Dear Church Leaders, I Don’t Want Your Unity.

Dear Church Leaders,

I’ve been following the recent events of the Seventh Day Adventist General Conference very closely; and I’m not talking about the great things happening in Adventist education, healthcare, or ADRA.  I’m referring directly to the issue of church unity that has come to the forefront of the debate on women’s ordination.  While I was frustrated with the GC decision regarding women’s ordination, I believe your current approach to maintaining “church unity” is what will finally push myself and every other gen-X and millennial away from the church.

First let me tell you at my core I’m an Adventist.  I’m a third generation Adventist with both my father and grandfather being Adventist ministers.  Most all of my family has attended Andrews University.  I personally chose Andrews over other private and public schools I was admitted to because finding a spouse who believed in Adventism as I did was most important.  This is why your actions regarding women’s ordination and church unity are so hurtful to me.  I don’t see any of those things as being a reason why I’m Adventist.

The issue of women’s ordination and the subsequent fall-out are cultural issues, not doctrinal or even salvific.  When you’ve got people from literally every country on the globe as part of your church there’s going to be disagreements like this.  Should church greeters kiss, bow, or shake hands?  Who cares?  Yet for some reason in 2016 we approach our differences like the Pilgrims telling Native Americans to put more clothes on.  Church unity means making everyone the same.  Why?  Whatever does that have to do with where I spend eternity?

See To me and almost all the people who are mad at the church and/or leaving the church, we care about two things.  The first is something Jesus said (go figure).  Jesus said to love God and love your brother.  That’s it.  How much does our church show love?  Love to people who are sick, hungry, ex-cons, single parents, divorcees, refugees, mentally ill, black, white, gay, lesbian, transgender, or have had abortions.  LOVE EVERYONE!!!  And second only to the love everybody thing is community.  Because you can’t have community without love and acceptance and tolerance for our differences.  Because in the messed up lives we live in we want to know our church will love us and accept us despite our flaws.  When you have love as Jesus asked then community falls right in place.  And notice what comes at the end of community.  UNITY!

Unity comes when we take a step back from pointing out each others differences and start appreciating them.  We then leave the judgement up to God.  After all, he’s going to do a lot better job at it than any of us.  When we lose sight of what Jesus actually told us to do, we put ourselves in his place. It’s almost like we don’t trust Jesus anymore.  It’s 2000 years later and we think we’re smarter and know what he was talking about better than he did.  After all He didn’t have the Ellen White Library or the Seminary to guide Him.  And if you don’t trust Jesus, you don’t trust the people in your church to follow his command.  You don’t believe that the Holy Spirit can talk through anyone but yourself and the people who agree with you.  But if you don’t trust people, you’ll never have unity.  And that’s not something you can bring about with a vote or board action.

Church unity is something every pastor and church leader has preached about since Paul.  It’s an annual staple right up there with the Christmas sermon and that year end sermon about giving.  If you listen to those sermons (and I’m sure you’ve preached a couple too), then you’ll remember every one of them references I Corinthians 12.  The body of Christ is made up of many different parts and you can’t expect them all to be the same.  Yes, I agree with unity in the church, but in the respect that we are all unified through Jesus who created each of us uniquely marvelous.  However, your approach to church unity more closely resembles to Torquemada and the inquisition than it does to Jesus and the woman at the well.  And that’s a big problem.

Unity isn’t everyone agreeing on the same thing.  Unity isn’t about drawing a line in the sand and telling everyone to choose.  Unity is letting the tide wash away the line and enjoying the beach together.  It’s about finding the common things we agree about not trying to eliminate each other’s differences.  It’s about living Jesus lives and trusting him to change the hearts of men and women so His kingdom can be built, not ours.

So I’m begging you right now to take a step back from what you’re doing.  You hired the Barna group to tell you all the numbers about the next generation leaving.  This thing you’re doing right now is one of the reasons why.   Look around and you’ll find members are literally on the edge of their pews right now ready to get up and walk out; never to return.  Even giving a “year of grace” to come in line and repent won’t work.  It will only delay the inevitable.  Instead, follow the advice of Gamaliel.  Let this go.  If it is of man it will fail.  But if it is of God you won’t be able to stop it.  You’ll simply wind up with a bunch more empty churches.



