Monday, December 29, 2014

The Magic of a Number

In a few days, magically everything will be new.

Think about it, 2014 ends and 2015 begins. In reality, Dec. 31st and Jan. 1st will have no real difference between them. If some monk 700 years ago had designated those days as March 15th and 16th we would care at all about them. But because they decided a new cycle around the sun would begin that day suddenly we go crazy. We party. We celebrate. We change.

What if we tried to change on December 15th, or June 12th, or April 22nd? What if we didn't wait for a magical number to encourage us to better ourselves and we simply tried to be better because we wanted to...


Monday, December 22, 2014

"I'll Remember"

I had a great idea for this blog this week. Something to do with Christmas, I'm sure. It was awesome if I do say so myself.

And I have no idea what it was.

It came to me while driving home from Chicago on Sunday. Right as I got on I-65 (I even remember where). And I thought to myself, "this is a great idea. I'll remember it." And now it's gone.

Usually I would make a note (I love Evernote), but this time, people were asleep in the car. There's nothing to do but drive, of course I'll remember. And then, the baby wakes up, Lorie isn't feeling well, we need to stop for gas,was I hungry when we stopped for gas? I don't want to spend the money on a $4 candy bar, get back on the road, will the baby wake up, I hope we get home before she gets hungry, what was I thinking about before?

And it's gone.

I know I have lots of ideas that disappear (some are probably for the best), but how about at this busy time of year? What about the ideas of inviting someone to a Christmas Eve service (I'll see them later, I'm too busy right now, poof, forgotten), or giving to the Salvation Army ringers (I don't have the cash, I'll do it next time, I come here all the time, and gone), maybe even just checking in with someone this holiday season (how many of those ideas have disappeared)?

Don't let the good ideas get away this Christmas. Act on them right away!


Monday, December 15, 2014

Are You Sharing Christ at Christmas?

I came across this story the other day. DL Moody, a public speaker for Jesus, was talking with a lady who did not like the way he was sharing Christ. The story goes that Moody said to her, “I agree with you. I don’t like the way I do it either. Tell me, how do you do it?” The lady replied, “I don’t do it.” Moody retorted, “Then I like my way of doing it better than your way of not doing it.

Too often we criticize how people share Christ when it's not the way we would do it. But the question is, is it worse than doing nothing at all?

At this time of year, people are expecting to hear you talk about Jesus. Why don't you oblige them?


Monday, December 08, 2014

But That's Not How I Remember It...

Every year the same things happens. And for some reason every year it astounds me.

We talk about the Christmas story and there are so many mistakes.

For most people, they have head the story of Christ's birth a hundred times. But they have never actually read it themselves. Instead, they've heard the G-rated edited for children version or they've seen it acted out by four-year-olds. Instead of the actual story of our Savior's introduction into the world they remember the version from so long ago and choose to believe that over the real one (I have actually had students argue with me about things they just heard about the Christmas story that can't be true because it doesn't line up with the story they already knew, even if I give them Scripture references). We would rather hold onto the childish version of the story than learn the real one.

My fear is this is only the beginning. So we have a childish view of the Christmas story, so what? What about Christ's teachings, are we going to stay at a four-year-old version of that too? His love, His grace, His majesty, His holiness, His death, His resurrection, at what point to we start to examine these as adults? In Hebrews 5 the writer talks about how just as people move from milk to solid food we need to do the same thing spiritually, we need to look at God as adults.

My challenge, try reading the Christmas story through the lens of an adult. Then, keep reading...


Monday, December 01, 2014

When Was The Last Time You Thought About Christ's Birth?

With the start of Advent yesterday, I was wondering this. How often do people actually think about Christ entering this world? I know the holy answer is "all the time", but I mean really. In July when you were sweating at the beach were you thinking about Christ's birth?

It's something we should be thinking about all the time, Christ entering our world, entering our lives. If you want to get an idea of how often this type of thing enters your mind, when was the last time you thought about Easter? When was the last time you contemplated the cross?

The whole point of Christmas is to get us to Easter. Isn't that something that should be on our minds all the time...?


Monday, November 24, 2014


No real message today, just after a week of rest I hope all my American friends can do the same over the next few days. Safe travels!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Fresh Eyes

Have you ever done something or heard something so many times that you're almost immune to the message?

This past year I've been challenged by this in two ways. First my soon to be one-year-old. Everything she sees is for the first time. How is she seeing it? What does she think? Does she like it/hate it?

The other is the story of Jesus. In II Timothy 2:8 Paul reminds Timothy to remember Christ risen from the dead. Why on earth would Paul need to remind a young man who has grown up knowing Jesus and is now the pastor of a church of such a basic concept, the crux of the story, of his faith? Because we forget. even this season that's coming, Christmas, do we just glance through the story or do we see it with fresh eyes and all the craziness and miraculousness that ensues inside our culture's number one holiday?

And soon, those two start to converge. How will I tell the story of Jesus to my daughter for the first time...

Here's a challenge, look at the Christmas story with fresh eyes. You may be astounded with what you missed (or just accepted as truth without thinking about it).


Monday, November 10, 2014

Convenient Jesus

This past weekend at our annual Real World Retreat we focused on one thing. Music. Kinda.

We took a look at how music has changed in the last 15 years. Not the style of music, but the quality. The music we listen to now has been changed so much to make files smaller that the music is actually distorted and compressed with piece of musical information missing. And there's only one reason why the general population has put up with it. It's more convenient.

The music industry (and other industries have followed suit) have learned that people will sacrifice almost anything for convenience. Make it smaller, lighter, crappier, whatever you need to do to make it more convenient for me. If I really wanted to hear better music I would need to find a stereo system and get some actual physical recordings, but that's really hard to jog with. So instead I'll listen to 2 hours of music, the files shrunk down to fit on my iPod through the horrible little earbuds I got for free with my phone. The quality of the music is horrible, but it's convenient for me to listen to wherever I am, right?

So, the question we led this to was this: How do we shrink down the symphony of Jesus to make Him more convenient for our lives? What are we trading out to have a convenient Jesus? I'll probably have a better quality relationship with Jesus if I take some time to spend alone with Him, reading His Word and talking with Him, but how convenient is that? What if I just listen to the podcast of a sermon while driving and call it a day?

The interesting part of this whole thing to me while researching this was seeing some of the interview of musicians and how they feel about this (I wasn't able to show it at the retreat, just a slight bit of bad language from musicians). It makes me wonder how Jesus feels about it, Him trying His best to have a relationship with the one He loves and getting a "when it's convenient for me" answer.

The real question is when it comes to knowing Jesus Christ, is it about quality or convenience?


Monday, October 27, 2014

The Blame Game

I was reading a book the other day that with a very interesting statement...

I’ve always found it interesting that people ask why bad things happen to them, but they rarely ask why good things happen to them. - Altar Ego by Craig Groeschel

That's a pretty good question. Have you ever noticed how often we play the blame game with God but seldom the thank-you game? If something bad happens, "God, why me?"

What if instead of blaming God for bad things we started thanking Him for good things? What do you think our outlook on life would be then?

Be thankful in all circumstances. This is what God wants from you in your life in union with Christ Jesus. ~ I Thessalonians 5:18 (GNB)


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

System Crash

Sorry this blog is a day late. Yesterday my system crashed.

I don't mean my computer. I mean me. I was done. I did incredibly little yesterday. I just couldn't do it. I doubt I could even form coherent sentences.

But I did have a thought yesterday. What if I lived in a place or society where that was not even possible? If I was in a village in Africa or a serf in the Middle Ages or even someone living day to day in America, I wouldn't have been able to just stop and rest. If my well of fresh water is a mile hike away, I don't get to just sit and have water enter my house through the magic pipes, I would have to walk tired or not. If I didn't have a fridge with food in it and a microwave or even have the ability to make a phone call and have food delivered to my house, the work necessary to catch and cook my food would have been astronomical to me yesterday. I even got to lie on a couch in an insulated house with the heat on rather than go out and collect firewood and make sure the fire was constantly burning to keep warm.

