Friday, September 29, 2006

Homecoming - then and now....

Homecoming. Just the word brings back awkward memories from my High School days. All those horrible questions that seemed to be asked on a daily basis:

"Are you going?" "Who are you going with?" "Do you know if ________ is going?" "Who are they going with?" "Are you going as friends or do you actually like each other?" "Has anyone asked you to Homecoming?" "You are going aren't you?" "If you go, do you want to double?"
"If I ask _______ do you think they'll say yes?" "Did you get her flowers yet?" "Bouquet or corsage?" "Do you know how to tie a tie?" "Are we going out to eat somewhere?" "Are you going?"

Admittedly, I was a pretty awkward H.S. kid looking for a place to fit in. Lots of stories to share there but that will be for another time (maybe).

This week I have been able to see Homecoming from a different perspective. My daughter, Kelsey, was voted onto the Homecoming court. I have had the privilege of supporting her - in my limited and awkward Dad knowledge of such things - this week. It has been way cool to see her friends get excited about dresses, hairstyles, make-up, shoes.....and show up at our house to help my daughter get ready for the events of the week. How fun. What a great community of friends she has. Good times.

And I am the luckiest guy in the world - having been able to escort two of the most beautiful women (on the inside and the outside) I know during Homecoming week.....then and now.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Good Monsters

I just picked up the Jars of Clay "Good Monsters" CD yesterday. When I first heard it.....I thought it was okay. The musical "style" isn't really one that captures my attention. Then I opened up the
CD and started reading the words to "Work" - the first cut on the CD.

The line that jumped out at me was:

I have no fear of drowning
It's the breathing that's taking all this work.

I don't know why but as soon as I read that line I had to sit down.....and I started to cry. Wow. Not sure if it is a personal sadness or the sadness that a friend is experiencing or the sadness I see in kids sometimes that caused this reaction. That will be one for me to ponder.....

As I read that rest of the song lyrics I was moved by their depth and emotion. An amazing effort by a band that refuses to just copy what they have done in the past. Kudos to you, Jars of Clay!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Off to a good start

Our youth ministry "program" year is off to a good start. We have lots of fabulous volunteers surrounding and nurturing our Jr High and Sr. High students.

We are about 3 weeks into the beginning of our gatherings. It is cool how some of the theme's for all that is going on are converging without having planned it.

One of our goals for this year is to try to create opportunities for more interaction between the students and the congregation at large - with the hope being that we can surround each student in our church (whether they attend our "programs" or not) with three maturing Christian adults outside of their family that they would feel comfortable sharing a joy, concern, or question about faith with.

One way we are trying to measure this is by simply our students that question: Can you name up to three adults in our congregation that you would feel comfortable sharing a joy, concern, or question about faith with?

We are asking that now, at the beginning of the year, and will ask this again at the end of the year. Very non-scientific and imperfect I know. But it will be interesting to see if/how their answers change over the course of the year and if our/their relationship web is expanding or contracting. (It will also help us identify adults that are already forming good relationships with our students and possibly invite them to join our ministry team in the future!)

Then the challenge is to put that into the mix in looking at our ministry - are those relationships going to help keep our kids growing and engaged in becoming disciples even after they leave our gatherings? Will require some long term tracking....and praying.

God has so blessed us with volunteers and students that are already growing in community. I feel a burden to nurture this gift that God has given us. As you read this - if you feel lead to pray for me, our students, and/or our volunteers - please take a moment now to do so. I appreciate it more than you know.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Just the facts please, m'am!

Okay, so my wife has been complaining about our phone not working so well lately. Sometimes when you press a button it won't register or it will repeat it. Yeah, a little incovenient but not that big of a deal.

Unless you are dialing a number that starts with 91.

And the phone chooses to repeat the 1.

And you don't notice that you have just dialed 911.

You do notice when the policeman shows up at your door asking if everything is okay. And then another squad car pulls up because they always send two cars for an incomplete 911 call.

Guess I better make time to get a new phone.....

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Gettin' my groove on....sort of....

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of prep and planning. From the start of the youth ministry program year to traveling back to IL to bless my friend Thornton to helping with our church's 150th anniversary celebration. There has been little time to look at big picture things and I have been falling behind on the "taking care of the house" list as well.

This week I've had the chance to be home - preparing for SMYG (Sunday Morning Youth Gathering) - and I can feel a rhythm starting to return. Spending time with Jesus, reading a little, working around the house a little, meeting friends.....

I'm not there yet - but I can see a rhythm forming in the near future that is going to be good for me......if I can be disciplined enough to stay in tune with God's spirit each moment of each day. Or at least be willing to keep an ear out for Him.....

