Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Whispers on the Wind

A man sat on a mountain side that overlooked a valley and three other mountains.  He was disheartened by certain things that were happening in his life and he was searching for answers. He began to reflect on his life.  Although he tried to think of the happy times, the funny times, the amazing times, his mind always wondered back to the hard times, the sad times, the hurtful times.

Dejected, the man whispered out loud: " I miss you!"  No sooner had the words left his lips did a strong wind blow from the mountain on his left hand side. He heard a voice carried upon the wind, "I miss you too." 

The man was in shock.  He looked around to see if there was someone else on his mountain side.  He didn't see anyone.  He began to wonder if he was just hearing things or if his mind was playing tricks on him.  He decided he would say something again and see what happens.

"I love you," he whispered into the cool air.  Again just as soon as the words left his lips a strong wind blew from the mountain in front of him and he heard the same voice floating on the wind, "I love you too."

The man sat straight up with this astonished look upon his face.  Where was this voice coming from?  He still thought that might this all be in his mind and that he was just imagining the voice.  Nonetheless he decided to whisper again.

After taking a deep breath the man leaned forward, opened his mouth, and whispered "I need you,"  out into the thin air.  As the word you left his lips, the wind picked up from the mountain to the right of him and he heard,

"I am always with you, through the good, the bad, and the in between.  Call upon me when you need me and I will be there with you.  Holding you, loving you, never leaving you.  You will always be loved because you are my child.  You are a child of God."

Tears began to well up in the man's eyes as he realized that he had been speaking directly to God.  In this great time of need, in this time of reflection, he verbally spoke his needs and God replied and filled his heart.

Too often we forget to talk to God.  We forget to ask God for help.  We forget to remind ourselves that no matter how bad life is, God is always with us.  God speaks back to us through others and through ourselves.  Open you mouth and speak to God.  All it has to be is a whisper and God will answer you.  God will lift you up.  He will show you the way.  He will lead you to the mountain top of the Father, the mountain top of the Son, and the mountain top of the Holy Spirit.

So sit on the side of your mountain and whisper into the wind. 

Then comes the hard part... listening.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Every church needs a TEMPLE!

When a youth hits their senior year in High School they have to make a decision about Youth Group.  They have to decide on top of school work, applications for College, work, sports, and a social life if they want to make Youth Group a priority in their lives.   Sometimes they choose to stay and sometimes they choose to move on.  It is hard when they decide to leave because for most of them I have spent the last six years of my life with them.

There are however those that stay and make Youth Group just as much of a priority as they did in their younger years.  We have been blessed to have senior Youth Group presidents for the last 2 years.  All three of them worked very hard and developed programs that make Youth an amazing fun experience. 

This year Temple has taken on the mantel of president and has been doing an amazing job.  She has only been a youth group member for the past 2 and a half to three years but I feel like I have known her since she was a sixth grader.  Temple has a special something that draws you to her.  She has a loving and compassionate spirit and it shows through her interaction with all the youth in youth group. 

Temple makes time for any and every youth.  She is the only senior I know that will specifically go searching for younger youth to talk to. There are sixth and seventh graders that go searching for Temple just to talk to her. She leads by example and it shows through everything she attends and the work she does to make our Youth Group amazing. 

She is kind, she is considerate, she is understanding, she is passionate, she is dedicated, she is everything that we need in a president of our Youth Group.  Temple is a blessing to everyone in our Youth Group and she truly is a blessing to me! That is why every church needs a Temple!

Monday, September 7, 2015

The Fantasy Draft of Life

It is that time of year again... FOOTBALL!!!!!!  That's right it's back, tailgating, jerseys, non stop games on Saturdays, and of course my Virginia Tech Hokies.  This time of year also brings on the  crazy, exciting, frustrating, and extremely fun practice of the Fantasy Draft. 

For those of you that do not know about this, the fantasy draft is when you join a group of people to pick a team of NFL or even college players that you will follow and work with throughout the season while competing against the other people in your group.  These teams are often chosen through the process of the fantasy draft where each person gets to choose a player each round of the draft. 

These players are chosen by their skill level and where they rank according to different "experts".  The first round is where the best players are chosen whereas the fifteenth round lends itself to players with significantly less skill.  Players are chosen until each person's roster is filled. 

Although it is a lot of fun, there are so many factors in play, from injuries to not living up to expectations.  It can be very frustrating when you think you have picked the perfect team but it doesn't pan out the way you expected it to. 

I believe that God has a continuous fantasy draft going on where each day he decides to add to his team.  The difference between God's fantasy draft and my NFL draft is that God creates his players.  He creates players that have different skills and passions that allow them to take on different jobs, hobbies, and the world.  He gives each of his players the tools to preform but he also gives them free will which allows them to make choices based on their likes and dislikes and their current situations.

You see God's draft isn't in any particular order because honestly, he drafts each and everyone one of his players with the first pick.  In his eyes we are all equal, we are all loved, and we are all created in his image.  Although we may all look, talk, and act differently, we are all the number one pick in the eyes of God.  We are all the best player on the team. 

We are all drafted number 1 in the fantasy league of life, now it is up to us to go out into the world and show God why he drafted us number 1.   


Monday, August 17, 2015

D-Gall- And then there was none...

So Saturday the last of my three Senior girls moved into college.  Danielle is going to Meredith which is right up the street from the church but it still feels so far away.  Danielle and I have been close over these last 6 years and it has been amazing to watch her grow up to be the beautiful young lady that she has become.  She has grown not only literally but also spiritually.  She delivered the message on Senior Sunday. 

