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Category: Personal Life (Page 1 of 11)

The Last Step

The following is an update for our Caring Bridge followers. If you aren’t up to speed, you can contact me on Facebook about a link.

Throughout this impossible journey that started on the last day of April, our mantra has been: Just get through the next step. Focus on the next thing and get it done. Don’t worry about what’s coming, just make it through the step in front of you. It’s how we’ve had to live to make it to this point. One foot in front of the other, only ever focusing on the next step.

In three days, exactly eight weeks after the first seizure, we take the last step. As Tuesday looms, it feels like I am standing on the edge of a great precipice. The last step is here and it feels like the biggest leap of faith in our lives.

God knew His people would need reminders of His almighty power to work salvation in their midst. There was an annual feast to remember how the angel of death passed them over in Egypt. The people placed memorial stones commemorating God’s faithfulness. They raised their Ebenezer in 1 Samuel 7:12 because “Till now the LORD has helped us.” Psalm 105:1-6 says:

1 Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name;
make known his deeds among the peoples!
2 Sing to him, sing praises to him;
tell of all his wondrous works!
3 Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice!
4 Seek the LORD and his strength;
Seek his presence continually!
5 Remember the wondrous works that he has done,
his miracles, and the judgments he uttered,
6 O offspring of Abraham, his servants!

As the last step looms, let us make known His deeds among the people and tell of all His wondrous works. We have seen God in so many ways. Here are but a few:

  • He blessed us with a great staff at the kids’ school. When Addie had that first seizure, the team at St. John’s jumped into action to care for our baby. Not once, but twice. And they’ve continued to work with us through tests and tests and more tests.
  • My amazing teammates in ministry have walked through this with us as they organized meal trains, prayer, help with the lawn, snacks and gift cards and so much more. They have encouraged us through this ordeal and supported us even when we couldn’t express what we needed.
  • There have been so many “random events” that aren’t so random… A therapy dog showing up in Radiology when we were waiting for the first MRI. The Tumor Review Board happened to be meeting hours after we met with the neurosurgeon to discuss treatment. They only meet every 2 weeks. Running into a member from church that works at Oishei before the spinal MRI a couple days ago. She bought a candy-coated apple for Addie—the same apple Addie desperately wanted on the way into the hospital for the MRI.
  • He has provided a great medical team: Dr. Reynolds, the surgeon. Dr. Fitzpatrick, the oncologist. Jessica and Tara, the child life specialists at Roswell and Oishei who have helped Addie (and her parents) understand what was coming and feel better about it. Dr. Katie, the child psychologist who came to the house to meet Addie and talk with her about all this crazy stuff.
  • Our earthly family that have walked this road with us, feeling the pain just as deeply as we do.
  • Our spiritual family, the people of God at First Trinity and all around the country. So many prayers and notes of encouragement and packages have arrived that it’s crazy.

God describes His people in Hebrews 12:1 as “a great cloud of witnesses”. What I love about this picture is that the people of God are not limited to those we walk with here and now. God’s people are connected in this great cloud of witnesses across space and time. We stand not only with His people here and now, but His faithful people from the past who have gone to be with Him in Heaven.

We stand with God’s people on the shores of the Red Sea, fearing death at the hands of the pursuing Pharaoh. We watch as the pillar of cloud and fire becomes our rear guard, holding the armies of Egypt back while God makes a way through the sea.

We stand with God’s people as they stare down the impossibly imposing walls of Jericho. We join them in marching around the city and blowing the trumpets. We lift a thunderous shout in unison, looking on in awe as God causes the walls to crumble and bring victory to His people.

We stand with God’s people cowering in fear as Goliath the giant mocks and taunts us. We wonder with them as God’s faithful servant David goes forth to do battle armed only with a sling and stones. Our hope rises as David defiantly declares that he comes to defeat Goliath in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel that Goliath defies. We rejoice as David prevails over the giant.

