Saturday, February 28, 2009

A quick post

Well, I just have a minute before heading over to church and then down to Rensselaer! This past Thursday, I went over to the band concert at Bowen Auditorium. This concert featured students from 6th grade through high school and it was...


These students are so talented and I am so completely impressed by the turn around of this band program.

One of the beautiful pieces was an arrangement of Be Thou My Vision. On Friday, one of my former co-workers and I enjoyed a great lunch. A theme came out of this lunch and it has to with letting go of all the "stuff" of life and letting Jesus be the Guide, letting Jesus be the Vision.



Thursday, February 26, 2009

Morning Phone Call

This morning, I kind of had to laugh. Recently, I wrote about taking off the next eight weeks from class. Basically, it just was time to take a break. However, it is a bit more complicated than simply taking a break. I was interested to see what would happen. Actually, I'm kind of expecting things to happen (reference previous post). This probably sounds strange and I'm not even sure exactly what I'm trying to communicate. Yet, this morning at 10:17 AM, I received a phone call about helping with the Dollars for Scholars phon-a-thon in March. Interestingly enough, the night of the phon-a-thon is a Monday - the same night as I would have had class. It was pretty amazing to be able to say, "Sure, no problem, it would be great to help!"

Well, off to bed. Looking forward to this weekend!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Anticipation and Expectancy

Last night, I had the great opportunity to take part in a book discussion on a somewhat controversial book, The Shack. This was the third night that the group had met. It was pretty neat to be a part of a group talking about an interesting book that opens up some big questions. In this book, Mack meets up with the Papa (God), Jesus, and Sarayu (Holy Spirit) at this shack. I'm not going to go much further than that. However, here are some of the questions that came up... What happens when we die? Where is Jesus now? Do you want to get better? Wow, these types of questions quickly lead into some interesting discussion.

In addition, several words stuck out from the pages as I was skimming back over the pages during the discussion. Anticipation and expectation were two of those words.

"C'mon," said Jesus, interrupting Mack's thoughts. "I know you enjoy looking at stars! Want to?" He sounded just like a child full of anticipation and expectancy.

I really like thinking about this little exchange. I mean, Jesus asking this guy to look at stars with him. First of all, this makes Jesus seem so personable. The other part, though, is that Jesus invites Mack to look at the stars. He didn't just somehow magically make Mack want to look at the stars. Jesus invited him with anticipation and expectancy.

Mack's reply:

"Yeah, I think so," answered Mack, realizing that the last time he had done this was on an ill-fated camping trip with the kids. Maybe it was time to take a few risks.

So Mack was listening to Jesus and then responding to the question. Then he decides to step out and take a risk.

This little exchange reminded me of this past summer in Vermont. At night, we go outside and with our backs on the road, gaze up at the amazing stars. They were so amazingly bright - especially because our surrounding were so dark. The silence would be interrupted by "look, a shooting star." Yet, in those moments, everything seemed so different. Those moments were filled with anticipation and expectancy and wonder. A sense of awe pervaded the soul. A sense of being a part of something much grander filled the heart with hope.

This leaves me wondering tonight about what it would be like to live every single second with that type of anticipation and expectancy.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Pressing Pause

Tonight, after finishing studying for the final, it was time to press the pause button and do something that I've been longing to do for along time. Tonight, it seemed like just the right time. I sat down at the piano with just the lamp on for light. Actually, the the lights in the living room both burned out this past week and they are a pain in the posterior to change so it wasn't too hard to make the house dark. The last two weeks we have played some songs to sing with the high schoolers (Rusty on guitar the first week, me on keyboard the second week). However, this is something that I kind of struggle with because most of the music that we have at church is only in chord chart form. So tonight, I dropped by the church and picked up a song that I thought would be manageable to learn to play with only the keyboard as accompaniment. The song that came to mind was Breathe. So with just the lamp for light, I checked out some sheet music that I had to get some guidance and then started playing and singing. Eventually, the lamp went off and was replaced by just a candle because I could play the song without any music at all. This was amazing.

I thought about the lyrics.

This is the air I breathe
Your holy presence living in me

With the smell of the burning candle wafting to my nostrils, I could just play and sing and worship and long for God's holy presence to live within in me.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Start Living It

So I'm on the home stretch for the financial statement analysis class. Paper is in its completed form with one more proofread tomorrow morning. Equations from chapter regarding disaggregation of the return on common equity ratio started becoming clear this afternoon. The end is in sight.


