Friday, December 21, 2007

I want a Tiger Cub for Christmas

I have just finished reading Freakonomics. An stimulating and thoughful read by an Economy professor from University of Chicago. There is a part of this book that is fairly controversial that I want to share and then share my thoughts on it.
Freakonomics page 4
In 1995 the criminologist James Fox wrote a report for the U.S. attorney general that grimley detailed the coming spike in murders by teenagers. Fox proposed optimistic and pessimistic scenerios.In the optimistic scenerio, the rate of teen homocides would rise another 15% over the next decade. In the pessimistic scenerio it would double.
Other criminologists,political scientists, and similarly learned forcasters laid out the same horrible future as did president Clinton.
And then instead of going up and up and up, crime began to fall, fall, and fall some more. The crime rate drop was startling in several respects. It was ubiquitous, with every category of crime falling in every part of the country.
The magnitude of the reversal was astounding. The teenage murder rate instead of rising 100% or even 15% as James Fox had warned, fell more than 50% within 5 years. By 2000 the overall murder rate in the U.S. dropped to it's lowest level in 35 years.
Pg 6 Freakonomics
It wasn't gun control, a strong economy or new police strategies that finally blunted the crime wave. It was among other factors, the reality that the pool of potential criminals had drasctically shrunk.
How you may you ask?
The decision of Roe V Wade or the legalization of Abortion.
As far as crime is concerned, it turns out that not all children are born equal, not even close. Decades of studies have shown that a child born into an adverse family enviorment is far more likely than other children to become a criminal. And the millions of women most likely to have an abortion in the wake of Roe V. Wade- poor unmarried and teenage mothers for whom illegal abortions had been too expensive or too hard to get were often model's of adversity.
They were the very women whose children if born, would have been much more likely than average to become criminals. But because of Roe V Wade these children were not being born. This powerful cause would have a drastic distant effect years later, just as these unborn children would have entered their criminal primes, the rate of crime began to plummet.
The author later compares the millions of aborted babies to the crime that is prevented and those of us who are pro-life would find the scales do not equal out.
No, reading this did not change my mind about being pro-life, but what it did make me think about is all of us who are pro life who do very little after the baby is born.
It is like the proverbial little girl who wants a tiger cub from her parents for Christmas. It is a great present until the cub grows into a full grown Tiger and they have no idea of how to control it.
There are many questions that have went through my head after reading this. Is the church prepared to help 1.7 million at risk children? The majority of the children do not come from ideal home situations.
If we were to talk a young teenage mom out of abortion and she decided to keep the baby. Would we critize her parenting techniques? Would we critize her if she became a stripper or on welfare to support the baby? And what if the baby because of the circumstances did turn out to be a criminal would we visit them in jail?
Our job is no where near done when a person decides against abortions. The fight has just started and where are we when the battle rages?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Steriods and Baseball... my two cents

I wrote an article for about baseball and steriods. Enjoy:)
Are we shocked? Of course we are not suprised by the findings. If we look at the statistics of the average major leaguer in the 1990s to that of the average mlb player from the 1970's we would see a huge difference. We have been told that it is because of the tightness of the baseball, the use of the wood in the bats or the air in Colorado. Of course we could say the size of the players over the years. Maybe we should have thought something was amiss when Hans and Frans were regulars in our favorite teams clubhouse. What is the most suprising with the Mitchell report? In my mind it is the fact that more major leaguers were not named. The question is does it matter? Absolutely not. People are saying it does not matter. They are saying that by stepping up and buying tickets at record paces over the past few years. Last year attendence records were set yet again.
America likes this brand of baseball. We like seeing robo/humans play a game. The biggest part of baseball that attracts me along with many others is the numbers. It is exciting to think that you can view and be a part of history. I went out and bought tickets to see Bonds during his home run chase. People booing along with snapping pictures. It is taboo to like Bonds yet we love the history and legacy of what he is doing. We hate him yet we can't turn away.
Is this going to change baseball forever? Probably, but is baseball going to keep it's popularity? Absolutely. While we waited to see which players would be named in the Mitchell report, I had a conversation with a friend of mine. We discussed which player would suprise us if they were named in the report. One name would have suprised me. Derek Jeter, and I am a Red Sox fan. Derek Jeter is the one player who I have respect for as a person and one superstar whose body doesn't look part Terminator. I don't care what these players are like as people. I don't care what Curt Schilling's advice on American policy is. I am not going to listen if they told me they didn't do steriods or HGH. I think we should treat them as they should be treated. They are millioniares who have compromised their own lives for the money. Which players do we want on our favorite teams because of their intelligence? I can't think of one. As the Red Sox try and get Johan Santana am I thinking I hope he is a person of integrity or he supports my political views? I could care less. The Sox should get him because he would help them repeat as champions.
In conclusion are we shocked when 20 somethings are enticed to help their job by taking a drug? I don't think many of us have the integrity to turn down a wonder drug that would help us make millions. Baseball will live on, we just have to remember that that robo-humans that play the game have given up alot for our entertainment