Danielle has a way about her that just draws people in.  They want to be around her and with her because she is someone that is in the moment with you when you need her to be. 

I have so many wonderful memories of Danielle.  I can't even begin to tell you how many adventures we have had together.  One of my favorite memories is our first ASP together.  I didn't know her very well at the time but we bonded over that week.  I remember sitting in the back seat of the van with the seat laid back and her leaning over the seat and taking selfies of us looking up at the camera.  The smile that she had in those pictures is the same smile she brings with her anytime that you see her.  It  is an amazing smile that can light up a room. 

I have always loved to watch her perform in theater and see that smile as well as the emotion on her face as she acted out her different roles and parts.  She takes everything she does so seriously and that showed on the stage even when she had the smallest of parts. 

I am going to miss her a lot not just  because of everything she did for the youth group but because of everything she did for me too.  She was so active in everything we did and she always wanted to take a leadership role. She was the first one to step up and always had a way of knowing the right thing to say.  It is going to be hard to do youth group without her.

All three of our seniors made huge impacts on what we have accomplished as a Youth Group.  They were all amazing and will go forth to do amazing things in life.  They have made huge impacts on St. Mark's, on the youth group, and on me.  I can't wait to see where life takes them. 

This was just a small part of their giant journey of life.  I am just thankful that God put them here when he did so that we could witness their love, their growth, and they amazing abilities.

 I am proud of all of you! Thank you for all that you have done...

And now we must exist stage right and move on to the next act! 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

I am gonna miss you Kenzie!

I was sitting in my office this morning when I heard someone almost running up the stairs to my office.  I turned to see Kenzie come running in to tell me goodbye before she leaves for college in a couple of hours.  We embrace in  a giant big hug and she told me all about her worries and concerns but also about her excitement about what is to come. 

I love Kenzie!  She has such an infectious spirit about her and you can always tell when she loves you because she shows it.  I first met Kenzie when Harper was in the hospital having back surgery.  She was a wide eyed beautiful girl then (as she is now) and she was full of energy as she was talking to Harper.  I remember just standing back and watching her as her arms moved about as she talked.  Who would of known that that encounter in the hospital would of led to Kenzie being such an important part of our youth group and of my life.

Although at times I have gotten on her about her lack of involvement and commitment to youth group, she always came back stronger than ever.  When I told her what I needed to see to put her back on the Youth leadership team without hesitation she made it happen!  I was so proud of her.

Kenzie is such a hard worker.  When she puts her mind to something she will accomplish the task!

It is going to be hard to do youth group without her.  It will be hard not having that smile around.  It will be hard not being beat up by her all the time, ok maybe that won't be so hard. 

Kenzie I am speaking directly to you now, go out and make this world amazing.  Be the beautiful wonderful you that I know and love.  Don't let people change who you are or what you believe in. God is always there for you and he will never leave you. 

 Know that this world is better because you are in it.  Your laugh, smile, and love fill the world with color.  Thank you for sharing such a small part of your life with us and with me.  You have no idea of the huge imprint you have made on my heart.  I love you, I am here when you need me, and the door is always open when you want to visit! 

Grab a hold of life and make it yours, only you can tame it. 

Go be beautiful, wonderful you!

I can't wait to hear the stories about your adventures!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Thank you The Harp aka Harper!

I have been struggling a little and feeling a little overwhelmed going into this year's youth group year for some reason.  I was having a moment yesterday while working on a few things so I stopped everything I was doing and rearranged my office.  If you know me you know that I like to rearrange my office very often.  It helps me to center myself and get focused on the next thing. As I was cleaning my office I came across a paper that Harper had written for her English class two years ago.  The title of the paper was "Wise Guy."  Her paper talked about an important mentor in her life, someone that she admired.

Her paper was about me.  She said so many wonderful things about me and talked about my passion for my job and how much I loved our youth.  She talked about how I paid attention to the details of their lives, so much so that I once texted her just to see how her Spanish quiz went.  She went on to say so many kind and loving things.  My favorite line from the paper is:

"A mentor is not just someone to look up to; they are a guide that wants to see the person they care for succeed.  They will move mountains and expect nothing in return."

Reading her words made me tear up but also helped me to refocus.  I have had Harper as part of my life for the last seven years which has come to an end, as far as youth group goes.  This will be the first year since I have come to St. Mark's that I will not have a Dabagian in my youth group. 

Harper did an amazing job as the president of Youth Group this past year.  If you knew Harper back in 6th grade you would of never thought that she would of been comfortable as the president of a Youth Group.

Harper, I just want you to know that I am so thankful for all your time and dedication to Youth Group.  You are an amazing person who is going to do amazing things in life.  Thank you for giving me a copy of this paper and for reminding me why I do what I do.  It was a  good reminder that we might not always hear that we are making a difference in the lives of our youth but that we truly are making a difference. 

Thanks for helping me to get back on track to start a new youth group year!  You may not be here in person but you will always be in my heart!  Now go and be the best Spartan you can be  at UNCG!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Man Behind the Curtain

Most of us have seen the Wizard of Oz.  In the movie the great and powerful Oz is this huge figure that is glowing green and has a loud boisterous voice booming through the room with smoke and fire bellowing out around him. He is a fearful, intimidating being that scares everyone who comes in contact with him.  The funny thing is that the actually Oz is a mild and meek person hiding behind a curtain.  He is actually a timid man but when he is able to hide behind the curtain he is able to be forceful and boisterous. 

We each have a man behind the curtain.  Each of us has a different personality or way that we would be if we were able to hide behind a curtain and no one were able to see our true selves.  Sometimes that would be a very good thing and we would be able to share more about who we really are and voice our opinions which we may not normally do.  Others of us may be more wicked or mean spirited, we may try to do things that we shouldn't because the true us is behind the curtain.