Finding Your Dream Career

I’m in the business of stories.  I work for an organization called the Underground.  We believe that every person has a story, that their story matters, is worth telling, and is also part of a bigger story.  We’re in the business of creating stories and telling stories.  Because it’s only when you understand your story that you can truly find success and fulfillment in life.

So what’s my story? I grew up in an average home with my parents and brother.  For the first thirteen years of my life my dad was a pastor.  And he was a good one.  Every church he went to doubled and sometimes tripled in size.  When I hit middle school however, he left the ministry for the health and sanity of himself and our family.  Through middle school and high school I don’t know how many different companies my dad worked for as he tried to find something he was equally passionate about as ministry.  He understood the importance of a good career and also taught us how crucial that was to providing for our family.  So it shouldn’t have surprised me when we went for a walk my senior year in high school to talk about what I would study in college.

We were walking down the road as we often did since we lived in the country and could do those things.  High school was behind me and I had gone through quite of bit of career exploration.  I was seriously looking at Physical Therapy, had entertained law, dentistry, and was currently registered as pre-optometry at Andrews University where I was headed.  Walking with my dad I told him I wasn’t really interested in any of those options anymore.  At 18 years old I had made up my mind and was going to be an archaeologist.  Without stopping or missing a beat he answered “No you’re not.  You just want to be Indiana Jones and I’m not buying you a leather jacket and fedora.”  Unfortunately, that was exactly what I was thinking of doing so there was no arguing my dad’s point.

So I went to business school, because after all that’s the default degree for people who don’t know what they want to do when they grow up right?  After college I spent 13 years working in Human Resources, specifically in recruitment.  I thought I’d climb the ladder and retire an HR executive.  I was working for a great organization with stability and upward mobility, not to mention I was good at my job.  I thought I had found my career. And I did, but not the way most people would have thought.  What I discovered in my first job was something I didn’t know when I took that walk with my dad all those years before or understood as I looked for jobs after college.  It took me 13 years to figure out that in order to know your career must first have to know the definition of “Career”.  And it’s not what you think it is.

According to Oxford’s English Dictionary, career is defined as a person’s course or progress through life.  Think about that for a minute.  “A person’s course or progress through life”.  I like this definition a lot more than what we traditionally think of when we think of the word “career”.  Typically we will think of career as it relates to our job.  How to find the right job, the best job, the most successful job.  We think our career is tied to our education, how our education applies to our job, and how our job creates personal wealth and success.  But this definition puts the power of your career where it should be, in your hands.  It translates into the story of your life.  And only you can define your story – you are your career.

Your job is not your career.  Your employer is not your career.  Your degree is not your career.  So when we talk about you finding your dream career, that all starts with you.  It’s talking about finding out who you really are in your story.  It starts and ends with you.  You finding out who you are and exploring what makes you tick.  It doesn’t matter what you do. What matters is who you are.

It took me a while to realize that so my own career could bring me to where I am.  No college adviser, business mentor, or career coach ever told me that.  I had to do it.  As I discovered who I am I also found my story.  So what can I tell you to help you find your story, your career?

Whether you’re Frodo, Luke Skywalker, Katniss Everdeen, or Ron Burgundy all stories have one thing in common, and that is the hero is on a journey.  Those heroes are driven by their passion.  Yes, it’s cliche but it’s the most important piece that I realized was missing from what I was doing. I will always remember the conversation I had with a CFO one day as we talked about careers.  He said “Most of the time I can’t believe they pay me to do this.  I would do it for free. I love doing this”.  I was blown away.  He operated on 4 hours of sleep and worked unceasingly to drive the business.  But that didn’t matter because he was passionate about what he was doing.  It brought him joy and contentment.  It wasn’t a job.  It was his career, his story.

