Monday, November 13, 2017

The Importance of the Whole Story

I hate driving. Really, I don't mind the act of driving, it's the time spent driving that I can't stand. If we had teleporters sign me up. Because of this I have been watching news of self-driving cars very closely. If I can afford it I will be a very early adopter.

But they keep getting in accidents. Google's cars have been in accidents over ten times. And last week a new driverless shuttle at the Vegas airport got into an accident on its first day.

They must be really bad then... or are they?

That was the headline I saw at first. "Self-driving bus involved in accident on its first day." And most people jump to the conclusion right away there was an error in the technology.

And that's why we need the whole story.

Google's multiple accidents in the self-driving car, all were the other person's fault. The error of the other driver. In the crash by the airport shuttle, the truck in front of it backed into the shuttle. The shuttle wasn't even moving. Even if it were a human driver there still would have been an accident and it still would have been 100% the other driver's fault.

We live in a society that loves headlines and the Twitter version of a news story. The problem is in cases like this reputations are damaged and fear is incited when the real story is something that happens every single day, just this time it happened to a robot car so it's news.

When it comes to Jesus, make sure you're getting the whole story, read the Bible for yourself and join a Bible Study. When it comes to church and family and friends, make sure you are getting the whole story. Without it all you get is fear and damage.

T

Monday, November 06, 2017

How Do Scientists Do It?

This past week I spent a few days with 16 students all in one house living together, living our normal daily lives together while trying to also spend time together learning about Jesus and who we are in Him. And at one point we talked about how we need to spiritual scientists.

Scientists live in this weird dichotomy. They have to accept that what they already know is true. But at the same time they have to challenge those facts to progress. They need to feel confident enough in what they know to say they can know more and move forward finding what they don't, possibly even changing what they knew to begin with.

To know God, we have to live in this place. We must have faith that what we know about God to be true, but not enough faith in it to stay there and say there is nothing else to know about Him. We need to dive into the mysteries before us and draw closer to Him.

Here's the Scripture we looked on the retreat:

We, of course, have plenty of wisdom to pass on to you once you get your feet on firm spiritual ground, but it’s not popular wisdom, the fashionable wisdom of high-priced experts that will be out-of-date in a year or so. God’s wisdom is something mysterious that goes deep into the interior of his purposes. You don’t find it lying around on the surface. It’s not the latest message, but more like the oldest—what God determined as the way to bring out his best in us, long before we ever arrived on the scene. The experts of our day haven’t a clue about what this eternal plan is. If they had, they wouldn’t have killed the Master of the God-designed life on a cross. That’s why we have this Scripture text:

                 No one’s ever seen or heard anything like this,
                 Never so much as imagined anything quite like it—
                 What God has arranged for those who love him.

But you’ve seen and heard it because God by his Spirit has brought it all out into the open before you.
The Spirit, not content to flit around on the surface, dives into the depths of God, and brings out what God planned all along. Who ever knows what you’re thinking and planning except you yourself? The same with God—except that he not only knows what he’s thinking, but he lets us in on it. God offers a full report on the gifts of life and salvation that he is giving us. We don’t have to rely on the world’s guesses and opinions. We didn’t learn this by reading books or going to school; we learned it from God, who taught us person-to-person through Jesus, and we’re passing it on to you in the same firsthand, personal way. (I Cor. 2:6-13, MSG)

Are you willing to be scientists and dive into the unknown with God...?

T

Monday, October 30, 2017

We Shouldn't Exist

That's part of the conclusion in a latest experiment in Europe. You can read about it here.

That's the thing about miracles, they don't always make sense...

T

Monday, October 23, 2017

Egg Nog

I love egg nog. I mean really love it. It's fantastic. It's one of those drinks that warms my heart and hurts it at the same time. It's fantastic.

The other day I saw it in stores. Already. It's the middle of October and egg nog is for sale!

And that is horrible.

Why? Because I love egg nog. Every year the same thing happens. I see egg nog on sale for the first time that year. I quickly buy some to drink of it's liquid gold. Lorie says she will have a bit, but usually has half a cup and doesn't want any more. That's more for me. So much more. Too much more. And after downing a half gallon of nog in under 24 hours I get tired of it. So tired of it I don't drink it again for the season. When Christmas rolls around the drink that reminds me of my childhood repulses me because I drank too much too soon. I couldn't wait.

I wonder if this is part of the reason God takes His time blessing us or telling us His plans. Do I treat His gifts like egg nog, I see it and need it now, as much as possible in the quickest amount of time?

I'm trying to wait this year, but it's hard. Egg nog is soooo good.

T

Monday, October 16, 2017

Do You Recognize?

I had my Bible open on my computer and there was a note at the bottom that caught my eye. It was a part of Mark 6:54:

Immediately the people recognized Jesus

And it hit me. Do we recognize Jesus? I know I bug people about that all the time in my world, but seriously. If Jesus were in your life today would you recognize Him? Or is He already?

I hope I would, but it just reiterates to me the importance of knowing Jesus, so I will be able to recognize Him...

T

Monday, October 09, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving

Today is Canadian Thanksgiving, so my social media is full of posts of people saying what they are thankful again. In two months the same thing will happen with my American friends and family.

But why do we only do this twice a year?

What do you think our lives would look like, even our online lives, if we were to post or share something that we are thankful for every week, maybe even every day? Forget how it would change others, how would it change you?

Being thankful is a choice and exercising it is like exercising any other muscle, it will get stronger the more you do it.

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

T

Monday, October 02, 2017

We Love It So Much We Choose To Be Busy

I haven't written a blog in two weeks (sorry). I realize that I missed it and I miss writing, it's fun for me. But the last few weeks have been full of a new Bible Study, Pumpkins arriving and a new laptop (which is working, yay).

But this time of year reminds me that we only have so much time to spend. I remember talking with the students about this a while back, I hate the phrase "make time". You can't make time. It's impossible. You can only choose how you want to spend the time you have.

And you will spend it on what's important to you. When there are multiple things we love, we choose to be busier. Don't complain to me about how busy you are in band, you signed up for it, you choose to be there, you do it because you love it. If you're too buys, quit.

But they don't quit. Why? They love it.

When you love something you will figure out how to spend more time on it.

So what do you love?

T

Monday, September 18, 2017

Why SPAM Doesn't Work On Me

Because I'm not desperate.

I realized this while going through my spam folder one morning. There are a lot of weird and really inappropriate offers. Why would anyone ever fall for them? And I started to think about it, if I were really, really in need of something, I was incredibly desperate, they might work.

I'm not desperate for a get rich quick scheme, but if I were days away from the house foreclosing on my family would I open it? I'm not desperate for human interaction, but if I were incredibly alone would even a stranger in an email be enticing? 

It got me thinking how desperate people will do crazy things. And they're not always bad. A financially desperate person may finally take the leap and patent that new idea. A desperate person in an abusive relationship will find the courage to leave and live somewhere new and unknown. Sometimes, desperation can cause us to do amazing things.

What would it look like if you were desperate for Jesus?


    I prayed to the LORD, and he answered me. 
      He freed me from all my fears. 
    Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; 
      no shadow of shame will darken their faces. 
    In my desperation I prayed, and the LORD listened; 
      he saved me from all my troubles. 
    For the angel of the LORD is a guard; 
      he surrounds and defends all who fear him.  ~ Psalm 34:4-7 (NLT)

T

Monday, September 11, 2017

Are You Only Going to Church in Case You Miss Something?

That's an odd question, I know. I mean, who ever thinks of what they might miss at church Sunday morning before deciding if they should go to church or not? It seems ridiculous.

But do we do that?

I was reading last week about how there are studies (yes, multiple) about when selling to people of trying to sway people to be a part of whatever you are offering, they are more likely to buy in if you instill some fear of them missing out than what they may get out of the situation. So if I was selling a book (which I am), I can tell people how good the book is and what they will get from it but if I want to sell more copies a more effective tactic is to say, "only a few copies left".

