The Maple Syrup Sabbath

syrupI’ve recently commandeered the breakfast duties in my home. And today I thought I would try a french toast recipe. I’ve never made french toast before. Two hours later I regretted it.

The directions said to take them off the skillet–who’s temperature settings were a pure demonic lie–and put them in the oven for 8 minutes to make them puff.


They never puffed. I didn’t know french toast was supposed to puff.

So they were eventually done-ish and we plated them and I began the glorious task of drowning them with copious amounts of maple syrup.

Our bottle of syrup isn’t one of those fancy glass bottles in the shape of an antebellum woman with a turban on her head, rather it’s one of those 25 pound bottles you get at the local bulk foods store. In the winter time, people put these things in the back of their pickups for more weight for better traction. Seriously.

So I grabbed it by the handle and held it upside down over my 2 pieces of french toast and the syrup began to flow thick and fast. “Great,” I thought. “If it flows like this, I won’t have to squeeze it with the force of a garbage compactor and make it come out any faster.” It was a beautiful and efficient stream of manmade nectar.

Then a funny thing happened.

As I finished filling up one syrup pond on my first piece I moved it to the second and noticed the flow became slower. And thinner.

I did nothing different. I was still holding it by the handle. Still exerting the same amount of energy.

My maple syrup wasn’t flowing the way it was.

Curious, I turned the bottle upright and as I did, it took a big gloppy breath.

A breath.

It inhaled.

I turned it back over and it once again started pouring with the same magnitude it had at the first. I was overjoyed.

Then I began wondering how many times in life I was being poured out and my torrent of a river ebbed to a trickle. My efficiency deteriorated and my effectiveness became all rusty.

I was tired, mopey, and depressed.

Maybe I wasn’t using the right technique. Maybe I needed to squeeze myself more to work harder. Maybe it was my wife’s bad attitude. Maybe the lunar cycle was off kilter. Maybe if my kids were more obedient. Maybe if I finally got that raise…then I would flow the way I used to.

Or maybe–like the giant bottle of syrup–I just need a breath. A gloppy inhale of God’s life causing a quick and snappy reorienting of my life.

Maybe I need a regular Sabbath, an invitation into God’s rhythm of rest and life.

Maybe you do too.

And yes, I just wrote a blog post about maple syrup.

I may need another cup of coffee.

I like leisurely conversation, so please comment below and share, share, share.
Love, Pastor Jared


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Life After Church Camp

praying1I just finished 7 days of church camp.

I loved it.

I loved being pulled on as pastor. I loved walking on the razor edge between my exhaustion and God’s strength.

I was poured out. Night after night, I taught. I prayed. I preached. I invited. I laid my hand on students and the power of God flowed into them.

It was such an incredible feeling–almost addictive.

But, now it’s over.

The only invitation being given is God calling me back into the mundanity of my life.

As I sit in the cold metal folding chair pulled up to my third-hand desk in my bare office,  lullabied by the hum of the AC, the creak of the metal roof shifting under the heat of the sun startles me back to attention. 

With that same hand that I laid upon the heads of the students, imparting life into them, I’m now using to write my todo list.

-Call Tom about the breakfast
-Reply to Don’s email
-Repaint office wall
-Call Gayle and diffuse the situation with Brady

Very quietly, I chuckle to myself when I think of the two extremes of the pastoral vocation. We can’t pick and choose as pastors. We are about the people, the business of the church, and the move of God. They are inseparable.

But, my comfort is found in knowing that God is in this small things, too.

Mountain top experiences call our mundane moments into an alignment—to give meaning and purpose and divinity to the todo lists, the sermon notes, the phone calls, the emails, and the marathon meetings.

The very same power that flowed into the students last week, flows through my pen as I write this. It flows off my tongue as I sip coffee with a parishioner. It flows through my hand as I fill drywall holes in my office. It pervades every unexciting, uneventful, and unremarkable moment of being a pastor–and there are many. And I feel that faithfulness in these times, drives the roots of my mountain a little deeper. It raises its summit a little higher. And I’m sure that in the rhythm of the pastoral life I’ll find myself ascending the heights of that mountain soon enough.


