Friday, December 31, 2010

My Top 10 of 2010

Here, in no particular order, is my Top 10 for 2010.

Top 10 what? Anything!

These are my top 10 events, experiences, people, situations, memories of this past year.

1. 10-year anniversary with my wife, Katie. We celebrated with a 10-day trip to Florida.

2. Sunday night football game at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisc., with good friends.

3. Getting paid to take pictures - something I love to do.

4. The start of my 9th and 7th years with my kids, Hanah and David, respectively.

5. My small group of sophomore guys - Dustin Yoder, Jayson Linhart, Tommy Klem, Brennan Angle, Justice Smith, Kenny Bearss, Marcus Poland, Zach Lamason, Trevor Mast, Cory Waycaster and Chandler Walters.

6. Moving into a new house. It's really an old house, but it's new to us. Plus, we remodeled nearly the entire thing.

7. The Packers.

8. Family. My sister got married. So did my sister-in-law. I'm now an uncle to three girls and a baby on the way. My parents are amazing. My in-laws are almost as amazing as my parents. Life is good.

9. My job. In the midst of almost overwhelming unemployment rates, I am very thankful to have a job, let alone one that I absolutely love, like the one I have now.

10. Friendships new and old. As we moved closer to some old friends, we have been able to reconnect with them. And it seems like every year brings new friendships with it.

Honorable mention (it's hard to narrow a whole year down to just 10): Keller Park Basketball Camp, NMC Senior High Summer Camp, Golf with my dad and with friends, Disc Golf with friends, Basketball - anytime, anywhere, New opportunities, Rediscovering old favorite music thanks to Grooveshark, Working with Carter Ammerman, Buying and selling things on Craigslist, Getting to be creative at work and home, Learning new skills ...

What's your Top 10?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Life and the Art of Home Remodeling

That's my house. My home.

Of course, that's not what it looks like now, but that's what it used to look like. It was built in 1916 by my wife's great grandfather. In its time it was one of the most modern homes in the Michiana area.

Today, the house looks a bit different - inside and out. The siding has changed, the porch is enclosed with windows, there are full-grown trees in the yard and it's on a street corner.

This past year, my wife and I have spent much of our time working on the inside of the house. We learned in February that we'd be moving there and immediately started working on the remodeling process. We completely gutted the entire top floor and refinished it, adding some new rooms and features along the way. We recently gave several rooms on the lower level a facelift and did a major renovation in the kitchen.

All the work has made 2010 a bit of a blur, but it also made it a very significant year in our lives.

Throughout the process of remodeling, I learned a lot. I learned skills. I learned about my abilities and limitations. I learned about other people's personalities and my own. I learned about my wife and kids. I learned a lot!

Here are some of the most significant lessons I've learned this past year:

Measure twice, cut once.
I've heard the saying many times in my life, but it became much more than a cute saying throughout this project. There are the obvious implications when it comes to the actual act of measuring and cutting, but there are other applications as well.

We did quite a bit of framing, hanging drywall and trim work. All of those tasks require very accurate measurements and cuts. If you fail to do so, you'll cost yourself a lot of time and money.

In the bigger picture, I learned the value of analyzing a situation before just jumping in. Similarly, the same lesson can be applied to thinking before you speak. It's not in my nature to be slow to act or speak, but I had to learn patience as I tried to get my house remodeled as quickly as possible.

When someone offers help, accept it.
I'm always tempted to go it alone. I don't know if it's just part of my personality or a function of being a man, but I find it much easier and less stressful to do things on my own than to try to lead someone else in helping me accomplish tasks. But, it didn't take me long to learn that this project was much too big for me to try to do by myself.

For example, it took two full weekends with 4-6 people working to clean out the upper level of our house and get it ready for the first steps toward remodeling. I could have done that job by myself, but it would have taken me at least a month of weekends and we didn't have that kind of time.

When others came to help I had to take time away from doing actual work to show them how they could help, but in the end we accomplished so much more together than I could have done alone.

And that leads me to the next lesson ...

Know your limits.
There were many parts of the remodeling process that I was able to do myself, but there were just as many that I could not have pulled off without help. Whether the help came in the form of actual assistance or in the giving of advice, I would have been stuck without input from others.

Several times I caught myself getting ready to jump into something that I was completely unprepared for. At some points I had to throw up my hands and call for help, but it was all part of the learning process.

Because of the help I received from others, I learned how to hang ceiling joists, frame walls, insulate walls and ceilings, build door jambs, build a proper header, use a table saw and many other tools.

My limits would not have allowed me to finish the project, but with help from others and a willingness to learn, I went beyond those limits to get it done.

Hug your wife and kids.
It was very tempting to pour every spare second into the work. And at times that's what I did. But that approach damaged my relationship with my wife and kids. The stress and lack of connection with the most important people in my life wore us down. We misplaced our priorities and paid dearly for it.

Fortunately, we spotted the problem early enough that we were able to change the trend and take breaks when it was needed. The work still got done, just not as quickly. But the relationships were restored and that is way more important than any project.

So, always take the time to hug your family. Spend time with the people who are most important to you. Then go back to work.

Friday, November 12, 2010

I Believe in You

This week has been full of unexpected lessons for me.

The most prominent has been the realization of the power of the words, "I Believe in You." pastor Craig Groeschel taught a series called I Believe in You recently and I listened to it on my way to work this week. The big idea of the series is that we all need to be involved in mentoring relationships. We all need to have mentors and we all need to be mentors. That's how Jesus modeled discipleship during his time on earth.

I've been a big believer in mentoring for a long time. Ever since someone said, "I believe in you," to me in high school it was clear to me that mentoring relationships are incredibly powerful and effective.

I had several mentors growing up, but the one that sticks out most to me is Jeff Komins. I wish he had a blog, or even a Facebook page so you could go there and learn a bit more about him. Jeff went to the same church as me when I was younger and I always looked up to him (even when I got taller than him). He was a great athlete (walked on to the Purdue football team) and that was all I needed in those days to have respect and admiration for someone. He was a little guy, but always put 110% effort into everything he did.

It took awhile for me to be able to establish a relationship with Jeff. You see, I had a bad attitude as a young teenager and was too cocky to realize I needed mentors in my life. I thought I had it all figured out and could handle things just fine on my own.

As I got older and wasn't having the success I had hoped for in sports, I started looking for ways to get better, get bigger and give myself a better chance to succeed at sports (basketball in particular). During the summer between my junior and senior years of high school, Jeff invited me to join him 2-3 times a week at his house to lift weights. I was hesitant at first because even though Jeff was not very tall, he had plenty of muscle. Plus, the way he approached everything with a great intensity was a little intimidating.

I got over my insecurities and took Jeff up on his offer and that summer turned out to be one of the best of my life. Not only did I get a lot stronger and put on muscle weight in preparation for basketball season, I learned an incredible amount about life from Jeff. He was a great example of a loving husband and father, a man striving to be more like Jesus every day and a sports enthusiast who thought it was important to stay in shape and keep yourself healthy.

Jeff and I would lift weights hard for an hour, drink a pitcher of sweet tea and play one-on-one basketball in his driveway. I spent many of my nights that summer at his house and I never once felt like I was imposing or unwelcome.

That relationship is exactly what I think of as the ideal mentoring relationship. An older guy invited a younger guy into his life, his home, and just spent time with him - sharing some insight along the way. I don't know if Jeff ever spoke these words to me, but he definitely said, "I Believe in You," in many different ways.

