“Make it Plain”: Don’t hide what shouldn’t be hidden

“From then on Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, and that he would suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but on the third day he would be raised from the dead.” Matthew 16:21 (NLT)

My morning scriptures took me to Matthew 16. I don’t stick to just one translation but lately I’ve been hanging out in the NLT (New Living Translation). And today the words, “began to tell his disciples plainly…” jumped off the page to me.

I sat back, took a sip of coffee, and asked myself, “Do I make it a goal to say important things ‘plainly’?”

Or… “Do I complicate things that should be so crystal clear?”

Does my spouse know that I love her?
Do my kids know I am proud of them?
Does the person I’ve forgiven know that I’ve forgiven them?
Does the person I’ve offended know that I’m contrite and apologetic?
Can those in a coffee shop tell that I’m a Christ-follower?
Do the people in my life know that I am for them?

I believe today’s scripture is reaching into the depths of me to challenge me to “tell them plainly.”

Not everything needs to be complicated; You may not even need words. Stop making other work for what God has richly and freely given you. I’m not saying that making it “plain” makes all of your problems go away, but it does position you (and others) to know what you’re working with in order to get healthier.

Receive the love, grace, and blessings of God today.

Then make it plain. Make it understandable. Make it attainable.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

18 Parenting Thoughts on Cammi 18th Birthday

Often, I hit the blogosphere when a significant day happens for the family. Today is my daughter’s 18th birthday. I’m trying to let that sink in.  Cammi is 18….I have an 18-year-old.

*pause for a moment of silence for this parent.

Okay. I’m back. [deep breath]

As usual, theses moments cause you to reflect upon how well you’ve done pointing this child in the right direction. But isn’t that what parenting is all about? Parenting is less about controlling your child’s world and more about setting them up to be great adults in this world.

I can’t say we are perfect parents, but Anne and I have done our best. Don’t get me wrong, our parenting isn’t done in the least bit. But there is a different approach we have with our “adult child” than we do with our 15 year old (Ethan).

This week has been all about reflection. The very human side is to say, “what should I have done better.” And if you follow my blog, you know that I have zero issue speaking from my massive list of faults and mistakes. But I felt a bit of a “heart check” in this blog. So I thought I’d share some lessons that have come from “wins” as a parent. It’s not about bragging or being prideful but hoping to encourage some young parents in their approach to their kids growing up.

So I’d thought I’d give you 18 lessons that came from “wins” in parenting.