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Of Whales and Men; Jonah Chapter 2

I’m not preaching Jonah 2 to the church. It’s too intimate of a prayer to preach broadly to more than one individual at a time. But I wanted to write this to help fill in the gap in our Jonah series and to bring us into a deeper experience with the book of Jonah.

In Jonah chapter 2, we see a deteriorated and broken man soaked with brine and whale mucous contemplating the whirlwind of events that brought him to this quiet place of healing. What Jonah thought was judgement was actually his Salvation. We watch this realization unfold before him as he begins his poetic prayer.

 “I called out to the Lord, out of my distress, and he answered me;
Out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice.”

The reason this is intimate is because we have all been to this secret place before. We have experienced the sharp hammer blow of rebellion and it’s unavoidable consequences. Its effects knock the wind out of us as we find ourselves thrown off the bow of our sinking ship and into the crashing waves. All is lost. We resign ourselves to a slow and certain death as we drown in the waters of our guilt. As Jonah kicks one last time, his face surfaces and he gulps one last breath before the next wave overtook him. Have you felt this before? Hear Jonah’s words and bring yourself to that place again.

“The waters closed in over me to take my life;
the deep surrounded me;
Weeds were wrapped about my head
at the roots of the mountains.
I went down to the land
whose bars closed upon me forever;
Yet you brought up my life from the pit,
O Lord my God.”

Here, in a dramatic portrayal of God’s redemptive heart, salvation opened it’s mouth and swallowed Jonah. What was dead is now alive. Lungs that were filled with salt water, were now filled with the breath of God. And Jonah is brought to a place of quiet healing. A place of quiet repentance. A place of quiet rememberance. A place of grateful worship. Have you been here before?

 “Those who pay regard to vain idols
Forsake their hope of steadfast love.
But I with the voice of thanksgiving
Will sacrifice to you;
What I have vowed I will pay.
Salvation belongs to the Lord!”

And just as chapter 2 begins with one act of salvation, it ends in another.

 “And the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land.”

As I’ve repeated with my congregation, Jonah does not carry the burden of this story alone. As we carry this plot in the presence of God, we see that Jonah disappears and we find ourselves as the main character. It is our story.

You can find previous and subsequent sermons within the Jonah series online here at Vimeo.

I always enjoy a good conversation so feel free to leave comments.

Thanks for reading and check back soon!


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Great Expectations

The trees have budded and their leaves have unrolled. A new season has crept upon me in a slow surprise. It is like watching a fireworks display from a distance; seeing the explosion then counting the moments until the crack-a-boom thunders into my chest.

This past April, Saverton Community Church confirmed my calling to be a pastor. Not just a pastor, but their pastor. I’m overwhelmed with a sense of new-birth and excitement.

So pray for me. Pray for Saverton Community Church. Pray for our community of believers to grow in unity, in the knowledge of Christ, and in the power of the Spirit. Pray that as I walk into a new season it is in parallel formation with the church walking into her new season. A new season of life. A new season of joy. A new season of growth. A new season of nourishment. A new season of togetherness.

Here is my inaugural address to the church:

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Seeds of Heaven

“The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”

I took a vow once to underline every verse in Matthew that started out with the phrase, “the kingdom of heaven is like…”. My ADD made sure it was a temporary vow. But I like going back and reading these. I think it’s funny—in a very ADD way—that Scripture never really tells us what the kingdom is, just what it is like. Jesus used metaphors, cryptic similes, and other figures of speech that sometimes leaves me nodding my head the way I used to in high school Chemistry class to cloak my disdain and pure ignorance for chemical compounds and how many molecules of some periodic element merged—in my opinion, a very suspicious and possibly immoral way—to another electron which gave it magical properties that may or may not be explosive. I had an affinity towards the explosives.

It was because of chemistry that I decided to be a pastor.

