ponds aren’t just for swimmin’

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.
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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.

highlight of the day

Today was pretty stellar on all counts.

  • I slept in a little, which was nice.
  • I met a new youth pastor for lunch. He’s in his first full-time youth ministry job, and I love his heart for his family, his students, and the Lord.
  • I met with one of my long-time youth pastor buddies to chat about how we can partner together more. I love that, too!
  • Annabelle, Josie, and I went for a run around Harvest Fields, then cooled off in the pond before XStream. I love the fact that my kids and I get to workout together.
  • Jake “the Intern” Nold taught at XStream tonight, and did a great job. He walked us through Psalm 32 before he handed students off to the small group leaders. Then we brought everyone back to worship around the campfire. It was a good night. I love XStream, Jake, and our leaders (Team XStream).

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But do you know what the highlight was? About 20 minutes ago there was a squirmy, squawky little boy in the crib next to my bed. Kim thought he might want another ounce of formula to help him sleep. Turns out he had other plans. He’s a poop-making machine, and when I opened the diaper to change him, he decided to shift into high-production mode! I was scrambling to catch what he was making, like a one-armed soft-serve ice cream worker! After I got the little guy all cleaned up, he was wide awake and hungry.

So I snuggled him and set him up with a little bottle. Watching his eyelids get heavy as he worked on that bottle…that was my highlight of the day. Well, that and the poop machine.

this is what we do

Ali Great WallAli Bruce shared a little bit of her story tonight. She’s a former youth group kid (she was in Kim’s small group for 5 years!) turned leader who has just returned from a 11 month/11 country mission trip called The World Race. You should watch some of her videos or read her blog. I choked up several times just trying to introduce her tonight! Parents, you should do everything you can to get your daughter to come hang out with Ali. She’s going to be helping us work with young ladies at XStream.


Jake hikingWe also added an intern to our team this week–Jake Nold is back for the summer. He’s recently changed his major and is thinking about youth ministry, so he’ll be spending time with our senior high guys as part of our leadership team. I couldn’t be happier, and I know that the young men he rubs shoulders with are going to be challenged/encouraged to grow in their faith.

I was speaking with a dad tonight at the close of our time tonight. He was thanking me for spending time with his son (which is one of the perks of my job!) I pointed to the young men who are volunteering with our high school guys and bragging on them a little bit when it hit me–AC, Brandon, Collin, and Jake are all products of Calvary’s youth ministry. They’ve had other quality people speak into their lives at various points, but all of them have been part of our youth ministry when they were in middle school and/or high school.

And that, my friends, is what we call a WIN where I come from!  These young leaders are passionate about their faith, growing in their leadership skills, hungry for the presence of God, wanting to be challenged and equipped to serve, believing that God wants to use them to shape the next group of students following in their footsteps.

Parents, you will be glad to have your sons and daughters spending time with our team. I know that I am!

Here’s a video clip from our worship time tonight.  We went with the Acoustic Army!

my kingdom for a few female leaders

Simply put, we’re hurtin’ for female leaders for our student ministry.  We’ve had a handful at the start of each semester, but they’ve all headed for other parts at the end of the term.

That’s a problem, because we put all of our proverbial eggs in the relational basket.  A shortage of leaders means relationships suffer, which is what the experts would classify as “Not Good.”

Kim and I have been inviting, recruiting, convincing, cajoling, and coercing as many quality young female leader types as possible.  We will soon add bribery, blackmail, and possibly kidnapping to the list unless things turn a corner!

Really smart youth ministry folks tell us that we need 1 leader for every 5 students we want to invest in.  There are at least 110 young ladies on our list of students who have some connection to Calvary.  Doing the math, we need 22 female leaders–trained, capable, committed, engaged leaders–just to connect with the students we know about.  That doesn’t even begin to reach the thousands of young ladies in our community who aren’t connected anywhere.

Where will these young lady leaders come from? I’m praying for a breakthrough, for a move of God, for folks who want to make a difference in the next generation to join us. We’re working to build a team that will have a direct impact on the spiritual climate in our town. If you are one of those folks, give me a shout. If you know someone who fits this description, I’m paying a finder’s fee.

We have a long a beautiful history of raising up quality leaders and building high-capacity teams.  We know that you’re out there; we’ll see you soon.
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metro worship goodness

Tonight was another city-wide youth group gathering, and we’re gaining steam!  The worship was sweet, Pastor Zac challenged students to actually TELL the good news (as opposed to simply letting their lives speak), and we had several more youth groups join us. My buddy Jarrod and his group hosted us tonight, and the room was buzzing with students! And my wife did a fabulous job creating some interactive prayer stations to help students connect with Jesus.

I’ve said it a thousand times or more, but I love it when the Church gets together to worship, pray, and focus on God’s word.  And if we can reach this generation with the gospel, if they find the life that Jesus has for them, they can change the world!  The first batch of Jesus followers left that kind of legacy; why can’t this one?

I’m praying for some sort of catalyst, something that ignites a revolution of love and grace and truth and power like we have never seen.  I’ve read that many of the major revivals have started with the youth of the region.  O God, would you burst through here in our town?!

