the view from our deck


going dark

from now until we return home from vacation on january 3rd, i will be enjoying a 10 day fast from my usual online diet in order to truly detach and create space for God to invade and refresh my soul. i've set up a somewhat regimented set of guidelines because i know how hard it is for me to really 'get away', and by posting these guidelines here, it should help.
1. no checking, skimming, scanning, peeking at, or reading email
2. no facebook or myspace
3. no twitter or blog posting
4. no visiting the church's website

i'm a pretty goal-oriented person, and while i want this vacation to be free from goals (and the subsequent guilt of missing those goals), i have a few jotted down to help guide SOME of my time:
1. lots of time in silence and contemplation
2. a couple mornings alone with God on the beach
3. reading lots of the new testament (not sure where yet...i'm feeling hungry for romans thru colossians)
4. journaling...totally and only when i feel like it
5. reading blue like jazz by donald miller, the be with factor by bo boshers & judson poling, and experiencing leadershift by don cousins (i have a tendancy to bring a whole library of books on vacation and read none of them, and this time i'm sticking to these three)
6. go golfing (there's a sweet course right next to the house we're staying at)

cya next year!

fun in snow

after reading this article this morning, i've been a little distracted from work and been thinking about snow... (ht to stephanie)


elf yourself

we made this video at elfyourself.com and showed it thursday night at ISM. fun stuff :)

twas the week before christmas...

...and i still have yet to START my shopping (well that's not actually true - we've done pretty much all for friends and extended family members) but i have yet to buy a single thing for shanna. i don't know why i procrastinate this so much...but it's where i'm at right now. christmas time is so busy and hectic...managing schedules is almost enough to drive a person crazy. but the news doesn't help either. i'm sure many have heard about the walmart employee that got killed by being trampled on his own store; also, just yesterday traffic was so backed up around eastview mall that people actually called 911 to come and help out...and the news had to remind us all that 911 is to be used for emergency purposes only. insane.
what's even more insane is how my own attitude flairs up when i'm driving more than any other time. just yesterday shanna and i were searching for a parking spot and i flipped out at about 15 people...good people...people i'm sure i would like and enjoy to be around...but i lost my cool and got a nice friendly "reminder" from shanna of a growth point in my life. :)

looking at the week ahead, shanna and i are heading to pittsburgh wednesday evening to be with the coiners for christmas - and we're super excited as this will be the first time we've actually spent christmas day with them since we've been married. looking forward to reconnecting and celebrating with them. then, we'll be heading off to the outer banks in north carolina for a full week of vacation and complete detachment from ministry (and snow). i can't wait to experience God's soul refueling during this christmas season.


Thankful Thursday

Wooeee... Today is our ISM Christmas Party and our music team is leading worship for the adults. Yay! I'm so excited. We'll also be playing eggnog bob, plus having a fruit cake eating contest... not to mention my fav - Rockin' around the Christmas Tree musical chairs-style.

Speaking of Christmas Trees - check out this site about weird and crazy Christmas Trees! Or this site about a Mountain Dew Christmas Tree!

I've been working on our Christmas cards... not sure if they'll get out in time, but I'm going to make a valiant effort. :) I personally think we should do New Year's cards but that isn't a very popular idea in the Hunneyman House - so Christmas Cards it is. A lot of my extended family writes newsletters, but since we have a blog where people can stay up-to-date a newsletter seems silly. SOoooo - we have a fun spin on a newsletter, hopefully going out with the cards (hopefully! definitely hoping!)

Anyways - down to the good stuff! What am I thankful for???
  1. Kleenex (I can't figure out how to correctly make this plural... kleenexes? kleenexs? what is that rule?) for my stinkin' nose! (I'm not even going to try to be thankful for my nose today!)
  2. Photoshop... you'll find out why when you open your Christmas Card. (I'm giving away too many hints, I know!)
  3. Snow... because it covers up all that is brown and dead and sad.
  4. Clean Cars and yankee candle Car Jars!
  5. Mail carriers - because they bring me awesome Christmas cards and pictures and fun packages filled with cinnamon bread and HUGE chocolate chip cookies and new contacts (not in the same package!) Some days I feel like I'm stalking him - staring out my window waiting to see what fun things he'll bring me today! C'mon - you know that adrenaline rush when you're pulling out your letters! Not to mention the serious, chocolate craving, tear-inducing disappointment when all that is in your mailbox are stupid car insurance circulars and bills. UGH!
What are you thankful for today???


Thankful Thursday...

Okay, so a lot of blogs out there in webworld attach a certain something to days of the weeks. i.e. Wordless Wednesday or Not Me! Monday. And since I so easily forget the many blessings that God showers down on me... and I LOVE this idea... I thought I'd put it out there for everyone to see and for my heart to be a more thankful one. So - here comes Thankful Thursday!

Today I am thankful for...
  1. Music, especially Christmas music. And my radio that plays music ALL DAY LONG!
  2. My apartment - especially today, because it is clean! But, also because it is warm and safe and everything works... and when it doesn't we just call someone to fix it. or when we lock ourselves out, we call someone and they unlock our door... (but we definitely DON'T know that from experience! No way! Not us!)
  3. Cory - because he's my "hero" - he's not perfect (just like me) but he works hard to grow and love and learn. And he challenges and encourages me every day.
  4. For the specific set of skills & talents God has given me. And for my unique personality. I struggle with these 2 a lot. Too often, I want to be different than who I am. But, God fashioned me out of love and with a role that He wants ME to fulfill. So - I'm working to be thankful for who I am and to be able to live my life with passion and confidence.
  5. Ghiradelli Extra Chocolate Brownies... I don't think I need to explain that one! Yum!