But I love these moments in Scripture, because it allows the imagination—something unallowed in chemistry—to form what we see the Kingdom to be. So here in Matthew chapter 13, verse 31-32, Christ likens his kingdom to a mustard seed. Can’t you see it? A dark speck buried in deep creases of the farmer’s palm. Squinting to make out its shape and color he kicks a groove in the soil below. Squatting down, he upends his hand over the broken ground, then turns his hand to be sure that the seed fell. Months and years go by as the seed germinates into a recognizable plant. But unlike the surrounding garden plants, this one grows large, towering over its fellow flora.

Here’s the crux; the preferred modus operandi in the Kingdom of God is slow, small, hidden, and private.
Sow seeds of tears.
Sow seeds of prayers.
Whisper the silent songs of your heart.
Don’t be impatient with small beginnings.
Plant the small seeds.
Be faithful.


Then, one day, without much notice and devoid of pomp, you will see what has become of you. A tree. Large. Spread out. Surprise. Maybe it was the chicking and peeping of the birds nesting in your branches that awakened you to your evolvement.

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Sermon Video Sampler (like at Applebees)

There’s No Place Like Home, Part 5: Being the Church to a Wounded City from Rock Family Church on Vimeo.

Weird Part 7: Weird Worship from Rock Family Church on Vimeo.

My Church Rocks Part 5: Worship from Rock Family Church on Vimeo.

The Blessed Life: Part 4, Crossing Jordan from Rock Family Church on Vimeo.

Fruit Happens; Part 2, Peace and Patience from Rock Family Church on Vimeo.

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The End of a Season: An interview with Pastor Jared

Over the last 12 months I’ve had many surprising conversations. Conversations I never thought I would have. Conversations with God, talks with Katrina, dialogues with Pastor Dean , and eventually several heart-to-hearts with my own insecurities and doubts. All these conversations culminated in me recently resigning from Rock Family Church. My heart is broken because I thought this was where I was going to serve for the next 20 years. That was my plan. And I would have had God not spoken. But he spoke. And I must be obedient. I understand this feels abrupt, but I assure you it wasn’t. I’ve been negotiating with God on this since December of 2011 and negotiations stalled this past June. In an effort to help give clarity, I took part in an interview and the following is what transpired:

Insecure Jared: “I heard you resigned recently from your position at Rock Family Church. Can you elaborate on that?”

Pastor Jared: “I did. As cliche as it may sound, I feel as though God said to. I’m not sure what the future holds for us, but my family and I have every assurance that things will be great.”

Insecure Jared: “That sounds fun. I’m sure everyone would like to just quit their jobs in the worst economy since the Babylonian Exile and prance around the country in their pop-up camper with their 3 children…one being an infant.”

Pastor Jared: “It’s funny, because when you’re in the ministry you are supposed to be Spirit led. Until it doesn’t quite make sense. Then you’re supposed to screw the Spirit and do something that makes sense to everyone around you. It’s why I chuckle a little on the inside because these two ideas are very much juxtaposed to one another. As if I ever had a plan to begin with…”

Insecure Jared: “I’m slightly offended by the phrase ‘Screw the Spirit’.”

Pastor Jared: “I don’t know how else to articulate it…stiff arm the Spirit? Ignore the Spirit? I’ll stick with the first one.”

Insecure Jared: “So what is your plan?”

Pastor Jared: “No, that’s what I’m saying. I don’t have a plan. Or I should say I don’t have my plan. There is a big difference here. Can I give a couple analogies that might help clarify? One would be that I feel God is painting me a picture—or painting a picture of me—and I’m sitting awkwardly in my chair as God says, ‘tilt your chin up’ or ‘sweep your curls off to the right of your face.’ And I’m sitting here waiting to see the picture, but I have to posture myself for it to be finished. Does that make sense? Or here’s one that I like better; It feels as though God has dumped a bunch of construction material on my front yard and has said ‘I’m going to build something for you’ and I can describe the pieces that I see in my front yard, but I can’t describe what He’s planning to do with it. Do either one of these make sense?”

Insecure Jared: “Not really. But help alleviate my curiosity and describe the building materials you see in your front yard.”

