50th Anniversary Celebration

A few weeks ago, on July 21, my parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. On the next day (July 22), my siblings, spouses and other family hosted an open house in Fort Wayne. It was fun to stand back and watch as numerous friends came by and offered their congratulations to our parents…and there were a number of people who stopped by.

We moved to Fort Wayne when I began elementary school and lived in the same house until I graduated high school. We were members of the same church throughout that time and our family was pretty involved: youth group, Sunday School, children’s musicals, adult choir, Christmas and Easter pageants, various roles in church leadership and probably a few others not listed. Many of the relationships we had were through our church family. So, when the 50th celebration came around, many who attended were from the church.

I saw former Sunday School teachers, youth group leaders, friends of my parents and past choir members. I wish I could say I remembered everyone’s name (I didn’t) or even recognized everyone who came through. It was apparent that many of those friendships ran deep as many conversations were going and many lasted for a while.

Several family members were there which also made the day special.

A 50th Anniversary is definitely worth celebrating and it was cool to see the ripple effect of my parents’ marriage. Not only were children, grandchildren, a great-grandson, a brother, a niece and cousin present, there were countless relationships and friendships represented. It’s hard to quantify the influence they have had on people in Indiana, Oklahoma, all the places they have traveled plus the places their family members have lived.

It was a good day and a couple worth celebrating.

Here are a few pics from the day.

Mom & Dad, Uncle John & Aunt Ginny, Niece Emilee and Cousin Janet

My siblings

Just a few of the people that came

A not-so-great family selfie at dinner following Open House

Swipe Right @LeviLusko

Sometimes we think we’ve heard it all. We don’t think new information will surprise us or grab our attention. Then, in the introduction of his book Swipe Right, the author writes about the impact of the internet. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard most of the stats. Then he writes that “dating apps such as OkCupid, Grindr and Tinder have poured gasoline onto what was already a hook up culture. Tinder alone has more than a trillion swipes now.”

More than a trillion swipes? I would have never guessed a number like that.

Then more stats: “There are now more than one hundred million people on mobile dating apps; half of those are on Tinder.”

More than one hundred million? Perhaps we don’t know as much as we think we do about the current state of relationships and all the ways that people are connecting. Into that setting Levi Lusko offers his latest book.

In Swipe Right Lusko offers practical, direct and Biblical teaching on the subject of purity and relationships. I appreciate his willingness to speak directly to a subject that people sometimes like to gloss over and speak in vague generalities. It can be uncomfortable to enter into a conversation about sex with someone else, especially if that someone is your child or youth group student, but Lusko offers a great tool to help do exactly that.

Lusko has the ability to connect truths from God’s Word in a way that captures the reader’s attention. Here’s one of my favorites from chapter 5:

“God, too gave us guidelines, but people think he is a prude and a killjoy. It’s ridiculous, really. Do you think Apple is a buzzkill because the instructions tell you not to take your iPhone swimming with you? Are they phone-o-phobic? Of course not! We understand the rules help us get the most our of our phones. Far from proving He is against it, the fact that God tells us how to do sex the right way shows he cares about it.”

If we care that much about our phones and want to take care of them, how much more should we take care of the gift God has given to us?

In his writing Lusko speak to those who don’t think they need these principles in their relationships. He recognizes that there will be some readers who think “this doesn’t apply to me” or “that might be true of other people, but not me.” He writes with both truth and grace recognizing that people won’t always listen the first time. In a culture that continues to move further into an “anything goes” approach to intimacy, Lusko offers enduring truths that individuals and couples can return to when the current approach leaves them empty.

An added bonus of the book is that he added a section at the end called Things I Really, Really Want You to Remember.  In that section he gives a quick rundown of the principles from each chapter.  It’s a great way to refresh your memory and even share that information with a friend.

Swipe Right is a good tool to use for both individual reading and group study.  I think it would be helpful not only for those who have struggled with purity issues in the past, but also a good conversation starter for those who are just moving into the time of dating and relationships.

