Remember? Remember when you first got in to children’s ministry? Remember the calling God gave you? The burden you had for children? The awesome responsibility you accepted? The urgency you felt? Back when it was about reaching lost kids and discipling those who had accepted Christ? Remember when the stories were about changed lives and your conversations were mostly about the kids rather than the problems? Remember when you spent a ridiculous amount of time on some minor, but fun aspect of the ministry just so you could see the faces of the kids light up when they arrived? Remember when you didn’t even notice how exhausted you were?
You went into children’s ministry because you wanted to be a shepherd of children – and all too soon you became more sheepherder than shepherd. Just getting the kids where they need to be and hoping to have a reasonable adult-to-child ratio became a weekly battle. Managing volunteers, appeasing parents, buying supplies, keeping the senior pastor as well as the janitor happy, answering voice mail, e-mail and snail mail and countless meetings gradually took over. Before you knew it, being a minister gave way to being an administrator. And somewhere the kids got lost in the shuffle. Oh, the kids, are fine. But you feel your heart for ministry fading and you secretly miss when you were just a volunteer and not in charge of the whole operation.
It doesn’t have to be that way!
Children’s Ministry has gone nuts. Seriously. It’s less than a hundred years old and yet we’ve made it into an empire more daunting and menacing than the Galactic Empire! How did the Church survive for so many generations and produce such godly saints without all the trappings of our modern ministry? Perhaps all our advances are a part of the problem. Could it be that all we have created to help has in part become a hindrance? An entire industry of resources and programs (and websites!) has exploded and what do we have to show for it? Just statistics that seem to suggest that kids are worse off spiritually than ever before. How can this be?! Where have we gone wrong?
What is my favorite subject? Is it math? science? English? recess?! Nope – it’s not a school subject at all, its a photography subject: my little boy.
Daddy and the Boy
Today we headed over to Garden of the God (note: I leave off the “s” as it is not Garden of the Gods, but of the One True God and Creator whom I worship!) While Luke’s favorite thing was the toy cars for sale at the Trading Post, my favorite was getting to take pictures of him at this beautiful place! (not my first time here!) And it should be noted, that if I’m in the picture, Sara took the shot, and she’s not a bad photographer herself! (She’s a great photographer!)
“Look Dad, a ROCK!”
I love Luke’s curiosity and enthusiasm over the littlest things. Often I had to call him on to see greater things when he was content with a little stone or stick. I wonder if my heavenly Father ever is trying to lead me to more amazing things and if I get content with lesser things and nearly miss the greater?
Luke in his “special place”
Luke loves finding little places he can crawl into and feel like it is his own “special place.” Many times, even just at home, he finds the greatest pleasure out of the simplest things. What a lesson to us who sometimes place the bar so high in order to be moved or excited that we miss the joy that can be found in the little things and little places that are all around us.
He just can’t help it.
Of course, I think my son is adorable. But I especially enjoy it when others walking by stop to compliment my wife and I on our cute little boy. The power of encouraging words. A reminder to not always be focused on our own enjoyment, but to make the effort to encourage others along the path, even in little ways – it can mean a lot!
Between a Rock and Cute Place
As I look at this massive rocks and wonder about the ways they were slowly formed over time I can’t help also thinking about the ways my little boy is being slowly formed over time. I’m not the only influence, and my influence will slowly diminish, but everything I do right now is having a major impact on shaping the boy (and the man) he will become. The words I use, the way I react to him and events, the tones I use, the attitudes I model, the instructions I give, but more importantly, the example I give – are shaping him. What a scary honor!
Future Heart Breaker
When you look at my son, you see a cute boy. When I look at the same picture I see so much more… because I know him. I am enjoying his daily developments, his growing sense of humor, his budding interests and talents as well as his sin nature I am working to correct from the heart rather than merely by seeking to change behavior. I see the boy inside and love him more than I could ever describe. A cute kid to you is a part of my life and very reason for living. I wonder how my heavenly Father looks at a picture of me? You see me – but God sees ME.
