Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Fist Full of Quarters

About 10 days ago I was able to be a part of something amazing...

My buddy Jason Sowell leads a super cool non-profit organization called Current.  Part of what he does is something called the Laundry Love Project.  Now he has been doing these for years and has even taken it so far as to come to Vegas for the last three years and wash people's laundry for them.  Now I have to be honest that when he first told me about it I was a bit skeptical.  I really thought: "You are going to do laundry for people?"  It didn't register to me.

He finally got me to come and check it out (and help) for the last laundry project that he led in Vegas and I was in awe at what he does.  I think that Jason is meeting a social need for people.  It never hit me that there are people in the world, in my own city, that cannot afford to wash their clothes.  I have taken that fact for granted for the last 32 years of my life.  It was great to see the expressions on the face of the people when we told them that we would pay to do their laundry.

Now it wasn't free.  Jason raised a bunch of money to make it happen.  Jason took time to find money to bring it Vegas so that he could pay to do someone's laundry who he has never met.  Think about that real quick.  I saw it with my own eyes.  I was able to grab a fist full of quarters, put them in my pocket and sock them away in laundry machines so people could have clean clothes.

Jason plans on returning to Vegas in May and I told him that I would get a team of 15 people together to go down to the Laundry Mat and help out.  We only had six people while I was there and that wasn't enough people to help out.  We need your help to help out others for something it is needed!  Before you write it off, just watch some of the videos listed on his site.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

one more scar

About five months ago I went to my dermatologist to get a final check up on my skin.  As she examined my skin I really thought I was out of the woods with her.  See in the last five years she has removed two moles that precancerous from my back.  At this appointment I thought I was done until she asked me to turn around and look at the back of my legs.  She pulled out her pen and circled a spot on my leg... I was bummed.

That day she cut the mole off and I was out.  I got a call back and just assumed that the mole was fine just like the rest but this time I was wrong.  I was called again to get an appointment to get in as soon as I could so she could cut the mole off a little deeper because she didn't get the entire precancerous matter out.  I went in early on a Wednesday morning and got prepped to get the mole removed.  It was extremely weird being awake as she was cutting my leg open.  She informed me that she would need to cut out the mole and then cut my leg in a diamond shape so that she could stitch it up properly for healing.  This is a picture of my leg after 24 hours of it being removed.  I saw my leg after the first day and I was pretty nervous that it would be jacked up but I knew that I would rather have a nasty scar on my leg then no leg.

Well it has been almost three weeks now since the surgery and my leg is looking much better.  I am thankful to share that my doctor is amazing and was able to remove everything that precancerous.  I have a great doctor who did a great job on my leg and it is looking so much better!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

In 12 Days

About two weeks I received and email from an amazing lady named Suzanne.  Suzanne has a really cool story that prompted her to start her company called In 12 Days.  The connection happened because of the guys on our staff wanted to propose to his girlfriend.  In 12 Days wanted to help him out by blessing him with an amazing way to propose and hook up a free engagement ring from a local jeweler that was announced on the local Christian Radio Station.

The more and more I think about what Suzanne does and the impact she is having on Las Vegas I just help but think what a special lady she is.  I think about the time that she has taken to help bless these families in our community.  I think about the time she has taken to think about creative ways to bless people.  I think about the hours she has invested in getting people to help her out to bless others.  I start thinking that this lady is really fulfilling her purpose in life by being a blessing to others.  Then I finally think: "What if everyone acted the way she does?"

Check out the video of Evan asking Amy to be his bride

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Broken Heart

This morning I received an email from Africa talking about a country that broke my heart five years ago.  Five years ago I was able to go to Burkina Faso, in West Africa, with a team of twelve people.  I was fortunate enough to go with my wife on this trip which made the mission trip so much more beneficial for me (The picture of us on the alligator is the best one I have of just us and I can't find one of the team).

I don't want this blog post today to turn into a discussion about alligator riding but to focus on the need of Burkina now.  See ever since we went to Burkina our heart has broken for the country.  I actually tried to lead another trip there about a year later with some students but it didn't pan out (it was a good thing we didn't go).  Our church has since sent two more teams to Burkina and every time they leave I wish I was going with them.

The children in Burkina broke my heart.  They were so much fun to play with, hang out with, laugh with and joke with.  I would love to bring my little girls over there (soon) to experience the country and the people.  See the main reason I wanted to blog about Burkina today is due to the email that I received this morning talking about clean water.  I am not a fan of watching videos longer than 2-3 minutes but this six minute video is well worth the time.  Watch the video here and start to think about what you could do to help people who do not have clean water!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Sherlock Holmes- A Game of Shadows

On Saturday Charity and I went to see the new Sherlock Holmes movie; A Game of Shadows.  We both totally loved the first one so when the second one came out there was no question if we would see it or not.  Now I am not a movie review kind of person but I did want to share some thoughts about the movie with you.   I am not going to give anything away about the plot of the movie so don't worry about protecting your eyes as you read this.

First of all I love the movie!  I love the action in the movie.  It is a movie that keeps you thinking.  If you saw the first Sherlock Holmes then you know what I am talking about.  Every little detail in the movie seems to come back and play into the whole of the movie later on.  I love how creative the writers of the movie are (I am not sure who they are but the did good on this one).  The attention to detail in these movies has always impressed me as someone who likes to think about what is going to happen next.

Now I have to admit there are some behaviors in the movie that I would consider questionable.  Doctor Watson is portrayed as a drunk who can barely stand on the way to his wedding and he also has a pretty intense gambling problem.  There is one point where Sherlock Holmes disguises himself as a female to help save his friend.  I didn't sense there was a drag theme at all but that Sherlock was considering the best way to help his friend out.

Finally the best part about the movie was that I was able to see it with my wife on our date day.  We love to create a time, each week, where we just spend time with each other.  The movie is not the ideal place for this but this time we had to make it happen.  See Charity and I have committed to never stop dating each other and times like this allow me to hold my wife's hand, eat popcorn with her, laugh with her and talk about the movie afterward.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

More is Caught then Taught

About four months ago I received a transition in our church.  I had served in our student ministry department for almost seven years and was asked to transition over to adult ministries.  My new role is completely different than my old role.  My new role is more daily organization, my phone calls and more different than I ever expected.

