Monday, December 31, 2007

Fantasy wrap-up

As promised, here are the final words on my 2007 Fantasy Football season.

I won the championship in two leagues and finished fourth in another.

From the three teams I had, here's my All-Star starting lineup:
QB: Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
RB: LaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego Chargers
RB: Ryan Grant, Green Bay Packers
WR: Braylon Edwards, Cleveland Browns
WR: Greg Jennings, Green Bay Packers
WR: Marques Colston, New Orleans Saints
W/R (flex): Joseph Addai, Indianapolis Colts
TE: Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys
K: Mason Crosby, Green Bay Packers
DEF: Green Bay Packers

Most Valuable Player: Drew Brees - most people say running backs are the most important Fantasy players, and I see their point, but I believe the quarterback is the most important because he usually can score the most points. Brees struggled early in the season, but finished up with another great season.
Surprise Player: Ryan Grant - having seen him play at ND, I never expected him to play in the NFL.
Disappointing Player: Marvin Harrison (WR, Indianapolis Colts) - To his credit, he's injured. But even when healthy, the future hall-of-famer was very inconsistent. He's still a top-notch receiver, but I'm ready to drop him in favor of a younger player.
Player I'm Most Likely To Keep Next Year: LaDainian Tomlinson - I think he's got a few more years of strong production left, and he's so versatile that it's tough to let go of him. Greg Jennings was a close second in this category.

Getting away from Fantasy Football, here's my official predictions for the NFL Playoffs:
First round
Jacksonville over Pittsburgh
San Diego over Tennessee
Seattle over Washington
Tampa Bay over New York

Second round
New England over Jacksonville
Indianapolis over San Diego
Dallas over Washington
Green Bay over Tampa Bay

Third round
New England over Indianapolis
Green Bay over Dallas

Super Bowl
New England over Green Bay

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

1-for-2

Well, LaDainian Tomlinson did his part with 107 rushing yards and a touchdown - a good, not great, night for him. It was enough to put me in a position to win in one league but not enough to beat me in another. The only problem was that Tony Scheffler caught just two passes for 37 yards. I needed much more from him, but I guess that's what I get for counting on a guy I hadn't even heard of up until a couple weeks ago.
So, I've won two championships and I'm in the consolation game of my other league. I guess that's not a bad year, especially since I've played for about 4 years now and this is the first year I've won a league.

Monday, December 24, 2007

A Conflict Named LT

This man is causing me a great deal of internal conflict today.


For those of you who don't know, his name is LaDainian Tomlinson and he's a running back for the San Diego Chargers. Many people believe he's the best running back in the NFL. Many also believe he's the best player to have on your fantasy football roster.

I am fortunate enough to have LT on one of my three fantasy teams. Unfortunately, he's also in the lineup of one of my opponents this week. Therefore, I am incredibly conflicted as I wait to see what happens in tonight's game between the Chargers and Denver Broncos.

I have sealed up the championship in one of my three leagues, but in the other two leagues it all comes down to tonight's game.

In the league where I own LT, I am currently trailing my opponent 125.55-99.09. I also have Denver tight end Tony Scheffler in that league while my opponent has no players in tonight's game.

In the league where my opponent owns LT, I am currently leading 70-49 and LT is the only player either of us have in tonight's game.

So, you can see my conflict. In one league I'd love LT to have a great game but in the other league I'd love LT to not even play. The ideal situation for me would be for LT to have a good - not great - game and for Scheffler to play out of his mind. I'll let you know what happens tomorrow!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Reading/Listening/Watching-Playing

Time for an update on what I've been reading, listening to and watching-playing. Read on and you'll see why I combined watching and playing.

READING
I'm still working on Made to Stick by the Heath brothers. It's a great book and completely interests me, I just haven't found much time to digest it lately. Hopefully that will change soon! I've got a few others I'm looking forward to starting

LISTENING
Thanks to a link I found on Tony Morgan's blog a long time ago, I found SpiralFrog. It's a site where you can download music for free, but you can't burn it to a CD or sync it to your iPod. You also have to sign up for a 30-day membership which you can renew as many times as you want. So, if you listen to music while you're at your computer it's a pretty cool site. The selection is nowhere near as good as iTunes, but you can't beat free! My latest download is the Counting Crows' Greatest Hits ... classics!

WATCHING-PLAYING
The only thing I've been watching lately is NFL football. I love it now more than ever and the reason is simple: I'm playing in three fantasy football leagues so almost every game means something to me. By the way, I made the playoffs in all three leagues. I'm in two championship games and one semifinal this week. In one league, I was the last team to make the playoffs as the No. 6 seed and I upset the No. 3 and No. 1 seeds to make it to the final game. I'll let you know how I finish in all three leagues and hand out some postseason awards soon. For now, here's a guy who stands a pretty good chance of getting one of my awards ...


It's all for you!

I've said before how my wife doesn't like the idea of me putting pictures of our kids on the internet. I've also said that I respect her opinion and haven't put any on my blog yet.
But, since it's Christmas and since my kids are just so stinking cute, I'm going to risk it and let you guys have one glimpse.
This very well may get me into a lot of trouble and this post may have to taken down sometime, but it's worth it. I love my kids so much and I can't possibly hold out on you any longer.
So, if you care at all about me, please leave a comment telling me how thankful you are for these pictures. It may help my case with my wife!
We took some pictures the other day, hoping to get one suitable for use as our family Christmas picture. As you can imagine, there were a few decent ones and plenty of not-so-good ones. The first one is the one we settled on as the best and included in our Christmas letter. The rest are outtakes. Then at the bottom is a picture of the kids posing in their new pajamas they received from their great-grandparents who live in California.
ENJOY!




























Tuesday, December 18, 2007

My Celebrity Look-alikes

Thanks, Rob, for this link. Here's a few guys who look like me ... sort of.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

My Team

It has come to my attention in the last few months that I am very unusual.

Some of you already knew that, but for the rest of you, I'll try to explain.

I don't have a team I claim as My Team.

Most of my friends have their various teams they cheer for on a regular basis. They stick by those teams in good times and in bad. They are not fair-weather fans. They are die-hards.

Me, not so much.

For a long time now my philosophy has been to simply enjoy sports with no special affinity for any certain team. That way I can almost always enjoy whatever game I'm watching because I don't care who wins. I just like to see good games.

Well, apparently this philosophy does not sit too well with the folks who don't feel the same way. They call me names. They make fun of me. They think I'm simple.

I understand their way of thinking. I understand having strong emotional ties to certain teams.

At one point in my life I considered myself a Notre Dame football and North Carolina basketball fan. I used to care a great deal about those teams. But I grew out of it.

Now, as a gesture of compassion to those who I've offended with my sport worldview, I'm going to choose a team to call my own.

This was not an easy decision for me, and I'm almost perturbed to have come to this conclusion. But, after listening to coach Tony Dungy on Focus on the Family for the past two days, I can't help but support him and, thus, buy into the fascination of many of my friends and become a fan of the Indianapolis Colts.

Be warned, friends who are fans of the young horses, my allegiance is based solely on my respect for coach Dungy, not necessarily on the merits of the team he now coaches. Understand that should Dungy cease to coach the Indianapolis Colts, my affinity will follow wherever he goes. So, enjoy it while it lasts!

Also know this: You will not see me wearing any apparel with a horseshoe on it. I cannot, in good conscience, endorse this pathetic logo. I accept the colors of royal blue and white, but please don't ask me to don the horseshoe!
Finally, since the Colts are part of the National Football League, my old philosophy remains intact for all other football leagues and all other sports.

Go Colts!

Ownership in Meetings

My friend Derry wrote about some very special students he works with who have taken ownership of their youth group's effort to reach the lost. You can read it here.

That post got me thinking about the exciting opportunities I've had since becoming part of the staff at Nappanee Missionary Church.

