Thursday, December 31, 2020

2020 in cities

01 - Ocean City, MD, USA
02 - Shamokin, PA, USA
03 - Quito, Ecuador, SA
04 - Bogota, Colombia, SA
05 - Pine Grove, PA, USA
06 - Pine Knoll Shores, NC, USA
07 - Washington, DC, USA
08 - Cambridge, MD, USA
09 - Tybee Island, GA, USA
10 - Hilton Head Island, NC, USA
11 - Cumberland, MD, USA
12 - Fairfield, CT, USA

Standing goal - get outside the US at least once a year but just made it to South America in early 2020. Here's hoping 2021 allows everyone to get on the move a little more.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

2020 in Books

1 - Leading a Church in a Time of Sexual Questioning, Bruce Miller via Greg St Cyr
2 - New Power, Henry Timms and Jeremy Heimans via Brian Sanders
3 - Rediscipling the White Church, David Swanson ^^
4 - The Ghost Map, Steven Johnson
5 - Canoeing the Mountains, Tod Bolsinger ^^
6 - Rings of Fire, Len Sweet **
7 - Chocolate City, Chris Myers Asch and George Derek Musgrove via Mark Batterson ^^
8 - Born a Crime, Trevor Noah ^^
9 - Positive Irritating, Jon Ritner **
10 - The Psychology of Mone, Morgan Housel **
11 - Immeasurable: Reflections on the Soul of Ministry in the Age of Church, Inc., Skye Jethani via Dustin Youngstrom ^^ 
12 - The Biggest Bluff, Maria Konnikova
13 - How to Future, Scott Smith ^^
14 - Beautiful Resistance, Jon Tyson
15 - The Adventurers Son, Roman Dial
16 - The Moth Presents All These Wonders: True Stories About Facing the Unknown, Catherine Burns

** - Best reads of the year
## - Need to get back to because it is good
^^ - Didn't finish but might.

This was a terrible year for reading, I blame Instagram. 
On my shelf for 2021:
The Practice, Seth Godin
Better Decisions, Andy Stanley
Epic, John Eldredge
Win the Day, Mark Batterson

Wednesday, December 23, 2020


Well KT, 2020. But seriously. Happy birthday in one of the strangest, challenging times of our age.

2020 certainly makes it easy to be a pessimist. In many senses, you have inherited your parents skepticism. As someone told me a few years ago, "You are not easily impressed." On the surface, it looks like cynicism. And 2020 well, yeah of course. 

The difference though, is hope on the horizon. As bad as it gets, you can figure it out. You can muddle through it. Do the best you can, because how bad can it get?

The other side of the coin from pessimism is optimism. Things don't get better unless someone calls it out to fix the wrong. Someone must close the gap between what is and what could be. Optimists envision the art of the possible and work tirelessly towards a new future.  True skeptics are satisfied with articulating the negative from their seat in the stands. There are cynics, though, that are closet optimists and they get their skin in the game. They cannot and will not be satisfied from the stands.

So.... get in the game.

Proud of you - love you


Monday, June 29, 2020

Resource - Naming It: Helping Parents Talk About Racism

If you or someone you know needs a bit of help with talking to your own kids or kids that you have influence, Ember alumn Wendy Usher created a resource called Naming It, which gives lots of practical steps that might help you talk to kids about systemic racism. It's got basic definitions, family conversation starters, general tips, ways to act, and other resources in the forms of books and films. Wendy is a licensed social worker, has lots of experience with marginalized communities including being a foster mom and running a kids development grassroots effort. Love that she has made this available for no cost. Reach out if you think this would be helpful for you. 

Update - here is the link.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Congratulations Katie - NYUAD Class of 2020

Dear Katie,

Congratulations on graduating University today! You know we are missing being with you and the rest of our family to celebrate and this is truly one of the most unusual times of our lives. We'll celebrate face to face in a little while when you get home.

As you are well aware, Mommy and I have had such a joyous time following your college experience. We've watched you travel [22 countries I think], traveled to visit you, heard you spout wisdom from your classes [because college kids always know best] and generally reveled in the fact that we told you that you would enjoy Uni more than high school. We certainly did!