When change happens in our life we tend to examine things around us.  I began to examine my leadership in student ministry and really started thinking about how I would change if I had a change to do it again.  I also started to think about what I would do more of and take more time and energy to invest in.  One thing that keeps sticking out to me is that: "More is Caught then Taught" in ministry.  I say this because I constantly hear young adults in our church, that graduated from our high school ministry, say things like: "Neal I remember when you said this to me or took the time to talk to me about this."

Last night I was talking with one of these young men and he told me about a conversation that we had and how I was encouraging him in relationships.  Yesterday afternoon I spent some time with one of the guys who was in my small group and now is a junior in high school.  We have kids, students and people in our church that are watching what I do.  You have kids, students and adults in your church that are watching how you act.

I believe that more is caught in ministry than taught.  I believe that people forget most of the messages that we speak from stage but remember what they see us doing in our community, office, trucks, backyard and soccer field.  People are watching what we do and that is why this verse is so important as we live our lives.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35 (NIV)
I think that people are going to remember the time we invest into their lives more than our actions on a stage, or leadership position, the degrees on my wall and the things the world thinks are important.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Financial Peace University Wrap Up

For the last thirteen weeks I have been taking a class with about 250+ other people in our church called Financial Peace University.  After taking the class I wanted to share some thoughts that really stuck out to me about the class, the material and what I learned.  I think something very important to note about this class is that people in our church paid off almost 2 million dollars during the thirteen weeks of this course!

This class has provoked conversation in our church that probably would have never occurred without the class.  I wish I had counted how many couples told me this has improved their personal conversation.  There were people in our church that just never spoke about money and this class has helped people to talk about a topic that was such a taboo.  Its funny to hear about how a class that is so focused on money has helped save marriages in our church just by opening up conversation.

Before I took this class I really could have cared less about credit cards.  I thought they were actually really cool.  I could buy stuff that I wanted today and then pay for it later down the road.  Then I got this credit card that actually gave me free air flights for just spending money on it.  We were getting about four free flights a year with this card and that was pretty cool.  We would use this credit card like a debit card and then pay it off at the end of the month... so I thought.  When Charity and I really started examining our spending on this card we realized that we owed it about $1500.  We made a goal to pay that off and cut the card up.

Cash is pretty fun but when I spend it I get bummed sometimes.  See I learned, when we moved from credit to cash, that it actually makes me think more about the purchase when I use cash to buy it.  We have moved to a strictly cash based system in our family because of this course.  It may be a little more difficult then using a card but we know where our money is going and we are no longer in debt.

Though this course I have seen people get connected to our church.  I have spoken with families who are meeting people and doing life with them now on a weekly basis.  People in our church are getting connected to others in our church through this class.  We had people sit at tables and have discussion about the weekly lesson.  It has been fun seeing people get connected through this course.

If you are going to be in Vegas and want to take this course make sure to check out our next session that begins January 17th 2011

Thursday, December 08, 2011


I am desensitized.
You are desensitized.

The world we live in desensitizes us to the things around us that normally would bother us.  I remember when I first moved to Vegas and how awful I thought the billboards where.  I could not stand seeing the advertisements that were on the back of the taxi cabs here in town.  Now, seven years late, I realize how desensitized I am to that.

See over time we become desensitized to the things that once bothered us.  This can happen in your work place, your home life, your school, and in your Christianity.  I am sure there are things around you that once made your stomach turn (even if it was just a little).  There were once things in your life that you could not stand to watch but now when you see them you ignore it because you have seen it so much.

Think about some of the things that middle school and high school students are seeing on a daily basis; things that would have never been accessible to me when I was younger.  Think about the things that are shown in movies now days.  Things that would have never been allowed on the "big screen" are now a regular occurrence.  The saddest thing is that I just sit there and do nothing about it.  Sometimes I laugh, sometimes I turn away but for the most part I do nothing.

I am more and more perplexed, bothered, and frustrated by this as a dad then I have ever been before.  The issue I struggle with is how to appropriately engage culture to see life change...  I want to be a part of life change in the world and I really think the more we desensitize the world the more clear we need to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to those who are looking for purity in a world full of sludge.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Mastering Church Management: Book Review

I am currently take a course for Tozer Seminary called: "Politics, Legalities and Money".  The class has really been super helpful and has impressed me as to the content we have studied for the course.  I just emailed my final paper to a great friend who will edit it, make it bleed, and then help me correct my grammar.
For this course I sought more external resources than I ever have for a final paper because of the nature of the class.  Thanks to a classmate I was able to get a handful of helpful books from the Simpson University Library.  One of them is Mastering Church Management.  Now I am sure that most of you will not run off to Amazon to get the book but I think you may want to reconsider that.  This book has a some great information contained within the interesting looking cover and was considerably more helpful then I had imagined it would be!
The book was helpful with information on maintaining staff moral, encouraging staff members, staff transition and lots of other areas of staff leadership.  I was thinking to myself today about how cool it is that the principles laid out in this book are still applicable some 25+ years later.  If you are thinking about becoming an executive pastor, lead pastor or church planter I am going to recommend this book to you.
Favorite Quote: "Devoting time to nurturing staff members' competence and interpersonal relationships says we value them, not just their ministry output." page 148

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

What do you stand for?

This has been running around in my mind A LOT lately.  I think it all started when I really was evaluating what the city I live in really stands for.  Most cities have a name they are known for.  Before I moved to Las Vegas I lived in America's Finest City (San Diego).  There is the Motor City (Detroit) and we also have the Windy City (Chicago).  I am sure there are very creative names for many other cities across this globe but for some reason or another God has chosen to place me in Sin City.

When I look at these different city names they all seem to fit.  I was blessed to live in San Diego for just over five years and that place is truly America's Finest City.  It seems logical to me that Detroit would be called the Motor City understanding how the auto manufacture's cars there.  I have never been to Chicago before but I have heard that it is very windy.  I have lived in Vegas for over seven years now and it really is Sin City.

After thinking about these city names I got to thinking about what I stand for.  If someone had to give me a name for what my life was all about what would that name be?  If someone gave you a name for what your life stands for what would that name be?  Names are given to places because of what they have chosen to focus on and be known for.  In a world that has chosen to reject God on so many levels what are you willing to stand for and what will you be known for?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Thanksgiving Vacation

Last week we pulled out of Vegas for our annual trip to the in-laws house.  Basically ever since I met Charity we have gone to do Thanksgiving with her family and this year we did the same.  There were a few variations to the trip and one big one was that we stopped to see my dad on the way to Santa Maria.  We had a great time with my dad and while we were there we took some time to visit the property where my dads house that I basically grew up in.  In Oct 2007 my dads house was burned down in a fire so it is weird going there and not seeing his home but my girls loved running around the 10 acres of land that he has!

