Life Update: We are Planting a Church

 

What our house has looked like on Sunday mornings for the past three months.

What our house has looked like on Sunday mornings for the past three months.

Hello Friends and Family.

I’ve been relatively quiet on this blog for a while. As well as on Facebook, really. Today I want to share with you what is (and has been) going on in me and my family’s life.

As the title of this post says, life right now is all about Church Planting.

Kate and I have dreamt of planting a church for probably the past 5 years. We’ve kicked around ideas here and there. Checked out a few cities. Met with people to brainstorm. Kept notebooks of ideas. Argued about it. Dreamt about it. Argued more (hey, we’re passionate people). You know how it goes.

And so 3 months ago when life handed us another curve ball, yet we found ourselves surrounded by and supported by a small group of beautiful humans, we chose to not waste any more minutes just dreaming about it. We looked at one another and decided it was time. We said (more or less):

We are all about making good stories.

For us. For our kids.
And we want to live by Faith in a way we’ve never done before.

More than that, we are totally okay if this whole thing doesn’t work out. If it’s a flop, a failure.. if it cranks along for a few years and then stops… we’ll be okay. (This isn’t our goal, of course. But being free of the anxiety and fear of failure is a powerful thing.)

We won’t not do it because it might not go exactly how we’d want.
We won’t not do it because it’s scary.
We won’t let money be a deciding factor, for we never have.
We don’t want to look back on life and always wonder ‘what if?’

There is too much at stake to not go after it. Our spirits are compelling us. Like an artist who HAS to create the thing that is bursting inside them, we HAVE to do this. We have to be faithful to the Spirit inside of us, the invitation of the Divine. If following Jesus means anything right now, it means doing this.

Do we know what we’re doing?
Meh…
Probably more than we think we do. And certainly way less than we actually do.

But we are surrounded by, and partnering with, some of the most amazing and exciting and passionate and loving and innovative and wonderful people we’ve ever known.

And it is thrilling.

So yeah, in short, I wanted to (finally) let you all know what I am now doing in life. For those who are learning about this for the first time, I apologize. We’ve stayed intentionally silent and under the radar for these past three months, not telling anybody what we are doing unless they’ve asked.

But that was only for a season, and that season has reached its natural conclusion.

So with great excitement (mixed with a bit of trepidation), I invite you to check out the not-fully-ready-but-still-live-anyways website of our new church:

SOJOURN GRACE COLLECTIVE: San Diego’s Progressive Christian Church

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And then go Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter, which we also just launched last week.

Next week I’ll tell you more about this amazing Faith Community we’re establishing.

For now, I just wanted to bring you in the loop.
We’ve been meeting in our house for three months, but starting next week we will be meeting at Garfield Elementary School in North Park San Diego (just a couple miles north of our house).

Here’s a few pics from the past three months, as well as two videos.

Thank you for reading. For caring. And for being excited with and for us!

 

The Squishy Stage

A Little Bit Less

My wife and I have done our fair share of child raising. We currently own the rights to 4 boys that were created by us and, by extension, are now being raised by us. So what I’m about to say next might (to the un-parental ears, especially) sound a bit harsh, but I’m declaring that I’ve earned enough cred to say it anyways.

Our youngest son, Huck, is at that age (or, more accurately, “developmental stage”) where we like him again.

You see, generally speaking (and every parent is different, for sure), newborns pop out and are so adorable, smell so good, and the miracle of life is still so fresh in the air, that you can’t help BUT like the little wrinkle ball. However, as they grow bigger, and your sleeping chart grows smaller, you slowly start to like them a little. bit. less.

It isn’t only the sleep deprivation, however.

It’s how they consume all of what used to be called “your life.” All the things you normally did, at a normal pace, have been forever altered or eliminated entirely.

And, mind you, I’m just the Daddy speaking. All of this gets amplified in our situation when you’re the Mommy, and you’re breastfeeding. Seriously.