It's amazing the blessings that we not only take for granted, we count them as necessities or inalienable rights we deserve. Yesterday my system crashed for one reason, it was able to. And for that I am incredibly blessed.


Monday, October 13, 2014

Is It "Us" Or "Them"?

If you want to know how much you really care about someone or how connected you are in your world, ask yourself when something happens if it happens to "us" or to "them".

Who is hurting right now, "us" or "them"?
Who had a bad day at school/work, "we did" or "they did"?

Who contracted the ebola virus, "us" or "them"?

Who succeeded on the project, "we did" or "I did"?

 Whose church is this, "ours" or "mine"? (or Jesus'?)

When it happens to you, does it also happen to "them" or "us"? What it happens to us, does it also happen to you?


Monday, September 29, 2014

Can It Be Done?

About fifteen years ago I remember having a conversation with someone who thought they were an expert on computers (you know what I mean, people that are sure of what they're talking about but the facts are a little off). I was told by this person that our current situation of computing, our RAM speed, had maxed out. That scientists and computer developers had hit a wall, it was impossible to get more than 512k of RAM in a machine.

A few years later I was talking with someone else, this person actually knew a little about computers, and we were talking about processors. He was explaining how our processors were now working as fast as possible, that electrons were actually skipping off their pathways because we were trying to push things too fast.

Now, my phone in my pocket does more than that. We can now buy laptops with 16gig or RAM and quad core processors (some machines can go higher).

Why? Because when we reached an impassible problem, instead of being the group that said, "it can't be done" another group of people said, "let's solve this and push through".

Which one are you?

When it comes to knowing God better, are you in the "I'm too busy, I can't do it, there's too much to know, it's hard, I've done all I can" group, or will you push through?


Monday, September 22, 2014

Real Dreams

Have you ever had a dream that was so real when you woke up you had to figure out if it really happened or not?

I have one. I don't know why or what caused it, but it involves traveling from a frozen tundra of way north Canada, driving and almost getting killed, all to make it to New Mexico to apply for a job I don't get. I can even see the building I'm trying to get to just off the expressway. For some reason this dream is so embedded in my head that it even affects other dreams, like last night. I had a dream and in it I remembered making that drive and how bad it was and not getting the job and it changed my whole night. Again, I woke up trying to differentiate what was real and what was not.

Here's the thing, in my dream last night, I was being held back by another dream, another unreal scenario. I was hitting a wall because of something that never actually happened. My question is, are you allowing things to hold you back, even ones that aren't real? Is there something that seems real, but isn't and it is challenging your day to day life?


Monday, September 15, 2014

Focused Time

Last night at Drink Deep we talked about how we can worship God through choosing to spend time with Him. But it was more than just the amount of time, it was focused time.

We can spend an hour kinda praying, interrupted, distracted, daydreaming, etc. Or we can spend 15 minutes of actually praying, focused prayer.  It is too easy to say we are doing something but not be focused and have our goals not met. Like this past weekend, we had our all-church retreat. It was great, but for me, it was not a retreat. I was running around, leading worship, speaking, etc. The first time Lorie and I took a walk the entire weekend was after it was all over and people had left. I was not retreating or resting in God. I may have been on a retreat, but I wasn't doing what it was meant to do. I had to find another time to rest.

Too often we find time, just not focused time. When was the last time you gave God time that was completely devoted and focused on Him?


Monday, September 08, 2014


I just had a minor epiphany.

Someone recommended an audio product to me a few minutes ago. As someone who likes sound and shiny new tech gadgets (we call those people "guys") I was intrigued and kind of want what they were talking about, even though they said very little about the piece of equipment. And then it donned on me...

This person has no audio training whatsoever.

I am trusting a person who doesn't know sound, I have no idea what kind of stereo equipment they have in their home, I don't even know what kind of music they really like. Yet, here I am wishing I had the money to buy a piece of equipment I've never even heard for myself.

Why? Trust.

If you truly trust a person, you listen to them and even believe them. Even when they have nothing to back it up or proof, you follow. Simply because they have built up that trust with you.

Here's the two big questions: Who do you trust? Who in your life could sell you magic beans if they wanted to because you trust them that inherently? And on the flip side, who trusts you that much? How much have you invested in being trusted and trustworthy?

It's more valuable than you may think...


Monday, September 01, 2014

Losing Assistance

Last week something broke. It happens, but this one is really frustrating. It was a tiny piece of plastic that broke and fell off of our lawn mower. Super glue won't put it back on, I've tried tying it with wire and broke that too (maybe I need thicker wire, I'll try that later), I have Macgyver'd that thing as much as I can.

It was the power assistance for the mower.

The good thing, the mower still works. But for the last three years I have been using it and not realizing how heavy that piece of equipment is (or how angled my yard is). I did not realize how much work the mower was doing for me.

I wonder how many things in our lives we are assisted with and we don't even know it. Are we thankful for it or do we not even care until we lose it?

The LORD Himself watches over you! The LORD stands beside you as your protective shade. ~ Psalm 121:5 (NLT)


Monday, August 25, 2014

"Then Jesus brought them to the Temple"

Have you noticed this line is not in the Bible?

When Jesus talked to people and shared God's love with them, it wasn't by inviting them to come to His place of worship. Instead, He went out to where they were and talked to them there, at dinners, at parties, at their homes, at wells, wherever they may be.

Should we be inviting people to worship with us or to FIRE & WATER or whatever it may be? Yes. But that's not where you start. You don't start by finding someone on the street and giving them a church flier. No, you start by entering their life, joining them where they are, loving them there and sharing Jesus with them there. Bring Jesus to them and allow them to meet Him where they are.

Jesus sought out people where they were,we should too.

Matthew 13:1-2 ~ Later that same day, Jesus left the house and went down to the shore, where an immense crowd soon gathered. He got into a boat and taught from it while the people listened on the beach. (LB)


Monday, August 18, 2014

Why Would A Loving God Ask Abraham To Sacrifice His Son?

This was a question that came up last night at FIRE & WATER. We were looking at the root of worship, the first time the word appears is when Abraham is telling his servants he is going to "worship" with Isaac, aka, sacrifice him. How could a loving God ask someone to do that?

Here's my question, do you think God would need Abraham to sacrifice his son to know how much he loved God? I wouldn't think so, God knows the heart of each person. So then who was the test really for?

Or put it another way, if I were to ask you do you love God enough to choose God over your only child, would you say "yes"? Would you actually believe that or would you think in the back of your head it's the proper church-y answer?

So then who was the test really for?

As much as it sucked, I bet Abraham learned a lot more about himself, more than God learned about him. It was a hard test (one that God never intended to go all the way, obviously by the end of the story), but I bet Abraham came out with a lot more confidence in himself and his faith in the Holy God who made all these promises to him.

And now Abraham (and us) know how fully Abraham was willing to worship God.

What would it take for you to really understand how much you love God and how far you are willing to go to worship Him?


Monday, July 28, 2014

Ignoring Signs

Just up the road from me (conveniently between our house and church) there is a bridge out. They will be working on it for the next few months. Really inconvenient to lots of people, but funny at the same time.

I love watching the people ignore the signs. There are two eight foot signs blocking the road that say "construction" and "local traffic only". And yet, people drive around the signs and continue on, only to turn around about 100 yards later. There is no way these drivers did not see the construction signs, it's impossible (they weaved through them to go on), so there's really only one logical explanation. They believe the sign does not apply to them.

There's construction ahead, but I don't believe that. They say the bridge is out, but really, I can make it. Maybe most traffic can't get through, but I can. Whatever the reasoning is, these drivers do not believe the signs apply to them and continue on only to discover, yes, the signs apply to them.

