Category Archives: Uncategorized

A Modern Day Parable

She grew up not far from the botanical garden. She would walk by almost everyday, peering through the wrought iron fence supported by beautiful brick columns. She would think to herself, one day I would love to work there.

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As she grew older she fell in love with art. She would spend hours sketching, drawing and painting in the botanical garden. Each season brought new beauty and new color. It was as if every changing of the seasons unveiled a new and glorious world never before seen. Still, she longed for the day she could work there.

Finally the day came. She put in her application and because she had spent so much time there, the director knew who she was. Just by listening to her talk he knew she loved this place. He knew she would be committed to keeping it beautiful. So he felt very confident, that even though she had never had a job, she would work very hard to keep the place she loved beautiful. Her face lit up when he peered over his desk and said, you begin tomorrow. I will see you at 6 am. The next morning she awoke to the alarm on her phone at 4:30. No way would she be late for her first day; Her first new day at the place she loved.

She got ready, ate breakfast and packed her lunch. She headed out the door to simply go and do what she loved. As she got out of her car a sense of satisfaction came over her. This was the very thing she was made for. She walked along the dark grey, crushed, gravel path leading to the maintenance shed to meet her coworkers, and get her instructions for the day. She was so glad to be a part of this team. To be a part of something bigger than herself. To be able to make a difference in the world. To bring beauty and enjoyment to people, especially little girls who like her had a deep sense of wonder for this place. The flowers, majestic. The grass, perfectly cut. The animals, at peace in nature. All she could see was the beauty of the place she loved.

Her supervisor said, I would like you to pick up trash. Keeping the park clean and litter free was one of the most important jobs she felt she could do. She hurried out with her thick, black, plastic trash bag and long spiked pole. So the day began picking up trash. The day was amazing. She got to work in the place she loved and keep the park beautiful and clean just as others had always done for her. Her favorite part of every day was dawn. The very moment, the sun would peek over the edge of the horizon and sunlight would glimmer over the fresh morning dew. So everyday she came to work surrounded by beauty and fully believing this was the reason she existed.

So years went by and the love never seemed to fade. Then one day, she got to work and stepped out of the car as she had done for years. But today was different. Oh, she didn’t know it was different, but it was. As she shut her car door, she saw a candy wrapper right at the edge of the dark grey, crushed, gravel path. The same path she had walked for years. Then she saw an empty bottle and an event flyer ushered in by the wind. What was so different about today? After all, picking up trash and keeping the park clean had been the most significant part of her job. Today was different though because today, for the first time, she failed to see the beauty she was surrounded by because trash had become her focus. The litter she had worked so hard to keep clean was now the only thing she could see.

Friends, today is a new day, a precious gift. A day of resurrection. A day new life is bursting forth all around you. Today, don’t become so focused on all that is wrong with world that you fail to see the beauty of this day. Life is a miracle, each and every breath you take. Each and every moment you have with the people you love. Don’t miss today, you don’t get it back.
HE IS RISEN!

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RESIGNATION LETTER TO WESTHILL

2 weeks ago was a very special day for me, I began my 11th year of ministry here at Westhill.  For the past 10 years Cami & I have poured our hearts and souls into this church and this church has poured their hearts and souls into our family.  We have experienced incredible relationships with truly loving and compassionate people.  I did not grow up at Westhill, but I did grow up at Westhill.  This is my first job, my first home, where I got married, began our family, had our children, developed leadership and a passion to preach.  Abilities I never saw in myself.  Best of all, I believe the best days for Westhill are still to come.  Unfortunately, we will not be a part of that future.

Cami & I have accepted a job to become the Preaching Minister at the Shiloh Rd. Church of Christ in Tyler, TX.  We will begin this time of transition next week.  We will be in Tyler next weekend with Shiloh Rd. to be introduced to the congregation.  We will return to finish out the summer with VBS and Summer Camp.  Our last Sunday at Westhill will be Sunday, August 4th.  This has been an incredibly difficult decision to make but one we have felt God is calling us to for a while.  God has opened every door through this process and we believe it is where He has called us.  I am constantly telling our students to listen to the call of Jesus and follow His voice.  What kind of a person, much less minister would I be if I ignored my own advice.  Following Jesus does not mean life will be easy, in fact, it will probably be more difficult but it is what I have given my life to do.

We have a plan in place for Westhill Student Ministries as we go forward that many of you will be a part of.  We have also have begun to discuss the new Student Minister, and putting feelers out to get some leads on possible candidates.  We are not leaving because we no longer love this church, this is our family.  We are not leaving because of a “better job.”  We are making the choice to leave Westhill because we feel God is calling us to begin a new chapter in our ministry together and we want to be faithful to his call.

