Monday, May 24, 2010

recent pastor experiences

Well, just a bunch of things running through my mind at the end of a long monday, but there are some recent experiences that seem like things pastors get to experience (after preaching from Luke 12 yesterday, I'm reminded that God has entrusted me with much and I will therefore answer for much) that make this whole thing worthwhile. They just kinda happen out of the blue - like God says, "I'm gonna shock Mike with some extra blessing today..."

Last Tuesday, I along with some of our pastoral staff visited Miss Pearl, who for the last 17 years has run an inner city (recently named Chicago's most dangerous community - Roseland - 1-3 murders a day!) child care facility. She was a drug addict converted and changed and wanted to give other single moms a chance to go to school, so she said she would watch their kids while they went to school. Her instructions to us as we began the several chores we had come to do.."when you hear gun shots or see people running and hear sirens, just come on back up to the house..we should be o.k. until 11:00 when they start to wake up." I was inspired by her dedication, courage, and devotion to God! I got to experience our staff working and serving Jesus in ways outside of their comfort zone and not in their usual area of was good. I was blessed to see their love for Jesus exhibited in serving.

Last Friday was my youngest son's last day of high school. My wife commented, "I've spent the last 17 years (since my oldest went to kindergarten) getting the boys ready for school, making sure their homework was done, etc... I'll never do that again." Bittersweet. Thank God for this part of the journey completed.

Saturday I married (by that I mean I was the preacher)a young couple that have been coming to our church about a year. Talking with the groom before the ceremony - he went on about how much Eastview has played a role in helping them get closer to Jesus. There is nothing more joyous than for me to hear that! Congratulations Josh and Erin!

Sunday, had the member of our church who is a pilot in Africa (yes that Africa - he's home for 20 days and then flies for a regional jet for about 30 and led his pilot friends through our most recent video all-church study) and had befriended some craftsmen in the local market and told them about Eastview and our ministry. They are wood workers and made a handcrafted box for me and a 4X2 foot wood carving of the Lords' supper. Flown from Africa to is way cool.

Sunday, a member had travelled with her husband to some cool historic place. I love history and so they bought me a cool pen commemorating that place. I'm so blessed. They were on vacation and thought of getting me a pen.

Sunday after church, a great couple (that I married a year ago and that met at our church and have been members for a long time and who are moving to Chicago) took me and Sara to lunch afterwards, just to say thanks and a tearful goodbye! They were so gracious by their kind words and I also got that great Biaggi's chicken parmesan (which Dave the co-manager hates me to order because it's not very "gourmet" - how can you mess up chicken with cheese and red sauce - awesome!).

Finally, summer is here and my current experience is trying to talk my wife into letting me turn my hair bleach blonde (the old fashioned way, out of a bottle)! She's not buying. C'mon...give me some love my blog friends...convince my wife that Billy Idol's hair is a good idea for me! It would be one more cool pastor experience before I take a short vacation with some friends to Florida.

Monday, May 17, 2010


wash your hands (these signs are everywhere you look - mostly in the restrooms for employees to remind them...always wonder why we need those signs and if they work).

wash your face (it's just a good idea at the end of the day - especially if you are a teen-ager or wear make-up

wash behind your ears (mom used to always say that...are behind the ears a place that really get dirty...or just a place your mom thinks you'll forget.

wash cloth...most guys don't use one...just use their hands to suds up from head to toe...don't even think about those scrubby thingys...just not manly

wash room...another word for bathroom

wash (pronounced "warshed" if you are from some parts of Indiana...which means there is a state named "warshington" and our first president was "George warshington")

wash out..what a road does when it rains a lot

wash - what Jesus didn't do before eating in Luke 11

wash - what the Pharisees did really well (on the outside)

wash - what we did yesterday during a commitment time in both services with first century pitchers and bowls throughout the church

wash - what Jesus did to the feet of his followers on the night of his first meal

wash - what we need for our sins and what water won't do, but Jesus blood does.

It's good to be washed.

Monday, May 10, 2010

a quarter of a century

25 years is a long time. You can go from birth to college graduate in less time. A car is considered "antique" after being on the road for this time period. People can retire after working at a company for this long. You can pay off your mortgage to your house. If you are a teen-ager you can't understand this length of time because it's longer than your entire life span. 25 years is so long, it's not uncommon to measure it with regard to a century (a quarter of a century). Twenty five years is definitely a long time....

...unless it measures the length of time you have been in a faithful relationship of trust with one person.

...unless it is the length of time you have spent making one person laugh and having them laugh at you.

...unless in that time you have been on some amazing adventures together to some incredible places (mexico, hawaai, nova scotia, turkey, greece, england, and countless cool places in the states from the mountains of Tennessee to the shores of South Padre Island to downtown INDY).

...unless it includes a partnership at some churches in Kentucky, Florida, Missouri and Normal (of all places).

