Thursday, December 27, 2012

Date Night: Joy Sushi

When Charity and I were dating I took her to sushi for her first time ever...

I had this amazing date planned where we would go to my favorite (most expensive) sushi place.  I saved up so we could go there.  I made sure we went at just the right time to miss the crowd.  I ordered all my favorite rolls for her to try.  She took one bite and literally spit it out.  

That was tough to deal with.

Now that we have been married for almost eight years Charity has learned to find a few items on the Sushi menu that she enjoys and we have had some great dates!  In San Mateo we just tried a new sushi spot for date night last week.  The place is called "Joy Sushi" and its in downtown San Mateo (about 10 minutes from our house).

Charity normally doesn't like to eat sushi for date night but since I was preaching for Christmas Eve she made an exception.  The place was pretty good; its not our favorite but its good.  We had been wanting to try it and my dad gave us a gift certificate to try it out!  I give the place credit for having a hilarious logo on their menu.  I think we will go back again to have some more!

Huge thanks to my wife for being adventurous. Big thanks to my dad for hooking it up!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Will the world end tomorrow?

Will the world end tomorrow?

I'm guessing probably not

Some people will disagree with me and that is fine; this is America we have that right

Before you condemn me for my thoughts let me share some of what influences my position on this hot topic.

Time Zones
People are talking about the world ending on December 21st 2012.  As we all know this theory is based on the Mayan Calendar.  I am not super familiar with the theory and I self confess that I know very little but I want to bring in the fact of Time Zones and what that plays into the date.  The time zone the Mayans occupied is located in what we would call the "Central Time Zone".  If the world will actually end on December 21st then will it end when the earth hits midnight for the time zone where the Mayans live?  I have not been able to find a specific time but I am curious at how time zones impact this.

Leap Year
The Mayans base their calendar on the Mayan calendar.  Americans base our calendar on the Gregorian Calendar.  Now I am no history buff but I'm pretty sure that there is a big difference in these calendars.  Whenever I have been asked the question about the world ending I like to bring up the fact about Leap Year and what role that will play in the end of the world.  From what I know I don't think the Mayans had leap year equated into their calendar which could drastically change the date to a much earlier date since we have been adding a day every four years.

I know that not every one reading this will consider Scripture to be a reliable source so I decided to save it for the end.  I am basing most of what I know about the end of the world on Scripture; the other two points I previously mentioned just give me an option to talk to people about it without bringing up God first.

When Jesus spoke about the end of time He was crystal clear that:
"But about the day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."  Matthew 24:36
I don't know when the world will end but I don't think its going to be tomorrow and from what I read I think its safe that say that God is the only one who knows.  This could be devastating to some people.  From the recent events in our Nation I can see heartbreak, confusion and frustration.  If you are experiencing those emotions today is a great day to call out to God.  God wants to have a personal relationship with you before the world ends and when you read the Bible you can clearly see that.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Ice Skating Date

Since getting married I have done my best to constantly date my wife.  There are seasons in our marriage where I have done better at this than other times.  Since moving it has been tough to find sitters, place to go and times to date but we are doing pretty good at getting a weekly date in our week!

Yesterday I took my wife on a pretty sweet date!  First we jumped in the car and headed down to the city for an exciting day time date.  Heading north on the 101 we went up to the Embarcadero where Hawaiian Airlines set up an ice skating rink in the financial district!  We arrived a little later than planned but had fun skating laps around the rink (obviously we grabbed a coffee before skating).  I enjoy ice skating and I have to admit that Charity did well; she didn't fall our entire date!

After mastering the rink we went over to get some clam chowder (in a bread bowl of course).  The chowder was perfect for a cloudy day in the city.  Finally we headed over to Ghirardelli Square to grab an ice cream sunday before heading back home to spend the rest of the day with our kids.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

90 Days Later

So I've been processing this post for a little while now...

Many of you know that on August 15th I resigned from South Hills Church Community in Henderson Nevada to take a new role in the Bay Area.  It was a bit scary leaving everything I had known for the last eight years but we are enjoying the new journey and new season in our life.  As I write this post its crazy to me that we have been in the Bay Area for over 90 days now.  As I have processed the last three months of our lives there are few major phrases that keep coming out of my mouth so I thought I would share them.

The main question that friends have asked us in the last ninety day is: "How's it going?"  To be honest its going great!  We love it up here.  One Friday we took the girls to the park and Charity asked me how I was doing with the transition.  I shared with her how much I love my role, love the area and love what we are doing.  She communicated to me how much she loved being up here and how happy she sees me in my new role.  I am feeling very blessed that God led us here.

About three weeks after we moved here one of the ladies in our office said something to the effect of: "Neal it just seems like you have always been here."  I was so glad to hear that because that is how I feel in my new role.  My new role is stretching me in my leadership in many new ways, it has been tough learning so much and being at a new church but I really sense that we just fit here.  Since she said that to me I have had others affirm that we really do fit in well here.

One day I was sharing with a friend that I feel like Central Peninsula Church (CPC) really under promised and has over committed to us.  Being in ministry for the last decade I have heard the horror stories of guys being promised a certain thing, moving their family across the country only to find out they were totally deceived in the role.  That has not been my experience here.  I feel like everything that was communicated to me CPC has delivered on, and even more!

