Thursday, January 28, 2010

Axis Wrap Up 1-27-10 Uncharted Prayer

Topic: Uncharted Prayer

Student Involvement: Kids were taking pictures, working our cafe, leading small groups, sharing Uncharted Kindness testimonies, playing on the worship team, greeting, and checking others in.

Fun Stuff: Took a couple of Poll Everywhere polls on prayer.

Attendance: 166 with 6 first time visitors

Bible Verses: 1 Thessalonians 5:17, James 1:5, 1 John 5:14 - 15, Hebrews 4:16, James 5:16

The "Big" Idea: Why I Pray (My seminary professor wouldn't be very happy with my "main" thought so it's a good thing I'm not getting graded on it ... lol)

Night Review: We continued our "Uncharted" theme and tackled the topic of Uncharted Prayer. I'll be honest, I often have more questions about prayer than I do answers. It's a very mysterious thing to me and I am so unable to wrap my mind around it. The idea that I can talk to God (who is so far above anything that I could ever understand) and the idea that this same God, although He could work any way He wants to work, has CHOSEN to work through our prayers ... well, that concept just blows my mind. I don't understand it ... but I want to do it. I'm trying to be a person of prayer and not just a person who prays.

Our Poll Everywhere poll showed that 96% of our kids believed that prayer was important, but 86% of them spent less than 10 minutes a day praying. Interesting. If we truly believe something is important, would we spend more than 10 minutes a day doing it? (Talking to myself more than anyone else, here). Anyway, I simply spent time talking to our kids about why I pray. There are 5 simple reasons: 1) It connects me to God - I try to pray throughout the day in various ways. Sometimes my prayers are like text messages (160 characters or less), sometimes my prayers are like status updates ( I just tell God how I'm feeling), and sometimes they are like face to face conversations (there's more serious stuff that I need to talk to God about so I have extended conversations with Him). 2) People are sick and are in trouble - I used personal examples of people I know who are sick or hurting and how, often times, the only thing I know to do is pray ... but what better thing to do! Our prayers can unleash the power of God in the lives of other people. 3) I don't know it all - I realize this may be hard to believe, but I really don't! :) I shared how I have so many different responsibilities (a husband, family leader, church leader, have to pay the bills, have to stay on budget, counsel people, etc) and I often feel lost in how to do those things. I need to go to the one who DOES know everything and who gives us wisdom when we ask for it (James 1:5) My pride often keeps me from going to God b/c I think I can figure it out on my own. That's usually when I get in trouble. Pride drags us from God. Humility moves us toward God. 4) God deserves my prayers - My life has been drastically changed since God introduced Himself to me. Prayer is not a chore. It's a priviledge. 5) Prayer makes a difference - I shared several verses in the Bible where our prayers are shown to hold power and God chooses to use them.

Some Personal Thoughts on the Night: It was a small group night for us and so those in a small group went with their leaders to discuss prayer and the feedback from the leaders has been that it was just a GREAT night for them. For me personally, our middle school time was a bit rough. I really had some difficulty connecting with the kids while I was sharing. A lot of them were distracted, I was distracted, lots of talking ... just a night that made me go "grrrrrr!" Lesson learned: If I can't keep their attention, it's generally not their fault. It's mine.

Our senior high time went very well and I think my teaching style just naturally connects with senior high students more so than middle school. Overall, though, a good night with some valuable lessons learned.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

You Can Help Us Win a Contest


So, we had some pictures of our kids taken this summer. We just received an email that the photographer who took the pictures entered the pics in to a contest. If the pics of Ezra and Mercy receive the most votes, we'll get a free portrait sitting with the photographer and free pictures. Anyway, my competitive side is kicking in and I WANT TO WIN! :) If you'd like to help, just go to THIS WEBSITE and vote for # 10. Don't pay any attention to the other cute pictures on the page. We don't really care about them. :) Thanks for your help!