When I heard the series from Craig Groeschel I decided to share it with my Small Group of Sophomore guys at church. I wanted them to know that I believe in them and that they also need to find younger guys to invest in. Sure, I'm biased, but my Small Group is full of young guys with incredible potential for leadership. They are talented, funny, smart. But here's the thing - it's not because of their potential or their gifts that I believe in them, it's because God believes in them. He created them each with a purpose and all the abilities they need to carry out that purpose. He's done that in each one of us.

Reading the Bible and praying will reveal God's purpose and design for your life, but sometimes we humans need another human to affirm it. Sometimes we just need someone who is willing to spend time with us, encourage us, teach us, advise us, kick us in the butt, push us and pray for us. We are all called to do that.

So, find a mentor! Find someone to take under your wing and be his/her mentor!

It's part of your purpose in this life. It's part of why God created you!

Monday, November 1, 2010

My Thoughts on Halloween

Well, Jon Acuff said I had to do it, so here it goes:

I don't know what I think.

Yep, that's where I stand.

Honestly, I never thought this would be an issue for me but having kids changes things. We've never celebrated Halloween with our kids, who are now 8 and 6, but this year has been a whole new ballgame.

Not only are they old enough now to see/read/hear things about Halloween and start asking questions, but this year we live in a neighborhood for the first time in their lives. We actually lived in a neighborhood for the first 3 years of my daughter's life, but she was obviously too young to care about Halloween at that time.

So, this year they had the chance to see kids out and about trick-or-treating, young and old alike dressed up in all kinds of costumes and all taking home loads of candy. I think the candy part is what they really want, but they had plenty of questions for us this year. They wanted to know why we don't celebrate Halloween.

For us, it's simple. We don't like the holiday and what it stands for. But explaining that to them in a way that makes sense is difficult.

My best reasoning goes something like this:

Halloween is a day when people celebrate death, but we want to celebrate the life we have in Jesus.

Now I know not everyone views Halloween this way, but I'm pretty sure that's how the holiday started, right?

And, the older I get, the more sensitive I find myself to things that may be beyond our senses (angels and demons). Those are the things I don't like about Halloween. It seems like evil spirits, scary monsters and dead things are glorified on Halloween.

It's easy to change your family celebration of Halloween and make it about other things than death, but then shouldn't it look different too? I think celebrating the Harvest season is a great idea. But then that's kind of what Thanksgiving is for, right?

If it's all about letting kids dress up and go ask people for candy, doesn't that seem kind of strange? My kids play dress up all the time and they get candy from time to time, so those aren't good enough reasons to start celebrating Halloween.

The one issue we came across this year that made it a little difficult to hold fast to our stance against Halloween is when people come to your door for trick-or-treating. We just moved into the neighborhood in May and we've gotten to know a few of the neighbors, but there are still a lot that we don't know. Part of what we feel is our purpose and why God has placed us in our current home is to reach out to the people around us. So, the last thing we want to do is turn people away when they come to our door. And we also don't want them to think we're sitting in our house judging them for taking part in something we disapprove of.

So, we got some suckers and let our kids hand them out to any trick-or-treaters that came to the house. We didn't know how else to handle it, and our kids had a great time doing it. But, there was still this feeling of uneasiness with the whole thing for me.

So, like I said, I don't really know what I think. I can come up with all kinds of reasons to not participate in Halloween. I can't really think of anything good we are missing out on by not participating. I guess that makes it pretty clear. I just want to be able to explain it to my kids more clearly!

Friday, October 29, 2010

A Pilgrimmage

I am not a cheesehead. I still don't know for sure if that's a derogatory term or not.

I don't know much about Vince Lombardi or Bart Starr.

I wasn't born when Super Bowls 1 & 2 happened and I don't remember Super Bowls 31 or 32 either.

I don't like Brett Favre.

BUT ... I am a Green Bay Packers fan.

I have only been a Packers fan for about 3 years. I appreciate the history of the franchise, but I don't claim to have any recollection of it beyond the past 3 years.

For those of you who don't know, here's how I became a fan of the Green Bay Packers:

My first job after college was at the Niles (Mich.) Daily Star, where I was the sports editor. Niles High School was a member of the Big 8 Conference, which included St. Joseph, Benton Harbor, Kalamazoo Central, Kalamazoo Loy Norrix, Portage Northern, Portage Central and Battle Creek Central.

My first year in Niles just happened to be the junior year of a football, basketball and track star at Kalamazoo Central High School. That player was Greg Jennings.

It didn't take long to recognize that Jennings was a gifted athlete. I always looked forward to Niles' matchups with Kalamazoo Central because I knew I'd get to watch Jennings. Even after he left high school I tried to keep track of his career, which continued at Western Michigan University.

He did well at Western and was then drafted by the Packers in the second round of the 2006 draft. It didn't take Jennings long to grab a spot in the starting lineup for the Packers and I always found myself checking box scores to see how he did.

Eventually my interest turned into fanhood and now I am a full-blown fan of the whole team. I like a lot of the players currently on the team. QB Aaron Rodgers, CB Charles Woodson, LB Clay Matthews and RB Ryan Grant are some of my favorites. (I remember watching Woodson during his Heisman Trophy-winning season and I saw Grant play live several times at Notre Dame)

In a little more than a week, my fanhood will take the next step when my family and I make a trip to the other side of Lake Michigan and go to a Packers' game at Lambeau Field. It's a night game against the Cowboys and I am thrilled!

Maybe this trip will help me gain more knowledge of the franchise's history. But even if it doesn't it's a pretty awesome opportunity for a new fan of the Green Bay Packers.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Saturday, October 9, 2010

6 Years Old!

This is what my son David looked like on his 5th birthday, one year ago from today:

And this is what he looks like now:

Just looking at those pictures blows my mind. I cannot believe he is 6 years old!

David is one of the most amazing blessings I've ever received in my life. He is the best buddy I have (my daughter Hanah and my wife Katie are just as close, but the word buddy is reserved for boys). David is so much fun to have around. He can't pass up the chance to make someone laugh. He also can't pass up the chance to sneak in a sucker punch (we're working on that one).

The changes in David over the past year are incredible. He has really grown up, physically and emotionally, over the last 365 days. Since this time last year, David has become a really good helper, whether it's just cleaning things up around the house or big projects. He and Hanah pulled up nearly half of the carpet in our living room all by themselves.

David has also started school. He's already learning to read and write.

David is nearly as passionate about the Green Bay Packers as I am and he's ready to start playing organized sports with basketball this winter.

I am so thankful to God for giving David to me and for considering me worthy of being his daddy.

I love you Buster! Happy Birthday!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Weak Sauce

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

It Has Begun

Football season has started. The weather is cooler. Corn fields are brown instead of green. A few leaves have changed colors. And now my fall beard has begun. Impressive, I know.

Because I Said So!

Derry Prenkert innocently posted the following earlier today on his Facebook page:

We are officially in the "WHY?" phase with daughter. "Because I said so" seems to be my response when I want to be a lazy parent.

For some reason it stuck out to me and I made a comment. I wasn't the first commenter and I wasn't the last. Actually, a really good conversation ensued and, in the process, allowed me to discover a few things about myself and the way I parent.

