Monday, December 19, 2005

christmas

Woh, sorry it's taken me a long while to drop a note. Christmas is a special time of year. I love Christmas parties, being with people and family, and the food. I enjoy gifts, but I am not all about gifts. I don't like shopping and I don't really get all jazzed up about a big present. I think I'd rather get a hug from a close friend than the new Xbox 360. But if you already bought it for me, I'll take it :)

It's good to be alive!!

Merry Christmas to all.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Tuesday and Thanksgiving


wow, I am thankful for so much. I have a great wife, a great church, great friends, a wonderful family, and good health.

Spiritually I have salvation by believing in Jesus, a blessed hope of heaven, an amazing love for God only because of His grace, and a desire to share that with us.

I pray each of you have a very special holiday.

To Him be the Glory, both now and forevermore.

Monday, November 14, 2005

life

Good day!!!

I am healthy :) I was out of the blogging loop for a while as I was sick, working hard to catch up on sick days from work, and then just a little lazy too. I went to the doctor 3 days in a row. I'll save all the gory details (blood, kidney stones, etc.) for a differnt time.

God is blessing me with tons of neat stuff in His Word. The bible is coming alive!!

I want to throw out a big "hey" to our junior high crew at church . . . they rock!

Thoughts on the world today?

1. Is George Bush doing a good job or poor one?
2. What is worse a hurricane or a tornado? I vote tornados b/c you get a lot more warning with a hurricane, but I also live in Iowa where we just had 7 tornados hit in one night causing lots of destruction and at least one death.
3. How would Jesus run the United States if he were president?

one more - costume party



Enjoy these pictures from our youth ministry's costume party.

some pics to enjoy






nice raking, crew!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

we're back from Africa

Whew, we had a fabulous trip to Zimbabwe, Africa.

Here was our trip in a nutshell:

September 26 - WE drove to Chicago to catch a flight to London. We visited Carrie's dad along the way. And we dropped our car off at her uncle's place in a nearby suburb. His graciousness was a life-savior.

September 27 - We had a very long layover in London. We slept, read, prepared for some of our work in Zimbabwe, and visited different shops and restaurants.

September 28 - We arrived in Harare, Zimbabwe at like 7AM. One of our bags was lost :( We were warmly welcomed by our friends Ron and MaryAnn at the airport. We went to the University of Zimbabwe campus to pass out some fliers concerning our next day discussion on dating and courting. We met the 4 full-time Navigator Staff who are national Zimbabweans. We ate out at a beautiful outdoor restaurant. We stayed up till 8PM (barely).

September 29 - We slept a wonderful 12 hours till 8AM. We awoke to have wonderful quiet times and a tasty breakfast. We went to the University campus to give our presentation. WE had about 50 university students come and hear out talk. Several stayed around afterward to ask some questions. Another American arrived, named Heidi Meehan. She was a firecracker, even with no sleep. That night I went to campus with Edgar (a Zimbabwean) to have a bible study with 4 first year students. We studied John 4, I shared the Bridge Illustration (a simple illustration showing that Jesus is the only way we can be brought from death to life) and my story on how I became a Christian.

September 30 - We spent the morning visiting Dinai (the shona word for love one another) childrens' orphanage. We spent the day doing conference prep, and then that night I went and played tennis and basketball with several Zimbabwean students.

October 1 - We went to a National Game Park. We saw giraffe, kudus, zebras, ostriches and so much more. We also had a fun night at the Shimkus' flat that night. Several students from the univeristy came and ate dinner and played games. Zimbabaweans love to laugh. The country as a whole is falling apart economically so laughter is great medicine to these countrymen.

October 2 - We went to church, a beautiful service. A very multi-cultural church. The pastor gave a powerful message on suffering, very timely for the struggling Zimbabwe. In the afternoon I listened to Edgar and Tichara's seminars for the conference. They had worked very hard. That night I was on campus with some of the fellas doing recruiting for our conference.

October 3 - We spent about 7 hours working at the Dinai children's orphanage. This orphanage was very amazing. The orphanage caretaker was Francesca. She was a delightful Christian lady. They have 12 children. Most of them came off the street, lost at least one parent to AIDS, and did not know love until coming to Dinai. Some have been sexually abused, and some have HIV. May God pour his mercy on these small children.

October 4 - More conference prep and recruiting. Also, God provided an exchange of money within 20 minutes of the need to pay for the conference site. WOW!!

October 5 - Conference prep, passed on fliers for our second dating discussion, and enjoyed some time with the Navstaff. Also some late night recruiting and a very neat bible study led by one of the university students. Jonathan is an amazing man of God.

October 6 - My wife and I spent the morning finishing our conference seminar on reading the bible. We also had our dating discussion #2 - 50 Zim students. It was way fun. We ran more errands on Thursday night for the conference. Then we had a very refreshing dinner with the country leader and family for TEAM (The Evangelical Alliance Mission). We ate antelope :)

October 7 - The Americans and and a few nationals headed out to the conference site early to set up. The camp in Chinoyi, Zimbabwe was beatiful. Several thatched roof facilities and loads of character. Over 80 students from 3 different countries showede up that night (Zimbabwe, Zambia, Kenya). We had about 100 folks at the conference. One of the speakers was Jim Downing, a 92 year old Pearl Harbor survivor, and lifelong Navigator. He rocks. My wife and I stayed in a little electricity-free hut with Heidi on a comfortable cement floor.