Encouragement

I have an article hanging in my office that my wife gave me about 2 years ago written by Diane Langberg ... an amazing counselor who works primarily with victims of sexual abuse. It was a bit of a "down" time for me in youth ministry. I had a couple of "people" issues going on and just some other things happening and my spirits were a bit down. If that's you today, please let these highlights from the article be an encouragement to you as they were to me:

"One of the things that happen to us in ministry of any kind is that the needs of people become our focus, our purpose ... We end up looking to those to whom we minister to provide us with meaning and motivation ... God often has to remind me that He and He alone is the source of my inspiration, my courage ... I am not to be dragged around by the needs of others. I am rather to be responding out of the deep well of God's love and in obedience to Him ... When the dominant note of my life becomes what others need, I will drown ... If the dominant note is the needs of others, then success is measured by how many of those I meet. However, if Christ is to be the outcome of our work, then success becomes another thing altogether. Success is what pleases Him, glorifies Him, and looks like Him. Success is not a body count of those who turned out a certain way. Success is rather whether or not I looked like Him no matter the outcome. We are in great danger when we put the emphasis on the results we see in the lives of others. The work of the Spirit in our lives is not evidenced in the number of people we fix, but in the character we manifest whether people are fixed or not. What happens in the lives He brings across my path is under His jurisdiction, not mine."

May you be encouraged today to find your inspiration, your goal, and your rest in Him.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Monday Miscellaneous

- Incredibly challenged and incredibly burdened at our services yesterday. Jim spoke on the importance of talking to others about Jesus Christ. The short and sweet of it ... I'm burdened and broken ... broken of my non-chalant attitude over this at times and burdened to be more intentional about doing it. What I'm discovering ... not really discovering, but already knew (that's why I'm broken) is that I'm surrounded by people who already have a relationship with Jesus. It's great! We encourage each other and hopefully I'm able to build them up. But, what that means is I have to be intentional about getting around people who don't know Jesus. There are times I walk away from church incredibly blessed and times I walk away incredibly broken. This was one of those "broken" times ... but motivated to do more.

- I've started running again. I did a total of 10 slllloooowwwww miles last week and hope to up it this week. My knee, after the surgery, is sore and generally hurts during and after my runs, but it's a different kind of "hurt", if that makes sense. Not the hurt I was experiencing before that led to the surgery but a hurt that's like "Ok, I'm just letting you know I don't like you doing this, but go ahead and do it if that's what you want. I'm just going to tell you I'm not happy about it." Yes, I often have those type of conversations with my body parts. :)

- Been thinking through goals for our youth ministry for 2010 ... yep, a little behind. There are goals that I always want to see happen, but I'm really praying that God lays something on my heart that is totally different and totally "out there" for us. Something that's just so crazy that we almost just have to do it ... something we haven't done before, may never do again, but is just totally going to rock our youth ministry in 2010.

- Something I'm learning about goals ... it's real easy to put them down on paper.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Passion


video

I took the above video when I was in Alaska 2 years ago. A couple things I noticed:

1. These dogs were MADE to pull a sled.

2. These dogs could not WAIT to pull the sled.

3. These dogs LOVED pulling a sled.

What were you MADE to do? What can you not WAIT to do? What do you LOVE doing? That's passion. Its' what drives you. It's a cause, a purpose, a mission that grabs you by the throat and doesn't let you go until you do something about it.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

How the Biggest Loser Is A Lot Like Church

Gotta admit, I'm a big (pun intended) fan of the Biggest Loser. My wife and I have only a few shows that we watch religiously ... and that's one of them. I'm not sure why, but when I watched this past Tuesday night, I began to notice some similarities between The Biggest Loser and Church:

1. They're reaching people who are hurting. Let's be honest ... you don't get to be 400 pounds unless there's been some pain in your life. They've learned to use food to mask their emotional pain. (As a church, we need to search out those who are hurting. Sometimes they'll come to us ... most of the time we need to go to them.)

2. The show offers hope. You see others who have been dramatically overweight, but who are healthy now. They share their stories. They talk about how different their lives are now. (As a church, we need to be willing to share our individual stories. What has Jesus done for us? What difference has He made in our lives? What have we been delivered from? Tell other people what Jesus has done in our life!)

3. You have to "Trust the Process." One of the signs in the gym reads "Trust the Process." If being healthy were easy, everyone would be doing it. It's not easy. It takes work. But, if you put in the time (Trust the Process) you'll see results. (As a church we need to realize that salvation is free, but satisfaction is something you have to work for. If you want to grow and serve and reach others ... you gotta work at it. It's not just going to happen. You have to pray. You have to be in the Bible. You have to be intentional about serving and being kind and sharing your faith. You have to work at those things).