He didn’t get stuck, but he surprised me with his courage! There was a crack through this giant rock about the length of our van, and I asked him to stand in the crack for a picture. The next thing I knew he disappeared deep into the rock to appear out the other side! I worried for a minute that if he got stuck I wouldn’t be able to get in there to help him, though he easily fit through with some careful footwork. I wouldn’t have told him to venture in and out the other side, but his adventurous spirit made this dad proud.
“I see you!”
Here is Luke peeking out of a crack out the side, half way through the crack he explored to my surprise. I love the adventurous exploratory spirit of children. TOO MANY adults lose that zeal to learn and explore and GO where they have never been before. We become too content with our routines and “responsibilities.” When is the last time you blew off “normal life” and explored something or somewhere? If you can’t remember, you are over due!
TOP OF THE WORLD!
I was asked recently how being a dad had changed me. The question surprised me. Not that I couldn’t go on and on talking about it. But it has been one of the greatest experiences of my life. (Getting married is up there pretty high too!) I thought for a moment on how to answer and finally said, “I always thought I loved children more than most people, in fact, I didn’t think it was possible for me to love a child any more than I aleady did. But once I became a dad, I discovered why there is a completely different Greek word for parental love – because it is a deeper, and richer and more powerful love than I had ever experienced before. Something that can never be explained, only experienced.”
Being a dad has changed me to the core in ways I could never articulate. But most of all, I think I understand now what it really means to be a child of God. That understanding deepens and expands every day in ways I never could have anticipated.
Being a dad is one of the single greatest thing in life. I can’t wait until tomorrow!
I know I’m supposed to be taking it easy and recovering from near death and all that, but today we planned a whirlwind fun day that was relaxing and enjoyable – both because of the people we hooked up with and the sights we saw! We started out in Colorado Springs (where we are staying) and went up to Littleton to have breakfast with ToddLiebenow, the Top Puppeteer and El Presidente of One Way Street, and #1 puppet and creative ministry supplier in the world. (for real) I’ve long wanted to see the OWS headquarters, and finally got to!
Todd Liebenow and Karl
The extra treat was that I had Sara and Luke with me and my little boy (who adores all my puppets) got to see “where puppets come from” with a tour of the factory. I could not photograph much out of fear of compromising industry secrets, but here is Lukey with some eyeless lambs:
Luke among the Lambs
After One Way Street we headed up to Loveland to the Group Publishing headquarters where I had a meeting with Christine Yount who, besides being executive editor of CM Mag, has a new official title I love: Children’s Ministry Champion. (I guess there is room for another!)
Group’s Lobby has a TALKING moose head!
I also got to finally meet CM Mags managing editor, Jennifer Hooks who I’ve known only via e-mail as she has edited some of my writing for Group such as The New Deal article in the Jan/Feb ’09 issue. Why was I meeting with these ladies? (I also met with a business guy about a deal on CM Mag for Kidology.org members that should be in place soon, just another perk for Kidology.org members!)
Ever wonder where the other end of the moose was?
ANYWAY, I was there to finalize the details for a column in Children’s Ministry Magazine. That’s all I can say at this time, but I’m very excited to be a regular contributor to the magazine now. More details soon! (I’m so sorry I forgot to get a picture with the Groupies – but I got the moose!)
After I left Group we headed to Rocky Mountain National Park hoping to see some live animals as well as some spectacular mountain scenes. I wasn’t disappointed! On the way out I caught this Mountain Goat on film:
It really is a mountain goat!
O.K., so that picture isn’t that great, but I had to turn on the camera and point fast! (And no, I was not driving, Sara was driving so I could enjoy the view and take pictures)
As you can see, the driving was a LOT of fun!
If I ever came to this park as a child, I don’t remember it, and I was very much impressed with how beautiful it is! Not quite Yosemite, but it’ll do!
