Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Feed the 5000

Thank you for helping to feed kids in our local community!  Here is a list of the items that go into the backpacks!

What goes in a Backpack?

Packages of shelf stable milk:  These need to be milk that can last on a shelf and doesn't have to be refrigerated.

Cans of meats / beans:  Canned Tuna, Chickens, meats, canned beans of all kinds, etc.

Cans of fruit:  Any and all canned fruit

Cans of vegetables:   Green beans, corn, tomatoes, mixed vegetables, etc.

Breakfast items: Small boxes of cereal, oatmeal packets, breakfast bars, etc.

Packages of noodles: Ramen Noodles, cup of noodles, Spaghetti O's, etc.

Healthy snack items: Granola Bars, raisins, fruit snacks, etc.

100% Juice boxes:  Needs to be 100% juice but any kind



Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Don't Look Back!

I find it hard not to live in the past sometimes...

I can find myself thinking about the good old days in college, when I was really pretty care free.  I remember playing soccer for all those years when I was younger and could run up and down the soccer field without getting winded.  I reminiscence about all the camping and backpacking I did when I went to UNC Asheville.  I miss being outdoors! I miss going to the beach for a week with my family and eating as much of the banana nut sheet cake from Sara Lee as I could!  I can taste the frosting as I sit here and write this. 

Those are great memories, but I also remember a lot of things that I wish I could change.  I wish that I would of known in college that I was good at working with young people.  I would of gotten an education degree or gone to divinity school. My failed marriage is sometimes a burden to look back on because it reminds me of how unhappy I was for such a long time.  All the fights will my brother over the years that were probably pretty normal for kids our ages but I often wish we were closer.  I wish I knew now just how much of an impact my Grandpa Swanson was having on my life.  I would of worked harder to foster that relationship. 

I believe the hardest part of the past are relationships that I have lost over the years.  My friends from High School, my college fraternity brothers,  my YMCA kids, even youth that graduated and left our program here at the church.

There are two things in my life right now that  have been making me think a lot about the past.  The first is that I just recently lost my Grandmother.  All though I hadn't had a close relationship with her for a long time, I loved her and she was the last of my Grandparents. I have been reminiscing a lot about her and just life in general as I start to work on her funeral service. 

The other thing is that I have a good friend that I have been really close to for a long time.  Lately I have noticed that I am not needed as much as I once was, that I have taken a lesser role in their life than I did in the past.  Others have come along and taken my place where I once was needed and wanted.  I get it because it is time for that friend to grow and flourish and go out into the world and make it their own, but at the same time I am holding on to the past and the relationship that we had instead of growing and evolving into this new dynamic of our relationship.   

Our pasts are important.  I don't want to change my past, I love who I am and where I am in the world today.  I love my job, all of MY kids, my friends, my family, my wife, and myself. 

Living in the past can be dangerous because we want things to remain the same or we just relive painful memories over and over again.  We are all molded by the winds of time. Some of that time is in past but  the most important times are now and in the future.  We have to embrace where we are in the world today and not allow our pasts to dictate who we are or who we are going to be..

Remember the past, plan for the future, live in the now! 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Out on a Limb

Don't you sometimes feel like you are sitting out on the limb of a tree?  Sometimes that limb seems strong while other times it feels like a strong breeze would snap the limb right out from underneath you and send you tumbling. 

Each of us have problems that we face. It may be something that is happening at your job or an unexpected turn in your career.  It may be an issue at home or with your extended family.  It may be with friends, like having to determine whether or not a friendship with someone is worth your time and energy.  Money and debt are common denominations in a lot of people's problems. This world can be difficult to live in especially with everything gong on around us and all the hate that seems to make the headlines these days.

These problems and stresses make our limb feel brittle and weak.  We think we are going to fall at any moment in time. Our limb might break and we will fall only to barely catch ourselves on a lower branch that is even weaker than the one we started on.

If we trust in God we know that our limb will never break.  It may bend, it my sway in the breezes of life, but it will never break.  With God our tree of life is rooted strong and deep.  Every branch and every leaf thrive.  The world can not shake us out of our trees.

So stop for a moment.  Sit up on our limb.  Take a look at the world around you.  Enjoy the people, places, and things around you.  Feel the breeze on your face and the sunlight on your hands.  Reach up and pick fruit from your tree because all of our trees bear fruit.  Fruit of the spirit. 

We need to trust in God that no matter what stresses us, what hurts us, what makes us feel like we are going to fall is never as powerful as the love of the Lord. 

