Changing my Christmas ways…

For the longest time I have been a pre-Thanksgiving Christmas Scrooge. Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas and love all the things that go with Christmas. From remembering and celebrating the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ, to the food and parties, to getting to see old family and friends, the music, and everything else. However, I have always been strict about not starting any of my decorating and celebrating until after Thanksgiving. Black Friday has always been a joyous day for me as I crank up the Christmas tunes and start to get excited. Anything before that seemed to rushed and forced, and even more to the materialistic side of the season.

All that being said, I am now almost 37 years old and realizing it’s time to change my ways. And I have two very good reasons for this change of heart. My sweet little girl and crazy little boy. They love Christmas and their excitement is contagious. I love that they love the Christmas for the right reasons too. Don’t get me wrong, they love presents and all the fun stuff they get to do, but they know we are celebrating the birth of Jesus and love hearing about his arrival as we set up the Nativity and go to church. We even broke down and put up the Christmas tree early this year as they couldn’t wait any longer and tonight I sat down and watched the live action “How The Grinch Stole Christmas” with them. My son especially loves Christmas and would decorate the whole house without our help if we would let him. His favorite thing for me to do is take him to Lowes so that he can look at all the decorations, especially all the inflatables!

I love my kids excitement and joy for the Christmas season. It is truly infectious and has rubbed off and turned an old Scrooge like me into a Santa hat wearing Christmas dad……….in November!

Advertisements

speaking in public…

microphoneI have always been what most people would consider an outgoing guy.  I can go in and talk to people and joke and have fun.  The truth is though that while I can do those things, it’s not really me.  Going into a group of people and having to mingle petrifies me with anxiety and then take it another step further an have to speak to everyone and I get even more anxious.  The biggest anxiety of all though is when I am charged with sharing a devotion or preaching a sermon.  The pressure of making sure that not only am I communicating well, but also handling the truth of God’s Word properly very much overwhelms me.

Yet, I am in full time ministry where I have to do all those things that cause my anxiety.  From 2005-middle of 2016 I was in a ministry where I may only have to speak in front of a group a handful of times a year.  That all changed last year when I went full time with FCA.  Since that time I have had to share in churches, civic organizations, schools, and lots of other places.  In just a little over a year I have had more opportunities to speak than I have had in the 11 years prior.

All this is to say, I am so thankful that I have a God who encourages me and gives me strength to over come, or at least ignore the anxieties that attack me about speaking.  Where once I had a sense of dread when someone asked me to speak, now I am open to it and sometime find myself excited for the opportunity.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m still scared and worried, but too many times has God showed himself faithful for me to be held back by those feelings.

This Sunday, I will be speaking at a church that I have never spoken at before. I am blessed to have the opportunity to not only share about our ministry with FCA but to also share a message from God’s Word.  The nerves and fears will come, but I have a great God who will give me strength and allow me to do all things through Him!

a new study Bible…

CSBMy wife says that I have a problem.  That problem is that I love collecting and reading different Bibles.  She has threatened to hurt me if I buy any more.  While not prone to violence, I think I may believe her!  Just kidding.

Anyway, earlier this year I made the switch to the Christian Standard Bible for my main personal Bible.  I really like the fact that it is a great mixture of accuracy and easy to read.  Falling right in the middle of most of the very literal and easy to read versions.  I even got my daughter the CSB kids version because it’s easy to read to her and I know the truth of the Word is not compromised in anyway.  I highly recommend the CSB to anyone looking for a great modern translation.

A few weeks ago, I saw that CSB has released their new study Bible.  It’s a beautifully done Bible that has very detailed notes and study helps.  Not only that, but the color pictures, maps, and design are awesome.  After looking at the Bible I knew that I needed one, but didn’t want to risk my life.

I happened to be on Facebook and one of those ads where they offer you a deal on something you were googling popped up for the CSB Study Bible.  It was to click here to get a free CSB Bible.  I clicked on the link to a Lifeway page and saw that the deal was for people who work in churches, mainly pastors, to get a copy of a regular CSB reference Bible.  However, there was a link to contact Lifeway if I had any questions.  I figured what could it hurt to send a note to Lifeway so I clicked the message link.  There I informed Lifeway that I am in Full Time ministry with FCA and was wondering if I could get a free promotional copy of the CSB Study Bible.  I figured the worst they could tell me is no, so what did I have to lose?  Lifeway responded pretty quickly and informed me that they didn’t normally give away promotional copies of the Study Bible, but would be happy to send me one!

Within a week I had my free hardback copy of the the CSB Study Bible!  And I have to tell you that I love it.  The pages are thick, glossy, and high quality.  The amount of work and detail in the notes is awesome and I know that this is going to aid me both in personal study and preparation for Bible studies and speaking opportunities that I may have in the future.  The only negative with this Bible that I may have is just that it is large and heavy.  So while great for personal home and office study, I wouldn’t want to pack it to church and other places very often.  Hopefully they will come out with a more personal size version in the future.  That being said, I would highly recommend it to anyone wanting a great study Bible.  And a big thanks to Lifeway for the gift of this amazing study tool for sharing God’s Word!

