On Friday June 15th around 10:30pm Ethan and Stephen arrived back in Denver, safe and sound after a long week of travel. Thanks to everyone who prayed for us and to those who contributed financially to this trip. We wanted to take a few minute to share some stories and pictures from our time in Guatemala. Read more
As many of you know, for the last two years New Denver Church has been developing a partnership with a church in the small Guatemalan village of San Pablo la Laguna (to read more about our decision to work in Guatemala check out the New Denver website). Our strategy is to establish a relationship with this church and their pastor, Antonio Moxnay, in order to contribute to lasting change over a long period of time. We are focusing all our efforts on this one village. Read more
Though it’s only May, it actually feels like spring has been here for a while as it decided to make an early appearance in Denver this year. While the warm beautiful weather is always welcome, we were sad to see winter come to an early end since it cut short an already poor ski season. Oh well, hopefully we’ll have better snow next year! Despite the lack of snow sports, the Redden family has had no lack of activity to keep us busy. Read more
At the end of last year I had an experience that led me to begin 2012 by unplugging from some of the technology that saturates my life (read about that decision here). I decided (arbitrarily) to unplug for a week and then evaluate my experience. That week ended yesterday so I’m still processing my reflections from that time, but here are some initial thoughts as I re-connect to my digital world.
- Unplugging was more difficult than I expected.
It was more difficult than I expected to decide where I would draw the line around “unplugging.” I decided to try and unplug within the context of a normal week of life and work, and I quickly learned that it was impossible to do my work as a pastor and completely disconnect. I spent hours last week on my computer answering emails, researching for and writing my message for last Sunday at New Denver Church, answering phone calls and responding to text messages. Since I couldn’t fully disconnect, I just decided to eliminate the non-essentials. I didn’t interact with any social media (specifically for me no Facebook or Twitter), no games (not on my iPhone, iPad, or most temptingly, my new XBox 360), no web surfing, no blog reading, and I tried to eliminate television unless watching something with someone in my family. Short of leaving my everyday life and work to pursue a completely disconnected experience (which I would like to do at some point) I think this was about the best I could do at unplugging.
- Unplugging was easier than I expected.
The things I gave up I didn’t really miss as much as I thought I would. This was encouraging to me. You never really know how strong a hold things or experiences have on you until you try to give them up. In part, this is the great benefit of practicing the discipline of fasting. We let go of good and permissible things that God has given for our enjoyment as a way of keeping ourselves from making lesser things into more ultimate things. I recognize the power that technology has to draw my attention and affection, and I think I will probably always live somewhere on the continuum between “healthy and appropriate use” and “unhealthy and inappropriate abuse.” It’s good to find myself somewhere on the positive side of that continuum.
- Social media is mostly a one-sided conversation for me.
During my hiatus from social media, I was curious to see what, if anything, I missed from the experience. I was surprised that what I missed more than anything was the feeling of sharing my thoughts, observations and experiences to “someone.” As an extrovert I realize that often my thoughts aren’t even real for me until I say them out loud. Social media is a way to do that. So while I guess I hope people will read and interact with what I say, the interaction was not what I missed most. What I missed most was having a way to express myself and feel heard, whether someone actually reads what I say or not.
- My family appreciated the effort.
One of the main reasons I wanted to disconnect from part of my digital life was that I have seen how it can affect my focus and attention on the people in my embodied life. I’m not sure those words (digital vs embodied) are the best way to describe the experience of my life, but I prefer that paradigm better than others (e.g. virtual vs. real). The point is that as much as I try to multi-task or to have my attention focused into my digital and my embodied world, I don’t do it well. It has often created frustration for Kate (and to a lesser degree my kids) when my focus is into my digital world (staring at my phone, computer, iPad, etc) instead of on them. Kate mentioned on a couple occasions how she appreciated this exercise.
- Distractions are found in all forms of “technology.”
One interesting discovery was that even if I take away my technological distractions (phone, computer, television) there are lower forms of technology that I still used to distract myself. For example, I took my son Andrew to lunch last week, and I took a magazine with me. While no one would probably refer to a magazine as a piece of “technology” it served as a distraction for me. I could have chosen to simply sit and watch Andrew play or to just sit and think. Instead I chose to sit and read. This disconnected me from my embodied world and connected me to a print world. So the dangers of distraction aren’t limited to shiny tech gadgets.