Most people don't like sitting through meetings, and I understand why. There are some meetings, however, that I get excited about. When I am asked to be part of a "creative team" meeting I know some great ideas are going to come out. When I am asked to be part of a programming meeting, I know I'm going to leave with some responsibilities and the freedom to carry them out my own way.

The other day I was part of a planning meeting for the church's annual Volunteer Appreciation Night. NMC has somewhere around 800-900 people to honor on this night so it has become quite a big deal. It takes a lot of planning and a lot of people's efforts to pull it off.

We tossed around theme ideas until we landed on "All-Star Night." We're going with a baseball theme, since the event is in May, and we want to make the volunteers feel like the All-Stars.

I left this meeting with a picture of what the logo and look of the night would be and went straight to work on it. I took ownership and ran with it, and this is what I came up with.

This is the first time in my professional career that I've really felt like a big part of an even bigger team. Before, I usually just felt like the guy who was expected to make other people's ideas come to life. Not always, but most of the time. So, it's really nice to be able to take ownership and feel good about it.

I still operate within the team's overall goals, but now I get to be a player and not just the batboy. It feels good. I'm very thankful for this opportunity.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

My son, the evangelist

The other day I was working out at the YMCA early in the morning and the manager came up to me and shared a story about my son from a couple days earlier.

My son was there with my wife and daughter and the YMCA manager walked through the childcare area. He told the children to be nice to the childcare worker because she also works at the post office and she handles all the letters to Santa Claus.

My son, who is 3, walked up to the manager and told him, "Christmas is about Jesus."
I love that kid!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Summer Resolution results

As I did with my summer resolutions, I'm going to share the ups and downs of my fall goals with you. I guess fall isn't technically over yet, but I set Thanksgiving as the deadline for myself to accomplish these 10 items. Here goes nothing ...

1. Take my family on a few weekend drives to some of the best spots I know of to see the fall colors.
As it turns out, we take lots of long drives on the weekends. Living about an hour away from each set of our parents, we had plenty of opportunities to see the colors. We never took a drive with the sole purpose of seeing the leaves, but we did see them. I'll let you decide if that one counts.

2. Go to a major college or pro football game. I don't care what teams I watch, just want to experience it. (note: I've been to one NFL game and several Notre Dame games as part of the media - even stood on the sidelines taking pictures at those games - but I want to see it from the fan's perspective)
Done. Katie and I went to see Notre Dame vs. Air Force. You can read abou that day here. It was a good experience to see the game from that perspective. I got to see the good and bad sides of fans. I got to sit close to my wife on a beautiful fall day. I got to see Charlie Weis in a sweatsuit!

3. Continue fishing.
Failure. I guess I don't love fishing as much as I thought I did. The cold weather and failure to catch anything as the temperatures dropped were too much for me!

4. Play in the fallen leaves with my kids.
Check. The kids discovered how fun it is to lay in a pile of leaves, toss them in the air, jump in them and chase the dog through them. They even like raking leaves (for about 2-3 minutes at a time)!

5. Finish the two books I've just purchased - Made to Stick and Now, Discover Your Strengths. (I've only read the intro of Made to Stick and I already feel like I've got plenty to blog about and try to apply)
Ouch. I have had the hardest time getting through Made to Stick. It's a great book and each time I read it I learn something, but I'm having trouble committing much time to it. And since I'm a slow reader, time is the main thing it takes for me to finish a book. So, I'm about halfway through it and looking forward to the next one, but I don't plan on starting it until sometime in 2008!

6. Eat chili, but not too much because ...
I think I've only eaten chili 2 or 3 times, which is probably a great success!

7. Lose weight. I could stand to lose 10-15 pounds. I want to do it by eating healthier and establishing a consistent workout routine that includes lifting weights and some sort of cardio exercise (preferably basketball) 2-3 times per week.
I posted more about this goal here and here. I've had mild success, losing about 3 pounds. I'm having a hard time with consistency - exercising and eating habits. I still love my Mountain Dew! So, for now, it's not a success but not a total failure either.

8. Take lots of pictures and videos of my kids. I just realized how little we've been documenting their lives lately. For example, we have only measured and marked my son's height once. He's almost 3!!!!! By the way, he's the exact same height my daughter was when she turned 3, and my daughter is 3 feet, 9 inches. I have a feeling she's going to be tall like her mommy (6'1").
We've done pretty well with this one. We've taken some new videos, which we hadn't done since March. I tried to measure the kids again, but they were both still the same height. We've got lots of pictures and we're enjoying as much time with them as possible.

9. Look for new ways to be generous to people. This could include giving money away, but I'm thinking more of different forms of generosity. I'll try to let you know as I think of them.
After writing this I realized it would be hard to share things with you without sounding like I was bragging about how generous I was. Thankfully, some friends taught me some new things about generosity and you can read about them here. I've got some great friends!

10. Come up with a plan to start my own design business. This would not replace my job at the church, but serve as sort of a side job.
I don't have a 5-year plan or anything, but I'm on the road. I've got my laptop thanks to Dan. I'm picking up Adobe Creative Suite 2 tonight for a ridiculously low price thanks to Clay & Becki. Then the plan is to start offering free design services for the next 3-4 months so I can build a portfolio. So, if you or anyone you know needs something designed, send them my way. I only do print, no web design!

I'm not sure when my next set of resolutions will be made. I'm not feeling very resolute right now, but I will surely find some resolve sometime soon. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The coolest wife in the world



Just in case I didn't make it clear in this post, I want to tell you how awesome my wife is.
For the men reading this, be prepared to become a little jealous.
We've started a tradition of sorts in our family at Christmas where, instead of buying each other gifts we either go without gifts from each other or we decide on a gift to buy that is for both of us. Last year we both got iPods.
A couple weeks ago Katie (my wife) asked me what we should do for this Christmas. She had a couple ideas in mind and shared them. She said she thought we should either get a treadmill or, get this, a new TV.
Now, unless you know us quite well you probably don't know that we rarely watch regular TV programming. The only things we normally watch are sports (me, mostly) and movies (us and the kids). In fact, I can't remember the last time we turned the TV on just to watch a regular show.
So, while we were visiting with Katie's father and his family over the weekend, we started talking about TVs. He sort of informed us that we had to get a widescreen HD TV. We were both in the dark on why we should do this, but he was very convincing. Since that day, we've both been talking about it and Katie is really fired up to get a new flat panel LCD HD TV!!!!! (Guys, this is where some of you are probably getting a little jealous)
How many women lead the charge to get a bigger, better television in their house?
She's so excited, she wants to go out on the day after Thanksgiving and find the best deal on one.
So, I'm probably going to be watching football on my new HD TV this weekend, all because my wife wants me to!!!!!!!!


OK, for those of you that think this is a pretty shallow reason to be bragging on my wife, here's something else she did recently that made me stop and thank God for her. Below you'll see the body of an email she sent out to some of her friends who are also stay-at-home moms. To be clear, we don't have any problem with mothers that choose to work, we'd just like to encourage those that stay home.

Hey fellow stay at home mommies! You know, this morning as I was about to begin the tasks that I have to do everyday (You know the tasks that you can never get ahead on - you do them everyday no matter what, over and over) anyway, I was getting frustrated at my long list of things to do and as I was working on a task I was thinking to myself "I hate making this bed, I am sick of doing the dishes, if I have to do another load of laundry..." and at that moment I felt God whisper to me "Your only job is to love your kids".

I thought at first, yeah right, but then God kept reassuring me that my kids are my only job. I smiled and actually chuckled out loud. How did I forget that again?

You know, after that my day was great. I dropped what I was doing because the pressure was off - the Lord of Lords and King of Kings said that my job is to love my kids, not make the bed, or do the dishes, or keep up with the laundry. If my house is a wreck and my kids know that I treasure them, then I have succeeded!

I had fun with my kids today! We played games, we laughed and cuddled. I am so thankful that God gave me a gentle reminder that I don't stay home to accomplish a list - I stay home to love on my kids.

