Both my parents and Kim’s parents are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversaries this year. My parents hit the mark back in July (we’ll celebrate at Thanksgiving) while Kim’s folks reach the milestone tomorrow. Kim’s parents’ friends threw them a big shindig down in Florida this past spring, but since most of the family couldn’t get down to the Sunshine State, we’re having a family party in Beautiful Bedford tomorrow night.
We have learned so many good things from our parents. They’ve modeled what it means to pursue Jesus as a family, radical generosity, perseverance in the face of adversity, a solid work ethic, parenting with grace, the “blessed to be a blessing” concept, and how to live a life built on the foundation of prayer. We’ve absolutely been blessed to have these four as our parental units.
If you see Rusty and Judy or Ken and Darla, give ‘em a big hug, and tell ‘em that their kids are grateful.
We have a top-notch video department at Calvary. Greg Ford does some fabulous work, and one of his latest creations features our student ministry. Take a look, and if you love it, drop Greg a note to let him know!
Youth Video from CalvaryCreative on Vimeo.
XStream hit the road over the weekend. We took our students to Cedar Point for a day of play, then had church in our hotel before making the return trip home. It was a wildly successful trip on so many levels:
- lots of students (many newbies!) went with us
- a team of new leaders got to spend extended time with students
- a bus driver meant I didn’t have to drive
- Cedar Point = killer coasters
- I got to talk about what it means for us to let Jesus bust our rut and routine
- Sara Banker ran all of the admin details, which is a huge blessing!
The trip wasn’t without drama, though. Thursday morning I found out that we didn’t have the bus that I thought we had arranged. Sara called Fullington. While we were riding coasters Sara texted me to tell me that the hotel took our deposit but didn’t hold our rooms. Sara found us another hotel, for less money, with a pool deck for us to have a worship service.
It was one of the craziest behind-the-scenes retreats I’ve ever had, but we rolled with the punches, and Sara literally pulled the bacon out of the fire. I don’t even know that many of the students or leaders would have known that there was anything out of the ordinary going on if I hadn’t told them.
I like the way XStream is shaping up! (photos courtesy of Kevin Sliman)
I’ve been the chaplain for the State College Spikes since they moved to town in 2006. It’s been a source of great joy and entertainment over the years. We’ve seen a lot of baseball, met a lot of great guys, and made some good friends.
This year they did something new: they won it all!
I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know these young men. We only had 4 regular season home Sunday games, which meant we only had 4 chapels. But we made up for things by getting together often for breakfasts at the Waffle Shop.
If the statistics hold true, some of these guys will be out of baseball within the next few years. They know that. But for a good many of them, they have a faith that will outlast their baseball career. They are men of character and integrity. They play this game that we love with a burning passion, but it doesn’t define them. They find their identity in Jesus, not in the box score.
They are bringing a great big trophy back to Happy Valley, and they deserve to celebrate their accomplishment. But some of them have discovered that there is more to finishing well than the box score can report.
My positivity was tested today. We got a sunny afternoon, and the grass was in need of a trim. I like cutting the grass. Because so much of my job is difficult to measure (how do you gauge discipleship and spiritual growth?) I find that I enjoy things that give me immediate feedback and allow me to track my progress. So I find that cutting grass and even painting (rooms, not portraits) are great forms of occupational therapy for me. I know how long I’ve been working, can see how much remains to be done, and can even get a feel for how much longer I’ll have to work before I’m done.
But today didn’t turn out like I expected. I figured the mower would give me troubles. My neighbor Mike had to help me get it running last week. He thinks I need a new battery. But I thought I might be able to use that battery charger and sneak one last mow out of that battery. So while I let the battery get a little extra juice I thought I’d run the string trimmer around the edges of the house and yard.
The little engine that couldn’t wouldn’t cooperate. It would cough and start, but any time I gave it any gas the engine would sputter and die. 0 for 1 in the engine department. So I turned my attention to the riding mower.
I went back and forth between the 2 non-compliant yard machines for about an hour. I tugged and pulled and cajoled and coaxed and prayed and finally walked away positive.
Positively mad. Positive that I need a class in small engine maintenance. Positive that I wanted to throw a string trimmer at a riding mower today.
I did make the most of it, however. Isaac and I headed to the backyard to play a little catch in the afternoon sun.
