Monday, November 29, 2010

Favorite Leslie Nielsen Quotes

I loved your work, Leslie Nielsen. You will be missed. In honor of you ...

5. "Jane, since I've met you, I've noticed things that I never knew were there before... birds singing, dew glistening on a newly formed leaf, stoplights."

4. Rumack: Can you fly this plane, and land it?

Ted Striker: Surely you can't be serious.

Rumack: I am serious... and don't call me Shirley.

3. "This is Frank Drebin, Police Squad. Throw down your guns, and come on out with your hands up. Or come on out, then throw down your guns, whichever way you wanna do it. Just remember the two key elements here: one, guns to be thrown down; two, come on out!"

2. Jane: Would you like a nightcap?
Frank: No thank you, I don't wear them.

1. Wilma, I promise you; whatever scum did this, not one man on this force will rest one minute before until he's behind bars. Now, let's grab a bite to eat.

Axis Wrap Up 11/24/10 - Pajama Night












We had a really fun night at axis last Wednesday. It was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and we just decided to have a fun night. We did a pajama theme and gave away a $50.00 and $25.00 gift card to the people wearing the best pairs. We also played a fun mashed potatoe game. You gotta have mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving!
We brought in some pizza and then had two options: 1) The movie To Save a Life. 2) Dodgeball in the gym.
Really, this was just a fun night with a ton of positive energy in the room. We had 10 first time visitors which really stunned me on the night before Thankgiving! I loved hanging out with our kids.


Monday Miscellaneous



I've finally awakened from my "turkey induced coma" long enough to jot down some thoughts. :) We had a great Thanksgiving as a family. We drove to Illinois and spent some time with Carol's sister's family. We had a wonderful Thanksgiving meal that was prepared by her children. Awesome! We left Friday evening and got our annual Peppermint Mocha for the drive home. That sort of "officially" kicks off the Christmas season for us. We also listened to Christmas music the entire way home. I love this time of year and it's Christmas music on the ipod from here on out. :)

We also got our family Christmas tree on Saturday. You can see the picture above.


While getting the tree, Ezra had more fun with the saw than anything else. He's such a boy!

Mercy's "pout" is incredibly hard to resist. She's already learned how to work it. :)


After naps we spent time decorating the tree and putting up decorations all over the house.
At the end of the day it was some pizza and then hot chocolate and candy canes while we watched Max and Ruby's Christmas. It was really a great weekend.
- One of my favorite actors, Leslie Nielsen, died yesterday. He's most famously known for his roles in the movies Airplane, The Naked Gun TV series, and The Nake Gun movies. If I were a comedic actor, I would probably be like Leslie Nielsen. His sense of comedic timing and his outrageously dry humor always made me laugh.
- We are getting ready for some really cool outreach opportunities here at Grace Community. On December 5th we'll be having an Angel Tree Christmas Party. Angel Tree is a ministry our Grace in Jail team has partnered with. People from our church have sponsored gifts for children whose parents are incarcerated in our local jail. We'll be having a huge party for them on the 5th and just trying to make it a special Christmas. We also have something called the Christmas Crunch Blitz coming up on Decemeber 11th. We'll be passing out free wrapping paper and ice scrapers to people at various locations throughout our town. Should be really fun.
- My Steelers pulled out another win yesterday ... but barely. A win is a win and you don't get style points. So, I'm just excited they pulled it out in over-time. Big game next week against the hated Baltimore Ravens!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

You Don't See This Everyday





My wife and I sat down for breakfast yesterday morning and came across something we had never seen before. We grabbed a banana that literally ended up being TWO bananas! I thought it was pretty cool and decided to take a couple pics. TWIN bananas! Who woulda thought.
Unfortunately we didn't get the tri-feckta with a double yolk and a double peanut ... but we're pretty happy with the twin bananas. :)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Feed My Starving Children










I was able to take a group of 8th graders to a Feed My Starving Children packing site in Schaumburg, IL, on Saturday. What a great experience! Our kids did an amazing job serving and really made it fun as well. What I love about FMSC is they do a great job explaining the importance behind doing what we are doing. They show pictures of kids who are starving and then show the difference their meals make in helping those kids. Incredibly dramatic stories! In two hours we made over 18,000 meals that will help feed over 50 kids. So worth it.