There’s more than I could say about the experience, but I’ll close by saying that I found this to be a very worthwhile exercise. So I’ll close with a question for you as you read this. Is there anything good but lesser thing in your life that you may be making an ultimate thing? Maybe it’s time to take a break to find out what you might learn by paying more attention to your embodied world.
** Image from Flickr user kozumel, used under Creative Commons license.
The day after Christmas I made a dreadful decision. I agreed to take my kids to a mall here in Denver so that they could go to the Lego store to buy something with the money that they got for Christmas from relatives. Big mistake. As I was driving the fifteen minutes it takes to get from my house to the mall, I reached down to grab my iPhone from my pocket for some tunes for the ride, and it wasn’t there. After double checking my jacket pockets, it was confirmed that I had forgotten my phone at home. I was already about ten minutes from home, and the thought crossed my mind to turn around and go get my phone. But I decided that was silly. I would be spending the day unplugged.
When we got to the mall my worst fears were realized. It was a complete madhouse. I have never seen that many people at a mall in my life. Seriously. Every road was jammed. Every parking spot was full. Every parking-lot aisle was backed up three to four cars deep as people were “trolling” for parking spots. I reached for my phone to call the store where we were heading to find out if they even had the item we came after. Oh yeah, no phone today.
After circling the parking lot without success for thirty minutes I heard the words from our back seat that every parent dreads in situations like this: “Daddy, I have to go potty.” It was Andrew, my four-year-old. “Okay, just hold it for a few minutes. Daddy will get a parking spot soon.” Fifteen minutes later Andrew was crying, and we still hadn’t found a parking place. I made a split-second decision. Passing the main entrance to the mall (in bumper-to-bumper traffic) I opened the door and instructed my seven-year-old son, Ethan, to take his brother inside to the bathroom and told him exactly where to wait for me inside. I headed straight for the valet parking line. At this point seven dollars seemed like a small price to pay to retrieve my two boys who were somewhere in the middle of the mall madness. As I dropped off my car, I began praying that the boys made it to the bathroom okay, that they weren’t scared, and that they’d be right where I told them to be. I was speed walking to where I told Ethan to meet me, and as I walked my hand slipped to my pocket. Oh yeah, no phone today. I continued to pray. I opened the door to the mall and immediately saw my boys, exactly where I told them to wait. I prayed again, thanking God for this small but oh-so-important answered prayer.
The mall was as insane inside as it was outside. Every seat in the food court was full, and people huddled in corners to eat. Madness, total madness. We made it to our destination, the Lego store, to find that, sure enough, they did not have the one thing we came after. After finding a suitable substitute (what four-year old is willing to wait?) we headed out. I had promised the boys lunch at Chick-Fil-A, but the food court was still packed so I decided we’d just head to a different location as far away from this mall as we could get. As we walked out through the food court, I reached down to snap a pic with Instagram and tweet it. Oh yeah, no phone today.
We finally made it out of the mall parking lot (another prayer of thanks was offered) and headed to Chick-Fil-A. We finished lunch, and the boys headed to the play area. This is a familiar ritual for me with my boys – fast food lunch followed by play time for them and some time to read, browse the web, and surf social networks for me. I reached for my pocket. Oh yeah, no phone today. For the first time in a while, I had a chance to just sit. And to think.
As I thought about my day, I noticed that more than my phone was missing from the day. A lot of my usual anxiousness and frustration was gone. I was more patient with my boys than I usually am. Given the unusually stressful nature of my day that was surprising. As I thought about it, I thanked God for that extra measure of grace, but I also began to wonder what else was different. I realized that I was fully present in every moment of that day without any distractions or diversions.
As a person who has spent much of his life working with technology (both as a vocation and an avocation), I spend a lot of time “plugged in.” But as a pastor, I’ve also thought a lot about how technology influences us. I am grateful in this regard to a pastor from Michigan named Shane Hipps. Shane wrote a great book a few years back that I highly recommend entitled Flickering Pixels which is an excellent exploration of the unintended consequences of media and technology. If reading a book on the topic seems too large a task and you’d prefer something shorter (which is true for most of us…technology, the internet specifically, did that to us) there’s a great article on Shane’s blog that should get you thinking.