What is your passion?  Do you know yet?  If you don’t it’s okay.  That’s part of the journey. After college I found a job with a great organization with excellent job security.  To many people they would consider that a good career and call it quits.  I became an expert in my field.  However, I never really reached that point of “I can’t believe they pay me”. Some find their passion when they’re elementary students and others find it in their forties.   Looking back I didn’t understand my passion until the right moment.  As that passion took hold of me I looked is when I looked outside of the career path I had been on and saw found my story.

Next, as you find your passion, don’t let obstacles knock you off your journey.  You may have heard the statistic that 90 percent of business start ups fail in the first year correct?  But did you know that of those who fail, 90% never try again?  Yet of those who do, 80% have success the second time.   Too many people quit at the first sign of trouble.  They ignore their passion and redirect back to safety.  They look for the easy path where all the doors are open.  I can’t count how many jobs I have been rejected from.  Every single one hurt.  Every single rejection eroded my self esteem.  You get to a place where you just don’t want to try anymore.  However, every rejection made me rethink my purpose and my passion.  It refined my resolve and clarified my journey.  Eventually I reached far outside my comfort zone, testing the waters to what I formerly thought I was unqualified.  While I didn’t get that first job either, I did get a call back.  That told me I was onto something and led me to keep trying.

Finally, find your guide.  We all need a Yoda, but more often than not the people who want to be our guide aren’t who we need to guide us.  For most of my life I looked at people within my profession to guide me.  I heard all the cliche’s  “Bloom where you’re planted”, “Dress for the job you want”, you name it.  However well intentioned those coaches and mentors were when they said those things, they didn’t have any interest in my passion.  They were focused on their path and how you might follow or even aid them as they go by. Their definition of career and success didn’t match with mine.  I chased someone elses definition of career for far too long.  Whether it was my dad’s definition, what I perceived from others as career, what I saw from my peers, or advice I took from people I considered having successful careers.   Your guide needs to know you.  One of my guides (yes I have several and I encourage you to do the same) never looked at my resume or career.  He knew me.  He saw where I was engaged and listened to what I talked about outside of the office.  He pushed me and encouraged me to follow my heart despite what my head said.  Your guide should be part of YOUR journey, not the other way around.

Don’t be frustrated if you don’t know your career.  Many of the greatest heroes didn’t know what career path they were on when they started.  Luke Skywalker simply wanted to be a fighter pilot.  Frodo just wanted to explore outside the shire.  Derek Zoolander just wanted to be really really really ridiculously good looking.  According to a Penn State study, 20-50% of students enter college undecided and 75% will change their major at least once.  That’s huge.  And how many of us can say we matured enough in 4 years of college to say that final degree we got should define us for the next 40 years?  If it were that easy the Wall Street Journal wouldn’t have said in 2010 that the average person has 7 careers in their life.  Thirteen years ago I would have never guessed I would be working for a teen center booking concerts and planning after-school enrichment programs with public schools, and helping teens create and tell stories.

So, what’s the best career for you?  It might be the career you’re in right now.  It might be a career three jobs from now.  It might be a career you haven’t thought of yet.  What matters right now is, are you going to redefine your career by taking control of your story.  Once you find your story you can become passionate about it, overcome the obstacles that are in it, and find the guides that will help you find the career of your dreams.

Parenting Decisions You Can’t Prepare For

Father SonI don’t know if my boys have ever seen me cry, but they did this week.  And it wasn’t one of those manly tears that fall at the end of Braveheart.  No, this was full blown bumbling, snot dripping, tears running off your chin crying.  And for many people, including my wife, it was probably for a silly reason.  I returned a guinea pig to the pet store.  It was more than just a guinea pig moment though.  It was an adult decision, a parent decision, a father decision that I knew would leave a lifelong impression on both me and the boys.  A decision that I didn’t think would impact me the way it did and I could have lived without.

It all started about two months ago.  After having a rough couple of days with our oldest son, we decided to challenge him with some responsibility that would reward and motivate him.  Anyone who has or has had kids knows maturing wreaks havoc on their minds and emotions.  It’s really a cruel joke of nature on both kids and parents.  He had been asking for his own pet for a while and after some research decided guinea pigs would be a good fit.  As hoped, he responded remarkably to our challenge and we soon day came where we drove all over town to pick out the right two guinea pigs.  We had to get two because apparently they are extremely social animals and do best in pairs.  So each boy picked one out.