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Thanks Thornton

A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of returning to my church family in Illinois and be part of a celebration of the 10 yr. anniversary of the life and ministry of my buddy Thornton (He is the good looking guy in the middle!) at Chatham Presbyterian Church. It was a surprise party during worship - recognizing the cool things that God has done thru this man.

Thornton was the first Christian man to really invest time into me.....and disciple me. It was a very interesting ride and one that I am forever grateful for. Here are some of the thoughts that I shared with Thornton in reflecting on the adventure we had together.....

A few words and phrases that come to mind when I think of you (and I think of you often):

Change-agent: You are one who will challenge “tradition” and always seem to have your Holy Spirit radar up for when God is doing a new thing – not just in programs….but also in people.

Joyful exuberance – You bring that contagious quality of joy into all of the situations you find yourself in…..and people notice.

Authentic – Being joyful doesn’t mean being happy all the time. You are transparent in your walk with Christ….sharing your struggles, failures, successes, and questions. I love that!

Creative extravagance – We so often had conversations where I was trying for simple and you were trying for “over the top”! From ideas for “Hot air balloon rides” at the Gathering, to hanging the Moravian star over the sanctuary (with electricity!), to gathering of musicians for plays/musicals you keep looking over the edge to see what else can be done. Thanks for not letting me “settle” for less than what God wanted as we ministered together in this place.

Integrity – You have it. I see it. Thanks for sharing it.

Unquenchable passion for seeing lives changed thru the love, grace, and power of Jesus.

You are so filled with passion for Christ that it leaks and oozes out of all that you do…..and all of the relationships that you invest yourself in. Because of our friendship and God’s work in you and through you, I have become a better husband, father, and friend. You have been a blessing beyond measure in my life. I thank God for you.

I ran into this scripture while “pondering” you (is that weird…that I pondered you?):

Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God. Philippians 1:10-11 (Msg)

A fitting description of the life and ministry of Thornton Woerner at Chatham Presbyterian Church.

It was a great day. Thanks, Thornton!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Nobody's home....

I tried calling about 21 Jr. High kids last night between 6:45 and 7:00. I wanted to make a personal invitation to our mid-week youth gathering. Out of the 21 phone calls I made...only 4 families were home.

It made me wonder where they are.

My hope would be that they were out having dinner as a family, or playing at the park, or riding their bikes, or hanging out with friends. My fear is that it is just another night of soccer, gymnastics, dance, tennis, piano, ????. My fear is that it isn't just that Tuesday night is busy and scheduled.....but rather every night is like this.

Of course none of those activities are "bad". My concern is that the activities never let up - there is no "free choice" time to decompress. And it wasn't just the kids that were missing from their was the parents as well. Yeah, I have a tendency to be a little cynical in this area....but still....75% of the houses I called last night were empty.

What does this mean in persepective to a mid-week youth gathering? Are we just piling on to their already overbooked lives? Are we adding value? Or are we just adding stress? Are we forcing a good choice about priorities and doing battle with the culture.....or are we just helping our kids slowly become exhausted. Are we creating space for Jesus to provide the new, abundant life they need........or making it out to be just another "activity" to be conquered?

Nobody's home.....that worries me.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Perseverance, character, and hope

My daughter, Kelsey, continues to astound me. (Actually, all of my kids do....but today my thoughts are focused on Kels.)

When I think of her so many positives come to mind. But three in particular are perseverance, character, and hope.

Kels is a senior this year and recently tried out for the H.S. soccer team. She was placed on the JV team - the only Senior on that squad. After pondering that for a day or two she chose to accept that position. She didn't whine or complain. She decided to play.

I am so glad because I love to watch her play (although I don't think the parents of her opponents take as much joy in it!). She really loves the game for the joy of playing. Her character shined through in accepting that position and continuing to play with joy and abandon.

We talked about it and also thought that there was hope she would be asked to play up with the varsity squad at some point as well. (The girls varsity soccer team won the state championship last year and returned all but one from that squad.) happened. Kels has been invited to play with the varsity team this weekend at a tournament. Way cool. Way to let your perseverance and character shine through....and living a life of hope - not just for a chance to play soccer, but for the hope that I know lives in your heart because of Christ. Way to go, Kels.

Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. Romans 5:3-5

Thursday, September 07, 2006

A not so great start

Wake up. Make coffee. Pour cream into favorite Starbucks Christmas mug. Add coffee. Seal mug. Drink coffee. Open mug to add more coffee. See small white chunks floating in coffee. Become slightly disconcerted. Smell cream. It reeks. Dump coffee. Dump cream. Try not to gag.

Welcome to Thursday. Have a great day.

And so it begins....

My kids started back to school this week. Being a stay at home dad this has opened up some "space" in my day. Hopefully, I'll use that time wisely but that post is for another day.

