Thursday, December 1, 2011

Lists of 11

It's not an original idea. It's not a creative idea.

But after the last two posts, I needed to do something a bit more ... well ... masculine.

So, in honor of the year we are about to bid farewell to, here are a few lists of 11 items for this NFL season (and the upcoming postseason):

My 11 favorite NFL Players (in order):
1. Aaron Rodgers - So good. So unbelievably good.
2. Charles Woodson - Former rebel now a well-respected veteran leader. And one of the best DBs of all time.
3. Greg Jennings - He's the reason I became a Packers fan.
4. Tim Tebow - How can you not root for this guy?
5. B.J. Raji - Just because of the dance he did in the NFC Championship game last year.
6. Drew Brees - All-around great guy.
7. Jordy Nelson - Sneaky fast. Painfully humble.
8. Clay Matthews - Beast.
9. John Kuhn - Does the dirty work 95% of the time. Touches the ball 5% of the time, and usually scores.
10. Ryan Fitzpatrick - The Beard.
11. Tom Brady - This is mostly just to annoy my friends who are Colts fans. But seriously, he's a great player.

My 11 Least Favorite NFL Players (no particular order):
1. Jay Cutler - Talented QB, just don't like his demeanor.
2. Jimmy Graham - Seems cocky to me.
3. Ndamukong Suh - Great player, out of control temper, especially when getting beaten
4. Courtland Finnegan - DIRTY!!!
5. Jared Allen - He hits Aaron Rodgers too much.
6. Kyle VandenBosch - Red contacts? Come on!
7. Dunta Robinson - Stop trying to hurt people and just make a tackle.
8. Jeremy Shockey - Is he still in the NFL?
9. Mark Sanchez - GQ.
10. Brian Cushing - 'Roid rage.
11. Jim Schwartz - OK, not a player, but I'm not going to do a list of Least Favorite Coaches.

My 11 Favorite NFL Coaches (in order):
1. Mike Tomlin
2. Mike McCarthy
3. Raheem Morris
4. Jim Harbaugh
5. John Harbaugh
6. Sean Payton
7. Bill Belichick (respect, not like)
8. Lovie Smith
9. Hugh Jackson
10. Marvin Lewis
11. Chan Gailey

If I weren't a Packers fan, the first 11 teams I would cheer for (in order):
1. Ravens
2. Saints
3. Broncos
4. Saints
5. 49ers
6. Texans
7. Chargers
8. Colts
9. Buccaneers
10. Rams
11. Bills

11 Most fearsome teams the Packers could face in the playoffs (in order):
1. Bears
2. Saints
3. 49ers
4. Falcons
5. Giants
6. Steelers
7. Ravens
8. Patriots
9. Broncos
10. Raiders
11. Bengals

11 reasons why the Packers will go undefeated this year:
1. Aaron Rodgers
2. Jordy Nelson
3. Jermichael Finley
4. Charles Woodson
5. Tramon Williams
6. Clay Matthews
7. No team can keep up with their scoring.
8. They always make big plays on defense.
9. The rest of the schedule isn't that tough.
10. Homefield advantage in the playoffs.
11. Super Bowl indoors on a fast field.

11 reasons the Packers won't go undefeated this year:
1. Weak running game.
2. Injuries.
3. They will clinch No. 1 seed early.
4. The Giants like to hit the quarterback.
5. Cold weather is coming.
6. Repeating as Super Bowl champs almost never happens.
7. Defense gives up too many points.
8. They'll lose a game in the regular season and then win the Super Bowl.
9. The Bears will be desperate to make the playoffs.
10. Special Teams.
11. Too much pressure.

11 stadiums where I'd most like to watch an NFL game live:
1. Lambeau Field (Green Bay)
2. SuperDome (New Orleans)
3. Cowboys Stadium (Dallas)
4. Heinz Field (Pittsburgh)
5. Candlestick Park (San Francisco)
6. Ford Field (Detroit)
7. Arrowhead Stadium (Kansas City)
8. Sports Authority Field (Denver)
9. Qualcomm Stadium (San Diego)
10. M & T Bank Stadium (Baltimore)
11. Lucas Oil Stadium (Indianapolis)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Getting Creative - Lath Board Side Table

I was given this plain-looking faux wood side table one day at work and, not sure what I would do with it, brought it home. A few days later I had the idea to use some old Lath Boards I had laying around to give the table a new top.

So, one night while my wife Katie was away from home, my kids and I mixed a few paint colors with some water and spent about 30 minutes painting lath boards. We used green, blue and pink. When the boards dried, the blue and green were apparent, but the pink wound up looking white. It made for a great combination of colors!

My son David and I teamed up to glue and nail the boards to the top of the table. We then trimmed around all four edges and then I covered it with 4-5 coats of gloss polyurethane.

The next step was to wrap the edges of the tabletop with some hemp rope I had leftover from another project. This was Katie's idea. I had no good ideas for the edges, but on Katie's suggestion I glued and stapled the rope to the whole edge, so you could no longer see the faux wood veneer.

