Archive for March, 2009

Monday Morning Quarterback

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Here’s how the goals are going:

  • Time with family: I tried to increase my time at home with the family this week.  It went so-so.  We did have a great dinner on Monday night as we celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary by going out as a family.  The kids enjoyed going with us.  On Thursday we had a good time together as well.  
  • Exercising: I made it to the gym 3 times last week. Total running distance this week was 20 miles.  This coming week I will begin a 6 day per week running schedule with all the miles coming from outdoor running.  I have to begin aggressively logging miles to be ready for the 1/2 marathon on May 9th.  I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t feel ready at all.
  • Weight: last week – 199  this week – 201. It probably didn’t help that I attended a weekend camp with a group of 30 teens and felt the need to eat extra portions to keep my energy up.  I was able to keep pace with them and their caffeine induced energy but I feel bloated now…
  • Read Two Books Per Week:  Two books this week – This is Your Brain on Joy and Death by Love.  I wrote a review for the first book here.  The second book, Death by Love by Mark Driscoll was a great read.  As a pastor I appreciated the voice that this book was written in.  I am quite sure that many people will enjoy this read and gain great insight into the work of Jesus and the sacrifice that He made for each of us.
  • Monthly Date Night With Kim: We actually had a family date to celebrate our 14th anniversary.  It was a good time and the money we spent on the kids food was less than what a babysitter would have cost!
  • April Vacation in Philadelphia:  This plan has officially changed.  I will be heading to Jamaica instead during this time frame to help lead a youth mission trip.  I’m excited to be joining this team and look forward to seeing many teens be used by God to impact this beautiful island.  Kim and I have begun to look into a beach house to stay at in July.  This will be a great time with the family and will provide the girls with plenty of time to find shells in the sand.

That’s all for this weekly update.  More next week!

This Is Your Brain On Joy

Being a Youth Pastor that has dealt with and will continue to deal with students with ADD, ADHD, PTSD, and other learning or emotional disorders I found this book insightful.  The techniques and treatments described in the book have led to breakthroughs for many people suffering from a wide spectrum of brain disorders, from brain injuries to chemical imbalances._140_245_book33cover

I’ve read many books that were written by medical professionals that were far above my level of understanding.  This is the first one that was written with the lay-leader in mind. Although there is plenty of scientific information, the author writes with a keen awareness of the non-professional reader and manages to communicate without resorting to medical-speak. In this world of medical professionals that resort to science as the only truth it is good to also read a book written through a Christian worldview.  He relates stories of Christian people struggling with emotional and behavioral problems who thought they had spiritual problems. What a relief to know that their struggles were caused by abnormalities in their brains!

As the book title suggests, we have the ability to find joy in our lives.  At times I have spoken with people who have questioned their faith in God because they were living lives filled with depression.  They felt as though they had failed God because they still have no peace in their lives even while filling their days with prayer, reading the Bible and quiet times.  There are legitimate cases of abnormalities in the human brain that need to be discussed, diagnosed, and treated in order for a joy-filled life to be led for some individuals.  I would recommend other pastors and church leaders to read This Is Your Brain On Joy by Dr. Earl Henslin  to gain additional insight into how individuals can be helped.

Swinging For The Fences

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A hard lesson that I learned many years ago was in regards to trying too hard.  This came about when I preached one of my first messages.  It was a horrible experience.  The message had 5 main points, 3 sub-points per point, and 5 examples per point.  I honestly don’t understand why people remained in their seats.  I was all over the place and quite sure that more people left with questions than answers that day.  After debriefing the experience with my Senior Pastor he gave me an analogy that helped me realize what I had done.

I was swinging for the fences.  I had the chance to deliver a great message to an eager audience and in my haste to cover all the bases, I struck out.  I was striving for a home run rather than playing it safe with a base hit.  Rather than realize that one single message would not become a life-changing experience for each listener I pulled out all the stops and ended up sitting on the bench.  I had it within me to serve up a great message that would have impacted someone’s life that morning and could have potentially helped others along on their journey to connect with a loving God.  Instead, I thought that I would be saving the world with my words.

Far too often we become far too full of ourselves and we forget that the life change that can happen when we speak comes not from us, but through the work of the Holy Spirit in us.  This was a valuable lesson for me to learn.  My prayer is that many others will learn through my experience rather than have to live through the same.  Babe Ruth may have set the record for the most home runs but he also led the league in the most strike outs.  (career home runs 714 – career strike outs 1330)  The message that we proclaim week after week is far too important to strike out on.  When proclaiming the Gospel we need to be clear, precise, and focused.  I now understand the idea of settling for a base hit when it comes to communicating truth to people.  