We are also thrilled at what school taught you outside of the classroom. That the world is a huge place yet humans are connected with the same things. That the massive problems that we face are never simple and require listening first. That the Lord has blessed you with an amazing set of gifts and talents that are meant to be poured out and sacrificed for the greater good. 

Congrats, see you when you get home.


Monday, May 25, 2020

When WRGY Should Have Ended

Dear Emily, 

My calendar says that today was the day you were going to fly from Asia finishing The World Race Gap Year a few days early and meeting us in the Middle East. It was planned to be a super cool family get together to help celebrate your sister finishing Uni. I'm grieving our unfortunate change of plans. 

But Mommy and I are overjoyed with you being on the Race. From the very beginning to the very end, we were so proud of you for figuring how it might work, to choosing it, to working with colleges to defer, gearing up, Training Camp and Launch and then actually being on the Race. It was a joy to watch you grow in planning and intention, choosing to do something difficult and unconventional with lots of unknowns. And seeing you on PVT - with your team and squad, serving in another country, giving us the details on your overseas home, and friends, and the mall, the bus, the empanada shop. What a trip. Little did we know, you would be home two weeks later after a short time in Cambodia. 

But instead, here we are, staying at home. Be encouraged - Jesus started something in you with the Race that is not done yet. Be challenged - you did some incredibly difficult things on the Race and those milestones will give you strength for future goals. Be bold - no one lives an incredible life by accident. 


Photo: early March 2020, before quarantine.

Monday, May 04, 2020

How Ember is Navigating the Pandemic

About a month ago, I had some ideas about restarting The Ember Cast. Here are some resources and thoughts about why how that may or may not happen. If you are involved in any kind of nonprofit, social enterprise or faith based ministry, I commend you to at least skim these readings. I don't have any answers yet for The Ember Cast, but have lots of questions. More importantly, we have relied on sources that will articulate reality like it is and point to possible trends that will signify the future. The resources below communicate both.

Leading Beyond the Blizzard:
The novel coronavirus is not just something for leaders to “get through” for a few days or weeks. Instead, we need to treat COVID-19 as an economic and cultural blizzard, winter, and beginning of a “little ice age” — a once-in-a-lifetime change that is likely to affect our lives and organizations for years.
The Praxis team also wrote a follow up that is worth reading.

Designing for Uncertainty:
This means that the bulk of organizations are currently executing on strategies that may not work post-COVID-19. And, even if nothing changes for an organization, they are plotting a course into the future with large degrees of uncertainty. In either scenario, organizations are designing in the midst of crisis and chaos, while navigating towards an unknown. So, how does an existing organization manage to see through the fog of uncertainty while also planning for an unknown future? -

Coronavirus Could Set the Church Back 25 Years.:
My grave fear is that this spike in online attendance will be as illusory as the growth of megachurches last century. It will serve to mask the reality that less and less people are devoted to a wholehearted commitment to Christ, and more and more people see church as an event, a shot in the arm, a convenient uplift that doesn’t challenge their everyday life in any way.

After Social Distancing, A Strange Purgatory Awaits:
We will choose our social events wisely. To lure you in, restaurants will mandate temperature screening and reduce the number of tables so that patrons don’t feel crowded in. Servers will wear protective equipment; menus will be disposable. The maximum capacity of bars will be cut in half, if not more; since the Cocoanut Grove era, the number of people allowed in such establishments has been constrained by fire codes, but a fast-spreading coronavirus dictates even more space per person. As stores restrict admission at peak times and long lines form outside, we may find ourselves scheduling appointments to buy groceries.

Covid-19 Trends: Looking Past First-Order Effects:
When will you feel like it’s safe for both you and your child to return to work/school?
When will you feel comfortable flying again? How will you react when someone coughs beside you?
Will you want your next waiter to wear gloves and a mask?
What year will you buy your next festival ticket?
Pets (one of the most recession-proof industries)
Changing behaviors, like the rise of frugality (car repairs vs. new car sales). Car rentals are also surging (most socially distanced way to travel) in places like Japan.
What will be the next wave of apps?
Will schools ever be the same again? (Scott Galloway thinks some won’t re-open)
Searches for "MasterClass" have eclipsed "business school”
Will things like virtual conferences hold onto market share?
eSports will thrive.
This is an incredible slide deck, on the same level as Mary Meeker's legendary annual State of the Internet.

