Friday, May 16, 2014


So many words I could use to describe the past 276 days. Exciting. Turbulent. Impossible. Fun. Eye-opening. Heart-breaking. Blessed.
I can barely remember the Ethan that moved into 2490 North Hall on August 13th, knowing absolutely no one. They couldn't tell, but watching my parents drive away that afternoon was the loneliest moment of my entire life.
Didn't stay that way, now did it?
Within minutes (literally), I had met people that, unbeknownst to me, would become my closest friends at Mizzou. With them, I would make memories that last a lifetime. I would have new experiences. I would face new struggles. I would bask in new victories.
Starting that day when I moved in, nothing was normal. Everything about my life was different. My friends. My daily routine. My address. My attitude towards the day. My accountability structures. My authority figures. Everything. 
As life on campus became the new normal, the days and weeks seemed to fly by. My biggest regret is not stopping more often to smell the roses. There were so many missed opportunities to go on new adventures, deepen friendships, learn new things. I never fully transitioned from 'survive mode' to 'thrive mode.'
I learned so many things this year- about myself. I learned how arrogant I really am. I learned that all too often, I acted identical to the type of person I looked down upon. I learned that I have a long way to go. In one word, this year was humbling.
But through it all, this year was superlative to all others. I learned more in one school year than I ever have. I met more people than I ever have. I took more chances than I ever have. I failed more than I ever have. I succeeded more than I ever have.

I lived more than I ever have.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Grieve With Hope

"But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope."

Christians are weird. We have hope and joy even the death of a fellow believer, even one that is close to us. It's so easy to focus on what we have lost. This is not a bad reaction- it's a natural one. When you lose someone you've known and loved your entire life, not feeling sorrow and pain is perhaps the most unnatural of human experiences. 
But we grieve with hope- hope twofold. Hope that the one we have lost now gazes into the Savior's face, and hope that we will one day join them. And hope is not wishful thinking; it is expectant certainty. 
I know that my grandfather now gazes into the eyes of the risen Savior, and that makes me a little jealous. 
As well it should. 
Lost people grieve without hope because death has the final say. But over the eternity of a son or daughter of the King, death has not the final say. Christ holds them and promises a resurrection imperishable. That's the hope of believers. 
While my family mourns, we set an example. We know that my grandfather now stands before God, a sinner redeemed by grace and experiencing the joy of God's presence- and that looks different. It confuses those who have no hope. It even surprises fellow believers. But by no means is it easy. 

I talked with several folks over the weekend who told me "my entire family came to know the Lord because we knew your grandfather." What do you do with that? How do you respond? All praise and glory be to the Lord for saving that family, but how do you respond to that reality? 
I can't even begin to describe how richly God has blessed our family with the life of my grandfather. The number of lives God changed through him is amazing. Over 400 people attended either his visitation or memorial service, and more than likely there were hundreds more who would have but couldn't. My guess is that if you live to be almost 86, you meet your fair share of people. His life bore the mark of someone who had been blessed beyond measure- blessed with eternal life, blessed with talent, blessed with a uniquely strong work ethic. And that was evident.

I am tremendously proud to be his grandson. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