It's a product of our Instagram society. Fear of mission out is one of the greatest fears of teenagers and younger people, as they get older I predict it takes the number one spot over fear of public speaking (this is also the YouTube generation). So when it comes to making a decision, people will commonly skip over "is this good for me" and think "will I miss something by not being there."

I wonder how this affects our worship. When we make plans for the week do we factor in if church is something that is healthy and necessary for our soul? Or do we think about what we will miss (or not miss) if we don't go? Hopefully each time we worship together we have a rich spiritual experience together and we see Jesus. After all, who'd want to miss that?

The believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the community, to their shared meals, and to their prayers. ~ Acts 2:42 (CEB), from when the first church was forming.

T

Monday, September 04, 2017

Rest

Today's Labor Day. Instead of a long post, here's my one question:

When was the last time you rested (I mean really rested)?

Think about it...

T

Monday, August 28, 2017

What Rules Have You Broken

Last night we talked at FIRE & WATER about the rules to follow Jesus, the Pharisees (they loved rules) and what true worship really is. Here's the one thing I found out that I really didn't like:

They still get in trouble for breaking "rules".

I get it, no one is perfect and there are things we should and should not be doing that will help us know God better. But when and where you wear a hat probably isn't one of them.

If you are a part of a church or some group that worship, please, don't put your made up rules on visitors. If you are more worried about what a person wears to church then the fact they took the risk to visit for the first time you're missing the mark.

To those that aren't a part of a church, don't let one church's "rules" or even what you've heard about the "rules" stop you from coming. There are a ton of people that love Jesus and just want to get to know you. Try to find them, please.

As someone who has broken the rules many times and still occasionally gets in trouble for it, let's make it less about us and more about Jesus. Please.

T

Monday, August 21, 2017

Today the Moon Blocks the Sun

Have you ever thought about how crazy that is? The moon can block the sun and make the sky dark. The moon can make the sun so dark that you can stare directly at the sun and burn your retinas. I'm already gearing up to hide our daughter in the basement so I don't have to explain why it's already night time.

But how can this be since the moon is so much smaller than the sun? If the sun were hollow about 64.3 million moons can fit in the sun, that's how tiny the moon is compared to the sun. So how come the moon can completely block out something so much larger than it?

Proximity.

Because the moon is almost 400 times closer to us than the sun it can block it out. Because it is so much closer something incredibly bigger disappears.

I wonder how often this is true of Jesus in our lives. He is infinitely bigger than any problem we could have, but if we hold on to those problems closer and push Jesus further away doesn't it seem like that problem is bigger than Jesus?

Don't let the little things block you from seeing Jesus. The closer you hold them the less Light that gets through...

T


Monday, August 07, 2017

Listening to the Lawnmower

I have an old lawnmower. I don't know how old, we bought it second hand. I've had to do a few Macgyver-ish repairs to it over the years. The push assist doesn't work anymore. It's covered in duct tape and zip ties. But it mows the lawn.

One interesting thing about it is the sound it makes when the grass bag is full. There's a window in the bag so I should be able to see the grass clippings, but it is so old and dirty I have tried to clean it and it lasts about four minutes. So I have another way to tell when the bag is full: the sound. When grass starts feeding back into the mower there is a distinct clunking sound, different from the other clunking sounds of being an old mower. I know when I hear that sound it's time to stop and empty the grass clippings.

As I was mowing the other day I started to think how this in many ways is like hearing God. If I could choose some other way to tell when the bag was full, I'd do it. In a heartbeat. But I can't. I had to learn to let go of how I wanted things to work and learn to listen to the actual signs in the midst of all the other noise.

Sound like God a little?

Too often we have ideas of how we want God to speak or communicate to us. The problem is, it's not up to us. He does it His way. And until we recognize that we will never hear Him. We will miss His voice in the midst of all the other noise.

So what does God sound like? And will you start listening for Him?

My sheep recognize my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. ~ John 10:27 (TLB)

T

Monday, July 31, 2017

Support Those Who Support Us

So after having a little time off from the mission trip, here's the one thing that really stuck out to me...

This happens every year, and every year I am surprised. But this year I had a precursor to this experience on our trip. I was a part of a conversation with a couple of youth pastors, one of whom did Youthworks this summer and was very upset with their staff. After hearing their complaints I asked a something more. These students could do anything for the summer but they decide to work at a grueling job for nominal pay so our students can encounter Christ. Did you say "thank-you" or offer them any support?

And as always, the answer is no.

A week before our trip I was talking to Alize, our site director. She was giving me the information on the trip and like always she asked at the end if there was something they could be praying for in regards to our group. And I asked if there were any requests for us to be praying for them.

I was the first person to ask that all summer. We are the second to last group of the year.

During the week we occasionally stop for a treat after a hard day of working, ice cream or Starbucks, something like that. And I purposely bought a few extra for our staff so they could have something too.

I was the first person to do that all summer.

The sad part is so many of us see roles in our society as expected. Don't bother cleaning up the mess you made, that's why we have janitors, it's their job. Why say thank you and help out the Youthworks staff, we paid for this trip and they are working for us.

Really these people are supporting us, whether paid or not. When was the last time you went out of your way to thank someone or support someone who you see as it's their job to support you?

T

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Atlanta - Day 6

We are on our way back home. Although I now think Nashville traffic is worse than Atlanta, we managed to have a little fun downtown.

But more importantly we were able to have a little bit of discussion about our trip. During the week we meet together in church groups, but being a group of 35 it's impossible to do that every night and have everyone be a part so we split up into smaller cells. Tonight is the first night we are all together again and can share stories. Our students talked for almost 2.5 hours about the trip, where they saw Jesus, and what they want to remember from this mission experience.

Thanks to Youthworks and all the great staff for a wonderful week, and here are a few stories from our students.

T


This week has been nothing short of amazing. Serving the community in so many different ways is always an amazing time. Personally, I enjoyed going to AG Rhodes, a rehab center, and talking to the residences there. There were 3 ladies I talked to for the majority of my time there, and their amount of wisdom is astounding. They told about how life is such a complex and fragile chain of events. One woman took off at a young age to go to school and make groundbreaking leaps for all women. She came out of college and got a job at a massive company, being 1 of 15 female employees there. One lady described her faith to us and even prayed over us as we left that day. And lastly, the third discussed all her hardship she had in her life, including anxiety and depression. Seeing her that day however, she could not have been a sweeter and kinder lady, and as we talked she made clear how much our presence there means to her. To hear what you are doing means that much to them is quite humbling. Walking into AG Rhodes day one, I did not know how comfortable I was talking to these people I never met. However, at the end of the week, I could not be happier to have spent time with the residences there. I enjoyed that sight so much and I would not hesitate to do something like that again. I will miss mission trips like these a lot. - Adam


No need to worry, all of your family and friends did a wonderful job serving this year, and I’m going to miss all of them as I go off to college. They made this trip a lot of fun even in tasks that otherwise would not have been. This year I had the opportunity to work at places that involved meal packing, so it was pretty much manual labor the entire week. While it may be harder to see Jesus in that than with relational work, the sheer quantity of meals we were able to pack obviously had a huge impact on the individuals who received them. We were thanked by all of them we had the opportunity to meet personally, which was very nice to be able to see. I am very content with my past six years of being able to help at Youthworks, and I have been encouraged to continue serving throughout the rest of my life. - Tyler


I’ll start by saying that the amount of influences and role models in the graduation senior class is pretty much astounding. These people have been accepting and friendly since day one. Having a solid base of friends, especially in jr. high and high school where things change so easily. I will tell you that this change will probably be the hardest. Their friendship makes church and worship exponentially easier. On that note I would like to share my thoughts on this mission trip:

