Wednesday, November 23, 2011

My Indiana Tough Mudder Gear

When I was training for the Indiana Tough Mudder, I found it really helpful to go to the blogs of people who had did one previously and learn about their experience and what type of stuff they wore the day of the race.  So, thought I'd do the same and hopefully it will be helpful for someone out there getting ready for one of the best experiences they could ever have ... a Tough Mudder.

The Indiana Mudder was cold.  I don't have quite the physique to run shirtless (without causing someone around me to throw up in their mouths) haha ... so I was looking for some cold weather gear.  The UnderArmour Cold Weather Leggings were a huge help for me.  They kept me warm, kept my legs from getting really scracthed up, and honestly were just really comfortable to wear.

The UnderArmour Cold Gear Compression Mock was a great shirt for me also.  I had never owned a compression shirt before and, not only did it keep me very warm during the race, but it was very comfortable.  I could barely tell that I was wearing it.  I also wore one of my running shirts over top of it.  

You never know what to expect from a November in Indiana.  I was anticipating the temperature to be very cold.  When we started the race, it was in the 30's, but warmed up as our time went on.  But, the wind was very chilly and, combine that with all of the water obstacles ... I definitely wanted to be warm.  So, I also decided to buy an Under Armour Cold Gear Hood.  It was really helpful and dried out quickly after the water obstacles.  When I got hot (which was only the first mile of the Mudder because we hadn't been in the water yet) I just pulled it down.  Once we started getting wet, I pulled it back over my head and kept it there the rest of the race.  

Gloves were a concern for me.  I was diagnosed with cancer in 2007 and went through 7 months of chemotherapy treatments.  Ever since that time, my hands and feet have been very sensitive to the cold (one of the gifts of chemo that keeps on giving).  So, I wanted a glove that I was confident would keep my hands warm, but also one that would allow me to have full use of my hands and fingers.  I settled for the UnderArmour Cold Gear Liner Gloves.  My hands only got cold after being fully submerged in the water.  But, the gloves dried out quickly.  That combined with simply the desire to keep moving, kept my hands and fingers fairly warm.  The grip of the glove was adequate.  Not great.  Not awful.  My only real complaint with the gloves is that is was hard to get the mud off of them.  Really, the only thing that would remove the mud was when I'd get in the water.  I liked the purchase, but would consider using another glove for future Mudders.

Part of my training for the Mudder involved running through a retention pond on our church's property and also running through a creek at a local spillway.  Most of the times it was done early in the morning and was very cold.  At first, I only had running socks and I noticed that my feet would get really, really cold after being in the water and that the socks didn't wick the water away as much as I had hoped.  A friend of mine then suggested wool socks.  So, I got a pair of those and was really pleased with how they worked.  The only time my feet got cold during the Mudder was when we did a part called the Frozen Forrest.  We were literally in waist deep water for 15 to 20 minutes.  By the end of that I was pretty cold.  But, overall, the wool socks were awesome.  I purchased the Pearl Izumi Infinity Trail Sock

A few other things that I found helpful ... Body Glide Anti Chaffing, Band-aids (sounds gross, but on the nipples), and a pair of ear plugs.  Much of the heat that is lost from the body is lost through the ears.  So, I just wore a pair of ear plugs throughout the race.  My shoes were simply a pair of road running shoes that I had worn for my marathon last year.  I had debated on whether or not to buy a pair of trail shoes, but decided against it ... honestly because I didn't have the extra $80 to $100 to get them.  But, next time I think I would invest in a good pair of trail shoes.

Overall, I was very happy with all of my gear.  I didn't really get cold at all until after the race when I was just standing around waiting to get my bag.  Gloves and shoes are the only thing I would change about what I wore.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Video Recap of Indiana Tough Mudder

A video of me and the rest of our church staff doing the Indiana Tough Mudder.

Tough Mudder 2011- I Am Legacy Grace Community Church Staff Team from Grace Community Church on Vimeo.