Saturday, December 1, 2007

No innocent bystander

I am convinced that the main people that we show mercy, help or feel sorrow for are the people in our view who are innocent. It is hard to have mercy or help those that we think that deserve their status in life, whether that be prison, homeless, have some STD etc. If we can convince ourselves this person deserves our help than we help them, but if they are in their prediciment by their own doing so long.
Case in point if we come upon a homeless person what is the first thought? I am not going to give them money because they are going to spend it on booze or drugs. We are justifying it in our minds that they do not deserve mercy. I am not saying that they wont spend it on booze because there is the chance.
Why are we more likely to send money to a mission organization who supports poor African children? We think they deserve it, they didn't do anything to deserve their situation. This may be partially true, but is this really the thought process that God wants his people to have when dolling out mercy and grace.
Does our charity need to have anything to do with who we think are worthy or not? I just finished reading two books: one on self justification (it was along the lines of blink and the tipping point) and the other on two guys who decided to become homeless for 5 months to see how life was like on the streets.
Human nature is strange, in the self justification book (I cant remember the name of it) there is a whole chapter on the criminal justice system and many examples of the ends justifying the means. Such as a police officer raids a house and the people flush the drugs down the toilet, in order to still arrest them they drop some planted drugs in the house in order to arrest the people. In their minds it justifies putting them in jail because obviously they were guilty. This book went on to share stories and stats about how when a police officer will change his tactics if he/she believes one is guilty, and if the officer believes the defendent is guilty every piece of evidence will be held in that light.
This is the way we live, if we believe something and some piece of evidence is brought up to refute this, we tend to refute the evidence rather than change our views. We have all done it, we have stubornly stood up for faulty thinking even in the light of new evidence, we don't want to admit we are wrong.
Now putting that into the context of our thinking of the poor and needy lets try for a second to use the example of Jesus. Does he at any point try and justify his giving to the deserving? Does he try and justify why he helped some and not others? Self justification in my mind is not a trait of Jesus. When we self justify is it to convince others or our self?
In the other book I read it the two men on their journey through America being homeless. They were the most suprised at their being treated by the church. They were looked down upon and told not to come to certain functions because of their apperance. It is hard to have for many of us to have compassion on the homeless because we have been told that these people don't deserve our compassion and sympathy.
Let's face it none of us are innocent bystanders, I am glad Jesus didn't just die for those He thought deserved it.

Monday, November 26, 2007

I wish my ball was still red

I remember as a kid we would buy red balls that were some sort of strange material and even though they were not that much fun for us to play with the dog loved them. For whatever reason the dog thought they were very tasty and we would find these balls months later hidden under couches, in the basement or any other place the dog thought would be safe. After the dog was done these balls would have little assemblance to the ball we had originally bought. There was little if any red left on them, they had huge holes, bite marks, and drool all over them.
I think the Samaritan women who Jesus talked to at the well might have felt like the bouncy ball the dog had chewed up. I wasn't there so I can't say for certain but she seems like the type of women who had made some questionable decisions, it may have been her fault that she had been married numerous times and was living with a man who was not her husband. When Jesus said I came to give life and life to its fullest, was he talking about a life with freedom to be involved in this type of lifestyle? I don't know I have never lived or slept with anyone other than my wife but I would think the Samaritan's women life had to have been pretty rough. If that society was like ours I am sure "the good people" gossiped about her, some of the men tried to get their way with her because she was "easy' and I am sure her self worth was shot.
After Jesus gives her the freeing words of His message what happens? Does her life miracously change? We never hear another word about her. I don't think she is the point in the application of this story, how many women do we know in this similiar situation? How many women wish there proverbial ball was still red? How many wish they still had a whole life but because of situations beyond their control they are down and out? I was visiting my family in Vermont and I saw my sister. My sister does not want much to do with my family, God, or any of the such. It makes giving a lecture pretty pointless. I am at a loss at what to do other than love her through her situation. I don't know if she will make it out. I hope and pray she will but it looks bleak. This story of the Good Samaritan gives me hope for people like my sister.
On my 13 hour trip home from Vermont (while my kids were watching every possible disney movie) I was thinking of my sister and women like her. I was thinking later on in life, after a lengthy conversation with my wife. I was thinking it would be a worthwhile thing if I became employed as a security guard at a strip club. Why may you ask? Let's think about the scenerio of a strip club it is full of women who feel pretty lousy about themselves who are using the desires of men to pay for food on their tables for their kids. I don't think many women become strippers because it is an appealing profession. It is very easy to judge these women and condemn them but lets think what we as a Christian community are providing as alternatives. I hate what my sister has become, I hate that the Samaritan women was so despised but what do I do about it? Of course I am not going to go work in a strip club but it doesn't mean that these women are worthless.

Monday, November 5, 2007

The final outcome

I am always thinking and concerned about what my final outcome will be. As I think about what this new venture in Goshen will be I don't know what the final outcome will be. I think about when I was 25 and just starting at real life, the responsibility the prestege of working in a church of the size and the youth group. I was excited to think after Real Life what opportunities would open up after that. Now seven years later I look back and think what happened. I am now starting over. I have no idea how to measure success in a church setting. If I was to measure it financially I was making $10 an hour at the group home I was working at. In this new venture I am making just over half what I was making at Real Life. But, I can't look at what I am doing in terms of finance. I can't look at St Marks in terms of numbers either. I am inheriting a youth group of about 10% the size of Real Life. It is hard from a logical perspective of what has happened. This makes no sense at all from a human perspective.
I don't have an agenda of where my life is going to go. I really don't have a goal of what I want to accomplish at St Marks, I don't have all of these concerns of where this job is going to take me.
I am more concerned with the person I am and who I become rather than what goals and accolaids I get. Do I want to be successful? Absolutely, but the outcome I am looking for is just different now as oppossed to when I was 25. Sometimes rather many times when following God it doesn't make much sense and God's definition of success is something that we can only scratch our heads at. At least God hasn't asked me to build an ark (see noah), marry a prostitute (see Hosea), or any other number of things He asked people in the Bible to do.

Monday, October 29, 2007

So, The Red Sox won the world series

Ho hum, this is becoming a habit winning, you would think the Sox have become the Yankees. Oh wait any child in kindergarten and younger have lived on this earth without ever knowing the Yankees as world champions.
I wrote the day after opening day that this was not going to be the Red Sox year. I thought there offense was old and past their prime. I was wrong.
I am glad this series did not go 7 games, the lack of sleep is starting to get to me.
In 2004 I was able to see the Sox play in one spring training game and 3 regular season games, including being in Boston to see Schilling win his 20th game.
2007 I was able to go to 2 spring training games, 1 regular season game, and the last loss they had for the year in Cleveland.
I am a proud member of Red Sox nation.

Monday, October 22, 2007


I have changed the comments to let anyone who wishes can leave a comment and not just registered users.

