An Asp Family Guide to Apple-Chucking

Apple-Chucking is a Midwestern tradition. At least for our family. We got the chance to get out to an orchard this week, and we were reminded of how much joy the activity brings. If you want to try it for yourself, here are the steps to a happy Apple-Chucking experience:

Step 1

Go to an apple orchard. The ideal time frame is sometime from mid-September through mid-October. Our family is particularly fond of Beckwith Orchards, just east of Kent.

Step 2

Walk through the woods just beyond the orchard and look for sticks that have already fallen from the trees. (It is not honorable to harm living trees in the process of apple-chucking). Choose a stick that isn’t too green, but also not too dry or brittle. The ideal chucking stick is about as long as one’s arm and as thick as one’s index finger at its base. Its point should be sharp (or made to be sharp).

Step 3

Walk into the apple orchard with your stick, looking for apples that have already fallen from the trees. (It is not honorable to harm viable fruit in the process of apple-chucking). The ideal apples are large and ripe, or slightly-overripe.

Step 4

Spear your chosen apple with your chosen stick. Experience suggests that it tends to work best when you spear more flesh than core. But however you do it, just make sure that your stick goes through a little more than half of the apple. The stick should be firmly lodged within the fruit. But not too firmly lodged.

Step 5

Launch the apple by whipping the stick over your shoulder, like the racket motion on a tennis serve. Flick your wrists approximately when the stick is even with your ears to help dislodge the apple and send it soaring into the sky. A long, tall arc is ideal. It may take a few chucks for you to get the hang of things. Practice makes perfect.

Step 6

Watch the apple fly past the beautiful fall foliage until it crashes to the ground. Most times, it will just fall with a thud or bounce once or twice along the ground. Sometimes, the apple will crack in half. Under ideal conditions, however, the apple will explode into ten different pieces. When this happens, all participants should cheer as if their favorite team just hit a home run.

Our family has been Apple-Chucking for years. It has truly become one of our favorite fall traditions. Let us know if you have any experiences — or special advice — of your own!

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Signs of the Times

I went for a walk this morning. It was one of those brilliant October mornings, with views that almost took my breath away at times. At the same time, this month provides the last gasp for political candidates to make their case for election. And I got plenty of views of that, too. I can sometimes feel discouraged about the level of division in our country today. But from the perspective of armchair anthropological study, I have to say that these “Signs of the Times” are fascinating.

About a mile from my house, I turned onto a small residential road called Manchester Street. It’s very out of the way, so any signage posted is almost entirely for the sake of one’s neighbors. (Though, honestly, I’m not sure what political signage really accomplishes, even on the busiest thoroughfares). But even though it’s a very quiet street, some of their lawn signs speak very loudly about their political persuasions. Manchester Street provides an interesting glimpse into our current political landscape.

One house has two large Trump flags draped from the front porch. One says “Keep America Great,” and the other says “No More Bullshit.”

Just across the street, a stone’s throw away, another house has a long, tidy row of campaign signs for every Democratic candidate on the ballot. Including two for Joe Biden.

In between these two houses is a house with a single medium-sized flag (fashioned after the Trump flags) that says, “DOGS 2020: Because Humans Suck.” I don’t entirely agree with the sentiment. Still, I think it’s a pretty funny sign — particularly considering its context literally standing between the two other houses. And I do think it’s pretty realistic that at least one of that person’s neighbors will agree that the election is “Gone to the Dogs!”

I hope all of those neighbors on Manchester Street can find ways to get along with each other. I hope we can all love each other, in spite of our differences.

Posted in American Politics, Culture, Kent, Photography, Politics, The United States of America | Leave a comment

Coffee on Campus in the Time of COVID-19

It’s hard to make new friends.

Making new connections is challenging under most circumstances — but especially in 2020. Even so, our church is trying to put ourselves out there. We believe that people need people, that God has hard-wired us with a craving for community. So we keep trying to make new friends, even though it’s hard. Or especially because it’s hard.