The same goes for anything that you do.  Yes, do all that you do with excellence, but understand that all that is needed to make the world go around is not dependent solely on you.  Trying too hard can be, not only your own undoing, but many others as well.  I would much rather prefer to have someone move from base to base as they journey towards home than to swing for the fences and strike out week after week.  An RBI still ends with a score.  

Too many strikes and they don’t let you swing any more…

Can you settle for base hits when you understand that they bring forward progress?

What Were You Thinking?

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We’ve all asked this question of someone.  Today I found myself asking my five year old daughter this very question as she proceeded to walk out of the house in her bathing suit.  Keep in mind, here in New Hampshire it was 26 degrees today!  Over the past ten plus years in youth ministry I have asked this particular question more than any other. 

When I walked into the bathroom to find two sixth graders, each with a can of air freshener in hand, spraying each other – “What were you guys thinking?”  When the young man who just got his license came tearing into the church parking lot at 40 miles per hour only to slide sideways into a parking spot – “What were you thinking?”  When the three teenage girls decided to draw in permanent marker on another girls face at a winter retreat – “Seriously, what were you girls thinking?”

Well, rest assured, the research is in and the answer is clear.  They were not thinking at all.  Scientists have been studying the human brain using MRI’s to follow the portions of the brain that are used in decision making in adolescents.  The frontal lobe of the brain, which is also known as the reason center of the brain, is still under development in teenagers and doesn’t fully develop until the mid-twenties.  This explains why teenagers typically will pursue high risk activities -they don’t make the connection between their choices and the potential consequences.  The point is that all youths lack the judgement that can come with age and experience.

That is why an adult presence in the life of every teenager is so vital to helping them develop the discipline needed to make wise choices.

What are you doing to help a teenager learn how to make wise choices?

Monday Morning Quarterback

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Here’s how the goals are going:

  • Time with family: I’ve been entering another busy season as our district youth camp begins to take shape along with the additional meetings we’ve been having in regards to our building expansion.  That being said, my family time has been suffering.  I need to snap this back into balance now.  My time with my family is something that I have to fight hard for.  This will become a priority this week.
  • Exercising: I made it to the gym 2 times last week but I also got an outside run in. Total running distance this week was 17 miles.  My mileage was down from last week but it was a more accurate count of the miles as it has been less inside and more outside.  I also figured out why my lower legs have been experiencing pain.  It hasn’t been due to poor stretching, actually my calf muscles are stronger than the muscles in the front outside portion of my lower legs.  This has been causing my heel to pull up which has been flexing the muscle on the front of my legs.  I’m working on some exercises that will strengthen the front of my lower legs in order to balance the strain that they are receiving.  Until they even out I’ll be icing my lower legs and pushing through some pain.  47 days until the Big Lake 1/2 Marathon
  • Weight: last week – 198  this week – 199. It’s now been 23 since the beginning of the 40 Days of Water .  While I don’t crave coffee anymore I do look forward to the end of this sacrifice.  Coffee is what filled me up without adding any pounds on me.  Instead I have been snacking on fruits & veggies.  My appetite is something I am always trying to keep in check and the coffee used to do that for me.  I can’t wait for April 9th!
  • Read Two Books Per Week:  We’re going through a teaching series at GCC on the Holy Spirit so I reread Jack Hayford’s book, The Beauty Of Spiritual Language.  This is a great book that removes some myths about speaking in tongues as well as what it really means to experience the fullness of the Holy Spirit.
  • Monthly Date Night With Kim: This week is supposed to be our date night.  We’ll see how it goes.  I’m looking forward to it and I think Kim will have fun as well!
  • April Vacation in Philadelphia:  Our vacation plans have definitely been changed.  We’ll be reallocating our April vacation budget to July and spending a week at the beach instead.  In place of April vacation I will be heading to Jamaica with our youth mission team.  We’ve had a couple people that have had to drop off the team due to health issues and family stuff.  Knowing the importance of good leadership on this trip I feel it is necessary to go.

That’s all for this weekly update.  More next week!

My Life Would Suck Without YOU v.3

So my last post talked about the theft that I had been involved in and the ensuing consequences that I had to walk through when coming clean about it all.  Jail was not fun.  Time away from my wife was not either.  But sharing with her the circumstances that led to me falling into this situation were even less fun.  Throughout the 9 months that I had been stealing from my employer I had been lying to her about where the money was coming from.  After coming home the lucky winner of yet another scratch ticket I am quite sure she was getting suspicious but she loved me and wanted to believe me.