Forced R & R…

BedrestManThe past week and a half has definitely not gone the way that I had envisioned it would.   I hoped that I would be in the middle of a whirlwind of ministry, traveling to various schools training students and coaches to do FCA, and leading Bible studies.  However, that has not been the case and I have pretty much been confined to my house, the doctors office of the hospital.

For about two weeks I have been having a lot of pain that gradually got worse and worse.  Pain when I sat and pain when I moved.  Friday night a week ago I was in bad enough pain that went to urgent care.  Unfortunately they misdiagnosed and the meds they gave me did nothing to help me.  By Sunday, a week ago today, I was in such bad pain that I had my wife take me to the emergency room where I spent most of the day.  While the ER was not able to totally fix me up they were able to give me pain meds and make it a lot easier for me to deal.  Finally, on Tuesday I met with a surgeon who diagnosed my issue and set up surgery on Wednesday.  It turns out I had a problem called a fistula.  I’ll let you google that and find out what all that means, but I warn you not to look at the pictures.    So Wednesday, I had outpatient surgery which went well, but now I have to go back and meet with the surgeon again, set up a time for a colonoscopy, and make a plan for what comes next.

Since Wednesday evening, I have been at home on bedrest.  The good news is that I am slowly starting to feel a little better and move around some.  While there is still pain, I am in nowhere near the amount of pain that I was in before the surgery.  And hopefully this week I will be able to get out among the living and while not at 100% at least be able to do some things.

The good thing to come out of this is first of all that I have been forced to get some rest.  When you are stuck in bed and on pain meds that make you sleepy, you sleep.  So for the first time in awhile I feel refreshed as far as sleep goes.  The second good thing that has actually been the best thing is once again being forced to rely more on God.  This first came into play with just being in pain and having to pray and pray and pray to be delivered from the pain I was in.  Then more prayer for doctors, surgery, healing and everything going on in my body that I don’t fully understand right now.

I have also been forced to depend on God through all the worry, discouragement, and depression that Satan has been throwing at me.  Worries such as worry about how I am going to pay for all these medical bills and what am I going to do about our family’s financial support for ministry which is not at 100%.  Worries  about important meetings and Bible studies that I am missing while being stuck at home.  In times when I should be encouraged by the awesome friends that God has given me me that have called and texted to check on me, I’ve found Satan trying to discourage me with the fact that I am stuck inside and had no friends visit.  Depressed that I just haven’t been able to be up interacting and enjoying my family.  I don’t list these things to be whiney or to elicit sympathy, but to be honest about lots of the things going on in my mind right now.  And then to also let you know that my God is bigger than all these issues. neverleaveyou He will meet all my medical and financial needs.  He has given me great friends and will give me more.  God will take care of all my meetings and Bible studies.  Whether that being letting them go on without me or rescheduling them.  He will allow me to be a good Dad and Husband to my family.  Instead of letting the stillness and forced time of rest drive me nuts with discouragement from Satan, I have to remind myself that God says I need to be still and know He is is God.  Nothing is to big or small for Him.  He will never leave me nor forsake me.

So please pray for me that I will seek God deeper each day, even when this health issue is over.  Pray that I will get healthy soon and get back to just being able to do and enjoy life without pain.  Pray for the issues that Satan has thrown at me to worry about, that God would meet those needs and I would continue to trust He will do so.  And lastly that even though it’s hard I would enjoy being able to rest!

Time for another school year…

The summer has officially flown by and my baby girl is heading back to school tomorrow for her first day of the First Grade. On Facebook I received one of the throw back pictures of her when she was so very tiny, and now here she his tall, beautiful, and full of high energy starting her second year of school. Not only, does it make me feel old, but it’s depressing to realize how short the time God has given me to be a Dad really is. My constant prayer to God is that I am the type of father who reflects Christ to my kids in all that I do and say. Looking at how fast that time is going, really makes me want to be sure that I am reflecting Him well. My time as an example is short and I want to have maximum impact for Christ on my kids. I can’t imagine all the things that my daughter is going to have to face in school and life, so helping her get a Godly base now is so important. The Bible says in Ephesians 5:16 (ESV), “Making the best use of time, because the days are evil.” I have to make the best use of time with my sweet girl so that she can face all that life throws at her, both good and evil. That’s my prayer as a father and I hope that if you are a parent it’s your prayer too!

praying to parent better…

ParentingI’m a Dad and all too often I am reminded by the actions and words of my kiddos that I am still figuring this whole parenting thing out.  I have two wonderful kids.  My six year old girl is a firecracker who is full of life and does everything full speed ahead.  Sometimes this leads to her being overly persistent even after she has been told no to something and losing doesn’t always go over that well with her.  My five year old little boy is as sweet as they come, but he does struggle with some speech and learning/developmental delays.  These issues definitely give him his own struggles and issues to overcome.