Communion as a Celebration




I really enjoyed these thoughts from Tom Avey. He is our National Fellowship Coordinator and was able to attend our Communion service last night. Communion is always a special service for us and we put a lot of effort in to it. To be honest ... it makes for a long day. It's planning an entirely different service on top of the 3 services we already do. Some of us are at the church from 6:00am until 1:30pm ... get a 2 hour break and then are back from 3:30pm to 8:00pm. It's a long day ... BUT SO WORTH IT! To remember what Jesus did for us ... to celebrate what awaits us as His followers ... yeah, totally worth it!
While attending communion services were always special when I was growing up, I never really remember saying that "Communion was just AWESOME!" That's what I'm able to say now. We really try to make it an experience ... a journey ... that has time for refection, time for prayer, time for serving, time for singing, time to open the Word, time for friendship, time for celebration ... it's about as all-inclusive a service that we have and it's just really cool to see so many people using so many different gifts to pull it off. It really helped set the tone for me as I begin a week leading in to Thanksgiving. I have so many reasons to be thankful.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Axis Wrap Up 11/17/10 Ask Us Anything









We had a great night at axis on Wednesday. This was our once a month student led night. I love these nights. I always learn from them and I'm always proud of our kids for stepping up and making things happen.
We had teenagers answer three questions that were submitted over our website: 1) When should I break up with someone? 2) What are the benefits of being abstinent? 3) Are smoking and drinking a sin. It was really cool to hear our students share their thoughts on these questions and they did a really good job explaining things.
We also had some really fun things going on. We gave away some sweet prizes like a Snuggie and a Justin Beiber 2011 calendar. :) We played a cool Minute to Win It game and we also gave an opportunity for kids to randomly share what God has been doing in their life.
Something really cool that happened at the end of our middle school time ... we ended a little earlier than I was anticipating for middle school, so I just jumped up on stage and asked kids if there were any questions they had on ... well ... anything. Man, our kids began asking some really good questions like "If a teenager gets pregnant should they give the baby up for adoption?" "When is divorce a sin?" "Is it wrong for guys to think sexual thoughts?" "Are 'mature' rated games wrong for junior highers to play?" Wow, they really laid the questions on me and it was cool to simply share openingly and honestly with our kids. Then, to wrap up the middle school time a couple of kids asked if they could give their testimony about what God has been doing in their life. It turned in to a pretty powerful time and I felt led to ask if there were any students who really felt like they needed prayer right now. Several students raised their hands. So, we surrounded those kids and laid hands on them and prayed for them. It really turned in to a special way to end the night and totally unexpected.
Next Week: Pajama Night!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Daddy Christmas Tips

I LOVED this post by Mark Driscoll on how dad's can really make Christmas special for their family. I've already started getting in the Christmas spirit by drinking a few Starbucks Peppermint Mochas already. I can't wait to put some of these tips to use:


1.Dad needs a plan for the holidays to ensure his family is loved and memories are made. Dad, what’s your plan?

2.Dad needs to ensure his family is giving generously during the holidays. Dad, who in need is your family going to adopt, bless, and serve?

3.Dad needs to carve out time for sacred events and experiences to build family traditions that are fun and point to Jesus. Dad, is your calendar ready for December?

4.Dad needs to not let the stress of the holidays, including money, cause him to be grumpy with Mom or the kids. Dad, how’s your joy?

5.Dad needs to make memories and not just give gifts. Dad, what special memories can you make this holiday season?

6.Dad needs to manage the extended family and friends during the holidays. Dad, who or what do you need to say “no” to?

7.Dad needs to schedule a big Christmas date with his daughter(s). Dad, what’s your big plan for the fancy Daddy-daughter date?