Promo for Community Groups

Choice A or B??? What do you guys think? I need some feedback... do you like the orange font or the gray/white font? Maybe it should be all white???
(If you want to see them better, just click on them...)


Random Pictures... for your viewing pleasure

Check out her keyboard/guitar thing! How cool is that?!?
DAVID CROWDER BAND!!!! very awesome!
my hottie husband
cory & ray goofing off at the Convention Center in the Burgh
this picture cracks me up
All the leaders from Lakeshore that went to the Conference this year


in between holidays

it's 10:30pm saturday night and i'm putting off going to bed because i know it's 'back to work' tomorrow (and yet i'm excited about tomorrow too at the same time). anyways, here's some random thoughts bouncing around my head right now:
- i felt like i ate lots of food for thanksgiving; there was tons on the table and reminds me how excessive we americans can be (not that it's necessarily bad...just a LOT of food). it was delicious too, by the way.
- had a great time connecting with my parents and brother for an extended period of time. we celebrated christmas this week with them because we'll be in pittsburgh with shanna's family at christmas time. had tons of fun playing games, chatting, and just relaxing together. we're so blessed with the families that we have...
- enjoyed hanging out with todd & christa and the kids for another extended period of time. they are so encouraging and fun to be around - every time it's so refreshing...
- embarked on a new experience this afternoon - shanna and i went hunting for a tree to cut down with some friends. usually we just pick one that's already been cut, but this year we were told that for a super cheap price we could cut any tree and any size. operating on a tight budget, we jumped at the opportunity, and spent WAY too much time looking for the perfect tree. (two perfectionists looking for a perfect tree = a somewhat frustrating experience for everyone involved). we were looking for a very large tree (our obsession with big) because we have been blessed with cathredal ceilings in our apartment this year and for some crazy reason felt the need to fill the space. getting home and looking at the tree...i think it's quite possibly the smallest one we've ever gotten - lol. it's funny how God works things like that out to teach us lessons. amidst feelings of frustration, i was reminded of the series we'll be starting this thursday in youth group, "gimme more presence" - it's not about the hype of christmas, the flashy presents, and the unimportant stuff that so often clouds out the imperative. it's about being more like the kid in the smelly crib...thinking and acting more like Jesus. it's not about getting the biggest tree and paying for some stupidly high electric bill. again, not that big is bad...i'm just maybe beginning to notice how i live in excess so much of the time when so many live in need... maybe a 'smaller' tree isn't such a bad thing after all...
- i've been battling a cold for the last few days and have gone through almost an entire box of tissues. as i typed this i just sneezed on the screen actually (i bet you wish you could've seen it). hunting for the perfect tree this afternoon in the great outdoors made me want to hack off my nose with the tree saw.
- driving home from the tree farm, our friends' tree fell off the roof of their van and almost caused a wreck for the car behind us. looking back, a VERY funny experience that wasn't so funny at the time.


turkey bowl and christmas shopping

Go Old Guys! Our annual Turkey Bowl was this past Sunday and Cor sure is feeling sore the last few days. He obviously played on the Old Guys' team and helped uphold their 3 year winning streak. I made buckeye bars for the Dessert Bake-off that followed. Yum!

After that we had Community Groups. I'm feeling like we're fitting into a good grove and I'm starting to enjoy our group.

Yesterday I hung out at home, cleaned out apartment (much needed! yikes.). Then after school, I took one of my girls out Christmas Shopping. I'm so excited - I found a lot of my list and didn't have to shop solo. Cor and I are going to go out and get a few more things, but we're all set for our Thanksgiving/Christmas celebration with Cor's family.

I'm watching TV while I write this and they are discussing Michelle Obama and what role she'll play in the White House. I'm really excited to see what she'll do. I admire Laura Bush greatly and yet, I'm anticipating Michelle Obama as she forges her own role. As a pastor's wife I am watched and criticized or lauded... My tiny little "fishbowl" is more than enough for me. What a stressful and vunerable position the First Lady must fill... I've always been in awe of the President's wife.


MckMama's Blog

I've been following this awesome blog for awhile now. I previously had a "praying for MckMama & baby Stellan" button. Now I have a MckMiracle Button. To find out why (and only if you have a large amount of time... because once you start reading, you won't be able to STOP reading!) check it out. Right now MckMama is hosting a Small Fryday Contest... (hence this post). God's work in this family's life has really challenged me a lot.


mini retreat

i had the wonderful opportunity to attend a 2 day retreat with other youth pastors in our district from ny, pa, and oh earlier this week - great opportunity to meet new people who do what i do and connect in meaningful ways. HUGE encouragement to me. one of the guys, Tom, who's doing some great things for God out in the sticks, did a great recap of the weekend here. the monday night sharing time was pretty cool - and i felt like i was invited into a sacred meeting in a holy space where everyone was vulnerable and open...sharing the good and the bad. it was sweet and very refreshing...


new graphic

Our Christmas Series is: Gimme More Presence. This is the graphic I did today. I'm happy with this one, which is cool because I'm usually not happy. But, overall - I like it. :) Yay! The background is from simply youth ministry's downloadable freebies and the present is from stock.xchng I just stuck the puzzle pieces together (and extracted and applied styles and ...)

