Friday, September 30, 2011

Axis Wrap Up - The Path

At the beginning of the year we did a series at axis called The Path ... the idea that the direction you choose to go will determine where you end up.  In our series opener we gave kids an opportunity to write down what they wanted to be known as by the end of the year.  We took pictures and have those pictures hung up around our building.  You can see some of the pictures right here.  Our church did the same thing at the beginning of the year with the theme Legacy.  It's October 1st tomorrow and with only 3 short months left this year, I wanted to ask our kids are they becoming who they wanted to be?  Are they setting themselves on a path that will take them where they want to go?

It was a good challenge and a hard challenge at the same time.  I really tried to convey the idea to our kids that every path will take them somewhere.  Some of it was funny.  Some of it was pretty convicting.  All of it was truth that I desperately wanted our kids to catch.  

During my entire teaching time I had all of the pictures of our teenagers and what they wrote down at the beginning of the year scrolling on the screen the entire time as a reminder ... are you on a path that is taking you where you want to go.  

We had some really fun elements during the night including "Cotton Eyed Joe" Just Dance, some prize give-a-ways, some great testimonies, and a very moving time of worship at the end of our night.  Below are some pictures from the night.

Football vs Baseball

In honor of the MLB playoffs starting and the NFL season in it's 4th week, thought I'd post this classic Football vs Baseball bit.  Funny stuff.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Baptisms at Grace

I was absolutely thrilled to see 51 people get baptized at Grace Community yesterday!  I just love celebrating when people take that step and I love how our church celebrates that step of obedience as well.  Baptism is a way to "go public" with your faith .... to let everyone know that you are embracing Jesus' way of life.  It's also a symbol of the forgiveness we have in Jesus Christ and how He makes us clean before God.  Yesterday was particularly cool because we had "planned" baptisms, but Pastor Jim also gave an opportunity for spontaneous baptisms as well ... a chance for people to go public.

One of the teenage girls in our youth ministry led the way for spontaneous baptisms.  I was so proud of her and loved seeing a teenager step up and lead in this.  

Dad's were able to baptize their children and you can see what a special moment it is.

I had an opportunity to baptize someone who is a volunteer in our youth ministry and also in my small group.  Really felt honored and humbled to have that opportunity.

At the end of each service, we give the church a chance to congratulate those who got baptized.  Baptism is a big deal and we try to make it a big deal at Grace.  I just love how our people respond and are just genuinely happy when people "take the plunge."

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Angel's Landing Hike ... Intense!

On our last full day in Utah we decided to do one of the more dangerous but best hikes in Zion National Park.  We tackled Angel's Landing.  The Angel's Landing hike is one of the most famous hikes in the world and we didn't want to miss the opportunity to do it.  Angel's Landing received it's name when explorers in the early 1900's were in the region.  When they saw this monolith, they said that it was so difficult to get to that only an angel could land there.  Round trip, the hike is 5 miles.  It's physically challenging and strenuous, but not overbearing. The first two miles to Scout's Lookout are filled with switchbacks and inclines.  It's not easy, but again, not overbearingly difficult. The real challenge is the mental battle that you face when you get to Scout's Lookout and face climbing the last 1/2 mile to Angel's landing.  The actual ascent to Angel's Landing consists of a narrow trail carved out of the rock with 1400 foot drop-offs on either side of you.  At points in the hike you are literally climbing straight up on the rocks and at other points you're walking on a narrow piece of the trail with nothing on either side of you except air and 1400 feet to the bottom! 

This is a video that shows a portion of the trail and gives a really good sense of what much of the hike is like.   The park has placed chains along much of the 1/2 mile ascent that you can hold on to for an added sense of security, but if you're afraid of heights, this hike is not for you.

Once to the top of Angel's Landing it was just amazing.  The view was absolutely incredible!  And, the sense of accomplishment you feel after doing the hike ... it's a good sense of pride. While at the top I thought of the workers who actually carved this trail and how difficult that must have been. I was also reminded of the 10 people who have died on this hike since 1983 and it left me with an eerie sense of "this hike isn't over until we reach the bottom."  For me personally, all of my senses were engaged and I felt so focused on getting myself and my wife back down that I nearly forgot to enjoy the moment of being at the top.  

Things got a bit interesting when we reached the top because it started to rain.  Making it to the top of Angel's Landing was challenging, but getting back down was just as challenging, if not more so.  And, the rain really added a new dimension because the rocks became a lot more slippery and even holding on to the chain proved difficult because it was very slippery as well.  But, thankfully we made it and would love the opportunity to do the hike again.

Me after finishing the entire 5 mile hike.  Both Carol and I were soaked from the rain, but we felt so exhilarated.

I believe this part of the trail is called Refrigerator Canyon.  It was shaded and cool and had a few different spots where you could climb and explore.  Above is me doing just that.

The view from Scout's Lookout.  

This is Carol and I at the top of Angel's Landing.  The view was amazing!