As I mentioned in another post, I've decided to take off the next 8 weeks from class and possibly longer. This has been something that I have been wrestling with for a couple of weeks. It all started in the Dominican Republic with the book of Colossians. This book is really loaded and several posts have included reflections. These verses have been kind of screaming out from the pages.

6-7 My counsel for you is simple and straightforward: Just go ahead with what you've been given. You received Christ Jesus, the Master; now live him. You're deeply rooted in him. You're well constructed upon him. You know your way around the faith. Now do what you've been taught. School's out; quit studying the subject and start living it! And let your living spill over into thanksgiving.

Right now things just seem way to out of sync without any natural rhythm. When, I read these verses, I had this sense of peace come over me that it is time to take a break from school and start living out the substantial gifts that I've already received.

A practical example...

This is no shocker to anyone that we are in some very serious economic times. Lay-offs are being common place. Unemployment is in double digits here and in other nearby communities. During class, we have been studying ratios and I started becoming interested in developing a new way of analyzing expenses. It is based on pounds of copper produced. We took our top expense categories and trend charted them through 2008 and obtained dollars expended per pound produced. With this data, we set goals for 2009 in each category and began looking for opportunities for improvement. So far, we have identified several and taken an already lean spending system and, using data, trimmed out even more fat to the tune of $10,000+ in January. Why is the relevant? Well, it all boils down to hope: hope for retaining jobs right here in Bremen, hope for the future.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Just a quick note

Tonight is Thursday already. Another work-week has nearly passed. I'm not sure where it has gone. I'm pretty much exhausted. It feels like I never really have been able to get caught up from being in the D.R. and then dragging for awhile from being sick and then having a cold (today the snots have finally subsided!). Right now I'm trying to finish up my financial statement analysis paper of Starbucks and preparing for a final exam on Monday. This class has been one of the most challenging classes I've taken (not the most challenging but definitely one of them). That all being said, I've decided to take the next 8 weeks off from school and see how things go. (I actually have a blog post to share a bit more on this decision.)

But a quick note about last night. Last night, we had high school group at the church. It was my night to lead. On Tuesday, this idea came into my head to basically use my blog post on walking in the light vs the dark. So that's what we did. Each student walked across the main room of the church in the dark. Then, in the dark we talked about that experience. Some talked about being a little scared. Others talked about getting off track. Then we went back across the room to the door that was propped open just a few inches. It was amazing how those few inches of light illuminated a path all the way across the room. Yet, when we were walking way from that same propped open door, we could not see hardly anything!

Later, we gathered up on the stage in the dark around the keyboard and sang the song that I put on the blog post. It turned out to be a pretty special evening.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Light in the Doorway

Okay, so tonight, I'm going to take a break from Colossians - although there is much more to come.

Last week, we were meeting with some of the kids in the basement at the church. Someone had given us some ice cream so after a great group time (including Rusty on the guitar!), we pulled out the ice cream. Of course, we needed spoons, so I headed up the back stairway to get some plastic spoons from the storage room. The storage room is on the opposite side of the stage from the back stairway. When I opened the door from the stairway, I was met by this all encompassing darkness and there is not a light switch on that side of the room. So rather than going down the stairs and around to the main entrance, I proceeded across the room, walking into chairs, and bumping up against the stage. Honestly, my heart rate sped up a bit, too. It is strange when you are totally in the dark. The mind starts playing tricks. The ears start hearing things that aren't there. It is kind of spooky. So anyway, I got to the door of the storage room and felt around for the light switch, found some spoons, turned off the light, and took a deep breath to head back to the other door. Only it was totally different. The doorway to the stairs was filled with light and it poured into the room. It was not a problem walking towards the light. The difference between walking away from and towards the light was startling.

Last night, I started reading Chronicles of Narnia - The Silver Chair. Eustace and Pole go to a door to get away from some bullies. Only this door is a little different:

"They had expected to see the grey, heathery slope of the moor going up and up to join the dull autumn sky. Instead, a blaze of sunshine met them. It poured through the doorway as the light of a June day pours into the garage when you open the door."

On Saturday, we reflected on this verse at church: When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12)

Light is this amazing thing. It is a guide. It offers hope. It is reasurring. It is comforting.

