Monday, November 30, 2009

Monday Morning Thoughts: Thanksgiving, Christmas Tree, and Just Some Random Stuff

- This time of year is so much fun for me, but gotta be honest ... even after only 4 days of the "official" holiday season ... I'm already wiped! We had a great time with family that came out for Thanksgiving. It was really nice to have our house full and, when I looked out before I prayed over our Thanksgiving dinner, I was thinking to myself how awesome it is to have so many people with us. It was good to visit with everyone, although am I learning that being surrounded by a bunch of small children sometimes wears me down. There was more poop, more runny noses, and a bit more crying than I'm used too! But, it was totally worth it. The picture above is when we went to get our Christmas tree. Cousin "Hoper" is in the picture and she and Ezra think they are going to get married. :) It's really cute watching them play together.

- Cutting our Christmas tree is one of my absolute favorite things to do. I love the challenge of trying to find just the "right" tree. I seriously think that a Star of Bethlehem was directly illuminating the tree we picked this year. Out of thousands of trees, this one just stood out among all the others. Too bad that once I find this incredible tree ... I chop it down. :) Ezra had a blast playing with the saw and was trying to "chop" everything in his path. It was fun watching him be a "boy."

- The only thing as fun as cutting down our tree is decorating it, although, I have to admit that decorating the tree was a bit more challenging this year. Above our daughter is playing with some of the ornaments and was pretty happy then, but she was a bit more "cranky" than normal during this time and her screams were drowning out the blissful sounds of Christmas music playing through the ipod. But, even inspite of that, it was so great to have her experience this little tradition with us. I can't wait to celebrate Christmas with her this year. It's hard to believe that this time last year she was still growing inside of Carol and that we were nothing more to her than muffled noises she could hear from inside. Now, I simply cannot imagine life without her. She has me wrapped around her finger but I hope she doesn't learn to use that against me. :)

- Ezra only broke 3 bulbs this year ... we consider that a success. He had so much fun decorating with us and he loves playing with baby Jesus in the little Nativity scene we have. He keeps putting baby Jesus on the roof of the barn. Above he is helping with the finishing touches on the tree. Something I found myself thinking last night ... we've had quite a few people give us absolutely amazing hand-made ornaments and I'm so thankful for the time and effort they put in to giving us those things. But, when I saw the two ornaments Ezra made last year ... a John Deere tractor and a guitar ... the paint is all messed up, the colors don't match ... but I found myself "oooing" and "awing" over those two ornaments more than any of the ones other people gave us.

- I go in for my follow-up appointment on my knee tomorrow. The pain has subsided quite a bit, but the swelling is still there making it rather uncomfortable to bend or kneel. Looks like I have a baseball underneath the side of my knee and when Carol accidently touched it last night during the Steeler game, she nearly jumped off the couch! It looks pretty gross.

- Speaking of the Steelers ... grrrrrrrr. A promising start to the season seems to be fading to mediocrity. Hope is not lost, but it's just not looking good at the moment. What I've noticed about the Steelers ... they are 6 - 5. In their 5 losses they have lost by a combined total of 18 points. 4 losses were by 3 points and 1 loss was by 6 points. They are in every single game, but for whatever reason haven't been able to do the little things to get the wins. It was just a good reminder to me of how important the little things are. I'm reminded of a quote by Jon Gordon: "Interestingly enough, for all their greatness, the best aren't that much better than the others. They are simply a little better at a lot of things ... they just do the ordinary things better." It reminds me that I need to constantly give my best and just do the ordinary things around me to the absolute best of my ability.

- I have several meetings and appointments this week along with the other stuff typically on my schedule. It promises to be a busy week.

- For some reason I think the drinks at Starbucks taste better in their holiday cups.

- Good services yesterday. Continued the We Are series looking at We Are Dysfunctional. There are some crazy, dysfunctional families talked about in the Bible. We looked at Judah and the dyfunction that took place in his life and in his family and yet God brought Jesus from the same family tree that Judah was in. We are not bound to our past and God can bring healing ... as improbably as it seems sometimes.