8.Dad needs to schedule guy time with his son(s). Dad, what are you and your son(s) going to do that is active, outdoors, and fun?

9.Dad needs to help get the house decorated. Dad, are you really a big help to Mom with getting things ready?

10.Dad needs to ensure there are some holiday smells and sounds. Dad, is Christmas music on the iPod, is the tree up, can you smell cookies and cider?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Phrases in Our Youth Ministry

I've been trying to be more intentional lately about using specific phrases in our youth ministry. It's an idea I learned in my communication classes ... the fact that people will remember one specific phrase or idea from a sermon rather than 3 to 5 outline bullet points. I've been trying to put that to work lately in an effort to create a specific "culture" in our ministry. They are:

1. Engage the Heart of God. I've been saying this lately to explain what happens when we worship. We engage God. We focus on Him and let Him know He's the "star of the show." And, it's not just with our music, but when we serve, when we reach out, when we do what God would have us do, we are engaging Him. That will always draw us closer to Him.

2. It Doesn't Just Happen. A phrase I try to use to explain to kids that if they want to grow in their relationship with God they have to be intentional about it. They have to take steps to do it because ... well ... it doesn't just happen.

3. Your Story May Be Exactly What Someone Needs to Hear. Lately I've been giving random opportunities for kids to talk about what God has been doing in their lives. I'm trying to help kids see that God is active. He's not just watching us from up in heaven. He wants to be active in our lives. And, so I let kids have the opportunity to share their story or to share what God is doing in their life. Our kids have really connected with this idea and God has really used it.

4. Embrace Jesus' Way of Life. It's the idea that following Jesus is not a prayer ... it's a way of life. You FOLLOW Jesus. You embrace His way of life.

Urban Hope Mission Trip

I spent the past few days in the West Kensington section of Philadelphia at a place called Urban Hope. Urban Hope is a ministry we support in inner-city Philly. It's about as far away a place from Goshen, IN, as it could possibly be ... and that's exactly why we went. Our teenagers got to see things and experience things that just wouldn't happen in Goshen. When you go there, you see people on the street corners selling drugs. While I was buying lunch at Jade's Palce (1 block away from Urban Hope) I saw 4 drug deals go down. It's sounds shocking, but it's just what goes on in that area and that is why Urban Hope is needed so badly there. This place is a LIGHT to that community and the people who serve at Urban Hope have chosen to be there, chosen to raise their families there, in order to reach that community for Jesus Christ. And, even though we often hear of the negative stuff that's happened in the area ... drugs, violence, addictions, abuse ... what we often don't hear about are the God things that are happening. God is really working in that area. People's lives are being changed. A church is rising up in that neighborhood and is making a statement: "This is no longer Satan's turf. We are taking it back!"

I know there are so many more "well-known" Christian leaders today. People who have huge churches and huge ministries and lots of followers on Facebook or Twitter or on their blogs. I'm all for that! I'm probably one of their followers. I love when people can make a difference like that for the Kingdom of God. But, man, some of the real heroes of our faith are people whose names you wouldn't recognize and they are working right there in inner-city Philadelphia at Urban Hope. When you see the area, when you see what goes on, and then you know that people have intentionally chosen to go there instead of move away from there ... wow! I'm humbled by that.

Our kids were AWESOME! I loved watching them serve and reach out to people. Seriously, I have been totally blown away by our kids so many times this year and this was definitely one of those times. We had a nice mix of teenagers ... some who've been on mission trips before and some who hadn't. But, they all really stepped up and allowed themselves to be stretched. I wish I had more pictures of them in "action" but it was kind of hard to serve and take pictures at the same time. So, the pictures I've posted below don't even begin to show exactly what they did. We primarily did three different things while we were there: 1) Fed the homeless and tried to have some spiritual conversations with them. 2) Prayer walked and prayed with people. 3) Installed smoke detectors in people's homes for "Fire Prevention Weekend." The smoke detectors were just an "in." The real goal was to build relationships and pray with people.