From the Day of Pentecost, there has not been one great spiritual awakening in any land which has not begun in a union of prayer, though only among two or three; no such outward, upward movement has continued after such prayer meetings have declined.—A.T. Pierson, quoted by Arthur Wallis, In the Day of Thy Power, p112

the day we met Annabelle

Our family has been the subject of a documentary being filmed by a young lady finishing her film major at PSU. She’s been working primarily with Kim and Annabelle, walking through the adoption process. It’s been very interesting to watch, as the young lady is Chinese and had little knowledge of the adoption policies and procedures related to China.

She asked me for some video footage of our trip to get Annabelle, so I’ve been scrambling to pull that together for her. Here’s a clip of us meeting Annabelle for the very first time.

A few notes:
*watch for Annabelle to squint–she needed glasses!
*listen for our friend’s son (hey Marcus) to ask Kim, “Are you happy crying?”
*We were absolutely nervous–our translator told us to expect the worst. She said that Annabelle wouldn’t want to go with us, would be sullen and angry, and wouldn’t speak to us. I’ll post a picture of Kim after the video. We were blown away!



where do I sign up?

crowd at eisenshower

This past Sunday was incredible! All the Calvary worship gatherings met at Eisenhower to cap off our OneByOne Initiative series. This is so much more than a building fund drive or a capital campaign; we’re talking about resourcing the vision that God has placed on our hearts for Happy Valley and beyond. And Sunday’s worship gathering was sweet!

More than 1600 people filled the lower tier of Eisenhower.  Calvary’s brass set the tone with some wonderful prelude music, followed by a worship team comprised of musicians from various worship teams. Everyone had the opportunity to turn in a commitment card for the OneFund, as well as a rock that they’d personalised.  And Kim had Ronnie sing a powerful new Kari Jobe song, complete with readers from multiple generations.stones

But the kicker for me was Dan’s sermon. I generally think Dan’s messages are as good as any other preacher in the land. I’d just as soon listen to Dan speak as download anything from any of the big guns out there. But this week was something else.

What would you preach on a Sunday when you’re asking people to commit to give for the next 2 years? Dan preached about the stoning of Stephen from Acts 6-7. You can watch it or listen to it if you missed it. When the dust settled, I found myself choking back tears and wanting to sign up to join Dan’s team for another 15 years of trying to impact the next generation with the good news of Jesus.Stac worshiping

I love my church, and believe that our best days are ahead of us…but maybe not too far ahead!

Sunday’s a-comin’

This weekend promises to be a significant one in the life of Calvary.  Not only is is the last Sunday before finals–which means a bag filled with goodies for every student to help them through the week–it’s also a weekend that we’re combining all of the Calvary worship gatherings.  Instead of us meeting in 4 locations for 8 different worship gatherings, all of us will be meeting together at Eisenhower Auditorium on Penn State’s campus for one mack-daddy of a worship time.

I’m part of the worship team, and we met tonight to rehearse the songs and spend some time in prayer.  I am excited about the songs we’re singing, and even more so by the thought that so many of us will be worshiping the Lord together.  Don’t get me wrong–I love the fact that we’re a multi-site church.  But there’s something special about getting all the Calvary family together once in a while.

And I LOVE the emphasis that we’ve been placing on our OneByOne Initiative, especially when we talk about doing a better job of reaching the next generation.  My heart has always been for the middle school and high school students in our town.  That’s a big part of why I asked to be Calvary’s youth pastor again.  I believe that we could see a tremendous move of God in our town among the teenagers.  That’s what I’m praying for, what I’m working toward, and what I am expecting.  God wants to do something new here.

And the seeds of that are being sown right now.  I can’t wait for Sunday.

CityServe was a blast!

Once a year Calvary decides to cancel our weekend worship services, pick up our rakes and shovels and paintbrushes, and go serve our neighbors.  It’s really a humongous undertaking.  It’s also one of the highlights of the year.

This year we decided to throw an overnight party for the youth group Saturday, which would lead us to serving together Sunday.  So while Kim and I were out celebrating the nuptials of our dear friends Adam and Ginger, Kevin and Amy Sliman were getting things going back at the home base.

Our leaders are tremendous and stupendous.  When Kim and I arrived, things were sailing along smoothly!  We got everyone divvied up into vehicles just in time to make the 10pm showing of God’s Not Dead.  If you haven’t seen it, you ought to.  I’m generally skeptical of “Christian movies” due to the overwhelming Cheese Factor.  But this movie was pretty good, and sparked some good conversation among us.  We didn’t like everything about it, but it was a win.

Sunday morning found Mark Horn and his lovely wife Melissa in the kitchen, breaking a lot of eggs and whipping up pancakes for us.  What a blessing, and a great start to our day!

We sent a few middle school girls off with a couple of ladies to work on another project in town while the rest of us traveled out to PA Furnace to visit our friend Sherry.  She’s a single mom of 2 kids, battling cancer, and she was blown away by the sheer number of teenagers who invaded the yard!  There were lots of opportunities for us to serve, and Sherry was so grateful.  I had the opportunity to visit with her for about 30 minutes after most everyone headed back to town.  She was almost in tears as we talked, and she wanted everyone to know how much this meant to her.

I love the fact that we are part of a church that puts a premium on serving, that values the input and investment of teenagers, that realizes that if we don’t live what we believe, then we don’t really believe it.

Props to the 34 students and 15 leaders who served with us this weekend.
I love your guts!
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