Monday, May 16, 2016

Hardest Time of the Year

We are entering into the hardest time of the Youth Group year for me.  One very special girl will be graduating in less than a month from our youth group.  It is actually hard to believe that Temple has only been a part of our youth group for a couple of years because it seems like she has always been here.  Temple has been such an amazing influence on this youth group, on the mentors, and of course on me.  She makes every effort to talk to every youth in youth group no matter what grade they are in or what age they are.  Youth look forward to youth group just to talk to her and spend time with her.

She is genuinely interested in everyone's lives and makes every effort to be connected to you when she is talking to you.  She truly has been an amazing youth president this year and the epitome of what we want our g4C (youth leadership team) kids to stand for and represent in the world.  I have loved watching Temple grow these last couple of years and bloom into the beautiful girl that she is, both inside and out. 

There are a lot of things that are hard about being a Youth Director, but the hardest by far is watching kids leave the program.  Especially ones that come in, give all their love and attention to the program and leave imprints on my heart.  Temple is one of the youth and no matter how hard I push or try, for some reason she doesn't want to fail 12th grade and stay with me another year.  I know that just like their parents I too have to let go. Honestly it is hard because after they leave youth group our relationship is never really the same.  They have to move on and expand their minds and their network of people in their lives, and I have to start to develop new relationships with the newest group of youth that will start that journey with me towards their graduation. 

I understand all of that stuff, but that doesn't mean that I have to like it!!!! Okay of course I am just kidding because I am so very proud of Temple and who she is and what she stands for!  I have been very blessed to have her in my life these past 3 plus years.  She will leave St. Mark's youth group having made a huge impact on all of us!

So for the rest of the summer, I am just going to have to go to Tropical Smoothie, sit in my favorite chair at the counter, order my Blimey Limey and smile as I watch her work and occasionally come over and talk to me.  She is always trying to get me to try new flavors by bringing me leftovers from smoothies she has made. 

Thanks Temple for being amazing!  I love you and I hope I helped you to find some new flavors in life just like the way you help me find new smoothie flavors! 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Becoming AckAck...

A lot of things have changed in my life over the past year or so.  I got engaged and married to my beautiful wife Coleen.  We started out as friends but soon that friendship blossomed into something more.  I could not be happier and more in love...

Well that is a little bit untrue.  You see when I married Coleen, I had no idea that I would soon become AckAck!!!!  Being AckAck has made me even happier and fall even more in love!

Let me explain...

Coleen's daughter has a 2 year old son.  I have known him from day 1.  He absolutely is the most amazing little boy in the world.  He is cute, smart, funny, loveable, and just amazing.  Coleen's daughter wanted Coleen to be called Mimi.  So again from day 1, Coleen has been Mimi.  I assumed that I would be called Eric as I am by everyone that I know that isn't trying to sell me something or fix my car.  When someone calls me Mr. Hagman, I tell them my dad lives in Blacksburg.  I'm Eric. 

So I expected nothing less from our 2 year old little prince.

I figured we would be Mimi and Eric. 

We started to watch little man on Saturdays.  It was so much fun to watch him grow, and learn, and most of all play!  He started talking little by little over those Saturdays.  One of those Saturdays he was finally able to call Coleen, "MiMi!"  It was exciting and melted both of our hearts.  I was hopefully that Eric would soon follow...

One day he looked right at me and said "AckAck".  I knew what he was trying to say so of course I was like  "Errrriiiccc... Eric".  He smiled back at me and said "AckAck".  I said oh well, when he gets a little old it will be Eric. 

That was almost a year ago.  He still calls me AckAck.  His mom refers to me as AckAck.  Mimi refers to me as AckAck. 

So I became AckAck. 

Become AckAck has been the most uplifting fun thing in my life.  That little guy brings us so much joy.  We love him so much and we are blessed to be able to watch him and spend as much time with him as we do.  He makes me smile, he makes me laugh.  He runs too me when he sees me and says "AckAck!!!!!"

God has blessed me in so many ways! He gave me Coleen and then he made me AckAck! 

I want to be AckAck for the rest of my life!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Top 10 for my 10 Year Anniversary

Yes I know it is hard to believe but March marks my 10th year as the Director of Youth Ministries for St. Mark's UMC!  It's hard to believe that it has been 10 years because I can still remember my interview process when I came in for the formal interview.  I was met by Glen and Lauren.  We sat in Ben's office and I talked about role playing games (like D & D) with Lauren and of course Glen and I talked about football.  Who would of known then how much of an impact those two would have on me over the course of my time at St. Mark's. 