My overall favorite part is getting the opportunity to serve kids at the Nicolas House Camp which is a day camp for kids at the Nicolas House homeless shelter and even kids who don’t live at the shelter. They were rowdy like all little kids but also completely respectful to the authorities. On the first day I was with them in the afternoon when the gym was closed and everyone was packed in a classroom playing bored games there was this one lone kid in the corner, his name was Trenton. I asked him what he would like to play and he said Lego Batman. We did not have any action figures and most of the games were used without many pieces left in them. We ended up using clear packing tape and generic game pawns to reenact the complete story of Lego Batman. His giddy face and bright attitude struck me as the perfect symbolism far the overall theme of the week which was THE GOOD LIFE. I felt like that little kids bright face was how god wanted me to feel with him and his message sent to us through Jesus. I realized God wanted us to be happy with each other no matter the circumstance, He wants us to trust Him, He wants us to serve. Back to what I was saying in the beginning of this story when I reflected upon the influence of our great senior class, the good life is much easier to obtain with a solid support base. Thank you Lord for this truly great blessing. - Jacob





Friday, July 21, 2017

Atlanta - Day 5

It's Thursday! That means two things for our mission trip. It means a lot of good-byes as we have our last day of serving. Good-bye to those we are helping, the kids we are working with, the sites we have worked on. It also means that we will have a time of prayer together as we reflect on our service this week. In this we wash the students' feet and pray for them, then allow them to pray for each other. It's incredibly moving and they love to pray with each other (it took us about 2 1/2 hours).

Thanks to all of you who have been praying for us, tomorrow we are up early, we clean and pack, then we head to our pit-stop for the night were we relax a little and all share stories and decompress from the weekend. So, hopefully we will have a blog tomorrow but we'll see what happens. Either way, here are some stories from today, enjoy!

T


Today I spent the morning working at an Atlanta Food Bank, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was nice to see all the things people had donated, and to see so many people working together to pack the food or other items to get them distributed. Packing boxes was actually calming, even though it was fast paced and in the midst of organized chaos. It was also satisfying to see all the boxes we had packed. At one point the table behind us was so full we couldn’t put anymore boxes on it and had to put them on the floor. At the end we were told we packed about 10,900 lbs. The sense of accomplishment and feeling like we made a difference was nice, and pretty much sums up how I feel about this whole trip. -Sabrina


Today we did a lot of things, we went to Atlanta Food Bank in the morning and I packaged food; then in the afternoon we went to Books for Africa for the second time and we sorted books so they can be shipped off to Africa. Afterwards we returned back to home base and did meal prep for dinner. Youthworks tradition dictates that you do a cook out for the community at some point during the week and for us that was today. Meal prep involved moving boxes and serving the community in a more literal sense. I was able to meet a lot of people while giving them a burger or hotdog.

After the cookout we returned back for Large Group Gathering (Nightly Church) where one of the Youthworks staff shared a very personal and touching story before we moved into Church Group Time which has its tradition on Thursday. On Thursday we learn about the foot washing at Passover and then kinda replicate it where the Youthworks staff wash our adult leaders’ feet and then they wash ours and pray for us. After that we are able to pray with other students and chillax. Praying with others is a very moving experience and every students cries at least a little during the process and it brings us all closer together. Thursday is my favorite day of Youthworks trips for that reason. – Carson



My mission trip until today was incredibly bland and uneventful. The worksites were easy and incredibly low interaction wise. Then today, my group was able to move on to work at Books for Africa because we finished the tasks which were required of us by the Salvation Army. Books for Africa was  where I was able to work in an actually challenging environment where the work made me feel as if I am making a difference as I could see the fruits of my labor. The joy this brought me was great and made all the doubt that I was making a difference flood away. Feeling this sense of accomplishment allowed for me to look back on my week and realize all my other accomplishments this week. -Rachel

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Atlanta - Day 4

It's the middle of the week and by complete fluke all the people writing the blog posts today were all at the same nursing home. But as you'll see, each had different experiences and saw Jesus in different ways. Enjoy!

T


Today I spent my day at the A.G. Rhodes old folks home. This was our second day there and within the first 15 minutes of arriving I got to meet Donna. She’s like one of those little kids you see that wave to everyone in sight. She’s just a social butterfly. So she was walking and said, “Hi, I don’t believe we’ve met. I’m Donna. Wanna do a puzzle?” So we went down and did a puzzle and chatted and she’s just the sweetest lady!

I was sitting with Morgan in the hallway with the Alzheimer’s patients and a lady named Jackie got up out of her chair and started to go for a stroll and the nurses were asking her to sit down… well she looked them in eyes and then waved and continued to shuffle away. It made my morning :) – Lindsay


I spent our wonderful Wednesday at A.G. Rhodes assisted living home! This week has been one of my first experiences working one on one with the residents at a nursing home, and wow was I surprised. My idea of working in a nursing home is being bingo and having to talk really loud and constantly repeating yourself. While I definitely partook in all of those, it was so much more than that.

Today I spent my time talking to three incredible women. First, I talked to a woman named Bertha from the Alzheimer’s wing. This experience was like none other. Her condition was like something I had never dealt with before and took so much patience to hold a conversation with her. But in between the about 15 times I had to introduce myself, I really got to know her and understand what her life was like, from her years growing up to her time in A.G. Rhodes. After talking to her I went upstairs to talk to a woman named Maeomi. Maeomi has got to be the most amazing woman I have ever talked to. One of our staff members, Nick, and then Adam and I were able to sit down with this woman for a total of about two hours and we went from  crying from laughing so hard to being near tears from hearing about her incredible life and all of the advice she had for us. Never in my life had I met someone so devoted to God and she was truly inspiring to meet someone like her. At one point she prayed for us and it was so meaningful to me and I know that her faith will continue to have a large impact on my life. Finally, I talked to a woman named Cynthia who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and is at risk for developing Alzheimer’s. Despite the struggles she has faced during life, she was still able to tell the story of how she found God and knows that after her time in A.G. Rhodes, she will be at home with him. She told us about the risks she took during her life, such as the time when her husband of 23 years divorced her and so she started a whole new life and eventually remarried and bought her own house. Her life was full of risk that I could see had paid off and I truly learned so much from her. Before leaving she gave me two pieces of advice that I hope to never forget: keep it simple and stretch, stretch your mind and your body.

I learned so much about myself and others in this experience, more than I could have ever expected. I am so grateful for this opportunity, but now I get to have a whole new adventure tomorrow at a food bank and book donation charity!  1 day of work left! – Katie


Hello Indiana,

Along with the other two bloggers, I spent my day at the A.G. Rhodes retirement home along with the rest of my crew.  However, I had the unique privilege to be on beauty shop duty.  While it may sound a tad strange for a beauty shop to be located in a retirement home, it was simply a place where a permanent hairdresser would take the time to trim and shape each residents hair.  Luckily, they did not task me with actually trimming, and instead I transported residents from the differing floors down in their wheelchairs and would sit and wait for their appointment times.

Typically, I would not feel comfortable talking with strangers or striking up conversations.  However, today I felt called to step out of my comfort zone, which is something this mission trip has fortunately pushed me to.  I have been able to talk and converse with some of the most interesting people.  In fact, Ms. Carr and I had a great time talking about everything from iguanas to college, and I even got a few compliments on my “wonderful hair and teeth”.  While we had only just met, I feel like I had an impact on Ms. Carr’s day (however small it was) and she certainly had an impact on me, showing me that even uncomfortable situations can lead to a lot of fun and happiness.

Another resident, named Marge Davis was very eager to talk with me.  Unlike Ms. Carr, Ms. Davis and I interacted over both days that my crew visited A.G. Rhodes.  Talking with Ms. Davis was less of a conversation and more of a lecture, however that made it all the more enjoyable.  The excitement in her voice was tangible and I could really tell that she was genuinely enjoying our time together.  Her stories and memories were surprisingly detailed despite the fact that she was 86 years old, and my few comments would spark a flurry of memories and stories that she could recount.  Marge not only shared her life story with me but also, before we left, gifted me an exercise book, with images and instructions on how to stay healthy along with a dietary log.  The book will not only have a physical impact but it also amazed me at how generous and kind people can be, despite the fact that they are strangers.   We had only talked for two hours, yet she was so kind as to give me a gift.