  1. Jesus is first.
    • We draw from what we understand in Christ. It’s been 18 years of not just pointing her but doing our best to model this. Sometimes we succeed; sometimes we fail. But our heart is to live with Jesus in the center of our lives.
  2. Daddy-daughter dates are mandatory. 
    • Cammi has been using chopsticks for almost 18 years. Why? We started something when she was barely old enough to hold chopsticks. To every dad: If you date your daughter before she’s old enough to date, she’ll be better prepared for dating. 
  3. We find the “funny.”
    • I understand that life can be serious, but life is too short not to laugh and enjoy yourself. It takes zero effort to be critical; it takes a determined heart to work past the negative and bring out the joyful.
  4. The pain of failure can be very good.
    • It’s not that I want my kids to fail, but I didn’t protect them from failure. They needed to experience it and the pain from it. My job: Be there to help them navigate through it. Really, isn’t that what the Lord does with us?
  5. Talk about everything. 
    • If the only time you talk to your kids is when they are in trouble or when you want information, they’ll pick up that you are only interested in them when it suits you. Ask about their day. Ask about their interests.
  6. Different approaches with different kids.
    • We learned to raise our kids with different approaches because, well, they’re different. It’s not about loving one more than the other. It’s about strategy to effectively point them toward Jesus and maturity.
  7. Notifications on everything.
    • Whatever social media my kids are on, I’m on. And if they post, I get notifications. It’s not about control but accountability.
  8. Other authorities are necessary.
    • I am my kids parent and pastor so they need other authorities to speak into them. AND those authorities need me to back off and let them be that voice in my kid’s life.
  9. They SEE and HEAR a united front.
    • We don’t allow the kids to divide us. They know they cannot pin one of us against the other. They don’t hear us talk bad about the other. We are one.
  10. Discipline is from, and followed with, a heart of love.
    • Ask Cammi, if she’s been disciplined, a short time after I’ve gone into her room to talk, hug, and pray. And my prayer has been the same for 18 years, “Lord, help Cammi be a better little girl, help daddy be a better daddy. We both need help. We need You.”
  11. Be at their “stuff.” 
    • If it’s a sports team, dance, art competition, band, etc. be at it all. I don’t care if it isn’t “your cup of tea.” Your presence matters.
  12. My kids are capable of mistakes. 
    • I’m definitely not the parent who says, “My kid will never do that.” Yet my kids are not guilty till proven guilty. We just know that we need to get the truth and respond in an appropriate way.
  13. Get their input. 
    • We call “family meetings” and get their input on things about the family. They don’t have a vote per sé, but they do have a voice.
  14. Allow them to see mistakes and responses. 
    • One of my favorite memories of my dad was him apologizing to me for a mistake he made. And that’s a memory I want my kids to have of me.
  15. Look to serve. 
    •  When we see someone in need, we look to serve first instead of deferring it to someone else to help. Nobody may every know what was done, but that doesn’t matter. We do things for the audience of One.
  16. Conviction > guilt. 
    • Guilt is manipulation. And because God doesn’t work that way, we don’t. It’s all about working in the conviction of the Holy Spirit.
  17. “Let them fight.” 
    • Might be my favorite line from “Godzilla.” But we’ve learned to let our kids work out their own stuff up to a certain degree. Obviously, we don’t want them hitting each other, but we also want them to learn how to handle conflict.
  18. Love is relentless.
    • Regardless of their decisions or directions, they know that we’ll love them with the same level of relentless of that Christ has shown us.

Love all of you parents out there. I’m cheering for you!!!

I love you Cammi. You will never know how much our daddy-daughter dates have meant to me. I’ll always have a set of chopsticks at home for you with an ear ready to listen. As I watch you serve others, I fight back tears in wonderment at how God has grown you. I’m glad I had a hand in it, but in reality, it’s because you’ve opened up your heart to Jesus.  You are everything I prayed for and so much more. I love you.

Encourage effort.
Celebrate progress.
Feed hope.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

BTW: Check out my book. Click on the link below.

15 Parenting Thoughts on Ethan’s 15th Birthday

I have a habit of blogging on special days for the family. Perhaps, the moment demands reflection and thought. And like most occasions, when I start processing things, I journal in order to frame together what is stirring in me.

Today is my son’s 15th birthday. As usual, theses moments in your children cause you to reflect upon the parenting job you’ve done and are still doing. I’m sure something will stir in a few weeks when Cammi turns 18. But till then, I thought on Ethan’s 15th birthday, I’d give 15 parenting tips I’ve learned over the past decade and a half.

