Thursday, July 30, 2009

Wednesday Axis Wrap Up

Topic: Ask Us Anything

Questions: Why are Christians so against abortion? Can we lose our salvation? Why does God put us through hard times?

Student Involvement: Our kids did everything. They greeted, led the worship, worked the cafe, worked in the tech "cage," and did all of the speaking.

Fun Stuff: We showed a video from the Momentum Conference we were at 2 weeks ago. Good, good fun.

Night Review: Our students did an amazing job leading the entire night. It was so cool for me to just be able to sit back and watch them work. They worked hard behind the scenes to plan everything and pulled everything off very well. I loved hearing the testimonies from Momentum and hearing about how kids were challenged. I loved hearing 3 of our high schoolers tackle 3 pretty tough questions. And, I loved hearing our kids clap after every testimony and after every student answered one of the questions. It was great to see our kids supporting each other. With every round of applause I thought to myself ... "Hey, this never happens for me." :) I was really proud of our students and look forward to them doing this once a month for the rest of the year. The plan is to see them eventually move to twice a month by January.

Community Hope

Had a cool opportunity today to be a part of something our church does called Community Hope. It's a ministry we have to help some hurting and struggling families in our community by giving them a $30.00 food voucher to a local store. We also provide a free breakfast and try to be as friendly and loving as we can. Today was really cool because some of our teenagers were helping with this ministry. It was great to see them talking with people and praying with people and just seeing their hearts softened to the needs of others. Chase, Patrick, and Miranda did and AWESOME job!

Something else that was just super cool is that there were many Hispanics there today. I don't know Spanish, but thankful we have a translator there and two of our students are pretty good at Spanish too. Anyway, before a person leaves we ask if we can pray for them in some way. I love hearing the prayers in Spanish. I don't know what's being said, but there's something beautiful about listening to a prayer in a different language. Just helps me see God in a bigger way.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Day in the Life of a Pastor ...

You never know what a day will bring. When I was at physical therapy the other day, the P.T. asked me, "So, what's a typical day look like for you?" I really had to think about that because each day is so different and brings so many different things. I don't know if there IS a "typical" day. But, here is today:

Up at 6:30am. Ran 5 miles.
Breakfast with the family.
In to the office.
Quite time.
Counseling prep.
Axis preparation
Counseling session with family losing a loved one.
Cake with Craig the birthday boy and the other guys in the office. Craig turned a young 50 today!
Skype call with our tech guy to talk through tech stuff for Sunday
Sermon talk with Jon as he prepares for the sermon on Sunday
Sermon talk with Craig as he gets the "set" ready for Sunday
Review of an axis volunteer application
Recruiting of another axis volunteer
Prayer for axis
Axis prep
Small group contacts
Home for dinner
Axis tonight

Throw in there phone calls, emails, and a few other unexpected conversations and that will give you an idea of what a day looks like. Each day is different. I have an idea of what tomorrow is going to look like, but the really interesting thing about being a pastor is, well, you just never know.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Monday Misc

- Can't wait for Friday! We'll be leaving for vacation then and on our way to Montana. It will be my first time there and I'm so pumped to spend time in the outdoors. We have lots of things planned: hiking to Old Faithful, horseback riding, white water rafting ... sounds like fun! I'm really looking forward to spending some time in the mountains and just enjoying creation. That's definatley one of the ways I refresh and I'm hoping to do lots of refreshing! Should be a blast.

- Went for a long run last night ... 13 miles. Tough. I finished around 11pm. You'd think that after a long run the body would just be screaming to go to sleep, but that's not the case. Afterwards, I had a pretty hard time catching some zzzz's. But, it was good to run and my knee felt pretty good during it.

- Ironically, after 13 miles last night, I had my first physical therapy session this morning at 8am. The doctor set me up with some physical therapy to try to agressively work on my knee. Strange that I could run 13 miles last night, but then get on the treadmill, run a mile, and then have to stop because of knee pain. So, we're just trying to figure out exactly what's going on and the best way to treat it. Being in a physical therapy clinic certainly brought back memories of my Penn State days in athletic training. My original plan in life was to be a physical therapist. Graduated from Penn State with an athletic training degree, got accepted in to physical therapy school in Pittsburgh and thought I had everything planned out. Funny how God steps in and changes things sometimes. I think I would have really enjoyed being a therapist, but feel called to ministry and am so thankful God has placed this call on my life. Helping bodies recover is important, but helping a soul recover with God ... doesn't get much better than that.

