Tuesday, August 31, 2010

5 Years Later

With all of the recent network coverage of the 5 year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, I've been reminded of my time down there 5 years ago doing relief work. It all started after watching all of the coverage on TV. As a church staff, we were heart broken over everything and KNEW that we had to do something about it. So, we didn't know all of the details ... we didn't know how everything was going to work out ... we didn't even know if anyone would be able to go, but the Sunday after Katrina hit, we told our people that we wanted to take people and we needed to pay to get them there. One thing I LOVE about our church is when they catch a vision they make it happen. People were calling their bosses from church saying they needed to take time off. People came forward and gave money ... enough money to pay for a couple of teams to go down. It was INCREDIBLE! A day or two later, we were on our way to Alabama and Mississippi.

It was a "work" team, but one of the things we definitely tried to keep in mind was that for every tree we cut down, every branch we moved, every piece of trash we picked up, there was a person who we were helping. We tried our best to connect with people, pray with people, and simply bring a smile to people who had suffered so much devastation.

I was reminded of how "stuff" can just be gone in the blink of an eye. The pool above was just destroyed. The boat above was just destroyed. You would not believe the amount of trash we saw and the stuff that just lined the streets and the freezers of spoiled food we removed. I couldn't help but realize that "stuff" just doesn't bring happiness. It can be gone in moments.

I was also reminded of the amazing ways in which God works. The story behind the above picture is pretty cool. We arrived in Alabama late at night. We met with our contact person, got some instructions and had a plan for the next morning ... at least we though. We got out on the road and, seriously, drove for a few minutes when one of our trailers got a flat. We pulled over and just weren't sure what to do now. So, we prayed. And, then it was like our eyes were opened. Even though it wasn't what we were "supposed" to be doing, we saw needs all around us and were like, "Well, we're here and we're not going anywhere any time soon. Let's get to work." We worked in this specific area for hours and had so many great conversations with people and so many opportunities to pray for people. It was exactly where God wanted us to be at that moment.
I love the memories I had from that trip (except for maybe the chaffing ... yeah, that's not such a great memory.) :) It's amazing how God blesses us when we serve. There are just times when we give and we sacrifice and God's like "I'm just going to bless you for it." It felt so good to give and to serve and to help.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Monday Miscellaneous

- Chipotle is my new favorite place to eat! My wife and I were able to go out on a date Friday night and our newest restaurant of choice has been Chipotle. One of the reasons we really enjoy it is because of the type of meats and vegetables they choose to use. They call it "Food with Inegrity." Plus, it's just flat out good stuff!

- My Steelers looked AWFUL last night in their 3rd pre-season game. So glad it's the pre-season! Let's work out the kinks.

- I ordered 4 youth ministry books last week and received them on Thursday. My plan is to finish them by the end of the year. I'm really looking forward to digesting the info and hopefully getting some great ideas on youth ministry. I just started The 9 Best Practices for Youth Ministry. Really good so far. The first chapter dealt with the importance of nurturing ourselves and the idea that nobody should be more concerned with our spiritual growth than we are. We have to take care of ourselves spiritually and grow in our relationship with God. Good stuff.

- I'm officially a "Tweeter" now. The demand for people to find out that I'm sitting on the floor playing with my kids was just too strong to stay away from Twitter. People just want to know. :)

- Our church is sending off a team to Asia's Hope tomorrow. I'm so excited for them and can't wait to get info on the orphans our church supports in Cambodia and Thailand.

- An incredible family from our church invited us to their lake house yesterday afternoon. They have been doing this every year for the past 5 years. They invite all the pastors over and we just have a blast hanging out. It was so much fun yesterday and they make the most amazing homemade ice cream that I've ever had! Such a great day. Thanks, Ed and Deb.

- The reality that we will be having a 3rd child in two months is really starting to sink in. I mean, 7 months ago when Carol told me, I was so excited and thrilled ... but it all seemed like a dream. Well, those 7 months have just flown by and now with only 2 months left I'm getting even more excited and more nervous. I can't wait to me the little guy/girl. I was talking to him/her a little bit last night while watching the Steelers play on TV. It's hard to believe that right now I'm only a muffled voice to this baby, but soon he/she will know me as dad. Seriously, being a dad is one of the best things to ever happen to me.

