From MN to MI…

So, we are in Michigan…I mean we have moved from Minnesota to Michigan.  I preached my last sermon at St. John’s in Norwood Young America, MN on June 9th (we”ll call it Sound-check <– click there to hear it).  We then packed up our home over the next few days and made our way here… In keeping with the last few blog posts I will give you all a nice, orderly recounting of the events.

In my last post I let you all know that we had put in an offer on a bank owned home.  We put in our first offer on Mon. June 3rd.  We heard the next day that there were multiple bids on the house.  The bank wanted our “highest and best bid” by that Wed. at 10 a.m.  We made our final offer on Tuesday the 4th. 

Well, we waited and waited to hear if our offer was accepted, or if the house went to someone else. The longer we waited the more I felt like somebody else would be offered the house.  I prayed about it…I put it in God’s hands…I asked for peace.  I felt like the house would be offered to somebody else, but I still thought that we would wind up getting it in the end.

We finally got word the following Wed. (June 12th) that the bank had in fact sent a counter offer to another bidder.  We were out bid.  I prayed. I told Kristy that I felt that someone else would be offered the house, but that for some reason the deal would not go through, and that we would end up in the house when all was said and done.  I was content with the thought of us not getting the house…but I still felt that we would get it.  

But we had other things we needed to take care of.  That very day we were supposed to pack up our moving trailer (the one that came the night before…that we reserved just the night before that).  It was about 10:45 a.m. when we got the call saying the bank was negotiating with another bidder.  At 11:00 we were expecting people to show up to help us pack up.  And I forgot to mention, it had been raining all morning with no signs of letting up.  At about 5 minutes to I went outside to open the back of the trailer and set up the ramp. In a few short minutes the rain turned to a drizzle and then simply stopped.  

Just at that moment people started showing up one by one.  I was expecting some of the youth from the church to show up and help…none of them could make it.  One of my friends showed up.  The sons of our former nanny came (moving dolly in hand). A few guys from church came.  One of them had his adult sons come as well.  About a half hour before they showed up I realized that we had yet to pack our kitchen.  I called one of the women from church to come and take the lead on that.  She was one of the first to get there and her husband came a little while later.

There weren’t as many people as I hoped would come but I don’t know that I would have known what to do with any more people than the ones we had.  We loaded all the boxes that were packed, and we put everything that was not in a sealed box in the garage or in the dining room for Kristy and me to go through and pack the next day.  It continued to be overcast throughout the day but it only sprinkled for a short while one more time while we were loading. (I have helped a lot of people load and unload moving vehicles.  even on nice days it is usually boiling hot inside the trailer.  But for us it was perfectly pleasant all day long.)

Kristy and I planned on finishing up in the morning on the next day.  One of the church members who runs a home daycare took all of our kids for the day so that we could pack, load and clean in peace. Well, the morning came and went…and the afternoon.  We worked non-stop into the evening.  The new home owners came for their final walk through at about 5:30…we were still doing our final clean up.  But we didn’t care.  Nothing could discourage us or stress us out on that day anymore…and you know why? Because at about 4:30 our realtor called us and said the bank accepted our offer on the house in Michigan.  I still don’t know exactly what happened, but suffice it to say, God answered our prayers.  We now knew where we would be moving to…eventually.  

That night we took everything we hadn’t loaded in the moving truck and went to my parents’.  We finalized the selling of our house the next day at noon, walking away with all the money we will need for the down payment and closing costs on our new home in Michigan.  We spent the weekend at my parents’ place, then went and spent most of the week with my grandparents in southern MN.  We had a great time with them, and then journeyed back through the Twin Cities on our way to Kristy’s parents house in Central Wisconsin.  There was a fun gathering at their place while we stayed with them.  On Sunday we headed down to the Chicagoland area and spent the night with some friends from the Seminary.  We left there after breakfast, and by the afternoon we had reached our destination.  Oh yeah, and another big blessing happen on the way…

Up until we were at my mom’s we had not decided the exact route or timeline of our journey to MI.  So, we had not been able to give the Michiganders anything firm as far as an arrival date.  And we had yet to make definite housing arrangements because we had been holding out on the possibility of purchasing and getting into the house in early to mid July.

When we talked with Pastor Jim in MI about temporary housing we asked him to put the question of housing out to the congregation.  A few options were presented (like renting one side of a duplex, or house hopping while church members went on vacation) but one family in particular said they would be willing to open their home to us.  Their upstairs had 2 bedrooms, a bathroom and a t.v. room.  Kristy and I both thought this sounded like a great option.  The thought of house hopping and living out of our vehicles, while doable, was less than desirable, and we did not want to have to unload and unpack into temporary housing only to then re-load, move, unload and unpack again when we finally get into our new home.

When we were at my grandparents I called Kara (the mom of the family who offered to house us) and let her know that we would love to see if things would work out at their place for our family…and that we would be arriving in MI in less than a week on Monday June 24th.  She graciously welcomed us.

We got to the Garcia’s place Monday afternoon and took over their upstairs…and parts of their kitchen.  They have been great hosts and we have tried to be good house mates.