October 8 - The conference continued with great bible teaching, worship, and fun. Carrie and I gave our seminar on bible reading, we helped with afternoon games, i struggled through the obstacle course, and got beat thoroughly in chess twice. That night we had to head back to harare (8 hours earlier than planned) due to car troubles.

October 9 - We ate a wonderful and refreshing breakfast at the airport and took one flight to Johannesburg and then another to London.

October 10 - We flew from London to Chicago and then made a grueling car ride back home to Boone, IA.

October 11 - Back to work

October 12 - first youth group starts again in 4 hours . . . praise the Lord!!

Thursday, September 22, 2005

another See You at the Pole pic


Africa here I come



I leave on Monday for Zimbabwe, AFrica. See previous posts for more details. My wife and I are excited to go serve this struggling country. We plan to offer spiritual and physical hope to these people, and to hopefully return to the States with ideas on how to encourage the Western world to embrace the Zimbabwean people.

The picture is a crew of about 50 students who gathered at the the Boone, Iowa High School to pray for their country, school, and people's needs. It was an encouraging event that was recreated at thousands of schools all across the country on September 21, 2005 for an event called See you at the Pole.

Pray for my wife and I that we can really offer God's blessing to these people. Check out the Operation World website if you want to read up on Zimbabwe (or any other country's) facts.

Monday, September 12, 2005

good local comment on Katrina

check out this site:

http://www.dmcityview.com/stevedeace.shtml

cyclones win

The Cyclone football team jumps into the top 25 with a defeat of the (then ranked) number 8 Iowa Hawkeyes.

oh how sweet it is!

my grandma

I spent part of my weekend helping pack up my grandma's apartment and moving her stuff to a storage facilitiy. She's been in a nursing home for 3 months and it doesn't seem like her health will ever allow her to live on her own again. It was a sad weekend, but also exciting. My grandma gets closer to heaven each day. She has a strong faith in Jesus and knows her deep need for God's grace. She misses her husband who also had expressed faith in Jesus Christ. So sometime they may be in eternal bliss together.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Youth Group Starts!!

Tonight our high school youth ministry gets rolling. I am very excited. We have an awesome group of students, and I am excited to see what God has planned for this Fall. Pray it up for our group.

This week has been great. I've had some good meetings and quality preparation. I got to hang out with my friend Joel today (pronouned whole - el). Joel is from Mexico and he and his wife Graciela (AKA Chela) have been great friends the last 2 years. He helps me with my Spanish each week and we just share about life. We had some good conversation today. chela is taking a job in Chicago in 2 weeks and will spend 3 months away from Joel, until Joel finishes his Master's Degree at Iowa State University. That'll be a tough stretch.

Well, I better get back to work, but I just wanted to drop a note on the blog.

Monday, August 29, 2005

my wife and I again


We like each other a lot.

simple but good quote for today

"Discipleship is a lifelong process that God uses to brin gus to maturity in Christ." Doug Fields

my wife and I

good times had by all

This weekend I went with 9 other folks to the AMANA colonies. We enjoyed some fascinating sites and good food. The Amana colonies in eastern Iowa were started in 1855 (I think that's right) by a unique German community. They believed a certain Christian mysticism and ephasized community living. Not like a 70s commune, but more like the community found in scripture. They share all their possessions, ate community meals 3 times a day, and shared life together. They lived this way until the 1930s or 50s.

The team of folks I went with are a group of adults who have labored in the student ministry of our church. They are a great team and we had some amazing fellowship. God really blessed our weekend.

On Sunday we kicked off our junior high ministry for the new school year. We had a very good-looking bunch of kids and we had some good times. I really pray that each of those students makes a commitment to grow in their faith this year. I know God can do amazing things in the lives of willing people. After youth group, I went on a little job with one of our 7th grade boys who starts cross country this year. He is a godly young man with tons and tons of potential.

well, that's my weekend . . . tell me about yours.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

losing my voice

so I thought I was going to lose my voice this week, but now it's just turned into a small cold that leaves a lot of phlegm in the back of my throat. This week has moved quickly. I’ve spent the whole week pretty much at my desk making final plans and preparations for our student ministry kickoffs. We start our junior high ministry this Sunday at 6PM and the high school ministry has its official start this Wednesday Aug. 31 at 8PM. I am very excited to get going.

I have a trip with the ministry adult volunteers this weekend. These adults have put in tons of hours, prayers, and support this past year and we like to do a little trip each year to say thank you and look ahead. We are going to the Amana Colonies, which is a little German community in Eastern Iowa. It’s fun and rather fascinating to watch how they did things back in the day. It should be a great weekend.

My mind is frazzled by all this planning and time in front of the computer. I am excited to get the ministry rolling and watch God work in the lives of students. May God pour down his grace upon us. In Jesus Name!!

Have a great weekend; I probably won’t blog until Sunday at the earliest.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

a disturbing news story

Jesus said we are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.

I do believe are country is called to defend and ensure justice across the land, but when Pat Robertson demands the assassination of a country head, I get a little nervous. What would Jesus do in such a situation? Read the Fox article and let me know.