Nonetheless what ends up happening is, even though you absolutely adore and love your little tiny human, you find yourself just not liking them as much.

But then…

Oh then…

They hit the SQUISHY STAGE.

The Squishy Stage

It may go by a different name in your household, but for us we call it The Squishy Stage. And this is the stage where you find yourself, almost on a daily basis, wanting to just reach down and snatch your little bundle of cuddleliciousness and squish the beejeezus out of them.

And you find yourself liking your child again, thanks to their newfound squishiness.

They are cute. And cuddly.

And squishy.

When Jae (our 3rd son) reached this stage, he just adopted it as one of his many names. We would routinely call him Squish, Squishy, or, my personal favorite, Squish Bucket.

The most magical part of the Squishy Stage is their cheeks.
Their cheeks just radiate with squeezable sweetness.

You hold them and you squish them.
You kiss them and you smush your nose in to them.

It’s beautiful.

The Down Side

However there’s something surprisingly frustrating with the Squishy Stage.

It’s kind of like how you can see a photograph, or a painting, of a gorgeous landscape. Truly breathtaking in its ability to capture the beauty found in nature. And yet, even after staring at it and appreciating it as much as you can, you ultimately find yourself just not quite satisfied. And you think, “if only I could see the REAL thing.”

Or, it’s kind of like when you have a cold, and it’s one of those colds that completely knocks out your sniffer. And you can’t taste ANYthing. But you sit down to this amazing meal and stick a fork full of what you KNOW is really, really good food… but you just can’t taste it. It’s just not satisfying.

During the Squishy Stage, when you’re pressing your cheek firmly against the radiating squeeziness of your child’s cheek, there is this sense that you just

can’t

get

close

enough.

It’s as though that chamber in your heart, reserved for the exponentially expanding quantity of love required to raise littles, is bursting at the seams, but your smashing proximity to your littles’ cheeks just still isn’t enough.

I wonder if that’s why, according to the late Maurice Sendak, the Wild Things said to Max, “we’ll eat you up, we love you so!”

Screen Shot 2014-01-07 at January 7, 12.06 PM

Because when you just can’t get close enough cheek-to-cheek the only other option appears to be to consume them entirely. That’s the only way to get closer.

Do you know what I’m talking about?

This sense that there are moments with a loved one where you just can’t get close enough to truly satisfy the demands of your love-exploding heart?

That’s what the Squishy Stage does to me.

Closer

This past Sunday at church we sang “Closer” by Steffany Frizzell. And for me this song gives a voice to that ache in our soul when we just can’t get close enough.

Your love has ravished my heart
And taken me over, taken me over

And all I want is to be
With you forever, with you forever

So pull me a little closer
Take me a little deeper
I want to know your heart
I want to know your heart

‘Cause your love is so much sweeter
Than anything I’ve tasted
I want to know your heart
I want to know your heart

Honestly, I don’t really know what “closeness” to God looks like. Or, for that matter, feels like.

Sometimes I think I “feel” close.
Other times it feels like there is great distance between me and the Divine.

And some days (I’ve had a lot of them lately) I feel like I want… no, I NEED, God to pull me a little closer.

I want to find some sort of connection with my God that satisfies. That is enough. That is good.

I want to know God’s heart, and to feel known by God.

My hunch is this: as much as right now Huck is in the Squishy Stage, and I just can’t seem to get close enough to him, I get the feeling that this is how God ALWAYS feels towards me. That God’s heart is always expanding and exploding with a love that constantly wants to pick me up and squeeze me, hold me, squish me.

I may be wrong.
But I think I’m right on this.

So if you have a little one, or a loved one, and today you give them a squeeze and think to yourself, “I’d eat them up, I love them so,” then just remember: that’s how God feels about you.

You are loved.

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Christmas as a Pastor

Christmas was a couple weeks ago.
I’m sure you knew that.