Happiness comes in all shapes and sizes

One of my biggest growth projects for my life over the last few years is to find peace in quietness, in the small moments of life, and spending time with family and friends. I tend not to live a peaceful existance, I tend to be busy, waste money on things/experiences that will bring me peace and not spend time in the quiet.
Ok, Last night my happiness came in the loudness of the culture of American sports. As much as I want to stay away from consumerism and all the junk that goes along with the sports business, I can't quit the Red Sox. Last night was beautiful. There is beauty in baseball. :) (I did tell one of the kids I work with at Christian Haven that there is no hugging on a football field but I think there can be exceptions on the baseball field). Unfortunately the Red Sox have begun to shed some of the loveable loser mentality. When I was in Cleveland the fans were razing us about trying to buy a championship team. The Red Sox are becoming a different team than when I was growing up. If it gets too bad I may become a Royals fan. Until then I am going to savor this day and all the days until they destroy the Rockies.
In our decision to move to Goshen, Jill and I want to take a step back in life. Not, that Valparaiso is the fastest paced place in the world. We (ok more me) want to buy an old farm house in the middle of the country by Goshen. We have talked a lot about adopting one more little rascal if not more. I wasn't thrilled with it at first but then I started thinking of the reasons I didn't want to and all of them were selfish reasons. It is going to be a work for me but I want to be able to find peace and happiness in living in the country spending more time with family and friends and not trying to fill up my life with busyness, stuff, and food.
When this transpires you are all invited to spend time with our clan. :) I believe that there is much ministry that God has called me to do, but more than that I believe He has called me to teach and live out a more peaceful less busy life for myself and my kids.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


I wanted to keep you all updated on my process and status with youth for christ fundraising and what was going to happen next. In two months I raised 2% of the funds I would need. I have been working 3-11 tuesday-saturday at a theraputic treatment centerfor children and teens. I have actually enjoyed the work but 3-11 is a horrible shift to work especially with kids in school. I knew this wasn't goingto be a long term solution so I have been able to deal with it. With only 2% of the money, I had a couple of different choices, I could send out another letter, I could work 1/4 time and hope money would come along with my 3-11 job or I could see this as maybe a door closing. I chose that this is a sign the door was closing. I didn't want to live in limbo any longer than I had too, this scenerio is fairly tough on the family and It wasn't my desire to work like this for the next year.We have had numerous opportunities come up in the past two months and one really made sense. So we are moving to Goshen, and i am going to be working in an inner city type church that is strongly missions/outreach/church planting minded. I am going to be a youth pastor there.There is a couple of other reasons that Goshen made sense to us, my parents bought a house in Goshen about 6 months a go, and my brother and family lives about 20 minutesfrom there. My wife also can get a job being a dental hygienist in the office she worked at 8 years ago when we lived in Ligonier. We have a peace about this decision, we still need to sell our house and at this point of the year it is going to take a miracle. We believe God has opened this door and we believeHe is going to work out that part also.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Tuesday night can not come soon enough.

I do dumb things fairly frequently. It is tough for me not to be spontanous, my personality profile likens me to a dog who is into everything always curious. With that said I bought Red Sox playoff tickets for Tuesday night in Cleveland. In one of the many deals I have made with my wife, I made a deal to go to a Red Sox playoff game this year if it wasn't "too" expensive and I didn't have to a week off of work. Both of those feel into place for next tuesday night. Along with my myself I convinced my brother (not to hard) and two of my softball buddies to go.
I am sure I will write about my experiences after Tuesday, also next week I will be making an announcement on my future and it does involve sled dogs, the artic circle, and an igloo.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

What is the real problem?

As a youth pastor I spent so much time dealing with teen behavior. Most talks Youth pastors give are about behaviors, they are about sex, not doing drugs and staying away from alcohol. Behaviors have to be dealt with or else utter chaos occurs. Where do these behaviors come from? How can they be dealt with in a way that really creates change? If we as the Christian community are being effective in the way we deal with problems then why is the world or more importantly America declining in "Christian morals"? In my mind in just dealing with behaviors we are never getting to the root cause of the problem. By the time it has become a behavior it has gotten past being just a thought, it has traveled through the process of a feeling that has now been acted upon.
Why do any of us pick unhealthy habits? Example: smoking, porn, unhealthy relationships, abuse of alcohol, or even biting our finger nails? Is it a coping skill that we have used in order to make us feel better on the inside? I am pretty sure most of us don't pick up destructive habits on purpose. We don't one day say my life is good but I would rather be an addict. In my mind these behaviors are just an outpouring of the emotions that are going on in the inside. When some one hurts us what do we do? This action we do to deal with this feeling is a coping skill and it can become a cycle in dealing with pain, hurt, or even anger. We may subconsiously do these because this is a habit we picked up many years ago, or we not know a better coping skill than what we currently do. We may think that when we get angry at least I didn't punch some one instead I drank 17 beers and I am not driving anywhere. Ok in some ways that may be a more positive coping skill but there are still going to be negative effects from that coping skill.
As I have thought about Christianity and behaviors I think that we need to continue to extend grace to people. If we want people to deal with things in a more healthy way we have to teach them. We also have to realize that we have coping skills of our own that are not 100% healthy. Next time you feel stressed see what the first thing you do is? It may not be alcohol, it may not be going and getting a gun, but does your dog have broken ribs?

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Who makes a good youth worker?

I was in training for working with at risk kids a couple weeks ago. The trainer was experienced in both church youth work and thereputic systems. This training was some of the best that I had in working with teens. Throughout the two week training we had some dialogues about different aspects of teens. One of the questions I asked him was who makes a good youth worker? It was a question I had asked myself many times while being in church ministry. When I asked the question the trainer smiled and wrote this on the white board: selfless and selfish. He went on to explain in his experience and knowledge about teens there are two types of people in this world selfish people - who only think about themselves, and selfless people- those who think about others. He said that anyone who has some degree of selflessness makes good youth workers. I was thinking youth workers needed some sort of skill and some natural bend toward teens, but in reality it is true. Anyone who is willing to give of their time, listen, comfort, and genuinely care can make good youth workers. The most important thing that I learned through this training is that the number 1 skill when working with at risk kids is myself. I can learn programs, I can learn descalating techniques, and I also learned restraints, but when it comes down to it either I can be selfish or selfless. The one that I choose is going to determine if I am successful in working with teens. Of course when choosing a mate, friend, a new place to work, employee etc it is good advice to also pick the one who is selfless.