“Coffee on Campus” is designed to create moments for interaction. We figure that everyone enjoys a hot drink on a cold Thursday morning. So we bring coffee and hot water onto campus. We bring an array of tea packets, hot cocoa mix, sweeteners, and cream. All in the hope of striking up a conversation while giving out free drinks. It’s low-percentage ministry. In fact, we retired the initiative five years ago because the cost-benefit analysis didn’t make sense, considering all the other outreach options available to us at the time.

With fewer alternatives available this year, however, we decided to try “Coffee on Campus” again. We went through a rigorous Health & Safety Review process with the University to clear our plans and reserve the space. And then, on the appointed day, we brewed up the coffee and lugged all the stuff onto campus. We set up bright and early, eager for our first “customers.”

We knew that foot traffic was diminished this year. Still, we didn’t fully feel the difference until we stood on the MACC Plaza for four hours. The quiet on campus is crazy. In the first two hours, we might have had a total of ten people walk past our table — and none of them stopped for a free drink. A few people even chose to take a longer path to avoid our section of the sidewalk entirely! It felt so desolate and depressing.

Fortunately, the second half of the morning went better than the first half of the morning. We had a few quality conversations. The quantity never even approached a tenth of what we saw five years ago. Still, it’s better than nothing.

We’re going to keep pursuing people because that’s what Jesus did.

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Then and Now

Staff2019-6909
Staff Retreat 2019

We’ve made it through the craziest season of the craziest year that I can ever remember in college ministry! Our church has run the gauntlet from our annual summer leadership retreats, through the KSU Kick-Off and the University’s first month of classes, to our Fall Retreat.

Staff Retreat 2020

The week after Fall Retreat is usually a point of reflection, even in normal years (without COVID-19). But this year, it feels even more significant to look back. Things are a lot different this year! But different isn’t all bad.

Envisioning Student-Leaders in 2019

It’s actually kind of fun to glance through pictures of “Then” and “Now.” Not just for the sake of nostalgia or pining for a return to “normal ministry.” I’m legitimately amazed to see that we’ve been figuring things out as we go!

Envisioning Student-Leaders in 2020

I’d say the hardest part about doing ministry in 2020 has been making connections with new students. Most years, they simply swarm the campus. It’s almost like taking a fishing pole to a fish hatchery, with thousands of hungry fish in a relatively small holding pool.

Destination Kent State (Freshman Orientation) 2019

This year, University events are almost all virtual. H2O is one of the few organizations that’s even trying (however awkwardly) to maintain some semblance of connecting in real life. But even with this commitment to face-to-face interactions (with precautions), we have to augment some things to include on-line interaction. And thankfully we’re figuring that out, too.

Destination Kent State (Freshman Orientation) 2020

I hope that we’ll never again take things for granted like the University’s Destination Kent State and Blast-Off initiatives. They’re fun. They’re fruitful. And they make for great photo opportunities!

Kent State University Blast-Off 2018

Even without all the special events full of sights, sounds, handshakes, and hugs, we have succeeded in making new connections. I wish there were more new connections, and I wish they weren’t made so challenging with the masks and the six feet of separation between us. Still, I’m grateful for what we have.

Kent State University Blast-Off 2020

These pictures all reinforce the general feeling that I’ve had throughout most of the semester: Kent is way quieter than usual in 2020.

Beginning of the School Year 2019

I think I’ll always remember the surreal sensation of walking around on campus during the morning of the University’s first day of classes. The sidewalks are usually more crowded than any other time of the year, since almost no one skips the first day of a new class. But not in 2020.

Beginning of the School Year 2020

I walked around with my friend and colleague, Lauren, trying to find students who might be hanging out between classes — but the sidewalks were almost completely empty. The parking lots were maybe a quarter full. It was eerie.

H2O Preview Event in 2019

That night we hosted our “H2O Preview” event, trying to give new students some easy inroads for involvement plus a glimpse of what our Sunday worship gatherings feel like. Back “then” it was a big production in a big theater at the center of the Kent State University campus.