After that we jumped in the car and heading to Charity's parents house.  During the week we did some really cool things like head to Pismo beach where we played on the beach!  After taking a good walk on the beach we went over to Splash Cafe and had THE BEST clam chowder in the world!  If you go there you need to make sure you order it with the seafood topping on top; you will not regret the choice if you like seafood.

While we were there Sophie and I took up our favorite weekly tradition of going out to get doughnuts.  I really love these times of eating doughnuts with Sophie, talking with her and just hanging out.  I know there will be a day that she doesn't wake up at 6am and had no desire to get breakfast with me but on Saturday that was not the case.  Sophie and I went to a cool little doughnut shop that basically had a bunch of old men sitting around drinking coffee and me and her there.  We laughed, ate doughnuts, had chocolate milk and then brought doughnuts holes home.

The entire week was a great break to spend some time with my family, see our extended family and get to laugh with family.  Overall I am just so thankful for the family we have, how God has blessed us and how much we get to do!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Reference Time

Every year, around this time, I end up having the cool opportunity to write some references for people who are wrestling with their faith.  Right now we have high school students that are trying to figure out the rest of their life right now (that is scary, read it again) and I have a cool chance to help be a spiritual guide in that process.  Generally I am not the person that likes to sit down and work on paper work but I feel like it is an honor to be able to write these references for students and share what God is doing in their life.  I get to be a cool help to someone on the other end that is trying to help this student figure out their life path.

It goes deeper than that because this las week I was able to write a third reference for one of my first small group guys as he is getting ready to graduate with his bachelors.  I love to look and see what God is doing in his life.  He is such a great young man that I couldn't imagine not being a part of all that is happening in his life.

Finally, I have another guy in my life who I just was able to write a reference for him to attend seminary!  I am so proud of all that God is doing in his life.  I was able to lead in Middle School ministry here with him at South Hills Church.  Then I was able to be a part of him and his wife falling in love.  After that I was able to preform his wedding ceremony (which was so cool).  Now I get to see, first hand, the plans that God has for his life coming to bloom.

Basically what I am saying is that there is something cool about being involved in people's lives for a long period!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Seven Years Later

Seven years ago, tonight, I was finishing my first night of Ignite Junior High Ministry at South Hills Church Community.  I am pretty sure that this was the night that I just was able to sit in and watch what was taking place in our Middle School Ministry.  I remember the next week I was off for Thanksgiving and the following week it was my turn to lead; we had eight students show up and twelve leaders.  I was ready to change the world with that group of people.  

See about two months earlier I had sent in this picture to South Hills, with my resume, when I applied for the job.  Most people encouraged me NOT to send in this picture but I was convinced that I wanted to be in a place that would allow me to be who I am; and this picture captured that.  The crazy thing is how quick it happened.  Charity and I were not even married at the time but after we visited I knew we were moving to Vegas (a bittersweet event for two So Cal kids).

In the last seven years practically everything has changed in my life.  I went from being our Middle School Pastor to the Discipleship Pastor and everything in between.  When I moved out here I was not even married!  While here I have begun, and completed, my ordination with The Alliance (our denomination).  While doing that I have almost completed seminary.  I also got a few more tattoos while out here, gained a few pounds, lost my plugs and started getting a real haircut (sometimes).

In the last seven years I have learned a whole bunch but here are some things I was thinking about today that have stuck out to me:

This may seem like something weird to start off with but its so true.  When I moved out here I was so green in ministry it's not even funny.  My church was there to support me when I was ordained (here are pics to show it).  When I was getting restless in Middle School Ministry they added my responsibilities and helped me learn some more.  They supported me when I was leading mission trips, encouraged me when I taught from stage and sat me down when I messed up.  They were there when my kids were born and now are watching them grow up!  I am thankful to have had such a supportive place to do ministry.

I know I'm not supposed to write this but I am going to: ministry is tough!  I have seen students walk away from Jesus, seen adults walk away from our church and had friends who loved Jesus stopped talking to me.  I have come home from camps and wanted to quit, been on the mission field and seen hungry kids who have never had a shower and met homeless guys who seem insane.  The best part of all of this is that I had a church support me through it all because when I was growing up they never gave up on me.

When I came to South Hills I said I wanted to come somewhere and do ministry for ten years.  Now I knew the average youth pastor was only lasting for 9-18 months but I wanted to change that.  I have been fortunate to have some great pastors in my life who modeled longevity in ministry and they encouraged me to do the same.  I guess you could say that longevity has been breed into my ministry DNA.  That helped me commit when times got tough.  Now I can look back on students I met in the seventh grade who I am doing ministry alongside.  I have families that I am the only youth pastor their kids knew!  Longevity matters for influence, character and people know when I mess up I am not leaving because I have a church that has watched me grow up.

South Hills Church, I really want to thank you for everything and everyone over the last seven years.  I could not imagine where I would be without you.  It has been a privilege to serve here.  I came alone but have been so blessed out here in the desert! 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

$23 in the mason jar

I have grown up having a dog in my home ever since I can really remember.  When Charity and I first got married we waited about a year and got our first dog Rosie.  Rosie was a good little dog but once Sophie became mobile we realized that is wasn't going to work out to keep Rosie around and made the tough choice to give her away.

For the last year I have really wanted to get another dog in our home but it just hasn't been the right timing.  I have looked at many different breeds of dogs and have narrowed my list down to certain breeds I like better than others.  Then once we started taking Financial Peace University (FPU) I realized this was a cool chance to get my daughters in the habit of saving for what we want.  See Sophie and Leah both love dogs and I'm sure they can't wait until we get one in our home but FPU taught me that I can't just use my credit card to buy a dog and think that everything will be ok.