Overall, this mission trip has been an incredible experience.  I am continually amazed at how sweet and gentle the residents of Atlanta are, and am extremely thankful for this opportunity.  See you all soon. - Jacob 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Atlanta - Day 3

A new day of work, many people going to new places and meeting new people. But since our students wrote so much about it, I'll defer to them.

T



(Brace yourselves)  Today, my crew went to Urban Recipe, which is a food co-op. Essentially, it is like a food pantry except it is very member driven. The people in the community are members of the co-op and are responsible for pitching in and helping out in any way they can. While we were there, it pretty much ran like our food pantry does. We unloaded the food, sorted some boxes, and then we milled around not knowing what to do. Then things got exciting. All of a sudden, the sorting process began. The best way I can describe this is in the concept of organized chaos. There was a system in place to be the most efficient. The only problem was that we did not know what that system was!!! The very first thing the coordinator said to the rest of the community members was to be patient with us and to be gentle with us because, and I quote, “They do not know what they are doing.” In the end we got all of the food boxed up and was ready to be delivered.

Then, the co-op meeting began. For the first part we were sorting cardboard, but then we caught the last part of the meeting. This is where I saw God work the most. There was a discussion about getting rid of the scripture reading at all of the meetings that was brought up by another member. The very last person to speak was a teenage girl who was probably around 13. When she stood up, everyone in the room listened and she just shared about how important the church was to her and how it truly allowed her to feel happy and how to live the good life. Hearing her speak so passionately really spoke to me because she had so much conviction about her faith and truly trusted in the word of God and how it would get her through everything.

Perhaps the most touching part for me was while I was helping these two women load their car. We were just talking about life and laughing and sharing stories and I had finished loading. They tried to give me a tip for helping them but I only receive payments in hugs so I ended with 2 hugs.(Which is much better). But just talking with them and seeing how grateful they were for our help and how they were so inviting and patient was so great to see.

Urban Recipe really showed what life should be about. Being in community. Helping each other. Laughing with one another. And sharing a real love for God. - Zane


 “Church is really my passion, it’s my favorite thing to do and I just LOVE it!” Today, I was working at a kid’s camp for a group called Nicholas House. They provide housing and rehabilitation for homeless families, and they are one of the only homeless shelters in Atlanta that keeps the entire family together rather than splitting the fathers in one home and the women and children in another. As I was in this kid’s club, I met a young boy named Brandon, whom the wonderful quote came directly from. This boy was bubbly as all get out and was bouncing around from person to person laughing and getting to know every single one of us. When I was finally able to get a word in, I asked him what he liked to do and what he wanted to be when he was older. He shared that he wanted to be a professional singer and that was his absolute FAVORITE thing to do “in the whole wide world.” I asked him to sing us a song and I was not prepared for what came next… the voice that came out of this 11 year old boy was the most amazing thing I have ever heard. His voice brought me to tears and I have never seen someone with so much passion for anything. The gospel songs that he sang were so powerful and he believed every single word he said. God spoke through that boy so powerfully today and the spirit that he had within him was so moving. I later found out that he has lived without his father his whole life and him and his mother live in a homeless shelter, but all the while he had the most positive attitude I’ve seen in such a small human. Humbling to say the least. I have been so blessed in this life with my family and the privileges that I have been given.

Speaking of blessings, WHAT A TIME I have had over these past 6 years with Youthworks and Fishers UMC Fire and Water.  I can’t imagine what my life would have been like if these trips were not a part of my life. Junior high and high school have brought struggles unlike any other but being a part of something like this is something so special that makes it all a little bit easier. I have been forever changed by the people I have met and the experiences I have been challenged with. I could never replace the experiences that I have been given, and for that I am forever thankful. As I’m writing my last blog of my last mission trip in high school, I am sitting with such a beloved group of a few seniors and my heart is overflowing and crying at the same time because it’s all drawing to an end. As we sit and reminisce about our favorite memories, I can only hope that these trips touch everyone and change them for the better, just like it has for me. (But don’t worry, I’ll be back as a Youthworks staff) J - Lauren D.



For the sake of confidentiality I will not be putting real names, they will be close but not exact. So today my crew and I went to this place called Urban Recipe, Urban Recipe is basically a food pantry. What makes that place special is the dignity it provides, instead of just giving people free food, it makes them pay a small fee so they feel like they are not receiving handouts.  When the instructor told us this, I felt happy; they made the people feel better about themselves and gave them food. First, we packed food, we put food in boxes for the people to take, then one of the Youthworks counselors, Bridget, and I packed lettuce in bags for dispensing as we did that we talked to Vivian the lady in the kitchen and to each other. After that I met a super nice woman named Grace. She packed cans into bags and dispensed them we had a really nice conversation about her life, mine, and our faith. I had a lot of fun talking to Grace and Vivian, but all around us was organized chaos. People were going all different directions, with different tasks and it was very hectic. The boxes were tightly packed together so we had to maneuver around them, which was not the best positioning but it was humbling to see everybody working so hard to help others.

When all the boxes were packed (they were three boxes that were all overflowing) we took out all of the used boxes into a truck. My crew and I made a conveyor belt and loaded a truck full of boxes for recycling and I was at the end of the line. I talked to a man, whom I didn’t know his name, and he told me that he was from Atlanta and went to college in Kentucky. I mentioned our seniors and he was talking about Purdue, he was also super kind and helpful. We went back inside and all of the people were having a committee meeting and one of the issues was reading scripture at their meetings. You can tell that ALL of the people in that room were super devout and I was inspired to become more like them. You could ask each and every person and they would praise God until they day they died and I really felt inspired to become more like them. Even a teenage girl stood up and proposed her idea for their issue and I was thinking that I wish I could do that, I wish I could become more like her and for the rest of the day that was my goal.

After the issue was resolved we helped people pack up their food and put into their cars. I met a wonderful woman named Nancy, we talked for a good fifteen minutes about everything. She told me never to get into the wrong crowd and how to always love your parents(which I already do, very much). She also told me the best thing I could’ve heard that day, “You can never fix all the problems in the world, but you can try and solve ‘em”. I could hardly understand her a lot of the time, but I picked up enough to have a decent conversation. Then she had to leave and I helped pull her fold up cart and I’m already a bad driver but when you put cracks and bumps in a narrow road it gets worse… I made it through though and I was so sad when I left, she tried to pay me but I denied and ended up with a hug(which was WAY better) instead. We said goodbye, but I’ll never forget her, I had a fun day today that was filled with laughter, kindness, and most of all faithfulness. – Lauren B.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Atlanta - Day 2

Today was the first day of really working hard. There have been a ton of pictures on social media, feel free to check out Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for pictures and stories throughout our time here.

Our students have been broken up into four crews and unlike years previous we will be doing many, many different acts of service. Every morning and afternoon are completely different projects in different areas and many we will not repeat (some groups will end up doing 6-7 acts of service this week). We were in urban gardens, food distribution centers, senior centers, sorting books for Africa, the list goes on for our day.

In the evening our students also participated in a poverty simulation, each student was given an identity and had to find a way to get food through social services, food banks, etc. Only two managed to get a complete day's food. It reiterated to our students just how much their service is appreciated and how much the Come To Me Food Pantry does for our community.

Here are some stories from today, please be praying for our students as they continue to serve this week. Thanks for your support!

T



So today I got to do the one thing I haven’t for all 6 past mission trips: visiting a nursing home. While I was a little afraid and uncomfortable at first, I got my feet wet when I met a woman named Dorothy who was very happy to be able to talk to someone.

