Monday, November 11, 2013

Book #10 - Follow Me

In 2005, at the age of 26, David Platt became the lead pastor of The Church at Brook Hills, a megachurch in Birmingham. He was known as the youngest megachurch pastor in America. I imagine this has to be a pretty huge honor and responsibility.

It's probably a good thing God never called me to be the youngest megachurch pastor in America because I'd probably be too prideful.

That said, Platt wrote a book called Radical in 2009. I read it and then studied it a little bit with the Northeastern High School FCS group a couple of years ago. The subtitle of the book was "Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream."

Platt is telling us that something is wrong, then he sets out to fix it.

His latest book, Follow Me is about making disciples. He takes aim at the Sinner's Prayer and some of the cliche ways we've gone about furthering the kingdom. I even preached a sermon about this a couple weeks ago called, coincidentally "Follow Me."

Needless to say, the concepts really struck me. He's completely right that too often we preach for converts but not disciples. Because, the truth is, converts are easy to get, disciples are much harder to make. But the mission of Jesus is to make disciples. His call is to follow; his mission is to make disciples.

I was challenged by this book, and a quote from the book jumped out at me more than any other.
"We've taken the lifeblood out of Christianity and put Kool-Aid in its place so that it tastes better to the crowds, and the results are catastrophic."

With 9 and a half months to go before my birthday, I'm 1/3 of the way through my goal of 30 books! 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Book #9 - Gods at War

I read Kyle Idleman's first book, Not a Fan, a few years ago. It was a great book about seriously following Jesus, as opposed to being a fan of Jesus. We even used that book as the foundation for a sermon series at church. When I saw that he had written a second book, I made sure that I included it on my list of books to finish before I turned 30.

Then, my Sunday School class at my new church decided to use this book as a study resource. I bought the book and read it, we're still going through it as a class, but I finished the book a few weeks ago.

Basically, the premise of the book is that all of our sins boil down to idolatry, and that's why the sin of idolatry is mentioned so many times in the Bible. Kyle suggests that everyone of us has created idols in various forms. These idols range from sex to money to food to self.

The book was hard to read because he cuts through the muck to deliver simple truth that's difficult to digest at times. I'd recommend the book to any of my friends, but I'd also recommend the study materials too. There's a video series that goes with the book including a spectacular section with Chuck Colson's story. He must've recorded it just weeks/months before he passed away last year.

Next up, Follow Me by David Platt.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Paying the Piper - A look back at the 2013 baseball season

Yes, I'm bitter. My hatred for the Red Sox just flows through me. I will admit, however, that the Sox had some incredible beards, though! One of the first posts I made on this blog was my predictions for the baseball season. So, it's time to pay the piper and see how I did.

I had the Orioles winning the AL East. They did not.

I had the Tigers winning the AL Central. They did!

I had the Angels winning the AL West. They weren't even close.

I had the Blue Jays and White Sox winning the 2 Wild Card spots. They finished a combined 25 games under .500, and nowhere near the playoffs!

I had the Nationals winning the NL East. They did not.

I predicted that the Reds would win the NL Central. Nope.

I felt that the Giants would win the NL West. They finished 16 games back.

The NL Wild Cards, I thought, would be won by the Cardinals and the Dodgers. They were not.

Now, in the NL, I had 3 of the 5 playoff teams correct, just in the wrong place!

All in all, I got 40% of the MLB playoff teams correct. How'd you do??

Just for kicks, who's my money on for next year? The Dodgers.

Saturday, October 26, 2013


In 2009, my friend Daniel got me to start running. I had flirted with running before, but had never been able to get past the DTR discussion. I would run for a week or so, then give it up because... couch. But this time, I used the Couch to 5k program. It was already popular then, now it's uber-popular! I ran my first ever 5k in June of that year.

I floundered with my running until the next summer, when I picked it back up. At church, my friend Nate said he wanted to run the USAF Half Marathon. I volunteered Daniel and I to run it with him. I spent the whole summer training for the Half and ran it in September of 2010. I'll never forget, after the race, Nate asked me if this made me want to run a full marathon. For him, there was no chance, the half had convinced him that he wouldn't be running a full, ever. I had the opposite reaction, I wanted to run a full at some point.

In 2011, I didn't do a lot of running, just periodically. I actually finished the year really strong in 2011, joining a couple of friends in a challenge to run every single day from Thanksgiving Day through New Years Day. I didn't miss a day, and finished the year with a 10-miler (which was my longest run since the half the year before).

Late Spring of 2012, my friend Nick asked me if I'd run the Columbus Marathon with him that year. I eagerly said YES! Well, in June, I was fired from my job. I kept running until the end of July, when it all fell apart. I didn't start running again until 2013.

This year, I started running in the Spring, then decided that I'd run the Columbus Marathon. I invited everyone I knew who was even mildly into fitness/running. They all declined. Solo training would become the mantra of my summer. I was absolutely determined to run in the Columbus Marathon, no matter what happened in my professional life.

Last Sunday was finally the big day! Training had gotten old and boring for me, I had been missing lots of days, so I was eager to finally get the marathon over with, that way I could cross it off my list and be done with the race.

I had looked over the course all week, agonized over what I'd wear and what kind of pace I'd be able to run. I got into Columbus early in the morning and found my corral, which I eagerly considered my first win of the day. (On a side note, Columbus Marathon, it'd be nice to direct toward the corrals a little better. I found the A corral with no problem, a sign indicating "B, C and D corrals this way" would've been awesome!)

I waited in the corral for over an hour (early to get there, woot woot!), nervous. My teeth chattered the entire time because I was so nervous. There was a guy in the corral who was talking to some women who were about to run their first half-marathon. He said, "There are 18,000 people running today. That represents one-half of one-percent of the population of Central Ohio. You've already won today because you showed up." He repeated this about 25 times between the first time I heard it and when we finally started running. Seriously, this guy was the bomb. Greatest stranger motivation I'd ever heard!

Finally, we moved into the start position. One of the cool things about this marathon is the staggered start. They rerun the start four times, so each group gets to experience the magic and awesomeness that is the starting line. Fireworks, cheers, music and the surprisingly loud sound of thousands of feet hitting the pavement. I looked, in vain, for my wife and her parents who were at the starting line to wish me well. There were so many people!

The early part of the run, I maintained a pace that I knew was faster than what I'd be able to keep throughout the race, but I didn't want to slow down. In hindsight, that was probably a mistake. The spectators were amazing, I saw my super awesome friends Penny, Adam and Micki! They were cheering all the runners, but I suspect most of Micki's cheers were for her husband Troy who was running in his first ever half.

The signs all over the course made the day WAY better! I saw one twice through Bexley that said, "I don't know you, but I'm proud of you!" Seriously, stranger motivation, ftw! On the way into Bexley, we saw the people who were going to win the marathon and the half-marathon. They were absolutely killing it, I hoped to see my friends Dave and Ryan running the opposite way, but I didn't see them. The runs through Bexley and then through German Village were awesome. I'm super familiar with both parts of town, so it was nice to see them on foot, since that was a new experience for me.

I knew, from my looks at the course all week, that High Street was going to be the mentally difficult part of the course. It's not the hardest part of the course (that comes later), but it was going to be mentally difficult. Midway up High Street, the half marathoners turned off the course and got the wonderful blessing of being finished! There was a huge sign at the 13.1 mark that said, "Now the fun begins" Nothing about the next 10 miles was even remotely fun. I promise.

Towards the end of High Street, at mile 16 (or so), I hit the mental wall. I started walking. Once we got near the Horseshoe, I decided that I had to do some more running, because... Buckeyes. Running into Ohio Stadium was an awesome experience. The super steep hills that await you to enter and exit weren't that welcome, however!

Miles 20-23 were brutal, that's the most difficult part of the course for a few reasons. First, it has the most uphills and second, it's just boring. You run through residential areas and parking lots. The half marathoners are gone, so there are considerably fewer participants. It's just grueling to get through it. I walked/ran through this part, lots of stiffness and pain.

I was very frustrated with myself for walking so early, it just killed my momentum. I was determined to finish, and I really wanted to finish running. At the 22.5 mark, I thought to myself, "At 23, all that's left is a 5k. Even on my worst day, I can run a 5k. Even right now, I could run a 5k." So, I committed to running the entire thing after the 23rd mile marker.