Starting about ten weeks ago Sophie, Leah and I began to save my extra allowance money in a mason jar in our house.  It started out with a few bucks here and there and then I started having to swap out the ones in there for fives and tens.  Right now we have $24 saved up to buy our dog.  The goal is to have enough money  to be able to head to the pound (or Craigslist) and find a dog that really needs a good home.  We have decided that there are enough dogs in the world that need a good home and I think we can provide that home but not until we have enough saved up.  Some of the cool parts of this saving is it provides an opportunity for me to teach my girls the value of saving and allows them to see the growth as we pack dollars into the jar.  Something even better is the other night we saw our friend and shared with her what we are doing.  After Sophie told her our plan she reached into her pocket and pulled out a dollar for Sophie to stuff in the jar.  I'm very excited for the day we get to head to the pound and rescue a dog! 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Financial Peace University- Week Ten

Charity and I have been taking Financial Peace University, along with 250+ other people in our church, for the last ten weeks.  Over the last ten weeks my thinking about money has been radically changed.  I would consider myself to have always been pretty good with money but this course has helped me really understand more of what my responsibility is with the resources that God has put me in charge of.  

Now I have taken some time off from blogging about the course but this week made me think and really encouraged me to start sharing again.  I want to share about this course, not in intense detail, but just vague enough to make you want to take the course.  This week we talked about investing for retirement and what we talked about rocked my thinking!  

Charity and I currently invest about 13% of our income into a retirement fund.  Most people would say: "That is great Neal!"  The sad thing is that I have allowed someone else to dictate where my retirement fund goes and due to that I have made a -16% return on my money this year.  In other words I would have been better to put my money under our bed!  

With that said the question I leave you with: "Do you have a plan for retirement or are you just hoping you have enough?"

Monday, November 07, 2011

Bring Your Daughter to Work Day

For the last couple months (maybe weeks) Sophie has been asking if she could come to work with me.  Now I would love to bring my three year old to work with me but lets be honest: she would be bored!  Well this Sunday was the time change and that is a joke if you have kids but I decided this would be the day to bring Sophie with me.  We got all ready, we held hands on the way to the truck, Sophie sang about how excited she was to come help me out and we headed over to church.  Since it was the time change we showed up a bit early and got our FPU class ready.
When I needed to print some things Sophie decided that she would help me out and got on the computer.  Honestly I was a bit nervous bringing her t the office with me but she did great!  I brought her into our staff prayer time before service and I told her that we can't talk.  While we were talking through the service she looked at me and said: "How come they are talking?"  Sophie is very into being fair.  It was a great day with Sophie and I just knew that I needed to share this moment.  

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Singing in the Truck

This week we had to drop Charity's car off at the mechanic so that meant we were using the truck for the day.  I pulled the truck in the garage; something that has never happened before and the girls loved it!  We took some time to play in the truck while I was putting in another car seat.  Sophie was having fun playing around in the truck (turning all the knobs to something different and eating my altoids).  Then I brought Leah into the truck and they were being so cute with each other.

I let them play together for a little while and then Sophie asked me to turn the truck on and roll up the windows.  I was not about to roll up the windows and leave them in there but I did want to film them and show the world how cute it is when my kids sings to Justin Beiber!

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Halloween Fun

We did our traditional halloween and went over to our friends the Yurek's home for a little party.   Charity dressed up as a Chargers fan and in the pic to the left I don't have my costume on yet.  Sophie was dressed up as Tiana, from Princes and The Frog, which also doubled as Justin Beaver's (that what Sophie calls him) girlfriend.  Little Leah dressed up as Tinkerbell and was the cutest fairy ever!

Last night I had so much fun with my family!  We started off by watching the Chargers game and then took our party to the streets to get some candy! Sophie rode her tricycle around (that means I pushed it) and Leah was in her braught braught (her little car that Charity pushed).  We went house to house, got some candy and really just had a great night with our friends laughing, eating food and just hanging out.

I dressed up as Jesus; which brought quite the few comments.  I was very interested in the amount of people who took note of me being Jesus.  One guy said something to the effect of: "Hey Jesus, I got a lot to talk to you about." Being a pastor I kindly replied: "Let me know when you're ready, I have time for you."  It may have been a quick comment but hopefully I was able to remind him that Jesus always has time for us.  All in all I had a great halloween with my family.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

"More is Caught Than Taught Ministry"

This line was shared with me early when I got into ministry: "More is Caught Than Taught".  For the last couple years I have thought about how true this statement is.  I have invested the last eight and a half years of my life into spreading the Gospel; mainly to students.  Over these years I have seen hundreds of students come and go through the doors of our church.  As I think back to my internship and the hundreds of students at Eastlake Church that we ministered to there is only one student I keep in contact with.

After Eastlake Church I helped out with a church plant just north is a cool city called Encinitas.  I have to say that I have loosely kept in contact with one family from that church.  Being at South Hills Church for the last, almost, seven years I have had a chance to share the truth of the Bible with lots of people.  I think about these last seven years and I have a hard time believing that any of them can remember more than ten messages that I have shared.  Ok, lets be honest, I think we would be hard pressed to find someone who remembers more than five of the messages I have preached here.  To be honest, I would be stoked if there were a handful of people that remember one of the messages I have preached at our church.

(Indoor Skydiving with Spencer, Travis and Nick)
If there are a few people that remember one of the messages that I have preached and have acted on that truth of God I would be very excited.  I would more excited to hear about students who have changed the direction of their life because we have spent time with them.  I really do think that preaching on Sunday is super important but I think that people are more prone to remember the things we do off the stage.  See I think that if you spoke with some of the students in our church they would share that they learned more from me on a road trip to snowboard or out on the lake.  They could probably tell you how I acted at Hume Lake when we played paintball or a conversation we had at the lunch table.

I guess what I am trying to say is our lives are an example for Christ and people are watching our every move.  I want to be known for how I lived my life off stage.  I want people to remember how I acted in tough situations because I chose the high road.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The "Almost Done" Letter

Earlier this month I spent a week in Redding, CA working on a week of seminary.  While I was up there I was handed this letter:

Now this letter isn't the easiest thing in the world to read but it says a key line in there:
"If you successfully complete the above courses as scheduled, you will finish the requirements for the Masters of Divinity program as listed above."
This is something that I have been working on for over five years now and to be handed this letter was crazy emotional.  There are a few things this letter means to me that some people may not understand:

1) Less Time Away From Home
I have spent a good deal of time away from my family over the last five years, six when I finish, and this letter means that I can have more time with my family after graduation.

2) Accomplishment
Many of you know that I dropped out of high school my junior year.  I ended up going back and finishing at a continuation school.  I didn't drop out because I was stupid I dropped out because I had a bunch going on in my family life and I was bored at school.  Studying the Bible is something that I love to do!