As I process the last ninety days I cannot help but share my gratefulness to the people who have invested in me in the last decade of my life.  I am thankful for Eastlake Church taking a risk to hire me as an intern.  I am thankful for Hope Church giving me an opportunity to help church plant.  I am indebted to South Hills Church for letting me minister alongside them for almost eight years.  The lessons that I learned in ministry, the teams I partnered with and the people I served with were all key in preparing me for this role.
Thank you for investing in me to further the Kingdom!

Monday, December 03, 2012

Confessions of a Pastor: November 2012

November seemed to have been a pretty crazy month for us.  It brought about 3 months in our new location and it started the Holiday season.  As I processed this month something came to mind that I thought I would share on and see if anyone has ideas.

I confess that I didn't read my Bible every day this month

That may not be a major confession but as a pastoral leader I want to daily spend time in the word of God.  The words of Psalm 119:11 come to mind:
"I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you"
Now I know that verse doesn't speak to reading the word of God on a daily basis but its hard to hide God's word in my heart when I'm not reading it.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Big Bear: Summer 2012

This summer, while on sabbatical, we scheduled in some time to see my mom and Jerry up in Big Bear Lake.  Big Bear is my home-town and I have some great memories of growing up in that little mountain town that I am thankful I can share with my family.

While in Big Bear we did some of the normal things that I love to do: eat at Teddy Bear, try to catch lizards with my girls, feed the ducks, hit the zoo and eat at La Montana.  Here are a few memorable pics from our trip.

Sophie and Leah looking at a deer
Sophie and Leah riding the animals!
Leah trying to pet a mountain lion who wants to eat her
This is how you eat a pancake!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Pondo Summer Camp 2012

While on my sabbatical, this last summer, I had a really cool opportunity to speak at my first summer camp.  I have done a couple winters at Pondo and have really enjoyed them but after summer camp I was so stoked on the ministry that Pondo has!  I loved how they format their summer camp; the time is great, the location is wonderful, the cost is doable and the staff is caring.

While I don't have any plans to write about what I spoke about or how Chapel went I do want to tell a story I will never forget.

My oldest daughter Sophie loves animals.  She would have every animal that she could get her hands on if I would allow her to.  Every time we see a dog she wants to pet it and she knows the breed of many dogs.

This summer at camp we saw a few lizards running around and Sophie very much wanted to catch one.  One day after getting our lunch, with my hands full, Sophie saw a lizard just outside the Chapel.  She asked me to help but I had my hands full.  Sophie started chasing the lizard around, who was no small lizard, and he almost ran into chapel but someone stopped him from doing so.  After that he ran under a small pile of wood.  Sophie started moving the wood and got him to run out from it.  Then it happened; when the lizard was in the middle of the walk area Sophie pounced on him and caught him!

Sophie caught a huge blue-bellied lizard all on her own.

For the next three hours Sophie held that lizard as her prized possession.  She pet the lizard and showed him to everyone she encountered.  She was so stoked on her accomplishment and enjoyed every moment she had with that lizard before we asked her to release him back into the wild so he could have dinner with his family.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Happy Halloween {2012}

New City, New Costume, New Neighborhood, Same Candy, Lots of Fun

That could describe what Halloween looked like for us this year.

This Halloween we spent with our great friends The Halls!  We went over to their house for some yummy dinner and then hit the streets to get our fair share of the candy that was to be had.  The weather held up for the most part but towards the end of our adventure it began to drizzle on us some.

Normally I haven't dressed up for Halloween but this year it changed.  Sophie dressed up as a lady bug and Charity chose to be a lady bug too.  Leah already had her Ariel (the little Mermaid) costume so I wanted to do something that could help me connect with her.  I decided to be a fisherman who was trying to catch a mermaid!  We had the best time with our friends going around the block.  Leah rode in her stroller while Sophie ran around with the big kids.  I had a great time shouting: "I'm a fisherman and I'm going to catch you mermaid" to which Leah would respond" "You can't catch me.  I'm in my stroller."

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Operation Christmas Child

Our church is doing something super cool this year and my family is jumping on the ship to help out (Now I know this isn't the first time our church has done this but it is the first time my family has)!  We are partnering with Operation Christmas Child to help get presents to underprivileged children in other countries.  Now Operation Christmas Child (OCC) is going to use the shoebox that we filled with presents as a way to present the Gospel to these children; this excites our family!  

One thing that Charity and I have committed to is helping our daughters understand the need to help.  We are in a place in life where we can help others and the focus doesn't always need to be on self.  To help with that, this year, we decided to let the girls fill the shoe boxes for OCC.  Charity and Leah went to the store and bought the suggested items for the boxes one morning.  Later that night we took the time, as a family, to pray for the children who will receive the boxes and then fill them.

We let the girls pick the items that would go in the individual boxes so they got to feel more ownership over the process.  They had a great time picking out the toys, hygiene items, markers, and socks that we put in the boxes.  We asked them if they would like to write a personal card for the girls and they choose not to but they did want to color them a picture and put it in the box.  One thing that we chose to do was pay for shipping online so that we can track the boxes!  Our girls are super excited about this and we are really stoked to see how God is shaping their hearts with compassion. 

