Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Sophie's Handprint

As I was thinking about the tattoo I began to think about the road we, Charity and I, have traveled with Sophie.  I remember when I found out that she was pregnant and the day that Charity told me!  My great friend Conrad was in town and he knew before me that Charity was pregnant!  It was cool that he was there to take this picture when Charity told me that we were going to have our first child!

As time went on, approximately two weeks later, we had a scare.  Charity was having issues and we didn't know what to do.  I asked my friend Janice Yurek what we should do and that is when both told each other that we were pregnant (our girls are 5 days apart).  I ended up leaving work early that night and Charity and I spent hours in the hospital; we were scared, nervous and prayerful.

The rest of the pregnancy was pretty much event free... until it came time for Sophie to come.  Sophie was doing great but ended up having meconium aspiration (which means she went to the bathroom before she came out) and it can be very dangerous.  You can go check my blog (using this link) to see all that we went through when Sophie was in the NICU for the first 6 days of her life.

After she was released from the hospital we thought we were in the clear but had no clue we would be sent back to the ER less than 5 days later.  Needless to say I broke down crying on the phone but stayed strong the rest of the next 24 hours that we were in the hospital.  Since then we have had our bumps, scraps, cuts and bruises.   We have also had rad times at the Zoo, fun petting dogs, riding ponies, visiting grandparents, seeing aunts and uncles and growing as a family.

When I look at my newest tattoo it reminds me of some of these stories but more than anything I think of the huge blessing that Sophie Marie has been to our lives.  I think of how I cried when she was born or the day she said her first word.  I think about how she grabs my face and says "You're my favorite daddy in the whole world."  I am so stoked on this tattoo and how great of a job that Johnny Five (if you are in Vegas and need at tat call Johnny and tell him I sent you) did on it!  This was just the first session so there is more to come but that is Sophie's hand print in the middle and it just shows how much this little girl has touched my life.  Don't worry, the spot above the frame is saved for Leah's hand when she gets a little bigger.  I can't imagine my life without my little girls in it!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Fishing Trip 2010

This month has been a very special month for me.  Earlier this month my buddy Taun Yurek and I went on a fishing trip to Beaver Dam State Park here in Nevada.  It would be best to get this straight right away; Taun is a stud fisherman.  I grew up fishing with my dad but haven't done much fishing for about the last ten years.  Taun is a stud camper.  I have a pretty cool sleeping bag a sweet knife in case I need to cut something up.  Taun borrowed the sickest old school camper ever!  I drove my truck that towed it.  So here is our campsite where we stayed for three nights and four days.

We drove in around noon on Thursday, set up camp, ate some sweet sandwiches and then headed out to fish.  The first day I am pretty sure Taun caught around 8 fish.  I lost about 4 flies.  The next day was better.  We woke up early (thank you Mr. Sunshine) and had an amazing breakfast!  Taun hooked up the great breakfast burrito because I was too cold to function.  This was our power to go out and slay the fish that day!

This was my first time ever really fly fishing and it was something that I had only tried, unsuccessfully, once.  I may not have caught the biggest fish but it was a fish!  I was basically just super happy to have caught a fish.  We fished this little stream that we hiked to get to.  Once we got there we hiked down stream for about 30-40 minutes and just walked up the stream fishing.  Taun really knows how to read the water and where the fish like to chill.  He's pretty good, ok really good, at knowing what the fish like to hit on.

After fishing in the morning we went to another part of the stream to fish the afternoon.  There were some huge beaver dams up there that caused there to be good sized pools of water where the trout were stuck.  Taun caught this bad boy at our favorite hole (I lost about 5 fish at this hole and Taun caught most of them).  One of the best things was that all the fish we caught we released.  We brought all our own food up there so we didn't rely on catching fish to eat.

The fishing was great, the food was great and I had a rad time hanging out with Taun!  Here are some pictures of the scenery up there; a picture is worth a thousand words but still doesn't do what we saw justice

Friday, November 26, 2010

Is Jesus Really the Only Way to Heaven?