4. They're stronger as a group than as individuals. Part of the reason the show works so well is that there is a group of people with a common mission ... let's help each other lose weight. (As a church, we have to be there for each other, supporting each other, and being like-minded, on the same mission.)

5. There's a lot of crying. My word, I don't think any show has more crying on it than the Biggest Loser ... and, most of those tears happen when people finally begin to realize what they are missing in life and what has driven them to the unhealthy place they are now. (As a church we better have tissues at the altar. When confronted with our own sinfulness sometimes there's nothing left to do but cry. The awesome thing is that the Holy Spirit convicts us to build us up, not tear us down.)

6. There are successes and failures. Not everyone is a success story from the show. Some have put the weight back on. (As a church, sometimes people will fall ... sometimes feelings will be hurt ... sometimes we'll let people down. It's unfortunate, but true.)

7. The trainers rock. Like 'em or not, Bob and Jillian get the job done. They push, they motivate, they use different tactics with different people, they live it out, and they believe in their message. (As a church, we all need leaders who will build in to our lives and motivate us to go further than we think we can go and to know us and what we need at different times in our lives and to cry with us and celebrate with us.)

I knew there was a reason why I liked that show!

Axis Wrap Up 1-20-10 Uncharted Kindness







Topic: Uncharted Kindness
Student Involvement: Kids were taking pictures, greeting, working in our cafe, picking up chairs, and reading Scripture
Fun Stuff: The Impossible Shot in our gym, A team sent out to do random acts of kindness, and The Everyday Kindness Initiative video.
Attendance: 132 with 5 first time visitors
Bible Verses: Jeremiah 9:23 - 24, Colossians 3:12, and Matthew 8:1 - 3
The Big Idea: Look at every day as an opportunity to show kindness
Night Review: We are teaming up with the "Big" church theme for the year which is "Uncharted." It's the idea of allowing God to take us places we've never been before in our journey with Him. We started out our night watching a really good video called The Everyday Kindness Awards. It was a good way to kick off our night and our series. We then asked for volunteers to go out with one of our adults and do random acts of kindness for strangers in our community. We sent them out with prayer and then heard from them when they got back. It was a great way for us to make things more interactive and also kept kids in "suspense" as they waited for them to get back.
We looked at the story of Jesus healing the leper in Matthew 8:1 - 3 and simply how Jesus showed kindness to the person who would have been considered a social outcast at the time. We talked about how kindness goes to the core of who God is and that when we show kindness to others, we are giving other people a clear picture of God. The main challenge for our kids was to look at every day as an opportunity to show kindness. We also watched a video of Tony Campolo sharing an amazing story of kindness. Really drove our theme home well.
At the end of the night we heard from our team of kids who went out to do random acts of kindness. They did things like pay for someone's meal at McDonald's, buy drinks for someone at a bowling alley, clean the parking lot of a gas station, and help pay for someone's gas. It was so cool to see the excitment on their faces as they came back and that probably said more than my entire teaching time!
We tried some things different tonight as well. We scratched music for the evening. We also had a time of group prayer where kids got in smaller groups and prayed specifically for God to speak to them and also to provide an opportunity for them to be kind the next day. We passed out a sheet called 30 Ways to Show Uncharted Kindness and we also passed out a Deeper Sheet on our lesson. We finally encouraged our kids to go to our Facebook page and share the different ways they have been able to show kindness.
Overall a positive night and my prayer for us was that we would leave that room on mission as an army of kindness.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Axis Wrap Up 1-13-10 ... Bringing "It" Back




I've hinted in some of my posts recently about a dissatisfaction I've had in the direction of our youth ministry lately. It's been really difficult to put my finger on it and understand what it really is, but I've just felt an uneasiness about the direction we were heading. Nothing major, nothing drastic, but a subtle sense that, as a youth ministry, we were becoming content. It seemed like we were just happy to be there ... to be with our friends ... to be out of the house ... whatever it may be, and I felt like we were slowly getting off course and losing "it" ... that passion to reach our friends, that passion to worship God, that passion to listen and then ask, "Ok, what do I need to do now?", that passion to create a place of belonging for EVERYONE who steps in to our building whether we know them or not. Over the past few months I've woken up at night burdened for our youth ministry, burdened for our kids, and asking God to help me know what to do.