Today was my first free day at home in a long time. I was completely unproductive (other than this graphic, of course). I love being at home. Tomorrow I'm meeting a friend for lunch/shopping (? maybe) and then taking a teen out after school. And I've already scheduled next tuesday to go out with some of the girls. I LOVE our ministry and doing stuff with the girls. I wasn't able to do that while I was working this last job, but I didn't realize how much I had missed that until I started scheduling stuff again.


i could've done more

lakeshore showed this video clip from the ending of schindler's list last sunday in church as part of pastor vince's message. he applied it specifically to money and how we will never get to heaven and say to God "i gave too much". but i haven't been able to forget about that clip and how powerful it is as it speaks volumes to me, not just about money, but time and energy as well. i know life is all about balance, but as i sat pondering it today, i asked myself the question...even at this point in my life...'i could have done more...i could have done more'.


high strung ramblings

i feel high strung right now...like a ride i went on at darien lake earlier in the summer - we got in this metal ball and these giant springs scrunched down as tight as possible before releasing us to what felt like thousands of feet in the air. i feel like that spring just about to be released, which is good cuz i'm learning that i'm addicted to speed and like it alot (speed meaning velocity...not the drug). it's been an emotionally draining past few days filled with tough calls and hard decisions. we all have to make them, but they're never easy and it never seems that there's one 'textbook' answer for each one. formulas are nice, but i'm learning they don't always happen in life. i guess that's where the faith factor kicks into high gear as it forces us to trust the one who DOES have it all figured out, and then let the decision go into his hands. i'm trying to learn how to trust and let stuff go, and i'm also learning that sometimes i think without my presence things would fall apart. it's another disturubing realization...because it tells me in my subconcious that i have too high of a view of myself, or too dimished a view of God...or even scarier...both.

i'm also learning that there's some things in life you bet on and some things you don't. i set my fantasy football team every week, almost completely based on the projections of others who work at espn. i anticipate what people will give at church, and plan a budget accordingly. i bet on what money will come in for an event and spend the money knowing/praying it'll all come in. i'm probably a somewhat moderate risk taker, and there's a certain adrenaline and excitement that i get from taking risks. but i'm trying to learn this one loud and clear: i don't bet on people's safety when i'm called to protect them. i don't care what others say, what the projections hint at, or the guilt trips that come with it...i don't bet on other's safety.

on a different note, we had an incredible thursday last week with the teens. we were kind of "kicked out" of the youth room as some home meetings were going on in there as part of the building campaign at lcc. so, we took over the auditorium for the night and brought in some super special people. we're in the middle of our 'extreme makeover youth room edition' series as we try to get the teens to become part of the process for the new building as well as to challenge them to sacrificially give to the campaign over the next 3 years. here's pictures of our ty, paul, and paige:

chris is the head architectural designer of the building, dan is heavily involved in the construction of it, and kim is our interior design consultant. they were so much fun to work with and their enthusiasm easily spread to the students. we got the teens into 'think tanks' for about a half hour and their ideas for how to design the youth room were quite amazing...many of which are actually doable (except for the hot tub...that one might not fly).
Wow... so much has been happening we haven't even had time to blog about it! We were just talking with friends the other night about how fast time flies - once we become adults. But - think back when you were in high school - remember how it seemed as if a month could seem endless and a year was the longest time length you could fathom! Now I'm still trying to remember that its already October, when unfortunately we're actually half way through November! What! Where did all those days go???

Here's a pic of my "new" hair cut. Sorry for the bad resolution... cell phone pic. I feel so trendy. :)

I'm headed down to see my family today and I am sooo excited. Cory is headed to a short conference for all of our district's YPs. Having 2 cars is great! I love having the freedom to just jump in my car and drive to PA or do whatever... We've enjoyed this luxury for awhile and it is awesome. After church last Thursday Cory & I decided to go out to Wendy's with another couple. When we got out to the parking lot four cars awaited the four of us. Maybe this is commonplace for you guys, but for me it struck me how spoiled we are here in the US!

Cory & I were cleaning our apartment this weekend and Cor mentioned we only have 2 more weeks until Christmas decorating in the Hunneyman Home begins! I'm so stoked! I LOVE LOVE LOVE decorating for Christmas and the way my home feels all twinkling and cozy! I'll post pics after decorating begins.


The Adventure of Today

My nannying job has forced Cory & I to make a lot of adjustments... most of which I hate... i.e. very little time, a messy house, going to bed & waking up at different times, schedules, ministry involvment, etc. But, I'm thankful for the job and for my paycheck... I'm thankful that God is challenging me - not daily, but minute-by-minute.... I'm thankful for the opportunity to share the love of Jesus...

Today Tina & I and the girls went on an adventure! We went to Target to go clothes & shoe shopping for the girls. Then, we drove the Wendy's drive-through and took our food to the park for a picnic. Then, went home and walked to the little church playground down the road. We were all pooped by the time we got back home.

I learned... to remember our handicapped parking permit, how to fold and unfold a wheel-chair, to not talk with my mouth full, to hold a little girl so she doesn't pee on her pants when peeing outside, to efficiently use the carseat anchors in our car, ...

When I finally got home today, I took a little while to myself and then got ready to leave for ISM tonight. When I got to the car, I opened the door to throw my bag in the backseat. Two carseats with two little smiling dollies greeted me. Closing the door and throwing my bag in the passenger seat instead, I choked back tears and avoided any eye contact with my backseat... Sigh. Infertility catches me unaware and unprepared sometimes. During those moments, emotional pain rips through my heart and leaves me breathless. I know God has a purpose for our infertility and He has a purpose in this job.