  1. It’s more important for my kids to see Jesus in me than anything else.
    • Kids need to see how Jesus is lived out, not inside the church, but outside of it. Even though I am my kid’s lead pastor, they need to see Jesus in me in our home MORE than from the iPad stand I preach from.
  2. My children are not beyond a bad decision.
    • To be blunt, I don’t want to parent in a way that says, “my kid would never do that.” Yet I don’t believe they’re always guilty. My kids are capable of bad decisions because, well, they’re human.
  3. Own mistakes in front of your kids. 
    • If you’re kids never see you make a mistake, it makes their mistakes look that much worse as they’ll compare to the “perfection” they’re always exposed to. Show your kids how to be humble in the face of something you’ve not done correctly. They should hear the words, “I’m sorry” and “Please forgive me.”
  4. Don’t do anything alone.
    • From a task around the house to a trip to the store. I’ll get one of my kids to go with me to do whatever is on my list of things to do. It’s not about having another hand for the project/task, it’s about the time and connection of just being together.
  5. Work isn’t lethal.
    • Work ethic is a wonderful thing; Entitlement is not. I believe when we foster a good work ethic, we’re set our children up for success.
  6. Work to find a connection. 
    • Don’t allow a mentality of “my kid are too different” prevent you from discovering a way to connect. Ethan doesn’t like most sports (which breaks my heart) and he isn’t the most active kid. But I decided years ago we’d “try” a number of things and see what sticks. Going action movies stuck. Going to hockey games stuck. Going hiking (which I’ve never done before) stuck.
  7. Physical touch is healthier than you realize.
    • UCLA did a study that says every human being needs 8-10 meaningful touches a day. I love hugging my kids randomly. When I encourage them, I’ll do a little side-hug. Sometimes, I’ll walk up behind them and put my hands on their shoulders to ask them about their day. Appropriate physical touch helps them to not go looking for it in inappropriate ways.
  8. My marriage is more important than they are. 
    • I always have a panicky parent contact me after I say or blog about this. Statement like this don’t mean we don’t care for our kids. But they NEED to see your marriage as a priority. It sets them up for a healthy marriage.
  9. Value their interests. 
    • As much as sports/competition are important to me, I cannot force that upon my children. In the same breath, I cannot allow my unfamiliarity of their interests to make me apathetic or unfeeling to them. When you pull your attention away from what’s important to your child, you’re not rejecting the activity, you’re rejecting the child.
  10. Effort and commitment > achievement.
    • I’m not a “give a medal to all of the kids” type of parent. But my being proud of my kids isn’t based upon a grade nor an achievement. Making effort and following through on commitment is what we ask of them. The rest is gravy.
  11. Position other voices of authority.
    • My kids need other voices in their lives. For that reason, I really didn’t want to coach my kids as I wanted them to have other voices of authority besides mine. If I did, I wanted to serve under a “head coach” as to make sure the kids saw someone else in authority over them (and me). I will be eternally grateful for those Kids Pastors, Youth Pastors, small group teachers, and youth leaders who’ve poured into my kids.
  12. Have a united front.
    • Anne and I disagree on a variety of things. We’ve disagreed in front of our kids but not on major issues. We work hard to make sure that our kids see a united couple when it comes to the big decisions. We also work hard to support each other when one of us isn’t around.
  13. Seek and value their input.
    • I don’t ask my kids input to pander to them. I legitimately want to know they’re opinion on a number of subjects. Let them own some decisions for the home even on stuff that they don’t necessarily care about. To me, it’s not about the actual decision as much as what the process does: helps them to know that they are a valued member of the home.
  14. Every event is a learning opportunity. 
    • When my kids are processing things, they don’t always deal with them appropriately. So when things “cool down” we have a “sit down.” I usually sit on the edge of their bed and we walk through what happened and I ask the question, “what did you learn?” I want to know, now that everything is over, what they could have done better to handle things. If they own their issues, they’ll own the growth that’ll come from them.
  15. Discipleship is my responsibility. 
    • I pour out from what is being poured into me. As much as I love the Godly voices in my kid’s lives, it should be in addition to what I am doing, not supplementing what I’m not doing.

As always, I look to the words of Paul who said,

I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. Philippians 3:12

I’m still working on these as well as learning new lessons for later lists. I’m still striving to be the example they need. I know my parenting will never stop, but I want to make the most of every opportunity I have with them.

I love you Ethan. My heart is for you to be a much greater man of God than I could have ever dreamed for you to be. Thanks for being you. Thanks for your patience with me. Thanks for being such a great son.

 

 

Love all of you parents out there. I’m cheering for you!!!

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

Anniversary Thoughts: 19 Lessons from 19 Years of Marriage

Today is our anniversary. And as a tradition, on May 23, I do a bit of a blog to honor the bride that agreed to journey life with me. But before the list comes out, I need to give you some background to what stirred this blog.