In our house it meant things like decorating cookies (or, more precisely, decorating the table… since that’s where MOST of the sprinkles end up), getting a tree that is small enough to sit on top of a table (out of reach of the two year old) but large enough to sustain our decorations, and bouncing back and forth between Kate’s Pandora station (Indie Holidays) and mine (Christmas Standards). It meant things like finding out which neighborhoods around here are the best for looking at lights, wondering if this would finally be the year when Dad (that’s me) would hang some lights on our house (it wasn’t), and scrolling Netflix to see if they’ve added any new Christmas movies (not so much). It meant things like almond roca from Kate’s grandma, taking uber advantage of Amazon Prime’s free 2-day shipping, and brand new Christmas jammies for the whole family.

We love Christmastime in our house. It’s a special time of the year.

Of course, right alongside that, since I’m a Pastor, it also meant…

Two weeks straight of being gone almost every night, getting ready for a big Christmas production. Nights of Christmas fun being missed out on because of late night church-meetings. And having to be here, on Christmas Eve, almost all day and night, to put on our Christmas Eve Services.

Now, lest you read that previous paragraph and mistake it for complaining (which it wasn’t), I’m not complaining. Seriously. I love what I do, and I love doing what I do during the Holiday Season.

But, as every Pastor Family knows, holidays just look different most of the time. In large part it comes with the job, and my wife and I have navigated those waters well over these past 10 years.

And yet, each time this past season that I started to feel a bit curmudgeon-y about Church and Christmas, I was reminded how much my family and I are loved by our faith community.

For instance, this year people in our church blessed our family with:

-Tickets to LegoLand
-Gift cards for new clothes
-Movie Passes
-Extra holiday cash
-Wine and other festive drinks (Thank you Adahber!)
-More holiday cash
-Encouraging notes at just the right time
-More holiday cash
-And more

For a family of 6, in Southern California, living off of one salary, it can be daunting going in to the Christmas Season. Thinking about gifts, and Santa, and stockings. But every year (and THIS year, especially) Kate and I are gobbled up in to the loving embrace of a church family that understands just how far a little bit of material-love can go at Christmas time.

And so this Christmas we got to spoil our kids with far more gifts than we normally would. Kate and I got to have fun shopping for each other when normally it’s an afterthought (or not at all). All because people in our church, multiple people from multiple cross sections of the church, at different times and in different ways, reached out and loved on us.

I’m not sure, exactly, what the point of this post is.

Other than to say this:

Dear Missiongathering Family, from the bottom of Kate and mine’s hearts, we say THANK YOU for your gifts this year. They blessed us more than you could know. And we needed it, more than you could know.

Being a Pastor at Christmas can be hard sometimes.
But I wouldn’t change it for anything. Because it is in the CHURCH where often times we can most witness the God-who-is-with-us: Emmanuel.

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The Boys with New Toys

What are Prayings for?

The other night I was tucking our oldest two in to bed and I said, “okay boys, lets say our prayer.”*

To which Tai replied,

Dad, what are prayings for?

Setting aside a moment in my brain to chuckle at the word “prayings,” I am struck by the maturity of this question. One which I’ve essentially been asking for about the past 10 years. And since I have yet to come up with a good answer, I decided to go Socratic on my son.

That’s a good question, Tai. Why do YOU think people pray?

He pauses, but only for a beat, before answering my question,

So they can keep on living for a few more days?

Brilliant.

That might be the best answer to what “prayings” are for that I’ve ever heard.

I said,

That’s a great idea, Tai. I’ll bet lots of people pray so that they can keep living for just a couple more days. Why else do you think people pray?

Almost immediately,

To make peace with God?

Yup.

So, in summary, I have discovered that my 10 years of searching for the point of “prayings” could have been avoided had I only asked my 7 year old.

We pray so that we can survive.
Keep on living.
Keep on making it another day.

And we pray so that we can find peace with the Divine.
Make and maintain a connection with God.
Be reminded of Peace.

