Monthly Archives: July 2012

Life signs

“. . . pain is a sign of life. You are going to get a lot more banged up living life to the fullest than you ever will sitting on the couch trying to decide, as Dave Barry once said, ‘whether to open a second bag of potato chips or simply eat the onion dip right out of the tub.'”

Ken Davis, in Fully Alive: Lighten up and live – A journey that will change your life

Many of us try to live stress free, ease filled lives. But in the process of avoiding pain, we miss out on life. We need to get out and live, knowing that we might get scraped up in the process. Good reminder from Ken Davis.

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Posted by on July 31, 2012 in Books, Character


Road trip – CA-central & southern

Today’s journey took us from Stockton in central CA to Carol’s parents’ home in Cerritos in SoCal. The I-5 corridor is flat, brown, hazy, and uninspiring. It has a few agricultural fields, but a whole lot of brown mixed in. Of course, we made the required stop at In-N-Out for lunch before heading into the Grapevine. Driving through the Grapevine provided glimpses of Pyramid Lake before heading into the L.A. basin.

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Posted by on July 30, 2012 in California, Photos


Road trip – OR/CA

Today’s journey took us from Portland, OR, to Stockton, CA. Carol, Mittens, and I went from the green of the Pacific Northwest to the heart of California’s agriculture. Along the way, we saw Mt Shasta, Lake Shasta, groves of olives, pistachios, and grapes, and fields of rice.

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Posted by on July 29, 2012 in California, Oregon, Photos


Road trip to Beaverton

Leaving Sammamish, we headed south to Oregon to visit Carol’s sister and family. John & Ruth Jordan reside in Beaverton, OR, along with their children. Like any good bibliophile, we made a pilgrimage to Powell’s City of Books. We also enjoyed a visit to the Party in the Park, Beaverton’s International Festival and Classic Car Show. We capped the day by enjoying the Dark Knight Rises with John, Ruth, and Michelle.

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Posted by on July 28, 2012 in Family & Friends, Oregon, Photos


Vacating the premises

  • Q: Mark & Carol, now that you’ve sold your house and are “homeless,” what are you going to do?
  • A: We’re going to Disneyland!

The escrow papers have been signed. The buyers did a final walk through. The sale of the house is now closed. The movers come in two weeks to load up our “stuff” and take it to Massachusetts. In the meantime, we will head south to Beaverton, OR, and Cerritos & La Mirada, CA, to visit siblings, parents, and children. And yes, we will make a trip or three to Anaheim to visit the biggest people trap ever built by a mouse, Disneyland. After all, it’s still one of my favorite places to visit.

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Posted by on July 27, 2012 in Family & Friends


A transformed life

How can you tell if someone has been changed by Christ? What does a transformed life look like? The current issue of Leadership Journal (Summer 2012) focuses on this issue of transformation. The theme of the issue is that while God is the one doing the transformation and the one who completes the job, there is a role for the church and believers.

One of the more helpful articles is by Pastor Gordon MacDonald, “How to spot a transformed Christian: 12 outward signs of the inner reality.” As the subtitle indicates, Pastor Mac provides a checklist of transformation, or a profile of what a transformed person looks like in daily life.

A transformed Christian is one who . . .

  1. Has an undiluted devotion to Jesus. Devotion infers a determination that one will organize his/her life around Jesus.
  2. Pursues a biblically informed view of the world. They know the Bible well.
  3. Is intentional and disciplined in seeking God’s direction. They practice responsive obedience and avoid spiritual passivity.
  4. Worships, and with a spirit of continuous repentance. Through worship, they gain a sense of their true size and the need to acknowledge their unique form of brokenness.
  5. Build healthy human relationships. They are faithful to friends, affectionate, attentive, and servant-like to a spouse (if married), and patient and nurturing to children (if a parent).
  6. Knows how to engage the larger world. They resist the temptation to draw totally into church programs and withdraw from influential contact with the community.
  7. Senses a personal “call” and unique competencies. It’s not about me, but what has been entrusted to me and what can be offered to others.
  8. Is merciful and generous to those who are weaker. They practice a Barnabas-like spirit of generosity, encouragement, and mercy.
  9. Appreciates that suffering is part of faithfulness to Jesus. Whatever the source of suffering, the transforming believer does not complain, does not seek pity, does not become embittered.
  10. Is eager and ready to express the content of his faith. They seek and even pray for opportunities to communicate their devotion to Christ.
  11. Overflows with thankfulness. Rather than receive, take, or feel entitled, they are grateful and appreciative, and even cheerful about what they have.
  12. Has a passion for reconciliation. They bring people together.

A mixed bag of jumbled emotions

This is our last week in Sammamish, WA. It is a time to pack up and put everything into storage for a couple of weeks until moving day. We are getting estimates and making decisions on who will do the move. It is a chance to enjoy one last dinner with various friends. It is an opportunity to reflect on what God has done during our 22 years in the Pacific Northwest. It is a time to rejoice in how God answered prayer in taking us from one ministry to the next. It is a time to say goodbye to friends, comrades, and coworkers. It is a week of looking forward while at the same looking backwards. It is a week of rejoicing as well as a week of grieving.

