Tag Archives: Personal

In Memory of a Dear Friend

It’s been just over a week since getting the news that a dear friend of mine passed away after a year-long battle with cancer. Danielle (Tschirky) Montiel was my age, with kids roughly the same age as ours. Yesterday, those who knew her gathered together to celebrate her life and mourn their loss. Given that I am on the other side of the world right now, I wanted to share a few words both to honor her and to give some kind of expression to my own journey as I grieve the loss of a friend.

It’s tough to lose anyone in your life, to know that they are gone and the opportunity to connect one more time gone with them. It is even tougher to lose someone who holds a special place in your heart and life.

She was a significant person in my life at a significant time. We were both from Long Beach but did not meet until we both arrived at UCLA in fall of ’93. Through her and a special group of friends during those years, I was shaped in immeasurable ways.

Danielle had a unique role in my development during those years. She was a kindred spirit in some memorable ways. She had big dreams and vision, was passionate, loyal, and long-suffering. She also had qualities that weren’t as natural for me at the time – she was gentle, kind, curious, and full of joy. As I explored my identity and emerging calling with intensity, seriousness, and deep inner reflection, she consistently pulled me outward to see, appreciate, and recognize the beauty and wonder that I so often missed. At the time, there were so many things I was trying to get “right,” but she was a key guiding light that pointed to a place of rest and enjoyment of life.

Beyond our four years together at UCLA, we spent every summer of our college years serving together.  After our freshman year we spent the summer in East Asia together with many from our UCLA tribe. The next summer we served together in the inner-city of Los Angeles, where we experienced our first taste of team and ministry leadership while learning about different contexts and cultures.

But the summer I remember most with her was the summer before our senior year of college when we helped re-launch the college ministry of Arbor Road Church together.  It was through the joy of serving and leading together – experiencing the beauty, possibilities, and power of ministry in people’s lives, that I sensed a call to ministry. Ministry as a responsibility, duty, or burden was replaced by something deeper and so much more meaningful. As a person prone to discouragement, disillusionment, and seriousness, I do not believe I would have entered the ministry without that shift. I know for certain that even if I had, I wouldn’t have lasted. She helped me see that ministry was not something to be achieved, but something to live and enjoy.

As life took us on our separate paths I did not see her frequently after college, but we kept in touch. The topic of our interaction in most recent years was what she was doing helping pioneer a charter middle school with a virtue-based curriculum. As my ministry took an unforeseen shift about 5 years ago into an educational context, I wanted to pick her brain when I could. I saw her passion for education in college, but it was amazing to see it materialize into a concrete vision. And I was amazed that as the topic of virtue-based leadership development has come up in the course of my ministry in Manila, I’ve even had someone mention to me that “there’s this school somewhere in Southern California that is doing some cool things that you should check out.”

It’s hard to reconcile the loss of anyone important in our lives, but it’s even harder to reconcile the loss of someone that really knew you.  She gave me the gift of being known time and time again during those formative years and it’s a gift that kept on giving in the years since.

Danielle knew me, at times better than I knew myself and better than many in my life. She affirmed things about me that at the time most people including myself maybe weren’t sure were even there. But those things began to emerge over time. She either knew me that well or had the gift of being able to speak some of those things into existence through warm encouragement and confident vision. This would be a gift for everyone, but as a deep-thinking, culture-challenging, justice-seeking, truth-teller like myself who has routinely been misunderstood and at times judged for it, it’s a grace that helped guard my heart against darkness and point me towards a vision of what could be.

In the moments I get to see and celebrate any impact I may be making, she saw it first.  You can’t put a price on friends like that.

This summer she gave me one more gift. I was back in Long Beach just for a few days and we were trying to find a way to see each other, but it it was getting complicated with schedules and commitments. But she spontaneously visited on one of our last afternoons before leaving the country. We spent some time catching up on her journey – the struggles, her hopes, and her fears. She graciously shared with me the details she had to re-count no doubt hundreds of times. But mostly, I think we just enjoyed the moment of presence, which was a gift we have not been able to enjoy as much in recent years.

Danielle was relentlessly positive and hopeful, but as I was leaving the country for at least another year I have wondered if she was giving me one last gift.  While I prayed faithfully for her complete healing and restoration, I was still mindful that I might be saying goodbye. And that brief encounter has meant the world to me since.  It’s one of the moments I get to remember her by – where more was said than words spoken and where the fears of the unknown were briefly alleviated through the presence of the familiar.

