Sunday Shout Out

Tristan LaughingTristan LaFave had been a Jesus follower for a few years. She was serving at a small church where she was also being mentored. She was living in a small town in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan that she knew and loved.

Tristan sensed that God was calling here to something else, and she followed that calling. Tristan moved to the warm climate, rapid paced, urban metropolis of Milwaukee (Yes, everything is relative!). She took an internship working on the ministry staff of a suburban mega-church.

It would be safe to say that Tristan faced a significant learning curve. Things were even crazier than they appeared on the surface. The ministry that Tristan was serving in was in the middle of a major transition. They hired a new pastor to oversee the ministry while she was brand new, and boy was he a punk.

That new pastor was me (I am kind of a punk.), and I arrived when Tristan was just three months into her internship. A couple of weeks ago Tristan finished the second year of her internship. She is moving onto graduate school to train for a future ministry in counseling. I am so grateful that I was able to partner with Tristan for a couple of years. Here are a few of the many things that I appreciate about her.

Work Ethic: Tristan is the kind of person who makes sure that the job is done, and that it is done well. She does what it takes, even if that means working extra or doing things that she does not enjoy.

Pure Heart: Tristan consistently questions to make sure that things were right before God. She takes integrity seriously.

Compassion: Tristan cared deeply about people in our ministry. That desire to see people well has put her on track to a future in counseling.  

Fun: All of those things sound pretty heavy, but Tristan can also relax and have fun when the time is right!

Thanks for two great years T$! We are excited to see what is next for you!


bob engelI first met Bob Engel in January 1994 while taking a class on urban ministry. Bob was on staff with the urban ministry that we served with for a few weeks. The four of us who worked with Bob left that experience with a new hero, or at least a great role model.

A few years later I worked for Bob. He was the city director of the same urban ministry, and I was there discerning my vocational calling. Those experiences, and following his updates over the past decade, increased my respect and admiration for Bob. Here are a few of the reasons why I am giving him a shout out this Sunday.

Bob is the Life of the Party: Bob has the ability to light up any room. He has the gifts of contagious laughter, a welcoming smile, and dancing yet attentive eyes. Those gifts break down walls and put people to ease quickly. People feel both safe and joyful around Bob.This is true for all kinds of people. I have seen him with White politicians, Black pastors, Asian widows, and Hispanic orphans. Bob can connect with anyone.

Bob has a Courageous Obedience: A guy with Bob’s personality, training and experience could have gone a number of prestigious places after college. Bob sensed a calling to serve in America’s impoverished urban centers. Bob joined World Impact, and has given his life to serve in some very challenging environments. Bob rightly signs his letters with the quote “Not of those who Shrink Back.” Bob is certainly in the company of those willing to press into difficulty for the sake of others.

Bob lives a Consistent Grace: It is easy for those who have taken risks and suffered hardship to look down on others. Bob has not fallen into that trap. He extends grace evenly. When I worked with Bob, I determined that full time urban ministry was not my vocational calling. It was a difficult conclusion for me. It was also frightening to share with Bob, a hero in the field and my boss! Bob was nothing but gracious to me. He never gave a glimpse of disappointment or frustration – both would have been understandable. He never put me on a guilt trip. He prayed with me, talked with me, and supported me in the process. When I left World Impact he treated me like a friend and partner in a broader ministry.

Thank you Bob.

Please follow Bob’s monthly updates with World Impact:

Father peter

Last week I spent a few days with an old college friend.

This particular friend has an interesting faith journey. He grew as the son of a fundamentalist preacher. He attended a mainstream evangelical college. He almost walked away from faith, but was apparently predestined to become a neo-Calvinist instead. Then he converted to Catholicism.

He was ordained as a priest in the Catholic Church ten days before our visit.

One of my favorite points of the visit was having dinner at an Irish Pub in downtown Milwaukee. Without wanting to make light of a complex situation in Ireland, I had the thought, “This should be able to happen. A Catholic priest and an Evangelical pastor should be able to share a good meal with great conversation.”

We hit some points of disagreement in some conversations. I would hit a few points of disagreement with most of my pastor friends if we talked long enough! However, we also had a lot of of areas of deep agreement in our faith and practice.

I always thought that Pete was a bright and thoughtful guy, who was always willing, maybe desiring, to push the status quo. I have to say that Father Peter is even more impressive. Here are a few of the ways that God has molded Peter in the Catholic seminary and ordination process.

Focus: In that past Peter seemed a bit restless. Today he can look you in the eye and tell you his calling without blinking. He has disciplined his life toward that call.

Peace: He seems to genuinely be at peace with himself, his calling, and God. This shows in the way he interacts with others – some of the edge that characterized his in the past has been smoothed out.

Intimacy: Peter seems to know God better than ever before. He has been intentional about genuine spiritual formation, going to great lengths and effort to know God more deeply. It shows!

Joshua Colburn

Two weeks ago Joshua Colburn led musical worship at Impact’s Spiritual Retreat. There was a lot of positive feedback from the community, and I really enjoyed partnering, worshiping, and hanging out with him.

Thursday was his birthday, but today he gets the Sunday Shout Out.