Pastor Jared: “There has been a tectonic shifting within my heart the last year or so. Not in a bad way, but in a very great way. I’ve grown in love with the church—I think I’m starting to see how God sees people. I think a few of the long wide beams sitting in the middle of my yard are made up of this love for the church. Next, I’m transfixed with the pastoral vocation and the idea that we as pastors are custodians of the Kingdom life—and have been for over two millennia. We call people farther in and higher up in a relationship with God. It makes me excited to see these old worn beams in my yard—to use what others have used before me. On the other side of the yard I can see the straight long boards of my writings and musings stacked up tall. There is quite a bit more of this than I would have expected. Next to that is a small mound of brown paper bags wrinkled with the weight of nails and pins, lag bolts and nuts. These are my music, my creations, my quiet moments with just God and me—the things that seemingly will bind all this together. There is a myriad of other material piled around the yard. Some in complete order, others in disarray, but I doubt not for a second that what is going to be built with these things, this clutter of love and passion, is going to be beautiful. It will be radiant. And it will be awkward at first. But as layers are added upon layers, God will continue building what he has always wanted to build. Me.”

Insecure Jared: “I almost got a tear in my eye. We’ve been getting a little emotional lately, haven’t we?”

Pastor Jared: “I have these moments where I’m completely overwhelmed with hope. I’m overwhelmed with a sense of it’s-all-coming-together. It’s hard to describe, but do you remember the moment when you first saw your child being born and it completely wiped away every care of the world. Everything else became so utterly insignificant. Nothing else mattered. And in the same way, it feels like God every so often gives me babies of hope. Hope of future. Hope of goodness. Little hope babies. I’m an emotional fool when this happens.”

Insecure Jared: “Do you ever find people just staring at you in bewilderment as you talk? When most people speak or write, they go from one linear thought to the next. You are more like a carnival ride that makes small children puke.”

Pastor Jared: “So, I’ve felt God say something to me. I was driving down I-25, praying about our future, and I heard in response, “you cannot embrace what I have for you until you let go of where you are now.” There’s a deeper storyline to this one, but I’ll leave it generic for now. So, I assumed what God said as an attitudinal issue. Something along the lines of “you have to be just as willing to stay as you are to go”. I adjusted my attitude and said, “there, God. I’m ready.” But He said no and reminded me to let go. And let go means let go. What came to mind was the story of when Jesus was walking along the beach in Matthew chapter 4 and he saw Simon and Andrew. He told them, “follow me, I’ll make you fishers of men.” It then says, “they didn’t ask questions, but simply dropped their nets and followed.” What a bunch of fools, I thought. What are they going to do with their nets? Is someone going to steal their boat? At least sell the boat before you go. Take a little cash with you on the road. How are they going to make a living? Are they married? They can’t do that to their families. It’s irresponsible. It’s foolish. It’s unwise. You can’t just give up everything! But they did. They obviously saw value…”

Insecure Jared: “Are you saying you just want to give up everything?”

Pastor Jared: “I figure what I have now isn’t worth missing what God has for me. I want—with everything within me—for my sons to know what it looks like to hear and obey God. I need my daughter to know what kind of man it is that listens and reacts. I need my wife to know that I seek and respond to the heart of God.”

Insecure Jared: “But what you’re talking about is a big deal. You’re walking away from a comfortable home, salary, health insurance, and security for…for what exactly?”

Pastor Jared: “The Kingdom life…haha. It sounds stupid saying it because it is such an abstract thing. But in Matthew chapter 11, Jesus tells two short parables of the pearl merchant and of the trespasser who both found items of great worth and went and sold everything to purchase these things. Often we get stuck on the sacrifice—the fact that the Kingdom of God is going to demand everything from us. This is what caught the rich young ruler off guard. But at the end of the story there’s a pearl of great value! There’s a treasure hidden in the field! I want to make sure I’m pursuing God’s treasure in my life.”

Insecure Jared: “So you’re one of those prosperity guys?”

Pastor Jared: “I feel like God is really pro-people. Did he kill his son so he could just yell angrily at us? No. If we were worth the slaughtering of his son so that we could have relationship again, why would he all of a sudden stop his generosity? I think there is a very interesting thread sewn throughout scripture of God’s goodness to people.”

Insecure Jared: “Like his goodness to Sodom and Gommorah?”