Here is some other good news - I actually got lots done around the house - but I saw my tasks in a whole new light. Getting things done is a bonus - but my kids are priority.

So, today I didn't get mad when I was interrupted 20 times trying to do the dishes - I stopped doing the dishes to take care of my babies. Then, when they were content by themselves I finished the dishes.

I am so thankful that this simple thought was given to my heart, because it completely changed my day and my kid's day.

Thank you all who stay home! It is so hard and so wonderful! Just remember to love your babies and cherish them - because the dishes, laundry, and dust will be there forever - your kids won't.

Lord, thanks for today! Help me remember it tomorrow!!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A great day

Thanks again to Neal & Leslie Yoder for giving Katie and me tickets to the ND game this past weekend. It was a wonderful day for us. It also helped me check off one of my fall resolutions!
As you can see from the first picture below, it was a much better day for us than it was for the Fighting Irish!




My buddy Craig

This is my buddy Craig Helfrich. He is a HUGE New England Patriots fan. He thinks Tom Brady is neat. Most of all, he really respects Bill Belichick!


Ok, none of what I just wrote is true, except the part about this being my buddy Craig Helfrich.
I met Craig this past summer when we played softball on the same team. Thanks to his outgoing nature, we pretty quickly became friends. This fall, he invited me over to his place to watch the first NFL game of the year between the Colts and Saints. I quickly learned of his passion for the Indianapolis Colts.
Craig is a great friend. He's almost always available and up for doing something. He's encouraging and lots of fun to joke around with. My family and I really appreciate him and are very thankful for his friendship.
As I said, I quickly learned of Craig's passion for the Colts. He's also passionate about Notre Dame football (although I don't think you'll get him to admit that right now), the Indiana Pacers and IU Hoosiers basketball. Did I miss any?
He's so passionate, in fact, that it drives him crazy that I don't have any particular team I choose to root for on a consistent basis. I usually just enjoy watching sports for the entertainment value, not because I have any vested interest in any of the teams playing.
Well, this non-commitment of mine allows me to sort of claim just about any team as "mine" at any given time. I've been doing this a lot lately as I've gone over to Craig's house for Monday Night Football quite often.
A few weeks ago when the Colts and Patriots played their big game - both were undefeated going into the game - I decided it was a good time to become a Patriots fan. This did not sit well with Craig, so we talked trash back and forth and finally made a little bet.
If the Colts won, I would have to wear a Colts hat to church Wednesday night (which really would not have bothered me much, except for people mistaking me for a horse lover). If the Patriots won, Craig would have to wear a Patriots hat. Obviously, you know the rest of the story from the picture above.
This is just one example of why I enjoy having Craig as a friend so much. He's easy to get riled up, but hard to offend. He's been a blessing to me and I just wanted to let you all know.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Deep thought

Take your time, this one may take a while to digest (pun intended).

"The hardest part about being on a diet is not eating when you feel hungry."

I said this to myself as I passed a big pile of chocolates in the office today. Then I ate two.

Meeting Katylynn


Because I've been a little under the weather for the last few days, today was my first chance to meet a very special little girl named Katylynn.


Most of you probably read Derry's blog (I know because almost all the traffic on this site comes through his site) and already know Katylynn's story. In case you don't, she is a newborn who was adopted by Derry and Janelle Prenkert. They've been trying to have children of their own for nearly 6 years and, through some incredible circumstances, decided to adopt this baby.


Holding a 6-day-old baby is like nothing else, except like holding a 5- or 7-day-old baby I guess. Katylynn is currently less than 7 pounds and she slept soundly the whole time I held her. I could have easily slipped into a nap myself if I didn't have to get back to work.


I am so thankful for this little girl. She is an answer to so many prayers by Derry & Janelle as well as many family and friends, including my wife and me. It's amazing to see Derry & Janelle with her. They're so natural, almost like they've been waiting for this opportunity for a while.


Katylynn is definitely a beautiful child. She is incredibly precious and has been blessed with amazing parents. So, I am honored to be part of her life. I want to help Derry & Janelle be the best parents they can be, in whatever way I can. They've already dedicated her to the Lord and I promise to aid them in that commitment.


Welcome, Katylynn!

Sad, but true

I'm 31 years old and still can't grow a full beard.

Even sadder, some of what does grow is turning white.



Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Friday, November 9, 2007

Generosity bestowed

In my fall resolutions, I mentioned wanting to find new ways to be generous. Well, I've been learning ever since that day.

To start with, my friend Dan Erickson taught me to find creative ways to be generous to people. I told him how I had been thinking about starting to do some design work on the side but wasn't sure how I was going to buy my own equipment to get started with. He told me it might not be as hard as I thought and in about two weeks this computer showed up at my house. Dan knew of a computer his company owns that was not going to be used anymore and figured out a way to make it mine. He obviously didn't have to do this, but he did it and I am very thankful.




The next lesson was taught by people responding to the F3 tornado that went through Nappanee a few weeks ago. I heard a story of a lady whose house was destroyed yet she went out and bought 10 bags of groceries to donate to the food bank. Her reasoning was simple - she has insurance and some people don't. She knew some people needed those groceries more than she did. Wow!

Another lesson came my way yesterday when Leslie Yoder stopped by our house unexpectedly. I was at work, but she talked with my wife and somehow stumbled on the topic of cell phones. My wife just broke her phone (which is insured) and my phone has not been working very well (roaming almost all the time). Leslie and her family recently switched wireless companies and had an unused phone from their old company, which just happens to be our company. So, she went home and brought us this phone. She also brought some games for our kids. The generosity didn't stop there, either. Leslie called us last night and offered us free tickets to Saturday's Notre Dame game. This will help me check off one of my other fall resolutions.
I've written about the Yoder family before, and I continue to be amazed at their
generosity. They've taught us so much about how to be selfless servants.
The most amazing thing the Yoders have done for us has nothing to do with giving us things. What we are blown away by every time is the genuine care, kindness and friendship they give to us. I can't imagine very many couples with one child in college, one in high school and one in junior high who would make the time to spend with us.
This is where the story gets even better because not only do we have the Yoders, we have Mark & Cindi Lantz (who I've also written about before) who seem to enjoy spending time with us. They are around the same age as the Yoders and have one child in grad school, one in college and one in high school. They are busy enough without us, yet they make time to invest in our lives. What a blessing!
So, I've learned a few lessons on generosity. If I will invest some creative energy in it, maybe I can bless someone else. If I will invest some time, maybe I can bless someone else. If I am selfish, I'll never be a blessing.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Am I a loser?

192.8

When I looked down at the scale this morning, that is what I saw.
That's pretty disappointing. Not because I'm terribly overweight, but because it's more than I thought it would be.
I was telling some people this weekend that I thought I should weigh about 180 pounds. I'm 6'1" and in college I hovered around 170. So, I figure 180 should be a pretty good weight for me, as long as it's not a flabby 180.
When I was talking about losing weight, I thought I would need to lose about 10 pounds to get down to 180. So, that's why it's disappointing. Now, I've got to lose 12.8 pounds.
It may not seem like much, but I've never even tried to lose weight before so I know it's going to be tough. I'm going to try my hardest to stop drinking soda of any kind. I'm also going to try to exercise at least 3 times per week.
So, am I a loser? I hope so.

Does it count if someone else does it?

I made a fall resolution to go for a drive with my family simply to look at colorful leaves. Well, I've come up short and I think time is running out for me to get it done. But, I was happy to read this morning about a trip Corey Mann took with his family. Thanks for picking up my slack!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Lucky kid

There is a little girl out there who is about to be blessed.
My friends, Derry and Janelle, are anxiously waiting for her. In fact, they have been waiting for her for more than 5 years.
I believe this little girl has been waiting for them too. Even though she is not coming to them in the expected way, I believe she was created to be their child.
This little girl has no idea what kind of love she's about to be showered with. Derry and Janelle have no idea what kind of love is about to be born inside them.
I can't wait to meet this little girl. I feel like I've been waiting for her for a long time, too.
God is good!!!!! All the time!!!!!!