H2O Preview Event in 2020

In the here and “now,” however, we’ve got seven different regions of Life Groups meeting outdoors. They all end up feeling pretty quiet and low-key, if you ask me, but students are surprisingly excited to have any opportunity for real-life interaction.

Sunday Morning Worship Gathering in 2018

Our Sunday morning worship gatherings follow a similar pattern. Seven different Snapshots (testimonies)… seven different (non-musical) worship sets… seven different teachers… All outdoors (or online, in a couple of cases), spaced out with COVID precautions.

Sunday Morning Worship Gathering in 2020

It’s been a challenge, but our Staff and student-leaders have risen to that challenge. I’m really, really proud of our people.

Life Group Bible Study in 2019

Week to week, we’re still studying the Bible (the Book of Acts, specifically) in Life Groups, but they’re all ten people or less, and they’re all outside.

Life Group Bible Study in 2020

We might start experimenting with some generously-spaced indoor meetings for Life Groups in the coming weeks, as the temperatures get colder. Fortunately, activities on-campus are so limited that we should be able to get space in the Student Center far more easily than usual. But we’ll see how that goes.

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The Well in 2019

Up to this point, the only event we’ve been organizing that meets indoors — more or less in the same location we’ve used in previous years — is The Well (our seven-week informal membership class).

The Well in 2020

This year for The Well, students are divided into “Tables” for discussion — like they usually are — but there are no actual tables (just chairs spaced generously in a wide circle), and each group has its own room. The teacher joins in by video conference from an adjacent room. It’s a bit weird, but surprisingly workable. We’re delighted to have about 20 new students going through The Well this Fall.

Fall Retreat 2019

We’re even venturing to organize Fall Retreats this year. Seven different versions of Fall Retreat, in fact! I do definitely miss some of the ways that we’ve operated in the past for these things, but I also wonder if there will be ways that we will look back on this year with fondness in years to come.

Fall Retreat 2020

The differences are hard to deny. Still, I see similarities between “Then” and “Now” as well. And I have hope that we’re going to keep improvising and persevering until the future “Then” when COVID-19 will be a memory and a bunch of weird photographs.

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Fall Retreat 2020

Our Fall Retreat with H2O Kent was different this year. We felt it was important to minimize the risks of transmitting COVID-19, so events were organized with just a couple of Life Groups getting away together, instead of the whole church.

Consequently, we didn’t pack out a whole camp-ground with a raucous crowd of college students. Instead, we camped out — each person in his or her own tent — in a grassy area behind the home of Regan’s grandmother in rural Stark County. And it was just seven of us from the collection of Life Groups we’ve come to call the “Fellowship of the Hawk.”

We didn’t bring in a dynamic speaker from outside of Kent. Instead, it was mostly casual group discussion, with some facilitation by me. And I genuinely believe the best spiritual engagement happened when each of us took an hour to ourselves to focus on prayer.

(^^ Notice Regan on the roof, getting some quiet time with God while looking out over the field behind the home of her “Grandma Linda.”)

There were no “H2Olympics” for us this year. We didn’t get to sing our guts out over an extended set of musical worship. Our weekend didn’t include any baptism celebrations; however, it did prompt an interesting conversation with Cor indicating that he might like to be baptized soon!

Still, even with all the differences, our Fall Retreat was delightful.

We managed to hit all the hallmarks of a Midwestern Fall Retreat: s’mores, apple orchards (including apple-chucking), pumpkin patches, corn fields. Mostly, though, I’m going to remember simply sitting around the fire with Regan, Cam, Meg, Meg, Morgan, Cor, and Linda.

Even under challenging circumstances, I’m glad for creativity and community!

Posted in Church, COVID-19, Food, God, H2O Kent, Ministry, Ohio, Photography, Prayer, Recreation, Small Groups, The Bible, Traditions, Travel | Leave a comment

Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland State University

Our church has been thinking about church-planting for years. Recently, however, it’s been getting more serious. Yesterday seemed like a significant milestone. A portion of our Staff team traveled to Cleveland to visit Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland State University. We wanted to explore the potential for establishing a new ministry presence in these particular university environments — but also to more generally stimulate our thought and imagination about church planting.

