Sunday, June 30, 2013

Portage Fire and Police Departments Host Bicycle Rodeo

Kids showed up 30 minutes early Saturday morning for Portage’s annual Bicycle Rodeo, hosted by the Portage Fire and Police departments.
Angela Rosales, who brought her two boys Christian, 8, and Alex, 6, said, “We’ve been counting down the days until the bike safety day. They wouldn’t let me forget! And of course, I want my kids to be safe and to learn the rules of the road.”
The Willowcreek Middle School parking lot was transformed into a simulated city, complete with road signs, obstacle courses, pedestrian crossings, railroad crossings, and one-way streets. Firefighters manned the course, giving guidance and safety tips in key areas.
One highlight of the course was the Portage Police’s radar trailer, which showed the kids how fast they were riding. As kids smiled and pumped their pedals as hard as they could, some reached 15 miles an hour, highlighting the need for helmets.
Continue reading this story at The Times.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Alvarez Salutes America Celebration

After 39 years of practicing law in Lake and Porter counties, Wally Alvarez wanted to give back to the community.
So he talked it over with his brother Mario, and the inaugural Alvarez Salutes America Celebration was born.
The festivities started Friday night with music from High Noon and a carnival atmosphere. Vendors from around the area sold homemade sausage, fudge, kettle corn, Mexican food, ice cream, funnel cakes and Italian ice. Kids bounced around the Porter County Fairgrounds with snow cones and prizes from game booths. Later in the night, the Titus Rodes Band took the stage just before a fireworks display.
To add a charity element, Alvarez sought out help from Nancy Adams, Porter County commissioner. She connected him with Family House and the Porter County Animal Shelter.
Continue reading this story at The Times.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Nazarene General Assembly 2013 - Recap

Dramatic blessings.  Quiet blessings.  God gave both as Nazarenes gathered in Indianapolis for our once-in-4-years celebration and governing session we call General Assembly.
On the side of quiet blessings, three stand out to me.
  • We refused to step backward into fundamentalism.  Several resolutions were proposed that would have pulled us toward the radical right.  However, our leaders wisely chose to maintain the center ground.
  • We did lots and lots of healthy networking and meeting.  Getting loads of leaders together in the same place at the same time allows for all kinds of discussion and planning that isn't normally possible.  On my last day, for example, I talked with leaders from Bangladesh and Mozambique about the possibility of partnering with our church in our work with  Both groups were very positive.  They are going to do some research and get back to us.
  • We approved simultaneous multi-site general assemblies.  This will probably be the last general assembly with only one site.  In the future, we'll have once central site and extension sites all around the world.  This will save millions in travel costs and will enable the vast majority of our international delegates to participate (many of whom are denied visas to the USA).  Most likely, North American delegates will never be in the majority again (and rightly so).  This resolution passed without much discussion or fanfare, but it is the most significant change for the Church of the Nazarene in my memory.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Nazarene General Assembly - Day 7

With mixed emotions, many are spreading the news that we elected David Busic as our 40th General Superintendent.
On the plus side, David Busic is a stellar leader.  He has a tender, humble heart matched with a brilliant mind and a pure devotion to God.  That's about all you can ask for in a leader.
Except that he's one more white man.  We already have three other white American men serving on our Board of General Superintendents.  In a church where white North American men represent at most 15-20% of our members, they have historically represented anywhere from 85-100% of our General Superintendents in any given four years.  In fact, we have only had 2 - yes, count them, one ... two - GS's who were NOT white men - one white woman and one African man.
Two other candidates were in the top tier and in fact led for most of the voting.  Carla Sunberg is a District Superintendent and former missionary to Russia, and she would have been an excellent choice. Gustavo Crocker is a Guatemalan who is now the Eurasia Regional Director.  He is brilliant and visionary.  However, both capped out in their support base short of the 67% required for an election.
We already have enough white men.  So I believe Busic will be an outstanding leader for our church, and he could really help us make some of the significant changes we need to make in our church structure.  And yet, I am disappointed because our church also desperately needs more leadership from the other 80% of our church.
My facebook page has erupted with discussion on this issue, and I hope to write a meaningful blog later this week about why we are struggling in electing non-white men and how we can change this.  But no time for that today.