Finally, I painted, stained and sanded the legs to make them look a little weathered.

It was a fun and very easy project. It was also nice to find a use for the lath boards, which normally are sent directly to the trash can!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Getting Creative - Kitchen Coat Hooks

One of the things my wife Katie and I love to do is work on things in our house. In fact, we've spent almost the past two years remodeling the entire thing. Now that the remodeling projects are winding down, we've started focusing more on the smaller things - decorations, accessories, etc.

Since we spent so much time, and money, on the renovations, we're trying to find creative ways to put the finishing touches on our home. That means we have to get creative.

One creative thing we recently did was to re-purpose some old hooks we found in our basement to provide a good place for our kids (and us) to hang coats and sweatshirts. We mostly use the back door, which opens into the kitchen, so there were always piles of coats and shoes on the kitchen floor.

We took the old hooks off the basement wall, pulled apart the assembly they were mounted to and started cleaning them up. Once the paint was sanded off, we realized the hooks were really beautiful, old brass. We built a new frame to mount the frames in and finished it off with a decorative pattern that gives it a little character.

So now we have a set of 6 hooks (which each have multiple hooks on them) and the top of the frame is deep enough to rest some picture frames.

It was fun teaming up with Katie to creatively solve a problem and add a really unique finishing touch to our kitchen!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

My Daughter is Teaching Me

Is it OK for me to be vulnerable on my blog?

Well, it is MY blog after all, so if you're uncomfortable with me writing some vulnerable stuff - or if you're uncomfortable with me even using the word vulnerable - you should stop reading now. But, if you're OK with it, read on.

This past weekend my 9-year-old daughter (pictured above with a friend from our neighborhood) came up with the idea to organize a Bible Study for kids in the neighborhood.

I'm not involved in a regular Bible study and neither is my wife. It's not something we suggested to her and - here comes the vulnerable part - I'm not sure I'm totally comfortable with it. Let me be clear - I'm completely comfortable and very excited about my daughter studying her Bible. It's the thought of inviting a bunch of kids to our house for a Bible study that I'm not sure about.

So, for those of you questioning my salvation right now, calm down. I believe in the Bible and I believe in the value of sharing its truth with others.

My uneasiness comes from the prospect of my daughter inviting kids from the neighborhood, whose parents don't believe the same things I believe, over for a Bible study she's going to lead.

BUT, as the title of this post states, my daughter is teaching me. My initial response to her idea is not positive and I get queasy at the possible reactions from the other parents. But my daughter doesn't think about that. She's young, yes, and probably isn't capable of considering such possibilities yet, but that doesn't make the lesson she's teaching me any less significant. If she doesn't fear rejection or the possibility of being viewed as WEIRD, then why should I?

After all, the Bible (the book she wants to share with her friends) tells us if we follow Jesus we are going to be strangers in this world and even persecuted. "All men will hate you because of me," is how Jesus said it. And I believe the Bible.

My faith is firm. I've been working on it for almost 30 years. I believe with all my heart that Jesus really lived, died and came back to life so that I could be saved from my sin.

If all that is true, then what do I have to be afraid of?
Why should the possibility of being rejected scare me?
What choice do I have but to show my little girl what it means to live out my faith?

I'm sure there will be some negative feedback, but I'm also confident that God will use my daughter's Bible study to show some kids how much He loves them.

I thank God for my daughter and the desire she has in her heart for all of her friends to meet Jesus. I hope she never loses her fearlessness and is always bold about sharing the love of Jesus!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Dan's Pack is Back!

It's that time of year again ... Football Season!

For me, the return of football season is really exciting because I get to watch my Packers and I get to play Fantasy Football with some good friends.

I reached a new level of madness last season when I played in 5 fantasy leagues and when the Packers won the Super Bowl! The first part drove me crazy, the latter was just awesome.

So, this year I'm limiting myself to 2 fantasy leagues and I'm looking forward to another championship for Green Bay!

Part of my fall tradition on the blog is to make some NFL season predictions, so here's what I think will happen this season:

AFC West
1. San Diego Chargers
2. Kansas City Chiefs
3. Oakland Raiders
4. Denver Broncos

AFC South
1. Houston Texans
2. Indianapolis Colts
3. Jacksonville Jaguars
4. Tennessee Titans

AFC North
1. Pittsburgh Steelers
2. Baltimore Ravens
3. Cleveland Browns
4. Cincinnati Bengals

AFC East
1. New York Jets
2. New England Patriots
3. Miami Dolphins
4. Buffalo Bills

NFC West
1. St. Louis Rams
2. San Francisco 49ers
3. Arizona Cardinals
4. Seattle Seahawks

NFC South
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2. New Orleans Saints
3. Atlanta Falcons
4. Carolina Panthers

NFC North
1. Green Bay Packers
2. Detroit Lions
3. Chicago Bears
4. Minnesota Vikings

NFC East
1. Philadelphia Eagles
2. New York Giants
3. Dallas Cowboys
4. Washington Redskins

AFC Playoff Teams: Chargers, Texans, Colts, Steelers, Jets, Patriots
NFC Playoff Teams: Rams, Buccaneers, Saints, Packers, Eagles, Giants
Super Bowl: Packers 28, Jets 17

Monday, August 22, 2011

35 for 35

I turn 35 years old on September 15. It's kind of a strange milestone because it's not one of the big birthdays (13, 16, 18, 21, 30, 40, etc.) but it does signify the start of my road to one of those big ones. On September 15 I'll officially be closer to 40 than I am to 30, which is a bit difficult to grasp. It's not that I'm scared of getting older - I actually enjoy it quite a bit - it's just hard to get my mind around the fact that I've been alive as long as I have.

