A huge pet peeve of mine is skipping the serial or Oxford comma. Skipping it adds no value or clarity and either causes confusion or, best case, causes your reader to think that you are uneducated dolt and/or journalist (B is almost always a subset of A).

Here is one of the funniest real-word examples of why it is necessary and should be used always:



Working in driver’s education is an interesting experience.

Most people would think this is due to the fact that you are helping beginners learn how to control the massive hunks of metal at high velocities which the average “experienced” person takes for granted. Though that can at times be an interesting experience, it is not really all that different from teaching anything else. Well, provided you have patience and at least a decent ability to teach. It is a very practical skill, so you have an extra need and opportunity to be hands-on, which is really what all teachers strive to do. In my current position, I do not do many driving lessons, which is bittersweet since I do sometimes miss working with the “raw clay” in its most moldable form.

The next biggest realm which most people find unusual is doing driving tests for beginning teen drivers. Though the occasional teen driving test is an adventure, most are pleasantly uneventful. Even those adults who have to have an interlock (breathalizer tied to the ignition) seems to do well (largely because they have gone so long without a license they take it seriously). No, generally the scary ones are adults who have never had a license and have been putting it off, those who have been driving in other countries (including recently deployed soldiers), and adults who have lost their license.

The hardest part I have found is the schedule. we are busiest when most people have downtime. Summers. Breaks. Weekends. This can make it difficult to have a normal life at time. Vacations and family stuff can be difficult to work out at times. It is even worse for those in the field who have children (be there in a few months!), which is probably why most instructors are retired, professional teachers who work part time, or do not have kids.

The other side of this is that during a large portion of the year, we have “down” time. The phones are slow. Our instructors only do 1 or 2 lessons a day. The tests that we were booking out a week in advance have slowed to walk-in, and only around a third of what they should be.

The nice part is that we have manpower available to to so many things that we had to put off from the busy season when we were barely holding things together in some areas. Curriculum revisions. Updating guidelines for various states. Completing training for staff members. Smoothing out company policies. Tightening some nuts and bolts. Cleaning out old files and equipment. Writing new programs. Advertising. Printing books and materials. Basically doing all those things that need to be done so we can make it through the busy time.

It is not so much that we are out of things to do, it is just that it takes more endurance to get it done. We are not hopping from one call to the next or helping 3 customers at a time speeding through the day, but we have to be deliberate in the action we take or we may not be able to do so later.

I feel the same place in life. “New” house that needs repairs to get back to a usable place from the last owners who messed everything up (but got us a really good deal!). Preparing for a baby girl arriving in a couple months. Helping set things up for an eventual small business. Trying to develop leaders through the volunteer organization where I will likely have to step back a bit.  Finding a situation where we can volunteer in ministry till sometime in the likely distant future I can work somewhere full-time. Keeping current on ministry trends. Bible studies. Counseling techniques and resources.

The hard part, as always, is keeping the goals in focus. Working through the boring parts even if it is hard to see the end. But, even if it is not the most exciting or enjoyable, it is still necessary. And important. Preparation allows things to go smoothly. Or at least more smoothly.


full story


. . .  but sometimes you get what you need. (the Rolling Stones)

Sometimes I do what I want, other times; I do what I must. (Gladitor)

I have been thinking along these lines a lot over the past few months, and some of it was brought to a head today in a way that would probably be unusual for most people.

As we all do in many areas of life, I have spent the majority of my life in one particular area doing what I must, rather than what I want. And it is not an area where what I want to do is inherently bad (in someways I think it would be quite positive), but I have had to bend my personal will to that of the various entities and people to which I am held responsible. In many ways, this has been a very good growth process for me throughout the years, sometimes a growth process and/or amusement for others, but overall a sanctifying experience for me.

It seems as though whenever I begin to get to point where it can move to situation in which I am free to do what I want, it is either derailed or turns out to not quite be as conducive of a situation as I had thought it was, which then shifts it back into that growth process of bending my will to that of others. What can be frustrating about this is that it does hinder my ability to accurately represent myself (which I very much try to do and has probably caused me to miss a few ministry opportunities since I want to show who I am rather than put up a front, since everyone does that, so most people front extensively).

And then, a a few months into the sanctification process, we came to a ministry that not only allowed but encouraged being comfortable with who you are. As this came more and more together, I slowly grew into doing this thing in a way that reflected who I am, though it is by nature a slow process, as most similar things are.

