9/11 We Will Never Forget

September 11, 2011 — Leave a comment

It is hard to believe that ten years have passed since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. We have all heard it said that we never forget where we are or what we were doing when such tragic historical events take place.  I was a senior in college at ORU. My friend James called me and told me to turn on the television.  I asked him what channel and he said, any.  I watched alone in my room as tragedy unfolded live on television. For the first time in my lifetime America was under attack on our own soil, and it was live on TV. It was more horrific than any movie or TV show.  I remember weeping a lot. It really affected me.  Seeing the World Trade Center towers collapse was almost unbearable.  First there was a lot of fear and panic. Later that turned to resolve and a sense of renewed patriotism was birthed in our nation.  As I think back on the entire event it almost seems surreal.

The other night I watched a news special on Dateline.  They replayed highlights of the footage from that day.  They highlighted many of the humanitarian stories that took place. They interviewed survivors with firsthand accounts of that sheer terror that unfolded on that day. They were so incredibly thankful to be alive, yet so torn for the colleagues, friends, and family that were lost.  Family members, widows, and children also shared the great loss that had taken place that fateful day.  Hearing the account from first responders and their incredible heroics was simply breathtaking.  As I watched the video and saw the images I instantly felt sick to my stomach.  I honestly felt such a wide range of emotions.  It is very difficult to put into words.

Ten years later I feel an even deeper hurt for those who lost love ones.  Now I am married with two beautiful daughters.  The thought of losing spouses, parents, and children to such an incredible and deplorable act of selfishness and hate is hard to come to terms with.  I honestly think I still have more questions than we have answers for.   I have found myself deeply affected by the events that took place so long ago. I appreciate life even more, and I am exceedingly grateful for the time I have here with my family.

I know that one day I will share this unfortunate part of our history with my children.  I feel a sense of responsibility to make sure they understand the depth of what took place.  I know this is a defining moment in my generation.  The proof of pure evil within the world we live. There is so much worth living for. I want so much for my girls to grow up in a world absent of this terror.  The reality is that it will proceed. Yet our resolve stays firm. We continue forward.  Life is worth living, and the fight is worth fighting. Our hearts are with those families who feel a deeper loss than I could ever convey. We truly will never forget.

Learning from Goldfish

September 1, 2011 — 1 Comment

The other night my two daughters (age 2 and 1) were snacking on some goldfish crackers. My wife gave them each a handful. Quickly our youngest noticed her older sisters pile of goldfish.  She was no longer interested in her own stash, she wanted her sisters.  The funny thing besides that they were the exact same thing is that upon closer look our youngest actually had more in her pile.  As my eldest valiantly defended her stash from being poached I couldn’t help but chuckle at the situation. A moment later I realized how we often do the same thing.

Even as adults we have the tendency to focus on what others have. We do this even to the detriment of realizing the things we have going for us. Whether it’s someone else’s possessions, talents, gifts, relationships, or goldfish crackers it is easy to become envious.  We become so determined that we are lacking and need what they have. We become completely blind to the fact that we have some great things going for us. We should be thankful for what we do have, but we so quickly get focused on what we do not.

What do you think? Is it easy to fall into the trap of comparing and wanting that what we honestly don’t really need?  Why even from childhood are we so obsessed with what others have?

Jarid and Joni Wedding

August 7, 2011 — 1 Comment

 I had the great opportunity to recently take part in the wedding of a really good friend of mine.  I met Jarid way back when I was 12 years old.  A lot has changed over the years but I am glad that we have stayed connected through all of life’s twists and turns.  We went to school together just outside of Pittsburgh, PA in a village called Imperial, and yes it is a village.  It says so right on the sign.  I am now living in Indiana, and he is currently residing in Texas.  His lovely wife Joni is from Texas, and oddly enough my wife is from Indiana.  Interesting how that works out isn’t it.  I have lots of memories of Jarid growing up.  Ask me to show you the home video we made one summer day years and years ago.  It is horrifying to watch now. To think we were that geeky, okay maybe not that much has changed, well for at least one of us.  We were in a rock band together, I was the lead screamer.  What an amazing front man I was, or not. They seemed to get much better once I was off the stage. We even attended college together for a few years.  Now there are some really crazy times.  That is where Jarid first met Joni.  But there love story starts many years later.  I won’t even attempt to tell it.  I will save that for them to share once they get a blog.

Okay enough of the nostalgia, back to the wedding.   Did I mention it was in Texas in July? No, how about that it was an outdoor wedding in Texas in July, during one of the worst heat waves in Texas history?  Yes sir, it was 102 without the heat index.  All complaining aside it was a fantastic day.  To see how God brought these amazing two individuals together and to be a part of that day, it was simply amazing.  Jarid and Joni were beaming, and it wasn’t just from the extreme heat.  You could just see it on their faces, the anticipation, the love, the excitement, all of this while staying incredible calm and peaceful.  There is something so precious about seeing two people who are so deeply in love with each other joining together as one.  I was honored to play a small part in such a special day.

