A Letter to Jackson: On Your 9th Birthday

A Letter to Jackson: On Your 9th Birthday

Dear Jackson,

You charmed me from the moment I met you eight and a half years ago and you have continued to do so every day since. Being your dad is a really, great gig! This year’s birthday blog is going to be outlined using a famous lyric from one of your favorite songs “My Shot” from the Broadway musical “Hamilton.” (“Hey yo, I’m just like my country, I’m young, scrappy and hungry…”).

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A Letter to Chase: On Your 10th Birthday

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Happy 10th Birthday Chase!!!

For months you have been declaring, “I can’t wait to be a tween!” That statement was then followed by your mother and me sharing wide-eyed looks in shock that you were about to be in the double digits. How did this happen?

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That being said, we could not be more proud of the man you are becoming, Chase. This year has been a defining year for as you have faced some very difficult transitions and you have come through them like a champ. I will never forget the night in March when we picked your mom up from the Columbus airport and went to dinner at Red Robin. We dropped the news on you and Jackson that we were moving to Pittsburgh. We pulled out Pirates hats and a Steelers jersey for you but you didn’t even want to look at them because you were sad about leaving your friends in Ohio.

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One of my favorite moments this past year was our last night in our house in Zanesville. You and I had worked up a few worship songs including “10,000 Reasons” on our guitars and together we led our family in a worship time, thanking God for our awesome five years in that house. Then we all gave one word that summed up our experience there and wrote them inside your “fort under the basement stairs.”

One of the comic books I used to read as a kid was Daredevil “The Man Without Fear.” You just might be the real thing. You have gone from an average sized elementary school in Ohio to a very large school here in Pittsburgh. It’s huge. When we went to orientation and got the tour you just rolled with it and declared, “My new school is so nice. I love it!” Since they serve your favorite — General Tso’s chicken — for lunch, how could you not?!?

I am impressed with the leader you are, Chase. The other day while you and your brother were having breakfast I overheard Jackson tell you he was confused on a math problem that he was working on. You said, “Read it to me.” And then in a very adult way, you kindly helped him work through it. I am grateful because you two surpassed my math knowledge about two years ago. You are a phenomenal older brother and leader.

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Now that you are ten, I am excited to start letting you experience more of the world. In a month from now you are joining me on a trip to Central America to visit some missionary families. It’s really important for you to see other cultures and see the work God is doing around His world. I believe He is shaping you to make a huge difference for His Kingdom on a global scale. So now that you have your new passport, let’s fill that bad boy with stamps!

Of course we will still make trips to our favorite vacation spot — Walt Disney World. That is if they will let you back in since the Pluto-punching incident of 2017. While we never condone violence of any kind, we do understand that Pluto was invading your personal space and you have never been a fan of meeting characters. That being said your punishment was one of my favorite parenting moments of all time. We made you take part in the Enchanted Tales with Belle at the Magic Kingdom, where you played the horse. You said you hated it but you also didn’t mind getting up close with a Disney princess.

You are such a cool, young man, Chase. I love your passion for the outdoors and fishing, your curiosity to try new things like hockey, and your determination and focus to complete the task at hand (most recently your Millennium Falcon Lego). Your first decade of life has been awesome and if you keep pursuing after God’s immeasurably more for your life the next ten is going to be even better!

I love you and I am immensely proud of you.

Dad

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Busting Up Backyard Fences

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 "If it doesn't effect me in my backyard then it just doesn't matter." Growing up in a small, rural community in Indiana this was my mindset when I heard about world events an ocean away. 

Ashamedly, that was my mindset until I was 22 and traveled on a Mexico missions trip. I remember preparing for the trip thinking my group and I were "bringing Jesus to Mexico" when in reality Jesus beat me there by just a little bit. I thought I was going to save others when I was the one who needed saving from the mediocrity that is backyard mentality. 

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad wholesome charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.
— Mark Twain

Being saturated in another culture foreign to you forces you to shed a layer of skin that is worn and flaky and what you discover underneath is a better way to be human. New tastes. New smells. New sights. New languages. New roads. When we collide with what makes us different, it also reveals the deeply intrinsic thing that makes us the same. We are all image-bearers of the One who formed us and breathed life into us ... and it is good when we sit at a table together. 

God did not create us for backyard fences. He created us for banquets with all peoples ... with Him at the head of the table. (And if you don't believe me, go ahead and flip to the end of the Story.)

As followers of Christ, being relegated to one place, one country, one town, one house goes against the fact that we are sojourners. C.S. Lewis wrote, "I must keep alive in myself the desire for my TRUE country, which I shall not find till after death; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others to do the same."  


  

On Turning 40

A wise man told me recently,

"We spend our 20s and 30s figuring out what God made us for and we spend our 40s and 50s living it out."

That is exactly the place I feel like I'm at. At this time of my life:

I am madly in love with my wife. Janie is still my best friend, lover and partner in ministry. I love the season we are in where she is devoted to her role as mom and in her role with Stadia

My number one ministry is to my family. I love the young men Chase and Jackson are turning into. They both are insanely talented but I love most that they devour God's Word and the fruit of that is evident in many ways. Last night I was praying beside their beds and I was overwhelmed by the awesome responsibility, "I get to be their dad." I'm also thrilled to be at the early stages of parenthood at 40. I have friends from High School who are seeing their kids go off to college already and I can't imagine that. I am a much better dad now then I would have been even ten years ago.

I love the adventure that God has put me on in my life but I am so hungry for more. When I turned 30 I had just been married for less than three months and I was in a safe job that I felt I was coasting in. Since then God has led Janie and me to starting churches in Miami, FL, adopting and parenting two phenomenal young men, traveling the world helping care for orphans, and leading a rapidly growing church through one of the hardest growth barriers. All that in the last 10 years. What's next God? Adventure is out there!

I am definitely the most confident in leadership than I have ever been. Other people's expectations of me used to consume and drive me, but now I am much more aware of WHO I serve. At the end of the day He is the One I want to please. 

I contribute most of who I am today to past experiences where I was willing to take big risks but failed. I once read that one quality that Walt Disney looked for in hiring high-level leaders was seeing if they had "a good, hard failure" in their past and how they responded to it. That is something I have adopted when I hire as well. 

I ran a lot in my 30s. According to my Nike Plus app in the last several years I have run across the United States. But I see many more marathons and half marathons in my 40s. I am going to own the hashtag #FitAfter40. And since my partner in crime Chris Steele is dropping lbs. like crazy, my uber-competitive spirit is kicking into overdrive so I also want to be #FitterThanSteele. 

And one final reason I am stoked to turn 40 is I have been waiting to make this soundbite below my ringtone for years. 

 

Happily, Even After

Happily, Even After

Let me give you a glimpse of why I love the team at North Terrace. Yesterday before our 8am service I was talking with a teammate who was visibly shaken about something. "You OK," I asked. He said, "Yeah. I'm fine. There's just so much potential that God could do through us today, I just don't want to get in the way." 

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Bedtime Stories: Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Bedtime Stories: Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder

When Janie and I talk to parents who have grown children that have qualities we want to see in our sons, we want to know what they did and how they did it. Every time the parents have told us, "We read to our kids every day." So almost every night at bedtime we cozy up with a book (and the Bible) and go on all kinds of adventures together.

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