- I'm pretty sure I over use the "..." It's my one vice. :)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Axis Wrap Up 11-25-09 ... Pink & Blue All Over the Place

Topic: Guy Stuff/Girl Stuff
Student Involvement: Everything
Fun Stuff: Had a two fun games. One where we asked girls questions about "guy stuff" and we asked guys questions about "girl stuff." And, another where we had a girl had to put "guy stuff" on another girl while blindfolded and a guy had to put "girl stuff" on another guy while blindfolded. We passed out fun prizes like Axis body soap for the guys and small bottles of nail polish for the girls. We also passed out tiaras for the girls and toy cowboy guns and holsters for the guys.
Attendance: 104
The Big Idea: This was another night in which our student leaders led the entire night. They planned everything and basically led everything as well. We divided the room in to a girls' side and a guys' side and had pink and blue streemers and balloons on the respective sides. We then had the girls sit on their side and the guys sit on their side. We then had a panel of our students answer questions on guy stuff and girl stuff ... anywhere from "What do you look for in a guy?" to "How do you feel if a girl makes the first move?" Our students did a good job answering the questions.
From a production standpoint the night wasn't our best night. Things weren't flowing very well. We were having mic problems the ENTIRE night, and ... not sure if it was because it was the day before Thanksgiving or what, but the energy in the room felt pretty low. But, what's cool is that it didn't seem to bother anyone ... well ... except for me and those are my own issues. The rest of the students still seemed to respond very well because it was their peers who were leading the night and there were actually some really good questions that were asked from the crowd.
Again, I was very proud of our student leaders. They pulled the whole night off and did a great job bringing it all together. They have really been stepping up and I think I'm going to be asking even more of them in the coming months.
Next Week: Money

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Some Things I'm Thankful For

- I'm thankful that I KNOW God. I don't simply know "about" Him like I know about George Washington or John F. Kennedy. I KNOW God and have seen Him at work in my life in so many ways. I am not the same person since I've truly come to have a relationship with God.

- I'm thankful for my wife. I don't deserve her. Being married to her has shown me how selfish I really am and over the past 7 years that selfishness has been beaten down. Don't get me wrong, I'm still selfish, but Carol has helped me learn to be more selfless. She is patient, loving, caring, giving, beautiful and I'm not the same person when she's not around.

- I'm thankful for my kids, Ezra and Mercy. Every day they make me laugh and they make me cry. They have given me a great passion for life and have helped me understand what is truly important. I look at raising them as the greatest responsibility I have ever been given ... and to think that God trusts me with that responsibility. I'm glad He sees things in me that I don't see in myself.

- I'm thankful for my position at Grace Community. Seven years ago, I was in my last semester of seminary and really had no idea where I was going to go or what I was going to do. I just knew I wanted to work with teenagers. A conversation with one of my professors allowed me to be introduced to Jim and to Miah. I hadn't proven myself. Honestly, I really had no idea what I was doing. But, we hit it off and they believed in me. Seven years later, I absolutely LOVE serving here and have grown so much in my walk with God.

- I'm thankful for axis. Our teenagers keep me young. I'm 38 now and being around teenagers keeps me young and I love it when their zest for life rubs off on me. I have learned so much from our teenagers and have loved seeing them serve and grow and reach out to others. They have pushed me and caused me to strive to be a better leader.

- I'm thankful for my health and the ability to try to stay active and healthy. That ability has been taken from me a couple of times. That has caused me to be even more thankful for it.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Some Things I Love About Kids

Here are just a few things I've grown to love about kids since becoming a dad. Nothing profound or earth shattering, just a few observations I've made:

1) They laugh at the obvious. Sometimes we grow numb to the obvious because, well, it's obvious. But, to kids it's all new and sometimes the obvious is just really funny!

2) They run everywhere! I wish I just ran to my room for no reason at all. The only thing that would get me to run to my room ... well, never mind.

3) They can entertain themselves in the most creative ways. Food, a box, a stick ... doesn't matter what it is. They always seem to come up with something fun to do with it.

4) They don't hold back their excitement. If they are excited about something, the just let it all out! Jump up and down, laugh, scream, run around in circles ... they fortunately haven't learned to let what others may think hold them back.

