25 years ago

Kim and I had the opportunity to get away for the weekend to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. Some friends were exceedingly and abundantly generous with the loan of an apartment in downtown Lancaster, and we spent the weekend walking around the city. It’s a wonderful downtown, filled with artsy eateries and quaint little shops. It rained most of the day Saturday, but we didn’t mind. Other than church trips, I can’t remember the last time that Kim and I got away just the two of us. (That’s probably not good.) We had a great weekend of talking and reminiscing and dreaming together of what the next 25 years might bring.

Our lives look drastically different than what we might have expected coming out of high school. By the time we were finishing college, I think we had some idea about what our lives might hold, but there have been some radical and surprising turns along the way.

The bottom line for me is that I am more in love with Kim now than I was 25 years ago. Way back then I was as much in love as I knew to be; I just didn’t know a whole lot. We’ve lived a lot of life over the past 25 years. We have a much deeper understanding of what love means, and how much sacrifice and commitment a healthy marriage takes. I’ve also learned to laugh more, especially at myself! God has used Kim to help me grow in innumerable ways. Of course, I am all too aware of the areas I still need help and grace.

My heart still leaps when Kim walks into the room. If I’m on stage speaking or leading worship, I know exactly where she is. I am absolutely certain that everything goes better when she’s in the mix–from our lifegroup to the largest worship gatherings I’ve been part of. She is a great mom, an incredible intuitive counselor, a mentor who brings grace and wisdom to every conversation. She’s beautiful and kind and fun, and she is the glue that holds our family together.

I can’t imagine what my life would look like without her. I am a man truly blessed.
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sweetFrog for the win

We wrapped up Sports Camp tonight. There’s always a closing ceremony that involves each sport group leading a song from the week–with accompanying motions! It’s fun to see big high school/college guys leading motions with the littlest 4 year olds. The leaders who run the camp do an excellent job of from start to finish, and every camper seemed to have a great week. We are truly blessed to have great folks who jump in to lead this camp every year, and every year it runs a little smoother, and is a little better.

The camp director gave all the volunteers a gift card to sweetFrog, which was a pleasant surprise. DId you know that (according to their website) The F.R.O.G. in sweetFrog stands for Fully Rely On God, and we show that by being a good neighbor everywhere we move into. Through local partnerships, fundraisers, and much more, our stores become part of the fabric that wraps their communities. That’s pretty, um, sweet, isn’t it? We didn’t waste any time with those gift cards–we drove there right after camp closed.

When we walked into the store we immediately spotted the bright orange shirts from camp. There were already a couple of other families closing the day with a little sweetness. More folks trickled in as we made our way through the line. By the end of the night I’ll guess that 20 camp shirts showed up at sweetFrog.

We had an excellent first trip to sweetFrog. Charlie had a simple chocolate with chocolate shavings, but he’s already got plans for his next visit–peanut butter and chocolate!

your life is a mist

Those were the words that Andrew Wingert wanted us to consider tonight at XStream. We read Psalm 39, where King David is asking the Lord to help him understand how fleeting life is, and how that knowledge should affect the way he lives.

Thousands of years later we find that not much has changed in some respects. Our lifespan is still about the same as it was in the days of the ancient Hebrews. Even with the advances of modern medicine (and all the health and  fitness posts on facebook!) our lives are still incredibly brief in light of eternity.

Right in the middle of the psalm (which is a song) David sings the line:
Now, Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in you.

He knew–he understood–what really mattered. When our lives are focused on loving God and loving others, when our hope is tied to our relationship with our heavenly Father, we truly find ourselves living the life God dreams about for us.

Life is short, no matter how long the days seem. I want my life to count, and want to make certain that I’m focused on the things that matter most.
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one of the best weeks of the year

About half of my leaders will miss youth group this week. A good chunk of students won’t even bother to show up. And I couldn’t be happier.

This is SPORTS CAMP!