They have a five year old son who our boys have made quick friends with. They have a trampoline in their back yard and a wii in their living-room…the boys are adjusting very well!

Our girls are doing well also.  Little lady K tries to keep up with the boys and seems to have a generally good time until they team up on her when playing monsters or superheros. She also enjoys just going off and playing on her own with the plethora of new toys at her disposal.  Baby girl E is great as always.  She did start sleeping through the night sometime during this whole transition but that was short lived.  Other than that she is still the world’s easiest and happiest baby.  We have had to resort to putting Sunny’s (the Garcia’s chihuahua) food and water dishes up off the ground so that she doesn’t topple them over (or eat any dog food).

We decided for a number of reasons to enroll the kids in the Open Arms childcare center at Kristy’s new job, and have registered the boys for first grade and kindergarten at our local public elementary school (which is only a 2 minute drive from our soon to be new home).  The school system has a gifted and talented program that starts at Kindergarten (Awesome!) and their cut off is Dec. 1st (not Sept. 1st like in MN) which is why little man T can start Kindergarten this year.  M is technically old enough to be in 2nd grade, but we think he will do well with a younger class socially and since their is a great gifted and talented program he should have no problem being challenged academically.

Kristy started her job on Monday July 1st.  It will be interesting to see what this position actually becomes and how God uses her in this community.   I met with and Assistant to the President of the Michigan District of our church body on Wed. the 3rd to give them a better feel for who I am and how they might best use me in the ministry of the Michigan District. The meeting went well.  I am excited.

Finally, since hearing that the bank accepted our offer (on June 13th) it has taken until July 1st for them to return the signed purchase agreement.  After my Wed. meeting at the district office I walked down to the loaning organization that we are purchasing our home through.  I popped in to meet the woman who has been handling our case, and to make sure that everything was in order (and our interest rate locked in).  It was not.

I quickly called our realtor and my wife to make sure that all of the paperwork would get in that day (the following day being the 4th of July). The office would be closing early that day and would remain closed until the following Monday, at which point interest rates were scheduled to go up a quarter percent.  I drove to Kristy’s work, we had lunch, we filled out the paperwork, we made sure all the proper signatures were attained and we faxed the papers off. Done and done.  Our loan amount is fixed for the next 15 years at 3.5% (on a 30 year loan).  One more day and this would not have been possible.

As you can see God has continued to answer our prayers and prove that His timing is perfect.  I hope that this “little” update is a blessing and encouragement to you.  Seek God’s direction in your life. Follow where He leads. Trust in Him to direct you.  And hold on!  That is how God led us from MN to MI…who knows where He will lead you.

Living forever, Now

Michael (a.k.a. revgrannis)

“The path is made by walking in it.”



answered prayers…

My last post was an attempt to fill people in on the crazy, amazing ride that was April and May for my family.  It ended a bit unresolved because the story was (and is) still playing out.  Well, this post will be about the same but there are a few updates.

Our house inspection went well.  The only things that were found that needed to be attended to were that our gas line to our fireplace didn’t have it’s own shut off valve down stairs, and the buyers wanted the furnace inspected.  I had that all taken care of by the following Tuesday.

I said that I was praying for a closing date before the 15th of June…closing is the 14th (next Friday!).

Last Wednesday night was the night that the congregation in Michigan voted on who they would call as their Director of Family Life Ministry…Kristy was extended the call (praise God!).

We spoke with Pastor Jim on the phone the next day to talk about when it would be best to go and look for houses.  We asked about the possibility of that weekend. He found us direct round-trip tickets for only $215.  We flew in Saturday, looked at over 20 houses Sunday and Monday.  Put a bid in on a house Monday night and flew back to MN Tuesday morning.

The house we bid on is bank owned.  We heard back the following day that there are multiple offers on the house.  We were asked to submit our highest and best final offer.  The bank would be making their decision after 10:30 the next day.  We received a request the following day for more paper work to be filled out and sent the bank’s way (not a sure indicator but a positive sign that we are at least in the running).  We were hoping to hear by yesterday.  No word.  I talked with our realtor and she said that with Fannie Mae it could be a few days before we hear anything.

So needless to say, we would like prayers for peace and patience as we wait on the word from the bank.  We would really like this house, but know that it is all in God’s hands.  If we don’t get it, then we are confident that God has something else in store for us.

At this point the real stress for us is just not knowing.  We have not been able to make any other plans because we don’t when or exactly where we will be moving next.  Again, We know that in the end this will all be fine.  God has certainly had no problem lining everything else up for us in such a perfect way.  Why worry?…but we do.

So I will end this post with prayer requests.  Pray for:

…sleep, rest, peace for our family as we wait and as we prepare for the move.

…the situation surrounding our future home.  Before house hunting I prayed that God would provide us with a place that would feel like home for the kids.  As soon as walked in the house we bid on, I was surrounded by all the same finishings that are in our current home.  It just seemed so right.  God’s will be done.