This is a picture of Derry and Janelle at New Year's Eve. With the arrival of a newborn in their home, I'm guessing they'll have this look on their faces quite often in the next year or so!!!!!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Why Can't I Help?

As most of you probably know by now, Nappanee (the city where I work and go to church) was hit by a tornado four days ago. It was devastating. I just got to drive through one of the hardest-hit areas this morning and I couldn't believe my eyes.
My family and I were seeking shelter at home the night the tornado hit and we didn't know until the next morning how bad it had been in Nappanee. We spent that day doing our normal stuff, but were feeling a need to try to help.
Saturday we sent the kids to my parents' house for the night and called to see what we could do. We were denied. We were told our help wasn't needed.
What?
How could there be that much damage and our help wasn't needed?
It turns out that there was such an overwhelming response that there wasn't enough organized to accommodate all the people who wanted to help.
My first reaction to being turned away was frustration and a little bit of anger. All I wanted to do was help and I wasn't allowed to do that. My attitude was less than exemplary.
We received a call later that day asking if we could help from 10-Midnight at the church. I was hesitant at first - again my attitude was terrible - but we decided to go. I am glad we did because just getting the perspective of all that had happened it two days was worth the trip.
I now understand how too many people trying to help can be a bad thing.
I also understand that there's plenty of work to do and it's going to take a long time to recover from this tragedy. So, I'm trying to be patient and wait for a time when there is a need I can fill.
Please pray for Nappanee. This is an awful time, but if people can possibly meet God during this time it could be wonderful!

For some pictures and a great perspective of the last few days, please read Derry's blog.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

I'm blessed!

Some of you who read this blog but don't know me very well may have wondered why I don't talk much about my wife and kids, at least not in specific terms. Well, that's because my wife is pretty cautious about how much information I put on the www. I can't blame her.

Earlier this week, she changed her position - slightly - and you're all in for a treat!
Below, you'll see a picture of the most beautiful woman in the world. You're probably asking, "Why would she let you put a picture of a supermodel on your blog?" Well, that's my wife Katie!!!!!!!

Man, is she beautiful or what?

I want to tell you what makes her so beautiful, because it's not as obvious as it may seem just by looking at her. You see, this woman is one of the most fun people I've ever known. She loves to laugh. She loves to be silly. She loves to help others have fun.
On top of being really fun to be with, Katie deeply loves people. She cherishes relationships with family and friends. She is a great encourager and shows her love for others in amazing ways.
Katie is a wonderful mother as well. She takes amazing care of our two kids (who I can't share much about yet). One of the passions of her life is being at home to raise them and teach them how to love Jesus.
My wife is an amazing friend. I know she's always got my back, even when I don't deserve it. There's nobody else I'd rather be with than her.
Katie is also very gracious. She has forgiven me for some pretty huge mistakes and she doesn't hold a grudge for any of them.
Most of all, my wife is a Godly woman. She loves Jesus Christ and wants to be more like Him every day she lives. She serves Him and shares Him with others.
So, even though she may look like a supermodel, that's not what makes her beautiful. She's got a lot more to offer than that! And, man, I am blessed!!!!!!!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Regeneration


"We are not going to tell a generation to go to hell. We're going to tell them they can have the Kingdom here and now."
That's what my pastor, Dave Engbrecht, said during a recent meeting I was in discussing the upcoming Global Impact emphasis at Nappanee Missionary Church.
Have I ever told you how much I love my church? Man, I am so glad to be attending and working at NMC. I love the heart my church has for people of other nations.
Every year, NMC devotes a certain month (or week) to emphasize the things we're doing around the world to minister to people in need. There's a new twist this year, though. Our focus is not going to be geographic. It's going to be demographic and we're calling it "regeneration."
We're targeting anyone 20 and younger. We want to tell that generation we believe in them, we love them and we want them to have eternal life.
I run sound during the junior high gatherings on Wednesday nights and I love those kids. Yes, they can be annoying, frustrating and perplexing, but once you get past all that there is an incredible amount of potential. They're creative, energetic, bold and just dying for something to get excited about.
I'll try to post more about this whole idea of regeneration as we move forward. Please pray for anyone you know who is 20 or younger. They need your suport!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Fall Resolutions

Disclaimer: When I use the word "popular" what I mean is generaly uninspiring, yet scarcely worthy of perusal.

Since my Summer Resolutions post was one of my most popular, I'm going to post some Fall Resolutions now.

"Fall is my favorite season. I love the colors, the weather, the crisp air."
That's how I started the summer resolutions, so you can see why I'd like to make this Fall significant. Fall already holds many of my favorite memories and I'd like to add to that collection this year.
Here's a few things I'd like to accomplish between now and, say, Thanksgiving.

1. Take my family on a few weekend drives to some of the best spots I know of to see the fall colors.

2. Go to a major college or pro football game. I don't care what teams I watch, just want to experience it. (note: I've been to one NFL game and several Notre Dame games as part of the media - even stood on the sidelines taking pictures at those games - but I want to see it from the fan's perspective)

3. Continue fishing.

4. Play in the fallen leaves with my kids.

5. Finish the two books I've just purchased - Made to Stick and Now, Discover Your Strengths. (I've only read the intro of Made to Stick and I already feel like I've got plenty to blog about and try to apply)

6. Eat chili, but not too much because ...

7. Lose weight. I could stand to lose 10-15 pounds. I want to do it by eating healthier and establishing a consistent workout routine that includes lifting weights and some sort of cardio exercise (preferably basketball) 2-3 times per week.

8. Take lots of pictures and videos of my kids. I just realized how little we've been documenting their lives lately. For example, we have only measured and marked my son's height once. He's almost 3!!!!! By the way, he's the exact same height my daughter was when she turned 3, and my daughter is 3 feet, 9 inches. I have a feeling she's going to be tall like her mommy (6'1").

9. Look for new ways to be generous to people. This could include giving money away, but I'm thinking more of different forms of generosity. I'll try to let you know as I think of them.

10. Come up with a plan to start my own design business. This would not replace my job at the church, but serve as sort of a side job.

OK, that's it. Ten things I need to get started on. What do you hope to accomplish in the next few months?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

My Parents


My parents recently celebrated their 35th anniversary.
If you stop and think about it, that fact could probably stand alone as a pretty good post. But, there's so much more to the story.
My mom is not my dad's first wife. My mom and dad were pregnant with my sister before they got married. My dad is a recovering alcoholic. Theirs is a great story of grace, forgiveness and salvation.
I lived the first five years of my life breathing in secondhand smoke (which might explain something about me!) and watching most of the adults in my life drink alcohol like I now drink soda. I vaguely remember my dad letting me taste his beer (further explanation of my current state).
Another vague memory I have is of my mother and me picking my dad up from jail after getting arrested for drunk driving.
Recently my dad and I went on a short camping/fishing trip and I got the chance to talk to him about some of these memories. It was good to hear it from somebody who remembers it better than I and it helped me put some of the pieces of my family's story together.
My dad told me his perspective about the day we picked him up from jail. It wasn't his first time there, but it was mine. My sister was old enough to be in school, but I was still at home. I guess I was in my pajamas when we walked in to get him and the sight of me hit him like a hammer.
That was more than 27 years ago and my dad hasn't had a drop of alcohol since. Not too long after that he quit smoking and decided it was time for us to start going to church. A clear memory I have is of him telling me we should start going to church and me replying, "I don't think so." Apparently my opinion didn't count for much back then because we started going to church and it was not very long before my dad accepted Jesus into his heart and was made new.
The great thing about all that stuff happening so long ago is that I don't remember it very well and most of my clearest memories are from after he was saved. It's also good to have the fuzzy memories I have of the bad times because it is a reminder to me of how good God is.
My mother grew up in a Christian home and I'm still not sure how she got hooked up with my dad, who was a divorced alcoholic. Maybe she was going through a rebellious stage. I guess I'll have to go camping with her sometime. Whatever the reason, I'm glad she took a chance on him and was on board with going to church.
My parents have served in the church almost as long as they've been attending church. My dad is a long-time Sunday school teacher and they both served as youth group leaders on an off throughout my time as a student.
My parents were fairly strict with my sister and me, at least compared to many of my friends growing up. I didn't see the value of this until later in life, but man am I glad they gave us those rules!
Now that I'm a dad and I have a daughter who is 5 and a son who is 3 (somewhere near the same ages of my sister and I when my dad stopped drinking) I'm trying to look at myself and see what I need to do differently. There are plenty of bad habits I should drop; plenty of good habits I should start.
The most important thing, however, is my relationship with Jesus. If I get one thing right as a parent, it's going to be setting an example of a life lived in relationship with Jesus. Now, I've got a long way to go before I consider myself a success at that, but at least I have a goal.
Who knows, maybe 27 years from now my son (and daughter) will look back and be as thankful as I am for a dad who gave his life to Jesus. That's my ultimate mission.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