Leah posing with her filled box

Monday, October 29, 2012

Disneyland 2012

This summer, while on sabbatical, we took the girls to Disneyland for their first time!  Needless to say we had a blast with them!  Here are some of the unforgettable moments.

Sophie and Leah getting their first time at Disneyland button
Family in front of the big castle
Sophie wanted to drive but then decided her candy was better
Sophie rockin her hat and my shades

Friday, October 26, 2012


When we moved up to the Bay Area one of my friends in ministry sent me a Facebook message telling me about this guy up here that I needed to connect with.  It took a little while for me to land, and for us to figure out a time, but we finally met up this week.  I drove up to the city and connected with Matt.  We had breakfast, talked about life, shared about our different ministry contexts, shared our faith stories, bragged about how cute our kids are and talked about reaching the Peninsula for Christ.  Everything my friend told me about Matt was true.  He is a friendly guy, a catalytic leader and super rad (I added that).  I left very encouraged this week after connecting with Matt.

Later that day I was driving home from the office and I started thinking about how connected we are as a society.  Now this has been my rant before but I came to the conclusion that we are more connected than ever but more disconnected than ever!  

Let me explain that thought before you close this tab

I feel very connected when I am on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, my iPhone or Email.  I can FaceTime People, Skype, Message, Text, Tweet and have entire conversations with never opening my mouth.  We can decide solutions to problems, talk with relatives and look at screens but there is something about sitting face to face with a person.  

My hope coming from this post would be that you find more conversations to have face to face with people.  I am the person that uses almost every social media avenue so I don't think they are bad; I would just prefer to have more human interactions.  That conversation with Matt reminded me of that.  I love finding other people who are passionate about reaching lost people and Matt is one of those guys.

Now take it a step further.  What would it take in your life to really find true connections with people in your local area?
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Hebrews 10:24-25

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Dating Your Wife

Note to the reader: I am by no means an expert on this topic.  I have had my fair share of failures in planning dates for my wife and more times than not my selfishness has reared its ugly head in our dates.   The words that follow are from my heart and hopefully can serve as a reminder of the importance in continuing to date your wife.

When I look back on how Charity and I fell in love there are times I wish we could return to those days.  We have frequently talked about how nice it was being interns, with little responsibility, and no significant bills in our lives.  We would work, leave and have the rest of the days to ourselves.  When we officially started courting (dating) we had San Diego Zoo passes and Disneyland passes.  We lived in San Diego and could go to the beach as we desired.  We knew all the places to eat, when to visit the zoo and even went to Disneyland at least once a month.

Fast forward our lives almost ten years since we met and things are much different.  We have two young girls, almost eight years of marriage under our belts, I started (and finished) seminary and recently moved to a new city.  One thing we have done our best at is fighting for a date on a weekly basis.  Pretty much every week this looks different but here are some things to consider as you date your wife:

Make Dating Your Wife A Regular Occurrence
Many times in life I have heard the line: "Fake it until you make it".  This line can be applied to dating your wife.  You may not totally understand what it looks like because life (kids, ministry, job, church, family, pets) have overcome you.  The first time you do this it may feel awkward; fight that and press on.  One thing that Charity and I do our best at is having a regular, weekly, date with each other.

Be Creative
We don't live in San Diego anymore.  We don't have Disneyland passes.  We don't have San Diego Zoo passes.  The beach is close but its cold up here.  This means that I have to think of new ways to date my wife. This may mean that I bring her flowers at random times in the month.  It could be leaving a love note for her on the kitchen counter.  There are many new ideas that you can do when you date your wife but it requires some time to think and research what she would enjoy.  We have done random things like: Monster Trucks, Mixed Martial Arts, Hiking and Feeding the Ducks.  Don't think of the date as an occurrence but as a constant way of life.

Fight For The Time
This is a big deal for us.  We have to fight for the time to have a regular date.  There are always going to be things that want to steal that time away from you: soccer games, Monday Night Football, a ministry event, a sick kid, and the list goes on.  When we sit down and do our weekly calendar we are intentional to slot out some time for a date. This may mean we have to get creative but we find the time.

Keep Learning
I actually have a tag for date night that has a whopping three posts, now four, under it.  I am not trying to say that I am the best person at this.  There are weeks that I forget to talk about our weekly date and Charity kindly reminds me.  Don't stop!  Keep learning what this means and what God wants from you as you lead your home and date your wife.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Sea World 2012

While we were in San Diego we took some time to head over to Sea World to make sure Shamu was doing ok and eating his vitamins.  Sea World holds some very fond memories for me from my childhood with my mom, sister and grandma.  While on sabbatical I was blessed to be able to take our family there for an amazing day with my wife and girls.

This was the girls second trip to Sea World; the first time we went was for Sophie's 2nd birthday and at that time Leah was only 6 months old.  This time was great for both of the girls to see all the sea life and get to spend some quality time as a family.

Before heading in to the Shamu show we decided to stop by and see the whales real quick.  This was a huge treat to be able to see the whales up this close!