I love it.

What about you?
What do YOU think prayings are for?

- – – – – – – – – – -

*The Prayer that we pray with our boys at bedtime is a modification of the Lord’s Prayer that my wife wrote several years ago. It goes as follows:

Our Father (or Mother, we alternate) in Heaven, you are good.
Your way is perfect.
Let your way be done on earth just as like in Heaven.
Please give us all we need to live each day.
Forgive us when we hurt you
And help us to always forgive others when they hurt us.
Keep us close to goodness, mercy, and love, always.
Your Kingdom is Forever.
Amen.

One of the most challenging things ever is…

One of the most challenging things ever is…

Parenting in public.

Yup.
There.
I said it.

And at this moment, all the people who just read that, and who are themselves currently a parent (especially a parent of a toddler) just nodded their heads in agreement.

Parenting your toddlers in public is one of the more challenging things in life. It is almost guaranteed to be a lose-lose situation the moment something goes awry.

Sure, if your kids are having an exceptionally (and for many, rare) well-behaved day, then you just go on about your day.
But the minute you’re out in public and:

- the candy aisle seduces your three year old, or
– her brother took away her stuffed animal, or
– nap time was missed, or
– only God knows why, but they’ve got that look in their eyes

Then watch out.
Because you’re about to be “that” parent, with “that” kid.

And there’s not a thing you can do about it.

Yes, we’ve all been there. But the challenging thing is this: how do you respond?

And in a flash you run through the scenarios: do I come in quick and stern, and try and squash this tantrum before it begins? Well, if I do that, people will think I’m harsh and overbearing, and my kids must be terrified of me on a daily basis. Do I take the calm and patient route, and speak in soft, soothing tones in an attempt to diffuse the situation? Well, if I do that, people will think I’m weak and spoil my kids, and I need to hand-out some discipline every once in a while. Do I choose the speak-to-them-like-an-adult route, and try to reason with them… not too firm, but not too soft… just a steady dose of “reason.” Well, if you do that, chances are people will think you’re being irrational for trying to reason with a screaming child, and they’ll wish you’d either shut them up or give them a hug.

It’s hard. It truly is.

I think we’d all like to convince ourselves that we DON’T think about these things.
That we don’t let how others think of us affect how we parent our kids.

But it’s simply not true.

And it’s not just in public places either. Have you ever been over to a friends house who also has kids, and either A) your kid does something naughty, or throws a toy, or puts their kid in a headlock, or just screams for no reason? or B) THEIR kid puts YOUR kid in a headlock, or steals their toy, or starts acting all cray cray. And again you go in to this crazy mental game of “how the hell do I handle this situation?!” And you start judging THEIR kid, only to realize that in all actuality you just got lucky this time that it wasn’t your kid.

And you watch how other people parent their kids, and you start making assumptions like: if they would just do more/less of “this,” then surely their kids would do more/less of “that.”

But of course, in your more sane moments, you realize that anyone could say the same thing about you.

Public parenting is hard.

And people who have never been parents just simply can’t understand. (sidenote: I realize that comments like that can really bother single people or non-parents. And I get it. But you just have to trust me on this one).

But it’s not just non-parents who often don’t understand, it’s also people who USED to be parents of toddlers and are now all grown up. How often have I felt the judgemental stares of older people, as though THEY were never THAT parent, or THEIR kid was never THAT kid!!!

Not a chance.

Anyways, I love being a dad. More than most things. And our 4 boys are absolutely incredible. (And, in my opinion, really well behaved… most of the time)

But nothing gets my anxiety-muscles flexing quite like trying to navigate those difficult parenting moments in public.

So if you’re out and about and you witness a meltdown by a toddler, do me a favor: cut the parent some slack. It happens to the best of us, and it doesn’t mean we’re awful parents or they are awful kids.