But then that ministry fell apart. Being my stubborn self, I tried to hold on to what should have been there and continued to seek these ideals, never really admitting that it was gone . As my life was transitioning away from this, I had a few opportunities and necessities of doing what was needed rather than wanted, but I refused to admit that the dream had faded, so I complied in only the most limited sense of the term. There was also a lot going on at that exact moment in time, so I think there was much more grace extended toward me by various people than may have normally occurred (though the lasting effect worked more toward my preference in the long run).

So then moving forward again a few months, there has been progression in most areas toward restoring the parts of our lives had been derailed, but there were still some areas where I was stubbornly holding on to the dream. In order to move back to where we were before, my wife and I have been making some decisions we have not necessarily preferred, but they are the best options for the time being. Temporary discomfort/misery is worth the trade-off of a more comfortable/less miserable/more beneficial future. One of these choices was in this realm.

I have seem that I am a unique person. Things that affect and reflect me do not necessarily do the same things for the average person. But I also tend to think through things (particularly unusual things) more thoroughly than average.

I have a good friend in atypical ministry who also thinks through things, much more thoroughly than I do. He made a related decision a few years ago and has unfortunately had to continue much longer than preferred. Thinking about his choice tonight made me thinking about mine. I had not made mine with the same initial intention as he had, though I believe the pieces were there in such a way that it lead me to make the choice that I did, just not putting them together in the finished product until later.

Though it may seem petty, foolish, unattainable, trite, selfish, pointless to many, I have long had an atypical desire, especially for someone in my chosen life-path, even more particular in the fact that I hold it so strongly. Part of it stems from a personal preference, part of it stems from a desire to help some who are very much in need in a way not often seen by someone in my position/field, part of it from a desire to best reflect myself in how I am presented to others, and part of it is simply a desire to do these things while I have the ability. Since I was very young, I have wanted to grow my hair out to the point that I could donate it to make a wig for a kids dealing with cancer. I have not yet been able to do this, largely as a result of schools/jobs/etc not allowing me to get my hair to that point.

This last ministry was heading in that direction, but it did fail. The ministry situation which I hope to help develop would allow, embrace, and probably enable this, but that will take a while to get to the point where I am able to fully focus my attentions there (provided it happens at all). In the meantime, the work situation (which I love) is moving in a direction in which it would not be conducive to do so (yes, it was mentioned to me, and although it is not what I prefer, I do agree with the reason and the probable necessity).

This time, instead of barely skirting the boundaries of acceptability, I decided to go for what amounts to an incredibly drastic step for me, comparable to most guys shaving their head. Granted, it still reflects me while taking these factors into account, it is still not fully me. The amazing thing was that whenever I have done things like this in the past, I had felt like I was betraying not only myself, but some of my core beliefs (all people need to be accepted as they are by churches/ministries; use what God has given you to bless those in need; God uses us for who we are; be creative in blessing/ministering to others; diversity in non-moral issues should be encouraged; etc).

This time, it felt like the right thing to do. I was getting a bit fed up with the way my hair was, largely because I kept getting it almost to the point that it would begin to head toward the desired length before having to start all over again. This time, it will be quite a process.

I had earlier mentioned my friend and his interesting commitment. After getting burned again by a church, he decided that he would not cut his hair until he was comfortable and accepted in a church again. It has been almost 5 years, and though he does ministry and is highly involved in his church, he has not gotten a haircut (I doubt anyone reading this knows this friend, but is was a commitment just between him and God that he shared with me as he was helping me work through some of the ramifications of this past summer).

I have decided that I will be making a similar, though opposite, commitment. Once I am comfortable in a ministry again, whether voluntary or paid; typical or atypical, I will be keeping my hair short. (Short for me, anyway; I will likely only get a couple trims a year still). Once I get in this ministry situation, I will begin to make a solid effort to grow my hair out again, like the Nazarites or various warrior cultures of old. By the time it gets to an appropriate length, enough time should have passed to be fully ingrained in that ministry.

I would prefer to be the type of man that uses things that can be found on places such as shaveblog.com, but at the time i am writing this i do not have the time or money to put into finding out the best system to get a babyface (especially since i dont shave all of my face).

Ideally, one would use a brush, shaving soap (and mug), and a safety or straight razor. I am not quite there yet.

Step 1 – preparing the face. take a shower (this will help soften the hair). Get a wet warm-hot (they say not to use hot, but i like hot b/c it seems to work the best for me). I usually do this while preparing the second step.