Recently I've found out some information about a really close and dear friend of mine who I love very much.  The information is not good and makes me believe that I don't really know who he is.  It confuses me and I am at a loss because I don't approve of his behavior.  What I am trying to work through is whether or not the person that is my close friend is the real him with the loving, kind, wonderful heart, or is the real him the person that makes bad decisions and does things that I don't approve of?  Which one of these personalities is my friend's real personality and which is his man behind the curtain?   I don't know and that is hard.

 I think it is probably a combination of the both.

Have you every thought about your man behind the curtain?  Would that be a good or bad thing for you? I am not sure what mine looks like and who I would come across as.  I hope it would be a good thing.

I think the goal is for us to be the same person whether we are in front of or behind the curtain.  It's like I tell my youth kids all the time, I expect you to be the same person at church that you are out in the world.  I know it is hard with peer pressure and other influences out there in the world but we must be true to who we are and who we want to be.  I hope that your man behind the curtain is more like the man in the mirror for you.  A reflection of who you truly are.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Shoeless Joe ASPer

Last week at ASP a youth from the other church we were with really put ASP in perspective for me.  He told us a story about how he was playing Frisbee with some kids from his site at the ASP picnic and the Frisbee went into the lake.  He had to go after it so they could continue to play.  His shoes got soaked while he was in the water so he had to take them off to continue to play.  The kids had been on a hillside above him but after the Frisbee went into the water they wanted to change places and come down to the pavement. 

The youth said to them that he couldn't go up on the hillside because he didn't have shoes on anymore.  All the kids looked at him really funny and one of them asked him why he couldn't go on the hill.  That's when he noticed that none of the kids were wearing shoes.  When he thought about he hadn't seen them in shoes all week.  After he realized this he didn't say anything else about shoes, he just went up on the hillside and continued to play Frisbee. 

He told us that with every rock or root he stepped on that it reminded him of how fortunate he is to have the simplest thing such as shoes. He told us that it hurt a lot to play without his shoes but he refused to put them back on.

Some of us have a lot in life.  We live in houses with walls, floors, ceilings, heat and air conditioning.  He have stuff like clothes, shoes, jewelry, video games, and tv with cable.  Although we have all of our "stuff", I believe that the people that we visit and help on ASP are the richest people on earth.  They might not have "stuff" like we do but they are extremely thankful for what they have and they have tight loving families who will give the shirt off their backs for each other.  They have traditions and stories that they will share with you. 

A rich person is not someone with "stuff", a rich person has love in their heart, humility in their soul, and family in their arms. 

May we all be rich!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Top 10 Things I learned from my Dad...

10.  There are many colorful words that can be used while working on the car.  I have remembered most of them but most of all I remember all the times that we worked on projects together and anything I know about cars came from you.

9.  No matter how good or bad Virginia Tech is we will always be fans.  Being a fan of Virginia Tech has always been a roller coaster ride but you have always taught me to be loyal and that shows up every year when I get excited for the coming season.  We will always have Virginia Tech athletics to talk about.

8.  Mulch doesn't move itself, the grass doesn't mow itself, and the leaf piles don't blow away.  Yard work was always part of our lives in Clemmons, NC but it was a great feeling to accomplish a task.  Thanks for teaching me that the end of the day you can always look back and realize that you have accomplished so much. 

7.  You should never drink Orange Juice as an after school snack.  Orange Juice was always expensive even when we would buy it from concentrate.  I would always drink it when I got home from school and there wouldn't be any left for the next morning. There is a time and place for certain things, it may be as simple as drinking Orange Juice in the morning, or it might be a well placed / timed hug.  Thanks for reminding me that good things come to those that wait.

6.  Lemon cookies, coffee ice cream, and pretzels are amazing!  Your favorite flavors and foods have become my favorite flavors and foods!  Like father like son!

5.  There are a lot of holes in the sea, which you often find when you are riding on your father's back.  When we would go to the ocean, I would ride on your back as we would go out looking for the Kracken and you would often step in "holes" which made us both go under the water.  Thanks for teaching me that simple things can bring joy and laughter.

4.  Always enjoy the classics.  Ever time we were in the car whether it was a trip, a card show, or just running errands, we would listen to the oldies station.  The Temptations, Supremes, Marvin Gaye, and the Embers became staples in my music library.  Music is like fine wine, it gets better with age.

3.  Laughter is the best medicine.  You have always made me laugh.  I hope that I am able to do that for other people because it is an important part of everyday life.

2. Don't ever give up.  When I was in middle school we went to a baseball / basketball card shows and I bought a box of Hoops basketball cards hoping to get some David Robinson rookie cards.  By the time we reached the grocery store right near the house I had opened 3/4ths of the box and didn't have a single David Robinson Card.  As we walked through the grocery store and I was upset, you told me not to give up.  When we got back in the car, I opened 3 packs in a row that had David Robinson rookie cards.  I knew then that I should never give up!

1.  You taught me what it is like to be a great father.  Although I will never be a father, I hope that I show those around me the same love and support that you have always shown me!  Happy Father's Day Dad!

Friday, June 5, 2015

To the Parents of Our Seniors

This has been the hardest I have ever taken a graduating class of seniors.  I think that it is going to be like this from now on based on the relationships I have with our youth.  The girls that are graduating this year have been with me through thick and thin.  They have been such an important part of creating the program that we have today.  I am two days away from Senior Sunday where I will be talking about them.  Today I want to talk to their parents.