...unless it is the time it takes to learn every incredible, intimate detail about another person (so much so that you know what they are thinking, when they are hurting, or when something is bothering them without them ever saying a word).

...unless it marks the length of time you have felt loved unconditionally.

...unless it is the number of years it takes to talk completely straightforward and honest with your truest friend and be completely secure in the love that is behind it. (after this amount of time, you can even yell and be yelled at, and know the love hasn't changed)

...unless that original beauty you saw in the face of the person you love still remains, even though the face has physically changed.

...unless you have spent that entire time with your best friend (no really, this can's happened to me).

...unless you can see the love you share in the actions of the children you have raised (in this amount of time you can also see facial expressions, hear vocabulary, and note attitudes that are really familiar - the good ones you claim, the bad ones must be your loved one's).

...unless you have no regrets but wish that you would have soaked in all the ordinary moments a little bit more (it really isn't the big events that I would do over, it's the "no reason at all" evening walks and talks and the backyard fire pit conversations that I would pay closer attention to if I had a do-over).

Twenty five years of marriage may seem like a long time, unless the above statements are true. Then 25 years isn't that long at all. As a matter of fact, you find yourselves saying things like, "It seems like it was yesterday", and you wish for another 25 years. Now fifty...that's a long time! And I hope me and my bride get there. Happy anniversary Sara (Johnson Bible College Chapel, 7:00 p.m., May 10, 1985). I really do love you and it's really been an incredibly short-long time!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

why LA?

Hey guys, just finished another 9 hour stretch of planning, dreaming, thinking, talking, etc... The question may occur to you, why is the leadership team in LA (Orange County)? Well, we have found great value throughout the years for all of our staff from getting out of the usual environment of Normal and visiting other churches to see what God is doing and to talk with other church leaders. We have found throughout the years that every one on our staff benefits greatly from this experience so we build into most budgets a chance to visit other places.

We have seen three churches in 3 days. Mariners church which runs about 10,000; Saddleback church (around 20,000) and Crossroads Christian Church (around 7,000). We have toured facilities, asked questions, compared and dreamed (Crossroads had 2,200 baptisms last year!) of these great churches and have been inspired by what God is doing in these places. I must say, that we have also been much blessed to find that Eastview is still our favorite church in the world, but we are inspired to be even better stewards of what God has entrusted to us. This will give you an insight of our schedule the last couple of days:

*Breakfast at 7:30 - Comes free with our room
*Prayer and devotions at 8:15ish - we have had some great time of prayer together lifted up our church and asking God for wisdom and his spirit for direction.
*Looking at our values and strategies - How can we pray more/better? Preaching? Small groups? helping people grow in faith, outreach, world missions, etc.... We have talked until I don't feel like talking any more (and that's saying something).
*Lunch on the way to visit these churches.
*Visit with church leaders and asking them questions
*Back to hotel - debriefing and talking some more
*After supper - supposed to be low key and casual, but last night we talked about Eastview and her ministry until around 11:30 a.m.

That's about how each day will go. And then we get up and do it again. Please pray along with us that the Spirit will guide us and our discussions and cause us to see what he wants us to see.

Monday, May 3, 2010

the race is long

Well, Saturday I finished my fourth marathon in Champaign. I saw some of you there and heard of many others. My friend JP Jones had the opening invocation and included a special prayer: "and God please help Mike Baker not to collapse". He may have saved my life. It didn't go as expected. I was hoping for around four and a half hours and instead finished just under five. Once again, my nutrition plan wasn't right and I got sick around 18 and puked (sorry for too much information) around 20 miles. Those last six miles were just grueling. Thought of quitting many times, but just kept going - through intervals of dry heaves (and real ones) and trying to get enough liquid in me. I thought of Jesus a lot and how thirsty and tired he was carrying a cross up the hill for my sins...but mostly I thought of how the race of the Christian life is so much like this. Sometimes the run is hard. Sometimes the pain is real. Sometimes doubts take over your mind about whether or not you can make it. Sometimes the race seems too long. Sometimes you just want to sit down. Sometimes a companions words help (and other time you want to punch them in the face). Well, you get the idea. Running a marathon is perhaps my favorite metaphor of the Christian life. So will I run another? Well, I vowed to never run again like I did in the previous marathons, but within a couple of hours, I really wanted to run again.

Why? I think it's crossing the finish line that draws me in. It is the most incredible thing in the world to cross the finish line after thinking you will never make it! And so it will be in heaven some day, we'll cross that line into glory and we can stop running by the blood and grace of Jesus. Hope I don't puke right across the finish line there like I did Saturday:-)

By the way, I recuperating in Laguna Beach this week. The leadership team on staff and i are in southern california to see some churches and talk with their leaders and to pray about and plan for what God is doing at Eastview. I'm technically working (my brain will be hurting about Wednesday by noon), but I'm not gonna lie, I'm looking out my window at some palm trees around a pool with the ocean in the background. But really I'm heading to an all day planning session right now - don't you feel sorry for me?