Honestly, I know a lot of truths, but I hate the practical outworkings of those truths... the daily grind that wears away at my heart and passion... Ironically, I also know that He's standing there with open arms just waiting for me to run back to Him. But, doing that means I have to trust Him... I have to open my hands and surrender... again.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? Matt 16:24-26


shanna and i along with some of our other leaders from ISM spent the weekend in pittsburgh at the national youth workers convention...and it was great. so refreshing...so much fun...incredible sessions and concerts...and truly wonderful to connect with others and just be real. but it all messed me up.

it challenged my thinking, drove me to ask radical questions that i'm not sure i'm comfortable asking, and i'm sure has begun moving me into new territory in how i think about and do ministry.

there was one session in particular that really messed with my mind, and it was led by francis chan, author of crazy love. he was talking about how radical jesus' ministry on earth was, how we in youth ministry especially are infatuated with big crowds and big numbers...but that's not what jesus was about. in fact he pointed out passsage after passage where jesus is found deliberately speaking to them in confusing ways. many times we think that when he spoke in parables...that it was like us speaking in illustrations, with the intent to make the point clearer. but matthew 13 is a good example of a story he told that made absolutely no sense on its own...the disciples pick up on that and ask jesus why he's confusing them...he explains to them why...and then proceeds to give his disciples the deeper meaning of it all.

when i get up to speak, to be honest i'm not sure it ever really happens...but my goal is to cause each person in the audience to understand whatever it is we're trying to explain. but jesus seems to say things in such a way that the few who really want to understand have to come after him and chase him down to get the answers. i didn't walk away thinking that that's necessarily how we need to communicate to people (but it does give encouragement on "bad" nights)...but i guess what's disturbing to me, even more than any of this...is that i've asked that question about the parables for years as i've read through the gospels...and never chased down an answer.

i believe the bible...as 100% absolute truth...but i'm finding that sometimes my belief and trust in the bible gets in the way of my understanding and defending of it. i'm so prone to read something pretty funky in the bible...believe confidently that there's a reason for it and it all checks out...and letting it go there without doing the work and research of finding out HOW. and it's disturbing to me.

so, i've embarked on a new journey of scripture reading, and i'm committing to asking critical questions...questions that i've been too scared or too lazy to ask before...and i can't wait to see where it'll take us.


sushi bar

last night shanna and i 'broadened our horizons' and stepped out into new territory...we ate sushi. a couple days ago we were invited to join 2 other couples at a place called arigato japanese steakhouse. it's the real deal...we were sitting around this super hot surface under a giant kitchen hood...the chef comes out and cooks it all in front of you (but only after flinging the knives and utensils through the air)...flying flames in front of your face...it was amazing. he even built a volcano out of an onion. aside from the sushi...we had mushroom soup (neither of us are big fungus people), and fried rice and chicken which tasted amazing. i'm definitely more 'american' in what i choose to eat if it was just me...but this place had the most incredible atmosphere!

in other news, shan and i leave for pittsburgh tomorrow morning at 6am (ouch) with 4 other adult leaders from ISM for the national youth workers convention. i'm looking forward to the sessions, seeing the skit guys, david crowder band, connecting with other youth pastors from the greece area, etc....DEFINITELY looking forward to the hotel hotel...

...but more than anything i can't wait to spend 4 days chilling with our leaders that make such a big impact on our students' lives. they are great people, and the prayer is that they especially can come back refreshed, renewed, and recharged to go at it all again.

tonight at ISM we wrap up the welcome to the planet series, hoping and praying that God does some incredible things among the students that have been coming since week 1. next week we begin a brand new series called Extreme Makeover: Youth Room Edition as we try to get on board with the capital campaign that's happening church-wide right now to raise funds for Lakeshore to expand its current facilities. should be a fun series.


i love this song

humbling moment

today shanna and i were very thankful for a day off together - it seemed at first that shanna was going to be working today, but that changed and was a huge blessing for us. it's been a few weeks since we've really had a day with just the two of us and the pace of life lately has been a little psychotic.

one of the things we checked off our list today was grocery shopping. we've slowly eaten what seems like everything in the house and haven't had a chance to go to the store lately. for some reason, and i still don't get this one, shanna loves it when i go with her. i have tried to convince her since we got married that it'd be a great time for her to connect with God alone and be out with the people in the community apart from me...but she doesn't quite see it that way. at any rate, when we got home i was overwhelmed with how much food we now have and how full our cupboards are. we've been making statements a little too flippantly lately, such as "i'm starving" and "there's nothing to eat in this house" and tonight was a reminder of what a pathetic lie those statements represent. i don't understand what it's like to starve...or what it's like to literally have NOTHING to eat.

we were just at a conference with our church's district - it was this past weekend near pittsburgh and it was on mission trips to the ukraine. i don't know if that's where we'll end up taking the students, but i do know that there's lots of needs there. as we watched a video of the orphans, poor, and needy there in the ukraine, it rocked my world. i don't know if those images ever get old. i hope they don't to me. and i hope it continues to spur me onto greater action, and less thoughtless statements.


nice quote

so shanna's been trying to get me to grow a gotee for awhile now, and i've finally given in...for now. in the process, there's been a number of interesting comments about this "thing" on my face...but so far the best comment was this:

"nice, less real estate to mow"


my desktop image

christian schizophrenia

i remember a message preached a couple years ago at bbc...so powerful it still challenges shanna and i today. the guy was talking about the difference between 'listening' to yourself and 'talking' to yourself...how many times we go through our days and just simply do whatever our bodies and minds 'tell' us to do...when in reality, the bible is clear that for christians, WE are in charge and WE ought to be the ones telling our bodies what to do and our minds what to think.

was reminded of this truth this morning - because it was similar to the preacher's illustration - as i laid in bed, REALLY not wanting to get up. thursdays are always exciting days because we get the incredible privilege of breathing life into students tonight...but before that happens tonight the plate is full for today and this afternoon...and honestly i wished i could just stay in bed through it all. part of my day is going to a luncheon thing that has nothing to do with student ministry - i said yes to it knowing that i was saying no to something else...and this morning i was wishing my answer was different. as i'm laying there listening to myself as the alarm incessantly nags, it occured to me that i was...listening to myself, rather than talking to myself. the scary thing...is that most of the time my voice sounds way more convincing than the voice of the very Spirit of God...so easy to listen to ourselves.


this week...

This weekend we're heading to Somerset, PA to attend a missions conference for our district. We're driving down with some other people with church and we'll be there Friday and Saturday. (Won't have our own car, so probably won't be able to visit with any friends/family. To be soooo close and yet unable to get home... rrrrrggggg its so frustrating!) I have no idea what to expect. Hopefully, Cory knows more. :)

At youth group on Thursday, I received a compliment from one of our teen girls that made my week. She said I, Shanna Hunneyman, was kinda edgy! WOWEE! Why was that a compliment??? Well, I've always felt pretty "uncool" - the dorky band-geek. :) So, maybe she was just being nice, maybe it was the new haircut, maybe the definition of edgy has recently changed, but maybe I just am a little edgy! Whatever the reason - it was still euphoria for awhile. I realize this is totally vain, but its still makes me happy. I love working with teens. (Yes, I still say that when they tell me I'm old or don't want me to hang out with them. lol.)


mtv's top 10

found a very informative and helpful article here today by Jonathan McKee that helps us as youth workers get caught up on what our teens are listening to. definitely worth the read. here's an excerpt that is especially helpful in our approach...

Ask Questions, Don’t Preach:
I have witnessed many a small group where an adult lectures on and on… basically saying, “Trust me, this music is bad! Burn those CD’s and just listen to Christian Music!” Not a bad message, but the delivery is usually met with a brick wall. Learn to ask questions instead of lecturing. Kids love to talk, more than that, they love to be heard. Feel free to ask them questions about their music. If you are tempted to lecture, search for a question you can ask that might lead them to the conclusion themselves.


been a long time

it seems as if i took a major blogging break during the past week...in fact i think i took a major break from virtually everything in life...and it was wonderful. it was a great vacation, very refreshing, and hard to come back from. it started like most do...with a huge list of things i wanted to check off the list with my new abundance of time. but this vacation proved a little different. very few things actually got crossed off, and yet this time, i'm not feeling bad at all about it.

one of the highlights no doubt was our trip to the adirondacks with my parents and the climb to the top of the mountain. it's amazing the perspective you can get when you're on top of a mountain. absolutely amazing. the colors were vibrant, the views breathtaking, and the air exhilerating. here's some shots i took at the top of a tower at the summit. shanna started snapping some pics but before long got freaked out from the heights and handed me the camera.

not sure where this one came from...


Old Forge

We went to Old Forge in the Adirondacks with Cory's parents as part of our vacation this week. We had a great time and the leaves were beautiful! We hiked up Blue Lake Mountain and then climbed a fire tower at the top. The view was AMAZING! Here are some pics...
This deer just stood there eating and looking at us as we walked closer and closer...
Cory & Dad as we started out. The trail continued to get harder and harder and .... crazy hard!
Finally - AT THE TOP!!!


the 5 stages of emailing friends unintentionally funny christian videos

1. Denial and Isolation"
That can't be real. There is no way a church is doing that. That has to be fake. Maybe that is something the parody website, The Onion, did. That's got to be a joke. Am I the only Christian that thinks that is ridiculous? Is it bad that I think that is ridiculous? Is it wrong to mock something a church did? I am so alone."

2. Anger"
This is why God gets such a bad rap. When my friends say Christianity is corny or cheesy, this is the kind of stuff they're talking about. I hope the guys at work don’t see this and email it to me since I’m the ‘Christian guy’ in the office."

3. Bargaining"
I shouldn't send this to friends, but it’s so funny. Look at that moonwalk. I have to share this with the world. But if I email it out, am I just perpetuating the idea that Christians are cheesy? Or is it a good thing to send it to my friends? Maybe it will let them know, 'hey, I get it, this kind of stuff is silly, but we're not all like that. I promise.' I'll just send it to a few people. I won’t send it to my entire contact list."

4. Depression"
All hope is lost. That video was viewed 20 million times on youtube. It was even on "The Soup" with Joel McHale, whom I love and think is hilarious, but that's beside the point. It's everywhere. Now, millions of people have had their misconceptions about Christianity confirmed. And I emailed it to the guys at work. All hope is lost."

5. Acceptance"
OK God, you're in control. I don’t get to define what you are pleased with. Maybe that breakdancing was exactly what you wanted and there were people that were deeply moved by that. But between you and me, I hope that when I get to heaven you'll do a little pop and lock, pull me aside and whisper, 'hey, even I thought that video was funny.' But we'll just have to wait and see."

(written by prodigal jon at stuffchristianslike)


Who Am I?