Dear Senior Parents,

I can only imagine the emotions you are going through as your girls graduate High School and get ready to enter the "real" world as college students.  I have been pretty upset these last couple of weeks and I am not even their parents so I can only imagine, the joy and sadness that you are feeling.  I want to tell you a few things:

1. Be proud.  Your girls have done an amazing job in life.  They have learned to balance church, work, school, extra curricular activities, and a social life.  Those are skills that will take them far in life.  They had to learn that somewhere. 

2. Have Faith.  Your girls have been devoted to this youth group and through that they are devoted to God.  They have all made an impact on so many lives through the missions they have participated in and the messages they have delivered.  Someone had to introduce them to faith.

3.  They are all beautiful.  Each one of them shines in a different way and they are ready to go out and explore the world.  They are beautiful on the outside and on the inside and they make the world beautiful through their actions and reactions.  They get that from their moms.  Sorry Dads...

4. Be patient.  Each of these girls is going to go off and explore the world but they will never be as far as a text message, a phone call, or a face time session away.  They will come back home they always do.  You had to leave your parents too.

5.  Love them.  Your girls have amazing capacities to love.  They have showed me that in so many ways, from their mentoring of the younger youth to their love of each other.  They love the world, they love life, and most importantly they love you.  It takes love to know love.  Thanks for teaching them that.

I have loved the time I have spent with each and everyone one of our seniors.  I am excited to talk to them when they come back around and tell me about all the adventures they have been on.  They will always have a home here at St. Mark's and I will always be there when they need me.  Thank you for sharing them!

You can let go of the kite but hold on the to the string! 



Thursday, May 28, 2015

Letting Go

I have found that I have a very hard time letting things go.  Whether it is a good thing or a bad thing I have a tendency to pine over it and not let it go.  No matter how hard I try I can't let it go.  The only way for me to totally let something go is to put it out of sight and mind.  I have to remove myself from the situation or distance myself from the person in order to let whatever happened go.  It is really hard for me for some reason. 

I know that I wear my heart on my sleeve and that I am too sensitive about things sometimes.  I even know that I internalize almost everything, that I project outcomes before they happen.  Sometimes I am right and sometimes I am wrong when I do that.  Coleen balances me out very well because she is forever the optimist and I take a more pessimistic outlook.  I take that outlook I think because I don't want to be disappointed by people if they don't live into what I expect from them. 

For the past year I have been dealing with something that I knew had a shelf life.  I knew it was coming to an end at a given point.  Even though something has been different about it all year and it hasn't felt the same I held on and wouldn't let it go.  I tried to make the best of it and take an optimistic approach.  Unfortunately it hasn't really helped and I found myself more times than not praying about it or asking for guidance from God. 

One thing that I really enjoy about working at the church is that everyday I can go and sit in the sanctuary and talk to God.  I can work through issues and problems while sitting in a pew.  God listens to me, I can feel that.  I know that he is there and watching over me.  I feel better after I talk with him.

I am not sure what is going to happen with my current situation.  Will I have to remove myself in order to let go?  Will I be able to work through it?  I am not sure which way it will go.  All I do know is that God will be with me through whatever I have to do. 

You need to realize that God is with you all the time as well.  You might have an easy decision to make or a hard one, it doesn't matter because God is with you.  Whether you have to let something go, confront someone about something, deal with an issue at work or school, or just want guidance in making a life decision, remember that God is always there for you and he is listening.  Make sure you talk to him.  I know that I sure do! 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

A Royal Decree

Alas on this the 5th day of the month of May in the year of our Lord 2015, I Eric of the House of Hagman born of the town of Allen in the royal state of Pennsylvania, do hereby decree that from this day henceforth that no senior shall graduate from the school of Higher learning also known as High School.  Upon completion of the grade of 11 all students shall remain in a  space time continuum which will eternally lock them into a state of being a senior or better know as being of the grade of 12.

Therefore they will henceforth and forever be frozen in a state of senior which will allow them to continue in the group of youth for the remainder of their lives. Therefore Harper of the House of Dabagian,  Kenzie of the House of Mathews, Danielle of the House of Galloway, and Lois of the House of Bouassa will be the first in a long line of princesses of the royal kingdom of St. Mark's to live into this mandated decree. 

Many of our fellow brothers and sisters have been lost to us along the way, Ian of the House of Jenrette, the four brothers of  House of Derringer, Josh and Alex of the House of Garner, Philip of the House of Kiwanuka, Delaney also of the House of Dabagian, as well as countless other souls.  This relentless trend of the loss of seniors must stop upon this very day.

There shall be no need for the throwing of the party of graduation or the walking of the stage.  No need for the prank of senior or the doing something poorly because you are not putting enough care or effort into it better known as the slack of senior.  There shall be no need for the service of graduation or the salty discharge from the eye better known as crying. 

From this day henceforth there shall be no grade or education beyond the year of senior.  All youth shall remain in the tender care of their parents and We shall all be joyous and happy for the remainder of our days. We shall all go out into the paths on which the mechanical  horseless carriages drive and participate in the ritual of rhythmic motions!

This is my royal word and because of that it is beyond contestation!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Down by the River

A man decided that he would take a walk down to the river to contemplate life.  He sat down on the bank of the river beneath a large oak tree.  As he sat there twisting a long blade of grass between his fingers and deep in thought, a strong wind blew down upon the man and toppled him over onto his side.  As quickly as the wind came it left.  The man sat back up and brushed himself off.  As he did this he heard a noise above him in the tree. It was the sound of crackling branches.  He looked up and saw a figure sitting on one of the branches.  He was startled.  As he attempted to quickly get up from his sitting position he fell forward down the back toward the river.  Catching himself before he fell in, he stood up.