May the Lord bless you and keep you and may he make his face to shine upon you and wrap you in love.  May your tree continue to grow because of his love.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

8 feet closer to heaven

On the last day of ASP this year I spent the majority of it up a ladder 8 feet off the ground.  I was putting up siding on our house as our youth measured, cut, and passed up pieces of siding to me... 

This year we worked at an amazing house that had youth of all ages living there.  They were such wonderful Christ-filled people.  Their kids ranged from 11 years old to 18 and there were at least 11 of them.

I know that our youth were a little hesitant about being at a site with kids their own age because they thought everyone would be shy and awkward. This was not the case by the end of the week.  People didn't want to say good bye or leave.  Hugs, handshakes, and love was spread to each and every one of us. 

I got to witness this first hand from the top of my ladder.  I was frustrated, tired, and hot as I was putting up a piece of siding that just would not fit.  I stopped for just a moment and that was when I heard the laughter and chatter that was going on below me.  All of our youth were sitting with the youth of the family and they were having a great time talking about things that are important to youth.  Marvel vs. DC, boys, girls, TV shows, movies, Pok√©mon Go, the state of the world, God, and so many other things.  If I had closed my eyes I would of thought we were all just sitting together in the youth room here at church and I was listening to the youth group hang out and have a good time.

Instead I was on a ladder, against a house, in the middle of July, in Tennessee, with a family that we had just met a week ago.  It was amazing, it was wonderful, it was heaven.

People are people, kids are kids, it doesn't matter who they are, where they are in life, or what their background is.  They have the same loves, the same passions, the same wants, the same needs.  I have always known this but it helps to have it reinforced sometimes. 

God is love, love is God, love your neighbor as yourself, love your family because who knows what tomorrow might bring!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The World Needs a Superhero...

Not one who wears tights or spandex.
Not one that hides behind a suit made of iron.
Not one who can fly.
Not one who can shrink down to the size of an ant.
Not one who is green or blue.
Not one with a superiority complex.
Not one with rage or anger in their heart.
Not one who bought their powers and abilities.
Not one that has an origin story based on being exposed to chemicals or bitten by a spider.
Not one who carries a hammer, a sword, or a shield.
Not one who fights their enemies with violence.
Not one who hurts others while accomplishing their goals.
Not one who is handsome or beautiful.
Not one who has bulging muscles.
Not one with super strength or super speed.
Not one who can breath under water.
Not one who can regenerate when they get hurt.
Not one with god like abilities.

But one who teaches and preaches unconditional, relentless, unyielding love.
But one who doesn't need a flashy costume.
But one who performs miracles and saves people.
But one who tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves.
But one who says do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
But one who walks on water to calm the seas.
But one who heals the sick, feeds the poor, and forgives the unforgiveable.
But one who is a teacher, a preacher, a friend, a savior.
But one who puts on the full armor of God.
But one who casts out the demons that lie within our hearts.
But one who leads us like a shepherd leads his flock.
But one who is the alpha and the omega.
But one who gave his lives for all of the sins of the world.  No matter what they are, what you have done, or who you are.
But one who is the light of world.
But one who is our savior.
But one who shed his blood and had his body broken so that we can live in the world today.
But one who never gives up on you, never surrenders hope, who needs and wants you.

This world doesn't need another imaginary superhero. 

This world needs Jesus.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Out of the shadows...

One of the most rewarding parts of working with youth is watching them grow up and turn from the shy kids they are when they first enter youth group to these amazing young adults who graduate with a new found confidence.  I like to think all the work that we do over the 7 years they are in youth group is a vital part of that growth.

Last night Coleen and I went to Margaret's dance recital for the second year in a row.  I love to watch our kids on stage, at sporting events, singing, heck just sitting and chatting on the youth hallway.  Margaret's first dance last night was with a group that represented Peter Pan's shadow.  They came bouncing out of the shadows on to the stage.  Margaret was first in line and when she crossed the stage I couldn't take my eyes off her.  I watched as she hit all of her moves with precision and strength.  She floated across the stage into each position she needed for her next move.  Margaret was amazing and it was a honor just to be there.  I saw so much growth in her dancing just from one year to the next. 

She definitely came out of the shadows between dance recitals this past year but that is not the only way that I have seen her step into the light.  Margaret has grown so much in her self confidence.  There were so many times this year where she stepped up and put herself out there.  She recorded herself doing a dance for our Girl's retreat about expressing yourself.  This was a major thing because talk about putting yourself out there.  I definitely couldn't of done that.  She took on a role in a skit for our Dinner and a Show where she was loud, flamboyant, and funny.  She has accepted the role of Co Youth Group President next year as a part of the youth leadership team. 