Once I passed the marker, I started running, and I didn't stop. I had to mentally tough it out a few times as I'd think, "Nobody knows the deal I made, I could just walk a little bit." But I knew the deal I had made, and I wasn't willing to let myself down in such a way. There were SNACKS at one point near the end! Orange pieces, Oreos, pretzels, skittles, bananas! I grabbed all that I could carry so that I could get a little snack in to finish strong. I was most excited for the banana, then the girl running next to me dropped her banana on the ground after unwrapping it. She stopped to pick it up. Read that again. She stopped to pick it up. She was going to eat it. I couldn't let that happen, so she got my banana, and I got karma (which I don't believe in, even slightly).

As I was in the final mile, I saw an older guy on a stretcher about to go into an ambulance. My heart broke for him because he was so close! It was at that point that I began to think about the gravity of what was happening in my life. I was never even remotely athletic in my entire life and I was going to do something amazing. I was about to finish pushing my body over 26.2 miles! I genuinely started to tear up before I had to snap myself out of the emotion. I told myself that I couldn't, under any circumstances, waste any hydration on tears!

As I neared the finish line, I saw my friends Penny and Adam!! I actually stopped for a second and gave Adam a great big kiss on the cheek. I had to celebrate! As I got closer, I saw my wife and family cheering me on! They were right at the final turn on the course. This was the moment pride kicked in.

As I passed them, I waved, and a girl passed me on the course. There was no chance I was letting her finish that race before me. She may not have known we were racing, but I had about a tenth of a mile to pass her! I turned on the jets and made my way up to her, I caught up and passed her on the left. Just as I passed her, though, I tripped on something! I caught myself from falling by a tiny fraction. Seriously, a tiny, tiny fraction! The entire crowd on the left side of the street took a huge breath as they saw me almost face plant onto the bricks outside Nationwide Arena!

I didn't fall, and I ran across the finish line! Took me 5 hours and 3 minutes, but I did it!

I was, am, and always will be, a Marathoner!

Final Thoughts:

1. The greatest sign of the day said, "Chuck Norris never ran a marathon."
2. The second greatest said (there were a few of these), "You are running better than the government!"
3. There was a guy on a bike who met the course 5-6 different times and had great motivational signs. He was awesome, even got a high five from me at one point.
4. High fiving all the kids was definitely the way to go! It made the course a lot more fun, even if it did add some time and distance to the race for me.
5. If you ever get the chance, go spectate a marathon, or volunteer at a water station or something. You'll be amazed at what you see.
6. I finished the race and said it was my first and last race. I'd never do it again. By Tuesday, I was already thinking of how to do better the next time. I think it's official, I'm an addict.

Monday, September 16, 2013

AFL Week 3 - Dolphins vs Jets

After a 2-0 start, the Dolphins finally make their way back to Miami for a homegame against division rival the New York Jets.

Heading into week 3, RB Adrian Peterson was having a fantastic season with 4 rushing touchdowns in 2 games.

The game started with both defenses flexing their collective muscles. The two teams combined for 28 total yards. Yes, 28. Early in the second quarter, things turned even more negative for the Dolphins as WR Calving Johnson was injured on a 15 yard reception up the middle. He was listed as out for the rest of the game and left for further tests.

The scoring finally started as Dolphins QB Aaron Rodgers hit Percy Harvin for a 9 yard TD. He then hit Mardy Gilyard for a 14 yard TD to finish up the first half with the Dolphins up 14-0.

Ray Rice took over in the second half for the Dolphins with a pair of TD runs to round out the game's scoring.

The final score was 28-0 in favor of Miami. The player of the game award was given to the entire Dolphins defense, which recorded 4 sacks, 1 interception and limited Adrian Peterson and the Jets to just 45 yards.

After the game, Dolphins doctors informed the media that Calvin Johnson would be out for next week's game with an abdominal tear.

The Patriots, led by QB Chad Pennington and DB Darrel Revis, bring their 1-2 record to Miami for Monday Night Football.

Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano is looking forward to the meeting with his division rival, "I promise we'll be ready for the Patriots, who have seemed to have our number for years."

Elsewhere around the AFL

Houston wins over in-state rival Dallas, 16-13.

San Francisco and Kansas City, led by RB Matt Forte, battled to a 20-20 tie.

Peyton Manning of the Jacksonville Jaguars was named as the league's Offensive Player of the Week

The following teams remain undefeated in the AFL:
  • Miami Dolphins
  • Detroit Lions - QB Bret Favre has 5 TD and 4 INT
  • Washington Redskins - Offensively led by Carson Palmer, Maurice Jones-Drew and Torry Holt
  • Jacksonville Jaguars - Manning's 7 TD passes co-leads the AFL
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Matt Stafford and Greg Jennings have connected for 3 TDs
  • Seattle Seahawks - lead the AFL in scoring
  • New York Giants - Rookie QB Sam Bradford leading his team

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Book #8 - #GoingSocial

A few years ago, a guy named Terrace Crawford friend requested me on facebook. Terrace is a youth pastor in Virginia, he's been worth following over the past few years as I was a new youth pastor learning the ministry.

Terrace maintains a website that includes a blog and some other news about his ministry over at He released a book a while ago called Going Social about how to use social media in ministry.

I read the book, hoping to gain some new insights on using social media in ministry. Unfortunately, this book wasn't really written with me in mind. Terrace goes through many different social media methods/sites, including facebook, twitter and youtube. He teaches mostly the basics, like how to set up a facebook page or a twitter account. He explains how to use hashtags and some basic tips on how to set up a youtube page.

Unfortunately, this was pretty much all info I already knew. So, at the end of the day, this book would have a lot more value for someone who is completely new to social media. If you're that person, you're probably not reading my blog, but if you are that person, then this book would be of great value to you.

Monday, September 9, 2013

AFL Week 2 - Dolphins vs Vikings - BONUS: 2013 NFL Season Predictions

This is a continuation in my Madden Season using Madden 11. You can find week 1 here.

Miami Dolphins at Minnesota Vikings

Aaron Rodgers and the Dolphins made the trek up to the cold wilderness that is Minnesota to face Ben Roethlisberger and his Vikings. 

The game between these two teams started in rather droll fashion with a scoreless and rather boring first quarter. Neither team could put anything on the board with the Dolphins defense doing the lion's share of the work for the team as the Vikings registered 4 times as long time of possession.

Luck seemed to change for the Dolphins with 2:59 to play in the half as Ray Rice inexplicably fumbled the ball on what looked like a third down conversion for the Fins. The Dolphins, however, would go on to punt the ball away.

The Vikings opened the scoring after a huge pass from Big Ben to Joey Galloway put the Vikings in field goal range. The Dolphins defense, which is considered a major weakness for the team, managed to hold the Vikings to a field goal. Linebacker AJ Hawk was asked about this stop after the game, to which he replied, "We knew that we had to keep them out of the end zone for our offense to have a chance at that point."

With the Vikings up 3-0, Rodgers found receiver Arnaz Battle wide open for the first touchdown of the game, an 81-yard bomb that put the Dolphins on top 7-3 going into halftime.

The Dolphins got the ball to start the second half and opened with a deep pass from Rodgers to Calvin Johnson. Johnson made the catch in stride, having beaten his man, and scored an easy 6. Dolphins up 14-3.

Ray Rice also added to the scoring with an 8-yard draw right up the middle for a touch down. Joey Galloway fumbled for the Vikings with just 1:34 to go in the game, giving the Dolphins the go ahead to run the clock out.

Asked about his deep pass to Battle, Dolphins QB Aaron Rodgers said, "You know, Battle was having trouble getting it started this season, but he had gotten by the defense on that play. I threw it up there, he was able to bring it down and go the distance. It was a great play by him."

The Dolphins travel back to Miami where they'll host Adrian Peterson and the New York Jets next week. Peterson is currently leading the Jets in scoring with 4 TDs on the year.


With that said, I made my picks for the 2013 NFL season, just forgot to post them.

From the AFC:
I'm picking the New England Patriots to win the AFC East, which has become something of a foregone conclusion lately.

The Indianapolis Colts, Denver Broncos, and Cincinnati Bengals will win their respective divisions, as well.

The Wild Card teams from the AFC will be the Baltimore Ravens and the Miami Dolphins.

The AFC is insanely weak right now. I think the 4 division winners are a cut above the rest of the teams in their divisions. The Ravens will finish good enough to make it back to the playoffs and the Dolphins, benefiting from playing in the weak AFC will be the second wild card team (I know, I'm such a homer).

In the NFC, which is much more difficult to predict, I see the Washington Redskins edging out the Giants and Cowboys in the East. The Green Bay Packers will win the North over the Bears and Lions (both of which seem to be playoff strong). The NFC South will see the New Orleans Saints win the division with the Atlanta Falcons not too far behind. The San Francisco 49ers are the class of the NFC West, but they are closely followed by Russel Wilson and Pete Carroll's Seattle Seahawks.