Here was my first response to Derry:

I don't think "because I said so" is always a bad/lazy response. Kids need to learn to obey even when they don't know all the reasons behind the command or request. Sometimes, though, I get lazy too and say the same thing!

Later, following a few more comments I wrote this:

It seems that so many of my frustrations with my kids comes from their disobedience. When I say it's time to go to bed, they don't ask why. They just whine and complain, or just continue whatever activity they're doing. They know the reasons why because I have explained it to them before. In those times I question whether I've done a good enough job of training them to obey my requests/commands, even when they don't feel like it or don't know the reasons.

There's a tough balance to strike between holding your child's respect because of your authority and becoming a tyrant. I want them to trust that I'm always seeking what's best for them and, therefore, they can obey me with full confidence that this is going to be good for them. I don't want them to obey out of fear.

Obviously, obedience is a big thing for me. But I don't want to be a tyrant. I understand that kids will sometimes disobey, just because they're kids and they need to find out where their boundaries are. But that doesn't make disobedience acceptable, does it?

Here's the thing: We're not really talking about kids here. We're talking about us ... all of us. We are all God's children and we do the same thing to Him that our kids do to us. And if I expect my kids to obey me, whether I give them a good reason or just say, "Because I said so," then shouldn't I do the same for my Heavenly Father?

I'm striving to give them a picture of a Heavenly Father here on earth, but I've got to be willing to also give them a picture of a child of that same Heavenly Father.

I think parenting just got a little bit harder!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

It's time

I think it's time to try this again. I'm nearly 2 years older and so my chances of success should be higher. I'll keep you posted...

Thursday, September 2, 2010

I've gone overboard

I used to laugh at people who did things like this.

But I can't help it. I am incredibly excited about the Packers this season and cannot wait to watch them play.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Everybody else is doing it ...

Since everybody else is doing it (by "everybody" I mean Derry and Jason) here's my 2010 NFL Predictions:

NFC West:
This is a terrible division. From top to bottom it's full of a bunch of stinky teams. This division shouldn't be allowed to have a team in the pl........wait. The Niners. The Niners? The Niners!!!! I actually love the Niners this year. I thoroughly enjoy every word that comes out of coach Mike Singletary's mouth. I love his old-school approach and I think his team is going to dominate this division.

p.s. I was tempted to predict a surprise second-place finish by the St. Louis Rams, but it's my first division. I'm not yet prepared to make that huge of a leap.

1. San Francisco
2. Seattle
3. Arizona
4. St. Louis

NFC South:
I can't see any reason why the Saints don't repeat and make another run at the Super Bowl. The Falcons may do well enough to make the playoffs, but I can't see them beating the Saints - not either time they play this season.

p.s. If Carolina had a quarterback, I may have picked the Panthers to finish second. (Sorry, Jimmy Clausen fans)

1. New Orleans
2. Atlanta
3. Carolina
4. Tampa Bay

NFC North:
Even if I wasn't a Packers fan, I wouldn't have picked Minnesota to repeat as division champs. There are just too many things going wrong for the Vikings - injuries, mysterious headaches, wide receivers being resurrected from the dead ... and a 40-year-old quarterback with a bad ankle.

Then, you've got the Packers. Led by one of the brightest young quarterbacks in the league in Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay seems poised to make a great run this season. The only thing that scares me is that so many people are choosing the Packers as the NFC representative in the Super Bowl.

p.s. I could totally see the Lions taking the third place spot away from Chicago.

1. Green Bay
2. Minnesota
3. Chicago
4. Detroit

NFC East:
I hope I'm wrong on this one, but I just can't see any team but Dallas coming out of this division. They're all pretty good, but none are great. If Kevin Kolb turns out to be as good as the Eagles must think he is, then Philly could make a run at the division title.

p.s. I hope Donovan McNabb beats his old team twice. I don't know why, but I've always liked him.

1. Dallas
2. NY Giants
3. Philadelphia
4. Washington

AFC West:
Why are both West divisions so bad? The Chargers could finish 9-7 and win the division and get into the playoffs this season. I hope Kansas City shocks everyone and wins the division, but that's a pretty long shot. I really hope Tim Tebow ends up starting at quarterback for Denver and shows everyone he can run over people in the NFL just like he did in college, and throw a TD pass every now and then.

p.s. Did anyone notice that Charlie Weis (offensive coordinator) and Romeo Crennel (defensive coordinator) have been reunited in Kansas City? And KC has former Patriots quarterback Matt Cassell. Interesting .........

1. San Diego
2. Kansas City
3. Denver
4. Oakland

AFC South:
Is this the year Houston finally makes the playoffs? If so, it's not going to be as a division winner. The Colts have the South all but wrapped up ... already. They're just too good. I love to watch the Texans play though, especially Andre Johnson. I think he's unquestionably the best wide receiver in the NFL - huge, fast, great hands.

p.s. I hope the Titans are playing for a playoff position in Week 17 at Indianapolis because the Colts will be resting their starters and Chris Johnson could rush for 300 yards and 5 touchdowns!

1. Indianapolis
2. Houston
3. Tennessee
4. Jacksonville

AFC North:
If I wasn't such a Packers fan, the Ravens would be my favorite team. I don't know if it's the black uniforms or what, but I love watching this team. Quarterback Joe Flacco has the potential to be a Top 5 quarterback in the NFL if his receivers come through for him. And Ray Rice is an incredibly exciting runner. Surprisingly, the big question mark for Baltimore this year is the defense.

p.s. I can see a scenario where the Steelers sneak up and win this division.

1. Baltimore
2. Cincinnati
3. Pittsburgh
4. Cleveland

AFC East:
Each year, things get less and less interesting in this division. At least there's Rex Ryan and the over-hyped Jets to keep thing interesting. I really hope the Patriots come back to life and win this one, but I don't think it's going to happen.

p.s. Anybody else think Tom Brady and Randy Moss might make another magical run at their record-setting season?

1. NY Jets
2. New England
3. Miami
4. Buffalo

Super Bowl:
Packers beat the Colts.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Why do I love fall?

Early in my life summer was my favorite time of the year. I still love summer, but since I got out of high school, fall has become the best time of the year for me. There are several reasons for the switch:

1. The fall of 1995 was the first time in my life when I experienced true, authentic community with other people my age.

I had some good friends in high school, but most of them were older than me and went to different schools, so we didn't really get to experience community life. But when I got to Bethel College in the fall of 1995 it didn't take long to hook up with a group of guys who had a lot in common with me and lived in the same dorm with me. Some of those friends are still great friends to this day.

All four of my years at Bethel College were life-changing but none more than the first semester of my freshman year. I never knew there were other people my age, who liked the same things as me, who wanted their lives to be all about following Jesus and who were willing to share their lives with others. It was an amazing season of my life.

2. Football.

NFL Football and Fantasy Football are my favorites, but I also enjoy college and high school football. I never played football growing up and it's one of the great regrets of my life. I may have been terrible at it, but I'll never know.

I'm not sure what it is about football that is so captivating, but I just love to watch it. For several years I didn't have a favorite team, but over the last few seasons I've become an avid fan of the Green Bay Packers. It turns out I picked a great time to jump on this team's bandwagon, because they are one of the top teams in the NFL and have a great shot to return to the playoffs this season and maybe even make a run toward the Super Bowl.