MinistryCOM Takeaways - Part 2

Both days of this conference had a different feel, in my opinion. Day 1 was more of a "what are we in for?" feel, while Day 2 had a "I'm ready for more!" feel. At least that's the way I experienced it. So, here's what I brought home from Day 2 at MinistryCOM.

General Session 3 - Shawn Wood, Experiences Pastor, Seacoast Church
Brand Schizophrenia
1. Two faces of brand: a. the expectation of an experience; b. the emotional aftertaste left by an experience.
2. It's not what you say, but what they say.
4. Characteristics of an experience: Distinctive, Relevant, Memorable, Effective.
5. Create for and as unto God.

Breakout Session - Ashley Schuermann, Graphic Designer, Seacoast Church
Graphic Design in Ministry
1. Online printers can save you money.
2. Anything seen by 100+ people goes through the designer.
(this was a very practical, nuts-and-bolts session)

Breakout Session - Glynnis Whitwer, Senior Editor, Proverbs 31 Ministries
Revamping Your Newsletter
1. Women in their 40s are the most likely audience of a church newsletter.
2. Don't assign an article to a pastor without very specific instructions.
3. Pick a style and stick with it.
4. Embrace your editorship.
5. Always improve.

Breakout Session - Ginger Sinsabaugh McDonald, Top Cookie, TastyFaith.com
The Crave Factor
1. Don't tell people what they need -- create a craving.
2. Know your audience (really well).
3. Keep it simple.
4. Say it in a new way.
5. Don't expect overnight results.
6. Start using creative briefs. (I can tell you what these are if you care)

General Session 4 - Kem Meyer, Communication Director, Granger Community Church
Everybody Doesn't Hate You, It Just Feels Like It
1. Get an image consultant.
a. Find out how you come across to others.
b. What do people say about me?
c. Accountability & Advocacy.
2. Check your ego.
a. What is your motive?
b. Are you taking yourself too seriously?
c. Is it about control or are you looking for ways to help relieve the team's pain?
d. Is it about helping people do what they want to do or getting them to do it your way?
e. Are you having conversations or sending emails?
f. Do you admit mistakes?
g. Are you asking questions or making statements?
3. Find common ground with those you work with.
a. Keep your emotions in check so you can care for co-workers.
b. Show up at events from other ministries just for support.

So, there it is. As you can see, I've got a lot to process from these two days in Nashville, which is an awesome city by the way.
I probably won't write any more about this topic, unless more is requested. These last two posts were actually more for my benefit than anything else. It will help me to have this info an an easily accessible spot.
I'm planning a few posts in the next few days, so don't give up on me if you were bored with MinistryCOM. I'm going to make some fall resolutions and share with you about some of the most important people in my life.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

MinistryCOM takeaways - Part 1

Since I could never sufficiently recapture the significance of each general session and breakout from MinistryCOM, I'm going to share my big takeaways from each. This was my first time at an event like this and it was very valuable.
One of the main benefits, which probably won't show up in any of my big takeaways, was realizing how many people there are who do the same job as me and deal with all the same issues as me. We are a privileged group of people, but sometimes we don't feel privileged. We feel misunderstood, alone, disliked and in the way a lot of times. But, we also are blessed. We get to use our gifts to advance the Kingdom every day. We get to support our pastors and other church leaders. We get to serve the people who attend our churches.
So, here's what I learned on Day 1 of MinistryCOM 2007.

General Session 1 - Terry Storch, Digerati Pastor, LifeChurch.tv
"Communication Revolution"
1. Church 1.0 vs. Church 2.0
One-way communication vs. multi-faceted communication
Service times vs. Experiences anytime
Walls vs. Omnipresent church
Physical outreach vs. Online community organizer
Everyone invites one vs. One invites everyone
2. We have a greater opportunity than ever before to reach the world - we have to own it.

Breakout - What Tools Do You Use? (Discussion group)
1. There's way more out there than I ever imagined or thought I needed!
2. Develop a style guide - consistency is impossible without it.

Breakout - Church Marketing Lab LIVE!
1. Design is much more than making something look pretty - there has to be a concept and all the elements must support the concept.
2. Do creative briefs (more on that later)

Breakout - Dawn Nicole Baldwin, Founder & CEO, Aspire One
Branding 101
1. Definition of branding: The practice of delivering a promise that reflects the mission, uniqueness and personality of your organization.
2. If we're not intentional about defining who we are, others will do it for us.
3. Don't ask, "What are we trying to say?" but, "What conversation are we trying to create?"
4. Clarify the vision; Identify your biggest fans; Give them something to talk about; Give them tools to share the story.

General Session 2 - Brad Abare, churchmarketingsucks.com, Center for Church Communication
A Matter of Message
1. Be Salty: Pursue more of God
2. Be Transparent: Pursue your own story
3. Think Local: Pursue Others
4. Keep it Simple: Purse a life of less

Like I said, this is in no way intended to capture all of what went on at MinistryCOM, but share with you my biggest lessons learned. If anyone wants more information, or clarification, on any of what I shared, please ask. That's it for Day 1. Tomorrow I'll give you the rundown of Day 2.

Catching up is hard to do

Today is my first day back at work after a whirlwind trip to Nashville and a whirlwind trip to Indianapolis. It's good to be back in the normal routine, although I think it might take a few days for it to be normal.
I've been out of the habit of blogging for quite a while (20 days, to be exact) so let me get you caught up.
At church we launched a new series, called "Centered?" which made me extremely busy and without time to update the blog. You can see some of the "Centered?" stuff at my flickr site.
I also had to get things ready for my absence last week, which was kind of challenging. I have trouble handing responsibility off to other people. I don't know if it's because I don't think they can do it, or because I don't think they should have to. Either way, that just added to the busy-ness.
Last Wednesday my wife and I headed to Nashville for MinistryCOM, a church communication conference. We spent two nights and two days in Nashville before heading home late Friday night. We spent the night in Mishawaka, where our kids were staying, and then drove home early in the morning. At noon on Saturday we left for Indianapolis (Carmel, actually) to attend my cousin's wedding. Saturday was also my birthday (31)We stayed the night there and drove home Sunday afternoon. Monday was a catch-up day where we took time to be together, get groceries and do some birthday shopping. I then headed to my friend Craig's house to watch Monday Night Football.
So, now I'm at the end of my first day back and it feels good. In the next two posts I'm going to try to highlight my time at MinistryCOM. Stay tuned ...

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Summer resolution results

With the start of school and football season, I think it's safe to say summer has come to an end. For those of us who are no longer in school and don't play football, maybe we can stretch summer out a little longer, but fall is nearly upon us.