On the legislative front, we accomplished almost nothing of significance.  On the plus side, we avoided making a few hasty decisions by referring several prickly resolutions for further study.  On the negative side, we didn't do much that was meaningful - mostly just tweaking wording in a few places.

We will elect one more GS this assembly.  I long for an international candidate, but my faith is shaken.  Another white man is rising in the voting.  Despite the fact that Gustavo Crocker is leading again, there are early signs that he may face the same plateau effect.
May God open us to his will, humble our hearts, and push us in the direction of his Kingdom.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Nazarene General Assembly - Day 6

The official business meetings for General Assembly opened Monday with almost an hour of prayer in small groups.  Delegates and visitors gathered in groups of 5-10 with GS’s giving prayer prompts about every five minutes or so.  

From a legislative perspective, some of the most significant decisions of the day were as follows.
  • We rejected a proposal to change General Assembly to once every five years, rather than once every four years.  It seemed that most people feel like (a) General Assembly is so important for our church as to justify the cost and time of doing it every four years, and (b) Changing the cycle to every five years would slow an already painfully slow global decision making process.
  • We approved a proposal to allow simultaneous sites for future General Assemblies.  As many as 50% of international delegates are unable to obtain visas to visit the USA, so this would greatly increase our international participation to more accurately represent every member of our church.  Also, it would significantly decrease travel costs.  The sites will all be linked via video and internet (and probably by technologies that don’t even exist yet).  
  • We rejected a decision to reduce the size of the General Board to about 30 instead of 50, based on increasing the ratio of General Board members to church members.  (Currently each region gets one General Board member for every 100,000 members.  The proposal was to change this to one delegate for every 150,000.)  This would have decreased the total number of delegates for every region except Africa.  However, because the proposal also combined USA/Canada into one region, it would have decreased the North American representation to 10 from 20.  This would have been proportionate, but I’m guessing this may be why the proposal failed.
  • Also, we decided that churches should give their pastors a sabbatical during their seventh year of ministry instead of after their seventh year.

Of course, there were other actions taken or rejected, but these were most important.

The other drama of the day centered naturally on the General Superintendent election process.  In the Church of the Nazarene, there are six General Superintendents, who serve until a mandatory retirement around age 67 or voluntary retirement previously.  Standing GS’s are re-elected by a yes/no vote.  As far as I know, no GS was ever voted out of office.  (If anyone knows differently, please speak up.)  This quadrennial (Yes, that’s the weird name for meetings that happen every four years.) we have two retiring GS’s, so we are electing two.  

Monday, June 24, 2013

Nazarene General Assembly - Day 5

Sunday was the traditional celebration of holy communion during the morning worship service.  Jesse Middendorf preached the promise of Pentecost and told the moving story of when he lost his 5 year old son in an overcrowded amusement park on the 4th of July.  His family and park security looked for little Jim for 3 hours.  Finally, when they found him, they discovered that Jim had been blissfully skipping to the front of the lines and riding every ride in the park.
This story drives home three truths into our lives.
1) At no point did Jess say to his wife, "Well, we have 2 out of the 3 kids we came with, that's pretty good.  Let's just go home."  Every single child of God is immensely important.
2) Some people are out there riding all the rides of life, and they don't even know that they are lost.  But God still loves them and desperately longs for their restoration to his family.