- Busy week this week. Axis Wednesday ... The Great Big Umbrella Blitz Friday ... Preaching Sunday ... lots to get ready this week.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Axis Wrap Up 8-23-10 Our Core Values

At axis Wednesday night I took some time to talk about our core values as a youth ministry. I talked to our kids about our DNA ... what makes axis, well, axis. We started our night by having two of our graduates share about their dream for everyone who comes to axis. They'll be leaving for college this Saturday. They have been a HUGE part of our youth ministry for years and I've seen them take advantage of everything that our youth ministry offers to help a person grow in their faith. They both shared with our teenagers that if they want to grow in their faith, they have to get involved ... they have to get plugged in. They shared about the difference getting involved has made in their lives and how grounded they feel now that they'll be heading off to college. It was great to hear from them.
I then just tried to have a conversation with our kids talking to them about the fact that nobody should be more concerned with their faith journey than they are. If they want to grow in a relationship with Jesus, they need to be intentional about it and make efforts at it. I then shared with them our core values ... or what we call the FAB 4. We will offer every student that comes to axis opportunities to KNOW GOD, SERVE OTHERS, BE INVOLVED WITH EACH OTHER, and MAKE AN IMPACT. That's basically our philosophy of ministry. I just believe that we grow in our faith when we seek to KNOW God, SERVE others, INVOLVE ourselves with positive people, and have a positive IMPACT by sharing Jesus with others. We stress those 4 things to our kids constantly and everything we do as a youth ministry is based off of those 4 things. We try to keep it simple yet strategic.
I felt like this was a good time of the year to talk about our values and it was cool to see kids get excited about the things shared that would allow us to KNOW, SERVE, INVOLVE, and IMPACT. We ended our night by having students read Bible verses that talked about each element of the FAB 4 and then after each verse was read I led our kids in a time of prayer asking God to reveal to us how we can do each of these things.
Next Week: We kick off a 5 week series entitled 5 Way to Be Awesome. We'll be looking at 5 character traits that will help us be the best we can possibly be.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Monday Miscellaneous

- I took my son for his first ever "run" over the weekend. It was an absolute BLAST! He's been asking me to take him running lately and so on Saturday afternoon we both laced up our shoes and went out for a run. He did a WHOLE mile ... and even took time to stop and pick some flowers for mom.

- I love this picture! I look like a dork in the sweat bands. He makes them look good.

- Here we are finishing up our run. Our son is SO relational. He loves to talk and has a genuine interest in what is going on in someone's life. Anyway, before we started our run he asked me "Dad, can we talk while we run." Seriously, that boy loves to talk! I love it!

- Today is the 8th "engagement" anniversary for Carol and I. 8 years ago today she said "yes" to me ... even though my proposal didn't go quite as planned. I was on vacation with her and her family at Cape Cod. Well, we were just a few minutes from the beach so I had planned to wake her up early in the morning and ask her to go for a walk with me to the beach. I wanted us to be able to sit on the beach, watch the sun rise, and while the sun was just coming up over the horizon, seemingly meeting the sky and the ocean at the same time, I was going to get on my knees and ask her to be my wife. Well, I woke up, as planned, early in the morning, only to find out that it was rainy and overcast. But, I woke Carol anyway, and we went for our walk. We arrived at a rain soaked beach and of course I didn't bring towels for us to sit on. Anyway, after about 15 minutes at the beach we both started being attacked by sand fleas! The nasty things are awful! So, we decided to go for a walk on the beach. When we got back to our original location, the bugs started getting to us again. I eventually said, "Carol, this is not going exactly how I planned for it to go, but I really want to spend the rest of my life with you. Will you marry me?" She said, "Yes." And then we were like, "Let's get the heck outta here. These bugs are awful!"

It must have been true love for her to accept that proposal! I'm so glad she said "yes" to me and also that she's so forgiving. She recognizes my efforts ... even though my intentions are good, things don't quite turn out like I plan sometimes .... like the time I got her a blender for her birthday, but that's a story for another post. :)

- Been reading the book Radical by David Platt. Needless to say, it's been kicking my butt! If you're looking for a good and challenging read, this is definitely one of those books.
- Have yet to receive the phone call to be invited to the Steelers training camp. I only have another year or two of eligibility left, so their time is running out. :) I love football season!