Fantasy Football was introduced into my life in 2005 and every year since I've been enthralled with it. Again, I can't quite pinpoint what about Fantasy Football captures me the way it does, but I can't get enough. This year I'm in 5 Fantasy Football leagues, which is probably too many, but I can't say no when I get invited.

3. Fall weather is amazing.

There's nothing better than walking out of the house early in the morning and feeling a slight chill (usually when it's around 55 degrees) but the sun is bright and the air is crisp. You can still leave the house without a jacket because it's going to be 65-70 degrees later in the day. The crisp air is what separates a 70-degree fall day from a 70-degree summer day. There's just something different about it - maybe it's the different levels of humidity. Whatever it is, I love fall weather.

4. My birthday is in the fall.

The older I get the less significant the actual day of my birthday becomes, but the more significant my age becomes. Does that make sense?

It's not that I dread getting older. Quite the opposite actually. I LOVE getting older and watching my wife and kids get older with me. The longer I live the more I appreciate the good things in my life and the more I learn from the experiences I've had.

So, I'm looking forward to this fall when I turn 34!

5. School.

Any student reading this, please don't be annoyed with this one. It's not that I enjoy seeing you guys in misery, but I do enjoy the opportunities that school brings.

My daughter is entering 2nd grade this year and my son starts Kindergarten. Both are home schooled and I am so excited to see what they will learn this year. For my son, the first big hurdle is reading. He'll soon be sounding out words on his own and eventually reading short books. For my daughter, a big part of this year will be learning new math skills and mastering reading. She's already a really, really good reader but I can't wait to see her get even better. Reading is such an incredibly important part of a child's development and I'm glad my wife gets to teach it to my kids.

Beyond learning academic things, school gives most students the opportunity to learn social skills. School can be a rough place sometimes, but it's all part of growing up and becoming an independent adult.

Another thing school brings is another year of involvement with my Senior High Small Group at NMC. I have an amazing group of guys who are sophomores this year and I can't wait to dive back into their lives!

It's not fall yet, but I can feel it getting close and I'm very excited!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Building benches ...

I try not to repost things much because I'd much rather just write my own thoughts, but Jon Acuff at Stuff Christians Like occasionally ruins my day with the things he writes and today was one of those days. His post, titled Building benches instead of frisbees, has got me reeling.

As you've probably picked up from the past few posts, God has been working on me - sometimes holding me up and sometimes knocking me down - and it has caused me to take a real evaluative look at my life.

In the post, Acuff talks about finding the sweet spot that God has designed just for you. I know without a doubt that God placed me where I am and it's part of His plan, but I'm wondering if there's more to that plan. I wonder if He's got this and more in mind to get me to that sweet spot.

So, please, take a few minutes to read the post. It will be worth it.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Keller Park Basketball Camp

Last week I had the privilege of helping out with the first ever Keller Park Basketball Camp.

My last post on here was about the lasting effects of Kids In Need and how it was changing my life. This camp was an opportunity to live out what I wrote about.

I met some really cool kids and connected with some new adults I probably would never have had the chance to know if it weren't for the basketball camp. I was able to come alongside of Kory and Alison Lantz and Ryan Yazel in the ministry they're working so hard at in the Keller Park neighborhood.

One little girl, in particular, touched me deeply. Her name is Synsere and you can see her in the picture above. It wasn't until camp was over the first night that I met her. She was hanging out with some of the adults outside the court and I noticed her smile and spunk pretty quickly. Then I showed her how I could spin a ball on my finger. She seemed fascinated, so I tried several times to pass the ball to her outstretched finger. It took a while, but I finally got it to spin on her finger for several seconds and she lit up! She has a big smile anyways, but after spinning the ball on her finger she was beaming.

I played with her for a little longer and then had to get back home. The next night I brought my whole family and they, too, fell in love with Synsere. That night Kory also told me a little bit of Synsere's story. She comes from a broken home, as many of the kids in that neighborhood do. The last month of her life has been a real roller coaster and they were happy she was at camp.

I am happy too. Synsere may have changed my life last week.

Going into those three nights of camp I knew God was breaking my heart for kids who are in bad family situations, but I didn't have a face to put with that burden. Now I do. It's a face with rich, dark skin. It's a gummy smile with a few missing teeth. It's braided hair and bright eyes.

It's Synsere.

Now, every time I think about kids in rough homes I think of Synsere. She's just one of millions, but for me she's every one of them and she deserves more!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

KIN's lasting effects

Most people reading this blog are familiar enough with Student Ministries at NMC to know what KIN stands for. But for those that don't, it means Kids In Need. Last school year the entire student population (grades 5-12) at NMC focused on meeting the needs of kids around the world. The focus had three goals: GAIN awareness, GIVE sacrificially and LIVE differently.

I wrote a little about one of my KIN experiences here.

But now I want to share with you how Kids In Need has marked me deeply enough to make me LIVE differently.

Perspective has been a word I've used a lot lately. The more I learn and see, the more I'm convinced that much of how we respond to things in life is based on perspective. Looking at things from the wrong perspective leads to the wrong response in almost all instances.

But how does one change his/her perspective? It's an easy thing to talk about but a very difficult thing to actually accomplish.

Throughout the school year, I was consistently learning new facts and stories of Kids In Need. In fact, one of the first things I did to GAIN awareness was write to two guys I know who work in different urban areas. I asked them what the greatest needs facing the kids in their areas were and, to paraphrase, both said the kids needed parents who care about them.

That was not the answer I was looking for because how could I help with that? I wanted them to say something like new shoes, a basketball court, help with school or anything tangible that I could figure out a way to provide for them.

So, at first I was very frustrated because, while I had GAINed awareness, I couldn't figure out how to GIVE anything to them.

Now nearly a year after I received those answers, God has officially broken my heart for the kids who need parents who care. Reading stories from Kory and Alison at the Transformation have helped to change my perspective.

I never knew there were kids who come home to a place where nobody is around and there is no food to eat, no electricity, no heat or air conditioning, no phone and no running water.

I never knew parents could abandon their kids.

I never knew drugs could become more important to people than their families, especially their children.

I never knew kids as young as mine (8 & 5) are sometimes left alone and allowed to wander the streets for days at a time.

All these things exist.
All these things are common.
All these things happen in my own town.

And I cannot stand for it any longer.
I have to do something about it.
Doing nothing is no longer an option.

Starting right now I am LIVING differently. This life is no longer about me. I am not here to be served but to serve.

My KIDS will always know that I love them because of the way I prioritize my time.

My KIDS may not always have the newest, fanciest, prettiest or best stuff, but they will always have a loving home to live in - no matter what they've done, who they've been with, where they've gone or why they made those choices.

My KIDS are not the only ones who deserve these things. All KIDS deserve to be loved and, with God's help, I am going to work to make sure they are.

Here I am. Send me.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Last night I got back from 5 days at Senior High Camp along the shore of Lake Erie in Vermillion, Ohio. It was an exciting, busy, exhausting, hilarious, hot, wet, dirty, sad and uplifting experience.

In many ways it was exactly like the first time I went to Senior High Camp last year.

But I can think of a few ways it was way DIFFERENT for me.

1. Last year was very intimidating for me because it was the first time I had met most of the students and many of the leaders. This year I went into it knowing several students and almost all of the leaders. So, there was a certain level of comfort for me.