A Long (But Way Too Short) Weekend

I again got the chance to attend the Shepherds' Conference in Sun Valley, California this past week, and it's one of the greatest experiences I've had. This was my third time attending, and it continues to be a very refreshing pause to the throes of second semester. Admittedly, I think most people my age would not find 8 hours of preaching every day for 3 days all that entertaining. They may think it's tedious, even mind-numbing. I can understand that. To be honest, I wasn't hanging on every word for the entire week- there were many moments spent refreshing my Twitter and Instagram feeds and dreaming of the catered In n' Out lunch to come. But there's something about ShepCon that makes it easier to pay attention and get involved in the preaching. The preaching I get at NCC, the Crossing and RUF is great and I love it, but every once in awhile it's nice to get away and hear somebody (or 8) different than who you're used to. You see things from different perspectives and learn about a wide array of biblical topics, all under the teaching of some of the brightest minds in Christianity today. The sheer contrast of that experience from church on Sunday or RUF is enough to keep me engaged and fascinated by the depth of truth and wisdom coming from the speakers.
Perhaps equally excellent as the teaching is the hospitality shown to conference attendees by the host church, Grace Community Church. Any given Sunday there are about 7000 people on their campus- not large by modern mega-church standards, but much bigger than what I am used to. This year they had 753 VOLUNTEERS- that's twice the size of my entire church. They do everything from registration to working the breakfast buffet to running the conference bookstore and gift shop to security to picking up trash to preparing food. The Shepherds' Conference is their baby- it's an annual production that requires year-round planning. It is perhaps the church's flagship event that they put on, and they spare no expense. They invite about a dozen Christian publishers to bring their best books and compose the Conference Bookstore, they cater Firestone (the CA equivalent of an upscale Bandana's BBQ) and In n' Out for 3500 people, not to mention provide enough fruit, snack food and soda around campus to fill each man ten times over. Coupled with the 75-degree, perfectly sunny weather, their campus is transformed into a mini-resort that occupies you from 7:30 AM to 10 PM and you are never EVER bored.
What I've gained most from this experience is the chance to interact with pastors from across the US and all around the world. I got to interact with pastors from Australia, England, Belarus and South America. There were pastors there from Ukraine- in the midst of all the political and cultural turmoil in that nation, these men were still able to come over and I got the chance to talk to them a bit about what ministry is like in that context. God brings men together from all over the world to share in worship and the study of the Word, and there's nothing like it. Imagine 3500 men singing some of the faith's greatest hymns like they mean it with the most majestic organ and orchestra. They utterly drown out the 300-person choir on-stage. It's a chilling experience- sometimes I'd find myself not singing along but just listening and marveling.

It's the greatest experience I've ever had in my faith- and I'm going again next year. They've doubled the number of speakers and added an extra day to the conference- they've upped the ante. It's going to be a bonanza unlike anything I can imagine, and I can't wait.

359 days-start the clock...

Thursday, February 6, 2014

What Busch Means to Me

It stands there, at 7th and Clark, a giant structure of brick, mortar and dreams. It starts outside the stadium, where those giant red letters stick out like a (not so) sore thumb and can be read for blocks. As you walk the perimeter, you happen upon 10 bronze statues that depict the glory days of our heroes. As your eyes turn heavenward, you are taken aback at the red brick walls that seem to extend forever. The unique blend of history and hope in its architecture has, after 8 short years, been ingrained in the minds of every single fan that has walked through its gates.

As you walk through the gates at Third Base, you see as cool and collected a commotion as you could imagine. Thousands of strangers milling about, vendors advertising their merch, and that momentary peek you get at the red seats as you glance through the tunnel out towards the field. As you ride the escalator up to the terrace, you look around and realize just how spacious the inside of the stadium really is. The out-of-town scoreboard from its predecessor has been transplanted into the new stadium, still displaying the scores from Sunday, October 2nd, 2005.

As you step out onto the concourse, the air is clear. It smells of ballpark fare and excitement for the coming game. Making your way to your seat, you look out on the scenic downtown skyline, exposed by the absence of an enclosure in center field. The Gateway Arch dominates all, soaring above the Midwest and deepening your pride in the hometown. There isn't a single bad seat in the house, and the action feels equally close to each fan/

It's already played host to 31 playoff games. 13 white plaques are prominently displayed in the outfield to honor the retired numbers of the club's greatest. 11 banners hang high atop the out-of-town scoreboard in right to champion the 11 moments in history during which we stood on top of the world. The right-center field wall contains a lone, dark circle, bearing the notation "DK57", to commemorate the fallen role model we all miss so dearly.

As the middle school band makes its way onto the warning track, the fans collectively rise to their feet, remove their caps and honor America through the National Anthem. As the red, white and blue flap in the wind, you're reminded of the men who fought to protect the land we love- some of them wore the same jersey you do. The managers exchange lineup cards, final preparations are made by the starters in the bullpen and they journey to the dugout to join the team. The starters race out of the dugout likes horses out of the gate and your heart rate immediately jumps with the roar of the crowd.

All eyes are locked in on the starter as he peers in for the first sign. Nodding his head in approval, he starts his windup, and 46,861 hold their breath. The ball smacks into the mitt, the right arm goes up, and the crowd goes wild.

It's gonna be a fun night.

It's the one place where thousands of strangers all share a common bond unlike any other in professional sports. Fans of every shape and size are dressed to the nines in red and white, and you wouldn't have it any other way. You can strike up a conversation with anyone and everyone at anytime, and it's like you've known each other for years. We don't care what the haters and pundits say- nobody does it better than us.