Snow covered peaks above Rocky Mountain National Park
Lots of variety from the mountains to the landscapes and an abundance of roaming animals!
Unfortunately, Luke slept through most of the animal sightings – but we’ll be back! He just woke up when we got to Bear Lake and went for a short hike to see the snow covered frozen lake:
The Bastians on Bear Lake! (luckily, no bears!)
It was a short visit, but I considered it a teaser and plan to be back here many times in the not so distant future! I feel like I’m home here – as my earliest memories are from when I lived in Colorado as a boy.
Here’s a few more pictures from our special day (as we called it for Luke)
Mommy and Luke
Daddy and Luke
Sunset over the Rocky Mountains
Dusk in the Valley
Luke in his favorite spot – Dad in his.
I love Colorado. I am praying that God might enable me to raise my son here. I love the climate, the scenery, the culture, the people, the opportunities to explore God’s creation, and the presence of God I feel when I am here. Pray with me that my family might be able to call this home some day.
About six months ago I picked up a book at Costco that looked like a good read, The Last Lecture. It was written by Randy Pausch, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University. CMU had a tradition of having professors share what they believed was most important in life – what they would share if they could only offer one “last lecture.” By the time Randy was scheduled to give his “last lecture” they had renamed the series to Journeys and were unaware that it would indeed be his last lecture.
I’m now in Colorado enjoying some vacation time that God sovereignly planned months ago when He knew that this past week I would end up in the hospital to have a stent placed in my heart. I’ve shared some personal reflections on facing my own mortality, and as I was packing for our trip out here saw The Last Lecture sitting on my desk, and grabbed it to read.
Tonight I joined nearly ten million others who have watched the video (below) of his presentation and it was really good. You can watch it here on YouTube yourself (76 minutes long) as well as another talk he did later on time management. Both are worth the investment of time. As a newsweek writer Nancy Gibbs wrote when they reported on his death, millions have been “charmed by his easy manner and insight, [and] in awe of his complete lack of self-pity.”
The video is packed with real life wisdom illustrated by stories from his life – I really appreciated one of the themes that came up several times:
Every time he faced an obstacle he made the point that
“Brick walls are there for a reason: they let us prove how badly we want things.”
He made the comment that “brick walls” are to keep the “other people out” – others who don’t want it bad enough, or aren’t willing to work hard enough to achieve. I’m a brick wall smasher by nature – and I think I got that from my parents who believed in me probably a little more than I was worthy of! You will rarely hear me say “I can’t” – but you’ll often hear me say, “we can!” I do believe it often comes down to how badly do you want something and how hard are you willing to work to help it happen. (and how creatively too!)
I also appreciated this slide in his PowerPoint:
I remember as a young man wondering, “What am I good at?” Especially at the age when it was becoming more and more obvious what I wasn’t good at! (Thanks for allowing me not to list them all, its quite a long list!) But I figured out what I was good at, and worked hard to do it well, and share it with others – and both my church ministries would blossom as well as this little non-profit I founded called Kidology. I laughed out loud when he said people asked him, “What’s your secret?” because I’ve had so many people over the years ask me the secret to founding and running a successful “business” (ministry) and my answer is usually, “just go do it.” No one gave me any secret, and now that I’ve done it (with the Lords help and many others!) I know there is no “secret” – you just have to jump out there and DO something, and if you are walking with God and focused on serving others – it will succeed! Maybe that IS the secret – to DO something, rather than sit around wondering and dreaming forever.
I love his emphasis on fulfilling your childhood dreams, but also – helping others fulfill their own. I’ve had many dreams fulfilled, and the ones still left, I’m getting read to pursue with renewed zeal and passion, as I’ve been acutely reminded by recent events to make the most of my days! Expect some changes in my life soon! But I also find the older I get, as Randy mentions, the more you will find helping others is more fulfilling. I can point to many people I know I’ve been able to help or encourage or mentor, and few things are as fulfilling as watching them succeed and knowing I played a small part in their life. And then once in awhile I get an e-mail from someone I don’t know who shares the impact of Kidology on their life or ministry and again I get that awesome satisfaction of finding out how God used you in someone else’s life, even when you were completely unaware of it. Helping others succeed is far better than any ‘success’ one can achieve for themselves. (and it will out last you too!)