Monday, October 1, 2007

The Ideal Person- Lessons learned from commercials

Commercials on tv are trying to sell us some sort of product, car, food, toy, etc. I don't know if any of us consciously buy because of these but it may influence it to look twice at a product. I have become more interested in the type of people who are trying to sell us these products. If these items we are to buy is the american dream then the type of people represented in the commercials are the ideal Americans.
What are the characteristics of the people in commercials? In the brief stetches what type of attributes are being shown and encouraged for us to be like? I first starting watching the business related commericials this way. There are certain ways that I think about business and sales people, and most of them are not positive. Words that come to mind are egotistical, liars, hard nosed, only out for number one to name a few. In commercials these characteristics are not encouraged if someone is this way, they are the "villians" of the commercial. The people who win in business commercials are people with a smile, who talk so the customer can understand, and seem to genuinely want what is best for customer.
To cars, sports, and beer commercials. These commercials are geared to help with the experience. Car commercials are never about the vehicle itself, it is about where you can go and the experience you can have with it. In these commericials the "hero" most of the time seems to have a relaxed attitude. We can only assume the experiences he/she is having in the vehicle are after a long day at work or when they go on vacation. This is helping to relieve their stress. We can see the same with beer and sports related commercials. These products are going to enhance their times of relaxation. The "hero" of the commericials are usually someone we would want to be like in their interaction with others and their care free attitude. Of course there are the commericials that only there to make us laugh but usually we feel sorry for the "hero" because they are a loveable fellow.
After watching quite a few commercials I have found that Americans still value the fruits of the spirit shown through people's lives. The majority of the "heros"depicted in commericials are loving,joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, long suffering, and self controled. Along with these attributes, I think there also is a general sense that the ten commandments are important. Beyond the fact that commercials don't encourage, stealing, murder, adultry (whether it be married or not monogomous relationships are the norm),or bearing false witness against your brother. They do encourage rest where I think the sabbath plays a part in that. The use of the Lord's name in vein is not used, and for the most part when families are depicted the children are respectful. The one that in my mind can be debatable is the lusting after someones stuff. I can see both sides of that played out in commercials.
Again this is just my short observation and I may be wrong, but I honestly think that consciously or subconsciously advertisers still see that Americans do want to be the types of people that the Bible tells us to be. Anyone elses observations are welcome.

Thursday, September 27, 2007


Last night at my work in the group home, there had been some kids who had extremely bad days/weeks. When I arrived for my 3-11 shift the kids were on their version of lockdown. They call it "room reflection." They are only allowed out of their rooms for meals and school. They had been pretty difficult to deal with over the weekend (or so I hear). There is one certain child about 10 who really pushes the buttons of the staff. I have seen him in his glory and he is pretty difficult. Yesterday he was having one of his bad days. He was cussing, running around, and not doing what he was told. Driving everyone nuts. So I was watching the hallway to make sure the kids were not doing anything that would hurt themselves and others. And this one certain kid that was acting so bad started singing softly to himself. I couldn't tell what he was singing at first but then I realized he was singing amazing grace. I don't think anyone else heard it, but it took me aback and put this kids life into perspective. Here he is being an absolute pain in the butt but yet there is something there that I can relate to in my relationship with God.
Lets just assume for a second that all of us have guardian angels. Can you imagine the reports they would give to God each day on our attitude or our actions? God might turn to them and smile and say I know they are a pain in the butt, they do dumb things but they still are my kid. I almost started crying when I heard this kid singing amazing grace. He had no idea the theological implications for singing this song, but grace is for him even though he drives me more crazy than certain middle schoolers at real life.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Consumer fly wheel

This past weekend I have been reading "Serve God Save the planet" by J. Sleeth. If you are in the mood to be convicted about your lifestyle than read it, if not stay far away.
How did my life style and thinking on what was appriopriate consumerism thinking evolve? In comparing myself to the American dream I would say we are ok. Not to much of an extravagent lifestyle, no credit card debt. Nothing that gives a huge warning sign. Yet subtly there are so many ways that my lifestyle can improve to help both my consumerism and the enviorment.
There were some aspects of Sleeth's book that got me thinking. One was if every household in America changed their top five most used light bulbs to compact flourescent lightbulbs the country could take twenty one coal fired power plants off line tomorrow. This would keep one trillon pounds of posionous gases and soot out of the air we breath. Another thought from the book was how much stuff in my house do I have or even need? His presuppisition is that the reasons Americans have such big houses is to store unneeded stuff. Bigger houses=More energy spent= More pollution in the air= more cancer and other air breathing diseases.
I haven't thought much about enviormental issues, but I am beggining to realize that the way I treat consumerism, the enviorment, and what kind of world I want to leave to my kids and grandkids is a direct result of my faith. It starts with consumerism, the more we want the more unhealthy we become.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Bringing heaven to earth

It is so easy for me to lose focus. Plans, ideas, and days start off with great intentions and then all of sudden I am sidetracked and worrying about something totally unimportant.
Update on my current youth for christ situation. Fundraising has not went well, if I was to try and live on what I have brought in I would be making pennies an hour. So I have been discouraged by that and not from people, because ultimately if this is what I am suppose to do God is going to provide. Knowing that this was going to be a long process I am working at a group home with troubled kids. The schedule right now is 3-11 tuesday-saturday. It is a lot tougher schedule than I originally thought. With Kyle in school this morning is the first time I saw him since monday. So I haven't been in the greatest of moods.
So with all that said my current frame of mind has sucked to say the least. I went to a meeting yesterday and I was in an awful mood. It was with one of my former co workers at Real Life. After sitting there for an hour I began to remember and realize why I am where am. It wasn't negative thoughts it was remembering the idealism of "bringing heaven to earth." How and where I make money is irrevalent (unless of course it is immoral or illegal). The point is that if I am going to follow Jesus and He is my role model than I need to be like Him. One of the most important aspects of His life was healing broken people and inspiring people not to live for themselves.
Although I have seen people physically healed, I have seen so many more people who are broken on the inside. Seeing a teenager who has special needs and doesn't know who his parents are because they dropped him off when he was a baby, that is someone who needs healing. He needs to have heaven brought to earth for him.
It is easy to get sidetracked in the Christian faith. We can get so caught up in going to classes, church services, and missing out on having the opportunity to be able to bring heaven to broken people.
Many times I get so caught up in details I miss the big picture.