Monday, August 22, 2005

a pic



Here's the picture of my pals from Saturday night's reunion. Enjoy!

preaching

Yesterday I got to preach at church. It’s usually a fun experience. Since I’m young, no matter how bad I do, the people like to give me compliments. It was my third or fourth time preaching . . . it is definitely something you get “better” at over time, not that God doesn’t use the worst sermons to touch people’s lives, but there are people who can communicate better than others for sure. I preached on a passage in Luke about 3 people who said they wanted to follow Jesus but really had areas they thought they could hold back on.
One of the points in my sermon had an interesting quote in it. I have provided that at the bottom of this submission. I have a lot to do so I better get running.

By Bob Deffinaugh,
“I am convinced that one of the sacred cows of our Christian culture at this time is “the family.” Working hard to “get rich” is perhaps unacceptable, but working hard “to provide for one’s family” becomes a virtue for which one is praised. Self-indulgence may be considered a vice, but if I give my family a “much needed vacation” or I buy a “place on the lake” or a “condo in Colorado” so that I can spend “quality time with my family” I am a Christian hero, upheld by many as a model for others to imitate.

Please do not get me wrong. The family is a wonderful institution. God created the family, and it is a great blessing. We are to provide for our families. And we are living in a culture which is destructive to the family. Often it is because the family is under attack in our culture that we have sometimes overreacted, making the family the number one priority, and in so doing, we have made it a sacred cow.”

Saturday, August 20, 2005

anniversary

My parents celebrate their 35th wedding anniversary on Monday. Tonight most of my fam went out to Red Lobster to celebrate. Now I doubt you knew this; if you do, you are like Martha Stewart. But 25th wedding anniversaries require silver gifts and 50th wedding anniversaries require gold gifts. But on the 35th, you're supposed to buy things made of Coral (or Jade if you don't want to destroy tropical water eco systems.) Well, personally I think anything coral is tacky, which is actually a little joke I made tonight at dinner. The funny thing is, my dad long ago bought my mom (her first gift as a ring) a coral ring. I guess it looked good and all, but i just thought it was funny that I randomly said a coral gift would be tacky.

Today my wife and I, and a student friend named Anna, picked the apples off our tree in the backyard. this tiny little tree had like 50-100 good apples. We cut them up to freeze and it took well over an hour to cut up all those apples. It was fun though, and I really enjoyed getting apples without a trip to the grocery store.

Also, this morning I went golfing . . . I played by myself and it was really refreshing.

Last night I had this wedding in a nearby town. It was supposed to be outside in this gorgeous garden. The problem however was that it rained cats and dogs from 30 minutes before to 30 minutes after the official wedding start. We waited almost 20 minutes before calling the wedding into a small indoor room. Almost all the guests had to stand, which was a bummer. But the room was beautiful. It was a little biodome tropical room with a pretty waterfall as the backdrop. They had a harpist do the music and the bride and groom looked great. If it hadn't stopped raining outside just before we started inside, I think everything would have been fine. But the bride didn't think it was too cool that it stopped raining right when we had started inside. We shortened things up a bit since all the guests were standing, but overall it went off great.

I also hung out with old fraternity brothers and college friends last night. One of my close buds is working in Florida. He, his wife, and some other folks are starting a church and a ministry to reach teh toughest part of Jacksonville. It was great to connect with them and the other pals from college. (I want to throw out a "hey Kyle" to the host of that party . . . he reads this blog now and again.) When Kyle sends me a digital pic of our party, I'll post it on the blog so you can see all my good looking friends.

Well, it's late (8:45PM and I'm old) and I have to preach tomorrow at church so I better get off. Maybe there's some Law and Order on TV tonight? We'll see.

God bless all!

Thursday, August 18, 2005

another phota




My good looking family at my Grandma’s family reunion several weeks ago.

Quote of the day

Quote of the day:

“In view of the way Jesus defines what it means to be his follower, one might well wonder how many . . . church members are genuinely following the Jesus who speaks to us in the Gospels.” Craig S. Keener

Zimbabwe Update



Hello from sunny Boone, IA! We wanted to give you a quick update on our lives and share an opportunity for you to support us this fall with your prayers and your gifts.

We have been in Boone for nearly 2 years serving the First Evangelical Free Church student ministry. As the pastor of student ministries at the church, Matt has been coordinating, planning, and implementing all the trips, weekly events, and curriculum for the 7th-12th grade students. Just this summer, we took students back to South Dakota for a week long mission’s trip to the Rosebud Native American Reservation (the 2nd poorest area in the nation). Three weeks later, we took six students to a regional student training conference called Students Equipped to Minister to Peers. We also took 19 junior high students to Kansas City for a little fun and fellowship at the beginning of August.

Carrie is working part time for Serve Our Youth (“SOY”). SOY is an organization that finds and trains mentors for high risk youth. Carrie has been doing some grant writing and mentor recruiting with SOY since May 2005.

This fall we have been invited to assist two dear friends in their missionary work in Africa. They have been lifelong missionaries for a Christian organization called the Navigators. This couple has shared Christ and served people in various cities in the United States, Kenya, Lithuania, and for the last two years in Zimbabwe, Africa. They are also the founders of a humanitarian organization called Life to Life Africa. Life to Life Africa supports schools and orphanages, provides school dues for children in poverty, and offers other relief as needs arise among the African people.

We have been invited to Zimbabwe September 26-October 10 to join them in their ministry in the capital city of Harare. In Harare, we will share about our faith and hope in Jesus Christ to college students at the University of Harare. We will observe the work of Life to Life Africa with the hope of gathering information to share the great need of Zimbabwe back in the United States. We hope to bring home a little bit of Africa to help the students back in Boone gain a better perspective of the people of the world and their needs.

