my shadow Charlie

Charlie has been my little sidekick for some time now, so it didn’t surprise me that he wanted to tag along to worship team rehearsal tonight. He’s pretty quick to jump in the truck to ride along for any and all errands, picking up kids from rehearsals, or impromptu trips to the store.

But I wasn’t sure how he’d do at the church while I spent a couple of hours setting up, rehearsing, and tearing down. That’s kind of a long time to an almost-4 year old boy, especially close to bedtime.

I shouldn’t have worried. He crushed it. Plus he got to chase a dog around the worship room, entertain a baby, and work on his worship dance moves.

I should’ve snapped a picture, but I was too busy laughing at him. I love that kid…

God uses people to push us

Tonight at XStream I talked about how part of God’s plan for us to grow and develop in our faith involves the people he brings into our lives. We’ve got to be open to their influence, and there are certainly some folks in everybody’s life who wouldn’t be a good influence. But if you’re paying attention and willing to be teachable, there are people around you who will shape and sharpen you, making you a better person.

I told XStream about a few of the people who have shaped my life. This list is by no means complete, but I thought I’d post a public “thank you” here.

Charlie Walker was my 7th grade English teacher. It was 1980 in Warner Robins, GA, and Charlie started the year by introducing himself: “My name is Charlie Walker, and I’m your English teacher. You might not learn a lot of English, but you will learn two things: 1) Jesus loves you, and 2) I love you.” Turns out he was right about that. Over the next few years Charlie showed me what it meant to live simply, radically, humbly, loving others more than self, and loving Jesus more than anything. He’s a large factor in why I’m a youth pastor today.

A few years later at Toccoa Falls College this kid from Nyack, NY heard my boom box blasting Petra tunes and stuck his head in my dorm-room doorway. He saw my nerf-hoop and made himself at home. Phil Human was a loud, large Yankee who liked basketball and loved Jesus. Over the next 3 years he’d become a brother to me as we shared lots of stupid, funny, serious, and spiritual moments. We talked about everything. He challenged me to grow as a man of God. I could call him right now and it would be like no time has passed in our relationship.
Us at Kings Kids Kamp Phil and Jody

 

 

 

 

 

 

Andy Mylin is–other than my wife–my best friend. We’ve played in the outdoors, traveled the country talking to middle school boys about sexual purity, and had countless conversations about adoption, parenting, and being a godly husband. He knows all my secrets, and I trust him with my soul.
Red Mo Andy & Janet

I am grateful for the men God has given me over the years to mentor and shape me. They have prayed for me, laughed and cried with me, modeled righteousness and grace, and challenged me to be the man God has called me to be. They inspire me to lean into God’s provision, to walk in a manner worthy of God’s call on my life.

Who has been influential in your life?

sometimes you get a little dirt on you

Every Tuesday Charlie gets to hang out with his buddy Jack. Jack comes over to the house and they do guy stuff. At this point in his life, that mostly looks like playing with trucks in the flowerbed dirt, chasing the cats around the yard, throwing sticks into the bushes, bouncing on the trampoline, and trying to figure out how to make the swings work.

I hope that things don’t really change that much for him. And yet I hope they do.

Guys–most guys, most dads I talk to–walk a more solitary road than we should. I know that’s a generalization, but it stands up. Friends are often hard to come by, and I think it stems from our level of sharing. Ladies seem to be quicker to open up, to go deeper, to share how they’re feeling. Some of us guys don’t even know how we’re feeling, even when we’re feeling what we’re feeling. It’s not easy to talk about your feelings if you don’t know what you’re feeling.

But I’m hoping we can turn that tide. God uses people to shape us, to help us grow spiritually. But that only works when we can share about how we’re doing, when we can be vulnerable and get real with others.

Guys are pretty good at hanging out to watch the game, fix the car, or grill the burgers. We have to learn how to get from casual conversation down to the stuff that matters.

That means that sometimes you’ve got to be willing to get down into the dirt of life. Good stuff grows in good soil…
Charlie dirtThis is Charlie after hanging out with Jack today. Charlie claims that Paisley (our one-eyed wonder dog) “digged up dirt and throwed it on” his face. I think it’s a good look for him. Adventure guys get dirty together.

somewhere in China, 18 years ago

our sweet little Zhou Ming Ping was born. It took an act of God–several times over–for us to be able to call her Josie Sublett. But man, was it ever worth the wait!