Indiana Tough Mudder Recap

Four months ago when I was challenged to do the Indiana Tough Mudder I remember thinking to myself ... "I'm not sure I can do that."  But, as I sit here and reflect on it all, I realize that it wasn't a matter of not being ABLE to do it, but simply not WANTING to do it.  There's a huge difference.  In all honesty, I probably would not have chosen to do it on my own, but I was challenged by a group of guys that I have the utmost respect for and would go to battle with them any day of the week.  And, when they chose to battle the Tough Mudder, I wasn't going to allow them to do it without me.  So, I sit here two days after becoming an official "Tough Mudder" with, not only a fair amount of soreness, but also an incredible sense of accomplishment.  I, along with my teammates, am a Tough Mudder!  Below is a recap of the Mudder.  I tried to remember everything as accurately as I could, but honestly, some of the obstacles are a bit jumbled in my memory.  But, this will give you a pretty clear description of one of the most amazing experiences of my life.  Some of the pictures below are of our team and some are simply from the Tough Mudder facebook page.

This was the start of the race.  It was so motivating.  The music, the Star Spangled Banner, the talk from one of the workers ... seriously, I was ready to run in to a wall afterwards because I was so pumped up.  One of the lines I'll never forget:  "This course was designed to hurt you."  That, right away, gave me a respect for the challenge ahead of me.

We started out with a fun, but pretty difficult run.  I was so charged up from the start of the race, but it took about the first 1/2 mile to suck that out of me.  If you think there are not hills in Indiana, just visit the Attica Badlands and you'll think differently.  The hills, many of them simply sand, really were a challenge and got you warmed up quickly.  That's me in the red shirt and black hoodie, by the way, running next to my teammate Jim.

This was CLIFHanger ... the first real obstacle we encountered.  It was just one very steep and very muddy hill.  Most people needed a boost from behind or a hand to grab on to above to make it up.

After the difficult run and hill, we came to the Kiss of Mudd.  Barbed wire above, nothing but mud underneath.  Honestly, this was a fun obstacle, we all came out about 5 pounds heavier because of the mud that was caked on us.

After that came the Chernobyl Jacuzzi.  The good news ... it washed all the mud off.  The bad news ... it was absolutely freezing!  It was basically a dumpster filled with about 4 1/2 feet of ice water.  Half way through the obstacle is a board that you have to duck under, so you have no choice but to entirely submerse your body.  I really mentally prepared myself for this so when I took the initial jump in with my teammate Jon, I didn't really feel all the bone chilling cold ... but I think that was probably just because my body went in to shock!  Once I had to submerge my head, though, the cold really started to sink in and my only thought was "Get to the other side as fast as possible!"  

After that, you really needed to start moving or you'd freeze up very quickly.  So we started a brisk run with numb bodies and made it to the next obstacle ... Log Jammin'.  We had to climb over a series of very high logs.  Again, tough, but fun, with lots of teamwork.

Next up was the Swamp Stomp.  Up to that point in my life, it was the thickest mud I had ever seen or been in.  I don't know how long we were in it, but it seemed like forever!  Seriously, the mud just seemingly sucked every part of your body in to it.  I was next to a girl who was literally stuck in the mud ... stuck ... could not move.  We leave no "mudder" behind so for the next few minutes I would grab her foot and pull it out of the mud so she could take a step.  We then repeated this process for several minutes until she was able to go on her own.


From there we came to the Berlin Walls.  There were several sets of these walls throughout the course.  I believe the walls were 12 feet high.  Throughout the course there would sometimes only be one wall or there would be two or three sets of walls you had to climb over.  That's me in the red with my teammate Kirt helping me over.  I was glad to get over each wall but they were a challenge and became more challenging the  longer we were on the course.  At the second set of walls we came to, someone had fallen and was seriously hurt.  Our team took some time to pray for this person.  I'm not sure what happened, but sure hope he is OK.

Boulderdash was just a series of boulders and man-built obstacles to get through.

Creek Crusade was just a long run through a creek.  Actually pretty fun and just felt like being a kid running through the water ... except it was really cold and I was covered with mud.

