Monday, February 28, 2011

Top 4 from Middle School Winter Camp

I know that there are "top X" lists all over the place but this one is going to be special to me.  See in October 2006 our church hired Chase Feindel to lead Ignite; our middle school ministry.  That year was a super tough year for me in ministry and it was nice to pass Ignite off to Chase, actually its realistic to say that I dumped it on him because I was done.  In 2007 Chase ran his first winter camp to Big Bear Lake and did really good with the poor planning and lame set-up that I had done.  I have to randomly include this picture of the coldest temp while were up there.

Well after leading a few more camps on his Chase has totally turned the wheel and done some amazing ministry.  This year was a treat for me to be invited to speak at our middle school winter camp up at Pine Summit in Big Bear Lake.  As I watched, engaged and spoke this weekend here are four things that really stuck out to me:

1) Our church has a great Middle School Pastor
Please notice that I did not say "good" middle school pastor.  Chase has grown into a great middle school pastor and I truly believe that he will continue to grow in his leadership.  I am starting with this because of how I see Chase lead students and his adult leader team.  There is a huge love for Chase in his ministry and I know that he desires to point these students to Christ; that is one thing that makes him great.

2) Adult Leaders who Lead
In our church we call our adults who help out leaders.  We do not have chaperones in our ministry.  Chase has a team of leaders who serve alongside him that are leaders.  Chase is actively training up new leaders and inviting leaders onto the team to lead students.  I loved watching this this weekend and just seeing leaders doing what God has called them to do.

3) God Sending Snow
I have been on so many winter camps that I cannot even count how many I have been on now.  This was my third winter camp this year (I lead one and spoke at another one prior to this) and it was so rad having God send snow!  It snowed about 18-24 inches while we were up there and it just made for a cool weekend.  Anytime you can take a bunch of kids from the desert and get them fresh snow its super cool.

4) Speaking to Our Church
It was so rad for me speaking to our middle school students and the leadership team.  See when I came out here over six years ago we had 8 students on my first night; there were many more than that this weekend.  I felt very strongly that I needed to communicate the message clearly to our students this weekend because I will have these students in my ministry in the coming year.  I felt like I had a chance to share with these students about what they can expect in their coming years at South Hills.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Ignite Winter Camp 2011 Saturday Overview

This morning I woke up at 3:40am when Leah started crying
I moved to the couch around 4:20am when Leah came into our bed
I woke up around 6am when my mom came into the living room and opened the windows

I was so thrashed tire this morning when I rolled up to camp but it is so cool to see God moving up here.  I am so proud of our middle school team right now and tomorrow I'm going to post about my top 4 favorite things from winter camp.  This morning I spoke about finding our identity in Christ and helping students move from listening to the world to listening to God.  You gotta watch this video and see how the road conditions were when I drove to camp and how much snow we got last night.

After chapel I went home and played in the snow with the girls for a little while, spent some time with my family and then had a yummy dinner.  I headed back to Pine Summit for Saturday night chapel and God showed up.  I prayed that God would help students to leave here with understanding His truth and not my stories.  Tonight was decision night and I shared my favorite story from Mark 10; the story of Blind Bartimaeus.  I challenged the students pretty hard tonight because I go to the same church they do and I was convicted to not make it easy to accept Christ.  I know that salvation is free for us; but it was costly for Jesus.  I know its easy to raise your hand; but its tough to live for Christ.

My prayer is that these students grow this weekend and radically live for Christ

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Love Story Overview

Last night we finished up teaching our "Love Story" series.  We are like most student ministry programs take the month of February to teach about love or purity; this year it fell on love for us.  The main goal that I wanted to communicate through this teaching series was to look at the different aspects of Love that we encounter in society.  We decided that the best way to do this would be to start out by looking at how God loves us and cares for us; that seemed to simple so I took it one step further.

Here is how the series broke out:

Week 1: The Joy of Being Loved
This week instead of talking about love and being kind of generic; I chose to talk about finding our identity in Christ.  The main point from the night was "Through forgiveness and acceptance I begin to find my true identity in Christ".  This point came from teaching about the sinful woman who fell at the feet of Jesus crying and found out how loved she was by Jesus.

Week 2: Protecting the Goldfish
I started off this week sharing my story of failure in my sexual purity and how I made one really bad choice that lead to other bad choices in my life.  Talked about how King David made one really bad choice and how that lead to other bad choices in his life; how sin tends to take us downward in a spiral.  I ended the message with an illustration about how the world is like a blender and we are a goldfish.

Week 3: Life is about Who you Love
This was a super cool message because one of our adult leaders taught the night while I was away at seminary.  Mikey McComb shared from 1st John about love and how we need to engage culture by loving it.  Mikey brought it that night and talked about how our love needs to flow from God.

