best foot forward

Tonight while the students of XStream were meeting, talking about what it means to FLOW with Jesus in what he calls you to do, Kim and I were meeting with lots of the parents of those students.

We chatted about the vision and values of our student ministry, how things are going, and how they can get involved. Some of the parents had great questions, and it was fun answering them. A few of the parents wanted to know what they could do to be more involved, which is stinkin’ awesome!

It’s my hope to meet with parents on a regular basis. I think we’re gaining momentum, seeing some good things happen with students, leaders, and parents. I believe that our best days are yet to come, and that we’re moving in the right direction. I’m excited about the way the school year has started! Best foot forward, indeed…

photo courtesy of Josh Cone
XStream feet

happy beevday

Hard to believe that it’s been 19 years since Kim and I became parents. Kim was at Back to School night (she was an elementary school teacher) when her water broke. Her sister had to change out of the Clifford the Big Red Dog costume to drive her to the hospital! I was coaching JV soccer for Derry, and didn’t have a cell phone back in them days. I came home to an empty house, all the lights on, and a cryptic/hilarious message on the answering machine from Kim’s mom: “Stacy, don’t leave the house. I’ll be right there!”

Levi, you’ve been a blessing to our family. We hoped and prayed and waited 5 long years before you arrived. You’ve had to bear the brunt of our parenting gaffes and mistakes, walk through all the lessons that a first-born learns with new parents. You’ve made us laugh and cry and pray and dream.

Your sensitive heart and outgoing disposition make you a favorite with little kids. Your ability to converse intelligently draws adults to you. You’re comfortable on the stage in front of crowds and in the basement hanging with the guys.

Most importantly, You love Jesus, and you love people. And we love you! Happy birthday Beev!
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100 years of married life

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.
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pulling the bacon out of the fire

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)
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finishing well

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!
Spikes 2014 NY:PL champsSpikes Champs

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.

turns out I’m positive…

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.

off to a good start

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!
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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.
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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.

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!