A few years back our church started offering a sport camp as an alternative to the traditional vacation Bible school. Our town is a sports camp town, so it was a good fit. We have coaches working with campers to learn skills in football, basketball, soccer, and dance. There’s also a gospel lesson, and the message of Jesus will be presented this week.

Each year the camp draws more campers, and a good number of them aren’t connected to any local church. This might be the first time that they ever hear that Jesus loves them!

Josie, Lilly, Isaac, Annabelle, and Sadie are helping staff the camp. And they’re loving it! It’s been fun seeing them studying the lessons that they’re teaching, learning the choreography for the songs that they’re singing, and praying for their campers.

Kudos to Calvary’s Kid’s Ministry leaders and the plethora of volunteers who make this camp happen. It’s a good thing!

This is a shot of some of our teens sticking around after camp Monday night to pray together. As a dad and the youth pastor, I have to admit that I got a little choked up seeing this take place. I love these young’ns.

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the daddest thing ever

I don’t know about you, but I had a stellar Father’s Day. All the kids were home. We went to church together Sunday morning. The kids Kim bought me some new shirts & shorts for the summer, and we spent some good time talking and sharing stories after a nice lunch.

I got to talk to my dad for a little while, and Kim spent some time on the phone with her dad. We’re grateful for the men God has placed in our lives. They’ve taught us so much, and their fingerprints are all over our lives.

The Spikes are back in town, and I’m serving as their chaplain again. They had a home game on Father’s Day, so after chapel a bunch of us from XStream went to the game. I got to hang out with most of my kids for at least part of the game!
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I preached at some of the Calvary locations this weekend. They recorded Saturday night at the Table. If you want to listen, here’s a link. By the time I got to the second sermon Sunday morning I was having trouble remembering if I’d already told a story or asked a question…But overall I was pleased with the sermon.

But by far–BY FAR–the daddest thing that I’ve ever heard of took place this morning. My buddy and local youth pastor delivered his own baby at his house! He and his wife have been expecting the arrival of little girl #2 any day now, and so the birth didn’t surprise me. But the fact that she delivered at home, and that HE DELIVERED THE BABY–How does that even happen. Much respect, sir, much respect. That’s the daddest thing ever, and more than a little crazy.

Psummer in the Psalms

XStream has moved into summer mode. That means we’re meeting outside at Harvest Fields, playing a lot, swimming in the pond, worshiping and teaching around the campfire, and soaking up all the sunshine we can! Each week a different leader will be sharing a little from a Psalm that has been meaningful in their spiritual development. Tonight was my night to share, and I chose Psalm 27, which begins with these words:

The Lord is my light and my salvation—so why should I be afraid? The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger, so why should I tremble?

As we go through life, we’re going to face enemies–real and imagined, physical and spiritual. King David was all too familiar with people trying to kill him. Jesus warned his early followers about the spiritual enemy (I almost typed enema) who is determined to kill, steal, and destroy…The danger is real. But Psalm 27 holds two promises for us.

Verse 5 states that in the midst of the conflict, God holds us safe and secure. The storm may rage around us, but God is our shelter, our savior. And when that PROTECTION (salvation) breaks on us, our right response (v6) is to WORSHIP.

The second promise is equally amazing–PRESENCE! And if you read verses 8-13, you’ll see a veritable truckload of life-altering effects that come with the presence of God.

That’s what God wants for us. Even though the danger is real, when we have a right relationship with God, we don’t have to be afraid. We can live in the confidence of the God’s protection and presence. That was enough to change David’s perspective, and it will be enough for us. I want that kind of faith!
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lifegroup should give you…

LIFE! Ours has found it’s rhythm over the past few weeks, and it’s an encouraging thing to behold.

We’ve recently added some new folks to the fold, and we started reading/discussing the New Testament portion of the LifeJournal Bible reading plan. It’s the most simple of structures for lifegroup. Each day we read and journal about the passage. When we get together on Tuesday we each share the verse(s) that stood out to us in our reading.