On the trip we hope to build solid relationships with Zimbabwean students. During the first 2 weeks of our trip, we will play sports, games, and share stories within the open Zimbabwean culture. We hope to invite several students to a Navigator college conference that will be held Oct. 7-9. We will help coordinate and teach at this conference, probably giving seminars on various aspects of Christian living and discipleship. At the conference we hope to connect the students to Navigator staff and other laborers.

Most importantly, we want to ask for your prayers for this trip. We believe that this trip will be absolutely worthless without God’s blessing, guidance, and care. Will you please pray with us?

If you would like a more detailed prayer list than what is provided in this letter, please contact us by email. We can provide you with a list before we leave, and may even be able to contact you while we are in Harare.

Much love,
Matt and Carrie

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Wednesday fun

Today I met a good friend for breakfast. We met when I was in college and he was in middle school. He is a gifted guy with a fascinating personality. He has a hunger for God and a passion to be a MAN. The time with him was rich and encouraging. I wish him the best as he takes on college this coming fall. The rest of the day was filled with work work. I am performing a wedding on Friday so I finished up all that prep and now I am working on a sermon. I preach in church like 2-4 times a year so it's a very cool privilege, but it is hard to only preach once in a blue moon. You think that this one sermon has to change the church in order to save the world. I know that's a little over dramatic, but I struggle with that sometimes. It's pride and hope fighting it out. I know God can do amazing things in a drop of a hat . . . but sometimes I want God to do all the work and then give me all the credit. That's the sinful nature in me . . .

Lord, help me to be a vessel for your glory . . . not mine.

He must become greater, I must become less. John 3

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

tuesday's musings

The weekend flew by . . .

My wife and I are almost finished with the remodeling of our bathroom. It's only taken like 8 months. We just put in the shelves to our bathroom closet this weekend and touched up some paint that had needed it for almost 3 months. We also worked on a built in cabinet that's in our living room. We are pealing off all the paint with the intention of just staining the original wood (our house was built in 1914.) It takes a long time to strip all the layers of paint, grime, and stain.

Sunday was fun. We connected with some friends after church. I played this game Quiddler and took dead last. It's a fun game like Scrabble sort a. Then I worked all afternoon. We capped off Sunday with 9 holes of golf on the most beautiful night of the summer. There were several deer roaming the course that night and it was beautiful.

Monday was unique. 5 students, my wife and I ran a booth at the Iowa State Fair. We were passing out literature about our denomination the Evangelical Free Church of America. We pretty much sat there and people-watched all day. But we took in the fair later. We saw a 1000 pound boar, a 300o pound bull, and lots of food on a stick (don't ask if you're not from Iowa.)

All in all, the days are full and life is good. I am running off to a day long meeting now.

Question of the day?

What does it mean to be a Christian?

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

poetry is good

ROAD LESS TRAVELED

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth
Then took the other as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet, knowing how way leads onto way
I doubted if I should ever come back
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence
Two roads diverged in a wood
And I took the one less traveled by
And that has made all the difference

Robert Frost

Quote of the day

"Courage does not follow rutted pathways." William Bennett, former US Secretary of Education.

Are you taking the road less traveled or the easy road of the multitudes?

Monday, August 08, 2005

hot summer days


Here's a picture of the team of folks I went on a missions trip with in June. It was an awesome trip; I love them all. It kind of looks like I have to go to the bathroom in the picture.

I just spent a couple hours cleaning up my office. I filed away important documents, threw away lots of junk, and got the whole place all organized. it feels good to get things in the right place and to clean this up a bit. With all the trips and other summer events, my office had gotten quite crazy.

This past weekend I got to marry off a good friend. The wedding was beautiful, and the weekend was fun. I really enjoyed giving the wedding message to this amazing couple. I pray God's blessings on them for years to come.

Here's a bit of their story that I shared during thier wedding

"Eric and Kara . . . congratulations . . . today is a great day. It’s your celebration. God has brought you two together intentionally. He has spent years fashioning you both so that today the two of you could become one. Kara when you were just a young girl, you prayed that Jesus Christ would be Lord of your life. Eric, it was during your high school years that you gave your life to God. And today, God’s love is evident in both of your lives. Then, it was no accident that you began dating on May 20, 1998. God knew that it would happen for all eternity. He also knew that just a few months later, you two would kiss for the very first time under the romantic setting of Glen and Wanda Cowan’s garage roof. God knew that Eric would express the words, “I love you” by the end of the summer of 1998. And God also knew that you, Eric, would have to sweat out 2 very longs weeks before Kara expressed a similar “I love you too.” God knew that you would go to 3 proms and 2 homecomings . . . even though Eric was long out of high school for 2 of those proms. God knew you would celebrate (maybe a record breaking) 7 years of dating anniversaries. God knew it would take Eric nearly 6.5 years to visit Glen to ask for Kara’s hand in marriage, but God, also, knew that Glen would thoroughly take his time giving ERIC a proper understanding and explanation of the importance of marriage, but an affirmative decision eventually came, and all in all, it seems to have turned out for the best. Your engagement was on election night November 2, 2004, the same night, as I quote Eric, “My man Bush won.” Eric gave the best pre-dinner prayer of his life . . . and God answered his closing request that said, “And I pray that she says yes.” To which when Kara opened her eyes, Eric was on his knee asking for her hand in marriage. The engagement was a mere 9 months in comparison to 7 years of dating. And now we are all here today . . . very happy for the two of you."