You can get more information at the Swipe Right Book website.

Reason #195 Why We Love Small Groups

Like typical small group leaders our volunteers give time each week to meet with their small groups.  They take time before the small group meeting time to review the questions that will be used during the discussion time.  They show up at ball games and concerts and special occasions.  They send “we missed you” and “praying for you” texts.

They show up and are a consistent presence in the lives of students.

Then, sometimes, our small group leaders go above and beyond.

It’s just another reason why we love small groups.

One of our area high schools was having a Winter Formal Dance.  Students make plans, for the evening: buy tickets, determine what they are going to wear, find a date (if necessary) or arrange details with their group of peers, select a restaurant to eat and, of course, take a number of pictures.

This year some of our small group leaders decided to host our group of students for dinner.  Rather than the students picking a restaurant and making reservations to go out to eat, our small group leaders, in the words of one of our students, created a “homemade 5 star restaurant.”

The leaders met them at the door and took their coats.  They offered them appetizers and a menu.  The students were served beverages while being asked how they would like their steaks prepared.  A tasty meal was served and dessert was provided.  On the way out the door, students were offered a beverage for the road – “Mexican Coke” (Coca Cola served in glass bottles and made with cane sugar) – it’s a favorite of several of our students.

Our small group leaders went the extra mile to create a fun dining experience for our students prior to their arrival at the school dance.

Here’s what a couple of the parents posted on Facebook following the dinner:

“Seeing your son and his friends going to a dance and having their small group leaders offer to make them dinner makes me thankful!”

“Winter Formal. Blessed to have wonderful small group leaders who were willing to provide and serve dinner to this good-looking crew.”

I know that there are countless small group leaders serving in churches all over the globe.

But I think our small group leaders are pretty great!

This is just another reason why we love small groups (and our small group leaders)!

Just Another Reason We Love Small Groups

IMG_0601We think small groups are a great thing for students and adults to be a part of and a good tool to help us grow spiritually. Our senior minister says on a regular basis that the best way to grow in your relationship with Jesus is to get in a group. I love it when our small group leaders invest time and energy in our students. Sometimes it’s attending a game or concert. Sometimes it’s having a great discussion about something in God’s Word. And sometimes it’s just having fun together.

This past weekend one of our guy’s small groups had fun together – an event they called “Hamburgers, Hotdogs & Home Run Derby.” It’s just what it sounds like. They ate food and played some baseball. From the pictures it looks like they snuck some football into the afternoon as well.

All of our small group leaders are great! One of our leaders mailed out a letter this week to the parents of his small group leaders. Another small group has developed the tradition of having a sleepover around Christmas time and even making a video. (I haven’t received permission to post the videos…but they have a lot of fun!) Another of our groups went out to a local golf course’s driving range – and most of the members really don’t play golf.  Those are just a few ways that our small group leaders connect with our students, develop relationship and encourage our students in their walk with Jesus.

We like to celebrate our small groups and the pictures below are just an example of what happens within our small groups. Great job to all of our leaders!

IMG_0606

A little home run derby

IMG_0597

the chefs hard at work

IMG_0596

time for some football

Great Week at MOVE #kingdomworker

IMG_0001Last week we took some of our high school students to the MOVE Conference held on Cedarville University’s campus. Christ In Youth has been producing weeks of conference for nearly 50 years and it seems like they just keep growing in number and getting better in quality.

This year’s theme was “You Are Here” and was based on the first six chapters of the Old Testament book of Daniel. Kind of a funny thing about the theme – anytime I saw the theme “You Are Here” I assumed it was about those of us who were going to be at MOVE. Once we got rolling in the week, it was obvious that the “You” was not a reference to “me” or to “us,” but to God. God was present with Daniel and Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and He is present with us. That thread ran throughout the week of conference – You (God) Are Here!

Over the past few years, there has been an intentional move on the part of the coordinators of the week to challenge students to take what they experience at conference and live it out at home. They use the phrase #kingdomworker. All of us, no matter our age or location, can be kingdom workers. Several of our students accepted specific challenges to be kingdom workers at home. I’m excited to see how they work out those specific tasks in the coming weeks and months.