After all that, here is what is on my mind, related to Ember and more:
+ Domestic travel may come back in late 2020. International travel will not come back until 2021 at best. Global travel will no longer be so easy. There may be some kind of immunization cert as well as a property disinfectant cert. Traveling will require bravery [Wendy Perrin]. How do we shape and mold global leaders when you cannot travel? Not to mention, travel has become such a large part of our family's lifestyle. Long time Ember peeps know that most of our international partners have become dear friends in the Gospel. This change in travel is the thing I grieve the most.

+ Revenues for most organizations will fall 60-80%. This is not a direct impact to us since we run with a volunteer staff but is an indirect impact since the economic downturn will affect donors and discretionary income.

+ Education and training changes. College at an incredible price tag was already a question and now that we have experienced distance learning, those schools that were on the brink of survival will not make it. Are there more opportunities for gap years or similar experiences?

+ We always felt like at least some of Ember's interactions with teams could be done virtually. This can rise to another level and won't feel as weird now. Like the time I asked a high school girl if she had a webcam.

+ Mentoring is an age old art, even from a distance. The Apostle Paul wrote 4 of his letters from prison.
"Disciples are made on the road, not in rows." - Kim Hammond
"In digital Babylon, faithful, resilient disciples are handcrafted one life at a time." - David Kinnaman

+ Will power and preference shift from global cities to green/yellow/red global zones based on immunity? [Mark Sayers]

+ There already is a great shift in the ethos of volunteering. This pandemic is the second world altering event that Gen Z has experienced.

+ "What Christians in the West who are experiencing this don't realize these pandemics are a normal part of human history." - NT Wright

Granted, in all of this, we are still very, very fortunate. Our family is safe, we have not lost anyone to Covid and my day job is stable for now. Reach out if you would like to chat about what we are learning, like on my whiteboard.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Mad Respect to Adventures

Well surprise, surprise, Emily is home. More about her later.

When we left her in Ecuador, at the very end of February, leadership at Adventures told us that they were watching the Coronavirus and Emily's squad in particular very closely, since her squad would be leaving the next day to fly to Cambodia. Just about two weeks later, Adventures started moving certain teams home. As I'm sure you know, the virus is moving, countries are closing borders and airlines reducing flights. Here's some notification timelines:

14 March 15:00 - Some Adventures teams coming home.
14 March 21:00 - All Adventures teams are coming home including Emilys.
15 March 12:00 - Itinerary sent for Emily's squad, including two day debrief near LAX.
17 March 12:00 - Debriefing cancelled, parents, please fly all Racers home from their gateway cities ASAP.

The team at Adventures worked 24x7, getting over 20 teams and 500 people home - an incredible feat. I had an incredible amount of respect for Adventures before this - this situation only multiplies it. Not to mention everything Emily experienced on the Race.

Adventures - thanks for taking care of these kids through this situation and contending for this generation to follow Jesus.

Wednesday, March 04, 2020

PVT - Quito, Ecuador

Deanna and I got to visit Emily last week in Quito, Ecuador as part of a Parent Vision Trip organized by the organization that runs The World Race Gap Year, Adventures in Missions. We had a great time with Em and just said goodbye to her again last weekend when we left Quito. PVT is structured so that you have a lot of time with your racer, while serving with them and the orgs that they have worked with, staying near them - in our case we were all on the campus of a seminary together, and having one full adventure day off to do as you please, all over about seven days.

I loved our time serving with partner organizations in and around Quito, including Camp Hope [a day center for disabled kids and young adults], Pan de Vida [poverty alleviation], Covi [an afterschool program] and Dunamis [trafficking rehabilitation - mutual connections with The Samaritan Woman in Baltimore.] Adventures also has a base in Quito run by the incredible Fabi and his wife, really phenomenal hosts. If you have a thing for Quito, these would be great places to start to think about partnerships - all run by native Ecuadorians. Also, Mosaic Ecuador [like from Erwin McManus] opened their doors the weekend before we got there. Emily went and took 2 friends - Shengs represent!