The second lady I met was deaf so I had to shout for her to hear me. Our conversation was short, and when I asked what she used to do for a living, she replied that she didn’t want to talk about it and rolled herself slowly back into her room and that was the end of that.

The third woman I met I spent a majority of the day with. I wheeled her up and down the same hallway to keep her from remembering that she was tired and wanted to lie down because she wasn’t actually allowed into her room. She gave me nonstop compliments about how nice I was,  how nice my teeth were, and what had happened to my arm. Eventually she fell asleep in her chair and then I think she kind of forgot about us.

Finally the last person I met had Parkinson’s but loved to talk and talk about how curious she was about her father who had fought in WWII. I told her about my grandpa who also fought and was battling his own debilitative disease. She had many pictures of her father and postcards he had sent from Europe and she said quite a few times how she wished someone in her family would be as curious as she was about her family history. I would’ve loved to have continued to talk to her but we had to leave.

While I entered the facility uncomfortable and happy that this would be the only day at A.G. Rhodes, I left wishing that we could go back, so thank you Troy for putting me well out of my comfort zone. - Matt


Rule #1: Okra is Deceptive.
While working at the UrbanAtlanta Metro Farm, our team learned a multitude of lessons from Mr. K, the overseer of the farm, ranging from wise proverbs to seemingly absurd tips to harvesting okra.  What stood out most though (aside from his knowledge on every vegetable known to man) was his genuine enthusiasm for his work.  During our orientation, we learned that the farm rents plots of soil to local members in the community and distributes their produce to farmers markets in Atlanta where food deserts are just as abundant.  Even though the work tedious and tiring, Mr. K was more than willing to help us find new projects and let us try a little bit of everything the farm had to offer (which was a lot). 

By the end of the day, our team had the chance to plant sweet potatoes, harvest okra, and even weed the inside of a greenhouse.  Mr. K still gave us each task with the same smile on his face and was more than willing to work alongside us.  While he may not be the exact replica of Jesus, he did teach me how to take pride in your work and to be passionate about a goal bigger than yourself.  Hopefully, our work and the work others do on the garden continues to help families in Atlanta and that the newcomers also learn the proper way to find and cut okra. - Evan


Rule #2: No really, okra is extremely deceptive.
Today my crew had the opportunity to work at the Urban Atlanta Farm. The most intriguing aspect of the farm is that it is almost 100% self-sustained. It was an amazing feeling, looking at the solar panels that provide the energy for the green houses, which in turn transfer energy from the sun to the plants to grow food for harvesting, and finally seeing the leftover plant used for compost to support new growth on the farm. Standing on the farm, I could see a completely sustainable circle of growth. This really stuck out to me as applying to our theme this week, “The Good Life”. In our lives, God gives us everything we need to live a completely sustainable life, and is constantly providing us with the energy that we need to do his work on the earth.

Looking back at my 6 years as a part of Fire and Water, I can clearly see that God was constantly renewing my life through this ministry. I will forever be grateful for the countless hours I spent at the church, or on a mission trip, hunting for pinky-sized okra. It is hard to believe that this adventure is coming to a close, but I am eternally grateful for the experiences and opportunities that this ministry has provided for me. - Grace

P.S. Hi Mom.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Atlanta - Day 1

We're here safe and sound in Atlanta. We've gotten to experience a bit of the city and it's traffic and we're happy to be at the Youthworks site.

Every night students will be writing stories of their day and letting you know a little bit about what has been going on in our lives, so enjoy!

T


Today when we left the church, I ended up being in a van with people that I hadn’t ever really talked to very much, there were only a few people I knew well. I started out the day not really talking to everyone and slowly we all began to tell stories and play games and I’m so excited that I was able to make new friends on the drive here alone because it helped the time fly by, but also got me excited for the new relationships that I will get to experience the rest of the week.

Once we arrived to the church, the first thing I heard when walking in the building was Jesse McCartney’s "Beautiful Soul", which in my opinion is a masterpiece. After hearing Youthworks' beautiful song choice I met some of the staff that is with us all week and right away they were extremely welcoming to me and generally happy to be here. The Youthworks staff really made me remember why I come on mission trips, and why I want to serve God and show others his love. Also at the end of the day the Youthworks staff brought me out a cake for my birthday and it was a great surprise. Thank you for all of your prayers for safe travels and please continue to pray for all of us as we got out and serve this week to show the city of Atlanta Gods love. - Kaili


Day one was a good one. We rode/slept in the car for six hours until we arrived at our lunch destination, Sonic Drive-in, one of the best establishments to ever be created. After that we shuffled spots in our vehicles. I was sitting with some, shall we say, interesting people. We played M.A.S.H. and Never Have I Ever, both are very fun games. The best part of the ride though, was when we stopped for gas. Troy was making everyone shuffle but we didn’t want to change seats so a large majority was pretending to be asleep. People would say “Troy is coming!” and we would all drop and pretend like Andy was coming and we were his toys.

We soon arrived at First Iconium Baptist Church. It looked like a very nice place, which it is, but we had to walk up three flights of stairs to reach were we were staying. Very fun, especially when you have to carry up all your stuff. Our room was crowded to say the least but I was able to move to one of the smaller rooms with less people. The staff immediately welcomed us with open arms. We had a great dinner and played a lot of card games after. We then had Large Group Gathering were we sang and shared things about our day. So far things have been amazing and I cant wait to serve Atlanta! - Luke



Today we had a very early start which was pretty rough. Therefore, we got on the road fast and were able to make it to the Atlanta Youthworks site around 5 o’clock. We did introductions with the very friendly staff (Nick, Bridget, Ashley, and Alize), while the adult leaders got a run-down of the upcoming events and what to expect throughout this week. We played a game where we took off our shoes while one person stood in the middle. The person in the middle said something about themselves (ex: “I have three dogs.”), and everyone in the circle that had three dogs would have to move to a different spot/ empty pair of shoes. This was a fun way to get to know some basic things about the community we will be with for the rest of the week. During said game, multiple people slipped while racing to an empty pair of shoes, so they wouldn’t be trapped in the middle. This was very amusing, yet once this happened multiple times we stopped. After this we learned the rules of the site (this basically consisted of wear long shorts, no tank tops, don’t get mugged by staying with groups of three, and get out of the building if there is a fire…duh). At evening gathering we sang many songs to the piano stylings of the very talented Youthworks site coordinator, Alize. Once worship was over we watched a couple videos and did devotionals. After evening gathering we proceeded to shove our mouths full of cake to celebrate Kaili’s birth day (side note: Mrs. Witzig, if you’re reading this, I think we celebrate you as well considering you did all the workJ). Finally we are heading off to bed so we can get a good start on the week’s work tomorrow morning!  - Delaney

Monday, July 10, 2017

Actively Waiting

I've heard and been a part of a few conversations this week about waiting. Pastor Kevin even mentioned it in his sermon Sunday. It's one of the hardest things to do. Mostly because we don't know how...

My first reaction to hearing that is, "Of course I can wait. You just sit, and wait." But is that really true? True, that is one way to wait, and that's probably the reason for many people's frustration. But there are other ways to wait too.

Every once in a while my mother comes to visit. One way I can wait is to sit. When's mom going to get here? But we usually wait a little differently. "Waiting" was cleaning, straightening, getting extra groceries, doing all the things to prepare for her arrival.

Maybe one of the reasons we get frustrated with God is because we don't know how to wait. What if instead of just sitting "waiting" on God we decided to actively wait, pray, read our Bibles, serve, love others, do all the things that help us understand God better and in turn allow us to recognize Him when He shows up?

Imagine how different our churches, our society would be if we knew how to really wait on God...?

T

Monday, June 26, 2017

Changing God To Make Me Happy

I read this other day:

Much of our difficulty as seeing Christians stems from our unwillingness to take God as He is and adjust our lives accordingly. We insist upon trying to modify Him and to bring Him nearer to our own image. - A.W. Tozer's "The Pursuit of God"

This is honestly something that drives me crazy. If we really saw God as a real Person would we try to do this? Imagine marrying someone (which is an example often used of our relationship with God) and instead of learning who they are, instead constantly making them to be someone they are not in your head. How long would it be before the relationship breaks down? How quick would a therapist be able to pinpoint "you're not happy because you don't actually know your spouse, you only know who you want them to be and they aren't that"?

