Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Things I Am Learning

Whoa...the past month and 1/2 have been some of the most emotional days of my life. Last week...when everyone was out of the building for the last time--I was walking around alone...My emotions just let loose...I cried and cried and prayed through my tears...thanking God for the honor of being a pastor...for the honor of serving the people of Grace Community Church...I didn't want to walk out the doors that day...didn't want it to be finished. It was a difficult time...

This week...I honestly don't think that reality is sinking feels like I'm on vacation and the reality of finding a new church to attend and the fact that I am not a pastor at this time...crazy...

BUT...I have been reading a book titled: "Plan B." Figured that was a GREAT book for me and our family's lives right now! I'm marking up-folding up pages and putting book markers (well...actually torn up posted-note pieces!) EVERYWHERE...this book is SO RIGHT is what nailed me yesterday and what I am putting out in front of me as I reflect, restore and refuel this summer:

"Often in life, the what, when and where are not going to turn out the way you want them to turn out. You don't always get to choose those things, but you get to choose the why."

PERFECT! That is RIGHT WHERE I AM LIVING TODAY! I thought the what, when and where was right here in SB--leading Grace Community Church SB/Mish and planting other campuses around the region. CLEARLY...that was not God's long-term plan...

BUT...Although the what, where and when are different now...does that mean that I check out of the game? Or that I only serve HIM when I am in a full time ministry position...ARE YOU KIDDING ME...of course not!! I have to focus my energy on the WHY EVERY SINGLE DAY! Why am I here? It's simple...I have the OPPORTUNITY to still influence people for love HIM with all of my heart...and to pour my life into people...done! If I am doing that--the what, where, when will take care of themselves.

MY PERSONAL PRAYER is that through all of this that I will honor my Savior...he himself had that ultimate Plan B (OK, OK theologians...I know..."God doesn't need a Plan B..." Just stick with the whole context of the point!)...think about it...Don't you think Jesus would have preferred Plan A...that the world would be perfect and without sin...that he wouldn't have to die?!?!?! OF COURSE...BUT he choose to give us free will...he choose before time that Plan A would really mean A WHOLE LOT OF PAIN--Even for himself.

SO...As I walk through all of the emotions of closing the church and the dream of planting this church--I am going to work hard to focus on the "why" of life...and WHY am I posting this?? So you all can keep me accountable and make sure I keep my focus right! So thanks for your help!!

Friday, June 24, 2011

"As you walk along..."

5 years ago I came on staff at Grace Community Church...I had known Pastor Jim for some years before that-known about his passion for lost people-his heart for the church and that he was a fantastic speaker. What I learned as I hung out with him was his understanding of his guys on staff-that although he had high-very high expectations-that he DEEPLY cared for the guys on his staff. He spent whole staff meetings simply asking how the guys were doing and finding out more about their families. Sure he wanted to reach lost people...sure he wanted to be sure that they were doing their jobs...but he cared just as much about their hearts...speaks to his character.

Trust is another word that gets thrown around in leadership circles...the bottom line is Jim trusts his leaders...and PROVES IT by allowing them the freedom to lead and make decisions. He lets us do our jobs without him "looking over our shoulder." NOW don't get me wrong...there is accountability and he'll be asking what is happening...but you know that when he questions something it is because he longs to understand and wants to make you better.

HERE IS THE THING I LOVE THE MOST...Jim is a "as you walk along..." type of leader. He's not into tons of meetings for meeting sake...his training and leadership happen as you walk along in life. Grab the teachable moments...he is the best I have seen at this...he wants people (and himself) to learn from every get the most out of it. Jim has a good example that he follows on this...Jesus led this way...he didn't have seminars and classes...I imagine he taught around campfires and along the path...Jim gets "it."

It has been a honor to serve and learn from Jim as we have walked along through life...God has truly blessed him with gifts and Jim has maximized his impact...Jim tells me "you know God will tell you well done..." and I believe that Jim's influence in my life is one of the reasons why. "Thanks Jim for allowing me to serve with you at Grace...God has expanded his Church and I have learn so much from you. Love you bro!"