Before he could say anything a voice came from the figure.

"Do not be afraid my son" said the voice.

"Who are you?" said the man.

"You know who I am" said the voice.

Without saying another word, the man did know who it was.  It was God.  God came down out of the tree and telling the man to sit down with him, they sat down on the bank of the river.  Although the man could tell that God was there with him he could not focus enough to truly see God.

God asked the man what was wrong.  The man told God about his problems.  He talked about his job, his family, the things that made him sad, the things that made him mad, and the general frustrations of life.  The man talked about how he didn't see him (meaning God) in his everyday life and how that scared him.

God listened intently to the man.  After the man was done.  There was a pause. 

Then God spoke, "Life is like this river.  There are ebbs and flows.  Sometimes life will be smooth and easy and sometimes it will be rocky and filled with rapids.  There are many hard times in life and although it may seem like I am not there with you or for you I am.  Look for me in the people that are put into your life when you need them most.  When there is darkness often my light is shone to you though people that I put in your way.  People that might show up out of no where to be there for you when you need someone. Some times people have a tendency to pass right by me or think that I am not there for them by ignoring the people I put in their lives.

  I use you in the same way.  Aren't there times that you feel pulled to call someone or go see someone for no reason what so ever?  Aren't there times in your job when you do something that you might not normally do that benefits someone else? Yes it may be a sudden short term situation where I put you into someone's life, or it might be for a long long time.  Sometimes you will move in and out of people's lives as they need you. 

 I am with you always.  Pay attention to those around you because you never know when I might be starring back at you through the eyes of another."

Upon these last words there was another rushing wind which again knocked the man over.  When he righted himself and sat back up God was gone. 

Or was he?

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The End is Near

I wonder if you could ever tell when something was about to end. 

What I mean by that is have you ever felt like you could tell that a relationship / friendship was about to change or end? 

Have you ever foreseen the future of your job whether it was you quitting or you being fired? 

Have you ever known that because someone else has made a change that it was ultimately going to change you in some way?

I have always been a really observant person.  I often people watch.  It gets me in trouble sometimes with my friends because they know what I am doing when they catch me gazing at someone from a far.  I was really shy growing up.  Watching people and learning things about them and before they even say a word became the norm for me.  I could read people.  I still read people.  I catch things that other people don't see purely by observing a person's mannerisms or behavior.

I get in trouble with Coleen sometimes because I am pessimistic and I know how something is going to play out.  She is such an optimistic person, it is one of the qualities I love most about her.  I often tell her what is going to happen and she doesn't want to believe me because it is normally a negative thing.  Unfortunately I am right most of the time.  I don't like it but it happened very recently and although it is hard to believe it is exactly what I said would happen.

Don't get me wrong, sometimes I am right and it's a great thing but most of the time it is the opposite way around.  There are a few things that are on my radar. Changes that seem like they are going to happen.  A couple of them I really get but one or two of them I am not sure why they are going to happen.  I'll let you know if they pan out.

I believe that God has a plan and there is a reason that people are put in our lives or in our way.  Sometimes they just seem to pass through but other times they stay and leave footprints on our heart.  It is easy to let go of someone that is just passing through but it is much harder when they stay and leave footprints on our hearts. 

I am not sure really why I wrote this post, it was just something on my mind and on my heart.  I appreciate you reading and I hope that you hold on tight to those that make footprints on your heart and never let them go!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


Yesterday at the bus stop one of our youth got punched in the face because they grabbed someone by the shoulder to get their attention.  Now our youth was in the wrong for touching someone they don't know very well but who just turns around and starts to whale on someone?  I don't understand what makes people feel like they have the right to hit someone without knowing what exactly is going on.

When I was in Middle School I got punched in the nose.  It was in shop class.  I honestly don't even know what it was I did to get punched.  I didn't instigate it or do anything to rock the boat.  I just remember the kid rearing back and punching me square in the nose.  I then remember standing over the big  metal barrel trash can full of saw dust bleeding.  Both the shop teacher and the gym teacher saw me but neither one of them did anything to help me.  It wasn't till I got home and my mother came to school and took care of things did anyone do anything about it.  Everyone knows what happens when you unleash the wrath of Mom! 

I was pretty shy in school so I didn't say anything to anyone about getting hit so my other teachers probably didn't even realize that anything was wrong. I just dealt with the pain till I got home and told my parents what happened.

I am sure that the boy that hit me had other issues and I wasn't the main problem.  I was just an outlet for his anger and hurt.  I think that is what our youth was as well.  Unfortunately we never know what's going on in people's lives that cause them to react the way they do.  Their reaction may be verbal or it may be physical but 9 times out of 10 you are not the cause of that pain you are just the means to an end.

It is not okay to hit people.  You are not Rocky!  Life is not a boxing match, we are not here to trade physical or verbal punches.  Our youth is a great kid with a loving heart, a joyful spirit, and a caring soul.  He didn't deserve to get punched in the face.

I have to say that I am very proud of our youth for not retaliating.  He got up off the ground and brushed himself off but didn't go after the kid.  That takes more guts and courage than throwing a punch.  Looking a kid in the face after they have caused you pain whether it is physical or verbal pain and then walking away is living into what you believe.  It is showing other what following Jesus in the real world looks like.

Walking with Jesus sometimes means we have to walk away...