This is the view from the top of Angel's Landing.  At the lower right of the picture you can see Carol's shoe.  Only about 1400 feet to the bottom.  :)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Emerald Pools and Weeping Rock Hikes

On our 3rd day of vacation in Utah we decided to take some easier hikes.  The first two days were filled with hikes that lasted the entire day so we decided to take a few different shorter hikes on this day.  We spent some time at the Zion Lodge and also just looking around the Visitor Center.  But, we also did 4 smaller hikes ... the Lower, Middle, and Upper Emerald Pools and also to Weeping Rock.  The Emerald Pools made for a really pretty hike.  Getting to the Lower Pool was not difficult at all.  Most of it was on a paved path.  Once there, though, we were greeted by a small water fall that had a small pool of water at the bottom that was "greenish" in color ... hence the name Emerald Pool.  The scenery around the pool was very pretty and I can only imagine what it would look like after a rain storm because I'm sure the water fall would be much larger.  

Getting to the Middle and Upper Pools was a little more strenuous.  Lots of climbing, but the trail was very well marked.  And, again, the scenery on the way was really pretty.  We started our morning a little later than the previous two mornings and we were fully exposed to the sun on this hike, so even though these trails were not as strenuous as the ones we had been on the previous two days, it just felt hotter.

The Middle Pool was just a very shallow pool of water while the upper pool was larger and deeper and looked more like a small pond.  Honestly, we weren't that impressed with the middle pool but the Upper Pool was surrounded by large rocks that you could climb which was lots of fun.  Carol and I climbed up some large rocks, found a spot in the shade, and just sat for a while taking in the scenery.  

The Weeping Rock trail was a short 1/2 mile trail to the top, but very steep.  Weeping Rock is a large formation of rock that has a natural spring coming out of it year round.  Again, after a rain storm, I'm sure the amount of water coming out is much greater and would really make for some beautiful pictures.

We spent most of the day outside taking lighter walks and hikes and really enjoyed being active, but also giving our legs a bit of a rest.

The view from the start of our morning hike.

The small water fall at the Lower Emerald Pools.  This part of the Park was very pretty and is considered a "hidden treasure."

Our view from high atop the rocks at the Upper Pool.

The view from Weeping Rock

The entire area where we were standing was very wet from the natural spring coming out of the rock.  I would love to see this place after a rainstorm and see water just gushing from the spring.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Bryce Canyon Hike

During our trip to Zion National Park we discovered that we were only about 1 1/2 hours away from Bryce Canyon, so we took a trip there our second day in Utah and spent the day hiking through part of the canyon.  We had originally planned to ride through the canyon on horseback, but decided we wanted to have a more "hands on" or should I say "feet on" experience.  So, we hike and we were both so glad we did.  We were at an elevation of over 7000 feet at Bryce Canyon.  We loved looking at what God had created and just stood in awe at so many different parts of the day.  We were able to hike to both one of the highest points of the canyon and to one of the lowest points of the canyon, so it was a full day for us.

The weather was perfect for most of the morning and into the early afternoon, but we noticed that temperatures would quickly change depending on what part of the canyon we were in.  While walking to the bottom of the canyon it was fairly cool because the rock around us provided a lot of shade.  But, once in the bottom of the canyon we were in the full presence of the sun and it definitely got hotter.  Not overwhelmingly hot, but I was definitely working up a sweat.  We were able to get our 5 hour hike in just before a thunderstorm arrived, which caused a dramatic drop in temperature.  A thunderstorm at Bryce Canyon is a pretty amazing thing to watch.  You can see the storm coming in and the lightning far off in the distance is spectacular to watch.  

If we are ever able to go again, we would definitely take the 18 mile drive around the canyon so we could see everything and would consider spending a night so we could see more of the canyon.  

We were surrounded by the "hoodoos" the entire day.

Walking to the bottom of the canyon was one of our favorite parts of the hike and when we finally reached the bottom, we were greeted by a narrow slot with high walls of rock on both sides.  It was an incredible sight!

This was part of our view from the spot at the bottom of the canyon where we had lunch.

The view from "Inspiration Point."  I thought it sounded like a place to "make out" and so I made the offer to my wife ... she didn't fall for it.  :)

While at the bottom of the canyon, this was pretty much our view the entire time.  It really was an incredible view and we loved being able to experience it on foot because we felt like we were part of the canyon ... which I guess we were.  Definitely worth the trip!

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Narrows Hike

While in Utah on vacation we did several hikes.  Our hike through The Narrows was our first one and really set the tone for us the rest of the week.  There are a few different ways to do this hike ranging from a few hours to a few days.  We hiked 7 miles and we went from approximately 9am to 3pm, with a nice stop for lunch.

About 75% of the hike is through the Virgin River.  The water was about 65degrees and the depth of it went anywhere from ankle deep to over our heads.  Cardiovascularly it wasn't incredibly difficult, but you really did have to watch your step in the river and by the end of our hike, both my wife's legs and my legs were fairly tired from walking upstream and downstream ... both of which have their own unique challenges.

The scenery was just amazing!  Again, it was the first hike of our vacation and I can't really imagine a better way to start our hiking in Utah.  The rock formations themselves were just amazing, but then you combine that with the sun hitting the rocks ... well, seriously ... breathtaking.  

