Me too

Niagara Falls – A family “Me too” experience.

“Me too.”

I believe these are incredibly powerful words. These words connect us to other people. They build bridges, communicate love and support. These words demonstrate empathy and bring us together. When I think about it, the people I have to most “me too’s” with are the people I am closest to in this world. Our shared experiences, our commonalities, draw us together and hold us together. “Me too’s” are important.

When someone is struggling, the words “me too” help others to see that they are not alone. When we say it, we’re saying that we are with them, that we understand, that we care and can see why they’d feel the way they do. Even if we have never been in their situation, we can almost always try to put on their shoes and say, “Me too. I understand why you’d feel that way.” We may not ever be able to imagine HOW it feels, but we can seek to understand WHY they’d feel that way. Either way, “Me too.” is powerful. Sometimes (I’m thinking about grief in particular) we don’t even need to say “me too.” Our presence alone communicates it.

When someone is celebrating, a “me too” celebrates too. It strengthens our relationship. When I was a youth minister, it became more and more clear that one of the best things I could do for a student was to show up at a game they were playing or a concert where they were performing. Those experiences, “being with” them became “me too’s” between us and helped draw us closer to one another.

Romans 12:15 – “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”

My hope is that I can become more aware of the moments I have. I want to say “me too” more often. I also want to live in a way that creates more “me too’s.” Of course I can’t be at everything I’d like, but I plan to be more intentional about “being with” people. My prayer is that you guys can all join me and say, “Yeah, me too.”

Home and Hurricanes

Home is where my family gathers. We laugh. We play. We cry. Home is where we settle our lives and work through our difficulties. Home calls us away from strife and beckons us into its’ safety. It’s where we find true rest. It’s where we find peace. Home is where we’re fed and filled and find satisfaction. Home is where we are meant to be. I love home.

My house is not my home. As we evacuated our house and our town this week, these things became much more clear to me. I looked in the rearview mirror and watched all of our earthly possessions grow small and smaller, shrinking as we distanced ourselves from the path of the hurricane. It was very surreal. This week, I have struggled between the fear of losing everything and the knowledge that we already have all that we need in Jesus. We have our family and yet, my faith is intermingled with unbelief.

“Lord I believe. Help my unbelief.” – Mark 9:24

When we drove away, I made some decisions. I decided that I was willing to lose everything that we left behind. I “let go” of our house. I now understand, that I was able to make that decision with confidence because I knew that we would always have a home. Jesus is our home and He has promised to never leave us. He is with us even in the midst of the hurricane. Would I miss certain things? Of course. Mostly things with sentimental value…. Items that are “more” than they actually are. However, in the end, even those things fall short of what Jesus Himself can provide.

Read my first paragraph again:

Jesus is where my family gathers. We laugh. We play. We cry. Jesus is where we settle our lives and work through our difficulties. Jesus calls us away from strife and beckons us into His safety. He is where we find true rest. He is where we find peace. Jesus is where we’re fed and filled and find satisfaction. Jesus is where we are meant to be. I love Him. 

 


PS – We have returned from our evacuation and our house has remained dry. Everything has remained the same. However, I have not remained the same. I have been changed. As a community, we have much work to do. I plan to help my neighbors. I’m praying that together we will experience this true “home” as we work side by side. Pray for us.

 

Lost

Kesleigh and DadSurrounded by strangers, my mind raced. . . .she’s not here? My heart sank. I went into denial. She has to be here. There’s nowhere else she can be. My heart sank deeper. No. It can’t be. No! No. No. No. My baby is missing. The tears started rolling down my face as I slammed my face into my hands.

My extended family (brother, sister, in-laws, nephews, nieces) was skiing in Angelfire, New Mexico and Kesleigh (6yrs old) was a brand new skier. We all started at the top of the mountain together and headed down a run we had done together multiple times that day. My son Kasen had a little spill and so I stopped to help him and allowed my daughter, Kesleigh to continue down the slope with our group. After getting Kasen settled, we raced toward the rest of our group and caught up with my brother about 1/3rd of the way down. He pointed Kesleigh out to me quite a ways down so I sped up and headed in her direction flying past lots of other skiers. I could see her with my sister as she turned a corner. When I made it to the turn, I saw my sister helping her son get up but didn’t see Kesleigh anywhere. She told me that she must have followed the others on down to the ski lift. There was only one ski lift at the bottom of that hill and she had been skiing with our group all morning long so I felt pretty good about meeting her at the bottom, but raced down to catch her anyway.