Seeing them together, and being at that wedding took me back 7 years earlier in the same month when I married my amazing wife Kristi.  It made me appreciate the love we have for each other, and the commitment we made to each other.  Time goes by so quickly and we face challenges as in every marriage, just having children is enough to test your marital bonds.  I still very much love her and I am thankful that God brought her into my life.  She is a wonderful wife and mother and I can’t imagine my life without her.

I am so excited for Jarid and Joni. I can’t wait to see all of the great things that are in store for them. I am privileged to still call Jarid my friend.  I am so incredibly happy for him. I pray the very best for their marriage and that they would live a full and blessed life that is pleasing to God. I know they will face challenges and adversity but as they put their faith in God and look to him I know they will overcome any obstacle that comes their way.

All wedding photos provided by Sara Sobkoviak Photography
http://sarasobkoviakphotography.com/
More Wedding Pictures Here 

 

Celebrate Stamp

July 26, 2011 — 1 Comment

I recently had to buy some stamps at the post office.  The clerk handed me a page of stamps that said “celebrate” on them, neon and all.  I laughed and said to her, “celebrate? What that I am sending in bills?” She replied, “well maybe celebrate that you can pay the bills.” I was taken back and thought, you know what she is right.  At times it is easy to see the negative side of things, or to miss the blessing in the midst of the mundane.  While it is anything but a celebration to send bills in the mail, it is indeed a huge blessing that we have jobs that allow us to pay those bills.

It started to make me think about all of the things I do have to celebrate in life.  It is easy to miss all of the great things going on around us because we get so focused on what we don’t like.  We become critical of our situation, and even of others.  I admit we may face some difficult challenges, and that life is far from grand. That however shouldn’t stop us from recognizing the things in our lives that are going well.  Instead of being critical we can take the time to make inventory of what we are thankful for.  So what do you have going on in your life worth celebrating?

Well it is almost unbelievable that our youngest turned 1 on the 4th.  Yes our Lillie is a 4th of July baby, and we have heard all of the jokes. “She is a real fire cracker” and so on.  I am amazed how fast this year went. Even beyond that is how much this tiny little girl has accomplished in her short year here on earth.  She started walking like a pro at 10 months and hasn’t stopped going since.  She has such a sweet disposition but doesn’t hesitate to let you know when she doesn’t like something.  She has the cutest little baby talk.  We have no idea what she is saying, but she loves to say it. She constantly talks to us.  Immediately when she wakes up she is on, like a light switch.  She just looks at you and starts talking.

I am so thankful for both of my daughters.  Being a parent is hard work. I don’t think you can fully appreciate that until you are in the thick of it. But honestly, seeing the love in my little girls eyes makes it all worth it.  When they snuggle up on you and want to be in your arms there is nothing like it.  Truly. I love when Lillie gives me a kiss, it is the sweetest thing.

It is hard to believe it was a year ago when I saw Lillie come into the world.  Witnessing the birth of a baby is the greatest miracle. We didn’t want to know what gender our babies were before they were born.  Most people can’t believe that we are able to wait to find out.  They usually ask us how we would be able to get prepared. I think that is silly.  Prepared as in what color pink or blue?  In a microwave society there are so few gifts as waiting to find out. Meeting our girls for the first time has been the highlight of my life.  The anticipation and wait is so worth the cost of not finding out.  I think we kind of cheat ourselves out of that blessing.  It is a simple blessing in life.

So Happy Birthday to our little girl, Lille Beth. You are such a blessing to us and we are so grateful for your life.

Indiana Dunes 2011

July 15, 2011 — 1 Comment

Well we finally had some time to take a family vacation.  Even if you are entitled to vacation with your job it still seems like a fight to make time for your vacation.  This is especially true for us since me and Kristi both work full time jobs.  If you add to that full time ministry for me and the challenge can become greater yet.  Our girls are still young so we can’t go do some adventurous treks across the country, or navigate the globe. Well at least not yet. J Wherever we go is not as important as it is to spend time together.  We run so hard most of the year. I realize this will only get compounded as our children get older and have school, and are involved with other things.

I was so thankful for the opportunity to get away for a few days.  For me vacation is about getting away from it all.  Breaking routine and finding some escape from the trappings of life.  I even go as far as to leave my phone off and to ditch social media and the web.  I just need to disconnect from it all.  I know vacation is different for everyone but I would encourage you to try disconnecting from your phone and the internet for a few days.  Try to focus on the face to face relationships happening right in front of you.  I think sometimes we get so caught up with a screen in our face that we tend to ignore the most important people around us.