3) Education
I started this MDiv program because felt that God was calling me to but during the process He taught me that it is more about the education I have received than a piece of paper that will sit on my wall.

These are just a few things this letter means to my life.  It will always be a reminded to me of all the hard work I put in, studying the word of God, to help others know Christ.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

My Yellow Watch

Even since I was a wee little kid I have always wanted a Shark watch.  I know... some people want a Rolex but I want a watch with a rubber wristband.  So for my 30th birthday my amazing wife found me a Shark watch in my favorite color (see picture).  This is me wearing my watch the first day I got it as we are heading to watch a movie for my birthday.

This summer we went to Hume Lake and I was so stoked to wear my watch and actually have the time on my wrist!  On Tuesday some of the Senior guys invited me to go kayaking with them.  Once we were on the lake I realized that none of them have ever been to Hume before and told them that we have to head down to the cove to play on the log roll.

We rowed to the other side of the lake, parked the boats and swam over to the log roll.  Now the log roll is an amazing experience that I could not let these guys miss out on.  After playing for a while I knew it was getting late so I looked at my wrist but my watch was gone.  I was so bummed.  I was beyond bummed.

That night, back at camp, I started thinking of how to get my watch back.  I had a pair of googles but I would need help.  Then it hit me; my alarm is going off at 6:23am to wake me up and my watch is waterproof.  That night I asked around and was able to get five guys to help me and four more pairs of googles.  The next morning we woke up before 6am, borrowed a car, drove to the cove and did this:

My watch spent the night at the bottom of Hume Lake but today it sits back on my left wrist as I type this.  The craziest thing about this is something that wasn't caught on video.  Before I jumped into the lake I stopped to pray that God would help me find my watch and sure enough I did!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Financial Peace University Week Six

This Sunday we had our sixth week of Financial Peace University.  This class has been pretty cool, for me personally, and seems to be very helpful for our church also.  My last post on FPU was a brief overview of what we are learning and was just a scratch of the surface.

Yesterday I was extremely tired during the class but I was also excited to hear what Dave Ramsey was saying.  See I finally felt like yesterday was something that Charity and I were already doing; the previous five weeks were things that we needed to adjust in our finances and that can be tough to hear and more difficult to actually make happen!

Here is a quick overview of what I am taking away from yesterdays FPU course:

  1. Wait overnight before making a purchase
  2. Carefully consider your buying motives.  No amount of stuff equals contenment of fulfillment
  3. Never buying anything you do not understand.
  4. Consider the "opprotuinty cost" of your money
  5. Seeking the counsel of your spouse. 
I feel like Charity and I have done good with our money since being married but we want to do better as we move forward.  We are examining every aspect of what we have to make sure that we are using what God has given us to the best of our ability.  

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Financial Peace University Debt Load

Our church just finished week five of Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University and we are getting ready to start week six.  This course has been super cool, for me, to see how many people have jumped in to get involved.  We have almost 40% of our church involved in this course which tells me two things:

1) The Las Vegas Economy has hit harder than I thought
2) People want to find financial freedom

One of the steps in the class is for the people involved to anonymously write down their debt load.  To be honest I had no what to expect to see with this number when it came in.  Now we have three different sessions of the class that we are offering to our church and from those different sessions we came up with one debt load number.  I am not going to share that exact number but I want to let you know that it is over four million dollars.

I have been hesitant to put up that number because I think it can bring up emotions in peoples lives and to be honest I have a part of that number.  In yesterdays blog I shared my personal learnings and personal debt load that Charity and I are carrying.  The reason I chose to end up sharing that number is because I am excited to share with you in December the new number.  See FPU is designed to help people get back on their feet financially and take control of their finances.

If you are in our church and you are reading this I want you to know that I am praying for everyone in our church to find financial freedom.  I am praying for people to be able to take control of their finances and not let their finances take control of them.  I am praying for people to find new connections with people in our church that they may have never met because of this course.  I love my church and I am so proud of everyone taking the course and making the steps to get financial freedom!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Financial Peace University: Week Five

This week we hit week five in our Financial Peace University (FPU) Course that our church has been doing.  I am one of 260 people in our church that is taking the course in one of the three different times we are offering it.  Last night I started thinking about FPU and what this has done for our family already.

Charity and I moved about two months ago and well... to be honest, moving cost us more than we had bargained for.  We didn't have to rent a moving truck (thanks to a friend) and we didn't have to pay movers (thanks to many friends).  When we were planning the move we knew we would need some more furniture to help fill the new house; we went from 1050 square feet to over 1700 square feet.

Secondly we have used our credit card like a debt card for the last five years.  We would put all our family expenses on the card and then pay it off monthly.  Well with the addition of two children in the last three years expenses have increased and we found out that we owed our credit card $1500.  That may not be too huge a number for the average American family but we don't want to be the average American family.

Finally FPU has been great to share with the young adults at our church.  Charity really took this as her personal goal this summer to get as many college students in this course to help them make wise choices financially right away in life.  I love getting to spend time with the people at our table, on a weekly basis, and see how they are getting this lesson before they make the unwise choices.

These are some random thoughts from FPU at our church but I really think this course has changed the way I am thinking about money.  I want to make sure that I make the best choices with the resources that God has put in my possession.

Monday, October 03, 2011

A Major Accomplishment

The other day I was looking at my wall and noticed something super cool.  See when I arrived at South Hills almost seven years ago I made an agreement to work on my ordination as a pastor.  Within four months I had accomplished my licensing with the Christian and Missionary Alliance.  From there it was supposed to be a two year process to get my Ordination completed.  After two (and a half) years of working on my Ordination I finally took the flight to Sacramento to have my final Ordination interview.

The interview could cover over 280 questions and it was all oral.  I sat in a room with five men who most had been pastoring longer than I had been alive.  I would be lying if I said I wasn't nervous sitting in that room with those men but I also had a confidence sitting there with them.  I knew that these men wanted me to succeed; they had been rooting for me the last couple years and now it was time to culminate all my work.

After a two hour interview I was asked to leave the room and allow the men deliberate from our time.  I was called back in about 15 minutes later.  The leader of the interview said some great things about our time together, complimented me on my understanding of Theology and there was a cool sense in the room that day.  There is one line that sticks out to me from that time when Doug (our district supervisior) said this: "Neal it is the recommendation of this board to approve your ordination with no reservation and nothing further to work on."