Monday, March 16, 2015

g4C unplugged

This past weekend we had the opportunity to go on a retreat to the mountains with the g4C team which is our youth leadership team made up of 7 youth from the youth group.  We had a great time because it was a really laid back weekend without a lot of set plans.  In fact Saturday was so laid back that it got away from us.  In the middle of an activity we realized that it had gotten to be almost 7:00 pm.  The youth really wanted to go to an ice cream shop so we called to ask when they closed and we were told 8:00 pm. 

This normally wouldn't have been a big deal but we hadn't even eaten dinner yet.  We talked about it and we decided that we would have dessert first and come back for dinner.  So down the mountain we went to downtown Boone for ice cream.  It was really good!  After ice cream we headed back to the house.  By this time it was around 8:30pm. 

As I unlocked the door I said to everyone that I wished I had left a light on because it was so dark. I entered the house and flipped the switch but the light didn't come on.  I went down the hall and flipped another switch and that one didn't come on either.  The power was out!

The initial reaction of the youth was your typical horror story reaction, a rainy night in a remote dark mountain house, but before I could even say anything light started to emerge.  A couple of the youth had grabbed candles and started to light them.  The room filled with the soft flickering glow of candle light.  I started a fire in the fireplace and we found a lantern to put in the center of the room.

We sat there for a few minutes and then we decided to play Apples to Apples.  We got close in a circle and made sure everyone understood how to play.

For the next hour and a half we played a board game by candle light in the mountains of North Carolina.  I have been on many retreats and had lots of fun and many spiritual moments but for some reason this one was my favorite.  It was a calming moment where everything felt right and no one was worried about anything.

 I looked around the circle and saw the smiling faces of everyone in the room.  The candle light flickered across each smile briefly swallowing them in shadows only to have them reappear immediately without disguising their happiness. 

I think sometimes we need to just be in the moment.  There are so many distractions in the world that we often forget to just relax and enjoy being with each other.  I wish the power would go off more often so that we would all be forced to relax and do something that doesn't involve TVs, cell phones, video games, etc. 

I hope that you can find some time to unplug and just enjoy your family.  I know that I enjoyed my family on Saturday night.  I would love to have that same feeling again. 

Apples to Apples by candlelight anyone?

Monday, March 2, 2015

20000 Strong!

Today I went over 20000 views of my blog!  Thank you to everyone that reads it, it means a lot to me that you read what I write!  I am by no means a professional but I am humbled by the support that I receive by everyone! 

Thank you so much for reading!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Stanley has the Tools

There is a company called Stanley that is a manufacturer of a brand of tools used for building and fixing things.  I have known of this tool set since I was kid.  My father had some Stanley tools around the house.  Most recently I have used quite a few Stanley tools at ASP.  I have used them to work on many different project over these last 9 years. They are dependable tools that do the job, but actually they are not the most important Stanley that has been a part of ASP trips or has played a role with the youth of our church.

Greg Stanley is a math teacher at Sanderson High School and a valuable member of the St. Mark's congregation.  I met him about 3 or 4 years ago when he first decided to go on ASP with us.  I could tell then that I was going to really like working with Greg.  Greg has a way with people, a polite smile, a gentle voice, and a calming personality.  He is proficient in his knowledge of tools and construction but never downgrades or dismisses those of us who are challenged and lack construction knowledge.  He is always willing to lend a helping hand and his heart is full of a need and want to help people. 

Recently we had an All Youth Retreat where I asked two youth to speak about their journeys as part of the youth group.  I asked them to talk about all the mentors and youth that have made a difference in their lives and express what roles they have played in their lives.  I then asked each of them to talk about a relationship with an outside of youth group adult that has made an impact on who they are.  One of the youth talked about Wes Hare who I mentioned in another blog post.  The other talked about her relationship with Mr. Stanley (which is what they have to call him at school.) 

She said that she first met Mr. Stanley at ASP and that he instantly made an impact on her.  He was kind and listen to her.  Since then she often visits him at school during lunch and after school.  She said that he gives up plenty of time to listen to her and help her with some of the issues in her life including some college things that she is having a hard time with right now.  He always has a kind word, an open mind, and valuable advice.  Mr. Stanley has really made an impact on her.  She said that she couldn't imagine going through High School without him.

I don't know that the adults of our church really realize the impact they are making on our youth.  Simple things like listening and just being there for them go a long way.  Greg provides that for them and for that I am very grateful. Greg is a Stanley that has the tools to fix things and help build up our youth.

Thanks for constructing things more valuable then you will ever know Greg! 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

I don't have a daughter but if I did...

We are on the verge of wrapping up another girls' retreat.  This has always been one of my favorite trips because it is just a great time hanging out with all the girls of youth group and getting to know them better.  Each of them is beautiful, smart, and caring and it would be an honor and a blessing to have any of them as my daughter.  If I had a daughter though I would want her to be:

As crazy and daring as Eliza.  I have watched her come out of her shell this weekend.  When she wants to do something she does it like going in the ocean when it is cold out.  An adventurous heart is something that everyone needs.

As giggly and cute as Avery.  Avery has an infectious way of making you laugh by just simply laughing herself.  She brings a smile to my face any time I am with her and that is something that value so very much!

As kind hearted as Maryssa.  Maryssa has a loving soul and is willing to do anything or anyone.  I can always count on her help whenever there is a project that I need help with she is there with open arms to help me complete the task. 

As  family orientated as Margaret.  Margaret has a love for her family.  You can see it in her interactions with her brother and sister and her mother and father.  Their family is very close and you can see the love they have for each other.  I have watched them for such a long time and Margaret shows me that through all of her interactions with her family. 

As observant as Alex.  Alex notices every detail.  She can tell you when something is wrong or if something or someone is missing.  Although we joke about it sometimes, I admire her for it.  I am not as observant as she is and some things I observe I am not comfortable enough to share with others.