God is good.

Monday, July 25, 2005

courageous yet timid

Today marks the beginning of another summer week. I have had a great summer. Just last week I traveled with my wife and 6 high school students to Wheaton, IL. We attended a conference that focused on ministering to the needs of our friends. We were challenged to grow in our love for Jesus Christ and to overflow with His love to those closest to us. Helping others see Jesus is a great privilege that every Christian holds.

We went into Chicago's downtown one day via the train. We visited the Institute of Art, which is one of my favorite sites in all of America. The work they have by Van Gogh is amazing. My eyes and heart are captured by those paintings.

I hope to recover a bit this week before I take 20 junior highers to Kansas City next week for 2 days at amusement parks.

My wife and I need to connect . . . these trips take a lot out of ya.

Friday, July 15, 2005

it's hot out there

Iowa in the summer is a beautiful thing. I woke up this morning to have breakfast with a friend. It was already pushing 80 degrees with 98 percent humidity. I went golfing after breakfast and nearly died of heat stroke . . . well worth it though.

The rest of the day has been busy. My wife and I and some students we work with are going on a trip to Chicago tomorrow. We spend the whole week with 5000 other students from around the country. We learn more about God, invest in our spiritual walks, and learn how to help our friends back home see Jesus a little better. It should be a great week.

I've had a great summer so far. I've seen some great friends and visited tons of family. I am so blessed to have great relatives in my family and through my wife's family. It's such a blessing. We visited my wife's family last week and had a blast mini golfing, playing games, eating and just talking up a storm. Then we went to a very cool wedding and then during this week we had some neat times with good friends.

I hope everyone who is reading this can praise God with me for all His good gifts . . . the greatest being Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

family adventures

Whew . . . what a great weekend. I got to visit my 80 year old grandma this past weekend. Our family celebrated her birthday (a few months late) with relatives from all over the states. I got to see cousins I haven't seen in years. About 75 people in my grandma's town came to honor her 80 years too. It was a very speical time for stories and celebration. God is so good to give me such a caring and amazing family.

Our church also had a fabulous 4th of July Celebration Monday night. We had lots of fun, and a great time to honor those American fathers and mothers who have given us such a great country.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

prayer of the day

From - John Baillie

"For the power Thou hast given me to lay hold of things unseen:
For the strong sense I have that this is not my home:
For the restless which nothing finite can satisfy:
I give Thee thanks, O God."

moved by God

I am listening to the song "It is you" right now. The song is all about the Holy God who is my Savior. He died for me so that I could be brought back to Him. He did everything, I deserved nothing. wow!

The last few days have been a powerful time for me spiritually. I started a bible study on revival a couple of weeks ago. I am being personally revived by God's Word and spending time with Him. I was also blessed by a Renewal Weekend at our church. An older pastor (42 years as a preacher) came and taught God's Word. God's Word came alive off the page and convicted me of so much. I am a prideful pig, seeking personal gratification and self-aggrandizement. I pray that the Lord humbles me . . . I understand the danger in praying such a thing. God can humble me . . . but I know if He doesn't my life will be ruined by my pride. I want to seek Him, adore Him, serve Him, and honor Him in all I do. I love Jesus!!

I am excited to teach God's Word tomorrow for high school youth group. I desire to be a vessel in God's hand to bring about conviction, changed lives, and ultimately more faithful Christ-followers. to Him be the glory

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

spinning . . .

The earth spins at around 750 miles per hour at the latitude of Iowa. I get motion sickness a lot on rollercoasters, so it is not surprising that sometimes I get sick just chilling on this blue marble we call earth. Life seems to spin faster the more I travel. In the last 2 weeks, I've been to Chicago once, Cedar Rapids Twice, and all the cities in between. It's been wild.

On my way back from a very challenging Pastors' Conference at the Moody Bible Institute, my father-in-law and I had to divert our intended travel plans in order to help my stranded sister-in-law. A quick 5 hour trip home, quickly turned into a 10 hour trip. It was wild, frustrating, but also a very special blessing to be there to help Carmen. I was so tired at the end of the trip. The whole week in Chicago was fast and busy. I stayed up too late, slept too little, and had all kinds of fun. I learned more about being a pastor and enjoyed the sweet presence of God with over 1200 other pastors.

In Cedar Rapids, I celebrated another sister-in-law's graduation from Kennedy High School. We had a blast! She rocks!

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

moody

I am at teh Moody Pastor's Conference. It is not a conference for pastors who are irritated, but rather a conference held in the Mooday (named after Pastor D.L. Moody) Bible Institute. About 1000 pastors are being challenged by other pastors and Christ-laborers. I have had the joy of rooming with one of my bestest of friends. He is a pastor in Michigan and love Jesus deeply. I am being convicted of lots of things, missing my wife desperately, and enjoying the fellowship of several pastors. My body aches (basketball), it's tired (several late nights; one a trip to see Star Wars in downtown Chicago till 1AM one night), and it's elated to be here.


God is good.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

my return to blogging

It's been a week since my last blog, sorry.

Last Friday my little sister's surgery went well. We had to get up at 4AM to make it down to the hospital to see her before she went in. I think I was the most nervous person, well, at least as much as my mom. She did experience lots of pain in recovery the first day, but she's better now. She has a lot on her plate for a 17 year old. She may have to have a hysterectomy at a very young age. My whole family needs prayers.