We get to watch a Harbaugh lift the Lombardi trophy for a second consecutive year as the 49ers beat the Broncos in the Super Bowl.

Have a great NFL Season, I'm sure my picks will be completely wrong!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Book #7 - Mere Christianity

I'll be honest, CS Lewis is one of my absolute favorite authors; but before this year, I had never read what many people consider to be his best book. My friend Daniel gave me this book a few years ago, and I never got the chance to read it. I made sure that I added it to my list of 30 books to read before my 30th birthday, because I wanted to read one of the pinnacles of 20th century Christian literature.

Before I talk about the book, I'd like to mention something. I have tons and tons and tons of respect and love for teachers. I originally went to college to be a math teacher. With that said, my favorite teacher through 13 years of non-college schooling was my 4th grade teacher. Mr. Kirker started reading The Chronicles of Narnia to us right at the beginning of school. We read through the entire series together. I still have that original set of those books, as you can notice, with our kitty, "Lucy the Valiant."

Once I became a Christian, I already knew of CS Lewis since I was such a fan of the Chronicles of Narnia. I ended up taking a long while to read through Mere Christianity just because of everything happening in our personal lives. We moved and I had a lot going on in the job front.

That said, it was an absolutely fantastic book and I'm so happy to have read it. Lewis basically runs through a logical explanation of Christianity starting with the basic premise that there is a moral code that exists apart from individual and even cultural bias. He calls it "The Law of Human Nature."

At any rate, I heartily recommend this book for anyone. It's a very manageable entry into the thoughts behind Christian principles.

One of my favorite passages, from later in the book has Lewis' thoughts on marriage from a Christian perspective:

"Before leaving the question of divorce, I should like to distinguish two things which are often very confused. The Christian conception of marriage is one: the other us quite the different question-how far Christians, if they are voters of Members of Parliament, ought to try to force their views of marriage on the rest of the community by embodying them in the divorce laws. A great many people seem to think that if you are a Christian yourself you should try to make divorce difficult for every one. I do not think that. At least I know I should be very angry if the Mohammedans tried to prevent the rest of us from drinking wine. My own view is that the Churches should frankly recognise that the majority of the British people are not Christians, and therefore, cannot be expected to live Christian lives. There ought to be two distinct kinds of marriage: one governed by the State with rules enforced on all citizens, the other governed by the Church with rules enforced by her on her own members. The distinction ought to be quite sharp, so that a man knows which couples are married in a Christian sense and which are not."

Have you read it? What were your thoughts?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


At the end of August, every year, is a holiday of sorts for gamers and football fans. The new edition of Madden comes out, and people celebrate by playing the new version non-stop.

I actually started playing Madden in 1994 on the Sega Genesis. My little brother and I would play. He would constantly run backwards when he got the ball so that I could win. I genuinely don't think we ever finished a single game. We'd get frustrated and/or bored with the game and just turn the Sega off. It wasn't until about 5 years later that I actually started to play the game and really enjoy it. I'd always pick the Dolphins and lead them to the Super Bowl because I couldn't play on a higher difficulty than "Easy" without getting my butt kicked. I'd run the score up to 70 or 80 to 0 and just stomp on teams. It sure was fun.

My fondest Madden memories come from the year I worked at UPS. My best friend Marc and I would come home from working in the early early mornings and run simulations of Madden. We simulated a 30-year dynasty without playing a single game. We wrote all of our team's stats down in books/binders. We used complete randomness to choose teams, so I had the Dallas Cowboys. I ended up leading them to 5 different Super Bowl titles. Marc started with the Broncos (I think), but they actually ended up as the Boston Flags... don't ask.

I still have the binder with 30 years worth of stats from the AMFL (Alex-Marc Football League). It always makes me laugh.

So, in honor of Madden 25 coming out today, I'm starting a new dynasty! But, I'm too cheap to buy the new Madden, so I'll be playing on Madden '11.

I did a Fantasy Draft with the Miami Dolphins and I ended up with an amazing offense. Here are the highlights of the roster:

Quarterback - Aaron Rodgers
Wide Receivers - Calvin Johnson, Percy Harvin
Running Back - Ray Rice

That's pretty much the cream of the crop on the roster as far as skill positions go. I drafted a great offense at the expense of a great defense. It is what it is.

In light of the long intro, the recap for Week 1 will be shorter than what I'll do from here on out.

Week 1
Dolphins @ Bills

It was a back and forth game, Aaron Rodgers actually threw 2 interceptions along with one TD to Calvin Johnson. Shayne Graham added 2 FGs, including a 51 yarder.

The Bills missed a late field goal attempt (WIDE RIGHT!) that would've tied the game and the Dolphins were able to come away with a 13-10 win to start the season.

Week 2 will see the Dolphins travel to Minnesota to face Ben Roethlisberger, Knowshon Moreno and the rest of the Vikings!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Showing love...

One of the most awesome things about the church where I'm ministering is that we do a Wednesday night outreach ministry. Our community has a lot of needs, and one of those is food. So, every Wednesday night we prepare a meal for the people of our neighborhood.

Last night, they came in droves! In the youth ministry alone we had 40 people (about 10 more than usual). Counting everyone, I think we had 100 people in our outreach program.

It was also the first day of school, which meant that every single student was totally wired. I knew it was going to be a rough night, I knew they'd be quite antsy and, being honest, even on their best day, they're not the best group of listeners in the world.

Last night was rough.

I spent more than half of my time just quietly waiting for the students to be quiet enough that I could speak. I threw about half of my plan out the window since I spent so much time quietly standing there.

The children's group didn't fare any better.

The ladies who prepare the food were down as well. Everyone was quite defeated. This morning, I stumbled upon a quote from someone I've connected very minimally with through facebook. Brannon said:

"I'm glad our fumbling attempts to be instruments of grace don't impede God's redemptive work."

He wasn't really speaking about my issue, he was talking about serving the Eucharist, but his words spoke deep to my heart.

Even on our bad nights, God is still doing a redemptive work through us. May we continue to believe in His power, even when we feel weak.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Book #6 - The Shame and the Sacrifice

Dietrich Bonhoeffer is one of those characters in history that I wanted to read more about. I'll be honest, biographies are generally my least favorite genre of book to read. The problem isn't the historical significance, it's the inane amount of fluff that seems to be present in them. It took a while to get through this because there was a lot of fluff that I found to be uninteresting, and therefore picking the book up to read it was a chore at times.

It didn't help that this reading fell over the job transition into Hillside, so it was a pretty busy time in my life.

Anyway, this biography on Bonhoeffer was full of the fluff that I find frivolous, but it did have some definite gems and some major points to make about the way Christians reacted and were treated in the growth of the Nazi movement throughout Germany.

The insight into the German psyche following World War I helps a reader who is 70 years removed from the Second World War to understand a little more of how it was possible that a man like Hitler ever came into such a dangerously powerful role. As I read this, I remembered learning some of it in high school history.

But the impact on the church was relatively impactful for me, since the church is my vocational setting and primary concern when reading a book like this.

How did the Christians of Germany allow themselves to get so taken by the horrible Nazi movement? How did they so quickly and easily lose sight of Christ, the Prince of Peace?

One word. Nationalism.

There are some incredible parallels to be made between the German church of the 1920's and 30's along with the American church of the early 2000's. I'm afraid the nationalistic tendencies are running rather deep here, too, with many "American Christians" identifying first as Americans then as Christians, similar to their German predecessors.

We should all be quick, I think, to learn a lesson from these German Christians and understand that our Kingdom is not of this world. We are dual citizens, but our primary citizenship is in Heaven and because of this, we should allow heavenly thought to impact each of our decisions, regardless of our American citizenship.

I feel obligated to make a clear point of what I am not saying. I'm not suggesting that we burn our flags. I'm not suggesting that we move to another country. I'm not suggesting that America sucks. I'm not suggesting that Christians shouldn't feel blessed to have a freedom of worship guaranteed by the Bill of Rights.

It is most assuredly a blessing to live in America, but it's a far greater blessing to be a citizen of Heaven. Let us never lose sight of that.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Farmer Alex?

A little background is necessary to understand the scope of where I'm heading with today's thoughts. I grew up in Columbus, in apartments and rentals. The most formative of those years were spent in apartments where we didn't have room to grow plants or do things like that.

Holly and I recently moved out onto a farm. Full disclosure, we are not operating the farm, it's operated by other people, but we do have a significant amount of land with which to "play." So, I've decided that I want to get some chickens and start a garden.

This week, I've begun the planning phase. It's obviously too late to start planting my garden, but I can definitely start planning on it. Here's the problem, though, I don't know anything about gardening! My thumbs aren't green!

