just thoughts

where would we be without the internet?

Dear Friends,
I’ve just completed some research and testing of options for doing home gatherings entirely online and I wanted to pass along my findings.

Like everyone else these days, being home-bound because of the corona virus, I’m using the various video conferencing options out there for both work and home/church/friends gatherings. I’ve researched many that I’d never heard of before, and I’ve actively used/using Zoom, Webex, Bluejeans, Microsoft Teams, and Skype. It had been a few years since I used Skype, and I was pleasantly surprised with how it has improved. If you’re looking for a video conferencing solution for your home gatherings, here’s why I recommend Skype:

  • There are no costs (all the others have some amount of cost, for example, to do a 5-person meeting for an hour)
  • There are no meaningful limits on the number of people or length of meetings (most of the others have limits on both with their “free” options)
  • It is great group video conferencing, 1:1 video conferencing, or group and 1:1 Instant Messaging (chat). Like other applications, you can video conference and at the same time have a chat box open for Instant Messaging. The chat box sticks around after you close the call so you can go back to it and remember what someone posted if needed.
  • It lets you see who in your contact group are “active,” meaning they are signed in, so that you can spontaneously instant message them or start a video call with them. I really like this because I’m all in for enabling our online conversations to happen at any time we want to be available for it, not just for scheduled events.
  • I found that some of the options REQUIRE access to your contacts list on your computer – a big no-no in my book, way to invasive. Skype will gently invite you to let it import your contacts on your computer, but does not require it, and I don’t do it.

So it’s pretty simple. You just go to and click through the options. Here’s the basics I’ve learned and used so far:

  • Whoever hosts/starts a video meeting will need to download the Skype application. You can do this on your PC, Mac, iPhone, or Android device. You’ll be prompted to create a free Microsoft (who owns Skype) account using a phone number or email address. It’s quick, painless, and safe, and it didn’t get me on spam email mailings.
  • Then as the host, you start the application and click on “Meet Now” in advance of your meeting to get a custom URL/web address for your video meeting and send that around to your attendees. When it comes time for your gathering, you as the host click on that meeting record in the application and then “Start call.” Your attendees simply click on the URL you sent them from their computer to join the meeting. They won’t have to “sign up” for anything, and they won’t have to download the Skype application. They WILL have to download the application if they join from a mobile device.
  • You can keep this same URL in your meeting list and use it every time this same group meets, so you don’t have to send around a new one each time. You can change the generic “Meet Now” title to something like “Saturday night home gathering” so you can differentiate it from other “Meet Now” gatherings you may do.
  • If your friends download the application and get their own Skype/Microsoft accounts, you can add them to your Skype contacts list, and then you’ll see a little dot on their id when they are active, meaning they are logged into Skype. Then you can spontaneously shoot them an Instant Message/chat or start a video call with them. You can look up your friends Skype accounts – by Skype account name, email address, or phone number – and then reach out to them so they can “accept” your invitation to be on your contacts list.
  • It’s a fun app to use. Like anything, there’s a little learning curve, but it doesn’t take long. I’ve had a few group and individual calls and I’ve barely explored all it can do. For example, I haven’t tried the part where you can “screen share” so you can show people something on your computer screen, and there’s also a feature for uploading files from your computer to the group chat so they can download it right then as you’re talking with them. And I haven’t tried the “Private Conversation” feature where I believe you can do a sidebar, private chat with someone(s) right in the middle of a group video call.

Best to you and your home gatherings!

church journey

beyond the traditional

It’s always interesting answering questions about my participation in what most people consider the traditional model of church life. I was recently having to fill out a form about this (with very small spaces for answers!), and thought I would post how I answered the requests:

Request: Please provide a few statements regarding your profession of faith, and how you came to faith:

My Answer: I first acknowledged a real relationship with God at the age of 15 through the ministry of Young Life. Since then I have continued on the journey of more fully understanding his love in sending Jesus to earth to die on the cross for our sins, get up from being dead, and ascend into heaven so that his Holy Spirit would come and empower us to follow him.

Request: Please tell us how you are participating in a church and using your gifts:

My Answer: My church journey has taken me through high school and college ministries, evangelism outreach, starting home fellowship networks and worship teams, teaching classes on the gifts, starting traditional churches, and starting home churches. My family and I are active in long-term “churches of 2 or 3” (Matt 18) where support and accountability are best, spontaneous gatherings and hospitality in our home, and occasional meetings and conferences of the traditional church model as the Lord leads.

Request: Please tell us what church you are attending, address, phone, and who your Pastor is:

My Answer: Our church life extends beyond the traditional model or a single location. Pastoral and other gifts occur regularly among us in the interactions with other believers. References are available if desired.

just thoughts

what happens after death – the quest for assurance

Something I’ve been discussing with friends is the quest for assurances about what happens to us after death.  I often think that it’s a little too easy to say, “oh I’m not afraid of death!” It has to be normal to wonder about what happens to us after death, and to work hard at avoiding it! No doubt it’s part of what keeps us alive. At this point in my life, I must say that I can’t think about death without thinking “what does God say about it?” We have the word of others who were close to God and faced death much closer than I – like Paul, who nearly died several times from acts of violence, starvation, and shipwrecks. And there’s Jesus himself, who died a violent death, but then got up from being dead to give us the very assurances we all need. How cool is that. Can there be any greater authority on death and life than he?