Monday, September 3, 2007

A weekend of camping gone bad

Labor day weekend is the annual family camping trip to Plymouth's Yogi Bear camp ground, it is a celebration of Kyle's and my sister in laws birthday. Camping isn't bad once a year, it is always interesting meeting people at camp grounds. Like the guy who was talking to me and this other sports fan. He was concerned about the Bears new tight end who pulled his ACLU.
Camping was going as well as camping goes until this morning. The pop up camper was put away and we had hooked up the car, gathered all the kids and other camping junk into the car when I noticed Kyle had bug bites all over him. His face began swelling as we drove down the road. Our plan was to stop at the nearest store and get benadryl. A few miles later Kyle tried to ask for a drink, his voice sounded weird so Jill turned around and realized he was having an allergic reaction and his throat was swelling. My father in law was following us and we stopped and Jill and Kyle jumped into their car to rush him to the hospital. His throat kept swelling shut and they had to call 911 and an ambulance had to meet them on the road. They reached the ambulance before he went unconsious but was in pretty bad shape. He recived an epi shot, benadryl, and a steriod to fight off the allergic reaction. He was in the hospital in the large town of Knox for a couple of hours and was released.
I hate the feeling of not having control when it comes to my kids. This has been about the third time already in Kyle's life where he has had "life threatening" type situation come up. I feel like an emotional wreck now. It definately puts life in perspective when these type of situations come up. As I was driving behind Jill thinking about how I always complain about camping I realize how little that matters when it comes to life or death with my kids.
It is also through these moments that having a faith in something much bigger than myself also helps quite a bit. (understatement). I am still trying to learn about not having control in these situations but man it is hard and I have very little fingernails.(I have chewed them off).

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

The little moments of life

I shouldn't worry. As my wife Jill says "your life isn't that bad." It isn't bad, my life is fairly relaxing. The things I worry about are minor in the big scheme of the time and the universe. Yet even with all that said I still worry on a regular basis. I have been a worrier for most of my life. I developed this habit a young age and have perfected it over the years. I worry about the future quite a bit. I think I have worried so much about the future that I have missed many present moments. I don't think any of my worries have come to fruition. My worrying also has not affected the outcome of any event. Yet I still find myself worrying.
I have been present in my kids lives but my mind has been other places many times. Present in body missing in mind, that is how I would describe much of my life. I missed many moments while a youth pastor because of my worrying. On youth trips (which are great for everyone but the youth pastor) I would spend much of my thought time thinking of every worse case scenerio. (Granted a lot of those instants happen with teenagers). I enjoyed many moments after the time but missed out on the present.
It is a daily struggle to keep myself from worrying. My kids help me quite a bit, they keep me from worrying about my insignificant problems. My son Ayden keeps me laughing daily. The other morning he is sitting in my room and I was folding laudry (yes men can fold laundry). There was a tank top that we had picked up at sea world (one that is over priced and has an iron on on it). It had the manatee iron on. I asked Ayden what it was. He was thinking and he has a stuttering problem and so he says "sham, sham, shampoo." I am thinking what is he talking about, then I realized he was refering to the whale at sea world.
About a month ago I am laying in bed not wanting to get up. Ayden comes in the room with a "i just ate lemons" look. He tells me "I don't like ucky donuts." I realize that we don't have donuts. I am thinking what was he eating. I go into the kitchen to see the leftovers from red robin the night before. Ayden had gotten into the to go box and had eaten onion rings.
These are the type of moments I don't want to miss because of worry. I am working on it.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

My first real baseball game

Last night was suppose to be the big night and it was a really cool experience until the rain came in hard from left field. There was an announcer, and all the teams were on the field and then the rain came and we were canceled.
So today (fathers day) was my first official game. My arm felt like crap from the beginning. I think I can pitch 4 innings every two weeks. I struck out 3 in 3 plus innings, 4 hits, 2 earned runs (2 more runs were scored with the help of 4 errors) and I gave up a hr, and hit a batter. It was semi pleased with the outing.
My hitting was a different story. I doubled in my first ab, and drove in 2. I singled and scored a run in my second ab. When I was taken out of the game in the 4th we were up 6-4. When I came up for the third time it was tied in the bottom of the 8th. Runners were on first and second with no body out. I was figuring I would get a hit and win the game. Well the coach had other thoughts, he comes up to me right before my at bat and says bunt. In all my years of baseball I have never bunted in a game. I was shocked and look at him a second time, he gives me the you had better bunt look. I just start laughing. So I bunted and with my blazing speed I beat out the bunt. (So I ended going 3-3.) The next batter hit a ball between first and second and we won the game.
The coach gives game balls out after every win and I got my first game ball ever in baseball. I get to pitch again in two weeks.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

My first high school coaching experience

A couple of months ago I wrote how I had volunteered to assist with coaching a high school baseball team. I am now assisting with their summer schedule. Last night the head coach was busy so he asked me to fully coach the team. Of course the game he asked me to coach was against the team that just lost in Semi-State and was extremely good. The good news is we won 3-0 and I am now 1-0 as a coach. :) The game didn't go off without it's interesting moments. Of course there was a practical joker on the team I was coaching who decided to see what I was made of. He tried to run onto the field and play third with hospital goggles on. Then there was our pitcher who didn't enjoy the mound and was trying to loosen up the dirt and kicked some of the dirt/clay into the grass and the coach on the other team started yelling at him. The best part was of course when we scored our first run of the game. One of the slower players was on first base and I thought I was giving the bunt signal to the hitter of course it was the steal sign and the kid started running to second and would have been out by ten feet except it was a horrible throw and it landed in center field. he later scored home on a double steal. Beginners dumb luck.
I get to pitch in my first game this Saturday night against the league champion from last year. I have started to gel with my all spanish team. They decided since I was the only one not of spanish decent to give me a nickname- paco. If anyone would be interested in seeing our first game it is saturday night 7 pm at the Highland Babe Ruth field. (94 west to Kennedy ave, kennedy south to the bowling alley take a left, at the first stop sign take a left and the field is behind the softball fields). If nothing else I got a pretty sweet jersey out of the deal. I am the starting pitcher so get there early it could be a short night.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Long live the amish

