Vacation Week 1 – National Conference

Well, having returned from vacation I figure it is time for a blog-series documenting and reviewing various aspects of our trip.

Sunday the 3rd we flew out in the morning and into Houston TX. We stayed at the Alden Hotel and at their really fancy restaurant *17. It was some of the best food we have ever had. And the hotel room was super amazing to boot.

JD Trying to look cool
JD Trying to look cool
Anyway, the next day, we picked up JD, got some BBQ at Pappa’s BBQ, went to Frys on our way down to Galveston.

The Vineyard National Leaders Conference was titled “Heroic Leadership in a time of Change” which I thought was appropriate given all the crazy stuff happening in our world the last few years.

Bert Waggoner opened up the conference, and was right on with a lot of what he said about heroic leadership. Usually I really like Bert and what he has to say, but this wasn’t terribly enlightening. But it was very encouraging and I took some notes I should probably write up at some point. Jeremy Riddle led worship, which was sweet. Ministry time was appropriately awesome.

Afterward we got to hang out with Dianne Morgan who we haven’t seen in a good long while. That was super-great.

Vineyard USA Leadership Conference 2009: Heroic Leadership in a time of Change
Vineyard USA Leadership Conference 2009: Heroic Leadership in a time of Change

Next morning was Cherith Fee-Nordling and she spoke on some crazy awesome stuff. Too much to even dissect a couple weeks removed. I’ll try to re-listen to it when I have a minute and recall my impressions. I do remember trying to take notes and being too impressed and immersed to really do that effectively. Again, ministry time was awesome. Probably even more awesome than the last one.

Then we had some workshops, I went to one on preaching by Dave Schmelzer which was awesome, and a pretty good one on holy spirit ministry basics. I had to wonder though why they were doing a ‘basics’ class at the leaders conference.

That evening we had a good time eating dinner with the crew from River Heights,
Eating Mediterranean food with the River Heights Crew at the National Conference
Eating Mediterranean food with the River Heights Crew at the National Conference
and then we went to hear Don Williams. He was pretty good, and for the life of me I can only remember ministry time. I should have written this blog before the cruise 🙂 Anyway, they had a bunch of young people come up for ministry, and that was awesome, but then Jill and Dale prayed for Lauren and I personally and that was even more awesome. It is fun when God shows up and does stuff for people in a way you can see and participate in.

Then Jay Pathak spoke, and he was pretty cool. It was kinda funny to hear him speak after having been in a preaching lesson by Schmelzer and then have Jay basically do a bunch of things that Dave said was a no-no. Given my love for Dave’s style I thought Jay was good but not great. Definitely had some good things to say, but nothing really super-stood out for me in memory (post-cruise anyway).

After that we did an outreach to Galveston and that was a blast. I got super-sunburned on my exposed parts, but I got to pray with some fun people. And I got to meet a ton of people and hear a bit about them. It was fun to work on being more outgoing in introducing myself to people and asking them if they wanted prayer for anything.

Friends Chilling at the Spot on my Birthday
Friends Chilling at the Spot on my Birthday
Then it was on to The Spot for a second floor patio overlooking the ocean to celebrate my B-day.
It was a great time, the food was good, and they even were doing some promotion so they brought in free crappy beer. Crappy or Not, I was excited.
Free Beer Celebration
Free Beer Celebration

Thursday we had a great morning speaker named Wes Stafford who is the president and CEO of Compassion International. His message was totally inspiring, and didn’t leave a dry eye in the place. One story he told about growing up in Africa when he was six, and holding a 5 year-old in his arms as he died as from a snake-bite. Jon (my senior pastor) remarked that he thought that had a chance of being the most likely talk to change the Vineyard that he had ever heard. I loved it, and think it is worth checking out if you have an hour.