2. Last year was also very emotional for me. I had been holding back from getting involved with students for several years. I just never felt like I was ready. Even last year I didn't feel completely ready, but I jumped in and was overwhelmed by a lot of stuff God revealed to me last year. This year it wasn't very emotional at all. It was, however, significant in many ways. God spoke to me again and I have a great challenge ahead of me.

3. Last year I was given a clear call from God into a very specific area of ministry. This year there was no clear call, but many clear challenges. I was given a clearer picture of myself and of the people around me. I am learning to see people the way God sees them, instead of how I normally see them.

4. Last year I was energized by camp. This year I was physically exhausted by camp but am much more focused than I was a week ago. I don't have to rush out and force situations to become opportunities for me to fulfill the call of God in my life. He's got the spots picked out for me. All I have to do is be faithful in the little things and be ready for those opportunities.

5. Last year I didn't come away with many real solid connections with students. This year I feel like I've got a lot of new friends, including some real strong connections with young men that may have a great deal of influence over the direction of their youth group this year and beyond. That's exciting ... and intimidating.

6. Last year I didn't have much of a problem leaving my kids for 5 days. This year I missed them really badly. I think it's because of the way God was challenging me. I know I haven't been exactly what He's called me to be as a father and so I spent a lot of time thinking about them while I was away.

I went in with high expectations. Some of them were met, others weren't. But in the end I realized that DIFFERENT is definitely good.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Dear Secret Intern ...

I got your letter and it means a lot. Thank you.

Thursday, July 1, 2010


I feel like this would be a good post for Jon Acuff over at Stuff Christians Like. Maybe some day he'll pick it up and put a comedic spin on it, but since I'm not very funny I'll take the serious side.

Why is it that the word "processing" is thrown around so much by Christians? Whenever something big happens - good or bad - people start talking about "processing it" or "processing through it."

I understand the general meaning of the phrase. I just don't understand why "processing" is the first thing that Christians feel they need to start doing after a big event in their lives.

Just a couple days ago two students from the youth group I work with at NMC were in a really bad accident. Fortunately neither of them suffered severe injuries. They basically walked away from the wreck. They started "processing" the night it happened.

Don't get me wrong, I don't think there's anything wrong with trying to see a bigger lesson to be learned through experiences like an accident, loss of a loved one, mission trip, injury or an encounter with God. Of course there are lessons to be learned and of course we should be on the lookout for them.

I guess I just don't think we're capable of figuring it all out - especially in the matter of days, or even hours.

Having talked with one of the students who was in the accident, it seems like the only clear lesson he's learned is to be thankful for every moment and for the people he loves. It's a great lesson ... and maybe it's the only lesson.

Would that be enough? If the reminder to be thankful is all he ever gets out of this experience, shouldn't that be enough? I mean, it's a great lesson to learn - a life changing lesson, right?

In time, maybe other lessons will come out of this experience, but I don't think it's our job to try to pull lessons out of the experience that may or may not have been intended. If God has a lesson He's trying to teach in all of this, He is able to make it clear to us even if we don't spend a lot of time "processing."

I'm not writing this because I'm against "processing." I just question whether it's the best way to react to certain things. Maybe when we hear a message on a Sunday morning, the best thing we can do is "process" it and see how it applies to our lives. But when we get into an accident, we should just hug the people around us, thank God and let Him teach us in His own time.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

What to do this summer

I'm not big on to-do lists, but I understand the value of them.

If I've got a physical list of items to check off, I'm much more likely to get them done than if I just keep a mental list going in my head.

With that in mind, here's some of the stuff that I want to accomplish this summer (in no particular order):

- Finish the upstairs of my house. Although we're moved in, we still have a lot of the finishing touches to complete. For example, Katie and I don't even have a door on our bedroom yet. There's a ton of trim work and probably some more painting to do in order for everything to look the way it is supposed to look.

- Put up a privacy fence. A week ago this item would have also included installing a new patio. However, my friend Marty and I started working on that last week so it will be done by the end of the week. As far as the privacy fence, I know I talked about getting to know my new neighbors, but I've always heard that tall fences make good neighbors.

- Run. I really want to get back into running. Unfortunately, I stepped on a nail a week and a half ago and my foot is in no shape to run. Hopefully, it will heal quickly because I'm ready to run and that feeling doesn't usually last very long!

- Camp. This has two meanings for me. First, I am going to NMC Senior High Camp for the second year in a row and I cannot wait. I am so excited to spend time with the students and other leaders from our church. It's just an amazing time away. Second, I want to go camping with my family. Our kids have camped out twice, but both times were in our own yard. This summer, I want to go somewhere away from home to camp out.

- Fellowship. I love spending time with good friends and I hope to find time doing that this summer. Good times of fellowship energize me like nothing else. So, if you want to stop by and help me accomplish this goal, feel free!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


This Sunday I have the privilege of sharing my story with the senior high students in attendance at the AWAKE! class at church.

It's extra special for me because I get to talk about my dad on Father's Day. You see, much of my story hinges on my dad's story. I guess that's true for all of us, but I feel like my life would be completely different if my dad hadn't made some of the choices he made a long time ago.

So, if you're a senior high student, please come to the AWAKE! class, 9:30-10:30 in the Fieldhouse, this Sunday and hear about my dad - a guy worthy of honoring on Father's Day.

Here's a sneak peek at what you might see if you show up:

Monday, June 14, 2010


There are two teams of students from my church on trips - one to Haiti and the other to Chicago. Both teams are showing the love of Jesus Christ to the people they encounter in those locations.

The group in Chicago is on the annual GO trip. Strangely enough, the trip is called ChicaGO. It's a trip that teaches students to step out and share their faith with others. Several posts on Facebook today have made it clear that this team is learning to have empathy and compassion for those who don't know Jesus.

It may sound strange, but I sort of feel like I'm on my own GO trip - but mine is called MishawakaGO. You see, I recently moved to the city of Mishawaka, Indiana, and it has been quite a period of adjustment. Having lived in the country up until I graduated from high school, and for the past four and a half years, moving to the city has had its share of new experiences.

For one, the noises are different. We hear a lot more sirens now than we did in the country.

The smells are different too. Instead of the smell of the lake (which is subtle, but quite nice) I've been smelling a lot of exhaust and trash, with the occasional smell of a neighbor grilling (very nice) wafting through the yard from time to time.

The routine is different. We have to have our trash and recycling (first time I've ever had to gather my recyclables) out to the road first thing Monday morning. I also have a new shower and kitchen to establish a routine in each workday.

The options are different. Instead of driving a half hour to do most anything, now I can drive a couple minutes to do pretty much anything I need to do.

Most importantly, the people are different. When we lived at the lake, most people were pretty quiet and kept to themselves. We lived about 100 yards away from our nearest neighbor. Now, we live just a few feet from our next-door neighbor and across the street from several more neighbors. Fortunately for us, the neighborhood seems pretty friendly and problem-free. We've met several neighbors and all are quite friendly. Our kids already have several new friends - who end up in our back yard all the time (another adjustment).

The one thing that seems to be missing from the neighborhood is people like us. I don't want to sound discriminatory, but I don't think anybody in the neighborhood goes to church regularly or really believes in Jesus.

But then, how would I know? I mean, I haven't talked to anybody about it. I'm just assuming - like I always have. I look at their clothes, cars, houses. I listen to their words and the type of music they listen to while they're driving. Then I make assumptions.