I want to share about my kids and about a crazy Prison experience
My Kids-
My kids crack me up on a regular basis. This week my kids were waiting for Jill to come home and they were getting antsy. I was just messing with them so I asked "What does mommy look like? Maybe she is already here." Ellyse (my daughter) looks at me and says "Mommy looks like us except with Annie hair." (She is a big fan of the Annie movie)
The other night after being in bed for about an hour Ayden (my youngest son) comes down stairs sleepily and asks "Is it morning yet?"
How can one not have humor when you have kids in your life.

My strange/bizzare prison experience-
I had an opportunity to help in Prison this week with a group called Christmas behind bars and their ministry was to give inmates food and gifts. The group who I helped out with was a very diverse group. Amoung the group was some sort of televangelist, his television crew, and disciples. Then there was also an Amish group. The goal as I understood them were the was to give the inmates these gifts in the shortest amount of time possible. They were told they were not to preach at them or spend time in long indepth conversations because of time constraints. The first cell house we go in the televangelist gets at the bottom of the tiers and starts preaching, ranting, and raving. His television crew was there to video tape his every word and step. While he was doing his self promotion. The amish were carrying large bags of food up the tiers of prisoners in 90 degree heat. It was just a strange situation passing out food in a max security prison with a bunch of amish.
There were a couple of other moments that really stuck in my mind from that day: One was- the televangelist was walking through the prison and the television crew was riding in laundry carts with a foam/fluffy microphone over his head and his followers were affirming his every word as he was ranting about all the problems with society. Seeing the way he totally disrespected the whole prison system, the guards, and the chaplains really rubbed me the wrong way.
The there was the amish who didn't say much but were willing to do whatever it took to make sure the job was done. They were a joy to work with and watch work. We were pushing laundry carts full of food to one of the cell houses and I was pushing one cart and this amish chap named Jonny was pushing another. I realized half way to the destination that he was racing me. So of course I tried speeding up. (What chance does a middle age fat man have against anyone who is of the amish work ethic). After Jonny passed me he looks over and says "that is what I call road rage." I never thought I would ever hear an Amish use the word road rage.
It will be interesting to see what kind of impact this group had on both the prisoners and the prison system (guards, administration etc.) I was impacted by both the televangelist and the amish, and there was one that I would love to be like and there was one that totally disgusted me.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Back to prison

I went back to prison yesterday for the first time since I finished my purpose driven life class. I was able to go into the cell house and see where all the guys from my class lived. The cell house was a dorm type setting but it looked a lot different than I would have thought. Each of the men's cubes resembled a restraunt booth. With the middle being a bed. There are a couple of opportunities that I am going to be able to do. The first is on June 7th I am going to be able to go through the prison with a mennonite group and help distribute food to each prisoner. Then, later this summer I am starting a mentoring small group with 6 inmates. This mentoring group is an experiment, they know at this point they aren't going to have enough mentors for each inmate but they are going to try three small groups of mentoring.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Weekly Update

Random Weekly thoughts
An Update from my previous blog. When visiting the doctor last week, his advice was to have Kyle start taking deflasicort. (sp). The problem this steriod isn't fda approved. The doctors words were if this was my son this is the treatment I would give him. It is available in Canada. If I am arrested for trafficing drugs it will be for my son.
Last week I was having one of those random conversations with God. Ok it was more of my attempted deal making. Then I realized it is hard to bargin with God. Honestly, I have nothing to work with. It isn't like I have or can do anything He really needs. I am such a control freak that I hate the fact that I am going along for this ride and have no idea where I am going. What I would really love is an answer to the question of what do you do? All the answers I come up with are really lame.
At least my pitching experience was better. It is official I am the only white fellow on my team. I was told at the last preseason game that I am going to start our first teams game. Which is Saturday night June 16th (unsure if that is the date, I just know it is saturday night before fathers day). I struck out 2 last sunday and no one hit the ball out of the infield.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Tomorrow is decision day

Tomorrow a decision has to come about something that I have dreading for the past 4 years. Kyle has a doctors appointment in Chicago, he has one every 6 months to a year to see how his muscular dystrophy is progressing. We will have to make a decision tomorrow if we are going to start steriod treatment. The reason we would want to start steriods is to keep the remaining muscles he has strong. We have started to see some strength deteroriation with Kyle over the past months. He has fallen more and he doesn't quite have the strength at the end of the day. Best case scenerio is the steriods help for about 6 years. The problem is there are many side effects that aren't to great. The is weight gain, mood changes, and many other possible problems with all sorts of other things.
This is one of the days that I have been dreading since he was diagnosed with md.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

A couple of months ago I visited one of my college friends who is a pastor. He told me this inspiring story of some women from his church. Their ultimate goal is to become missionaries. There problem was from getting where they are today to the goal of going oversees. A long story short they started making leather bound journals from materials dumpster diving and various other places. These journals caught on and they started selling quite a few and having people in businesses sell for them.
When I was visiting my pastor friend in January this business had decided that they were eventually going to go oversees and teach women to make these journals and help both them and their families out.
The reason I want to support these people is because they feel they have a calling in their lives to be missionaires and they are not going to be discouraged because of money, lack of family support or anything else. Most of us want to make a difference but we give up somewhere before the finish line.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

last prison class

Tonight was it, it was the culmination of my first maximum security prison class. I had them write a testimony paper for their final which I collected tonight. I have been reading them over the past hour and am speechless. The stories that have come pouring out these men are amazing. Many times when we think of miracles we think of physical healings, but we miss the miracle of changed lives. I was having an interesting conversation with one of my pupils tonight, there is still a great need for mentors in this setting. This pupil was telling me about one of the inmates who was in his words a "physco murderer" and how one day he came into the chapel and laid down his shank on the alter and refuted his arian nation alliances (he was later beaten close to death for this) and gave his life to God. In the 27 years of time he has served he has never had a visitor. He is now a faithful man serving God who needs a mentor. :)This theme of changed lives was interwoven throughout the night and through the papers the pupils turned in to me. God uses all sorts of things to get our attention, He has used prison to get many of these mens attention.I was asked tonight numerous times if I was going to teach another class? I am not going to right away, I was asked by the chaplain if I would do some one day classes, which if I agree I will ask some of you to help me.There are so many different attitudes, lessons, and friends that I have taken away from this class,I have promised them that I am not going to forget them. I cant let my new friends and brothers in Christ just sit and rot away in prison.Ben