I'm wanting to start composting, but I have no idea where to begin. I've looked up some resources online, but I feel like I'm trying to drink from a fire hose! Anyone have any helpful tips?

The chickens are another thing I'm attempting to learn about. We already have a large chicken house on the property. It hasn't been used for chickens in years (more than 20 years, I think). So, I'm going to work on it to get it ready for the hens, but that's the easy part!

What type of chicken is best for Ohio? I'll be honest, I always thought chickens were chickens, didn't realize there were different types. What are the pros and cons of having a rooster?

So, dear friend, who has some farming experience!? Who wants to dole out some advice? Leave any tips in the comment section!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

REVIEW: Evening: Morning - The Digital Age

I don't consider myself to be nearly "snooty" enough to be a decent music critic. I don't know chords, and I can't really talk about the scientific dynamics of musical theory. I know what I like in music, and I can't always put into words exactly what I like about a certain album.

If you've known me for any length of time, you know I had a major man crush on David Crowder and the entire David Crowder* Band. I practically worshiped at the altar of his discography and I would continue to rank "A Collision" as one of my favorite albums of all time, possibly even my all time favorite over Jesus Freak by dc Talk, which probably just holds more sentimental value for me than anything, but I still love it and am totally willing to rock out to it whenever.

A couple summers ago,  while at NYC in Louisville, KY; my good friend Kevin got a pair of tickets for a meet and greet with the dcb. His wife wasn't feeling well, so she graciously allowed me to take her place, I was as giddy as a school girl to meet David Crowder, and the whole band!

They released their final album not too long after I saw them in Louisville and stopped touring not too long after. I was heartbroken at the loss of my favorite group. David Crowder formed a new band called Crowder. Four of the other guys, including drummer B-Wack, who I'm standing next to in this picture formed a new band called The Digital Age and released an EP called Rehearsals last summer.

Their first full length album came out today. I'll put the cart before the horse and say, it's fantastic!

I expect nothing less than greatness from these guys because they're unbelievable creative and doing things that you don't hear very often in Christian music. The music has a heavy electronic/digital feel (go figure) with some complex drumming by B-Wack.

Captured was released a single a few months ago and starts the album off on a great note, it's a seriously great track (you can find it on youtube here).

They also redid "All the Poor and Powerless" for this album, it was one of my favorite tracks off of Rehearsals.

My favorite tracks, though are "Overcome" and "Believe." Believe is a song rendition of some of our most cherished ancient creedal statements. Overcome is just an out and out awesome song.

All in all, check this album out, it's fantastic!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Book #5 - Ready Player One

I met Brooklyn and Coy Lindsey a couple years ago at NYC. I'm not sure if either of them would remember me, but she was a speaker at NYC and was one of the emcee's of the entire event. Her and Coy both grew up in south-central Ohio (the Lancaster/Logan area), so there was (at least on my end) some sort of connection there. I connected with her through facebook and twitter after the event.

Actually, there's a funny story about Brooklyn. Francis Chan also spoke at NYC, and anyone who knows me knows that I have a slight infatuation (man crush) with Chan's writing and preaching. So, Brice (my friend) and I left the arena early that night to try and intercept (seriously, we're not creepers or anything) Francis Chan on his way back to the hotel to get his autograph and get to meet him. We waited at the hotel, but at some point, I had to leave so Brice hung out and waited to see if he could meet Chan and get his autograph for me.

When I reconnected with Brice later that night, he handed me Francis Chan's autograph! But not really, he had run into Brooklyn and she signed the paper in Chan's name for me.

Anyrate, Coy posted a list of books he was reading on his blog and Ready Player One by Ernest Cline caught my interest, so I added it to my list. I went to the library and checked it out, not sure what to expect.

Best. Book. Ever.

One of the reviews summed it up perfectly, it's like Dungeons and Dragons and the 80's had a child and raised it in Azeroth! I like all three of those things, therefore the book was a major hit for me.

It's the literary equivalent of a Summer Blockbuster, so it won't make you sit and scratch your head in deep thought for the next two weeks, but it sure was an awesome read! I heartily recommend it to anyone who wants a few days of awesome reading material!

I also can't wait for Cline's next book, called Armada, which should be out sometime in the future (no dates announced yet).

There's also a pretty elaborate contest that coincides with Ready Player One. (Similar to the entire plot from the book, actually).

Check out Ernest Cline's website here!

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Importance of The Journey

I love gaming, and I love the fantasy genre of movies/novels. One of the large consistencies I see in fantasy works (especially Tolkien, who is undoubtedly the grand-father of fantasy gaming) is the importance of the journey.

The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are both primarily stories about a journey. In the former, Bilbo and the company of dwarves take a journey to The Lonely Mountain with the goal of defeating the dragon at the end. The Lord of the Rings is a three book tale profiling a number of journeys, mainly that of the ring back to Mordor, but also the internal journeys of a number of characters (most notably Aragorn's internal journey to his destiny as King).

As a GM, the thing I've struggled with the most is making the journey a key part of the tale. In the first campaign my gaming group ever played together, we essentially handwaved months of travel for the sake of time, just because we wanted to flesh out this world we had created (there's probably a whole other series of posts that I could write based on the world-creation).

But my point is this, if the 4 hobbits hadn't stopped at weathertop, and it hadn't been included in the journey, would the story have lost a bit of its poignancy?

We watch Sam and Frodo's journey with such anticipation, partially because we can see the profound impact that they journey itself is having on them.

I've struggled with making the journey feel epic because I thing I fall into one of two traps.

First, the journey become too epic. I played through the first two books of Jade Regent from Paizo publishing and felt like the whole thing was too bogged down in the journey. It just... took forever and felt like we weren't making any progress along the way! We could really make sure that we track the days/nights, set up watches for each night and roll perception checks each night while on watch. But, after then tenth night of "you all sleep well because nothing happened," it gets pretty mundane!

On the flip side of that, if you handwave the nights when nothing is going to happen, and only concern yourself with the nights that the bandits try to rob the camp, all the sudden your PCs think they sleep in their full plate armor and the magic users have scrolls and spell components in hand while they sleep.

The other trap I already mentioned, we just assume that over a few months the party gets from point A to point B. They gain no XP along the way, we just pick the story back up once they get to the place you want them. This is completely against everything I'm trying to accomplish in a game and therefore I try to avoid doing anything of the sort. I believe that the journey itself does shape the characters. Their destiny is forged in the difficult journeys.

My final problem with journey-based storytelling is that I feel like they severely railroad the players. We know they are supposed to get from Point A to Point B, and I can even plan 3-4 things along the way. This is literally the railroad we try to avoid when planning out games.

So, what do you do when thinking of the journey? How do you tell the epic tale of characters getting to their destination to kill the dragon, destroy the ring, and/or find the treasure?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Book #4 - The Land Between

A few years ago, when I was pastoring at High Street, a church on the district got a new youth pastor. He literally started just a few months after me, but I had "seniority" on him, since I was on the district first.

Joel and I quickly became friends. We directed a district retreat together, attended events together and basically just started really enjoying each other's company. We actually were pitted against each other a couple years ago for District Secretary (I won). He went through a difficult time at his church which ended with him leaving for a church in Michigan. He's not an OSU fan, so this didn't bother him nearly as much as it bothered me that he ended up in Michigan.

We've stayed in contact since he left the district (and now that I've left the district in any sort of official capacity). He and his wonderful wife had a baby a few months ago and they instagram tons of pictures so that we can keep up.

Anyrate, a few weeks ago, Joel asked me for my address because he wanted to send me a book. I gave it to him and a couple days later a book called The Land Between arrived in my mailbox. Written by Neil Mancini, this book parallels the difficult times in our lives (like being between jobs) and the struggle that the Israelites felt when they were between Egypt and The Promised Land.

The book was fantastic! If you saw any of my instagram/facebook/twitter (social media junkie!) activity while I was reading it, you know that I was touched by the honesty of the book and the way that it connected with my life.