And if you’re a parent of a toddler and you find yourself in that next moment of dealing with a meltdown of your toddler, do me a favor: cut yourself some slack. Doesn’t matter how you handle it, really, because you’ll like get haters on both sides. Just be true to who you are and how you want to raise your kids. And know that parents-of-toddlers around the world are standing with you.

You’re not alone.

Parenting in public is hard.

From Taize to Taieze: What’s in a Name? (Specifically, My Son’s)

colby tai 1

Origin of a Name

Today is Tai’s 7th birthday.
Tai is our second oldest son, and he is truly a unique and remarkable kid.

His full name is Taieze Alexander Martin.

That’s pronounced “ty – ez,” and it’s derived from the name Taizé (prononced: “tay – zay”).

Taizé is a faith community (a monastery, really) up in the hills of France that is centered on service to the poor, worship, and above all, working towards peace.

It was founded in the early 1940’s as a place where refugees from the war could go for safety, food, and to find reconciliation (including German soldiers, whom society wanted nothing to do with). And since then it has functioned as a place of prayer and service, a beacon of peace to the world.

The brothers of Taizé (sadly, no sisters… yet) take no money and accept no donations. But they travel around the world, meeting with world leaders and religious leaders, to pray and talk peace.

Thousands of young people go on pilgrimages to Taizé every year, staying there for weeks to simply serve (mandatory when you stay there: you’re assigned a job, a role…. no one stays “for free”), pray and worship. They truly find themselves there. (watch this video to see what I mean)

Taizé has, over the years, also developed its own style of music and worship, and this was how Kate and I were first introduced to Taizé.

We were living in Salem, OR at the time, and I saw an advertisement for a Taizé service that was being held at a local Episcopal church. When I started to look in to Taizé, what it was and what it meant, I pronounced the word incorrectly: I pronounced it, “ty – ez.”

Several months later Kate gave birth to our second son. And, not being overly keen on conventional names, we remembered the word (and the mis-pronunciation) of Taizé. So we decided that we would name our son Taieze (ty-ez), the word/name I originally had thought belonged to this faith community in France. Of course, it’s a made up word/name, so we invented a spelling that made sense to us, and we knew that we’d end up calling him “Tai” most of the time.

Brother Roger, who founded Taizé in the early 40’s, was shot and killed 7 years ago during an evening prayer time by a pathological woman. In 2010, the community held a 70th anniversary pilgrimage, and the current Prior of Taizé, Brother Alois, said the following about Brother Roger during a prayer:

He sought earnestly to live in [God's] trust and to express [God's] infinite kindness for every human being, whether a believer or a nonbeliever—you, the living God, who do not condemn, who exclude no one from your love. In this trust, you enabled him to find the source of joy and peace: peace of heart that made him a creator of peace among humans.

So Tai is named after a faith community in France who’s primary mission was and is to promote peace.

Living in to a Name

The other day I was listening to a Freakonomics podcast, and this particular episode was called “How Much Does Your Name Matter?” It gives some interesting data to suggest how the names we give our kids can impact their lives growing up, and how it also says something about the parents who give the names.

One thing that Kate and I have noticed over the years is how Tai has, in an almost freakish way, lived in to his namesake.

Tai is all about peace.

In our house we frame things around “making peace.” (We were inspired by this book called The Peace Book by Todd Parr. If you’re a parent, we can’t recommend Todd Parr’s books enough!) In The Peace Book, Todd talks about all sorts of things that are “peace.”

For instance,

  • Peace is making new friends
  • Peace is saying you’re sorry when you hurt someone
  • Peace is reading all different kinds of books
  • Peace is thinking about someone you love
  • Peace is giving shoes to someone who needs them
  • Peace is planting a tree and sharing a meal

And so on…

Essentially it gives a beautiful picture of how simple, everyday acts, can work towards wholeness, health, and peace.

So in our house, if the boys are fighting with one another, we ask each other, “are you making peace?”

