Tuesday, December 30, 2008

2008 was a year for busting out the Shackles

Mary Mary Lyrics
Shackles (praise You) Lyrics

Like a lot of people, I like to end each year and look back at the happenings that may or may not have an impact on my life. After scary 2006 and 2007 years, 2008 became the year of breaking the chains of what non-Christians would call bad karma. I call it breaking away from certain attitudes and people that were making me and my family less than the best.

By January, I had two solid months of teaching as a substitute in Effingham and in Beecher City. The first two months were still busy until after the heaviest of flu season. In mid-February, things began to slow down and some of the other teachers at Beecher City Grade School found out that I had a background in youth ministry. Jason, who had become one of my closer friends in teaching kept inviting me to his church and I just never really felt comfortable with the idea of going because of the lack of instruments and music within his denomination. Around the same time, Becky Doty invited me and the family to come over and try out New Hope.

The funny thing about New Hope was that we almost ended up there five years ago when we first arrived, but the look was a little different at the time and my wife really wasn’t that comfortable with the surroundings. So when I suggested it this time, I was surprised how easy the yes answer came. That should’ve told me something. God was about to do something fun. We went and found the sanctuary much more normal than before and it was enjoyable. Seeing a few of my students there also seemed to help. Adam and Jaci were great about showing us around and the kids came out of the nursery in great shape. Truthfully, by the time we left the first time, we knew that we had to go back.

The Sunday School was between services and we tried out going to the pair of Newcomers classes. You tend to know the devil is playing with you when the kids get sick one weekend and I got sick in one of the other first two weekends of 101. So not only did I not get a lot of history, I have to take the class again to become a member. No biggie! I’ll explain that later. The second class was helping people get connected and finding their ministry and we became the guinea pigs for a newer guy (no newer than us) Tyler Sterchi.

After spending one class with Tyler, I knew I wanted to stay. I felt such a passion connection with him. He threw off the electricity just like I was when I got to Florida eight years ago and started at Bible Baptist. He’s a guy in his 20’s and was just about to get married at the time and still had the energy to connect people to their gifting. I just liked what he was about. I can’t explain it other than that. He was also the lucky guy to come to my home and talk about all the fun times (note sarcasm) of ministry I had while I was living here in Effingham. Part of me felt sorry for him, but he handled it like a champ and after that conversation I felt more encouraged to be at the church.

Whilest all this was going on, we gave birth to our third bundle of joy, Maggie, on April 10th. Mindy hates this story, but I will tell you that I also have nicknames for the kids. Megan is Einy, James is Meeny and Maggie is Miney and there will be no Mo. Yes Alvin, I got that from Steven Curtis Chapman circa 1994, but it’s OK. Maggie was born with a smile that reminded me of my grandmother. I melted instantly. Mindy tells me that we are so lucky to have three beautiful children and that is so true.

The end of May came and that meant my first season of teaching as a sub was done and I took on a summer job as an umpire for the Parks and Recreation. I met some great people, but I also met some people that could use classes in manners. I realized that minor league baseball is cut-throat here in the Ham. I got threatened to be run out of town by one coach and pushed by some guy in his 70’s for not calling games to their satisfaction. I understand that as an umpire you take criticism, but I think those two cases crossed the line. Would I do again next year? I’ll definitely have to pray about it some more.

During the summer, my wife allowed me to get involved in the men’s ministry outings at One Eighty. The first one was a sports competition get together and I did OK for not touching a basketball, foosball table or table tennis racquet in years. I didn’t embarrass myself and for that I was thankful. I tried out the Wii at one of their gaming stations and liked it so much that I bought one. It’s just one more time living the dream in the home run derby and at the bowling alley. The second was a steak outing and let me tell you, these guys can pick steaks. I hope to find a few guys for next summer that can come over and teach me how to do steaks on a grill because they were awesome. I’m not good at grilling yet, but I will be.

Out of the second meeting came an offering of a men’s group to meet on Saturdays starting in September. For a while, I was the only one meeting up with Peter Brown, but it was a true blessing. I’ll explain in a minute.

Over the summer, we ended up having to make a major decision of faith. Mindy and I came to realize that subbing would not pay for itself to send three children to daycare. So unless I got a full-time job, I was going to stay home with the kids and we were going to live on one income. No jobs were available and we prayed to make sure this was what we were supposed to do. Honestly, I knew something was happening. We never prayed about anything together until this. Both of us came to the idea that yes I would stay home.

So I did and I will never regret the decision. Sure money is tighter, but I am getting something I never had with my dad until I was an adult, time. The kids love it. I’m growing into it. But honestly, I was feeling missionless at home with three kids. I know parenting is a hard responsibility and for anyone that does it, you know what I am talking about. I was growing bored of Dora, Diego, Elmo and Barney though. I started asking myself what was I gonna do with MY time. Yes, there is laundry, dishes and garbage. But there was more to life than that for me.

And then as I prayed it hit me. I have a laptop sitting in front of me that I am reading emails all day long off of and I used to be a writer. I’m oversimplifying how God hit me like a hammer. I began to ask God and the wise counsel of Peter if this is really what God wanted me to do with the time. Did God actually want me to encourage people combining his words and mine? One Man Revival was born. The song had been playing in my head for 12 years and now I was adding more purpose to those words that Bob Carlisle put to music. I just needed a little more convincing first.

God never takes long when you ask for conformation. The following Sunday, PV (Pastor Van Brooks for you non-New Hope readers) preached and brought a message on finding your place. He wanted people to come forward that felt they had a ministry to give. Yes, I realized this was more for volunteers for the church ministries, but I felt this was the confirmation that God sent me. I had something to do. I had purpose and for a man that has struggled to find his place in the middle of the Crossroads of America for over five years, this was it!

So there you have it. Those were the highlights of a year of chain breaking. God has allowed me to come off the shelf and be a servant again. God has also allowed me to feel purpose at home with no money coming in as a full-time dad to my wonderful kids. I understand the pressure on my wife to produce week in and week out at work and she needed an outlet too. Two things came in the final weeks of the year for her. First, a friend gave her a free month at a local gym. She has been wanting to shed a little of the baby fat from three kids and be in better shape. She liked it so much that she’s signing on for the new year. The second was something we both enjoyed doing at other times in our lives. We’ve both been journalers. PV suggested a couple weeks back that people begin to journal the good times of God for them to remember when things were tough and I took the challenge seriously. I bought journals for both of us as Christmas presents to start journaling immediately. There are gonna be many great memories in 2009 and I’ll talk about those hopes and dreams next time.

I love you guys!

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