It's a place where bonds are strengthened, memories are made, and dreams are realized. Where one swing of the bat means more than it does anywhere else on earth- where anyone and everyone is always welcome- where the sea of Red flows, unabated- where baseball's perfect warrior stands watch, staring down Spruce Street. It's the heritage my father gave to me, the Temple of the Midwest, the house that Stan built. It's baseball heaven. It's my home.

                                     That's what Busch means to me.

Friday, January 31, 2014

The Jump

I ran across this story on the Yahoo webpage this evening. This event was well documented and covered in 2012, but he released this footage- shot with a GoPro. For those that don't know, GoPro is a high-definition weather-resistant camera used to videotape extreme sports (or really anything of your choosing). Let me just say- this one wins.
The video starts by showing Felix Baumgartner, a 44-year old Australian skydiver, inside a small capsule of some kind, the viewing audience oblivious to where he is. But as he opens the hatch, suddenly you realize; he's 127,852 feet above the earth, and he's gonna do it. But after he makes his final preparations, he says some distinctly profound words:
                        "Sometimes, you have to be up really high to understand how small you are."

And then he leaps into oblivion.
I was profoundly struck by the gravity (no pun intended) of that moment. This man was all alone- he was the only living thing in space. In the vast expanse of the galaxy and beyond, there was not one thing that lived except him. That requires a certain level of bravery that few people could ever boast to have.

This man completely surrendered himself to the forces of nature the nanosecond he relinquished his grip on that spacecraft. That point in the video was one of the most moving things I've ever watched, simply because it was so unique. There were so many massive factors and implications in that moment and no one person could ever comprehend them all. When he jumped, Felix had no idea what would happen. The only thing he had to trust in was the parachute on his back.

I think this video is remarkably similar to the Christian life. The nanosecond we relinquish our grip on sin and surrender our lives to Christ, we jump off a cliff. There is no single act of trust more significant than receiving the Holy Spirit. Despite the security of the spacecraft, Baumgartner didn't hesitate at all when he jumped, and neither should we.

I am also struck by how one-way that decision was. There was absolutely NO way Baumgartner could have 'unjumped.' Once he went, there was NO. TURNING. BACK. Sound familiar? Once we belong to Christ, there is no retreating to our former selves, no return to a sinful lifestyle, no more grip on hostility towards God. We can't 'uncommit' ourselves to Christ- we're locked in by the blood of the Lamb. There are few choices that can't be unmade by restitution or choosing a different course. Jumping out of a container 128,000 feet above the earth is one. Giving yourself to Christ is another.
Finally, I'm struck by the courage this man had to attempt something like this. There have been many brave things done by individuals throughout history- Columbus venturing to the New World, Lewis and Clark exploring the unknown Louisiana Purchase, Edmund Hillary scaling Mount Everest. I honestly think this is right up there with them, because it was such a unilateral decision- no turning back.
But the decision to follow Christ far outweighs them all. Eternity hangs in the balance- everything about who you are hinges on what you do with the person and work of Jesus Christ.

So watch this video. Watch it again. Have you thrown yourself off the cliff? How have you responded to the Call?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Whaddya think?

It's like I just can't decide.
Coming into college, I didn't know many people. Not many at Mizzou knew who I was or what I was like. They didn't accept me, they didn't reject me. They seemed indifferent. 
Everyone wants to feel accepted. Everyone wants to be loved. Everyone has a desire to know that no matter what, someone else approves of them. It validates our everyday lives. For Christians, we find that acceptance, that love, that approval in God the Father through the finished work of Christ. Because I didn't know anyone that would approve of me, I quickly turned to Christ because I knew He would always accept me because of His sacrifice for me. 
But then I began to meet and get to know people. I got to know their patterns, their passions, and their pet peeves. And slowly but surely, I made an emotional investment in their acceptance. I began to value what they thought of me more than what God thought of me. EVERYBODY has struggled with this, but me foremost. It's just so tangible. 
The fundamental struggle of the Christian life is faith. We are asked to take God at His word. We can't see Him, we can't touch Him, we can't hear Him, and we are asked to value His acceptance above all others'. Try convincing me that's not hard. When there are tangible people around us waiting to accept us, that's tough to rebuff because their acceptance is familiar to us and Christ's is not. 
Gradually, I learned what it took to gain the approval of certain people. It required me to be a certain person. I had to like certain types of music, use a certain vocabulary, have certain social habits, act a certain way. And that's what I began to do. I would become a certain person to please one friend, then I would take off that mask and don another one in order to be accepted by another friend. 