This past year has been incredibly difficult. Without a doubt, it's been the most difficult thing I've ever gone through (and that includes an almost-cancer scare). But, Mancini summed it up so well as he wrote about his son (who is, coincidentally, named Alex too):

"Though it was a difficult [year] for Alex, I am grateful he had to endure it. I believe God is molding him into a leader, and this molding will require pressure as part of his formation. I am thankful for the trials [he] experiences and for the hardships he faces. It is my belief that he is not only maturing as a man but also as a man of God. I trust that God will use the difficulties and challenges in Alex's life to transform him. Far from being alarmed by [his] burdens, I give thanks, because I know that he is being stretched and pulled for a reason. Alex is being provided with an opportunity to become a man of faith, a man of trust." (emphasis mine)

My prayer is that these things are true, that my "Land Between," my "Exile" has provided me with the opportunity and proven me to be a man of faith, a man of trust.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Post I've Been Waiting to Write

On June 16, 2012, I was on my way home from MVNU with a small group of my students. Things at High Street had been very tense for a few weeks. There was a lot of pressure coming from a few individuals on the board that was wearing me thin. Xavier was five weeks old, so sleep was at a premium. All-in-all, I was already high-stress.

We had a conversation in April or May with some of the board and the DS, the DS informed us that finances were somewhat tight at HSN and nobody's job was secure. He told us there would be no hard feelings if we left in the interim because, quite frankly, it would make things a lot less painful. (My wording, not his)

So, I started "looking" then. I had already been down to the "final 2" of a church before June. My resume was already in the hands of a couple churches even after that original interview on the NWO District."

Anyway, back to June 16. I was on my home from BLAST at MVNU and I got a call from a board member asking if I could meet at Tim Hortons. After a few phone calls back and forth, they cancelled the meeting then asked again if I could meet. I asked if it was anything important so that I could prepare myself for the conversation (already having had a number of tough conversations with some board members), they told me it wasn't. So, I went.

My spidey-senses were tingling, I even told my friend Dave (another youth pastor) that I was pretty sure I was being let go. He prayed with me in the parking lot of a Wendys before we parted ways.

I went to the meeting and was, in fact, let go. My ministry at High Street would be over at the end of June. They asked me to keep tight lipped about it and not tell the whole church, they wanted the opportunity to present the facts.

We were absolutely devastated.

In the weeks that followed, we prayed and asked God for direction. I started a more earnest search, enlisting the help of friends who were more connected than I was.

I had a phone interview with a church in Mason, Michigan while I was in Chicago on the HSN mission trip with my students. I sat in the air conditioned van and talked with the church board.

I had a phone interview with a church in San Diego, where I was informed I was the pastor's top candidate.

Then, I made the "Final 4" with Mason. They were having 4 candidates come in to interview for the soon-to-be vacant youth pastor position and I was given the choice of when to come in (which felt like an honor to me). We went first.

After the interview weekend in Mason, we had another phone interview in San Diego, this time with the search committee. The pastor seemed really excited about Holly and I. We were ready to pack our bags for a weekend interview onsite in San Diego.

Then Mason called, they were going with one of the other candidates.

Then San Diego called, they wanted someone more "SoCal."

After months of silence, we got a call from a church in Baltimore. I had a couple phone interviews, then we went out for a weekend interview. I asked if we were the only people being interviewed, basically asking "Is it my job to lose." We were told that there was another interview scheduled, but it was my job to lose.

After the weekend in Maryland, we were ready to move out there, even getting an "unofficial offer" on the last day we were there. After about a month of waiting, Maryland called, they were going with the other guy, he was from the area, his folks actually went to the church.

Cue another couple months wait before getting the call from Marietta. Things went really fast there before getting asked down for a weekend interview. We went down knowing we were the only interview scheduled and the NYI President (who had run the search) was really excited for us to come be the new youth pastor.

We left there knowing they were having a board meeting in 2 days, so we were ready to get the call on Wednesday morning. As Wednesday afternoon rolled around, my senses started going off again; I texted the NYI President and she told me the pastor was going to call me. He did about 5 minutes later, they were going to go with someone else.

That was in April. I even wrote about the absolute heartbreak that accompanied that phone call. You can read it here.

Fast forward a couple months and we got another chance with a church in Springfield. I met the pastor over coffee, we met the search committee then finally the whole church was invited to meet us. I preached there on June 16, 2013 (exactly one year to the day after being fired).

They voted this morning and the vote was "overwhelmingly positive." So, as of tomorrow morning, I'm the Family Life Pastor at Hillside Church of God in Springfield Ohio!

Thank you all, seriously, I can't thank you all enough for your prayers, love and support. The past year was the most difficult year of my life (which is sad because I had such joy with my little boy). There were times when I thought we'd never find another position in ministry. But, we've accepted the position, start there tomorrow.

I'm so excited to be back in the saddle. It feels great to be "pa" again. Note, that's not "Pa" to my hillbilly friends (although there are a couple people who do call me Pa), it's p-a, as in, Pastor Alex!

Thanks for supporting us through our time of Exile, our Land Between and being willing to console through the tears, frustrations, and moments of anger. We count ourselves lucky to have such great friends.

And with this news, I officially cross off the first thing from my list of 30 things to do before turning 30, get back into full time ministry!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Quarter Season Look-In

We're a little more than 1/4 of the way through the 2013 baseball season. I made some predictions for the 2013 season, which you can find here.

Today, I'm going to offer some of my awards for the first half of the first half of the baseball season.

Starting with the senior circuit, the National League.

My pick for NL MVP so far is none other than Paul Goldschmidt. If you're not a baseball follower, this name probably doesn't mean a whole lot to you. But Goldschimidt, who plays first base for the Arizona Diamondbacks, has had a fantastic first quarter-season. He's hitting .335 with 12 homers and 35 RBI's. His Diamondbacks are 6 games above .500 and sitting a game ahead of the Giants in the NL West.

However, the most incredible stat for Goldschimdt would have to be his WAR. WAR is the ultimate sabermetric stat, it's the abbreviation for "Wins Above Replacement." Effectively, what WAR calculates is how many wins a particular player is worth over a replacement (generally a Triple-A-level player). The formula for WAR is wildly complex, taking into account six components (batting runs, baserunning rins, runs added or lost due to grounding into double plays in double play situations, fielding runs, positional adjustment runs and replacement level runs [based on playing time]). Seriously, this is the most complex statistic in the world. Suffice it to say the higher the number, the better off you are (according to sabermetrics).

To put this into perspective, last year Mike Trout led the major leagues in WAR with a 10.9 (absolutely off the charts). Miguel Cabrera, who won the Triple Crown and the AL MVP over Trout had a WAR of 7.3. Divide those by 4, and you'd have (sort of) 2.7 for Trout and 1.8 for Cabrera over 1/4 of a season.

Goldschmidt is at 2.8 right now. An incredible start to the season, if he continues at his current pace, he'll definitely be the NL MVP.

Honorable Mentions for NL MVP: I'll give the nod to a few other players for Honorable Mention in the NL, namely Justin Upton and Joey Votto, both of whom are having fantastic seasons!

My NL Cy Young award pick is Clayton Kershaw (duh.). Kershaw is out of this world. He's boasting a 1.40 ERA, 67 strikeouts and an incredible .87 WHIP. His record stinks right now at 4-2, but he can't be blamed for the Dodgers being a dumpster fire so far this season. Don Mattingly is absolutely mismanaging this team of superstars. Kershaw has only given up 10 runs through the season but isn't getting the support he needs from the rest of the team. I can't fathom how he's only won 4 games.

Honorable Mentions for NL Cy Young: I'll give the honorable mention to the man who plays second fiddle to Stephen Strasburg in the Nationals' rotation, Jordan Zimmerman. Matt Harvey for the Mets is also having a great season.

Onto the American League, my choice for AL MVP is Robinson Cano.

Whoa whoa whoa, major homer pick there, right? I'm sure I'm blinded by my love of all things pinstripes, but I think Cano is a definite MVP pick for this portion of the season. He's hitting .295 with 12 homers (which co-leads the AL) and 31 RBIs. He's also been the catalyst for a surprisingly strong start for the Yankees, who were picked by just about everyone to finish at best 3rd in the AL East. They're currently sitting a half-game up on Boston in the division.

Cano is making his case for an MVP trophy by leading a team that would normally be STACKED with superstar talent. This could surely be the year he adds an MVP trophy next to his Home Run Derby championship.

Sabermetrically (not sure that's a word), Cano is boasting a solid 1.4 WAR.

Honorable Mention for AL MVP: In the honorable mention category, I have to mention Miguel Cabrera. He's leading the league in two of the three triple crown categories and only one off the homerun pace currently shared by 4 other players, including Cano.

Finally, my pick for AL first half of the first half Cy Young Award is Yu Darvish. Darvish started the season off with a bang, seeking out a perfect game and has been money all season. He has a 2.97 ERA with 86 strikeouts (that's 12.76 K/9 if you're counting) and a .92 WHIP. He also boasts a great 7-1 record, helping Texas to take a 6.5 game lead in the AL West which was supposed to be DOMINATED by the Angels.