Mom to the World - Judy Engel

Judy Engel never dreamed she would be a mom to so many.
“We always said we were stopping with three kids,” Judy Engel said. “Then, we added 57 more ... from 23 different countries.”
Engel and her husband, Phil, started hosting international students in their home in Portage in 1997 through a short-term exchange program with the Lions Club. In this program, international students would come from and stay with a host family for six weeks at a time to experience American culture from the inside.
Within a few years, Engel was coordinating the exchange program for Northwest Indiana.
Then, Francisco changed their lives. Two days before he left Brazil to study in America, his host family backed out. Judy and Phil agreed to fill in on a temporary emergency basis. He moved out eight years later.  
“A few days after he arrived, we knew God wanted him to live with us,” Judy said.
Continue reading this story at the NWI Times.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Nazarene General Assembly - Day 4

        Sarah arrived Friday night, so some of the main agenda items for us for Saturday were meeting with old friends.  First we by the Northwest Nazarene University booth to reconnect with Julene Tegerstrand (whom we spent time with at Korea Nazarene University).   Then, we had lunch with Matt and Darci Johnson, our good friends from our MidAmerica Nazarene University days.  With Matt and Darci we talked about the present and future of our respective churches and discussed the blessed difficulty of having an amazing church in our history (Olathe Christ Community).  Most of our friends look back wistfully on those years and that community, and we struggle not to compare our churches to that experience - no matter how good our current churches are.  There is something profoundly encouraging and strengthening about spending time with old friends with whom you can connect with the same depth as if no time has passed!
My professional goal for the day was networking with magazine and book editors.  I have accomplished more in the past two days with just a few hours of face time than I have accomplished over years of emails.  Again, one of the great benefits of General Assembly is simply getting the decision makers from our far flung positions in the same place at the same time.
The focus of the evening service was missions.  We called on people to sponsor children, with the goal of sponsoring 1,500 new children that night.  I'm eager to find out how many sponsorships were gathered.   One sponsored child from the Philippines is now a youth pastor in the USA, and he was able to meet the retired couple who sponsored him throughout his childhood - live on stage.  That brought tears to my eyes as I thought about the future of Jibon and Asanti, the two children we sponsor in Bangladesh.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Nazarene General Assembly - Day 3

More workshops and more networking and of course more worship.
The day started for me with a workshop called, "Holiness in the 21st Century," with Dr. Carl Leth of Olivet Nazarene University.  A few highlights:
  • In recent years, unfortunately, the doctrine of holiness has more often been a place of controversy and struggle rather than proclamation and blessing.
  • The process and crisis debate has immobilized us unreasonably.  Process people believe in crisis, and crisis people believe in process.  A difference in emphasis shouldn't either freeze us or turn us against each other.  
  • We need to recapture the scope of holiness as involving the whole mission of God, redeeming and reordering our broken world.
  • Holiness is good news.  God can break in, ANYWHERE ANYTIME TO DO ANYTHING FOR ANYBODY.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Nazarene General Assembly - Day 2

Everybody showed up today.  The workshops were out in full force and the delegates and representatives from around the world were finally settled in and active in the convention center.  I met friends from Bangladesh, Korea, Italy, Russia, European Nazarene College, MidAmerica Nazarene University, Nazarene Theological Seminary, and even an old girlfriend from Louisiana!

Most of the day consisted of morning to night workshops for me.   I learned a lot at each workshop, and I was able to make connections with some of the speakers for the possibility of working together in the future.  Here's a brief highlight from each workshop:

  • Missional Partnerships: The Church of the Nazarene finally carved out a specific position for a missional partnership coordinator.  This is a huge step forward in facilitating long-term transformational missional partnerships.   (To read more about partnerships, go to David Wesley's blog.)
  • Human Trafficking - Awareness: The average age a girl is first raped for profit is 12!  Trafficking is rampant around the globe, even in the US, even in rural communities.  (To read more, check out ONLY12.)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Nazarene General Assembly - Day 1

Every four years Nazarenes from around the world - 159 nations to meet in one place to celebrate, to learn, to worship, and to govern the church (through elections and policy decisions).  This is General Assembly.  I'll be here for 8 days, and I'll be blogging every day.
Registration of delegates began yesterday (Tuesday, June 18).  Today was the first official day of business, seminars, and meetings.  General Assembly always begins with the meetings of the auxiliary institutions (Nazarene Youth International, Sunday School & Discipleship Ministries, and Nazarene Missions International).
These first days are a mixture of dozens of workshops, regional caucuses, and legislative meetings.  Today's menu included:
  • Loads of Youth Ministry Workshops (e.g. Intergenerational Youth Ministry, Building God-centered Self-Esteem, Vision Casting, and Engaging Youth in Compassion, Sexual Purity)
  • Committee meetings for NMI delegates
  • International Board of Education Nominations
  • Global Consortium for Graduate Theological Schools
  • Regional Caucuses for NYI delegates