So I’m reading and enjoying The Last Lecture and encourage you to watch the video and even get the book. BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY, let me ask you a few questions I am asking myself right now:
1) If you had the opportunity to give a “Last Lecture” – what lessons from life would you share? What stories would you tell? What advice would you give others? What legacy would you want to leave behind?
2) What childhood dreams do you have that are yet to be fulfilled or experienced? What are you waiting for!?
Don’t get stuck in a rut – life is too short! Get out there and DO something already. Too many people spend there life talking about what others have done, reading about what others have done, watching TV shows about the lives of others, and WATCHING life as a spectator instead of DOING life as a participant.
Side note: I watch virtually no television, and it comes up when people talk about American Idol or ask if I’ve seen a certain commercial or some other popular show and I know nothing about it. When I say, “I don’t watch TV” they usually think it is because of some conviction and I’m judging them, so I always have to say, “No, its just that I never turn it on.” It’s not because of some conviction or holier than though attitude, but just because I’m too busy living life to sit in front of a television. And it’s not that I’m a workaholic (been there, done that, cured!) but I just want to DO stuff, not sit and watch stuff that is nearly half advertising. (I do enjoy renting and watching movies and invested in a home theater to make it an incredible experience!) But to give my evenings to TV when I could be with my family, or DOING something else, or creating something just seems to be yet another way to let life waste away and miss out on so much that is so incredibly better.
I say, GET OUT THERE AND DO SOMETHING - if you miss out on anything in life, you have only yourself to blame!
3) What do you day dream about? Why not stop dreaming, and start planning! I used to daydream about spending some extended time in Yosemite with a bunch of like-minded guys. Finally, one year, I stopped dreaming and started planning and Yosemite Summit was born.
I DARE YOU – stop dreaming and start planning!
(OK, my lecture is over, but it’s probably not my last!)
Waking up in a hospital bed on Easter Sunday morning after a life-saving proceedure on your heart does wonders for your perspective on life. While family and some friends are quick (too quick) to jump on my diet or love of Dew, the reality is that while I certainly have to make some minor changes to my diet to eat more “heart healthy” and increase exercise, diet is not at the top of my list of the things I’m thinking about. I’m not devaluing the importance of these changes, I’ll make them, many I already was over the past few years, but facing one’s mortality so dramatically impacted me more in thinking about relationships, not food.
Months away from turning forty, I suppose everyone at some point truly faces their mortality, and the deep realization that truly every day is a gift from God. Perhaps they go through something like I did, or someone they love does, or it may just be a significant birthday number that hits them; “I’m getting old!”
While I’ve always known and believed that every day was a gift from God – when the events of the last 48 hours are such that TODAY is truly a gift, you know it to a deeper level than you could before. Questions like – Who am I? Why am I here? What is my purpose? What truly matters? How then shall I live? – suddenly take on a new and deeply significant meaning. I’ve always been very mission driven in life and Kingdom focused in my work (at times to a fault) but this event has really caused me to think differently about relationships, or at least think the same things with a clarity and focus I never imagined possible before. Has this episode changed me? Of course. Facing death in the middle of an otherwise normal and fun day – brings everything into crystal clear focus. If I could sum it up in one phrase, I’d say:
Suddenly, selfishness now seems so…. selfish.
I now want even more so to live each day – not to do, not to accomplish, not to gain, not to accumulate, not even to impact or serve – but simply to love. To love God, to love my wife, to love my son, and to love my family and friends like I may have intended before, but to a degree I never did before. I want to be more of an others-centric person. I want to go to bed every night knowing that if today had been my last, I had truly loved and lived that day, and that nothing left behind or left undone truly mattered.