Honorable Mentions are Felix Hernandez and Matt Moore. I've got a great big baseball crush on King Felix (I was really wanting him to become a Yankee). If he were playing on the east coast, I think he'd be the biggest name in baseball, but he's playing for the Mariners in Seattle and has to deal with the east coast bias. The simple fact is, though, people aren't able to watch him pitch a lot because his games start, quite frequently, at 10:00 eastern time.

Matt Moore has had an incredible start to his season, going 8-0 for the Rays. ESPN even told me tonight that his 8-0 start is somewhat unparalleled. He's the youngest left-handed pitcher to start the season 8-0 since 1917 when a young fella named Babe Ruth did it for the Boston Red Sox.

The last baseball related topic is Biggest Surprise. The biggest surprise of the 2013 season has been the Los Angeles Angels. This team should be far and away the best in baseball. Their lineup is incredible. The 2-5 hitters are Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton and Mark Trumbo. Seriously, those names are fantastic. They traded away what was thought to be dead (old) weight in Vernon Wells. If you're counting, Wells has more homeruns than Trout, Pujols or Hamilton (tied with Trumbo at 10). He's also hitting .286, which is better than all 4 of the Angels' big bats. Maybe Wells is part of this biggest surprise, for me.

But seriously, the Angels should be MUCH better than 12 games back in their division.

Also, if you're keeping track. If the season ended today, I would've correctly picked 3 of the 10 postseason teams (none of them in their proper place though).

What about you, what do you think of my picks so far?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Writer's Block

They say the more you do something, the better you will get at it. It should be no secret that I enjoy writing. This is my third blog attempt, each on focused a little differently. I find difficulty in blogging, however, because I think the majority of people who I'm already connected with won't be interested in a lot of the things I could sit down to talk about.

For instance, I finished A Dance With Dragons tonight. It's the 5th book in George RR Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series which has been made wildly popular by the show Game of Thrones on HBO. I had read the previous four books a while ago but was reluctant to read the 5th book because it garnered pretty negative reviews from readers (especially on amazon).

However, when compiling a list of 30 books to read, I went ahead and added it onto the list. It took me three weeks to read it, and I absolutely loved it! It continues the very adult saga of Martin's world, but is hands down the greatest fantasy literature over (Yes, move over Tolkein)!

My greatest frustration, however, is Martin's incessant use of cliff hangers. There are what feel like 100 cliffs that we're hanging on, waiting for the next volume of the epic series. There were 6 years between the publication of the 4th and 5th books. I'm horribly anxious for the next book in the series!

But alas, most of my friends don't want to read my musings on that book. So, I could write about some new music. I recently picked up 2 albums from Benjamin Dunn from The first one is called Fable. It's an amazing album. RadioU plays 2 singles from the album, and I loved both of the songs.

Fable (at least for the first 5-6 songs) plays on a litany of Narnia references. If you've gotten to know me at all over my life, you may know that The Chronicles of Narnia has a very special place in my heart. The Narnia novels remain one of my favorite book series of all time.

Sail to the End speaks about Reepicheep and his journeys to the end of the world to travel to Aslan's country.

My Name is Eustace is a wonderful song rendition of Eustance Clarence Scrubb being transformed by Aslan's grace and mercy.

Sing references the Emperor/Aslan creating the world of Narnia by singing it into being.

But alas, I'm not sure I'm musically aware enough to write an entire post about an album (or even two). However, I highly recommend the Benjamin Dunn albums. Find them and get them!

What I could spend a lot of time talking about is my idea for a gaming adventure. I want to have an adventure published by next August. This gives me more than a year to get an adventure written and published. I also want to fill a journal up with only gaming ideas (not necessarily just Pathfinder). Why gaming ideas? Because gaming forces me to be creative. Writing is a creative endeavor, but writing for gaming really embraces my imagination in a completely different way.

So, I went to Barnes and Noble and got a new "Gaming Journal." I must admit, I actually bought my first Moleskine journal. After using it a little, I can see why they're so popular.

Anyrate, I've started brainstorming ideas for my new adventure. I have a title and a very loose concept in my head. I spent a few hours yesterday writing down a lot of information on the setting of the adventure. It needs to be loose enough to fit into any campaign world, and not be tied down to a single campaign setting.

I can literally feel more than 3/4 of my readers clicking away from this post already.

The issue I'm having, though, is where to begin?! I can see the end-game really well. Kill the BBEG (That's gamer talk for Big Bad Evil Guy), take treasure, WIN!

I can see the mid-points well. Get to BBEG, travel through dungeon full of traps and monsters.

But the beginning of adventures is so vexing for me. How do great stories begin?

A hole in the ground.
The beheading of a Night's Watch Deserter.
4 children avoiding the blitz by moving into a country mansion.
Traveling along the road in the desert and being blown up.
A traveling merchant singing a song about hot nights before peddling his wares.

(Bonus points to anyone who can name all 5 of those stories based only on my interpretation of their beginnings)

What about you, I've hit some writer's block, can you help? What's a great way to begin an adventuring story? The old school gaming trope is to meet in a tavern, get the mission pitched, save the world. So, I'd prefer to avoid that type of introduction altogether.

At any rate, thanks for reading. Leave comments below!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Reflections on the year that was

On May 6, 2012, at about 2 in the morning, my wife made what I've grown fond of calling her "ninja move" out of the bed as her water broke. The next 24 hours were spent in the hospital eagerly awaiting the birth of Xavier.

That day was the culmination of a lot of expectation and the beginning of an entirely new chapter in our lives.

In order to properly place my emotions of that day, a little bit of historical perspective is necessary. Things at my job weren't going well. I knew that there was a chance a staff member was going to be let go before the pastoral search was finished up. We had been explicitly told that it wasn't a problem if we were sending out our resume.

To be honest, the writing was written in big, bold letters on the wall that the staff member who would be let go was me. I was the least tenured of the staff in pastoral ministry, and I had been at High Street the least amount of time. I started sending out my resume, feeling helpless against the onslaught of "things" that were happening to me. I told one of my good friends that I couldn't wait to hold my baby boy. I knew that holding him would make things better.

So, on May 7, when Xavier finally arrived, I felt like my life was complete. Holding him for that first time was literally the greatest feeling I ever felt. I really did feel like nothing could go wrong in my life.

The last year has been a whirlwind. Losing my job was incredibly difficult for me, the idea that I couldn't provide for my wife and my son was difficult. I've spent a lot of time on that here in this blog. I don't suppose I need to go further into detail.

Losing my job isn't the only thing that happened this year! It's been a complete whirlwind!

When we brought Xavier home, we thought we were so ready.

Xavier crashed out on me the day we brought him home.

We. Were. So. Wrong.

We put him to bed, and went to bed ourselves, ready for a night of blissful sleep (something that had eluded me for a few nights and something that had eluded Holly for much longer). He started crying after about an hour and he would not stop! We did everything we could, and couldn't get him to stop crying and go back to sleep. Feeling like complete failures as parents, we both were crying and finally broke down and called Holly's mom, asking her to come stay with us for the night (and maybe more).

Xavier didn't have trouble sleeping, just when we wanted him to sleep, apparently.
 Man, we had no idea what we were getting into!

We moved in with Holly's parents after I lost my job, it's been interesting having three generations in one house. It's not what we had planned, but it's definitely been a blessing, especially as the search for a new job has taken much longer than we thought it would.

Watching Xavier grow has been incredible, he's learning so much, starting to understand things and respond to more and more with "trained" responses. For example, he gives "fives" now if you hold your hand out to him.

The year has been intense. There have been tears.

There have been smiles.

We've traveled to Michigan:

to London (OH) to meet our friends Nate, Kristen and Cole:

Learned to crawl:

Found ourselves trapped in rotten situations that we didn't like:

Felt on top of the world:

And we even stood strong during difficulties:

All in all, it's been a crazy year! Happy birthday to my little monster man! He turns one year old tomorrow. It's an absolute joy to be a daddy!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Every throne?

We sang a song at church on Sunday. I'm pretty sure I'd heard it before. The song was "Crown Him," by Chris Tomlin. The chorus of the song says,

Majesty, Lord of all
Let every throne, before Him fall
The king of kings, O come adore
Our God who reigns forevermore.

I think a lot of times, we sing words without taking time to digest the complexity or theological significance of the words. So, as I was singing the song, I was struck by the phrase, "Let every throne before Him fall."

That's a really powerful, political statement though, isn't it? It's not just a clever lyric that rhymes and fits with the tempo of the song. 

I was thinking about the thrones that we build in our own lives. For some of us, our thrones are money, cars, sex, drugs or something like that. We generally recognize those things as vices (when placed on thrones or used outside of God's design. 