I wonder how many times we see signs from God, but feel they don't apply to me. Maybe it's ways to improve your soul or things to avoid, but they don't apply to me, I'll be fine. That's for everyone else. Maybe God is trying to tell you something, but that's a message for someone else, not for me. I wonder how many glaring eight foot orange and white signs God has placed in my way that I literally had to drive around to avoid and still thought "that doesn't apply to me".

What if on the drive of life (isn't life a highway), we started paying attention to the signs? Maybe even doing what they said? I bet there would be a lot less detours, u-turns and accidents...


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Toronto - Recap

We're home, it's been a few days, I've had a shower, a bed and a meal that was not described in the menu by a number. It's good to be home.

But this was a great trip. There's an easy way to tell. By how much I'm hated Monday.

Monday is the first day of mission sites. And for many people, this was an incredibly uncomfortable day. It was hard than expected. Many were not doing what they thought they wanted to. The people we hoped to form relationships did not open up right away, or opened up too much. Monday is the day I hear, "I don't like this. I don't want to be here."

You can't judge a trip by Monday. Thursday paints a clearer picture. The students that hated Monday, many sing a different tune. They are going to miss who they are working with. They don't want to go home. They want to keep serving. Some even admit it's still really hard, but they want to stay anyway. Students who thought they were enduring something grueling have come to realize they are actually doing something they were created to do, they simply needed to be pushed out of their comfort zone and have this experience thrust upon them.

Many students who were uncomfortable with the elderly, the handicapped, the poor, the destitute, by Thursday they call them friends and they want to continue serving them and having them in their lives. To fully understand this, I encourage you to be at FIRE & WATER Sunday August 10th at Fishers United Methodist Church (8:30, 9:45 & 11:00). You can hear the stories first-hand from students and adults who had their perceptions of people changed in only 4 days, 24 hours of serving.

I love seeing the 180 degree change in people from Monday to Thursday. It's amazing what God can work in someone's heart in less than a week...


Friday, July 18, 2014

Toronto - Day 5 (Thursday)

Today is the finale of our trip (mission work wise). It was the last day of our sites, our last evening activity, our last look at the Toronto skyline, our last time of worship together. Tomorrow is cleaning and packing. But for today, here are some stories from our students. Enjoy!

Today, being the last day was the most emotional day. We had to say goodbye to the people we had made great relationships with, and got our feet washed while being prayed over by a leader of our church. Before any of the tears were shed during the foot washing though, my crew, the Maple Leafs, paired up with a disabled adult and took a field trip to Legoland. My partner was Lamore, and he didn’t seem all that disabled other than being just a little bit spacey. We went on Merlin’s Apprentice, a flying Dumbo type ride similar to Disney World. After lunch in the mall, he had been to afraid to do some of the other attractions like a laser maze and a shooting from a cart game, but we finally did the laser maze. He was still so afraid that the Legoland worker actually had to step into the laser chamber with him and me in order for Lamore to go through it. We never actually got around to doing the shooting game, as the line was too long, and we didn’t have the time, but I know that he enjoyed himself just as much as I did. When we got back to St. Jude’s, it was time to say goodbye to everyone there. I said goodbye to a woman named Sonya, who had actually obtained her disability after losing her husband, and so she didn’t seem all that abnormal. In fact, she was really motherly to the other adults.

This whole St Jude’s experience was something brand new to me. I have never worked with adults on a mission trip, so I was really afraid of what it would bring, but every day got easier and easier and I felt more comfortable each day we went, so I really know that God had put me in the right place, and even though I was a little frustrated initially about Troy’s choice to put me with mentally disabled adults, I am now very thankful for it because it helped me grow a ton in my faith and how I can serve other people without even talking to them much.
 -Matt Nieland

For the first time this week I received the chance, or orders, depending on how you look at it, anyway I received the chance to work at a really nice homeless shelter where I made beds, all day. The food was REALLY GOOD though, so it was all good. Anyway, when we got back from our worksites we went to play at a park. Once back at the Salvation Army we are staying at we began the foot washing lesson. Tears were shed… but they were the happy kind. It was such a good experience to enjoy. I am so glad that I have had this opportunity, honestly this has been one of the most fun weeks I have ever had in my life. I’m sad to have to come home soon, but I know that there is still adventure coming!
-Rachel Simmonds

It’s weird to think that this is my last blog post. I’ve spent so much time going on trips and telling you about it in this blog, and now I’m saying goodbye. So please forgive me if I ramble a bit. Here we go!

I had an extremely interesting worksite this week. So interesting, in fact, that I can’t tell you what it was called (I signed a nondisclosure contract). However I can tell you that it was a factory that worked with mentally and physically disabled people, teaching them work skills necessary to work in other locations, and also offering jobs to many who choose to stay there. Now what we were doing was a little on the more monotonous side, but important nonetheless. Day 1: We put stickers on bags. For four hours. Day 2: We put candle holders in boxes. For 4 hours. Day 3: I put labels on water bottles and put candle holders in boxes on and off for four hours (such variety). And day 4: Counted out 10 aluminum tray lids, then counted out five aluminum tray lids after one of us made a mistake, then boxed candle holders. For about three more hours. Now this may sound a little like child labor, but the important part of what we did was interacting with the workers there. Throughout the week I met a number of interesting people including a man who fled from communist Poland in 1985 and moved to Greece for one year and then to Canada and has since lived in Toronto with his wife and two kids, a woman who’s niece plays the piano beautifully and has only been learning for two years, and another man who has an absolutely amazing knowledge of world history.

These are the people that we write off. These are the people that we often ignore, maybe say hi to, but never bother to listen to, because we don’t think they have much to say. Or at least that’s what I thought. I learned this week that everyone has a story. Everyone just wants to be able to share their experiences and what they’ve learned on their journey through life, and I should welcome that, no matter what the source. While at the site, it was difficult to see the importance of what I was doing, stacking candle holders and sticking them in a box, but looking back, I’m glad that I was assigned to the sight. I needed it. And God always gives us what we need, even if we don’t want it.

So I guess this is goodbye. It’s kind of weird to be sentimental over such a small thing, but I’ve told some pretty crazy stories in this blog, and it’s sad to see it all come to an end. Nevertheless, I’m sure God has amazing things in store tomorrow and for many mission trips to come. So I’ve got to pass it off. Pass of the telling of incredible mission trip stories to a new group, and I hope that they have just as many crazy stories to tell as I did.

So for the last time, Goodbye, and thank you for all of your support.
-Alec Balasko

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Toronto - Day 4 (Wednesday)

I would like to start by thanking those of you who have been praying and supporting us, we really appreciate it. Especially on days like today. Wednesdays are usually hard. In some ways they are amazing because we're getting in a rhythm, we know the people we're serving a little better (and the people we're serving with), but it's also day 4 of less sleep and more work and the realization that tomorrow is our last chance to do whatever it is we hoped to accomplish here. Tomorrow is the end of a relationship we worked so hard to build in a way. So, a little extra prayer Thursday would be appreciated.

That being said, God is doing amazing things in the lives of our students here. And I don't want to be the one to explain that. Here are some stories from students themselves about their day and what they are doing for God. Enjoy.

Today was our third day of going to the sites around Toronto. My group, after a much needed stop at Tim Horton’s, went to a factory-type industry place that teaches people with mental handicaps important job skills that will help them in a real workplace environment. Due to many signed forms detailing how much I will not talk about this place and the people that work there, I can’t go into too much detail. Regardless, I met some very interesting people, learned a lot about them, and I think I now have a better understanding of some of the issues that people with mental handicaps deal with on a daily basis.

After dinner, we had our evening activity in Chinatown. My wishes were almost fulfilled when we went to a souvenir shop that sells Rob Ford T-shirts. Much to my dismay, however, the shop didn’t have it in my size. Oh well, that’s what the internet is for, I guess.