So, yeah. I’ll drink less Dew, but there are things so much more significant in life than merely the acceptance that I now need to eat and exercise better. My “new” diet is simply what everyone should be eating anyway, as is my “new” exercise requirements. All that is “new” is being extremely convinced of their importance and the motivation to do them more intentionally!
If all I gained from this experience was a healthier or even longer life, than I missed the point. Long life is not the goal. A life truly lived is! Please DO NOT let my story merely encourage you to be healthier. Please. Instead, may it spur you on to live a life of love! To God, to your family, and to anyone God brings into your life!
If you and I both will do that, than my near death experience will truly have value!
Yes, I was twittering (which updated facebook) during the whole thing, and live blogged to give more detail than you can in status updates. It was really quite amazing that due to today’s technology I literally had more people praying for me probably than your average church prayer line – for those scratching their heads that I would twitter while having a heart attack, let me first say,
A) I didn’t technically have a heart attack (explained in blog post)
B) I was never in great pain, just enough pain in my chest to know something was wrong and decided the smart thing was to go straight to ER and
C) I really truly believe in the power of prayer and wanted to get the word out so that I’d have prayer for myself and family during the critical hours when it mattered most. I never really felt dread or fear, though I had a sober understanding that this was indeed serious – and yet really felt peace that I was in God’s hands and that He was walking me through the steps to address this.
Did you know if you hold your breath the
white line on the monitor will go flat?
If I were to add a D) it is that a big part of me is wired to want to encourage others and remind others that God is in control – thats easy to say when everything is going hunky dorey – (good) – but I wanted to show that even when our life is in danger (literally) there is always reason to laugh, enjoy life and savor the moments – even if our time to say so could be soon over. My twitter updates were intended to show that there can be moments of joy and reasons to smile even in the midst of hard times. You can’t say it if you don’t live it!
I asked not to be “put under” during the procedure because this is my LIFE and as long as I am alive – i want to LIVE every moment of it, even those moments that should be scary. I gotta tell you, its very sobering when they have you remove everything you own and you watch them put it all in plastic bags. (I hid my iPhone under my leg, I wanted to take it in with me – my link to all my friends and family!)
It was amazing to watch on a screen what the surgeon was doing inside my heart! The funny thing was later, even though I was never “out” or asleep, I couldn’t remember the journey from the surgery room to ICU. I finally asked my nurse if I had indeed been out because there were some details of the day I couldn’t remember and she said that they did give me a drug that caused short term memory loss! Wow! I asked if I can get that at Walgreens, that could come in handy in life! In fact, that might come in handy in pastoral counseling too! “Just take this, and soon you’ll forget all about it.” I’ll have to look into that. (My wife probably thinks I already take that it on a daily basis!)
One of the cool things was getting to meet a fellow Twittering in person, @scotthodge who I was hoping to meet today anyway, since I was doing the children’s services at this church at 3,5 and 7pm after the massive egg hunt this morning. Well, I did get to meet him, but not as I planned; he visited me in the hospital! It meant a lot since I was too far away for most friends/family to come visit, and I know he’s in the midst of Easter weekend! Even a pastor enjoys a pastoral visit! (Our pastor from our previous church did call too and offer to come, but we told him it was too far from Easter-eve, but that was very nice too!) Of course, my wife DID come while my awesome sister took Luke for the entire day!
I am now staying over night but it looks like I’ll get to go home tomorrow. Please pray for my sweet wife, I know this is harder on her than me!
I was able to get my friend, Jonny Magic, to take the shows I had the rest of today as he was in town to perform with me tomorrow, but pray for the church I was supposed to be at tomorrow – they’ve got a lot of entertainers, so they should be fine, but I was doing their preschool program so they’ve got to make adjustments. I have a pretty good excuse, but I still feel bad!
