Why not me? – eBook Launch!

Shortly after being diagnosed with cancer, I began to journal my thoughts, feelings and learnings into a page in Evernote.  It was a healthy way of processing for me that allowed me to write down raw emotions and fears, while also writing down hopes, dreams and things I felt God was teaching me.

Ever since that time I’ve had a dream of putting on paper what I went through and how God formed me along the way.

Well, after a couple of weeks of intentional time, some prayer, and some editing by my beautiful wife, I’m launching an eBook today.

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How can you get it?

In about a month or so, I’ll figure out a way to post it on this blog so it’s an easy click-buy process.  But between now and October 8, I’m doing something completely different. Why October 8?  That’s when I run the Chicago Marathon with Team World Vision.

You may have already guessed where this is going.  Any donation to Team World Vision will get you the eBook!

A one-time $50 donation allows a kid to have access to clean water…forever.  Now, I do NOT think what I wrote is worth $50, but I do think clean water is.

You might be able to give $10, or $25.  That’s fantastic.  I’ll send you the eBook all the same. Others of you can afford a $1,000 donation.  For you, I’ll send TWO copies 😉

Joking aside, the way to get the eBook (at least for now) is to make any donation to my page, and then the email you provide when you donate will be the email I send the eBook to.  It’s that simple.

Let’s help some kids get clean water!

 

Running for Them

I began running so that I could eat extra food on Thanksgiving.

While the above sentence might be a slight exaggeration, the first race I did was with my sister and best friend – and it was the Detroit Turkey Trot.  I don’t remember a lot surrounding that race, but I do remember finishing and getting the runners “high”.  And then they handed me a finishers medal?  I was hooked.

(And I did eat extra food that day, as well.  Because…Turkey.)

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Since that race, I’ve run a few half-Marathons, a few more Turkey Trots, some 5K’s, and a couple of Marathons (both Chicago).  I tell people that I enjoy running – but truth be told, I enjoy finishing runs.  The sense of accomplishment is addicting!

Running for a cause, specifically Team World Vision, began in 2012 with my first Chicago Marathon.  This kind of running was different.  Sure, I was running the same miles…but there was an added element of putting myself out there for the sake of someone else.  #Fundraising.

As I’ve grown over the years and learned more about how I’m wired, I’ve learned that I can lean towards finding worth/value in what other people think of me.  This shows itself in my running.  When I post about a run, will people think I’m awesome?  Will people notice my time, or how many miles I ran?  That kind of thinking is not always prevalent, but it’s there more than I’d like to admit.  It’s the ugly side of how I sometimes use social media.

For me, running for a cause turns that type of thinking on its head.  I’m no longer posting so that people think I’m awesome (although battling that mindset still exists).  Now, I’m posting so that people…kids…in Africa don’t have to walk 3 miles one way just to get water (and the water they do get is often dirty).

I’m posting so that communities can gain access to a sustainable source of clean water.  Water equals redeemed time.  Water equals education.  Water equals health.

Water Equals Life.

So will you join me?  $50 allows one kid to never have to walk for water again – ever.   My goal is help 200 kids experience that reality.

I’ll run the miles (and not just because it allows me to eat a little more on Thanksgiving).  My hope is that you’ll join in and help bring clean water to those who need it.

Things Unnoticed

“Your car is done, dude.”

Those were the words I heard from the Mechanic on the other end of the phone call.  He wasn’t calling to tell me my car was ready to be picked up, either.  I was going to be on a Mission Trip with Elevate for a week, so I figured I’d drop my car off and let the mechanics work on whatever was urgent.

Well, what I didn’t know was that my car had SO MANY issues that it was going to be the smarter move to not put any more money into fixing it, and begin looking for a newer car.

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It didn’t take too long to find one.  I might have been extra-motivated to replace my car when the Mechanics used phrases like “punctured tire” and “stranded on the side of the road.”  We had our sights on a vehicle we liked, the price was about what we intended to spend, so we went for it.

The car I was replacing was a 2006 Saturn Vue.  The car my wife and I bought was a 2016 Ford Fusion (Sorry Dad, aka the 30 year GM Employee).