This past Wednesday I think "it" came back to axis. I shared from my heart. I shared openly and honestly. I shared the history of axis and tried to show our kids that, no matter where we met, in a smelly basement or in a room so cool people are breaking in to steal stuff, our mission was ALWAYS the same: to create a place of belonging for EVERYONE so they can grow in a relationship with Jesus. And, I told our kids that if "it" is going to come back, we need to do 2 things: Ask God to forgive us or our selfishness (because it's our selfishness that keeps us from reaching out) and to beg God to use us to make a difference in the lives of our friends.

What happened next was simply God.

Kids came forward. Adults came forward. We fell on our faces and asked for God's forgiveness. We begged God to fill us up and send us out. I believe God refocused us as a youth ministry and truly moved among us. Some of the things kids said to me after the night:
- "Me and God definitely got a lot closer."
- "I was really encouraged to get out of my comfort zone."
- "My heart was broken and it made me realize how selfish I am."
- "What's the best book of the Bible to read about the stuff you talked about?"
In our senior high time we actually went 30 minutes longer than planned ... which didn't make some parents very happy. Agree or disagree, I wasn't going to stop what God was doing simply because it was 9:15pm.
I'm still humbled at what God did and so excited for our kids and our youth ministry. If you think of it, please take time to pray for us and our mission to reach teenagers. Pray for wisdom, creativity, passion, and for our purpose to be exactly what God wants us to do in Goshen, IN.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Pop Rocks


I had "Pop Rocks" for the first time in like a hundred years today. What a rush! There's a party in my mouth and I'm the only one invited!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Mercy's Dedication



I am always just so blown away by the fact that God believes in me so much that He has entrusted some of His kids (Ezra and Mercy) to me! I look at being a dad as one of the greatest responsibilities that I have. I really believe that in a home, outside of the husband/wife relationship, the relationship a dad has with his daughter is the next most important relationship in the home. It's not to "short change" the father/son relationship at all, it's just to show the vital impact and influence a dad has on his daughter. We have decided to always have a first birthday/dedication for our kids. We did this with Mercy last week. It was our time to celebrate but also to make some commitments before God on how we will raise her. Carol and I both wrote vows on how we will strive to raise Mercy. Here are mine:
1. Carol, you are and always will be the most important woman in my life. I know I'm not perfect and I'm in no way above anything, but with God's help and through His strength we will ALWAYS be together providing a safe, stable, and secure home for our family. I will do my best to love you and honor you and cherish you and, in so doing, will show Mercy that she deserves nothing less than to be loved and honored and cherished.
2. Mercy, men unfortunately have, through their sinfulness, often used their strength and masculinity to hold women back. I will do my best to teach you that you are strong and you are capable and you, as a woman, are the ESSENTIAL compliment to a man.
3. Mercy, I will NOT take the place of God in your life. I will mess up and I will make mistakes. When I do, I will swallow my pride and apologize and, through the times that I let you down, I will hopefully point you to a Heavenly Father who will NEVER fail you or let you down.
4. Mercy, your first thoughts about who God is will come from me ... how I act, how I treat you, how I respond to others. I want my life to give you a clear picture of who God is so I will do my best to become more like Jesus in everything I do.
5. Mercy, I will study you and know you and discover the ways you most feel loved. I will then love you in those ways.
6. Mercy, I will date you often and on our dates I will show you how you deserve to be treated by a man.
7. We named you Mercy for two reasons: (1) There is a world in need and when you were born our hearts were being broken for the poor and oppressed. I will show you that we have a God-given responsibility to help people. We are blessed so we can bless others. (2) According to doctors, after my chemotherapy treatments I would most likely be infertile. You really aren't supposed to be here, but here we are, one year later, and every day you have been a picture of God's mercy in our lives. My prayer for you is that you will ALWAYS be a picture of God's mercy to others and that your influence and impact on other people will bring many to Jesus Christ.

We then spent time praying over Mercy and committing her, us, and our lives to God. We annointed her with oil and then joined in prayer over her. It was a very special time.
Then it was time for cake. :) We must not be very good singers, though, because Mercy cried while we sang Happy Birthday to her.


But, nothing takes the tears away like cake. She LOVED it!