So, in honor of this milestone-ish birthday I've got coming up, here's a list of my 35 favorite things about getting older:

1. Perspective - I get more of it with each passing year.
2. Relationships - As time goes on you find out which ones are for real and which aren't.
3. Being Married - So many reasons. One is comfort.
4. Being a Dad - Again, too many reasons to list.
5. Responsibility - It's only been in the last few years that I've started enjoying this part of getting older.
6. Memories - The older I get the more I cherish the events/places/people from the past.
7. Work - I've never been a workaholic, and am still not, but I do appreciate the value of working hard for something you really want.
8. Potential - Today's world doesn't expect too much out of older people, but there is so much potential in each person, no matter what age.
9. Dreams - I've accomplished a few and have plenty left to keep pushing for.
10. Confidence - I still have times of insecurity, but overall I'm pretty comfortable in my own skin.
11. Money & Toys - They're not nearly as important as they used to be.
12. Time - Even though it seems to speed up every year, I appreciate time with people more than ever.
13. Priorities - I think I'm beginning to understand what's really important in life.
14. Young People - I hope I never become a grumpy old man because young people have so much to offer and I always want to spend time with them.
15. Old People - One of the best quotes I ever read was something like, "Spend time every day with someone half your age and someone twice your age." Older people have so much wisdom.
16. Vacations - I've learned that we don't have to fly to a tropical resort to have a great family vacation. Simple times away can be as much fun as those big, expensive vacations!
17. Home - I cherish time at home. It refreshes me.
18. Quiet - I'm no expert at this, but I'm learning to enjoy silence and solitude.
19. Sports - As my physical abilities start to diminish, I appreciate all the more the ability to play sports.
20. Health - I'll never take for granted the gift of good health.
21. New Things - The older I get the more exciting it is to try new things.
22. Food - I like things I used to hate. I'm so thankful every time I eat a good burger.
23. My Wife - This is kind of like #3, but sharing life with my best friend is more enjoyable than I ever imagined it could be.
24. Jesus - He becomes more real every day. I see Him in my kids. I see Him in strangers. I feel Him in me.
25. Skills - The experiences I've had have left me with skills I didn't know I could have. That's kind of fun.
26. The Seasons - Every year brings them around and every year I like all 4 of them more and more (yes, even winter).
27. A Mission - I never really felt like I had a mission in life, but now I know for sure what my mission is!
28. Technology - Although I don't always adapt to it, I am constantly blown away by the advances in the world of technology. Again, I don't want to ever be the grumpy old guy who dismisses things because I don't understand them.
29. Art - It seems like every few weeks I discover art and creativity in something new. I believe we were all created to create.
30. Books - With age has come a hunger for the wisdom that only comes from reading books by people who are smarter than me!
31. Serving - In the last few years God has given me a desire to help others that I've never had before.
32. Naps - I don't get these very often, but when I do I am SOOOOOO thankful!
33. Love - Real, true love is maybe the most valuable thing in this world.
34. Laughter - Things are never bad enough that you can't make time to laugh. It makes all the bad stuff go away, even if just for a few moments.
35. Breathing - Every day that goes by, I am more and more thankful just to be alive and able to experience all the things on this list!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Basketball in Guanabano

One of my favorite nights in the Dominican Republic was Friday night. That was the night our team split up to take advantage of two ministry opportunities.

Most of the team went to church in Hoya Grande and they told us it was an awesome service with several students stepping up in big ways.

Six members of our team, and one translator, went to the Multi-Uso, a covered basketball court in the town of Guanabano (see picture above). We played an organized game against a group of guys from the town as a pre-game show for a city tournament game.

There is a man named Victor in Guanabano who has sacrificed greatly to become the organizer/coach/mentor to all the men and boys who like to play basketball in that town. And in a small town like Guanabano that has two very nice basketball courts, there is no shortage of
interest from the men and boys!

Victor set up the game for us and even played against us. He was so excited to have us there. We played pretty well and won our game, but the most important part of the night came after our
game was over.

As our game was ending and the two city teams were warming up
for their tournament game, more and more people began pouring into the gym. Almost all of our team quickly found people to talk with and scattered throughout the gym. I ended up sitting with our trip leader Sam for a while and he explained how basketball is a huge part of life for much of this town.