I love technology, but I realize that using it as frequently as I do has unintended consequences. The best way that I’ve found to combat these consequences is to unplug – to fast from technology. It’s been a while since I’ve done this, and my experience at the mall made me realize it’s time to do it again. So I’m going to spend the first week of 2012 “unplugged.” No Twitter. No Facebook. No web surfing. No non-work-related email. I’ll probably still carry my phone in order to be available in my role as a pastor, but I intend to use it as little as possible. I want to create some silence and thought margin, some room to listen.
I’ll be back in a week – hopefully with more to say than if I hadn’t taken this break.
As 2011 comes to a close and we reflect on all that has happened this year, one thing is abundantly clear – we have so much to be grateful for! January marks three years since we left Atlanta and moved to Denver. With each passing year Denver feels more and more like “home” for us. Here are just a few things that have been happening in our family over the last few months.
Ethan wrapped up another great season with Fusion soccer club. This was our third season playing with the same team, and it’s been such a great experience for our family. Ethan’s really enjoyed playing with the same kids and has benefited so much from Andy, his coach, who does a great job developing them. Ethan also continues to progress well in school. The move up to first grade has brought regular homework assignments (which he’s not a big fan of) but also some great new friends who weren’t in his class last year. Ethan attends our neighborhood school, and all his friends live very near us, some only 1-2 blocks away.
Andrew started in pre-kindergarten this year at a local church school in our neighborhood, and it seems like he’s turned a corner. While he still protests going to school some days, gone are the complete meltdowns of the past! Andrew is in the same class with the same teachers that Ethan had for pre-kindergarten, and they have been just as helpful and attentive with Andrew as they were with Ethan. Andrew also played soccer with Fusion this fall, and Stephen volunteered to coach his team. Andrew hasn’t really found his motivation in sports yet, and he seemed to spend his time during most games watching the other kids run around! But he did enjoy himself (well, snack time after the games at least) so he’ll be playing again in the spring.
Of course Halloween was a big hit for both the boys. Denver celebrates Halloween like nowhere else we’ve ever been! Living in an urban neighborhood means that there are more houses closer together, which makes for a kid’s dream when it comes to the candy they get! We had fun enjoying the beautiful fall evening with neighbors who have become close friends, something we’re very grateful for and makes Denver feel like home.
Kate continues to stay busy with her work at Ron Blue & Company and keeping our family organized (probably her more difficult task). Because of our extensive summer travel, finances required us to stay in Denver for Thanksgiving, but we were excited to have Kate’s mom Sammye, her sister Kristen, and our nieces Lily and Caroline come down from Wyoming (Barry had to stay and take car of the cows!).
The fall has remained busy for Stephen with his work at New Denver Church as well as staying busy with the boys, especially with his role coaching Andrew’s soccer team. One of the things that has excited him the most has been a rekindled passion for the spiritual formation and growth. Through some groups with other pastors and working with a counselor/spiritual director, this has been one of the most dynamic times of personal growth that Stephen can remember in years. This personal journey has also led Stephen to pursue learning more about the process of spiritual formation and beginning to bring this learning to his ministry at New Denver. He hopes to begin writing more about this journey here on this blog. So stay tuned!
Thanks for stopping by to catch up with what’s happening with our family. We hope this update finds you well. If we don’t see you or speak to you during the holidays, we hope that you enjoy a wonderful Christmas as we celebrate God’s greatest gift to us – his Son Jesus.
It has been a great summer for the Redden family – filled with great times with family and friends, and it’s hard to believe that it’s coming to a close. Here are some of the highlights of what we’ve been up to since our last update in May.
In June we decided to take a few days as a family to explore part of our beautiful state of Colorado. We started in one of our favorite places on earth – Crested Butte. This month Stephen and Kate celebrate nine years since they were married in a wildflower meadow on a beautiful afternoon in Crested Butte. It was fun to go back with our boys (this was Andrew’s first trip) and to share a place that has become so special to us. We continued our trip with a day in Ouray to soak in the hot springs and wrapped up with the trip with a ride on the Durango to Silverton railroad.
