Walking the line between nerd and cool.

Celebrations

Nine Years

Jaime pointed out in the comments on my 500th post (which I posted about an hour ago) that today is also our anniversary.  One of the reasons for biting the bullet on the 500th post is to get an anniversary post up. :)

So today marks nine years of married life together for us.  It’s been a wonderful ride for us so far and we look forward to many more in the future.  I’ve now spent 28% of my life married to Jaime and another 11% dating.  That’s almost 40% of our life together.  It’s amazing to think about.

There are so many things I’m thankful for about Jaime that they are too numerous to go into here.  Just a small sampling of those include:

  • She understands me (and still likes me!).
  • She moved to Texas with me when it meant seeing our family only a couple times a year at best.
  • She laughs and jokes with me.
  • She makes me a better person.
  • She encourages me.
  • She sacrifices for me.
  • She gave up her teaching career to follow me to Buffalo, where we weren’t able to find a teaching position.
  • She gives her all to being a great Mom to Addison.
  • She walks with me in ministry.
  • She helps me keep my priorities straight.

I could keep going on, but I won’t.  It’s enough to say that I’m so thankful to God for giving me Jaime. What a wonderful blessing she has been to me and so many others over her lifetime. Addison and I are better for having Jaime as Mom and Wife.


500th Post

You may or may not have noticed, but I haven’t been blogging much recently.  Part of the reason for that is that I’ve been coming up on my 500th post and I wasn’t sure what to do to mark it.  So I slowed down my blogging to figure out an idea.  Turns out, I never came up with one.  :)

So this marks my 500th post.  Unlike the 200th post, I won’t be redesigning my blog.  I will leave you with the updated stats and how they compare to the 200th.

General Stats

Top Posts

So, now that this hurdle is behind me, I may start blogging more regularly again. :)


Happy Birthday Jaime

Today is Jaime’s birthday.  I’m so glad that God made her and brought us together.  She’s an excellent wife to me and an even better mother to our little Addison. 

She has no “Happy Birthday to Me” post on her own blog, so you can leave birthday wishes in the comments here until she fesses up to having a birthday.

So thankful for Jaime today!


40 Days

Today is Ash Wednesday.  We begin the countdown to the celebration of Easter today, but first we reflect on our own sinfulness and our need for a Savior as we approach Good Friday.  It’s a great time of the church year, leading to my favorite Sunday of the year, Easter Sunday.

Of course, Easter Sunday will be even more special this year (scroll to the bottom of the post).


Overwhelmed With Love

Jaime and I went into Cleveland this past weekend for a family reunion and baby shower.  We felt overwhelmed by all the love that came our way at the shower.  We received several of the big ticket items on our registry, plus lots of fun outfits and other cool stuff.  Can’t wait to actually meet my little girl face to face and introduce her to all the people that have loved her already.


Thanks, Cindy and Tenley!

After more than 2 years on the job, Cindy is stepping down as our Scrip Coordinator.  I remember approaching her with the idea of starting this Fundraiser at some event in the Gym.  I’m not sure I even remember what it was.  Tenley, one of our friendly faces selling the gift cards, is also leaving the team as she’s moving to Florida (we’ll miss you guys!). 

The idea is that we sell gift cards for face value, but purchase them for a discounted price from Great Lakes Scrip.  Since May 19, 2006, here are some statistics for this Fundraiser:

  • Total Value of Gift Cards Sold: $124,934.55
  • Total Profit, after shipping expenses: $6,593.21
  • Average Return Rate: 5.28%
  • Top 5 Gift Cards Sold by Total Value:
    • Tops — $65,850
    • Panera Bread — $4200
    • Red Lobster — $3,525
    • Disney — $3,000
    • Sunoco — $2,400
  • Families Participating: 135
  • Families Purchasing More Than $500 Lifetime: 47
  • Top Family Amount by Total Purchased: $10,915
  • Top Family Amount by Contribution (Profit to us): $486.85

Cindy has been instrumental in getting this program off the ground and running.  Tenley has been helping sell the gift cards since the very beginning also.  I’m so thankful for their efforts these past 2 years!  If you see them this weekend, be sure to tell them thanks for all they’ve done for our youth!

