almost like starting over

It seems surreal, but we knew this day was coming. The same week that we sent 5 big kids off to State High–2 seniors and 3 freshmen!–we also sent got Charlie started with a little pre-school action, courtesy of the fine folks at Grace Lutheran.
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He’s a sharp little guy who is totally ready for the world of academia! He’s been excited about starting school for a while, and I’m sure that this is going to be a great experience for him. He’s already made a few new friends, and his teachers are wonderful.

A few years ago we thought we were out of the “diaper bag and car seat” stage. We were past the nighttime feedings and done with the days of looking down in a meeting to discover a big glop of baby spit on my shoulder.

But we knew that the Lord was leading us back into this stage of life. Yes, we’re not as young as we used to be. We’ve already done the math. We know how old we’ll be at their graduation. I don’t care if you ask which one is my grandkid. Just point out my kids when they walk across the stage if I can’t see or hear by that time!

It’s been a little crazier than usual around the Sublett Ranch. This week. Stay tuned for a pretty big announcement later today.

I should listen to my wife

Yesterday was great on so many levels!

Our staff got to celebrate our friends Lois and Curt. They’ve been around Calvary for more than a decade, serving and creating art and loving people and basically being family. They’re moving to Louisville this weekend to start the next chapter of their lives. We’ll miss them.

Last night was our monthly Team XStream (youth ministry staff) meeting. These folks have grown closer and are experiencing God moving in our lives. It’s always good to share our stories with each other, to pray and encourage/challenge each other. These leaders set the tone for where Calvary’s youth ministry is headed.  We’re in good hands!

And Charlie’s birthday party was a great success! Lots of friends came out to celebrate with us, and the PLAY GYM AT HARVEST FIELDS WAS OPEN! Kids has a blast, just like all of Kim’s parties. The decorations were cute, and Sadie got to be creative with the cake. She also made a sweet pinata that looked like a safety cone!

The only glitch in the whole shebang was mine. The last thing Kim asked me was we were leaving the house was, “Do you have enough gas for the grill?” I smugly assured her that my grill was fully equipped to handle my gassy needs. You’d think that by now I’d know to listen to her intuition. Halfway through the grilling I ran out of gas and had to call my friend Jake to swing by my house to grab another tank. Good grief, Charlie Brown…
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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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rolling out the welcome mat

I’m the old youth pastor in town. That’s a fact I’ve come to face, and a role that I embrace. I’ve been a youth pastor since my college days at good ol’ Hill Street Baptist Church (Hello Toccoa, GA!) in 1988-89. I’ve been the youth pastor for most of my 17 years here at Calvary, and I’ve seen some really good youth pastor friends pack the moving van and head for other locales. I’ve also had the privilege of welcoming loads (seriously–they’d fill a small bus) of new and aspiring youth pastors to our fair town.

Today was a welcome mat day. The Assembly of God hired a young man not too long ago to be their youth pastor. David Culbertson and his wife have moved in and are getting settled. We grabbed a bite to eat today and swapped stories about our growing up, the ways that God has shaped our hearts, and what we are praying about as it relates to the teenagers in our town.

My motivation for trying to meet with all the youth workers in town is a bit bigger than my love for wings and welcoming newbies. I want to get all of us on the same page, at least as far as cooperation and partnering and unity goes. I believe that it’s vital that the Church (big C meaning more than just our little congregations) work together. God calls us to be unified, and promises to bless our unity.

There’s lots of division in the air these days. I want to remind us about the things we have in common, the CORE of our beliefs as followers of Jesus, and the centrality of our mission to share the good news–the HOPE of REDEMPTION–with the folks in our town.

This message has been at the heart of my pastor’s call to our town for the past 21 years, and it’ll be our priority until they drag us out of this town. From Psalm 133 to John 17 (esp vv 20-24), it’s clear to us that God blesses unity, and we want to be right smack in the middle of what God’s doing.

So the first Wednesday of every month I’ll be found wherever the youth groups are gathering for worship and prayer. As the old guy, I’ll likely be hanging out in the back, looking for the new youth pastors, watching to see who’s connecting, who needs a word of encouragement, and who’s emerging as a leader here among us. I love being the old guy in youth ministry!Metro logo

sweetFrog for the win

We wrapped up Sports Camp tonight. There’s always a closing ceremony that involves each sport group leading a song from the week–with accompanying motions! It’s fun to see big high school/college guys leading motions with the littlest 4 year olds. The leaders who run the camp do an excellent job of from start to finish, and every camper seemed to have a great week. We are truly blessed to have great folks who jump in to lead this camp every year, and every year it runs a little smoother, and is a little better.

The camp director gave all the volunteers a gift card to sweetFrog, which was a pleasant surprise. DId you know that (according to their website) The F.R.O.G. in sweetFrog stands for Fully Rely On God, and we show that by being a good neighbor everywhere we move into. Through local partnerships, fundraisers, and much more, our stores become part of the fabric that wraps their communities. That’s pretty, um, sweet, isn’t it? We didn’t waste any time with those gift cards–we drove there right after camp closed.