- Had a great meeting with our student leadership team yesterday afternoon. I'm really excited about this Wednesday at axis. Our kids are doing EVERYTHING. And, this is the beginning stages of them taking over axis once a month and eventually moving to twice a month. It's cool to see them get excited about this and really strive to do their best. Can't wait to see how God uses them this Wednesday!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Family Fun

We were able to have some family fun this past week. Below are some pictures of some of the things we did. This blog is uploaded to Facebook as well, but for some reason, if you read it on Facebook, you can't see the pictures. Sorry! Anyway, it's been a good family week!

Ezra enjoying the tractors at the Elkhart County Fair

He was a big fan of the cows as well.

Mercy discovered that she can eat grass! Does that make us bad parents? :)

Ezra and his first funnel cake. What you don't see is the "melt down" afterwards when he discovered that you break the pieces off to eat it. He kept on saying "Mommy, Daddy breaked it."

Ezra's first blueberry picking experience.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Taking Criticism

Had a conversation with someone this week in which they strongly felt the need to "critque" something I had been a part of recently. I've been in ministry long enough to know that sometimes people are going to say really good things about something you do and sometimes people are going to feel the need to tell you how much they didn't like something you did. If you have a "thin" skin, ministry is NOT for you. That said, here are a few ways I try to deal with criticism:

1. Listen well. James 1:19 & Proverbs 18:13 talk about the importance of listening. I want to be a great communicator, but I really long to be an even better listener.
2. Be patient, not rude when you answer. Look no further than 1 Corinthians 13 and you'll discover that responding with patience and humility is all a part of showing love to someone.
3. Ask for clarification, if needed. i.e. "Can you tell me what you mean by that?"
4. Look for the "kernel" of truth in everything.
5. Take responsibility, if needed.

Ideally, this is how I'd like to respond ALL the time. Thankfully, I did this past week, but can't say I have every time and know I won't every time. Sometimes, to be honest, I'm close to poking someone in the eyes if they keep talking. :) But, I know for me, it's all in how someone comes to me. If they come looking for a "fight" ... well ... cover your eyes b/c they might get "poked." :) But, if they come with a sense of respect and an attitude of "We just need to talk this out" I'm much more apt to respond well and do not mind at all listening to the criticism. I know I make mistakes and fail at times and want to be held accountable when I do.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

You Never Know

This Sunday afternoon I received a text from Tim, our campus pastor in South Bend. He told me that 5 people put their hope and their faith in Jesus as the Leader and Forgiver of their life after their service on Sunday. I texted him back with a hearty "Woo Hoo!" Then, he texted me back and said, "Hey ... u were preaching!"

I didn't realize that.

Our South Bend campus uses a dvd of the Goshen campus for their messages. Generally they are a week behind the Goshen campus. Right now, they are in the midst of a Deja Vu series ... 5 messages that were voted on by the people to "watch" again. This particular message was done in October of 2007 and was called "Know Your Enemy." I talked about Satan and his plan for our lives. 8 months chemotherapy treatments had just wrapped up. I was feeling horrible! For the first and only time after chemo, I started to run a fever which sent me to the hospital with a serious infection Saturday night. I was there until after midnight and had to preach the next morning. I could hardly walk because, for some reason, my feet were just killing me (a side effect of the infection). But, I wanted to give my all and had put a lot of time in to it and really believed God was going to use it that day.

Little did I know God was going to use it two years later as well. I share all of that as an encouragement not to give up. You never know when your hard work will pay off. Don't give up on that student you are trying to reach. Don't give up on that friend who is making poor choices. Don't give up on your dreams. Keep putting in your time and efforts. Our hard work and determination honors God and, I believe, He honors our hard work and determination as well.

Cool Story About a Girl in Our Youth Ministry

Allison is a young girl who has been attending axis since 7th grade and is also on our student leadership team. The story below from a local paper will tell you a lot about who she is as a person. I'm proud of you, Allison!

MILLERSBURG -- It's easy to root for certain people in life.
If you ever met Allison Hostetler, you'd walk away as someone who'd want to be in her corner.
I guarantee it.

A Fairfield High School junior this fall, Allison is an articulate yet simple girl with honest values and true beliefs. She uses those values and beliefs to maintain a sense of order while balancing a complex issue. Allison Hostetler has a brain tumor.

Medical specialists assure Allison that her condition is very treatable and not life-threatening, but to most vibrant 16-year-olds, finding out you have a tumor is tantamount to yelling "shark" at the beach or "bomb" on an airplane. Not to this gal, though.

She golfs, she ran for 4-H Fair queen (she was named Miss Congeniality by her peers), her family has beef and dairy entries this week at the Fair -- she refuses to halt her life in any way.
Allison's mother, Cindy, told me last week that the best way to get a moment of her time was to meet her at Timber Ridge Golf Club. She'd be there three or four times a week either playing or hitting balls on the range.