Friday night my wife and I drove up to Hubbard for a family dinner. Carrie’s sister graduated from the University of Iowa on Saturday so on Friday we ate together with part of the family, and then Saturday we all went to Carver Hawkeye Arena to watch our graduate walk across the stage. I had a blast the rest of the day talking to family, eating too much, and playing ping pong and pool (even though Jeff beat me in pool 2 games to none, a rematch is in the making.)

Sunday morning was very neat. We had 4 couples in our church come in and share about the Visitation Ministry. People on this team visit members of our church and community who are shut up in their homes, in hospitals, and in nursing homes. They shared the blessing they have received ministering and also several very humorous stories from over the years. Sunday night was fun too. Our junior highers seemed to really enjoy being together on Sunday night; it was very cool! We talked about heaven and what the bible says is necessary to be allowed into heaven.

On Monday morning, my wife and I played some golf, only 5 holes because of weather. My wife was going out for her 5th time. She’s never scored better than a triple bogey on a hole, but on the third hole, a par 3, that was 115 yards downhill into the wind, she recorded a birdie-2. She hit a beautiful tee shot with her driver. It was a slight draw that ended up 2 feet from the cup. She sank the putt and the trees went wild; it was a windy day. She also recorded a bogey on the next whole. Without the other three holes, which were in double digits each, she would have shot even par. We ate a quick lunch and then traveled down to a cabin just of Interstate 80 to celebrate our 2nd wedding anniversary. We had a great evening; the lake was gorgeous. On Tuesday night I played in my first golf men’s league. The pressure got to me at the end and I ended with a not so impressive score.

Our youth ministry had a BBQ party Wednesday night. It was supposed to be out in the country at the home of one of our students, but the weather changed the location to the church. We still grilled outside, but all other activities were in the church. We had a good showing from parents, a few other family members, and a score of students. The games were fun, the food was great, the worship was heartfelt, the student testimony of coming back to Christ after a hiatus into alcohol and smoking was encouraging, and my message was so-so. All in all, a good night.

For my interested friends (John, Pete, and whoever) I believe the experiment suggests that the earlier event could have been skewed in its results. There is definitely a dangerous trend among certain families, but I’d say about 65% have a similar understanding as I do.

And now it’s Thursday . . . and life goes on.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

too much

This week has been hard to take in. I have had a hard time trusting God and calling out to Him. It's been a bit overwhelming. On Monday my grandma had an unexpected surgery. She cracked her pelvis 2 weeks ago, but all of a sudden the doctor decided it was time for her to go under the knife. My mom drove (a very fatigued) 3 hours to be at her side. On Monday night, my wife and I continued to labor on our bathroom remodeling project. On Tuesday, a cop friend of mine had a coworker take some bullets in a drug bust. I was relieved that the guy was okay, but frightened to think that that (I love it when you have 2 thats back to back in a sentence) could have been my friend. On that same night, a transient broke into my office to steal my laptop computer and pda. He was arrested for trespassing in a town 40 miles to the west and my stuff was confiscated. It is not in my possession yet, but hopefully soon. I pray that this guy calls out to God. He must feel so lonely, afraid, and hungry for something. Let him see his deep need for God. On Wednesday I prepared a message on power. I realized that I am very much like the first murderer in the bible, Cain. Cain liked to ignore God's voice, let sin fester, and take matters into his own hands. For me and others (I think) power is often believed doing what we want, when we want. This often leads to pain in our lives and in others. I need to listen to God's Word and voice, let Jesus save me from my sin, and call out for the Holy Spirit to take over my life and all my decisions. Then real power is possible. My little sister needs prayer; she goes into surgery tomorrow. Life is hard. The Lord gives and takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Yep here we go

Monday morning was a hard one. I did not want to get up. I was tired, frustrated, and thinking a few more hours of sleep were just the ticket. Luckily, I have a wife who loves me enough to get me out of bed even when I'd rather rest. This weekend was a hard one. We drove a lot. We worked a lot. And then on Sunday night for "Parent's Night" at junior high youth group, not one parent came. Those things break my heart. I was expecting a good showing, but instead my pride and heart got ripped out and placed on a nice little platter. I am glad that one day I will be ushered into God's presence where there is no weeping nor pain. Until then, I just pray that God increses my faith.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

C.S. Lewis thought this was the purpose of pain:

“God whispers in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

putting others before myself . . .

Phil 2:3-4 "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others." NIV

"There's only one way to consider other people as better than yourself and that is to truly believe that they are." Fischer (italics added)

Monday, May 02, 2005

expectant

As the new week starts, I am excited for the future. I had a fabulous weekend. Friday I worked with my wife on our home, a project that will never end :) Friday night we traveled to watch a middle school play, starring my wife's little brother. It was hilarious, fun, and delightful. To close off the evening, we watched "The Day After Tomorrow" with the family. It was a thought-provoking movie. An uncle of my wife's is a meterologist and he let us know that it is mostly sensational science (sigh of relief.)

Saturday started with a cold tennis meet. We watched my wife's sister's doubles' match. She kicked butt. Then my wife and I spent the remainder of Saturday resting in the Lord. We took a nap, read to each other, and spent some time in prayer. Very refreshing.

