Friday, September 25, 2009

Wednesday Night axis Wrap Up ... and A Whole Lot More

Whew! It's been a pretty crazy week which was definately a prelude to what's looking to be a pretty crazy month for me in October. Not much time for blogging. Gotta be honest, I'm already feeling a bit overwhelmed, so it will be cool to see how God brings things together. I like to run to help cope with the busyness of this time of year, but once again, my right knee has started to hurt and I've decided to just STOP running for 4 weeks. Hopefully this will be a good time for me to focus a bit more on weight lifting or simply walking in order to try to keep in shape. My workouts have been quite erratic the past month so I'm already feeling a bit out of shape. Anyway, I digress!

There will probably be quite a bit of info in this post, so if you make it through the whole thing, you deserve some type of reward. Maybe we can work something out. :)

- Carol has changed one of her work days from Thursday to Friday which means we now have our "family" day back. We took advantage of it yesterday by going to a park for lunch. Tried about a hundred times to get Mercy to look at me for the picture, but she was having nothing to do with it. We had a great time at River Bend park in Middlebury. Ezra LOVED throwing rocks in to the little river they have and also playing wiffle ball with me. It was so much fun to be there with them all yesterday. I just love my family!

Before we left for home, we made a stop at the Rise & Roll Bakery. That bakery has some of the best donuts in the world! Above is a pic of Ezra enjoying his. The ladies at the table next to us got a huge kick out of watching EZ eat his donut. I think more ended up on him than in his mouth!

- It's been a amazing week of ministry for us as a church. The above picture is our church kitchen FILLED with homemade chocolate chip cookies. I believe the final count was 13,780. As a church we wanted to just say "thanks" to our local schools, so we had volunteers from our church bake cookies, and then on Wednesday and Thursday we delivered a dozen cookies to EVERY worker at our Goshen schools and our Fairfield schools. It was an incredible way to say "thank you" to some people that make a real difference in the lives of teenagers. As a church, our mission is to be Jesus to people and being Jesus can sometimes be as simple as passing out cookies. Tonight, there are home football games for both Goshen and Fairfield and we'll be passing out "pom poms" to those coming to the games ... again, just a simple touch to let people know that our church cares and MORE IMPORTANTLY Jesus cares. We just want to be able to point people to Him.
This past Wednesday was See You at the Pole. I was specifically asked by some of our kids to be at the Goshen High School this year. Normally I make my rounds to Fairfield, Goshen, and then the middle school. But, this year I just stayed at Goshen. Goshen is a school of around 3000 students and above is a small group of kids who really want to make a difference at their school. It was so moving to hear their prayers asking God to use them, asking God to be with their teachers, asking God to save their friends. As I look at that picture, I know God's heart was moved by the prayers of those teenagers! This Tuesday, one of the girls in the picture above is starting a Bible study at the school. Just AWESOME!
Here is the "wrap up" from Wednesday night axis:
Topic: How to Be Your Best
Student Involvement: We had kids giving announcements, reading Scripture, greeting, taking pictures, working in the tech cage, on the worship team, and working in our cafe.
Fun Stuff: Impossible Shot and a couple of pretty cool videos.
Bible Verses: James 1:2 - 3, 1 Peter 5:8, Luke 18:27, Philippians 4:13
Worship Set: One Way, Kingdom, Sing Sing Sing
Attendance: 177 with 9 visitors
The "Big" Idea: Stay Positive
Review: Before the lesson I had asked kids to text in some ways that they had been their best over the past month. It was cool to get some of the responses. They ranged from someone being in the band at school and really trying to stay positive at shows and helping their bandmates stay positive to one person saying that they have struggled with cutting, but haven't cut for the past 9 weeks. Some really cool responses.
We wrapped up our How to Be Your Best series by focusing on the idea that, to be your best, you have to stay positive. Don't feed the negative thoughts, but feed the positive thoughts. We started with a clip from Dumb and Dumber where Loyd asks Mary is there is a chance between the two of them and she says "No." Basically a "1 in a million" odds. And he says, "So, you're telling me there's a chance." Pretty funny clip and a fairly good way to illustrate not letting things get you down when they don't go your way. We talked about how the enemy wants control of our minds and when things are difficult he wants to get us to focus on the negative instead of on God. God uses the difficult times to make us more like Him and uses them as a chance for us to really turn our attention and focus on Him. To be our best, we can't just face our challenges, but embrace them as a way to become more like Jesus Christ. Overall, a pretty good night at axis and I just TOTALLY LOVED this series.
One quick story ... at the end of the night, I had two kids come up to me and talk to me about some struggles that one of them had been going through. Before axis, they had been at one of the students' parents house and were just talking through things for over an hour ... just the idea that the one struggling needed to stay positive through all of this stuff. Anyway, they get to axis and find out what we are talking about and the kid is like "Wow! God is really trying to tell me something." Anyway, long story short, that student was led to Jesus that night by his friend! Woo Hoo!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Birthday Thoughts

