Friday, April 15, 2011

Not Too Much Longer

About 15 years ago I read No Compromise, the biography of Keith Green written by his wife, Melody. While I was encouraged and challenged as I read of the very real faith and life of Keith Green, one particular statement stuck with me from the moment I read it. Melody wrote something to the effect of watching Keith Green sing and play piano on stage one night and she had a fleeting thought that went something like this: "He is not going to be here long." She explained that he had such an intimacy with the Father that she felt he was just mere moments away from meeting his Lord and Savior face to face. If you know the story of Keith Green he was killed in an airplane accident before he even hit the age of 30. Tragic, but the thought that his wife had some years earlier turned out to be prophetic. After reading that, I've strived to be the type of person who people see God in. Most days I fail miserably. I've also been around people who I have that same sense that Melody had towards Keith...they have such a burning desire to know God intimately that you just sense that it wouldn't be a stretch for them to leave this life early and enter into complete communion with God.

One of those persons that I saw this very thing in and on was Derek Taatjes. He was the youth pastor at our church. But, more importantly than that, he was a father, a husband, and a friend. Last night he and his baby boy, Dylan, were killed in a house fire, leaving his wife and two young girls. I wasn't extremely close to Derek, but we were friends. I partnered with him by leading worship for the high school youth ministry for a couple of years. I listened to his teaching from scripture. We had lunch together every now and then. And, even though we weren't close, I could sense a deep love for God, a deep love for his family, and a deep desire to be with Jesus. I'm sure he didn't want to leave his family just yet, but I can't help but imagine him finally in the place where he longed to be. One of the last times I led worship at the youth group he taught at, I remember hearing him say something to the effect of, "We don't know when we'll be done here. So make the most of every opportunity you have to worship God." Those weren't his direct words, but it was something along those lines.

And so now, we mourn with his wife and little girls who will miss him more than any of us. We pray for peace and comfort. And we rejoice. Derek and his little boy never have to suffer again. They are home, doing what they were created to do. This is just more finality for what was finished 2011 years ago when Christ gave up his breath on the cross.

"Where, o death, is your victory? Where, o death, is your sting?"

Thursday, March 11, 2010

31

So, I'm 31 today. And, rather than bore you with deep thoughts and reflections (both of which I always tend to do on or around my birthday), I thought I would share a rather humourous email that went out to everyone who works for the Grand Rapids Housing Commission. There is a particular employee who sends these types of emails out for everyone's birthday. Enjoy...

Hey everybody today is Jake's birthday!!! He is 18 years old today! He's very excited about finally being able to vote, and today after work Todd's going to teach him how to smoke! Jake is the newest member of our management team so it's very important that we make him feel welcome by giving him a hard time about it being his birthday today!

Fun Jake fact: Before deciding to become a manager, Jake spent many years training to be a cage fighter. His first and only match was against a guy who went by "Frank The Hammer." Frank was 6'9 and weighed in around 400lbs. Frank had a serious anger management problem and his two passions in life were making people bleed in funny ways and cat grooming. Their match lasted 50 seconds...that may not seem like much time but Frank The Hammer was able to accomplish quite a bit in that 50 seconds, he managed to tie Jake completely into a knot and remove him from the cage by straining him through the bars...he also found the time to tear off Jake's ear and eat it. Which leads me to another-

Fun Jake fact 2: Jake has a prosthetic ear. He is very self conscious of this prosthetic ear so please don't stare at him trying to determine which ear it is (Hint: it's the one that looks like a plastic ear) because of his prosthetic ear Jake has to actively avoid wind tunnels and trampolines.

If anybody else knows of any "Fun Jake facts" please feel free to share them!

Happy Birthday Jake!!!!