But with basketball comes a somewhat destructive lifestyle for the men and boys involved in it. Their main influence in the basketball world is the NBA. I'm not against the NBA but the lifestyle it often portrays is one that most people will never be able to achieve - lots of money, lots of women and little responsibility. You can see this influence in many of the men in Guanabano. It's not overt, but it's definitely there.

That's why a guy like Victor (pictured right) has such an amazing opportunity. As far as we know, Victor is
Catholic. In the Dominican Republic, being Catholic is the norm but it's not based on a relationship with Jesus Christ. Victor seems like an amazing man, but I long for him to know Jesus personally and to pursue Him wholeheartedly. I also long for him to use his position in the community to share the love of Jesus with all the men and boys he spends so much time with.

I ask you to pray for Victor. First, pray that he would meet Jesus in a real way and accept Him as his savior. Then, pray that Victor's position and place in the community will only be strengthened through his pursuit of Christ so that he can help the men and boys of Guanabano take steps toward Jesus for themselves!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Leader Meetings!

One interesting dynamic of our IMPACT team that went to the Dominican Republic was the makeup of the leadership.

My wife Katie and I were the oldest leaders but we had no experience leading a team like this. Kory (back row, second from right) and Alison (front row, far right) Lantz are young but have plenty of experience, which made them strong leaders. Jessica Noelle (front row, middle) is a natural leader but was on her first mission trip overseas.

When we arrived in the Dominican Republic, we met our trip leaders. Sam Borg (back row, second from left) is in his late 20s and has been leading trips since he was 16 years old. He was definitely the go-to guy when any of us had questions. He brought along three great leaders - David Hair (back row, middle), Ryan Bozarth (back row, far right) and Andy Martin (not pictured) - to help our team find its way in a foreign country. Sam, David and Andy also served us as translators, so that was a huge blessing.

The leadership team was able to bond pretty quickly and we each found our roles quite naturally. One thing that helped with this process was our leader meetings. Each night at dinner we would gather to discuss future plans, what we had seen each day and any issues that were arising. Fortunately for us, this team had very few issues so we were able to focus on plans and encouraging each other.

As we got closer and closer, we all started hoping for more leader meetings whenever we had a chance. The students probably got sick of us gathering so much, but it was too much fun and such a huge blessing to be with the other leaders. Our meetings were always filled with laughter, stories and prayer. We prayed for each other. We prayed for the students. We prayed for the people we met in the DR.

Leader meetings were a life-giving and uplifting time for all of us.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


A major theme that defined our trip to the Dominican Republic was victory. Sam Borg, our trip leader, spoke to us one night about hating what is evil and capturing Jesus' warrior spirit to gain victory over those things we hate.

At the end of Sam's message, our students stood up, shouted from the rooftop (literally) how much they hate sin and the way Satan invades our lives. They called themselves warriors and, in doing so, began to see victory in their lives over the things they hate.

This new found Warrior Spirit gave our students a boost of energy, boldness and eagerness for the tough days of ministry ahead. It helped me, too, because it was the next day when I was asked to preach in a church service.

When the students had finished their response to Sam's message, I prayed over them and one thing I said in my prayer was, "How hard is it for a Warrior to tell someone about Jesus?" Sometimes I think God lets me think I'm praying for others when I'm actually praying for myself. I needed to hear that because I was heading into a scenario that would normally scare me to death.

But as I wrote in the last post, when the time came for me to preach, I had this very unexpected sense of calm and confidence.

I wasn't the only one who was scared by some of the situations put in front of them. Doing street evangelism in a foreign country with people who speak a different language can be incredibly frightening, but our students claimed victory in Jesus and did a fantastic job of showing His love to the people they met.

I know that screaming at the end of a moving message doesn't constitute a lifelong change, but I think it's a pretty awesome place to start!

A Picture of My Week in the DR

That's me jumping off a 25-foot rock into about 6 feet of water. The jump lasted just a few seconds and was really fun, but the process of getting to the jump was a lot longer and not nearly as fun.

Our final two days in the Dominican Republic were spent in a place called Jarabacoa, which is in the mountains. We went there to reflect on our experiences of the past week, listen for God's voice leading us into our next steps and figure out how to take what we've seen, tasted, smelled and felt back home.

One of the best parts of those two days in Jarabacoa was a trip to a waterfall. We walked for about 5 minutes down a trail and arrived at a 50 or 60-foot waterfall. The water below was cool, but very refreshing and not too deep. We swam in and out of the waterfall for a while. Several of us were hoping we could climb the rocks on one side of the falls so that we could jump off into a deeper area. Finally, one of our students found a way to the top of a 25-foot rock that was above a safe place to jump from.

The climb up to that rock appeared difficult, even for the most fit members of our team. I watched students climb, cheered them on and celebrated with them after they jumped. Inside, I wanted to climb the rock and jump into the water but I didn't think I would be able to do it. I was very unsure of my ability to climb. I figured I would be able to jump pretty easily if I could get to the top, I just didn't think I could get up there. Also, I didn't want to attempt it and fail, having to retreat down the rock, or worse, fall and injure myself.

