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to pray or not to pray

One of my favorite authors, Tony Jones, is working on a new book about prayer. He asked readers of his blog:

Do you pray?

So, you pray…

Why do you pray?

Here is my response:

One reason I pray, it that it helps me to organize my thoughts.
Another reason is because I have faith that God truly cares about me and what is going on with me and my family.
And yet one more reason I pray is to try to be an example to my son. I do want to be a good example, whilst knowing that I’ll drop the ball over the course of my life.

I have more reasons to pray, but these are the one on the top of my list.

Do you pray? Does it have worth to you?

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When Disaster Strikes

It’s hard to sit back and watch destruction happen. In the face of an “act of God” we watch the images roll by on our TVs, laptops and smartphones and say…this is bad.

And it is. It is heartbreaking.

Hurricane Irene has come and gone. But there are residuals.

I’ve been watching the news and reading the interwebs and scouring Facebook and Twitter for news about a place I called home for such a brief period of time.  I found more than I bargained for.

This past weekend I was thinking about the upcoming hurricane, I was thinking about how it would affect me. How it would affect my weekend plans and my honey-do list. I was watching the storm track and saw that we’d get a little bit of in in Central PA, and my home state of Connecticut would get hit hard too. But I didn’t think about Upstate NY.  The Catskill Mountains. The Town of Windham (where I finished high school).  The Village of Maplecrest (where my family lived and my dad ministered for a decade).

I didn’t think of them at all. What hurricane has tracked that far inland before? How can a mountain top flood? It never occurred to me. I was never handed that info packet when I moved there. The Welcome Wagon didn’t mention that the entire mountain might flood.

But when it does…

that is the awesome power of water.

What it can do in a small period of time can have a lifetime of effect.

It can break you. Or it can make you stronger.

The Mountaintop has survived. Now they will get stronger.

Who Influences You

This originally ran over at MessiahVillageBlog.org as a 3 part series. I wanted to re-post it in it’s entirety. I know it’s long but hey…

Who influences you? Who shapes your life? We don’t live in a bubble. We don’t live alone. Even hermits have influencers…why do you think they cloistered themselves away???

Every day we rub shoulders with people who push and prod us in different directions. People speak into our lives, and leave indelible marks.  No matter what age we are.  As of this writing, I am 36 years old.  I’m not too young, and I’m not too old. I am right where I am supposed to be. Messiah Village is 115 years old. In the span of its lifetime, the Village has had lots of influencers.  The most recent issue of Echoes celebrated that.

It got me thinking, “who are my influencers?” I am not going to make a list of 36 people, but I am going to share with you my list of 15 people.

15. Denny Owens – Denny was Pastor at Eastborough Church of the Nazarene when my family moved to Colorado Springs in 1982.  He visited me in the hospital when I had my tonsils removed. I was 7 yrs old. I was scared. I felt very alone. He visited me, and etched into my memory a feeling of hope over despair.  Because of that visit I am sure he never thought twice about, I joined the hospital visitation team at my church.

14. Joyce Evans – She agreed to hire me here at Messiah Village for the Housekeeping department.  She gave me opportunities to learn every nook and crannie of the MV campus, and had me clean it, at least once. I appreciated her fair-handed approach in her leadership of the team I was a part of.

13. Shawn Andrews – He helped me find my “shape”.  What does that mean? When the opportunity came for me to dive a bit deeper into helping Daybreak Church start a new campus, Pastor Shawn was a great encourager of finding my shape to serve. You can read his blog over at OnceBlind.com

Shawn is in the green shirt

Why if I am a square peg should I try to fit it in a round hole?  Lots of questions, lots of prayers.  After some time of reflection and trying to hear the voice of God, I volunteered to be the Care Coordinator for the new Daybreak campus on the Carlisle Pike.

12. Bill Warzicki – A great friend and roommate. When I was a college student, I met Bill through WVMM, the Messiah College radio station.  He was a community DJ and had a show that followed one that I was a part of.  I slowly got to know him over those 4 years at Messiah College.  Post college, we were roommates for 10 years, until I married.

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Bill Warzicki (r) and Me (l) before I got married

A friend like him does not come along too often. We don’t see each other as much anymore, but we can pick it up right where we left off before.

11. Mike Carrier – He gave me the bug. Not the Flu. Radio.  Mike, when we met, a Disc Jockey for 2 radio stations, helped out with the youth group I attended when in jr. & sr. high, and a wrestling fan. All of these things I counted as cool. He honestly cared about me as a person (in those awkward teenage years) and shared part of his life with me.