And in case you’re wondering… Yes, the hunt is on for a new Scrip administrator.  It’s mostly administrative work, scheduling the other volunteers and occasionally finding more people to help sell at the table.  If you think that might be you, or you know someone who might be interested, shoot me an email

One day, I hope to be raising between $10 and $12,000 per year through Scrip.  With our growing number of kids in Crossroads attending Workcamps, we’ll need it!


200th Post

I must admit, when I started this journey, I wasn’t sure I’d actually make it this far. As I said in my very first post (which was actually posted on my TypePad blog, a for-pay competitor to the for-free WordPress), I didn’t consider myself an avid blogger at the time, but figured I should give it a serious go again after at least 2 failed attempts on Live Journal. Some interesting stats on my first 200 posts:

General Stats

  • Blog Hits: 7,144
  • Best Day Ever: 134 (Monday, February 25, 2008)
  • Comments: 410
  • Categories: 15
  • Tags: 383
  • Spam: 654
  • Banners: 2 (First, Second)

Top Posts (Views)

  1. NYMC: Day 2 (113)
  2. NYMC: Day 3 (Abridged) (97)
  3. Hopening The Heavens (83)
  4. Pseudo-Christian (77)
  5. Fantasy Idol: The Contestants (75)

Top Search Terms (Views)

  1. birthday (86)
  2. beautiful places (35)
  3. earth today (29)
  4. fantasy idol (25)
  5. neil diamond christian (16)

Top Referrers (Views)

  1. firsttrinity.com/staff.htm (230)
  2. firsttrinity.com (227)
  3. morethandodgeball.com(175)
  4. sweetsoup.wordpress.com(173)
  5. mail.google.com(81)

In celebration of the 200th post, I’ve updated the blog layout and design, moving from my original 2-column theme to a 3-column one. If you’re reading in an RSS Reader or Email, you’ll need to visit the actual site to see the changes.

Next big milestone: 500 posts, predicted at my current rate (.93 posts/day) to happen on February 16, 2009, one day after my Mom’s birthday. My bet is I get there sooner. Leave your guess in the comments and we’ll see how I do! I’m going with Dec. 15 (and I promise not to drive up the post-count to get there!).


Happy Birthday Jaime!

Jaime turns 31 today.  Leave your well-wishes in the comments!


Sunny Days, Keeping The Clouds Away

It’s beautiful outside. I know that because I have an office with a window now. I’ve nearly completed the move to my new office between Sue and Pastor Chuck. I really like the setup, but as I feared, sunny days carry with them a slight problem, most notably in the late afternoon. The sun is streaming in on my monitors, causing awful glare. I’m willing to live with it, of course. I just need to get used to it.

Jason’s New Office

Tim was kind enough to buy me a writing desk so I have a flat surface to pile things on. Alicia doesn’t think I can keep it clean until she returns from vacation on Tuesday, May 20th. I’ll show her! I pledge to wait until May 21 to start messing up this office! :)

I’m now accepting ideas for creative decorations for the office.  If you have a good one, send it along!


Love Your Enemies

Jenn Bell has been teaching the 6th grade Sunday School class while Marsha Peth does Everyday Faith this semester.  I’m so thankful for Jenn’s willingness to love on the kids in our 6th grade class.  They’ve been working through the Fruits of the Spirit as a class.  For Love, one of the opening activities had them create a list of the baddest bad guys around.  They came up with:

  1. The Devil
  2. Jason (From Friday the 13th, Not their DCE)
  3. Freddy (Nightmare on Elm Street)
  4. Chucky (From Child’s Play, not Pastor Whited)
  5. Emperor Palpatine (Star Wars)
  6. Ursula (Little Mermaid)
  7. Cruella DeVille (101 Dalmations)
  8. Wicked Witch of the West
  9. Dr. Evil (Austin Powers)
  10. Sid the Kid (Toy Story)

Afterwards, they looked at what the Bible says about loving your enemies.  A tough list to love!  I’m reminded again that God’s plan is so foreign to our own thinking.  What a radical concept that must have been for the people, just as it is for us today!