Week 4: The Difference Between Pink and Blue
The last week of the message series had to be my favorite week for a few reasons.  One of our graduated students came home and has joined our Adult Leader Team.  She jumped in for this message and we team taught the message sharing about differences that guys and girls face but how we are all called to seek out God.

Overall, I was very impressed with the series and how it turned out.  For week two of the series our student leaders took the time to deck out our room and created an amazing environment for students.  We did what we call "Invite Night" and the room was packed; it felt good!  Better than all the students was seeing our students take their time to reach out to their friends.  Watch this video to see a quick overview of the night.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Leah's Got Style

I can't believe that in less than one month Leah is going to be one year old!

Well the funny thing about Leah is that she likes to do it her way and the girl has style!  Most kids crawl, and then walk; but not Leah.  Leah thought that she needed to add another step into the system.  So if you want to take 30 seconds out of your life and have a good laugh you can see how Leah walks... on her knees.

I have never seen this before but it makes me smile watching my little Leah grow up

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Top 10 things to do in Vegas

This week I was catching a flight home and found myself talking with those around me about what to do in Vegas.  Since we have lived here for the last six years I decided to come up with this list of my top ten things to do while you are in Vegas.

1. Fountains at Bellagio
This has to be my favorite thing that Charity and I do here in town.  Its free so all you have to do is get down to the strip!  We always park Valet and just tip the guys a few bucks when we pick up our car.  The fountains run regularly every 15 minutes.  They play various songs and I have noticed that over the years they keep adding songs to the list. Cost= Free

2. Jean Philippe Cafe
While you are down on the strip and heading to the fountains, make a stop inside the Bellagio.  Charity and I like to go in there and share a crape.  We usually get one with nutella and raspberries on top.  This is a must while you are in town and in love! Cost= $15

3. The Shark Reef
If you have an hour or so to kill and want to just relax a take a stroll while looking at some super cool fish then stop in at the Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay.  We have gone here with friends, family and I loved it when we took our daughter.  The experience is not too long but its a great thing to get away from the slots while you are here.  Cost= $15 per person

4. Viva Elvis
We have seen about five shows since we moved here and this one was my favorite that we have seen.  Now don't get me wrong; KA, Celine Dion, and Blue Man Group (close second) are amazing but this was my favorite.  Viva Elvis combines dance, music and some sweet acrobatics into a tantalizing show.  Cost= Depends where you sit

5. Mona Mi Gabi
This is the restaurant that is directly under the Eiffel Tower at the Paris.  You can get reservations but don't.  If the weather is nice you want to sit on the patio.  The patio is on the strip and you sit directly across from the Fountains at Bellagio.  The food is great but not too expensive.  This is a great date for a couple that wants to have fun but not break the bank.  Cost= $60 for a couple

6. Indoor Skydiving
Its technically called: "Vegas Indoor Skydiving". This is pretty random on the list but I loved it!  I have been once and would love to go more often.  Its kinda like skydiving but less expensive.  Its a trill, something you will never forget, close to your hotel and not super expensive. Cost= $70 per person

7. Secret Garden at The Mirage
The Secret Garden at the Mirage is a cool exhibit that Charity and I visited about 4 years ago.  They have dolphins, tigers, and many other animals to look at.  The cost was worth the visit but I don't think that it is worth a re-visit that often.  I still want to take my daughters there.  Cost $15 per person

8. Visit Lake Mead
Lake Mead is slowly depleting but it remains one of my favorite attractions in Las Vegas.  While you are there you can hit the Hoover Dam tour, rent a boat, take out Jet Ski's, or catch a meal on a river boat. I personally like to bring a loaf of bread out there and just feed the fish and ducks with my family.  Cost= $5 per car

9. Canal Ride at Venetian
Maybe you don't have the time, or money, to head over to Venice and take ride on a Gondola but you can do that here in Vegas!  Head down to the Venetian and take a ride on the grand canal.  Charity and I have done this one a few times.  You can charter your own Gondola or if funds are tight you can jump in with some others.  The ride is totally worth it no matter what road you take.  Cost= $15 per person or $60 for your own boat

10. Take a ride on the Stratosphere
This one is for the trill seeker.  I only venture down here when some of my friends from back home head into town.  They drag me down and we usually ride the big shot that is on top; its not the only ride though you have many to choose from.  The cost on this will vary so check the website and get ready to pee your pants!

You may not have a local in town that you can talk to about what to do while you are in Vegas so here is my list.  You may find something that needs to be on here; just let me know and maybe I will add it.

Friday, February 18, 2011

10 Days with the Verizon iPhone

Originally I wanted to title this post: "7 days with the Verizon iPhone" but I had seminary all week so I am stretching it out a few more days.  Now just to make it clear; I am no tech review guy; I am just a normal guy who has waited for Verizon to finally get the iPhone.  There was one point we mentioned going to AT&T but I just couldn't see going to a lesser network for a better phone.