That’s when my mind started racing and my heart sank. She wasn’t there. Where could she have gone? What could have happened? Maybe it’s irrational, but I imagined some crazy abduction case or that maybe she had not made it down the mountain and was stuck hanging over the edge of some cliff. Why did I leave her? How could I have let her go on without me? Why? OK…….OK….Calm down. What should I do? OK – be smart. Alright. I asked my family to head up the lift looking for her and then to make another run down sweeping the area in search while I waited at the bottom in case she came down in the meantime. Waiting. . . . Oh, this can’t be. What kind of father are you? Is she alone? Please God. Keep her safe. Bring her back to us. Time moved so slowly. Please God. If I can’t be with her, please put someone else with her to help. My phone started ringing. My sister. She said they had seen Kesleigh from the lift and that she would come over the hill at any moment where would be able to see her. Thank you God. Thank you God. Thank you God. Oh. . . . there she is. As she approached, I could see her whole body quivering from her cry. She skied right into my arms and held her quivering dad who couldn’t control his own crying.

Evidently, she had crashed near my sister in between some trees where no one could see her. By God’s grace, and as an answer to prayer, another skier just “happened” to stop a few feet away from her and heard her crying. She helped Kesleigh out of the trees and got her back on her skis. After waiting a few minutes for someone to come looking for her, they decided that we must be waiting at the bottom. She told me that she knew she’d find some very worried parent at the lift. She was right. I couldn’t thank her enough and have prayed for God to bless she and her family many times since that day. She was an answer to prayer.

After the whole incident, Kesleigh and I talked about it and she forgave me for not being there. She also learned that God is watching over us and helping us even when no one else is. God never leaves us or forsakes us. Even when we are alone, we are NOT alone.

Thank God.

Magic Hugs

KesleighI was just playing around the other day with Kesleigh and was trying to convince her that my hugs were magic. I explained that if she hugged me, she’d be able to fly like Tinkerbell. My hugs are better than pixie dust. I’m not sure she was buying it.

Truth is: It’s her hugs that have the power to make a big daddy soar through the air like Tinkerbell. I lied about the power of my hugs as an excuse to get some of hers. (I’m a sinful man.) Her hugs and snuggles can redefine my entire day. My stress dissolves in her embrace. She has the ability to bring light into the darkness that runs around in my head. I’m so grateful for the joy that she is and the ways that Jesus uses her to touch me. I’m grateful for her magic hugs.

Prayer: LORD, Thank you for Kesleigh. She is such a precious gift and You’ve used her to help make me into a different man. I’m not sure why you entrusted her to me, but I’m very grateful. Please continue to grow our relationship. Help me to be the father that you have called me to be. Use me and my bumbling to lead her to You. Give me wisdom to guide her into the life You have prepared for her and help me to see the specific things she needs in order to be equipped for whatever comes her way. Hold each of us in Your hands and hold tight when we’re tempted to run away from You. You are our true father who has already given much more than magic hugs. Thank you! AMEN.

Legacy

Me and grandma 1983
Me and grandma 1983

My grandma died last year at the age of 97 and she never snow skiied. She traveled all over the country and did all kinds of things, but she never went on a ski trip. Well…….. maybe she did……. just last week. She was there. I saw her almost everywhere I looked. When I broke open mom’s haystack candy, I saw grandma nibbling on one of her own. When the kids had a snowball fight, I saw grandma throwing one off the deck at me accompanied by her laugh and smile which both hit me harder than her snowball. When we played board games at the table, I watched her nimble hands slide the exact card into place to win the game. One morning

There's that smile I saw last week. 1982
There’s that smile I saw last week. 1982

we had cinnamon rolls and they got burned because ovens cook differently in high altitudes, but I couldn’t help but see grandma’s cinnamon rolls sitting on that countertop. When I looked around the room at all my family, grandma’s influence was evident. She didn’t put up with arguing, and you know what? I don’t think we had any. We learned that from her. She loved spending time with family and so do all of us. She laughed often and it just hung in the room there like it was a permanent fixture.

 

 

When grandma’s estate was divided, my mom used some of her portion to take us on this trip. There were 17 of us: Mom, Me, Miranda, Kasen, Kesleigh, Roger, Kathy, Tyler, Betsy, Tucker, Tanner, Brenda, Schonn, Brianna, Ethan, Jaycee, and Tristian.

Grandma took all of us skiing…………. but we also took her. And we will take her everywhere we go.

Grandma left some things behind for us, but the most important things aren’t things at all. She left her mark on us. We have her in us. We became at least partly who she influenced us to become. Influence – that’s grandma’s greatest gift and the greatest inheritance anyone can leave for their loved ones. Love you Grandma! Miss you!

Thank you Mom for passing this precious gift along to us. Love you.

Here are a few pics. If you want more, check out facebook, shutterfly, or google+ sm - 01sm - 02IMG_1448IMG_1425 (3)

Holding Hands

honeymoonWe strolled down Main Street hand in hand. It was a moderately cool day and we drank in the moment savoring each step as we made our way toward the castle in Disney’s Magic Kingdom. The breeze nipped at our faces, but nothing could quell the excitement coursing through our veins. These days would be remembered forever as precious – a beginning as well as a celebration.