Who Am I
by Casting Crowns

Who am I, that the Lord of all the earth
Would care to know my name
Would care to feel my hurt
Who am I, that the Bright and Morning Star
Would choose to light the way
For my ever wandering heart

Not because of who I am
But because of what You've done
Not because of what I've done
But because of who You are

I am a flower quickly fading
Here today and gone tomorrow
A wave tossed in the ocean
Vapor in the wind
Still You hear me when I'm calling
Lord, You catch me when I'm falling
And You've told me who I am
I am Yours, I am Yours

Who am I, that the eyes that see my sin
Would look on me with love and watch me rise again
Who am I, that the voice that calmed the sea
Would call out through the rain
And calm the storm in me
Not because of who I am
But because of what You've done
Not because of what I've done
But because of who You are

I am Yours
Whom shall I fear
Whom shall I fear
'Cause I am Yours
I am Yours

I've heard this song a million times and yet this week, I was struck by the lyrics again. I've lost sight of WHO God is and WHAT He's done for me... again... Instead of seeing HIM - all I can see is me, me, me... my frustration, my hurt, my confusion, my comfort, my fatigue, my life, my schedule, my dreams, my ...

As I was driving to work complaining to myself about the early hour, the traffic, the inconvenience, etc. This song came on and my heart broke.

The Lord of all the earth - knows me personally and loves me, failures and all. It doesn't matter who I am or what I can do or have done... but because of HIM. He chose me. I am His. And that is enough.

an axiom

an "axiom" i've heard others say a lot lately is this: 'hurt people hurt people'. they don't intend to, they regret it when they become healed...but out of the depths of their hurt, they respond...and it's ugly. i've done it many times to others and i never look favorably at those experiences. we've been observing some of this hurt throughout this week in some fairly new friends of ours, and my heart aches for the pain they're going through. we pray for healing and restoration, and for God's design to return to this picture...



I Want...

Happy Birthday!!!

to Dad & Mark!
I'm sorry - I didn't even get Dad in a picture. :( But - HAPPY BIRTHDAY! (I'm eating the rest of the peanut butter pie right now! I'm not sure how it made it this long but that won't be a problem for long!!!)


Eagles Fans... No Need to Ask!


some people should not be allowed out of their home...seriously.


welcome to the planet

it's a great day because it's a thursday...a day that we get to "breathe life" into teenagers! i'm so excited and pumped for tonight - it's probably our biggest thursday night of the fall as we kick off our new series "welcome to the planet". throughout the next 6 weeks, we're gonna try to help the students struggle and squirm with the question of why we're here on the earth, and tonight i'm just gonna do a basic overview of the series and challenge the students to come back for the rest.

but one of the things that's at times brutal, frustrating, messy, daunting, and awkward about preaching...no matter what the topic...is that i have to live it, sniff it, breathe it, and let it go through all of me before i can present it. this has been one of those weeks where the truth that i'm preaching tonight has hit me pretty hard as it's riveted through the different parts of my life. god exists, and he's really there. sometimes the simplest of truths have the deepest impact. he's there and for some reason, he's intensely interested in the mundane details of my life. the everyday boring stuff that nobody else cares about is like riding the superman at darien lake to him. two questions that are bouncing around my brain this afternoon...how do people do life without owning this understanding, and how did i get it when so many others have not?


tuesday night randomness

it's a quiet fall night, and many thoughts are roaming through my head tonight as i eat a late night pizza. i was gonna make shanna some chicken noodle soup, but she fell asleep before i got the chance (she's got a bit of a cold to contend with). some random stuff from the past few days:
- we're REALLY looking forward to vacation in a couple weeks. it'll be nice to step away and regroup for a few days. on the ministry side of things, one of the things i love about vacation is handing over to others stuff that i normally do, and in the process finding people who can do it better.
- we started up student leadership teams again for the fall last sunday night. as we're starting the meeting with everybody, and as i call them all into a circle, one of our adult leaders sits on a whoopie cushion that was conveniently placed there by the middle school boy sitting next to her. nice... i hope she comes back.
- that same kid is on the music team and as soon as we let out, he grabbed the infamous whoopie cushion and tried to see if he could tune it with a guitar tuner...
- got back a little while ago from our 2nd meeting with our "adult" small group and had a great time! our leader started out by asking what superpower we would have if we could have any, and what we'd call ourselves. i want the superpower of just looking at someone and they're totally on board with what i'm thinking/feeling...no convincing or debating needed.
- as a staff we've been reading carly fiorina's Tough Choices and picking apart the leadership lessons throughout the book. it's been great and very insightful, but i'm very behind on my reading and i need to have the book finished by tomorrow morning.
- i have a meeting setup tomorrow to discuss the possibility of launching 'life hurts god heals' - a program for hurting students. i'm SO excited about this because so often when a teen is in crisis in our ministry, they get the best we can give them, but i find myself dreading those calls because i know there's only so much we can do. i think this program will give us an infrastructure where we can begin to 'pray' for those calls to come in and open our arms wider.


All in a Sunday,,,

We got up bright & early again today! (Which by next week will be sleeping-in because I'll be getting up significantly earlier when I start working... but more on that later.) Anyways - so off to church we went to team-teach Revolution. We were expecting tons of kids because of the bajillions of fliers we've been handing out so when we only had 4 students in the 9:00 service, we were a little surprised! But, it was a lot of fun and our number grew a little so we had enough kids to make 2 teams. We talked about Noah's Ark today, made boats out of straws, balloons, and other sundry items, and attempted to sink said boats. :) Cory is sooo good! He equated our sinful state to a garlic-lovin'-smellin' boy named Joe that loved a girl that was deathly allergic to garlic... (So, the illustration breaks down A LOT - but thankfully, the kids really understood - pretty awesome.) I got the opportunity to talk with some of our girls afterwards about some pretty deep questions. I love working with teens and sharing Jesus with them!