Tomorrow is our last full day here at Toronto, and I look forward to spending my last day with some more of the people at the industries; they’ve opened up to us quite a bit, I hope they do so again tomorrow.
-Mattheus Mitchel

This morning started out with stopping for the awesomeness that is Tim Bits, which are basically donut holes. Then we went to our work site, which is a long-term care facility for senior citizens. There we took some of the residents outside to get some air and we blew some bubbles, and we played cards with residents. Our evening activity was to go to China Town, where we could buy things like Canada t-shirts and Bubble Tea, which has tapioca pudding bubbles in it. This was followed by club time, which was really fun because we did some singing, and church group time, where we talked about our day. I am very sad that tomorrow is our last day here. I have met and gotten to know some great people while here, and it has been a great experience.
-Megan Otte

Since the middle of freshmen year, this youth group has always been a place for me to escape the stresses of integrating into a high school with no pre-established friendships. There are many people that I could thank for helping me improve my esteem and confidence, but a simple blog post would not give them the recognition they deserve.

In terms of my experiences on this mission trip thus far, it is safe for me to say that we have spent all three days (and tomorrow) at a factory that provides low demanding jobs to the mentally handicapped. Most of these jobs include assembly line style tasks that are simple and give workers the basic skills and experience they need to succeed in the real world. We were required to fill out a confidentiality agreement that prevents me from mentioning any names, the name of the company, or the specific work that we have done. As each day progresses, I start to realize that the menial tasks we help these people do are not as important as the feeling of value and purpose that it gives to its mentally handicapped workers.

There are countless stories and feelings I would love to add to this post, but time limits me from putting them down. I am so thankful for these opportunities and can’t wait to go into our last day at the Toronto mission site.
-Jacob Stebbe

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Toronto - Day 3 (Tuesday)

Today is usually one of the most interesting days of the trip. In regards to worksites, it's no longer a new experience, it's not training and guessing names. Today we are able to jump in because we know what to expect and who we are working with. On the flip side, by the end of the day the mission trip is half done. The enthusiasm to jump in is quickly replaced with "my time is dwindling quickly." There are always lots of mixed emotions.

On top of that, tonight we did a walk through downtown Toronto with a tour guide from the Salvation Army who lived there as a homeless person. It's an interesting perspective and there is a lot of talk about gentrification (the idea of a community pouring a lot of money into an area to improve it while at the same time not solving the poverty, simply moving or hiding it). Lots of opinions, lots of discussion. But for now, I'll leave you with some stories from our students.

Thank you for your prayers and support, we covet them all!


Today was my second day working at Booth Industries. There, we get the opportunity to work with some really special people who suffer from mental illnesses. I got to work with a man from India named Kiswar. He told me everything about him. I could tell he liked to talk. After we were done at our work sites, we went on a street walk with a man named Anthony. I learned a lot of lessons from Anthony’s life experiences. He really exposed me to a new perspective on life.
-Scott Kokjohn

I had a really life-affirming day. I have to say, I left on the mission trip kind of expecting it to be like the others I’ve been on, you know, all one of them, and I’m glad to say I was very wrong. I went to Booth Industries today for the second time, which was similar to my first day. I got to work with two guys named Leonardo and Cedric. They chatted with Jacob Stebbe for a long time about sports, not my strong suit, but I jumped in when I could and I’m glad I could be part of a better connection with them today. The really great part of my day came when we went on a street walk with a former drug addict named Anthony. He had a really radical message for us, a product of how hard his life has been, but I really liked what he had to say. He told us about how the struggles he went through get ignored by society a lot of the time, which of course I totally agree with and I would love to do what I can to help expose the problem of homelessness and drug addiction to people, but the most important thing he helped show me is that when I do see something, I can’t just be angry or upset that it’s bad, I have to take action or spread the word to those who can do more. He was really inspiring and I really feel like a different, better person after listening to what he said. Also, he quoted Nelson Mandela, which automatically makes me super happy. I can’t wait to take what I’ve learned today and use it on the rest of the trip and the rest of my life.
-Jacob Bennington

Today was an awesome day. When I arrived I did not know what to expect. Troy told us to hug one of the youth works people so I hugged a helper named Rachel. She was very nice and hugged me right back. I am helping at a nursing home all this week. The elders really love to sing. We sang take me out to the ball game and firework by Katie Perry and many more songs. The elders love to be fashionable so I painted many of the ladies nails hot pink. I met many people here in Toronto. Some of the people we work with are from Boston and from right here in Toronto. One of the girls I’ve met was adapted from China like me and we even share the love of music. With there help we fed the elders and played Bingo with some of the residents. For the afternoon activity we went to the beach, the water was very cold so we had a contest of who could stay in the water the longest. I won of course. Today we went on a tour of the city with a former homeless drug addict. He told us his life story and we got to sort of walk through this life. The experience was life changing and made me think about how I could help in the world. I hope the rest of our time turns out to be a fun and life changing week.
-Emily Lavey

Monday, July 14, 2014

Toronto - Day 2 (Monday)

Our first real day, we all went to our sties and were introduced to our tasks for the week. But, let's hear from the people actually doing it.

Canada, eh?
Lol Canada. We’re in Canada. So that’s cool, eh? Anyway, today my crew went to a great place called St. Judes Academy of the Arts. Pretty cool, eh? It’s pretty cool, because one of the career choices I have for myself is to become a special education teacher. I really enjoyed interacting with the clients there, eh? They all have such loving and caring personalities. You could walk in and immediately be greeted with a hug. I’ve been asking God lately to help me to start to see what I want to do with the rest of my life (I know crazy, eh? I’m a sophomore…). I think God has put me in this position to get a little taste of what this career could look like. Hopefully the rest of the week will go well, eh? Crossing my fingers, eh?
Bye Friend,
-Grace Balasko, eh?
(According to Troy, the expert on Canada, “eh” means you’ve finished what you’re going to say)

Okay… so today my group went to a nursing home. I played scrabble with an elderly man and he kept falling asleep but would wake up when it was his turn. The first word he had said to me was BANANAS he had noticed that that was a word he could put on the scrabble board. Than after the game he went to bed because he was quite tired. So than 2 other people and I interview some of the residents to hear their life stories and to also see if they would answer in “yes” or “no”. One of the questions was “what do you not like?” and the lady I was interviewing said that she didn’t like nasty people. After we interviewed we went to lunch we ate for about an hour. Then we played bingo with an old machine. After that we went up to the 2nd floor and had a dance party with most of the elderly people that weren’t asleep or were able to be out of their rooms. So far I really enjoy Canada, I hope the rest of the week will be just as fun if not better.
-Braedy Laymon

Today, I had the privilege of going to Ina Grafton Gage Home where I found out that most people living in the home had dementia.  Even though this proved to be a challenge in communication, most seniors still attempted to have a conversation with us and opened up.  One person that intrigued me the most was an old lady named Helen.  At one point, she even told me about her husband coming home every day and cooking for their family after cooking as a chef for his job.  These little conversations are just so amazing because everyone can see God working in the middle and letting us be able to listen to everybody’s story.  Over the course of the day I met with several other people who have come from Barbados, Jamaica, and even England.  Their stories also included them finding their way from all over the world to the city of Toronto where I was able to hear from them today.
-Evan Hodes

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Toronto - Day 1 (Sunday)

We finally made it, we are here in the great white north. For those who are not familiar with the mission trip blogs, I will be doing very little of the writing. Each night three students will be sharing on what they have seen and experienced throughout the day and trip. But, since we've spent more time on the highway than here, the stories are a little varied today.