This year we went to the Indiana Dunes on Lake Michigan.  The girls loved to swim in the pool at the hotel.  They had a smaller kid’s pool with a slide and a fountain.  It was definitely a hit with Braelyn.  We got to spend some time on the beach.  It was a nice beach for being on a lake.  The state stepped in some years ago to save this portion of beachfront.  Flanking each side of the beach a ways down is steel mills, and to the other side a nuclear power plant.  They were far enough off that they didn’t really impose too much on the beach.  We planned on taking a train into Chicago from the dunes but the girls communicated in their own way that they weren’t so keen on spending that much time in an umbrella stroller.  We will save that for next time when they are a little older.

It was an interesting region filled with heavy industry and beach tourism.  With the relatively short drive from here and the cost it would be somewhere I would recommend checking out.  There are several towns and beaches to check out on the Indiana and Michigan sides.  There are also several quaint bread and breakfasts in the area to stay at. If you want to go spend a little more you could always rent a home on the lake front as well.  With the addition of an inexpensive train ride to Chicago it has the potential to be a great vacation spot.  I have a feeling we will be heading there again.

I am exceedingly thankful that we have jobs that afford us the opportunity to provide for our family and that also allows us time to get away together.  In a world where we go faster and work more and more it is so important to disconnect and spend time with the ones who really matter the most.  In the end it doesn’t matter how much you worked, or earned. We are all gifted such a short time on this earth.  It is imperative that we make our family our priority. It isn’t about a fancy vacation it is about spending time together.  That is what really matters, taking a break to get refreshed and spending time with those who matter the most to you.

Every year our youth group has the opportunity to go away to CDYC.  What does CDYC stand for you may ask?  We jokingly tell our group that it stands for fun. Well that is partially the truth; we have a load of fun while we are there.  It reality it stands for Central District Youth Convention (or Conference depending on who you ask). The district our church is in hosts it every single year.  The past few years it has been at Indiana Wesleyan University, only a short distance from where we are located.  So it’s just another youth summer camp, right?  Well sort of, but for us it is usually much more.  You wouldn’t have to talk to the students who attend for very long before hearing stories of how much they enjoy going, and what they take away each year.  This year was no exception.  The 10 day marathon is split into junior and senior high with a short break in between.  Usually enough time to come home, do laundry, sleep, and head back out.

In all honesty it is a lot of work.  For me it requires many hours of preparation, promotion, and the dreaded registration.  If you have ever held an event and had to track down permission slips and money you know the feeling. With the complexity of this particular event, think sports teams for multiple sports, talent contest, rooming, t-shirts, and so on it can get complicated in a hurry.  So once we are done chasing down all of the registration and get the mound of paperwork processed we then go and chase a few more students down and get them to go as well.  At least this has been the running pattern since I have been attending.  In addition to the prep there is the time involved just attending.  This is a big commitment and while this is part of “my job” it still requires time away from my family.  We also have an amazing group of adults who volunteer their time to attend with us.

So with all of the time, emotion, and money invested is it all worth it.  I am thankful that the answer to this is yes.  CDYC is an incredible opportunity for our students to detach from their routine and normal influences and step back to get some perspective.  Every year I am in awe of how God moves within our group.  It doesn’t stop with the teens either.  It seems there is something for adults to if you are willing to engage and really allow God to move on your life as well.  I’m sure CDYC isn’t all that different from the multitude of summer camps out there but for us it makes a big difference in all of our lives.

This year I was so moved to see our teens care for each other so deeply.  They more than ever seemed attuned to needs of others and were willing to show compassion, so gracefully.  The last night at CDYC our group takes the time to pray for each student in our group.  Our adult leaders and students pray and say encouraging words to every student. It was touching to hear the relationships that have developed between these students.  To hear them genuinely encourage them, and pray for them is nothing short of amazing. In a society that we rarely slow down enough to recognize our own issues it is a rarity to see teens caring for one another so tenderly.

So much happens in those ten days that I would have to post every single day when I was there to give you all of the details.  We have a lot of fun, play volleyball, basketball, and ping pong.  Students use their talent in competition and sing and play instruments.  They also submit their own artwork and photography.  We have an absolute amazing time in worship. The speakers always have great things to say and impart to our students. The group times in the evening with our own group are one of the highlights. We have a great time connecting with each other even while eating meals together. It is an absolutely jammed packed event.

CDYC has been and continues to be a vital part of our youth ministry.  I am thankful for everyone who puts the time and effort into making it happen. There are so many hours behind the scenes it is unbelievable.  I am thankful for an event that isn’t about numbers, money, an image or anything else.  It is simply there to support the local youth ministries, and for that I am exceedingly thankful.