A big thanks to Jenn for showing love to our kids and bringing God’s Word to them!


Iron Man Ministry

Grady Sizemore, the Indians‘ center fielder, holds the current streak for consecutive starts in baseball with 360. That means that sometime in 2022, if all goes well, he’ll break Cal Ripken‘s streak of 2632 consecutive starts. Cal did it all with one team over a span of about 20 years. I’m hoping Grady makes it there, all with one team as well.

What would our churches look like if their workers gave 20+ years to a single church? We’ve been blessed with Sue for that long. And Ruth, who recently retired.  Ruth gave over 12,500 days to serving the Lord at First Trinity.  In case you missed it, we’ve posted the audio from the end of the service where we specifically celebrate Ruth’s ministry among us.  We’re thankful for Ruth’s past ministry and look forward to how God will continue using her in this new chapter of ministry!


My Bible

Our My Bible event starts this Sunday.  For Student Ministry, this means that we lose one of our ace teachers for the quarter, namely Marsha Peth.  Marsha does such a great job with our 6th Grade Sunday School every week.  Her big heart and willingness to do anything to reach the kids are big assets in our ministry.  Our 3rd/4th grade families will be blessed by her (and Pam Stone!) through this My Bible event.

All is not lost however!  Jenn Bell, our local french teacher/translator, is going to bring God’s Word to the 6th graders in Marsha’s absence.  She’s excited (as am I!) to be doing it.  I know she’ll do a wonderful job loving on those kids while bringing God’s Word to them!


He is Risen!

His is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

Easter is my favorite holiday of the year.  I love the Easter hymns, the joyful feeling in the air, the traditional Easter greeting and celebrating the resurrection together as a church family.  A wonderful day!


Happy Birthday to Me

As Sue points out, it is indeed my birthday today.  While I didn’t make the list, there are lots of famous births, deaths and events that share my birthdayFlickr turns 4 today, which is approximately 12.9% of my age. 

I’ve received one phone call this morning already from Jaime’s Dad.  There was no mention of an iPhone being in the mail to me, nor did he mention whether or not he got the reminder to purchase me one that I put in his phone about 6 months ago.  Here’s hoping!

No big plans for the day at this point.  Just hanging out with Super Mario Galaxy on the Wii and getting over the plague that finally seems to have gotten a hold on me.


NYMC: Day 3 (Abridged)

It’s 1:21 2:12 a.m. We’re just wrapping up the debrief (and party :)). We’re all a little tired and ready for bed, but energized at the same time. I’ll post more thoughts when I get home, but for now, enjoy the following tidbits:

  • Kutless rocked out.
  • Venti Jesus is coming to town.
  • Our church is blessed.
  • This was the best conference I’ve ever been to.
  • I think it’s because I came with a team.
  • Our church is blessed.
  • Kutless rocked out, but our small group leaders rocked more.
  • We didn’t make it to be before 1:30 once this week.
  • Believe it or not, we were mostly focused on what we learned while staying up late.
  • We laughed a lot this weekend.
  • We didn’t win the sack chair.  Too bad for us!
  • Our church is blessed.
  • Our small group leaders rock.
  • We want to be Jesus-Centered.
  • We want to help hurting kids.
  • We loved our time here, but we’d love to get home quickly tomorrow.

As requested, I give you some pictures:

NYMC 2008

We had dinner at Champp’s tonight.  It took an hour to get our food.  Someone should write them a letter.  It was comical by the end.  I feel like I should write more angry/nasty/awful things about that, but it seems like such a little deal after our great last evening together.

And now, we bid you adieu from chilly Cincy.  We return home later today.


Developing Leaders

One of the blessings here at First Trinity is the abundance of people willing to participate in leadership.  Another blessing is that we get to take them to conferences and workshops as a team from time to time.  Some of the Cornerstone small group leaders (Heide, Paul and Phil) are heading to the National Youth Ministry Conference with me.  Alicia, who triples as one of our office workers, small group leader for Crossroads Sunday School and plans Crossroads events, will also be joining us.