On February 3rd 2011 I was one of the millions of people who ordered the Verizon iPhone.  Not only did I order one for myself but I also ordered one for my wife.  Now I didn't get on at 3am in the morning but I did order them around 7am.  When I ordered them I was under the impression that they would not be mailed out until February 10th.  I figured we would get them right after I left for school and then I would have to wait a week to use it; but that didn't happen.  I got a tracking number the next day telling me my iPhone was on its way!

So after having the Verizon iPhone here are some of my thoughts:

Set-up: The set-up of these phones was super easy.  We just plugged them into our Macbooks and boom! It set it all up for me.

Battery LIfe:  This is something that is important for my life.  I have been up all day today.  I was in class.  I checked email, texted people, checked email, played a game, checked in for my flight, called my wife and even did some FaceTime with her.  I still have over 50% of my battery.

FaceTime: I love FaceTime.  Its great to be able to talk to my family face to face while I am away at work or out of town.  Its nice to be able to call them up and see how they are doing.  The bummer on this is that you have to be connected to WI-FI to make it happen.

Apps: I am not that huge of an app guy.  I actually had a student I work with grab my phone and flip through it.  I could see she was disappointed at my lack of apps.  I do have apps that work for me.  I have Twitter, Southwest Airlines, some games and then a few more apps.  I am satisfied with the apps and how they work.

Calls: The reason I didn't get the AT&T iPhone is due to the massive issue of dropped calls.  I have to say that I have not dropped one call.  This phone has great reception.  There was one instance where I had mediocre service but I could still hear just fine.

Camera: The camera on this phone is so rad!  All the pics on this post are from the camera on here.  It has great picture quality and the video capability is top notch also.  If you want to see video quality, I posted a video here on youtube.

Email/Calendar: I am weird on this.  I want my gmail but I don't want my work email.  I want my work calendar but I don't want my gmail calendar.  I can have all that.  It was very easy to set up to get my personal email but not my personal calendar.  I set up my work calendar but told it not to sync work email.  Very easy!

Overall: I love the phone!  I am one of the many Verizon customers that didn't switch and I am very thankful for that choice.  I am glad that I waited for the iPhone to come to me.  Overall I am a satisfied customer.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Eleven Years of Being Sober

Today is not a special day for me because of Hallmark or the present that I bought the love of my life.  Today is a special day to me because eleven years ago, this morning, is the last time I went to jail.

You may think that sounds funny... and to be honest it does.  February 13th 2000 is the last time I was arrested.  That night when I went to Vista County Jail I was sure that I was going to serve a one year sentence for violating my probation.  That night in jail, though, something different happened.  I specifically remember looking around the jail and questioning the choices I had made to get to this point in life.  I often wondered what had gotten me here and understood that it was a series of unwise decisions.

As the night wore on and I began more uneasy about staying in jail I did something that I hadn't done in a while; I prayed.  I started talking to God like He was real.  I started telling God all my unwise choices and how sorry I was for them.  I started telling God that I was sick of the life I have created for myself (I think He was sick of it too).  That night I asked God to do something for me.  I asked God if He would get me out of jail that I would quit everything and do whatever He wanted in my life (be careful when you say that).

I did the normal rounds in the jail: I went from cell to cell.  I got fingerprinted.  I got my mug shots again.  I made a phone call to my old youth leader.  As morning came around, and the alcohol wore off, I went to the last station.  This is where I was prepared to get my orange jumpsuit, again, and head down to county.  At this window came a pleasant surprise.  When I got there the lady at the window handed me all my belongings and told me this: "The bailiff will be around in 5 minutes to let you out.  Head over to that cell."

I thought it was a dream
I didn't know what to say
I was silenced
I did what she said and sure enough the bailiff came over and released me

That morning was the first time, in a long time, in my life that I thought God was real.  Well from that day I knew that I had to keep my promise to God.  He got me out and it was my turn to quit everything that I had been doing.  That week I stopped drinking and quit doing cocaine.  I didn't smoke anymore pot and to be honest it was one of the toughest weeks of my life.  Some people may think this is a tough story and it is but if I didn't get arrested that night I truly think that I would have died years ago from something drug related.

Today I celebrate new life
Today I celebrate having an amazing wife
Today I celebrate two little girls that love their dad
But most important today I celebrate a God who loved me so much that He released me from the jail I created for myself and pointed my feet on a road that leads to Him.
Thank you for loving me Lord; I need you just as much today as I did eleven years ago!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Winter Camp 2011 Overview

Winter Camp 2011 has come and gone; at least the "date" has but I think year has had a residual effect on students lives.

This year we held our winter camp in Brian Head Utah, the same place we have done it for the last five years. The last five years of doing camp on our own has taught us some good ministry lessons (and made us very thankful for summer camp at Hume Lake). This year there was something different about winter camp though; something smooth, something bigger than us. The theme we went for was growth and challenging students to grow in their walk with Christ.