Last week I was called to another meeting, so I asked our newest Youth Min staffers to lead the group discussion. Ali Bruce and Jake Nold did such a good job that Kim couldn’t wait to brag on them to me.

Tonight’s discussion was supposed to center around Ephesians 5-6 and Philippians. We managed to cover 4 chapters of the reading, which led to so much good discussion that we hated to stop for the night. Some of our big takeaways for the night included

  • a renewal of our effort to pray more
  • an increase in intentionality/awareness of spiritual warfare
  • a call to live as missionaries in and to our present culture

I am loving what I see in our lifegroup, and can hardly wait to see what the Lord has for us in the weeks to come!

let the good times roll

Tonight we kicked off our first installment of Club56, which is our attempt to help rising 6th graders bridge the gap between elementary school and middle school, at least as it pertains to youth group. We have 3 events planned for 5th and 6th graders over the summer. Tonight we took them bowling.

We had a few great leaders on hand to connect with the students, and the bowling was flat-out fun! We hooted and hollered every time someone got a strike or spare, and groaned with every split.

I believe that the tide is turning as far as the youth leaving the church. Oh sure, there will always be some portion of the graduating class that decides to explore other options, who want to check out of church. But for those students who are loved and encouraged, given a safe environment to ask genuine questions, taught to study the Word of God, mentored and given opportunities to lead…for those students who come to know Jesus personally, find a community to grow with, and discover their calling in life–those students are going to find a faith that lasts a lifetime.

I think we are on the path to creating a place like that for teenagers right here in Happy Valley. And I get excited when I think about the future!
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the start of an XStream summer

School’s out for the summer. We’re looking forward to a summer of playing hard, growing closer together, and living the life God has called us to live. Kim’s got a list of things that she hopes we accomplish as a family, everything from weekly chores to playing games together to taking a walk with her every day. This is going to be a good summer.

We have 5 high school kids now. 3 rising 9th graders and 2 seniors. This could be a wild summer.

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We kicked off the summer for the youth group tonight with a big night of outside games. We had a huge slip ‘n slide, some water balloon games (yay), a dumb flour-in-socks game that may have left bruises (boo, my idea), and a messy food crawl. All of the messy & wet came before a quick dip in the pond and a hasty retreat to the firepit for s’mores and hotdogs. Ali and Jake did a great job of organizing and mobilizing us tonight, and the rest of Team XStream was stellar in our first night out at Harvest Fields. They did a great job, that is, right up to the point they conspired to clobber me with a pie to the face! Jake distracted me while Ali slipped in behind me with 2 plates full of whipped cream!

That’s never happened before, in all my years as a youth pastor. This is going to be a great summer!

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when you break an egg

The other day Kim came home with groceries–ALL the groceries! Our cupboards were nearly bare, so she was stocking up against the oncoming summer invasion of hungry teenagers. She said her cart was so full it was like playing a game to see where she could fit the last few items.

The last item out of the van was the eggses. They are especially precious to me. I start every morning with a delicious and predictable 4-egg, meat, and cheese omelet. I’m pretty simple and boring like that.

As Kim walked in holding the last shopping bag at arm’s length, I noticed a familiar slimy substance oozing from the bag. Much to my dismay, the carton of eggs decided to commit egg-icide, taking a dive onto the driveway. 11 of the 18 contributors to my morning repast were broken, lost, wasted.

I was a little irked. Maybe more than a little. Irked. Miffed.

Then Kim went all “Kim” on me. Ever the optimist, she separated the whole eggs from the broken and began to pool the shattered eggs into a bowl. A few minutes later she had several frying pans buttered up and was cranking out the beginnings of some delicious omelets. Toss some meat and cheese on those little egg flats, add a little heat and some hot sauce, and breakfast is ready!

I love the fact that my wife is an overcomer. She continually sees things from the positive. Whether it’s breakfast or something much bigger in life, Kim is good at reminding me that a few broken eggs isn’t the end of breakfast. There’s always a shot at redeeming the moment. It may not look like what we expect, but all things can turn out for the good.