5)Sometimes a cuddle is all you need.

Monday Morning Thoughts

- Really good weekend. I'm recovering from the knee surgery really well. A little stiff and sore, but other than that feeling good. I'm looking forward to being able to run again soon.

- Had just incredible worship times on Sunday. Our baptism service was just awesome! Seeing everyone get baptized was just great, but I really enjoyed watching some of our teens jump in to it. 3 of our students got baptized and 2 of our students were able to baptize people. I was just so pumped to see that and just love watching people take the step of baptism and show others that they are followers of Jesus. We really try to make it a celebration at Grace and, thankfully, I think we were able to do that.

- Sunday night we had Communion. We really try to make our times of Communion an experience for people. If we do the "in remembrance" of Jesus, we truly want to make it something special for everyone. So, we try our best to do that. So, we tried to make it a journey for people. We started with some music and then brought a cross out and placed it in the center of our auditorium. We explained what Communion is and what we would be doing throughout the night. The first stop in the journey was just an opportunity for people to spend some time with God, reflecting and confessing any sin in their life.
We then moved to foot washing. We do a "three-fold" communion at Grace and footwashing is a very special part of the Communion. I know a lot of people do not do this when they do Communion, but, to be honest, I can't imagine Communion without it. It's a symbol of the cleansing of sin that Jesus gives us and also a symbol of his servanthood. Washing another's feet is humbling and just an incredible reminder of what Jesus does for us.
We then moved to a time of reflection by looking at various "theological" words and what those words mean in our lives. We looked at things like "Predestination," "Adoption," "Atonement," "Justification," and "Glorification." We reflected on the words, the implications of those words in our lives, and Bible verses explaining those things.

We then took the Bread and the Cup and spent time reflecting on what Jesus did for us when He died on the cross for our sin

After that, we spent time praying for lost people. In our church, we have specific chairs that totally don't match any of the rest of the funiture in our building. We use these chairs to represent people who do not have a relationship with Jesus, and as a church we always want to do what it takes to help people understand who Jesus is and allow people to come to know Him. So, we spent time praying at these chairs for friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, etc, who do not know Jesus.

We then moved to righting our names on a piece of paper and nailing it to the cross as a reminder that Jesus died for us. Wow, honestly, when I was walking through the Communion journey and having my feet washed and reflecting on words and praying for people and taking the Bread and Cup ... and at the same time hearing nails hammered in to the cross ... wow, incredibly powerful reminder of all Jesus went through for us. I was really moved.

Sidebar funny story ... while I was nailing my name and the names of my family in to the cross, I hit my finger with the hammer. So, I had just come from confessing sin and then had to confess cursing under my breath when I hit my finger. :) OK, I really didn't curse, but it crossed my mind especially as my finger was throbbing!

After spending some time worshipping, we had our Love Feast, celebrating all that awaits us in heaven. And, it couldn't be a celebration without cake and balloons, so we just totally rocked the place and really tried to create a party type atmosphere! It was truly a celebration!

Sunday was a busy day, but man, was it worth it! So many people worked really hard to make Communion happen. It was a pretty big production and I'm really grateful to everyone who helped out and to everyone that made it happen. One thing I love about our staff ... if I could just brag on 'em for a second ... I loved seeing Pastor Jim with a vacuum strapped to his back helping clean up. I loved seeing Jon and Miah and Jeremy picking up trash and putting away lights. Tim and Jerimae coming all the way down from South Bend and helping stack chairs or clean up the stage or put stuff in the trash. Mitch helping get everything in order and Craig helping clean up even though, technically he was off. After a long day, it would have been easy to just sneak out of the place and let others do the clean up. I'm really glad that I serve on a staff where it's just "normal" for everyone to be doing stuff like that. You can't lead others if you're not willing to do the stuff that a lot of people wouldn't want to do or wouldn't like to do. I love that none of them think they are "above" that. I'm so grateful to serve at Grace.
- I'm really excited about axis this Wednesday. Our student leaders are taking over the night and we'll be doing some guy/girl stuff ... trying to answer questions about dating, why guys do certain things, why girls do certain things, etc. Should be a lot of fun. I'll be helping do some shopping tonight with some of our leaders and then we're going to deck out the Link in guy stuff and girl stuff. It's going to be a lot of fun.
- We are getting ready for family to come and visit over Thanksgiving. In our fridge, I think we have the biggest turkey that ever hatched from an egg! Can't wait to tear in to it. I really need my knee to heal up quickly just so I can start burning off some calories from Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Knee Surgery