Our group at Urban Hope


Of course we ordered some Philly Cheese Steaks at Geno's.


Making sandwiches Friday night to take to some homeless people in the city.


On our way back we stopped in my hometown and stayed the night. We started out the next morning by taking a walk in the mountains to get some good exercise and enjoy some amazing scenery.
I loved seeing our kids in action and I loved seeing them build relationships together. One of the really cool things was that half of our group really didn't know each other. That changed by the end of the weekend and some great relationships were formed. And, can I just say that spending nearly 24 hours traveling with a group primarily made up of girls ... a riot! And, even more fun for the one teenage guy that went with us.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Youth Pastor ...

Every week we have the opportunity to impact the lives of teenagers that walk through our doors. Let's make the most of it! Their view of God is often shaped by what we say, how we respond, and what we do. Are they getting a clear picture of the God we are in love with? A few things that have been floating through my head:



- How well we listen to and engage our kids will have a greater impact than how well we speak or talk.

- Somewhere in your youth ministry is a teenager who needs to have a conversation with a caring adult. Will you be that adult?

- Sometimes you may only get 30 seconds with a teenager. If so, let it be 30 seconds where they felt absolutely cherished and treasured.

- You have one shot to be the youth pastor God has created you to be. One shot. Don't get distracted by your insecurities or by the numbers or by what the other person is doing down the street. Focus on what God wants to do in YOUR ministry. Follow His lead.

- Don't over entertain but under challenge.

- Be willing to call greatness out of your kids.

- Don't give out of an empty tank. Nuture your relationship with God. Nobody should care more about your own spiritual growth than you do.

- If you're frustrated because your kids aren't doing something ... lead them to do it. It's not that "My kids won't do _______________." Rather it's "I haven't led my kids to do ____________."

- Be positive. Start talking to yourself rather than listening to yourself.

- Let your kids know you're proud of them. Teenagers don't hear that enough.

- Your story may be exactly what they need to hear.

I'll say it again because it's a thought that has been on my heart so much lately. Every week we have the opportunity to impact the lives of teenagers that walk through our doors. What an awesome and humbling priviledge we have. Let's make the most of it.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Axis Wrap Up 11-3-10 Ask Us Anything










Normally I wouldn't talk about dating and dinosaurs on the same night in our youth ministry. Honestly, I would probably never talk about dinosaurs in our youth ministry! But, this night was different. It was the beginning of our Ask Us Anything series at axis. We are giving our kids a chance to Ask Us Anything by going to our website and submitting questions. On this night the questions were: "Should a middle schooler/high schooler be in a serious dating relationship?" and "How do dinosaurs fit in to the Bible?"
Really great questions. It made for a fun night trying to answer them. Here's a very brief version of how I tried to answer those questions.
Dating - I'm certainly not opposed to dating in any way. I also don't feel it's right to minimize the feelings a teenager may have for the person they are dating. Sometimes we just blow off their relationships by saying "You'll learn some day." or "You don't know what love is" ... things like that. But, the reality is, in their young lives these feelings are strong and we shouldn't minimize them. What I really tried to do was encourage kids to slow down. Relationships move so fast these days. Guy likes girl ... girl likes guy ... pretty soon they're moving faster than a NASCAR pit crew in their relationships. The reality that I tried to point out to our kids is that 99% of all teen dating relationships are not going to make it past high school. Are there exceptions? Certainly. A great couple that helps out in a youth ministry were high schools sweet hearts and have been married for 4 years now. But, they are the exception NOT the rule. Going in to a relationship with the idea that "This probably won't last" will really save teenagers a lot of heart ache and will save them from giving too much of themselves away emotionally and physically at this point in their lives. I encouraged them to realize there's nothing wrong with being friends and going out on group dates and doing stuff together like that. Be careful of the commitment at this point in your life. Be willing to take a deep breath and slow down. I also showed Taylor Swifts video for Fifteen because I think it has incredible dating advice in it.
Dinosaurs - We know they existed. We've seen the fossils. We've seen Jurassic Park. I honestly believe dinosaurs were talked about in the Bible. When I read that passage it sure sounds a whole lot more like a brontosaurus or something like that than and elephant or a hippo.
A person will typically fall on two sides when it comes to dinosaurs. 1) You'll believe they evolved over time, ruled the earth for approximately 140 millions years, and then became extinct approximately 65 million years ago. This is a world view that does not include God in it and because of that theories and answers to the evidence of dinosaurs will be based upon a world view that does not include God. 2) You'll believe that God created everything, and this would include the dinosaurs. That means dinosaurs lived when man lived, were actually on Noah's ark, and died out during the time the earth was being re-populated after the flood.
I believe in the latter. My worldview ... my beliefs ... include the God. I just think everything we see points to something greater than we are ... God.
Anyway, those are the "short" versions of how I tried to talk to our kids about these things. It was a fun and positive night for our youth ministry.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