Needless to say, it is a week of mixed emotions. We experience the balancing truths of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, “There is a time to ____ and a time to ____.” During these last days, our emotions run the gamut and cover the waterfront.

We rejoice that God answered prayer in releasing us from a difficult, draining ministry. We grieve that we have to say goodbye to so many close friends who we invested in and who invested in us. We rejoice that God again answered prayer in leading us to a new ministry. We grieve that God led us further away from our parents, siblings, and children. We rejoice that he is taking us to a group of folks who need our gifts and experiences and who want us to join them. We grieve because we leave behind two decades of memories. We rejoice in knowing that God has good plans for our future.

We rejoice in what lies before us. We grieve over what we leave behind. We look forward to what God is going to do there. We grieve over letting go of what he did here.

This recognition of the bundled emotions of joy and grief is part of the process of counting the cost of discipleship that Jesus mentioned in Luke 14:25-33. We know we have to deny ourselves and willingly follow Jesus, and we do so with great joy. But we acknowledge that that denial carries a hefty price tag. We believe the truth of the promise of Matthew 19:29, that if we leave houses or siblings or parents or children for the sake of the gospel we will receive even greater rewards in the kingdom. But at the time, it hurts to leave houses, siblings, parents, and especially children to follow Jesus.

Please don’t misunderstand. Carol and I willingly and joyfully follow Jesus. We said we were and are willing to go wherever he leads. Our move from west coast to east coast, from Washington State to Massachusetts is evidence of our commitment. But we have to acknowledge what this change costs before we can offer it back to Christ as a willing sacrifice. As we learned when we read Dr. Henry Cloud’s book, Necessary Endings, we need to properly grieve over one chapter closing before we can joyfully open the next chapter.

While the process of change is difficult, it is not a bad thing. If nothing else, we are reminded that when we came to Seattle 22 years ago, we hated it and did not want to be here. And yet now it is home and we hate to leave. In time, we will grow to love our new home and ministry in Chicopee, MA. But that joy will first be mixed with grief. It is all part of being human.


Heading east

This afternoon, the First Central Baptist Church of Chicopee, MA, graciously extended me a call to become their next Senior Pastor. Carol and were pleased to accept.

As we talked about how to determine God’s direction and whether or not he wanted us to serve in Chicopee, there were four stair-step questions we asked and sought confirmation of:

1) Is the search committee unanimous that I’m the right guy? YES, in fact this is the first time they were unanimous about a candidate.

2) Are the deacons unanimous that I’m the right guy? YES, they took a straw poll during the week I candidated and confirmed that.

3) Is the salary package generous? Can we afford to live there? The initial package was less than what we needed, but the finance team graciously reconsidered and added to the cash portion of the package. We won’t get rich, but we can pay the bills without dipping into our savings. Again, the answer was YES.

4) Does the congregation feel that I’m the right guy? While their constitution required a 75% approval, we asked God for a 90% approval to demonstrate a clear and decisive sense of call and direction. When the church voted this evening, 121 out of 134 gave their approval, which is 90.298%, just exactly what we were asking God for.

Adding them all together gave us a resounding YES as to God’s direction for our future.


The presence of evil

I found it disturbingly ironic to receive the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly with the cover story about J. R. Ewing entitled “Evil Never Dies” on the same day that a gunman shot up a movie theater in Aurora, CO, showing the latest Batman film, “The Dark Knight Rises.” In addition, reports indicate the gunman rigged his apartment to kill whoever entered it, namely police officers.

Evil never dies? Indeed.

Both stories, one fanciful and one frightening, reveal the truth of the Apostle John’s statement, “. . . the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19b). Satan—the god of this age (2 Cor. 4:3–4) and the prince of this world (John 14:30), is at war with God and his people. It doesn’t mean that every person is evil, but  there are evil people among us.

Before we comfort ourselves and conclude that we are not as bad as the Colorado shooter, we need to acknowledge that each one of us has been tainted by evil. Perhaps we haven’t shot up a theater, but who hasn’t wanted to get rid of an irritating boss or a tailgating driver? All of us have murderous hearts, despite our calm and compassionate appearances.

In theology, we call this “human depravity.” It doesn’t mean that each of us is as bad as we can be. But it does mean that each of us has been marred by evil or sin and need forgiveness. At the deepest core of our being, each of us has a corrupt operating system. In addition, we face temptation and choose to give in. We are sinners by nature and by choice.

Lest we despair, God has provided the rescue we so desperately need.

 “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24–25a)

By trusting in Jesus Christ for forgiveness rather than embarking on a self-improvement campaign, we can be rescued from sin. Our corrupt operating system can be replaced with a new one that pursues holiness and righteousness.

While evil may never die, it can be conquered through Jesus Christ.


Moving Day

Moving day arrived. All of our furniture and household goods are now ensconced in a storage unit until we know our next assignment. Amazing how much stuff accumulates over 31 years of marriage, with the last 20 years in the same house.

Thanks to Joel, Mark, Richard, and Zip for sharing their strong backs and sense of humor. It made a difficult task go quicker and was more fun to boot. Thanks for remaining our friends!

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Posted by on July 21, 2012 in Family & Friends, Home