That long weekend trip was just getting us warmed up for the traveling still ahead in July and August. In late July we loaded up the whole family and flew to Raleigh, NC to visit Kate’s aunt Harriet and uncle Dick on our way to a week at Ocean Isle Beach, NC with Kate’s mom, aunt, uncle, sister, and nieces. It was a great week. The boys were so young the last time we were at the beach that this was a totally new experience for them – building sand castles, playing in the ocean, and raft riding the waves. After a week at the beach Stephen headed back home for a week while Kate stayed in NC to visit her grandmother in VA and spend some time at her aunt’s lake house with some extended family. The boys loved riding in the boat, swimming in the lake, and playing with cousins they hadn’t seen in years. The following week Stephen flew from Denver, and Kate and the boys left from Raleigh to converge on Nashville, TN for a few days with Stephen’s parents. Stephen’s dad is still recovering from a bacterial infection that he contracted in May that brought on arthritis-like symptoms and has significantly limited his mobility. Thankfully he is slowly but surely recovering, and we had a great few days visiting with them. Stephen’s brother Jason and his family came up for a couple days, and it was great to see them. Kate and the boys flew back to Denver late in the week, but Stephen tacked on a short trip down to Atlanta to see friends before flying home to Denver a few days later. Whew – what a whirlwind few weeks!
In between all the traveling we’ve had a great summer in Denver as well. The boys stayed busy with sports (both playing baseball and taking swimming lessons), local summer camps, and play dates with friends in the neighborhood. Both boys started school this week. Andrew began pre-kindergarten three days a week and Ethan started into first grade and is even riding the bus to school on his own this year. Mom and dad are going to have to get used to that one!
Kate continues to stay busy with her work at Ronald Blue and Company as the stock market keeps her clients (and all the rest of us) anxious about the economic future, but it is a great opportunity for her to minister to people to remind them that our security is in Jesus Christ not Dow Jones! Stephen had a busy summer at New Denver Church, teaching a short series on friendship and a July 4th weekend message about faith and politics, leading a class on marriage, and beginning to prepare for launching new small groups this fall.
As we look forward to the fall and a new season of life and ministry, we are so grateful for so many things. We are so excited to see God at work in our lives, in our family, in our church, and in our city, and we are humbled to be a part of his great plan. We hope this update finds you well and hope you will help us stay in touch by reaching out with a phone call or email when we come to mind. As always we are grateful for and covet your prayers for our family and our ministry here in Denver.
It’s been another busy but great few months for the Redden family since our last update. As we think back over the last few months there are so many great things that have happened that it reminds us just how blessed we are and how grateful we are for God’s goodness. Here’s a few highlights from the last few months.
Ethan is almost a first grader! Next week is his last week of school, and we have to say that overall it has been a great first year. His teachers were wonderful, he made some great new friends, and we’ve really seen his learning and creativity progress through the year. We also just wrapped up soccer season and are gearing up for baseball. Ethan is especially excited about baseball, because he moves from t-ball to coach pitch. He’s often said, “I finally get to play real baseball!” Yet another milestone for Ethan came just last weekend while visiting Kate’s family in Wyoming. With a little peer pressure from his cousin Lily, Ethan finally got up the courage to tackle riding a bike, and he did a great job. Check out the video:
Andrew had a milestone event in April – celebrating his fourth birthday. We celebrated in grand style (well, grand style for a 4-year old) with a trip to Chuck E Cheese! One of the highlights of the party was the ticket blaster just for the birthday boy. Check out the video:
Andrew tells us that he is now a “big boy” and we have to admit that he is getting there. He’s slowly adapted to school and is pretty much tantrum free at drop off time. While he didn’t play any spring sports Andrew is looking forward to t-ball again this summer and hopefully the chance to head up to the ranch for more horseback riding, which he loves.
Kate continues to stay busy, and as usual a lot of that involves travel! Since our last update she spent a week with the boys in North Carolina and Virginia visiting her aunt and grandmother. The next week Stephen met them all in Nashville for a few days with his parents. But the big trip came in early May when Kate had the opportunity to take a week-long cruise to Alaska with her mom. Kate’s mom is a big fan of Dr. Barry Sears and his “Zone Diet” books, and Dr. Sears put on this cruise and did a number of presentations. They had a great week, and Kate is excited to share all that she learned about healthy eating though Stephen is still unwilling to part with his deep fryer!