We leave on Thursday and return Monday.  I hope to be blogging from the conference with some of the fun insights we gain from the speakers and workshops.  I’m looking forward to a great time of spiritual and programmatic growth while we’re there!


All Glory to God

I used to have great difficulty accepting compliments about my teaching or speaking when it came to official roles in the church. I knew that my words were only effective or moving because the Holy Spirit was working through them. While I feel I have some giftedness in these areas, those gifts came from God and the glory is His, not mine. I’ve become much better at accepting the compliments because many of the people are giving them in response to God’s work through me. I’m happy to accept them, but always try to point back to God as the source.

This past weekend was a great opportunity for this. God did some amazing things here at First Trinity this weekend:

  • Around 525 people came to the Jesus Painter event.
  • The entire audience seemed engaged and eager to hear the message of Christ through words, music and art.
  • At least 50 people thanked me personally for hosting the event. They were all so moved by the program as a whole.
  • We received one of the paintings as part of bringing the Jesus Painter to our church. The other three paintings were donated to the church by some generous members of our church. We now have 4 great works of art to remind us of the story of this event. I am always struck by how generous our people are!
  • God worked amazing things through the four stage people. While we each planned our own areas ahead of time, we only got together as a group at 5 p.m. to talk details. Lots of people thought Mike and Marc had been working together for years.
  • 47 youth and 20 adults participated in the Famine.
  • Those who led the famine were all serving in their giftedness. There was not a single area where I thought we had the wrong person for the job.
  • Pastor’s message was dead-on for our theme. We talked maybe 5 minutes altogether about what the main point we were trying to emphasize was.

Creative Christmas

Tim Stevens of LeadingSmart.com posted a follow-up note from the recent Christmas Eve service at Granger Community Church.  Their Advent/Christmas series was titled “Let It Be Christmas” and looked at some songs by the Beatles and what the Bible has to say on the topic.  Their Christmas Eve service is online for viewing.  Check Tim’s post for the details.

I watched it yesterday and found it to be quite entertaining.  It’s not exactly a traditional Christmas Eve service, but I think I would have enjoyed it live.


I Celebrate The Day

While watching the Patriots coast to 15-0 yesterday over the Dolphins, I was surprised to hear Relient K‘s “Sleigh Ride” as the Christmas music in and out of the break one time.

Relient K Christmas CD

I ended up purchasing the entire album from Relient K after I enjoying the two songs I had previously purchased.  My favorite track on the album is “I Celebrate the Day.”  The last section of lyrics reads:

And I
I celebrate the day
That You were born to die
So I could one day
Pray for You to save my life
Pray for You to save my life
Pray for You to save my life

Tomorrow, we’ll celebrate the birth of Christ.  The new-born, cute, cuddly, not crying, laying in a manger, baby.  It was the start of a journey that would end with His death on the cross, saving us from our sins and giving us a new birth, a spiritual rebirth, that we might live forever with Him.

So tomorrow, we celebrate the day.  Merry Christmas!


Hopening The Heavens

The weather people were predicting it and it turns out they were right. The heavens did indeed open up Saturday night, dropping snow on the city throughout the evening and most of Sunday. Because of the snow, we had to make a decision about church. Thankfully, just like we tell our youth, we decided well before the storm even started gathering to have services. We don’t cancel church services at First Trinity. We’ve decided that those who can get to church will come and we will celebrate worship together, no matter how many people there are. It’s been an interesting thing in the 2 short years I’ve been here.

During the October storm of 2006, we saw ~125 people at worship on Sunday morning. I remember being crowded into Grace, the only room with a heating source (a natural gas fireplace), and celebrating Communion together. Families were sitting on the couches in the back all squished together so everyone could fit. We even had people out in the halls looking in for the service.

This past weekend, we had a decent crowd again, and again celebrated Communion together. We had a modified form of Sunday School for all ages. We even had visitors at church looking for worship because their churches had canceled. There were also five people who had been to church Saturday night with us and came back Sunday morning. It was a great morning, and I’m thankful we made that decision to have services no matter what happens outside.

