a break or a breakthrough

Moses can’t seem to catch a break.

I’m working my way through the LifeJournal Bible reading plan, and Moses has just led Israel (650,000 men and their families) out of captivity, out of Egypt, out into the wilderness. He’s faced down Pharaoh, court magicians, and an elite army bent on his destruction. He’s wrestled with fears and doubts, naysayers and obstacles. He’s literally seen God part the Red Sea and deliver Israel, drowning all those Egyptians who tried to follow them through the sea. Just after this God sends quail and manna to sustain the wandering tribes.

Now Israel is on the other side of the Red Sea, still wandering in the desert. People are thirsty. They begin to complain against Moses, calling for his head. Moses reacts by asking, “Why are you complaining against me? And why are you testing the Lord?”

In yet another episode of ridonkulous provision, God gives Moses the authority to smack a big honking rock, and promises to give Israel water from the rock. Sure enough, everybody drinks their fill, and their anger passes.

Just when you think Mo’s going to catch a break, the warriors of Amalek attack Israel. Moses now has to coordinate a national defense strategy, run a feeding program, and navigate through the desert to a destination yet unknown to them.

Moses can’t catch a break.

And do you know what I learn from this? God’s not really interested in me catching a break, either. In fact, he likes to let us wander through deserts of desperation. He knows something we don’t: When I don’t need him, I live like I don’t need him.

And he knows that my life is better when I am connected to him. So he lets me (us) go through difficult days to make us grow, to make us lean into him, to develop a trust and a dependence and a hope that endures.

God doesn’t want me to have it easy. But difficult days can still be good days.

Maybe it turns out that I don’t need a break; I need a breakthrough.

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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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.

oh I’m positive alright

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.

Nope.

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.

Nada.

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.

 

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.

3 years ago

Something wonderful happened for us about this time of night 3 years ago. Charlie came into the world just after 11pm, a squirming, squealing little red man. And Team Sublett has been blessed beyond belief through him.

We honestly thought we were done with babies. 2 adoptions of older kids had gone really well, and we hadn’t changed a diaper in our house for years! Then Charlie’s birthmom entered the picture, asking if we’d consider adopting him. I thought we’d be more likely to bring her into the family, help her figure out how to get on her feet and raise the little boy. But she didn’t want to parent, and thought we’d be a good family for her child.

We prayed about it, talked it over with the fam, and jumped into the mix. And I couldn’t imagine what our life would look like without him.

He’s been a gift to us, especially to Annabelle, Josie, and Isaac. Most of the children they knew growing up in China were in an orphanage, abandoned by parents who couldn’t keep them. They didn’t understand what it was like to want a child, to bring a baby into the family. We wondered if they would bond with the new addition. In no time at all he’d won them over. In fact, I began to wonder if the boy would ever learn to crawl; he never touched the ground because everyone wanted to hold him!

Charlie has been absolutely redemptive for us as a family, and it’s been fun to watch how God is moving in us through him.
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