Also, a little known but very important element of General Assembly is side meetings.  Simply having a huge number of decision makers in one place at the same time is a huge strategic opportunity.  Under normal circumstances, the only options for good group discussion are confusing email chains, phone or video conferencing (fraught with technical and schedule based difficulties), or extremely expensive and time-consuming travel.  It's hard to get important things accomplished like this.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Food and Spirituality (Signs of Life: Nutrition)

We’ve been looking at the seven Signs of Life.  These are also called the processes of life.  Everything that is alive does all of these things.  This is how you know something is alive.  As we look at the biology of this, we are also learning how these fit with spiritual life.  
Today is the last day in the series, and we’re looking at NUTRITION.  Every living thing eats.

There is a surprisingly close connection between food and spirituality.  
  • It starts all the way back to the Garden of Eden. 
  • Other than “Be fruitful and multiply”, God’s only command was regarding food (Don’t eat from this tree.)
  • The first sin was about food - eating the forbidden fruit
  • One of the first consequences for sin was: “by the sweat of your brow you will have food.”  Eating good food is hard work.  Play this out theologically, and you realize that Twinkies are a direct result of the Fall.  Bad food is easy; good food is hard.  We’ve really messed this world up.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Father and Son Craft a Better Relationship

You can see their bowls and paintings every Saturday at the European Market.  But the Husarik family stumbled into art separately.  
Nancy Husarik was first with her photography, paintings, and decorative coasters.  She has been a fixture at the European Market for the past 8 years.
Then, her husband Greg got a hand-me-down lathe from a coworker and started making artistic wooden bowls.  “I realized this is really fun,” Greg said, “but then I was making so much stuff that it started taking over the house.”  So Nancy started selling his bowls along with her own art work.
A few years later, their son Leo took a class in ceramics at Indiana University Northwest.  He liked pottery so much that the house began to fill up again.  So Nancy rounded out the family art booth by making room for Leo’s ceramic bowls and vases.
They may not have planned it, but working together has enriched their father-son relationship.  Nancy affirms the benefit for the family, “It gives them another thing to talk about - the colors, the base of the bowls, the shapes.  We talk about it at the dinner table - what we’re taking, what we need, what’s selling, and what’s not selling.”
With each of them working on a different kind of art, they feel free to critique and to celebrate each other’s work.  Instead of competing on who sells more, they dream together about how to produce better art.  
Continue reading this story at: Lake Michigan Shore.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Leading Kingdom Movements - Review

Mike Breen strikes gold again.
First, he nails the cultural analysis.  We are in the midst of a cultural earthquake. All of our buildings are shaken and wobbly.  People are wary of institutions because they feel dangerous; the whole thing just might collapse and crush them.  And yet increasingly we know we are broken, and we want healing.
Then, Breen directs our attention to long-term change.

  • "Many people doing many small things in many places can change the face of the world."
  • "At the center of each movement were leaders who had been completely and utterly broken in such a way that they came to rely completely on the Lord."
  • Miracles are the heavy artillery of the Kingdom.  Many of us shy away from the gift because of the packaging.  But what if it wasn't weird?
  • "Find the grace.  Organize around where you see the grace operating."  See what God is doing and join him there.
  • "Care more about the long-term sustainability and development of your team than the short-term success of your organization."
  • The more difficult your assignment, the more you need time playing together.  Times to laugh, enjoy each other, and just be a team apart from any higher purpose you have.
  • "If you make disciples, you really do get the rest.  If you make disciples and release them, you will get new people entering the Kingdom.  If you make disciples, you get the missional thing.  If you make disciples, the places where society is torn in two and frayed at the edges start to be mended."
  • "Movements are what change the world. ... Most leaders, even young leaders, are trained in how to lead organizations, even institutions - but not movements."
  • "The extended family unit (25-70 people who meet together regularly) is the single most significant vehicle of mission that God has ever released into the world.  Ever."
  • "If you can do the work of the Kingdom without the Holy Spirit's active involvement (through the miraculous), you aren't really doing the work of the Kingdom."
  • "Movemental change will come only if we have something that is sustainable and scalable.  If our methodology requires leaders and events with endless amounts of energy resources and money, we're done.  We just are."
  • In discipleship, we are essentially orbiting around a person of larger spiritual mass (as we all orbit around Jesus).  We are putting ourselves within that person's sphere of influence so that some of her Spirit can rub off on us, so that we can gain some of her spiritual mass.
  • In discipling relationships, we need predictable rhythms of orbital patterns (spending time close together with certain people in regular intervals - being within the orbit of their influence).  
  • Large groups (75+) should function as "red hot centers" - firing us up with the Spirit for when we orbit outward away for our missional time away from the center.