As I watched several students climb and jump I finally decided that I had to at least give it a try. I was still hesitant as I looked at the face of the rock and didn't see many places to get a good grip. But as I began to climb, it got easier and easier. In fact, the spot where most people were getting stuck ended up being pretty easy for me. Soon I found myself at the top and staring down a 25-foot jump to the water.

Again I hesitated, worrying about my safety and my ability to push off far enough so I didn't hit any rocks on the way down. But then someone behind me yelled, "You're a warrior!" (which will be the subject of another blog post soon) and I knew I just had to jump. Finally, my feet left the rock and it was an amazing feeling. Hitting the water was incredible and coming up out of it was even better. I did it!

One day later, on the way home, God showed me how that experience at the waterfall was a good picture of my week in the Dominican Republic.

I have always been good at supporting and encouraging people. I naturally gravitate to the behind-the-scenes stuff (watching others climb, cheering them on and celebrating with them). Early in the week I found myself doing that again. I encouraged, took pictures, prayed for and celebrated with our team. None of that stuff is bad, but sometimes it is only a part of what God wants from me.

During our first church service in Guanabano, I was asked if I was ready to share something from the stage. I flinched. In fact, I shrank back from the opportunity and said I wasn't ready (doubting my ability to climb, worrying about failure).

As the week went on I continued to do my behind-the-scenes stuff, but I kept feeling God's gentle nudge toward things that are uncomfortable for me. I even found myself desiring those things but still unsure of my ability (wanting to jump from the rock but unsure of climbing).

Finally, Sunday morning was my time to do something really uncomfortable - preach in a church service! Yikes! I don't know why but public speaking is one of my biggest fears. However, I knew I had to do it (finally deciding to at least try climbing the rock).

So I got up on the stage and was a little nervous at first (looking for footholds on the rock) but then I prayed and just started speaking (climbing). God gave me an incredible sense of calm and comfort (climbing easily, even through the tough spots).

Toward the end of my message I felt like God wanted me to remind the people of His love for them and the free gift of salvation that He offers (jump from the rock). Here's where the analogy breaks down because I didn't hesitate at all. I obeyed and jumped! I ended the message with a prayer of blessing for my new friends in Guanabano and left the stage feeling like I did OK.

Later in the day someone told me that a woman came forward after the service was over and felt challenged by my message to receive Jesus as her savior! I didn't get to pray for her but knowing that God used my obedience to draw someone to Himself was way better than jumping off a 25-foot rock into the water.

There are many lessons in these experiences for me, but I think the most important are obedience, boldness, faith and love. Without these things, our efforts are worthless. Our Heavenly Father wants to use us, we just have to let Him do it!

Pure Worship

During our trip to the Dominican Republic, our IMPACT team was given an amazing opportunity to test/exercise our faith in God. We were told of a young man named Jonathan who had become very sick and nobody could figure out what was wrong with him. His last medical hope was to have bloodwork done in the United States, but this was too expensive for his family.

As a team of mostly teenagers, we weren't prepared to offer a donation to the family, but we were more than ready to spend time in prayer for him. The team spent a few minutes listening for God's direction on who the right people were to go visit Jonathan and who should stay behind at the church in Guanabano and pray for him. We sent several students on the visit and the rest of us began what was probably the longest stretch of prayer most of us have ever experienced.

We sat in a circle most of the time, pleading with God to heal Jonathan. Some people read scripture. Some sang songs. Many were on their knees and even flat on the floor crying out for a miracle.

We had no idea how much time it would take for the group to return from visiting Jonathan, but we didn't really care either.

At what turned out to be about halfway through our prayer time, the prayers began to change. We started sensing a strong desire for Jonathan to give his life to Christ. We were confident that physical healing had taken place and now we began asking for spiritual healing.

I still don't know how long we were in there, but the time went quickly and at some point we started worshiping Jesus with songs. In the middle of one of our songs, the rest of our team walked back into the church with the most amazing smiles I've ever seen. They confirmed what we were already confident of - Jonathan had been healed!

Then, as if they knew exactly what we had been praying for, they told us that he had also accepted Jesus as his savior!

It was an overwhelming experience and all we could do was worship more. So, the photo at the top of this post is a look at pure worship. Worship that's not part of a church service. Worship that's not planned or scripted. It's worship that happened because it felt like the only thing we could possibly do.

I long for more times of pure worship. I long for more answered prayer. I long for more miracles.

God longs for those things too, I'm sure.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Monday, July 11, 2011

God Gave us Victory in the Dominican Republic!

Katie and I returned from 11 days in the Dominican Republic last Friday. We helped lead a team of 20 senior high students and recent graduates on a mission trip in the city of Moca. It was an incredible experience and I'll try to share some stories in the next few days.

For now, here's a quick wrap-up of our trip:

Our travel was fairly easy, at least as easy as taking a group of 25 to another country can be! We worked with a pastor in the city of Moca named Quena. She is a woman in her 60s and her husband runs a chicken and plantain farm outside the city. She has started 5 churches in towns outside of Moca and we worked in 3 of them - Guanabano, Hoya Grande and Naranjal.