But what if there are other things we need to remove from the throne? I've been spending time this week considering my own thrones and ensuring that they fall before the Lord. 

What are yours?

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A week of silence

My goal with this blog is to post twice a week, on Monday and on Thursday. You'll notice, if you're closely following, that I didn't post last Monday or Thursday. Why didn't I post? Why the week of silence?

Easy. I didn't have anything to say that I haven't already said. I didn't have anything to say that I wanted the entire world to hear.

Frankly, I don't want to come across as a whiner.

But, the truth is, I'm frustrated. I'm not sure what to do next.

In the meantime, I've been working on staying focused. I've been running consistently, logged 33 miles over the past 2 weeks. If I'm being honest, a few of the things on my list were really put on there for when we moved, but since we haven't moved yet, they're on hold.

I've finished 2 of the books on my list, working on a third.

I also now have two gaming works published. You can find them here and here. The third installment will be available on May 9 here.

I also have a micro-goal for May 2013. I will run each and every day of May, at the very least, one mile. I'd like to top 75 miles for the month, too. This would be my highest mileage of all time for a single month. I hit 68 last year while training for the marathon that I never ran.

Thanks everyone for your encouragement over the past few weeks. We really thought we'd be back in ministry by this point. I honestly felt as if God had called me to the position in Marietta. It was pretty rough when we didn't get the job, but we're pushing forward (expanded the search farther outside the denomination and sent out 22 resume's over the last 2 weeks).

Be blessed!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Only slightly random...

The reading project is going really well. I finished the second of thirty books on Sunday night. The book is Church Unique by Will Mancini. When the new pastor of High Street (Rob) began his ministry, he had the entire staff and board read this book. My mother-in-law had a copy of the book and so it's been in my "to-read" pile for months.

I completely understand why Rob had the entire board and staff read the book, it's a great read for casting vision with your church.

Some of it got a bit wordy at points, but overall, I was glad I read the book. I'm eager to see how that book, and it's method of vision casting can work in a youth ministry. Especially in a church with a well-established vision. All in all, it's worth reading for pastors. Check it out on amazon!


You may not know this, but I've been published! Raging Swan Press is a 3PP (Third Party Publisher) for the Pathfinder Role Playing Game. I contacted Creighton, the publisher, to see if he was looking for any freelance writers and he was looking for someone to do a long project.

I've worked on a few installments of Dungeon Denizens. I don't find this to be a MAJOR outlet for creativity. I mean, there isn't a lot of story (if any) but I think it's a great way to get my foot in the door, and hopefully get an adventure published within the next 16 months.

But, the most recent edition of Dungeon Denizens is going to be released on May 9. If you'd like more information, you can check out Dungeon Denizens EL1 here, or EL 2 here.

The PDFs are only two bucks, and if people buy them, it increases the legitimacy of what we're trying to do and possibly the legitimacy of me as an author/designer increasing my chances at getting an adventure published.


Finally, apologies for this being a day late... I was up late desperately trying to finish that book on Sunday and just didn't have the energy to write last night! Thursday's post will be ON TIME!! (For those of you who are curious, I'm updating on Mondays and Thursdays)

Thursday, April 18, 2013


I imagine that every family has an odd-ball cousin or uncle or nephew or whatever who doesn't quite fit in. Maybe that person smells bad, or doesn't understand normal social conventions, or whatever.

I feel like I'm that odd-ball cousin of the running family. I enjoy running, but I don't really think of myself as part of the "Running Family." I'm sure my runner friends will disagree with that sentiment, they'll say, "You run, you're in the 'family.'"

But seriously, when I'm running on the roads and oncoming traffic gets over to what I consider a safe distance from my body, or slows down to a near-stop to allow me to run next to them, I always give them the "live-long-and-prosper" made famous by Mr. Spock. Yeah, I'm a nerd runner.

I play the drums while I run. Seriously, if you watch me running, quite often I'm playing the drums with my hands/arms while running. It means I'm not streamlined or efficient in my motions, but why do I care?

I'm slow as Moses. I ran my first (and so far only) half-marathon in 2011. I finished in 2:38. That's 13.1 miles in 2 hours and 38 minutes. To me, it felt Herculean. However, to qualify to run the Boston marathon (if you're under 35), you have to post a sub-3:05 time. That means, I'd have to run 13.1 more miles in about 30 minutes to qualify for Boston. I may be the slowest runner of all time.

But, check this out. I'm perfectly okay with that. Seriously, I don't mind being the awkward cousin of the running family.

We all know what happened on Monday. The bombings at the Boston Marathon actually made me sick to my stomach. Knowing that a lot of people try so hard just to qualify to run that marathon, and then to DNF or be injured in a bombing makes me sick.

But here's what I've learned about runners. Don't ever tell us it can't be done. Never.

Some people might see this tragedy, and think, "I would never put myself in that sort of danger."

That's not what runners do. Never, in my whole life, have I wanted to run a marathon more than I have wanted to this week.

Had I been at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday night, I would've belted out Sweet Caroline at the top of my lungs, because some things are bigger than sports rivalries.

I may never actually Run for Boston, meaning, qualify for the Boston Marathon. But, for the rest of my life, I'll be Running for Boston, because I'll never give up. As my good friend Dave said, "we can't live in fear or it allows the bad people to win."

So, keep running.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The week that was, but I wish wasn't

I can't lie about this, part of the reason I started writing this blog, made a list of books to read and things to do, is that I'm so frustrated with where my life is right now.

If you had asked me a year ago where my life would be right now, this was not it. This was nowhere near what I expected in my life. I can't overstate that enough.

So, I've spent the past 10 months trying to "right the ship," if you will. I've been trying to get things back into a place where I want them. I spent three months unemployed, but still drawing a salary, so I didn't do much. I sent my resume to every single Nazarene youth pastor opening I saw.

The next five have been spent working at a restaurant as a cook. I hate it. I thought I'd be there for a few weeks because surely I wouldn't be stuck in this place so long. Boy, that wasn't even close to correct.

So, a few weeks ago, things started to line up. We got an interview nailed down, and everything seemed like it was going to happen. I felt like God was finally bringing us out of this place. God had finally decided that it was time to move on from here.

I know a lot of people get excited when they have interviews and they think "this is it!" I had taken four interviews prior to this most recent one, I didn't feel that way about any of them. I was so sure that this was it, I was preparing the restaurant for my departure. Holly was preparing her employer for her departure. We even discussed timing plans with the in-laws regarding how/when we were going to move. I started collecting some boxes from work.

This wasn't all just fantasy, I promise. Every communication from the church we were heading to made it seem like the interview was just a formality. We were in. They even took our opinion on what color to paint a couple rooms in the parsonage.

We went for the interview and on Saturday night, after the interview, Holly and I talked, after talking with our hosts. We looked at each other and said, "this is it."

Well, it wasn't. Not by a long shot. Dreams were crushed. Plans were stopped. And now... nothing. I don't know what's next. Everyone likes to ask that, after a crushed soul, "What's next, Alex?"

The truth is, I have no idea. I literally have no idea what we're going to do next. Keep looking for a ministry position? Go into management at the restaurant I'm in (They're dying to have me do that)? Go back to school and get my MDiv? Go back to school and start a whole new career?

I have no idea what's next. Most of those are exclusive. If I do one, I can't do the rest. God says, "Ask, Seek, Knock."

I've asked. I mean, I've asked. I've begged and begged and begged. I've cried tears of desperation. I've asked everyone I know for advice. I've asked God for guidance and direction. I've asked. Over and over and over.

We've sought. I'm not sure I can even begin to count how many places I've sent my resume. I've sent it far and wide (as close as the NWO District, as far as Washington State). We've had interviews with churches on both sides of the country (literally: San Diego and Maryland). We've even discussed an over-seas opportunity at one point. Every single youth pastor opening that I've even been given wind of, I've contacted. More often than not, I'm getting no response. That's not figurative, it's literal, no response. I've sought.

I've knocked. Every single door I can think of, I've knocked. Career change? Knock knock. Youth pastor openings? Knock knock. Senior pastor? Knock knock. Discipleship pastor? Knock knock. Young adult pastor? Knock knock. Military chaplain? Knock knock. Military officer (non-chaplain)? Knock knock. I've never experienced something like this before. Every door we've knocked on, none have opened. The ones that seemed to be open have been shut in our faces.

I'm bone weary.

I'm completely exhausted.

I'm confused.

I'm doubting.

I'm questioning.

I'm broken.

I'm sad.

I'm angry.

I'm weak.

I'm hurting.

I'm at the end of my rope.