This is my third book by Breen, and I'm convinced that he is a man of deep wisdom.  He has caught on to something in our world and has a profound Spiritual and anthropological insight into how to help the Church become the transforming force of goodness and healing that God always intended.  I want to keep learning.

Porter County Sheriff to Display Flag Created by Purdue Calumet Students

Leaders of the Criminal Justice Club at Purdue University Calumet unfurled their new club flag for display Thursday at the Porter County Jail.
Club members Tom Donovan and Valyncia Gogins collaborated on the flag design.
"I had ideas of what would best represent the Criminal Justice Club, but I’m not tech savvy enough to handle the design on my own,” said Gogins. “But when I saw Tom’s design, I thought, 'That’s what I was thinking, except with a few changes.’”
The two students continued improving their flag design, and earlier this semester the Criminal Justice Club members voted Donovan and Gogins' flag to be the best out of numerous submissions.
“The purpose for the Criminal Justice Club is to help students get to know one another, to know the criminal justice community in our area, and to become involved in community service," said Nicki Ali Jackson, club sponsor and associate professor of criminal justice. “This flag shows how proud we are of our organization and links us into criminal justice system.”

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Barefoot on the Sun

Walking barefoot on the sun
Across our auburn deck
Life's bright shadow
Falls over me
Takes me in
Seeping from sole to soul
Holy warmth
Heals my heart
Brews me slowly
Like sun tea
Out all day

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Boone Grove Celebrates Graduates’ Diverse Achievement and Service to Others

As friends and family gathered for the 124th annual Boone Grove High School commencement ceremony, the band established the festive mood with several special songs.
In her welcoming address, class President Paige Kraushaar paused for a moment of silence for Alyssa Salapski, “the angel of the senior class,” who lost her battle with leukemia in their sophomore year. Kraushaar also reminisced, “Porter Lakes Elementary and Boone Grove Elementary kids didn’t actually like each other on our first day of middle school. But now most of us have a best friend from the other school.”
Next, the senior choir sang “Carry On Wayward Son,” accompanied by Jacob Williams on acoustic guitar.
Guest speaker Kathy Sherman was with these students on their first day of sixth grade. “It has been a wonderful experience to watch the class of 2013 mature from children to young adults,” she said. “It has been an honor to be part of your lives.” ...

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Kouts Honors and Encourages Graduates

Friends and family gathered Friday night to celebrate their high school graduates and inspire them to reach high in their next steps.
Principal Terry Brownell said the 2013 class, which is the 106th group to graduate from Kouts, is extremely talented.
“We’ve got National Merit Scholars, state athletes, Spell Bowl champs, and a three-time winner of the Porter County Attitude Award," Brownell said.
Co-valedictorian Andrew Birky commented on the unique experience that comes from having Kouts elementary, middle and high schools together on the same campus.
“It’s a way of marking time,” he said. “Seeing the younger kids makes you more aware of your own growth each year.”
Ellen Fortin, another graduate, appreciates Kouts’ welcoming environment.
“It’s been really good to be a student here. I really fit in more than I might in a bigger school. It’s like family here," Fortin said.
Kouts gave honorary diplomas to two exchange students, Mariya Sergeyevna Tarasova, of Russia, and Sophie Nai Guo, of China. But the exchange program has extraordinary significance for the Crowley family.
Mike and Jill Crowley adopted their daughter Faith Crowley from China, so hosting Nai Guo has given their family an unparalleled opportunity to learn about Chinese culture right at home. Also, after graduation, Faith will return with Nai Guo to spend a month in China.
Continue reading this story at The Times.  