When I pulled into the course at 8 a.m. Thursday, Allison was pounding iron shots while her mother watched. Greg Hire, Timber Ridge's owner, set us up for a leisurely round of golf and conversation. In no time at all, I discovered Allison Hostetler has no trouble with either.
A terrible tee shot which strayed left got me started, while the young Falcon laced one down the fairway. The rest of the morning was a sheer treat.

Between shots, she spoke with ease about her "marble-sized" tumor.
"The doctors have said they've seen smaller ones which caused more trouble and bigger ones that aren't even noticeable," Allison said. "I was confused and a little worried, but I was confident in what they did."

What started as a recurring series of unexplainable headaches resulted in trips to Indianapolis, scans and an MRI which detected the tumor this spring. Considered benign, the options are surgery to remove the tissue or radiation to reduce or eliminate it. Chemotherapy has been ruled out. The proton radiation treatments needed are done in Boston, California and, conveniently, in Bloomington. "Because of its size, radiation would be the best choice," Allison said. Surgery is the next option, of course.

"It's nice that they can pinpoint it. It's rather deep and it's in a good place to be able to get at it," Allison said. "They have to tell you the worst options."

Mind you, she walked and talked, stopped to analyze shots while continuing a detailed description of her future. She painted an amazing picture and managed to play pretty good golf, too.

"That first night, that first week, those first appointments, I was really, really scared, nervous," Allison said. "But I didn't want to wait. I wanted to find out." Allison smiled, she joked, she laughed and she enthusiastically applauded my golf efforts with "awesome shot." And you could tell she really meant it. Her heart is that full. "I know I actually had a problem and it was a big deal," she said, "but I understand other people have major problems. I was blessed that it wasn't cancer."We rode and talked more. This young lady can talk.

Allison faces the potential of memory loss in years to come. How much loss, if any, no one knows.
Because there's no extreme sense of urgency, her family can wait until November and December to begin a rigorous series of radiation treatments -- five days a week for six weeks. In the meantime, her life is as "normal" as possible. "I am a normal person. I want to act like a normal person. I do not want people to pity me," Allison said. "I'm strong with what I'm doing." Though she doesn't throw it at people or wear it on her sleeve, she spoke openly about faith in herself, which is fueled by her faith in God. "I truly believe in so many ways, He has shown Himself to me," Allison said. "I'm not scared at all. I try not to dwell on stuff I can't change. It's in God's hands anyway."

Allison Hostetler can open your eyes with her words. She doesn't force you believe in her -- you just naturally want to follow her path. I sat in awe listening to her charming yet fearless resolve.
Plans for her academics, the girls golf team this fall, plays, musicals, track in the spring -- are all on course. And she's more than happy to reach back as family, friends and classmates reach out to help her.

Clearly, it's a story she's never been afraid to share. "I'm fine with people knowing. The more that know, the more prayer I get," Allison said. "I've touched lives in ways I didn't even realize and in return, I am getting it back."

Someone you want to cheer every day. I walked away beaten on the scorecard -- Allison's 46 to my 48 -- but it was clearly one of the most enjoyable three hours I've spent in a long, long time.
The golf didn't really matter. Allison Hostetler is a special person who requires no special attention from the world. We could all learn and draw from her poise and giving by rallying within our own hearts for inspiration.

Allison's headaches persist today, but she pushes on every day by keeping amazingly busy. She said she's "very stubborn" and has a high pain tolerance. Her spirit is captivating. "I like to make people feel better, encourage them, give that to different people that might not get it," she said. "It could be athletes or singers, actors, other kids in school. I have a joy to do that."