We stand with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego as they defy the king, refusing to bow down and worship him. Under threat of being burned alive in the fiery furnace, still they are confident that their God could deliver them. We are cast into the fire with them, only to find a fourth in the fire whose appearance is like a son of the gods, keeping us safe from the fire.

We stand with the people at the foot of the cross as Jesus breathes His last. We stand outside the sealed tomb, the place that holds all our hopes and dreams for salvation. We leave with great sorrow. But three days later, we return to find the stone rolled away, revealing an empty tomb. We tremble as the Angel speaks, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.” With Mary and Mary, we rush to tell the disciples this great news when encounter Jesus on the road and fall at His feet and worship Him.

In three days, we will take the last step off the precipice into the hands of Jesus, the one who conquered death on the cross and rose three days later to bring everlasting life to His people. We are grateful for the cloud of witnesses who have been walking through this with us. On the other side of these three days, we look forward to joining with King David in Psalm 145:6-7, as we “speak of the might of God’s awesome deeds, and declare His greatness. We will pour forth the fame of God’s abundant goodness and sing aloud of His righteousness.”

Moving Off the Island

All Alone

Life on the island is not as great as you might think. Deciding to move off the island was the first step, but how do you make it happen? Because as sure as rain on your wedding day is not ironic, fear will chase after you and remind you again and again about how you’ll never make it off the island. Fear says it’s a dark and scary place out there, don’t go! Fear says you’ll never make if off the island anyway, so don’t bother! So how did we get away? How did we escape the island? Here’s our story.

You are not alone.

Understanding that we didn’t have to walk this journey alone was the first step. Logically, I knew we couldn’t possibly be the only people who were struggling with money issues. Surely there were others experiencing the same problems we were. And if others were facing the same problem, there were probably others that have overcome it. Our story off the island starts by seeking help from God’s people. For us, that was Susan Whited, who had taught a financial course at church several times. We couldn’t do the classes at church, so she sat down with us in her kitchen to begin the journey. We heard things we’d always known, things you’ve probably always known as well. Things like:

Our problem, however, was not the lack of knowledge, but behavior. We knew all this stuff, we just didn’t know how to practice it. Something had to change in our behaviors in order to create real change in our life. Our soon-to-be-born daughter provided the motivation, now we just needed the discipline and tools.

Live like no one else.

Our first step was to start tracking every dollar we spent. Every time we spent money, we wrote it down. Where did we spend it? What did we buy? This simple act reduced our spending because we could immediately see how much money we were spending on DVDs or eating out. We were doing OK, but we were just scratching the surface.

At the Catalyst Conference in 2008, I heard Dave Ramsey speak on leadership. He then spoke very briefly about money. I wandered over to his booth and found a flier about Financial Peace University. Not long after that conference, we decided to host our first FPU class at church. And it was FPU that really kicked the process into overdrive for us.

We really started gaining traction when we started doing the monthly budget. Dave says you have to decide “on paper, on purpose” at the beginning of every month how you are going to spend your money. You have to tell your dollars what to do, or else they wander off. The budget allowed us to finish the race to debt-free with gazelle intensity. The budget drove us to finish off our emergency fund. The budget drove us to save for car repairs, a new car, a paid-for-in-cash vacation, a new couch and so much more.

And sometimes life intrudes on our plan and the budget slips for a couple days or even a week. Those days—before the budget is finally done—are some of the worst of the month when that happens. It’s like a terrible flashback to life on the island, and all of the stress and anxiety that comes with it.

It’s moving time.

If you’re still living on that island, it’s time to get moving. Pray that God would lead you out. Ask Him to send others into your life to walk with you. Invite Him to shake up your life and transform you. It’s terrifying. I know—I used to live there. But God has a way out. (It might even be Financial Peace University… Click here to find a class in your area.)