After that Lauren and I attended a Holy Spirit-filled ministry workshop, and a workshop on human trafficking. Both were awesome. I picked up quite a few ideas on how to improve prayer/ministry time, and how to better to hear God and practice the prophetic, as well as train others to do the same. In the human trafficking panel I was super-pumped to see that the Vineyard is developing a task force for abolition of modern slavery. I can and will write a longer post on this, but here are a few links if you want to check it out:

  • Breaking Free – a local organization helping women get out of Prostitution. Some people Mercy Vineyard and Lauren and I are getting pretty involved with this.
  • Justice North – another local organization trying to raise awareness about human trafficking (St. Paul is a major hub for trafficking and MN is 13th of all states for trafficking in the US).
  • Love 146 – an organization going after trafficking in general. Their “Who we are” video about the name Love 146 is fantastic.
  • Vineyard Anti-Slavery Team – (VAST) their website section on the national website isn’t up yet, but keep an eye out for it. The plans for it that they shared with us at the conference makes it look like it is going to be a pretty useful site for info on these topics

This is a very short list – but check it out, get involved. It is important that churches band together to go after this. We aren’t going to stop this atrocity on our own, or even in our church. It is going to take us banding together in our communities to really put a dent in this terrible practice.

The last session was supposed to be Rich Nathan talking. But instead he brought up Sammy (can’t remember his last name right now) and interviewed him. Sammy is a Palestinian Christian, who bands together with his neighbors in the Gaza strip to teach non-violence and love for the Israelis. If there were any evangelical Zionists fans of just-war theory in the room it must have blown their minds. I had already heard Rich preach on the subject and bring up Sammy, but it was still super-inspiring.

I love how we are bringing people in to talk to us, who are actually inspiring to action. Especially about these things that seemed like unmovable boulders standing in the way of peace and justice. Sometimes when you are working locally it feels like you can’t keep your faith up for big things to change. Like the day to day, and the spiritual, emotional and physical burdens pile up. So to step back and look at the bigger national picture, and hearing about someone who has picked one thing and is fighting for it is something I really need from time to time. I loved that we had people talking about evangelism and the lost, and others standing up for children, while still another reminded us that while the world is much more complex than we realize sometimes – we can still love our enemies just like Jesus said to. And all that stuff can make a difference.

OK, I’ve rambled enough. I’ll post more about the trip with pictures of the Cruise ship and the islands we stopped at in separate posts.

Working out hurts

I don’t think I’ve put my skates on in 3 or 4 years. Today I cleaned them up a bit, strapped them on, and went off towards the skate park 9 blocks away.

This is part of my long term goals for getting in shape prior to having kids. Goal one was to loose 36lbs. Did that two weeks ago, but have since hovered around that weight because of Easter candy, and some parties that have made the diet tough (too much food left laying around the house). Goal 2, is to lose 25 more lbs. Goal 3 and 4 have something to do with weight loss and how much I can work out in a stretch, but I haven’t figured those out yet (I’m guessing 4 will be about finding a way to work out in the winter that doesn’t involve freezing).

Anyway, 9 blocks from my house I collapsed on a bench and stared longingly at the quarter pipes and rails. All my high school life, and most of my college life I would have killed to live this close to a skate-park. 3 years in this house and I haven’t gone near it on skates.

After my wheezing fits stopped, I went in and drug my skates across a couple rails, and realized that there was no way I should be trying this today. So I skated home.

When home I collapsed on the couch, downed an entire nalgene bottle of water, and my wife made fun of me.

I have never been in such terrible shape. Neither have my skates. I can’t spin the wheels on them and have them go a more than a couple rotations without making a grinding sound and coming to a halt. A couple wheels won’t even spin a full rotation.

So this weekend I’m going to a running shoe store to get my feet looked at and see what kind of shoes will work for some jogging. I also just want new shoes for trekking around on my cruise (as well as maybe doing some jogging on the ship track).

But my other decision is: To get new skates or not? In MN you can jog more than skate (in-climate weather isn’t terrible on shoes but it is on bearings in wheels). And, if I get new skates do I get another set of aggressive skates to replace my now 10 year old ones, or do I get fitness skates?

