Sunday, May 31, 2015

Humor Extraordinaire

I met an ordinary person with an extraordinary sense of humor a few years back at a writing conference.  At an impromptu post-conference time, Mark shared his writings and had a group of writers chuckling over his madcap paraphrasing of Eve’s experience in the Garden of Eden. I truly hope he publishes it someday. A divorced dad, former youth pastor and current writer and tech dude, Mark Brady is someone whose twinkling eyes can take in the ordinary and give back so much more.

Welcome Mark, fellow Word Weaver! 

Q) So I have to ask, upfront, about your sense of humor. How did it develop - when you were growing up, as a teen, perhaps as an adult?
A) My sense of humor comes from my family, mainly on my dad's side.  I quickly learned that being funny helped in a lot of situations.  I do enjoy trying to make someone laugh or at least smile, because this is a very dark world we live in and a little laughter can go a long way to make it brighter. 

Q) I’ve always wondered if humor has a hereditary as well as environmental component in people. Who in your family is the most like you in this way?
A) My mother says I am just like my father, so I would have to say I got most of it from him.

Q) Speaking of family, you had the privilege of giving one your children in marriage this year. I wondered if your sense of humor eased the wedding stress that sometimes happens?
A) My daughter is having a traditional "church" wedding next January.  To save money on the medical and dental needs of my new son-in-law, the kids decided to get married at a Justice of the Peace, so my daughter could put him on her insurance plan at work now.  They got married on April 1st.  When I arrived in town, I sternly warned her that this had better not be an April fool's joke.  Everyone laughed so, yes, I guess that set the tone for the event.

Q) If you could only share one piece of parenting advice, what would you choose to say?
A) Accept your children no matter who they choose to be or where they are in their walk with God, and make sure they know you accept them.

Q) How did the transition from youth pastor to technology businessman happen?
A) Sin.  Isn’t it always sin that causes one to have to leave the garden God has for them?  It was not a pretty scene, but a lot has come out of that time for good. 
Only God can take what the devil intends for harm and make something good out of it.  So after having to leave the ministry I started drafting in an architectural office.  It wasn’t long before I learned AutoCad and that lead to me liking the computer side of things more than the architectural world.  I left drafting and of all things went to work as a computer main frame operator at a publishing company.  It was there I saw and gained an understanding of the publishing industry.  That job leads me to where I am currently working which is AT&T.  My desire now is go back into full time ministry as a writer and motivational speaker.  It’s funny how God can take a damaged person and straighten them up, dust them off, and put them on a new path for His purposes.  I now can freely write about deception, the perils of power, and a leader falling, because I have been there.

Q) So how did you end up becoming a writer?
A) I have always thought one of the greatest things God gave us by making us in His image is the power to create.  I love the realization that I am taking words and putting them on paper in a particular order that “creates” something that can entertain, help, teach, or heal another person.  I first had to overcome the big question, “Am I a writer?”  Bob Hostetler, our nightly speaker at my first writer’s conference, answered that question for me after spending some time with me and reading one of my chapters I had taken to the conference.  He looked directly at me and said, “Mark, you’re a writer.”  I cried, for in that moment I realized God’s word spoken over me after I left the ministry had come true.  The word was God would rebuild me, and now I knew He had.  In the 27 years I wondered in my desert (the time I left the ministry to the writer’s conference) I was healed, I was taught, and I was rebuilt as a new man.

Q) Your blog is read all over the world and so I have to ask you how you think that happened?
A) At last years’ conference I took a couple of classes on “social media”, wanting to build my platform, and I received some really good tips on how to use social media.  After I got home from the conference, I wanted to put what I had just learned into practice.  So I switched my blog to Word Press, and I learned to use it.  One of the things I have done is include “tags” in each blog.  I believe what happens is when someone does an internet search on a particular topic that I have tagged, it leads them to my blog.  I am truly humbled that my simple blog is used by God in places I will, most likely, never set foot.

Q) What was your most extraordinary yet ordinary experience to date?
A) One lady, who I got to know through work, now reads my blog every week.  Perhaps it was, at first, my willingness to go over to her house and help her with a lot of labor intensive jobs after her husband passed away that earned me credibility.  Even in the midst of those tasks, I openly talked about my relationship with God without any condemnation.  I usually will say, “This is how I believe”. 
She wrote me a few weeks ago and told me that due to reading my blog, she has changed her life around and has now rededicated her life to God. And she has returned to the church of her youth. Again, only God!

Q) Lastly, and best of all, what is something about you that is surprising?
I think most people are surprised at my ability to be resourceful, almost a MacGyver kind of gift.  Give me a problem and I will have it resolved in 30 minutes or less, or the next one's free.