Life on the Island

Island Canoe

This evening, we watched week 4 of Dave Ramsey’s newest class, The Legacy Journey, about the road to awesome. Jon Acuff was teaching and said something fascinating about fear. It’s also found in his newest book, Start. He writes:

Fear wants to isolate you and put you on an island.

I know the pain and anxiety and sorrow and shame of living on the island of fear. It’s a lonely and hopeless residence. It’s paralyzing.

My island was financial. You see, I remember what it was like to live on that island, isolated from others. I thought everyone else had this money thing figured out. I thought everyone else was doing really well with managing their finances. I thought I was the only one facing this seemingly insurmountable obstacle. I thought I was alone.

And so I carried on doing what I’d always done: hide the truth from everyone, acting like I had it all together.

Why is living on the island so dangerous? Jon continues:

Fear wants to isolate you and put you on an island. As long as you keep your fear to yourself, no one can tell you the truth about it.

For years, the fear of what others would think of me because of my poor financial situation kept me from getting help. I limped along, falling farther and farther behind on bills until God rocked my world with the news that we were having a baby. My fear seemed so inconsequential suddenly. It was no longer mine and Jaime’s story alone, but a new character was entering the narrative—one that would be totally dependent on us for her survival. It was time to move off the island.

Thankfully, God placed people in our lives to help us sail away from that island. There was a long voyage ahead, filled with potential storms and rocky shoals, but we wouldn’t sail it alone. God and His people were along for the ride, punching fear in the face and spurring us on.

Are you living on the island of financial fear? You are not alone. While we’re sometimes afraid to say it, there are others out there on the high seas, fighting the same fears. It’s time to board your ship and set sail.

Christian Schlock: Jesus Loves Nerds

I’m not really a fan of Christian Schlock. T-shirts, posters, bumper stickers, etc. You know the ones, right? No Jesus, No Peace. Know Jesus, Know Peace. Or how about: In case of rapture, this car will be unmanned. Or maybe you prefer the cheesy replacement slogans like “Just Believe It!” (You know, like Nike? Just do it?) You also have great church sign content like: “C H _ _ C H. What’s missing? U R.”

The thing is, it cheapens our message I think. Some of them are useful witnessing tools, but too many just turn me off and I’m already Christian! What does it do to non-believers? I see some of the ones on car bumpers and feel like I was just the victim of a drive-by judgment.

Now, I like a good Christian T-Shirt from time to time. Half my T-Shirt/Relaxed wardrobe it seems is made up of just Cornerstone and Crossroads gear, our Middle School and High School Ministries at First Trinity. But some of the junk we’ve come up with as Christians isn’t even funny. It’s just plain dumb.

Of course, this is the exception that proves the rule. Every now and then, we come up with something great. Got this as a psuedo Birthday/Christmas gift from a friend. I’m not really one for laptop covers, but this one was perfect. You can buy it or see a clearer, more readable picture here. My favorite part? Tough, but I’d have to go with “Jesus has the newest iPhone before it’s even made.” Runner up? “Chuck Norris wishes he was as cool as Jesus.”


The past several weeks have been really chaotic as we get ready to move. Between work, packing and painting, I haven’t had much time for anything, including blogging. The good news is that we’re just about done with painting. Many thanks to the several people who came over to help with the project!

We’re going to be moving on November 21 and need lots of help doing it. We’ll be renting a truck and loading it with all our stuff. We’ll start at 10 a.m. at our current place (33 Cascade Dr, Amherst NY, 14228). We’ll load the truck and then head to the new place to unload it all. We’ve got boxes, couches, beds, tables, chairs and lots more to move.

If you’re able to help, it would be much appreciated it. If you can participate (or you want to volunteer a child/husband/wife), let me know you’re coming by signing up in the comments below or giving me a call.

Music I’m Listening To

Not too long ago, David Crowder came out with a new CD titled “Church Music”. It’s been a regular in my music listening since it came out. Now I’m grooving to Matt Redman’s newest CD. Not sure which I like more right now.

