Kristy and I have been trying to sell a house for over 3 years. We loved the house in Pennsylvania.
So many amazing things took place there. We will never forget the two weeks that ten people and one dog shared the two bedroom/one bathroom home. Kristy and I slept in our room, four girls slept in the spare room, and four guys slept in the garage (we sort of converted it to a room). We shared food, stayed up late playing cards, and laughed. What an amazing two weeks.

The house allowed us to learn a ton about hospitality and living with open doors.

But we have been forced to try a Short Sale, which is when the house sells for less than what is owed, but the bank agrees to basically forgive the outstanding amount. It hurts your credit but no to the extent that a foreclosure does. Well, the realtor found a buyer. Our contract stated that the realtor would get 6% for their part... pretty standard. However, the contract also stated that all aspects of the contract are subject to the approval of the lender, and they only agreed to pay 4%.

Well, our realtor is coming after us for the other 2%. We have another realtor who has been representing us with the lender and communicating with the realtor in PA, and she has assured me that we don't owe the money. I tried to appeal to our realtor (the person who is supposed to represent our interests in this deal) to waive the 2% since the reason we are doing a Short Sale is because we are in a bit of financial distress. Kristy has been unemployed since February and we are in the process of moving to Chicago for me to go to school. We don't have any income at this moment. Unfortunately, the realtor basically said no.

So, now I have played the contract card. I told him that it was clear in the contract that whatever the loan holder agreed to is what is expected. Since they only agreed to 4%, that is all the realtor gets.

My fear is that the realtor backs out and we are forced to take them to court. I have a big problem with the idea of suing someone. I feel we should try to work things out as best we can without relying on the court system. I have never had to sue anyone in the past and don't want to ever have to do it. This whole situation makes me sick to my stomach. This realtor is coming after us for less than $400 (he is making over $3,000 on the sale already). If I had it, I would give it to him. But coming after us for money at this point is like trying to squeeze blood from a turnip.



I hate busy work. Partially because I am so A.D.D. that it is excruciatingly painful for me to concentrate from beginning to end of a task that ultimately has zero importance. The other reason is that I am unbelievably prideful and hate kowtowing to the demands of someone else.

I just finished a bit of (what I believe) pointless busy work. I will be starting seminary in the fall, and McCormick apparently requires its incoming Juniors (that's what a Freshman is called at seminary... weird I know) to submit a writing sample. Now, mind you, most graduate schools and seminaries require a writing sample during the application process. All the other places I applied to asked me to submit a paper that I had written during my undergraduate education. McCormick did not require one.

However, after I had been accepted, given a scholarship, and sent my intent to enroll I was informed that I had to write a 750 word response to a small article. Everyone was given the same article and guidelines. After typing, I had to print it out, sign and date it (to insure that I did it all by myself), and send it to be analyzed as to whether I would need help with writing while in seminary. I fully understand that some people are coming in after being out of college for quite sometime. I also am aware that some do have difficulty with writing on a scholarly level. But, I think it a bit ridiculous not to just have us submit something that we had already written (if available).

Further, shouldn't we trust each other? I have two ways this idea of trust was dismissed in this process. First, if you don't trust me to complete an assignment on my own when you ask me to, why did you let me into seminary? Second, if someone needs help with their writing, shouldn't, at this level, we expect them to seek it out on their own?

I didn't really mind doing this writing. It was not particularly difficult and the topic was sort of interesting. It is more the principle. Okay, I'm done ranting now.


Waiting is the hardest part

Kristy and I have been in Colorado for a month. We are staying with her parents. Their house sits high on the slope of a small mountain, looking over a reservoir, and the views are spectacular. Every night there are millions of stars, while every morning the sun sparkles on the water down below. A family of deer live in the thicket right outside the house. In all, it is beautiful.

However, we get no cell phone service at the house (a tough thing when you are trying to sell a house, a car, get everything organized for when you get to your final destination, etc.). Civilization is a half an hour away... and it's not a lot of civilization. I have come to realize that I enjoy visiting the outdoors and wilderness, but I am a city boy at heart and could never live out here. None of this is to say that we don't love being here. In fact, we are having a great time, but we are excited to get going.