Monday, June 20, 2011

Last Service At Grace Community Church SB/Mish

Where to begin..........

I prayed a lot last week that God would be honored through our final service...along with that I prayed that the people of Grace would be honored and encouraged. It was quite a powerful, moving and emotional morning. We had debated with our leadership over whether to have our last service this week or next week...although it was Father's Day it was good that we did it yesterday...many people have talked with me, especially over the past week that emotionally they are "done." That they just could continue to go through this for another has been a month of services now since we announced that we would be closing...emotional roller coaster...

Our service lasted for 2 1/2 hours yesterday...2 hours of that were people sharing how God, Grace Community and how PEOPLE have impacted their lives...marriages restored...people that have come to Jesus...friendship the pastor I have a lot of the "inside scoop" on some of these stories...and the amazing part for me is that people are truly speaking from their hearts...the stories are real and not just emotional reactions...

NOW...we would not be Grace Community if we only shared the moving stories of life change! I was ambushed AGAIN this week as about 10 guys had nurf guns and shot me in the middle of the was a fun moment!! I had to run through the building to get away from the gun fire...good stuff...I have just loved the fun that we have had here....

Travis and the band led very, very well...they allowed the Spirit to just move in them and through them...the closing song was "Not To Us" has been a theme song for us...and no better way to finish...before that I read a list of things that we have done ministry-wise in the community and finished with 30 baptisms and 450 people that have expressed faith in Jesus Christ in 4 years...AMAZING NUMBERS! 450 people have their names etched in THE Book of Life through the Spirit working through the people of Grace. Incredible #'s! We gave God a Grace Community clap offering and then sang "Not To US"...tears flooded a lot of faces...powerful, encouraging, honoring...

There was a surprise for me prayer was that God and our people would be honored...God and his people did something for me too...I felt deeply honored by what people shared yesterday...many stories of changed lives are burned in my mind...memories that made me feel that I invested well...not a goal of mine yesterday, but I left encouraged...sad to see this chapter end-very encouraged by the life change that has happened.

Toward the end of the service I was given a book...a book with pictures of Grace and people signed it...Kari Tuttle presented it--it was a powerful moment...she spoke into my life...said that the book has been written for my families time at Grace...this book is complete...BUT she and the people expect to see our family have MANY books on the selves in the future...ways that we have influenced lives...GREAT STUFF!

A lot of emotions...honestly not even trying to figure them all out...trying to soak it in...learn from this...grow from him...and PRAY HARD that as the people of Grace stay FAITHFUL...stay connected to our Savior and the local church...that they will influence MANY, MANY, MANY people toward Jesus Christ...

I love you Grace Community and am so thankful to have had you in my life!

talked about this being a chapter in my life and how the church expects there to be many more books

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Be Still and KNOW...

Got back from a run just a while ago...wanted to clear my head as we move toward our last service at Grace tomorrow...I had a GREAT is soooooo humid and the sweat just poured off of the same time-it felt like God was pouring strength into me...spent time praying as I ran for every family of Grace SB/Mish by name--pleading with the Father to guard their faith and love for him and HIS church.

Then-God gave me a not in a spooky kind of way...but through a scripture and a song. As I got ready for my shower and verse and song that just kept running through my mind was "Be still and know that I am God." HE is God...HE has a plan...HE has control--even when we don't! This morning was quite tough for me...heading to the building for the final Saturday prep for the service...tonight though-I'm I sit still before he gives HIS encouragement through HIS is so true...HIS WORD IS LIVING AND ACTIVE.

"Thanks God...that when we become still before still the trouble in our hearts."

God is good.

Friday, June 17, 2011

"How are you doing?"