After that we rounded a corner on our run and I saw what was next ... Walk the Plank.  This was the biggest mental obstacle for me of the entire race.  I'm 40 years old and just learned how to swim this year because I knew I had to know how to swim to be a part of the Mudder.  I also knew that I had a very large fear of water and I did not want fear to be a part of my family and I didn't want to pass that on to my kids.  You can read about me learning how to swim right here.  Throughout the weeks leading up to the Mudder I had been visualizing myself jumping off that 15 to 20 foot platform.  I prayed about it often.  I didn't ask God to take the fear away, but I simply asked for the courage to walk through it.  When we got to the obstacle you had to use a rope to climb to the top of the platform.  When I got to the top, there was a lady in front of me who was freaking out.  I remember thinking to myself "This is NOT what I need to see right now."  I realized that she wasn't going to go, so I got around her, looked to see if it was clear and then went to jump.  But, right when I reached the edge my legs just stopped.  I don't think I consciously stopped them ... they just stopped as if to tell me "What you talkin' 'bout, Willis?" (Different Strokes reference for the day).  So, I stood there and re-grouped my thoughts and verbally spoke the words "I will not be afraid."  I thought about my kids and the legacy I want to leave for them of walking through fear.  So I jumped off and felt like I was falling from the Empire State Building.  I don't know how far I was in the water, but it seemed like it took an eternity to reach the top.  Once I reached the surface, I tried to take a breath, but the water was so incredibly cold that it literally took my breath away and I couldn't breath.  I started to swim as best as I could but was really amazed at how difficult it was for me to get through the cold water.  Everything on me was moving in slow motion.  I must have been swimming for the next 20 years or so because it felt like it took that long to reach the shore.  But, once I did and got out, even though I was so cold, the sense of accomplishment I felt created this warmth all over my body.  I knew I had conquered my biggest fear of the course ... and it was AWESOME!

Next up was the Boa Constrictor ... a series of drainage tubes leading in to cold water.  You went down a set in to the water and then up a set out of the water.

The "Turds Next" was next.  A cargo net you had to get across.  I chose to log roll through most of it and then bear crawl the last few feet when I needed to get to the platform on the other side.

Then came the Mud Mile.  I thought I had experienced the thickest mud of my life in the Swamp Stomp until I came to this part of the course.  I had never seen anything like this in my life!  It just stopped you in your tracks!  My thought was to get a good head of steam and try to get through it as fast as I could.  So, I started running, hit the mud, and then immediately lost my left shoe.  So, I had to get through the rest of the Mud Mile with one shoe on.  When I got to the end, it took 5 to 10 minutes to get my shoe untied and put back on.  My hands and the hands of everyone on our team were so cold that you just couldn't use them normally.  I was so angry because I was slowing down our team.  I was thankful that they were so helpful and didn't curse my name ... to my face anyway.  :)

We did a bit of a longer run through the woods (Frozen Forrest) in which we spent probably 20 minutes in water that was up to our waist.  It really started to get very cold, but we all got through it.  We then came to the Hay Bale Pyramids ... a series of very high hay bales we had to get over.  I actually enjoyed this one.

Hold Your Wood was just an obstacle where we had to grab a log and then carry it up a large hill.

We then had some more Walls to get over and also the Spider Web ... a large net we had to get through while climbing up a steep hill ... and then we came to our mystery obstacle.  About 50 feet of nothing but ice that you had to crawl through because there were live wires about 18 inches above.  This was the first electricity we encountered on the course.  For me, everything started out fine.  Started crawling through the ice and it was incredibly cold.  I got to about the mid-way point when, the next thing I know, I look up and it seemed like I was looking through a set of binoculars backwards.  Everything seemed far away and tunnel like.  I remember thinking "I'm done.  That wasn't too bad."  And, then I realized that I was still in the middle of the obstacle.  As things started to clear up in my head I realized "Wow.  I just got blacked out by one of the wires.  That was pretty cool!"  One of the wires hit me in the head and completely blacked me out.  Not sure for how long, but it definitely gave me a greater respect for this obstacle and the one to come at the end. I made my way through the rest of this getting hit with wires about three other times in the back and shoulders.  This was incredibly cold and I just wanted to get out of there.  My other teammate Jeff also got knocked out on this one.

Another run and then the Funky Monkey Bars.  That's me in the red.  I made it to about bar number 6 and promptly fell in to the water.  I was pretty tired up to this point and really thought I'd be able to make it at least half way.  This one totally kicked my butt.

A run through the Fire Walker obstacle, which really wasn't that bad, and by that time I was so cold that I just wanted to stand by one of the fires and warm up.  But, I was nearing the finish and wanted to get there as quickly as possible.