I had my knee surgery yesterday afternoon. A bit sore today with a huge bandage around my leg, but thankfully making it through. I had a part of my IT Band cut out and also had some scar tissure removed from my knee. Hopefully this will take care of the problems I've been having since May.

Something funny: The time before I am put to sleep and the time after I wake up ... really, really fun! When the doctor said, "OK, you'll be going to sleep in about 10 seconds," the feeling that came over my body in those 10 seconds ... just total relaxation. And, then, when I woke up in the recovery room, I was so out of it and just kept on asking the nurse how long everything took. Then Carol came in and was making fun of me and I was just laughing for no reason at all. Was feeling pretty mellow. :)

Anyway, I'm taking it easy and trying to relax today. It's been a fun day with the family.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Monday's Thoughts

- Once again, another busy weekend, but filled with lots of good stuff. Had one of those "youth ministry" dates with my wife on Saturday. There was a musical at one of the local high school's so Carol and I were able to go to it and see many of our axis kids in action. They did an AWESOME job and it was just so cool to be in their environment seeing them in action. Before the play, Carol and I were able to go out to dinner and then grab a quick drink thanks to a "buy one get one free" card we had.

- Il Forno in downtown Goshen has some of the absolute best pizza around.

- Good services yesterday. We started our We Are series on the family and started it out with some sweet 70's jams ... We Are Family by the Pointer Sisters. Side note: Never thought I'd type the sentence "sweet 70's jams." Our band also did "We Need Each OtherAnyway, good start to the series and you can find out more about the series and our series essay contest here.

- Our student leaders just nailed it yesterday. We met during the first service and our meeting was awesome. They had such good thoughts and ideas to share and really were excited about the next time they'll lead axis on 11/25. Can't wait to see them in action. They also did an incredible job connecting with people yesterday and helping out at Getting to Know Grace, an event we have to people who are new to Grace Community. Good job ASL!

- Our little daughter Mercy is the most adorable girl in the world! But, man, she can dirty a diaper! Had quite a few "big ones" over the weekend.

- Have surgery on my knee scheduled for Wednesday. I'm hoping that this takes care of the issues I've been having with my IT Band since May. It's definately a last resort type of deal and I would rather not have surgery, but it's to a point now where there's not much else I can do besides this. It's constantly aching, not just when I try to exercise, and even the low impact exercises I do cause it to hurt. Hopefully a "simple" procedure that will help me get back to "normal."

- Still bummed over the Steelers' loss yesterday. This is not your father's Bengals, that's for sure. They looked good and beat the Steelers at a "Steeler type of game" ... defense and low scoring.

- Walked in to my office yesterday and found a Steelers Fat Head on my desk. Thanks Lee Seese!

- We are going to be having family come out over Thanksgiving. This is our first year hosting Thanksgiving. We hosted Christmas last year and now Thanksgiving. It will be nice to have family join us over the holiday, and, gotta be honest ... really looking forward to some turkey! There's something about a leftover turkey sandwich ... man, good stuff.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Axis Wrap Up 11-11-09