…my job prospects in Michigan.  I have had some great conversations with the powers that be in the Michigan District about how I might be plugged in while we wait for a more permanent position that is suited for how God has shaped me.  I am excited about all the possibilities

…good farewells.  We need God’s continued guidance for connecting all the folks He has brought into our lives with people and resources that will help them to continue in their relationship with Christ and each other.

…freedom from financial attack. This may sound a bit strange, but we are on the receiving end of a bunch of totally unrelated miscommunications and confusion regarding our current health insurance, homeowners insurance, bank statements, etc.  Some of these are really big issues and some are just small little things.  Although they all seem to be getting taken care of, they are unneeded, unwelcome, frustrating distractions that are taking time away from doing the stuff we need and want to be focusing on.

So there are a few of our answered and soon to be…answered prayers.

A month in the life of…

Many friends and family who follow my blog or who communicate with me in forms other than the blogosphere have had a hard time keeping up with what’s going on in my family’s life.  Therefore, the following is a bit of an update.  This is the actual true to life sequence of events over the past few weeks.  Please pray for God’s continued guidance…

Well, it all began a couple months back.  Kristy and I were asked to join PLI (Pastoral Leadership Institue) for their first shot at a totally revamped program.  I will spare you the details other than the fact that it is not cheap to be involved with PLI.  I estimate that over 2 years we will spend about 13K-14K for registration, travel and the like.  Kristy and I, not being in the financial position to take those kind of numbers on at the moment, submitted an application for a grant.  We also sent out support letters to some friends, family and former church relations (and professors).  While the grant we applied for was capped at $1000 we asked for more, stating the reason for our need.  Well, God answered our prayers.  In an uncustomary move, the granting entity agreed to cover our total registration cost for the first year ($3500).  Then the letters started to come back.  We sent out about 140 request letters plus an additional 650 or so in our local congregation’s monthly newsletter.  8 came back (so far).  Half of them provided financial support in addition to prayer support.  The financial portion totaled $1900. This more than covered our travel and other expenses for our first PLI gathering last month (in Omaha).

This begins the strange turn of events…

While we were in Omaha we were asked the question, “What is keeping you from following where God is leading you?”  My initial answer was, “Nothing.”  I felt sincerely sure that I have been following God to the best of my ability as of late.  I have been praying for guidance and discernment.  I have been looking for opportunity and open doors.  I have been trying to be bold and follow where I sense His leading.  But then I began to feel overwhelmed.  

Suddenly, I was not so sure of myself.  I started thinking on my families finances and the fact that I didn’t know how we were going to pay next month’s bills.  I started thinking about my crushing student loan debt.  For the first time (perhaps ever) I was worried about my ability to manage my families finances.  (BTW – I recently became a licensed financial planner.)  

Now, if you know me you would know that this anxiety over money is not a normal thing.  As I say from time to time, “I have always liked money.”  The truth of the matter is I am good with money.  Kristy and I have top tier credit scores.  I have been known to be a little OCD about budgeting in the past.  I enjoy the money game.  But all of the sudden, it wasn’t a game.  It was something I just wanted to run away from.  I remember thinking, “If we could sell our house then we could pay off Kristy’s student loans, pay off the mini-van, pay off…well, pay down my student loans. Sure, we would be homeless.  With no significant source of income.  But if we were homeless I wouldn’t need a significant source of income.  We could move in with my mom for the time being and then…” 

This was literally what I thought. And all of the sudden I wasn’t worried anymore.  I thought about it a little bit more.  “Well, there are smarter ways to deal with my student loan debt…but the rest of that doesn’t sound so bad.”  I talked it over with Kristy and she agreed.  We were going to sell our house…I think. 

Then that question came back again.  “What is keeping you from following God where He is leading you?”  The answer? Our house.  Our permanency in our current location.  That was the answer.  Now, I don’t want to imply that if you want to follow God you need to sell your house or move or anything like that.  On the contrary, I believe most people are supposed to stay where they are, and do what God has for them right there.  But for the first time in a while I felt like God had something for me and my family someplace other than where we currently are.  We prayed.

A few days later at the closing service of our PLI gathering we took turns praying over the people in our coaching groups.  As Kristy and I were being prayed over one of the people in our group said, “I sense the spirit of Abraham ans Sarah with you two, Michael and Kristy…”This person had no idea what we had been discussing over the past couple of days.  I immediately knew what this meant.  God’s call to Abraham was one that called Him away from the land where he lived, away from his family, to the place God would show him.  What did this mean to me?  This was the confirmation I needed to confidently decide to sell our house, knowing that God had a different place in store for us.  perhaps someplace foreign to the both of us. 

We kept and even firmed up the contingency plan to move in with my mom and step-dad, but the confirmation we received in that prayer made the thought of moving in with my mom seem backwards.  After all, Abraham was called to move away from his father not to move back in with him.  I told Kristy that even though we were making these plans with my family that she shouldn’t be surprised if something else comes along before we have to move out of our house.  