GREAT QUESTION...we ask that ALL THE TIME..." are ya?" "Doing OK?" That has been a tough one for me to times you could ask the question every minute in an hour and get a slightly different answer...had times in your life like that?

Here is what I know to be true...God...the Almighty God...PROMISES to "never leave us and never forsake us." That he remains with us even when we feel like he is not there...and he loves us sooooo very much. I am so glad for that...glad that I don't have to earn his love...

Today I am very thankful for good friends...people that are willing to speak love and encouragement into my life--God has blessed me with people who really invest in me...I am so grateful...

So when people ask me: "How are you doing?" I say "Alright" Because I am...I'm hurting due to a significant loss that is happening with church...and I am good-knowing that I have loving family and friends in front/behind/and beside me...

Bottom Line...God is good-therefore-I am too.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

My Spot

(Picture from my spot)

I went to the East Race today...there is a spot along the river where someone made a cement slab just for me...(nice of them!) I have spent HOURS in that spot praying and seeking God. I have praised him and celebrated victories...I have had dreams of what God could do in the city birthed there...and more than once I have cried...

Today I remembered...remembered why I took the leap of faith to start this church...why our family went on this journey-sometimes with great cost--health problems...lost friendships...strained family relationships--but through all of it, God has shown himself...he has sustained us, directed us. He has provided a path through darkness and has given HUGE blessings. I thanked God today for the opportunity to be a pastor for HIS have the opportunity to serve the people of South Bend...And I asked him about what is next...what the next step in our journey will look like. (No answers BTW!)

This much I know...God has ALWAYS been with us...he will continue to be with us...AND he takes these tough times in our lives and develops us into better people...God is good.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Best Smile I've Seen in 6 weeks!

Jaden gets a look in his's a look that I know all toooooo well-when he gives it you don't have to see any part of his body except his eyes...when "The Bouch" as I call him gives that look...his eyes just light up. It happens in sports--when he gets that look...I feel bad for whoever he is playing...(unless it's me!)...when he gets the look when he is wrestling with Luke and Chloe...I just KNOW what is coming...he has the same look when he performs in his school concerts or when he is practicing for a presentation at school...his eyes just LIGHT brings a smile to my face thinking about it!

Truth be told...we haven't seen that look in Jaden's eyes for weeks...ever since that AWFUL day at school when he broke his leg...the look has been's not that he hasn't had good days, because he has had A LOT of them...he has had fun...he has made the most of his situation...but that little something extra has been missing...

Today he went back to the doctor...his cast has been off for a week and his leg is just sooooo weak...when sitting in a chair he could lift his leg to be straight. He is going to physical therapy on Wednesday, but I just couldn't wait that long. So we went to "Daddy Therapy."

At first it was tough...I had him try to lift his leg from 90 degrees to straight...I had to help him for the first 8-10...then I started having to help him less...a little later we showed mom what he was doing...he did 20 this time ( was more that 20 cause I just can't count! :) and I applied pressure to his leg and made him work for it...AND THEN IT HAPPENED! The look...that look that just MADE MY DAY! That little glimmer in eye..."The Bouch" was back! Something clicked in his head as he started to do these exercises...I gave him a goal for tomorrow...that I would be able to add weights (rocks actually!) to his leg and then lift those by the time I got home from work. THE LOOK CAME AGAIN...he said..."Dad, I want to lift 20 rocks tomorrow!" MADE MY DAY AGAIN!!

This is such a simple thing...something we all take for granted...simply lifting our leg...yet for my big man--it meant the world to him...for the first time he actually believes that he is going to walk and run again soon. (I'm thinking of waking him up for some midnight exercises!!!! ;)

Random Reflections

-School is out and knowing that is would be a VERY emotional week, I took it easy this morning...Went for a run...prayed and then had a meeting out at Southpaw. (Figured out our family's summer vacation too!!) I have continued to run throughout the school year, but it has been tough over the past months since Sadie was born. I have to get up earlier and have my run done by 6:30, so I can take Chloe to the bus was VERY RELAXING to get out there and just enjoy a PERFECT morning.

