sara Gruen decides to take the easy way out and end all storylines that aren’t the sappy love story. It’s lazy writing and it can’t be tolerated.

Once Kinko and Camel were killed off it was easy to find issues with this book I suddenly hated. For example, it becomes very obvious that the inner monologues of Jacob are actually the creation of a female author. Gruen uses situations that play directly to a woman’s emotional state: cruelty to animals, an abusive husband, and a depressed old man who’s younger self was the vanquisher of both the animal cruelty and the domestic abuse.

No wonder women love Jacob Jankowski – he’s a sad old man (tear) whose 23-year-old self loves and cares for animals (sniff, sniff) and who rescues a woman from a psychotic abusive husband (more tears). Talk about dreamy…and a complete waste of my time. These scenarios don’t appeal to men. Don’t misunderstand me here – there are certainly ultra manly men who care about these things – but this is not the sort of thing that gets men amped about reading a novel. It’s geared to women, and it took a poor decision by the author to make that clear.

While iUMBC does not recommend this book to our followers, we do believe that bringing awareness is crucial. Read it if you must, but please continue to spread the word. This book is not well done and is far from manly.

-apc.

life transition: The Decision.

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as you may or may not be aware, I am entering a transitionary stage in my life. my contract is up at Hillcrest Covenant Church at the end of the month bringing the end of an era in my life. i was first hired at HCC in May 2005 as a summer intern following my freshman year at K-State. since graduating high school I have either been a college student, or an employee of student ministries.

my wife and I have decided to enter into this transition in what we believe to be the best way possible: by traveling to Europe for 3 weeks. both of us will be unemployed for the first time since college, and we figure it is much healthier to view it as an opportunity rather than freaking out and frantically worrying about the future. we may never have a chance like this again. let’s take advantage. the trip has allowed me to be extremely calm about the transition. rather than filling out applications and scrambling to discover my next job, I have been researching airfare, plotting daytrips, and learning the histories of the cities we will be experiencing.

maybe this freedom has been too nice at times. saying that it has “allowed” me to detach from the situation makes it sound like I’m not taking it seriously. to quote darth vader, making it “all too easy”. that is probably somewhat true. I am hoping that the three weeks abroad will give me a little time to process and understand what it is that God is calling me too and where I will land next.

which is where I end up pondering this idea of “calling” over and over again. it amazes me when people say that they are distinctly “called” to a ministry or occupation. I feel like what I will end up doing is weighing my options, picking the one that excites me most and makes the most sense at the same time. which is what, i believe, we all do anyway. no one makes decisions based on nothing. they choose based on pros and cons and they step out in faith that their decision is the right one.

the place where I get tripped up is where I start believing that there is a “right choice” and everything else is the “wrong choice”. that is the way I think. when I pull up at sonic and I have to make a drink choice, I stare at the board and weigh the 32,086 different options trying to determine which is the “right” one for my current state of thirst. do I need a refreshing Ocean Water, or a classic Cherry Limeade, or a spritzed up Dr. Pepper with Vanilla and Lime? this process takes a while and ticks off those waiting for my Decision (capital D, a la LeBron James).

the trip up is a theological one: if i make the “wrong choice” does that effectively limit how God can use my life? obviously not – the omnipotent Creator can and will use me no matter what. so why is there so much pressure to make the “right choice” that God is “calling” me toward? what if I don’t feel “called” to anything right now? is it inevitable that I choose wrong? or does it not matter to God as long as I do it to the best of my God-given abilities? “whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do all in the name of Chirst Jesus.” so who decides what the “whatever” is that i am to do?

so in the end I choose to weigh options, make internal pro/con lists and determine the joy I would experience working in different areas. what are my values and how do those factor into the Future Formula? yes, I pray, but it is usually limited to, “God, use me in whatever it is I’m going to do in life.”

so as I go on “holiday”, as they say, that is the current state of my mind. not worrying (yet), but definitely feeling some angst about the decision making process. I’m just thankful the national media isn’t following my every thought and scrutinizing my Decision as if it wasnt the right one. poor LeBron.

-apc.

why i jumped from blogspot to wordpress.

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i’ve been blogging since 2003. i was on xanga in high school and into college, but as blogging and social media really took off, i decided i needed to make the jump to more legit hosting site. in december 2006 i made the switch to blogspot. some of my friends jumped to the ever-so-trendy tumblr around 2008, but i held strong to blogspot because i saw value in staying loyal to a domain. people would remember it. no one would have to update their RSS feeds. over time, if i invested entirely to one space i would likely have a much more robust blog to show for it.

but last week i finally decided that it was time to move on. here are my reasons:

1. wordpress allowed me to import my old posts from blogspot. one of the reasons i was reluctant to move was because i didn’t want “lose” all my old posts on my new one. plus, my new blog to look like i never wrote anything. it looks a lot better to have posts dating back to 2006 then to have them starting just today. but when i found out i could move all my old posts over from blogspot, it was an easy decision. (although, when i transferred everything, all my old posts got a “>” in front of the blog title and first character in the text body. i’ve deleted it from my most recent posts, but removing it from 500 old posts may take a while. hm.)

2. wordpress is more mobile friendly than blogspot. wordpress has an iPad version of their pages that is way more user-friendly (and awesome looking) than just a stagnant webpage. it also has much better posting apps than blogspot does. when i was in guatemala and trying to update on our trip from my phone, the app capabilities were all third-party and not super easy to utilize.

3. wordpress compiles it’s own site stats. while on blogspot, i had pasted in html for sitemeter, then google analytics, but they were always a little janky with the web stats and they always felt somewhat cumbersome to have to leave my blogspot dashboard and travel to an external site to view the info.