The other day I was driving and talking with a great childhood friend.  During our conversation we were talking about growing up in a small town and the effect that had our understanding/impression of religion.  He shared with me how he had studied other religions to check them out to just make sure he is making the right choice.  I affirmed that decission and shared that I had also checked out other religions; mine was more a study of them during my undergrad work and conversations with people from other religions.

The next day I was reading in the book of Acts and came across this verse:
Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved. Acts 4:12
When I read that verse it hit me, again, how Jesus is the only way to salvation.  I cannot create my own path to salvation; anything I try to do on my own could never equate with a Holy (Exodus 15:13) and perfect God (Psalm 18:30).

There is another verse that backs up the Acts 4:12 verse concurring that Jesus is the only way to salvation:.  We see Jesus answer a question from one of His disciples:
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." John 14:6
I chose to use the verse in Acts first because I prefer to find scripture that backs what Jesus says.  I have heard people say that Jesus was a good man but He definitely wasn't God.  The best book out there on that subject is "More than A Carpenter" by Josh McDowell.  In that book Josh talks through the three things that Jesus could have been (I'll let you read it to find out).

In my life I am convinced that Jesus is the Lord of the world.  I have read about Him in scripture, have put my faith in Him and have seen Him work in my life in some amazing ways.  I confess there are days that life is tough and I wonder where God is at work and what He is doing but I had hard days before I gave my life to Christ and had no hope to look forward to. 

Where have you placed your hope in this life?  Have you trusted in Christ for salvation?  If you haven't I'd like to recommend reading three verses: Romans 3:23, Romans 5:8 and Romans 10:9-10.  After you have read those I hope it helps you understand this topic more and how Jesus came to save you and me from our sins.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

We all need to get away

This month has been very special for me and the main thing is that my church is letting me take some time for Spiritual Refreshment!  I've heard the questions from people and even had a student ask me if I am taking six months off; the answer is no and I will be back on Sunday (which makes me excited).  I love my church but we all need to get away every now and then!

Last week I took a few days to head to Brian Head, Utah to get away with myself, a few book, my Bible and some food.  Some amazing friends from church let me borrow their condo and I just had a chance to spend some in-depth, alone time, with God.  The scenery up there is beautiful and the second day I was there it was pretty much overcast all day.  I left my snowboard at home to make sure that I took all the time I could to seek God out more. 

I have been reading in the Gospels (Mark 1:35 and 6:46) how Jesus took time away to just connect with God.  It has been hitting me more and more that I need to get back to that.

While I was away I just relaxed the first night to slow down some more.  The second day I was there I really was intentional in reading my Bible, listening to God and finished reading Emotionally Healthy Spiritually by Peter Scazzero.  The book has been extremely helpful to me and all that has gone on in my life in the last ten years (yep I am admitting that I am imperfect pastor who has junk in his life).  The other day a trusted leader stopped me mid-sentence and said "Neal, do you realize how much you have been through in the last 10 years?"  I think we all need to get away to remember where God has taken us and where God is leading us.

The final day the weather began to get nasty but I knew God wasn't done with me up there in the mountains.  I stayed for a while, read some more, spoke with God some more and took more time to relax.  I didn't want to rush out and miss what God wanted to do in my life.  See I know that God is working on Neal Benson right now and that is tough to square with.  We live in a culture, especially Vegas, where you are encouraged to have it all together.  The truth is that none of us have it together and I am going to be the first to admit it so you can feel comfortable admitting that when you're ready.

We live in a culture that radically needs to figure out how to slow down and take the time to spend with Jesus.  Three I have learned that everyone can do are:
1. Turn your phone off
This is something that can be difficult but every time I turn my phone off for 24 hours I feel better.  I feel the burden of life slow down and it allows me to focus on what matters most in my life. 
2. Take a day off
There is no way you can maintain the pace of life that the world asks of you without doing this.  I find it crazy that we are committed to 9 of the 10 commandments but are so easy to disregard the Sabbath (myself included).
3. Get away when you can
I know its not always possible to get away and put life on hold for 24-72 hours but can I encourage you to find times in your schedule to get away and hear the voice of God?  I can assure you that He wants to speak to you as bad as you would like to hear His voice.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Six Years Ago

Six years ago I loaded up my 1995 Ford Ranger with about 8 boxes and a bag of clothes.  I left Escondido, CA around ten in the morning and headed North on the 15 freeway.  It was a pretty mellow drive; not much traffic, the weather was nice but it was weird leaving the only state that I had ever lived in.