I met Joshua in the summer of 2008 when I spoke at his church. He was the worship leader, among other roles, and the worship was simply amazing! That night I was impressed by a number of things about Joshua. The experience made enough of an impression on me that I flew him out to Wisconsin two years later. Here are some of the things that I appreciate about Joshua:

Talent: Joshua has outstanding natural musical talent. My wife said that his voice like a train. That was not my first thought, but it is a really great description. He has a powerful voice that fills the room, and carries the rest of us along with him. To put it plain and simple – He can flat out sing. Check out his music on the link at the end of this post!

Passion: Joshua has seen some stuff in life. He knows (experientially) how God can rescue people. He has not forgotten that experience, or taken it for granted. He continues to carry a passionate gratitude and hunger for more of God. That passion is contagious, especially when he sings. Did I mention that he can flat out sing!?

Integrity: Joshua is big on honesty. He feels no need to be something that he is not. He has experienced Grace, and he feels no need to play games with anything else. Joshua is smart enough to know that he could make some tweaks in who he is and what he does in order to gain what others would call “greater success.” He has enough integrity to say “no” to that temptation. He is content with who he is and what he is doing. That is true success.

To learn more about Joshua Colburn and his music:


Ron Sider is a professor, author, and organizer who has been a consistent, strong, and reasonable voice calling Christians to be biblically faithful by prioritizing social action. If I ever meet Dr. Sider in person (and I can speak) I will give him a heartfelt “THANK YOU!” However, until that day I will give him a public shout out.

This is why I admire Ron Sider:

The Whole Gospel for the Whole World: That is the motto of Palmer Theological Seminary where Sider teaches. It fits Sider well. He has called Christians to recognize the enormous amount of scripture that directs us to care for the poor and marginalized. We can not ignore such a major theme in the Bible. Sider is right to remind us.

Social and Political but Not Partisan: Sider recognizes that the scriptures have great social, cultural, and political implications. I think that he has done a brilliant job pressing into those realms without becoming partisan. In a system where no party fully embraces the ethic of the scriptures, Sider has done well to challenge both sides.

Called for Justice when it was Not Hip: Today a number of younger evangelicals (and other believers who will not use that label) are prioritizing justice issues. Sider was on it well before this trend. He had the courage to stand for the biblical call for justice, even when it was not marketable.

Built a Lasting Foundation: Sider has written over 20 books. Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger has been recognized as one of the top Christian books of the century. I would also recommend Just Generosity and The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscious. In addition to his books, articles, and teaching, Sider established Evangelicals for Social Action an association of Christians seeking to promote thoughtful and biblical engagement on social issues. Click here to experience the ESA website:

It is my prayer that Sider’s writing, teaching and organizing will prove effective in multiplying his efforts.

From where I sit, this world needs a lot more Ron Siders to faithful live out Jesus calling.


This year at Christmas Dinner we began a tradition of sharing things that we were thankful for (Robyn gets credit for that idea!). I was thrilled to have a long list that evening. Right at the top of my list was, “I am married to a person who cares about things that matter.” That is still true four months later, and so I give my Sunday Shout Out to Robyn Beckley Vining!

Here are a few of the many things that I love about Robyn. I think that you will see why I am happy to be doing life with her.

Thoughtful – Robyn is a thinker and learner. She is not satisfied with overly simplistic analysis or sound bites. She is committed to researching things, exploring different angles, and reaching thoughtful, comprehensive positions. We may not always agree (we normally do agree on the things that matter most in life.), but I know that she has good reasons for her perspective.

Compassionate – Robyn is quick to consider the feelings of others. She has a burden for the outcast, the oppressed, and the marginalized of culture, or subcultures. Her compassion has been inspiring to me. She even pushes herself to extend compassion to those who do not extend grace to her. Now that is hard core “image of God” compassion!

Courageous – Being thoughtful and compassionate does not always lead a person into the most comfortable or convenient situations. In fact in a world that is full of brokenness, thoughtful and compassionate people often find themselves in difficult positions. It takes a person of courage to press on and do or say or write the right thing. Robyn has shown that courage

Joyful – Those challenges which require such courage, rarely steal Robyn’s joy. She is quick to have fun, be silly, and to celebrate. She is committed to doing the right thing and to changing the world, but she is wise enough to realize that should be a joyful, not joyless, existence. I am thankful for the laughter that she brings to our home.

I could go on and on, but I am trying to keep my blog posts shorter – an idea that Robyn disagrees with in a thoughtful, compassionate, courageous and joyful manner.



Well, it is Easter Sunday, so I can’t really think of a better person to give a shout out to than Jesus. I will not write much, most of it has already been said by writers, and poets, and scholars far more eloquent than me.

Back in those days, like our own day, people knew that things were not right with the world.
Different people had identified different problems.
Different people had identified different solutions.
Some believed that there were no solutions.
No one expected the type of rescue that Jesus brought to us on that first Easter morning.

On that day, Jesus defeated the ultimate enemy of humanity.  Jesus defeated death. Jesus rose from the dead.

It is written that He was the first of many who will be raised from the dead.
He got the party started.
He broke the curse.
The rest of the story is in the works.
I long for the day when all of the healing, all of redemption, is complete – the day when all things will be made new.

Today, I rejoice and rest in the reality that Jesus has begun that work, a work that we catch glimpses of today, and He will be faithful to complete it one day. I believe that He is the hope of the world.

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