I'm not sure what this obstacle was called, but it just sucked!  Freezing cold water up to my chest and the footing beneath was so uneven.  I just kept on falling and at this point in the race was just tired of being wet.  It was a bit frustrating for me, but I got through it and was happy to be done with that one.

After the previous water obstacle you had to run up and down a series of hills.  When I rounded a corner I saw Everest and for the first time of the entire race I saw and obstacle and mentally said "Oh no."  That half pipe looked to be about 100 feet high!  This was my major butt kicking of the course.  Above you can see my teammate Jeremiah getting up.  The idea was to run as fast as you could, take a leap and then hopefully grab the top and pull yourself up or latch on to a set of arms and have some help getting up.  When it was my turn, I ran as fast as I could and about 1 foot before I reached the half-pipe, my foot hit a rock and I twisted my ankle and lost all my momentum.  I continued to run and then jump and didn't come close to a hand or to the top.  Once you fully commit to jumping and don't make it, your body just slams in to the half-pipe and you do, what I like to call the "Slide of Shame" back down to the bottom.  I tried 3 separate times and each time just slammed my body in to that half-pipe and wasn't even coming close to a hand.  That last time I hit my knee super hard.  Man, did that hurt.  Anyway, I conceded that obstacle.  If I would have been coming reasonably close to a hand I think I would have kept trying, but, seriously, it wasn't even close.  I was not going to get up it that way.  I'm the only one on my team who couldn't complete that obstacle and, even now it just really doesn't sit well with me.  I know I tried.  I know I gave it my best efforts, but I really wanted to get to the top.

One last crawl through mud and under barbed wire.  That's me in the first red shirt with my teammate Jeremy in the camo behind me and Jon in the black hoodie to my left.  

The last obstacle was Electroshock Therapy.  After being knocked out before, I had a new found respect for those wires and decided the best way to get through was just to go as fast as I could. I got zapped 3 or 4 times but all in the shoulder and chest.  Whatever part gets hit just sorta goes limp for a moment, but if I didn't get knocked down I was just going to plow through ... which is what I did.

Overall, this was just one of the most amazing experiences of my life.  I've done half-marathons and I did my first marathon last year.  All, the marathon especially, left me with an amazing sense of accomplishment.  It just felt good to be challenged.  But, the Tough Mudder is an entirely different animal.  I was challenged, I think, in every way possible ... mentally, spiritually, and physically.  I had to face one of my major fears.  I had to overcome the elements ... I'm not sure what the temperature was, but it was probably in the 30's when we started.  But, the wind made it seem much colder.  So, in every way I was challenged and knowing that I made it through and got that head band ... I've never worn a head band with more pride in my life.  I, and everyone on our team, EARNED that thing.  The best part for me was doing it with guys I love.  We all helped each other and challenged each other and pushed each other.  Knowing we did it together and having that shared experience is priceless.  I think the best thing we all had going for us was that not completing the course wasn't even an option.  Dropping out was not even though about.  We all had the will to finish and we all helped each other finish and I'm so thankful for the guys that were on my team.  I really had to lean on God with the water obstacle and was constantly asking Him for courage.  The day of the race I got up at 3am and was getting ready and was able to spend some time praying.  I, once again, asked for courage, and I really felt like I heard the Holy Spirit say to me "I've already given it to you.  Stop asking already and just go do it."  That was sort of God's butt kicking to me in the morning and I needed it.  If you ever have a chance to do a Mudder, take the opportunity.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Navy Seal Creed