Topic: Dating
Student Involvement: Pictures, Tech, Greeting, Cafe
Fun Stuff: Impossible Shot in the Gym (I think I need to make it a little more "Impossible." We had 4 winners on Wednesday! We also did a fun dating video and a little dating "quiz" to kick the night off.
Attendance: 191 with 9 first time visitors
Worship Set: All Because of Jesus, Falls Apart, How He Loves Us (Jeremy led tonight by himself with an acoustic guitar and totally nailed it! Man, I remember my days of leading with an acoustic guitar by myself and don't think the words "Nailed It" were ever used to describe what I did. Probably explains why I'm a youth pastor and NOT a worship pastor. :) I'm just incredibly grateful for Jeremy and the rest of the kids in our band. He does a great job leading them and developing them).
The Big Idea: I love talking about stuff like this because ... well ... it always seems to keep our kids' attention and I really just want to try to share wisdom that I've learned from my own experiences and also watching "teen dating" for 15 years now. Anyway, the main thought I tried to get across tonight was taking dating seriously. Don't date just because you can. 4 quick points: 1) Set Values for Yourself 2) Be patient (I seriously think most teen couples move faster than a NASCAR pit crew in their relationships). Slow down and be patient. 3) Don't date until you feel you're at a place where you can be unselfish with your time. Dating and selfishness don't go together very well. 4) Don't use another person to "complete" you. That's God's role.
It seemed like a good night. Lots of humor combined with some personal stories and just flat out heart to heart stuff on dating.
Favorite Part: My favorite part of the night was when our entire high school ministry surrounded one of our girls (Allison). I've shared about Allison a few times before, but she was diagnosed with a brain tumor earlier in the year. This Monday she'll be leaving for Blommington to receive radiation treatments for her tumor and will be gone until the end of December. We took time to hear from Allison and then we let her know that we'll be trying to help out a little bit by buying some bracelets with Philippians 4:6 - 7 written on them and all the proceeds will go to help the family with travel costs (A great idea from one of our students) and then we annointed Allison with oil and surrounded her and prayed for her. It was incredibly cool for a few different reasons: 1) Over 130 kids were surrounding Allison and praying for her. 2) I think it was a huge encouragement for Allison. I remember when I was diagnosed with cancer 2 years ago, our kids surrounded me and prayed for me and it was such a special moment. I'm so glad Allison was able to experience that. 3) It really showed a strong sense of unity in our ministry ... we're all in this together. And 4) Many of our kids are unchurched and have not clue was "annointing with oil" is and what it's about. It was a cool teaching moment in our ministry and a good thing for our kids to see.
Next Week: Steve Fee in Concert!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Cool Article About Some of Our Axis Kids

This is an article in our local paper that mentions 5 of our axis kids.

Young Falcon QB shows resiliency
By GARY KAUFFMANNews Sports Correspondent

Fairfield quarterback Chase Pinion's heart dropped into his stomach as he watched the pass he'd just thrown picked off by Bremen's Cody Barrier and run back for a go-ahead touchdown.

Instead of a 21-21 game where a field goal could win it, the Falcons now faced having to go 80 yards in 1:16 needing a touchdown and the extra point to avoid another sectional loss.

They did just that and captured the program’s first sectional title with a 28-27 win over the Lions.

“It was pretty insane,” Pinion said. “You want to hang your head but you’ve got to go back out.

“I was thinking, 'Get it done. Rely on your teammates’.”Pinion received plenty of support from his teammates.

“I knew Chase was going to make the throws,” senior center Nathan Stichter said. “We just needed everyone to believe.”Senior Micah Noble said the team had been confident about its chances on the drive that ended in the interception.“I told the guys in the huddle we have to believe,” he said. “We had to stay positive because there are a lot of ups and downs in football.”

With 80 yards to go and just over a minute on the clock, everyone knew Pinion would have to throw. His offensive line was determined to give him the time he needed.“Block everyone,” said senior guard Dylan Haberstich about the line's mindset. “Don't let anyone get close to Chase.”

Pinion was appreciative.“The offensive line was awesome all night,” he said.Pinion then went to work, throwing passes that not only netted first downs but also allowed the receivers to get out of bounds to stop the clock. In their best sustained drive of the night, the Falcons pushed down to the 13 with 15 seconds remaining.Junior receiver Tanner Foust then ran into the corner of the end zone and Pinion's pass was on the money. But the Bremen defender disrupted the play just enough that Foust couldn't hang on.

Pinion wasn't worried.“He's a big playmaker,” he said. “I knew he was going to get one so I just kept throwing it to him.”The next play was the exact same route. This time Foust got a step of separation from the defender, the throw was perfect and this time he caught it easily.