And here's where the cliches come in, "when you're at the end of your rope..."

"God gives rest to the weary..."

"God gives strength to the weak..."

"When one door closes..."

In my experience over the past ten months, none of that seems to be true. Every door that I've pursued has closed. Every window that I've pursued has been closed. Every small glimmer of light has gone dark.

I really thought this was it. I thought I was going to begin writing about starting a new ministry, moving to a new place, meeting new friends. Instead... none of that.

Last week was a complete bust. I didn't read anything. I didn't run a single mile.

This week will be different. I've got a list of things to do, going to turn it around, make something happen.

Be blessed, friends. Continue to pray for us as we continue to struggle through this time of Exile.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Book #1 - The Hobbit

I set out to finish 30 new books before I turned 30 years old next August. To start my adventure, I read a book about... an adventure.

Holly and I fell in love with the Lord of the Rings trilogy; in fact i twas one of the things in our lives that we shared before we dated and have fallen in love with the extended editions through our marriage (we actually took the entire series on our honeymoon with us and watched the trilogy that week).

When The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey came out, we put it at the top of our "Must see list." Once we saw the movie, Holly took to rereading the book (she had read it before).

She absolutely insisted that I read it, and so I made it the first book I read on my list! I read the book in the shadow of the movie, which is something I generally try to avoid doing. However, I read the Lord of the Rings trilogy in college, and really struggled with Tolkein's writing. I just couldn't get into the flow of his style. He was a genius, no questions asked; but I really had trouble hanging with it.

The Hobbit didn't give me any of those problems. It was a fantastic read, and helped to flesh out more of the world I've come to love so much. It's also gotten me super-excited for the next couple of Hobbit movies.

One book down, Twenty-nine to go!

Monday, April 8, 2013

It just started raining

Happy Monday! This is a small piece I wrote a number of months ago. I imagine it's relatively self-explanatory. I'm posting it as a sort of "ode to vulnerability." I suppose it's unfinished (hence the ellipsis at the end), and I imagine it will remain unfinished for the rest of history. I won't spend any more time detailing it, because I don't think it needs to be quantified today, with nearly 9 months of hindsight since writing it.

Take time today to reflect on where you've been in your life.


It's June 16, 2012 and it just started raining. It is raining metaphorically and literally. I was informed today that my position was being eliminated at High Street.

I'm not being fired, I'm a casualty of the economic realities of this decade. 

Unfortunately, that doesn't make me feel any better.

I suppose it's normal to run a gamut of emotions when you're faced with this situation, I've gone from disbelief to sadness to anger to disappointment and back again.

I don't believe this is happening to me. I don't understand why it's happening now. Despite the insistence that I didn't do anything to cause this to happen, I can't help but feel that there is something I could have done to prevent this. If only I were a better pastor, this wouldn't have happened. 

I'm sad. I really love ministry at high street, I love my students. I absolutely wanted the chance to see some of my students graduate. I can't believe that I'm going to miss the rest of their experiences through high school. I'm sad because I was so excited to work with an awesome pastor like Rob. That won't be happening now. I won't get any of that. Instead, I'm being forced out of a door, and there don't seem to be any doors open to me at this point.

I'm angry for a great many reasons. I'm positive that anger is an appropriate and healthy thing. I'm angry at the people who have asked me to leave. I'm angry at their decision. I'm angry that this is happening t me, at this time in my life. I don't suppose there is ever a good time, but this feels like the worst time. 

I'm disappointed, I really wanted to finish what I started...

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Out of Exile

I've made no secret that the past nine months haven't been very fun for me. I've openly questioned "why?" I've been miserable in many ways. I've definitely had to work on my anger with a few individuals and was intensely challenged by a sermon my friend Rob on forgiveness regarding my feelings toward those individuals.

Another of my friends, Israel, was telling me a few weeks ago how he read through the book of Jeremiah during our pastoral interim. He was drawing the parallels for me to his experience with that of the Israelites/Judahites during the Babylonian Exile. I took his recommendation of the book of Jeremiah as a hint that perhaps I should read that book during my own "Exile" from active, full-time vocational ministry.

I started reading the book a few weeks ago, taking it nice and slow so as to take enough time to really digest what I have been reading and to focus on the Word, not just read it to say I've read it.

So, I've drawn some parallels of my own based on the weeping prophet.

First, this has undeniably been a time of exile for me. It's been incredibly difficult. It's been full of tears. It's been full of questioning. it's been extremely frustrating. I've felt abandoned, discouraged and broken at different times over the past months. I did not, however, feel like I was being prepared for this time in my life. Perhaps I wasn't paying attention, but I don't ever feel like God was getting me ready for such a time as this. Again, maybe I just wasn't paying attention, wasn't willing to learn.

The second major revelation for me happened in the fifteenth chapter, right at the end when God finally says to the people "I will save you from..." This was incredibly for me, because it was the promise that accompanied the Exile. The people were being punished (I haven't figured out if I was being punished, or being winnowed through this period), but God was quick to tell them that he wasn't abandoning them. He would save them. He would bring them through.

What a powerful word from the Lord. I'm leaning, in these days, on God to bring me through to the end of this period. I've felt for a few weeks now that this period of my life is drawing to a close. I believe that something is going to happen soon and God is finally readying me for this time to be over. In my selfishness, I can't wait. I'm ready to get back in the saddle and get back to work for the Kingdom.

Most of the people who are reading this are friends of mine, people who have known me for years and have been praying for my family and me during this time. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart for the prayers and support over the past months. It's meant a lot to us. Continue to pray for us in the days to come, please!

Monday, April 1, 2013

I prayed for someone new

On March 13, white smoke poured from the Sistine Chapel, announcing to the world that there was a new Bishop of Rome in the Roman Catholic Church. On that day, Pope Francis came into being and has taken the church by storm (in some regards).

It's gotten me thinking about some things, however. First, I don't understand the high level of animosity that many Nazarenes (and evangelicals, in general) hold toward the Roman Catholic church. It's as if there is a lingering feeling of disdain left over from the Reformation.

But, I find the new Pope's spirit to be invigorating. He's humble, focused on evangelizing, and saying all the right things. I'm proud to be a prayer-partner for a man of God. I hope that he's able to bring the Roman Catholic Church into a new era focused on reaching the lost; helping the poor; and proclaiming the truth that Jesus is the way to heaven.

On a marginally related note, if I were elected pope (which I can't be, I meet neither of the two conditions), I'd choose the name Patrick.

On a completely unrelated note:

The Astros are in first place! Crazy talk!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

2013 MLB Predictions

 I love a lot of things. I love my family; I love ministry; I love gaming; I love reading. And one of my loves is baseball.

When I went to MVNU in the fall of 2002, I was most assuredly not a baseball fan. In fact, I don't believe I had ever sat down to watch a game on tv, including the world series, all star game, whatever. I remember watching Mark McGuire break Roger Maris' record in 1998. But, I was not a fan. If you had asked who my favorite team was, I would've said Reds or Indians... but I had no idea.

That all changed living in Oakwood Hall. I became friends with real baseball fans. They were split 50/50 between the Reds and the Indians, although, two of my friends Jack and James were from Indianapolis, and they represented the Chicago rivalry. Jack was (and is) a huge Cubs fan. James was (and is) a big White Sox fan.

A lot of my friends from that year had grown up playing and loving baseball. I didn't have a heritage of baseball, so I decided to pick a team to be my favorite. I chose the team everyone on the entire campus hated the most...

The Yankees.

So, since the 2003 baseball season, I've become a Yankees fan. Baseball is my favorite sport. I have a subscription to, and watch at least 80% of the Yankees game throughout the season. Xavier loves to watch baseball, too. He sits and watches, mesmerized. He does not have the same affinity for football or basketball (for what it's worth).

Anyrate, I love making predictions for the upcoming season. Two years ago, I publicly made dreadfully bad predictions, so why not do the same this year?! Without further ado, my 2013 MLB predictions:

AL East Winner: Baltimore Orioles
AL Central Winner: Detroit Tigers
AL West Winner: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
AL Wild Card: Toronto Blue Jays
AL Wild Card: Chicago White Sox

NL East Winner: Washington Nationals
NL Central Winner: Cincinnati Reds
NL West Winner: San Francisco Giants
NL Wild Card: St. Louis Cardinals
NL Wild Card: Los Angeles Dodgers

ALCS: Angels vs Orioles
NLCS: Nationals vs Reds

World Series: Angels vs Nationals

Angels in 6.

I'm ready for the season, hope my predictions are wrong and the Yankees win the whole thing. Who do you think is going to win the world series? Leave your answer in the comments!