I have been working with youth for the past 16 years of my life.  I have to give full credit to Lynn Beuter at the YMCA for seeing the potential in me and moving me to the Teen Director all those years ago!  Thank you Lynn!!!!

I thought to Celebrate I would throw out a Random Top 10 Moments / Things I Cherish / Youth - People that have made my time here at St. Mark's so special!

10.  All the Youth: I have been blessed to have been impacted by some many amazing youth that have stepped into my life.  Through out all my years here, I have been blown away by the amazing things that my youth have done.  From 1st Sundays, to leading sessions on retreats, to making Pilgrimage an amazing trip, to just coming by and hanging out in my office.  I have learned more from the youth over these past 10 years than I learned through out the other 30 years of my life.  Thank you for making every day different, fun, and an amazing experience.

9.  Pilgrimage:  I have gone to the last 11 Pilgrimages.  Pilgrimage is this amazing event held every November where over 5000 youth from all over the state come together to sing, dance, prayer together, give testimonies, and listen to speakers.  If you ask our youth what is the most meaning trip or event that they go on where they feel God at work in their lives, it is Pilgrimage! Our youth love it and so do our mentors.  We are all blessed to be together for that trip every November!

8. Funny things that have happened:  From the "Eric did you fart in here?" to Josh falling out of a swing, to to Dr. Sausage, to the Youth Director blues,  to the many many videos "backpack buddies" that we have made over the years, we have been blessed with the gift of laughter.  Laughter is such an important part of life and especially mine because I love to laugh.  Ask any youth and they will tell you that I love to laugh and to make other people laugh. Laughter is the best medicine!

7. Senior Sunday:  Senior Sunday is the Sunday each year where we celebrate the youth that are graduating High School.  Each year one of them as well as myself deliver the message in church.  I love that opportunity and I love to watch our seniors say goodbye to everyone by being in front of the congregation.  I enjoy every moment of Senior Sunday except for the actual goodbye!  I can't stand it when youth graduate, that is really hard on me! No matter how hard I try they just don't want to seem to fail their senior year and stay here with me for another year.

6. This Blog:  I started this blog a couple of years ago to help me on a weight loss journey.  It has become a place where I can share stories and devotions based on my experiences here at St. Mark's.  I have been able to write about specific youth as well as mentors and other church members.  I really enjoy writing. This has been a big part of my Spiritual journey over the past few years. 

5.  First Sunday / F4J:  We started a program awhile back called Friday's for Jesus which later morphed into First Sunday.  First Sunday is where we have our own worship service at Youth Group led entirely by the youth.  They lead every aspect of the service from choosing the songs, to writing the testimony and message.  It has been amazing to hear what they have to share and to watch them grow more and more comfortable in front of the group.  I am a firm believer in giving our youth ownership of the program because when they have ownership, they will make it their own!  This also gives them a chance to practice public speaking which I believe is very important!

4. Mentors: We have an AMAZING group of mentors that help with the youth programming here at church.  I have been so blessed since I got here to have these mentors that help with everything we do.  I could not do my job without them.  Our current group of mentors are not just mentors for the youth but they are mentors for me too.  They bring so much to the table and I am not only blessed to call them mentors, I am blessed to call them my very best friends!

3. ASP: Every year I complain about Appalachia Service Project (Our summer mission project) because of all the work I have to do to get ready and worrying about making sure we have enough money to go, but I wouldn't change going to ASP for anything in the world.  I have been to ASP for 12 straight summers.  Each summer I get to watch our youth grow up in ways you can't even imagine. From learning how to use tools to forming relationships with each other as well as families that we work with on our trips.  ASP is where our youth really start to grow up right before our eyes.  There is so much more to this trip than just the construction work that is done to the houses.

2. Adult Youth:  Over the year's some youth have kept in contact with me and have become very close friends of mine after they graduated the youth program.  Philip is one of those youth who not only is a close friend but also came back as a mentor and works hand in hand with me and the Youth Leadership team.  He is definitely my Partner in Crime whenever I have Duke vs. ANYONE tickets and I need someone to go with.  He is an amazing guy and I am blessed to have him in my life.  Danielle is another one of those youth that became a close friend of mine after graduating.  Danielle and I have been through a lot together from ASP to Girl's retreat, to just sitting around talking about life.  She is always looking for the next adventure and I am blessed to be on this adventure called life with her!  Love you guys!  Thank you to all of you that have made me a part of your life even after you graduated the Youth program!