Bill Beck is The Elkhart Truth's sports editor. Contact him at

Monday, July 20, 2009

Back from Momentum

Well, it feels like it's been FOREVER since I last posted. Been super busy getting ready to take 38 of our kids to the Momentum Conference. Just got back yesterday afternoon. What an amazing week! I feel like this was the best group of kids we've had go in the sense that they were the most spiritually sensitive and really looking for opportunities to serve, grow, and share their faith. No way I could possibly talk about EVERYTHING that happened during the week, but I'll just try to high light a few things:
- The speakers were really good. I was challenged in so many different ways ... lifting up the Word of God and it's importance in my life (Shawn McBride) ... Got a fresh look at who Jesus Christ truly is (Jeff Bogue) ... I'll never look at the Church in the same way (Kondo Simfukwe) ... Blow away the perceptions of Christianity by how you love other people (Gabe Lyons) ... I don't want to see anyone left behind (Jim Brown) ... the NEED is the call (Bill Wilson). I really enjoyed so many of the speakers this year.
- Several of our kids made decisions. All of them were awesome to see. One in particular really meant a lot to me because I was just feeling personally led to spend a lot of time in prayer over this person. Thursday, she got saved! I about jumped out of my seat!
- Our group was by no means the largest group there, but something I try to do each year is break our kids up in to small groups for the week and then allow those small groups to share and debrief each night. From what I heard from our adults, the small group times were amazing! Kids were sharing with each other, praying for each other, encouraging each other ... everything I could hope for.
- Being back in Pittsburgh was like being back home. I grew up just south of Pittsburgh and really enjoy that part of the country. The accents, the hills, the city itself ... just loved it. The Robert Morris campus has to be the most "hilly" place I've ever seen! I'm not talking small hills ... I'm talking long, steep, burning in your calves while walking up them type of hills. But, honestly, I loved every second of walking up them and would go out of my way to do so. No hills in Indiana, so I wanted to soak up as many of them as I could. Plus, it's such good exercise!
- I had a lot of fun hanging with our guys and girls. They are just fun ... PERIOD! There were times I laughed so hard my face hurt!
- Momentum does a fantastic job of combing learning and serving. That's one reason I appreciate the conference so much. We don't just sit and hear. We go out and do! Our kids had several opportunities to go out and be a light to people.
- I'm excited to see what God does through our kids now. I'm holding many of them up to a higher standard now simply because I've seen them in action this past week. I know they have it in them. Can't wait to see what God does!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Tuesday Info Dump

- It's definately been a while since I've last posted. It's been quite busy and finding/making the time to post just hasn't been a huge priority. This week looks to be even busier than last, but my posting "itch" has gotten the best of me.

- I think I've decided to run a marathon this fall. I've been running the past two weeks with no leg pain. I had been having issues with something called I.T. (iliotibial) Band Syndrome since my half marathon in May. Over the past two weeks I've been able to run some longer distances with no pain at all, so I think I'm going to give it a shot in October. As the great Myron Cope would say: "Yoy and double Yoy!" If you're not a Steelers fan you'll have absolutely no idea what that means. :) Gotta admit I'm nervous about it, but really want to try to push myself to do something physically that, at this point, I'm not sure I can do. My injury has put me about 2 1/2 weeks behind on training so I have some catching up to do. I wasn't able to run yesterday until 9pm. So, last night I did 5 miles and then I got up this morning at 6:30am and did 6 miles. Lost 5 pounds of water (or should I say sweat) this morning!

- I'm just loving the book Training Camp by Jon Gordon. A few more lines from the book:

- "The Best do ordinary things better than everyone else."
- "There's simply no substitute for practice and hard work."
- "Each day you need to weed out the negativity and feed it positivity. You need to weed the self-doubt and negative talk and feed it positive thoughts, memories, visuals, and prayer."
- "To be the best you have to train and develop your mind as much as your body, and you must start NOW."

- I have a HOT date with my wife planned for tonight. Again, last week was pretty crazy, so we didn't really have much time to connect well with each other. So, tonight, we'll be spending a few hours together without the kids. I'm really looking forward to it.

- Watched the Goshen fireworks Sunday night. We are very fortunate to have a great view of the fireworks from our back yard. We had around 85 teenagers and adults over and just had a blast! I really enjoyed hanging out with our kids and Sunday night was one of those times where I was like "Yeah, this is why I'm in youth ministry." Just really good connections with kids.

Wednesday axis Wrap Up

Topic: Ask Us Anything
Questions: How many times does God forgive us? Should I date someone who is not a Christian?
Student Involvement: We had kids greeting, working the cafe, playing on the worship team, reading Scripture, and working in the tech "cage."
Fun Stuff: A really fun game called "Knight, Mount, Carry" and a little bit of dodgeball.
Bible Verses: 1 John 1:9, Psalm 103:8 - 13, Psalm 130:3 - 4, Isaiah 38:17, 2 Corinthians 6:14 - 16
Lesson Review: These were really good questions and addressed where many of our students are. I loved talking about God's grace and forgiveness. His grace and forgiveness completely changed my life and I love taking the opportunity to talk about it. For whatever reason, we just often feel that God doesn't still love us when we mess up or struggle with things over and over. It was cool to have some of our kids read verses that talked about God's nature and His forgiveness. We also just spent some time praying quietly and asking God to speak truth in to our lives.
The dating question is always a good one. I tried to talk about it from a stand point of, first of all, don't date jerks! Unfortunately, just because a person is a Christian doesn't mean their still not a jerk. So, don't date jerks. Also, just because someone is not a Christian doesn't necessarily mean they don't have values and morals and aren't nice people. But, if a person is serious about God and serious about their relationship with Jesus ... if you date someone who is not ... that's going to be a major issue in the relationship. It's an issue that will cause huge problems down the road and could also lead to a person compromising their faith simply to stay in the relationship. The ideal would be to date a Christian guy or girl who is growing in their faith, treats you with absolute respect, and helps you be a better person.

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