God Provides

A couple of days ago we got a check from someone for $200.00. It was such a wonderful and random gift. Three days later we had to get some work done on our garage door because it just quit working. Come to find out both springs on the garage door were shot and needed replaced. The total cost: $196.00. God provided for us even before we knew we were going to need it.

We try to be faithful to God with what He has given us. We feel incredibly blessed and try to be a blessing to others as we can. Sure, if we didn't do that I'd probably have my student loans paid off by now and we'd be able to take a nicer vacation or buy some nicer things. But, where would that get us? Those are things that will not last and we feel that, as followers of Jesus, we are called to give back and invest in things that are making a difference. There have been countless instances where some unexpected financial burden has come up and some how, some way God just comes through for us and He has always used the generosity of others to make tha that happen. This was another of those times.

Thank you, God, for providing for us once again and for using the generosity of others to bless our lives. Please help us to always give back.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Stress and Recovery

We had an all-staff training day at Grace Community this morning and as part of our day we listened to a talk Bill Hybels gave on "Setting Ourselves Up for Optimum Performance." It was super good and I just want to briefly share some random thoughts from the talk:

- Pastors help lead the church and the church is the hope of the world. For that reason we need to seriously ask the question "What do I need to do to allow myself to be at my best."

- We limit ourselves by the way we live our lives. Our talent and abilities should be the only limits we have. Unfortunately, too many other things become limits for us.

- Stress is not a bad thing. Our bodies were created to handle stress. Stress is the stimulus for growth, but, we grow during the recovery times. So we need to intentionally schedule times for recovery in our lives. If we do not choose to do it our bodies will MAKE us do it.

- A great way to work is to work in "bursts." Have 60 to 70 minutes of intense, concentrated work. Then, take a "brain break." Go for a short walk. Make a phone call. Grab a healthy snack. Do something to disengage so you can then re-engage and go at it again.

- Being in ministry, we need to figure out a way to have an end to our day. We also need to figure out a way to have an end to our week. Separate yourself from your "work" day and your "work" week.

- Fitness is incredibly important. Christian leaders are very unaware of how our bodies work and because of that we often wonder why we can't focus. So, keep moving. Stay active. Get regular exercise because it increases our capacity at the end of the day and gives us more energy to use for God's work.

- When we are physically fit we hold up better under stressful situations. If we are not physically fit, smaller issues become bigger problems.

- Never forget about nutrition. A good rule of thumb: If I eat the right stuff 80% of the time I can eat the bad stuff 20% of the time.

- Glorify God with your body.

- We have almost total control over what we eat. Get out of the victim mentality. I'm never a victim of my eating choices.

- Create Structure. Create a Supportive Environment. Create Realistic Expectations.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Monday Miscellaneous

- So far, the adjustment of having three kids at the house is going great. We were so blessed to have Carol's mom with us last week. She was such a huge help and honestly made it easy at home for us. My mom will be coming out this week and it will be great to have her with us as well, so we've had lots of help so far with making the adjustment from two kids to three. We've been given some incredibly cute gifts, we've had meals made for us, and ... my favorite ... somebody gave us cookies! :) We've felt incredibly blessed these past 9 days.