Monday, February 8, 2010

I Really Need to Write More

I miss it. I miss being creative in my writing. I miss the therapy that happens when I sit down and pour out my heart. I miss processing the things going on around me by writing them down for the world (or the three people who stumble upon this) to see. Right now, though, I am tired and would like nothing more than to lay down on the couch and fall asleep. But because there needs to be some type of substance to this post, I will make a list of things I like right now:

The Avett Brothers
Detroit Tigers
Working on the basement
Modern Family
Playing with Ella
Hanging with Heidi
Jesus Culture Music
Snow storms
Feeling the new baby kick
My job
Riding the bus
Joel McHale

Likewise, I feel it would be fitting to make a list of things I don't like right now:

The Bachelor
Feeding an incredibly picky toddler
Having to get rid of my Ford Contour
That annoying clicking sound on Facebook chat
Dell

Ok, I feel better now...there are more things that I like than there are things I don't like.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Top 10 of 2009

At the end of the year (or beginning of the new one as the case may be), I like to do what seems to be the cool thing to do: reflect. Today I will reflect on my 10 favorite records of 2009. A disclaimer, though, is that the following records may or may not have been released in 2009. Regardless of this detail, they were albums that were in regular rotation in my Itunes library and/or car (actually, in Heidi's car since my stereo broke in my car about six months ago), and I either discovered them or rediscovered them throughout the course of the last year. So, without further ado, here they are...

10. Hillsong Live - This is Our God. This is an amazing worship album. I had bucked against Hillsongs when it came to worship music ever since I grew very tired of Shout to the Lord back in 1996. This album turned me on to them again...love the lyrics, love the arrangements, love the passion that is captured on this record.

9. Rick Hopkins - Where we Are and Where We Long to Be. Yes, Rick is a good friend, but I think I would even listen to this record if I didn't know him. You can tell he puts a lot of work into writing good lyrics, good riffs, and just overall good music. It's been great to be a part of his life, and I'm glad he keeps writing music.

8. The Brothers Martin - The Brothers Martin. For those of you who remember Starflyer 59 and Joy Electric, you must listen to this record. Ronnie Martin from Joy Electric, and his brother Jason Martin from Starflyer 59 collaborated to create a pop-rock-electronic-indie masterpiece. This is it.

7. David Gray - Life in Slow Motion. Yes, David Gray came out with a new record this year called Draw the Line. It was good, but I'm stuck on Life in Slow Motion. I love this record. I love the transparency and the creativity he puts into his music. A side note is that I got to see him in concert in the fall. It was amazing.

6. Catfish Gracie - Kalamazoograss. You can't go wrong with bluegrass. Bluegrass has really grown on my in the last year. I love the heartbreak, the spirituality, and the longing for the everlasting. Catfish Gracie is a local band from, you guessed it, Kalamazoo. They play some mean bluegrass.

5. Motion City Soundtrack - Commit This To Memory. Just some good old pop-punk. Not sure if they would classify themselves as that, but I like them. They make me smile...and make the afternoons at work go quicker.

4. Josh Garrels - Jacaranda. No offense to the mainstream Christian artists, but you all got nothing on this guy. Josh Garrels is awesome. Great singer/songwriter. Great musician. This guy gets it done. Do yourself a favor and listen to ANY of his stuff.

3. Ryan Adams - Heartbreaker. For those of you who are thinking, "oh yeah! I love that song 'Summer of 69'" do yourself a favor and go destroy all of your Bryan Adams music...it will really make the world a better place. I mean what I say when I say Ryan Adams is a great songwriter. I also mean what I say when I say Bryan Adams can take "everything he does" and stay in Canada. As for Heartbreaker, amazing record from the first track to the last.

2. Ray Lamontagne - Gossip in the Grain. What I love about Ray Lamontagne is that he's sort of a throwback to the 1970's. This record did not dissapoint.

1. Jason Mraz - We Sing, We Dance, We Steel Things. This earns the number one slot because many nights were spent listening to the whole record while dancing around the living room with Ella. And those are memories that will be with me forever.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

A New Question (part 1)

Who am I? Have you ever really stopped to think about the answer to this question. I was stopped dead in my tracks this week when confronted with these three simple words: "Who are you?" It's easy to answer this with things like, "I'm a property manager for the public housing authority in Grand Rapids," or "I'm a husband and a father," or "I'm a worship leader." But these are not so much who we are as they are what we are or what we do.

