Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Crazy weekend (old guy style)

Now I realize this won't be considered crazy by most people. But, for me, it was a wild 4 days.
Here are some of the things I'll remember from Memorial Day weekend 2007:

Playing Dance Dance Revolution for the first time.

Watching my daughter reel in 3 fish with her pink Barbie fishing pole.

Breaking my iPod while mowing the lawn.

Watching Stranger than Fiction with my wife.

A surprise visit from my father-in-law and his 3 kids at church.

Eating too many pancakes after church.

My grandmother's viewing.

Catching up with relatives I haven't seen in a long time.

Eating country fried steak at Cracker Barrel at 9:30 PM with those same relatives.

Sleeping in because the kids spent the night at Grandma's house.

Waking up at 8 and wondering why I can't sleep in anymore.

Picking up the kids and then going to the hospital where my wife's grandma was having a heart attack.

Praying with relatives from my wife's side while waiting for her grandma's prognosis.

Mowing until dark.

My grandmother's funeral.

More time spent with my relatives.

Finally relaxing at home with my wife and kids.

In all, we spent nearly 10 hours in the car this weekend, but more time with family. What a blessing to have a family that cares about each other. God is good.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Longing for heaven

Tuesday night was one of the first times in my life, unfortunately, that I've had an incredible longing to be in heaven. Let me explain: I want to be in heaven, but I've never really felt like I'd rather be there than here at any particular moment in my life.

But Tuesday night, I visited my maternal grandmother for the last time. I didn't get to talk to her because she was asleep when I arrived at her home. But I stood in her room for quite some time just watching her struggle to get enough air into her lungs. Despite the struggle, she looked quite peaceful. When it was time for her nurses to check her blood pressure and clean her bed, we left the room. About 15 minutes later, they rushed out of the room and told us she was gone.

Violet Elliott was an angel of a woman. She weighed less than 90 pounds when she died, and I can't imagine she was ever much more than 100 pounds. But what she lacked in size, she made up for in love and compassion. Many of the things I'll never forget about her revolve around the food she used to make. She had a servant's heart and loved to feed people when they visited her house. Some of my favorites were her sweet pickles and cherry cheesecake (not at the same time).

Well, when my grandma died Tuesday night I knew she was finally getting to wrap her arms around her husband (my grandfather died in 1998) and look upon the face of Jesus. That's when I started longing to be gone from here.

I just kept picturing her with a new body, looking like a beautiful young woman, running to my grandpa for one of those movie-ending embraces. Then, watching her turn around and see Jesus walking toward her to welcome her with open arms. I know He said, "Well done, good and faithful servant," to both my grandparents.

I'm incredibly thankful for the lives of my maternal grandparents. They gave me a mom who is gentle, loving, faithful and selfless. Hopefully, I can carry on those traits half as well as she has.

Now that I've been able to process the loss of my grandma for a few days, I'm glad I'm here on earth because I know I've got plenty to do before my time comes to reunite with them. I hope when I die, people will think of me in a similar light as I do them. They weren't well-known. They weren't outspoken. They weren't rich. All they were is faithful and loving. That's what I want to be.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Living sacrifices

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as
living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of
worship. - Romans 12:1

As I was sitting in church this past Sunday and listening to the story of a couple from Savannah, Georgia, who left everything to start an abandoned baby center in Kenya, I had to start asking myself some questions.

1. What am I doing for Christ and others?
2. How could I possibly just drop everything if God called me to serve somewhere else?
3. Would my wife and kids understand if I told them we had to move to another country?
4. Would my wife and kids be safe if we had to move to another country?
5. Could I take my kids away from all of their grandparents?
6. What am I doing for Christ and others?

Stories of people who were willing to leave everything to follow Christ's calling are inspiring, but also very convicting. I know for certain that I'm not ready to do that, but I know I should be. If God called me to move to Africa and be the one who continued the work there, I should be ready to say, "OK God, I trust you." I want to be ready.

I'm starting to realize the dangers of surrendering my will to Christ, and the safety of it. For me, it's an incredibly scary thing when uncertainty comes into the picture. Uncertainty over the future can almost be crippling. After all, I've got to take care of my family.

But, on those few occasions that I've allowed God to comfort my soul and released the anxiety, He's never let me down. God has ALWAYS taken care of my family better than I could have.

I want to be ready for the call. I want to say, "OK God, I trust you," no matter what the call is. I want my family to be ready for me to tell them we're going to follow God's will, no matter how uncertain it may seem.

I'm glad to be in a position of support for a ministry that is concerned with God's will. But, I want that concern to be my own. I know getting paid to support one of His ministries isn't enough. I want to offer this body as a living sacrifice.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Logo design

One of the things I get to do as the graphic designer at NMC is design logos. I've only designed a couple, and I had no experience going into it, but I really enjoy it. Maybe this blog can serve as a good place to get feedback on my logo ideas. So, please, tell me what you HONESTLY think. It won't hurt my feelings if you think my idea is awful - I have a lot of awful ideas!

Here's a possible logo for the Young Adult Ministry at NMC, although they won't be needing it anytime soon.

I've also been posting some stuff at a site called the Church Marketing Lab. It's a great place where other creative types post stuff and offer feedback. Check it out sometime.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Am I relevant?

