Friday, December 30, 2011

Top 10 Posts of 2011

I'm really having a hard time believing 2011 is nearly over.  This has definitely been the fastest I remember a year going by.  I'm once again reminded of doing my best to not waste the time God has graciously given to me.  The picture above is one of my favorite youth ministry pictures taken this year.  It pretty much describes how I feel sometimes ... having lots of fun, feeling pulled in many different directions, but feeling blessed and loved all at the same time.

Below I've listed my 10 favorite posts from 2011 (there are a few extras in there.  It's sort of like getting a baker's dozen.)  I continue to enjoy typing out some of my thoughts.  It's often very therapeutic for me to do so and, I hope, enjoyable and encouraging for others to read.  

10.  Feels Like Home ... a post about my Bible.

9. All the reasons I love my church ...Why I Love My ChurchAnother Reason Why I Love Our Church and I Really Love My Church

8. What I Learn from a Loss ... my thoughts after the Steelers' lost the Super Bowl.

7. Dig a Little Deeper ... what happens when you're willing to go below the surface with people.

6. What's That Smell?  ... thoughts after an impromptu giving of shoes at our church

5. Final Nicaragua Update ... my final thoughts after our mission trip to Nicaragua

4. Walking  Through Some Fear and It's Benefits ... my journey learning how to swim this year.

3. My Utah Hikes:  The Narrows, Bryce Canyon, Emerald Pools/Weeping Rock, and Angel's Landing.

2. My Vows to My Daughter and What's in a Name ... the vows I wrote to Torah for her first birthday and how we chose the names for our three kids.

1. Indiana Tough Mudder Recap ... my thoughts after completing "probably the toughest event on the planet" ... a Tough Mudder.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Axis Wrap Up - Bringing Christmas Home 12-21-11

We had our last axis of 2011 this past Wednesday ... which is so hard to believe.  But, our night was just great and I can't really think of any better way to end the year.  We had so many different elements that make youth ministry so much fun ... we gave away free hot chocolate with whipped cream and sprinkles, students were serving all over the place, fun videos and a fun game, great worship music, we took a special offering and blessed a family in our youth ministry, we shared the Gospel and kids got saved ... just an amazing night! We had approximately 20 students that responded with decisions Wednesday night.  I loved seeing God move and loved seeing Him work in the lives of our kids.

Below is a pic of two very faithful students in our youth ministry.  This has been a really difficult year for their family.  They lost their dad to cancer early in the year and then, just a few month later, their mom was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer and has been going through chemo treatments for several months.  It's just been one of those situations that you look at and think "Why?"  But, they have responded to everything so incredibly and I have been blown away by their faith and their positive attitude.  It's been really hard, but through it all, God has been shining through their lives.  Anyway, we took a special offering, raised hundreds of dollars and surprised them with it on Wednesday just to let them know how much we love them..

Our last axis of 2011 was a really special night and I loved seeing our kids have fun, serve, give generously, and respond to God.  

A Scare at Home

Above is my baby girl Torah.  She's just a little over 1 year old.  You may notice a bandage on her right hand and some blood on her shirt.  Well, there's a reason for that.  This past Monday we had a bit of a scare in the Yauger household.  My wife had an appointment and I was at home getting my son ready for pre-school.  Torah and my other daughter Mercy were playing near our bedroom.  Well, I hear the bedroom door slammed shut and a few seconds later I hear Torah crying.  Crying happens all the time in a home full of toddlers so I didn't initially think anything of it until my son pointed out to me "Dad, I think I see blood!"  Well, that doesn't happen all the time in our household so I went to go check things out and I see my poor baby girl covered in blood.  And then I noticed her little finger ... with a part of it missing!  My heart just sank.  Mercy had accidentally shut Torah's finger in our bedroom door and it literally took the tip of her finger off!  I picked her up and did my best to get the bleeding under control and to try to comfort my baby girl.  I was covered in blood.  She was covered in blood.  Ezra and Mercy ... well they were coloring (a strong sense of compassion hasn't quite developed in their 4 and 2 year old spirits).  Thankfully, everything turned out to be OK.  We took her to the doctor.  Nothing was broken.  Just the tip of her finger was gone (which we still haven't found yet, but that's another story).  We've had a few more trips to the doctor this week to get the finger looked at and Torah seems to be doing just fine.  The doctor said in a few month we won't even be able to notice that anything happened!  But, what a scare.

For parents, seeing their kids hurt is one of the hardest things in the world.  I so wanted to be able to take the hurt away ... to just make the pain stop.  All of that got me thinking about Jesus coming to earth at Christmas and God the Father knowing the pain that Jesus was going to eventually experience for you and for me AND, for the first time EVER God the Father was going to have to turn His face from Jesus as He took the penalty for our sin.  