And for everyone's sake of mind, yes we blew a tire this morning. It was a back tire, of which each side of the bus has two back tires. If it wasn't for the noise people wouldn't have known we blew a tire at all. The technician noticed our valve stem was broken (meaning it was likely we were slowly leaking air until the tire couldn't sustain pressure), it's all fixed and we're here safe and sound.

Now for some other perspectives...

Today was quite the interesting day. First, two hours were wasted fixing the buss tire, fun times. Later on, when the border came, we were not interrogated and everything went pretty smooth. Space is crammed at the church we are at but we will make the best of things and I feel that we all will have a great time in Toronto and change the lives of many people including ourselves. Happy birthday Scott!
-Adam Woodward

Greetings from the frozen frontier of the North American continent, also known as Canada. I write this at the conclusion of a long day that began at roughly four in the morning and included, among other things, terrible renditions of the Frozen soundtrack, a border crossing, and the exploration of an alternative route on the Canadian highway system. It was also my first time leaving the country. The lack of American flags is somewhat startling, but interactions with actual Canadians have been limited so far so culture shock is not really a factor at this point. Tomorrow we will be placed into groups and assigned service locations, which will see the beginning of the main service portion of the mission trip. Concluding sentence.
-Griffin Hobson

Preparing to leave the church this morning, with coffee in hand, I was pumped for this trip, to say the least. The drive didn’t necessarily go as planned… forgotten pillow, blown tire, wrong turns, and sweaty, hot buses. Despite all the bumps in the road, we made it to Toronto safely. As this being my first time leaving the country, everything as similar as it might have been, suddenly seemed so foreign. We pulled into the church and the excitement took over. I write this, ready for the week ahead and ready to change the lives of people I meet. (Happy Birthday, Scott!)
-Lauren Detrich  

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


...isn't popular.

The NBA is full of egos. But, there's a bigger reason for it than they're great at their sport. It sells. That's why I've really enjoyed ESPN blasting the fans over the past few days. "You've been asking for more people who are down to earth, do their job, play fundamentals and are humble? They just won the NBA Finals, so why aren't you out there buying their jerseys?"

It's a good question, and it's simple. Humility doesn't sell. We say we want it. We say we want to be like it. But when it comes down to it, do we really want humble people? Do we really want to be a humble person?

God wants us to be.

Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. ~ Colossians 3:12 (NLT)

It may not be popular or profitable, but I like how ESPN put it. Fame comes cheap nowadays. True character, that's a little harder to find.

And it's worth more...


Monday, June 09, 2014

"In" not "With"

Today I had my Bible program open on my computer and I did something a little different. I have many translations open at once (it helps me get a better handle on what the Scripture is saying) and I saw the New King James Version open in the back. I rarely use that one, so I thought I'd look to see what I had opened it to.

Colossians 2:10 - and you are complete in Him...

For some reason that really struck me. Complete in Him. As other versions put it, through our union with Christ, belonging to, filled with, having Christ, coming to Him, our lives are full and complete and true when we are in Christ.

This idea of "in", it's all encompassing. We are together with, a part of, filled up to the brim with Christ and His likeness. And that is the way we are complete, we have that full or true life. I wonder how often we try to have that complete life with Christ, Jesus is an add-on to our already busy lives, something else to do, that one hour a week.

Maybe instead of focusing being with Jesus, we should focus on us being with Him, following Him, making Him the head and being a part of who He is and what He's doing. That sounds like it could be a full adventure...


Thursday, May 29, 2014

Hearing vs. Listening

I know this is one many of you have heard since you were young (at least I did), there's a difference between hearing and listening. A few times this week I've either been in conversations or watched them where one party was not listening to the other. It's kind of entertaining, watching someone ask the same question three times only to have the other party give information that has nothing to do with what they're asking.

There is a vast difference between the physical ability to hear and paying attention to what that noise is asking or saying. And even if the person hearing is understanding, they can listen and ignore what they are hearing. They don't have to do what is being asked of them.

I was thinking about this while driving today, I wonder if the reason so many people don't hear from God is because we aren't listening. We're eager to hear, but if God actually said something to us, would we listen and actually do it?

I'm not God, but when I'm talking to someone who I know can hear me but is clearly not listening, I usually react the same way.

I stop talking.

Maybe we need to work a little better on, as my Kindergarten teacher would say, "putting on our listening ears."


Monday, May 26, 2014

Controlling Truth?

The other day a commercial came on I had never seen. It was for a company known as, here's what the company is about. Many people say many different things on the internet, so this company goes and corrects anything you see as misinformation. Basically, they create the image you want for yourself. Their tagline is simple, "the truth that you control."

That line caught me. The truth that you control. Like somehow we decide what truth is and we can control what is truth for others. It's almost as if we are telling others what to believe.

The sad part is, there's a way to do this. It's much harder than simply hiring a company to clean your web presence. Instead, if someone doesn't like your cooking, find out why and work harder to serve a better meal. If someone says service is sloppy, work harder to give someone the service they deserve. If someone says something negative about you online, live in such a way as those who know you will not believe it, or better yet, come to your defense. Instead of taking the easy way out and erasing people's comments, work harder to live a life that opposes those comments, one that may not even allow for those comments to begin with.

You are to live clean, innocent lives as children of God in a dark world full of people who are crooked and stubborn. Shine out among them like beacon lights, 16holding out to them the Word of Life. ~ Philippians 2:15b-16a


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Welcome Everyone

This morning I was reading this. Here's the Message version of the verse (I liked how they put it):

Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with—even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently. ~ Romans 14:1 (MSG)

I don't know what it is lately, but I seem to be coming across different conversations where people believe in the same Jesus, but they differ on other topics, evolution, homosexuality (those seem to be the big two), any other little thing. Yes, I said little. Because according to the verse above, we are to welcome others seeking Jesus with open arms, even if we don't agree on some element of faith.

Instead of arguing to be right, how about we welcome differences and love the people who think differently then we do. After all, how many things did you believe ten years ago that you differ with now? When we get to heaven, do we expect Jesus to say, "you got it all right, good for you" or "you missed that one", or even worse, "you were right, but the way you treated them was wrong"?

Let's start focusing on the one thing the world needs to hear, Jesus loves you and so do I.


Monday, May 12, 2014

Are You Getting Closer?

This morning I was reading about Campbell's Law. It's an interesting idea, it states that whenever you start to use a number to measure something, people will inevitably get confused and start looking at the number. For instance, when you are driving somewhere people look at their speedometer. If they want to get there faster, they make that number bigger. The problem is, that number doesn't tell you if you're reaching your destination faster, it only tells you what speed the car is actually moving at. You could be increasing that number but driving the wrong direction. Merely focusing on the number is not an accurate measure of what you are trying to accomplish.

I wonder how often we try to use numbers to measure how close we are to God. Church attendance, Bible verses read, minutes spent in prayer, hours serving others. None of these are bad, in fact their all great! But if the goal is to up the number, we've missed it. Right now I have a daughter at home growing. What can she do to increase her growth? Nothing. She has to wait, and a majority of the things that cause her growth are outside forces she can't control (like how often mommy and daddy feed her).

Sometimes spiritual growth is less about a number and more about waiting, and waiting on God (there's a difference between the two).

Be assured that from the first day we heard of you, we haven’t stopped praying for you, asking God to give you wise minds and spirits attuned to his will, and so acquire a thorough understanding of the ways in which God works. We pray that you’ll live well for the Master, making him proud of you as you work hard in his orchard. As you learn more and more how God works, you will learn how to do your work. ~ Colossians 1:9-10 (MSG)


Monday, May 05, 2014

Broken Cups

There's a blog I read in which the author has a three year old son. Right now they're trying to teach him to drink from a cup, a monumental task apparently. The little guy is having a tough time with it. A few days ago he drenched himself (to which dad did the right thing, laughed). But the reason was the best.

"My cup's broken."