It was January 2004. Miranda and I strode past families who gathered in their matching t-shirts to capture the excitement with their cameras, but it was our honeymoon. We were oblivious to anyone outside our own little gaze and communicated our love for each other with just a look.

01

Just a week ago….10yrs later, Miranda and I were able to relive the same experience – only this time, we had our kids. We still held hands and strolled down Main Street towards the castle, but this time there were extra hands. We stopped to have our picture taken in our matching t-shirts, We still looked into each other’s eyes and were oblivious to others around us, but this time the look carried different messages – “Can you do something about her whining?” or “Tell him to stop chasing his cousin.” The ease with which we chose our next destinations had disappeared – now there were so many more factors: “Is she tall enough? Will they be scared? Where is the nearest restroom? How long is the line? Can the kids make it without a meltdown? When is our fastpass scheduled? Can we use a stroller pass?”

However in spite of all the madness competing for our attention, nothing could quell our excitement. With the extra people, we also had contagious excitement that coursed through our veins. These days will be remembered forever as precious – a new beginning and a celebration of who we are and have become.

Mike and Patti Mathews generously provided everything for us to enjoy this trip. They arranged: 1) a surprise on Christmas Day for the kids, 2) Flights for 11, 3) an incredible house with a pool and hot tub, 4) car rental, and 5) 5 days of Disney tickets – not to mention the countless hours of planning, the tshirts, parking $, and extra gifts all along the way. Your love for all of us is incredible and we are blessed to have such a “legacy of love” in our lives. Thank you!

Prayer: Thank you Jesus for our family. Thank you for all your efforts in drawing Mike and Patti to you all those years ago and for giving them to us. You have blessed them and they are truly a blessing. Guide Miranda and I to carry this “legacy of love” forward and pass it to our children. Thank you also for giving Miranda to me. Allow us to continue to “hold hands” as we move through life – not just with each other but more importantly, help us to “hold your hand.” Amen.

I posted a few pics here, but if you want to see a few more, you can go here: Disney 2014

mathews0203

 

 

 

Criminal Behavior

roadblock2We met under the cover of night. We slipped into our cars and cautiously veered around the road blocks – careful not to draw attention to ourselves. We communicated quietly or with our eyes so as not to make much noise. We handled the goods with care as we swiped the merchandise from it’s location and transported it to the designated area. By the time we had finished, we had relocated all the goods without any issues. Everyone had done their job flawlessly. The cops didn’t suspect anything. The items were delivered and we were safe in our homes celebrating a successful mission.

I love my Community Group! We successfully completed the mission described above last night. We delivered Christmas gifts to a needy family. For now, they live in a duplex that will be torn down in the next couple of months and so their streets are blocked off. We were able to bring a little joy to this family and even share the Gospel with them.

Thanks Jennifer! God needs more people scheming on His behalf! I’m happy to be a criminal for God’s glory! Thanks for the opportunity.

 

Thanksgiving – McKinney Falls Camping Trip

photoMcKinney Falls State Park – Thanksgiving 2013
My family seems to be making it a tradition to go camping for Thanksgiving. We’ve done it the past few years and always have a great time. This year we went to McKinney Falls State Park and met my brother’s family, my sister’s family, my mom, and my aunt there for the week. We also broke in our new camper for this trip. It was a little cold and rainy the first few days but then ended up being really nice. We did a little geocaching with the kids, rode bikes, hiked to the waterfalls, and even took a little road trip to Lockhart for some great BBQ. (Black’s and Kreuz’s) It was a great way to celebrate Thanksgiving.

I’m grateful for Jesus, family, friends, camping and our new camper, football games, and time to get away from normal life and remember the things that are truly important.

Community is Messy

communityismessy

In spite of her gifts as a communicator and writer, Heather Zempel is truly humble. She admits her mistakes and paints a picture of stumbling through the maze of small group ministry and leadership, but her passion and heart are also very clear. She loves people and isn’t afraid of a little mess – and in some cases a lot of mess. She doesn’t try to prescribe any particular model for building community but rather draws on her experiences (sometimes very funny) to give the reader some helpful tools for gaining a better perspective on your particular situation.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

“I decided a couple years ago to stop trying to strike a balance [in my life] and to pursue life in rhythm instead.”

“People can find legitimate community and be discipled outside our structures.”

“Most people come into groups looking for social space; we encourage leaders to aim for taking their groups [beyond that] to personal space; and we hope individuals will look for intimate space opportunities with a select few inside the group.”

“We need to ensure that our routines don’t become routine.”

This is the best book I’ve ever read on small group ministry! If you’re a part of a small group or want to be, you should read this book!

Heather is actually a family friend, (As a child, Miranda played football with her every Thanksgiving. Mike was the all-time quarterback.) but. . . . well, nevermind – I can’t deny that I’m biased to this book, but it’s still the best I’ve ever read on community groups.

Pick up a copy here: Amazon Link