Church reproduction has some striking similarities to human reproduction. We acknowledge that it’s a possibility at any point, once we reach maturity. But we also recognize that bringing another life into this world is a pretty big responsibility — so we want to be careful and considerate about it. When the conditions are right, things start with flirting… then dating… then engagement and marriage. (In our case, this is recruiting, building, and training a Staff team). After marriage, there’s usually some desire to wait, to provide time for cultivating the marriage relationship. (In ministry terms, this is raising up qualified leaders for a church plant). And then, when the time seems right, we move from prevention… to a lack of prevention… to a period of hoping and wishing… to more actively “trying”… to, Lord willing, pregnancy and birth.

I think our Staff team is somewhere between “Lack of Prevention” and the “First Trimester of Pregnancy.” We’ve got a strong and healthy Staff team. We’ve identified qualified leadership who could direct a new church plant. And we’re increasingly eager to send out a team in the next year or two. But it also makes us a little bit queasy to think of all the change that comes with a life transition such as this.

Case Western Reserve University

So we started yesterday morning by rallying a team on the campus of Case Western Reserve University. It’s one of the top universities in the region, with a level of scholarship on par with Ivy League institutions. It’s also a beautiful old campus in Cleveland’s University Circle district.

Our team separated into teams of two or three to case the campus. (Get it? Case Case?). I got to walk around with Jana. And our first conversation of the morning was super-awkward. We approached a young man with a bad haircut and polo shirt, asking him if there were any good places on campus to get a cup of coffee. He nervously pointed out a couple of possibilities, but it seemed like he had a hard time making eye contact and speaking clearly. He seemed like the classic scientific savant, and I worried that everyone else at Case Western Reserve University would be like that.

Fortunately, our second conversation — with a first-year student named Madeline — went a little bit better. We found an even warmer reception with Helena, who was handing out moon cakes and rabbit figurines for the Asian Mid-Autumn Festival. And then we enjoyed a really long, really helpful conversation with Caroline, in the Student Activities Office. She gave us a solid picture of what’s involved with starting a new student organization (which seems to be far easier at Case than we’ve seen with most other private universities). She even had some personal experience with some other organizations doing Christian ministry at Case. And we just had a really pleasant conversation that gave us a lot of hope.

After our time at Case Western, we grabbed some lunch in a nearby neighborhood known as Little Italy. While eating some pizza and cannoli, we took some time to process our campus conversations from the morning and to share our own feelings about the prospect. Emotions ranged widely. We’re not ready to “paint the baby’s room” Spartan Blue and Gray — but we all agreed that there were some intriguing possibilities at Case Western Reserve University. After we finished eating our lunch, we got in our cars and drove 15 minutes up Euclid Avenue to Cleveland State University.

Cleveland State University

The afternoon felt very different from the morning. Part of that was because we had less time to explore Cleveland State than we had at Case Western. In addition, we were dealing with a bit of post-lunch digestion fatigue and the weariness that comes with a lot of walking. Even so, we were glad to explore the campus right in the heart of downtown Cleveland.

Cleveland State is significantly larger than Case Western, in terms of enrollment figures. But even under normal circumstances, the on-campus population at Cleveland State University is relatively small. Even factoring in the students who live just off-campus, in adjacent apartment complexes, Cleveland State has a smaller residential population than most other universities in the area. The school serves more commuters, and it’s also just more generally blended in with the city.

I was paired with Griffin for our time at Cleveland State University. We walked around on the streets and through the tunnels that connect the majority of the university buildings. It was harder to find people to talk to at Cleveland State in the afternoon than it had been to talk with people at Case Western in the morning. Still, Griffin and I learned the most from a conversation with a young woman named Peyton, who happened to be a Resident Advisor in one of the residence halls on campus.