Now, we all know that's not the case. His cup was not broken. He didn't do it right. And it's not expected that he be a perfect cup drinker right away. But he will never get better if he constantly blames the cup and doesn't change the real problem, how he drinks, then he will never be able to use a cup properly.

How often do we do this with our relationship with Christ? One of the biggest things that frustrates me when I hear it is someone saying, "God just doesn't seem real." So who's broken here? God? Doubt it. Instead I see someone who used to really love God, and now they don't read their Bible as much, they skip church regularly, praying has gone way down (except in emergencies), they haven't served anyone in months and their priorities have turned to what they want and need. And why doesn't God seem real or close or whatever it was He seemed before?

Is it the cup that's broken?

And when you draw close to God, God will draw close to you. ~ James 4:8a (LB)


Monday, April 28, 2014

On The Same Team

I was asked a question last week about how I felt about other churches close to where I live and serve.

A little bit of background, there are two very large churches within twenty miles of my church. They are both doing very well and have decided to create new campuses for their respective churches, each in my town not far from my church. My friend was wondering what our church thinks about this.

For most people the knee-jerk reaction is "competition". Someone else trying to do the same thing we are in our area, how dare they. But for me, great! Why? Because we're all on the same team. If we start seeing other churches as competition, we've missed it. We should all be working together anyway. As Paul wrote:

Is there any such thing as Christians cheering each other up? Do you love me enough to want to help me? Does it mean anything to you that we are brothers in the Lord, sharing the same Spirit? Are your hearts tender and sympathetic at all? Then make me truly happy by loving each other and agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, working together with one heart and mind and purpose. ~ Philippians 2:1-2 (LB)

I know the churches who are coming in, I even know a few of their ministers personally. And I also know one other thing. 80% of my community does not attend church on Sunday morning. I can either view the other churches as competition, or we can all work together to make that number smaller and help them know there is a loving God who wants to restore them to a place of relationship with Him.

Maybe we should all try working together...


Monday, April 21, 2014

The Day After Easter

So here we are. We've spent the day at church, family parties, mowing the lawn, whatever it is we did to celebrate Easter. And we're back to the way things were.

Which is completely the wrong way to look at Easter.

For too many people, Easter is an end. It's a completion. Jesus said "it is finished" on the cross, and now it's done. He's back, grace is here, we went to church. We're done.

But if Easter was meant to be the end, Jesus would have made it the end. He would have rose from the dead with a grandiose gesture and made sure everyone saw what He had done. Then He would have said, "It's done. Thanks. See ya!" and rose to heaven right away. He didn't do that. He spent the next 50 days walking around, talking with people, giving hope and instruction.

Easter was not the end.

Easter is the beginning.

Easter is where new life is supposed to begin. All the teaching Christ gave before Easter was to prepare us for life after His triumph over the grave, without that the teaching meant nothing. Instead of celebrating Easter as an end, grace has won, we're done, it's supposed to be the start of a new life. We being anew in grace, we have a gospel to share, a life to invite people to start living, one that we start living into ourselves. If anything, today, the day after Easter, is the first day of our new lives.

So as we reflect on the weekend, don't let it be the end. Don't let it be a past celebration. Let it be the start of a new life in Christ. And let it be one we share with everyone around us.

Since you became alive again, so to speak, when Christ arose from the dead, now set your sights on the rich treasures and joys of heaven where he sits beside God in the place of honor and power. Let heaven fill your thoughts; don’t spend your time worrying about things down here. You should have as little desire for this world as a dead person does. Your real life is in heaven with Christ and God.  ~ Colossians 3:1-3 (LB)


Monday, April 14, 2014

Passover Dinner

Last night sr. high students from Fire & Water celebrated a Passover dinner. It wasn't quite as solemn as I expected, but that's the fun of working with teenagers.

I think the big impact for me was the recognition of tradition. This is a meal that has been celebrated by billions of people over the course of 3500 years. Moses ate this dinner. King David ate this dinner. On the night that He was betrayed, Jesus ate this dinner with His disciples. It's this idea that people still eat this same meal down to what is served and what is said all to remember an amazing and mighty act of God.

What if every time God did something amazing in our lives, we created a personal celebration to remember it? What if every Sunday morning we approached worship with a sense of understanding that what we are doing has been in some form or another celebrated for thousands of years every single week by a huge population of our planet? What if every time we took communion we remembered that Jesus Himself started this tradition?

If you get a chance to this week, join a Passover dinner. You may be surprised at what you learn about God and about yourself.


Monday, April 07, 2014


Thursday we had the pleasure of waking up to a downpour and thunderstorm (when I say "waking up to", I really mean "woken up by around 5:45am"). In addition to that I was lucky enough to see the water start to gather in my backyard as well as on the sides of the house.

I have the pleasure of living in a part of town that floods quite often. There's a park near my house at the bottom of the hill, it's now a lake. The roads had water gathering on them and I'm guessing some will be closed by the time I have to go home. That's part of the fun of where I live, there is limestone just a few feet under the earth so any water that falls has no place to go. It will just sit and rise.

There are many floods mentioned in the Bible (one that is now a major motion picture, and from what I hear, the flood is the only part of the story they got right), and the word is almost always used in a scary way. Once in a while a translation will say a room was flooded with light. Other than that, flooding always means death and destruction. One of the most popular flood mentioned is the Nile river, which floods every year. Sometimes it's even mentioned as an example of an army attacking, like the Nile flooding over the land.

But there's one verse that's different:

And the waters of the Nile will fail to rise and flood the fields; the ditches will be parched and dry, their channels fouled with rotting reeds. All green things along the riverbank will wither and blow away. All crops will perish; everything will die. The fishermen will weep for lack of work; those who fish with hooks and those who use the nets will all be unemployed. The weavers will have no flax or cotton, for the crops will fail. Great men and small—all will be crushed and broken. ~ Isaiah 19:5-10 (LB)

Sometimes flooding is necessary. I have been to an area of the Mississippi that floods every year, and that flood deposits moisture rich silt and nutrients for miles and miles allowing crops to grow. The destruction that comes in the spring is crucial to the food and crops in the fall. Without devastating floods, many peoples of the world would starve.

Next time life seems like it's flooding all around you and you're to the brink of drowning, realize this may be necessary to fertilize something amazing in your future. It's horrible to be in the flood, but what the flood produces later could be amazing and bountiful.


Monday, March 31, 2014

Don't Forget...

I had Ephesians 2 left open on my computer from my blog last week, and something just hit me. Smack in the face.

Last week I quoted from Ephesians 2:8-10. The section that follows is all about reconciliation, talking about how Jesus saved Gentiles and Jews, all people (read it, it's good). That we are all saved through Christ Jesus. But there's an interesting start to that section. The Holy Spirit through Paul reminds us that we (the Gentiles) were outsiders. We were not invited into God's Holy Kingdom before. We were on the outside looking in.

What if looked around at people and remembered that we were once outsiders.
We didn't fit in at church
We didn't know the songs or when to stand or when to kneel
We didn't see the importance of joining with friends in a Bible Study
We didn't know or understand that God's guidelines for living are out of love and actually help us
We didn't have a pew to call our own
We didn't "feel" welcome
We didn't know people or have friends at church
We weren't invited or reminded of some fun event
We didn't see ourselves as holy or worthy enough to talk to God
We didn't know where to go, when to meet, or how to get there (church or any other gathering)
We didn't see understand how great serving feels

We didn't see the importance of getting to know God anyway

We just didn't know.

What if we understood that many people feel like outsiders looking in? Or maybe even outsiders not knowing they can get in or why they should bother. One of the best ways to cure that, when insiders invite the outsiders in.

What if you saw those who cross your paths as those on the outside without realizing it, understood where they are at and do what we could to move them from outsiders to insiders?

That's a Great Commission...


Monday, March 24, 2014

"Then Who In The World Can Be Saved?"

