So the big 3-0, for me. Thirty. Really not that big of a deal, but big enough to make it one if I’d like. I started this blog on my birthday and it’s taken me quite some time, but is worth it. I think it’s good to reflect how God has moved in our lives & this has been a fun journal to come back to. If you’re not on my list, don’t take offense, it’s just what has come to my mind in this season of my life. The order is what came to my head as I thought of it. While certainly order means something, it wasn’t necessarily put together intentionally.
Here’s my Top 30 at the big 3-0. I’m still in process as you can see – but it’s something I am enjoying getting to over time!
1.Relationship with God I’m not totally sure when it began . . . and in some ways I’ve always had one because of His love for me, but as far as it being reciprocal I think it began in Jr. High, became more about Him than me the summer of ’91 and has grown in ups and downs since then, but always with God, not separate (even when it felt like it was). John 15.5-7
2.Relationship with Sherry Elizabeth Another undeserving relationship makes my top two. I remember distinctly our courtship 8 years ago and how fast, powerful, fun and of the Spirit it was. I find more every day why I am so thankful to be married to Sherry. It truly is the greatest gift I have received other than my relationship with the Creator of the universe. While not perfect (a good ol’ sinner like me), she seems perfect for me even when she’s not what I want in the moment. Her gifts of wisdom, discernment, zeal, joy and hard-working are treasured by me, especially in this parenting days we find ourselves in. Her heart for Jesus and ministry compel me in my own walk with the Lord and it’s just so fun to live this journey with Christ together. Prov. 5.18 ff.
3.Children Nothing magically happened when we found out we were going to have Caleb. It was exciting and over time my mind began to realize all the implications. I learned how clueless I was during the pregnancy and early years with him & then experienced how absolutely clueless I was even after having him when the girls came (see #2 why they’re so wonderful). This in and of itself should be it’s own blog (like all these, really), but we are so blessed with 3 amazing kids. I always liked kids, I mean I’ve only ever worked with, for or on behalf of kids in all my experience, but having your own is so different. And even among them, each of them are so different. I can’t say enough about each of them, who they are, what about them that makes me mushy, full of joy and healthy pride. The combination of who I am and who Sherry is in them, as well as others from our family, is amazing. And to know they are made after teh image of God is humbling that he would use us. Wow, I love those three! Psalm 127.3-5
4.Brother I really don’t know why he always makes the top of my lists, no offense Beeg, but growing up with one close sibling stays with you for a long time–forever, maybe. And yet we weren’t even THAT close (4 grades apart). Yet he’s such an integral part of my life. It’s hard to explain. I couldn’t be happier that he’s walking with the Lord and that he found someone as amazing as Sandra to do that with. I do indeed look forward to being an uncle, no doubt! Lord willing . . . Psalm 133.1
5.Parents I’ve always counted my parents among the best. While I certainly don’t parent much like they did me (does anyone?), I value who they are, what sacrifices they did for me, for raising me how they did and for loving me today as much as (if not more) than they did as I was growing up. I was held on close by mom and taught by dad to spread my wings and live independently. While it breaks my heart to know they are not together any more, I still treasure who they are and all they did for me. Like the first four, I never deserved them. Again blessed beyond measure. Exodus 20.12
6.America Can these top six really be my life & if so, should I ever be allowed to complain? I mean, so many die trying to get in this country and make a way of life for their families and I’ve so often taken it for granted. While I submit to the kingdom of God before the law of my land, I’ve come to realize more and more the blessing of living in America. Teaching US History has given me an even greater perspective and richness to the heritage of our land, in its wisdom, folly, godliness and selfishness. I am proud to be an American, but just as humbled by that fact. Psalm 112.1-3
7.A new fam While at times I’ve felt guilty for all the love I’ve received from my west coast (Sherry’s) family, I can only count it another blessing. I think I’ve felt the guiltiest because I cannot be what they are to me to my parents and family on the east coast. There are many reasons for that, but I so count the Gerbazes, Goodyears and Pathway family as my new family. Ridiculously blessed here. Ephesians 1.5
8.Outreach Beginning with my times in high school making sandwiches and hand delivering them in Philly to moments of service in high school to my experiences in college, especially with UrbanPromise, outreach and service is part of me. In a sense I think it has to be when one is a Christian, but in another some are called to it more specifically. Going to campuses when I was a youth pastor was both awkward and yet right. I felt that was what I HAD to do. Not sitting in my comfort zone in my office or home, but out there like the 70 disciples and sharing about Jesus through practical means. Outreach is missions, is serving, is evangelism, is what we’re called to do as Christians! So that’s what I mean by outreach. In Thailand, my ONE world outreach trip was awesome and humbling. While I really do NOT feel called to another culture full-time currently, I do sense a passion for the city, for others unlike me and less privileged (I say that with all the humility I can). Outreach is not an option. It’s a mandate. It’s fruit (John 15 and more). We NEED as Christians to be seeing beyond ourselves. That’s the characteristic people see . . . LOVE (John 13.34-35). My difficulty has always been that outreach does not always work into its nice little box. I’ve learned that in ministry, particularly American ministry. And it’s there I expect the high-quality and well-polished ministry. Outreach isn’t just not about me, but not about what I want to do for others. It’s truly serving with no agenda. Walking in Truth and in the Spirit. John 4:24. Matthew 28.18-20. Acts 1.8.