Cory had a few SLT (student leadership team) meetings squeezed in between and after services. Whew! We finally got into the car and went to chow down on some pizza roll I made last night... only to discover that it wasn't baked all the way through, so the dough was really gross! YUCK! This was after I threw away an entire loaf of buffalo chicken pizza roll because we accidently left it on the counter all night! I almost cried when I threw it away. I soooo wanted a big, fat greasy slice of pizza roll... sigh.

We both took quick naps at home and then off to my job interview! I've been in the process of applying for substitute teaching positions, but then saw an ad for a baby-sitting job. Cor and I both visited with the family and I'm really excited! I start on Tuesday at 7:30AM!!! Maybe I can convince Cory to start running with me in the AM before we get ready for work. :) lol.

We're at SLTs now. The band is practicing and sound pretty good! We have 2 drummers, 2 singers, 1 bass player, 2/3 guitar players, and one trombone player. lol. They sound really good!

Another Sunday (almost) over! :)




Last night I met a friend at Panera. It was so good. She shared her story... I shared some of mine. We laughed a lot and cried a little. God is good for bringing me this friend.

Today we got up early (because 7:30AM is EARLY on a Saturday!) and went to the mall for a business expo. Our church had a table there and we handed out a bajillion fliers for our "Creature from another Planet" series that starts tomorrow. It is a series on Parenting and the church has either mailed or handed out tens of thousands of these awesome fliers. Whew! Definitely not my thing... but still good. Cor and I got to visit with our Senior Pastor's wife, Sue. Pastor Vince and Sue are great. We've been incredibly blessed to have 2 amazing senior pastors so far in ministry. Which for a youth pastor... sometimes that is a major fear going into ministry!

Anyways... we're having friends over for dinner tonight. It should be a fun and relaxing evening. But, I'm supposed to be making dinner (pizza rolls and buffalo chicken pizza rolls and potato soup - I'm not even sure if that combo works together, but too late to turn back now... especially since there isn't much more than that in my cuboards!). So, I better stop procrastinating...


"Let not our longing slay
the appetite of our living"
~ Jim Elliot~


my new favorite song

from the inside out - we sang this on saturday at synergy. there's one part of the song that is especially convicting to me as it touches on a theme throughout the pages of scripture that have yet to be embraced by me...



I'm tired. This past week has been an emotional one for me... and I'm just tired - from the inside out. Sunday always feels like the end of the week for me, rather than the beginning. A lot of what we do during the week is gearing up and preparing for Sunday.

So - today rolled around and I taught Revolution this morning. We storyboarded Jonah and then discussed it a little. The kids were engaged! Cory and I were really excited and Cory prompty asked me to take next week too. :) After Revolution - we headed straight into our Lead Team meeting. I was there for ISM and for the Multimedia Team. Meredith saved me a seat and told her husband and mine that they had to sit at the guys' table. lol. After that - Cor and I came home in order to prep for Community Groups tonight.

Cory's group (of middle school guys) was here at our apartment. I was a little nervous, especially when Cory started lighting candles! Yes - you read that correctly! Candles and middle school boys! Thankfull, by the time I got home - I couldn't even smell... oops, I mean TELL they had been here.

Heather and I are leading a senior high girls group at one of our girl's house. They have a beautiful house and are so great for opening their home to us. But, its a little hard for me - its not my stomping ground. As a result - I have to work to focus on my girls and stay confident in my role. We're going to study James and I'm pretty excited about it. We've done this material before and I'm interested to see how I've grown since the last time.

This past Saturday was Synergy at church. Its a prayer event that occurs three/four times a year at Lakeshore. Every time i heard about it previously I broke out in a cold sweat! Honestly! I'm not much of a prayer warrior, especially in the last few years. I want to be - I desperately want to be - but I suck at praying for extended period of times... especially in public. The thought of standing in a circle, holding hands with somebody I don't know, and trying to concentrate for an hour and a half made me want to puke.

(as a side-note Synergy was good. It wasn't an hour and a half of the aforementioned prayer circle... as a matter of fact, I didn't hold anyone's hand! And we worshipped through song, personal reflection and prayer, and a short time of corporate, small group prayer... definitely no puke-inducing moments!)

Most of the time when I'm in a prayer circle of adults... I'm spending the time before I pray thinking about what I'll pray so that it won't expose some horrible failure in my spiritual life. And I want to say just the right thing, so that people see I am spiritually mature... Which in turn makes me feel guilty and shows just how spiritually IMMATURE I am. UGH!

I want to pray -passionately and powerfully. I want to be at the point where it doesn't matter who or what around. I want to pray so that it is just me and Him. I want my relationship with Him to be intimate and consumming. But, I fall so short so often. I know where I want to be... I've even been there before... I wish I could just get myself out of the way and focus wholly on Him.

All this has been rolling around in my head... along with all the job/pride/discouragement crud... and the infertility reality slamming into me again this week... and don't forget the daily grind... and all of this leaves me... tired.


just push play

listened to louie giglio's message "song of the redeemed" this morning - his 2nd message in the soundtrack series. VERY challenging to me...



i learned this morning that i'm not thankful enough for the book of psalms. today it seems especially encouraging and reminds me how deep and wide His Word takes me when i allow it.