She didn’t know much about the student organizations on campus, and she didn’t seem to be very interested in spiritual things — so our conversation was limited on that front. But she was especially helpful in describing the culture in the residence halls. She also talked about the ways that students enjoy the nightlife of downtown Cleveland. Peyton was a junior Nursing major, so she was able to provide a valuable perspective of Cleveland State both before and in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

When we weren’t talking with Cleveland State students, Griffin and I got to talk with each other about his thoughts and feelings regarding church planting. It was just good to explore possibilities together — and with the rest of our team from Kent, as well. We’re eager to report back to the rest of the Staff team at H2O Kent.

When we reconvened at the Student Center just before driving back to Kent for the night, we prayed for the individual students we met and for the university communities as a whole. We actively wondered together about where God might take us. And we dreamed about our next opportunity to explore possibilities together.

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City of Thieves

I just finished reading David Benioff’s book, City of Thieves. My friend Mark recommended it to me early in the summer. But I only just got around to reading it. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, though. In fact, it might be my favorite book that I’ve read this year.

The introduction to the book indicates that there’s some factual basis to the story. It was supposedly aurally related to the author by his grandfather. Regardless, it reads like a novel.

The story takes place in Leningrad (a.k.a. Saint Petersburg) during the German siege of the city in the Second World War. The protagonist is a Jewish teenager born and raised in Leningrad named Lev. At the beginning of the book, Lev watches for blazes that pop up after Nazi air raids. But in the first week of 1942, instead of spotting fires he spots a parachute falling from the sky. When he and his friends go to inspect the landing site, they find a German pilot. Presumably frozen to death from his descent. So they loot his body for chocolate, liquor, and other useful items. While looting the corpse, however they fail to hear the military police approaching until it’s too late.

The military police capture Lev. But they do not execute him on the spot, as military police protocol dictates. Instead, they take him to a prison fortress in the heart of the city. The next morning, he’s brought before a colonel from the Russian military. He stands in judgment together with a soldier named Kolya, accused of deserting his regiment. And the colonel outlines a very unusual form of “punishment” determined for their crimes.

The military officer commands the guards to take the ration cards from Lev and Kolya. These cards are their only means of survival in a city facing starvation from the siege. To get their cards back, they must return with a dozen eggs. The military baker must have the eggs to bake a wedding cake for the colonel’s daughter, scheduled four days later. So Lev and Kolya will either succeed in their mission and receive ration cards and a second chance for survival, they will starve to death without the ration cards, or they will die in attempting their mission.

It’s a brilliantly bizarre twist on the classic “Mission: Impossible” storyline.

They elude capture by a band of cannibals. They discover the last chicken in Leningrad. Still, they eventually decide that they must escape the siege-works to explore the countryside. Outside the city defenses, conditions are equally desperate, but Nazi forces pose threats on every side. I love the way that the author develops the relationship and dialogue between Lev and Kolya, along the way. They eventually join up with resistance fighters — including a bizarre sort of love interest — in their mission to take down a Nazi mastermind. But all along the way, they keep hunting for eggs.

It’s a really enjoyable story. The characters are multi-faceted. The setting is vivid. And the way that the plot is all tied together at the end is perfect. I really enjoyed reading City of Thieves, and I recommend it to all fans of World War II history, European culture, and good fiction.

Posted in Europe, Recommendations, Recommended Reading | Leave a comment

Precinct Election Official Training

Justice and Democracy dominate my thoughts these days. Especially this year, as we approach the U.S. Presidential Election and America’s broader reckoning with its history of Racism. I never want to lose sight of my truest citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven. Still, some of this year’s reading compels me to use my American citizenship for the glory of God. I want to do my part to pursue and protect the Democratic process as a way to promote Justice in our society. Consequently, I decided to volunteer to serve as a Precinct Election Official for Portage County.