"For God so LOVED the world that He GAVE His one and only Son that WHOEVER believes in Him should not perish but have EVER-LASTING life."  John 3:16

As a parent I have an entirely different appreciation for that verse and for the love that was shown to me and to each of us on that night Jesus was born.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Simple Challenge

I was reading Acts 10 for my quiet time the other day and was really struck by the way a man name Cornelius was known.  Verse 2 says "He gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly."  Then, later in verse 4 we are told that an angel of God came to him in a vision and the angel said this:  "Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God."  What I found really challenging is that this guy Cornelius was known by his peers as a person who prays and gives generously and, more importantly, was known by God as a person who prays and gives generously.  My take-a-way from those verses ... be a person of prayer and a person of generosity.  That seminary degree really comes in handy.  :)

So, if you're reading this today, that's my simple challenge to you.  Are you praying?  Are you giving?  What a great way to be known by others and by God.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Axis Wrap Up - Bringing Christmas Home

We started our Christmas series, Bringing Christmas Home, this past Wednesday at axis.  I am a sucker for everything Christmas and really love this time of year.  So, I'm always excited when I have the opportunity to, well, project my love for Christmas on to our youth ministry.  The games, the music, the opening videos all have a great Christmas "feel" to them.  But, I often feel the pressure of trying to come up with something super creative to talk about at Christmas.  I put the pressure on myself to spice up the Christmas story a bit.  Well, as I was thinking about that while preparing to speak, I was very convicted about my attitude.  I mean, seriously, Jesus crossing the expanse of the Universe to become a human to show His love and to allow us the opportunity to know God ... that doesn't need spiced up.  That's the greatest thing that has ever happened to us!  Whether we believe it or not, whether we accept it or not, whether we turn to God or not ... God's love for us would not be stopped.  To date, astronomers have found a galaxy that is 13 billion light years away from us.  If I'm not mistaken, that's the farthest object we are able to detect.  13 billion light years means that, traveling at 186,000 miles per hour, it would still take 13 billion years to get there ... but not even that distance could come close to stopping Jesus and His pursuit of us.  He crossed the expanse of the Universe to declare His love and to allow us to know Him.  

We used this video to sort of illustrate the idea that God would not be stopped in His pursuit of us.  

We used two verses, John 1:1 and 1:14 to speak of God's passion for us and what the Christmas story is all about.  My encouragement to our students was simply this ... let's stay focused on Jesus.  Jesus is the greatest gift we've ever been give.  Don't exchange that gift for anything else.  

It was really a good night filled with some fun dancing, great worship, and topped off by a girl coming up to me after our senior high time and asked me "What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus?"  I had the opportunity to lead her to Jesus that night!  

Next Week:  Bringing Christmas Home with Generosity

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

It Took Twice As Long But ...

My wife and I have a tradition where we always put up our Christmas tree the weekend after Thanksgiving.  This year has been no different, but what is different for us is that our son and daughter REALLY love "helping" decorate the tree.  If you've ever done anything with little children you'll understand that the process is just a whole lot longer.  What used to take my wife an I and hour or two now takes 3 to 4 hours with our kids .. but it's so worth it!

I'm a sucker for everything Christmas and love trying to make it a fun, special time for my family.  My encouragement to you is this ... what are you doing to make Christmas memorable and special for your family?  Dads, often times we leave this up to our wives to plan but why not take the lead this year and come up with some special things to do together as a family.  Surprise your family by saying we're dropping everything to go out for hot chocolate and look at Christmas lights.  Be overly generous by sacrificing some of what you would spend on your family and spend it on someone else.  Initiate the Christmas story and talk about why Jesus came to earth.  It may take a little extra effort on your part, especially after a long day at work, but that effort will be so worth it.  Your family will appreciate what you are doing and you'll create some lasting memories to share with each other.  

Friday, December 2, 2011

Axis Wrap Up - "All In for God"

We had a great night at axis on Wednesday with a really powerful challenge on what it means to be "all in" for God.  We looked at Romans 12:1 - 2 and spent some time discussing what that could look like in our lives if we truly offered ourselves as a sacrifice to God and were truly transformed.  Just tried to be straight with our kids letting them know that following Jesus is more than showing up on a Wednesday night ... it's more than showing up on a Sunday morning.  When you follow Jesus, you do just that ... you follow Him.  You order your life around His way of life, not trying to be perfect or anything like that, but simply striving to know Him deeper and live as He would live.  I believe many of our kids left with a greater understanding of what it means to follow Jesus and left with a greater desire to do just that.

We also had a new game called "Feets of Strength."  The idea was simple ... we just did some games that required lots of strength.  (I'm just that creative).  :)  We had a rope climb (both guys and girls volunteered to do it) and we had an old Indian stick wrestling game that was lots of fun to watch.  Kids really seemed to enjoy doing them and watching them.  Here are some pics and a video below.

Next week week we start our Christmas series!  Can't wait.

The Star Wars Scavenger Hunt

I'm a really big Star Wars fan.  Growing up, I entertained myself hours on end playing with action figures or being in the woods behind my house saving the Universe from the "Empire."  So many good memories and it was so much fun for me.  Well, earlier this year I passed along my Star Wars action figures to my son.  He's loved playing with them, but honestly, I only had a few action figures left.  As we've seen other Star Wars action figures in books that we've read to him, he's always asked me, "Dad, did you have that action figure growing up?"  Well, somewhere along the line, he became convinced that I simply lost the action figures and the next time we went to Grandma and Grandpap's house, we'd find them.  

So, I decided to really try to make this fun for my son.  I got on Ebay and bought some old Star Wars action figures ... not the "mint" condition ones that are like crazy, super expensive ... but the ones that somebody really had fun with and just didn't want them anymore.  So, I bought some and when we got to my parents house, I took a little bit of time to hide them outside.  I then asked Ezra if he wanted to try to help me find some of the ones I lost.  It was SO much fun!  He's done nothing but play with those things since we've been back from my parents place.  

He was always fascinated with Jabba the Hutt.  So, I wanted to be sure I got one of those with him.  This is his reaction when he found Jabba outside.  It's worth the 40 seconds to watch the video just to find out how he described what Jabba looks like.

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