So what do we do with this need for assurances about life after death? The best I know how, I go to God, the ultimate truth on the matter. In my few years I feel so fortunate to know at least some of his love for me, to have seen his mercy/kindness in times of great need, and his power over my life’s circumstances when the waves of fear are too much for me. I don’t have any other place to go with my fear, but to him. And he’s never not been there in every single situation – my journey with him started when I was 15 (58 now). I’ve seen too much, I know too much not to believe him. It would be like telling Christopher Columbus that the earth was flat and if he sails too far he’ll fall off the edge. He’d sailed the globe, he knew too much, and those words would fall flat, but not Christopher. And I’m convinced the assurance I have inside me is not something I’ve mustered up, but it’s something God’s holy spirit gave me, and which he gives to anyone who asks him for it.

So what would I say to anyone seeking additional assurance? I say draw close to him with all your heart, and he will come to you, and give you that assurance, like he’s done for me. And not just assurance about life after this earth, but true life with him right here on earth. I’m no more special than any of his created ones, and his offer extends to all. I find I’m most open to receiving from him when I’ve come to the end of my rope; my own means. Some people’s ropes are longer than other’s, and it’s the fortunate ones that get to the end of it, so that God is all we want above all else. What else can I say? Sure, we can look to words of truth in the scriptures that speak of this assurance (a few below). But just seeing the words on a page has never been enough for me either, unless I have something “quickening” in me that injects faith in God in what I’m reading. It’s what Jesus was talking about in John’s gospel, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” It seems to me that only by having our own relationship with God can we have such confidence. And surely God knows this. Jesus had such compassion and desire for people to know him, saying things like, “For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. (Matthew 7:8), and, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) I take comfort in these words. He knows what we need even before we ask. I believe we move forward in our quest by simply coming to him, finding honest words, and listening with our hearts to his response.

If interested, here’s a few scripture verses regarding assurance of life after death with God:

* Psalm 23:4 – David comforted by God even in the face of death

* Romans 8:38-39 – Paul comforting the Christians in Rome that neither death nor any earthly or other power can separate us from God’s love that comes through Jesus

* 1 Corinthians 15:54-57 – Paul comforting the Christians in Corinth that death has no “sting” when they are safe in Jesus

church journey

pressing on

Well, okay then! It’s been a six-year hiatus since my last post, and on the eve of 2019, I’m drawn to articulate thoughts again. I have several threads in my head, not sure where this goes yet, but not wanting that to hinder the restarting.

I’ll pick it up from the dangling thread I left in “fresh starting…” on 2 Dec 2012. Indeed, the last 6 years have been formative. I notice these words in my last post, “…stepping out of the regular gathering that we were part of…” and “There are many types of gatherings in the Puget Sound area, and I’m in touch with several of them.” I would say that one of the biggest adjustments in my thinking about church life is coming to see that the Lord has a lesser focus on group “gatherings” than I previously thought (“thought” because I didn’t know anything different, it’s what we did…) and more on individual relationships themselves. In Matthew 18 we read the familiar words of Jesus, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” Without planning it, that’s been the primary church-life focus of these years – regular encounters with one or two others to touch the Lord together. Over a burger, at our house for dinner, dropping by for a quick visit on the way somewhere, a hallway conversation, a phone call, etc. These are precious and life-giving moments for me. Some have been ongoing for almost 20 years, some got started within the last 5 years. And there’s a rekindling of sorts, where we’re finding each other again. Thinking that group meetings are “required” for church life to happen is another reminder that the detox from the traditional model is deeper than I know. I suspect that the group meeting orientation of church life is rooted in the business model – it’s where sermons happen, buildings & equipment get used, the various church-business roles manifest, all of which is important validation for the giving of funds to the enterprise. I guess the unraveling of the church business model in me is still happening, now 22 years since I left it! I have another suspicion – it won’t be so for those who didn’t spend so much time in it. Thank you Lord!

All that aside, I’m encouraged to press on. I find myself so grateful for all that God has been doing in my family, friends, and I. Here’s believing 2019 will be better than expected, in the things that matter most. So, let’s know him. Let’s press on to know the Lord. His going forth is as certain as the dawn (can’t stop that!). And he will come to us like the refreshing rain, like the Spring rain, watering the earth. (Hosea 6:3)

church journey

fresh starting…

I’m at a “fresh start” kind of place in my thinking about church life these days. We’ve made some adjustments some months ago in our regular routine, as far as stepping out of the regular gathering that we were part of for about 12 years. We have some regular patterns of fellow believers that we regularly meet up with, there’s always new connections being formed, and we sense God with us in this journey.

As I think and pray over these things, and discuss it with my wife, I believe that I need to make an effort to articulate where my thoughts have come to as far as what church life is all about. There are many types of gatherings in the Puget Sound area, and I’m in touch with several of them. One of the things that God impressed upon me in the last “chapter” of church life with the “12-year” gathering is how valuable it is to work things out in the context of community. So I welcome the response of others on these matters.