When we walked into the store we immediately spotted the bright orange shirts from camp. There were already a couple of other families closing the day with a little sweetness. More folks trickled in as we made our way through the line. By the end of the night I’ll guess that 20 camp shirts showed up at sweetFrog.

We had an excellent first trip to sweetFrog. Charlie had a simple chocolate with chocolate shavings, but he’s already got plans for his next visit–peanut butter and chocolate!

your life is a mist

Those were the words that Andrew Wingert wanted us to consider tonight at XStream. We read Psalm 39, where King David is asking the Lord to help him understand how fleeting life is, and how that knowledge should affect the way he lives.

Thousands of years later we find that not much has changed in some respects. Our lifespan is still about the same as it was in the days of the ancient Hebrews. Even with the advances of modern medicine (and all the health and  fitness posts on facebook!) our lives are still incredibly brief in light of eternity.

Right in the middle of the psalm (which is a song) David sings the line:
Now, Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in you.

He knew–he understood–what really mattered. When our lives are focused on loving God and loving others, when our hope is tied to our relationship with our heavenly Father, we truly find ourselves living the life God dreams about for us.

Life is short, no matter how long the days seem. I want my life to count, and want to make certain that I’m focused on the things that matter most.
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one of the best weeks of the year

About half of my leaders will miss youth group this week. A good chunk of students won’t even bother to show up. And I couldn’t be happier.

This is SPORTS CAMP!

A few years back our church started offering a sport camp as an alternative to the traditional vacation Bible school. Our town is a sports camp town, so it was a good fit. We have coaches working with campers to learn skills in football, basketball, soccer, and dance. There’s also a gospel lesson, and the message of Jesus will be presented this week.

Each year the camp draws more campers, and a good number of them aren’t connected to any local church. This might be the first time that they ever hear that Jesus loves them!

Josie, Lilly, Isaac, Annabelle, and Sadie are helping staff the camp. And they’re loving it! It’s been fun seeing them studying the lessons that they’re teaching, learning the choreography for the songs that they’re singing, and praying for their campers.

Kudos to Calvary’s Kid’s Ministry leaders and the plethora of volunteers who make this camp happen. It’s a good thing!

This is a shot of some of our teens sticking around after camp Monday night to pray together. As a dad and the youth pastor, I have to admit that I got a little choked up seeing this take place. I love these young’ns.

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the daddest thing ever

I don’t know about you, but I had a stellar Father’s Day. All the kids were home. We went to church together Sunday morning. The kids Kim bought me some new shirts & shorts for the summer, and we spent some good time talking and sharing stories after a nice lunch.

I got to talk to my dad for a little while, and Kim spent some time on the phone with her dad. We’re grateful for the men God has placed in our lives. They’ve taught us so much, and their fingerprints are all over our lives.

The Spikes are back in town, and I’m serving as their chaplain again. They had a home game on Father’s Day, so after chapel a bunch of us from XStream went to the game. I got to hang out with most of my kids for at least part of the game!
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I preached at some of the Calvary locations this weekend. They recorded Saturday night at the Table. If you want to listen, here’s a link. By the time I got to the second sermon Sunday morning I was having trouble remembering if I’d already told a story or asked a question…But overall I was pleased with the sermon.

But by far–BY FAR–the daddest thing that I’ve ever heard of took place this morning. My buddy and local youth pastor delivered his own baby at his house! He and his wife have been expecting the arrival of little girl #2 any day now, and so the birth didn’t surprise me. But the fact that she delivered at home, and that HE DELIVERED THE BABY–How does that even happen. Much respect, sir, much respect. That’s the daddest thing ever, and more than a little crazy.

Psummer in the Psalms

XStream has moved into summer mode. That means we’re meeting outside at Harvest Fields, playing a lot, swimming in the pond, worshiping and teaching around the campfire, and soaking up all the sunshine we can! Each week a different leader will be sharing a little from a Psalm that has been meaningful in their spiritual development. Tonight was my night to share, and I chose Psalm 27, which begins with these words:

The Lord is my light and my salvation—so why should I be afraid? The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger, so why should I tremble?

As we go through life, we’re going to face enemies–real and imagined, physical and spiritual. King David was all too familiar with people trying to kill him. Jesus warned his early followers about the spiritual enemy (I almost typed enema) who is determined to kill, steal, and destroy…The danger is real. But Psalm 27 holds two promises for us.

Verse 5 states that in the midst of the conflict, God holds us safe and secure. The storm may rage around us, but God is our shelter, our savior. And when that PROTECTION (salvation) breaks on us, our right response (v6) is to WORSHIP.

The second promise is equally amazing–PRESENCE! And if you read verses 8-13, you’ll see a veritable truckload of life-altering effects that come with the presence of God.

That’s what God wants for us. Even though the danger is real, when we have a right relationship with God, we don’t have to be afraid. We can live in the confidence of the God’s protection and presence. That was enough to change David’s perspective, and it will be enough for us. I want that kind of faith!
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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!