In case you weren’t able to get out for church (and we say that’s OK!), you can still hear the sermon on Expectant Hope. Use the audio player below, or download the audio yourself.



Congratulations!

Akanimo, one of our High School Youth, called me to let me know that he was accepted and is going to the University at Buffalo!  It’s great to be on the receiving end of a call like that.  Congrats, Akanimo!


Happy Re-Birthday!

My friend Paige wrote yesterday that she was celebrating her Re-Birthday, her baptism from 31 years ago.  She wrote this about her godparents:

 Julie and Donnie Ganaway deserved to be celebrated for all that they have brought to my life. They truly have walked beside me – even from many miles away – in helping my parents raise me in the Christian faith.

What a great example of what it means to be a godparent: walking beside those we sponsor, helping to raise them to be a follower of Christ.  Here are some tips to help you celebrate this important event in your child’s (or your own!) life:

  1. Throw a baptismal birthday party.  Invite the godparents, family members and other close spiritual friends to come.  Consider inviting the pastor that baptized you, even if they live far away.
  2. Find the Scripture readings from the day you were baptized and read them each year on your baptismal birthday.  If you don’t have them, you might try looking at the lectionary for the day you born.  (You’ll have to figure out which Sunday of the church year you were born, and then work backwards.  I haven’t found a site yet that will allow you to search a historic date for the readings)
  3. Recite your Confirmation verse.  Confirmation is the reaffirming of your baptismal vows.  Why not tie the two together on your Re-Birthday?
  4. Light your baptismal candle and say a quick prayer of thanks that God has made you His own child.
  5. Start a baptismal-day journal.  Each year, write an entry about spiritual milestones in the past year and some goals for yourself for the coming year.

What else would you add to the list?


The Joy of Giving

I’m a firm believer that God has blessed us to be a blessing to others.  He calls us to give a portion of our income back to Him.  While we have been freed from the hard “10%” number, I still consider 10% to be a good goal.  The point is not the number, but to stretch our faith.  We should give until it’s a little uncomfortable and then see how God responds.

I also believe that if students are to learn the joy of tithing, we must model it to them.  That means that parents should include their kids in the discussion about what to give to the church each week.  It means that the church must set an example of tithing.  And so our ministry tithes from all group fundraising efforts.  We give students the opportunity to decide where we send the money, so they may know the joy of giving to others.  We did this at our meeting this past Sunday.  Here’s what they decided:

May you be a blessing to others through your stewardship of time, talents and treasures!


A.D. 2040

I’m a firm believer in the power of the Call process in the Lutheran Church. As I reflect on my professional ministry life, I can see God’s leading as Jaime and I have trusted Him to take us where he wants us. I started at Memorial Lutheran in Katy, TX as an intern in 1999. After five wonderful years there, I accepted a Call to Valley Lutheran in Chagrin Falls, OH. I didn’t realize how much I needed the change until about a month after leaving Memorial. It had been a tough go for the previous two years of my ministry, and I needed the change in scenery to heal from some of my experiences there.

While at Valley, it was through my involvement with KINDLE, an organization dedicated to fostering and multiplying servant leaders, that I met Sue and ended up on the Call List for First Trinity. Since coming here, I have been blessed to be a part of some awesome ministry, with great people and dynamic ministry team. And all of it came to me as God directed, never once putting my name on out to a church looking for a position.

Earlier this month marked my two-year anniversary at First Trinity. It feels like two-weeks in some ways as the time has flown by, but in other ways it feels like two decades as we have been integrated into this community of believers in a remarkably short period of time. God knew all the blessings that would come in these two short years when He brought me here, for which I’m thankful.

This past weekend was Ruth’s 35th Anniversary celebration. It was a great time as we gathered together as a community of believers across multiple churches to celebrate God’s work through Ruth and the special gift that she is to us. If God wills it, I’ll be celebrating my 35th year at First Trinity in A.D. 2040. It staggers my mind to think about that possibility, but it’s exciting!


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