safety is over-rated

In many ways, the unreached aren’t so different from followers of Jesus. They work, play, smile, bleed… They may even be seeking for meaning in life. But how will we know to sense their cues if all of our attention is inwardly focused?

For the last two years I’ve actively engaged people in my new community, making friends, listening, sharing laughs all within the ebb and flow of daily routines. Bus drivers, drug addicts, laborers like myself, business people, parents, kids, and so on. A divers sampling of humanity. Outwardly appearing normal, but on a deeper level struggling through life. 

Connecting with others powerfully is done most effectively in the context of real life through regular interactions. It’s intentional, not accidental. It’s active, not passive. Their terms, not ours. 

This is why I choose to live and work primarily outside of the Christian sphere. While I value the teaching, influence and covering of my local church, my primary ministry is outside of its walls and in the community.

It’s not a safe space, which is why I depend all the more on The Lord God to order my steps in the days ahead. God isn’t safe either, to borrow Lewis’s observation about Aslan. But he is infinitely good.

single living in the daily routines

I don’t often write or talk about singleness, especially with respect to much of what is being portrayed via the arts, literature, lecture halls, and spoken word venues. I’m too busy living a full life to concern myself with caricatures, misconceptions, and intentional distortions both within and outside of Christendom. Much of the Christian content dealing with singleness misses the point. The world would be better off if we simply stopped publishing expert opinions and began listening to real people.

Life is hard, single or not. Work must be done to earn a living and maintain a healthy household environment. Decisions must be made. About career, education, financial choices, how to spend time, how to recognize and obey God’s call to minister.

In some ways my life is simple. I work, I minister, I sleep. Then I work and minister some more until it is time to sleep again. In other ways it’s complex. I try to maintain friendships, but life is busy. People grow distant. Friends can sometimes regress into mere acquaintances. Friendship takes a lot of work and if you are an introvert like me, one or two dismissals is all it takes for you to get the message that it’s time to move on.

In the last five years I’ve carved out healthy margin in my life. I get my sleep. I’m able most weeks to relax sufficiently to counterbalance a physically demanding job. It took finishing academic work and firing myself as Children’s Pastor to make it happen, but I am glad I did it.

Many well meaning people have shared with me their opinions about my singleness over the years. Not a single one of them has understood me or correctly evaluated my needs. Too bad they didn’t take the time to listen. It might have saved them a world of disappointment in my failure to live up to their expectations. They said things like:

Them: “Wow, Glen. You must have the gift of singleness! That’s amazing. I guess that means you will be able to do a lot more for the church.”

Me: How do I respond to that graciously? First, what is the gift of singleness? Is it written about in the same biblical context as the gift of marriage? Show me in the Bible where a person is given a spiritual dispensation to live as a godly single. We are no different than married people, including the fact that we need God’s special grace and wisdom to focus our thinking and actions so that we honor Christ rather than succumb to inappropriate sexual temptations.

As for ministry availability, my service is to Christ, not strictly to a local church community, although that is the context of my primary spiritual covering. For most of my life, much of my ministry has taken place far from a church campus out in the marketplace, workplace, and the various iterations of online communication.

Them: “God told me that he will soon reveal the person he has for you. Here’s a book. Read it and if you want to talk about it please contact me.”

Me: Oh really? How come he hasn’t told me? Thanks for the book. I’m sure I will recommend it to someone who needs it.

Them: “When are you going to settle down?”

Me: When God decides it is time for me to go to heaven to take up residence in one of his rooms he is preparing for me.

I’m all for marriage. In fact I’m pro marriage. Next to committing your life to follow Jesus Christ, it is the most profound covenant a person can make. I admire those who do so and follow through on their covenant faithfully. I don’t know why it is not my path, only that I must obey Jesus to the end of my days.

My days grow shorter with each passing moment. I choose to live them in Christ honoring fullness. No angst. No regrets. Full of joy.

I may be alone in the natural. But since I am in Christ, I am his and he is mine. What more do I need?

scouting the way ahead in 2014


Hi friends! Happy New Years!

Thanks so much for reading my blog and being a part of my life.

Last New Years Eve I wrote a post entitled glimpsing the days ahead in 2013. As I review that post. I realize that not much has changed for me in terms of my desire to engage the margins. But my resolve is stronger and my focus is more clearly refined. There is no turning back. No longer is this excursion into the margins a tentative adventure. It is my journey, my residence, my life. Much has happened in 2013.

I’ve begun coach training through Western Seminary. Having completed three courses, I am now being coached by an advanced student who is working on certification. Also, I am coaching a couple of clients with the aim of adding a few more in the coming days.

Children’s ministry is once again integral to my life. I am part of the teaching team for 180, my church’s Saturday outreach to children in our neighborhood. I also lead kids church in Sundays once per month.