Step 2 – apply the shaving soap. I do not use creams, foams, gels, etc b/c they dont work nearly as well. and they are more expensive in the long run. Getting set up for this part can be a bit more pricey at first, but is definitely worth it to avoid the pain and save some money over time. Get a brush and soap. a decent low-end brush will run around $40; soap around $5-10. “Pure” badger hair is the cheapest of the badger hair varieties (which you want). even getting a cheapo ($5) brush from wally world is better than using spray cream or gel, though it is far from the real experience. Run hot water over the brush, then swirl it on the soap to pick up the soap. Lather the soap on your face (i use a swirling motion) to build up a thick lather. it does not take much soap to do this (my last bar has lasted about 4 years, but i only shave 1-2 times a week and only part of my face).

Step 3 – shave. Ideally, this would be a safety razor or straight razor, but the skill and money required are often prohibitive. Instead, one wants to get a razor with as few blades as possible. 1 blade is preferred, but 2 is acceptable (often the singles are incredible poorly made or hard to find). 3, 4, 5 blades will cause your skin to pull burn, and will actually be less effective then the lower-tech (and less expensive) alternatives. I believe the ones i currently use were one of the more expensive options that fit the qualifications and cost around $3.50 for 5 (2-blade b/c i couldn’t find 1-blade). Don’t worry about a “lubrication strip” or swivel head, and these bring up the cost and don’t’ really help since you are wet-shaving. If you did steps 1-2 correctly, you will probably only have to go over your face once, maybe twice (since i have a beard, some areas are maybe more since i have to make it mostly straight).

Step3 – cleanup. Wipe off face, rinse and dry razor (keeps it from rusting), wash out brush – shake dry and hang point down (if possible; or stand on base), use aftershave.

I found this article interesting since it showed some of the issues New Directionwas going through at various times.

well, just one in particular, at this time.

when they were newly married, my parents attended big church in Pueblo that tended to suck various parts of my family back in at various times in our lives (such as qualifies as a big church in Pueblo. maybe it should be “really old church in Pueblo”). It was at one of its larger time periods, so there was a fairly large young marrieds’ class with all the drama of a high school (similar to college classes at Bible-college towns). My parents being the authentic and jovial people that they are did not fit in with he various cliques/gossip hubs that are the mainstay of such settings. Also to note at this time, my dad was a bit more bulky than he currently is, and was in more more usable configuration rather than the current storage functionality (he looked like Superman).

One of the other couples came to a class function with her having a very black eye. the story shared was that she had fallen at the store and hit in on the handle of a shopping cart. My dad, being his jesting self and having a sometimes dry sense of humor, grabbed the other (rather smallish) gentleman by the arm and said in a serious voice something along the lines of “If you beat your wife again, then you are going to have to answer to me.” There was dead silence in the room for a few moments, then the conversation slowly started up again. One of the women came up and mentioned to my mom how she was surprised that someone actually came up and said something to this couple and hopefully it would help to stop the abuse.

In a similar way, I have caught myself in similar situations the middle of different groups. Much more often than I am probably aware, I will think there are some currents flowing, but the undercurrents are totally different.

What makes this interesting is with my training in counseling coupled with my uncanny ability to break things down to an obnoxiously meticulous level, I am usually fairly adept with seeing what is going on. I guess I bring in my dad’s optimism and unawareness at times in the hope that what I view is the best in people, instead of my realism at seeing people as entirely prideful, self-serving, and generally sinful, as we actually are. Most of the time, this occurs when we are working toward a mutual cause, typically something that if it does not honor God directly, it is at least helping people, usually teens.

This has occurred way more times than I would like to count. In the worst instances, it usually brings down someone else in the process and is usually from one of the least expected sources. The worst experiences have been since going to college and being more involved in ministry. I had one instance that occurred relatively recently that reminded me of another that was much more complex and should have been obvious. Here is the more interesting one (it is a bit long, but it was a complicated situation):

There was a group of us who had been assembled to start a ministry with a unique flair. It was not something that had been entirely unsuccessful other places, but was unique in the fact that it was intended that way from the beginning. And it was unheard of by the people who were helping us. Our team consisted of several different people with different backgrounds that fit together very well for the overall picture, but had not worked in that exact context before. the key was that each person was committed to the big picture idea while being flexible to work it how needed to fit the situation as it developed. As the team was being assembled, more and more of the structure was designed to fit around the abilities of different parts of the team.