In the end it is my prayer that students take what they garner at CDYC and apply it to their lives.  Home is where the growth really takes place.  It is easy to follow after God in an environment such as CDYC.  The challenge takes place when we return back to those familiar surroundings, relationship, and temptations.  While some may stumble, or choose not to change I have seen some who have made the step towards growth.  There are those who get back up and keep trying.  I am honored to be a part of students’ lives.  Youth ministry can be a very difficult place to be. If you don’t believe me take a look at the stats for the average tenure of a youth pastor.  What takes place at CDYC every year and there after reminds me and all of our adult leaders what is at stake.  Teens, who need relationship with God and each other. Are you willing to reach out?

Here is what a few students from RSM had to say about CDYC this year.

Instagram & Postagram

June 17, 2011 — 1 Comment


So here are a few of my favorite Apps for the iPhone.  I have found that the iPhone takes relatively decent pictures considering it is a cell phone.  It eliminates the need to carry an extra point and shoot camera for basic day to day shots.
A few people have asked about the pictures I post on Facebook including these two.  Like what camera I use and what App I use to process them. The first App I use is called Instagram, it is great.  It has a few basic filters and effects, nothing too fancy.  It creates a feed similar to Twitter of your photos, and the photos of the friends you are following.  It is very similar to Twitter, but with pictures.  I highly recommend it if you have an iPhone.  You can share the pictures on Twitter, Facebook, email, or on the web.  It also saves a copy on your phone so you can do whatever you would like with it, like post them on your blog.  I like the subtle effects, and how easy it is to use.
Another good App that is actually tied to the first is called Postagram. It allows you to take pictures made with Instagram, or any picture from your iPhone and turn it into a postcard.  For only $99 they will print your postcard with your picture and message and send it to whoever you like.  I have only used it a few times but I have a few other ideas in mind for it.
I have a few other photo apps for my iPhone but these by far are my favorites.  They are simple and creative.  If you have an iPhone I recommend you check them out.

 

Well graduation has finally come and gone this year.  Here are a few of the senior pictures I did for Drew.  He’s a great guy with a really bright future.

 

 

 

Life is a Gift

June 8, 2011 — 2 Comments

Life is a gift.  There are times when this statement may seem far from true.  You may agree life is a gift, but one that should be returned to the store with all the other lame gifts we have received.  I understand this can be even more challenging in the times we live in. We live in a broken world, and this makes life a challenge and difficult at best.   This is even without mention of the recent economic hardships we are facing.  Yet in it all life is really a gift.

Life is a precious gift from God. Our time on this earth is short.  The Bible makes it clear this life is fleeting (James 4:14).  While we as Christians have hope in what is to follow our time here on earth, we still want to make the most of the time we have here.  It is easy to get caught up in all that is broken in the world, and one doesn’t have to look far to see the injustice and seemingly cruel hand life has dealt so many people on our planet.   Even so our hope is in Jesus, and we still must be willing to accept this gift, the gift of life.

Last year I had the privilege of becoming a father for the second time.  Watching the birth of both our children has to be the greatest miracle I have ever witnessed.  How amazing and wonderful to see our daughters born into this world. What a marvel to see their tiny little fingers and toes, and to see how perfect they were.  It is so easy to get caught up in all of the noise that surrounds us; we soon forget how precious life is, and how astonishing a new life coming into this world really is.

Now I don’t have all the answers, and I can’t explain why so many people have to suffer. I have yet to grasp why some are so wealthy and have anything they want and some don’t even have the basic nutrition they need to sustain life.  I cannot give you an explanation why innocent people die tragically, or why our family members suffer with heartbreaking ailments.  While I can’t answer these questions I still believe life is a gift from God.  It is frustrating that our human brains cannot comprehend all that we see going on around us.  Yet in it all God is in control (Isaiah 46:9-10).

It is so important that we live this life with everything we have got.  This isn’t the dress rehearsal, this is the real thing.  I think of the song “I Hope you Dance” and how true those lyrics really are.  The last thing we want to do is sit by and be a bystander to this amazing life we have been given.  Life should be pursued, celebrated, and cherished.  Don’t sit it out, chose to dance, chose to live life to its fullest.  Take chances, mend broken relationships, and pursue your passions.  Life is too precious of a gift to waste.

I understand life can be daunting.  There are times when we don’t even want to get out of that bed.  We may not always have the answers, and we still out our hope and trust in God (Romans 8:28).  I challenge you to live life with all that you have got.  Do not wait for tomorrow or for your situation to change.  Life will always present challenges, we know this with certainty.  Don’t take your eyes off Jesus.  Remember this life is a gift.  Chase after it with everything you have got. So what has caused you to recognize how precious life is?  What experiences have you had?  I would love to hear from you in the comment section below!