One of the reason’s we had to go to four different stores was to find two female guinea pigs, because they get along better than two males and obviously can’t breed.  The boys immediately fell in love with them and picked out perfect names, Squeakers (for my oldest) and Nibbles (for my youngest).  Every day when I came home there the boys were, sitting on the couch reading with a guinea pig on their shoulder.  Things were great as my oldest researched guinea pigs and taught us all about what they eat, trimming their nails, brushing them, and all kinds of random facts.  The guinea pigs thrived and grew.

Then came Tuesday night.  I had just got off work and called to check in as normal.  My wife was outside with the boys and the guinea pigs letting them get some fresh air and munch on grass (the guinea pigs, not our boys).  As we talked she said something was up with the guinea pigs.  One of them was humping the other. Now, this isn’t unusual even for same sex animals when they get older as one tries to establish dominance.  But just to be sure she flipped them over to double check.  Sure enough, what we were told were two females by the pet store was actually a male and female.  And they were old enough to start mating.  As with all decisions my immediate response was “What would you like me to do dear”.

There were several options at our disposal: neutering, separation, or see if the store will take the male back.  We agreed the easiest and most cost effective was to take the male back to the store.  When I got home I went directly to the cage.  They had been used to us now so he didn’t run away and was easy to catch.  I put him in a box and proceeded to the door, trying to get out before the boys got back from the park and hoping to avoid a scene.  It didn’t matter.  When I got to the door there was my youngest.  He saw the box and knew I was doing something with the guinea pigs.

“What are you doing dad?” came the simple, innocent question.

“Don’t worry about it, go have dinner with mom.  She’ll talk to you.” And I hopped in the car.

The pet store manager was amazing as I explained the situation and she let me pick out a new guinea pig without any charges.  As I concluded my business with the manager is when things changes.  Everything began to sink.  Up to that moment I had moved forward coldly and logically, walking through the decision without emotion.  Now I was on the way home to face my son.  I told myself this was what was best.  But that didn’t make the sick feeling that was building in my stomach go away.  Next came the hardest part.  The talk with my son.  I was choked up before I sat down.  He was braver than I gave him credit.  Braver than I was at the moment.  I set him on my lap and held him tight as we talked.

“Do you know what I did?” I asked, trying to compose myself.

“Yes, mom explained it and it makes sense.”  He replied.

Then I caved.  My wall was gone.  The weight of my parental decision attacking me from every side.  I separated two innocent animals who trusted me to take care of them and who had become attached to our family.  I had taken away my son’s pet.  No warning.  No discussion.  Not even a goodbye.  I explained everything.  Why we did it.  How hard it was on me and mom.  How important he was and how parents have to make hard decisions some times.  And if he wanted I would take him to the store to say goodbye.

Nothing can prepare you for those decisions.  No one writes books about things like this that hit you in parenting.  The life of a parent is filled with hundreds of thousands of decisions that you hope in the moment are the right one.  Decisions that you make with little to no previous experience or knowledge.  You pray that down the road you don’t regret it or that your kid doesn’t wind up in therapy because of it.  Sure, you can rationally and reasonably make decisions that are logically the best move for you and your family, but is that always the best way to go about making decisions?  No matter how rational a decision is and how reasonable it is, doesn’t there have to some heart that ultimately impacts it?  Is moving into a new house the best?  Is changing schools the best?  Is it piano lessons or violin?  Sports or science?  The list goes on and on and on.  It’s overwhelming and exhausting.

What amazes me is how you keep so many of those emotions at bay as you make decision after decision for your family and they hit you in the least expected moments. I didn’t even try to hide it from my boys.  Many fathers would have.  But I don’t want my boys to believe their dad has no emotions and doesn’t care.  I don’t want them to think what we do as parents is easy and we just had kids so we had slaves to do the dishes.