Came across the Navy Seal Creed this past week and was so inspired after reading it.  If you're looking for some motivation, read below:
"In times of war or uncertainty there is a special breed of warrior ready to answer our Nation’s call. A common man with uncommon desire to succeed.
Forged by adversity, he stands alongside America’s finest special operations forces to serve his country, the American people, and protect their way of life.
I am that man.
My Trident is a symbol of honor and heritage. Bestowed upon me by the heroes that have gone before, it embodies the trust of those I have sworn to protect. By wearing the Trident I accept the responsibility of my chosen profession and way of life. It is a privilege that I must earn every day.
My loyalty to Country and Team is beyond reproach. I humbly serve as a guardian to my fellow Americans always ready to defend those who are unable to defend themselves. I do not advertise the nature of my work, nor seek recognition for my actions. I voluntarily accept the inherent hazards of my profession, placing the welfare and security of others before my own.
I serve with honor on and off the battlefield. The ability to control my emotions and my actions, regardless of circumstance, sets me apart from other men.
Uncompromising integrity is my standard. My character and honor are steadfast. My word is my bond.
We expect to lead and be led. In the absence of orders I will take charge, lead my teammates and accomplish the mission. I lead by example in all situations.
I will never quit. I persevere and thrive on adversity. My Nation expects me to be physically harder and mentally stronger than my enemies. If knocked down, I will get back up, every time. I will draw on every remaining ounce of strength to protect my teammates and to accomplish our mission. I am never out of the fight.
We demand discipline. We expect innovation. The lives of my teammates and the success of our mission depend on me – my technical skill, tactical proficiency, and attention to detail. My training is never complete.
We train for war and fight to win. I stand ready to bring the full spectrum of combat power to bear in order to achieve my mission and the goals established by my country. The execution of my duties will be swift and violent when required yet guided by the very principles that I serve to defend.
Brave men have fought and died building the proud tradition and feared reputation that I am bound to uphold. In the worst of conditions, the legacy of my teammates steadies my resolve and silently guides my every deed.
I will not fail."

Axis Wrap Up - How to Raise Your Parents

Over the past two weeks we've been talking about our families at axis.  Both weeks I told our students that if their parents were here, I'd be talking to the parents about their role and responsibility in their family.  But, since parents were not there, that meant I was going to talk to our teenagers about their role and responsibility in their family.  Families work best when both parents and teenagers are fulfilling their roles and taking responsibility for what they can take responsibility for.

I wrapped up the series this past Wednesday by looking at three of our teenagers absolute FAVORITE verses (insert sarcasm) ... "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  Honor your father and mother - which is the first commandment with a promise - that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth."  Ephesians 6:1 - 3.  The basic thought was that God says teenagers have a role and responsibility in their family:  1) To obey.  2) To honor.  Not very popular, but again, families work best when we are fulfilling our God-given roles.  I know that some teenagers often feel that the word "obey" is a dirty 4-letter word.  Part of being a teenager means that there is a desire for independence, a desire to find out and explore things on their own ... and that's healthy.  But, tension often occurs when a teenager's desire for independence conflicts with a parents responsibility to set up guidelines for their kids to follow.  I worked hard at trying to explain to our kids that their parents are not the enemy.  That parents do not set up boundaries and guidelines to ruin their lives but to help them develop in to God-loving, self-less, responsible teenagers and adults.  When done in the right way, the guidelines parents set up are there to teach and to protect.  We obey because it's "right" (Ephesians 6:1 - 3) and because it pleases God (Colossians 3:20).

Secondly, a teenager has a responsibility to honor their parents.  Honoring goes so much deeper than simply obeying your parents.  You can obey and NOT honor your parents if your obedience is done half-heartedly or disrespectfully.  (I've never did that).  :)  But, to honor means to show parents love and respect and to try to bring honor to them by how you live your life.  Some volunteers in our youth ministry told me one time that when their kids leave the house they always tell them "Remember who you are" ... meaning represent your family well and, even more importantly, represent Jesus well.  Honor is something we can give freely, but we have to choose to do it.  Again, God says families work best when teenagers fulfill their role and show honor to their parents.

It was a really good night.  Lots of fun with some Just Dance and a game called Turkey Toss.  And, we also got to hear from our team that went to Urban Hope in inner-city Philadelphia.  Next week is just a fun night with a Super Hero theme, a movie, some dodge ball, and pizza and wings.  Just a fun way to get ready for the holiday.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Penn State Scandal

Yep.  That's me.  18 years ago I was a freshman at Penn State University.  I absolutely loved my time at Penn State and have always carried a sense of pride, as most people do, thinking about the diploma I earned from my alma mater.  I love to start or finish the cheer "WE ARE ... PENN STATE" and I bleed "blue and white."  

For that reason, the sexual abuse scandal that has rocked my university has also shaken my personal world.  I was an athletic training major at Penn State.  I worked briefly with the football team.  I walked around the same locker room that Jerry Sandusky allegedly sexually abused children.  I walked the same hallways as Joe Paterno and would occasionally walk passed him.  Mike McQueary was the quarterback of the Nittany Lions while I was there.  And, although I really had no personal relationship with any of those people, the measure of respect I had for them was very high.  

