Christmas Devos For Teens // 5 Days // Free!

During this Christmas season, I’ve been receiving a number of emails with free resources.  This week Youth Ministry 360 made a five day Christmas devotion for teens available . . . for free!

Students can start them anytime this month.  The purpose of these devotions is to help students identify characteristics displayed by characters in the Christmas narrative, and challenge them to apply these in their lives.

Take advantage of this free resource  to prepare for Christmas.  Explore themes like surrender, thankfulness and trust.  A simple tool to use this season.

Click on this link to view or print the devotions:


A Bump on the Road toward Adoption

Gotcha DayMy wife and I have been sharing the last few weeks about our plans to adopt again. We’ve shared our AdoptTogether page and have been blessed by numerous people who have given toward our adoption related expenses. Through a friend in Maryland we had connected with a birth mother who is due in June and were making plans to welcome a little boy into our family. As happens at times with adoption, we have hit a bump in the road. Birth mother has decided to parent.

This is part of the update that Cheryl put on our AdoptTogether page.

As I write, we have learned that our birth momma in Maryland has decided to parent, we continue to pray for her and that precious baby boy. When our adoption failed in 2013, we grieved, much like what we are doing now, but remember how God used that situation to prepare us for Max. We know that God is up to something even better than we could have ever imagined. He simply wants us to trust HIM though this journey. So we wait for the child that God wants to add to our family, and we trust HIS plan through the grief. We will update you as we know more, thanks for walking with our family thought this roller coaster and prayers are appreciated (I, Cheryl, hate roller coasters!).

We know that adoption is not always a smooth road and we were as prepared as we could be for any change of direction that might take place. We learned through adopting our son Max that God sees further and farther than we do, so we continue to trust Him. We have been so encouraged by those who have supported us financially and through their prayer and personal support.

Just a week or so ago I was listening to a podcast and the speaker was talking about worry. This is not a totally accurate quote, but carries what he said in his message: What God originates He orchestrates. So, we continue to trust Him as we continue down the road.

You’ll Get Through This – Max Lucado

You'll Get Through ThisSeveral years ago I remained pretty diligent at reading any book Max Lucado wrote. I remember titles like Six Hours One Friday and He Still Move Stones among others. When I added his latest, You’ll Get Through This, to my Kindle, I was somewhat in awe of the number of books Lucado has written. Yet with all those pages and pages of written words, Lucado brings a fresh, challenging perspective to the life of Joseph. He draws out practical applications from the follower of God who faced multiple challenges through his life, yet remained faithful.

Two things really stand out in my mind about Lucado’s latest offering. One is how he crafts words to communicate his message. His use of descriptive words and phrases not only keeps the reader engaged in the chapter, but also brings the subject matter to life. The second strength of this book is how Lucado applies the principles he draw out of the life of Joseph to just about any individual who might be reading the book. He speaks to the married and the single, the young and the old, the one who is content and the one who might be struggling, the convinced and the one who is seeking. Lucado is able to hit just about any person reading his book.

As always, Lucado is quotable. He is able to take a compelling principle and make it memorable. A couple of phrases I highlighted: “This planet is God’s waiting room. While you wait, God works.” “God recycles into righteousness.” Far from just trying to be clever, Lucado uses multiple passages of scripture to point the reader back to the God that Joseph served and in Whom he placed his trust.

Check out Lucado’s book and learn valuable lessons from the life of Joseph.

God the Great Story Weaver

Logo-Quill-and-InkOver the past couple of months God has been unfolding a story that has been quite unexpected. Through a series of connections – starting at the church where my wife grew up, to someone she knew briefly in college, to a re-connection with that friend over Facebook, along with a series of other seemingly random connections – God has been putting together a somewhat unlikely scenario. We are still waiting for details to play out, so I don’t want to project how the last chapters are going to unfold. But it is amazing to look back at how God is putting various pieces together and the timing in relation to those pieces and events.

As my wife and I were talking this past weekend, she commented on how God is truly the Great Story Weaver. Whether it be the timing of certain events or simply responding to a request that at the time didn’t seem to be that big of a deal, we are surprised how God orchestrates and weaves together a series of events and conversations into something unforeseen.