What surprises me the most is how much the God of the universe delights in using us to work with Him in building His kingdom.  Doing so is truly my pleasure, and all the glory goes to Him.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Outside Extraordinary

There are people you meet along your journey that make you appreciate the ordinary yet amazing things of life. The person I’d like to introduce you to is one of these, outside the extraordinary. I first met Matthew Pechanio at a family baptism when the grandchildren were born. Besides being a runner and craft beer maker, he is the pastor of Ascension Anglican Church in the Chicago land area. As I’ve pondered his wonderful impact on my grandkids as their pastor, I thought I’d invite him to share more of his life and his calling with us.

Welcome, Matthew!

Q ) Your genuine friendliness really impacted me when I first met you over five years ago.  What is your back story?
A )  I like people (most of the time).  Being friendly and taking an interest in others shows love in our culture.  Most people I interact with don’t need money, or food or any kind of material help. They don’t need to learn to read, or some other skill that is necessary for survival.  But people need to be heard, need to feel like they matter and then other people care.  So I do that, because it is the primary way I can fulfill the Golden Rule.
            Also, I did not grow up in a home where this was present.  Rather than continue the pattern of isolation and indifference that I experienced growing up I decided in my late teens and early 20s to be different, to take an interest and develop meaningful relationships. Others in my family did not, and to this day they live an isolated and indifferent kind of life.  Sometimes our backgrounds solidify who we are, but other times they propel us to live differently.
            I grew up in a quiet home in Elmhurst, with parents who provided for every material need and instilled in me faith in God and a commitment to learning and morality.  In college and beyond I began to explore a wider world, and press into an even deeper Christian faith.   Pressing into people’s lives became the vehicle to serve God.

Q) When did you start running?
A)  About 7 years ago, in my late 30’s.  I never liked running and used to say that I would only run if I were being chased.  But one day sweet Kris (wife of 20+ years) was running on a treadmill and I wanted to talk with her, so I decided I could run on an adjacent treadmill to have a conversation.  I managed a mile in 12 minutes.  Having survived this I attempted it again the next day and gradually added mileage while reducing my time.  And by the spring of the next year after 6 months of running I finished my first 10k race. Four months later it was a half marathon.  I love running and have been in 4 marathons (probably done with those) and find it to be a peaceful and healthful practice.

Q) What are some of your other interests and hobbies?
A)  Brewing beer (see below), reading and listening to Yes.  I read a variety of things, mostly non-fiction, and usually have multiple books going at one time.  I enjoy theology and religious studies as well as literature dealing with current events and contemporary trends and ideas.  History and social studies are also popular with me.  I also love backpacking, hiking, camping and riding my bike.  Being in nature and with animals (especially greyhounds) are essential components of who I am as a person. 

Q) How did you end up making your own craft beer?
A)  About 10 years ago a friend of mine was trying to unload his equipment.  I thought I could give it a try, especially since the set-up was free!  My wife said that I’ll never be able to do it and that this hobby wouldn’t last.  Well, 100+ batches of home brew later, she may be right – but I wouldn’t count on it!

Q) How did you and your lovely wife Kris meet?
A)  We met in the fall of 1991 in college, at NIU in DeKalb.  We were both part of a campus ministry and became friends before starting to date in late spring of 1992. We married in October of 1994.

Q) Did you decide to become a pastor before or after you were married?
A)  Long after.  I had a strong inclination in college to work in Christian ministry, but it wasn’t until after several years of marriage and some experiences in the ministry, and some very solid and fruitful years teaching high school Bible and religious education classes that I made a transition to pastoral work. That transition occurred between 2003 and 2007.

Q) At what point did you know you would be part of the Anglican denomination?
A)  In the late 90’s I became very disappointed with our church experience in that I was longing for a more intellectual faith, and one that was connected to the wider church, the ancient church and the sacramental church.  Returning to the Catholic church of my youth didn’t seem to be the right fit, but coming across contemporary Anglicanism (which emphasized “three streams” of expression:  the evangelical, the catholic, and the charismatic) was a Godsend.  The Anglican Church was a wonderful bridge between the Catholicism of my youth and the evangelicalism I had experienced in my 20s. 

Q) The pivot points we experience in life don’t often come up. Would you mind sharing one pivot point in your life where you knew everything would be radically different had you chosen differently?
A)  In 2003 I took a backpacking trip to the mountains of central Oregon.  It was pivotal in that it set me on a course to experience the outdoors and embrace my embodied-ness as a being who is a part of a wider world.  Not only did I develop a love of nature and being outdoors in it, this opened up a whole new set of practices that flow from my understanding of the work of creation and our role within it.  For example, my enjoyment of the outdoors led me to learn more about the environment, take up causes and issues that help to protect it (including vegetarianism) and develop activities and rhythms that keep me rooted and in touch with the natural world.