We are about to enter a new chapter in our life together. Another move, but one that will provide us with a little more financial freedom. Not a lot of freedom, but the fact that rent is paid for the next three years is pretty cool for people who have been paying a mortgage on a house we haven't lived in for over three years. Also, the opportunities available for us in Chicago are vast. I get to be trained for a job I am excited about. I also will have the opportunity for stellar education. Kristy's job prospects are great, and if she wants to go back to school she can.

Basically, we are enjoying ourselves at the moment... trying to take advantage of this time with her parents as well as just the rest we are able to get right now. Yet, we want to get going... we want to get settled... we are ready for the next stage... and, to quote Tom Petty, waiting is the hardest part.



Yesterday, the bishops of the Episcopal Church (the American branch of the Anglican Church) voted to allow gays and lesbians full participation in any ordained ministry (see NY Times full article). This move was not made sans controversy. There is a strong contingent within the Episcopal Church that opposes the full participation of active homosexuals in the life of the church, both in the U.S. and in Africa which has a very vocal branch of the Anglican Church as well. Here, there have already been four dioceses that have split to form a new denomination.

There are many theological arguments on both sides of this issue. Despite what one thinks is right, I get extremely frustrated when someone suggests that those on the other side either don't "know what the Bible says" or simply don't care. The issue of someone psychologically wired (perhaps even genetically though that has yet to be conclusively shown) for same sex attraction entering into a committed, monogamous relationship with another person pre-disposed for same sex attraction is never discussed in the Bible. Homosexual physical acts are, but they seem to always be in the context of the acts being unnatural for those who are participating in them. Of course it is unnatural and wrong for someone who is not pre-disposed for same sex attraction to simply engage in such acts for mere pleasure... just like it is wrong for anyone to ever use another person as a sexual object without being in a committed, monogamous (and I would argue covenental) relationship. My point is, though the Bible does unequivocally condemn unnatural, same sex activity, it never mentions natural same sex activity. My conclusion, this seems to be an issue that can go either way biblically.

That is why I have trouble with people on either side condemning the other. Each side must make their argument AND be willing to be convinced by the other side if that argument rings true. If I have learned anything so far, it is that when I think I know, without a doubt, what the Bible says, I am soon challenged by the same Bible with passages that seem to contradict what I had thought was 100% truth.

People must follow their God-given consciences. If that leads some to sever denominational relations then so be it. I love the phrase fiat justitia, ruat caelum or let justice be done, though the heavens fall (or do justice even if the sky falls down). If you think something is right, do it. I think the only stipulation is that it is never right to do something wrong in the name of doing something right. Take the murder of George Tiller as an example of how NOT to apply this Latin phrase. It is impossible to be "pro-life" and commit a murder.

My own denomination is wrestling with this issue. I have very close friends and mentors on polar opposites of this issue. Both love God, and both love others. Both believe the Bible. What do you do with that?? It comes down to how you read the Bible. One might say they take everything literally... but they most likely don't. Another might say only certain passages are authoritative... but, that is tantamount to saying that only they (the person) are authoritative since they are deciding what passages are useful. The appropriate, in my view, response is to simply acknowledge that the entire Bible has something important to say to those who call themselves Christian. However, all of us... every single one... picks and chooses which verses we think have bigger things to say than others. A professor friend of mine, a student and friend of Walter Brueggemann's, told me that Brueggemann would come into his classes and challenge everyone that each person bases their theology on 40 verses. He would then assign his students to figure out which 40 verses they use. Brueggemann himself has stated:

Martin Luther King, Jr., famously said that the arc of history is bent toward justice. And the parallel statement that I want to make is that the arc of the Gospel is bent toward inclusiveness. And I think that’s a kind of elemental conviction through which I then read the text. I suspect a lot of people who share this approach simply sort out the parts of the text that are in the service of inclusion and kind of put aside the parts of the text that move in the other direction.

Asked what he does with the rest of the verses, he says we must take them seriously, but that it is impossible to take every verse equally... no one does that.

This issue of homosexuality will continue to be divisive. People must follow their conscience and their interpretations of scripture, but they must also respect that those who disagree with them are simply doing the same thing. There is room for all within Christianity. Christ commanded us to love one another... we must seek to do that first. If that is our attitude, positive debate is possible, and the ability to agree to disagree won't lead to further splits.