In completely unrelated news we got our income tax refund (which was substantial this year! I was very surprised), and using that we sent in the pay-off check for the car, meaning we are now saving money for a new-to-us car for when we have kids.

We are debating between a sedan (thinking maybe a prius or a 2010 honda insight if new), a ‘sport’ wagon (which is the new imaginary name for a station-wagon), a wagon-sedan / hatchback thing (like the toyota matrix), or a mini-van (honda odyssey or mazada 5’s both look interesting). Also, I’m taking suggestions on years and makes of cars that are used that you like. I like my saturn pretty well, but it is kinda small for having kids on a longerish trip. Our rule-of-thumb is ‘can we take a kid and all our stuff on a week-long trip to St. Louis?’

Finally, we are flying down to the national Vineyard conference in Galveston, TX on May 3rd. I’m super-pumped. Then we leave on our Caribbean cruise May 10th from Galveston. Everything but the first hotel, my birthday party, and the on-shore activities are planned. And even those are budgeted for, so we are feeling really excited.

We planned a lunch and organized some of the clean-up for a breakfast for the end of our churches 40-days of faith campaign. It was a ton of work, and I learned a lot, but it was also super-fun. I never thought I would get that much done in one shot as a leader. Ironically that is more delegated accomplishment than I seem capable of in my professional life. It sucks paying a vendor to do work for you, that you feel like you scoped really well, only to end up with crap. That has happened to me several times now at my job.

But, it was AWESOME to have it work right at church. THANK YOU! to everyone who helped out, you were awesome.

Anyway, enough narcissistic adventures in Ben-land. Hope your having a great day.

A Quick 2009 Catch-up with my life

We booked our 5th (sorta) anniversary trip this week. We are going to Galveston TX for the Vineyard National Leaders Conference. Then we have a couple days to bum around before we go on a cruise to Jamaica and Mexico. (Sorry Kyle and Ellen, we wanted to visit, but this was the only way we could go to the conference and do a vacation). So that is pretty exciting for us.

After that we will be responsible people and put more money into paying debt, but this sounded like a good thing to do prior to having kids, which we are thinking about in the not-so-distant future.

Besides that we had a great time running around in the Quad Cities IA, O’fallon IL (by St. Louis), Memphis TN (Lauren only), Indianapolis IN (me only), Champaign IL, Chicago IL, Eau Claire WI (stupid ice storm…this was an unplanned stop). Also I got a bluray player and some cool bluray discs to play in it. Good holiday times.

Last weekend we had a ‘roaring 20’s party’ and dressed up like flappers and gangsters and proceeded to drink gin out of a pot and beer out of a 5 gal keg. Good times again.

We just started a new small group which meets for the second time on Tuesday. I’m SUPER excited about it, and we really enjoyed the first week where we had 9 adults and 3 kids.

A while ago Lauren and I talked about what we wanted to do (kinda a pie in the sky thing, not a ‘I’m a church planter and need to do whatever needs to get done’ type of thing) if we were to start leading things again. And we both felt like we really wanted to get more involved with the poor and homeless, and do more servant evangelism and street prayer. So we said that if we ever started a small group that is something we would incorporate in it.

Well, starting in Feb. we are going to do the first of our monthly outreaches. And then after both Lauren, I, and our intern plan one of the events so everyone is used to the idea, it is going to turn into a thing that people can sign up for leading. I’m excited and scared of this all at the same time. But if my past experience is any indicator, these type of things usually are good for character and group building at their worst, and super exciting and God really transforms people through them at their best.

Sometime in the early spring I want to sit down and collect some thoughts and try to turn them into some substantive, hopefully professional sounding, blog posts. I would like to do a little more than I have with my blog, which will hopefully mean some more tutorials, more thoughtful stuff, and less narcissistic junk. That has been difficult so far as my writing style doesn’t currently do a good job of conveying my thoughts – something I want to practice and work on a little.

After that, I think I’m going to learn the basics of Drupal, in anticipation for designing my wife’s website for her eventual commercial success as a writer.

And that about does it for me recently. How are you doing?