It's hard to describe how people at Penn State viewed Jerry Sandusky and Joe Paterno.  "Joe Pa" was the moral compass of our campus ... the all-time winningest coach in college football but a coach who always put the athlete ahead of the program ... a coach who did things the "right way" and had more than just athletic standards for those on his team ... a man who donated millions to the university and lived in a very humble home outside of campus ... a grandfatherly figure full of wisdom and integrity.

And, Jerry Sandusky, although not on the same level as "Joe Pa," was still a legend on campus.  He was the man who coached some of the best defenses in the country during his tenure as defensive coordinator and was described as the type of neighbor you'd like to have because of his kindness and generosity.

So, when the news broke, it's difficult to describe how I felt.  The best way I can describe it is to say that it felt like one of my own relatives was involved in this.  That's the bond these men had with the graduates of Penn State.  It's been a week since all of this has come out and yet I'm still in a state of disbelief ... especially as I hear more and more about the allegations and the fact that people could basically sit by and do nothing after knowing these things were going on.  Shocked.  Horrified.  Angry.

I sit in a position where I work with young people.  I've dedicated the past nine and half years of my life to investing in the lives of teenagers.  Over the years I've had to make those phone calls to Child Protective Services.  It sucks, but I'm going to do what I have a responsibility to do.  It's hard for me to understand how, first, someone could sexually abuse a child, and then second how someone could know about it and yet let it slide on by.  

I'm still processing it all and have been thinking through what I can learn from this as a youth pastor.  I think there are several lessons to be learned and I hope to post that some time soon.  But, for now, my heart breaks for the victims.  It's one thing to be victimized ... but then to be victimized again by the lack of response by people who seemed to know what was happening ... it literally turns my stomach.  

Monday, November 7, 2011

Does the Devil Make Me Watch Porn?

This past week at axis we separated the guys and girls.  You can read about it right here.  We had a Q & A time with our guys that I really wanted to be open and honest.  We took a few minutes before things started to give the guys an opportunity to write out anonymous questions.  Nothing was off limits.  I then tried to randomly answer some of the questions that were given.  It was fun and also very challenging.  There were questions on dating, masturbation, sex, lust, why do some girls go for "bad" boys ... really fun questions like that. :) I tried to be as open and honest as possible and our guys really seemed to appreciate the candidness and openness that was given.

I didn't have enough time to answer all of the questions but promised the guys I would take some time to answer a few more online.  I'm no theologian and have never been described as an intellectual.  I'm not even sure I spelled the word correctly.  :)  But, I am a guy who cares deeply for students and desire to be a help and influence in their lives.  So, in this post I'll try to give some insight in to one of the questions asked:  "Does the devil make me watch porn?" The fast answer is simply "No" .... the devil does not MAKE a person watch pornography.  It's a choice ... a choice to choose sin or a choice to choose to God.  If Satan could make us sin, he would have no reason to use temptation.  He would just make us do what he wants us to do.  He does not have that power or authority.

But, he is a deceiver.  He is a liar and the father of lies, as Jesus described him.  And, what he tries to use to his advantage so often is our sinful nature.  Romans 7:15 - 25 talks of the battle going on inside of each of us.   If one is a follower of Jesus, there will always be a battle between the "old" nature and the "new creation" ... between the sinful nature and the new nature we have been given.  And, because we have a sinful nature, our natural bent is to go against God.  James 1:13 - 15 says that we are tempted by our own evil desire.  The enemy doesn't have to get all of the credit for tempting me.  I have enough "natural/sinful" desire myself that allows me to find sin on my own.  But, that doesn't mean that the enemy and his playmates don't use temptation to trip us up, turn us from God, and ultimately try to "steal, kill, and destroy" as Jesus says in John 10:10.  The enemy is a liar, a deceiver and he'll work our natural desires that war against God's best for our lives and attempt to use them to steer us away from God.  And, he wants nothing good for us at all.  He hates us with an never-ending hate and has only one goal for each of us ... to steal our joy, kill our relationships, and destroy our lives.  That's his plan.  And, unfortunately, pornography has stolen so much joy from people, wrecked so many relationships, and destroyed so many lives in the process.