We split our team up into 3 groups to do VBS at each of the churches Wednesday-Friday. Many children were presented with the Gospel. We have no way of knowing how many accepted Christ but we pray that the seeds planted will grown into lifelong relationships with Him.

Saturday we spent several hours at a park in Guanabano just striking up conversations with the people in the park and sharing our faith and praying for them. This was an incredible day to watch our students get out of their comfort zones (and sometimes reach a new comfort zone) so they could talk with complete strangers and eventually share their faith with them. We had 5 translators on hand and many students relied on their own Spanish to talk with people. They showed great obedience and compassion throughout the day.

Saturday night was what we are all calling Warrior Night. Sam Borg, our trip leader who has been visiting the DR for 15+ years, spoke to us about hating sin, embracing Jesus' Warrior Spirit and defeating Satan so we can have victory in our lives. It was a powerful night of gaining perspective and victory in our lives.

The victory we gained Saturday night carried over to Sunday morning and God graciously gave us a lot of fruit for our labor. A woman from the church in Guanabano was saved in the morning. In the afternoon the team split up again - this time for some to go pray with a very sick young man and the rest to intercede for him. After about 2 hours the teams reunited and we all rejoiced that the young man was healed and that he began a relationship with Jesus! In the evening after church we stopped at another man's house and prayed for him. He too accepted Jesus! It was an amazing day of victory for our team and those people who were born again.

Monday was a fun day at a water park. We were able to spend time with many of the church volunteers we worked with all week at VBS and in the park. We also visited Quena's farm. Satan attacked us with overwhelming fatigue that evening (we sort of expected it) but once again Jesus fought the battle for us and allowed us to have one more powerful evening of victory. Many students drove stakes in the ground and declared their desire to live radically for Christ.

Finally, we spent the last two days at a resort in the mountain village of Jarabacoa. It wasn't just two days of pleasure - we used this time to capture our experiences, listen for God's direction on our next steps and encourage each other.

Monday, April 18, 2011

What a Mess!

In the never ending saga that is home remodeling, I found myself starting a project Sunday evening just as my wife was leaving for the night. It was a simple, quick project - installing a new ceiling fan.

My two kids wanted to be with me while I worked so they were in the same room as I unpacked the new fan. It didn't take them long to discover the packaging used to protect the fan - Styrofoam! I'm not sure what it is about Styrofoam but my kids love to play with it. And as long as they're not eating it, it's a very safe thing for them to do.

There's one problem with Styrofoam: It's messy! In about 5 minutes they had Styrofoam all over the room I was working in. It's kind of like glitter - you can try to contain the glitter/Styrofoam to a certain area but it's hopeless. It just spreads itself all over the place.

When I saw the mess that was starting, my first instinct was to tell them to stop and clean it all up. But as I began to stop them, I noticed how much fun they were having and how much joy it was giving them. They were laughing as they kicked, punched, ripped, shredded and tossed the Styrofoam around the room. It was a beautiful sight.

I told them they could keep playing but that they'd have to clean up their mess when they were done. Of course, to get full cooperation on the cleanup I had to let them use the vacuum - which was pretty effective although not completely thorough.

It only took us about 10 minutes to clean up the mess and everything was back to normal.

I even heard my son say, "This is the best night ever!" while he was using the vacuum.

(I also heard him yelling, "I'm never going back to the old days!" while they were playing with the Styrofoam. I have no idea what that means)

As I thought about the mess, the fun and the cleanup, I wondered if there was an analogy somewhere in that scenario. That happens to me a lot. I look for lessons or bigger pictures in the small snapshots I experience. I couldn't quite make this one work, except for these little tidbits:

1. I believe it brings our Heavenly Father incredible joy to see us happy - maybe even if it means He's going to need to help us clean up some messes later.

2. If you get great joy out of something that creates a small mess - it's totally worth it!

3. I don't think God defaults to saying, "No," the way I do. I think He wants to say yes, but knows yes is not always the healthiest answer. I want to default to "Yes" and then change my mind to "No" if it's necessary.

4. Kids like to make messes. They like to clean them up, too, if you can make it fun.

That's all I've got. Do you see any other lessons/big pictures in this story?

Let's never go back to the old days!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Writer's Block

It's been a long time since I seriously considered myself a writer. But, lately I've been wanting to write something. However, I can't think of anything I feel is worth writing. Is this writer's block?

Monday, February 21, 2011

7 Random 7s

I've been wanting to write something, but haven't been able to come up with anything blog-worthy lately. Well, this morning I found a challenge from Kristy Mikel, so here's something that will hopefully kick start my creativity this morning and get me blogging soon!

7 Songs I've been listening to a lot these days:
  • Intoxicating by David Crowder Band
  • Mess of Me by Switchfoot
  • Rodeo Clowns by Jack Johnson
  • Stars by Switchfoot
  • Triple Trouble by Beastie Boys
  • Instead of a Show by Jon Foreman
  • What Love Really Means by JJ Heller

7 Places in the world I've always wanted to visit:
  • Australia - I want to go on a walkabout in the outback!
  • Ireland - This is the only country in Europe that has much appeal to me.
  • New Orleans - Mostly because I love Cajun food.
  • Seattle - Seems like an interesting place for a visit.
  • Africa - The people, the landscape.
  • China - Not sure why, I just think it would be cool to see in person.
  • Canada - Again, not sure why, but parts of it seem really fascinating.