One of the first things I noticed was how smooth and quiet the ride was.  Truly.  It was incredible to me.  Now, this post is not intended to be a review of the Fusion.  What I kept thinking was, “I never really knew my old car was so loud!”

Meagan, my wife, had often told me that my car was not as awesome as I made it out to seem.  She would often point out all the flaws and tell me all the things she didn’t like about it.  I would always take my cars side…ya know, stand up for the poor thing…SOMEONE had to like it, and it might as well be the owner!

What I see now is that I would often gloss over all the faults because it was all I had, and it had been “all I had” for over 11 years.  I got used to the noisy cabin.  I was accustomed to the ripped-up seats.  I chuckled when it would make various noises while going down the road.  Eventually all of those things became background noise that went unnoticed.

As I was riding in the newer car, I couldn’t help but think of the parallels to how we live our Christian life.

The ripped-up seats and noisy cabins of our lives could be a number of things – certain sins that we’ve accepted for so long that they just fade into the background of our lives, unnoticed.

Daily walking with Jesus means daily doing the work of noticing the things that aren’t aligned with Him, and seeking to correct them.  Maybe it’s an attitude, or maybe an action.

That’s why I’m such a fan of the journaling practice I blogged about a few months back.  Taking inventory of my life on a regular basis means I’m more likely to notice that which would normally go unnoticed.

I’m not batting 1000% on this, and I’m sure I have plenty of unnoticed areas that need attention.  But I will say that creating “noticing habits” – like journaling – has helped me move forward in some areas.

For me, it’s not a matter of IF I have things in my life that go unnoticed, it’s a matter of doing the work to find those out.  I’d guess it’s the same with you.  Here’s to doing the hard work of noticing (and then doing something about it).

We’re Still Climbing

Often times on Wednesday morning I’ll attempt to make a 5:00am spinning class (indoor cycling) at the gym at which my wife and I are members.  I don’t have perfect attendance, but I’m fairly proud to be among the 8-10 crazies that could be called regulars.

The instructor that leads the class is quite intense.  What comes to your mind when you think “Military Drill Sargent”?  Yep.  That’s what comes to my mind too.  And that describes this instructor perfectly.

One thing this instructor LOVES to do is “gradual climbs.”  Basically we ride for 15 minutes or so, and every 20-30 seconds we increase the tension on the bike one-half-turn.  We do this at least twice, sometimes three times if he’s feeling extra generous.

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One Wednesday morning, during one of our gradual climbs, everyone thought we were coming to the end of the climb and so we all looked at the instructor, waiting for the “ease up the tension!” command. But it never came.  He saw our tired eyes staring at him, and so he offered some encouragement.

“Don’t worry, we’re still climbing!”

He had a smirk on his face…as if to say, “Nice try, suckers.”  And so we kept climbing.

But it got me thinking.  That’s how life is, right?  It really doesn’t matter what aspect of life we’re talking about – navigating marriage, parenting kids, launching a new business, building a ministry – there’s an aspect where we will always be climbing.  There will always be a hill in front us.

Sure, some hills may be bigger than others, but rarely in life do we get to just coast.  And come to think of it – would we want to coast if that was an option?  Isn’t climbing hills, taking new ground, changing personally (inside and out), and creating momentum part of the excitement of life?

As image-bearers of the Creator God, part of our wiring is to build, create, move, change, inspire and empower…we were made for climbing life’s hills!  I’m seeking to change my perspective on the hills of life – big and small.  Hills can mean pain and struggle…but they can also be great indicators that it’s not over yet, no matter how we feel.

What if we saw the challenges of life as an opportunity to stretch our God-given muscles to climb?  What if challenges were proof that we were, in fact, still in the game and have something incredible to offer our world?

Maybe you think you’re about tapped out of energy, and you can’t do much more.  I’d offer the same words my instructor offered the class:

Don’t worry, you’re still climbing.

 

Under Construction

Since moving to Chicago, I’ve really enjoyed the neighborhood we moved into.  Not too big, but not too small.  There’s room to run some miles, get a good bike ride in, etc.