1. Coleen: This past year Coleen became my wife.  What started out as an amazing friendship grew to become love. I am blessed to call her my wife and to have her in my life.  She has such a love of the church and of our youth.  She is an amazing woman and we are a dynamic duo together!  I love you Coleen!

1-10: All of this could not be done or would even happen with out my love for the Lord.  God showed up when I was searching for what I was going to do for the rest of my life and he told me to follow him and he would make me a fisher of youth.  I am so thankful that he showed me the way because otherwise with my Environmental Science Natural Resource Management Degree, I would have become a fisher of fish!

So there you have it, a top 10 things / people / everything that have made my 10 years here at St. Mark's amazing.  This is just the tip of the iceberg and there is so many other things that I could write about but I am lucky if you have read this far so I leave those for another blog.

Thank you for being a part of this amazing journey.  Let's keep going... Here's to 10 more!!!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Impact of a Man

Yesterday I attended a funeral for someone that honestly I don't know very well.  I sat with some very close friends of mine in the sanctuary which was quite full of people.  My impression of the man who had suddenly died of a heart attack at the age of 45 was that of a quiet man who loved his family and liked to fly under the radar as far as attention goes.  The thing is that that impression did not define who this man truly was at all.  In fact he had so much of an impact on the people around him that over 100 people from Home Depot, where he worked, showed up for his funeral.  They wore orange bows in his memory and cried along with the family as his life story was told.

One of his fellow workers got up and told us how full of life he was, how he started out everyday at work by checking on people and seeing if people needed anything.  Even though he worked in the garden center, that didn't stop him from moving stuff with the forklift, helping customers in other departments, or cutting wood when needed.  It was well known how much he loved his job and how much he loved helping people.  All you had to do was ask and without the slightest hesitation he would lend a helping hand.  His fellow worker also told us how much he would talk about his family and how much he loved them.  He was always talking about his family. 

It turns out that I didn't really know this man who had such a great and amazing impact on so many people and it makes me wonder if he realized how much of impact he was having on people. 

Do any of us really realize the impact we have on people? 

Do we really know who's lives we have affected?

I really don't know how much of an impact I have on people.  I hope that I have a good impact on people especially our youth.

The man I knew was quiet and reserved but very nice and polite.  I didn't know how much he loved his job, his family, and God.  I got to witness firsthand the impact that he had on people.  It was pretty amazing and made me realize that it was a blessing for me to know him even if it was for a very short time in a very small capacity. 

Let's just say that he can add one more person to the list of people that he has impacted.  

Monday, February 22, 2016

Back to my roots... Back to the Y

This weekend one of my "Y kids" as I affectionately like to call them, posted the above post about our friendship on Facebook.  Chad was an important part of my life and career.  When I first took the job at the YMCA I had no experience what so ever working with Middle School and High School youth.  I had been working with Elementary age kids and specifically with the Kindergarteners.  Chad and many of my "Y kids", that I am friends with on Facebook these days,  played huge roles in my early days working with youth.  I realized very quickly after having them in my life that it was my calling to work with Middle School and High School Youth.  I can't imagine doing anything else.

These "Y kids" are no longer kids, they are in their mid to late 20s and have college degrees, families of their own, and paying jobs.  When Chad posted this picture and his comments, the comments that came in from some of the other "Y kids" was amazing.  I haven't seen many of them in years but they told me all about the impact that I have had on their lives.
It was very humbling because honestly it is sometimes hard to believe that I have an impact on these kids and that they remember me and thank me for the impact I had on their lives.  In the moment, I was just loving them and having a great time with them.  I was given the opportunity to watch them grow and try to give them some guidance along the way. 

When I hear from them and they tell me the impact I have had on them, it reminds me of why I do what I do.  It's not about me, it has never been about me.  It is about them and their lives and who they become.  If  I play even the smallest role in helping them to realize their full potential then I have made an impact.

I know that working with Youth is the job that God intended me to have.  I may not of figured that out until after college but I got the message loud and clear now. 

Thanks Chad for the reminder of who I am and what I stand for.  Thanks "Y kids" for being the original Eric's kids!  You have a lot of brothers and sisters now because I have so many more kids but you will always be the originals.  If I was a super hero, you would all be a part of my origin story.   

I hope that I am able to continue to have the impact on other kids that I had on you, but most of all I hope that other kids continue to have the impact on me that you all had on me! 