About a week after getting back from Omaha I wrote a newsletter article to St. John’s Church telling them that Kristy and I were going to be selling our house and staying at my mom’s, so that I could continue ministry in the area until God gave us a new place to move to…whether it was near or far off.  We began the work of interviewing Realtors and getting our house showroom ready for listing.  We donated at least four minivan loads full of stuff to Goodwill and other local charities. We patched up nicks and repainted about half of the walls at our place.  I worked through the night four or five times in a couple week span trying to get our home ready for pictures and for the market.  Oh, and something happened in the middle of all of this. 

One Monday just after noon, Kristy got a phone call.  A message on her voicemail actually.  It was from a pastor of a church out in Michigan.  The message went something like this:

“Hey there Kristy, you probably don’t remember me – there is no reason why you should – but I am Pastor Jim Richter.  I met you and your husband several years ago at CPAC (Church Planter Assessment Center).  The reason I am calling is that we have a position that we are trying to fill at our congregation and God just keeps bringing your name to mind.  I was wondering if you would be interested in interviewing for it.  The position is for Director of Family Life Ministries.  I remember that you are certified as a DCE (Director of Christian Education). If you are interested in interviewing for the position give me a call.  I can fill you in a bit more about the position and we can set up an interview time with the call committee.”

We were floored, to say the least.  We tried to temper our excitement by saying things like, “We don’t know if this is going to happen or not.” and “Even if this doesn’t pan out, it is still a huge blessing, the joy and encouragement we are getting from this.”  But the simple fact is we couldn’t  help but see God’s hands all over this.  And it was exciting.  

Kristy had a phone interview with the call committee the following Monday and was asked at the end of it if she could come out for a face-to-face interview.  They offered to fly us both out in a couple of weekends…I was already schedule to be a guest preacher at a place near our home.  We asked if it work that coming weekend (Mother’s Day weekend).  They said yes.  So, we handed off our kids to my mom for a few nights and the two of us flew out to Michigan. Oh and by the way, we got our place showroom ready and listed Wednesday (a few days before flying out).  While we were gone our house was empty; perfect for any spur of the moment showings. No kids to mess things up…no us to mess things up.  While we were gone we had a brokers’ open house on Saturday, a showing on Sunday…Sunday night we got an offer! We countered… our counter was accepted!  We shared the news with the congregation members we had been meeting with.  It was congrats to us all around.  

We flew back home on Tuesday morning.  Our home inspection was today.  We got word from the congregation in Michigan that Kristy is one of two people they are considering for the call.  They will have a call committee meeting this Sunday and then a voters meeting the Wed. after Memorial Day.  I am hoping to set the closing day for our house by June 15th.  Prayers concerning all of this are very welcome.  Pray that God’s will is done and that we will faithfully follow where He leads.  God is Good!

The path is made by walking in it…

I blinked and it is April…actually most of April is over.  Kristy and I just got back from a whirlwind trip down to Wichita for couple nights, back through Kansas City for a couple nights, up to Omaha for a few nights and over through Des Moines for a quick lunch before heading back home. The Omaha portion of our trip was for a new leadership program that Kristy and I were invited into.  The program is PLI – Missional Leader (PLI stands for Pastoral Leadership Institute).

It was a great time for a number of reasons, but the thing that made the biggest impression on me was a statement that was said in passing. I don’t even really know if I am quoting it verbatim, but It has lodged in my mind as follows: “The path is made by walking in it.”  The moment I heard it, it struck me.  I am not exactly sure why it has made such an impression. Perhaps it is the proverb-like nature that is so appealing to me.  Whatever the case, it doesn’t so much represent a new learning for me as much as a simple way to relate the essence of a deeply held philosophy of mine.  The more you walk a certain path in life the easier it is to follow. When you travel unfamiliar routes, it can be confusing and even scary.  Well lit, well-traveled paths make for the path of least resistance (for better or worse).  Whereas, dimly lit, seldom-traveled paths almost always seem suspect if not difficult to follow.

When I play disc golf at a new course, it is easy to get lost as I try to find my way from one hole to the next. Sometimes there are good markers or maps to help navigate the course.  Other times I have the help of a friend or a friendly stranger to guide me.  And still other times I just have to go with my gut and try to follow the beaten path as best I can.

I remember my first time at the course on the Crown College campus.  There are at least four places where I was completely clueless the first time I went there.  Luckily, I was with friends who were familiar with the way.  I have experienced going to other courses for my first visits on my own.  Sometimes there are maps, but for some reason they never seem as easy to navigate in reality as they do on paper. By far, the best way to navigate new and uncertain terrain is with the guidance of a trusted friend, who has traveled the path before and knows where to go.  I should, however, add that being with some friends can give you a false sense of security.  When none of you really know the right path, you can get caught up in the whole blind leading the blind thing.

The courses I am most familiar with, I of course need no help to find my way around.  Even when there are no clear signs, and the way I know to be right would seem to be strange and make no sense at all to someone unfamiliar with the course, I can trust that I am in fact going the right way, because I have walked the way many times before.

This is perhaps the best way I can find to describe my experience living out my faith in God.  When I encounter new situations and the right course is not easily discernible it is easy to get frustrated, lost or confused. When I have clear signs or directions to guide me it is a little less wary.  But regardless of the situation I know I am not alone and I have a true friend who knows the way.