Sunday was a wild ride. Church was great. Sunday school was challenging. We spent time listening to God's Word through an ancient Christian discipline called Lectio Divina. Sunday night was filled with students. Junior high youth group was challenging. These students are really sharp, and together we tried to answer the question, "Why/How did Adam and Eve commit the First Sin?" We closed the night off with a small group gathering of students investigating what the "basics" are of the Christian faith.

My morning today was awesome. I picked up a little devotional yesterday that my wife recommended. It has some sample prayers, reading selections, and scripture passages. I met my Lord this morning. God rocks!

Thursday, April 28, 2005

quote of the day

"I often wonder how a gospel based solely on the merits of one who has died to forgive sin could be perpetuated on the merits of those who don't seem to need it. If the whole point of the gospel is forgiveness of sin, then why do we insist on continually parading these almost perfect lives in front of each other? How has it happened that the people who proclaim forgiveness of sin don't seem to have any sins to be forgiven themselves? How has a church that once was the happy possession of common fisherman and prostitutes and tax collectors become the home of the spiritually elite? There are undoubtedly, numerous and complicated answers to these qustions, but I believe at the root of them all is lurking the issue of the Pharisee." John Fischer in The 12 Steps for the Recovering Pharisee (like me)

rejoicing

the student rally was very powerful last night. I rejoice that it is done because it's a wee bit stressful. At the same time I rejoice because I was touched by God and I believe others were too. What does it mean to have a ful life? That was the theme and I was reminded again that I fill my life with some very shallow things at times. Philippians 3:8 in the bible was the theme verse and it was very encouraging to have our speaker help me understand the passage. God is good.

What does it mean to you to have a full life?
What does it mean to have an empty life?
How do we stay committed to the things that fill us appropriately?

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

uh huh

Tuesday flew by. I had a great time with a friend during breakfast. We chat about life each week, encourage each other, and offer a listening ear. Then, I spent some time gearing up for the big Youth Rally we have tonight in town. It's going to be sweet. 7-9PM at the High School. I met with another friend this morning to practice my Spanish. He's a Mexican . . . a very smart Mexican student who is doing some graduate studies on international scenes, especeically in Latin America. We talk about all kinds of things today: vice taxes, legalizing drugs, homosexual marriage, abortion, and suburbanite teenagers. It was fascinating. I have a day filled with people, my favorite kind of days.

so what do you think on the following subjects?

Vice Taxes? Taxes claimed for schools or other public needs that come from tobacco purchases, gambling, etc.

Legalizing drugs?

Homosexual marriage?

Abortion?

Suburbanite teenagers?

Monday, April 25, 2005

quote of the day

"Truth is wild, mysterious, alive, and always on the prowl to capture, confront, and find us!" Mike Yaconelli

What makes truth alive?

How do we sometimes strip truth of its mystery?

What truths impact you?

mondays motivations

some Mondays are a dreary start to the week, but this morning was different. Despite my crazy cat attacking my toes before my alarm went off, I had a fabulous morning. I spent some time in prayer and reading the Word. I was shocked in Jeremiah 2 of humanity's constant struggle to remain faithful to God. I was shocked because every verse was pointing at me. I run from God, I turn to worthless idols, and I so easily get distracted by the temporal things of this world. All in all, I was reminded of God's grace this morning. I have hope!

This weekend was very hard. I picked up my grandma from the airport on Friday. Her health is waning now that she is 80. My parents are considering putting her in a nursing facility. She (like all of my family) is quite stubborn. Then, on Saturday, my grandma fell and hurt her leg and is still in the hospital. Also, my sister is having a surgery in a few weeks. These family events have weighed heavily on my heart. When I visited my grandma in the hospital on Sunday, I was deeply concerned for her low weight and constant memory lapses. I fear aging so much . . . the fact that our bodies slowly die is a very scary reality for me. I am overjoyed to know that my grandma has hope in Jesus Christ. Her physical life may end sooner than I had hoped, but eternity is soon to begin for my beautiful grandma.

Well, the day is young, the week is young, and it's time to get ready for a week of service to God and others.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

escape

What do you do when you want to get away from your own thoughts and feelings? Last night, I got home about 10:30PM. I was unhappy by some of the things I had done that day. No major sin issues, just frustration. I wanted certain things to happen in such a way, and they didn't. I wanted to go home, watch a movie (to drown out the thoughts in my head), and fall asleep exhausted. Well, God gave me a very amazing wife. She challenged me to talk through my thoughts, embrace reality, and deal with my frustrations. I went to bed refreshed, not totally free from all my emotions, but happy that I didn't just avoid the issue.

Great quote of the day: "There is no greater obstacle to truth and revelation than to think you already know what you need to know." John Fischer

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

culture

I've spent a good chunk of my last few weeks studying culture. What's the differences between the folks in their teens, twentys, thirtys, etc. Also, what's the difference between the early 1900s and the present. Oh, my head hurts. Then I realize I have to read 40 pages of systematic theology, write a seminary paper and take a final test all in the next few days. Woops, I better get going. My head hurts . . .

What culture changes have you seen in the last 10 years the last 50 years the last 100 years, 500 years?