In all these ways Margaret has shown me that she does not belong in the shadows.  She is a confident, beautiful, talented girl with so much potential.  I am excited to be along for the ride as we continue to watch her grow.  By the time she is a senior in High School she will be ready to take on the world. 

Thank you Margaret for all the amazing things you have done and will do.  May you always remember that you can accomplish anything you put your heart, mind, and soul into.  Through Christ Jesus we can do all things that strengthen us.

Thanks for reminding me of that!

All my love!!!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Copy That...

I have always found that writing is when I feel the closest to God.  Sharing my thoughts and feelings often makes me feel wrapped up in his love.  I feel that today more than ever I need to be wrapped up in his love.

Yesterday a very good friend on mine, Bill Zeiss, peacefully passed away from the after affects of an accident.  Bill was an amazing man with a loving servant's heart. He was loving, colorful, and full of life but in a very silent, mellow, but passionate way.  He was a Christ centered man who was very mission oriented.  He was the center of almost all of the food related ministries of the church.  He also was the go to guy for anything that was sound related . Everything that we did here at church Bill had a hand in.  I would always run into him here working on something. 

I feel that he best thing for me to do is to share a few of the most impactful moments that Bill Zeiss has had on my life.

Bill and Tracy have an amazing daughter named Sophie.  She is a beautiful, loving, Christ centered leader in our youth group.  I have been blessed to have Sophie in youth group since she was in 6th grade.  After a couple of years in the youth group Bill popped into my office one day and sat down on the couch.  He told me that he just wanted to stop by and thank me for all the work that I did with the youth of St. Mark's.  He told me that he was so grateful that Sophie had someone to come to if she needed another adult. He said that he was just so thankful for not only me being there for Sophie but for me being a great friend to him too.

My wife Coleen and I got married last October in Blacksburg, Va.  During the reception Bill came up to me and gave me a huge hug, kissed me on the cheek and told me how happy he was for me.  He told me how excited he was and how Coleen and I were perfect for each other. I know that he did the same thing to Coleen. He was so excited for us and we felt so blessed that he and Tracy were there.

I am an avid model railroader and I just recently put up a train layout at the house.  Bill told me a couple of times about these train cars he had kept from a shoot he did.  He told me that one day he was going to put up a layout. A couple of weeks ago Bill walked into my office and told me that he wanted me to have the train cars.  He said he would never put together a layout but he knew I would enjoy them and he wanted me to have them.

The Durham Bulls have some games on their schedule that they play at 11 am.  Wes always organizes a group we call the "day gamers" to go to the games.  Coleen would always ask me who is going and I would say, Wes, Ted, myself, and Billy Z.  Billy and I loved to talk baseball.  He would either be sitting next to me scoring the game or sitting with a big plate of nachos. I of course would have a hotdog or two and we would sit for three hours and talk baseball.

Coleen and I didn't go on our Honeymoon until May of this year.  The day before we were supposed to leave Bill came into my office and handed me an envelope.  He said they had taken up a love offering for us for our trip.  He game me a huge hug and told me to have fun and that he "hoped it would go big."

The last time I saw Bill we were having a covenant group breakfast at Briggs restaurant.  Pete was telling us all how his wife Emily had been talking to the Grandparents of one of our youth and how they had told her that our youth group is the best thing that has ever happened to their grandson and that they didn't know where he would be without it.  Bill didn't say anything, he just reached his fist across the table and gave me a fist bump. I knew immediately he was saying that's what I'm talking about.

There were two things that Bill always said to me.  Whenever we were about to have an event and I would be telling him about it, he would always end our conversation with "I hope it goes big."

Whenever I would ask for his help with something sound or food related after I would get done telling him what I needed, he would always say "copy that!" 

I am really going to miss Bill. He was an amazing man with a servant's heart, a loving spirit, and a love of life.  He was an amazing father, a devoted and loving husband, and the best friend that any of us could of asked for. 

He was always looking to catch that next wave of life so that he could ride it and see where it led him.  There wasn't a restaurant in the world he wouldn't try but at the same time he would of never let another person go hungry if he could help it. 

Thank you Bill for everything and all the impacts you have had on my life.  I will never forget the amazing man you were and the beautiful soul you had that filled all of our lives.  I know what you would say to us about what we are supposed to do now.  You would say "I hope it goes big."

So I say "Copy that..."