I think about how I worry about my boys every day.  Am I a good dad? Will they turn out okay because of how I’ve raised them and the decisions I’ve made?  I can only hope so.  I’m still beating myself up about it.  In the grand scheme of things I know guinea pigs are such a trivial part of us.  What I also know is my son rebounded without a blink.  He understood and loves his replacement guinea pig with the same gusto he loved the other one.  So, I guess I’m doing something okay.

I Took My Kids Away From My Wife for Mothers Day

This past weekend was mothers day.  I feel like mothers day has become a hallowed day of reverence towards mothers that no other minor holiday achieves.  Even fathers day barely registers as anything more than a good day to shop at Lowe’s.  But mother’s take up a difference space in our personal and national agendas.  Mom gave us life.  Mom kissed our owies and gave us baths.  Mom cleaned our rooms and our homes.  Mom cooked dinner and did our laundry.  Mom took care of the pets we got bored of.  Mom held us at 2am when we were scared or sick.  Mom got angry when we got bullied and cried with us when we got dumped by our first girlfriend.  Mom is undeniably important.  (I love you mom).  So it surprised our friends when I told them my mothers day gift to my wife was not flowers, breakfast in bed, and handmade cards from the boys.  No, it was to take her kids away from her for the day.

No one will deny that the vast majority of moms don’t get the credit they deserve.  Whether they are a stay at home mom juggling household duties with running kids around to practice, or a working mom trying to squeeze in a job along with the other stuff, moms are also typically running on empty by the time they get to sit down at the end of the day.  (note: if you’re a stay at home mom, don’t read too much into that last sentence.  You work just as hard, just differently than mothers with paying jobs).   So when it came time to figure out what to do for my wife, giving her a break from all of her male children (including myself) was a no brainer.  I got up early, got the boys ready and headed to visit my mom for the day, leaving my wife to do as she pleased.  Of course by the time I got out she had already started the laundry and been grocery shopping, but that also meant her schedule was clear.  When we got back and took her to dinner that evening, she told us how great her day was doing exactly what she wanted to without anyone elses input or interruption.  It was a perfect day.

But there’s a group of people out there who think that story is incredibly horrible and sad.  One of my wife’s co-workers was appalled that she didn’t spend the day with her boys.  (her co-worker also doesn’t have kids by the way).  No matter what explanation she gave, her co-worker didn’t get it.  The same thing happened to model Rachel Finch this week as she shared that she sends her kid away every weekend to get a break from them.  Apparently the full-time mom and model sends her two year old daughter to spend Saturdays with grandma so she can get some down time.  As usual, social media exploded with infuriated people condemning this act of parental neglect.  They couldn’t believe that a parent would be so calloused as to not want to spend every moment with their child.  But is that really such a good thing?

I’ve seen parents so burned out with their kids that the kids are borderline neglected.  There’s no relationship anymore as the kids and parents basically co-exist in the same household with the adults functioning more as living chaperons keeping the kids from killing themselves.  The parents are exhausted and the kids are in their own worlds with friends, toys, or electronics.  I’ve been there myself.  The stress and worry of work eating away at me to the point I didn’t want to come home.  I couldn’t handle what the family expected of me on top of what was already eating away at me.  I just needed some space.  I turned out to be not so great a parent as I snapped at my kids and did what I could to find “me time”.  I wasn’t happy with myself or proud of my parenting, but I didn’t know what else to do.

So taking weekends off sounds like a fantastic idea to me.  It’s not like the kids were going to foster care for the weekend either.  It’s grandma.  Growing up not really knowing or connecting with my own grandparents, making sure my kids have a strong relationship with my parents is extremely important for me.  The best mothers day gift I can give my mom is time with her grandkids.  And who is going to spoil them better than grandma anyway?

I have friends who have intentionally moved closer to family so that they have the additional support.  They can drop the kids off with the grandparents any time and get a much needed date night and time away.  However, for most of the world that’s not an option.  If you don’t live near family, have a close network of friends, or the disposable income to pay for a sitter, time away from the kids to catch your breath isn’t possible.  You take any moment you can.  Sleepover at a friends?  Can both kids go?  Summer Camp?  Do we get a discount if we send them for more than one week?  I know there are plenty of parents out there who agree.