Each day, I realize that each of my children have their own issues and struggles and that as unique little individuals I have to respond to them in ways to unique to each child.  My daughter is fiercely independent and my son is not.  She needs more words of affirmation and he needs more quality time.  With my daughter sometimes you have to be louder to get her attention, that same volume though can break my son’s little spirit so he needs a quieter gentler tone of correction.

The problem with dealing with my kids and meeting their individual unique needs is that I am a sinner.  As a Dad I don’t always respond the way I should.  I let my own issues, fatigue, and life in general all too often color the way I parent.  Too often my responses have more to do with me than that of what my child is doing or needs.  This is an issue that God has definitely been dealing with me about one the past few months and it has led me to a simple prayer that I pray daily, if not several times a day.  I pray and ask  God to allow me and my wife to be the type of parents that point our kids to Christ in all that we do and say, and that we show His love to them in all that we do and say.

This prayer convicting to me, because it points out the times that day I have failed to do what I’m asking.  Also, it comes to my mind when I am in the middle of some form of parenting my children and helps me slow down and think about the love, kindness, discipline, and guidance that I may be about to give.  I know I am a fallen sinner, but I want to seek my God so that my kids see Christ in me and want a deeper relationship with Him.  I never want to be the parent that breaks his kids down and drives them away from Christ.

I am praying to be a parent who is reflecting Christ well and ask that you pray for me in this area to!

struggling…but God is faithful

anxietyThe past few weeks have been an exercise in truly trusting in God when I say that I am trusting in Him.  You would think after the past year I would totally rely on God’s promises to take care of me and my family.  I have seen Him provide for us as we sold our old home, moved to a new area, started a new ministry, helped my wife overcome breast cancer, provide the finances to cover all here medical expenses and so on.  It has truly been a year of one example of God’s faithfulness after another.  Yet, I sit here now knowing that Satan has been attacking me full force and making me worry and be anxious about God’s provision.

With the ministry that I work for, my family has to raise our own support to cover all our bills, living expenses, and ministry costs.  So, a big part of what I do is schedule meetings with churches, organizations, and individuals.  Currently, we are at about 82% of our needed support level and so I have been scheduling as many meetings as possible to try and get fully funded.  The great news is that I have been blessed with several meetings and people have seemed genuinely interested and concerned about our ministry.  The bad news is so far none of these meetings have led to new monthly and yearly support commitments.  Also, during this time we have had tons of trouble with our van and put money that we really needed for other financial issues into getting it fixed.  There are also some upcoming financial bills that I know will be here soon that just have led to me feeling totally overwhelmed.  There have also been some just struggles of loneliness and other issues that I really have felt have been hitting me hard during this time as well.

I am very much the type of person who likes a plan.  I like to know what needs to be done to get from point A to point B.  This struggling and sense of being overwhelmed this past month or so has really just began to take a toll, with anxiety, tightness in my chest, sleepless nights, and other issues derived from worry.  I have been so blessed with things that God is doing great in our ministry and opportunities to use sports to work with kids, but yet can’t help but feel Satan is using anxiety to rid me of the joy that I should be having.

The good though is that I know while I am nervous and anxious over the future my God is not.  He is in total control, even though I often feel alone.  In over 12 years of full time ministry and living on support, I have never had a need that God has not met.  And so I am retreating into His Word and promises.  From the time I accepted Christ as my Savior on October 14, 1984, my favorite verse has been Hebrews 13:5 which ways that God will never leave me nor forsake me.  That’s something I have to remind myself of overtime that I feel anxiety setting in.  Rather that wallowing in worry, I have to be diligent to call out to Him and not go to my automatic how do “I” fix this mode.

I know that deep down that if I trust God, He will always reveal Himself to be faithful.  That was evident this past weekend.  On Sunday after church, I was really struggling with anxiety and my chest was so tight that I was honestly scared.  I ran out to do some errands leaving my family at home and my anxiousness kept growing and I couldn’t shake it.  When I got home, though, as I shared in my last post, I had the opportunity to lead my 5 year old son to the Lord.  It was in that moment that God reminded me, “Andy, I got this.  I will take care of you and your family.”

great-is-thy-faithfulness

And I know that He will take care of us, I know that there is not a need that I have that He cannot meet, and I know that when I seek Him I will always find Him.  Pray with me that I will seek Him.  That I will look for God’s blessings and evidence of His faithfulness and not let Satan rob me of joy and thankfulness.  Pray with me that God will provide the needed support partners for our family to get to 100% and that I will have peace as we wait and be diligent to keep pursuing potential partners.  I hate being consumed by anxiety and worry, but once again am thankful that my God is not!