You are my refuge…so I will run to you for protection.
You are my strength…so I will give to you my weakness.
You are my rock and fortress…so I will let you lead and guide me.
You declare your glory from the skies…so I will declare it from my life.
You are my deliverer…so I will not be afraid.
You are my shield…so I will hide behind you.
You are my stronghold…so I will hide in you.
You are my support…so I will rest and relax in you.


dodgeball league?

so i came across an ad today from hotshots - a facility in rochester that has a ton of beach volleyball courts, basketball courts, etc. it caught my eye because last spring we took a group of students from lakeshore there for a sunday afternoon and had a blast. anyways, they are starting up a dodgeball league...and i was thinking...how cool would it be to join that?!?!? we used to play dodgeball every wednesday night with the middle schoolers at 2nd, and i always felt a little guilty flinging the ball at an 11 year old girl (but i had to...i couldn't resist). how amazing to be able to compete with people my own age!

then i got thinking about 'the creature from another planet' - a new series on parenting that we're doing at lakeshore this fall. (every fall and spring the church puts on a dynamic series aimed to meet the needs of people outside the church, pulling tons of resources into it, creative stage design, thousands and thousands of mailers sent out, etc.). we've got about 15 flyers sitting in our apartment...and it's been really troubling because we don't know anyone to give them to. we plan to give them to the 3 couples in our side of the building...but 2 of the 3 are old...er...and the other i don't think even has kids. add to that a an extremely profound conversation i had with a friend a few months ago on a changing trend within our culture - evidenced within the fact that "our neighbor" may no longer actually be literally the ones we live next to as much as those we regularly hang out with socially (at the YMCA, at work, at the MOPS groups, etc.).
we don't work out at the Y, shanna isn't part of MOPS yet, and the people that i work with are...christians...and they already go to my church...
hmmm...a dodgeball league is sounding more and more interesting all the time! i'm not sure i'd even be able to get on a team, or if a team would even be desperate enough to take a guy they've never met. it'd be another night out, and do i really have time...i mean after all, we're leading small groups and ministry teams on sunday nights, we'll be joining an adult small group on another night, we have youth group every thursday night, and we try to have people over at least one night a week. am i too busy...or is that just an excuse? don't know...but i'm thinking about it...

"Shocking Sarah"

I'm so frustrated with all the hype around Sarah Palin! Or rather the lack of focus on her and the excessive focus on her pregnant 17 yo daughter. Just a reminder - we have public schools handing out birth-control pills to our girls and condoms to our guys. Bristol is 17 - she is making her own choices and living with those consequences. Every last one of us is living with the consequences of our 17 yo choices. Think about it... As a senior in high school - we're all trying our wings, learning to be our own person. So, she made a stupid choice and got "caught."

Let's talk about all the teen-agers making the choice to have pre-marital sex! According to The Guttmacher Institute, 75% of people in the US have sex before they turn 20 yo. While just under 33% of teen girls become pregnant. We all know that statistics can be twisted and say whatever you want! So, as a youth leader... as a pastor's wife... as someone that went through high school in the late 90's... as someone that interacts regularly with todays teens... THEY ARE HAVING SEX!

Bristol's sex life has been opened wide to the world - because she became pregnant. So - for all those people out there freaking out about Sarah Palin's pregnant daughter - get off your high horse! If you didn't have premarital sex, your kids probably have! And if they didn't - your grandkids probably will!

Or maybe all this isn't about premarital sex... maybe its that Sarah didn't force her daughter to have an abortion in order to "hide their shame." Frankly, there are so many parents/children dealing with this issue right now - that if anyone could empathize - it is Sarah Palin.

I'm so fired up right now! Let me try to calm down a little and clarify a few things. I believe pre-marital sex is wrong. But, I also believe that WE ALL make sinful, stupid choices that land us in a heap of crappy consequences. I believe that Sarah Palin and her family have taken the high road, by supporting their daughter. I believe they have taken the high road by being tranparent and honest with the American people. And frankly - that is what I want in office! Someone who is transparent and honest!

Time will tell if this transparency-trend continues... I'm praying it does.


retreat recap

the summer retreat has now come and gone, and shanna and i feel pretty much back to normal. it's funny - a typical retreat takes us away for almost 3 entire days but takes only 1 day to recover, whereas an all-nighter takes us away for only about 12 hours but takes about 2 weeks to recover. hmmm...i vote for retreats. :)

the theme for this year's retreat was URGENT! - all about living a lifestyle with the understanding that Christ could return any day now. overall it was a FANTASTIC weekend for our ministry with lots of postives all around! it was awesome to just casually "hang out" with our leaders and develop community among them, especially saturday night while the teens played games in the dark (yeah...lol), to discover where our students are really at in their spiritual journeys, create an environment that was very "safe"...especially for some, and to just build trust and remind ourselves why we're here.

here's our music team leading the praise time for one of the sessions. they did a really great job and had been working all summer for this opportunity...

playing volleyball...in a little unconventional way (gotta help the middle schoolers out)...

tubing on the lake in 30 degree water...

the guy on the left is one of our newest ISM leaders - he and his wife have been a HUGE blessing to the ministry and were absolutely wonderful on the retreat. this pic brings back a HILARIOUS memory as he was singing "yellow submarine" and "lean on me"...HILARIOUS!

one of the biggest, hottest campfires i've ever seen...i have no more hair on my legs...