The drive was especially satisfying for Pinion after a sometimes rough season. He had started the year as the understudy of senior Justin Scott. But when Scott tore an ACL in the fifth game of the season, it thrust Pinion in the spotlight.“I worked as hard as I could,” he said about filling in for Scott. “I listened to what Coach Miller says, and God helps out.”

Pinion filled in admirably, but there were struggles at times - like the two interceptions he threw against Bremen. But when the spotlight shone brightest and hottest in the final minute of the game, he proved he was up to the challenge.On the final drive, he fired the ball quickly and confidently, completing six of the 12 passes he threw. All six completions gained first downs.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Monday's Reflections

Just a word of warning ... lots of thoughts running through my head right now. Could be a long post.

- One of our local high schools won it's first ever Sectional Champioship this past Friday night. The Fairfield Falcons made history and what an incredible game it was! I won't go in to all of the X's and O's, but just want to share a quick story about the game. We have a lot of kids who come to axis on the football team. The starting quarterback is also one of our student leaders. The previous starting quaterback also comes to axis, but he tore his ACL mid-season ... which really stunk b/c it is his senior year. (Side Note: Justin's attitude through that injury was just absolutely amazing! I really learned a lot from him watching him face it). Anyway, there was under 2 minutes to go and the game was tied. Our quaterback (Chase) threw a pass that was intercepted and the defender ran it in for a touchdown. The extra point was missed, but this put the other team (Bremen) up by 6 with 1:11 to go in the game. Bremen's kickoff went in to the end zone, which put the ball on the 20 ... which meant Fairfield had 1:11 to drive 80 yards for a tie or go-ahead score. Chase (our quaterback and student leader) talked to me about this and said when they got in to the huddle, the starting fullback (Micah ... a great leader on the team and who also comes to axis) said, "Chase we believe in you. You can do this." Fairfield goes 80 yards in just a little over a minute and with 5 seconds left to play in the game, Chase threw a 13 yard pass to Tanner (who also comes to axis) for a touchdown. Derek (another axis kid) kicked the extra point and Fairfield wins the game by 1 for their first ever sectional championship. Anyway, I share all of that for a few reasons:
1) I just thought it was so cool to hear how the entire team never gave up even when things looked really bad. Seriously, they never ONCE hung their heads.
2) It was just awesome to hear how other players on the team surrounded Chase and showed belief in him even after one of the lowest points of the game ... an interception for a touchdown.
3) I love the fact that it was axis kids who were doing all of the encouraging! That just pumps me up!
4) I'm just so happy for the entire team. Several of the coaches go to Grace, the head coach doesn't go to Grace, but is an awesome Christian guy who has invested over 20 years of his life in teenagers. I don't know the exact percentage, but I wouldn't be surprised if 40% of the team were axis kids. What a great win!

- Carol and I had a date this past Saturday night and it was so much fun to be out with her. I've been detecting a pattern for our dates ... Panera Bread. After dinner we actually did Christmas shopping which means this is officially the earliest I've ever been Christmas shopping. I never knew how much fun it would be to shop for our kids, but what a blast! And, thanks to the Dave Ramsey envelope system, there was no stress in the shopping. We've been saving all year for this and it was just a lot of fun to go at it! After our shopping we headed to Starbucks and we both enjoyed a non-fat, no whip, Peppermint Mocha. The peppermint mocha means that, for us, the Christmas season is hear ... yikes! And, it's only November 9th. But, the rule is we don't start listening to Christmas music until after Thanksgiving when we put up our tre. Although, Carol often tries to sneak some Christmas songs in on the ipod. :)

- I had the opportunity to speak at Grace yesterda and wrap up our series 5 Lies of Satan, with "It's Just a Little Sin." It should be up on our website soon, so if you're interested, you can check it out at The basic idea was that God is not OK with ANYTHING that comes between us an Him. We looked at Luke 18:9 - 14 and I shared how since the sin of Adam and Eve we've experienced this fear of being exposed for who/what we really are and to help us feel just a little better about ourselves, we'll often compare sins or put sins on different levels just to make us think we're not that bad. I talked about how our pride often makes us believe that we can make life work on our own and that anything we turn to to make life work on our own is really idolatry ... no matter how big or how small it may be. I studied this stuff for a week and there were times when I was in my office literally weeping because of the things I've let get in the way of my relationship with God and the things I often had let take the place of God in my life. At the end of the service we had a time to just ask God to reveal things to us and then to repent of them. It was a very special time and it just seemed like people were getting some stuff right with God.