The American election system depends on its people to vote and to create space for others’ to vote, as well. The system must be fair and balanced. Particularly with issues of Racial Justice. People of Color have been historically been marginalized and disenfranchised. They are actively turned away at the polls. They are intimidated (even in this year’s Elections). Or they are simply disadvantaged by not having a polling location in their neighborhood or easily accessible by public transportation. Consequently, I want to volunteer as a Precinct Election Official in order to help to provide oversight and access.

Recently, the Portage County Board of Elections reviewed the application I submitted this summer and designated me as an Alternate Precinct Election Official. As a result, I may or may not be called upon to serve on November 3rd. Even so, the Board of Elections invited me to a training so that I could prepare for service, if the opportunity presents itself. I figure the average age of my fellow trainees was in the range of 65-75. (I was the youngest person in the room by at least 15 years). In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic will likely continue to threaten our area well past Election Day. Furthermore, they say that Precinct Election Officials can be called upon at any point in seventeen hours on Election Day. So, let’s just say that I won’t be making any other plans for November 3rd!

In any event, I learned a lot about the Election process at today’s training session. Not just about processing ballots on Election Day, but also how provisional ballots and absentee ballots fit in the process.

It’s a refreshingly rigorous system!

“We always have ‘D’s paired with ‘R’s for any part of the poll-working process,” the trainer explained. Democrats paired with Republicans. The process includes detailed provisions for observers and checkpoints and cross-checks. Layers of redundancy are built into the equipment used to tally the results. I sat in the training session for over three hours. Still, they sent me home with 133 pages of reference material! On Election Day, I will be partnered with experienced poll-workers. And I think (or at least hope) that I’ll be up for the job.

Posted in American Politics, Ohio, Politics, Social Issues, The United States of America | Leave a comment

To Olivia, on the Occasion of Her 16th Birthday

Dear Olivia,

Happy Birthday! You are such a lovely person. You were born at such a lovely time of the year, too (I’ve long maintained that September 15th through October 15th is the best month of the year!). Still, the Fall gets me to thinking about the passage of time. The ripening of the pumpkins and apples… the Maple and Oak tree leaves changing colors… The last gasps of summer and the first whispers of winter… And two birthdays in our household — especially yours, my only daughter, always observing the advance of another year on or near the Autumnal Equinox.

Olivia's Birthday 040

It’s seriously crazy to realize how quickly we’ve gone from Ballerina Parties in Amsterdam to Antique / Retro-Clothing Shopping Parties in North Canton. I know it’s a classic cliché, a figurative and fatherly exaggeration to say that it all happened in an “instant” — but it really feels that way. Watching one’s children grow up is amazing, with every child at every age in every situation. Still, I’ve got to say that it hits different with daughters. I’m amazed to behold the woman you’ve become (and are still becoming). You’re something special, Olivia. I’m really proud to be your Dad.

I thought it might be fun to include some archived images from that memorable Ballerina Birthday in September of 2011. Partly for the sake of nostalgia, but also to underscore a point that’s come to my mind as I’ve been thinking and praying about this milestone in your life.

Olivia's Birthday 067

One of the things that I really appreciate about you is your way with people. The pictures from Amsterdam underscore the fact that you’re not just the typical white girl from suburban Ohio. You grew up with girls from Indonesia, Ghana, Turkey, Morocco, Somalia, the Netherlands, and the United States (among other places). And even though it’s been eight years since our move to Ohio, you’re still a “Third Culture Kid.” A “Hidden Immigrant.” You may look like a “plain old” descendent of Europeans in the American Midwest (which you also are, to a certain extent!). But it seems to me that in your heart, you’re most at home in diverse environments among diverse people.

The world needs people like you right now.

It’s been a weird year for Planet Earth. The COVID-19 Pandemic has brought sickness, death, and isolation to billions. Recent incidents of institutional injustice and police violence against People of Color have brought further disruption and demonstrations against the United States’ history of Racism. It’s also the year of a U.S. Presidential Election, which is always an adventure — but perhaps even more than usual this time around. People are struggling with feelings of anger, alienation, and antagonism towards each other and towards the systems around them.

So it’s especially meaningful for me to pause and remember that you, my daughter, give me reason to hope.