How ridiculous is that?

I guess it's just easier to assume things than to really dig into people's lives and find out who they really are. But the easier way is very rarely the best way to do things.

I need to have compassion and sympathy for my new neighbors. At the very least, I need to love them with the love of Jesus Christ and show genuine interest in their lives.

So, it's been a challenge, but at least I've met most of the neighbors and have plenty of chances to interact with them more. I hope I make the most out of it!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Ready for a Revamp

Stay tuned ...

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Coming Up for Air

It's been more than two months since I've posted anything here. It's partly because I'm lazy, but also partly because I've been incredibly busy.

Back in January I told you we were moving. Since that post, nearly all of our free time has been spent working on the house we're moving into in Mishawaka. We've been averaging somewhere around 30 hours per week at the house in Mishawaka.

The project we've been spending so much time on is a complete renovation of the top floor. When we started out it contained two bedrooms, two hallway closets and some attic space. Now it has two bedrooms with closets in each, a hallway closet, a bathroom and two playrooms. Nearly the whole space was stripped down to the wall studs, rewired, insulated and covered with new drywall. We are nearly finished with all the new drywall and ready for it to be mudded and sanded, then painted.

In addition to the work on the top floor, we've also been working on getting the rest of the house cleaned out so we can begin other renovation projects.

The cleaning-out process is probably the most fun, interesting, frustrating, time-consuming thing we've done. It's fun and interesting because of all the amazing things we've found in the house. It's frustrating and time-consuming because of all the clutter in the house.

It took us two full weekends to clear out the top floor before we could begin demolition. It's taken much longer than that to work on the main floor and the basement. Part of the reason there's so much stuff is because the house has always been in the family and nobody has ever really moved out and taken stuff with them. So, there's nearly 100 years' worth of stuff in there.

For all of you garage sale fanatics out there, we're going to have one heck of a sale sometime in the next few weeks. Don't worry, I'll let you all know when it's happening!

I have learned a lot from this process. I can do rough carpentry work, insulation and drywall. But I've also learned a lot of life lessons through all of this. I'm considering starting a blog series to help me process all of those.

Here's just a few pictures to prove that I've got a good reason for not blogging much lately:

Monday, February 8, 2010

NFL Pick 'Em Super Bow/Final Results

Three of us picked the Super Bowl correctly. To be honest, though, I know at least two of us only did it because it could improve our standings. I really thought the Colts would win, but went with the Saints so I didn't end up in a tie with Rodney. And it worked!

It worked for Dan Erickson too. Since he picked the Saints, he finished in a tie for first place with Craig Helfrich. Here's the final standings:

1. Dan Erickson, 184-83

(tie) Craig Helfrich, 184-83

3. Tim Emmons, 180-87
4. Dan Weiss, 175-92
5. Rodney Jernas, 174-93
6. Geoff Cocanower, 165-102
(tie) Kevin Edwards, 165-102
8. Derry Prenkert, 162-105
(tie) Jeff Simpson, 162-105
10. Preston Edwards, 161-106
11. Jason Thompson, 153-114

The whole group finished 1865-1072, which equals 63.5% correct. Not bad!

Thanks everybody for playing and following along!

Friday, February 5, 2010

NFL Pick 'Em Super Bowl

Finally, the Super Bowl is here!

Craig can't lose, but Dan can still tie.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Moving On

We knew it was coming, we just didn't know when.

The time has come.

We are moving!

During the next two months we are going to be remodeling our house in Mishawaka and vacating our house in Syracuse. There's about an hour's drive between the two locations, but a world of difference.

Katie and I started our marriage living in a city. It was a small city (Niles) but a city nonetheless. Then we moved to the country. We live on a 6.5-acre piece of property with 300 feet of frontage on Dewart Lake and the nearest neighbor is at least 100 yards away. We've been there for the past four and a half years (incredibly formative years for our kids who are now 5 and 7). Now we are moving back to the city.

While we will greatly miss the beauty, peace and privacy of our current location, we are incredibly excited about our new location too. It will mean a lot less driving and more choices of grocery stores, restaurants, entertainment, etc. We are going to be much, much closer to our extended families and no farther away from Nappanee Missionary Church, where I work and our family worships.

We are incredibly thankful for the past four and a half years at the Bethel College Retreat Center. Bethel was very, very good to us and the current state of things absolutely demanded that they cut costs and, unfortunately, our position was one of the casualties. I don't want anybody to think Bethel left us high and dry because they were generous to us, even in the decision to cut much of our compensation. So, this decision was ours and ours alone. Bethel did not fire us or even ask us to leave. We decided to move on.

Our time at the Retreat Center was amazing. We met so many people who we hope will be lifelong friends. We experienced things that never could have happened if we had stayed in Niles. Our kids developed a love of the outdoors and a respect and awe of God's creation. When we moved to the lake, neither of our kids would go outside without shoes on. Now, in the summer, we can't keep clothes on them. Both would rather wear a bathing suit and nothing else. They love to play in the dirt, dig for worms, pick flowers, explore their surroundings, go fishing, swim in the lake, go for walks, watch birds, climb trees, sit by campfires, play until dark, eat at picnic tables, play in sprinklers, ride bikes and roll in the grass. I'll always be grateful for our time at the lake, especially because of the way it changed our kids.

Now, as much as I enjoyed being at the lake, I am just as excited to move to Mishawaka. We are going to remodel much of the home we're moving into, which was built by my wife's great-grandfather in the early 1900s. It's always been in her family and we are honored to be the next ones to keep it there.

We will have more living space than we've ever had and we hope it can be a blessing to many people. We want to be generous with what God has blessed us with. We want our kids to want friends to come over to our house. We want our friends to want to spend time at our house. We want it to be so much more than a house. We want it to be a home - and not just to us. We want everyone who steps inside to feel at home. Most of all, we want our Heavenly Father to be clearly evident in our home. We want to serve Him and honor Him with our new home.

So, over the next couple months we may not be able to spend a lot of time on things other than remodeling and moving, but we'd love for you to stop by our new home. Give us a call!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

My Thoughts on Money: You Can't Buy Happiness

It's an old expression, but I can attest to its truth.

You really can't buy happiness.

I've tried. It didn't work.

When we ended up with two incomes and no mortgage payment we decided to have a little fun. Only instead of having just a little fun we ended up going crazy. We went out to eat a lot. We bought new furniture. We bought a big HD TV. We bought a car. We bought exercise equipment (because we were going out to eat too much). We went on vacations. We bought a boat (that we never even used).

Now, I'm not saying any of those things are bad. In fact, I highly recommend saving up enough cash to take your family on a vacation every now and then. We've been blessed to be able to spend time away from home each of the last four years. Thankfully, we didn't take on any debt to do so.

We had been pinching every penny for the first five years of our marriage and once we got some financial margin in our lives, we lost perspective. You see, for a long time money was not an issue for us. I don't mean that the way most people mean it. Money was not an issue for us because we didn't have much and couldn't spend much. But once we had more, it became an issue. We had all these grand ideas of becoming completely debt free, socking away an emergency fund and then becoming incredibly generous givers.

Those plans never got carried out because we thought the dinners out, the furniture, the TV, the vacations, the boat, the car and all the other stuff was going to somehow make us more happy. But the opposite happened.