We left Friday afternoon and were about 75 minutes out of Vegas when the tire blew on our trailer. I stayed back with another leader while our Executive Pastor came and brought us two new tires. This was really the only "speed bump" we hit along the way (no pun intended).

Chase Fiendel was our speaker this year and he brought it! He is our Middle School Pastor and it was so rad to have him with us because many of the students already know Chase and he was able to just jump in and start working with students. He spoke very honestly about his life on Friday night and how he needs people in his life to help him grow. He also talked about living for Eternity and making sure that we are focusing our life on God things. I wish we could have recorded the messages!

Our Adult Leaders are a key part of this event. We ask ALOT of them on this trip. They drive up vans, trucks and tow trailers. We have two leaders go up a day early with the Costco run (about $1600) and then Friday morning divi it up in the homes. The leaders are there getting students to chapel, helping to cook, clean the homes, snowboard, sled, and minister to students. This year I walked away knowing that without that exact team camp would not have been what it was. I am so thankful for the leadership team I get to work with. I constantly tell them they are a huge part of what keeps me here, with the passion I have, working with students.

One aspect I love is bringing students who graduated from our ministry and now come back to serve. Kurt Johnson was in my small group for a few years and I just love what God is doing in his life. He is a Junior at Azusa Pacific University and loves Jesus! Kurt ran recreation for us on Saturday. Kyle Rock just graduated from UNLV and has been faithful in helping us with media. Kyle came and filmed the weekend so we could capture the event on film. Marianna McComb graduated a fear years ago and is attending BIOLA University down in So Cal. She came up and lead worship for us and helped ushered students into worship with Jesus.

To be honest I thought this would have been our last time in Brian Head because it had become so much work but this year gave me hope that we are on the right track and can do this again!

Check out the video recap of the weekend

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Utilizing the Off Button

For about the last two months I have been utilizing the off button on my my devices.  This basically started with a tweet that my buddy Brian Berry posted about shutting his phone off when he gets home to be able to be more focused on the family.  Well I read this tweet and had been reading a book called "Emotionally Healthy Spiritually".  The book was talking about creating intentional times in your life to connect with God and I decided that I needed to create some of those times.

I have created four times in the day where I intentionally focus on God; one of those times is when I use the off button on my phone.  Now what I do is text Charity before I leave the office to let her know I am heading home.  Then I shut off my phone, I know its crazy, and on my drive home I take some time to connect with God again.  I pray through the day and give the day to God.  I talk to God about conversations that frustrated me, conversations that encouraged me and ask Him to help me remember what I need to work on tomorrow.

This time has been so good for me to just have 10-15 minutes in my day with no phone that can distract me and time to focus on God.  It has also helped me to be better focused when I get home with my family.  I used to talk the entire ride home and try to get more conversations in but would be distracted from my family.  Its been super rad to see how turning off my phone has been so good for my family and my soul.  How will you use the off button?

Monday, February 07, 2011

Pondo Winter Camp

About a year ago a friend of mine called and asked me if I would like to speak at the winter camp she helps coordinate and the answer was "yes, I would love to!"

So the year goes by and this weekend I had the opportunity to speak at Pondo; a camp in the San Bernardino Mountains. I pulled in around 5pm Friday night and was able to meet Dan Skipper, the man who leads Pondo. We chatted for a bit and got to know each other. I appreciate men like Dan who have ministry experience and are committed to seeing students lives change. After we chatted I got all my media set up (that is the boring part of the story). That night we had our first chapel and I have to admit that I was extremely nervous about speaking. I typically get nervous prior to speaking in any setting I find myself speaking before more than 50 people; but this time I was extremely nervous. It made me know that God wanted me to rely on Him!

Chapel started and I knew that God has asked me to speak up there, I was prayed up and prepared for the night. Saturday morning rolled around and chapel was right there. The morning started with me speaking and then worship from the Aaron Hofman Band. Aaron and I have done a few camps together but this one was special. That night was decision and I would say that about 60 of the 250 middle school students up there made a choice to follow Christ in a new way; that was exciting!

Sunday came before I knew it and it was time to share the last message; how do we duplicate our faith? I spoke on Luke 15; The Parable of the Lost Sheep, and how Jesus asks us to reach out to those around us. I feel like the camp was a huge success for the Kingdom. I had such a great time getting to meet the team up there and ministering to students. It was different for me being on that end of the program and not being there with our student but I am very thankful for the opportunity and really think that God was glorified this weekend!

I love the location of Pondo; it is close to So Cal and up in the mountains I grew up in. There is nothing like being in the mountains with a bunch of leaders who love God and like students and getting to watch God continue to change lives. Thanks for having me Pondo; I loved being there with you this weekend