I got to travel with the State High Girls Rugby team out to Pittsburgh over the weekend for their national tournament. It was wonderful to get to spend time with those girls and their parents. We had a good bit of time to hang out together, and their coach (Bernie Cantorna) does a fabulous job of getting people talking about the things that really matter. One of the unexpected blessings was hearing how much some of the other parents and rugby girls love our Josie. They see a side of her that we don’t always get to see, and it was encouraging to hear.

The Josie we see with regularity is loyal, mostly quiet, hard working, responsible, and faithful. She’s great with the little kids, happy to be part of a big family, always willing to pitch in, whether we’re cleaning the table, working in the flower beds, or playing a game. She doesn’t really like school but she is diligent with her homework. She doesn’t like to sing, but she loves music.

As we sat around the table tonight (Kim’s parents stopped in unexpectedly to help us celebrate!) we all got to share a fantabulous Josie memory. Each one of us shared something that could’ve simultaneously produced peals of laughter or a torrent of tears. Of all the things I find most notable, Josie is learning how to love, and how to express that love.

You are a wonder, daughter of mine. You weren’t born into our family, but you were certainly born for our family. You have shaped us, blessed us, and taught us. We are better because you are with us.

Happy birthday, Josie. I love you.

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This was their first game. Josie wears #7. As you can see, her opponent is about twice her size!

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We got to go to church Saturday night in Pittsburgh. Rugby girls love Jesus–who knew?

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My girl looks fierce.

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Final team shot of the year. 5th place at nationals is no small accomplishment!

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Charlie was excited to make you brownies!

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never too late

Levi is 19 now…for all practical purposes, he’s a grown up. He’s as big as me, has a regular job, bills to pay, and all that jazz.

We’ve shared some incredible and extraordinary experiences over the past 19 years. We’ve traveled the world, played sweet music, made up and played epic games, and created some sweet hairstyles.

Yet even with all that good stuff piled up, I have a few regrets. One of them looms large: I was not a good teacher when Levi was younger. I had very little patience, was too demanding, with expectations set too high. Bottom line, I wasn’t very fun to be with when it came to learning new things. Like throwing a baseball, cutting the grass, or working on a bike.

Well, the good news is I’ve grown up over the past few years, at least a little. And Levi is still in need of some bike mechanic help.

So tonight we learned how to change a flat tire on a mountain bike! It was actually pretty easy, and nobody got angry, bossy, or sarcastic! Since things were going so well, we decided to throw on some new/different brake pads, just for fun.

I’ll always have regrets for the things I missed or messed up, but the mistakes of our past don’t have to determine our present/future. It’s never too late to take another run at it, and you might just surprise yourself with how things turn out.
Levi tire

winning the busy war

I like being busy. Check that–I like being productive, being fruitful. Too often I settle for being busy. Sometimes I wonder if I’m quietly trading one for the other. Am I fooling myself into thinking that busy will lead to productive? Or that I’ll at least convince people that I’m headed towards fruitful if I’m busy…

If I know you like I think I do (and you know I do, don’t I?), you’ve got a lot on your plate. You’re working hard for the man, running kids to ball games, rehearsals, and part-time jobs, “helping” with those 4th grade science fair projects, puttering around in yard, waiting on the repair guy, trying to get the van fixed…you’d like to take a vacation, but you’d come home tired from all the vacationing!

As summer approaches, I’m spending some time thinking through all the things I want to do, all the things I want accomplish. I’m more excited about my role at Calvary than I have ever been, and I don’t imagine the pace slowing down. I’ve also come to realize that the work is truly never going to be done until Jesus returns–literally.

Instead of bemoaning our busy-ness and comparing schedules to see who wins the “oh man, I’m busy” award, I’m proposing that we take a more proactive approach. This excerpt from Reggie McNeal’s book Practicing Greatness landed in my inbox today. It’s just what I needed to read.
Screen Shot 2015-05-13 at 11.41.32 PMSo my short list involves getting out into the wilderness more, and spending more time playing in the backyard with my kids. Work and all the rest of the stuff will still be there. I only have so many days with my kids.

Who’s with me? Charlie’s a mean bocce player!
Charlie bocce

is this the little girl I carried?…

When Lilly was born, one of our first visitors was big brother Levi. His reaction to finding out that she was a girl: “That’s cool. When can we change her into a boy?”

Well, there’s no chance that she’s a boy. She’s beautiful and bright, a leader among her peers, strong and nurturing, quirky/cool and creative. She reads/writes/thinks deeply. She feels fiercely, and sings constantly! She’s a lot like her dad, which means that she is quick-witted and sometimes too sharp-tongued. She is wiser than her years, and is growing to be comfortable in her own skin.