Since last October, I have been learning something new nearly every day about the church. Not this church, but THE church. I've been seeing things from a new perspective, because I've never worked at a church before.

I know the newspaper business fairly well and can understand the difficulties those in that field face. But the struggles of a church staffer were completely new to me before October of 2006.

I am a graphic designer for a large church (maybe a mega-church, I'm not sure what the cutoff is) and, as such, I'm at least partially responsible for how the church is presented to those who attend, and those who don't. I never thought about what a big deal that was until I began to hear discussions and sit in on meetings about how to present a single idea.

There's definitely some strategy involved every time you try to present something to a large group of people. First, you've got to understand the different types of people in the group. Then, you've got to decide which type is the target audience. On top of that, you need to make an attempt to send a message that will resonate with that target audience, while not alienating the rest of the group to the point that they are turned off.

I'm not writing this to show you how difficult my job is, but to make a point about what a difficult job the church has. The difference between the world view of a 65-year-old and that of a 22-year-old is monumental. But the church must reach them both, and every world view in between. And this is not even considering the differences in those who follow Christ and those who don't!

So, when I start thinking about all these challenges, and the role I play in helping my church present itself, I start wondering how relevant I am to the people I'm trying to reach.

I'm a 30-year-old white male who has lived all his life in Southern Michigan/Northern Indiana. Most of you probably understand at least some of the implications of that background. But how many people in my church last Sunday had a different upbringing than mine? How am I supposed to be able to reach them?

This is one of the problems the church is facing today. How do we reach those outside the church when we may not be able to identify with them? How do we make church relevant to them?

I bet you're expecting some kind of wonderful answer, but I don't have one. I know that I struggle with being in the world, but not of the world. I don't ever want this place to become my home, but I want the people of this world to know my savior.

A couple websites I've found have helped me with this dilemma: and

Thankfully, there is something the church can do to reach all people, no matter what age, race, gender, income level or world view - LOVE THEM!

That is the biggest lesson I've learned over the past few months. Everybody wants to be loved. And, how do you love people? SERVE THEM!

My life

I've seen other people post lists what they're reading, listening to, watching, etc. So, I figured I'd join in and give you a glimpse of my interests. I don't watch much TV, so I'm not going to list anything that I'm watching. But I love to listen to music and read, so I'll give you a few items in each category.

I'm currently reading Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell. His book, Sex God, is the last book I read. What's interesting to me about his books is that he can write the way he speaks and it works. Most people have to write totally differently than they speak for it to work as a compelling read. Bell is also a very unique thinker. The perspective he gives on very practical topics is encouraging and challenging.

Some other books I've read recently include Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster, Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller and Financial Peace Revisited by Dave Ramsey.

My current favorite musician is Jack Johnson. I realize I discovered Johnson later than most people, but, man, his music is great! It sort of makes me feel like I'm on a vacation every time I listen. The only album I have of his is In Between Dreams, but his other stuff may be an upcoming purchase.

I'm also digging an album by Shawn McDonald called Ripen. His style is pretty unique, in my opinion. He's got a very soulful voice and sound, but he's got a bit of funk in there as well.

Other favorites of mine right now include Switchfoot's Oh! Gravity and Nothing is Sound.

So, there it is - my first reading/listening list. Maybe if you don't know me well, this will help you understand me a little better.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Love His Children

I've always thought of serving as something I should do, rather than something I get to do. Since I've started attending and working at Nappanee Missionary Church, however, my thoughts have changed.

Shortly after I began attending NMC, First Serve Saturday was started.

This is a monthly event at NMC, where people give the morning of the first Saturday each month to serve at various locations in the area. I was able to be part of the first one and came away feeling blessed rather than like I had blessed somebody else.

That's when it kind of hit me that serving is as much for my benefit as it is for the benefit of others. God helped me understand a principle our pastor taught a few weeks ago: The way we give love back to God is by taking the love He gives us and paying it forward to His children. Loving other people is a key ingredient to my relationship with God. Without loving and serving others, it's a one-way relationship, and those don't work very well.

This is probably not a new concept for most people, but for me it opened up a whole new set of possibilities. Now, I get to serve others, and in turn show my Heavently Father how much I love Him.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

What is this?

I've been contemplating joining the blog world for some time. I love writing, but can never seem to find time to keep a journal. So, this blog will probably be updated once a day, at the most, during my lunch hour. But at least it's an outlet for me. And, hopefully, I'll get some feedback I wouldn't with a traditional journal.

The title is "Learning to Serve" because I've recently begun to realize that God is consistently putting me in positions where I can/must serve. I'm a husband, a father, a friend and an employee. All of those roles require me to serve if I'm going to live up to the calling.

Most recently, I've started seeing how my career can be one of service (even though I'm collecting a paycheck). I work in a "support staff" role at a large church, and I love it. It allows me to work for others and not just with others, or under others.

So, for now, the theme of this blog will be my experiences in Learning to Serve. There will surely be posts off that subject, but I want to share what I'm learning, being shaped into and ultimately becoming (as well as the bumps, bruises, cuts and healing that come along with it).

I hope you enjoy reading my ramblings. I'm going to have fun writing them.