Keep reaching for the stars and if you ever need a little help, don't worry, I will be there to lift you up! 

God is good... All the time...  All the time....  GOD IS GOOD!!!!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Press Conference

So he was a little flashy, a little hard headed, a little full of himself, and a little cocky before the big game.  After the big game it was a different story.  His head was down, his hood up, he was physically and mentally beaten, and made humble by his experience in the Super Bowl.  Cam Newton did not handle himself very well after the game.  A lot of people have ripped him apart for his attitude and behavior at the post game press conference. 

I am pretty tired of hearing about it.  It is a shame that he acted defeated and upset after the game but I can tell you as someone else that wears his heart on his sleeve, it's not easy to hide our emotions.  Cam has been very happy all season long and why shouldn't he be because they only lost one regular season game.  He did dances, took pictures, gave footballs to the children in the crowd.  All things that were fun to watch if you were a fan and a little disrespectful if you were the team playing the Panthers.  Things were good and so his emotions ran high, he was happy and very boisterous in showing the world he was happy.  He was criticized by the media as well as fans from other teams because of his antics on the field. 

If he is happy, he gets criticized, if he is sad he gets criticized, what does he have to be in order to be accepted?

Each of us show our emotions differently.  Some of us are loud and proud when showing emotion while others are more subdue. We each get to choose how we act and how we hold ourselves in the world.  We make those decisions because of this amazing gift that God has given us called Free Will.   We get to choose our own path, sometimes we make mistakes, sometimes we follow the wrong path, sometimes we follow the right path, sometimes we help people, but no matter what though it all it was our decision to make. 

Cam is an athlete who gets paid millions of dollars to play professional football.  He's not a role model, you should never base your role model solely on someone's athletic ability.  He has his good qualities and he has his bad qualities.  We should look solely at his attitude on the field and whether or not he wins football games.  We shouldn't judge him based on his behaviors after winning or losing a football game. 

We all have professions and in those professions we have experienced highs and lows.  I am sure three are times we have not been professional because out emotions got the best of us.  I am sure we have said things to people before that we should of never said.  Cam just lost the Super Bowl and was struggling with that/  They were picked to beat Denver easily!  I can't say that I would of really liked to talk to the media after a game like that. 

Let's remember that we each decide who we are and how we act.  Before we decide to judge someone on their emotional response to something, let's sit back and take a good hard look at ourselves.  Free Will is free so why do some people pay the price for their free will?

(Now we are not talking about criminals or people that do evil with their free will that is a totally different topic and discussion.)

Thursday, February 4, 2016


Where did we get off track? 

We live in the age of a technological revolution.  Everything is at our finger tips.  Your phone isn't just a phone, it's a computer, a camera, an mp3 player, and a post office used for emailing and texting. 

We have it all in the palm of our hand...

The thing is, it's so impersonal.  Even if we are texting or emailing nice things to people, it doesn't come across like it is the person saying it to us as much as it is the phone regurgitating information. 

There is a lot that is lost in translation. 

This past weekend at the All Youth retreat we had a station on our prayer walk where parents took the time and energy to write our youth letters.   The mentors each had a group of youth they wrote letters too, and I wrote each youth a letter.  It was a lot of work to write 40 letters and one would question whether or not it was worth all the time and energy.

It was!!!  I personally got 14 cards written to me by youth.  They were amazing cards too.   I get so caught up in all the logistics of retreats, trips, and youth group that I forget how much of an impact we have on our youth.  A couple of them brought up things in their letters that I forgot that I had even said or had done, but they hadn't!  A couple of them were from new youth that were sharing just how much youth group already means to them! 

I would give anything to get a letter from a youth.  Letters from our youth mean more to me than anything they could ever give me.  They are personal and emotional.  They show that the youth took time out of their day to write me.  There is nothing more valuable to me than someone that takes time to do something for me! 

About a year ago I started a notebook with letters, drawings, cards, all different things that youth have given me over the years.  I wish I had started it sooner! 

I think we get so caught up in technology that we don't take the time to be personal with each other.  That may be calling someone instead of texting them.  Writing them a letter instead of emailing them.  Spending quality time with someone by putting the phone away.

So here it is, put down the phone or step away from the computer and pick up a pen and a piece of paper and write someone a letter.  Tell them you love them, tell them how much you miss them, tell them about your week, it doesn't matter because in the end, a hand written letter is like a surprise on Christmas morning, everyone wants one!