She is my delight, this daughter of mine. I have many children. She will always be my first daughter. As I held her in the moments after her arrival on the planet, I looked at Kim with wide-eyed wonder and asked, “What do I do with a girl?”

As we weave our way through proms and SAT prep and college applications and “Mr. Sublett, may I date your daughter?”, I think we’re on the right track. I love you, Lilly Grace.
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a rather weird mother’s day

Kim has long held that the Team Sublett motto is Weird is Good. Somewhere about middle school Lilly observed that sometimes Weird is Just Weird. This was a weird Mother’s Day.

We were supposed to be at church having our pastor and church family praying over us and baby Jase. As it turned out, as they were dedicating babies, I was driving Kim to the doctor. We’ve both got a sweet miserable case of strep. I had it first, so I guess this qualifies as the worst Mother’s Day gift I’ve ever given.

We’ve both been sequestered to the bedroom as much as possible today, alternating between napping, sweating/shivering with the fever, bemoaning the sore throat, etc. In between all of this, we’ve had a few moments to share.

19 years ago Levi made Kim a mom, and it was a glorious day. Lilly and Sadie followed, and it seemed like our little team of 5 was set. Little could we imagine that in the past 5 years our troupe would grow. We’ve added 5 more to the fold over the past 5 years, and we’ve seen more than our share of miracles along the way.

As much as I’ve tried to mumble “Happy Mother’s Day” to Kim today, we want to say thank you to those mothers who made the brave choice to take the first step in their children joining our family. I can only imagine the difficulties you have faced and the pains that you will likely feel forever. We know some of you; we will never meet others. Some of you are close; others are a world away.

Please know that for every smiling family photo, every story of a child’s first experience or fabulous exploit, every breakfast and bedtime prayer…part of me thanks you, remembers you, hopes that your heart is healing, that your life is turning out well.

We know that this wasn’t your hope, this wasn’t your original plan. We thank you for taking care of your baby until she or he could make it to our arms. We can’t imagine life without these kiddos, and you will always be part of their story.

So, thank you, and happy mother’s day. Our hearts remember yours today.
Team Sublett Easter

the kids from my first youth group are old

Out of the blue, he shot me an email. “Hey, I’m in your town for a conference.” I was totally surprised. He followed that with an invitation to revisit our glory days–He wanted to find a church van and renew a timeless tradition. Back in the days before seat belt laws (and common sense) every youth group trip to Norwin’s Skateland featured a no-holds barred steel cage match, with me and Jason each looking to drop the elbow of death or force a submission from the other. He’s a middle school principal now, and I’m not as spry as I used to be, so we opted for wings.

I was only his youth pastor for about 2 years and 9 months, but those were magic days. I was green and thought I had all the answers. I tried so hard to be the cool youth pastor. I couldn’t sing and play guitar at the same time, so I had to have some of the kids sing while I hacked away at G-C-D-Em on a beater acoustic. We played the lamest games. My teaching was clunky, awkward, and centered around CCM lyrics. I didn’t know a thing about leadership development or the purpose-driven youth ministry or much anything else.

But something worked.

Jason and I shared 2 meals over the course of the past few days. He reminded me that God has been gracious to use me to shape the lives of many teenagers over the past 25 years. It’s not about flash or style or cool or polished preaching. It’s not about fabulous facilities or great games.

God will always use people who are desperate for him, depending on him to move, committed to helping others connect to the Kingdom life.

So whether you’re 22 or 47, if you know what God has called you to do, do it with everything you’ve got. Get after it, and trust God for the fruit of your prayer, desperation, and hard work.

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this one rides in my guitar case

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we got better, I promise

And maybe, some day when you’re old, your old youth group kids will show up and remind you of how blessed you are. And how they grow up to be real men and women.

hard work pays off

I know that you’re wondering if it’s all going to be worth it in the end. Those long, tedious days plugging away…those evenings sacrificed, nose to the grindstone. Late night sessions pouring yourself into the process.

Believe me when I tell you that your hard work will bear fruit. The day will come when a harvest is produced. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Galatian church: And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

I see it every day, in every bit of life around me. Reminders that the end result is worth every drop of sweat, every moment of pain, every sacrifice.

Today I showed you Kim giving it all she had, ironing a shirt for Jase’s first photo shoot.
Kim ironing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now I show you the fruit of her labor.
Jase puke
Charlie blocksJase blocks Jase 1Charlie standing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Thanks to Amy Sliman (PAKS Photography) for her excellent camera work…and wipies.

Told you it would be worth it.

Hang in there, and don’t give up. Your season is coming.