Just wondering

body and mind

Last night I had an ol' friend join Carrie and I for supper. Brandon is a fraternity brother. He is a deeply fascinating person. He reads anarchist books, studies chemisty in college, and works a gyro stand on Welch Ave. in Ames, IA. My first year of college is filled with wonderful memories of talking with Brandon. Through many sleepless nights we'd discuss Buddhism, Christianity, movies, college, and the like. One of our favorite pasttimes was re-watching Good Will Hunting or The Matrix. Both movies seemed to resonate with our lives. Though we're both Iowa boys, frat boys, and Iowa State fellas, our paths have been very different. He teaches me things I'd never study if he weren't my friend. I thank God I have Brandon in my life.

Do you have friends that make you think in ways you normally wouldn't?

Also, this morning I hit the basketball court. My body aches, especially my knee. Who would have thought a 24 year old would really be old? I gotta take on the world. See ya

Monday, April 18, 2005

a quote about faith

"Faith is more than an intellectualy buffet where we are given permission to try this or that. Faith is a relationship with Jesus complete with all the twists and turns that relationships bring. It's in the tussle of following this Jesus--during the process of getting to know God--that I am surprised, confronted, exposed, challenged and pushed beyond my comfort zone. The word for this dynamic interaction with God is growth. Not only does my faith in Christ allow me more space to explore alternative ideas, my faith allows me the space to follow Jesus whereve he goes." Mike Yaconelli in Dave Tomlinson's Post-Evangelical

Questions to consider:

What things are hard for you to believe?
What things have you been told to believe that you want to challenge?
How can faith allow for alternative ideas to be investigated?

a new week

I had a week to forget . . . well not totally. Last week was filled with very little passion, a little to mechanical. It's probably not good that when I was going to bed last night I told my wife that I was VERY ready to start over. It's not that I wasn't overwhelmed at times by God's goodness and His power; it's just that my heart was bored and a little frustrated by the monotany of life. I am prayerfully expecting big things this week.

I had a great breakfast with a great friend today. I hope it to be the spark I need to get things going today.

Has anyone seen the movie "Finding Neverland?" If you have, what did you think? I will post some of my movie comments later this week after hearing from you.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

tired . . .

I don't know why this happens, but there are days when I am just tired. It's not that I got too little sleep or that I've been eating poorly, it's just days where closing my eyes and escaping reality would be the preferred method of life. I am having one of those days, but with a little caffeine help (thank you Pepsi) and with weighing deadlines . . . I am going to get working.

My day has been so so, the whole sleep thing isn't fun . . . but my wife has really loved me today. Marriage is awesome. Church was fasinating, Sunday school was encouraging, and I am looking forward to spending time with people tonight.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Friday's musings

I started the day with golf. It was fun to have
2 golfers along, one being my wife, who have not
played very much. They both improved throughout
the round. I also spent the day running errands
and working on the house. My wife and I had some
frustrating moments working on our
"soon-to-be-finished" remodeled bathroom.

We are going to have a nice night to ourselves
and maybe hang out with a few friends. But
tomorrow we have a full day.

Questions I am pondering today:

What does it mean to be at peace?
Why does every project take longer than expected?


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Thursday, April 14, 2005

prayer

If you are a student of mine or a student of prayer, please respond to this question:

What have you gained or learned in your life through prayer?

Thursday morning

Last night at our high school gathering known as The Harbor, a very godly woman shared her spiritual journey. She shared about prayer, and how it's taken many years to learn the true reasons for prayer. Her first prayer was at age 9 when she prayed for a friend who had been hit by a car. Sadly, the prayer seemed unanswered and her friend died of brain damage. This event and a few (and I mean very few) other prayer opportunities seriously scarred her spiritually. She's only been a Christ-follower for 4 years, and in this time she has been constantly praying for her now 4 year old daughter. Her daughter has had a hole in her heart that constantly remains a health threat, but the threat has never been serious enough to require surgery. Every year the surgery gets postponed, God is praised. It's not fun to keep praying when we all would just prefer God to heal this precious girl, but God's ways are higher than our ways so we trust God will continue to teach us things. It's not easy to trust God, but we all learn things when we do.

This morning, I was challenged by a seasoned pastor to think deeply and broadly. Many Christians read the same 3 authors their whole lives and never allow themselves to be challenged with a different point of view. I do not want to be afraid to have my views and ideas challenged. And I don't want to think it's wrong to change my opinion.

I am not sleeping long or well. This makes me irritable. I need to be more disciplined.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

preoccupation of the self runs in my veins . . .

So, I made this blog this morning and made my first post. Then all day, I want to see if people are reading it and commenting on it. I am so prideful. I honestly think my life, my wisdom, and my vision for the world is worth something so much. The bible says we are supposed to be slow to speak and quick to listen. I hope this blog site doesn't give me too many opportuntiies to speak, when I should be listening.

I have lots of work to do, and it's getting to the point when I need to focus in for tonight's gatherings.

Who really cares what I think?

So, I've been reading web blogs and all kinds of blog sites for a long time now. I thought I should wade into this arena myself. I feel life is one crazy mess that is only sorted out as people dialog together so I hope others feel free to comment on the crazy mess I call "my life" as well as other things that stir your heart.

I am currently thinking through some issues of hypocrisy in my own life right now. I am reading a book called "12 Steps for the Recovering Pharisee, like Me" by John Fischer. He has successfully shown my deep desire to judge others and create my own false sense of self-sufficiency.
Does anyone else recognize the Pharisee in them?

Why do we like to be Pharisees when we see it hurts others (and ourselves) so much?

This is one crazy mess . . . that's what I call life.