7 Things I've dreamed of doing someday:
  • Being my own boss.
  • Writing a book.
  • Being a college professor.
  • Building my own house.
  • Hitting a hole-in-one.
  • Going on a cruise with my wife.
  • Driving to California and back with my family and stopping at as many points of interest as we can along the way.

7 Favorite games of all time:
  • Jungle Speed
  • Scum
  • Ping Pong
  • Apples to Apples
  • Trivial Pursuit
  • Catch Phrase

7 Favorite Verses:
  • 2 timothy 1:6-7
  • Proverbs 3:5-6
  • Matthew 5:3
  • James 1:27
  • Galatians 5:12 (Dan Erickson showed me this verse in college. It made me laugh then, it makes me laugh now.)

7 Books I love to read over and over:

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Season of Life by Jeffrey Marx (haven't actually read this one more than once, but I want to!)

Sorry, can't get to 7 on this one!

7 Books that have deeply challenged me (some repeats):

Season of Life by Jeffrey Marx
Who is My Neighbor? by Wayne Gordon
Radical by David Platt
Wild at Heart by John Eldredge
Quiet Strength by Tony Dungy
Crazy Love by Francis Chan

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Let's Boogie!

Last month, I wrote about how excited I am for the IMPACT team Katie and I were asked to be part of. Since that time, we have had the chance to spend some time with the team and our fellow leaders.

This is not the first trip we have been involved with as part of NMC Student Ministries, but it is the first trip that we will be counted on to bring such a high level of leadership. The leadership team consists of Kory & Ali Lantz, Ben & Joslynn Nehls and us.

The night before our first team meeting we had the other leaders over to our house for dinner and games. It turns out this group REALLY loves to play games. It was that night that we were introduced to a game called Jungle Speed. It's a fast-paced, every-player-for-himself game that requires quick, accurate responses. It's also a physical game so you have to be ready to fight if you want to win.

We took the game along with us as we led the whole team on a weekend retreat to a training conference and everyone who played it seemed to love it. Then, last weekend the leaders got together again and played some more. Only this time, we added a twist to the game to make it even more physically challenging.

Here's sort of what it looked like:

There wasn't nearly as much grappling, unless it was a husband and wife fighting for the totem, but nearly everyone left that night with some carpet burns or minor aches and pains.

In the end, it's just a game and it doesn't really hold any intrinsic value. It's what games can do for relationships that make them so valuable.

When you get a group together and start competing against each other, people's personalities show through in a new way. Thankfully, this group of leaders has meshed really well, thanks in part to playing this game together.

We are even more excited about our IMPACT experience now that we've had the chance to bond with our fellow leaders. And Jungle Speed (which we have renamed Jungle Boogie) had a lot to do with that.

So, if you don't already have this game, I suggest you get it and start playing it whenever you get the chance!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Super Bowl XLV

I can't decide which is my favorite picture from the Super Bowl. Both of them involve a title belt:

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Super Bowl Matchups

Here are just a few of the matchups I'm really excited to see:

I know the two players I showed in each picture won't actually be on the field at the same time, but seeing how each of these guys fares compared to their counterparts will be very interesting!

Super Bowl XLV

This is only my second full season of being a Green Bay Packers fan, so I am thrilled that they beat the Chicago Bears to earn a spot in this year's Super Bowl.

I am also excited that they're playing against the Steelers. First of all, I predicted this matchup a few weeks ago. Beyond that, though, it's just a classic matchup. The Steelers and Packers are two of the most well-known, storied franchises in all of sports.

On the field, these two teams are very similar. The Steelers have the No. 1 overall defense in the NFL and the Packers are No. 3. The Packers are the No. 3 overall offense in the NFL and the Steelers are No. 9. Each team has a big, strong quarterback who can run with the ball and stretch defenses with their arms. Each team has dynamic players at the receiver positions. Both teams have dynamic players in the defensive backfield and incredible strength at the linebacker position.

One more reason I love this matchup is because my inlaws are huge Steelers fans. They wanted to have a party to watch the game, but we decided it would be smarter to watch pregame together, then go our separate ways during the game!

I will be very disappointed if the Packers lose this game, but I can't think of a better team to lose to than the Steelers.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Poor in Spirit

Since the beginning of the month, I've been following a one-year Bible reading plan. I've done it before and have always fallen off track at some point, but it is still a good tool to help me re-establish a habit of reading my Bible every day.

Some days, I have to admit, it's just a matter of reading and checking it off the list. I don't get a lot out of what I read on those days, but it is still helping me instill a habit into my life.

This past weekend I had the privilege of attending conVERGE 2011 with my IMPACT Team. This weekend away also served as our team retreat and a great chance to get to know each other better. As part of the retreat, we spent time each morning doing TAWG (Time Alone With God).