 

 

On Sunday, I was preaching, perhaps, one of my favorite messages I’ve preached in a long time. Anger is something that, I feel, I should probably do an entire series upon as it’s something we all deal with now and will continue to deal with.

During my message, I stated that there are two types of angry people: Exploders (you explode with anger) and Imploders (you suppress your anger). Then, I asked people to raise hands on the one they identified with. I started by saying,

“Any exploders in the house? Anne, make sure you raise your hand (which she did). Any imploders? I’m one of them (in which I raised my hand). “

People laughed  because, well, it was a humorous moment. Anne and I don’t mind being vulnerable to people, which entails sharing our faults. But what followed after service was quite surprising. There were more than a few people approaching Anne almost offended for her. They were asking if what I said, embarrassed her or made her mad.

Her reply was priceless,

If little things like that set you off, you have deeper issues than that.

It wasn’t said with any type mockery or sarcasm but with a strong confidence. In one simple statement, maturity and wisdom were conveyed and no place was open for the devil to have a foothold. I can’t say it was that way when we started 19 years ago. But there have been some habits (practices) that we’ve been working on for the past (almost) two decades that have helped us have such a rapport that we can have fun and not allow the little things to steal the joy of our marriage.

So here we go, 19 lessons that has helped give us thick skin, healthy hearts, and deep love.

  1. We assume the best in each other. 
    • It is the ONLY kind of assumption we allow in our marriage.
  2. Date days are never optional. 
    • Couples that “lost the feeling of love” have stopped feeding the feeling by not dating. I may sound like a broken record, but till every couple engages in consistent dating, we’ll keep talking about it.
  3. Ice cream is the best way to end anything.
    • From ending a day to ending an argument, ice cream is something we indulge in. Most people avoid things that leave a bad taste on the palettes of their hearts. So if you have a sweet ending to something, you won’t be afraid to revisit it because you ended it well.
  4. We recommend resources to each other. 
    • From books to podcasts, when one of us recommends something, the other doesn’t get defensive. We look out for each other and that includes our spiritual growth.
  5. We refuse to try to read each other’s minds. 
    • Anne and I know each other pretty good after 19 years of marriage and 3 years of dating. But we still don’t assume we know everything the other is thinking. The minute we start doing that is the moment we stop communicating. And that’s a bad place.
  6. Celebration is about not about a “date.” 
    • Right now, it’s our anniversary and we’re at a conference. Believe me, we’d love to be able to celebrate a holiday or event on the exact date, but sometimes it doesn’t happen. We have to remember: It’s the moment that is special, not the date on the calendar.
  7. We keep real issues out of the hands of others. 
    • What you see from us on social media is the silly and the inspirational. Why don’t we post about our arguments and issues? First, because it’s none of your business and second, we want to work on it together without outside interference. Don’t worry, once we’ve learned, it usually becomes a marriage blog later when we can laugh about it. Which leads to #8…
  8. Our faults and failures build bridges. 
    • We don’t mind sharing the stupid things we do and the lessons we’ve learned. I’d rather share in order to prevent someone some pain than hear about it later knowing we could have helped in some way.
  9. Sex is like…
    • I was going to say “like cheese” but that’d mean it stinks with time. I’d say “like wine” but it get better with time but you can’t partake of it for years to enjoy it. I could say “like candy” but you can get sick from it….hmmmm….how about: Sex get’s better the more practice you give it and the importance you place upon it.
  10. Encouragement is the breath in our marriage.
    • We refuse to let someone out-encourage us when it comes to each other.
  11. We don’t have to like the same things. 
    • Outside of Jesus and enjoying laughing together, there is nothing compatible about us. It has nothing to do about being opposites; it’s about being different. And the differences make us work harder. And the harder we work together, the stronger and deeper things get.
  12. Laughter is a non-negotiable. 
    • I’m convinced that no couple laughs more than we do. It’s not that we don’t take things seriously. But having a “merry heart” positions our mind to know what to take serious and what to not take too serious.
  13. The changing of the seasons brings changes. 
    • Every season your marriage (and you as a human) goes through can dramatically change you both. From love languages to sex drives to attitudes, don’t forget to continue to be a life-long student of your spouse.
  14. Our church community energizes us. 
    • We don’t expect perfection from a community that isn’t perfect and they don’t expect it from us (cause they’re not going to get perfection). Anne and I authentically look forward to engaging with the Kfirst community in worship and in service to those around us. We get energized from watching the presence of God touch lives.
  15. There’s no such thing as “Dave’s problems” or “Anne’s problems”; There’s only “our problems.” 
    • We choose to believe the scriptures when it’s stated, “the two becomes one.” Anne and I refuse to look at each other and say, “well that’s your problem, not mine.” If it’s a problem for one, we refuse to let each other journey alone in it. We are one.
  16. I still hate tomatoes; Anne doesn’t like Tuna Helper.
    • There are some things that haven’t changed about us in the past 19 years. We don’t try to change each other to what we prefer; we work on letting the Holy Spirit be the changing agent. So it isn’t about getting my spouse to be who I think they should be. It’s about being open to the Holy Spirit’s moving in our lives.
  17. We cultivate the presence of God. 
    • We don’t do our “devotional” time with God as if it’s been checked off a daily list. Our personal relationship with Christ is cultivated throughout the day in prayer, time in the Word, and interaction with people.
  18. We are always looking to grow. 
    • After 19 years, we feel we’ve only just begun. And each season we hit we understand how much more we need to grow in the Lord and in love for each other. It seems the longer we are together, the easier it is to take each other for granted. So we’ve determined to keep growing and not allow contempt to foster itself.
  19. The best has YET to come.
    • This statement isn’t cliché to us; it’s the prophetic statement over our lives that we see a fuller life together because Christ leads us from glory to glory.