I told her that day that the world is so, so much better with her in it. And I was right. I rejoice that hers was a life well lived and mourn for the many, especially her family and children, that must find a way to do life without her physical presence.  Please join me in praying for them in their grief.

If you read through this, thank you. It’s a needed part of my own process as I grieve in geographic isolation. I’m grateful for some friends who have kept me updated on the events of the past couple weeks and have passed on some old pictures. The majority of my days spent with Danielle were before cell phones and digital cameras so the majority of my photos and memories are in a storage unit in California.

I’m thankful to have had such a person in my life and to have had so many memories and moments that resulted in life change and impact. I am thankful her suffering is at an end and she has received the object of her faith. Her example of faith, love, and vulnerability all the way to the very end inspires me to keep aspiring to the picture of graciousness and care that so many experienced from her.


Sunny on the Inside

So my youngest doesn’t get a lot of air time here, but she’s quite fascinating to me.

A couple days ago my wife was out shopping with Kaelyn and overheard a couple of young girls asking their mom, “Mom, why is that baby so mad?” This was in reference to Kaelyn. The mom then got embarrassed and trying to make a save by talking up how cute Kaelyn is (which she is).

Whatch you lookin' at Willis?

In fairness to Kaelyn, she just had gotten a shot, but she often gets “She’s so serious.” “She looks mad.” “She looks intense.”

If you know me, you might start making the connections here!  I hear that stuff all the time too 🙂  If baby’s could be intimidating, Kaelyn would be intimidating. We generate the same feelings and reactions in others.

My wife was frustrated and grumpy at one point earlier today and she told me, “I feel like Kaelyn right now.” I had to correct her and remind her that she has no idea what Kaelyn was feeling. In fact, Kaelyn could be quite happy. So she countered with, “I feel like Kaelyn looks right now.” I couldn’t argue that point.

Kaelyn is a pretty happy baby and super mellow, but she does have an intense side and her default is to look pissed off.  I have a lot in common with my oldest daughter, but Kaelyn appears to be my kindred spirit from a temperament standpoint.

We can go out together and the world can think we’re pissed off, but we can have a great time together. Solidarity.

I love that 90% of Kaelyn’s expressiveness is in her eyes. She keeps her emotion in usually, but it explodes out of her eyes and I love that about her.

Kaelyn was the debated “3rd child” – as in, “should we?” or “should we not?” But we’re so thankful for her and love what she brings to our family.



My Trip to Paradise

While in Chicago a couple weeks back for some organizational meetings related to theological development, the Cubs were in town!  I hadn’t been in about a decade, but it worked out to get to a game and I was in heaven. There was a rain delay for about an hour with crazy lightning so we got to hang out at Wrigley for a while which all good by me.  Then the Cubs had their first big offensive explosion of the year so there was plenty of action.

Between the blowout and the weather people were bailing left and right.  By the seventh inning me and another dude worked our way down to about 15 rows behind the Cubs dugout in like $150-$200 seats.  Unbelievable.  For me, it’s hard for it to get much better than that.

So amidst a season that is going to be another Cubs train wreck with half the roster injured and the other half sucking, the whole season was made for me.  It’s all gravy from here on out in the sports department this year.

Only down side was my son is still angry at me for going without him and he asks almost every day when we can go to “Hey Chicago” (which is what he calls it because of the Go, Cubs, Go song they play after victories).

And we got to see the Cubs Grounds Crew work their magic with lightning bolts flying overhead.  It was an impressive display of teamwork and leadership actually.  They got a huge ovation for doing a great job and getting soaked doing it.

Go, Cubs, Go 🙂   Someday I’ll get back there, hopefully I’ll have my kids with me!