Stephen has been busy as well with travel and lots of exciting things at New Denver Church. In addition to the trip to Tennessee with the family, Stephen traveled to Guatemala in March to visit New Denver’s international partner Pastor Antonio Moxnay and his church in San Pablo la Laguna. It was a great trip that helped pave the way for New Denver to bring teams down in July 2011 and January 2012. Stephen also had a milestone birthday this year – the big 4-0! Thanks to his boyish good looks and childish personality, he’s taking this entry into his forties in stride! Kate planned a fun low-key night of dinner and bowling (that’s what old people do, right?) with our good friends the Borgens and Gilmores. His work at New Denver also continues to keep Stephen busy. The church continues to grow slowly but surely, and there continue to be great stories of people growing in their faith. On top of his work with small groups Stephen continues a regular preaching schedule and even had the opportunity to preach through Easter this year which was a great experience for him.
One more significant update for our family is about our friend Nicole. You may remember in our last update that we had been praying for Nicole to get a spot in a local transitional housing program here called Joshua Station. After nearly seven months of living with us in our basement, Nicole was finally accepted into Joshua Station in April! She is settling into her new home well and is looking forward to being reunited full time with her boys Aidan (6) and Christopher (4) who have been living with her dad. We’re excited for this new phase of her life and to seeing how God continues working in her life.
Thanks for continuing to keep up with our journey. We hope this helps all of you – our friends and family around the world – feel a little more connected to what God is doing in our lives.
After a wonderful and relaxing holiday break, 2011 got off to a fast start at the Redden household, and it seems like we haven’t slowed down much since! It seems like even our best attempts to create margin and a sustainable pace of life are challenged at every turn by the demands of work, travel, kids’ activities, and the unexpected opportunities and challenges God places in our path. We are so grateful for our life right now, but it seems very full these days!
Stephen didn’t have any time to ease back into his work with New Denver Church after the holidays as he was preaching the first sermon series of the year entitled, Moving Beyond Belief. The opportunity to preach and teach on a regular basis has been a great opportunity and God has used it to stretch and grow him every time he teaches. It’s also been a good stretch for Kate as she gets more nervous about him speaking than he does! One of the great joys for Stephen over the last few months has been working with the Leadership Development Program (LDP) associates at New Denver. One of his great passions is investing in leaders and seeing people achieve their God-given potential, and he has had the opportunity to work with all of the LDP associates on various projects in this capacity. Travel is not a regular part of Stephen’s work with New Denver or his contract work, but two out-of-town trips have made this an especially busy season. In February he traveled with the team to the Ecclesia Church Network National Gathering in Washington, DC. This was a great chance to connect with pastors and friends from around the country and be encouraged and equipped for the work of growing a young church. Stephen’s second trip is coming up in early March when he will travel with Norton to Guatemala to continue developing relationships with a church with whom New Denver will partner in its cross-cultural missions efforts. All great things, but on top of his regular work shepherding small groups and meeting regularly with members of the congregation, it has been a busy start to the year. As if all that wasn’t enough, of course Stephen has also been making time for regular trips up to the mountains to enjoy his favorite pastime, snowboarding!
Kate has also been busy – work with Ron Blue & Co and keeping up with the boys is more than a full-time job. In February Kate traveled back to Atlanta for Ron Blue’s annual meetings. These regular trips are a great time to reconnect with colleagues and old friends in Atlanta, but they are also quite exhausting! Kate has also taken the primary role in working with our friend Nicole in helping her continue to move toward a long-term sustainable living situation. As you may remember from our update in October, Nicole is a friend we met here in Denver who is a single mom trying to find employment and a stable living situation. After bouncing around homeless shelters in the greater Denver area, Nicole came to stay with us back in September, and we’ve been trying to help her get her life moving in a positive direction. We’ve been working with a great local organization called Josua Station and are waiting and praying for her admittance into this program. We’ve learned a lot about problems and challenges we’ve never had to face personally, and God has definitely stretched us over these last six months. Fortunately Kate has made some time for rest and relaxation in the midst of her busyness. In early March she got the opportunity to unwind at Beaver Creek Resort with our friend Mary from Atlanta whose family owns a time share there.
The boys continue to grow and become more and more mature. This has been very apparent to Kate and Stephen during the times when the other is away, and one of them is playing single parent. While those times are still challenging, Ethan and Andrew are coming to an age where it is much less stressful than in years past.