It reminds me of a song that we used to sing at Mass so often.

I want to walk as a child of the Light.
I want to follow Jesus.
God sent the stars to give light to the world,
The Star of my life is Jesus.

In him there is no darkness at all,
The night and the day are both alike,
The Lamb is the light of the city of God.
Shine in my heart, Lord Jesus.

Even though so often it seems like there are two sides of my life, right now this is the song that I'm singing. It would be great if this song could move from just a few minutes to an all-day symphony.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Journey Continues

Last night, we had an amazing church service. This was the first time that Horizon has ever had a church service without music. Instead, we tapped into other means of worship through stories, lectio divina, and art. During the service, Jim also shared an amazing video. During the video, I thought back to these verses in Colossians (see previous posts).

18-20 He was supreme in the beginning and—leading the resurrection parade—he is supreme in the end. From beginning to end he's there, towering far above everything, everyone. So spacious is he, so roomy, that everything of God finds its proper place in him without crowding. Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe—people and things, animals and atoms—get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the cross.

Broken and dislocated pieces of the universe?

During the video, all I could think about was that young guy in the Dominican Republic. This boy has an infection in his mouth and treatment is not currently available for him.

Several of my friends have newborn or recently born kids. A few Fridays ago, I had the wonderful opportunity to hold one of these precious gifts of life, Bennett. Holding this little guy, I was in awe.

Yet, down in the D.R., there is this guy in need of help, in need of love, in need of healing. This contrast is almost haunting. I pray that somehow Jesus' blood will give "vibrant harmony" to this boy and his family.

Friday, February 13, 2009

How does God work?

Tonight, I manged to finish up my Starbucks paper rough draft for financial statement analysis Then, Troy stopped by for a few minutes and we ended up getting some ice cream from McDonald's.

Last night at the church management team meeting, one of the team members shared a really troubling story. She told us about sending an email to an acquaintance and how this led to just an incredible exchange over dinner one evening. God was truly at work because somehow she emailed the acquaintance out of the blue - right at a pivotal time. While listening to this story, I thought back to some other verses from Colossians 1.

9 Be assured that from the first day we heard of you, we haven't stopped praying for you, asking God to give you wise minds and spirits attuned to his will, and so acquire a thorough understanding of the ways in which God works. We pray that you'll live well for the Master, making him proud of you as you work hard in his orchard. As you learn more and more how God works, you will learn how to do your work.

This is how God works. Somehow the team member emailed and set-up a dinner meeting at just the right time in the life of her acquaintance. She was "attuned to his will" as Eugene Peterson translates above. In being attuned to his will, she then knew how to do her work - listen and just be friend - at the dinner table.

When I first read through this passage in January, I thought back to an experience at work from several years ago. The night before a meeting, I knew that a coworker would pretty much be called out during the meeting because of some misunderstandings and communication barriers involving the topic of the meeting. Consequently, I thought about how to divert the meeting back to the problem and away from the person. Sure enough, the next day, we were all sitting around the table and frustrations started shifting directly to my coworker. Somehow, the words were right there to shift the meeting away from the person and back to the problem. The next day the coworker stopped by office and said "thank you." At that moment, I knew with confidence that somehow God was at work in that entire situation. It was a truly amazing sensation.

Good night!

Thursday, February 12, 2009


While in the Dominican Republic, Jim said that I should read Colossians. Well, I started reading it down there and have been reading it since returning home. (Note, this book only has four chapters.) Anyways, this book has really struck me so I have decided to share some reflections on this book. I'm a little apprehensive about this because I don't want it to sound like I spend all kinds of time reading the Bible. I sure wish that I could read more... actually that is going to be coming up more in a later reflection. And if you happen to read this and work with me, it might sound a bit hypocritical because my attitude has been more than a little crappy lately. So anyways, it would be great to hear from you if by chance something strikes you or you have any insights. Please feel free to leave a comment or email me at

"Our prayers for you are always spilling over into thanksgivings. We can't quit thanking God our Father and Jesus our Messiah for you! We keep getting reports on your steady faith in Christ, our Jesus, and the love you continuously extend to all Christians. The lines of purpose in your lives never grow slack, tightly tied as they are to your future in heaven, kept taut by hope." (Colossians 1:3-5, MSG)

