For the Christian on the DONE side of love, the question is not ‘How much should I give?’ The question is, ‘How much do I dare to keep?’

Give. 1 Corinthians 16

1 Corinthians 16:1-4

Give as you have been given.


As you have been given, give.


Give as you have been given.



North Ridge entered 2012 by partnering with Port City Church in an initiative called My One Word. My One Word is a program where an individual methodically selects a single word, an attribute to which the aspire, to focus on becoming throughout the year. This single word replaces the cumbersome list of New Year’s resolutions that are all broken by Valentine’s Day. My word for 2012 began as ‘bold’ and honed down to ‘speak’ before the year’s end. You may remember seeing drawings from the sermon series (check out the My One Word link in my past series cloud if you are new to Plasso).  Several of us who found success in emulating our words last year chose to re-up on My One Word in 2013. My word for this year – steadfast.

Steadfast – fixed in direction, firm in purpose, unwavering, firmly fixed in place or position.

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.  James 1:12

Our family of five will be embarking on an adventure this year that we will be a ride that lasts the next four. We are letting go of a safe, consistent income so my wife can return to school full-time. She has been teaching biology in public high school since the fall of 2001. The increasing government regulations and bureaucratic meddling is effectively driving all the quality teachers out of the public sector, Julie is adding her name to their casualty list at the end of this semester. This time of spring in 2017, she will graduate as a licensed pharmacist.

To be quite honest, I chose this word focus on for all four years of the PharmD program! Letting go of the teaching position is the least of my concerns, I’m actually relieved to be free from the toll that career path takes on the teacher’s family. I encourage any young person who asks my opinion on their projected career path to avoid teaching if they also see family in their future. The nation’s public school system is in a sad state, driven by statistical algorithms instead of actual effectiveness. The mountains of paperwork and loathsome hours wasted keeping up with the requirements of this bureaucratic mess have changed the landscape of public teaching.  No longer is it a honorable career path that opens the door to significantly impacting children’s lives. It is now a contractual marriage to a thankless job that demands higher priority than any other aspect of the teacher’s life. 12 years of experience as a teacher’s spouse (2/3 of one year testing out the job personally) created my opinion and nearly every person I speak to who are also (or were formerly) married to a teacher corroborate this position. I am at least as equally excited as Julie that her professional divorce from teaching will be finalized in thirty days.

Our objective now is maintaining the household while she becomes a commuter student  and fulfills a dream to enter the medical field which was alive when we met 16 years ago. Remaining steadfast.

Those of you who follow this blog know how my mind works, or at least are familiar with its results. Steadfast is more than just my word until 2017, it is also an image that is burned into my mind and hangs on the wall above the desk where I type.


Steadfast is composed of three 12″ x 16″ canvases. I used four 8-penny nails to hold each panel in place. Once the shape was created, I began painting. The primary emotion I wanted to convey was agitation. The first layer of the painting was a very dark, midnight black with just a touch of blue. To experiment with media (and a bit out of necessity when I realized I was out of blue acrylic at the time), the under-painting of this piece is tempra.

I made sure to purchase all the black and blue I could need for the outer layer of this piece. Using long, fast, borderline violent strokes horizontal strokes, I imagined myself inside a tornado seeing the wind and debris swirling around my head. Various shades of blues and blacks concealed the dull under-painting. Stepping back to look, I was quite pleased (and a little out of breath) when this sitting was complete.

The final piece of this painting was to take a Jackson Pollock sort of spin like I used in ‘Torn‘ and literally throw some highlights of orange, yellow and white onto the dark canvas. Hosting a party to break the mundane-ness of January changed my direction. Once complete, ‘Steadfast’ had a hole to fill over the computer desk in our living room. It is not a direct focal point in our party-gathering space, but leaving the space empty would stick out like a sore thumb. Though incomplete, I hung ‘Steadfast’ for the party. This proved to be a defining choice for the piece and my understanding of my word.

We have can lights in the ceiling in our living room and the wall above our computer desk is an ideal location for artwork without glass because the piece is perfectly illuminated. ‘Steadfast’ was no different. The piece looks amazing in this location; the lighting makes the subtle light blues pop against the darker hues. The light also added another unexpected dimension. Reflecting against a sheen I only guess was created by painting acrylic over tempra, a streak of almost white yellow slithers its way down the paint and gives the image the same likeness as a calm, moon-lit lake.

Steadfast (no flash)
Steadfast (no flash)

A good friend who is a creating in his own right as a writer (check out his work here) admired the piece and we discussed the background, the creative process, and the future plans for the piece. Jason made a profound suggestion; leave the image as is for 2013, but revisit it each year and modify the image as your understanding of remaining steadfast evolves. Pure creative genius. I am doing as he suggested and practicing steadfastness by leaving the image alone until next January.