I’ve engaged in conversations with key frontline leaders who are working to minister with and among the homeless and poor in the Portland area. Through this networking effort, I’ve met some fascinating people. They inspire me through their selfless ethic of service to their friends without homes. I desire to be a catalyst in Portland, helping thought leaders connect with each other and encourage one another, too.

And I write. Two deadlines loom right now. Plus, there is my own special project which requires me to revisit it after a one month hiatus.

But what lies ahead in 2014? Here are my hopes:

-Spiritual growth in my life, characterized by a more predominate life of prayer, and growth in the fruits of the spirit.
-Further development of relationships with my friends who are marginalized from the church and the gospel. Not just the poor or the homeless, but anyone who will never step foot inside a church or who typically is mystified by the ways we obscure the clear message of the gospel.
-Encouraging others, through coaching, writing, speaking, even editing. I want to give of myself so that others may blossom into the persons God has called them to be. Are you one of those people? Please contact me. Let’s talk.

Happy New Year friends. I’m praying for you as you read this. May you press in to the heart of God and thereby dream dreams which he has for you. You matter. To God. To me. Let’s work together to make 2014 a year of change in our hearts and in the lives of those whom we influence.

I look forward to hearing from you!

Jesus is Born


In an obscure feeding trough in the small town of Bethlehem there lay the Christ-child, a target of genocidal soldiers, yet protected by angels and the love of his Heavenly Father, as well as Mary and Joseph. Although the angels rejoiced, the shepherds marveled, and the magi gave gifts in their wonder, this child and his vulnerable family soon would be thrust into exile. We easily pass over this part of the story. We read of the announcements, the birth, the celebrations, but in our hurry to open our presents and conduct our holiday traditions, we gloss over the terror which visited the city of David at the order of Herod. Driven mad by political machinations and the desire to retain his power, the King commanded the deaths of all boys two and younger in the House of David, a declaration made more simple to achieve by the census decreed by Caesar, which required men to return to their ancestral lands with their families in tow.

But God was several steps ahead of the evil perpetrators of this horror. The angel appeared to Joseph in a dream, warning him to leave the town with Mary and Jesus and make for Egypt, remaining there until he received further word to return home.

So was the manger scene a silent night? Not really. Holy night? Absolutely. All is calm? Sure, if you think that uncultured shepherds just in from the fields, angels above singing songs of joy, and a caravan of magi wanting a view of the child is the stuff of calmness. Not to mention the likely stable animals jousting for feed here and there. But bright? Oh yes. Heavens eyes attended to that scene in the manger. And the star (or some configuration of stars) in the heavens shone down on them, having led the magi directly to them.

But when the shepherds went back to their fields, when the angels ascended back into heaven of dispatched to their tasks at the command of God, when the magi took their leave, there remained a young family far from their home, exhausted from their journey, the rigors of child-bearing, and the unexpected attention of the aforementioned well-wishers, now asleep together. Until the visitation of the angel to Joseph in his dream.

Exile. The home he had built for his family in Nazareth would have to wait for a long while. Until God had dealt with Herod. As Joseph and Mary fled with Jesus and their few earthly possessions, as well as the gifts brought by the magi, in tow, I wonder: did they hear the screams of horror from children being slain? From mothers trying to protect their babies? From fathers fighting back, only to be struck down by the sword of Herod’s hatred? Did they perceive the significance that it was this child, their child, the Christ-child, who was the target of Herod’s death squads?

If ever the people of Israel needed a savior, it was then. Yet, all of that was in motion already in the person of Jesus. He would not, as Herod feared, rise up to be a political Messiah, waging war on competitors for the throne. Instead, he would rise up into maturity just as he came as a child, with completely unanticipated humility, coming to die, rather than to conquer. So that he might conquer sin for all time.

Indeed, he would die even for the sins of those who committed the most heinous acts of terror against the infant boys of Bethlehem as his family fled into exile. If he would do that, how can we possibly think that his sacrifice could not be sufficient to atone for our sins? How could we believe that he would not forgive us? Me? You?

What is your response? What is next for you? I suggest reading the Gospel of Matthew, especially the first few chapters. Then, the first few chapters of John. Read with an open mind and heart. Yes, both are necessary. Got questions?

Contact me. I’m listening prayerfully, asking God to reveal himself to you.

Jesus loves you.

Anawim Christian Community


Photo Courtesy of Anawim Christian Community

I just returned from visiting Anawim Christian Community in East Multnomah County. I had been there on one occasion last year, but life circumstances sidetracked me from pursuing a deeper connection with them. That one visit, plus the time I spent with HomePdx, penetrated my heart. I want to do my part to support their efforts to feed and clothe the homeless in East County.

When I arrived, there was generous kindness. No one questioned why I was there, but they did take a genuine interest when I shared briefly my desire to help. I met several people, a few of them new to Portland. I concluded my visit with a conversation and impromptu tour of the grounds by Pastor Steve Kimes. I asked, “What are your greatest needs?”