While in the show Leah wanted to take a picture of her and Shamu.  This was a huge treat for me because I think when I was younger we weren't able to afford getting a stuffed animal when we went to places.  This time we made sure to save up so we could eat all the popcorn and pretzel's we wanted (thanks Charity).  In addition to seeing Shamu we basically did the entire park (except see birds on the map that Sophie noticed).  We saw the sea turtles, the sharks, the penguins, the polar bears, the dolphins, the sting rays and The Sea Lion and Otter show.  I wish I had a picture of Charity and I from this day because I am so glad that she encouraged us to take the girls to Sea World.  She knew how tired I was and how much I needed this time with our family!

Monday, October 08, 2012

Beach Week

So I have been slowly giving some updates from what we did on our sabbatical this last summer.  I know the info is dated but it has been extremely helpful for me to relive these moments.  As I have already said, sabbatical was probably the best thing I have ever done in my life.  I shared that prior to my sabbatical I was near ministry burnout and I am so thankful for South Hills Church Community providing this opportunity for my family!

View from our house
The "Second Chunk" of my sabbatical we planned to get away and to things that refresh us.  This meant taking a month long road trip all our California that we ended up dubbing our "West Coast Tour".  The West Coast Tour started out in beautiful Oceanside, CA where we stayed a beach house for the week.  This week was filled with seeing great friends, eating great food, relaxing on the beach, eating ice cream, going to church, catching sand crabs and watching dolphins jump.

In true fashion Charity has all the good pics on her phone but I have the memories in my head.  It was great seeing Tanto and His wife, having Conrad, Karen, Deagon and Bobby over, meeting up with Matt for lunch, seeing Lauren and her family.  The BBQ with the Bower's and Berry's was great for my soul catching up with guys I love and respect.  I was so thankful that JP drove up to see me for a little and that we were able to grab dinner with Trish and Bella one night.  Finally getting to meet Justin's wife.  I really appreciated how many of our friends prayed for us and prayed for us to have strength and renewed strength in ministry!

When we started out our week in San Diego I knew that I was still spiritually drained and we were pretty active while in San Diego but I was so thankful to be able to spend time with our friends.  Good friends really do cheer up your soul!  Thanks friends!

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Confessions of a Pastor: September 2012

The more I confess the better I feel.  Now I am sure that I am not alone on this confession but it is something I struggle with.  I don't have ADD or anything like that but I am prone to distraction (even at church).  For the last two years I have carried a little device in my pocket that allows me to access almost anything from anywhere.

My confession is that I check my phone during church
(Now that I said it I feel much better)

I love my church.  I am super stoked to be a part of what God is doing on Peninsula but every now and then I find myself checking my phone.  This didn't just start since we moved but it has been a reoccurring problem in my life.

I usually avoid this during the message but there are that I find myself "checking in" on Facebook during the announcements.  I am usually pretty good about avoiding checking my feed so that is a plus.

Then it gets worse.  Sometimes I like to quote something that we are singing or a point that my pastor shares.  I open this amazing app called Twitter and go for the post.  Since Twitter automatically takes me to my feed I tend to find myself checking it for about 20 seconds and then quickly lock my phone so I can stay dialed into the message.

The real confession begins now because we are in a time of the year that I love: Football Season.  When Football season comes around I find it easier to justify checking my phone.  I want to see how the Chargers are doing and who the Raiders are loosing to.

The only solution to this problem that I currently have is to keep my phone in my pocket during service... but that doesn't always happen.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Making the Most of your Time

I am not the best person in the world at managing my schedule; I am sure they are people out there that do it much better than I do.  I am also not much of a person that likes to plan everything out but I have had enough times of entering meetings I wasn't prepared for, walking up to pulpit to preach messages I hadn't put enough study time into and missing out on family time due to work/school related circumstances.

The bulk of what I am about to share came about because of a catastrophic event that happened while I was in leadership.  May 2009 was the craziest ministry month of my life!  I found out that the founding lead pastor of the church I was high school pastor at was resigning due to a moral failure.  That meant that my responsibilities increased pretty much over night to help the church survive the blow.  Thankfully I was registered to take two classes that summer at Tozer Theological Seminary and one of those classes was Christian Spiritual Formations with Dr. Bill Randall.  Bill took some extra time with Charity and me to help me understand the need to make the most of my time in this situation of our lives.

Since then I have made some tweaks to how I make the most of my time but I do my best to schedule all my time to make sure that I am accomplishing what I want to do with my life (and what I feel God has called me to do).  If you need some help with your calendar can I encourage you to follow these steps:

When I first started planning out my calendar I would put in my weekly work duties, school requirements and pretty much everything else that I thought was super important.  That worked for about six months until my wife said: "Where is there time for me?"  That rocked me and revealed to me that I had selfishly been forgetting about my family while trying to keep the church alive and finish seminary.  Now that we have been doing this for over three years I start out my week with planning family time.  This includes taking my kids on a date, having a weekly date with my wife and making sure to block out some big chunks of my week for family time.

Now that you have taken some time to have a date with your wife, spend some time with your kids, make sure you are home for dinner or to be home for a family lunch once a week look for some time for yourself.  In his book As for me and my crazy house Brian Berry talks about how important it is for you to be a healthy leader by slotting some "Me" time.  This could be going fishing for a few hours on your day off, getting a coffee one morning or hitting the gym a few nights in the week.  This is vital to your personal health so make sure when you plan your week out you get some time in there doing some things that are going to make you happy and healthy.  There is a unique balance in this part of calendaring; I have learned that there are weeks I can get more time for myself and there are weeks that I have to fight for it (be prepared).