What began as an agitated, chaotic whirl-wind with three canvases holding on for dear life became the most peace-filled, calming image I can recall ever creating. Through the process of creating this piece, God showed me that remaining steadfast is not just exemplified in a soldier on the front lines of battle who yells to his comrades to stand their ground. There is a peaceful, calm side of steadfastness as well. Keeping your cool under stress, refusing the urge to worry when anxiety comes knocking, declining the part-time, third shift job I was offered to supplement the income and remaining faithful that ends will meet without sacrificing my presence with Julie and the boys. This is me remaining steadfast.

Steadfastness for you could manifest in a thousand different ways. Steadfastness is maintaining your integrity and standing your ground. While at times it will be a fight against adversity, there is a peacefulness to be found. Peace as a result and peace within.

Peace runs deep, deep in Him.  – ‘Train Song’ Josh Garrels

The Cycle of Foot-Washing

Continuing our re-launch of North Ridge in the start of our fifth year, we began a new series focusing on the essentials of the Christian faith and our mission as a community of believers who want to impact our culture. The next few weeks will follow this theme, series titled; “Things That Matter”. The messages we’ve heard and lessons we’ve learned over the last few weeks lead up into today’s message on our place in the missio dei, discipleship.

Before we can effectively disciple other people, we must first answer a question for ourselves. What does it mean to follow Jesus, to be a disciple?

Jesus calls us to follow Him with others, but also to follow Him for others. Effective discipleship requires community. Community is not defined by assembling for an hour, one day out of the week to listen to hear some music and some encouraging words, community is much more. Living in community happens on a daily basis and requires genuine compassion for people, even in the face of our differences. To live in community is to do life together, supporting each other through difficulties, celebrating victories, and serving the community at every opportunity.

Jesus calls us before we call Him. Cynicism is a learned trait, compassion is a characteristic we naturally contain. Compassion, empathy for the suffering of others, is a fundamental component of human love and is an intricate part of Jesus’s life and the life He calls us to, even before we can comprehend that it is His voice we hear. Jesus calls us in our normal lives, to operate every day in community-building mode, even in during mundane routine. He also calls us out of our normal lives, to take compassion to the next level by reaching out to people and seeing through “life is good” facades.

A disciple of Christ takes living for Him a step further by acknowledging Him as our motivator. Through this acknowledgement, a disciple is obedient to the word of God. We will emulate the morals and habits for living taught by Jesus and recorded in the Bible when we devote ourselves to following Him. In order to obey the word of God, one must know the word of God; meaning disciples study the word of God.

A disciple is responsive to God’s Spirit. When an opportunity to serve/share/make a positive impact/leave part of the world a little better than you found it, a disciple capitalizes on the situation more often than not. The Holy Spirit speaks through making opportunities visible, but also through that sixth sense that leads you to take the long way going to the store, makes you turn around to learn more about the stranger at the post office, or constantly reminds you of that old friend until you pick up the phone and call them.

Last, a disciple is motivated by God’s affirmation. As echoed throughout the Bible, motivation matters. A disciple is more concerned with the well-being of the ones they are serving than what can be gained through giving their time. I have crossed paths with individuals who become upset when their involvement in a project or act of service goes unrecognized. This attitude is contrary to the gospel and Christian discipleship. Most valuable to the disciple of Christ is not personal gain or praise from our peers, it is watching the reactions of those we’ve served and seeing the impact our presence made on another’s life.

Today’s drawing is a depiction of the Bible’s ultimate representation of servant-hood, washing another’s feet. 2000 years ago, walking was the most common form of transportation and the closest thing to Lebron James’s shoe line was some raw hide and leather straps (wait, that’s not so different). At any rate, the first century common citizen had nasty feet. Even today, showing the bottom of one’s foot to another in middle-eastern society is tantamount to flipping the bird in America. Just before giving himself over for torture and crucifixion, Jesus exemplified humility to his disciples by washing each one of their feet. The central focus of today’s drawing is the icon of the Gospel you may recognize from some previous drawings. The summation of the Gospel is simply this; Jesus lived, He died on the cross, He was buried, and He rose from the grave. Surrounding the Gospel icon is a circular arrangement of figures, each washing the feet of the one in front of them. You may remember from a couple weeks ago, this arrangement implies the Gospel is the central focus of the action surrounding it. In today’s image, it is the motivator for humbing ourselves and serving others.

A disciple does the right thing, at the right time, for the right reasons. Our role as the church in the missio dei is to create a community of disciples by living the example of that role so that we inspire others to follow.

Matthew 4:18-19

While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”