As open as Kenzie.  Kenzie is always willing to share her thoughts and feelings and participate in any discussion we are having whether in youth group or just the two of us talking.  I always know where I stand with Kenzie and that is something you don't always get in your relationships with people.

As loving as Liz.  Liz always has a hug and a smile for you.  She has a loving heart and when she cares about you you know it!  Showing affection is something that so many people have a problem with and often it leaves people wondering how you feel about them.  Liz lets you know!

As understanding as Temple.  Temple willingness to listen to people and care about them is a quality that not everyone possesses.  She will listen and comfort anyone that comes to her with a problem. You can always count on Temple to be there for you.

As beautiful as Harper.,  All the girls are beautiful but I see everyday how beautiful Harper's heart is.  She is beautiful on the outside but her love and caring of others, her willingness to share and listen to others, her willingness to serve and do mission work shows her inside beauty. 

As determined as Danielle.  Danielle, has school, work, theater, babysitting, a social life, and still makes every youth event a priority.  She has a determination which is God given because it allows her to do what she wants but not miss out on what is most important to her.

As creative as Grace.  I learned a lot about Grace's writing talents this weekend and her willingness to share those talents with us.  Creativity is a spice of life to me.  I think it is such an important part of life and Grace is full of creativity. 

As patient as Sophie.  Sophie is so patient.  She sits and listens and pays attention and always follows through on assignments I give her.  She is a valued member of our leadership team and her patience is a virtue that not everyone has.  It is such a valuable thing in life to have patience. 

We are all blessed by the children and youth of this world.  Enjoy them why you can because soon they will be the adults of this world!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Comings and Goings

This time of year is always so hard for me.  We just recently started our Confirmation class.  There are 10 kids in the class which is amazing and wonderful.  It means that we will have 8 or 9 new youth in youth group next year.  That is so exciting because I love it when we get new youth in our group.  Our youth do an amazing job of including everyone.  It really is pretty special.  That is the amazing part! 

The problem is that this time of year means that we are getting close to the end of youth group for a group of seniors. I think that one of the two hardest parts of being a Youth Director is having to let go of the youth.  When you spend 7 years loving them, caring for them, and being with them all the time, it is hard to let go.  I know it's harder on their parents because they will be sending them off to school and they will be leaving the nest but after parents, family, and coaches; myself and the mentors have probably been with them for the longest part of their formative years. 

This year is particularly hard because of the seniors that are graduating.  I have grown very close to all of them.  All of our youth are so special and so important but this senior class is really important to me.

Harper has been here since day 1.  I have watched her grow in so many ways.  It really is amazing to see her now.  I can remember the shy Harper that would never get up in front of a group and speak or be the leader.  That has changed.  Harper is a confident, beautiful, smart young woman who has blossomed in so many ways since I first met her.  She always has a smile on her face and love in her heart.  Did I mention that she always has a bow in her hair?  I know that when Harper goes out into the world she is going to take it by storm and do amazing things.  I really am proud of her and who she has become.  She was one of the first youth that I have had since she was a 6th grader.  She is co president of the youth group now and I don't know that I would of thought of her holding that position when she was in 6th grade.  Thank you for the memories Harper!

Kenzie came to youth group only a couple of years ago.  I believe her freshman year in High School.  I remember first meeting Kenzie in the hospital when she and I were both visiting Harper after her back surgery.  She was just as bubbling and excited then as she is now. Kenzie is so smart, innovative, and you can not find a harder worker than her.  My relationship with Kenzie has grown over these last couple of years and although I have been hard on her at times and pushed her to reach her potential, I know that our relationship is stronger because of it. I will always remember Kenzie as my strong willed go getter that can really dig a hole.  (She knows what that means).  You are the best Kenzie!

Danielle came to our youth group during her 7th grade year.  She really started getting involved during her 8th grade year.  There is a certain spirit about Danielle that I will miss.  It is that loving, caring, I want to fix things spirit.  She is always caring about others and wants them to be happy.  She does this over thinking about herself first.  It is pretty amazing!  There are so many adventures we have been on over the years from ASP to video shoots, to Pilgrimage.  It was been an amazing ride, thanks for buying a ticket!

Lee is a youth that made youth group a priority on her own.  One day Lee showed up to the church having walked from their house. Lee walked in joined Sunday school and by the end of the morning was singing in front of the whole church with us.  Lee because a valuable part of the youth program and has been ever since.  Lee has been through things that some of us can't even imagine.  Life has been hard for Lee.  That is why I will always remember Lee for Lee's inside strength.  The strength that keeps Lee going from one day to the next.  It's a strength that many of us wish we had.  I admire that.  I wish I was that strong.  Thank you for the constant reminder that strength and faith can get us through anything.

Ben is not as active in youth group this year as he has been in the past.  It is a little hard because I feel like he is already gone but I will never forget Ben.  Ben grew up in our youth group in a lot of ways.  The Ben that started as a 6th grader with that boyish grin and those random comments has transformed into this handsome, strong, football player.  One of my favorite things was when Ben and I would play Call of Duty and talk to each other over our headsets.  I felt that really helped our relationship to grow.  We are both not the gamers we used to be but that doesn't mean that we don't still talk about it now and then.  Be good Benny, be good!

I know that we still have a couple of months left but it will be hard to write or say any of this when that time comes so I thought I would write some of it today.  We are going on our last Girls' retreat with those senior girls today.  It will be a lot of fun but a sad reminder that the end is near.