When you planning out your schedule make sure that you look ahead, a few months, to know what is coming your way.  Put big things on the calendar way ahead of time so you can make sure you are ready for them when the time comes!  If you have a mission trip coming up and need to schedule some team meetings this is the place to do that!  Our Community Life Pastor just emailed me with the dates for our Men's Retreat that is February and I immediately put that on my calendar.  It is unfair for you to call meetings the week of and expect that everyone will be able to attend.  When you think ahead it shows the people you are working with that you care about them and value your time.

My wife and I love to vacation!  This means that when we are doing our calendar we are looking for a place to put a get-a-way in there.  Now this doesn't always happen and its not always Hawaii (though I wish it was) but it could be thinking ahead to visit your family who lives a few hours away.  Thinking ahead also gets your mind out of the weekly grind to accomplish your dreams!

This can be the more difficult part of making the most of your time but this is a very important piece.  If you know that you are preaching this Sunday in Big Church than you need to carve out some big chunks of time to message prep.  Maybe you have some reoccurring weekly meetings that you need to prep for or you would like to get lunch with a key leader; this is the time to do that.  Figure out what needs to be done this week and put it on the calendar; then when you get a reminder about it you know its time to start working on it.

Also, when you do this leave some margin.  Leave some room between meetings so you are not rushing from one meeting to the next.  Leave some margin so if a parent calls and wants to talk you have the freedom to make that happen.  Leave some room so you can meet with an intern or catch up with a fellow staff member at the water cooler.

The way that this works best for me is to sit down on the couch on Sunday night for about an hour with my computer open.  I make sure that Charity and I get some time to talk through our week, then we talk through the month and finally I fill in my work week.  If you choose to start doing something like this give yourself some grace as you figure what works best for you.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Our New Home

I have been wanting to put up a picture of our new house for the last month but life has been a little busy as we are landing in the Bay Area.

Most of you know but if you didn't hear we accepted a call to Central Peninsula Church in Foster City as the Campus Pastor.  We moved into our new place August 17th and are loving it!  The house (its actually a duplex but we only share a garage wall with our neighbors) is about half the size as our Vegas house.  Initially Charity and I looked at our house as a landing place and figured we would move after our year lease was up but that mentality has changed.

We love our little house!  It fits us perfect (minus the one bathroom).  We have a great front yard, amazing neighbors, live on a quiet street and its only 7 minutes from our church.  Thanks for all your prayers for our move! Come visit us!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Confessions of a Pastor: August 2012

August 2012 is done and gone but my confession from that month is still very fresh in my mind.  I don't think that anyone would blame me for this confession or think I am a bad person but it is something that I am wrestling with.  See when I first gave my life to Christ I felt like I had some great times in prayer.  I would spend sweet time in the morning with God; sitting on the floor with my composition journal and writing out my prayers.  That pretty much continued into the first couple years of marriage but once we had children everything changed!  Sleep was done, quite mornings were done, and well... it just changed.  Now I am not saying the change it bad but it sets up the stage for my confession.

I feel like my prayer life revolves around praying for kids to sleep

There I said it!  Now let me give you an average night for me.

While putting the girls to bed
Jesus please let my kids fall asleep 
Before I head to bed
Jesus please let my girls sleep through the night 
In the middle of the night when they wake up
Jesus please let my girls fall back asleep (and me too)
Basically I am sick of praying prayers that revolve around sleep so I am resolving to prayer for their salvation.  Charity and I are praying for them to understand the truths of God.  I have prayed for their husbands one day (that is kinda hard).  I am praying for them to make great friends that would point them to Jesus and for them to meet friends that they can point to Jesus.  I am going to pray prayers that are more important to the grand scheme of things and less revolving around my personal comforts.

So if you hear me complain about my kids not sleeping please remind me about how blessed I am to have these beautiful little girls in my life!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Forgiving the Unforgivable: Book Review

Title: Forgiving the Unforgivable

Author: David Stoop

Pages: 149

Publisher: Regal

Quotable: "The more we understand how much we've been forgiven, the more we are able to forgive." page 74

Recommendation: Great read, be ready to act

Forgiving the Unforgivable is a book that my counselor recommended to me (yep, I see a counselor).  Interestingly enough she recommended about four books for me to get.  I ordered all of them, from Amazon, and this is the only one that ended up at my house (Amazon said that my address didn't exist for the other three that I ordered at the same time).

This is a book that I read while on sabbatical when I took some solitude time to spend with God and work on my own issues.  The truth is I have issues; I have messed up and I have been hurt in life.  When I started reading this book I made it to the first Chapter and put it down only to pick it up eighteen months later and love it!  There were times, in Duck Creek Village, that I would sit on the couch, lay in the bed, sit by the fire and not be able to put this book down.  I had to "force" myself to put it down to process my emotions.