In this letter, Paul is writing to followers of Jesus in Colosse. When I read these verses, I picture Paul at a table writing this letter to a follower of Jesus in the Dominican Republic. Paul can't contain his joy and a smile overwhelms his face.
Because he has received news from his brothers and sisters in a little barrio called Hato Mayor. Finally, after so many years of perseverance on behalf of Pedrito, a stalwart follower of Jesus, there is a church filled with children learning about Jesus.
Years ago, Pedrito (pictured to the left in the second picture) had a vision that the people of his community needed a church. This singular purpose became a lifestyle for him as he acquired land even though people that he was crazy. He proceeded to build a church, brick by brick, over several years. Yet, even though most people thought he had gone mad and few people supported him, he must have found some source of hope to carry on with this vision for a church.
Today, the church is home to vibrant children's ministry.
Today, even though the church still faces adversity, Pedrito and his wife, Arelis, carry on with purpose and passion.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


I have been a bit sensitive to change recently. Here are some examples...

A few weeks ago, a guest needed a place to sleep so I moved over to the futon room. That night I slept great (which is kind of unusual for me) and that is where I'll still be sleeping tonight. Maybe it is the mattress, different room, direction of the bed, or some other mysterious, elusive reason, but sleep has been had a much greater quality since this move.

This morning we did a circuit in the weight room including ab machine, triceps, leg press, shoulder press, lat pull-down, and sit-ups. Some of the guys were getting up to new high weights on the ab machine. One of the guys did a set of nine reps at one hundred pounds. I was over at triceps but just knew that I could do at least that even though I've never been above 90. So when I got back over there, I did twelve at 100. Back in August, I could only do half that weight. That is the way it pretty much is for all the exercises. This is still a fairly new thing for me but I've been enjoying it so much.

Other examples include moving to a different office at work and asking for help on a side-project that has been pretty empowering.

So I don't know. Change just for the sake of change is probably not a good thing. But change also can be very interesting and even exciting. Change is movement.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Follow-Up to Knocking

Wow, my bed is nearly shouting my name right now, but I just read an email that blew my mind. Here is an excerpt (if the author happens to read this, I hope you don't mind me sharing):

"Your right how simple it is but how hard it is for some of us to knock. All day I have been watching the kids in my classroom miss so many learning opportunities because they are afraid ask, or seek out new ideas."

This past summer, several us went on a trip with Jim and he ended up with a nick-name The Enabler. He helps people to knock on doors. The author of this email highlights such a huge responsibility that we all face - to help others overcome fears, to ask, to seek, to knock.


Good night,



Wow, it is great to be home by 10:00 PM on a Monday. This is the first time this year to be in my house by this hour on a Monday.

Yesterday, we celebrated Angie's (my cousin) and Dad's birthday over at my grandparents' house. My dad is an avid fisherman. Over the years, he has collected some pretty cool fishing gear - fish-finders, a fishing scope to see down in the water, all different kinds of lures, even a fishing boat. He has also had quite a few interesting stories including a truck ending up in the lake.

So it was no surprise to see him open a gift of more fishing gear. He unwrapped the box and we beheld this amazing little fishing pole and reel. It folds up and even includes a compartment for a lure or two. In typical Wise family fashion, he passed it around the circle of people gathered in the living room. When it ended in my hands, I eagerly attempted to cast the weight (no hook tied on - thankfully). I pulled the rod back and pushed the release button will casting forward. Umm, yeah, the weight flew across the entire room and into the kitchen. It just cleared the people still sitting at the table. Needless to say, this created quite a stir and my little cousin Eric laughed and laughed. (Actually, thinking about his laughing is making me laugh right now.)

I thought about this a little more though today... about casting. Without casting (over and over and over and over and over and over and over again, in some cases), it is never possible to catch any fish. I think back to the numerous fishing trips that I took with Dad... the trips in the rain, the uncomfortable times when I was seriously overdue to spend some time in the bathroom, the times that we sat for hours without even a bite. The crazy thing is that without those times, we would have never caught any fish.