Two BONUS vows for Mercy:
- I promise to destroy any boy who tries to date you before you turn 16.
- I promise to only hurt any boy who tries to date you after you turn 16. :)

Monday, January 11, 2010

Monday Miscellaneous

- From a "shepherding" standpoint, it's been one of the toughest weeks I remember for a long time. Wednesday night, a family in our church lost their 3 month old baby boy. It was awful! A few of us were over their house Wednesday night just trying to be there for them and grieve with them. Needless to say, it was heartwrenching and when I got home on what would have been Thursday morning, I crept in to Mercy and Ezra's rooms while they were sleeping and just prayed over them and thanked God so much for them. Then on Saturday afternoon, a man from our church was working on his tractor outside and it fell on top of him crushing his leg underneath. His daughter (who just returned this week from over a month of radiation treatments for a brain tumor) ran outside to help him and, her already weakened body, then fell in to complete exhaustion from overexerting herself trying to pull him from underneath the tractor. Both went to the hospital and several of us were at the hospital with them. While at the hospital, we discovered that another dear lady from our church had just been admitted for chest pains. Then, on Sunday morning, we learned that the mom of another dear, dear family in our church had passed away. Sunday afternoon, we had the heart-wrenching funeral for the 3-month old little baby. This morning, a lady from our church who just gave birth a few days ago now needs to have her gall bladder removed and another lady from our church starts chemotherapy treatments. I admit that I'm a bit emotionally drained at the moment, but am thankful for the opportunity to try to be "in the picture" for those people. It's times like this that I feel so "underqualified" to be a pastor ... what do you say to people in all of these types of situations? It's a helpless feeling but I also realized that I'm not called to have all the answers in times like this. I'm called to care.

- At the funeral yesterday there was a time given for people to share. The ER nurse who was taking care of the baby came up and said, "You don't know me, but I'm the ER nurse who was taking care of your baby that night. I know that you were not allowed to be in the ER with your baby. I wish you could have been there, but since you were unable to I just want you to know that your baby was tenderly cared for. We swadled him. We held him. We prayed over him. He was tenderly care for and I just wanted you to know that." I just lost it! I went up to the nurse after the funeral and simply said, "As a parent, that is exactly what I would have wanted to hear. Thank you for sharing."

- I start 5 Star again this afternoon at the Goshen Middle School. 5 Star is a great organization that plants itself in local schools teaching core values to kids. Since it's in a school setting, they cannot teach kids from the Bible ... but everything they teach is Biblical. They then promote a summer camp all year at the school and it's at that summer camp where they share the Gospel with kids and they have literally seen hundreds of kids come to know Jesus at this camp. Exciting stuff.

- We had Mercy's first birthday/dedication celebration this past Friday. I'll be posting more about that later with some pictures hopefully. Just a quick story from it, though ... I was planning on a bit of a late night cleaning things up after the party but what was sooooo very cool is that several of the people from the party just jumped in and cleaned everything up for us ... without even being asked. They just started cleaning. It made me think two things:

1) That's the type of person I want to be ... someone who does things without being asked ... who serves just to serve ... who sees a need and meets it.

2) Why didn't I ask them to do this in the first place? I was just planning on doing it all myself and it made me ask the question, "Why was I unwilling to depend on and lean on other people for help?" If I were asked to do this, I wouldn't have hesitated to say yes, but for some reason I often feel like I'm inconveniencing people when I ask them for things ... I need to get over that and not say someone's "no" for them.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Day in the Life ...

You never know what each day is going to bring. Here's a sample of my day yesterday ... from the trivial to the tragic and all things in between:

- Quiet Time
- Prepping for axis
- Praying for people in our church
- Stocking our axis cafe
- Getting all the media stuff ready for axis
- Making signs
- Prayer for our youth ministry
- Middle and High School axis
- Call from the hospital after axis
- Going to the home of a couple whose 3 month old baby died Wednesday evening and feeling completely helpless ... what do you say ... what do you do?
- Getting home at 1:30am, praying over my kids, hugging my wife, going to bed with tears in my eyes.

Axis Wrap Up 1-6-10

Topic: Movies

Student Involvement: Greeting, worship team, tech team, helping pass things out

Fun Stuff: Found a cool video on More Than Dodgeball of a guy signing Party in the USA. Just a fun way to countdown our service. We also did a couple of Poll Everywhere polls based on movies. We also watch 3 movie trailers from the top rented movies in the U.S. last week.