Two tracks from Matt’s CD that stand out to me:

This Is How We Know (YouTube Video)

The opening lyrics:

This is how we know
This is how we know what love is
Just one look at Your cross
And this is where we see
This is where we see how love works
For You surrendered Your all
And this is how we know
That You have loved us first
This is where we chose
To love You in return

You Alone Can Rescue (YouTube Video)

Some favorite lyrics from this one:

Who, oh Lord, could save themselves,
Their own sin could heal?
Our shame was deeper than the sea
Your love is deeper still
You alone can rescue, You alone can save
You alone can lift us from the grave
You came down to find us, led us out of death
To You alone belongs the highest praise

Any good ones you’re enjoying right now?

The Work/Play Divide

I know not every job is like this, but one of the interesting things about my job is that it is very integrated with my life. Here’s what that means. There aren’t a lot of clear boundaries as to when I’m working and when I’m playing (play here is defined as not work).

Now, generally speaking, I certainly major in work while at work and major in play when at home. But, largely because of technology, my work and play bleed into one another fairly regularly. Some examples:

  • Email: Despite the fact that you can email me at my work account (an @FirstTrinity.com email) or my play account (@gmail.com), it all goes to the same place. This means I process both work and play email every time I check my email. This is why you may get a work-related email from me at 11 p.m. or a play email at 1 p.m.
  • Blogging: Generally speaking, I read blogs when I have an opportunity to do so. It’s easier to divide work and play blogs, but I read both types in both places. I also do some play blogging at work and work blogging at play.
  • Twitter: One of the things about Twitter that I love is that I can get small bits of teaching wherever I am. I can also get Fantasy Football news and information. And updates on my friends’ lives. Work and play co-exist.

Sometimes it’s best to have a clear divide between the two things. For me, that’s often on Mondays, which is my “day off”. Very rarely do I respond to work requests on Mondays. Occasionally, but not often. There are also times where I need to erect a barrier so play things don’t interrupt me at work. Usually this involves shutting down my email/twitter/blogging software and focusing exclusively on work.

So here are two theological questions associated with this:

  1. Is your relationship with God integrated with your life?
  2. When do you build a barrier to keep out the world and focus exclusively on God?

Of course, God wants both: Life integration and moments of exclusivity.

Everyday Faith: Baby Blessing

Jaime and I got to participate in the very first Baby Blessing event as part of our Everyday Faith program at church this morning. Some of the information we already knew, but it was good to hear it again. Some of it was new for us.

By far, the hardest part was trying to come up with a blessing to use for Addison. It was suggested that you may be able to build it around the meaning of your baby’s name. Doesn’t work so well for us, since Addison means “Son of Adam”. So we decided to use some of the story behind her middle-namesake: Naomi.

We have a draft—which I won’t share quite yet—but we wanted to include this section of Naomi’s story, spoken by Ruth to Naomi in Ruth 1:16:

For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.

It’s hard to write a blessing for our dear little Addison, but we’re praying it will be one that is meaningful to her throughout her whole life.

The First Win

After just nine years and three months, we’ve paid off our first student loan as part of the debt snowball we started back in August, 2008. It took 13 months and almost $1,800 in extra payments to get it done. Check it out:

Sallie Mae Paid Off

So, now it’s on to my student loan since that’s the next lowest in principle.


I’m told that children like routine. Truth be told, I’m a big fan of it myself.

Summer “vacation” was lots of fun, but it’s great to be getting back into a normal routine and rhythm. Between Workcamp, two weddings, National Youth Gathering travel and other stuff, it’s been difficult tracking when I need to be where and doing what.

If you hadn’t noticed, I’ve only blogged 3 times in the last month and a half, party because of the craziness of summer. This is your warning that I’ll be more regular about it again. So if you haven’t unsubscribed already, now’s your chance!

(Of course, I hope you continue to stick around…)

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