Friday, August 23, 2013

You Never Know What an Invite May Do

That's my son Ezra above.  I could go on and on about the kid, but I'll only mention one thing that happened this week that I just think is totally cool. On Tuesday, he told me that he invited a friend from school to church with him on Wednesday.  This friend lives close to us, so we've gotten to know him and his family just a bit.  Wednesday comes around and I ask Ezra if his friend was able to come with us to church.  Ezra tells me that his friend forgot to ask his mom about it, so we didn't know if he would be able to come with us.  Before our dinner Wednesday, Ezra really wants to have his friend come to church.  So, we decided to walk him to his friend's house and ask if he could join us for church.  As we were walking to the house, I let Ezra know that I want him to do the talking and invite his friend. Ezra tells me "You do the knockin' and I'll do the talkin'!"  That's just a little peek in to his sense of humor.  :)

Anyway, long story short ... the friend is able to with us.  While loading everyone up in our mini-van, Ezra says "Wait.  I forgot my Bible."  So, he gets out of the van, runs in to the house, and gets his Bible.  As he gets back in to the van, his friend asks Ezra "What did you forget?"  Ezra says, "My Bible."  His friend looks at him and again says "Your what?"  Ezra says, "My Bible."  And, his friend has this look on his face like "I have no idea what you're talking about."  Ezra begins to tell him "Yeah, the Bible.  It's so cool!  There are thousands of stories in it and they're ALL true!"  

I share this for just a couple of reasons:

1.  I'm proud of my son for doing this!

2. I love that my children get to be in a kid's ministry that they can be proud to invite a friend too!  They love being a part of Kid City and Pastor Jon and the rest of the staff do an amazing with the kids!

3. My son's friend (a fellow first grader) had never heard the word "Bible" before.  A simple invite has now exposed him to a book that is "So cool!  There are thousands of stories in it and they're all true!"  He was able to walk in to a place that was fun, loving, and talked to kids about Jesus.  He would not have had that experience if it wasn't for the invite.

4. We never know who is walking through our church doors.  Some are close to God.  Some are far away.  Regardless, they all need Jesus!  Our role is to point those people to Him.

We never know what an invite may do for someone.  It may be just what they need to take a step closer to Jesus.  It may be the thing needed to help them feel like someone cares enough to invite them to church.  It may be what God uses to bring someone in to a relationship with Him.  

Sunday, August 18, 2013

How to Talk to Your Daughter About Her Body

I have two beautiful little girls.  They bring so much joy to my heart and I love being their dad.  I also realize that, as their dad, I have such a powerful influence in their life.  I am the one who will teach them how a man is to treat a woman by how they watch me interact with Carol.  I am the one who will be their first picture of who God is by how I love them and enjoy them and discipline them and forgive them.  I am the one who will help pour a sense of confidence and security in to their lives.  I realize that how a woman feels about her body is one area that can really cause insecurity or even captivity.  There are so many lies about how a woman "should" look ... so much pressure ... so many expectations.  I pray against those things for my wife and for my daughters and long for them to have a healthy and strong view of themselves.
I came across these thoughts on a blog post and it gave me some really good thoughts on how to help my girls begin to think about their bodies. The author gave some really great thoughts and I copied much of the post below if you'd like to check it out.
How to talk to your daughter about her body, step one: don’t talk to your daughter about her body, except to teach her how it works.
Don’t say anything if she’s lost weight. Don’t say anything if she’s gained weight.
If you think your daughter’s body looks amazing, don’t say that. Here are some things you can say instead:
“You look so healthy!” is a great one.
Or how about, “you’re looking so strong.”
“I can see how happy you are – you’re glowing.”
Better yet, compliment her on something that has nothing to do with her body.
Don’t comment on other women’s bodies either. Nope. Not a single comment, not a nice one or a mean one.
Teach her about kindness towards others, but also kindness towards yourself.
Don’t you dare talk about how much you hate your body in front of your daughter, or talk about your new diet. In fact, don’t go on a diet in front of your daughter. Buy healthy food. Cook healthy meals. But don’t say “I’m not eating carbs right now.” Your daughter should never think that carbs are evil, because shame over what you eat only leads to shame about yourself.
Encourage your daughter to run because it makes her feel less stressed. Encourage your daughter to climb mountains because being outside is a great way to connect with God. Encourage your daughter to surf, or rock climb, or mountain bike because it scares her and that’s a good thing sometimes.
Help your daughter love soccer or rowing or hockey because sports make her a better leader and a more confident woman. Explain that no matter how old you get, you’ll never stop needing good teamwork. Never make her play a sport she isn’t absolutely in love with.
Teach your daughter how to cook kale.
Teach your daughter how to bake chocolate cake made with six sticks of butter.
Pass on your own mom’s recipe for Christmas morning coffee cake. Pass on your love of being outside.
Maybe you and your daughter both have thick thighs or wide ribcages. It’s easy to hate these non-size zero body parts. Don’t. Tell your daughter that with her legs she can run a marathon if she wants to, and her ribcage is nothing but a carrying case for strong lungs. She can scream and she can sing and she can lift up the world, if she wants.

