Friends

Introducing Our Coffee Vlog!

Here is my first coffee vlog (video blog) with Kyle Johannes! In this video we introduce what the vlog is going to be about and we do a tasting of Ethiopian Yirgacheffee from Bent Tree Coffee in Kent, Oh! Don’t be expecting too much-we are figuring it out as we go along 🙂 Enjoy!

On Turning 22.

20130620-133721.jpg

What is a birthday? I know that they have become something very different than say when I turned 10 years of old. I loved birthdays at that time in my life, because if I am honest, it was all about me! Even though birthdays have become something different to me at 22, I suppose that the essence of a birthday can be seen as a measurement of sorts. It is a numerical measurement that reveals how much life one has lived. This number can tell us a lot about a person–it gives us a vague picture as to the type of experiences that person may have had, the number of seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, and months they have known, and perhaps what they might have accomplished by that time in their life. Today, I have lived 8,030 days and my experiences have been many for what seems like such a short time. By saying that I am now 22, most people will have an idea in their mind (a preconceived idea) as to what I should be doing with my life, who I should be dating, how much money I should be making, and finally what my ten year plan should be. I highly doubt that I would meet the requirements of those presuppositions that many might expect of me, but I know that at the end of the day, that is ok.

At every major transition in my life, whether it be a birthday, graduation, or a new job, I am always tempted to measure myself to the strictest of requirements and expectations. I am tempted to measure myself and ask questions like, “What have I accomplished” or simply “What have I done with my life?”. These are burdening questions for someone like me to ask myself. I have far to high of standards for myself and for others and those standards are often bred and nurtured by a cultural understanding of humanity. These questions have the potential to crush a spirit. As I see myself posing these questions upon myself, I realize that those questions are another manifestation of my attempt to justify my existence and to further my self-absorbtion. If I were not focused on myself so much, then I would hardly think to ask those questions. It is in these moments that I remember that Jesus cares cares far more about who I am becoming than what I am doing, accomplishing, attaining, or conquering. I am reminded of Mary and Martha, and the need to sit and take in all that Jesus wants to teach me. I suppose that this 22nd birthday is a simple reminder that my life is not about me.

My Love/Hate Relationship with Support Raising

Upon clicking this blog post I can be certain that people had a number of different questions as to what they were about to read. I am sure there are some who subconsciously questioned “Why does he love support raising?” or “Why does he hate support raising?”. I am sure there were those who had a more general inquiry that probably went something like this, “Why on earth is he even support raising?”. This last person I have met many times and this question (usually posed in a more polite manner) is often met with a blank or confounded stare awaiting an answer that they already surmise will not make sense to them. Nonetheless, these are valid questions, and hopefully I can answer them, but I don’t presume that you will understand one-hundred percent of what I will write, and that is okay.

First, why do I tend to love support raising at times? There is a complex and yet simple answer to this sort of question. The simple answer to this question is that I love it because of the privilege it is to have dozens of wonderful people on a team who give financially, emotionally, and spiritually to what I do. God has blessed me beyond belief to have people who care about the work of h2o Church on the campus of Kent State and about me. These are people that I would have no way of knowing otherwise, and I am truly glad that I know them. In a lot of ways, what I love about support raising is a tribute to those who already support me and those who will support me. They are what makes this experience joyful; not because they throw money at me, but because the reason they throw money at me is because they believe that somehow God is at work on our campus and thru our church and they want to be apart of that. There is no escaping the overwhelming reality of having a group of people who give themselves to what you are doing in various ways.

I remember having a family and supporter Sunday service this past semester and it was one of the highlights of my semester. Why? On that Sunday some of my supporters came and during the time of worship I was overcome with emotion as I realized what I was experiencing in that moment. I came to see and experience what I had known but never actually felt for an extended period of time and that is that my supporters give financially and of themselves because they love Jesus and they believe that he is at work in renewing the community at Kent State thru our church. Such a simple truth made a lasting imprint on my heart.