This verse has hopefully been the foundation of our ministry here at Westhill and the foundation for ministry from the adults we have surrounded you with.  So I leave you with the message Paul gave to the church at Thessalonian.

1 Thessalonians 2:8
Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.


FINDING HOPE IN THE MIDST OF DESPAIR

This has been a really difficult week.  A CHS student made the decision to end his life.  Knowing a young man chose to end his life is excruciating.  Even worse, is that I knew him.  So it has been a very difficult week.  Talking with students who have so many questions and ministry opportunities that have opened.  Tonight was one of those.  In fact it was a first in my ten years of ministry.

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I have never had a group of students, with no connection to our church and not invited by a friend, who just showed up.  Four guys, just randomly picked our church, walked up and said, “is it okay if we start going to church here?”  They had no background in any church.  As I got to talk to the guys one of them was good friends with the student who ended his life.  He was searching for something.  For me that is cool but not the amazing part.

All week I have been debating over whether or not to scrap everything for tonight, message and all and focus on suicide.  Monday, I was going to focus on it.  On Tuesday, I decided to go ahead with the original plan and work suicide into the discussion.  Wednesday, I was thinking the same thing.  One of our parents asked how I was going to handle it tonight?  I told her the plan, but as the day went on I felt I really needed to address it.  So I texted her back and she agreed.  I did not know why, I just felt God wanted me to talked about it.  So at 3:00 I decided to make the change.  I had nothing planned, nothing ready but really felt this is what I needed to do.

When the four guys showed up, I was overwhelmed.  I got to spend some time with the guys but at the end of the night one came up to me and said he was so glad he was here.  He felt like God was speaking to him tonight.  He had to have been, because I could not tell you what I said.

It amazes me how God shows up and works through our life when we simply allow him to be present in our life.  It amazes me how he can take something so unspeakable and use it focus peoples attention on him.

God is at work in our life and the lives of people we come in contact with everyday.  The true question, are we going to have our eyes opened to see him at work?


THE IRONMAN EXPERIENCE – PART 1

So lots of people have asked me about my experiences from the past weekend at Ironman 70.3 in Galveston.  So I thought I would write a series of blog post about the weekend, the training leading up to the weekend and the things I learned on the journey.

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The part that impacted me the most was the ending.  9 months of training, hours upon hours.  In the pool, in the lake, on the road.  In rain, in cold, in wind and some days all three at once.  Pain, injuries, tweaked muscles.  You seem to experience a little of everything when training for something like this.

The weekend was amazing.  If you have never been to an Ironman event I highly recommend the experience, even if just a spectator.  Race day starts early.  4:30 AM breakfast and in the transition area for body marking at 5:30 AM.  Over 2,300 athletes over 2000 volunteers and literally thousands of supports lining the run course, cheering for you and encouraging you to keep moving.

But nothing could have prepared me for what I experienced at mile 13 of the run.  At the mile 13 marker you enter the finish chute to run the last .1 miles to the finish line.  The excitement is unbelievable.  I had tried during my training to visualize the finish, to imagine my name being announced but nothing I dreamed of could have compared to the experience.

At the moment I enter the chute all of the pain seemed to vanish.  It had been a very difficult day, 70.3 miles.  1.2 mile swim.  56 mile bike ride along a very windy coast.  A very hot 13.1 mile half marathon to finish out the day.  Struggles with swimming straight.  A small bike wreck.  Really bad muscle cramps and spasms in the first mile of the run.  But then there was mile 13 and everything I had been through that day to get to that point vanished as thousands of people screamed and yelled for me crossing the finish line.  They place a medal around my neck and give me a finisher hat, which is great, but in know way compares to the experience of crossing the line.

I want to experience it again.  I am hooked to the feeling of crossing the finish line.  It made everything else I experienced on the journey worth it.  So my plan right now is a few months off to do P90X2 to really work on my core and overall strength and then get ready for Ironman 70.3 in Austin, Texas in October.

There are lots of take aways from the finish line experience but the one which stands out the most is what Paul says in 1 Corinthians.