Attendance: 144 with 5 first time visitors

Worship Set: Not to Us, Jesus Paid It All, I Am Free

Bible Verses: Matthew 6:22 - 23, Philippians 4:8, Colossians 3:1 - 10

The Big Idea: We did this with music a few months ago and I wanted to refresh the idea in the minds of our kids by doing it with movies. We talked about Discovering, Discerning, and Deciding when it comes to movies. Discover what the movie is about (what am I going to see and hear? What message is the movie going to give me?) Discern if this movie will hinder anything that the Bible teaches for my life (Am I going to see things that can cause me to sin? Am I going to hear things that could be considered "unwholesome?") Finally, Decide ... make a decision if this movie is something I'm going to allow to enter my mind.

The big thought for the night was just because I have the RIGHT to watch something doesn't mean that I SHOULD. I didn't want to tell our kids what they should or should not watch, but I wanted to give them the tools to decide whether or not something is healthy or unhealthy for them to watch. We watched 3 movie trailers from some of the top rented movies in the U.S. last week: The Hangover, District 9, and Jennifer's Body. I had a list of things I pulled from Plugged In Online on what one would see if they watched these movies. I then had kids talk with each other on the 3 D's (Discover, Discern, and Decide). I tried to make the night very interactive ... kids talking with each other and also talking with me. I simply tried to show them the process I go through to decided whether or not I'll go see a movie. I tried to be real honest with things (i.e. I'd love to see The Hangover b/c it looks so funny but because of it's content I won't go see it and talked about how that can be an act of worship to God.)

Over all it was a pretty good night. It seemed like our kids enjoyed being able to interact. I'm still trying to "perfect" this with a larger group of students. It can sometimes be pretty difficult to have kids interacting with each other and with me and not begin to see things become a little too talkative. Still working on that one. But, overall, a good night with very practical thoughts for our kids.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Top 5 Axis Moments for 2009

1) The Axis Fall Kickoff

2) The Middle School Retreat

3) Momentum

4) Judgment House

5) Daddy/Daughter Dance

Top 5 Favorite Axis Lessons/Series for 2009

Something I'm learning as my time goes on in youth ministry is that ... man ... it's really hard to try to stay creative in fresh EVERY SINGLE WEEK when you're teaching. As I reflect on the past year, some weeks were definate homeruns and others were definate duds. I feel like I give my best in preparation and delivery every week, but some times it connects with kids and other times it doesn't. Anyway, here are my favorite series/lessons from 2009:

1) How to Be Your Best
- Do More Than What's Expected
- Pay Now, Play Later
- Stay Positive
- Make Those Around You Better

2) The End
- The Rapture
- Tribulation # 1
- Tribulation # 2

3) Surviving Your Family
- Choosing to Win or Choosing to Lose
- The Dysfunctional Family

4) Media/Music

5) God's Planet ... Our Responsibility
- God's Gift
- Little Things Make a Big Difference

My Top 10 Favorite Blog Posts for 2009

2009 was definately the year that I blogged the most. Altogether there were 186 total blog posts for 2009 with an average of 15 posts per month. Below are some of my favorites in order of occurrence:

January - Your Mercies Are New Every Morning

March - My Ring

April - Embarrassing Moment

May - 13.2 Miles ... Here I Come

July - Taking Criticism

August - Axis Fall Kickoff

October - That Joke Stinks

October - How We Plan Our Outreaches

October - Some Daily Prayers

October - The Whole Neighborhood Just Got Saved

Sunday, January 3, 2010

My Top 5 Life Changing Moments of the Past Decade

Wow, it's really difficult to narrow it down to only 5, but there have been a few moments in the past 10 years that have really shaped my life. Here they are in order of occurrence:

August 2000 - Decision to go to Grace Seminary. God used this time to bring healing in my life and to really introduce me to Himself. Honestly, my first semester of classes I was thinking to myself, "What am I doing here?" I really had no idea, but I just felt like it was where God wanted me to be at the time. With God's help I toughed it out and I'm so thankful that I did. The seminary classes, the counseling classes, the people I met (especially my beautiful wife Carol) ... just life changing.