Happy Anniversary babe. No one loves you like I do. Here’s to the continued journey we have and MANY more lessons to learn. There’s no one I’d rather do life with.

Thank you for encouraging my effort.
Thank you for celebrating our progress.
Thank you for always feeding hope.

 

Oh yeah….Thanks for letting me ramble for the past 19 years…

20 Years of Ministry, 20 Lessons I’ve Learned, and So Much More to Grasp

This week marks a monumental week for Anne and myself. 20 years ago, we began this ministry journey together. May 4, 1997 marks our first official day of ministry as pastors (insert Star Wars Day jokes and puns).

I remember pacing the hallway in the office area prior to the service that day. College graduation was just a few days prior and here I was, occupying the office of one of my mentors and stepping out on the platform as the interim youth pastor. The position was in my home church. The congregation knew me as Pastor Hal’s son and now I’m transitioning to “Pastor Dave.” The word “nervous” can’t describe the state I was in; “Terrified” is probably a better word. It wasn’t like I was starting a summer job. I was starting my life and career and, yes, I did throw up before the service.

At this point, Anne and I were about 4 weeks from being engaged and a year from being married. She was 19 and I was 21. When we look back, we laugh and say, “seriously, who thought it was a good idea to put us in charge?” Interestingly enough, we said something similar 2 1/2 years later when Cammi was born, “who in the world trusted us to leave the hospital with a baby?”