Today is my 38th birthday. Really hard to believe that 38 years have gone by already. It's been a really good day so far. Carol asked what she could make me for breakfast this morning. I wasn't really incredibly hungry, so I asked for a blueberry smoothie and she made the BEST blueberry smoothie EVER! She's been awesome and got me some really cool stuff. This afternoon she brought my some lunch (sushi) with an iced coffee from Starbucks. She also gave me 2 gifts ... 2 Steeler DVD's: The 2008 Season Review and the Steelers Road to XLIII (has 4 complete Steeler games on it from last year.) Can't wait to watch them. We have some plans tonight as well, so it's been a great birthday so far.

The picture of the cake above is one the guys in the office got me today. They sang me Happy Birthday ... some whacked out country version ... :) and they gave me this cake which says, "You Break the Wind Beneath My Wings." I love serving here!

I've also been reflecting a bit. The two pictures below were taken 2 years apart.

The first was on September 18, 2007 ... Ezra was just a little over 4 months old and I was well into 5 months of chemotherapy treatments. The second picture was taken today, September 18, 2009. Ezra is over 2 years old now and Mercy just turned 8 months old on the 8th. It's amazing what can change in two years (except for my messy office ... that remains the same). Thankfully, I've learned to appreciate birthdays a little more since 2007 and have just gained an appreciation for life in general. I'm so thankful for Carol. I'm so thankful for Ezra and Mercy. I'm so thankful for my friends. I'm so thankful for Grace Community Church. I'm so thankful for axis, our youth ministry. I promised myself after my cancer experience in 2007 that I would NOT take things for granted any more. I've been trying my best to honor that promise. I'm learning that I have something to offer others ... and I say that humbly. I don't want to die without having passed something on to others. I want my tank to be empty when I pass on and I want others to have been better for knowing me. I've often disguised my lack of willingness to invest in others as a "false humility" when in reality it was more of an insecurity ... what would someone want to learn from me?? Why would someone be interested in hearing from me?? Since 2007, I've learned to be more confident simply because I feel that God has become a whole lot more real to me and has instilled me with his "Holy Boldness" as Pastor Jim often says. Sure, I still cave to my insecurities at times, but with God's help I've been learning to give myself away more and invest in others. I'm trying my best to do that, especially with Carol, with our kids, and with, specifically, our teenagers in axis. Neil Young has a line in one of his songs that says "It's better to burn out than it is to rust." I've always like that line because it speaks of giving your absolute best. I really want to do that.
Anyway, just some of my birthday musings. Time for more cake. :)