When money was tight, we were incredibly happy and satisfied. We had everything we needed and trusted God to provide. But when the extra money came in, we forgot how faithful God is and started trusting in our incomes.

That's the dangerous thing about margin. It's an incredible blessing but it can also be a curse. In the series, How to Be Rich, one of the main points is that being RICH is good news and bad news. It's good because God has blessed us and we can do some incredible things with those blessings. It's bad because, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." (Mark 10:25) and because to whom much is given, much is expected.

It didn't take long for us to experience money owning us rather than us owning the money.

So, we still have all the things we bought (except the vacations and the dinners out). But we also have a rather unhealthy struggle when it comes to priorities. We think we need certain things that we don't really need. We think they'll make us happy but they won't. We think if we had more money in the bank we'd feel more secure but we wouldn't.

The truth is, we felt happier, more secure and more content when we had very little money to spend. We trusted God more. We were more thankful for what we had. We found true joy in our relationships rather than a false sense of joy through things.

Money can't buy happiness. It's true.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

My Thoughts On Money: Margin

What is margin?

As I type this post I'm listening to the third part of a series called Margin. Here's how they define margin:

The amount available beyond what is necessary.

So, margin is created by having more than you need. I know a lot of people who have much more than they need, but I also know plenty of people who believe they don't have more than they need. In fact, they would say they don't have enough.

If you read the previous post in this series, you can probably guess that I believe I have more than I need. But I didn't always feel that way.

Early in my marriage (which will be 10 years old in May) my wife and I decided to have kids. Well, God decided we needed kids. Either way, our daughter was born and we suddenly had a third mouth to feed. But, you know food wasn't the only expense that came along with our precious daughter.

At the time, we were living on less than $30,000 a year with two car payments and a mortgage. Needless to say, things were pretty tight. I don't think at that time we believed we had more than we needed. We probably would have said we didn't have enough.

The truth is we had everything we needed - food, clothing, shelter and transportation. We also had lots of other things on top of those basic necessities.

So, what changed? When did we start believing we had enough?

Well, it took a pretty humbling experience for us to understand the difference between what we thought we needed and what we really needed. Shortly after my daughter was born, we found ourselves racking up more and more credit card debt. The minimum payment was becoming overwhelming. So, we ran out of options and asked my parents to help us out.

My parents were very generous to pay off our debt, but were also very wise to require us to pay it back to them.

Since that time, we've never used or even had a credit card. My wife, Katie, and I had to admit to ourselves and to my parents that we were not responsible enough to have that much spending power at our disposal. It was a tough change of mindset, at first, but not having that "safety net" made us more responsible in the long run.

I put "safety net" in quotation marks because that's how we used to view our credit cards. It turns out, though, that the net was really a web that entangled us and threatened to devour us.

So, with no credit card to fall back on when emergencies came up, we had to categorize things into necessities and frivolities. We got good at saying, "No" to things we didn't need and couldn't afford.

Then something happened that changed everything again. We accepted a job that brought in a second income and relieved us of our mortgage. Pretty sweet deal, right? That's what we thought too. Suddenly, we had lots of margin.

The only problem was that we didn't view it as margin. We viewed it as extra. We made some good decisions - like paying off cars and my parents - but we also made some very poor decisions. We got very greedy and started buying all the things we thought we needed to be happy. Fortunately, we did it all debt-free, but it was still a bad idea.

Last year when the economy crashed and people started losing their jobs, we got hit too. We didn't lose our job, but we did lose most of our second income. We were back down to what amounted to one income and had to remember what was necessary and what wasn't.

We are still struggling to figure it out. We don't have any margin right now. We have lots of things, but we still have debt and very little financial freedom.

If we had viewed that extra income as margin instead of extra, we could have been debt free and we could have given a lot of money to the things that are important to us. We could have blessed the many ministries we love and pray for. We could have helped friends and family that went through some very tough times.

I deeply regret some of the decisions we made when we had more margin, but the great thing is that we can still have margin.


Anybody can have margin by doing one of two things: Make more money or spend less money.

In the current economy, making more money doesn't seem possible to many people, but almost everyone can cut expenses. I know for sure that my family can cut back and spend less.

If you believe that you are RICH, then you have more than you need and you can use the extra as margin. Don't view it as extra money for you to buy more stuff, but as margin to use however God asks you.

Proverbs 21:20

In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has.

I want to be wise. I want to have margin. Do you?

Monday, January 25, 2010

My Thoughts on Money: I AM RICH

Most of you reading this know that I am NOT RICH.

But you're wrong.

I AM RICH. You just didn't know it.

I have so much money that I have two cars - a 2004 Toyota Sienna and a 2002 Chevy Prizm (that burns about 1 quart of oil a month).

I have so much money that I have health and life insurance. That's right, I can afford to pay somebody money for things that haven't even happened yet - and probably never will.

I have so much money that I own a 42-inch Sony Bravia LCD TV ... and an entertainment center to put it on. Oh, and I also have a DVD player.

I have so much money that my wife and I both have cell phones ... with unlimited texting (no data plans) and we have two laptop computers and high-speed internet in our home.

I am SO RICH that I have to decide which pair of shoes I'm going to wear each day.

I have SO MUCH MONEY that my whole family gets to eat three meals every day ... and snacks in between. Sometimes we even go to restaurants where we pay people to cook and serve us meals. In fact, there are days when I have to convince myself that I shouldn't buy a can of pop because it sounds so good but I know it's not healthy for me.

You really want to know how rich I am? I am in the top 2% of wage earners in the world today.


Are you rich?

We just completed a four-part series from called How to Be Rich. It wasn't about how to GET rich, because most everybody in the United States already is incredibly rich compared to the average person in the world. This series was about handling the rich blessings we've been given in a way that honors God.

The first session of the series focused a lot on convincing us that WE ARE RICH.

I know I don't often feel rich. But part of that is because RICH is a moving target. Where I'm at financially, RICH seems pretty far away. But from where most people in the world stand, I'm well beyond what they picture as RICH.

When my family and I went to Mexico, we saw many people who would be classified as very poor in the culture we live in. To them, we were probably very RICH. But you know what? In a lot of ways, I saw them as the ones who were rich. They were so full of love and joy and it made me wonder what I was missing.

So, I am convinced that I AM RICH. Are you convinced that you are RICH? If not, just think about all the luxuries you've enjoyed today that most people in the world will never get to experience. If you drove your car to work this morning, you did something many people will never do. If you chose one pair of pants over another pair, you have more than most people will ever have. YOU ARE RICH!

Now, if I have convinced you that YOU ARE RICH, how does it change your life?

I'll tell you how it's changing mine in the next post.

My Thoughts on Money

This is the start of a multi-part series in which I will share some of the things I've learned and opinions I have about money. It seems like anytime you bring up money it gets people talking and thinking - sometimes even arguing. So, it's obviously a very interesting topic and I have some pretty strong feelings that I'd like to share. I'm not trying to start any arguments or force my opinions on anybody, I just want to share some of the things I've experienced/learned that I consider a great blessing.

First, a few big disclaimers:

1. I am not a financial expert. Nobody is going to confuse me with an expert in any field pertaining to money. I make a lot of stupid decisions with money, but I'm trying to change that. I'm just a normal guy trying to be a good steward of the blessings God has given me.