-This coming Sunday is the final Sunday for our church--crazy to think about all that God has done and that 2 weeks from now--I won't be working here--lots of emotions have been running through me...our family has poured our lives into seeing this church launch-reach and love people and working towards being self-sustained. Yesterday was probably my hardest day so far...I have had more emotional days than yesterday...but honestly I was in a daze most of the day...(AGAIN...this is why my run was sooooo good this morning...sunrise-cool breeze-exercise and Jesus-->PERFECT!)

-God is working in a group of people in our church...they are praying about staying together and seeing where God leads them...praying for wisdom and direction for them daily...great group of people...

-Jaden is really hurting...he got his cast off last week and his leg is SOOOOOO weak-he is going back to the doctor today-we are going to ask that he gets some physical therapy...he is walking incorrectly because he doesn't trust his leg and he has very little strength. Hard to watch a kid who can run an under 7 minute mile barely walk...and he is a lot like me and he is very what is happening with the church really eats at him...he won't seem like it around people...but it is tearing him up.

-I praise God for of them is about to walk through the door right now and we're heading for lunch! Love that God gives us great people to walk through life with!

SO...since it's lunch time-I'm DONE reflecting for now!!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

God's Grace

Grace...undeserved favor...for so many people that word is just group is unwilling to allow God to give them grace...they feel that they don't deserve it...the believe that they shouldn't receive grace and that they must do something to earn it.

Then another group of people have a hard time giving grace...they sure want it for themselves, but they do not give it to other people. They hold on to bitterness and anger...frustration...pain...they just won't let it go...all the while hurting themselves more than they are anyone else.

I am proud to have been involved in a church that HEAPS ON GRACE! A lot of people say "we should show grace" but when someone comes in...someone struggling...they receive judgment instead of grace. I have learned a lot over the past 5 years that I have been on staff at Grace...none bigger than releasing God's undeserved favor on people...And the truth is...we all are going to need some grace from someone someday!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Journey

We said that last week would be our only funeral service...that we were not going to stay "down" even though is it tough and emotional right now. Everyone is at a different place in their journey...everyone is processing things differently. The neat thing is watching the people of God come together and encourage each other.

We gave everyone the calendar for the month today...told them of the process we are going through as we close...AND I told them how much it speaks to their character that they came back this says a lot about the people there today...that they want to finish well.

I preached on "Attitude" this morning...and we looked at the life of Joseph...Joseph was given a dream by God...a very clear dream that his brothers and parents would bow to him and his leadership. Joseph HAD to have been VERY EXCITED about his dream...I imagine that he had picture of what that might be like and how cool it would be to get to that point. I compared that to our dream of planting a sustainable church is South that would passionately pursue the heart of that would love people to that would be IN the community...and that has been an exciting vision that God has given us.

HERE IS THE TRICKY PART...look what happened to Joseph...think of his journey...his brothers want to KILL HIM...and they instead choose to sell him off! (Which was a blessing when you think about it...Joseph was probably devastated when his brothers sold him...but his life was actually saved in that moment!) Then he worked his way into running a leader of Egypt's home...only to have that taken from him by the owners lying wife...THEN he goes to his way up to being in charge of things...helps out a guy in jail...only to have that guy FORGET ABOUT HIM...Think of what Joseph must have been far away did his dream have to feel at that point.

HERE IS THE THING...Even in the darkness...even in the hopelessness that one day his dream would happen...EVEN THEN...Joseph did the right thing over and over...he trusted God...he lived his life with integrity. Who would have blamed Joseph for having an affair with the leaders wife? Really? Didn't he "deserve" some "happiness?" BUT...Joseph knew better...he knew that he needed to do right by GOD...not by his own personal feelings ...