Wednesday Night axis Wrap Up

Topic: How to Be Your Best
Student Involvement: Our kids led worship, worked the cafe, worked the tech cage, greeted, took pictures, read Scripture, and shared testimonies.
Fun Stuff: Blind folded musical chairs and a little "Get to Know Rich" game where I shared random but, hopefully fun facts, about myself.
Bible Verses: 1 Timothy 4:12
Worship Set: Glorious One, Glory to God, and one more I'm forgetting at the moment. I hate when I do that.
Attendance: 204
The "Big" Idea: Make Those Around You Better
Review: We started out the night with a clip from Facing the Giants where one of the star players is very negative about the upcoming game. He then is asked by the coach to do the "death crawl" blindfolded and goes so much further than he ever though he could go. It set up the stage very well for the night because one person can bring an entire group down or one person can build an entire group up. I asked our kids which one they wanted to be because, being your best means you'll make those around you better. I then used the now infamous clip of Kanye dissing Taylor Swift at the VMA's. When that happened, I knew I needed to use it somehow because if we used it next week, it would have lost it's impact. So, I actually switched the order of our series and moved "Make Those Around You Better" to this week. We talked about how Kanye could have make an incredible impact on Taylor Swift and also his circle of friends if he would have raise the standard and actually praised Taylor after the VMA's instead of doing what he did. Now, he's been apologizing for the past few days. I challenged our kids not to have to apologize for how they live, but to live in such a way that people will follow their example (1 Timothy 4:12). We then showed the clip of Beyonce giving Taylor Swift her "moment" at the VMA's. I shared how that encouraged me to want to do something kind for someone. It only takes one person going further than they think they can go, doing more than they think they can do, giving more than they think they can give to raise the standard for an entire group. I challenged our kids to be that person.
We also had one of our girls share a testimony about something really cool that happened in her family.
Overall, it was a good night and I've really enjoyed this series and think our kids have too. Next week we wrap it up with "Weed and Feed."

Thursday, September 17, 2009

U2 Set from Sunday Night Concert

1. Breathe
2. No Line on the Horizon
3. Get on Your Boots
4. Magnificent
5. Beautiful Day
6. I Still Haven't Found What I’m Looking For
7. Elevation
8. Your Blue Room
9. Unknown Caller
10. Until the End of the World
11. Stay (Faraway, So Close) - Very cool acoustic version
12. The Unforgettable Fire
13. City of Blinding Lights - One of my favorites from the night
14. Vertigo
15. I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight - A lot different than what's on the cd
16. Sunday Bloody Sunday - Totally rocked! One of my favorites from the night.
17. MLK
18. Walk On
19. One/Amazing Grace
20. Where the Streets Have No Name
Encore 2
21. Ultraviolet (Light My Way) - Bono wore a red, neon jacket and sang in to a red, neon circular mic that hung from the top of the stage.
22. With or Without You
23. Moment of Surrender

Monday, September 14, 2009

Monday's Thoughts: Church, U2, Kids

- It's been quite the weekend and I'm definately feeling it a bit this morning. I'm reminded that I'm not quite as young as I used to be and getting to bed at 2:30am takes quite the toll on my body! But, I still consider myself "in my prime." :)

- Great day at Grace yesterday. Incredible worship time! I don't do this often, but during our worship, I took the liberty to look around just a bit and I just LOVED seeing people engaged in worship ... arms lifted, voices raised ... really cool to see people crying out to God.

- Jim did a GREAT job yesterday. Really challenged and encouraged by his sermon. He focused on several points, but what I took away was the idea of being the one who will stand in the gap for others (i.e. my family, my kids in axis). Jim shared examples from the Bible where God "relented" because of one man's prayers or actions. I just want to be known as someone who causes God to "relent" because of my prayers, passions, or actions.

- Went to go see U2 in Chicago last night with some good friends. A good friend of mine showed incredible generosity and gave me a ticket. So, we made the trek to Soldier Field and watched the North American kickoff for U2's 360 tour. Above gives just a picture of how many people were actually there ... easily 80,000 and probably more! The place was PACKED!

- The above picture is just a shot of their stage ... which was mind blowing! The lighting, video, and effects they used just engaged all of the senses and made for one great show. I left with that feeling, though ... it was a great show. U2 are just amazing performers and musicians and totally just tour it up. It was great to hear their new stuff along with some of their classic stuff. But, Jeremy, one of our worship pastors at Grace had a really cool comment afterwards. He said it's interested to see how we are ALL programmed to worship. The people at the concert were doing all of the things that we would do during our worship time at Grace on a Sunday morning (minus the beer drinking and pot smoking :) haha ... but to me, although I was greatly entertained and enjoyed the show, the music ultimately felt empty to me because I wasn't able to direct the music to my God. All music can elicit the same set of emotions that we "feel" during a worship time, but where we direct those emotions and feelings is what is important. To we turn them to a band or the music or do we direct them to God? Ten years ago, I wouldn't have even wrote this because I would have been so caught up in the "show." I'm glad that God has brought me to this place now, though ... if any of that makes sense.

- Had some really good family time on Friday. We went out to Best Buy to purchase some stuff for our youth ministry and while there Ezra got to play the new Beatles Rockband. He LOVED it! He got a 28% efficiency ... not bad for just trying to hit stuff.