With that, I'm going to revisit a post from June 1. It was a list of the things I wanted to accomplish during the summer of 2007. I'd like to evaluate how successful I was, so here it goes:
1. Spend as much time outside as possible (preferably with my wife and kids)
I believe I accomplished this one. We spent countless hours in or near the lake, playing outside, visiting neighbors (thanks for a great summer, Yoders!). I spent many hours on the tractor mowing grass. I got up early and went fishing probably 85% of the summer workdays.

2. Date my wife at least 10 times
Unfortunately, I don't think I met this goal. I did date my wife numerous times, but I don't think it was 10. We may have gone out 6-8 times and each one was great. I did plan a special date that we've never done before: dinner and a movie on the lake.

3. Take my wife on a weekend getaway
We haven't done it yet, but in mid-September we're going to Nashville for 3 days. It's for a conference, but it's still just the two of us going away for a few days.

4. Visit with friends and family
It seems like we saw a lot less of family than usual, but a lot more of friends.

We even made some new friends this summer. Our summer neighbors, the Yoders, became more than just neighbors - they're now some of our favorite friends. Craig Helfrich played on the same softball team as us and a friendship has started there. The Lantz family has become an important part of our lives - good friends.

We got to see some old friends, too. Dan Erickson came to town twice and I got to play disc golf with him each time. Despite being badly beaten both times, it was a great time. We saw Mark & Stephanie Troyer and their two boys for the first time in several years. We just recently made a trek up to Niles to visit the Becraft family, and got a bonus when we stopped by our old church. There was a Fun Fair going on there that day and we caught up with a bunch of old friends.

I'd say this one was a success.

5. Get my money's worth ($17) out of a fishing license
As I mentioned in #1, I went out nearly every morning before work. I also got to spend some longer stretches of time on the lake with friends. Definitely accomplished this goal. Just this morning, I caught the biggest fish of the summer - a 24-inch walleye. This is a sampling of what I (and others) caught.

6. Play more than 2 rounds of golf
I have yet to play any golf. Although, I'm supposed to play in an outing with Jeff Becraft on Sept. 8! So, I failed, but I don't feel too bad about it. Golf takes a lot of time and money, both of which can be better spent elsewhere.

7. Cook out more than cook in
A lot of my outdoor time was spent cooking on the grill. We came up with some new recipes and had a great time using open flames!

8. Eat more corn on the cob
Oh man! We discovered Sweet Corn Charlie this year and if we ever move far away it's going to be hard to eat corn from anywhere else. So, yes, I ate more corn on the cob!


9. Read 2-3 books that challenge me (currently reading "God's Secret Agent" by Sammy Tippit)
God's Secret Agent was a good one for me. You can read my thoughts on it here.

I also read The Five Love Languages of Children and you can read what I thought here.

Overall, I'd say one of the two challenged me, but I learned from both!

10. Serve others in new ways
I guess this fits here - I spent five days with my kids while my wife was gone at camp. It called for me to serve those kids in ways I could never have imagined. I loved it. We had a great time. You can read a little about it here, here and here.

Now, as summer ends I've started serving in the Junior High Wednesday Night Youth gatherings at church. I'm running sound and tech. It's definitely a learning experience and I'm beginning to love those Jr. Highers!

11. Play disc golf with friends
As mentioned in #4, I played twice with Dan Erickson. It's a hobby (not really a sport) that I'd love to pick back up. Maybe when my kids are old enough to play with me I'll get back into it. But at least I can check this one off the list.

12. Do a parrot head pose for a picture
Nope. Sad. I need to get with Derry and pose one before August ends. Will that still count?

13. Take my family to a beach
Took them to the Warren Dunes in Michigan. What a great day. You can read about it here.

14. Swim
Living on a lake, it's inevitable. Lots of time in the lake - lots of lake water in the stomach. Yum.

15. Camp
Had a great camping trip with my dad, who I plan to post more about soon. You can read about the camping trip here.

16. Run, and finish, a 10K race

Not even close! That's why this was #16 on the list!

17. Drink iced tea
We made so much iced tea this summer I'm pretty much a walking antioxidant.

18. Learn to play my guitar
I took one lesson - does that count?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Curveball

After the overwhelming response (ouch) to my plea for advice on the next book to read I've decided to take a different approach.

I've chosen a work of fiction to tackle next.

Since I don't currently own any of the books I listed as possibilities, I'm going to have to wait until I get some cash to buy anything. Plus, I'm going to MinistryCOM Sept. 12-14 and I'm thinking that will be a good place to get advice on which books to soak in.

I figured in the meantime, I'd find a book to just enjoy.

My wife has been recommending Ted Dekker books for the past few years, but I've always found a reason not to read any of them. I know he's a pretty popular Christian fiction writer, so I found my wife's copy of Showdown and read through one chapter. Well, it was so bizarre that I kept going and now I'm 5 chapters in and eagerly anticipating what's next.

So, for all of you who took the time (thanks, Dan) to offer some advice, I'll revisit it in mid-September!

Friday, August 17, 2007

One more ...

One more book I thought of:

Through Painted Deserts: Light, God and Beauty on the Open Road

Let me know.

What to read next?

I've got a list of seven books I'd like to read, but can obviously only choose one to start next.
Here's my list:

Made to Stick
Mavericks at Work
In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day
Now, Discover Your Strengths
The Blogging Church
Design Matters: Creating Powerful Imagery for Worship
Good to Great

If anyone reading this has read any of these books, please let me know what you thought. I'm a slow reader, so whichever book I choose I'm making a pretty big time investment. I want to choose the best one. Thanks for your input!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Fantasy feelings

I'm feeling pretty good about the way my Fantasy Football draft turned out, despite not being able to participate live.
I'm in a keeper league. We keep up to 3 players, but all must be different positions. So, my keepers were LaDainian Tomlinson (RB), Drew Brees (QB) and Marvin Harrison (WR).
Here's a list of the other players I ended up with, by position:

QB: J.P. Losman
WR: Santana Moss, Braylon Edwards, Joey Galloway, Ronald Curry, Bobby Wade
RB: Cadillac Williams, Chester Taylor, Vernand Morency
TE: Todd Heap, L.J. Smith
K: Shayne Graham
Def: New England, San Francisco

I think I got a pretty good lineup. There's some throw-away players in there, which is good because it makes it easier to pick up new players. For example, I've already chosen to drop Morency to pick up Jeff Garcia.
For anybody reading this who doesn't care for sports or fantasy sports, I'm sorry to have wasted your time.
For the people who love sports and fantasy sports as much as I do, you probably have plenty of advice for me, and I welcome it. Man, I'm excited for football season!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

What I'm done reading

I'm not sure how to describe my feelings about this book. It's the only of the "Love Languages" books I've read to completion. It was not my first choice for a book to read at the time I started it, but I ended up reading it because I was following my wife's advice and hoping to gain some insight into my children's emotions.
I would definitely say I gained the desired insight, although I'm not sure it applies to my children yet - which is a good thing. I learned that children don't start showing clear signs of a preferred love language before they are 5 years old. My oldest child just turned 5 so I read this book at a perfect time. My youngest is soon to turn 3 and it should help me watch for signs from him of leaning toward a particular love language.
While I'm not entirely convinced that Chapman has nailed down the only 5 love languages known to man, I do buy into the theory that each person receives love in different ways. Some people are more sensitive to certain expressions of love than others. That's easy to see when I look at myself, my wife and my kids (although they haven't chosen their top language yet!).
With that in mind, I feel this book has helped me evaluate people differently - especially people I care for. I now look for signs of love language preference. As my children mature, I think I will be more aware of the ways they sense and accept expressions of love.
I know this has been a vague book review, but the big picture stuff is about all I can recall clearly. Having a few other books in mind, there were times when it was tough for me to push through to the end of this book. Although, I do think it was a valuable read.
If anybody reading this wants to read this book (despite the glowing review I've just given) don't buy it - borrow it. I'll lend you my copy.