Pastor Jared: “No, like in his goodness to Ninevah. His surprising-goodness. The goodness that catches us off guard. His surprising-salvation. His salvation takes on so many different shades and shapes—it’s worked into every aspect of our lives. A few years ago God healed me of warts on the bottom of my feet. It was such a miniscule issue to me, but God thought otherwise. That was really eye opening and surprising to watch those stupid warts dry up and fall off. Or sometimes when I go into Starbucks the baristas give me free coffee and the thought comes of, ‘If he can be so great in the tiniest of things, how much more does he care about the big things—or forget the big things, how much does he care about everything?’ I can see his holistic salvation being worked out in me and it’s a very cool experience.”

Insecure Jared: “With this transition you are embarking on, do you see it as an act of salvation for you?”

Pastor Jared: “I do. But it isn’t a topic I’m comfortable discussing only because I don’t want it to come off as though I’m escaping something or being rescued from something. I’m not Israel leaving Egypt. I’m Israel moving into Canaan. I don’t want this to be a judgement on Rock Family Church or where I’ve been personally for the last 10 years or so—because it has nothing to do with where I’ve been. I think some people will let their minds wander into grey areas on this because they want concrete answers and there are none right now. There is an amazing lack of drama in this transition. Pastor Dean and I remain close and he has been gracious in giving room for God to work out his plan in me. He’s been a treasured friend through this. All this is is God working his plan out in me and through me.”

Insecure Jared: “Shouldn’t you have a job lined up by now?”

Pastor Jared: “There’s a lot of people who would like to know the answer to that. I’m one of them. Things have always just happened to work out for us in a very spectacular way. If I am just going off of past experience, things will be fine. If I add to that what God is calling me to, things will be overwhelmingly fantastic.”

Insecure Jared: “So that’s it? Just quit your job, travel around, and wait for God to unfold his popup book of surprises for you? You understand how crazy that sounds, right?”

Pastor Jared: “I wish I had more to say. But, I don’t. I always wondered what would happen if I gave everything over to God. If I left my nets at the shore and just followed him. The thing that brings a smile to my face is that I’m about to find out what happens. It feels like a great adventure.”

Insecure Jared: “That’s very Oregon Trail-ishy of you. One last thing. Did I hear a rumor about Alaska?”

Pastor Jared: “You’ll have to talk to me off the record about that one…but my family and I have entitled this next phase of our life, ‘Yukon, Ho!’ after the Calvin and Hobbes comic book. We think it fits for us as a family. ”

Insecure Jared: “I just want it on record that I think you’re irresponsible and crazy. But nonetheless, Godspeed.”

Pastor Jared: “It’s been duly noted. Godspeed.”

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A Pastoral Response to the Waldo Canyon Fire

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An Artist and His Insecurity

How to wrestle with Artist Insecurity.

If this article were found in a book store, it would reside  next to a book on how to climb Mount Everest for they are both equally insurmountable.

Every good work is hard work.

If you feel the heart flutter of Insecurity as you near the end of a project it says something about you. It says you are thoughtful. That you are sensible. That you care. All of these are considered a golden crown when compared with the alternative; an artist who is venomously narcissistic. God help them.

It is no virtue to think better of yourself than you should.

Insecurity is a part of our process. It is the voice that says to keep going. That you haven’t arrived yet. That you are not good enough yet. It won’t let our minds turn off at night and rudely wakes us every morning to droning chant of “get to work.” Work harder. Work longer. Do better.

The problem with Insecurity is that it speaks naked truth. And naked truth without the warmth of an embrace hurts. Insecurity does not have arms. The artist often allows the cold steel of Insecurity to paralyze them when its only intent is to prod them onward and upward.

If being secure is to feel as though you have arrived, then security is a lie. Artists know the idea of destination is a myth. The Promised Land is found in the process.

If being secure means to be comfortable with where you are as an artist, then security is death.

If being secure alludes to the feeling of being good-enough, then you will fulfill this self-prophecy with haste. Good-enough is a dangling carrot at the end of a rodent trap.

Insecurity batters and terrorizes the idle artist, but gives wind to the sails of the artist who is doing his work.

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