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
1 Corinthians 9:24-27

We live for a singular purpose, the purpose of building His kingdom here on earth so that when we cross the finish line the prize is eternal.  In some ways I think it will be much like my mile 13 experience.  I always talk to people who are trying to imagine what it will be like.  I don’t think you can, because I believe the experience will be something so far beyond what we can imagine.  In the race, the finish line was not my focus, it was too far ahead of me most of the time to be my focus.  My focus was simply taking one more stroke in the water.  One more rotation of the pedals on the bike.  One more step on the run.  So if the finish is not the focus, what is our focus then?  Let’s borrow for the Apostle Paul once again.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:2

Make Jesus the focus.  Make being more like him the next step of your journey, because at times the finish line can seem so far off.  Our promise though, is that He is never far away.  Focus on Jesus, He is more than enough to sustain you!


BEST YOUTH MINISTRY BLOG POST OF 2012

If you get a chance today I would appropriated your vote.  I recently had a post nominated for the Best Youth Ministry Post of 2012 (ironically it is on preaching, 6 Steps To Help You Prepare To Preach).  You don’t have to vote for my blog. It is pretty easy to vote.  Some really cool prizes for the winner.  Thanks a bunch to all my readers.

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LEADERSHIP 101: CREATING CLEAR EXPECTATIONS

I feel like this is a lesson I should have gotten somewhere along the way, in school, grad school or a conference, somewhere but it is a leadership lesson I have been learning on my own.  As a leader what are your expectations for the people you are leading?


Often, I find the people I am leading do not meet my expectations.  Which can be very frustrating for a leader; especially, when they are teenagers.  Typically, we chalk it up to apathy or laziness and dismiss the possibly it could be our own fault they are not meeting our expectations.  This has been a challenge for me over the last several years with our Student Leadership group.  On the flip side there is nothing more discouraging than constantly trying to meet someones expectations you are unaware of.  It can only lead to failure and frustration.

This year, I decided to approach the expectations from a different angle.  I created a covenant for the students and the parents to sign, laying out exactly what I expect from students serving in this ministry.  After I handed out the expectations and asked them to sign and return, I had a conversation with a couple of our seniors in Student Leadership.  They were wondering why this was necessary, not in an upset way but a curious way.  They kind of understood these expectations.  So I asked them specifically, did you know I expect you to…  and I went through the list of expectations.  Several they understood from the beginning, some they had figured out over time and one they did not even know.  So why did it surprise me that my expectations often went unmet?

In leadership, often our greatest frustration comes from unmet expectations.  What if instead of looking at the people not meeting our expectations, we looked in the mirror at the one creating the expectations.  Expectations not being met?  Ask yourself, are your expectations clear?  How do they know your expectations?  Have you communicated the expectations clearly?  There is a great difference between expectations being clear in your head and the expectations being clear in other people’s heads.

So enter the covenant.  Here is what I came up with for anyone in our Student Leadership group.  What are your thoughts and/or feedback on the covenant?  How do you clearly communicate expectations?

Student Leadership Covenant


DOES PRAYER REALLY WORK?

Does prayer really work?  Have you ever asked that question?  Have you ever really thought about what you are asking?

When I talk to people who say, No, prayer does not work; typically they mean they prayed for something they wanted and did not get it.  Seems logical, right?  I mean when Jesus tells us, “ask anything in my name and it will be done” or John writes “if we know he hears us then we have what we have asked of Him.”  So if this is the case, it would seem logical, we would determine whether or not prayer “works” based on the answers we receive.

But what if we have it all wrong?  Looking at the context of both of these promises, we find God’s will at the center.  When Jesus uses the phrase “ask anything in my name,” is centered on the context of His will.  When John writes, “we know that we have what we asked of him,” the preceding verse says we can ask anything according to His will.

This thinking is so reflective of Jesus prayer life.  So what we do is pray for whatever we want and tack the phrase on to the end and think, great!  Got it.  Is this what John is asking?  Often my prayer life it is me praying for things I want to happen or things I won’t do anything about.  Jesus prayers are so focused on the will of the Father.

“remain in Me,” “ask in my name,” “according to your will.”

Prayers throughout scripture seem to have the same focus.  They are almost always kingdom focused.  Typically, the prayers in scripture are focused more on peoples spiritual health more than their physical health.  The laments seen in scripture are typically laments over the results of doing what God has called them to.  There are laments over sin.  There is largely this focus in prayer by God’s people about following God’s will.

So, does this mean you can’t pray for things that you want or are concerned about?  Not at all but our wants and desires should not be the focus of our prayer life.  Prayer is not about aligning God with our will.

Prayer is about ALIGNING our HEART with God’s will.

So prayer is a practice.

Prayer is more about LISTENING than SPEAKING. 

It is more about SUBMITTING than about CONTROLING. 

It is more about BEING than it is about DOING.

Prayer is a practice meant for the purpose of aligning our heart and life to the will of God.  It is the practice of hearing His voice.