We don’t know how the story will continue to go, but we are excited to share it with others in the months to come. We have to realize that we are a part of the chapters being written and can’t see the end of the story. Even when we think we are at the end of a story, God is still writing. He is the Great Story Weaver.

Draw the Circle

draw tge circleI was pretty excited when I saw that Draw the Circle was an available book in the BookSneeze list. I’ve read all of Mark Batterson’s previous books and appreciate his writing style. Several months ago I was able to purchase multiple copies of The Circle Maker to make available to some of our leaders here. Draw the Circle is a continuation of that book.

In this offering, Batterson builds on the principles of The Circle Maker, but also includes stories and testimonies he has received from people who have read his book. He designed this book to be a 40 day devotional and it came at a good time for me as I was just finishing up a Bible reading plan.

I have found Batterson to be quite quotable and my Kindle version of the book has a list of highlights from various chapters. While Batterson is a proponent of believers spending time in prayer, he doesn’t see prayer (or drawing prayer circles) as a way to get God to do what we want Him to do. In one chapter of the book, Batterson writes: “Sometimes the purpose of prayer is to get us out of circumstances, but more often than not, the purpose of prayer is to get us through them.”

Just a few pages later, Batterson makes this statement: “If we’re being completely honest, most of our prayers have as their chief objective our own personal comfort rather than God’s glory.”

Draw the Circle is a good resource for those looking to grow in the discipline of prayer. I found both Batterson’s words and the stories he shared to be both helpful and challenging.

Heaven Changes Everything review

My mom passed on the book Heaven is for Real after she read it and it was also the first e-book I bought for my wife when she got an eReader. While a book about people who go to heaven and return to tell about it is met with skepticism, I enjoyed reading this book. One of the things that I appreciated about the Burpos was how they interacted with Colton regarding his memories of heaven. They tried to allow him to share as opportunities presented themselves, rather than ask leading questions or perhaps planting ideas in his head. They sought to simply allow him to share.

In Heaven Changes Everything Todd and Sonja build on what was written in the first book. This second book is set up more as a devotional type reading, with forty-two short chapters based on a section of Heaven is for Real.

One of the nice aspects of this book is that it gives a look into where the family is now after the publishing of the first book.  The Burpos share about some of the opportunities that have come their way because of the success of the first book.  They talk about some of the speaking engagements they’ve had as well as chances to talk individually with those have lost a child or suffered some type of loss.  They talk about family life after the writing of Heaven is for Real and the popularity of Colton’s story.  Their story gives some insight into how Colton’s visit to heaven has impacted their own faith and the spiritual life of their family.

One thing continues to come out of the pages of this book – hope.  Even though the Burpos were given their son Colton back, they also share the pain of a miscarriage prior to Colton’s birth.  They have not only experienced the hope that God provides, they have been given a platform to share that with others.  The encounters they share continually point to the promise of heaven and a Father who cares for His children.

If you have read Heaven is for Real, you would enjoy this next book.  If you haven’t, this book provides a glimpse not just into the Burpo’s past experience, but how it impacts the way they live today.

(I received this book from the program in exchange for my review)

Baby Quinlan Update

Here is an update on Quinlan.  This was posted sometime over the weekend by JPBallphotograpy.  You can see all the pictures she was able to take on her blog.  There are some pretty powerful pics that show Quinlan’s development.  The picture on this page has Quinlan “holding” a ring from her mom and a ring from her dad.

If you missed the first part of Quinlan’s story, you can read what I posted last week.

Here’s the text that was posted.  Again, make sure you go to the photo blog to see some of the pics.

I was so happy to go back for a visit on Friday. What a wonderful experience! Jen had knit this beautiful rainbow dress and had the opportunity to put it on Quinlan for her first real photo shoot. Rainbows represent a promise and if you don’t know the story, take some time to read it HERE.

It was simply touching to watch Jen dress Quinlan and brush her hair for the first time.