I'm not sure if you have ever had anyone say that to you but I was told later that basically I nailed it.  My life was in line, I was correct on scripture and that interview affirmed my calling into life-long pastoral ministry.  Now I don't share all of this to brag but to just share my excitement of call on my life from where I started my life to where God has brought me.

(This is Roy Price officiating my Ordination Service)

(A group of our pastors and elders praying for Charity and me)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Made for Ministry

A few weeks ago I took an online Small Groups Conference through Saddleback Church called "Twelve".  During the conference I was reminded of a few things that sparked my excitement for ministry, again, in a new way.  One of those things was that we were made for ministry.  God created me to serve the church and use the gifts and talents that I have to help the church be a better place for others.  I hope that is something that you believe in your life and actively live out!

Part of my new role I am helping to slot childcare for our Tuesday night Financial Peace University.  Now if you were honest with yourself most people would not find it a joy to find people to watch other people's kids; when you say it like that.  But if you say it a different way and get to see what I have seen and hear the stories that I have heard it becomes a totally different story.  I get to see students using their gift of love and compassion to watch kids on a weekly basis so that families in our church can grow in their financial understanding.

See I have a cool seat where I get to see students serving with younger kids, loving on them, playing with them, hanging out with them, holding little babies and modeling the love of Christ to these children.  Now there are times that it can be tough but I have taken a new approach on the whole deal.  See I truly believe that when I ask a student to watch children that they are ministering to those younger kids as an older believe in Christ.  I am not just "slotting childcare" but I am helping students find their calling in the body of Christ and use their time to love on kids.

Even as I write this is makes me smile because most of the students have actually thanked me for inviting them into ministry on Tuesday nights!  I had a conversation with one girl that got me so excited because I was able to explain to her that we need to allow others this opprotunitty to minister.  Here is a text message that I got from a young man who helped out one night and it just makes me smile!  When you read the message you can see that this young man had a great time ministering to these younger kids.  He let me know that he met some kids who were pretty cool and that he would not just do it again if I asked him but he would be happy to do it again.

See we are made for ministry.  We are made to use our gifts and talents to serve the church to help others find their full potential in Christ.  Are you taking part in that?  I hope you are because then you will be happy to come and serve again. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Power of an Invite {Part.Three}

Now that I had been invited to church and God had done some amazing changes in my life, I began to live my life differently.  I stopped drinking (personal choice) because I know where it had taken me in the last few years.  I also stopped doing drugs because I just didn't think that lined up, Biblically, with my new decision to follow Christ.  I started to serve at my local church and helped out in our children's ministry (this was a great place for me to grow spiritually).

Then one night I had the chance to invite someone on the journey I was taking.  I was at a friends house from Big Bear who had recently moved to San Diego.  He was living in a large house a couple minutes from my place with a few other guys who were all from Big Bear also.  The house was a full on party house so much so that they called it the Playboy Mansion.  It was a Saturday night and I was hanging out at the house when someone asked me about why I wasn't drinking.  I began to share my faith and what God was doing in my life.

At that moment my friend Brian walked out of the room and headed, quickly, to his room.  I wasn't to sure what he was getting in his room and to be honest I thought he was grabbing a gun.  He came out of his room shaking a Bible and saying (loudly): "I want to understand this book and what it means."  I knew he was drunk so I told him what I knew I safely could and then invited him to come to small group with me on Tuesday when he was sober.  He accepted the invite and the conversation changed.

On Tuesday I pulled up to Brian's house and went inside to get him.  He totally forgot that he had said he could come to small group but he ended up coming with me.  That night, in small group, Brian broke down in tears and confessed his sin.  God was working heavily in his heart and he accepted Christ that night!  Brian was in desperate need of a savior and God used me as a man to invite him to church.  Our friendship has grown so much that I was able to preform his wedding ceremony!  Brian is one of my best friends and I am so proud of what God has done in his life in the last 10 years.  I often wonder what would have happened in Brian's life if God never used me to invite him to church...

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Power on an Invite {Part.Two}

When I was twenty years old I walked into my DUI school because of the choices that I had made and where they landed me.  That morning I had a meeting with the teacher of my class so I had to show up early.  During the meeting the teacher asked me about my drug use, my alcohol consumption and how I ended up where I was.  I was very open with the teacher and at the end of the session he looked me in the eyes and said this: "I'm not supposed to give you my personal opinion but I want you to know if you continue to do what you have done you will be dead in five years."  Those words have rattled in my brain for the last eleven years.  See I never imagined that when I was invited to smoke pot when I was thirteen that I would end up here.

After our meeting I went to my regular class and in that class there was a man named Brett Wheeler who spoke openly about his walk with Christ and his involvement in church.  He admitted that he had messed up and there was something different about this man.  I knew that I needed to talk to him.  See I had just been released from jail five days prior for another alcohol related incident and I was hurting more than I had ever hurt before.  My life was shaken to the core and I had no clue what I believed anymore.

As we were leaving class I wanted so badly to ask Brett to take me to church with him but I was scared to ask him.  That morning, when we walked out of the classroom doors, Brett turned around and invited me to church with him.  I was about to decline when he looked me in the eyes and said these words: "Neal if you don't stop what you have been doing you will be dead in five years."That was too much for me to hear that in such a short period of time.

That day I gave Brett my number and he not only invited me to church but he drove about forty minutes to pick me up and then forty minutes back to church.  Then he also gave me a ride home!  Brett modeled what it means to invite someone to church and then follow through with that.  I have to say that I am not sure where I would be today if he had not invited me to church that day...

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Power of an Invite {Part.One}

As I've transitioned into my new role I have been thinking more and more about what I want to dub The Power of an Invite.  Our church just started Financial Peace University and its great to see how many people have been invited into this journey into financial freedom.  As my role grows, and we get Life Groups up and running healthily, I am excited to see how many people are invited into life changing relationships.  Thinking about life changing relationships reminded me of four things that I want to write about this week.

When I was about thirteen years-old I was invited to a friends house and that invite would change the way I lived.  I was at a pee-wee football game at the local middle school that I had ridden my bike to.  After the game I rode my bike, with some other guys, over a new friends house.  I can't exactly remember when I was invited over to this house; it may have been figured out before hand or taken place that day but that invite changed my life.