Fantasy technology

I don't use the computer all that much at home. In fact, I think this is only the second time I've posted from home. The reason is that we have an old laptop with a dial-up connection. Things don't move very quickly, you know?
Anyway, the old laptop really disappointed me tonight. I tried to get into my fantasy football league's live draft, but couldn't. I had even tested the system a few days ago and it said everything should work.
This was going to be the first time I've actually taken part in a live draft. Always before I've just let my pre-draft player rankings decide who my next pick would be. And, I've got to admit that it's worked out pretty well for me that way.
So, what am I complaining about? I probably would have just screwed things up if I had actually gotten into the live draft.
I'll report back with my roster once the draft is over.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Doing what's right

The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.
- Luke 23:55-56

As I read this passage this morning, it really struck me. It took me a few minutes to understand why, but I figured it out.
The women who were closest to Jesus while He was on earth had just witnessed his death - possibly the greatest tragedy in any of their lives. They followed Joseph and watched him bury Jesus. He was not in a casket, dressed nicely in suit and tie. I don't know if His body had been cleaned or not, but they were watching His dead body be laid in a tomb.
Then they did the next logical thing in their minds - they prepared the spices and perfumes they would put on His body.
Then, almost as if they hadn't thought about it up to this point, they are forced to rest because of the Sabbath.
This is the significant part for me. Despite going through a great tragedy and being totally focused on what they needed to do next, these women obeyed the commandment to rest.
They could have easily used the circumstances as an excuse to skip the Sabbath, just this once. After all, Jesus' body needed to be dressed with the spices and perfumes they were preparing.
I know in my life, it doesn't even take a tragedy for me to excuse myself from doing what I know is right. I can rationalize disobedience a number of ways - just give me a second to think of one.
Is this an issue of disobedience or is it an issue of belief? Do I really believe what I say I believe? Are my convictions real? Do I just claim then because it's what I'm supposed to do?
I need to figure out if I really, truly believe my convictions. Then, if I do, I need to stick to them - no matter what the circumstances.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Fishing update





















It's not going to break any records, but it's a keeper!

Friday, August 3, 2007

He Makes Others Great

I love to watch Steve Nash play basketball. He's a squirrely, wiry, sneaky little guy.
And the thing he does best is pass to his teammates.
Steve Nash "serves" up assists. In this video, he had 21 assists in one game. That's a lot!
Nash is not the biggest, fastest, most athletic basketball player you'll ever see. In fact, he's among the NBA's "little guys" and probably one of the league's least athletic players.
However, he has been the MVP of the league three years in a row.
I'm telling you all of this because there's a lot of times when I wish I had more ability. I sometimes wonder why God has put me in a behind-the-scenes roll. Why did He gift me in areas that don't garner much attention?
Well, if you were to run into Steve Nash on the street you wouldn't think, "He must be an NBA player." In fact, you probably wouldn't notice him at all because he looks like an average Joe.
But Steve Nash has taken his gifts and used them to make his teammates better - that's why he's the MVP. There's no other player in the league who is more "valuable" to his team than Steve Nash.'
If I can take the gifts I have and use them to make everyone else around me better, could I be the MVP? And, even if I'm not the MVP could I help my "team" win?
I want to take those things that God has created in me and leverage them for His glory. I want to use what I have to make others shine.
I'm not the most creative. I'm not a good public speaker.
I didn't do well with Biblical languages in college.
But, none of that disqualifies me from being an effective minister. All I need to do is focus my talents and energies on helping the "star" players (in my case, pastors and other front-line ministers) be better at what they do.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

My New Love

I love fishing!

I grew up fishing every summer, but then took quite a few years off before picking it back up again when we moved to the lake in September of 2005. This summer I've really gotten into it. I get up almost every morning an hour early and spend an hour out on the pier fishing. I've had a few good days, but mostly I catch small stuff. But I still love it.

The other night I stopped by the Yoders' to ask Neal a question. He was in the midst of re-stringing some fishing reels and we talked for a few minutes. He got one reel finished and asked me to test it out for him. He said, "Here, cast this out and catch a bass." I haven't had too much luck with bass and so I didn't think I could do it. Well, he and I proceeded to catch 7-9 bass in the next 30 minutes. None of them were keepers, but man was it fun.

He told me the secret was the time of day (just after sunset), the bait (Stutzie Bass Killer - see picture above) and the location (just off his property). Now I find myself thinking about fishing almost all the time. I'm slightly obsessed.

I had a dream last night and this is what I saw:
Wish me luck!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

What's the lesson?

I need your help to sort this one out.

Monday afternoon a phrase came out of my mouth that has been in my head since.

Sunday afternoon I rode a wave runner that maxed out at about 51 mph. Monday I rode one that didn't have a speedometer, but I'm guessing it maxed out at about 35-40 mph.

After riding the slower, I said, "I always thought if I was going to buy a wave runner it would have to be a fast one to be fun. But after riding this one (the slower) I think I was wrong. I had a lot of fun out there."

So, as I keep thinking about that phrase, I think there's got to be a lesson in it. There are probably some easy, obvious ones that come to mind quickly. But I think there are some lessons there that aren't so easy.

I'm asking anybody reading this to think about that phrase and help me sort out the lessons of that phrase. I know it was just a random statement about wave runners, but could it serve as an analogy for something bigger?

Opportunistic

I don't know if the title of this post accurately describes me over the last few days, but I hope so.
The previous post outlined several learning (to serve) opportunities I was going to have this past weekend, and today I'm going to recount how I handled each.

First, the camping trip with my dad was great. The campground was perfect (nothing fancy, but everything we needed) and the fishing was good too. We caught about a dozen fish (maybe more) and kept five. They're still sitting in my fridge, waiting to be cleaned. My wife's not happy about that.
Dad and I agreed that a trip like that would be a great yearly tradition. We'll include my son when he's old enough. So, that alone makes the trip a success in my mind.

As far as learning from my dad, it was another success. He's wise. He's compassionate. He's a servant. I want to follow in his footsteps.

Second, spending time with Derry and Janelle was awesome. We went over for a cookout Sunday after church and then did rode the wave runner. Derry shared something he learned that taught me a lesson, too. He said, "I think if you live on the lake your attitude has to be, 'Yeah, you can use our stuff whenever you want.'" I think you could take the first 8 words out of that sentence and it's a great lesson.
Third, the date with my wife was very enjoyable. I kept it a surprise for her and that made it fun for me. She doesn't do all that well with not knowing what we're doing, but she enjoyed herself. We had dinner and a movie out on the Yoders' pontoon boat. I owe several people for helping make it happen: The Yoders (pontoon), Derry and Janelle (babysitting), Marty and Mindy (portable DVD player). Good friends helped me give my wife a special night - that's a lesson to remember.

Fourth, Derry and I went fishing Monday morning on the Yoders' pontoon (I'm going to fill up their gas tank tonight!). And just like I planned, he talked about "work." It was great. We didn't talk about it a great deal, but just enough for me to see his heart. He also shared some lessons he's learning about prayer (see Derry's post here). Later that day we rode wave runners again, this time loaned to them by Jack and Shelly Lengacher - more generous people.

All in all, a great four days. I had plenty of lessons come my way and now I hope to apply them!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Learning Opportunities

I'm having a little trouble staying focused at work today. It's because I'm very excited about this weekend.
First, I'm heading to Marcellus, MI with my dad this afternoon for some camping and fishing at Cranberry Lake Campground. We've never done anything like this before - just my dad and me. I'm hoping to make this a yearly event, and in a few years when my son is old enough to enjoy it we'll take him along.
Second, our friends Derry and Janelle are staying next door to us this week and I'm hoping to be able to hang out with them. I work with both of them, but we haven't had a ton of time lately to just hang out outside of work. Although on Wednesday we all loaded in the van and went to a drive-in in Syracuse. Derry and I ate breaded cheeseburgers!!!!
Third, I've got a special date planned for my wife Sunday night. Seriously, this is the most planning I've put into something for the two of us for quite some time. I'm really looking forward to it.
Fourth, Derry and I have plans to go fishing Monday. Also, maybe some time on a jet ski. That's one of my favorite things to do on the water and haven't done it since we moved to the lake.