This was a question the disciples asked in something I was reading last night. It's a story in 3 of the 4 gospels, it obviously made a dent in the followers' minds.

It's a familiar story. A rich man wants to know how to get into heaven, and he tells Jesus he has followed all the laws since he was a young boy. So Jesus ups the ante. Give up everything, sell all your possessions and follow Him. And the young man walks away because he is very rich.

At this point Jesus turns to His disciples and tells them how incredibly hard it is for the rich to enter heaven, but He also says it is hard for everyone to enter the Kingdom of God. It is easier to shove a camel through the eye of a needle than it is to get into heaven.

Here the disciples ask that question. "Then who in the world can be saved?"

Jesus' answer: Humanly speaking, no one. No one can earn that right. But with God, all things are possible.

We have been talking about grace for the past few weeks at Fishers UMC, a really fitting topic during Lent, because this is the time we focus on what Christ did that none of us could do. Live a blameless life and earn salvation. And since He did it, He is also giving it away to anyone who wants it. For free. The truth is, there is nothing you can do to earn the right to heaven. There is nothing that can be done to somehow gain enough Jesus points to save ourselves. It is a gift, and one we should be incredibly thankful for and share.

Because of His kindness, you have been saved through trusting Christ. And even trusting is not of yourselves; it too is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good we have done, so none of us can take any credit for it. It is God Himself who has made us what we are and given us new lives from Christ Jesus; and long ages ago He planned that we should spend these lives in helping others. ~ Ephesians 2:8-10 (LB)

(notice we don't do good to earn God's love, because of God's love we want to do good, there's a big difference there...)


Monday, March 17, 2014

There's No Snakes In Ireland

Today is that wonderful day we celebrate by wearing green and drinking too much. St. Patrick's Day.

Here's the scary thing. Why do we remember St. Patrick 1600 years later? What are we actually celebrating? If you ask many people, St. Patrick drove all the snakes out of Ireland. Well, that's not really true, there were never any snakes there to begin with.

St. Patrick is remembered because of what he did for Ireland. He was a slave there and escaped, but instead of hating this land that beat him and imprisoned him, he went back to share Christ's love. At a time when the church said worship could only be done their way in their language singing their songs, Patrick did things differently. He explained Christ in the language of the people (he learned it as a slave). He used things around them to help them better understand Christ including their own legends and fairy tales. Instead of starting churches as we would see it, he started communes, places people could come to get food and shelter for no charge (and if he was asked why, he would share the gospel). St. Patrick even went so far as to dress like the people he was ministering to instead of dressing like a priest and standing out as a "holy man".

The reason St. Patrick is remembered is his love for people who really didn't deserve it. And instead of forcing them to be loved his way, he learned about them and loved them in a way they would understand. That's something truly worth celebrating. And I think the best way to celebrate this is imitation...


Monday, March 10, 2014

Would You Drop Everything?

If Jesus were to ask you to do something, you knew for sure it was Him, would you drop whatever you were doing to do what He asked? I was reading a story that made me think of this. Sir Ernest Shackleton was a great explorer who decided to make a what turned out to be fateful trip to the Antarctic (he had originally planned to go to the Arctic, maybe he should have stuck with the plan). The interesting thing about this trip was the publicity. Usually Shackleton would rather do the trip than go public, this time he was incredibly forthcoming with his plans. The story goes a friend asked Shackleton why he was so public for this trip. The reason was Shackleton's friend Frank Wild. Mr. Wild had been a leader on many of these expeditions, but at this time Frank Wild was hunting in the heart of Africa. No phones, no telegraph, he was in the middle of nowhere. The reason Shackleton was so public with the trip was in hopes news would reach Wild. Shackleton said if Wild heard of the trip, he would come. Sure enough, Frank Wild showed up at Shackleton's office in London. When he heard of the expedition, he dropped his gun, picked up his luggage and started home. He showed up asking what his orders were for the new trip. If you were living your dream on the trip of a lifetime and Jesus called, would you drop it all to show up? Peter replied, “Remember, we left everything to be Your followers!” Jesus told him: "You can be sure that anyone who gives up home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or land for Me and for the good news will be rewarded. In this world they will be given a hundred times as many houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and pieces of land, though they will also be mistreated. And in the world to come, they will have eternal life. ~ Mark 10:28-30 (CEV) T

Monday, March 03, 2014

The Take5 Initiative

For those of you who don't know, the Richards family loves Disney. We love the stories and the experience of Walt Disney World. Ever since I first visited I realized there has to be something more to this place, there has to be a way to take some magic home and use it for Jesus. So I have been reading all sorts of books about what Disney does and why they do it. Something really simple that's amazing in a business concept, Take5's. Have you ever heard stories of Disney Cast Members doing something nice like playing with children, giving someone a snack even though the kitchen is closed, making extra room key cards as souvenirs? There's a reason. Every person who works for Disney is empowered to do anything the can think of that will take a guest's vacation from good to "wow" as long as it takes less than 5 minutes and/or costs less than $5 (the reality is most are free and take less than 5 seconds, but they are able to do more if they would like). Everyone is empowered to do this with the understanding of their purpose, making the guest's experience amazing. Here's my question. What do you think FIRE & WATER (or your church) would look like if every member/Insider on a Sunday night looked around for ways to do a Take5 for others? Holding the door for the person behind them. Cleaning up someone else's trash. Smiling "Can I get you another soda/hot dog/cookie?" Being the first to say "hello". Moving over a little to give the person next to them more room. Getting someone a pen or note sheet (rather than throwing it at them). Asking someone how their night is going and if there is anything they can do to help. Asking someone about their weekend. If someone is new, helping them find their way around or understand what's coming next Telling someone how happy you are to see them at FIRE & WATER. What do you think a Refinery/Drink Deep on a Sunday night would look like if everyone did these things (and more)? Imagine someone who has never been to church showed up on a Sunday night and everybody treated them like this. What do you think their first impression of Jesus would be? Almost everything on that list takes 5 seconds, and I'm sure you could think of many more to do. You could probably even do more than one on a Sunday. You could even do them during the week and when asked why you're being so nice, "My whole church is like this, you should come one Sunday night." What would the community think of our church? Think about FIRE & WATER? Think about Jesus? The real question is, are you willing in the craziness and fun of a Sunday night to give God 5 seconds, give someone else 5 seconds. Just imagine how loving and caring FIRE & WATER would be. You could almost describe it as "magical"... Some of you may recognize this verse from a few weeks ago. And whatever you do or say, let it be as a representative of the Lord Jesus ~ Colossians 3:17a (LB) T

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Importance Of Hockey

Yesterday Canada played in the Gold Medal game of the 2014 Olympics (and won, way to go boys!) And many of my friends and family watched it. But here's the interesting thing, due to the game being played in Russia, for some parts of Canada the game happened as early as 4:00 in the morning. 4am! And yet, they watched it. My friends from high school had a party at 6:30, and people came over, it was crowded, to watch the game. There were law changes made so bars could open at 4:30 so some people I know could go to watch the game at 5:00. These people all got up, got ready, many went out or even entertained to watch a hockey game before the sun came up. And yet, going to church at 11:00am is too early... For many, the question is why. Why is it someone can get up for a hockey game but not for church. The answer is simple. Hockey is more meaningful than church. I know that sounds horrible, I don't like it, but it's obviously the truth. To many people a game is more important than worship together with the family of God. If something is important to someone, they find a way to make it happen even if that means planning a 6:00am party. The real question is why is hockey more meaningful to someone than spending time with God and His people. Is it because they don't know who God is and that He loves them? Who's responsibility is it then, them to find out or the church to help them learn that? Is it because Sunday worship isn't as life-changing for them as a hockey game? Again, is that their fault for not being invested? Maybe. Is it the church's fault for not being welcoming and helping them get plugged in to the family of God? Maybe. But again, isn't that something we can all help to change? The even bigger question is are we going to accept this or do what we can to change it? Someone likes hockey more than Jesus, that's just the situation. Are we going to do the hard work of loving them into knowing Jesus, coming to church not to be served but to serve others so they can experience that love here, are we going to purposely invite people into our lives, our Bible Studies, our ministries, our whatever it is so church changes from "that thing I need to do every couple of Sundays" to "that thing I want and need and will even DVR a hockey game and watch it later so I can be a part"? By the way, I had some friends watch the game at 5:00 and still go to church after. Now that's commitment! Do what you can to be the change. T