9.Students Man, it’s been a long time I’ve been engaged with student ministry and school work. I grew up with parents who worked with students and I, too, work with them. Ever since high school I always wanted to be involved with youth ministry, though at the time I did not even know fully what it was (nor do I today). I worked with students in high school, college and beyond. I’ve always done it and wouldn’t be surprised if I always do. Students are raw, they’re open and they are seeking. There’s something more pure and vulnerable working with them. It’s a unique attraction and frustration at times, too. Students includes K-college (I include kids in this . . . ). Matthew 18.1-6
10.Education I love learning. Love it. I don’t like to do it only because I think it’s selfish. I know it’s necessary but I love it so much I feel guilty doing it. I want to go back to school, but am not sure I will be as effective for the Kingdom of God if I do. I’d rather invest that time in relationships, developing ministries and growing in my relationship with God through memorizing Scripture, reading it and prayer. I am honored and at times proud to receive all the education I have. I did well, I worked hard, but it was God’s grace in it all 1 Cor. 15.10
11.Sports Grrr . . . certainly a love-hate thing. I’m told sports was part of me ever since the ripe age of 1! I can’t believe it! As I type in the airport a Phillies game is on and I can’t ignore it. Sports are a lust for me. It’s a strange attraction that draws me in like an adulteress her victim. I am okay at sports, certainly great compared to some, but the stats, the coaching, the competition, the passion . . . it just grips me. It consumes me and I cannot rid myself of it. It’s like I become someone different. I don’t get. I love it and I hate it. It’s flesh. It’s poison. It’s enjoyment for me. It’s dangerous.
And yet it’s opportunity. It’s an opportunity to connect with students, with other guys, with friends (though currently not many of my friends are into them). It’s been an opportunity to earn respect from men so as to be able to connect as a discipler and mentor. It’s been a level playing field to earn the right to be heard, to encourage and to grow in those tense moments.
Even within the last month I’ve wanted to never participate in sports again and yet want to coach at the high school level. It’s really something internal that rips me. It’s been such a part of me that I want to let go for a long period of time but also want to use as a chance to grow and develop who I am in Christ. Just recently during communion God seemed to speak clearly that I need to rid myself of watching and idolizing sports. I think I may need to let go. I don’t want to put a date on when I can again, but I really want to limit my watching and idolizing of patterning my days and life around sports. It’s certainly hard as an athletic director of a small school, but it’s a reality of where God is moving in my life. Romans 7:15-20
12.Philly It’s crazy how where you come from becomes part of you. Especially since I moved away I sense a passion and love for my “hometown.” I even get defensive for people slamming the city. When I went back “home” recently I noticed the accent and attitude and while I see why people make fun of Philly, I’m still proud of where I came and what the city stands for (which I know isn’t good). It’s weird, but true. It’s who I am. No denying it. It’s certainly stems from the sports thing. Bizarre. But part of the 30! Revelation 3:7ff
13.Broken Relationships Man, this is tough. I am a wuss when it comes to physical pain. I think I’m even worse when it comes to emotional pain. For as much as I am thankful for brokenness, I’m embarrassed. I’m ashamed of my behavior, my thoughts, my heart and who I’ve been. I KNOW that failure helps us grow. But I hate doing it. And it’s not even failure; it’s just life. It’s tough times. But Christians are like tea . . . you never know what we taste like until we get in hot water.
I so wish I could change the way I behaved with my broken relationships. I was wrong. I sinned. I grew. I am blessed because of it. But man was it tough. I could only see right in front of my face and not at a distance. But boy was I thankful! If it weren’t for that, I would never be who I am. I wouldn’t have married Sherry and I wouldn’t have those amazing kids! Broken relationships in some ways define who I am. I am so thankful! I know God hates divorce (Mal. 3.16), so that makes me broken, but I am thankful. I care deeply about those with whom I’ve broken relationships (and no, this is not just romantic relationships with girls, but even friendships with guys, too). I pray that they are growing in Christ and look forward to the day when we might kneel before our Savior. Reconciliation, especially as of late, has become a huge priority in my life. I think it’s biblical and really the salvation story of God with His people – through Christ and even in the Old Testament. Romans 5:8, James 1.2-3
14.Friendships I never really thought I had many friendships as a kid, but I certainly am thankful for those I have today. I even crave more. We as God’s creation, especially because we’re created in His image, and I think as part of that we crave relationships. I remember Eric Schaeffer in jr. high moving away and Tom Sherf going to college, Philip Geiser going to Bangladesh, Nick Rose moving south, me moving away from all my other college buddies, and the many others . . . distance has made it tough. I miss them deeply and the treasure of having someone to call on. It’s crucial to being a Christian man and treasure the men I currently share with (which currently are few). It’s those guys who know you and love you despite that first fact. It’s a special treasure. They’re on your level but they’re not. They’re encouraging yet convicting and you can be the same right back at them! John 15.13
15.Jobs Acts 18.1-3. I’ve been blessed to have some unique jobs. Official, lawn mower, painter, weeder, dark room tech, mammogram film hanger and tech, sports information office assistant, resident assistant, youth pastor, children’s director, after-school program director, supervisor, athletic director, teacher, camp director, associate pastor, and those are just the things I can think of. While it isn’t a huge plethora of experience (I’m not all that handy), I’ve been blessed with some great jobs and super bosses that I’ve learned a ton from and had really good relationships with. There hasn’t been a direct supervisor I’ve had that I didn’t have a great relationship/friendship with. While I’m continuing to learn how to be a better director, I’ve had great models!
16.Ministry – it’s been my world & a way of life and calling and so much more. A worldview and more . . .
17.Home – what a sanctuary it’s been. I can’t tell you how I value a peaceful home. And for so much of my life I’ve been blessed to have it that way.
18.Medicine – whether it be for headaches as I’ve experienced over time, a stomach ache or more, medicine has been such a blessing and part of my life.
19.Memory (or lack thereof) – memorization of Scripture, memory of events & trying to forget things you can’t shake, memory has been such a huge part of life.
20.Depression – my thorn, a blessing and a challenge all in one.
The final ten just get mentioned . . .