You’re young, intelligent, creative, kind, and godly. And seriously, these are all excellent and praiseworthy things. Yet something that’s exceptionally amazing about you is that your life experiences keep you cognizant of others. You’re sensitive to differences in ethnicity, language, religion, gender, and power dynamics. And your instinct is to explore those differences, not to avoid them. Our world needs that! Jesus once said, “God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9). I pray that you — and the rest of your generation — will continue in this “family business,” even with all the obstacles that are being thrown into your path.

Olivia, you are like an olive branch in the beak of a dove after an overwhelming flood of chaos and confusion. You provide hope that life will find a way forward, by God’s grace. It’s hard that COVID has complicated all of our plans for this year. It stinks that the pandemic has compromised a lot of your opportunities for social engagement. Still, you must find a way forward. You must keep the faith and forge friendships with all sorts of people. I’m praying that you might build bridges — through art, or activism, or whatever — to connect people and point us all to the ultimate Hope of Restoration in Jesus. I’m praying to God, with you, “Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.”

You’ve got everything you need, Olivia. I’ve been watching you for sixteen years, and I’m confident that you’re actually more equipped for life than many who are years (or even decades) older than you! At the same time, I’m convinced that you’re only just getting started. Friends will come. Jobs will come. Romantic relationships will come. I’m not even a little bit worried for you in any of these regards (though I reserve the right to feel worried in the future). I really and truly believe that you just need confidence and courage. Step boldly into the path God has laid out for you, Olivia! You’re amazing! Unstoppable! You’re my daughter, and I couldn’t be more proud!

Happy Birthday, my Livy Luck Dragon. I love you!

Dad

Posted in Children, COVID-19, Family, God, Introspection, Nostalgia, Prayer, The Bible, Traditions, Transition | Leave a comment

Life Goes On

I officiated my first COVID wedding yesterday. It was weird, with all the masks and clusters of seats spread out in a grassy field. But it was also wonderful, for all the reasons that weddings are always wonderful.

Life has been extra-challenging this year. Still, people are falling in love and getting married. Babies are being born (not to this particular couple, but to other friends). Toddlers are taking their first steps. People are celebrating graduations and retirements and other milestones. Because life goes on.

This wedding was particularly special for me because it involved a large rock standing in the middle of the Cuyahoga River. Not that the wedding took place there, or that this landmark known as Standing Rock was even invoked at any point throughout the wedding celebrations.

I just have a special memory of Nick and Kelly from about four years ago. We were together with some other student-leaders from our church, preparing for a new year of making disciples in the Quad at Kent State University. We were talking about leaving a legacy, making the most of the opportunities afforded to us. And to underscore the sanctity of the moment, several of us waded through the river and scaled Standing Rock (a sacred site, going back to the time when the Seneca Tribe inhabited the area).

Nick and Kelly were there (though Kelly chose to stay on shore). Our friends Tommy and Kairie were there, as well (Kairie also opting to stay on shore). And to round out the group, we were joined by our friend Delaney (later that year, she would start dating another guy named Jake who became an apprentice to Life Group leadership over the course of the school year).

I look back on that leadership team with great fondness. Our sense of community grew as the year progressed. And in many ways, that sense of community is still growing. In June of 2018, Tommy and Kairie got married, with that Standing Rock family in attendance, and I had the privilege of officiating their wedding ceremony.

In January of this year, our Standing Rock family was together again. And again I got to officiate the wedding ceremony for Jake and Delaney.

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Finally, this week our Standing Rock family reconvened — for the first time since the COVID shut-down in March — and I got to officiate the wedding ceremony for Nick and Kelly.

It’s really amazing to see how life goes on. We’re not just wasting away during our periods of separation. Our Standing Rock family has stayed busy buying houses and caring for pets and starting careers and pledging to love each other for the rest of their days. I think that’s pretty special. Even if we have to wear masks for part of the time.

Posted in Church, COVID-19, Culture, H2O Kent, Introspection, Marriage, Ministry | Leave a comment