Monday, April 23, 2007

Monday Thoughts

It is easy to see bad customer service in businesses. The complaining usually follows and we tell all our friends about what jerks that business is. Sometimes the opposite is not true, if we have great service do we tell others about it? I had a great experience this week with the U-Haul on route 6 in south haven. I had to pick up 6,000 books in northern wisconsin and had a quote from another truck company. Judy from the south haven U-Haul is awesome. She matched the price but I would have paid a little more to use this branch of U-Haul. I have had experience with her before and she is great. She bends over backwards for her customers. if you need to rent a truck in this area use her. She is great.

The Red Sox swept the Yankees this weekend :) That always makes a weekend better.

Next time I buy a grill it will be the pre assembled floor model.

I was so happy how I had pitched last week in my old mans league. I was equally disappointed with this weeks outing. My arm is killing me.

Rice Lake Wisconsin is a long ways away. Thank you Micah for spending friday with me. (I drove to this little quaint town in northern wisc to pick up books).

Our worship service/gathering has a really good music leader. We will soon be doing our service weekly.

Back,back,back, back (ramirez,drew,lowell,varitek). The highlight of my weekend.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Missional Living

Last saturday night, there were a few of us who had a conversation with some retired missionaries from Indonesia. One of the first things the missionary said was it is much easier to be a missionary to the tribes in Indonesia then it is to North America. Him and his wife went on to explain their lives as missionaries and now as their lives; they live in Canada, and speak both there and at American churches.
Throughout this week I was thinking through the context living in America and what it would mean to live missional here. As I was thinking about the missionaries of Indonesia they shared how they brought in medicine to the tribes. Could you imagine if someone came here to America with something that physically change our lives? The medicine can change the way these tribes live their lives, it can save their children from diseases, and it can prolong their own lives by many years. I think this concept has to be brought to the people we want to share with in America. What these missionaries are doing is adding value to their culture. Before they can share their faith, they not only have to learn the language but they have to have some form of platform to speak on.I saw this in action yesterday.
I started volunteer coaching baseball at wheeler high school. Yesterday was my first day and before the coach introduced me and told about my illustrious college career :). I forgot to tell him about all the yahoos I played with. But nayways when these kids realized that I could them preform better in their baseball playing they all clamoured to talk to me. Now it was perception. Was I a college baseball star? Not in the least. But, there was a perception that since I had played college baseball that I would have something to offer them. Who knows how this can help in my sharing my faith and values with them. But, isn't that the point for us as Christians? If we live in our community and add value to people in our areas of expertise then what would life look like? If we took the church to them it might actually change the world that our kids are growing up in.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

ISP class 9

Last week I was in Florida so I missed my class. This week I had a good friend of mine from college go with me. This email is mostly from his thoughts and experience. I just want to share one quick story.When I got back from florida there was a story in the front page of our local newspaper about a teen I knew pretty well is charged with murder. I was shocked and worried for him, I want to communicate with him either through a visit or a letter. I am unsure of what exactly to say. I decided to ask one of the guys in my class about what was going through his mind and what he needed in that time of his life. His response saddened me, he said Ben you know what I remember most from that time I was locked up in the county jail before being sentenced? I shook my head because I was clueless. He said the thing I remember most is that my youth pastor never contacted me, never visited me, he pretty much disowned me. He went on to say that as I sat there thinking about my guilt, God, life etc I kept thinking about church/youth group and it was sad that the person I associated most with had abandoned me. It left me as something to think about.
Here are Lance's thought's on the night: if you would want to respond directly to him his email is
As we walked up to the Indiana State Prison, I found myself tensing up inside, hoping it wouldn't show on the outside. During my drive up earlier in the day, I asked God, "What am I doing here?" This was my first visit to a prison, let alone a maximum security prison. It was obvious Ben had gone through the routine before, as he seemed quite relaxed.
After going through several gates of security and flashing ID badges at a few checkpoints, we wove our way through the halls to a door leading outside, then across a short courtyard to a century old chapel that could probably hold around 400 people. As we entered, another class was taking place with about 50 inmates scattered around the room, so we took seats in the back. As we sat, Ben motioned to an inmate by name sitting several seats over. The huge smile that appeared made it clear that Andre was very glad to see Ben. A few moments later an inmate that looked like he just arrived in a time machine from 1970 walked up and started a lively one-sided discussion about a contradiction he had noticed in the chapters of the book. His argument was persuasive, and Ben just nodded and smiled. Dave went on to chat about how well he was doing in school, listing the grades for each class, beaming with excitement about his progress and the potential merit it could earn him to reduce his sentence.
The class in progress was wrapping up, and we got up to moved to the aisle. As we stood, several other inmates approached us, and Ben greeted them each by name, introduced me, and participated in light banter with each about various topics.
I struck up a conversation with Andre. He was a large man, probably would've been a linebacker or defensive end in high school, yet carried a very calm and quiet presence about himself. He looked to be 30ish, and began to tell me about his four children, all under the age of 10. Before I knew it, he had whipped out a stack of photos, and was proudly displaying them to me, rattling off their names and ages. He then showed me pictures of his wife, and was full of compliments for the way she was raising them while he was in "the joint." I felt so at ease talking with this man who most likely committed a horrific crime, and I almost forgot I was in a place that housed death row offenders. Andre went on to tell how he was came to know Jesus in 2004 (he quoted the date), and how his life before knowing Christ was full of one terrible choice after another. He said growing up in east Chicago was really tough, but God is faithful. We talked about the importance of praying for our kids, staying faithful to Christ, and the power of encouraging others. Then he quietly said something about having to be here for 60 years, as if it were going to be over soon. At that moment the weight of it all hit me....
I struggled with the fact that this man was human, and that he would be staring at the barbed wire surrounding the complex until my own toddler sons were grandparents someday. I struggled with the thought of Andre's children only knowing their father through plexiglass visits and timed phone calls. I wrestled with the idea that if I knew the man's actual crime, I might find myself thinking "And you only got 60 years as a penalty?"
Class began as Ben handed out the essay tests, and the inmates took 15 minutes to fill in their answers. As each came to turn in their papers, Ben introduced us. Each man looked me in the eye and shook hands.
Ben shared on the first two chapters of the night, covering the ideas of Accepting Your Assignment for Service and realizing that we're all Shaped for Serving God. He did a great job hitting the highlights of the chapters, engaging the students, and wrangling the tangential comments back on course. As he asked for feedback from the group, he called out each raised hand by name - this was very striking to me.
Then it was my turn to share from the final two chapters for the night. By this time, all my fears were gone as I felt as if I was speaking to a bunch of guys I could hang out with to watch a game this weekend or play a pickup game of hoops. I highlighted the author's chapters on Understanding Your Shape and then Using What God Gave You. Again, the group was very willing to participate in discussion and offer insight based on their unique experiences. It was an easy discussion to lead.
As time ran out on our class, the guys started to dismiss and several approached Ben and I to offer thanks for making the effort to be there. They seemed very genuine in their gratitude, and had I not been in a maximum security prison, I would've never realized I was rubbing shoulders with a population of men that the church - for the most part - has left to rot inside these thick concrete walls.
Ben and I left I.S.P. telling each other about the conversations we had with the men that night, and how apparent it was that once Christ enters a man's heart, no matter what evil that heart had done, that same heart can become new.
This was my first visit to a maximum security prison. It won't, by the grace of God, be my last.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