One of the benefits of MOVE (or any summer camp or conference) is time spent with students. We had two times each day that was focused on talking about and applying what was happening during the week. We also had free times and meals together, which provided times for conversation and getting to know each other.

On one particular day, the students had a chance to write encouraging words to each other. It was cool to sit back and watch them think through what they could write to encourage others in the group.
IMG_0018

There were several fun elements included throughout the week. In the book of Daniel, there is a unique event that involves King Nebuchadnezzar. The king has become quite arrogant, so God warms him that if he doesn’t change, God would humble him. Nebuchadnezzar ignores the warning so God caused him to live as an animal, complete with long nails that look like claws and long hair that grows to resemble feathers. You can read the entire story in Daniel 4. To highlight that event, students were encouraged to come to morning session in animal outfits. Here’s some of our group:
IMG_0024

It was a good week to see God move in the lives of students and adults and send us out to be kingdom workers. I’m looking forward to see the commitments made this week become a reality.

Blue Like Jazz

Blue-Like-JazzA couple of weeks ago I posted after reading the book Scary Close written by Donald Miller. After enjoying Scary Close, I picked up the paperback copy of Blue Like Jazz I had sitting on my dresser.

Some characterize Miller’s writing as “a stream of consciousness,” where he writes a book like a journal entry or simply carrying on a conversation. There are times where he will finish one thought in a chapter and jump to another. It makes for a very readable style.

One thing that I appreciated in both books is his dry sense of humor. For example, near the end of the book he makes this statement: Television drives me crazy sometimes because everybody is so good-looking, and yet you walk through the aisles of the grocery stores, and nobody looks like that. I’ve had that same thought as I’ve watched TV. Who looks like that all the time? Doesn’t seem like reality.

There were two parts of the book that lodged themselves in my memory. One was a cartoon illustration of an astronaut who wore a suit that kept him alive without food or oxygen. The space station the astronaut was on exploded and it sent the astronaut into orbit around the earth. He could see the planet yet couldn’t get to it. No one came to rescue him. His space suit kept him alive and he simple orbited the earth day after day after day. Miller shared how he would lie in bed and think about what life would be like to be cut off from all relationships, to simply be in orbit totally alone. As Miller thought about it, it scared him to think of life like that. It is a disturbing thought. Seriously, imagine it for just a bit. Disconnected from every relationship. Frightening.

The second was a realization Miller came to while listening to a speaker. As he looked at Christian culture, he said we treat love as a commodity. When people act like we want and do what we want, they receive our love and acceptance. If someone is acting opposite of what we like or even rubs us the wrong way, we withhold love from them. Miller admitted that he used love like money. He would give it out or withhold it based on the response and actions of other people.

I realized, at times, I do that, too. While I know that God wants me to love all people, some people get a greater share of my love and affirmation. As I read that chapter (#18), it challenged me to look at how I treat those around me.

Blue Like Jazz was a good read, filled with humor, interesting stories and challenging thoughts. I’m glad that Scary Close moved me to pick it up.

SOLID ROCK 2015

solid rock 15Each summer Cincinnati Christian University invites high school students to participate in a two-week event called SOLID ROCK. Students meet on the campus of CCU for a week of rehearsal to create and learn a program of ministry through music and the arts. During the second week, the group travels by charter bus to present their program at a different church every night.

My son and a few former students from WCC have participated in SOLID ROCK in the past and had a great experience. We have one student this year who is preparing to send her application in to be a part of this summer’s program.

If you are a high school student (or know a high school student) who enjoys the arts (singing, playing a musical instrument or the technical side of things), check out SOLID ROCK. It’s a great experience and also creates relationships that last beyond the two weeks together.

Information on the program and how to apply are on the Cincinnati Christian University website. Dates for 2015 are July 5-10 (on campus) and July 11-17 (on tour). The application packet is due March 16th. Go check it out.