June 2002 - Hired at Grace Community Church. I was graduating from seminary but really had absolutely no idea what I was going to do. I just knew I wanted to work with teenagers. One of my professors went to Grace Community and he knew that they were looking to hire a youth pastor. He mentioned my name to Jim and Jeremiah and he also mentioned the opportunity to me. I had heard all sorts of incredible things about the church from my prof and, when I came to visit for the first time I was expecting this huge building that was trendy and decked out with all the latest "bells and whistles." I pull in to the parking lot and thought to myself: "This CAN'T be the right place." the building was old and small ... not the most attractive thing in the world. (Insert joke: I could also say the same thing about Pastor Jim ... old, small, not the most attractive thing in the world :) ... but he can out run me any day of the week and ALWAYS beats me at basketball). But, I grew to love this church after that very first service. The people were incredible. God's presence was powerfully felt. The people were really on mission to reach others for Jesus and you could just feel it and see it. Since that time I have seen God do things at this church that have amazed me. I have also seen Him move in my life and break my heart in so many different ways. My closest friends are the ones I serve with here and I have really seen my heart become even more burdened for teenagers. I love this church!

December 2002 - I Married My Beautiful Bride. No one knows me like Carol and no one loves me like Carol. She has a way of knowing exactly what I need exactly when I need it. Not only is she HOT, but she's patient, tender, compassionate, supportive, understanding, and I love the fact that she believes in me. I thought I wasn't really all that selfish ... until I got married. My heart has been broken over my selfishness and Carol's forgiveness has always been there. Being married to her has taught me how to be a better man, a better servant, a better leader, and a better follower of Jesus. I simply cannot imagine my life without her. If there was ever a "perfect" day in my life, it was the day we got married. Everything was just the way it was supposed to be. I will never forget seeing her for the first time as she walked down the aisle and I started crying and was thinking to myself, "I'm not going to make it through this."

March 2007 - Diagnosed with Cancer. It's not often that a person comes face to face with something that can kill them. March 26, 2007, was when it happened for me. My diagnosis rocked my world! When the doctor did the biopsy on me and looked me in the eyes and said, "Yep, it's cancer" ... my initial reaction was total shock ... then I went numb ... then I started to cry ... and then I thought to myself, "Ok, what do I have to do to beat it." I felt confident in my own strength and ability until a little less than a month later when I had my first chemotherapy treatment. That first treatment kicked my butt and, most importantly, it humbled me. I realized that I had to learn to rely on God in a way that I had never had to do before and for the next 7 months of treatments, that's what I tried to do. Each treatment was a new opportunity to experience the grace of God. Each treatment was a new opportunity to fall on my face before God and say "I NEED Your help!" Since that time, I've tried my best to live every day in that way. I've also tried my best to understand what are the most important things and to really value those things and focus my attention on them. I've learned to better enjoy a summer's breeze and a walk outside. I've learned the value of health and not to take it for granted.

May 2007 & January 2009 - Ezra and Mercy. Carol went in to labor with Ezra as I was receiving a chemotherapy treatment. It was the funniest thing. There I am with tubes in my body getting chemo and there she is in the chair next to me experiencing her first contractions that were about 30 - 40 minutes apart at the time. Carol and I didn't really realize they were contractions, but the oncology nurse that was working with us used to help deliver babies, so she knew right away what was going on. We were quite the couple that day! The very next day, Ezra was born. Interesting side note to Ezra's name: We chose the name "Ezra" because it means "helper." So, even before he was born, our prayer for him has been that he will be a "helper" of others. We did this before I was diagnosed. Little did we know that Ezra would be the one "helping" us as I was going through treatments. His birth came at the perfect time for us because he brought so much joy in to our lives in a time that was one of the most difficult times I've experienced. He has brought joy in to our lives every day since then.

After chemo treatments, the doctors told me that I would probably be infertile and we would not be able to have kids ... then came along Mercy. We chose the name Mercy because we felt her conception and birth was God sorta just saying, "You've had it rough. Let me surprise you with a beautiful baby girl." We also chose the name Mercy because God has been breaking our hearts for the lost, oppressed, and the poor. Our prayer for Mercy is that she will be a picture of God's mercy to others. She'll be 1 year old in just a week and that 1 year has just flown by. But, man, she has me completely wrapped around her little finger and, I know I'm biased, but she is the most beautiful baby girl I've ever seen. I just can't get enough of her.

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