Yet when it comes to God I've heard many times who Jesus is "to me" or "my Jesus isn't like that". Well, He's not your Jesus. If He's a real person, He is who is no matter what you believe. So if you really want to be happy, learn who He is and work around that.

Changing who you think God is to fit your world will never work. Learn who Christ is and who you are to Him and move forward from there. That will bring true happiness.

T


Monday, June 19, 2017

"Do Unto Others..."

I heard a great story the other day. Someone I know was telling me about an experience they had when they were in a church youth group almost 40 years ago. The group had gone skating and this person ripped their pants. When the youth leader found out they took this person home to get a new pair of pants and got them back to the skating party, no one knew what happened and this person got to enjoy the party.

The real part of that story that hit me was their description after. This was something I remember from church. This is something that made me feel special. This is something I will never forget.

When Jesus walked the earth, this is how He did real ministry. Taking time to talk alone with a woman at a well. Playing with children when others see them as a bother. Sitting and simply having a meal with someone. Jesus took time to do these seemingly little things that made so much of a difference we remember them two thousand years later. And they are the things that still make a difference in our lives today when someone does them for us.

Maybe it's time to update the Golden Rule. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Maybe instead of it meaning "be nice" we need to take it up a notch. What would make you feel special? What would make you feel loved? What would make you actually see and feel Jesus in someone else?

Imagine what our world, our church, our families would look like if we lived out that Golden Rule...

T

Monday, June 12, 2017

The VBS Experience

We are in full VBS mode in our church this week. And although that's fantastic one of the reasons I love VBS is we go all out decorating.



Yes, decorating. It's not something I usually get excited about, but I do here. Why? Because at our church VBS is a full blast to the senses experience. It's not just sit and hear about Jesus, it's do, see, hear, be fully immersed in who Jesus is.

And I think the real reason I love it is because we seem to fade that out of our lives as we get older. Learning about Jesus becomes just that, sit back and listen. Where Jesus is at a physical well holding water we talk about this. When Jesus grabs a handful of grapes to demonstrate our connectedness to Him we read about it. Who Jesus feeds bread to we listen, nod our heads, and enjoy.

Maybe the reason Jesus is more real to children than adults has nothing to do with their maturity of faith but more so how we show Jesus in our lives...

T

Monday, June 05, 2017

Maybe President Trump Saying "No" to Paris Was A Good Thing...

Hear me out, please...

I'm not saying we shouldn't be doing all we can to ensure the survival of our planet. I'm the guy who started paper recycling in my school system at ten years old. I 100% think America should have been in the Paris Accord.

But something interesting happened when President Trump said "no". People I have never seen care about the environment are suddenly interested and vowing to change their lifestyle. Businesses decide to follow the new standards even if the government won't enforce them. Donations in the millions are being made to cover what America would have pledged to the global cause.

None of this would have happened if President Trump said "yes".

If he has said "yes" things would have gone on as normal, few people would have cared, and many would try to get out of following these new regulations. Now, the country is fighting for it. By saying "no" it forced the rest of us to say "yes" and step up and take accountability for it.

Maybe this is part of the reason God allows bad things to happen or even flat out says "no" to us at times. If He just said "yes" would we live as if it were important? I read a book the other day where the author made the point if Jesus didn't leave for heaven, would we be even more apathetic than we are now, just expecting Jesus to take care of it all? Instead of being Jesus for people we would step back and simply point them to Jesus and have remove ourselves there?

Sometimes others saying "no" is a good thing, it forces us to live "yes".

T

Monday, May 22, 2017

Are We Too Polite?

The other day I was driving and came to an intersection. There are two stop signs here and the other road is allowed to go straight through without stopping. We've all seen these many times.

But here's where it got interesting. Someone who had the right of way and no stop sign felt like being polite and stopping so the person with a stop sign could go. The person with the stop sign didn't know what to do. So they paused. This caused the car behind the nice driver to take the initiative and go when no one else would, which caused the driver who paused to jut out then pause again and the nice person to sit completely still because now they had cars passing them. And I'm in the back of the log jam waiting to go.

Sometime we mistake nice for right. The "nice" thing to do is always the "right" thing to do, isn't it? "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you", that's the goal, right?

Maybe there are times when being polite is wrong, or even when the right thing seems impolite. The right thing in this situation was for the driver without a stop sign to keep going. Nothing bad would have happened if they had just done what they were supposed to do. How many times do we get these things confused? What's "nice" and what's "right"?

Jesus wasn't very nice. It goes against what most people think of Him (in a study a few years ago almost 75% of teenagers interviewed described Jesus as "nice") but He really wasn't. Jesus was more concerned with someone's growth, their soul, the real right and wrong in a situation than being nice. He would throw tables, take people into life threatening situations, even call one of His best friends "satan".

Maybe sometimes we should worry less about being nice, especially at the expense of doing what is actually right...

T

Monday, May 15, 2017

What Difference Will This Make In _________?

The other day I was reading about a strategy some people employ so they don't fight with their significant other. It's really simple, before starting to argue something ask yourself, "Will this matter a year from now?" Usually the answer is no so they don't fight. Smart idea.

Liz and I were having a discussion earlier. We were talking about some of the things the church has argued about in the past century, many of which seem so stupid now. They could be big or small, but do we still have a problem with things like mixed race marriages or which side of the stage the piano is on?

Maybe this is a good question we should be asking ourselves before we get upset about things at church, will this matter in a year? Five years? Twenty years?

Maybe it would be better to stop looking at things we shouldn't do. What can we as a church and I as an individual to that will make a difference a year from now, five years from now, twenty years from now...?

T

Monday, May 01, 2017

The Desperation of Absence

It's a phenomenon we're all familiar with but probably don't think much about. I lived through it (and to some extent still am) this weekend. There was an internet outage in our neighborhood Friday that blew up our router. Because of this we didn't have phone or internet until Saturday afternoon. Then on Saturday morning I dropped my iPhone and it became unresponsive. Suddenly, I was at home with a toddler with no TV, no internet, and no contact with the outside world.

It's at points like these we hit our desperation. I didn't think about my internet until it disappeared, now I'm desperate to get it fixed. Our daughter has a million things to do in the house that don't involve internet or TV, but when those disappear now you get a little antsy and decide it's time to come up with a plan.

I was reading this phrase a few weeks ago in the light of Jesus' departure. While Jesus was here we/the disciples didn't need to do much. Jesus had it handled. They didn't need to preach, pray for healing, even get dinner in some cases. Jesus took care of it. But when Jesus leaves now there's a desperation of absence. Who is going to preach? Who is going to pray? Who is going to tell the world about a God who loves them?

In many ways we need to be living a little more in the desperation of absence. We need to stop thinking someone else will do it, someone else will love them, someone else will be Jesus to "them".

What if it's our turn?

T

Monday, April 24, 2017

What's the Next Step?

This weekend we had a huge rally all over the world in the name of science. Tens of thousands marched in over 600 cities in six continents. All to bring to voice their opinion and let the world know how they feel about science and its role in government.

That's great. What's next?

Don't get me wrong, I think that in any movement, be it a world changing claim to a personal improvement the first step is always awareness. But it can't stop there. Awareness can generate action but in and of itself is not action. Just because I'm aware there is slavery in Africa over chocolate doesn't in any way help one of the children in the fields picking cocoa beans. I have to actually do something next.

People marched. Again great, awareness. But what is being done to fix the problem? What if every one of those people gave money to scientific work? That would allows those who are examining the problems with global warming to get more data and more concrete facts to work with. The March for Science website is phenomenal, it's slogan is exactly what I'm thinking. "We marched. Now, we act." And on the website are things everyone can do to help progress science, each day giving new ideas for a full week. You can visit it at https://satellites.marchforscience.com/.