Going to sleep now – just wanted to let some friends and prayer partners know the scoop.
Well, I’m writing this from a recovery room at a hospital over an hour away from home after a surgeon placed a stent in the main left coronary artery of my heart!
Being the tech geek I am (and wanting prayer support) I’ve been twittering the journey which also updates my facebook status. Yet another good reason to link the two!
O.K., here’s the scoop. Did a big magic show at Stuart Sports Complex in Aurora IL right before a helicopter came to drop eggs. Before the show I rode around on my giraffe unicycle to attract attention toward the stage. I rode out on the grass which is extremely difficult on cold hard lumpy ground and it was a work out! I managed to stay up much longer than I thought I would but after 10 minutes fell. (thats how get off a giraffe unicycle, eventually you just fall to dismount) i was so out of breath, I could hardly talk or breath, but immediately had to do the program.
The show went well despite high winds and cold air, but I got through it. It wasn’t until I was packing up that I first thought the blasting music was hurting my chest since I was so close to all the speakers that were playing upbeat contemporary Christian music. I went to take pictures of the helicopter but was starting to realize something was wrong since I was away from the loud music but my chest was still hurting. Packing up was a challenge as I was back by the speakers and just felt fatiqued and sluggish and loading the car seemed far more difficult than it should have. I was eager to drive away from the pounding music since the next 3 shows at the church weren’t until 3pm, 5pm and 7pm. The pain was not going away and while I had planned to just go find a place to eat and work on my laptop for a few hours, I asked a cop directing traffic where the nearest hospital was.
Seemed keeling over at Chipotle was less desirsble than going to the ER and being told “you’re fine, you’re just a wimp” so I headed to the hospital thinking, I can just work in the waiting room so at least I’m close to serious help if I neef it.
Well, pain got worse and I asked to just talk to a doctor knowing I’d be out $75 for it.
Then it all just unfolded. Technically NOT a heart attack, as heart attack is non-reversible damage; which I avoided by coming in when I did. My EKG was a very abnormal one and my right arm was feeling weird, not the usual left. So next it was off for an angioplasti (sp?) and I asked to not be sedated so I could watch on the screens! Simply amazing what our doctors can do today! To be watching something IN MY HEART squirting out liquid and watching it flow through my heart. I asked the surgeon if he could see Jesus since I’d asked Him into my heart when I was four. He assured me Jesus was fine and had triggered the pain so I’d come in today!
Gotta go, time to order from room service, as I see they have cheeseburgers, hoping they’ll make me a double with extra cheese!!
Thank you everyone for your concern and prayers, more later! (Lord willing!)
My 3-year-old has entered a fun, new stage in life. In the past, any time I would ask him a question starting with, “Do you know…,” he would answer “yes,” even if he didn’t. Last week, I encouraged him to answer, “No, tell me,” if he in fact didn’t know an answer.
It has now turned into a game where he has me ask him questions, and loves answering, “No, tell me,” before I launch into explaining to him another aspect of our amazing world. He has discovered that if he asks, I will tell him things he doesn’t already know, and he LOVES learning new things. Plus, with this new openness to learning, I’m teaching him about things I otherwise probably wouldn’t have yet.
It got me thinking about my relationship with my Father. How often do I go through the day acting like I know everything, or at least, everything I need to know to get through the day. But my Father delights when I admit I have more to learn and ask him, “Tell me more.” There are many things He will show me when He sees that I am open and eager to learn. I may know enough to get through the day, but I want more. I want to learn more about Him, about His world, and about His plan for my life.
Maybe it is time to turn to your heavenly Father, and say, “Tell me more,” because He will!
I am personally convinced that one person can be a change catalyst, a “transformer” in any situation, any organization. Such an individual is yeast that can leaven an entire loaf. It requires vision, initiative, patience, respect, persistence, courage, and faith to be a transforming leader.
~ Stephen R. Covey