On the first morning I pulled out my reading plan and went to work. One of the passages I read was Matthew 11:4-5. This was Jesus telling some messengers what they should pass along to John the Baptist, who sent them to ask if he was the Messiah. Part of Jesus' response was, "The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised and the good news is preached to the poor."

I am sure I've read that passage multiple times in my life, but here's the beautiful thing about reading the Bible: this time something new stuck out to me. The last three words, "to the poor" were what gripped me.

Why did Jesus put this clarifying phrase in there? Why didn't He just say, "the good news is preached"? Why was it significant that the poor were hearing the good news?

I stopped reading and began to write down some traits that are often associated with the poor:

They need hope
They need love
They need security
They are willing to listen
They aren't self-reliant
They can find joy in the midst of discomfort
They understand needs vs. wants

This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but it's a start. It's enough of a list to see a trend: Poor people have real NEEDS.

This was something I found myself unable to identify with. When was the last time I had to go without something I truly NEEDED? I can remember many times when I didn't get everything I wanted but I cannot remember a time when I've not had my NEEDS met. I have been given a richly blessed life.

The next thing I knew I was flipping pages back to Matthew 5 because I knew Jesus said something about the poor in spirit. In fact, the first sentence of the Sermon on the Mount is this, "Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

I looked back at my journal and the characteristics of poor people I had written down. Then I thought about myself and wondered how I could possibly become poor in spirit. How can I go from a comfortable life where I don't NEED anything, to a desperate life that is clearly in NEED of a savior?

I don't know.

Got any ideas?

Monday, January 10, 2011


Yesterday was the first meeting of a team of senior high students and leaders that will travel to the Dominican Republic at the end of June this year to share the love of Christ with people who live there.

I am incredibly blessed to be part of that team, and so is my wife.

We are excited about the unique mix of people who make up this team. The trip leaders are Kory and Alison Lantz, who are missionaries themselves, Ben and Joslynn Nehls and us. I am really excited to spend time with these guys, learn from them, lead the team with them and serve alongside them.

As excited as I am about the leadership of the team, I am just as excited about the students on the team. We have 12 girls and 8 guys who have committed to 6 months of training and 10 days in the Dominican Republic. Most of them are current high school seniors, which means they are going to get very busy in the next few months with proms, graduation plans, college plans, summer jobs, etc. Yet, they've decided that being on this IMPACT Team is important enough that it's worth the sacrifice.

I don't know all the details of what we are going to do while we are in the DR, but I know one of our main objectives is to encourage the people we meet there. We want to leave the DR a better place than what we found it. Not that we can do anything in our own power or with our own abilities, but with God's provision we will be able to shine a light in a dark place.

Personally, this commitment comes at a time when time is already running thin in my life. A full-time job, working with a small group, coaching two youth basketball teams and endless projects at home make it hard to squeeze in anything else. But, Katie and I feel this is what God wants us to do. We feel like it's an opportunity we can't miss.

So, if you think about it, please pray for this team. It is bursting with potential, but only if we walk in the power of the Holy Spirit. Pray that we will do just that! Thanks.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

NFL Playoffs 2011

Since I did so well predicting how the regular season would go, here's my predictions for the 2011 NFL postseason:

Wild Card Round
New Orleans over Seattle
Green Bay over Philadelphia
Baltimore over Kansas City
Indianapolis over NY Jets

Divisional Round
Green Bay over Atlanta
New Orleans over Chicago
Pittsburgh over Indianapolis
New England over Baltimore

NFC Championship Game
Green Bay over New Orleans

AFC Championship Game
Pittsburgh over New England

Super Bowl
Green Bay over Pittsburgh

I know, I know. At first glance this looks like a real homer pick because I am a huge Packers fan. But, I really believe the matchups could play out this way. My preseason prediction had the Packers against the Colts in the Super Bowl but I don't see any way now that the Colts can get past a good defense like Pittsburgh.

Packers-Steelers would be a great Super Bowl, wouldn't it? Two of the most well-known, widely-loved, historical teams in the NFL. I hope it comes out this way.

My Predictions

Below you'll find my preseason NFL predictions for how each team would finish in its division and how they actually finished the season. My picks are in black. The actual results are in red.

NFC West:

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

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

NFC South:
1. New Orleans
2. Atlanta
3. Carolina
4. Tampa Bay

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

NFC North:
1. Green Bay
2. Minnesota
3. Chicago
4. Detroit

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

NFC East:
1. Dallas
2. NY Giants
3. Philadelphia
4. Washington

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

AFC West:
1. San Diego
2. Kansas City
3. Denver
4. Oakland

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

AFC South:
1. Indianapolis
2. Houston
3. Tennessee
4. Jacksonville

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

AFC North:
1. Baltimore
2. Cincinnati
3. Pittsburgh
4. Cleveland

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

AFC East:
1. NY Jets
2. New England
3. Miami
4. Buffalo

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

The asterisks above show teams who finished in the same place I predicted they would finish. Yep, a grand total of 3.