But how many people marched and then went home? How many have taken the time to see the website, give money, do something other than walk and make people aware?

This is all true in our faith as well. Awareness is the first step. I need more of Jesus. I need to work on this in my life. I am a sinner who needs a Risen Savior. But the awareness by itself does nothing. I may be aware I need to be forgiven but I then need to actually ask forgiveness. I need to get involved in a community of faith, to read my Bible, to pray, to serve, worship, etc.

Awareness is great. But what's the next step?

T

Monday, April 17, 2017

"I Am Your Father"

It's one of the most iconic twists in film history, the quintessential snake in the mailbox. The moment when Darth Vader tells Luke Skywalker that he is Luke's father.

Sorry if I spoiled that for you, but my guess is you've already heard it. I've heard it. I've seen it hundreds of times. It's a story I've watched over and over and now mentioning that twist isn't news, it's a normal everyday thing to me.

But it's not for these people. There was a trend a few years ago where people captured their children's, spouses', friends' reactions to this iconic scene. You can see a few of them below.





Here's my question for you: Yesterday you (probably) along with over a billion other people heard the story of Jesus' resurrection. Or reheard. Or heard it for the thousandth time. But does is still shake you to the core? Does it change you? When you hear that our Savior rose from the dead is it a shock like the people in the video or is it like me, an everyday occurrence being highlighted again?

Hear the story with fresh ears. See it with fresh eyes. Put yourself in the story. Witness it. How amazing is it? How much does it change you?

Today is the day after Easter. How is your life changed the day after the shock of Christ literally defeating death?

T

Monday, April 10, 2017

Planning For Spring

It continually amazes me how God plans ahead. But this one hit me a little bit harder.

I was reading the other day and the author was talking about the connection between spring and Jesus' resurrection. This person almost seemed upset by it, like there were too many connections between spring and Jesus that shouldn't be there or that we are simplifying Christ rising from the dead with bad spring analogies.

I wholeheartedly disagree. For one big reason. It was all done on purpose.

Think about it, Jesus could have risen from the grave any day of the week. Any time in human history. But God chose specifically for this to happen over Passover so the people of Israel would see the connection between Passover and Easter.

Which means this: God planned for Christ to rise during Spring 1500 years before is happened. God could have sent Moses to Egypt and planned the Exodus at any time of the year. It was all ordained for this to happen during the spring, Exodus, the Jewish New Year, Christ's return to life, events thousands of years ago and thousands of years apart all planned for us to see these connections.

There are no little coincidences with God. Everything, everything is planned, and with reason...

Enjoy Easter this Sunday, and look for God in every little thing.

T

Monday, April 03, 2017

Adjusting Eyes

This still hits me a little bit.

The other night I was working on a deck with my father-in-law. And he is a worker, he wants to start when the sun comes up and keep at it until the sun goes down. That's exactly what happened on this project, we were working until the sun was gone, there was a little porch light we used to work.

But as we worked, I didn't really notice it get darker (someone else had to ask for the light to be turned on). I just kept working. It wasn't until we were putting things in the garage at the end of the night and I walked into this brightly lit room that my eyes screamed, "it's so bright in here!"

I feel like this happens to our soul as well. Darkness rarely attacks us and we just succumb to it. It's gradual and slow, so slow we don't realize there is darkness inside us. Life continues as if it is business as normal. Only when we are slapped in the face with light do we realize how dark our soul and our lifestyle has become.

This just one of the billions of reasons why we need to be in the presence of God as much as humanly possible. It's a constant check at our spiritual blindness. How are we doing at looking into the light? Are we living lives that reflect that light? It's only by being in the presence of light does the darkness receded.

Psalm 56:12-13 ~ I will fulfill my vows to you, O God, and will offer a sacrifice of thanks for your help. For you have rescued me from death; you have kept my feet from slipping. So now I can walk in your presence, O God, in your life-giving light. (NLT)

T

Monday, March 27, 2017

#30HF

That's the hashtag for the 30 Hour Famine. If you'd like to see what our students and other students around the world are doing to help fight global hunger search for it.

For us, this weekend we did the 30 Hour Famine together as a group. Some of our students were pros, they've done this before. Some were newbies, they had no idea what this would be like.

The biggest revelation for me is people realizing what all they take for granted. Snacking constantly through the day, having a pantry that's full so they can snack through the day, having clean water sent straight to your house (in multiple rooms) instead of to walking 4 miles carrying 70 pound jugs. Too often we don't think about how good we've got it because it's normal to us.

Let's do what we can to make it normal for everyone. If you would still like to sponsor what we did you can at http://youth.worldvision.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=donordrive.team&teamID=15464.

Thanks for your support, let's make things like clean water and healthy food the new normal.

T

Monday, March 20, 2017

"But I Built That With My Own Two Hands"

That was my inner monologue last week.

About eight years ago I built a bench. And I built it to last. This thing is heavy as can be. All our board games fit in it. It can support many people on it (we even had kids sleep on it during our Real World Retreat a couple of times). But even more so, this was the first major building project I did on my own. I built this. It was something I am attached to.

And now it's in a dumpster.

I chose to do that. Our daughter loves to play on the bench but we have an idea of something she may like better. And the only space for it is where this bench was, and seeing it was built to fit only in certain corners of a room the options for new places for it to live are extremely limited.

So I destroyed it. It is so heavy it was harder getting it out of the house than it was to get in. It made a mess. it was way more work to get rid of it than we imagined. But we did it.

Because that's how change works. It's messy, it's hard, you have to destroy things you are attached to and many times on a gamble that the new thing will work like we're doing.

But it needs to be done. I would rather risk something amazing for my daughter than hold onto something comfortable not because it's good for her but because I don't want to hurt myself.

I wonder how often we have this same conversation about change with God. Are you willing to risk? Are you willing to let go of something you love? Are you thinking about what God wants for you or what you want for you?

Get a sledgehammer and start breaking things up...

T

Monday, March 13, 2017

Looking Back

I did something I haven't done in a while. I looked back at some of my first blog posts. Painful.

Painful because I could see all the things that have changed. How I write, what I was doing, even little things like talking about my iPod (talk about old technology... I still have it...).

But the best part of it? It was painful. If it was not, if it was good to me, or familiar, that would have been even worse. That would have meant I haven't changed at all in a decade. It would mean my ministry, how I communicate, even how I listen to music hasn't changed at all.

Here's a challenge, look back at where you were a year ago, two years, five, maybe even ten or twenty. What's changed?

And if nothing's changed, why? (and how do you start to change).

T

Monday, March 06, 2017

Ashes and Lipstick

A little while ago we took the family to Walt Disney World. If you know anything about our family it's the closest to heaven on earth for us. Our daughter, now being three years old and understanding what's going on, loved it. Specifically meeting every character the Walt Disney Company has ever created. But one of her favorites (and ours) was Merida.

Mainly because Merida loved our daughter. She immediately hugged her, got on the ground with her, played with her, listened to her stories, it was very obvious that Merida was having a ton of fun with our little one. So much fun that at the end she did something that this princess does not do very often. She gave our daughter a kiss on the forehead, bright read lipstick painting the fact she loved the Little Miss. And for the rest of the day we heard about it, people at Disney saw it and asked (and were surprised it was Merida). Even now at home she will see pictures of herself with the lips on her forehead and get all giggly.

Fast forward to the other night. We were at our church's Ash Wednesday service. At the end we went up to get the ashes on our foreheads and, or course, the little one was covering her forehead saying "no". We didn't push, she doesn't understand, so mom and dad got ours and we went back to our seats. Our daughter looked at us, you could tell she was a little puzzled, but then burst into telling everyone about how she was kissed on the forehead by Merida. She saw the marks on our foreheads and immediately associated it with her own from Disney.