My family and I are on a new course in life as it were. We have been praying for God’s guidance and discernment in this time of uncertainty.  There has been a lot of worry and frustration occupying our thoughts as of late.  And so, the phrase that stuck in my mind has brought me a little peace and clarity. “The path is made by walking in it.”  I have followed God’s direction in my life many times before, and He has never steered me wrong.  In that sense, I have walked this dim, narrow path before.  Even though it is new and unknown to me, it seems strangely familiar.  And there is some comfort in that.

My hope and trust is that as I continue to walk according to God’s direction down the unknown paths of my life, the path will seem to get if not a little brighter, at least a little wider from the wear.  After all, the path is made by walking in it.

learning to trust…again

((sorry this is a longer post…enjoy)).

So, I haven’t really done the whole use-my-blog-as-a-diary thing but today is just one of those days.  The type of day when right in the midst of it you say to yourself, “Hey this is important stuff. Someone might get something out of this” (maybe even me). 

Today, after bringing our eldest to get his first permanent molars sealed (back home by 8:00 a.m.), I gathered my portable office and made my way to my favorite work station (The Mocha Monkey).  For those of you who don’t know, I am a pastor who was called to start a new congregation in a growing rural/suburban county in the greater Twin Cities metro area.  Well, I have been in the area for a little more than two years now.  Without getting into all the details, there is no new congregation yet, and the money that was supporting my position is pretty much running out.  

What is a Lutheran minister to do?  That is the question that has been occupying much of my cognitive functioning for the past few months (and much of my prayer life as well).  After much thought and prayer I proposed that I become a worker-priest.  What that means is that I will find my primary source of income from another job, while I continue working to build up this new ministry that I have been establishing.  It is something I have been seriously thinking about for over a year, but the option became a bit more of a pressed for time last resort kind-of-a-deal these past couple months.  

So here I am.  With just a few weeks left before the New Year (my deadline for finding said employment) and I have no job.  I have been applying to non-profits, local government agencies, and some random companies.  

The problem I am finding is that I am very educated…in one thing.  I have very little life experience that directly qualifies me for the type of positions that would enable me to support my family (sole bread-winner, wife and 4 young kids).  I trained for a church job in my undergrad schooling, and then went on to train for another church job (pastor) in my graduate studies. Other than all of my “fieldwork,” internship and vicarage training I’ve had a few part-time campus jobs, some restaurant jobs, and a couple in-home sales jobs…some other odds and ends.  Not exactly the type of stuff that gets a whole lot of call backs from potential employers in the price range I require.

So, here I sit at the computer, drinking my bottomless cup o’ decaf coffee looking online for leads for a job or two I can step into without worrying about making mortgage payments or only sleeping 4 hrs a day.  There are lots of interesting positions that I think I would do well at, but there are few that I am walk in ready for.  

Sure there is the possibility of receiving another pastoral position at a different congregation, but being a pastor in my denomination, job hunting is…well it just isn’t done.  You don’t pursue the call; the call seeks you.  That means, I can go to my regional powers that be and say, “Hey, I am in this situation, and if a call came along that was a good fit for me, I would consider taking it.” (this I have done)  But when push comes to shove, it is a very passive process on the part of us pastors.  Maybe a call comes our way…maybe it doesn’t. You don’t go around sending out your resume or filling out applications.  I knew this when I pursued this line of work.  However, I guess I never imagined myself in this predicament. 

For the past month and a half I have spent many hours filling out applications, revising my resume, hunting up previous employment and credential information I had long forgotten.  (interesting fact: I found out that the GPA on my college transcripts was calculated improperly. I got it bumped up a bit and they are still reviewing it to see if it needs to be bumped up a bit higher). As the New Year approaches day by day, the pressure to find a job raises higher and higher.  My wife is much more marketable than I am having 5 years of actual corporate non-profit work experience. So, we have talked about the possibility of me being a stay at home dad as my other vocation while she brings home the bacon (I just realized both “bread winner” and “bringing home the bacon” are completely ridiculous idioms for our family.  We eat neither wheat nor pork.)  But at the end of the day both of us want her to be able to stay home with the kids.  

As I have filled people in regarding the whole job situation over the past few weeks everybody has had almost the exact same reaction.  They’ve said something like, “Wow, you seem very calm considering the amount of stress you must be under.”  Sometimes my reaction has been, “Yeah well, I am a pretty calm guy.”  But every once in a while I have shared the real reason for my apparent calmness.  

The real reason is because I have been here before.  Not exactly here.  But, as I look back over the years, I have been in many clutch situations, and I learned that stressing out over them doesn’t really help anything.  All I can do is…do all I can do.  But that wouldn’t be enough for me to be calm.  As competent as I know I am, I realize that there are all sorts of things that are not in my control.  That, in and of itself, is not comforting either.  In fact, it could be pretty terrifying.  But I have learned an important skill over the years that serves me well in times like this. I have learned to trust in God.  