This book taught me some great things!  In my life I have a tendency to place the blame on others; in other words I like to make my problem your fault.  I have learned how unhealthy that is and have done my best to work on that.  Stoop has some actions plans in place on how to work at forgiveness better, understand the emotions involved in that, how to not forgive too quickly and overlook the problem.  This book requires action from the reader.  At the end of every chapter there are questions to ask yourself about the topic and how you can respond.  The bottom line is this is a great book but it will require action on your behalf if you read.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Sophie's 4th Birthday

It really seemed like just the other day we brought Sophie home from the hospital.  For those of you who have known us for a while you know that Sophie had a rough start in life.  See when Sophie was born, August 26th 2008, she has meconium aspiration.  Now that is a big word that most people so its easier to say that right before Sophie was born she pooped and inhaled it into her lungs.  Once she came out the doctor told that she had to spend 2 hours in NICU (Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit).  Two hours turned into two days which turned into six of the most difficult days of our families life; ever!

Thankfully after that incident we haven't really had any lasting effects with Sophie.  She is a healthy little girl who actually had two birthday parties this year due to our move.  Her Bay Area party included a handful of friends, lots of pizza and a fist-full of tokens to play on some games!  This is to you Sophie; I am blessed to be your dad.  If you read this one day please know that I love you so much!

Monday, September 03, 2012

Moving, a new house and other thoughts

We have officially been in the Bay Area for over two weeks now (and I haven't blogged once)!  The last couple weeks of our lives have been extremely busy.  On August 15th I finished up an almost eight year run of ministry at South Hills Church Community in Henderson, NV.  I have some great thoughts from that run of ministry that I will have to share in another post.

On August 16th I drove a 20 foot Uhaul to Foster City with all our house packed tightly in there with two the help of two great guys my Tundra made it safe and sound.  We were able to move in very smoothly thanks to the help of a handful of guys up here (I have no clue how people do life without a church family).

Shortly after moving in we went to "look" at the local SPCA for a suitable dog for our family.  I had promised Sophie that once I finished seminary we would get a dog.  Our hope was to find a medium sized dog that was between 6-18 months.  We walked all around the SPCA and most of the dogs were not able to be adopted to a family with young children.  Getting a little discouraged we turned the corner to find a litter of Chihuahua puppies.  Now Chihuahua was the last dog on my list but there was a cute little girl that grabbed the hearts of all our family.  We actually left to think about it and ending up coming back a few hours later to pick up Candy.  Candy really is the perfect dog for our little girls but she is also like having another child!

The following day I started my new role as the Foster City Campus Pastor at Central Peninsula Church.    The first couple days were a whirlwind filled with meetings, getting my office ready, more meetings, lots of coffee and some more meetings.  We officially introduced me to our church on Sunday August 26th and that was amazing.  My pastor, Mark Mitchell, prayed for me in all three services and I left feeling very encouraged and very humbled that God has chosen me to fill this role.

As always I appreciate your prayers and will do my best to blog more to keep you in the loop of what God is doing in our lives!

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Spiritual Retreat

The focus of my second month of sabbatical was fun.  That meant that I needed to get some time away and really connect with God by myself to help with some of the spiritual healing I needed.  Thankfully we have some great friends with a cabin up in Duck Creek Utah.  I have been able to use this house for a family vacation, personal retreats and even did a man weekend with some of my small group guys one summer.

This trip was the longest trip I have taken by myself.  I was alone for four days where I just spent time; eating, sleeping, reading, praying journaling and refreshing my spirit.  I am so thankful that my wife encouraged me to take the time to get away and connect with God.  While I was up there I ventured out of the cabin on a few day adventures and took a cool hike over to Cascade Falls.  Here is a picture of the view on the hike to the falls.

The following day I took a hike to Strawberry Point but it was super windy so I didn't get to the edge to take any pictures.  While I was up there I also read a book called: "Forgiving the Unforgivable".  I will be reviewing that book in the near future as it was very helpful in some healing I needed.

When I share with others that I spent that much time alone I often get varying responses.  For my personality it is pretty difficult to spend that much time alone but I have put in some structure to the time that helps me refresh.  Generally I have done these trips when I get exhausted; as I move forward I want to schedule in trips like this to keep me from getting exhausted.

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.  Mark 1:35

Monday, August 06, 2012

Bay Area Bound

Yesterday our church made an announcement that will change our life.

Almost 8 years ago I accepted a call to minister at South Hills Church Community as the Middle School Pastor!  I will never forget driving home, from our first visit, when I distinctly recall feeling the call of God to Henderson.  November 18th 2004 I started my new role at SHCC and it has been a great time in my life!

Through out the last 8 years I have served in almost every capacity at our church.  I started as Middle School Pastor, then became Student Ministry Pastor, then High School Pastor (with a sprinkle of Missions), after that I helped lead our church in the absence of a Lead Pastor, back to High School Pastor and finally Pastor of Discipleship.  During my time in Vegas I got married, started seminary, got ordained, had a kid, kept doing seminary, had another kid and graduated seminary.

While on sabbatical I received a call from a great pastor in the Bay Area asking if we were serious about considering a Campus Pastor role that one of my buddies had told me about.  I never really saw myself in this kind of role but for some reason felt God leading us to check it out more.  After spending five days in the Bay Area our family came home and prayed.  We prayed, we asked for prayer, we asked for council, we prayed some more, we spoke with our leadership and prayed more.  To make the long story short; a month after our visit we were offered a role to minister on the Peninsula and accepted the role.