4. wordpress seems to understand where blogging and web presence is moving toward while blogspot hasn’t done much of anything to reinvent themselves as the online world is advancing. this partially has to do with WP’s mobile friendliness, but beyond that there is just a sense that they are moving along faster than other blog servers.

5. wordpress page templates allow for a more interactive blog. i haven’t really begun to utilize everyhting that wordpress is capable of, but i can definitely see how pages can look fresher and flashier than pages hosted on blogspot. i’m excited to explore and see what more there is to WP that i haven’t tapped into yet. WP friends, i could use some guidance here.

anyway. no hard feelings blogspot. you did nothing wrong necessarily, wordpress just seems to be doing a lot of stuff right these days. we’ll see how this goes.

-apc.

dr. martin luther king jr. – the white church’s stance on social injustice.

I have been so greatly disappointed with the white church and its leadership…I do not say this as one of those negative critics who can always find something wrong with the church. I say this as a minister of the gospel, who loves the church…When i was suddenly catapulted into leadership of the bus protest in Montgomery, Alabama, a few years ago, I felt we would be supported by the white church. I felt that the ministers, priests, and rabbis of the South would be among our strongest allies. Instead, some have been outright opponents, refusing to understand the freedom movement and misrepresenting its leaders; all too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained-glass windows…In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard many ministers say: “Those are social issues, with which the gospel has no real concern.” And I have watched many churches commit themselves to a completely otherworldly religion which makes a strange, unbiblical distinction between body and soul, between the sacred and the secular…There was a time when the church was very powerful – in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Letter from a Birmingham Jail
as transcribed in Soong-Chan Rah’s Many Colors: Cultural Intelligence for a Changing Church

-apc.

osama bin laden is dead.


osama bin laden is dead, and our nation is celebrating heartily.

a man who orchestrated the deaths of thousands of people was brought to justice yesterday at the hands of the united states military. almost ten years after september 11, our government has finally taken out the man they swore to find and kill.

this is potentially problematic for those of us who identify as both americans and christians.

on the one hand we want to celebrate with our nation because the man who epitomized evil in our eyes finally faced what he had forced so many others to face: death. even as christians we are to seek justice and strive to eliminate darkness.

Micah 6:8 – He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Psalm 106:3 – Blessed are they who maintain justice, who constantly do what is right.

Isaiah 1:17 – Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.

yet at the same time, we remember the words of Jesus concerning evil:

Matthew 5:39 – But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.

Matthew 5:43-45 – You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

so already there is some conflict with how to respond as christians. act justly, but love mercy. we are to defend those who have lost loved ones, but pray for those who persecute them. seek justice, but if someone strikes your cheek, offer them the other one. this is certainly one of those times where we wish God was a little more explicit in his opinion on what justice looks like in a nasty world.

thus, the conflict i felt last night as i watched the nation rejoice. was justice served yesterday? was the murder of a murderer a justifiable act? i felt that we had fought for those who had lost loved ones. our nation was defending the widow and fighting for the fatherless. justice was being sought, but was the death of osama bin laden something Jesus celebrating?

Leviticus 19:15 – ‘Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.

Romans 12:19 – Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

Ephesians 4:31-32 – Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

justice is for God to decide. he will have his vengeance if he wants to have his vengeance. we are to forgive others and allow God to judge the unrighteous. killing osama bin laden is something that i struggle with because it’s broken human beings bestowing judgement upon another broken human being. when we decided that someone is worthy of death we are judging them as only God can. do i think God would’ve judged him the same way at the time? probably. but more than anything else, God seeks redemption.

Ezekiel 33:11 – As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.

God takes pleasure in wicked people turning from their ways. there is no pleasure in the death of the wicked.

a few days ago i was watching a national geographic film called “science of evil”. part of the story centered around serial killer jeffrey dahmer. dahmer was convicted of murdering 17 men from 1978-1991. these murders were the some of the most gruesome the world had ever seen.

after three years of his life sentence, dahmer requested to have a pastor come to the prison and baptize him. the pastor interviewed him about repentance, salvation, and reconciliation, and after a lengthy discussion, determined that jeffrey dahmer’s motives were legitimate and he was baptized in a bath tub right there in the jail.

just months following his baptism, dahmer was murdered by a fellow inmate. 15 years later, the pastor was interviewed about his experience and he maintains that he fully expects to see jeffrey dahmer in heaven someday. there was still good in him. [insert darth vader reference here]

we can celebrate the redemption of jeffrey dahmer. we do not celebrate his actions, but we can absolutely celebrate his deliverance. one can only assume that we cannot celebrate the redemption of osama bin laden. i wish we could. i wish we at least had hope that we could.

one can argue that the 3,000+ lives on the hands of osama bin laden is vastly greater than the 17 gruesome murders committed by dahmer, and i would likely agree with that stance. my point is that pure evil is abundant in this world, that we cannot deny.

1 Peter 5:8 – Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

evil is on the prowl, and it will always be on the prowl. we should be alert and seek justice as best as we humanly can. but God does not celebrate with us in the death of a wicked man. i wish there was another way. it is so good to fight for those who need it – the fatherless, the widows, the poor, the sick – and i think american was right in seeking justice. i’m not certain that america’s concept of justice is the same as that of God’s.

i just wish that osama bin laden had the opportunity to be won over by Jesus Christ. that’s all. maybe there was still good in him. who are we to say there wasn’t?

i’m happy for the families who have been in mourning for the last 10 years seeking justice. i’m happy that they feel vindicated, but i’d be even happier if i knew that bin laden could be redeemed.

-apc.