I know that God is in control.  I know that He care about me and my family.  I know that He is able to lead us and guide us through the difficulties of life to situations that are beyond anything we could have planned or imagined…in a good way.  It is that kind of trust that led me to attend the college where I met my wife.  It is that kind of openness to God’s guidance that sent us around the world to live in Japan for 2 1/2 years (the awesomeness of which cannot be expressed in words).  It is that kind of listening that prepared me to finally say, “Okay, I guess I could be a pastor” and caused me to apply to the seminary and be excited about it.  

Yes, I am a pretty calm guy but I also know what it is to be stressed out beyond words.  However, when I sit and think of who God is, and how He has proven His love, power and goodness to me time and time again throughout my life (not to mention throughout the pages of Scripture), I get what is known as “the peace that passes all understanding.”  I trust that everything will be alright even when I don’t know how it will turn out…even when I don’t know where our mortgage payment will come from in two months.  And so, I realize that as difficult a situation as this may seem to be, it is all in God’s hands.  And God is good and far more able to provide than…me. I guess I am just learning to trust…again.   



little minds…

As the parent of small children you can find yourself saying things you never thought you would be saying, but what is often more embarrassing are the things you hear your children saying.  Small children have to be taught social norms.  They do not realize what is and is not appropriate public conversation according to the larger culture.  They only know their primary culture–family culture.  And so they are probably the best read on the culture of their household (the “behind closed doors” culture).  Add to this the limited life experience they have and you can end up with some pretty remarkable conversation tangents.

Their neural connections are limited by experience but they are quick and uninhibited.  As a result, on a trip to get a haircut a conversation with the hair dresser can go from how it doesn’t hurt to cut hair, to how it doesn’t hurt to clip fingernails, to how sometimes daddy clips fingernails too short and then there is blood, to there is blue blood and red blood going through our bodies, to when you eat an apple it goes through your body and into your stomach and through your intestines so your body can get all the good energy into your blood…and then the apple becomes poop and comes out of your bumper.  As humorous as this conversation can be to the casual observer, it can be awkward and embarrassing for the parent (and the hairdresser).  It becomes even more embarrassing when the child’s brain makes all of these connections in their head and only verbalized the last part about poop.  (Disclaimer: This conversation hasn’t actually taken place…yet.)

Anyway, yesterday I brought my eldest to the doctor.  He has been breaking out in hives for the past several days and well, we just wanted to know how long this might go on and what courses of action we should be taking.  As we waited in the exam room my son started playing with the thing they use to check blood pressure.  After I asked him to stop playing with it he asked me what it was.  I told him the doctor uses it to check people’s blood pressure.  This got him very interested because we recently stayed at a friends house and read a children’s book in Spanish on the human body, detailing the various systems (circulatory, respiratory, digestive, etc.). ((interesting fact: nobody in our house speaks Spanish.)

When the doctor came in, my son asked him if he would listen to his heart.  My son then began to explain how the heart pumps blue blood and red blood through the body and to the lungs, etc.  He showed the doctor the veins on his hands and explained that that was his blue blood.  He then asked the doctor why he couldn’t see red lines for the red blood. The doctor was very nice and explained that the red blood lines (also called arteries) are deeper under the skin so we don’t usually see them. I got a few words in about the reason for our visit, my son meanwhile eager to jump in at any moment to say something else about blood and the heart.  I concluded our business and then my son chimed in quickly, “My heart pumps blood through my body.” To which the doctor said, “Yes, that’s right.” Not missing a beat (pun intended) my son continued, “When I grow old and die my heart will stop pumping blood.  But then Jesus will come back again and there will be a loud trumpet sound and I will be alive again and my heart will start pumping blood again.” To which the doctor replied, “You’ve got that down pat, don’t you.”  Talk about faith like a child!

These are the types of connections made by little minds.  They are unapologetic.  We teach our kids about the human body and all of the intricate systems God worked together to support our lives.  We teach our kids about right and wrong; sin and forgiveness; life, death and the promises of resurrection and eternal life through Christ.  They process it all together and they make beautiful and obvious conclusions.  There are many times I have found myself the embarrassed parent at the end of a conversation leading to a “poop tangent.”  However, I look forward to the day when my mind will move as freely as my son’s little mind to a “Christ tangent.”

The scrambled egg incident…

It was a few months ago when I was awoken by my five-year old whispering.  “Daddy, I’m hungry.  I want some scrambled eggs.”  To which I replied, “O.K. little man, I’ll get up and make you scrambled eggs.”  Without any hesitation he responded, “No, I want to make the eggs.”

I was surprised, to say the least.  However, perhaps I shouldn’t have been.  He and his younger brother have been assisting me in the kitchen for years now.  They know where many of our common ingredients and utensils are.  They have helped me add ingredients to bowls (including cracking eggs).  They have helped me mix ingredients.  They have assisted by putting oil in pans and pouring mixtures in to be cooked.  They have learned how to carefully stir,  flip and remove foods with the use of a spatula.  In retrospect, I had gradually taught them all of the parts required to prepare a few dishes on the stove top all by themselves.  Now, on this otherwise quite normal morning, my five-year old woke up and thought to himself, “I know how to make scrambled eggs all by myself.”  And that was exactly what he wanted to do. With just a bit of supervision and encouragement along the way.