Ethan didn’t sign up to play any winter team sports but has continued to stay busy this winter. He’s had the opportunity to continue getting better as a skier, and he also got the chance to try out his skills as a rodeo cowboy at the Denver Western Stock Show! His Papa Gene would be so proud to see the cowboy coming out in his grandson. Ethan also continues to love his first year of school. The last week of winter break he actually started asking when he would be able to go back to school! He continues to make friends and his social schedule of play dates stays pretty full!
Andrew continues to surprise us every day as he gets more and more articulate in expressing himself and gets more confident on his own. We’ve actually seen fewer tantrums when dropping him at school, and with mom and dad traveling so much he’s had plenty of opportunities to spend extended time at school and has actually enjoyed it. Andrew has also recovered well from his first traumatic injury – 4 stitches in his chin. While delivering cookies to neighbors at Christmas he tripped and fell, hitting his chin on a concrete step. To no one’s surprise he wasn’t the greatest patient, but he has persevered and made a full recovery with only a small scar as a memento of the experience!
As spring approaches we’re all looking forward to getting outside, getting back into spring and summer sports for the boys, and reconnecting with friends and neighbors. While Colorado winters aren’t nearly as bad as friends and family back in the south think they are, people definitely “hibernate” a bit. So we’re looking forward to longer, warmer days and time hanging out with friends and neighbors on the front porch.
As always thanks for tracking with us. Please stay in touch and let us know what’s happening with you as well. We’re so grateful for all your love and support.
In the day-to-day of life, time seems to move slowly – packing lunches, driving to school, going to work, driving to soccer practice, eating dinner, spending time with friends. But as 2010 comes to a close and we look back on all that’s happened, it’s hard to know where the time went this year!
This was a big year for Ethan in many ways. Starting school was perhaps the biggest change for him this year, but it is a step he has taken in stride. His outgoing personality has served him well in making friends quickly. We weren’t sure how well he would do at staying focused in class and listening, but his teachers tell us he is doing great and progressing well. It was another great sports year for Ethan – basketball, soccer, t-ball, soccer (again), and now we’re moving into ski season. It has been fun watching his skill and confidence grow this year in so many ways. It has also been a real joy to see Ethan growing spiritually as he asks questions about God and Jesus. He loves UpStreet (New Denver’s ministry for elementary-aged kids) and has learned so much this year in that environment.
Andrew grew up so much this year. We saw him move from being a toddler to a little boy over the course of this year. And while we’re grateful to be coming to the end of the “terrible three’s” (two was much easier than three for both our boys), we are a little sad that the baby years are gone. Of course getting older does have some benefits, like being able to finally play sports! Andrew played t-ball and soccer this year, and had a great time, though he probably liked the snack afterward more than the game itself. Andrew has also survived another year of pre-school against his best efforts to avoid it. He’s definitely a little more reserved than his brother and just hasn’t gotten excited about spending too much time away from mom.
For Kate and Stephen the year has been a progressive confirmation of God’s call to this place. As we’ve continued to grow in relationship with friends from our neighborhood and from New Denver Church we have steadily felt more at home. This has been a really significant year for New Denver in so many ways. Our first year was so difficult in so many ways – trying to build momentum with just a handful of relationships and connections. But as we have been faithful with the people we have met and who have been part of the church, we’ve slowly seen more begin to come. It finally feels like momentum is starting to build. It is a great start, and we look forward to seeing where God takes things from here.
As the holidays arrive, we’re really looking forward to taking some time to just enjoy time with our family and with friends. We’ve already gotten the chance to spend some time with Kate’s mom and sister and her kids when we went to ride the “Santa Train” through the Royal Gorge. It was a great time and definitely got us all in the Christmas spirit! For Christmas we’ll spend a couple days up in the mountains skiing and then be back here for Christmas. Our friend Nicole is still staying with us, and her boys will be here for Christmas as well. Our small group all pitched in to help ensure they have a great Christmas.
As we think back on our second year here in Denver the one word that comes to mind is grateful. We are so grateful for the friends we’ve made here, for the experiences we’ve enjoyed, and for how we’ve seen God work in and through our family and our church. We are also so grateful for all of you who love and care for us and who have encouraged, supported, and prayed for us. We pray God’s richest blessing on you and yours this Christmas and into the New Year.