- At our services yesterday we sang 2 hymns that were "modernized" just a bit. I remember singing and reflecting on the words and just lifting my hands up worshipping God. The words to those songs were just so powerful. I must have sang those two hymns 1000 times in the church I grew up in, but never remember worshipping to them the way I did yesterday. That, unfortunately, was so very wrong on my part. Sure, it may be a bit harder to worship to an organ than an electric guitar, but I can look back and regreat not really understanding worship at that time. I'm thankful that I'm making up for some lost time now.

- Had two reminders over the weekend that people are "watching" Carol and I and how we live. Thankfully, it was positive stuff, but things were brought up that people saw in us that I never would have realized or understood. It was incredibly humbling, but also a powerful reminder that we have a heavy responsibility in the lives of people. God, please help us to live up to it!

- Side not on the services yesterday ... while I was talking in the second service, there was this incredibly loud beeping sound that just kept going off. About every 30 seconds you could hear it and it was so loud that EVERYONE in the Main was able to hear it. After this went on for a few minutes I just finally addressed it and was like "Is it just me or does anyone else hear the beeping sound." I tried to just do some "here and now" stuff and talk about the distraction that it was and how Satan often does that in our lives. He tries to distract us from God's path and keep us from focusing on him. Then I think I said something like "I wish it would stop because it's a little annoying." Come to find out, it was a lady's oxygen tank signaling that the battery was low. She's one of the sweetest ladies in the church! If I'da known it at the time, I would have just been like "You just let that thing beep as much as you want!"

- Steelers/Broncos tonight for MNF. Can't wait!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Getting Teenagers Involved in "Big" Church

I call our Sunday mornings "Big Church" to our teenagers. My philosophy is to try to involve our teenagers as much as possibe with adults. I love to see them rubbing shoulders together, serving beside each other, and worshipping together. I read this article by Mark Oestreicher in the September/October 2009 edition of Outreach Magazine. It's really good stuff.

Strategies to Better Integrate Young People Into the Life of the Church Include:

- Never mistake young people as "the future of the church." Integrate them into the life of the church now.
- In profiles and, where appropriate, in sermon illustrations, continually tell stories about the transformation of teenagers through the life of Jesus.
- Equip and empower students to develop their own ministries outside the youth ministry.
- Preach and incorporate the Titus 2 principle of discipleship - the responsibility of the older generation to build and invest into the younger generation.
- Have at least one young person represented in some form of church leadership.
- Facilitate apprenticeship groups withing adult ministries to help develop the skills and passions of young people.
- Incorporate the gifts and talents of the youth into weekend services.
- Build small groups that emphasize a diversity of ages and intergenerational ministry.
- Develop adult ministries designed to disciple parents and adult youth leaders into a maturing relatiosnhip with Christ.

My New Mathmatical Formula

I've come up with a new theorem that I think will be in the text books soon:

Retention Pond + Testosterone Filled Teenage Guys = Car in the Retention Pond

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Wednesday Axis Wrap Up

Topic: Untouchables
Student Involvement: Greeting, pictures, media, sound, worship band, cafe, cleaning up
Fun Stuff: Thumb Wars and a Power Point game called World Wide Sex
Attendance: 166 with 2 first time visitors
Worship Set: Happy Day, Sing Sing Sing
The Big Idea: Tonight our Untouchables topic was sex. We did something that I have never done before on a Wednesday night and we taught completely from video. The reason for that is because a few weeks ago our lead pastor did a message on sex and a majority of our kids were not there on the Sunday morning he spoke because we had a retreat. Also, we have a large percentage of kids who come to axis on Wednesdays but do not come to Grace Community on Sundays. So, it was new for a majority of the kids there. Overall, it went well. Jim totally nailed the topic when he spoke on it and I think we could have showed it in black and white on a 13 inch TV and kids would have still been in to it simply because of the subjec matter. The main thought was to stay pure and take your sexuality seriously. Guard it and save yourself. It was good stuff. At the end of the night we passed out a brief "Q & A on Sex" sheet where I just tried to follow up some of Jim's main points so kids could take it home with them.