That early fall day was the first day I was introduced to smoking pot.  I went over to my friends house and ended up smoking pot with about four other guys.  I remember that day very clearly.  I remember sitting upstairs in my friends room on his little couch he had in there.  I remember what we used to smoke the weed.  I can even remember some of the things we talked about that day.  I am not sure what, in my memory, has held onto those thoughts but for some reason I have.

See that day I was invited to someone's house and then invited to smoke pot.  No one forced me to ride my bike over there.  I was not bullied into making the choice to smoke pot; all the choices that day were choices I made.  Now this will be the one post I write on this week that is directly related to a decision that  has had a negative influence on my life.  I want to start this way because it fits in a time line of what I will present and how my life has changed.  I want us all to be keenly aware of how important the invite is in our lives can be impacted for the positive or the negative!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

18 Months Later

I can't believe that eighteen months ago we were blessed with this beautiful little girl (ok, honestly Leah was 9 pounds 1 ounce when she was born so she has never been "little")!  Leah Joy is our second daughter and it has been so cool to see her grow and mature over the last eighteen months in our home.  Leah has gotten the coolest personality and it has really been a blessing to see her grow up, see her interact with Sophie and see how much she loves her mom.

When Leah was born I gave her the nickname "Little Leah".  Not sure where it came from but it just seemed to fit.  There were a bunch of pictures that I could have put up here to show who this little girl is now but I chose this one.  Leah loves to eat blueberries on her waffle and this morning was no exception!  Leah wanted more waffle and is using her sign language saying: "please" to get more (you gotta love a girl who uses her manners).  Leah has her tough nights and doesn't always sleep through the night.  She has some great days and loves to swim, make us laugh, tickle and climb the stairs.  I hope that these next eighteen months of our family will be ten times more of a joy than the first eighteen months were!

Sunday, September 04, 2011

First Chargers Game

Yep... I am 31 years old.  I lived in San Diego for almost five years and it took me driving just over 300 miles from Las Vegas to go to my first San Diego Chargers game!  This trip was actually super cool for me because I was able to take it with some young men who recently graduated from our high school ministry; Nevin Zwifel, Nick Markovich and Anthony Rossa.

We left Vegas around 8pm on Wednesday night and headed to Corona to stay at Nick's cousins house.  We left Corona early Thursday morning and headed to the beach.  It was great spending the day at the beach with these guys and my friend Jon Miano actually came and hung out with us (Jon was a student when I was an intern in San Diego almost nine years ago).

After the beach we headed to Wahoo's Fish Tacos and I got one of the best burritos I have ever eaten.  After filling up we took the trolley over to Qualcomm Stadium to see our first game!  Here is a cool pic that I will never forget.  It was great to spend the day with these guys at the beach and then head over to the game.  We got these nice and early to watch the team warm up and we made sure to boo for the 49'ers as they came out.

I have to admit that our seats were literally perfect!  The seating may have gotten a little better but for me this was perfect.  We were close enough to see the action but not too close that it was tough to see the field.  We weren't too far either; I never found myself watching the game on the big screen.  It was crazy for me how quick the game seemed to go.  It was like one minute it was sunny and the next it was dark.  The game seemed to fly by being there in the action.

I have to admit that I was a little bummer that Rivers, Gates, and Jackson didn't start but I can get over that.  I am so thankful to Nick for taking me to this game.  Now the coolest part is that I have been able to invest into the lives of these guys for over 12 years (Nevin 7 years, Nick 4 years and Anthony 1).  It was great to spend some time with them as they are starting college, getting for the Marines and becoming men.  I can't tell you how thankful I am that I got to attend this game but more importantly to spend time with these men.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

HELP! I'm a HS Graduate

These last few weeks have been great but heartbreaking in ministry.  We have seen students pack their bags, have a party and then head off to college.  Its great fun to see them grow up and head off to college but its tough to wonder how they will handle the world.  I hope that we have trained up students to love God and like others.  I hope that we have helped them learn how to connect with God on their own.  I know that we have done our best that we can but there is still that thought that creeps in and wonders how they will do.

Here are five things that I have been thinking for students entering college, moving cities, having their routine changed or just really wanting to take their walk with Christ to the next level:

Get Connected in a Local Church
If you have moved to go to college you need to get connected in a local church.  Find somewhere that is fairly close to your school to attend.  I think this is the first priority in your new endeavor in life.  College is going to take up a good deal of your time and you need to get this piece in place ASAP.

Serve in a Ministry
Once you find a church that you love make a commitment to that church.  I have pushed many of you to serve here at South Hills so I want you to make that same commitment to the local church you are now attending.  If you are staying here in Vegas "re-up" your commitment to South Hills and your area of ministry.

Read Your Bible
I know this may sound like a resounding gong to read your Bible but you need to find a way to connect with God on a daily basis and this has been one of the best methods.  Just this morning I was reading the Psalms and found some verses that identify the character of God.  These verses help strengthen my faith!

Identify Yourself as A Christian
When you step onto a new campus there are going to be so many different things that you can get involved in.  You need to start this journey off right and identify yourself as a Christian on your new college campus.  This doesn't mean being weird or anything but it means standing up for what you believe in.

Join a Life Group
The place that I have seen the most change in my life is when I am doing life with others.  This could be called a: Small Group, Life Group, Growth Group or something else.  Find out who leads them and get involved with one.  Figure out a way to get connected with others in Christian Accountability.

This list not an "all-inclusive" list but a starting point to keep your walk with Christ strong!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Baptism: Summer 2011

Yesterday we baptized some very special students!

I have been a part of many baptism services since I started in ministry.  For those of us in ministry you know that every time we baptize someone it is very special to us.  Yesterday when we baptized these students it was extra special and I want to share four things that made it extra special:

1) This is a group of students we invested in
Most of the students we baptized yesterday we have invested in for over two years.  Some of these students gave their lives to Christ when they were freshman in our high school ministry.  We have seen these students grow through out high school and seen them make some great choices as they have followed Christ.

2) These students are committed to Christ
I do not want this statement to be misleading or degrading to anyone.  I also want to be honest.  I have fallen into baptizing students, and adults, that I wish I would have challenged to grow more in their faith before making this choice.  This group of students were committed.  Many of these students have passed up other baptism services because they were not sure if they were ready yet.  They made sure that they were ready to live this life out and follow the choice they have made.