The moments leading up to that conversation with Kim were the most frightful that I have ever had to go through.  I didn’t fear for my life – I can still take her! – I feared for my marriage.  I fully anticipated my lies to lead to the end of our union.  When we were about to get married she said to me one time, “never lie to me.” and I promised her that I wouldn’t.  So there I was with that broken promise at the forefront of my mind and the clock ticking away the seconds to when she would return home from work.  Kevin_Kim

The conversation was heated.  It was intense.  It was full of questions along with speculation of other things that I could have been lying about during our first two years of marriage.  I can’t blame her, nor will I ever, but it was brutal.  She ended up leaving and going to my parents house.  I followed her there shortly after and we spent the next few hours talking through a whole gamut of emotions.  There was quite a bit of prayer involved in that time.  I knew that God had spoken clearly to me that if I made things right with my employer He would take care of the rest – not that God would wave a magic wand and make all the problems go away – just that He would work through others to help calm, settle and realign our hearts together.

It took a long time for Kim to trust me again.  The journey of our relationship has had many bumpy roads but almost 14 years later our marriage is rock solid.  God has been faithful to us and has helped unify us again.  In that time we have grown our family and been able to share everything that goes on with each other.  There is hope for any relationship.  I believe it because I have seen it happen in my own marriage.  I can’t imagine where my life would be without my wife and I know that God deserves the honor for that.

My life would suck without YOU God.  My marriage would have ended years ago if not for YOUR intervention.

How has God worked in your relationships to bring about healing?

My Life Would Suck Without YOU v.2

My life truly would suck without God.  Looking back there have been many times when He has pulled me out of the misery that I brought upon myself because of doing life “my way.”  I can only imagine where I would be if the following example ended with me ignoring God’s leading…

It was 13 years ago that I was working at a restaurant and feeling over-worked and under-paid when I began to take money from the nightly deposits.  Over the course of 9 months I had accumulated somewhere around ten thousand dollars.  It was one day when I was hiking the Presidential Range and I was looking deeply at where my life had brought me to that I re-encountered God.  It was on top of Mt. Jefferson that I heard the voice of God speaking so clearly to my spirit.  “You screwed up, go home and fix it.”  And I did.  The next day I went in to work and called in my District Manager and shared my whole story with him.  The police were involved and then the State of NH got involved and then 10 months later I found myself in jail.jefferson-mt001

Now, I could have easily turned away from God.  I could have used that time as an excuse to blame God for messing up my life.  But I didn’t.  I chose to follow God even closer.  I chose to commit my life to His service.  I knew that He had called me to be a youth pastor years before but I had walked away.  It was at that time that I answered His call.  For the past 11 years I have been able to pastor youth at GCC.  I wouldn’t change it for anything.  My prayer is that at age 75 I will continue to  have an influence in youth ministry.

This time in my life was very difficult to walk through.  I knew what I had to do and I knew where God was calling me to.  The consequences of my actions and choices led me into quite a pit.  I feel like David as he wrote Psalm 40 throughout this experience.

I waited patiently for the LORD; 
       he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, 
       out of the mud and mire; 
       he set my feet on a rock 
       and gave me a firm place to stand.

 He put a new song in my mouth, 
       a hymn of praise to our God. 
       Many will see and fear 
       and put their trust in the LORD.

I have seen God use my past, my struggles, and my embarrassment to reveal even more of His glory to those around me. 

How has God pulled you out of a poor choice?

My Life Would Suck Without YOU

I’ll be completely honest.  I find the newest Kelly Clarkson song with that title very catchy.  I understand that the song is not written in the context that I am thinking right now but it’s my blog so I’ll read into the song title the way that I want to.

I choose to see that statement, “My life would suck without YOU” as a cry out to God.  Honestly, as I look back over my 37 years of life I can see that the times I ventured out on my own and did things my way, life really sucked.  It has been the times that I have trusted God with my life that things have turned out for the better.  I could write for hours about the examples (and will over the next week) but for now I just want to prime the pump and get you all thinking.

How is your life better because of God?

St. Patrick

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May we reach from our comfort zone to reach to those who need comfort today.

Buzzword: Stimulus Package

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It seems as though every commercial I hear on the radio these days has some marketing gimmick sales ploy that incorporates the newest buzzword, “Stimulus”.  Thecar dealership down the road is offering a Customer Stimulus Plan with cash back offers on all new cars purchased.  Burger King had it’s Hunger Stimulus Solution posted on their roadside sign.  The other day while sitting in Starbucks I overheard the barista brainstorming a new catchy slogan to write on the chalkboard.  The end result, “The Starbucks Stimulation Package.”  I think it ended up being a coffee with a shot of espresso (which Starbucks has already coined the “black-eye”)

C’mon, we’ve just about had enough of this lame attempt at a new buzzword to sell product.  With all the negative press that the governments stimulus plan is receiving do businesses really want to jump on the Stimulus Bandwagon and ride the bumpy road it leads down?  For the love of all good marketing, please stop using the words Stimulus and Package, especially package – it just sounds dirty…

by the way, Svën Kjærlighet, I dare you to disagree with me!