Sunday, February 8, 2009


Take a minute to check out my buddy Trent's post, Slap Bracelets and Swirly Pens. (Since he posted a picture, I needed to return the favor.)
Last night, we had a conversation after church. One of the things we talked about is a possible mission/retreat trip to Crandon/Argonne, Wisconsin, this summer. This is still in the talking phase, but the pieces seem to be coming together. Regardless of the outcome, it really highlights a verse that came into my mind yesterday and has persisted throughout today.
"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." (Matthew 7:7)
I have read this verse before but it is starting to take on more meaning. I guess even though the verse seems pretty straight-forward, it is really hard to really believe and accept and trust in the broader implications of this verse. It is hard to believe that this verse could be real and relevant.
However, it is becoming increasingly clear that asking, seeking, and knocking are very real and relevant. I have been looking for and knocking on (albeit a bit hesitantly) some doors lately and have been a bit startled to have the doors crack open. Of course, there is always the possibility that the doors will be slammed shut. However, even these doors that are slightly ajar have offered such a refreshing sense of hope and revitalization.
Anyways, check out Trent's post for some further insights!

Thursday, February 5, 2009


While in the Dominican Republic, the thought of fear came into my mind. On one of our excursions into the city, we took both of the vans. I ended up being driver number two. Within blocks, the vans were separated and of course we did not have the walkie-talkies or cell phones to communicate between the two vehicles. Driving in the Dominican Republic is very different from driving here in the U.S. Basically, stop signs don't mean much. Cars cut in and out of traffic. Honking the horn is considered a necessity rather being offensive. So there I was driving a van with passengers and not knowing for sure where we were headed. Pedrito was in the front seat but of course there was a bit of a language barrier. He is also protective (this is a good thing) but he was overly concerned about the roads being slippery (there had been some sprinkles) and I think he was more than a little uncomfortable with my driving (probably a little bit warranted). However, truth be told, I was a bit nervous, too - driving in the chaos in a place had been to since 2007. Then this calm came over me. Just go. Not recklessly, of course. But going was definitely safer than being hesitant or getting scared.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


Last night, I stopped by Meijer after class to pick up protein bars. Meijer is a convenient place to stop about every other week to buy a few necessities.

However, last night was very different.

The parking lot was empty.

In fact, several of the very closest parking positions were available. Probably only 20 cars occupied the entire parking lot.

It was almost eerie.

Usually, this place is hopping and it is necessary to park at least 5-10 positions into the parking lot. This empty parking lot was a pretty dramatic visual of our mounting economic woes.

Last week, Marshall County's unemployment rose to over 12%. This number is absolutely incredible and mind-boggling.

More troubling, though, are the faces behind those numbers.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Coffee Creamer, Fire, and Life

Disclaimer: I do not advocate attempting the demonstration described herein. However, it is quite impressive.

Before the trip to the Dominican Republic, Jim asked me if I could come up with a catalysis demonstration to use in his message. I looked around a little on the Internet but could not come up with anything that was safe and/or used readily available chemicals. So after returning from the D.R., I get an email from Jim on Friday asking about the demonstration for Saturday night. [Bleep] I had completely forgotten about the demonstration and quite frankly didn't have much more left (time or energy) to come up with something. However, I pulled up one of the websites that I had bookmarked and there was the demonstration. (Catalysts are one way to affect the rate of reaction or change. However, there are other ways: temperature, surface area, and concentration. After talking with Jim, I realized that any one of these demonstrations of changes in rate of reaction would get the point across.) If you pour some coffee creamer into a bowl and put a flame against the creamer, it just turns brown. Not too exciting at all. However, if you take some of the creamer and sprinkle it into the flame, it is possible to get this amazing fire ball. (There are two reasons for this phenomenon. First, the surface area of the coffee creamer increases significantly. Consequently, the fire has more access to creamer area. Second, there is much more oxygen available to the surface of the creamer to make for a classic combustion reaction.) I was thinking about this some more today and it just really astounded me. This is so much like life. It is so easy to just sit in a cup, moping around, letting the excitement just tinge the surface but never really leading to any ignition. However, when we get out out of the cup and take a jump (re-position), crazy things can happen. So by now, I know your probably tempted, but don't do it (play with coffee creamer and lighters, that is). However, I'm wondering about my own life. Where is the Holy Spirit trying to get some fire burning? Am I being receptive or just sulking in the cup? After all, it does "only take a spark to get a fire going."

Until later,


(By the way, when I read this in the Message from Colossians 1:13, I thought about the creamer in a cup. "God rescued us from dead-end alleys and dark dungeons.")