Mike Carrier
Mike Carrier

I got my first taste of being on the radio when I was in 9th grade.  I won’t tell you how my much my college choice was based on the fact there was a radio station.  I won’t tell you that…

10. Scott Stimely – A good friend and former supervisor of mine here at the Village. He created the first AV job at the Village.

Scott and Nate  Photo by George Bundy
Scott and Nate Photo by George Bundy

I am truly indebted to him for that (otherwise I might not be writing this now). He recognized my talents and created space for me to use them for the Village.

9. Dennis Weller – When it comes to having fun on the job, Dennis taught me how to do it.  And by fun, I mean he had fun watching me work (I am kidding). For 2 summers during my college years, Dennis and I worked together in Climenhaga Fine Arts Center at Messiah College.  He taught me how to clean floors and carpets and maintain a building (this would be invaluable to me when I first started working at the Village…I cleaned lots of carpets and floors).

Dennis Weller
Dennis Weller

His actions showed me that you can work at a job and do a good job, but creating and growing relationships is the hard and very fulfilling work, no matter what you are doing.  Also it’s ok to creek someone if the boss gives you the ok and tells you to do it…

8. Al Sones – Pastor, mentor, and friend. Gentle and firm. Truthful and loving.  Al was my pastor for 5-6 years when I attended Good News Free Methodist Church.  In that short time he encouraged me to step up and into the hands of God and trust Him.

Al Sones & Granddaughter Adalynn Grace
Al Sones & Granddaughter Adalynn Grace

I am amazed as I look back on conversations we had, that he often coached me to look at people the way God would, when I was running into conflicts in my life. I don’t know that I recognized it then, but I do now and try to add that filter to my life.  Even though I don’t worship at Good News  currently, our paths continue to converge at points and I am so glad to have him as a friend.

7. Brian McLaren – Everybody that has made the list so far, I have known personally (though I’d like to meet Mr. McLaren). Brian McLaren is the author of A Generous Orthodoxy, A New Kind of Christianity, Everything Must Change, and A Search for What is Real: Finding Faith. Many of his writings have been transformative in my own faith journey.

Brian McLaren
Brian McLaren

I have been challenged to look at what I believe about the Bible, who Jesus is, how to look into the eyes of another person and know that they aren’t the stranger, I am.  McLaren’s writings have inspired me to have a more gracious and open heart to the world around me, and to try to embrace and welcome in and dialogue about the things I don’t understand rather than take a position and close my mind.

6. Damien Morris – It was about the 3rd hour of college back in the Fall of 1993 when we met. He lived 2 doors down from me, we didn’t know each other from Adam (I think there were Adam’s on 1st 2nd 3rd and 4th floors of Witmer Residence).

Me & D @ PNC Park
Me & D @ PNC Park

We have been friends ever since. It’s tough to think of my circle of friends and not have him there.  But Damien’s greatest influence on me has been that he does not make judgment calls about people.

D & Me SuperBowl Chill
D & Me SuperBowl Chill

I have always known my friend to be accepting to everyone he has met. I have not always done that. I wish I could do that more. Thanks, D for accepting me as a friend and as a brother.

Me and Damien on his wedding day
Me and Damien on his wedding day

5. Ken Danielson – If I never remember anything I ever learned in my time at Messiah College, I’ll remember this from Ken Danielson: “Meanings are not in words, meanings are in people.”  I heard this said in multiple classes I took that were taught by Ken (I also heard “class participation is 20% of your final grade” quite often). This was an idea that really took hold of me and I had to wrestle with. In my younger years, I’d spout this line out like it was a band-aid that I could put on a conversation that I had with people…the band-aid part being that I injured them with my words and thought that they should not be offended because they took it the wrong way.

Dr. Ken Danielson
Dr. Ken Danielson

It took me many years of thinking about what the coolest professor in the Communications Dept. had said, for me to understand, that it is not necessarily MY MEANINGS that were important, but rather OTHERS MEANINGS were important, and that I should try to understand them.  I wish that I could say that I am consistent with this “understanding” especially knowing my own tendency towards dramatic turns of phrase with people.  So I have tried to take the lesson that Dr. Ken Danielson tried to beat into a room full of self-involved college students: that words on a page or spoken aloud have definitions, but what those words mean take root in our own flesh. The trick is trying to figure them out and understand them.  Thanks Ken, for still helping me participate.

4. Cynthia Shields – I’ll admit I feel conflicted. Not about having my mom on the list, but that she is occupying the #4 slot (if I was a rapper, I’d have to make Momma # 1…it’s a rule). I am guessing that people might think that she should be higher on the list due to the fact that she birthed me, took care of me, fed me, clothed me, helped me with my homework, listened to all my problems and crisis’s.