He listed several key items: “White athletic socks, two person tents, sleeping bags, winter coats, and blankets.”

“I’m can’t make any promises, but I will do what I can,” I said.

“I understand,” he replied.

As he showed me the warehouse and storage areas where donations are gathered, sorted, and distributed, he illustrated the dramatic need of the items I listed above. He held his hand up in the air. “The table was piled this high with eighty sleeping bags this morning. Now we just have a few left.”

My jaw dropped open. Just today, over one hundred people were served by Anawim. I interacted with a few of them as they ate hot food, picked out socks and sleeping bags, and asked for other kinds of help.

These are real people, friends. Regardless of how they arrived at this point in their lives, their need is legitimate. Will you join me in helping? If you live outside of the Portland area, you can go to their donate page and use
PayPal to donate finances. If you live in Portland, especially on the east side, why not gather some of the items listed above and bring them personally to Anawim? Again, the need is legitimate. And the supplies are being distributed wisely. The donate page has all the details regarding where to go and when they accept items.

What about you? What will you do to help meet the tangible needs of your neighbors who do not have shelter?

a dear friend goes home


I learned this morning that a very dear friend of mine died. He had battled an aggressive form of cancer for the last year. When I last visited him in the Portland Providence Cancer Ward, I learned that he had weeks left to live. It turned out to be a few days. Kevin was an elder at Portland Open Bible Church, a faithful husband and father, and a precious friend to many. He was a marathon runner, a brilliant set bullder, a top flight teacher and mentor of children and youth, and a man of God.

The photo depicts Kevin praying over others during the farewell church service for our long-time pastors, Phil and Priscilla. I have many wonderful memories of Kevin, but this one stands out. He was a giver of finances and time, love and encouragement, and creativity and faithfulness. Peter Jackson would have been fortunate to have him working on The Lord of the Rings sets. He was that good. Instead, he served God at Portland Open Bible, much of his time spent working on sets for kids plays, VBS, Scrooge the Musical, and special events, or concocting goofy skits with me. He was one of my key leaders on the Kidmin team, along with his wonderful bride, Cheryl.

I miss you, Kevin. When I walked into that hospital room and you reached out to me to shake my hand with the brightest smile you could muster, you touched my heart. But you aren’t there anymore. Whereas on earth you faithfully remained in Christ, now in heaven you are with Christ. No more pain. No more suffering. No more physical limitations which prevented you from doing the things you loved. I’m so happy for you. You are free forevermore.

I mourn my loss and that of our faith community, but I rejoice at your example. May your loving, giving, sacrificial passion to serve Christ by serving others carry on in the lives of those you touched. May we learn to remain in Christ consistently and faithfully so that one day, when Jesus calls us into eternity, we will hear what you are now hearing: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Goodbye, Kevin. I love you, Brother. I will see you soon at the appointed time which God has ordained.

The Good Shepherd Knows His Own


If the Good Shepherd knows his own, and they know him (John 10:14), then we who minister to people in his name should be and do no less. This is especially true in children’s ministry. We need to know the names and stories of each child and their families. How else can we love them in the way of Jesus?

At my church we work hard to do enter the lives of kids we influence through our ministries, and especially through our 180 outreach to children each Saturday. Yet, we recognize the need to do far better. In keeping with our regular feedback and brainstorming sessions following each 180 series of sessions, we are striving to improve our connections with kids and their families.

Yesterday, I learned some disturbing news which feels like a sucker punch to my gut. At 180 we have always had a certain degree of turnover, given the transient nature of apartment life which many of our attendees experience. However, I was told it is possible that those households with children may be the target of early lease termination without notice on account of apartment owners and managers trying to weed out children from their premises. It’s sounds like the child catcher scene in the musical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. But it is far more real and ominous. Is it true? I am not certain. But the evidence is suggestive based on anecdotal testimony, and the unexplained and unexpected disappearance of several large families from the apartments we serve.

My church family loves these kids and their families. We want them to know Jesus and to live happy, fulfilled lives in Christ. The possibility that they are being evicted without reason or notice is deplorable to me. Where will they go? No wonder Portland has an out-of-control homelessness problem. I intend to investigate further to explore the merits of these accusations. I’m not sure what I will do if I discover they are, in fact, true.

Here is what I ask of you. Will you join my church family in prayer for our neighborhood, especially those who live in the local apartments? Please pray for the owners and managers of apartment complexes in that neighborhood. Pray that God will change any hard hearts, provide for any struggling families who are being unjustly evicted, and shed light on dark places where injustice is being tolerated for the sake of financial or political gain, or possibly some other form of bias. Pray that the seeds of the gospel which have been planet in the hearts of children will take root deeply, resulting in a lifetime of discipleship as followers of Jesus.

Thank you.