- We also got to put Mercy in some Steeler gear for the big opening game this past Thursday. She the cutest Steeler baby I've ever seen!
- Had some good connections today: One with the director of 5 Star ... a local middle school ministry that has an incredible impact in the schools. The other with a local youth pastor. Tonight, we'll be trying to get people from Grace connected in to small groups at our Group Link event.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Wednesday Night Axis Wrap Up

Topic: How to Be Your Best
Student Involvement: Kids were on the worship team, tech team, greeting team, cafe team, took pictures, and read Scripture.
Fun Stuff: Dodge ball, Impossible Shot
Bible Verses: Proverbs 12:24, Proverbs 24:33 - 34, Galatians 5:23
Attendance: 184 with 8 first time visitors
The Big Idea: Pay Now and Play Later.
Review: We continued our How to Be Your Best series by looking at what it means to Pay Now and Play Later. It's the idea that, when we do the hard stuff first we'll be able to enjoy God's best later. What does it man to be disciplined? What does it mean to pay your "dues" early. How can we make good decisions now that will pay off for us later. I interviewed one of our senior high girls who is a really good picture of someone who does this. She's one of the captains on the cross country team, been to the state finals for 4H a couple of years in a row, in the running for valedictorian at her school. She talked about the time she puts in to things and how she's been able to see the good results of her hard work. It was cool interview. I also talked personally of times when I "played" for and paid the consequences and times when I "paid" first and was able to enjoy God's best (play) later.
We continue to have a real good mix of kids who are real serious about their faith and kids who are just sorta "there" to have a good time. My prayer is that we'll continue to provide opportunities for kids to grow and continue to try to move those "just sorta there" kids closer to Jesus.
Next week: How to Be Your Best: Weed and Feed.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


On this historic day (9-09-09) I wanted to mention something else historic. This year marks 17 STRAIGHT losing seasons for my Pittsburgh Pirates ... a new record in futility. I'm a huge Pirates fan and always will be, but come on ... enough is enough already! The last time the Pirates had a winning season was 1992 when they went 96 - 66 and lost to the Atlanta Braves in the NLCS Game 7, bottom of the 9th (thanks for nothing Sid Bream). :) Anyway, here are a few things that happened the last time the Pirates had a winning season:

- Silence of the Lambs won the Oscar for Best Picture
- The Cosby Show went off the air
- Johnny Carson retires
- Brett Farve starts his first game for the Green Bay Packers
- "Gangsta" rapper Dr. Dre releases his groundbreaking album The Chronic
- Singer/Actor Miley Cyrus (Hannah Montana) and Olympic gymnist/DWTS winner Shawn Johnson are born.
- Rich kicks a vacuum when Sid Bream scores for the Atlanta Braves in the bottom of the 9th to beat the Pirates in the National League Championship Series.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Tuesday's Thoughts

Wow! What a weekend! Where to begin ...

- Very special services on Sunday at Grace. The above picture is of people who just came forward and made things "right" with God. Maybe priorities were out of line. Maybe there was sin in their lives. Maybe there were relationships that needed to be worked on. Maybe they just needed to re-ignite their passion ... their hunger for Him. God moved Sunday. His presence was very real and our people's hearts were very broken. It will sound strange to say it like this, but there was nothing real special about the service except a call to be hungry for God. In all aspects, it was a pretty simple service with a POWERFUL call to thirst and hunger for God. We opened with a very simple video below and then just asked people to start doing business with God.

- After the service on Sunday and a meeting that I had for Judgment House, all of the pastors were invited to spend time at a local lake. I'm not a water person. Some people are like fish in the water. I'm more like a sponge ... I soak up the water, move slowly because I'm weighed down, and then regurgitate it out after I've been thrown off the tube a number of times. Definately don't feel comfortable in the water, but still had a really good time. We spent most of our time on a tube called the UFO ... a large circular tube that is made for FOUR people that, once going, you can get to spin at astronaut G-Force speeds. We, of course, tried to get SIX people on the tube ... which we did ... but we spent most of the time being thrown off the tube instead of getting it to spin. Funny as we were reading the warnings displayed on the tube ... we were breaking every one of the rules! Good fun, though.

