happy birthday Charlie

4 years ago you stepped into our lives, into our world. We were pretty comfortable as a family with lots of big kids. You took us back into the world of diapers and bottles and car seats and baby bags. You also opened up a world of healing and discovery and nurture for us. We hadn’t planned to adopt a baby, but the Lord brought us together, making us family. And we can’t imagine life without you!

You’re incredibly bright and catch on to things so quickly. Somehow you know directions to places, and often point out places we’ve been as we pass them. You are better at your dad at Mario Kart, much to his chagrin. You wake up smiling and happy every morning. You’re brave in almost every situation, but spider webs might be your kryptonite! You have a great and vivid imagination. It’s been fun watching your older brothers and sisters play with you, and you turn it around as you engage your little brother. You love to sing worship team songs and pop hits from the 80s, so you’re a chip off the old block.

I don’t know if you were trying to be funny or not, but here’s a classic line from this past vacation. You were wearing an orange shirt that had the words “Beach Bum” on it. You promptly started calling it your “Water Butt” shirt! You crack us up all the time.

You’re my little adventure partner, and I can’t wait to explore this great wild world with you. Happy birthday Charlie!
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adventure is where you find it

Charlie and I are adventure guys. That’s how I’ve been describing us to him for the past 6 months or so. I use that terminology when I’m talking about taking walks in the woods, climbing big mountains, or helping out around the house. I want him to look at life as an adventure to be lived, and I figure I’d better start laying that foundation.

A few weeks ago I read an article about microadventures. You can read that article here. I found myself nodding my head (yes!) as I read, inspired and more than ready to embrace the adventures that lie within my everyday reach.

So today on our way to pick up Sadie from her Shakespeare Camp (shows are a week away!) Charlie and I left the house 15 minutes early. We just beat the 4:30 closing time of Lion Surplus, Penn State’s clearinghouse for electronics, office furniture, and interesting odds and ends. We spent a glorious 15 minutes roaming around, gawking at size 17 football cleats, 20 old kayak paddles, and piles of old computer parts.

As if rewarding our adventurosity, one of the worker men gave Charlie a creamsicle as we made our way out the door. He thought it was great–until it melted all over his hand…and shorts…and car seat. He’s a mess, but he’s growing an adventurer’s heart.

Life is supposed to be an adventure. You might not be able to get away to the Grand Canyon–or even the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania–but you can live the adventurous life. Find adventure in the familiar.
Charlie dreamsicle 1 Charlie dreamsicle 2

hitting the sweet spot

Several months ago my good friend and fellow youth pastor Jarrod Sechler suggested that we simplify things of our Metro Worship nights. We’d been trying to include a game, worship, teaching, and prayer as part of every united youth group meeting, and that seemed like a lot to throw into one night. So we opted to focus on worship and prayer, giving students more opportunities to pray together. That means less time for one of us youth pastors to spend talking to them.

And that’s been one of the best decisions we’ve ever made.

Tonight’s attendance at Metro was a little lower than we’ve been seeing. That’s to be expected. A few of the groups we usually see weren’t able to join us tonight. It’s summertime, which means lower attendance for youth groups in general as families hit the road for vacation, students forget that it’s Wednesday, and other conflicts arise.

But the general feel in the room tonight was good. Lots of students spent a good portion of the night actually praying together. And the worship was sweet! As Jarrod and I sat on the edge of the stage watching our groups mingling, praying together, asking God to move in our town, praying for renewal in the Church and revival in the town.

This is the good stuff–our sweet spot.
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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.
Kim and Stac wedding Stac and Kim wedding Kim & Stac toastIMG_3191 IMG_3189 IMG_3183

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!

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.

guess who got a new job?!

This girl! Say hello to the newest employee of State College’s landmark restaurant The Tavern!

Josie job

Josie applied at a few places around town, but hadn’t heard from them. So when our friend Ali suggested that she apply at The Tavern, Josie jumped at the chance. Ali (who used to work at the Tavern) talked to one of the managers, then took Josie down to meet him. At the end of the interview, Josie had a job bussing tables! She’s set to start in July.

She’s never done anything like this, so I’m interested to see how she handles a new role and new responsibilities. She’s not afraid of hard work and she learns systems and structures pretty easily, so I think she’s going to do well.

I wish you could have seen the look on her face when she told me she got the job–absolutely beaming! And it’s all the more sweet to know that she’s working at mom and dad’s favorite date spot!

You go, Josie girl! I’m proud of you!

a little love for Sadie

Sadie got a year older over the weekend. Somewhere in the mix of theater, concerts, final presentations, church stuff, and the general craziness that develops in a house of 10 people, 3 cats, 1 dog, 2 rabbits, and somewhere between 1 and 3 goldfish we managed to sit everyone down for a time to celebrate the gift that is Sadie.

While she dove into her presents Saturday night after the final high school thespian show, after church Sunday morning the fam gathered around the lunch table to talk about some of the good things that we see in the youngest daughter. It’s always fun to listen to the brothers and sisters share some of the glimpses they get. They often see a different side of her.

This was a bit of a breakout year for Sadie. She is growing into a young lady, and she’s maturing all around. She had a big role in her school musical, and her musical ability is growing with every passing season. She’s clearly the most artistic among our kids, and her creativity with paint and color is fun to see developing. In fact, her creativity shows up in the kitchen (she’s a heck of a baker), the toy-room (if we had one), and the occasional hand/arm (doodling with sharpies?). She’s good with the little brothers, and has been one of Levi’s best buddies for years. She’s into comics, and she reads more books than almost anyone in the house. She’s an includer who wants all of her friends to get along, but she also appreciates one on one time with friends. I can see leadership potential in her, and I am excited to watch her grow up over the next few years.

Happy birthday, Sadie. You’re growing into a remarkable young lady.

Here’s a clip from tonight’s concert at Esber Hall on PSU’s campus. Sadie and Isaac are standing next to each other.

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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.