Near the back of the neighborhood is a park that’s easy to run to and run around once there.  The past few months, however, it’s been closed for Construction.  They are expanding the neighborhood, and doing a lot of work to the park.

It’ll be closed most of the summer.  When I ran by it the other day, I thought, “Oh man, what a bummer.”

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After thinking about it for more than 2 seconds, however, I realize it may not be as big of a bummer as I first thought.  Construction means progress and process.  And progress/process usually means growth.

My mind often goes to direct application to my Christian life…

As a Christian, I believe God has saved me, is saving me, and will save me.  I decided to follow Jesus in 8th Grade (He saved me).  Since then, however, I’ve been in process – under construction – continually being molded and shaped into who God created me to be (He is saving me).  One day, when Jesus returns, the redemption story will be complete and we’ll be restored to full wholeness in Christ – completely saved, without sin, sickness or death (He will save me).

It’s the middle “saving” that can be frustrating sometimes.  Being under construction is not fun…but just like the neighborhood park, construction means progress and process. And even though there’s delays, setbacks and obstacles…there’s also victories.  And ultimately, construction doesn’t last forever.  Heaven does.

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And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

 

Grow

Husband. Cancer Survivor. Youth Pastor.

The three “identities” I’ve used to shape the blog subtitle.

I’ve spent considerable time writing about the middle two words:  Cancer Survivor.  I’m not ashamed or apologetic about that, either.  I’ll likely share more in the coming months as I process more and more.

This post is about the last two words.  I’ve worked in Youth Ministry for roughly 14 years.   I’ve had the great privilege to work with some fantastic people, and get to do some pretty incredible things.

Recently, I was asked to be a part of a larger team of Youth Pastors around the country (and world – Hey Canada!) to put together a year-long strategy that included teaching series, tips on parent communication, strategies for events, etc.  I was tasked with writing a 4-week series on making Spiritual Growth a habit (we called it “Make it a Habit”).

 

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Well, the time is now, and it’s in pre-order phase, set to release June 30.

It’s simply called Grow Youth Ministry Curriculum and Strategy, and it’s from Stuff You Can Use – a two-member team (Kenny & Elle Campbell) that love Youth Pastors and seek to resource them as best as they know how.

So, Youth Pastor friends – if you’ve been looking for a comprehensive strategy and curriculum, look no further than this!

 

 

 

 

 

Reflecting vs. Dwelling

A friend asked me recently, “How often do you think about your diagnosis/cancer journey?”

It’s been 3 years, today, since I was diagnosed.  How often do I think about it?  Often.

There two main reasons for that.  The first reason is quite practical. There are scars on my body from two surgeries that weren’t there before.

Practicality doesn’t necessarily mean mundane.  Reflecting on my scars can be an exercise in worship, because it’s a reminder that God brought me through some difficult times.  Elevation Worship wrote a song a few years ago that deeply affected me the first time I heard it.  Here are some of the lyrics:

Thank You for the scars I bear
They declare that You are my healer
How could I have seen your strength
If You never showed me my weakness?

I was able to see God’s strength in that season of my life because I was brought to weakness.  Seeing my scars allows me to remember that.

Beyond practicality, I reflect on that season of my life so that it’s not wasted.  I want that season to be one of many things God uses to shape and mold me into who He created me to be.  That won’t happen unless I reflect on it.

Reflecting and Remembering.

I think they’re essential ingredients to the Christian life.  All throughout the Old Testament we see the practice of remembering.  The Psalmist will remember the good deeds of the Lord and it will give him strength.  The Israelites will fail to remember God’s provision and it causes them gripe, complain and eventually turn away to false gods.

This is one of the reasons I journal.  It’s a built-in way for me to reflect and remember.  I recount the ways God has been faithful to me in the past, and that practice gives me strength to trust Him in the future.

Reflecting is different than dwelling.  Dwelling on something in the past isn’t always a good thing.  Reflecting on it sets the expectation that things will change because of it.

So today, 3 years after my diagnosis day, I reflect…expecting that my life, way of thinking and behavior is different because of what happened that day.

You can read more about my journey here, here…and here.