Hebron High Class Basks in Shared Good Times

Being together since kindergarden has helped Hebron High School graduates bond, said Rick Cheek, the school's band director.
“They’re a tight-knit group," he said. "They’re always hanging out together. We always hate to see the senior class go.”
Class President Aaron Plomann shared the sentiment in his welcoming address to the 124th commencement:
 “I can’t think of any other place I’d rather graduate.”
Allison Lewis, co-salutatorian, expressed the students’ thanks “for everyone who works at our school from the cafeteria workers to the janitors, the faculty and the coaches. We wouldn’t be graduating without you.”
Continue reading this story at The Times.  

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Willowcreek Students Combine Service and Fun at Yearend Party

What is the best way for middle schoolers to fight cancer? Giant rolling hamster balls, of course.
Willowcreek Middle School pulled out all the stops for its annual year-end Mega Party: bounce houses, obstacle courses, dancing at centerfield, frozen T-shirt contests, sports, and yes — enormous inflatable balls large enough for students to enter and roll around.
This year, Willowcreek connected the fun with a deeper purpose — a Relay for Life with the American Cancer Society. The Willowcreek school family includes several cancer survivors, including both principals, and a few faculty are currently battling cancer.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Farmboys Workshop Bringing Nature to a Wall or Card Near You

I love local art.  Even better when it is in the family.
Sarah's uncles, Steve and Donald, make up Farmboys Workshop.  Steve takes the photos from around their home Tryon Farm (Michigan City, IN) and adapts them using PhotoShop, and Donald handles production and distribution.
The end result is unique art and dazzling greeting cards.  The images are somewhere between photo, realistic painting, and Van Gogh.
A browse through their offerings will add color to your life, and you will also learn a lot about native Indiana plant life.  From flowers to grasses and turtles to butterflies, they will reacquaint you with nature.  For example, check out this Bee on Spotted Knapweed.  Who knew weeds could be so beautiful?!

Check them out on Etsy.  They make great gifts and cards, and the cards actually make great gifts as well.  We have a collection of three pictures over our coatrack in our entryway, and Sarah bought a bunch of cards to reframe elsewhere.  You can also like them on Facebook to see their latest work.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Captains Courageous and The Tender Bar

My brother-in-law and I started a book exchange tradition.  Every time we see each other in person, we will loan the person a book to read.  (We live across the country from each other, so we only get together a few times a year.)  We both chose coming of age books.
My first gift was Rudyard Kipling's Captains Courageous - a beautiful little tale about a poor little rich boy who gets lost at sea.  He is picked up by a fishing boat and is forced into manual labor.  Living by the sweat of his brow changes him and matures him and softens his heart in miraculous and beautiful ways.

Michaels' first book for me was The Tender Bar - a touching memoir by J. R. Moehringer.  Growing up with a single mom and without a significant male influence in his life, the neighborhood bar became his surrogate father.  Actually, it was both the people in the bar and the entity of the bar itself who fathered him.  They taught him how to play baseball, and they taught him how to drink.  But most essentially, they taught him how to be a man.
This particular neighborhood bar was an ironic mixture of a beautifully healthy community mixed with all of the unhealthiness of alcoholism and hedonism.  With that kind of surrogate parent, J. R. naturally had a mixed debt of gratitude and disfunction from the bar.
The most beautiful part of the memoir is J. R.'s coming of age process as a legitimate reporter.  He painfully learns that he must distance himself from the place and the people among whom he felt most at home.  But he does finally grow up and live into his full potential.  And he does come to a peace with his gratitude and separation from the bar, and that in itself is an essential element of his manhood.