Beav’s Favorite 2010 Movies

Special thanks to TJ Poon for contributing a couple guest posts this week!  Check out “The 5% Life” post links in the left sidebar.  They gave me some things to really reflect on and I’ll continue to do so, but I’m directing this blog to a very different place now :)As is tradition, I’m rolling out my favorite movies of 2010. (Not to be confused with “Best” Movies because the Oscars are irrelevant in this.)My one confession here is that I have not seen Inception as of yet and that while I list 10 movies here I probably only managed to see six more than those listed.  I liked The Town and Toy Story 3, didn’t like Clash of the Titans, wasn’t feelin’ Robin Hood that much,  Salt was cool but out of focus the whole time at the 2$ theater, and the Expendables was fun and weird at the same time.  But without further delay, here they are.  All in all I thought it was an excellent movie year – at least for stuff I tend to like 🙂10.   Shrek 4 – This wasn’t really the kid movie my kids were excited about, but in my life stage it really spoke to me.9. Ramona & Beezus – This movie was a surreal experience.  We took my daughter on a special date with just her and my wife and I before the baby came and I got ambushed.  We went because we’ve been reading all the Ramona books to her, but I was teary through the whole movie.  Over-identify much?8.   The A-Team – Given that this was one of my favorite shows if not the favorite, this movie was a no brainer – had to see it.  I really liked it and was pleasantly surprised with how they pulled it off.  My sister took me to it so that was fun too 🙂7.   The Prince of Persia – This was a total sleeper.  I saw it at a 2$ theater when I just needed to chill out.  I was making fun of this movie and its star, but was shocked at how much I enjoyed this action movie.  I was a hater, but had to eat my words.6. The Green Zone –  Enjoyed this movie because of way it captured various power dynamics plus just the general good action movie vibe and intriguing politics.5.   Tangled – loved watching it with my daughter and loved the themes of adulthood and empowerment and loved that it had the voice of the dude that plays Chuck on tv.4.   It’s Kind of a Funny Story – Loved it.  About teen suicide and an in patient hospital.  I blogged about it here, but loved the picture of finding health and identity in the context of grace and relationships.3.   Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Part One –  Solid.  I enjoyed it, but the part one thing kind of leaves you hanging.2. Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief – Similar to the Prince of Persia I didn’t know much, but saw it dealt with Greek mythology so I was curious.  Saw it at the local 2$ theater and really enjoyed it as well and then went and read all the books that inspired the movie over the summer (even though they’re jr. high level).1.   The Voyage of the Dawn Treader – Really enjoyed this as well.  Honestly, there’s no clear cut #1 for me this year as my #1-4 all were in the same realm for me.  But I appreciated some of how they handled this movie.  I was curious how they were going to pull it off and it had some very memorable scenes.So you can tell I don’t go typically for artsy or indie movies and I tend to go for the fun movies over the deeply emotive or gut wrenching experiences, but after seeing my list – any recommendations based on what you think should be in there?  I can’t promise I’ll find time to watch them, but I’m open to some encouragement to broaden my horizons!

Some of My Top Posts of 09

I’m submitting to blog peer pressure, but I do think that as the year comes to a close it’s a good opportunity to highlight some of the top posts of the blog this year just in case you’re new to the blog or you missed them.  Based on Google Analytics, comments, email responses to me, and conversations I’ve had I’m going to give you what were the most popular of my posts this year.  It’s always fascinating seeing what strikes a chord with people.Here are a few of the top posts that are more academic in nature:

  1. Dark Knight and Systems Thinking – This post somehow hit the google search goldmine because it had well over a hundred hits more than anything else.  This was the post that showed me the power of using “THESIS”, the wordpress theme. (Click yellow box to your right for more info).  That had more to do with the film reference than me, but it was the most viewed post of the year by a landslide.  If you want to back to these these posts I recommend going to this post instead.
  2. Marginalizing Contextualization – This generated some of the most conversation outside of the blog.  It’s one of the fun things to see streams of thought turn into engaging dialogue with more practical implications.
  3. I Search Myself – A more recent post, I got a lot of response on this in various forms – comments, emails, conversations.
  4. The Authentic Prophets – This was the most viewed of all the “prophets v. posers” posts and I had a lot of interaction with people after the fact on it.  Here’s a link to a post that has links to most of the rest of the prophets v. posers posts.
  5. Bounty Leadership & Waterproof Paper Towels – Both of the posts sparked some enjoyable dialogue and were among the top viewed as well.
  6. Shepherding at the Speed of Life – This was by far the most commented post thanks to the blogference.  It’s a long post…longer than is wise for the blog venue, but good dialogue.
  7. Parable of Two Brothers – Had a lot of input on this one and had a lot of visitors show up at my blog via search on this one.