Friday, August 16, 2013

I Was Smothered in Prayer

I officially ended my 11 years as the youth pastor at Grace Community this past Wednesday.  I'm excited about my new role at the church which will revolve around "care, connections, and discipleship."  But, while I'm very excited about that new role and challenge, I'm also really going to miss my teenagers in axis.  I was the church's first full-time youth pastor.  There were incredible volunteers before me who poured their lives in to teenagers, but I was the first person to come on staff in the role.  I loved being able to build a youth ministry basically from the ground up and I have loved pouring in to the lives of teenagers over these past 11 years and seeing God do some amazing things.   But, I believe "greater things are yet to come."

I was able to share one last time with our kids and I basically shared that my goal in ministry was the same in 2002 as it was in 2013 ... I have always wanted kids to see a clear picture of who Jesus really is.  Psalm 34:8 says "Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in Him."  I believe that once we really get a taste of God ... who He is, what He wants to accomplish through us ... once we get a taste of Him, we'll want more of Him.  My desire has always been to give kids a clear picture of who Jesus is so that they would walk away from any encounter with me or our youth ministry wanting to know Jesus more.  

At the end of our time I was able to introduce our new youth pastor to our kids.  Dan Cosentino has been in youth ministry for several years.  He has a proven love for teenagers and has done much to pour in to their lives and equip them to reach their friends.  The pic below is me introducing our kids to Dan.  Just as I would not entrust my own to just anyone, I would not entrust the teenagers in my youth ministry to just anyone.  I trust Dan with them.    I know he will serve and lead them well and I can't wait to see what God does through him.

To close out our night, Dan talked a little bit about his vision for axis and then he said that, as a youth ministry, we want to "commission Rich" for the new role.  So, he invited all the kids to come forward and pray over me.  It's a moment I will never forget.  Before I knew it, I was completely surrounded by teenagers.  I started out standing and then as hand after hand after hand began to press down on me, I found myself beginning to lean over.  Soon, I was completely hunched over by the weight of teenagers placing their hands on me in prayer.  I'm somewhere in the middle of those two pictures below.  At first there was some laughter and talking.  But, as the prayer began, the room got quiet and I honestly felt "smothered" in prayer.  It was one of the most special moments I remember in ministry.  Having these teenagers who I've been praying regularly for over the past 11 years pray over me was incredibly humbling and powerful.  I will never forget that moment.  

I got home later that night and was reflecting on that time with my wife.  I used the term "smothered in prayer" with her and remember saying to her that it gave me a whole new view of prayer.  I hope to "smother" people with my prayers, to believe in the power of prayer so much that I don't just cover my wife, my kids, our team at Grace, my small group, the people who come to our church, my friends, whoever it may be ... that I don't just cover them in prayer ... I smother them in it.   