Now the hard part.  I always thought that writing a resignation letter would be easy but it was SO difficult.  I love South Hills Church.  I love the people that we have worked with.  I love the volunteer teams I have spent time with and that made it all the more difficult to resign.  I am going to miss our church family dearly but I trust that this is a Kingdom call and I am so excited to work with the team of pastors up in the Bay Area.  I am excited for the training I will receive working alongside the staff up there and I am excited for God to stretch me in this new role!

On August 15th my pastoral duties will be complete and I will move my family to Foster City to work with a team at Central Peninsula Church.  Will you please take a quick minute to pray for my family during this transition.  Will you please pray for us as we transition out of Vegas?  Will you please pray for us to find a great place to live?  Will you please pray for God to prepare us for CPC and to prepare CPC for us?  Thank you for all your prayers and support!

Thursday, August 02, 2012

May Lake Day

As I said yesterday, the goal I had for the second month of my sabbatical was to just have fun.  This included a whole bunch of fun with my family but also some fun with my friends.  One day I went onto the lake with the guys, and a few girls, for some: wake boarding, wake surfing and cliff jumping.  I love hanging out with these guys and all the crazy things we have done together!

I don't have all the pics that we took but here is my favorite one of me wake surfing.

Here is a pretty cool video that Spencer filmed

Here is Spencer killing it wake surfing!

The spiritual side of this, for me, is that when I was a young man I thought that being a Christian was boring.  I thought that all Christians did was sit around and talk about the Bible.  One thing that I have hoped to do in my life is to teach young people that you can be a Christian and have LOTS of fun!

Trust in the Lord and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Delight yourself in the Lord
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Psalm 37:3-4 (NIV)

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Dodgeball Tournament

The goal for the first month of my sabbatical was to disconnect from South Hills Church.  The goal that I had planned for the next month was to have fun!  Part of that included playing a dodgeball tournament with some of the guys who grew up in our church and have become friends of mine!  The tournament was held at Lake Mead Christian Academy sometime in mid-May.

Our team did pretty amazing but in the end we got second place.  Here are some pics from the day!  Love you guys!

The team in action

Stay focused on the start

Thats a happy team!

Moving up the ladder to the finals

The Team!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Chasing Francis: Book Review

Book Title: Chasing Francis

Author: Ian Morgan Cron

Pages: 253

Publisher: NavPress

Recommendation: Yes! Read it! 

Favorite Quote: "Thomas, why does it feel like God's abandoned me?" I asked at last.
Thomas sighed. "Sometimes God's presence is most strongly felt in his absence."

During my sabbatical I read only a few books (in addition to the Bible) and this was one of them.  Now the interesting thing about this book is that is spoke deeply to my heart given the condition of my heart.  The even more interesting thing about this book is I have no clue who recommended it!

The book is a fictional story about a lead pastor from the Northeast area.  He (Chase) is about 38 years old and comes to a crisis of faith.  The tough thing about this is that Chase comes to this crisis while leading the church when he encounters the death of a young girl.  This culminates when Chase stands on stage, one Sunday morning, and announces to his church that he is not even sure if he believes in God.  After this he walks off the stage and leaves the church.

This obviously leads to an interesting outcome in the life of the pastor.  His elders encourage him to take some time off so both they and he can figure out what is going on.  During his time off he calls his cousin, who is a Franciscan Monk, in Italy.  Chase ends up going to Italy for a couple months (I think) to seek God and figure out what is missing in his life.  I am not going to give the rest of the story away but I will encourage you to pick up the book and see what it would like to seek after God in news ways. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

As for Me and My [Crazy] House: Book Review

Book Title: As for Me and My [Crazy] House

Author: Brian Berry

Pages: 154

Publisher: Group Publishing

Recommendation: Read it Now!

Favorite Quote: "So how about you? Did you sign up for the marriage you're living? If not, it's time to rethink some stuff and remind yourself that the best gift you can give your kids is not whatever they want, but the marriage they don't know that they desperately need you to have." (page 84)

This was one of the books that I bought while I was still working on seminary and thought I wouldn't get to until I finished.  Once this book arrived at our home Charity picked it up and started reading it; her enthusiasm for the book sparked my interest to begin reading it while writing my final paper (it was better than what I HAD to read).  There are books you read because you have to and books you read because they speak to your soul; this book spoke to my soul in a much needed way.

If you read my blog last week you will see how important this book was to me; it honestly came a critical time in my life.  I started this book before I graduated seminary but finished it on the plane ride to Hawaii.  It was cool reading it on the plane and reading how Brian affirms the need for family vacation (page 135) it made me feel like I was doing something right in the chaos of my own life.  I am pretty sure that the cover talks mentions youth ministry but I am going to just say that this book is a must read for anyone in ministry.