2. I am still learning. Just because I'm sharing this stuff doesn't mean I think I've learned all there is to learn. In fact, I never want to be in a place where I can't learn new things - even if it challenges things I believe.

3. None of what I'm going to share is original material. I did not make this stuff up or come up with these ideas on my own. I'm just trying to be a messenger of some things I've come across.

4. I wish somebody would have shared this stuff with me sooner. I have made many, many mistakes with money ... and still do. The whole point is to learn, change behavior and help each other make the most of what we have.

The first post is coming later today ... stay tuned.

NFL Pick 'Em Playoffs Week 3 Results

With a perfect weekend, Craig Helfrich sealed at least a share of the title. Dan Erickson is one game back and has only one option to be able to move into a tie for first with Craig - he'll have to pick the Saints because Craig is the biggest Colts fan I know. Dan can finish no worse than second, so there's nothing for him to lose if he picks New Orleans.

Tim Emmons has sealed the third-place finish. Rodney Jernas and I are tied for fourth and he's another big Colts fan so I'll have to pick the Saints. Look for the final picks late in the week!

Friday, January 22, 2010

NFL Pick 'Em Playoffs Week 3

It's a clean sweep for the Colts among the contestants. You know what that means?

There's an UPSET coming!

Well, maybe not, but it would serve us all right.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Friday, January 15, 2010

NFL Pick 'Em: Playoffs Week 2

We've only got seven games left and there's still a race at the top. Craig Helfrich has a one-game lead over Dan Erickson. Beyond that, Tim Emmons has a solid hold on third place and then Rodney Jernas and I are tied for fourth.

Here's my thoughts on this weekend's games:

New Orleans over Arizona: Part of this has to do with my feelings that the Cardinals should not have beaten my Packers last week. More than that, though, I think the Saints are primed for a run in these playoffs. I can see this being a blowout, but even if it's close I think the Saints win.

Indianapolis over Baltimore: This was the hardest game for me to pick this weekend. The reason is because Baltimore is a team that seems like it can beat anybody if they get just a couple bounces to go their way. But, Peyton Manning is still Peyton Manning and he's going to do everything in his power to keep the ball away from Baltimore. So, in the end, I think the Colts win a close one.

Minnesota over Dallas: Sidney Rice (not Brett Favre) is too good to lose this one. I really think Rice (interesting last name) has moved into the top 2 or 3 receivers in the NFL and I don't think the Cowboys have anybody to stop him. Add to that the running attack of Adrian Peterson (most powerful, scary runner in the NFL) and all the other weapons (Harvin, Shiancoe, Taylor) that Minnesota has and I think Dallas struggles to keep up.

San Diego over NY Jets: After so many good seasons this might be the year for the Chargers. Philip Rivers could be the second or third best quarterback in the league and he seems to play best in big games. Now, the Jets do have the best cornerback in the league, but he can only cover one guy at a time and the Chargers have a few guys who can catch passes and make big plays.

You Play To Win The Game (INFL Mixtape)

In honor of this weekend's playoff games, here's a great video of some of the most memorable NFL coaches and their postgame press conferences. Fun stuff.

Sorry for a few bad words.

Monday, January 11, 2010

NFL Pick 'Em Playoffs Week 2 Results

Only one contestant correctly picked all four games during the opening weekend of the 2010 NFL Playoffs. Tim Emmons went 4-0, but is still five games behind leader Craig Helfrich. Craig went 1-3 and Dan Erickson went 2-2 to close Craig's lead to one game.

On the other end of the spectrum, Derry Prenkert was the only contestant to go 0-4.

On a personal note, watching the Packers-Cardinals game was excruciating, then thrilling, then agonizing, then exciting ... in the end, though, it was just sad. Oh well. The Packers had a great season (except for that loss to the Buccaneers and getting swept by the Vikings) and there should be nothing but good things on the horizon.

Friday, January 8, 2010

NFL Pick 'Em Playoffs Week 1

Here we go! The NFL Playoffs start tomorrow and we've got a tight race at the top of the leaderboard. Dan Erickson is only two games back heading into this weekend, but both he and Craig Helfrich have been really strong. They picked only one game differently, and it's one that has special significance to me - Packers vs. Cardinals.

I feel pretty good about the Packers' chances this weekend. The Cards are prone to turnovers and the Packers have forced more turnovers than any other team in the NFL this year. The Green Bay offense is clicking pretty well - especially with the added weapon of tight end Jermichael Finley. I like the matchup, the only problem is that so does everybody else. When just about everybody picks a team to pull off an upset, it doesn't usually happen. Oh well, maybe this time will be different! Go Packers!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Christmas in Mexico: Our Hosts

When you're going to another country with your family who has never been outside the United States before, there are lots of things you're unsure of.

Since I've been to other countries before, I kind of knew what to expect, but for my family it was a totally new experience.

I was not sure how my family would handle the possible difficulties we would face in Mexico. I didn't know about the food, the housing or our hosts.

I've worked at Nappanee Missionary Church for three years and so I've heard a lot about our partners in the Juarez, Mexico, area. Francisco and Rosa are pretty much household names for anyone who attends NMC regularly. I knew they were loved by the leadership at NMC but you never truly know somebody until you spend time with them.

When we landed in El Paso, we were greeted by Lucio (third from left), Rosita (second from left) and their baby girl, Ruby (middle). Rosita is Francisco and Rosa's daughter and Lucio is her husband. Lucio speaks very little English but Rosita is fluent in English and Spanish.

It was dark when we got to Texas so there wasn't much to see outside our van, but I listened intently as Rosita and our team leader, Jack Lengacher, caught each other up on things. I didn't realize I was doing it, but I learned a lot about what was going to happen while we were in Mexico simply by listening to that conversation.

When we got to the dorm that night, we were warmly greeted by Francisco (left) and Rosa (right) Ramirez, as well as their son, Ruben (aka Carter) and Othon, a church member. They quickly made us feel comfortable and like we were at home.

As our time in Mexico went on, we were able to spend lots of time with the Ramirez family (including Carter, Rosita, Lucio and Ruby) and got to know them pretty well. Every night after dark we got to play games together and with our hosts. Mexican Uno was the main game, but we also introduced some of our games.

One game that my wife, Katie, and Katie Lengacher introduced was Telephone Charades. It's a lot like regular Charades except that a team of four has to pass on the act to each other until the fourth person finally has to make a guess.

In the picture above, Carter and Francisco are doing their renditions of a rapper. Carter started, and did a great job, then Francisco had to copy Carter's act to Rosa. Something got mixed up in the transition and Rosa thought she was supposed to act like a dishwasher. It was hilarious and they eventually got it right.

While the game was a lot of fun, the best part of it was being able to laugh together and get more comfortable with each other. It created a lot of chemistry within our team, but also with our hosts.

One of the highlights of the trip, for me, was getting to know Carter. He speaks English and Spanish so he helped with a lot of translating. But he was also willing to share his story. On the first day, he took a few minutes to tell me about his life. His story is captivating and encouraging. I am so happy that he is taking steps to strengthen his relationship with Christ.

Also, Carter taught us a lot of phrases in Spanish, including what the Beck song Que Onda Guero? means.

One of the first things I did when I got home was to look up the blog Rosita keeps and find Rosa and Rosita on Facebook.

I don't feel like they are just people I know who happen to live in Mexico. In the words of Katie Lengacher, "I have family in Mexico."