Quito is a beautiful city, sitting at 9350 feet above sea level with a population of about 2M people spread out over 207 square miles surrounded by mountains. I was a little sick from the altitude our first day here - we landed a few days early because we thought at least one of us would need to acclimate. The currency is the US dollar, the electrical current and plugs are the same as the US, and no one is really interested in practicing English here, which is different than a lot of places I have traveled to. Taxis and Ubers are dirt cheap. Food and lodging is moderate, depending on your taste. It was the rainy season when we were there so there was a lot of rain at some point almost every day.

For our adventure day, we visited a little town in the Andes mountain called Mindo. Mindo is advertised as the cloud forest and is about 2 hours outside of Quito. We visited a butterfly and hummingbird garden and went on a chocolate factory tour [adventure!] Interesting side note: One of the relatives of a team member on a team that we have partnered with in Italy pinged me after seeing on FB that we had been in Mindo. He worked on a well project there 10 years ago and a church community started out of that work.

We had a weekend stopover in Bogota on the way home, which was probably too much. Deanna and I were so exhausted so we spent a lot of time at our hotel. But Bogota is a beautiful city with a mix of very modern and a classic old town. We tried to go up Monserrate but it was way too crowded so instead just hung around Bolivar Square for a few hours.

As you can imagine, we loved our time with Em and had so much fun exploring Quito and seeing a glimpse of her life on the Race. The Race has definitely stretched and grown her, we chatted about things she would have never talked about had she gone right to college.

To SquadAyyee - we love you and are praying for your last 3 months in Cambodia and that the Lord makes you strong and a force to be reckoned with for the Kingdom for your whole long lives. To the parents of the squad - job well done, you have some amazing kids that have the admiration of many. But you already knew this. Loved hanging and getting to know you.

PVT only encouraged our absolute joy with the Race.

Thursday, February 20, 2020


Dear Deanna,

Some say it's all downhill from here but I don't think so either. Instead, now that we are both in our 50s, I think you are going to pick up the pace on all the things that you are so good at and the things that give you life. Things like: caring well and having fun with your family and pushing them out the door for adventure, exploring wonder and mystery at places you haven't been yet, and challenging the next generation to create something so amazing for the rest of us. And of course all of these things because the Lord has seen to bless you so that you can bless others.

Happy 50th - I am expectantly praying that this year God shows us even more of His exceedingly abundance.

Hey, let's get on a plane!

Monday, February 10, 2020

Feb Update

Emily is almost finished with 5 months on the Race and is currently in Ecuador and we will visit her at the end of the month, which we are looking forward to. I think her experience on the Race has been full, meaning she and her team have experienced a full range of life - days that are easy and fun and days that are difficult. Ministry is joyous and tedious, people get sick, new food is fun until it's not, travel days are fun until the 24th hour. But we are very excited to see her and spend a few days with her and her team. Overall, it is what we desired for Emily - a time before college when she grew in intimacy with the Lord and grew in life experience.

In the meantime, empty nesting has been very quiet and a tad boring. But we knew it would be slow and wanted to lean into this and let this time run its course. I've been pondering three concepts of late: 1 - Residency, how when people do a 'residency,' it's a deep commitment to learning a craft and how Jesus takes up residence with us. 2 - Pilgrimage, the act of spiritual pilgrimages and the slight shift from traveling as a tourist to journeying on a pilgrimage. 3 - "to contend for" - to fast and pray and pull out all the stops for someone for something. I'm thinking about all three of these when it comes to cross cultural service with young people but not sure what it means yet. And I'm having lots of fun with my Toyota 4Runner.

[#1 and #2 from above are influences from The World Race and #3 is from the This Cultural Moment podcast.]

Maybe another update in March.

Friday, January 10, 2020


Happy 19th Emily!

As you know, it has been quite the change not having any kids at home. It has been super quiet, no gatherings of kids just showing up and your dog has been super needy. But we are thrilled at what you are doing this year.

It is a year of firsts - first holiday, first birthday, first loss of a family member - all of these away from home. We believe that all of that is difficult and worth it - it is a year where you grow up a bit, grow in community and grow in your capacity to serve and be served. Remember that sometimes, rewards are on the other side of difficulty, sometimes that is life. We believe that your reward will also be a bigger heart for the world and the things of the Lord.

Have fun celebrating at 10,000 feet. Proud of you, you are loved!