Then there was breakthrough...The guy finally remembered Joseph and the LEADER OF THE COUNTRY put Joseph in charge of everything...THEN...his brothers show up...I wonder what that moment was like for Joseph...when he saw his family again...when they finally bowed to him...finally he had his dream come true...only the journey was REALLY tough...LOTS of detours...but all of those detours led him to the place where he saved his family.

For us...the message is that God NEVER has a PLan B...he ALWAYS has us where he needs us...sadly at times this means that we experience things that don't seem to make sense...times where like Joseph we have our dreams is the question though...someday when we are able to see more clearly...someday when we see Jesus face to face and we are able to understand more of the big picture...will we see that the pain led us to a different path...a better path for more people...that our pain was actually our and someone else's encourage more see more people come to him...I'm staking my life on that truth...

Friday, June 3, 2011

Facebook at its best

I have been following a friend on Facebook whose wife has been having serious complications with her pregnancy...he has been able through FB and Twitter to update everyone on what is happening...this is truly FB at its best...the number of people that can pray and pray specifically is MULTIPLIED because of FB.

The same has been true since I posted about our church closing...I have received some GREAT encouragement from people that I am only connected to because of FB. God has used them to really uplift my life--simple words of encouragement--showing that they care. Thanking God today for FB...

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Thanking God for Kids!

Some people have wondered why we would want 4 kids...WELL...with everything that is happening in our lives there is nothing more priceless than a simple smile from Sadie Lynn...Every morning Sadie gives me her priceless smile and it just makes my day...that little baby girl is just adorable...Just lights up our world...

Then today is Luke's bday--he turned 5 today...5 years ago we were at a very interesting spot in our lives...a spot where we wondered what God was up too...THEN God came through in a huge way...Luke has given us so much joy and SOOOOOOO many laughs over the past 5 years...he is SOOOOOO funny! Just love that little dude...We got him a new bike and you should have seen him riding that thing over a ramp we built last summer...HE GOT AIR!!

AND JADEN...that kid is just an overcomer...he has been in a cast now for about 3 weeks...but tonight there he was...serving our neighbor and sweeping her sidewalk while hopping on one leg! LOVE THAT HEART...making the most of your circumstances!

Chloe...............words cannot express what she has meant to Kelsey and me over the past weeks. With Jaden hurt she has had a lot more responsibility and she is rising to the occasion. She is turning into such a young lady of God...proud of her...

In the midst of everything else...these 4 amazing people...the 4 that God has given us have provided so much encouragement. I am soooooo grateful for each of my little ones!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Ending of a HUGE part of our lives...

Last Tuesday the leaders of our church decided that it was time to close our campus. We had set out benchmarks for 2011...goals that if we were close to reaching them we would continue to move forward. Our attendance had grown this year, but in the past month we have found out that several families will be moving away-AND the big one is that we are not a self-sustaining church...honestly we are not close-we have A LOT of young families and we just have not been able to get over the financial hump...

This has been VERY HARD for a lot of people...we have a group that really loves each other...our Savior...and serving our community--they enjoy getting their hands dirty. I have been praying hard that people will stay strong in their faith through this time...that they will find and connect with a church that loves Jesus and JUMPS into the community...

Personally...I haven't EVER cried this much in a week...I care DEEPLY for the people here...for this church...our family has poured their lives into the work here and it has been very rewarding. I have not had a plan B...never wanted to do anything else with my life...I have a sense of peace about the decision...YET...I feel sick about it...years and YEARS of investing my life...Can't really put this into words real well...

Here is what I know...I know that God loves me and this group more than we can even possibly express...I know that our God is faithful-that even though we didn't have a plan B-he already knows what will happen...I know that he wants us to be real-to share our hurt, anger, joys with him...(Our last Sunday will be a CELEBRATION of what he has done here!) And I know...that the influence of Grace Community Church South Bend/Mishawaka will be far reaching. I am deeply sad by this AND I am confident that God will continue HIS WORK through HIS people. Lots of feelings and emotions...Thank YOU LORD that I know you!