It was an absolutely amazing night for me personally, and I believe a powerful way for our youth ministry to launch in to the fall under Dan's leadership.  I look forward to smothering axis in prayer.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Get One Under Your Belt

I enjoy running.  I set the goal of running 500 miles this year.  Right now I'm at 384 miles.  If all goes according to plan, I should surpass my goal by the end of the year.  But, it's been about 3 weeks since my last run.  My last run was at the Momentum youth conference. I went for a fun run with some of our teenagers. (Side Note:  Nothing will humble you like running with teenagers).  Anyway, I got back from the conference and life got busy ... working at the church, a week's vacation, dealing with 3 out of our 4 kids being sick ... before I knew it, 3 weeks had gone by and I had been without a run.  What I noticed was I kept telling myself that I was going to run "today" but something would come up or I'd lose track of time and I would just not want to do it.  Before long I started to feel tired and lacking energy and I found it harder and harder to find the motivation for that run.  Sir Isaac Newton's laws of motion not only applied to physics but they also applied to my life:  "A body at rest will stay at rest.  A body in motion will stay in motion."  

Today, I put my body in motion.  I had my first run in 3 weeks and it felt great to be able to do it!  It wasn't my best run, by any means.  I felt the effects of three weeks off.  But, it was a run.  And, sometimes, just getting one under your belt is all it takes to set the wheels of momentum in motion.  I don't plan on missing three weeks again.

What's something in your life that you need to "get under your belt?"  What's that something you need to start?  Maybe it's exercise.  Maybe it's a healthy diet.  Maybe it's a decision in ministry you've been putting off for some reason.  Maybe it's that project at home.  Maybe it's a fun activity with the kids.  Maybe it's planning a date night with your wife or husband.  What's that thing you need to just do?  Momentum is a powerful force but momentum in your life will only start when you start. Don't wait any longer.  Before you know it, weeks will go by and it will just get harder and harder to make that thing happen.  Why not make it happen today.

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Dilemma of Parenting

I love my kids.  I simply cannot imagine life without them.  But, anyone who tells you that parenting is all butterflies and rainbows is probably smoking something causing them to see butterflies and rainbows.  Parenting can be exhausting!  There isn't a week that goes by that we do not have someone see us with our kids and say something like, "Wow, you guys must be busy.  But, they grow up so fast.  Enjoy it while it lasts."  Depending on the day, my reaction could range from "Thanks.  We are enjoying it."  Or, "Here you go.  Why don't you enjoy them for a while.  Judah just pooped himself for the fifth time today!"  Or, on the really bad days, "Where's my taser? I don't want to deal with your happy wisdom right now!"  

My wife and I have four kids all under six.  Parenting them is the most rewarding and the most exhausting thing that we do.  Therein lies the dilemma.  The most rewarding thing we do is also the most physically and emotionally tiring thing we do.  And, I guess I believe that's the way it's supposed to be.  Too many times we want the rewards without the effort.  This will just make us lazy and entitled.  The reverse is also true. Too many times we focus on the effort without keeping our eyes on the reward.  This will just make us frustrated and bitter.  

Reward and effort cannot be separated.  I'm definitely a "gifts" person.  I have been given many gifts throughout my life that have overwhelmed me with gratitude and thankfulness.  But, it's the things I've worked hard for that I've most appreciated.  John Wooden said, "Great results come only with great effort."  This is something I constantly try to keep in front of me while parenting.  Of all the tasks given to me by God, raising my kids is the most vital. It's my greatest mission. I am charged with the task of preparing them for the future, driving out "foolishness" in their lives as the book of Proverbs teaches, helping develop in them a heart that considers others before themselves, teaching them about responsibility and contentment and generosity and, to top it all of, trying to give them a clear picture of who God really is.   This is incredibly humbling to me.  I'm still amazed that God believes in my wife and I enough to give us this responsibility.  But, I firmly believe that what God has called us to do He will equip us to do.  

So, if you're in a similar stage of life and feeling ... well ... exhausted ... you're probably doing it right.  The days can be long, but the years are short.  Remember, "they grow up so fast."  Now, let me get outta here before you get your taser!  :)

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