Cancer Center Commercial

A few months ago I was asked to help make a commercial for the Goshen Cancer Center. Four hours of filming has now been reduced to a 60 second commercial. It was a lot of fun making the commercial ... but I'm still waiting to be asked for an autograph. :) It was also really difficult to balance the circle on my head at the end of the commercial. :)

The Great Big Umbrella Blitz Video

Here's a fun video I helped do to promote our next outreach in Goshen. Be warned ... there's streaking involved. :)

The Great Big Umbrella Blitz Promo from Scott Avey on Vimeo.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Axis Wrap Up 8-18-10 ... Something Unexpected

We kicked off our fall ministry at axis on Wednesday and I just could not have been more pleased and thrilled with how things went. Even though we don't shut our ministry down for the summer, there's a significant percentage of kids who do not attend in the summer months. So, it was great to re-connect with a bunch of kids Wednesday and to see them back at axis.
We had some awesome give-a-ways and also had a fun game called Song in My Heart that one of our students led. We also heard from to of our students who were on summer mission trips. I loved hearing how they took advantage of their summer.
But, the high light of the night came when God just sorta took over. Pretty amazing how when God takes something over it becomes a high light. :) Anyway, we our worship time set up Marc Eckel from the Splat Experience. Marc's ministry is to do various paintings that help us reflect on Jesus or the Word of God or various other things. In 10 minutes he did a painting of the crucifixion and it was SO powerful! Right at the end of the painting, he puts one of his hands (which are covered in red paint at this time) right next to Jesus on the cross signifying Jesus paid the price for us. It was so powerful.
Anyway, I had a plan. I had prepped what I thought was going to be a killer teaching time. I was so excited to share. But, as this is going on I'm just realizing that what I had planned is not what God wanted to see happen at that moment. So, I just kept praying and praying and asking God to lead me and give me the direction He wanted things to go. After Marc put his hand on the painting, a girl sitting behind gets my attention and says "Is he the only one who gets to put his hand on there." Well, that kicked off what was to happen next.
I shared briefly about my passion for everyone who was there and how my deepest passion is for them to know God. There's just nothing more satisfying and fulfilling that knowing God. I challenged our kids to respond. If they wanted tonight to be the night where they just say "Ok, God. Enough is enough. I need you. I'm am starting my pursuit of you tonight." I challenged them to come up, dip their hand in the paint, and put it on the painting and then to kneel and pray and desperately seek God. God moved, kids responded, and it ended up being one of the most powerful experiences in axis that I can remember.
Jeremy did an amazing job leading music during the time and just really bringing our hearts before God. So many of our adults stepped up and scrambled to find towels or to organize kids as they came forward to the painting. Adults were praying for kids. It was just awesome to see God lead and kids respond. A great way to kick off the fall!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Kicking Off Axis This Fall

Tonight we start the fall ministry of axis. I'm pumped! I've been pumped for the past few weeks. I'm a mixture of nerves, excitement, anticipation, and curiosity. I can't wait to see some kids that I haven't seen the entire summer. I can't wait to see what God is going to do tonight. I can't wait to give away stuff to our kids (We have some cool prizes!)

But, my burden lately for our youth ministry is that we would be a youth ministry desperate for God. I'm burdened for our kids and there are times that the responsibility I feel to them is overwhelming. But, I realize the burden I have for our kids is something that only God can make happen in their lives. It takes a lot of the pressure off knowing that there is really only so much I can do and only so much I'm responsible for. Sure, I need to plan and prepare and engage and build relationships ... but the life transforming stuff ... well ... that's not my territory, nor do I want it to be. Someone once wisely said, "What happens in the lives He brings across my path is under His jurisdiction, not mine."

I can't wait to see how God moves in the hearts and lives of our kids this fall. God, help us to be desperate for you.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Monday Miscellaneous

- I just got back from a lunch meeting with one of our axis guys. We meet regularly to discuss the Bible. It's really cool. No fancy curriculums or workbooks or discipleship materials. We just pick a passage, read it, and discuss it. It's so refreshing and continually reminds me of the power of God's Word in our lives. Love it!

- Our fall ministry at axis kicks off this Wednesday. We have some fun stuff planned for the night ... prize give-a-ways, games, art, music ... good stuff. I'm so excited and can't wait to see what God has in store for us this fall. I've been burdened with the idea of really knowing God and being desperate for His power in our lives. I want that to be the driving force for us this fall. We could have all the best and coolest stuff ... we could have the best music ... we could have hundreds of kids join us every Wednesday night, but if God is not the focus of what we do then it's all worthless. I want us to be desperate for God every time we get together as a youth ministry.