We did not have quite as much planned out as we could, largely because it would be difficult to do so extensively until we saw how things were going. We did a few test runs, refining as we went. We even went to an example of what we were going to be doing, although what we observed was only temporary in nature and much more limited in scope than what we would do. We thought that we were bringing everyone together based on this core idea. When we tried to take off, there were suddenly huge rifts springing up in our team. The first try was borderline disastrous. Not that what happened was entirely different than what we were shooting for, but it was not exactly what everyone expected. So we decided to back off a bit.

There was nothing wrong with what we wanted to do, just a few problems in our team with how to do some things, as well as huge communication issues. We started to meet as a team in a regular, formal setting to work through these issues. The meetings went on for a while, progressively getting longer and more intense, until ultimately causing a huge rift in the team. Some members went one way, another large group went another, and some just faded out.

During this time, from team assembly to explosion, it had progressively appeared to me that although one person had came up with the concept and assembled the team, this person was a bit off in some key areas for this to work. I was skeptical at times that it would come together. A lot of the things I did were not exactly what I would choose and a bit out there (to me), but the big picture was good, and after the difficulties, we were working through some details. One younger team member in particular had problems with a lot of what was going on, particularly with the idea person. This younger member was the first to split off, for seemingly irreconcilable differences (we should have seen this coming, since he was “offended” by the temporary example we had visited). This was a hard hit, since this person had been there the longest. Right after this, the rest of the split occurred. I had no idea that it was heading that direction. I thought we could work it out since the problems were mostly communication based.

After things calmed down, more of what really happened came out to the light of day. One of team had been a snake. The bad part was that he had been a snake before, but those who assembled the team firmly believed that we should give second chances, just like God does with us. Of course, not all were aware of this, since it can negatively affect how others will treat them. So the snake had been working on a few people in very subtle ways, which I was not aware of at the time, but realized later on after seeing how he had tried to trap me as well.

The snake would criticize some of the more unusual things we were doing at different times to different people in a very quite and subtle way, almost questioning the wisdom of what was going on, while leading his hearers to think that these ideas came from the leader. This would build doubt among the team as to what we were doing. He would not say these things in front of the leader, but just quietly in a “let’s not make waves, but I am not sure about getting into this too far” way of speech. He caught young member early on slowly began to pull him away from the goal. He may have even became less subtle once he had snared people. he tried to pull me in a few times, but because of my commitment to what we were doing, and more importantly God’s grace, I was not snared. What made this most interesting was that most of the unusual ideas we had came from the snake! Toward the end, he would outright tell different people entirely different stories and then say something totally different in public, although generic enough to fit the different lies and half-truths he had told.

So after the explosion died down, the team went its different ways. some faded out. some tried a less creative way of doing things with the snake, but it fizzled out in short order. Some of us, largely due to personal stubbornness, continued on with the plan. It was not as good as it could have been. It was not as easy as it should have been. We went through a few more interesting experiences before we got it closer to what it should have been to begin with. It was never quite what was intended, but still something that uniquely honored God.

I still wonder about young member. This person was very gifted and very much wanted to serve God. When leaving, we were wished the best and given “irreconcilable theological/philosophical differences” as the core reason for the departure (similar to leaving a church b/c it isn’t “deep” enough). What is sad is that there was not any difference worth noting in the theological/philosophical realm, just the practical side of how it worked out. Form and function had been confused, and probably would not have, had there not been a subtle hiss pushing in guiding in different directions.

When we last spoke, shortly after the split, things were cool between us, but even after trying to mend what had happen, our project was so tainted that there was no way it would even come close to being considered again by young member. What makes it more sad is that there was a huge opportunity with us. We had a need for those skills to be used. Anywhere else would probably not invite young member to the team because of a combination of lack of experience and most leaders do not free the team to use their skills so openly.

I still feel bad that I was not able to see it then. I am not sure if it would have been well received had I noticed and pointed it out. I tried to point it out later, but even after all snake had put young member through when they attempted their own thing and it failed miserably, young member was so wrapped around snake’s finger that there was no way young member could see what happened. Young member had been ripped out of a place of potential thriving and dropped, alone, in the desert. And snake was still loved for it and the leader, who had give young member more opportunity than he deserved, was not quite hated, but received an attitude of “I hope what you do accomplishes your goal, but can neither be a part of it or support it.” I still hope the effects are not long term in the sense that he was able to pick up the pieces and will be able to and has been able to accomplish amazing things for God.