Monday, February 17, 2014

We're Right By Following Wisdom

Have you ever noticed that following Jesus means everyone thinks you're wrong? I get into this one all the time with music. If I only listen to Christian music, I'm a fanatic. But if I listen to other music I'm judged for listen to secular/heathen music. (I got into a great conversation with someone telling me how any music that is not defined as Christian leads people to hell. I told them my dad plays non-Christian music for a living and they told me he must be going to hell. But when I asked how "She'll be comin' 'round the mountain" and "If you're happy and you know it" were so horrible the backpedaling began.) The simply truth is, people will always find some way to pick you apart and pull you down, no matter how you live. Even Jesus had this problem... and He's Jesus! "For John the Baptist didn’t spend his time eating bread or drinking wine, and you say, ‘He’s possessed by a demon.’ The Son of Man, on the other hand, feasts and drinks, and you say, ‘He’s a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners!’ But wisdom is shown to be right by the lives of those who follow it.” (Luke 7:33-35 NLT) The same people judged Jesus and John into a no-win situation. But Jesus said we are shown right by how we live our lives, not in a single action. Are our lives pursuing and following wisdom? Following Jesus and becoming His disciples? Instead of focusing on the little things like how much we eat we should be focusing on the bigger actions, do we love others, are we telling people about Jesus, are we serving and caring and showing hospitality everyday in our actions? That's what will prove us right with God. Maybe we need to shift our focus onto the big things, or even better, off of the little things others do and onto bettering ourselves. T

Monday, February 10, 2014

Fractions of a Second...

I love the Olympics. Maybe it's my love of sport and getting to see so many different "games" performed by so many athletes from all countries of the world, but I love it. And one reason I know is, everything is so close. These are the best athletes in the world. Not the best of a state of a few million, not the best of a country of a few hundred million (if they're big), but these are the best handful of people out of a possible 7 billion participants. When you get people of that caliber together, everything is going to be close. Many of the games are now measured in thousandths of a second. That is how close these games are. So now, every little thing makes a difference. Your knees perfectly bent, your balance exact, how hard you sweep the ice in front of a curling rock, all the little things come into play (and if you know me, I'm obsessed with miniscule). The tiniest detail can be the difference between gold and silver, or gold and going home empty handed. Four years of training comes down to 1/1000th of a second. The reality is, our lives are the same way. It's not defined by the big things, it's defined by the little. How hard to we train spiritually? Like it's the Olympics or like we're watching the Olympics? Because that training helps us do the little more we need. Taking the few seconds to talk about Jesus, taking a little more effort to serve, realizing that something as small as treating someone with the dignity of a smile can spread the Gospel in ways we may never see. How can we better ourselves spiritually so that we are ready when we need to be just fractions of a second more like Christ? T

Monday, February 03, 2014

What's The Goal?

A few months ago I watched this on TV, and was thoroughly impressed.

Here's why I like it so much. Because she knew her goal.

Put the ball in the hole.

The other guy, he would never throw that way. Why? It looked stupid. On national television. So instead he threw like a man, and got beat by a girl, on national television. She didn't care what she looked like, she was focused on doing the job in front of her.

I had the same thing happen to me in college. At a team hockey practice they invited all the students to participate in a challenge to shoot 10 pucks at a net that was mostly covered with a few holes. The person who scored the most won gold tickets to an Edmonton Oilers game. While everyone wound up and shot real hard, looking cool for the girls, I lightly slid the puck on the ice toward the bottom right corner. They got to show everyone how hard they could shoot. I got to sit in the 12th row of a game where Georges Laraque scored his only hat trick (he only had 8 goals all year), and was so close to the bench I could hear the LA Kings players swearing about it.

Both times the question was asked, do I do things the proper way and look cool, or do I risk looking stupid to win. Sometimes we hold back from doing something amazing because we're scared of how it will come across. What if we lived lives of worship and didn't worry about how it would look? What if we told people about the love of Jesus instead of worrying about what we look like? What if we served, prayed and lived in such a way that knowing Christ was the goal, no matter how it looked? Amazing things might happen...


Monday, January 27, 2014

Stop Complaining About The Weather

Because you can't change it.

No matter how much you complain about it or lament it or hate it, there is absolutely nothing you can do to change how cold or snowy (or warm depending on where you are) it is outside.

But that doesn't mean you can't change something else.

The key to dealing with cold weather? Dress warmer. Plan more travel time. Make plans that don't revolve around being outside. You can't change the weather. You can change how you react to it.

And this is bigger than weather. A person is not defined by what happens to them. They are defined by how they act no matter what happens to them. The good things or bad things that happen to you in life make you no better or worse of a disciple of Christ. The circumstances around you have nothing to do with your faith. You have no control over those things. All you can control: your actions. And that shows who you are. The situation does not make the hero. The actions done in the moment make the hero.

So stop complaining about things you can't control, like the weather. Instead, do something about it. It's what makes you a better person.


Monday, January 13, 2014

Good Advice For Going To Church

I know some people have made the resolution to be more involved in worship services on Sunday morning as a part of bettering themselves in 2014. Great! But for those heading to church or youth group or wherever it may be, here's a little verse form Ecclesiastes I was looking at:

Watch your step when you enter God’s house.
        Enter to learn. That’s far better than mindlessly offering a sacrifice,
        Doing more harm than good. (Ecc. 5:1, MSG)

Unfortunately, there are no attendance points in heaven. You don't get better marks with Jesus just for showing up. It's why you show up and what you do when you're there. I want more people to attend Fishers UMC, on Sundays, to the youth ministry, Bible Studies, whatever they may be, but I also want it to be something worthwhile. Look at worship as a chance to learn, not offering the sacrifice of an hour Sunday morning God requires. It will really change worship for you!


Monday, January 06, 2014

How To Keep Your Resolutions

It's that time of year, where people seem to go full steam ahead into personal improvement. And the steam usually lasts about 3 weeks...

So how do you make sure you actually improve? What can you do to better your spiritual life this year?

Make fewer goals: If you have more than 3 resolutions, you're probably not going to keep them. I'm going to eat better, work out more, read a book a week, write a symphony, volunteer an hour a day, build a house from wood I chopped down myself, etc., etc. It's too much. Pick 3 or less, you may have a better chance at doing them.

Make a plan: I'm going to read a book a week. Great goal. Now, that will take about 6 hours a week, where does that time come from? Despite what people say, you can't make time, it's not possible. All you can do is reallocate it. So if you don't make a plan to get back that 6 hours, you'll never read that book.

When it comes to your relationship with Jesus and your spiritual family, are you making resolutions in a way you can actually keep them? Can you make one resolution like "join a Bible Study", plan out which one works for your schedule? Maybe make sure your homework, exercising, Netflix movie is done at a different time to free up that hour or so? Make a plan for how you're going to get there if you need a ride?

Here's a challenge for you, read the Bible this year. Most Christians have not read the entire Bible (I've been in a room where a lot of pastors had not), what if you actually read your Holy Library just once? You can do it with 10-15 minutes a day, the internet is littered with reading plans (there are some in the Wharf for FIRE & WATER students).

Don't make resolutions this year, keep resolutions this year. There's a big difference between talk and action...