The principles that Brian shares are from a man who had tried and tested them; they come from a man who is leading out and doing what he writes!  Here are some quick thoughts: Brian Berry is a stud!  I love Brian, I love his heart for ministry and I love that he is doing ministry in the trenches.  The book is broken into three understandable parts:
  1. The best gift I can give my marriage is a healthy self
  2. The best gift I can give my family is a healthy marriage
  3. The best gift I can give my community and ministry is a healthy family
I am committed to getting this book into the hands of as many people as I possibly can because I believe that what Brian is talking about here can help our communities find and follow Christ.  I really believe that the world is sick of they way they are living and they are looking for men and women to model something new to them.  Its going to take time to implement these aspects into my life but I am committed to making that happen for the health of my family.

Thanks Brian.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Spiritually Empty

Three months ago if you would have asked me how I was doing I would have given you the answer that most Americans give when asked that question: "I'm good"

If you would have pushed me a little on that answer you probably would have gotten: "I'm tired"

As I reflect back on the last couple years of my life I realize that I was constantly "tired".  I was tired of school, I was tired from being woken up at night by our daughters, I was tired of ministry being tough and I was tired of not spending time with Jesus.  The day after I left for sabbatical I took a picture of my phone and it was a good representation of where my life was at; I was empty.  You could also say: tired, drained, exhausted, depleted, empty, not full and pretty much any other word that relates to those words.

Now I understand that writing about this subject makes me vulnerable but I have to image that I am not the only one out there who has experienced this.  Now I also understand that not everyone is given the opportunity that I have been given (a sabbatical) to address this issue.  In reality it took me about three weeks of sabbatical before I actually realized how drained I was.

One glaring issue was that I had made my quiet time just that.  I would read the Bible, try to pray and failed to sit and have a relationship with God: it was definitely quite.  Let me share a handful of things that I began to realize on sabbatical that is going to change in my personal walk with Christ as I move forward in life (at this point I am not talking as a pastor but a believer in Christ).

Maybe you have called the time that you spend with God on a daily basis your "quiet time" I want to push back on that verbiage.  Over the last couple months I have become convicted that I do not want the time that I spend with God to be quite.  I want the time I spend with God to be interactive, communicative and uplifting.  I want to sit on my face before God.  If I feel I am not hearing God's voice I want to read the Bible out loud.  I am going to switch up my relationship with God to be multi-faceted and interactive but in ways that will require me to shut up and listen.

During my sabbatical I was able to get a few days in Utah, by myself, to connect with God.  There is something important about not just getting away but about being intentional with that time.  I'm not going to take too much time here since I will go more in-depth in a few days on this topic.  To wet your appetite go check out Mark 1:35.

While on sabbatical I realized how important friendships are to my life.  When we are busy some of the first things to go are our time with God and then our time with others.  You cannot read the Gospels and tell me that friendships are not important.  Jesus calls us to a life with others, share meals with others, be real with others and walk with others.  I had neglected that in my life and realized that is going to change as I move forward.

I'm not sure if most people would include this in their spiritual health but I cannot see it being separate from my spiritual health.  I make that statement because as the leader of my home it is my responsibility to take care of my family.  One thing that God spoke clearly to me is: "Love your girls."  That will be a main focus in my life from here on out.  I have put other things above the needs of my family too many times and moving forward I am going to make sure that is not the case.

In conclusion I want you to think about this verse and ask yourself: "Who is in control of my life?"

"Come to me, all you who are wearied and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."  Matthew 11:28-30

Monday, July 23, 2012

Hawaiian Vacation Round Two

As I attempt to recap most of my sabbatical I wanted to take another post to talk about the blessing of our Hawaiian Vacation.  It was so rad to have our family there to spend time with, but also, to watch our kids so Charity and I could get some "us time".  One of those times was taking a helicopter ride around the island of Kauai.

One of the blessings of the ride we took is that the helicopter actually lands at the waterfall featured in Jurassic Park.  Having never ridden in a helicopter before this was a treat for me to experience.

Charity and I sat shotgun in the helicopter and it was such an amazing view of the island.  Heading into sabbatical I was pretty tired/exhausted and taking this ride was a great reminder of all that God has created.  Its interesting to me how a ride like this was able to lift my spirit some and show me more of the beauty that God has created.

Check out this video of the Na Pali Coast from our ride

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Hawaiian Vacation

The day after my graduation from seminary our family jumped (we actually walked) on a plane that was headed to Kauai.  Looking back on my sabbatical leaving town immediately was the best decision we could have ever made!  We spent the next ten days in Kauai with my family and had a GREAT time.  The girls loved hanging out with their cousins, I loved seeing my sister and it was great having Oma and Opa there.

Kauai was filled with adventure so I think its going to take more than one post to share but for starters I had a great time with my kids!  Kauai is filled with chickens; they are every where and Sophie and I had a great time catching them.  This is a pic from the first morning we caught a chicken.  Sophie was so excited to hold it!  Leah held one but quickly let it go to watch her sister.  My sister (Beth) also has some made chicken catching skills while holding her son!

One thing I promised the girls was that we would get shave ice every day.  Shave ice is pretty much the best invention in the world and I enjoyed every time we ate it.

Finally, for this post, I have to mention how much fun I had snorkeling with my wife and my sister.  I love being out in nature, I love chasing fish around the ocean and I love being able to see more of what God has created!

God knew this was how we needed to start our sabbatical!