Some people propose that support raising is like sales. I do not doubt that there are some components of support raising that mirror that of sales, but in no way do they have the same telos or goal. I see support raising as an invitation into something that is bigger than both of us and opposed to selling a product that is our church. The bottom line is either that people believe in what we are doing or they do not. I hope and pray for those who do decide to be apart of what we are doing often; I pray that they feel directly involved with what we are doing at Kent State because they are a vital part of it, and they deserve all the fruit, as well as the trials, that we experience. These are the reasons I love support raising. I love it because of the people that I am now on this journey with.

Why do I hate support raising? I could have switched these around, but I figured that if the reason that I hate support raising deterred you from doing it yourself, then that is probably a good thing. I have made support raising sound like it is comfy and sentimental with the reasons for which I love it, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there is more to it than that. The reason I hate support raising is an inward happening. I hate it because of what it brings out in me (bear in mind that when I say hate that that hate is also a sort of love….confused yet?–I am complex person :)).

I have found that support raising is a lonely process. I have found that no matter how much community I have around me that there is no getting around the fact that it is lonely. You may disagree if you so choose, but I think any support raiser can agree with this to some degree. If anything, the support raising process merely highlights what is already present within our lives and it is loneliness that is often that which is present in our lives whether we actually feel it or not. I tend to agree with my friend Henri Nouwen who says that loneliness is not a come and go type of feeling but rather it is a condition. Nouwen states that loneliness is an apt word to articulate or express what we mean when Christians say that humanity is broken. Simply put: Nouwen says that loneliness is an expression of our brokenness. In my experience, support raising brings out this condition, and that is what I hate (and love) about support raising.

I will leave us with a quote from Nouwen that I have found to be helpful:

When you experience the deep pain of loneliness it is understandable that your thoughts go out to the person who was able to take that loneliness away, even if only for a moment. When, underneath all the praise and acclaim, you feel a huge absence that makes everything look useless, your heart wants only one thing–to be with the person who once was able to dispel those frightful emotions. But it is the absence itself, the emptiness within you, that you have to be willing to experience, not the one who could temporarily take it away.

It is not easy to stay with your loneliness. The temptation is to nurse your pain or to escape into fantasies about people who will take it away. But when you can acknowledge your loneliness in a safe, contained place, you make your pain available for God’s healing. God does not want your loneliness; God want to touch you in a way that permanently fulfills your deepest need. It is important that you dare to stay with your pain and allow it to be there. You have to own your loneliness and trust that it will not always be there.

When you experience deep loneliness, you are willing to give up everything in exchange for that healing. But no human being can heal that pain. Still, people will be sent to you to mediate God’s healing, and they will be able to offer you the deep sense of belonging that you desire and that gives meaning to all you do. Dare to stay with your pain, and trust in God’s promise to you.

This may sound dramatic for what support raiser might experience, and perhaps it is, but I think by way of Nouwen we have moved passed what one might experience in support raising to a general take on the human experience.

To my brother, Andrew, on his 29th birthday

Andrew, Happy 29th Birthday! I can’t believe you are 29 already, and I suppose I will say that same thing when you turn 30 (as you will too I presume). In any case, some big things are happening in your life as of late, and getting engaged seems to be the most profound among those life changes. These are exciting and profound moments in your life that deserve ubiquitous celebration!

There is no doubt that we have had our share of differences as brothers, but I think I must begin by simply stating that I am proud of you, care about you, and love you. I am enjoying getting to know you as we both grow older even though we are quite different. It is obvious to anyone who knows us, but I am not sure that as we have grown up that we have always understood these differences or how to deal with them appropriately. When we were younger I remember fighting, arguing, and fighting some more , but in the end we just told Mom and Dad that this was the way in which we shared affection with one another and it all seemed to work out :). If only brotherly relationships were that simple-unfortunately they are not and I think we both can attest to that. It has taken us a while, but over time we have finally begun to learn the arduous skill of verbal communication between siblings and men. I hope that we continue to learn this lifelong skill and to do so with honesty.