I have many more pictures to share, but I’ll do so later. I wanted to share some before the day gets started.

Update for you prayer warriors. Quinlan is showing signs of strength and growth. She is up to 1 pound 10 ounces. She is breathing without the ventilator and her heart is functioning well. The main concern, as of yesterday, is one of her kidneys. Jen and Kevin are asking for prayer for her bowels. They need to move! Please keep sharing Quinlan’s story and keep praying!

Some days Quinlan can kangaroo in the a.m. and in the p.m. This is time she gets with her mommy, daddy and sister to snuggle skin to skin. 🙂

Baby Quinlan

One of my wife’s friend had a baby who was born prematurely.  She was not expected to survive to delivery  and is surprising the current medical staff that she is still alive.  Quinlan’s time on this earth will be short-lived and the family has come to terms with that truth.

Yesterday my wife visited the hospital along with a photographer to capture some pictures of Quinlan.  Due to her struggles with breathing that day, they were not able to take photos of her.  The photographer did take a few pictures and posted them on her blog.  I’ve met the mother once, have not seen Quinlan other than in pictures, but her story is powerful.

I’ve pasted what the photographer wrote on her blog, but please visit her website to read it again and the see the pictures.

Type. Delete. Type. Delete. Repeat. What can I say? Nothing that holds the meaning and truth spoken by Quinlan’s mom, Jen, whom I had the utmost pleasure meeting this afternoon.

In a couple days, I’ll have the honor of introducing you, via blog, to Quinlan Faith. Many of you know this family. I did not until I got a phone call Monday from Jen’s friend Julie. She had asked me if I would come to the NICU at Children’s to take pictures of sweet little Quinlan. I know many of you are praying and must be amazed by the daily miracles God is bestowing on this family. For those of you who don’t know, but are willing… please pray for this dear baby.

Here is what I know. I realize this is such a small portion of Quinlan’s story (and if I am incorrect on some details, please correct me). Jen shared a lot with us this afternoon, smiling through her adversity and simply rejoicing in the details of her story.

Quinlan was born at 31 weeks with Triploidy. She has 69 chromosomes versus 46. Most babies with this syndrome are naturally miscarried in the first or second trimester. Those who make it to term (or near) are usually born stillborn. Quinlan was born January 13, 2012! Monday she was taken off of her ventilator and today she was breathing beautifully while laying on her tummy. Rejoice and AGAIN I say REJOICE!

I wasn’t able to photograph Quinlan today as hoped because she had to stay inside her incubator with a cover. I am going back Thursday or Friday to visit and photograph. I cannot wait. Jen and her husband want their story shared. Quinlan is touching lives and needs anyone who knows her story to pray for her.

 I did spend time with big sis, Heather, and we photographed some of the special items around Quinlan. Sidenote: Heather is one impressive 8 year old!

Overcome Unbelief

There’s been a couple of things I have been praying about and have been trying to determine God’s direction. As I was reading in my YouVersion reading plan a few days ago, I came across an interesting passage in Mark 9.

A man brought his son to Jesus. The problem – the boy was possessed by an evil spirit. A bigger problem – the disciples tried to get rid of the spirit, but couldn’t.

The father is brought to Jesus and He asks the father how long the spirit has tormented the boy. The father answers the question and then says, “If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

Jesus responds, “If you can? Everything is possible for him who believes.”

Then the father makes a great request of Jesus: “I do believe. Help me overcome my unbelief.”

I think all of us have those “if” moments. In our head we know that God is bigger than whatever it is we are facing. He sees more, He knows more, He can look beyond the current situation and can see what is yet to come. We know it in our head; but we don’t always feel it.  Our current circumstances and the emotions they stir up can over shadow the truth we know in our head.  It is in those moments we may need to repeat the words of this distraught dad – “help me overcome my unbelief.”

After Jesus heals the boy, the disciples come to Him privately and ask why they couldn’t get rid of the spirit.  Jesus said, “This kind can come out only by prayer.”

Perhaps we need to recognize our continued need to keep our struggles before God in prayer so that He can do what only He can do and we can get the help we need to overcome unbelief.