Or we’ll simply shout from the other room, “boys, make peace!” (There’s something odd about SHOUTING for people to MAKE PEACE… oh well)

And Tai has really, really latched on to this concept. He has become an incredible little peace-maker. Something about this idea of making peace just, I don’t know, makes sense to him in a way unique to Tai. Family members and friends who have gotten close to us have remarked how much of a peace-maker Tai is, and it’s always fun to follow that up with the story of his name.

Fifteen Years Down the Road

One of the things that I’m sure sociologists will be studying in the years to come is the relationship between the current generation of people who blog and post things on the internet, with the people/children about whom such things are posted. In other words, when my son(s) are old enough and/or interested enough to Google their name, there’s a good chance it might take them to this blog post. And what an interesting dynamic that will be…

But anyways, Tai, if you are reading this sometime in the future, here’s what I want you to know:

Your mom and I are so incredibly blessed to have you in our lives, in our family. You bring something unique to this world, and everyone who meets you knows it. When you were 6, you used to ask us, “what’s the point of us being here? Why are we alive?” And the only way I knew how to answer you was to say, “there is only one Tai Tai (sidenote: if this is truly 15 years in the future, and your mom and dad are still calling you Tai Tai, well, just deal with it…), there is only one Tai Tai, and if you were not in this world, then this world could not be complete. The world needs you, son. And THAT is why you are here, why you are alive.”

And Tai, if there’s one thing I know, it’s that the world needs more peace.

For that to happen, the world needs more peace-makers.

Jesus once said, “blessed are the peace-makers, for they shall be called the children of God.”

Tai, that is you.
You exhibit, in a truly unique way, what it looks like to be a child of God.
What it looks like to reflect the divine.

I pray you always find yourself to be about the pursuit of peace.

Happy birthday, little buddy.

colby tai 4

The Penny Maker

“Grab my hand, we’re heading to the parking lot,” I said to Tai, my 6 year old son, as we were leaving Chipotle on Sunday.

Perhaps some 6 year olds don’t need hand holding in parking lots, but then again, some 6 year olds probably live in this world.

Tai? Not so much. He spends most of his waking hours in his own world. His own reality. He gets that from his mother (Growing up, Kate was often compared to Belle in Beauty and the Beast, specifically the scene where she wanders through the town square completely oblivious to the world going on around her).

So we often have to take special care to make sure that someone is looking out for Tai, cause he’s generally not bothering to look out for himself. Because everything (and everyone) in Tai-land is good and safe.

Three steps in to the parking lot Tai stops. Pulls his little hand out from my grip, bends over and, with his long hair blowing in the wind, proceeds to pick up a shiny penny from off the pavement. He wipes it off, inspects it, and cheerfully puts it in his pocket. Thrilled that he’s now one cent richer than his brother, I’m sure.

Grabbing my hand again we continue our trek to the van. Stepping out of Tai-land for a minute, he asks, “Dad, where do pennies come from?”

Not really knowing the answer, but also not wanting to let my son know just quite yet that Daddy doesn’t know everything, I say, “from a factory.”

Without skipping a beat, he asks back, “And then somebody takes the pennies and puts them all around the world for people to find and pick up?”

I don’t even try to hide the smile that instantly comes to my face. I look at him as he hops in the van, “yeah buddy, something like that.”

And that’s Tai for you.

Finding a penny in the middle of a parking lot is likely enough to make this “the BEST DAY EVER!” A phrase he is fond of using. But it’s not just the joy at finding a penny on the ground, it’s the completely sensical rationale behind finding that penny that truly makes Tai special.

This penny, which probably doesn’t mean much to most of the world, was specifically and strategically placed here, in this parking lot, just so that I could find it.

Placed here, with love and care, by The Penny Maker.

I couldn’t agree more, Tai.
And no one deserves that penny more than you do.

Keep your eye open today. Perhaps The Penny Maker has laid one out for you, too.