- I love holding my baby! On Saturday, Torah fell asleep on my chest and I loved every single minute of it.

- Last week was a pretty busy week. Some counseling appointments, some hospital visits, prepping for axis, prepping for the sermon on Sunday ... definitely lots going on. This week looks to be busy also. We have two mission trips coming up in the next three weeks. I'm really excited about them ... just lots to do to get ready for them. I'm not the only one who struggles with it, but it's always hard to find the balance between family and ministry. I'm so thankful to work at a church where we are encouraged to focus on our family and where our lead pastor works incredibly hard but also encourages us to rest and focus on our families.

- A cool little "God moment" happened for me on Friday. We have a fire place at our home and we use it a lot in the winter to keep our house warm. We go through a few cords of wood every year. Anyway, the guy we typically get wood from is no longer doing it so I needed to find a place to get wood. I mentioned that to my wife earlier in the day and that same night someone texted me and said, "Hey, do you need some wood. I have two trees that need cut up." And then, I had several other people contact me the next day to say they had wood I could have or they knew of someone that could get wood for me. Yeah, I know it's just wood, but it was a small reminder to me of how God watches out for us and knows our needs.

- I was able to visit a lady in the hospital this past Saturday. I love how I go to the hospital to try to be an encouragement, but leave being the one who was encouraged.

- I've simply felt incredibly blessed in my life recently. The people in my life, the ways God has provided, my health, where God has placed me ... I've really felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude lately. I'm reminded of 1 Timothy 6:6 "Godliness with contentment is great gain." I find the more I seek to be Godly, the more content I feel. The more content I feel, the more Godly I often feel. Amazing how 6 words can have a profound impact on my life.

- I'm unfortunately not content with the Steelers loss last night. I stayed up to watch the game and was frustrated for most of the game. But, I'm glad I got to watch them play in prime time. I was all geared up with my jersey, my hat, and my Terrible Towel. My wife lauged at me.

Axis Wrap Up 10-27-10 What They Believe

We wrapped up our What They Believe series this last Wednesday night ... with a little bit of a twist. For the past three weeks I had been sharing about what other religions believe, but I would always wrap it up by talking about what we believe on the Bible, God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, Salvation, Heaven ... things like that. So, for three weeks our kids were getting some good theology and they were hearing the Gospel. Well, I decided to take this week to specifically share the Gospel with kids simply by talking to them about what we believe about Jesus Christ. Jesus made some amazing claims and, I'm not the first one to say it, but He was either: the biggest liar ever, completely crazy, or He was who He said He was ... God. I shared from the Bible about the claims Jesus made and how He backed up those claims and then simply shared why I've put my trust in Jesus Christ. I gave an opportunity for kids to respond to that and to make that decision themselves and we had 20 kids make some type of decision for Jesus ... either a first time commitment or some type of recommitment in their life. That was just during our middle school time! Woot Woot!

I had planned to do the same thing during our high school time, but the direction of how high school night changed during our testimony time. I've been trying to give more opportunities for kids to share their stories spontaneously. I want to create a sense of God's active presence in our lives and so I've been giving kids more opportunities to share. The thing I always tell our kids is that you never know when your story may be exactly what someone needs to hear. So, I opened up our testimony time expecting to hear two or three stories ... well, about 15 stories later God seemed to be moving and I just felt like God was saying just roll with this. It was a very powerful time and kids were really encouraging to each other. There were some awesome things that God is doing in the hearts of many of our kids!

We then wrapped our night up by taking an offering for Urban Hope, an inner-city ministry that we support and that we'll actually be taking a trip to in a couple of weeks. I was so proud of our kids! We raised nearly $300.00 to give to Urban Hope! Woo Hoo!

Next Week: Ask Us Anything

Security Video


Here's a video we showed at axis Wednesday night ... just in time for Halloween. It was some footage from the Link's security video. Be sure to turn up the volume so you can hear the voices in the background.

video

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