Her presence alone was and is a major influence on me, and who I have become.  But it is more than just a laundry list of things she has done (and trust me she did the laundry too), but how her life serves as a role model as for me as how to live and interact.

My Mom
My Mom

She encouraged my creativity and finding outlets for it.  I can say that my love of (just about) all things musical came from my mom filling the house with song. Records, tapes, piano lessons, concerts, musicals are things she exposed me to that have left an indelible mark on my life.  I don’t consider myself talented in the musical arts, but I do retreat there to get myself together. So thanks to mom, for opening up a world for me to explore and get saturated in.  But my mom did not do all this by herself…she had help from…

3. James Shields – …My dad.  Relationships between a father and a son are so very different than that between mother and son.  Sons watch their fathers as a cast mold with which to carve out their own path.  I watched my dad. So much of who I am is built around how my dad is built.

Dad and me

He knows how to listen to people. He knows how to tell a story. He knows how to love my mom and my sister. He knows how to pray for people, and minister to their needs. He knows how to give a hug. I have watched him for 36 years.  I hope that all that watching has helped me emulate those things in my own life.  I like to think that I am a good listener, as much as I like to talk and tell an entertaining story.

My Dad
My Dad

My dad as a pastor as well as a police officer had the opportunity to help people on the margins. I don’t know how much of that has informed my desire to be a person who includes others rather than keeping people out.  As much as I know it isn’t always well received and can be socially awkward, I am a hugger. I get that honestly and unabashedly from my dad. You can never truly be welcoming to the stranger if you never open up your arms.  Thank you, dad, for always having your arms open to me.

2. “Baby Boy” Shields – If you thought that you might learn the name of my currently unborn son here…sorry, you’ll have to wait (honestly, my wife have not yet made a decision on that). I never quite contemplated how much of a shift my life would have just in preparation for the arrival of my son.  I recognize that no amount of prep that I will do, will ACTUALLY prepare me for when I hold him in my own hands.

Shields Baby

Classes and books, and web articles and blogs, and advice given by anyone and everyone will pale to that very real experience of being responsible for a new life that is part me and part my wife.  When I sit and contemplate that, it is completely overwhelming. What will I do? Will I be able to love him like my parents loved me?

Will I be able to hold his hand and let him go at the same time?  I really don’t know. I hope that I will be able to do all the things that he needs from me. I guess in time, I’ll find out.

1.Linda Shields –  WARNING: This might start to read a bit sickeningly sweet and/or clichéd, proceed at your own risk!

When I started this blog series a couple of months back, I created a list of people that had real influence over my life, and without a doubt, my wife Linda is at the top of the list.   I guess this could be considered a cheat, since she is my wife, but she hasn’t always been my wife.

Linda Shields

Although we graduated from Messiah College in the same class year (1997), we didn’t really know each other. It was not until 2002 that we started getting to know each other. All I knew was that she was an Electrical Engineer with Tyco Electronics, which meant that she could do math and thus was much smarter that I was. So I had to work hard at being smart too, no easy task for me…

Linda Genius

The Peacemaker and The Pot-Stirrer. That is how you could refer to us.  Linda is the peacemaker against my pot-stirring tendencies. I don’t want anyone to walk away with the impression that she follows after me to apologise to people for me. Certainly not! No, I was informed that she would take no responsibility for anything I said or did. Period.

Us

What I mean by peacemaker, is that when I get my drama on and start wanting to needle, poke, shake a stick at or get all high and mighty about (insert topic here), Linda has been, and is, great about helping me pull back on the reigns and consider what the consequences are of those actions. That alone has helped me keep my foot out of my mouth and off of others toes on more than one occasion. She asks me good challenging questions as to my motive, and desired outcome. She has nudged me to hit my 7-second delay button more frequently.

I love my wife, and I know she loves me too. Living my life with Linda has compelled me to try to be a better man. I want her to be proud of me, to continue to love me in spite of all my failings, and to hold my hand until I loose this mortal coil.

We have had some adventures, and some up and downs. But we keep moving in the same direction. We now have a new adventure that will be with us for the rest of our lives in parenting a son.  I look forward to seeing my wife as mother to our son, and how that will change how she influences me.

So there it is, for better or worse, this wraps current list of 15. As I think back, there are many more names. And if you ask me 10 years from now, the list might look a bit different.

So again, who influences you?

Welcome to sevensecondelay

In a myriad of blogs out there, this is one of them.

In my past blogging experiences, I have not always edited myself. I just put it out there. So this will be an adventure in taking time and processing what I am thinking. thus… sevensecondelay.

time to dive in.

 

Nate