Here are a few of the top posts that had a more family or personal nature to them:

  1. Morgan and Daddy “Square dance” – This brief home video I posted of me joining in to my daugher’s year end preschool celebration presentation got a lot of love.  Either that or my wife watched it over 50 times by herself.  Morgan was really into this.
  2. A Source of Thankfulness – This and A Close to Perfect Night go hand in hand in terms of popularity and comments I’ve gotten.
  3. Morgan Birthday Haiku’s – A memorable event this past year as well as a very popular post.
  4. Alpha Male… –   Just so my son doesn’t feel left out from all the Morgan posts.  And this one of him out on the town was pretty classic too and I heard a lot about it from some of you.

This has been a fun year of blogging, though not without the usual cycles of momentum.  I was quite proud that for the most part I was able to avoid a binging and purging approach to blogging and stay consistent.Thanks for reading and/or subscribing to “Bloggin’ Beav” and double thanks to if you have both read and done some commenting here in 2009.  And I’ll say even a triple thanks to you if you actually linked to the blog and given me or certain posts your endorsement via links or inclusion on your blogrolls!For you writers out there (not necessarily bloggers), I am going to do something in 2010 that I’m going to call “Ten in 2010”.  I’m going to facilitate my first wave of guest posts from ten different people pertaining to some of the themes that this blog tends to focus on – prophetic leadership, spiritual formation and character development of leadership, organizational or congregational systems and dynamics among others.I have ideas for some of who I want to guest post, but not all so if you want to take a crack at a post that fits the general content of my blog let me know with a proposal of what you’re thinking.  If you’re a blogger I’m more than willing to help give you some publicity 🙂  If you’re not a “blogger”,  but have thought about it, I’m hoping I can give you a taste of blogging so that you might try it out!  Either way, look for the “Ten in 2010!”Happy New Year!

Why I Started Blogging – Blogtherapy

Because I know so many that are thinking about blogging or trying to find their “blogging” identity (meaning what kind of shape and voice is their blog going to take), I’m going to share some of why I started and why I keep doing it.The foundation was laid from some of my seminary friends from my first degree program at Bethel.  Some of them got into it and they suggested I start.  That was about 4 years ago and it took over a year to launch my blog from when they first nudged me in this direction.  One of my primary motivations was to keep in touch in a different with these guys and continue doing a little bit of life together and continuing the learning across geography and busy schedules.The second factor for me was taking the Strengthsfinder assessment.  Of my strengths, most of them lend themselves to reflection and a rich internal life (Context, Intellection, Learner).  A consultant told me (as well as the SF books) that I really needed to start finding ways to do more writing because most of what was going on inside of me had no expression or outlet.  Essentially most of what I was thinking about or reflecting on would get lost and most people would have no access to any of it.  Because I’m not particularly emotionally expressive or easy to read, it allows people a greater window into who I am and my internal world.Of course the biggest barrier for me and to many others in starting a blog is the anxiety and insecurity of going public with thoughts and opinions where you don’t have much control over people’s perceptions or attitudes regarding your work.  Some say blogging is a narcissistic endeavor – after all, why should I expect others to care about what I think and write.  There’s a kernal of truth there, but I think most find it pretty scary to put yourself out there with any degree of depth, conviction, or consistency.  I had to and continually have to overcome some of my fear of what others think and the reality that both random people and those who I might consistently find myself at odds with might judge or write me off as a moron if they were to happen across my site.So why do I keep doing it?   Because it’s a form of therapy for me.  It allows me to work out things in my mind in a helpful way and gives me a consistent outlet and venue to organize and synthesize thoughts.  I enjoy writing and I tend to function in life at a higher level when I’m writing consistently.  I’m wired in such a way where the complexities and daily grind of life in ministry, leadership, and of my life stage with small kids become more a bit more manageable and rich when I can think about the various things I experience and observe in different and engaging ways and try to get it down in writing.It also has opened up new doors to dialogue with different people about a variety of things that are really engaging.  I’m amazed at how many exchanges I have with others pertaining to some topic or post.  I’ve found that it’s not because I’m brilliant by any stretch, but because as I learn and share I find that it sometimes taps into what something they have learned or are learning as well.  These kind of dialogues make it all worth it.So in short,  I started to connect with others in both social as well as academic ways as well as to spend time functioning out of my strengths and maybe be a little healthier of a person as well.If you’re thinking about blogging, you’re thinking about it for a reason and I think it’s worth giving it a shot to see if you find it a meaningful endeavor.People blog for different reasons.  If you are already blogging, why did you start and why do you keep at it?