- I have lived in Indiana for 9 years now and I can honestly say that I do not remember the mosquitoes EVER being worse! I have been eaten alive the past 2 weeks every time I go outside. And, poor Ezra! The mosquitoes have gotten more blood from him than a vampire at a blood bank! The kid is just COVERED in mosquitoe bites.

- Big, big cross country meet tonight at Fairfield. We are taking on West Noble, ranked number 10 in the state and a huge rival. Should be a lot of fun.

- Had Monday off for Labor Day, but Carol had to work. So, I got to stay home with the kids. What a blast! I just love being a dad. My kids make me laugh. They make me cry. They make me want to be a better man. They can bring out the best ... and unfortunately, sometimes the worst in me. But, just a little over 2 years ago, life as I knew it was completey changed and I can't imagine ever going back.

- I love my wife to death! I'm continually amazed by her and all that she does. Even this morning she picked up on something with Ezra and I'm like "Wow, I never would have thought of that!" She's an amazing woman!

- We have some exciting stuff coming up with axis. We have a Middle School Retreat coming up in October. We'll be at Camp Manowe in Sturgis, MI. The camp is AWESOME and they have a killer ropes course ... well, maybe "killer" wasn't the best phrase to use, but I think you know what I mean. Our middle school kids are going to love it!

- We also have a high school retreat coming up in October called Together 09, something that CE National is sponsoring. It's a follow up to the Momentum Conference that we went to in July. Should be a great weekend for our high schoolers.

- We also have Judgment House coming up at the end of October. Practice starts this Sunday and I'm really excited to see how God uses it this year.

- OK, just lost my breath a little bit. Looked at all of the things happening for me in October and had a minor loss of all bodily functions. I'm OK now.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Wednesday Wrap Up

Topic: How to Be Your Best
Student Involvement: Kids were working in the tech cage, on the worship team, doing all the upfront stuff, made an announcement video, greeting, and reading Scripture.
Fun Stuff: There was a GREAT announcement video that a couple of our guys put together for the week. Very funny. We also did the Impossible Shot for senior high. And, the band opened with a fun song The Middle by Jimmy Eat World.
Worship Set: Glorious One, Beautiful One, Happy Day
Bible Verses: Proverbs 13:4, Proverbs 22:1, Colossians 3:23
Attendance: 178 with 7 first time visitors.
The Big Idea: I'm really excited about this new series that we'll be doing for the next month. There's this idea out there ... a reputation that teenagers have ... that they are lazy and don't understand hard work. My prayer Wednesday was that that night would be the night when our teenagers BLOW that reputation out of the water and really make being their best a life mission. The main thought for the night was that to be your best, you'll have to do more than what's expected. Don't just do what's asked of you. Do more than what's expected of you. Work hard, take pride in what you do, and choose a good reputation as a hard worker. That comes by doing more than what's expected of you.
We showed two videos during the night: 1) A video of the Immaculate Reception with an interview by Coach Chuck Noll who said that play happened because Franco Harris was willing to do more than what's expected. 2) A video from The Biggest Loser where a contestant was "dogging" it and how upset it made everyone else.
Overall a really good night and I can't wait for next Wednesday ... How to Be Your Best ... Pay Now, Play Later.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

How to Be Your Best

I am so PUMPED about sharing tonight at axis. I can't wait to talk to our kids about how they can be their best. I work with teenagers, but I also work with adults. I often hear adults talking about teenagers ... "They're lazy. They don't work hard. They want everything given to them." That's the reputation (rightly or wrongly) that teenagers have. My goal: To see the kids of axis BLOW THAT REPUTATION UP! There's a verse in Proverbs 13:4 that says, "Lazy people WANT much but GET little, but those who WORK HARD will PROSPER." Greatness, being our best has to be a life mission and I want that mission to start in the lives of our kids tonight. I want them to understand that, to be their best, it's not going to come easy. They'll have to work for it. Our natural tendency is to be comfortable. But, to be your best you'll have to be uncomfortable ... to do more than what's expected of you. Don't just do enough to get by, but do more than what's expected.

That'll be the focus tonight. I SO want to see our kids "prosper" and I so want to see them NOT be afraid to work hard for it ... to chase it down ... to pursue it ... to make being their best a life mission.

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