It was great to hear this, take a step back, and think about it. In many ways this is Christ kissing our foreheads, it's a mark of our love for Christ and His love for us. It's bigger than ashes one day a week, we are marked by Christ as His. Much like our daughter remembers the love of a princess because of the kiss that left a mark on her we can remember the love of Christ for us by the mark He leaves on us.

Ephesians 1:13b ~ When you heard the true teaching—the Good News about your salvation—you believed in Christ. And in Christ, God put his special mark of ownership on you by giving you the Holy Spirit that he had promised. (NCV)

Ashes and lipstick fade but being loved lasts forever.

T

Monday, February 27, 2017

Who Pays For It?

The Big Bang Theory had an interesting story line last week. One of the characters has all of their bills paid for by their father (must be nice) and his friends were bugging him asking about it. There was this sense of ignorant bliss in which questions were not welcome, they didn't know how much their bills were, the bills were just magically paid and that was that.

I wish this story wasn't so funny, but it is because of how many people actually live like this. I know of college students who just had their credit cards paid for them, they had no idea how much they were spending or what things really cost.

And I also see this sometimes in students. After all, when they get to do things like go on a mission trip for free, what does the cost matter? This is a conversation Liz and I have had a couple of times, what the cost of trips or events should be. And the number we come up with usually has a factor most don't think of, what do we charge so that there is still value to what we are doing? If it's free, students didn't put anything into it, they show up late, they may just cancel (after all, it's no charge so cancelling doesn't cost anything), etc. Part of realizing the value of something comes with paying for it.

Maybe this is part of the reason Christ gave us the responsibility of the church. He left it all to us, we spread the gospel, feed the hungry, lead the worship, it's all up to us. But that also means we need to pay for it, He also left that up to us.

For the next few weeks WATER (our sr. high students) will be looking at all that God has "Entrusted" us with and our responsibilities that go with that. We hope if you're in grades 9-12 you can be a part of that, but even if you're not, you could start the conversations. If this is God's church and we want to do all these amazing things for God's people, who pays for it...?

(instead of a single Bible verse I read a story the other day that is great if you want one to read. In I Chronicles 29 David is asks the people for supplies for his son to build the Temple. They get so much it can't be counted! Great story).

T

Monday, February 20, 2017

Adjusting

Do you want to know the easiest way to adjust something, to take something that we should hate and learn to love it (or the other way around)?

A little bit at a time.

Walking into a room with different lighting teaches us this. If we are outside in the bright sunlight and come into a dark room at first it's black. We can't see anything. Give it a few minutes. After that we start to make out shapes, then things become clearer, then we start seeing things we missed altogether just a few seconds ago.

Our eyes adjust slowly. But by the time they are done, the clarity is amazing.

This is how sin creeps into our life. Very few people wake up one day and decide to be angry at the world, but they lose a little joy and treat people a little worse every day and soon they have changed without realizing it. Likewise, if you want to improve, say change your diet, cutting all sugar and only eating salad will shock your system. But if you cut a little sugar each day, eat a few more vegetables each day...

We have to be conscious of this. We need to realize when we are slipping a little bit and stop it right away, letting it go will just cause us to adjust and soon we slip again. Likewise, we need to pay attention to what we want to change and do a little at a time.

You'll be surprised how quickly this can change us.

T

Monday, February 13, 2017

Why Are Roses More Expensive Tomorrow?

Of course we all know the answer, it's Valentine's Day. And roses are just more expensive that day because more people want to send roses, meaning people who sell roses know they can sell them for more.

Don't be fooled, it's not supply, it's demand. The companies know they will sell more roses, they stock-pile more of them. Very few places are going to run out of roses tomorrow. Some will even have extras they sell super cheap on Wednesday. It's just the demand. We're going to want roses more tomorrow than we will on any other day of the year.

And because of that, we will put in extra efforts. Call more places. Pay more money. Go pick them up if we need to. Suddenly we want it more so we will work harder to get it.

Here's my question, how hard are you willing to work to get to know Jesus better? It's funny, if I run a mission trip for students they are willing to pay a lot of money, do lots of extra work, give up a week of their time, they will put in extra effort to serve others. But if I try to get some students to serve here in town on a Saturday very few will show up. They will put in the effort for a mission trip because they know they will see Jesus where they aren't sure they will on a day at home.

But what if we have it backwards? What if we put in that same effort for the little things, would we see Jesus then? Would we see Him more? Would we see Him better?

If we all bought roses every day the prices would change. If we all put in the effort to find Jesus every day would how we see Jesus change?

T

Monday, February 06, 2017

How Would You Act If You Met Jesus?

Sorry it's been a few weeks, I was on vacation at the happiest place on earth.

If you don't think Disney World really is the happiest place on earth, you've never been there with my three-year-old daughter. She was so happy it was crazy. Rode her first roller coaster. Ate way too many french fries. But the real reason, she met all her "friends".

What I mean by that is almost every single Disney character you could meet. The Fab Five, Olaf, Chip 'n Dale, and a whole lot of princesses (and a queen).

One meeting I will always remember was Merida. Our daughter was ecstatic. She ran up and jumped up and down. And Merida was one of the few who crouched down to her level. Merida understood almost every single exited, crazy, three-year-old lisp sounding word, and she was actually interested. They cuddled. Merida kissed her forehead. She wanted to keep our daughter. In that moment our daughter was meeting a true princess she never knew she could meet and that princess absolutely loved her back.

I started to wonder what it would be like if people expected to meet Jesus like that, if they even showed up to our worship gatherings looking for Jesus like that. Jumping up and down, excited to see Him, talking to Him knowing they were heard, understood, and listened to, hugged, kissed, loved. If instead of seeing Sunday morning as a meet and greet with a young lady dressed as a princess we saw it as my daughter saw it, totally real and completely life changing.

How would you act if you knew you were meeting Jesus?

T

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

"I AM" Winter Retreat Reflection

I've been home from the Winter Retreat for a little over 24 hours now. Here's a short list of what I learned this weekend:

Gas stoves work best when the gas is turned on.
Always use less flour than the recipe says when baking bread (I usually follow this, but being away from home when we made bread I had to prepackage everything).
Everyone loves fresh bread lathered in butter.
You can say multiple times "we will be outside in the cold for a long time, please dress appropriately" and some will still show up with no jacket and no socks... and complain they are cold.
People will sing loudly if you encourage/let them.
Patience is something modeled.
Our students are some of the nicest and politest students on the planet (as told to me by multiple staff at the retreat center).
Jesus has a plan.
You may not realize a student is getting something out of what is going on, but they are.
Sheep are not dumb, they are defenseless.
People want to pray more, and will when given the guidance and/or opportunity.
"Hug the potholder" is a difficult instruction for some people.
Getting away from it all to focus on Jesus makes a tremendous difference.
Over the weekend some people spent more time focusing on Jesus than they did sleeping, and it still wasn't enough (they could easily have spent more time with Jesus).
When you're willing to listen Jesus has a lot to say.

And that's just off the top of my head in ten minutes. I'm sure there's many more.

If you went, what did you get from the "I AM" Winter Retreat?

T

Monday, January 09, 2017

Free Devotional For (Almost) A Year

It started yesterday, but I have been publishing a free devotional question a day for my book "21st Century Parables". If you'd like to join the conversation, you can see the questions at:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Troyswritingandmusic/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/@By_Troy.

You can purchase the book at:

Kindle - https://www.amazon.com/…/…/B01C98WZXK/ref=nav_timeline_asin…
iBooks - https://itunes.apple.com/…/twenty-first-centu…/id1087654669…
Nook - http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/twenty-first-ce…/1123469392…
Kobo - https://www.kobo.com/…/…/ebook/twenty-first-century-parables

I'd love if this would help you out, to jump in with your thoughts in the comments, or even just to hear what you think of the book.

Enjoy.

T