I followed him downstairs and watched as he went to get the step stool and turn on the stove.  “This one?”  he asked as he reached for the knob to turn on the burner.  “Yes, that one.”  I responded.  “What number?  Here?”  he asked.  “Number 6.  Yes, that’s good.”  I answered.  He proceeded to take out the eggs and a bowl.  He added a little salt and water into the eggs and mixed them.  He poured some olive oil in the pan and then added the eggs.  He gently mixed the eggs around in the pan and flipped them over.  Finally,he got out a plate, put it next to the stove and scooped the eggs onto his plate.  I took a little taste of the eggs my little chef had prepared.  They were good.  He thought so too.

While this is not the first life skill our children have learned, this skill seems so…grown up.  In fact I know many adults who could not make scrambled eggs nearly as well as my little man.  Am I proud of him? Absolutely!  But as I think about the fact that he has been so well schooled in this skill, I find myself asking what other abilities I am instilling.  I am pretty sure that I have said this before, but I think it is worth saying again.  Our children are our apprentices in life.  They may not end up doing what we do for a living, but they are learning how to live through our raising of them.  Through our presence and our absence, through our intentional and unintentional influence, they are being shaped into their futures.  They will follow our lead or they will wander from the lack thereof.

My prayer is that just as my eldest has begun to learn the art of cookery, our children will grow in their capacity to practice their trust in God each day.   If the scrambled egg incident has taught me anything it is that a great way to lead them to this goal is to invite them to observe and then participate with me as I follow Jesus.   I can let them repeat after me as I pray and then ask them to offer their prayers.  I can invite them along as I help others and then encourage them to do the same in their own lives.  When they need to be forgiven I can share with them how much I love them and how much God loves them, and what He did for them in Christ, and then encourage them to do the same when others need forgiveness.  By inviting them to observe and then join me in trusting God, I may find myself waking up one day to one of our kids saying, “Daddy, I have a problem.  I don’t know how to solve it.  Will you come pray with me?”


Forgiveness is tough! And you might think it should be easier with those you love and live with every day, but those are sometimes the hardest people to forgive.  It’s all those familiar little and not so little ways they fail us every day, time and time again, that start to wear on us.  Sometimes it is those little things that we find the hardest to let go of.  But forgiveness is a huge part of what is means to be a follower of Christ.

Many people see church going folk as hypocrites; as holier than thou types.  And unfortunately there are many of those among our ranks.  However, we are not supposed to be that way.  We are supposed to be humble…caring…forgiving.  Our faith is all about God’s desire and capacity to forgive us and to reverse the effects of all that we have screwed up in the world and our lives.  Just as we trust in God’s desire and ability to forgive us – a fact that is made clear in the ministry of Jesus – followers of Jesus are to extend that same forgiveness to those who have hurt them.  We are called to forgive from the heart all who have hurt us.  Can it be said anymore plainly than it is in the prayer Jesus taught, “Forgive  us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” 

Remember Jesus took the penalty of your sins, of your parents’ sins, of your spouse’s sins, of your children’s sins, of your ex best friends sins, of your sworn enemies sins.  He took it all.  That is the message we have been given to proclaim and live out in the world.  And that means not simply sitting back and watching the people who have hurt us squirm, and suffer as God passes judgment on them.  Forgiving from the heart is about letting them know they have forgiveness.  Not just from God but from you. Put simply, forgiveness is about giving undeserved pardon in response to wrongs done and right actions not being done.  That’s it.  It is undeserved.  It cannot be earned.  It cannot be paid back.  It is free and clear. 

I forgive you…They are easy words to say.  Say them with me.  “I forgive you…” but it is not nearly as easy to do sometimes.  Maybe you have been hurt in ways you can’t even bring yourself to say.  Maybe it was by somebody close to you.  A family member or friend.  Someone you thought you could trust.  Or maybe you have been hurt by someone you hardly even know but what they did hurt so much that you just cannot find it in your heart to forgive them. 

I know what that feels like.  I remember a time in my life when I found myself praying to God night after night that He would help me forgive someone who deep down inside I hated – someone who I wanted to see suffer for the heartache they cause me and others I cared about.   Hear what I am saying.  Forgiving is not easy.  But God’s Word is clear.  As His people – people who know what it is to be forgiven – we are called to forgive others their sins just as we have been forgiven. 

Over the past few months I have seen and heard many, many…too many heart breaking stories of betrayal, abandonment, lies and deception.  People’s lives are being destroyed as people victimize each other.  But what is worse in my eyes than the fact that people are hurting each other, is the fact that’s people seem so unwilling to freely offer forgiveness to others.  Grudges are held for weeks and months and even years and lifetimes.  Judgment is passed, forgiveness withheld and emotional wounds don’t even have the chance to leave scars.  They just stay on the surface of our emotions as festering open sores, waiting to be bumped up against and infected.  In stead of working for reconciliation we assign blame and seek vengeance.  We want pay back. 