20 years have gone by. So I thought I’d share a lesson for each year we’ve traveled this amazingly terrifying and joyful journey

  1. Obedience > Position
    • The “call of God” is not about the position you attain but the obedience you follow. Everybody wants to be king but nobody wants to be a shepherd first.
  2. I need to be “me.” There’s two sides to this coin:
    • I can’t be someone else; I have to be who God made me.
    • I need to continually submit who I am to God for Him to shape me.
  3. Check your zipper before every speaking opportunity.
    • It’s about paying attention to the details in life. The last thing Anne says to me before EVERY ministry opportunity. BTW: The last time she wasn’t there for a speaking engagement, well, I didn’t check and, well…
  4. Rest and recreation are not overrated.
    • As someone who has experienced two major emotional crashes in 20 years, you cannot underestimate or downplay rest AND recreation.
  5. Don’t skip “tent time.” 
    • I liken this to Moses going to the Tabernacle to hear from God. Nothing can replace a lifestyle of prayer. I believe having “prayer times,” but if you regulate prayer to just moments instead of a lifestyle, you’ll miss out on amazing opportunities.
  6. Learning is not a “season” but a “lifestyle.”
    • Every lesson I learn is like following the “white rabbit”; there’s a deeper experience waiting for it if I am willing to open my eyes and follow.
  7. Ministry is shallow if my marriage and family isn’t the priority.
    • If I’m healthy at home, I can be healthy in my role. The congregation needs me to prioritize my marriage and family to position me for ministerial health.
  8. My children have permission to interrupt. 
    • For their entire lives, my two kids (17 and 14) have had to share their parents with hundreds of people.  Yet, Anne and I have made it our goal to make sure that they know that they are the most important people in our lives. What they have to say is important because THEY are important.
  9. Never say, “I’ve heard it all.” 
    • You’ll set yourself up for a rude awaking. I can write a book just on the most unexpected, off the wall, moments from weddings, funerals, services, etc.
  10. Covering your hurts and short-comings never helped anyone (including you). 
    • My struggles and failures have been some of the greatest bridges into people’s lives to convey the Gospel.
  11. Misery love company.
    • I’ve discovered that it is easy to find pastors to complain to but few to celebrate with. Start “belly aching” and you can draw enough people around you to make you feel justified in your fracture. I have to decide, daily, to fix my face like flint in gratitude and joy.
  12. Look at life and lighten up. 
    • My wife says that my daughter and I find the “funny” in life. I think that’s because we look for it. Selah (stop, pause, and think on that).
  13. Finding friends to celebrate with is worth more than gold.
    • Finding people who will celebrate WITH you without jealousy or pessimism, well, that’s not as easy to find. I have a few minister friends who I can call just to celebrate the goodness of God. That has been a life-line to me.
  14. Knock before entering hospital rooms. 
    • When you walk in on someone on a portable toilet, well, it’ll change the course of that hospital visit.
  15. Treat people in a manner you would want to be treated if you were on the other side of things.
    • I would rather be known for showing “too much” grace than not enough.
  16. Other people are not like me.
    • Different doesn’t mean wrong. It’s not easy to navigate differences, but if Jesus only worked with people like him, we’d all be sunk.
  17. Disappointment cannot be avoided, but I can prepare my heart for how I will navigate through them.
    • It’s not being pessimistic about what you are going to face, but it’s knowing that you can face everything with Christ.
  18. The change I need may not be the change I want.
    • Sometimes, well most of the time, when you want to see change in your congregation, God wants to start with you. And usually God wants to bring change that exists outside of your comfort zone.
  19. Paul, Timothy, Barnabas is a model to live by.
    • Have a Paul (mentor), find a Timothy (someone to disciple), and be a Barnabas (peer encourager).
  20. Don’t spend so much time building your empire that you miss out on the Kingdom.
    • Don’t be a diva where your church community revolves around your personality and preferences. Center it around Christ. Disciple people to hear from the Holy Spirit and equip them to do ministry. A successful tenure at a church centered around the Kingdom being build and not your brand.

A few decades down and with the help of the Holy Spirit and some good coffee, there will be 3 or 4 more to go.

Love you all. Praying for you.

Encourage Effort.
Celebrate Progress.
Feed Hope.

Thanks for letting me ramble for 20 years…

BTW, I wrote a book of my marriage blogs. If you’d like to buy a copy, click on the image.

Happy Birthday to My Little Sister: 10 Lessons Rachael Has Taught Me

It’s St. Patricks Day.