Now none of this is to disparage having kids.  No parent who agrees they need more time away from kids would in any way trade those kids in or give up parenting.  Our world revolves around our boys and our family.  And it saddens us every day as we realize how fast they’re growing up and how much less they need us already.  But in a world self-absorbed in it’s own personal fulfillment, I don’t understand how people are outraged over parents wanting, needing, and deserving a break from their kids.  Think about it this way, even if you worked in your dream job with the worlds greatest boss and co-workers, would you want to go to work 365 days a year with no vacations?

Movie Review: Captain America Civil War (No Spoilers)

I went to see Captain America last night.  I admit, this wasn’t my number one film to see this year.  That spot was reserved for Batman v. Superman and I’ll get to comparing the two in a little bit.  Nonetheless, I was anxious to see the movie since I had read the Civil War comic series and loved it.  I wanted to see how the story was interpreted to the big screen in one film.  I went in with low expectations for screen adaptation but was very happy with how it turned out.  Obviously with it being Captain America’s movie the plot revolves around him, but as always Robert Downey Junior isn’t far away reminding you that he’s really the one in charge of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  You have most of the holdovers from Avengers Age of Ultron – Cap, Ironman, Black Widow, Hawkeye, The Vision, War Machine, and Scarlet Witch.  I will admit though, that I missed Thor and Hulk, but the addition of Spiderman and Black Panther make up for it.  And whether you liked his movie or not, Paul Rudd as Antman will quickly become a favorite secondary character.   Continue reading

When Did Religion Start Holding Us Back?

inquisitionWhen did religion turn into a system that retards society and culture rather than a progressive force pushing it forward?  The thought occurred to me this week in a conversation about the lack of response from Christians to the atrocities committed by ISIS and Boko Haram towards women.  As 10 and 11 year old girls are kidnapped, raped, and sold as sex slaves it feels like most Christian’s are more concerned about Donald Trump “restoring our Christian nation” to drive out the gays and atheists.  Believers across the world and from across religious spectrums are seeking to bring society backwards to some golden era of belief.  They seemingly forget that religion is what has moved us forward more than it’s held us back. Continue reading

Easter Monday Morning Quarterbacking — April Love-Fordham

It is the Monday after Easter. On Easter Sunday, in the glory of the resurrection, it is easy – and probably appropriate – to overlook one of the really interesting details of the Jesus story. But now that it is Monday, let’s do some Monday Morning Quarterbacking… “The women hurried away from Jesus’s tomb, afraid yet […]

via Easter Monday Morning Quarterbacking — April Love-Fordham

Ben Carson’s Campaign Manager Attempts to Defend Him and Fails

Las Vegas Prepares For Final Republican Debate Of The Year

LAS VEGAS, NV – DECEMBER 15: Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson prepares for a television interview before the start of the CNN republican presidential debate at The Venetian Las Vegas on December 15, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Thirteen Republican presidential candidates are participating in the fifth set of Republican presidential debates. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

As Ben Carson not so surprisingly stepped out of the presidential race this past weekend and shockingly endorsed Donald Trump, many people (including myself) wanted to know why.  (See my open letter to Dr. Carson here).  Well, his campaign chairman responded via Facebook over the weekend.  The response is below and I will honestly say I’m even less impressed with Dr. Carson now.  I’ve added thoughts and responses to the statements in blue italics.

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March 11, 2016; General Bob Dees, Campaign Chairman, Carson for President 2016 on Dr. Carson’s endorsement of Donald Trump:

Team Carson,

You are no doubt aware of Dr. Carson’s official endorsement of Donald Trump at a press conference today, the rationale for which he reiterated on his Facebook page this morning. Continue reading

Dear Ben Carson, Please Tell Me Why


Dear Dr. Ben Carson,

When when you announced your candidacy for president I was intrigued.  When you trended well in the polls I was surprised.  When you kept getting bullied and knocked around during debates I felt sorry for you.  When you withdrew his candidacy I was relieved; you can do better.  But when you endorsed Donald Trump I was disappointed.  And not just a little bit.  I actually lost a lot of respect for you. Continue reading