Forgiveness is not forgiveness if it has to be earned by the one who has sinned.  Forgiveness is only forgiveness if it is given out of love.  Forgiveness is only forgiveness when payment of the sin is taken on by someone other than the sinner.  This is what Jesus meant when He said “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” He meant forgive them and pray that they turn from their hurtful ways so that they might receive the forgiveness being freely offered to them.

Forgiveness does not mean that we make light of sin.  It doesn’t mean that sin is “ok.”  Forgiveness never means that you accept the sin.  Sin is always unacceptable.  Forgiveness does not turn a blind eye to the sin someone is committing.   Forgiveness speaks the truth in love.  It says, “What you are doing is wrong.  But I love you and want to be in relationship with you.  So, I will not hold your past sins against you.  Now stop sinning.” We do not excuse someone who is in sin.  We speak the truth to them in love.  We call them out on their sin and we offer them peace with us and God through Christ.  We invite them back into right relationship with us.

In light of our sin the ultimate way God shows love for us is through forgiveness.  If I had to sum up the whole of Scripture.  I don’t think I could do any better than to quote Ephesians 4:32  “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” 

Below are some quotes I found on the net baout forgiveness that I particularly liked.  Hope you enjoy them.

It’s said in Hollywood that you should always forgive your enemies – because you never know when you’ll have to work with them. Lana Turner.

Mistakes are always forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them. Bruce Lee

It is very easy to forgive others their mistakes; it takes more grit and gumption to forgive them for having witnessed your own. Jessamyn West

It takes one person to forgive, it takes two people to be reunited. Lewis B. Smedes

Forgiveness is the remission of sins. For it is by this that what has been lost, and was found, is saved from being lost again. Saint Augustine

Forgiveness is the answer to the child’s dream of a miracle by which what is broken is made whole again, what is soiled is made clean again. Dag Hammarskjold

Forgiveness is like faith. You have to keep reviving it. Mason Cooley

Never forget the three powerful resources you always have available to you: love, prayer, and forgiveness. H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

 A mistake is always forgivable, rarely excusable and always unacceptable. Robert Fripp

 Genuine forgiveness does not deny anger but faces it head-on. Alice Duer Miller

To be social is to be forgiving. Robert Frost

There is no love without forgiveness, and there is no forgiveness without love.” Bryant H. McGill.

Forgiveness is the giving, and so the receiving, of life. George MacDonald

Forgiveness is the final form of love. Reinhold Niebuhr

It is easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend. William Blake

The practice of forgiveness is our most important contribution to the healing of the world. Marianne Williamson

routines + community + customs = culture

I was doing so well when I started my blog but going on trips and getting caught up in various other activities removed me from the few routines I had established.  Well, I am back and I have added a few new routines to my life.

You would think that as a pastor I would be very good about my personal devotional life.  While it is almost impossible for me not to ponder Scripture and the deep issues of life on a daily basis, I have found it difficult to set a regular time that is devoted to being in the Word and prayer.  Well, that has changed as of late.

A little over 3 weeks ago I began going every weekday morning to a local McDonald’s at 6:30 a.m. for morning oatmeal and a 30min. morning devotion.  I have a little daily devotion book that I like to use called Living the Gospel Life. I’ve invited various people to come and join me whenever it fits into there schedules.  Eight different people have joined me at least once and three people join me at least once weekly so far.  Some days I am the only one who goes.

At first it bothered me a little when I was the only one to show up, as it was my original intent that this would be a way to help form community between some of the folks I know.  However, I very quickly realized that whether or not others were joining me I had begun a new routine for myself.  I now have a time and a place that is set apart at least five days a week for being in the Word, in prayer and for considering how my trust in Christ can influence my daily life.

In the mean time I am going to keep inviting folks to join me.  As others accept my invitation into this and other routines a community will form.  As this community forms we will establish customs.  As customs develop we will find that we have created a new culture.

This is what happened in the early Church as described in Acts 2:42 and following.  People got together daily and learned from those who lived with Jesus.  But they didn’t just “go to church” together.  They lived life together.  They had meals with each other regularly.  But it wasn’t just a social club either.  They made a habit of helping each other and those in need in the ways they were able to.  But it wasn’t just some philanthropic organization.  They didn’t just choose a cause and try to address it.  They sought God’s direction in all things.  They prayed together.  They prayed for each other and for others.  They were a blessing to one another and to those around them.  And as they formed this new culture many others were drawn to them and through them to faith in Christ.

Despite what the title of this article may imply, there is not a prescribed formula for sharing faith.  The title is really just an short way for me to remind myself and others that we are creatures of habit.  The habits we form good or bad will result in the culture of our lives and of those we influence.  If you invite people into your routines, what you put at the center of your routines will end up in the center of your shared culture.  I pray that Christ’s identity and teachings would be at the center of your routines, and that you would invite others to join you as you develop a new culture.

Living Forever, Now,

Pastor Michael James Grannis