I think for the past several years I've found my identity (or tried to establish my identity) in what I do. Out of college I was a business consultant, then I moved to property management, then I was a youth pastor and a worship leader, then back to property management. But these really don't answer who I am. I've been married for a little more than seven years to Heidi, and we have a beautiful daughter named Ella...but this doesn't really answer who I am. I've led worship for years in big and small venues, but this still doesn't really answer who I am. I've played music in bars and clubs and coffee shops, but this still doesn't provide the answers I'm looking for. These all point towards gifts and talents and personality traits. But, at the end of the day they don't say a thing about who I really am.

This question came up at a Bible study I'm a part of...and it really got me thinking. I've tried for too long to characterize who I am by what I do. I think this might be part of the reason that I find myself so easily discontent. I try to force who I am into whatever I'm doing (job, ministry, friendships), and it doesn't fit. My job and ministry and friendships...even my family...cannot contain who I am. Which looking back over the past few years is a good thing...if my job was who I am, I would have been five different people in the last five years. That's right, five different jobs...horrible, I know. But as I look at each of those jobs, I see how I tried to squeeze who I am into them instead of letting them fit into who I am (current position excluded because I've adjusted my outlook on some things). At Woodhaven I tried to force passion into tradition. At Origins I tried to force high expectations into the status quo. At Park Place I tried to force leadership into a community that didn't want to be led. At Stone Falls I tried to force myself to be someone I was not in order to make the sale. Interestingly enough, these are all very good traits that I think I have...passion, high expectations, leadership, and even the ability to be all things to all people. I don't think these traits alone are who I am, but they certainly feed into it. And I've spent my whole life, really, trying to fit these into whatever I do.

I'm not going to go into who I am right now because I would like you, my faithful few readers, to ask that same question of yourself: "Who am I?" When you strip everything away, who are you?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Passion

It's been almost three months since I started working for the Grand Rapids Housing Commission. And, I must say, it's going really well. I love the people I work with, as well as the work that I'm doing. My work doesn't feel empty day in and day out. I feel like I'm actually making a difference in people's lives, and that's a very good feeling to have.

Speaking of making a difference in people's lives, there's someone who's making a difference in mine. I don't know his name, but nearly every day I drive past him. He stands on the corner of Burton and Eastern in Grand Rapids with a sign for Happy's Pizza. Now, I don't really like Happy's Pizza that much (in fact, I think Pizza places should be limited to...well...Pizza and subs/grinders...and simple Italian dishes...Happy's menu has everything...but that's for another day), but this guy makes me smile. He has what most would consider a boring, uneventful job. I know I would HATE standing on the corner with sign that says, "2 large pizzas $10.99" (and I would hate it even more to have to dress up like the Statue of Liberty at tax time and wave people in to get their taxes done). But this guy gets it done. Rain or shine, there he is. And he doesn't just stand and wave. No, this guy gets into his job. He paces back and forth around the corner of this busy intersection and dances and sings (or raps...I can't be sure because I can't actually hear him...I just see him mouthing words). And, he does this for hours on end I would assume. He's taken a job that most of us would hate and made it fun. He's passionate about it. He doesn't care what people are thinking. He just unashamedly draws attention to himself so that his audience...the cars driving by...will hopefully go to Happy's Pizza. I have the fortune of having some really good employees that work for me, but if I'm ever in a spot to hire someone, I want to hire this guy because of the energy he pours into his job. Not only does he make me smile when I see him, but he encourages me to live passionately...to not just go through the motions.

So, here's to you, "guy that dances and sings on the corner of Burton and Eastern"...you have single-handedly revolutionized your line of work.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Things I'm Thinking Right Now

Random, I know, but these are the things that are on my mind:

We don't have long, so we should love those around us without holding back.
I'm glad to be working with the least of these again.
Have we really been married for seven years?  Let's hope the next seven are as good as the last seven.
I wonder what I'll be doing seven years from now.
I can't wait to eat me some bbq for lunch tomorrow.
I still cry a lot when I think about my daughter...she is amazing.
Hmm, that's funny, my daughter just woke up in the middle of the night crying.
Corona is just as good with lemon as it is lime (I didn't feel like cutting open a fresh lime for one bottle of beer...so I used lemon that was already cut).
Before summer is over, I will create an amazing burger recipe.
This past weekend proves even more to me that the best places to eat are not the places everyone has heard of.