3) We baptized them in our church
For the life our our church we have typically baptized people outside the walls of the church building and I love that!  Yesterday we did something different and I think it went so good!  We took this group of students and baptized them inside our church, during our 11am service.  We had our entire church focused on seeing this group make this commitment to God and I loved seeing that.

4) I had front row seats to life change
As a pastoral leader I get a cool seat.  Sometimes that seat is tough because I see the painful things from the front row and shield others from seeing that.  Yesterday morning I got the best seat in the house.  I was able to watch the water roll over these students faces and see their expression coming out of the water.  I was able to give them their first hug as they exited the water.  If you rewind four years I have also had the opportunity to see many of these students raise their hand and see their need for a savior.

I am so thankful that I have had a front row seat to the life change in all of your lives.  I love you guys.  You can see more pictures of the baptism by clicking here. 

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Encouragement from Hume Lake 2011

This summer was a great year being at Hume Lake.  I think it was my best summer there that I have ever experienced.  Something that added to that joy this summer was two things I received while up at Hume.  This summer I had two parents send me two different things.  One parent sent me a big box of a candy with a cool note in there and the other parent sent a heart felt thank you card.

The first note of encouragement came from a family with this box of candy!  Now the candy was really cool and we figured out that a parent caught my joke (most jokes are half serious) that I shared in our parent meeting prior to camp to send me up some candy while I was gone.  I was not expecting to get what I received but I was so happy.  And when I got that box of candy I let our adult leaders have first pick (after I ate a few goodies).  This box was stacked full of candy!  There was so much candy that I was able to share it with the lead counselors at Hume and even hook up the guys in my cabin.

Now the card I got was very encouraging.  Its interesting how a simple card can encourage someone when they are loving on their child.

Here are some thoughts that any parent can do next time someone takes their child on a trip:

  • Send an encouraging card thanking that person for investing in their child's life
  • Send a box of candy
  • Ask another person on the trip to give the person a card, or gift, while they are away (this option can save money or be useful if mail will not be available)
  • Write a hand written note and slip it the person's backpack so they find it later in the week
  • Give the person a Starbucks card as they head out of town (most weekends away with students are long and can become tiring)
Here is a copy of the letter that came with my box of candy.  Very creative!

Thursday, August 04, 2011

My New Role: Pastor of Discipleship

Last night was a very difficult night for me.  Last night was the night that we shared with our students about some of the things that we have been working hard on, behind the scenes, to make South Hills a more effective church.  Part of this will include a role transition for me.  Starting September I will be transitioning out of student ministries and into a new role: Pastor of Discipleship.

About two months ago I had a conversation with the leadership of our church and during that conversation I was asked to transition into this new role to help us grow the church.  This new role is going to stretch me in some pretty big ways and as I have prayed through it I think it's going to stretch my faith also.

About a year ago it became evident to me that our High School Ministry was functioning like a one-legged pirate.  I shared this with leaders and students.  Now one-legged pirates are cool and people want to see them and take their picture with them but they are not balanced.  Our High School Ministry was not balanced in the Biblical Purposes and it was hurting our growth in students lives.  This same analogy works for our church.  Our church has a great week worship experience but we are lacking in discipling believers.

As I move into this new role, initially, my main responsibility will be to build on what we currently have going in our Life Groups area.  As we develop those, recruit more leaders and get more people in church involved them my role will expand.  Some areas we have talked about would include: Missions (local and global), Spiritual Formation, and Accountability.  I would really appreciate your prayers as we move into this new role and transition out of student ministries.  

Now let me share some things about this change:
  • Chase Feindel, our Middle School Pastor, will provide leadership for all Student Ministries
  • I am not in trouble
  • This new role is going to stretch me
  • Charity and I have prayed about this role and feel God leading us in this direction
  • We love our church
  • I have spoken with our Elders at our church and the affirmation I have received from them is: "Neal, we think you are the only person on our staff who can do this."
  • My pastor, Kevin Wehr, have given me his vote of confidence to lead this area of ministry

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Hume Lake 2011: Meditating on Scripture

This summer at Hume the staff did something different.  Honestly, at first, I was a little annoyed.  I love going to Hume because they have an amazing program and I can trust what they are doing so my team and I can hang out with students.  This summer as we went over the schedule the staff shared an addition to the schedule this year that would give each pastor 90 minutes to spend with just their church.  Some ideas that were thrown out were to play volleyball together, to go to the cove or just do something with your church.

At first I wasn't sure what to do so I needed to seek Jesus.  After taking the night to think/pray about it I came up with the fact that our students needed to learn some spiritual exercises.  I was pretty nervous because our ministry is very evangelistic focused and I felt that we needed to teach our students how to meditate on scripture using a practice that has been used throughout the church for centuries: Lectio Divina.

Wednesday afternoon we piled our students in the chapel and worked through this exercise:

1) Find a word in scripture (Lectio)
I started out reading Psalm 46:10 and asked students to find a word in that verse.  When you meditate on scripture it is helpful to use the Psalms but you can meditate on pretty much any scripture in the Bible.  I have used this practice while reading the Gospels, Epistles and Psalms.  You can take a few minutes on this part to read through scripture and while reading you find a word that grabs your attention and sticks out to you.

2) Listen to the word (Meditatio)
Now that you have a word in your mind comes the fun part (it can also be the most difficult part).  See we live in a culture that rejects down town and relaxation.  Meditating on scripture is not something that we tend to encourage in the church.  This can be difficult but very rewarding.  After you have found the word take some time to meditate on that word.  When your mind wonders just bring that word right back to the front of your mind and focus on that word and allow it to just speak to you.

3) Pray on that scripture (Oratio)
After you have meditated on that word for a couple minutes take some time to pray about that word.  Ask God what that word has to do in your life right now, how that word can grow you in your walk with Christ and what could happen in your life if you would trust God more.  This is a cool part that just causes you to pray specifically on that certain word.

4) Abide in God (Contemplatio)
Now this is where it really gets cool.  After you have found your word, you have taken some time to meditate on that word, you have prayed through that word for a few minutes now is when you get to do something that can be amazing: spend time with God.  You just chill with God in this portion of the spiritual exercise.  This is where you allow God to speak to you through your word and encourage you in what He would ask of you.

Now its your turn to spend time with God and allow Him to speak to your heart through His word!