As I watch my kids return to school and see/hear about all the stuff they have to deal with....the more I am in awe of them. And, the more convicted I feel as a dad. What are we as a society/culture and specifically me as their dad allowing to happen to them.

Schedule for a 14 y.o.
  • 6:30 a.m. - Wake up at 6:30 - shower, prep, eat bkfst, talk to dad about when/where the drop off and pick ups need to be made for the evening.
  • 7:30 Ride to school with Sr. sister (what a blessing that is!)
  • 8 - 2:45 School - no open hours......and ALL those numbers to remember (locker number, locker combination, sports locker number, sports locker combination, student number, lunch pin code number, room numbers.......I would never make it in H.S. these days!)
  • 3-5:00 Soccer practice (If there is a game that night, Drew won't be home before 6)
  • 5:00 - 6:30 Actually talk to dad about his day, plan for the rest of the night, eat dinner (probably not as a family except 1-2X/wk during the school year)
  • 6:30-7 practice french horn
  • 7-9:30 homework
  • 9:30 "Free time"
  • 10 - off to bed and read for awhile......sleep for 8 hours.....hopefully....
  • Repeat until exhausted

This would be the "light" schedule. If Drew has a band concert, band lesson, soccer game, church activity (Youth group on Wedndesdays), etc it really bogs down. Basically, the "base" schedule has almost zero flexibility - and little to no time to develop deep relationships with peers or adults that I would like to have in his included.

How do we stop this train now that it has left the station? How will I let this realization impact my decisions/priorities as a dad - and our priorities as a family? How does this impact how we look at youth ministry and the additional pressures that adds to kid's schedules?

I get tired just watching Drew manage his day. And Kelsey's (Senior) and Alexey's (2nd grade) are not that much different.

This has got to change. And I need God to help show me the way - and then for the Holy Spirit to provide the courage to act.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Simple blessings

I was cleaning the youth room today at church - trying to prepare for the start of our Sunday School and youth program year. Yeah, I was being sort of grumpy about it....and trying really hard to feel sorry for myself.

As I was pulling out really old books and VHS tapes I found a sealed envelope. Of course, nosey noot that I am I opened it. Written inside on a piece of paper was "Jesus loves you!"

A simple blessing. One that I needed. Left by someone long ago by accident - only to be used in a very cool way on this day. Thanks God!

Monday, September 04, 2006

7 y.o. conversations

"Hey Alexey - I saw that you took your hockey stick down to Sam's house. Did you play hockey?"


"Did you take it because you thought you might play hockey?"


"Why did you take the hockey stick?"

"It looks like a gun!"


Fashion statement

Last Sunday I had the chance to meet a new family. Welcomed them to our church and chatted for a minute. Also had the opportunity to speak with a few friends and be generally social. Was feeling pretty good about it until......

My daughter came up to me, hugged me, and whispered in my ear, "Dad, your shirt is on inside out!"


Yeah, that's right. I'm cool.....

Fashion statement

Last Sunday I had the chance to meet a new family. Welcomed them to our church and chatted for a minute. Also had the opportunity to speak with a few friends and be generally social. Was feeling pretty good about it until......

My daughter came up to me, hugged me, and whispered in my ear, "Dad, your shirt is on inside out!"


Yeah, that's right. I'm cool.....

Friday, September 01, 2006

Precious Moments

Nope, I'm not talking about these "cute" little figurines.....and if I ever buy one just shoot me. The precious moments I'm talking about usually happen in the morning - anywhere from 7-8 a.m.

That is the time that my son Alexey wakes up and comes wandering downstairs.

Almost every morning, after he gets out of bed, he wanders downstairs and sits on my lap. Sometimes it is in the computer room (he did it just now as I'm typing this!), sometimes in the living room on the couch, sometimes in the kitchen....but he always finds me.....and plops onto my lap. Then we just sit quietly for a few minutes. Alexey will rub his legs on mine, yawn, stretch, reach up to my face and touch my cheek, give me a kiss, and just sit.......nestled in. Soon he will ask, "Can you play a game with me?" and the day's activities begin.

Those moments - before the day's activities begin - are so precious. It is so cool to start the day with your child resting on you. Listening to his breathing, noticing the scent of his hair, watching him snuggle in as deep as he can, wrapping him in my arms, noticing how he tries to use my arms and legs as a blanket to keep him warm.

Precious moments. Moments I'm not sure he will remember when he gets older. Moments I'm not sure will last much longer.

I wonder if God feels the same way when we nestle into Him. When we slow down enough to just sit and be in His presence. Not saying anything....just breathing, seeking His warmth and comfort, allowing Him to wrap His arms around us...and snuggling in as deep as we can before the day's activities begin.

I have a feeling God perceives those as precious moments - even though there will come a time when I don't remember those moments. And I don't know how much longer those moments will occur.....but they are precious moments none the less.