- It's so hard to believe, but in just 9 weeks I'll finally get to meet our third baby. The anticipation is really starting to build now and also the feeling of "Oh, wow. We're going to be outnumbered now!" I'm more of a zone defender anyway, so using the "zone defense" to parent should come naturally. :) haha We're not sure what we're having. We're pretty sure it will be a boy or a girl, though. Neither my wife or I have red hair but both of our kids do. So, we're not sure what to expect with our new baby, but honestly, we are going to be a little disappointed if he/she doesn't have red hair. I'm not sure we'll know how to raise a kid that doesn't have red hair. :) My wife has been amazing through the entire pregnancy and I'm just more and more amazed at her every day. Can't wait to meet the new little one.

- We made some homemade salsa over the weekend. While making it, I had the lid off of our blender and was trying to push some cilantro, onion, garlic, and lime further down in the the blender with a wooden spoon. I accidently pushed a little too far. The spoon hit the blender blades and sent the green mixture flying through our kitchen ... cabinets, sink, floor, ceiling AND on my wife! You haven't lived until you've seen a mixture like that splatter all over your wife! Such good fun. :) Thankfully I have a very forgiving wife and it provided a great laugh for us.

- I'm almost back to "normal" after my bout with the plague last week. Not quite a 100% but feeling pretty good. Hoping to run tonight and get back in to the routine.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Sick Days

I've had to use more sick days this week than I have in my entire 8 1/2 years at Grace Community ... and that includes going through 8 months of chemotherapy! Yikes! I'm not sure what I caught, but it was vile and nasty and of the devil! It knocked me out like I had never been knocked out before. I'm still not 100% recovered, but at least I can get off the couch, which is more than I could say a couple of days ago. But, I'm back in the office and hopefully on the road to recovery.

Here are a few things I realized that I really missed while I was sick:

- I missed NOT having to run to the bathroom
- I missed the feeling of a non-nauseaus stomach
- I missed being able to play with my kids and kiss my wife
- I missed eating
- I missed the fun of being in the office
- I missed the Middle School Mess Fest ... because I was having my own "Mess Fest" at home
- I missed running ... I didn't really count running to the bathroom as exercise
- I missed not really thinking about how many times I was actually in the bathroom on any given day

Monday, August 9, 2010

Back from Tennessee

We made it back from our Tennessee vacation Saturday night. We spent a week in the Gatlinburg area and did lots of hiking and site-seeing. Vacations like this are right up my alley because it allows me to see the outdoors ... which I love. It also allowed me to spend a lot of time doing some really fun things with my family. I have to admit, though ... I feel like I need a vacation from the vacation! I'm moving a little slow today.

The above picture is from Chimney Top trail. It was a 4 mile hike (round trip) and was one of the most amazing hikes I've been on. I had Mercy on my back the entire time in our Kelty Pack. She had not been in the Kelty Pack before and wasn't a big fan at first. But, she soon learned that the Kelty Pack meant getting a lollipop and she eventually grew to love the thing. :) The first mile of Chimney Top trail was difficult ... the second mile was "Oh, my word, when will it end" difficult. :) It was incredibly steep and described as "strenuous" on the hiking map. But, it was so much fun to have my daughter strapped to my back and doing this hike with her. When we started the second mile, there was nobody else with us and I just had so much fun with her enjoying God's creation and getting an amazing workout! Plus, she just babbled the entire time and it was so cute. To date, it was my favorite time with her.

We also went to Dollywood and could not have chosen a more hot and humid day to do this! When we left at 3pm, it was 97 degrees, but it was still a fun time with our family. Ezra was able to ride his first rides and he just loved it! His favorite part, though, was the children's area where they had these air guns that looked like canons. He played there for the longest time and we had so much fun together. He shot the gun ... I was the "go-fer" ... because he kept on saying, "Dad, can you get more balls." Dollywood is a pretty amazing place, that's for sure, with lots of fun things for the family. Carol's words to Ezra when we entered Dollywood were: "Ezra, this is not a place where you pull down your pants and pee outside." :) He's such a boy.

The picture above is from Clingman's Dome .... a nice mile hike with a tower at the top. It's the highest point in the Smokey's at 6,643 feet.

We found a really cool looking log cabin on one of our hikes also. Here is Mercy showing off her cuteness. :)

This pic pretty much sums up how we are all feeling at the moment. :)

I love vacations with my family! I love being able to be with them for a week and just enjoy them. And, I'm convinced that our family needs to do a vacation like this at least once a year ... a vacation where we really get to enjoy the outdoors. I loved hiking with Ezra and just talking to him about how God created everything he sees. We also did some horseback riding and went to an aquarium.

Although a bit tired today, I'm feeling refreshed and ready to kick it in gear for our fall ministry.

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