Spiritual Conversations

My wife and I were at Dunkin Donuts last week and we were able to start a really good conversation with a hispanic man that was sitting next to us. Our kids were with us so he was talking about our kids and we were asking him questions about his and it turned in to a nice conversation. When the man left, though, my wife asked me a really good question that led to a good conversation for the two of us: "How do you turn a good conversation like that in to a spiritual conversation?"

Have to admit first that I miss many opportunities to do that. I try and I'm not afraid of talking spiritually with people, but for whatever reason I sometimes miss opportunities that have been placed before me whether it's because of my selfishness or my laziness or my busyness ... I could go on. So, I write that simply to say I'm not perfect at this by any means. But, here are some things I've tried to do that help turn conversations to God:

1. Simply bring up the name of God in a conversation. There have been times when I've had one of my kids with me and someone has started talking to me simply because we have cute kids and I've said something like, "Yeah, having kids has really helped me understand how much God loves us." Something as simple as that can bring God in to a conversation. Sometimes it leads somewhere and other times I get blown off. This happened just last week at Wal-Mart. I brought up God in a conversation with a worker and she was like (insert her sarcasm) ... "Oookaaayy." And, she basically ended our conversation right there.

2. Ask someone if I can pray for them. Whether we are out to eat or at Wal-Mart or simply have met someone randomly, I often will ask someone before I leave if there is any way I can pray for them. Again, sometimes this leads somewhere and other times it doesn't, but more times than not it has led to really good conversations with people.

3. Just come right out and say it. This is probably not my greatest strength by any means. I'm much better at trying to enter "through a side door" if that makes sense, but there are definately times when I've just come right out and asked someone about God.

4. Share my story and what God has done in my life. I am so thankful and grateful for the change that God has brought to my life. Talking about it is just natural because of the great joy He has given me. I just like talking about it.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Tuesday Random

- The past two days have just been great! After our services on Sunday I was able to go home and relax a bit and do some yard work and also just spend time with my family. After an extremely busy week of Judgment House, it was nice to chill a bit. Spent time Sunday and Monday raking our yard ... a total of over 6 hours of work! It was nice to be able to do it, though, and just be outside and enjoy some great fall weather. This was Ezra's first year of really getting to enjoy the leaves. He had so much fun just jumping in to the piles. It was hilarious to watch! I'm pretty convinced we have the most leaves of anyone on our block. Too bad it's not a competition. :)

- Some final Judgment House numbers: 931 people walked through. 96 people accepted Jesus as the Leader and Forgiver of their life! 114 people made some type of recommitment in their life! It was really just an awesome week and I just love seeing God do His thing through this. Now it's time for follow-up.

- I've heard two stories recently of friends who've been in public places and they've had complete strangers go up to their young children and totally yell at them. And, I'm not talking a simple "Oh, don't do that." I'm talking curse words, rudeness ... the whole sha-bang! There's not much that would make me lose my cool, but one would be a complete stranger cursing at my 2 year old son. It's one thing for a 2 year old to act like a 2 year old. It's another thing for an adult to act like a 2 year old! Seriously people! Fortunately my friends handled the situations a whole lot better than I would have.

- We've had 2 pretty cool teams be sent out from our church recently. One team just got back from China. They were smuggling Bibles there. Another team is loving on some orphans at Asia's Hope in Cambodia and Thailand right now. Can't wait to hear from both teams.

- After nearly 7 years of marriage, my wife informed me recently that we have a coffee bean grinder. I never knew that! Mornings have just become a whole lot more fun! :)

- Big, big game for my Steelers this Monday night. They play the Broncos. Should be a great game to watch.

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