And, although it means many things to many people, it’s always marked the day my sister Rachael was born. I won’t say her age, but being born March 17, 1979 will put you in your late-30’s.

So I thought, as a tribute to Rach, I’d give you 10 things that she’s taught me.

  1. Necco candies are disgusting. 
    • I was only 3 1/2 when she was born. But I do remember my Grandma Barringer buying me some candy in the candy machine at the hospital. She bought me some Necco. They’ve been around since 1847 and they taste like they’re that old.
  2. You don’t have to share the same personality characteristics to share kindness and comradery. 
    • Rachael and I are, really, not much alike. If you really look at the characteristics of our lives, I can find two things in common: We are hard workers and we are stubborn. Other than that, we are quite different and it’s pretty awesome that way. And honestly, I think that’s been a great thing AND has prepared us for life. If you only have tolerance and kindness for people who are like you, then you really don’t have tolerance and kindness.  It’s helped in teaching us social skills plus has made the atmosphere of our parents home a little spicier for mom and dad to deal with.
  3. A work-ethic cannot be underestimated.
    • We get our work ethic pretty honestly from our parents and grandparents. But I’ve never seen it so prevalent in what my sister has displayed in her life. Talent and abilities can get you only so far. Because without a strong work-ethic, you’ll always have a lid to what you can do. Rach has the combination of both talent and drive.  Nobody pushes themselves harder for her marriage and her family like Rach does. And coupled with her God-given abilities, there’s not limit to what she’ll accomplish.
  4. Generosity is not defined by an action but shown in a lifestyle. 
    • While I’m happy giving a gift card to someone (it’s my lazy way of giving gifts), Rachael puts some sort of meaning behind it. She carries a mindset of expressing value with a gift while also conveying meaning with the message behind the gift. For example, at a recent Christmas, she bought me a Snoopy Sno-cone Maker.  It was a nod to simpler times in our upbringing  as well as the fun moments of our holidays.
  5. Children are a blessing and not an inconvenience. 
    • I’m convinced Rach puts more mileage on her car than most truck drivers put on their semi. Why? Her children are involved in sports, cheer, youth group, etc. and she isn’t about to miss a moment. Whether Hallie, Eli, and Jonah realize it now or not, she’s instilling in them the value of the presence of a parent.
  6. Friendships are to be valued and cultivated. 
    • I have made so many mental notes about the amount of times she talks about her friends that she has been in school with and those she works with. Although I am a natural introvert, Rach is a natural extrovert. But she doesn’t just want people around her, she brings value to the people in her life. Rachael legitimately looks for ways to add encouragement and joy to the people connected to her. 
  7. Velvet steel is a way to live
    • What do I mean by that? It means if you brush up against her, you sense a softness and compassion about her. Try to run her over, you’re gonna get hurt.
  8. You’re never too old to get in a punching fight with your brother.
    • Seriously, sometimes we act like children when we’re together.
  9. Brokenness is a place we all visit but it’s not a place we live. 
    • We are all proof that sometimes “life happens.” Rachael is proof that we don’t have to live as a causality of “life” but as a overcomer to what we face. And for that, I’ll always be proud of her.
  10. Love never fails.
    • Like 1 Corinthians 13 says, “without love, we are a clanging cymbal.” And as opposite as we are, and as much as we have fought over the years, there is one unmistakable truth: She may not agree with me or see eye-to-eye, but I know she loves me and I love her. Imagine if we lived that way in our marriages and in our communities. THAT type of love will change the world.

Love you Rach. Have a great birthday. And hope when others read this blog, they’re see the amazing woman you’ve become and learn from you just as much as I have these past 30-something years (2017 subtracted from 1979).

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

 

 

 

 

 

Pastoral Mentors: My Thank You to Joel and Donna Stocker

One of the greatest lessons I’ve ever been taught as a believer and minister is summed up in one line:

“The enemy works in isolation; God works in community.”

…and that lesson came from Joel and Donna Stocker.