On our hike up the river we encountered a few spots where the water was up to our chests.  On the way down, we actually floated through those really high sections which was really a lot of fun ... once getting past the chill of the water.  If you do the longer hike you'll also need some special shoe wear, a walking stick, and a "dry bag" ... all things you can rent from a great place called Zion Adventures.  

What we really enjoyed most was doing the hike together and we really liked the variety of things we encountered.  Some of it was on dry land, some climbing over rocks, some in low water, some in high water ... it just gave us a fresh variety and made everything so much fun.  If we ever go back, our plan is to take the 2 day hike and spend time camping while we do it.

We loved being surrounded by the river and the rock.

This part of the hike was close to the junction of Orderville Canyon and Wall Street ... two of the really breath taking parts of the hike.  We had lunch at the junction and it was by far the best view we've ever had while eating a lunch.  Really made the peanut butter and jelly taste good.

If we weren't in the water or walking on sand, we were climbing over rocks ... lots of rocks.  Again, the variety of what we were hiking on really kept things fresh.

Axis Wrap Up - Whatever It Takes to Reach People

We wrapped up our Whatever It Takes series this past Wednesday at axis with the challenge of doing whatever it takes to reach people for Jesus.  Pastor Jeremy shared on this night and did a great job of explaining that it's just natural for people whose lives have been changed by Jesus to want to share their story.  He confronted a lot of the fears that people have about sharing their story and challenged us to simply be willing to walk through those things and talk about the difference Jesus has made in our lives.  

He spoke from Luke 5:1 - 11 and shared how Jesus makes us fishers of men.  He talked about many of the frustrations of fishing and said that when we talk to others about Jesus we'll experience many of those same frustrations.  But, it's always a "win" when we do.  

We wrapped up our night by challenging our kids to write the names of friends who they want to try to reach or at least invite to axis on bobbers.  It was a great way to finish up our night.

We had several fun elements throughout the night but one was 2 of our kids dressing up in costumes and greeting everyone at the doors.

Some of our kids watching a fun game we did at the beginning called "Hawk a Sausage."  Yep ... pretty much just spitting sausage out of your mouth.  Lots of fun!

Reading through Luke 5:1 - 11.

Jeremy wrapping up the night by challenging us to "get our lines in the water."

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Our Utah Vacation

It's been a while since the last entry and that's because my wife and I were away for the past nine days on vacation and I wanted to take a "tech fast" while I was gone.  Carol surprised me in June by telling me she had planned a trip to Utah for just the two of us to celebrate my 40th birthday.  We spent 5 days in Utah hiking and it was simply amazing.  Most of our time was spent at Zion National Park with a day trip to Bryce Canyon as well.  We had a very active vacation filled with hiking at least 5 miles per day and we were able to experience God's creation hands on.  It was so refreshing.  I plan to write more about each of our hikes over the next couple of days but for now here are a few pictures from the vacation.

Hiking to the bottom of Bryce Canyon.  We spent the entire morning and afternoon hiking the canyon. It was so much fun.

This is me at the top of Angel's Landing.  Angel's Landing is a nearly 6 mile hike (round trip) strenuous hike that is, to say the least, intense.  Since 1983, 10 people have sadly died on this hike because they've fallen off of the cliffs we hiked on.  

This hike was through the Narrows.  75% of the hike was in the 65 degree Virgin River.  So fun!

It's called The Narrows because you're surrounded by rock on both sides ... as you can see.  This was our first hike of the week and both Carol and I felt like we "came alive" on this hike.  It was so refreshing and adventurous.  

From the top of Angel's Landing.  You can see Carol's shoe in the bottom right corner.  It's about a 1500 foot drop from there.  That was one of our favorite hikes!

We've both come back refreshed from our trip and just loved the time away with each other.  It's not often that we are away from our 3 kids, but on this trip we were and I felt like we made the absolute most of every day that we were away.  By the end of each day we were both exhausted, but it was the sort of exhaustion that you feel good about ... knowing we didn't waste any time but made the most of our moment together.  It was an amazing trip and I wouldnt' have wanted to do it with anyone else other than my beautiful wife.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Whatever It Takes to Serve

We had a really fun night at axis Wednesday as we continued our Whatever It Takes series.  We spent time talking about doing whatever it takes to serve.  As followers of Jesus, certain things should set us apart.  One of those things is how we help others.  We can stand out by how we help out.  We looked at Mark 9:33 - 35 and talked about how embracing Jesus' way of life means we embrace a life of serving others and putting our own wants and desires aside in an effort to help others.  We watched this video which is an incredibly inspiring video of someone willing to sacrifice to help another. 

I also used the illustration of holding a mirror in front of me.  As long as I hold a mirror in front of myself, the only person I see is me ... I don't see "you."  But, once I put the mirror down, my eyes are taken off of myself and now I see "you."  I used that illustration to discuss the idea that as long as we are only focused on ourselves, we'll never be servants and never living life the way Jesus asks us to live.

We also sent a team of students and adults out to "bless" somebody.  It was totally random and kids were chosen on the spot by one of our adults.  They went out in to town and tried to creatively serve someone.  It was really cool to hear their stories when they got back.

Next Week:  Do Whatever It Takes to Surround Yourself with Positive Influences.

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