It's like I just couldn't decide.
Worst of all is the temptation to do that when romantic relationships are at stake. When that occurs, it does, as they say, "get real." As a young man, the only thing more meaningful than a guy's approval is a girl's, especially for single guys (like me). Once you get to know a young woman and find out what kind of man she's looking for, it's very easy to conform yourself to that mold in order to win her. For lost young men, there's not much wrong with this. But for young Christian men, there is, especially when the type of guy your romantic interest is looking for may not be the most morally laudable. 
I still struggle with this now. I must learn to find my approval in Christ alone. Ultimately, He is the only one who will judge me at the end of time, not anyone else- not the guys I watch football with, not my roommates, not the girl I really like. I still must put in effort to maintain good relationships with those people and reach them for Christ, but His approval is supreme. 
I value my friends. I value what they think. I want them to like me- there's nothing wrong with that. If they accept me for who I am (as a Christian young man), fantastic. But when that clashes with what God thinks of me,

I've made my decision.

Monday, January 20, 2014

A Footnote

Normally, I'd reserve this blog for journeys made and lessons learned. Just for today, I'm extending that to 'opinions held.'

All this Richard Sherman buzz is quite dizzying. It seems like there are a million different perspectives being thrown around and most of them are critical. Every now and then someone will throw out the obligatory "I thought it was great! I thought it fired up his fans and teammates- more power to him!" opinion.

I have two opinions on him- Richard Sherman the athlete and Richard Sherman the man.

Richard Sherman the Athlete
This guy is RIDICULOUS. He's tall, fast and athletic- clearly the best corner in the game. Any receiver should be shaking in their cleats when they see Richard Sherman lining up opposite them. He has put in a tremendous amount of effort honing his craft simply to be the best. I applaud his work ethic. He was, in fact, a multi-sport athlete in college. At Stanford, he was an All-American freshman wideout and outstanding cornerback as well as an All-American in track and field. He has clearly dedicated himself to being the best- because he is, and I think that's pretty cool.

Richard Sherman the Man
I'm hesitant to make broad, sweeping character judgments about anyone I haven't met and gotten to know. But from what I've seen, heard and read about him, Richard is edgy and gutsy. He has a Bachelor's in Communications and began work on a Master's degree at Stanford. STANFORD. Being an awarded multi-sport student-athlete at Stanford is nothing to sneeze at. But perhaps his abilities have gotten the better of him. Throughout the season and particularly in the NFC Championship Game yesterday, Sherman has displayed a frightening lack of respect and restraint towards his opponents. Yes, he made a game-changing play. Yes, he's a big reason why the Seahawks have a good chance to bring a Lombardi Trophy back to Seattle. But the glaring lack of sportsmanship is what frightens me most. He's not afraid to run his mouth and get up in your face. In my opinion, his habits of trash-talking and jeering on the football field are profoundly unprofessional and unnecessary. Really, the only way that we, the public, know what kind person Richard Sherman is is through interviews and on the football field- and he's not showing very well for himself.

Additionally, I've watched the majority of Seahawks games this year and last year, and Richard Sherman is not the only culprit of this behavior. There are numerous other players who have engaged in unacceptable behavior- being flagged for unnecessary roughness, unsportsmanlike conduct and taunting (not to mention a myriad of others, making them far and away the most penalized team in professional sports), testy interviews, fights, arrests, failed drug tests and suspensions. I believe that Richard Sherman is the exemplar of the Seahawk Way- smashmouth, in-your-face, physical, edgy football. This is the style that Pete Carroll brought when he skipped town from USC and was hired by Seattle. I believe his leadership (or lack thereof) is largely to blame for the things we're so used to seeing from the Seahawks. Yes, it works; yes, it's brought them from annual mediocrity to constant contention in the NFL; yes, it's energized their fanbase and brought life to a city that, athletically speaking, hasn't had much to cheer for since, well, ever.
But it's unprofessional, it's childish, and it's disrespectful to the game of football.Yes, football is a physical sport, but it was never EVER intended to be a rough and dirty sport, and that's what the Seahawks have turned it into.

All to say, GO BRONCOS!