I arrived in Henderson, NV around 3pm at the house where I would be staying; it was with a super cool guy named Robbie.  He opened his home for me to stay at for a few weeks while I found a place of my own.  I remember jumping in his car that Wednesday night and going to check out the high school ministry at South Hills Church Community (my new place of employment).  I walked into the room and it was so rad to see what God was doing out in the desert!

About seven weeks later I flew back to San Diego to marry my beautiful fiance, Charity Fairfield.  Our wedding, that was supposed to be on the beach, was moved in doors because of the rain.  After a few days of staying in the nicest hotel of our lives, The Hotel Del Coronad, we loaded up that same truck and drove out to Las Vegas.  We had the craziest drive of our lives!

Well we jumped right in and were leading the Middle School Ministry called Ignite and had some great nights; we had our fare share of rough nights too but God always seemed to be growing us, teaching us and leading us closer to Him.  After nine months of leading Ignite I was asked by Rob Hall to lead Explode also... wow that was a huge growth time!

Soon both ministries began to grow and interns were hired to help out.  Then we brought on Chase Feindel to lead Ignite and I was able to focus more in leading Explode.  Chase began to love on students, leaders and parents and it was amazing to see God grow not only the ministry us (Charity and I) through everything.  In September 2007 I had the blessing of being ordained by the Christian and Missionary Alliance as a pastor; something that I had worked for at over two years to accomplish.

Well it seemed like time has flown because in August 2008 we had our beautiful little Sophie Marie and it felt like no time after that Charity was pregnant again with Leah Joy who was born in March 2010.  Who knew that so much would happen in the last six years that started with a trip to check out a church in Las Vegas and a call from God to come back to that church.

 It seems weird writing the story of the last six years of my life but its so fun to remember the amazing things that God has done.  I didn't even take the time to write about the churches we roofed in Africa, the house we built in Mexico, the many winter camps we have done, the times going to Hume Lake for summer camp and seeing hearts changed.  I could tell more and more stories about how God has worked in our lives here in the last six years and I am so thankful for the times that we have had serving here at South Hills.  Thank you for allowing me to pastor here!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Spiritual Refreshment

Tonight was weird

Tonight I didn't go to Explode.  Not because I was on vacation, or taking another class for seminary.  I wasn't out of town for a conference or for a wedding.  Tonight I missed Explode because I am taking three weeks off for spiritual refreshment.  Its hard to believe but 5 years and 357 days ago I moved out to Vegas to serve at South Hills Church.

This month I went to my pastor and asked for some time off for spiritual refreshment.  I knew it wasn't the best time for me to take my sabbatical but I knew that I was getting close to being spiritual depleted.  I know in some churches I could have shared that and it could have gone much different; and I am very thankful for my church and for them caring about my spiritual health.

I am taking some time to connect with God, read, pray, get away, and spend more time with my family.  Its kinda weird because I am so used to serving and leading weekly.  I am so used to being with our students, leaders and staff.  Its weird but I am thankful to get some time to get refreshed and seek God more this month.  Thanks for giving me some time off to seek Jesus!

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Little Leah

Little Leah is not so little anymore

When Leah was first born I just started calling her "Little Leah", kind of like when Sophie was born I started calling her "Little Charger" (that is another story) but Little Leah is not so little anymore.

I feel like the last 7 months of my life has blown by... so quickly that Leah will be 8 months old in two days.  Since I haven't done as well keeping up with Leah's growth here is a quick video of how my little girl is growing up and getting so big.