We are still quite different, and there is no way around that fact, but I have started to realize that there are things that we need to learn about one another and from one another. On the one hand I have learned that you are practical and pragmatic about things in life that I am not, and you are growing to be a great business man as you work the Pirates. You also care for people and for our family quite well. I have no doubt that you will provide and be a responsible man for your family as it grows in the future. You are passionate, too. You have a zeal that is not only noteworthy but influential. You are a man of your word and it seems to me that you do what you say you are going to do, which I have seen and value. These are some of the many qualities that I appreciate about you.

While there are numerous differences between us, I know that there are also numerous similarities that are sometimes too embarrassing to bring to light. The embarrassing attributes usually find their origin in our Father (sorry pops). I think we both can agree that some of our idiosyncrasies about irrelevant matters while alien to some people are commonplace and commonsensical to us (and our Father). Unfortunately we both have to live with such a mentality that is helpful at times. Two more similarities between us that seem evident to me is our zealotry and our humor; both of which seem to find their origin in our Mother. Our humor can range from Chris Farley’s Tommy Boy to an exaggerated story that we claim was once based on a real life experience (whether or not it actually is or not is the usually up for debate). I have found that our zealotry and emotional capacity is something that can be very helpful or very harmful, and I think we both have experienced both sides of the coin in this regard. While we are both very passionate people, I know that I have had a harder time figuring out how I work and how my emotions work as I am sure you’ve experienced as well.IMG_5658 - Version 2

I know this seems extremely sentimental,but sometimes life calls for sentimentality. I am glad we are brothers and I am happy with where we are in our relationship. I am glad that we can talk with one another, struggle with one another, and rejoice with one another. Truthfully, I look forward to continued progression together. I look forward to celebrating your engagement tomorrow!

Your brother, Anthony

The Netherlands and back again…

It has been three days since I arrived home from my trip to Amsterdam and I am still feeling the effects of jet-lag and time change that somehow mess with your biological clock (although I’m not all too sure how that works). Even in light of my current state though, I can positively say that my first trip to Amsterdam is an adventure that I will never forget.

20130403-180903.jpg

We had an awesome team of people for this trip. I think some of my favorite moments with this group of people was when we went through times of difficulty together. Whether it was the frustration (and laughter) that from trying to accomplish a simple task like recycling or being discouraged by our attempts at ministry, I think that in any and all of these moments God was able to show his strength. For me, my best friends are people that I have gone through difficult times with and they remain the good friends that they are because they have seen our relationship through even in the midst of challenges. I’m thankful for the triumphs that this team had, but in some ways, I cherish the difficulties even more because in some paradoxical way, I feel that God’s strength was shown in those moments.

20130404-093328.jpg

Besides the difficult moments that our team had in seeking to understand a new culture and a new city, we had plenty moments of celebration too. One of my favorite moments during the week was when we went to a city in the north called Groningen. It is a University city and personally, it was my highlight. Here we got into conversations with a number of students, got connected with local ministries and churches, and even got to meet a member of parliament in the building above. It was a wonderful city and our time there was quite rich for only being there for an overnight. Attheend of our stay there’s felt affirmation from God in my plans to continue in university ministry. I felt just as connected with those Groningen students as I did with students here in Kent. It was surprising but consoling.

20130403-182058.jpg

The main intent for our trip to Groningen was to discover another city in the Netherlands and the possibilities and/or need for a church plant there someday. What we found through all of our conversations and connections was incredibly encouraging.

Our team did great work, and I was so glad to witness what God did in our hearts and to have had the opportunity to plant more seeds in both cities and fervently pray for growth. While our team did some great things in that city, I think some of my greatest encouragement last week came from our sister church, Amsterdam50.

20130404-093004.jpg

The first day that we arrived in the city, our team took a walk with some of the staff of Amsterdam50 through memorable places in the ten year history of this churches existence. It was great to hear the stories of this church and all that God has done in and through it. I remember taking that walk and thanking God for the ecumenical church. It is evident oto me that while what our team did was valuable, in the end it was only one week. I’m thankful for the world-wide church and their love for Jesus and this world. Among many other things, God opened my eyes to this reality over the course of this trip. Thanks Amsterdam50!