The good news, we do have a choice.  We do not HAVE to give in.  As tempting as pornography can be for people of any age, but especially a teenager with hormones raging through their body, there can be victory.  1 Corinthians 10:13 says there is always a way of escape.  James 4:7 - 8 say that we can resist the devil and he will flee.  We can draw near to God and He will draw near to us.  And, Romans 8:2 says that it's Jesus that sets us free!  The enemy will always try to feed us his lies.  And, it's important to not simply just ignore his lies but to replace his lies with truth ... the truth of God's word.  There is hope.  We do not have to give in.  Sometimes it takes lots of help from friends, counselors, accountability partners, churches, and many others ... but we are not powerless to overcome temptation.  And, every time we say no, it makes us stronger and builds character, and ultimately points to a Savior who offers us freedom.

If you are struggling with pornography and would like to find help, here are a couple of websites to check out:

XXX Church

Setting Captives Free 

11-16-99 Thoughts on Being a Pastor

I found some notes in my Bible dated 11-16-99.  I specifically remember listening to a man who was speaking on what it means to be a pastor.  I vividly remember his talk and intentionally kept the notes in my Bible, but haven't looked at them ... well, probably since 11-16-99.  But, for some reason I felt the need to look at the notes yesterday.  Here's a major thought I wrote down on what it means to be a pastor/shepherd in God's church:

What's the most important thing a pastor should do?  Most will say studying to be able to preach well.  That shouldn't be.  Pastoring is not just a Sunday morning event.  Shepherds typically are not "exhorters"  They typically like to love on people and see them grow.  The number one passion of a shepherd should be the sheep! Be a good shepherd first.  Be with the sheep.  Don't let the number one priority be preparing for a sermon.

I'm so glad I took just a few minutes to look over those notes because it was a great reminder of what my role is.  Sure, teaching and preaching is important.  It's the way to communicate truth and vision.  But, that truth and vision is best received by people when they know they are cared for and loved by the person doing the sharing.  When I think of my role with teenagers, I know I'm not the best communicator, but I also know that at the very least my student know I'm crazy about them.   And, over time, that has allowed me to often speak truth in to their life.

I rarely will have a student come up to me after I speak and tell me what a great job I did or how thankful they are that I shared what I shared.  But, if I go to one of their events, it's rare that they DON'T tell me how thankful they are that I showed up.  I want to give me best efforts to preparing to speak truth to our students because I take that role very seriously, but I hope I never allow that to get in the way of just being with our students and sharing life with them.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Axis Wrap Up - Guys and Girls Finale

We ended our Guys and Girls series at axis Wednesday night in a great way!  We split up the guys and the girls and talked specifically to them about issues they specifically face.  The night went really well and I think both our guys and girls came away challenged and encouraged.

Our girls had the great opportunity to hear from Shelby Norris.  Shelby is a friend of my wife and has a truly inspiring story.  She talked to our girls about the things she struggled with growing up as a teenager.  She was very inspiring.  She's also a dancer so she incorporates dance in to her story and everything really seemed to connect with our girls.  I was so thankful she was able to share with them.

We did a Q & A time with the guys and let me tell you, some of the questions were pretty intense.  But, as I opened our time up I told the guys no questions were off limits.  We really wanted to speak openly and honestly about some of the struggles guys have and many of the questions they wrestle with every day.  It was a very honest time and our guys really seemed to appreciate the honest answers I tried to give to their questions.  Again, just a really good night.

Some of our middle school guys before our Q & A time.

We did a fun "Stupid People Tricks" bit during the night.  There are some very strange talents in our youth ministry!  It was fun to see some of them on display ... although I feel really awkward staring at Josh's stomach.

For our senior high time we had our team that visited Urban Hope share about their experience.  But, to do that, we started out bringing one girl from the team up in a very serious way.  We mentioned that she was going to talk about a life changing experience she had in Philadelphia on the mission trip and just as she was getting ready to talk ... she started dancing to Cotton Eyed Joe.  The rest of the team then began to "flash mob" the dance with her.  It was lots of fun.

This is Shelby sharing with our girls.  Her story and the way she presented it connected so well with our girls.

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