I know this all seems like just a bunch of "here's what I'm up to" stuff, but I'm really writing this because all of these activities should be "Learning to Serve" opportunities.

First, my dad has already taught me a thing or two. I called him last night to figure out what I need to bring on our camping trip. Basically, he's got the whole thing taken care of. I could just show up with my clothes and a fishing pole and would be fine. The trip was my idea, but he's really taken that idea and run with it. He bought me a fishing license and is supplying all the food. He'll probably try to get me to take some money for the campsite (but I won't). He's just taken this as a chance to let me know how much he loves being with me and that's something I want to pass on to my son (and daughter and wife).
Second, time with Derry and Janelle teaches me lots of things. Laughter is always a big part of our times together, and I can't get enough laughter in my life. This couple is so entrenched in ministry that seeing what's in their hearts is always a boost for me. Derry has said in his blog that he's going to try not to talk about "work" but I doubt he'll be able to stop himself for long. You see, his "work" is ministry, which is his heart. So, we'll talk about other things but I'm going to try to get Derry to talk about "work."
Third, planning a special night for my wife has been a lot of fun and definitely a learning experience. At first I was all excited about the ideas I had and trying to figure out how to make them happen. Then, I reached a point where I just wanted to give up and take her to "dinner & a movie" - the old standby. But, I pushed through that and now have a pretty cool date planned. I've got to remember to push through when things don't sound so exciting anymore. Serving others sounds so great at first, but when you actually start serving it gets pretty dull. That's when I've got to remember to suck it up and get the job done. If I do, the end result will be very rewarding for everybody involved.
Fourth, the reason Derry and Janelle are living next door to us this week is because Neal & Leslie Yoder (who I've referred to a few times before) are letting them stay in their "guest house." The reason I might get to ride a jet ski is because Andy & Kathy Brown, who also live on the lake, have given Derry and Janelle unlimited access to one while they're staying on the lake. That's two great examples of selflessness. Those families have put others ahead of themselves just because it's the right thing to do and they love serving!

So, once the weekend is over I'll report back on any interesting events as well as lessons learned.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Personal Touch

I continue to be fascinated by the things I'm learning through blogging. I'm still a baby blogger, so I know there's a whole lot I don't know yet, but the past couple months have been fun!
I really enjoy Jim Stump's series, Tuesday's Blog on Blogging. I like it so much that I'm going to use this post as a Blog on Blogging. I won't, however, be starting a similar series (at least not yet).

I recently signed up for a Google Reader account and I love it. Well, I mostly love it.
I have about 20 blogs I try to keep up with and it has saved me a ton of time each day.
The only drawback is that I usually just read new items within Google Reader and never actually visit the blogs. This bothers me for 2 reasons. First, if the blog has some sort of statcounter, I don't know if my "visits" count. Second, I don't get to see any updates people make to their blogs.
As a designer, the way a person makes his/her blog look is almost as important to me as what he/she has to say.
So, I don't know what I'm going to do. Maybe I'll just click to the blog from Reader. It's only one extra click, right?

Friday, July 20, 2007

Laugh Out Loud!

Today was a pretty busy one, so not much time to post much, but I read a great post from another blogger and I figured if I could help a few more people read it my blogging effort for today would be quite productive. So, please read Mark Batterson's post on laughter. Then, do something that makes somebody laugh!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Blogs I Want To Read

Two months into my blog life, I am amazed at how much you can learn about a person by reading his/her blog. I'm also surprised at how much I learn from the comments people leave on my blog. With that in mind, here's a list of people whose blogs I would love to read ... if they had a blog:
My wife - it would just be interesting to see what she would share with the world, and who would become her regular readers.
My Dad - being a Sunday School teacher for as long as I can remember, he would probably have some great Biblical insights to share, as well as some funny in-class stories.
Neal Yoder - his outlook on life seems to be so positive and selfless, I wonder where that comes from.
Mark Lantz - a business-minded man whose heart seems to be for ministry. A great combination!
Dave Engbrecht - if all he did was share insights into being a successful leader, it would be a great blog. But I'm guessing he'd give his readers way more than that.
Dennis Engbrecht - what's it like to work with college students every day? What's it like to see some of them make bad choices again and again while others take the high road?
Joe Focht - I'd be most interested in what it has been like raising three girls, although his thoughts on leadership would be most valuable as well.
Tim Baylor - a fresh dose of his thoughts on scripture in regular intervals would be priceless.
Mike Lightfoot - where does all that positive energy come from?
Leslie Yoder - Give, give, give and then give some more: the art of generosity.
Cindi Lantz - why take an interest in the next generation?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Mr. Mom - Part Three (Campouts, Crocodiles and Crying)

The past two days have been such a mix of ups and downs.
As I'm trying to think of how to put this into words, I can't help thinking this shouldn't be such a big deal. Five days alone with my kids shouldn't represent such a monumental time for me. I think I've got to make it a priority to either send my wife out for times of refreshing or take the kids with me for times of bonding. I can't tell you how much these past few days have made me sensitive to how hard my wife's job is. So, when she comes back we're going to reprioritize things a little bit, making sure we each get times of refreshing and times of bonding with the kids.
Back to the past two days: Sunday was great. I mean it, that was one of the best days I've ever had with my kids. We went to church like normal, then invited the Graversons (Marty, Mindy, Emma and Tyrus) over for a campfire that evening. We ate our normal Sunday lunch of pancakes and eggs, then started getting things ready for a campout.
As I was setting up the tent, I could tell the kids were excited about camping for the first time. They've experienced campfires before, but not actually staying outside all night. So, their minds must have been racing.
The Graversons came and I also invited the Yoders to join us and it turned out to be a great time of fellowship with all three families. The kids played hard and ate a little bit.
After everyone left for the night it was time for the real test. The kids and I (and Gus, our 5-month-old Golden Retriever) piled into the tent, settled into our spots and went to bed. This was the part I was really worried about, especially with Gus in there. I didn't know if the kids would freak out once the lights went out, or if Gus would just keep us awake. But, everything went as smoothly as possible. Gus slept at our feet the whole night and the kids didn't wake up until morning.
Today's agenda was simple: Go to the Fort Wayne Children's Zoo. We had never been before, and we're still getting used to the idea that Fort Wayne is as close as South Bend.
We woke up pretty early, so we got cleaned up and headed out at about 9:15. The ride there was great. Our youngest took a nap and our oldest sat still the whole time, either singing songs, talking with me or just being quiet.
Things started out smooth once we arrived at the zoo, but it didn't last. The heat, a pretty short night of sleep and three different opinions on what we should see next made for a less-than-perfect situation.
We only stayed at the zoo for about 2 1/2 hours, which was fine with all of us. The ride home and the evening activities were a test for all of us.
The kids were obviously fatigued, as was I, and 4 days without mommy finally got to our oldest child. She broke down while I was making dinner (no, it wasn't hot dogs or frozen pizza). I held her as much as I could and tried to comfort her, but the tears just kept coming. I felt so bad for her. All she wanted was her mom and a little girl time (remember, she's been stuck with 2 boys for these 4 days). It felt good to be the one there for her in her time of distress. Holding her is all I've wanted to do for most of her life, she just hasn't slowed down enough very often.
Thank goodness for the Yoders, once again. We went for a bike ride and stopped by their house after dinner. Fortunately Julia was home and gave Hanah some attention before we headed home for bedtime. Then, just before bed, Leslie and Jana came up for a quick visit. I think that eased some of my daughter's anxiety in a way I couldn't.
So, we're about 20 hours (hopefully) away from the big reunion. I know things are different on this end, and I'm sure things will be different from my wife's perspective as well. Tomorrow, there are no plans, except picking up some poster board and following Rob's advice. Thanks for all the support you guys have been giving me.