Happy Birthday

So today is John Calvin's (or Jean Cauvin) 500th birthday. Granted, he died a while ago, but many of his ideas lived on and continue to influence western society to this day.

There is much to criticize about Calvin. His Geneva became as oppressive and violent as the Inquisition. His intellect and desire to win a debate allowed him to be trapped in a debate regarding pre-destination that has overshadowed much of his other work in the eyes of the average person. He viewed his own theology as 100% correct, to the point he ordered the suppression and execution of dissenters... an attitude that contradicted the premise of the Reformation.

However, Calvin did make an enormous contribution to the Reformation, Western Civilization and the World, and today is a day to celebrate that without covering up his faults and abuses.

My personal favorite idea of Calvin is the sacredness of the mundane. Granted, this was not an entirely new concept. Many monks had discovered the spiritual benefits of not only prayer and study, but of work as well. Calvin was simply able to transport this idea out of the monasteries and into the minds of everyday people. Every job was important and should be done with an attitude of worship, as if doing it unto God. This concept set the stage for the eventual breakdown of the Three Orders (oratores: those who pray, bellatores: those who fight, laboratores: those who work... these are listed in the order of importance according to the minds of Calvin's day and up until the Enlightenment in France) and allowed those previously thought beneath clergy and royalty to directly please God through their own labor and contribution to society.

Calvin, in a sense, created what is known as the Protestant Work Ethic and had a profound impact on the development of the eventual United States. Now, I do believe that it has been twisted somewhat. Today, many believe that if you work hard, you will succeed. Unfortunately, there are many who work hard and do not succeed. To those people it is often assumed that they are guilty of some sort of sin that is preventing their hard work from paying off. This is not always (if ever) the case. Calvin stood solidly with the poor and would denounce the idea that the community is not to help those less fortunate. However, he would agree with 2 Thessalonians 3:10 which says: "Anyone unwilling to work should not eat." But, he understood also that what the writer of 2 Thessalonians was decrying was an abandoning of participation in the world and simply waiting idly by until the return of Christ. Calvin wanted, as did the writers of the New Testament, the followers of Christ to be active in the redemption of this world by interacting with it in the ways shown by Jesus. Calvin saw work and integral in one's ability to influence their surroundings as well as something deeply holy.

So, happy birthday John Calvin.



Does it really count as a vacation if you fill out a change of address form for the place you are staying? This summer, my wife and I are moving to Chicago so that I can attend seminary. We chose Chicago because I was offered a full scholarship (which covers housing as well) for the three years we are there. Furthermore, it puts us close to my parents, friends who live in the city, and has plenty of opportunities for my wife as well as for me to pursue a PhD. after seminary.

However, we had to be out of our apartment in Jacksonville by June 15th and can't move into our place in Chicago until August 3rd. So, we are homeless for the next few weeks. Kristy's parents live outside Durango, Colorado and we decided to stay with them for that time. We have no home of our own... so one could argue we moved in with my in-laws. From the outside, this looks like a really long vacation, but in reality it is simply a blessing to have family that can help you out when you need it.

Really, the church should be a family like that. When I have something that someone else needs, I should jump at the opportunity to provide for that person. I know I have been on the receiving end pretty often in my life. No matter whether I am giving or receiving, I feel blessed to be a part of the process of God working through community.

From what I hear, community is a big part of the seminary experience. I am looking forward to living across the hall from the same people I will attend class with, debate with, get frustrated with, laugh with, cry with, and provide for as well as depend on for the next few years. While I was with Young Life in Northern Kentucky, we experienced a level of community that I want to strive for even today. The sharing of meals, housing, cars, money, and lives hearkened back to the Acts 2 example. It was amazing, and it has profoundly shaped me.

This time in Colorado has been great so far. I have started on my studies so that I can hit the ground running in Chicago. I have also taken some time to read a few books that I wanted read as opposed to them being assigned.

Anne Lamott is an author that I adore. I don't always agree with her, but she is brutally honest and vulnerable and her ability to craft words is top notch. I also read Desire of the Everlasting Hills by Thomas Cahill. Another one I would highly recommend. Overall, this homelessness/vacation has been reinvigorating and I will be ready to get going come August.