This past Sunday, two of the greatest mentors in my life announced their 2017 retirement to the congregation of Christian Celebration Center (CCC) in Midland, MI. I know that I’ve been expecting it, but it has kind of hit me a bit harder than I thought. I mean, he’s still just a phone call away and, yet, it is an end of an era for a church community that is very near and dear to my heart. They are my Midland family. And Joel and Donna are spiritual parents to me (I can’t even type that without tearing up…I love them so much).

Since finding out the news yesterday afternoon, I’ve gotten my journal out and began to write down some thoughts.  Why? When they hired me and Anne, they hired two broken people. We were passionate about ministry but we were hurting in ministry.  The Stockers helped lead us into not just healing but into healthy ministry.

Now I sit in my normal coffeehouse location desiring to do two things:

  1. Give honor to whom honor is due (Romans 13:7). I think we can honor someone while completely giving God all the glory. That which you see in Joel and Donna is only because of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.
  2. Freely give you what I received from the Stockers (Matthew 10:8).

So, for the 30 years they’ve served CCC, I give you 30 lessons they’ve taught me.

  1. Authenticity from the pulpit is necessary. The people need to know that the pastor struggles too.
  2. Laugher isn’t optional in life; if you don’t have any laughter happening, you probably don’t have Jesus in your life.
  3. Having a mic near the pastor’s wife during the service can be a good thing…maybe even dangerous. 🙂
  4. Share your tears. Be willing to shed tears with others that are struggling.
  5. It’s okay to be broken, just don’t stay that way.
  6. Embrace change and be fearless about it. Joel doesn’t seem like he changes much but the man embraces the necessity of change.
  7. Bless the people who leave the church you pastor.
  8. Shut off your mic on the way to the bathroom.
  9. Have a “preaching series vision” for the foreseeable future.
  10. Next generation ministry is of the greatest importance.
  11. When people are hacked over little changes, there’s normally other issues at hand.
  12. Never say “my ministry” or “my congregation” because none of it belongs to you.
  13. It’s mandatory for staff to be in the worship center 15 prior to and after service  to greet and connect with people.
  14. More can be accomplished over “breaking bread” than more meetings.
  15. Board meetings should be cut short for sports playoff games.
  16. For those who keep you at arm’s length, if you work hard for the relationship, they’ll be the best and deepest spiritual/relational connections.
  17. Our successes do not qualify us; it is the Lord who qualifies us.
  18. The out-going message on your voicemail must sound cheerful (he made me re-listen to mine 5 times to make sure I changed it).
  19. Every staff member has a voice and is as much of a pastor as the other. As a youth pastor, I felt as much of a minister as all of the others.
  20. Missions shouldn’t be something the church does. It’s who we are.
  21. Programs are great unless they’re unfruitful. Don’t do them just because you’ve always done them.
  22. Staff is like family; you’ll laugh, shout, glare, argue, encourage, and pray consistently with them.
  23. “My door is always open to you,” is more than a nice sentiment; it was the truth.
  24. Taking a day off isn’t optional. Rest is mandatory.
  25. Regardless of who you are in the church, everyone needs help and don’t be too prideful to ask.
  26. Splitting wood at the Stocker’s home is a staff unifying project (for which I’ve never seen Leon at).
  27. There’s no such thing as too much ice in a glass.
  28. “E-Events” means “Everybody on staff better be there.”
  29. When someone is not serving God, they’re “working on their testimony.” This keeps our vision for seeing the lost come to faith in Christ.
  30. Longevity isn’t necessarily the goal. Faithfulness and obedience to the Holy Spirit is. 30 years come, not from perfection of humanity but in trusting the Lord and leaning not to your own understanding.

Thanks for all you’ve done and for equipping me to minister at Kfirst and ramble on the “blog-osphere.”

I love you both. And I know I’ll have to have Ronda print this out to you as you are not on social media. But what you poured into me and Anne, we cannot help but pour that into the people around us.