Positivity. I have it. I don’t know if it’s always been present. If so, it lay dormant for a good portion of my adult life.
But listening to some folks dripping with negativity today, I realized that I am generally a positive person. I wanted to counter every negative thing spoken. I had to restrain myself from challenging every down-in-the-mouth comment.
When my outlook on life is positive, most days are pretty good. Today was a good day.
- I worked hard on some pretty tedious detail-oriented youth ministry stuff for most of the day.
- Around 1pm I shut down the work mode and spent some time reading the Bible, praying, and worshiping.
- This afternoon I kicked-off a new round of kayak instruction with my buddy Andy. He and I are teaching some kids from a local high school how to paddle!
- After a quick supper with the fam, most of Team XStream (our adult volunteers for youth ministry) showed up for a time of planning and praying. I love this team, and believe that we’re going to see God move in our town this year!
There was a time in my life when I would have said that Kim was an optimist, and I was a realist. That was my snarky way of being pessimistic. But God did a work of transformation in my heart, and now I’m a full-blown optimist.
Bring on the rainbows and unicorns.
Last weekend Kim and I took most of our adult volunteers away for a weekend to pray and plan, to train and build relationships. We believe that the heart of every good ministry is a great team, and we’ve got the makings of a great team working with us! Krislund was a great retreat venue. We got to play/think/strategize/teamify on their Initiatives course, experience some of the vertical adventures of their high ropes course, and spend a solid weekend with some high-capacity leaders. We prayed a lot, talked about ministry priorities and strategies, and enjoyed worshiping together. A fire pit gave us a great setting for some late-night chats, and some real bonding happened!
We kicked off the new XStream year tonight, moving back to Calvary’s building. Some of our friends from 242 (Grace Prep/Stepping Stones/Centre Church) joined us for worship and prayer. Tonight was GOOD! I saw lots of new faces and some folks who were away for most of the summer, as well as most of the peeps who hung out with us at the Barn all summer long. After a good time of worship, I led students through a prayer exercise–ask them about it! I called it the Five Fingers of Prayer.
(photos courtesy of Kevin Sliman)
We’ve got a great year of ministry ahead of us, and we seem to be building momentum. From a dynamite team to some enthusiasm among students to building relationships and rapport with parents…I believe that God wants to do something special in Happy Valley this year, and that it’s got something to do with teenagers. I can hardly wait to see what develops.
I made the trek to Danville today to be with some friends who are spending a couple of days in the hospital there. A few months ago they got the news that the baby they were expecting wasn’t going to live. He hung on all the way through birth, passing away in his parents’ arms about 95 minutes after his arrival. Mark got to tell Josiah that he loved him, that he was proud of him, and that he did a great job of fighting to spend a precious few moments with mom and dad.
Lots of family and friends have been praying and loving this couple, and they are so strong, trusting that the Lord is going to heal and restore and help them get through this.
But this is just plain hard. Awful. Terrible. Unfathomable. Unthinkable.
We would love for you to join us as we pray for Mark and Hannah and their family. They’re doing well, but the waves of emotions will continue to roll for who knows how long, and they will need the love and support of family and friends in the days to come. The death of a child is one of the most difficult things I can imagine.
We’ve been meeting at Harvest Fields all summer for XStream (Calvary’s youth group.) We meet behind the Barn, beside the pond. There’s a fire pit, and we hang around there most nights until well-past dark. And almost every week there are folks who take a swim in one of the ponds out there.
But this week–our last at the Barn, btw–2 students wanted to declare their faith in Jesus Christ, to tell their friends and families that they’ve made a decision to follow Christ, to give their lives to him, to ask him to forgive their sins and give them new life. Tonight we used that little outdoor amphitheater to baptize Isaac (my son!) and Melissa. The act of immersing them in water represents the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. It’s our faith in Christ that gives us new life, and our baptism is a public declaration of our faith and hope in Christ, our love for him.
As their youth pastor, I celebrate young men and women who want to live for Jesus, who have reached a point in their faith where they want to declare that publicly. As his dad, I am so proud of Isaac and his decision to follow Jesus that I could just about burst!
I believe that God is doing great things in our community, and that this could be a breakthrough year for Kingdom life in Happy Valley.