I don't know where life will take each of them I just hope that they remember the good times we had in youth group, that God loves them so much, and that they should all know how to write a dissertation on world peace. I just want you to go out into the world and be the best Lee, Harper, Danielle, Kenzie and Ben that you can be.

Where do I want you to go in life?

How about the second star to the right... and straight on 'til morning...

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Haunted by an image

At our youth retreat the other weekend I saw something that really touched my heart and has stayed with me every since.  On Saturday night we set up a prayer station situation in which the youth could go from station to station and participate through prayer and other activities.  It is an untimed event so that the youth can share, cry, and experience everything they need too.  God is with us in that session and they feel him.  This session took 3 hours on Saturday night.

There were so many things about that night that really touched me and showed me that our youth feel God and need God in their lives.  One thing brought me to tears that evening. There was a seventh grader that sat at the foot of our candle cross and prayed.  She would come and go but always ended up there crying.  Many youth and mentors came to her, prayed with her, and loved on her.  It was very sweet.

There was however a young man, a ninth grader, a high schooler, that came and sat down next to this middle schooler and put his arm around her.  Now I have never seen these two interact with each other or even talk to each other.  I have tried very hard to picture a time when I have seen them interact and I just can't find one in my memory bank which makes this even more meaningful to me. 

That high school boy put his arm around her and pulled her close. He whispered in her ear.  I don't know what he said nor do I want to but to me that would of been enough.  To see a two youth that don't interact with each other sitting at the foot of the cross, one crying and the other comforting was an amazing sight.

Then there was the part that brought me to tears and made me feel God's presence there in that room at the Training Lodge at Durant Park in Raleigh NC.  The high schooler held the middle school close with one arm around her and then he leaned in and very gently kissed her on the top of the head.  It was a sweet, loving, intimate moment.

I felt God through that act of kindness and love.  We have amazing youth at our church who love and care about each other.  Although they might not always talk to each other or interact with each other they are there for each other and closer to each other than I could ever imagine.

Thank you God!

Friday, February 6, 2015

I wish I had more Hare

When we were kids my dad was going bald. My brother gave him such a hard time about it all the time.  My dad always said to him "just wait until you are older and you are bald, you are never going to hear the end of it!"  I always stayed out of the conversation.  I didn't want to jinx myself.  Well,  my brother went bald first but my lack of playful banter as a child didn't help because I quickly followed suit.  I have a very good friend who has stated a couple of times that she would buy me some Rogaine.  I keep waiting for some in my stocking at Christmas.

I am actually okay with the thinning of my hair. When I say I wish I had more Hare, I'm not talking about my head.  I am talking about my good friend Wes Hare.  Wes is an amazing man with a heart of gold and a spirit of giving.  Wes is always helping people, driving the food truck for North Raleigh Ministries, running our Spiritual Awakenings, which is an AA series of meetings on the 2nd Saturday of the month, he helped to start our Soup on Sunday program at the church which provides a free meal on the 1st Sunday of the month for anyone that would like it,  he helps people at the Healing place get on their feet, he has helped youth within the church whenever they have needed help, he has played / coached in our joyful noise basketball league, he is a big brother for a young man that is in the 5th grade, he helped to start our covenant group, he plays a huge role in the ALS foundation, and so much more.  

On top of all that he is a loving husband and father that takes such good care of his daughter and gives her every experience he possibly can.  He is a loving friend that is always there to listen and give people experiences that they might not get otherwise.  Most of that is done through his gracious giving of tickets to sporting events as well as other events. 

Wes has never met a stranger.  He takes time to get to know people and everywhere I have even been with him he knows people and they know him.  Wes will always take the time to talk to you and listen no matter what he is doing.  He is a wonderful, spiritual, loving person that I am blessed to call my friend.  Life is better with him in it! 

There are people in our lives that we can tangibly see make a difference in the world.  Wes is very humbly about what he does but his footprints came be seen all over the Raleigh area making a difference.

So you may have long flowing locks of hair, or a military style hair cut but no matter who we are, we could all use a little more Hare. We should all be a little more like Wes Hare.

Friday, January 16, 2015

People Change

People Change.

 People change because we grow older.  They physically change, mentally change, as well as emotionally change.

Most of the time this is ok because we change right along with the people that we are close too.  Most of the time when you are close to someone no matter what changes in their lives you still have a connection that keeps you together because you care so much about each other.

I think the unfortunate thing is that sometimes people change because of their decisions and priorities in life.  When this happens they can make decisions that push them away from you.  This can be very hurtful because you love that person and only want the best for them yet they push you away or change their behavior to where you are no longer an important part of their life.

I was listening to NPR in the car yesterday and I heard a gentleman talking about his life.  He said that for a period of time in his life he would ignore the people that loved him and wanted to be in relationship with him and spend all of his time trying to impress people that didn't care about him no matter what he did to get their attention. 

I think that is true about all of us.  Sometimes we don't think about what we are doing or saying and we tend to push away someone that cares about us because that relationship is boring and comfortable instead of challenging and exciting.

It truly is a shame when that happens because when people love us they only want the best for us and it gets comfortable because they are always around. They are too many bad things in this world that look shiny, new, and exciting.  When we allow ourselves to make those things our priority we lose touch with the people that truly are our friends and love us. 

I miss some of my friends that I have lost touch with over the years as people have changed especially those that I have been very close to.

We live in a crazy world.  A world full of many different relationships and opportunities, its up to us to hang on to those that are close to us and love us.  Although there will be many people that like us throughout our lives there will be a smaller amount of people that truly love us.  Keep those people close.

Remember that God loves us unconditionally and no matter what we do he will never leave us even if we change and turn from him.