People I learn from


Many people like me want to change; the question is how we get the inspiration/motivation to do this. My inspiration comes many times from those around me.

I am going to share some of the different areas that I have been challenged recently in and some of the people who have inspired me.

In the area of money-

Recently I was in a small group and the issue of finances came up and we were all talking about our current status and talking about how money wasn’t that important. This one older wiser man in our group said well I want to make more money. I was shocked and was taken aback by this comment. He smiled and went on to explain that his goal in life was to be a reverse tither. I asked him what that meant he said I want to be able to live on 10% of my money and give 90% to God. Many Christians think the gold standard of giving is ten percent and once they accomplish that they are good for life. This friend of mine has taken a different stance and has inspired me to think about my finances. I have to ask the question how much money do I waste on myself and my selfish desires? To be absolutely honest most of it.

In the area of Spiritual Disciplines-

Who have I learned the most from in this area? None other than my new found friends in prison. These men are an inspiration to me in reading, studying, and memorizing the Bible. I feel that I have much to learn from these men in their dedication to God’s word. One gentleman I was talking to last night was talking about how he was reading through the Bible for his second time. I have read through the Bible once and it was for a class in college. One other man was sharing how he writes Bible verses down on note cards and memorizes them through out the day. Verses flow from these men’s mouths through out the class I teach. It is an inspiration and a desire to know God’s word front wards and backwards like these men do.

In the area of helping the poor-

I have had the opportunity to watch a 65 year old man who wears Mr Rogers sweaters love poor people. This man has dedicated his life to the poor and loving them. He pastor’s a church fittingly called the Love Church. He is one of my favorite pastors in the world. His enthusiasm and passion reminds me of the late Crocodile Hunter. This mans passion is contagious. He hasn’t guilted me into loving the poor, he has inspired me to love the poor. He has inspired me to bring many people to meet him and his wife.

Inspiration to change is much better for me than change because of guilt, obligation, or fear. There are so many more people that have inspired me and will continue to inspire me. Is it true that we become like the company we keep? I hope that some of these people that I try and surround myself with will rub off on me.

By the way if you want to be inspired this Saturday night a small group/church that I am a part of is having a missionary couple who was persecuted in Indonesia is going to come and talk with us. It is at a house but if you want directions let me know.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Florida Trip and it was a trip

There are very things in life I will say never again: Such as having ten drunken men in the middle of a city work on my broken down car. My list has added one item after my prolonged trip to Florida. Unless forced I will never drive 24 straight hours with my three children again. I love my children but having them sit in the car for that long is not pleasant. Anyone that has traveled with me knows I hate stopping for any reason. So with two children who need to use the bathroom more than once every six hours we brought along the potty chair. Some advice for anyone who might try that in the future bring along quite a bit of air fresheners it makes a car stink like an outhouse. On the way down to florida it took us 20 hours. I didn't go crazy so I thought the way back would be even better. After an hour driving and me thinking this is going to go by quick, we hit a traffic jam in Tampa. After three hours of sitting there and listening to the Little Mermaid, I think I can remember the movie line for line. Did you know that they call a fork a cadidlehopper? I didn't either until this traffic jam. After we got out of that we went for a ways and hit another traffic jam. It lasted that way until we got out of Georgia some 15 hours later. Needless to say it was one of the longest day/night/day of my life. After The Little Mermaid played through until it broke then there was the Lion King, Cars, Beauty and the Beast, and who knows what other torture they put on the dvd player.
I would recommend making this type of trip once in your life, we brought the mother in law with us but I think you could bring anyone in the family along. I don't know how a family pet would do in this type of setting but if you do try it tell me so I can decide if I want try that when my wife convinces me that we need to rent a rv and tour the country. Btw, I had suggested flying to alaska and going on a cruise for our ten year anniversary but she has vetoed that and wants to rent the affor mentioned rv and traveling the country. This is bound to be a summer to remember.