The Right Bookend to Last Week!

November 24, 2011

I bet you wonder how last week ended!  As we celebrate Thanksgiving, what I want to share with you is how Thankful I am for how God shows up our lives!  Friday was one of those days that there was little if anything to complain about.  Any challenges that may have crept up were in the shadows of a joy filled day!  My prayer the night before was that God would reveal what He wanted for me through the decision that would be made about coaching soccer at the high school level.

With the interview the evening before, it was fresh in my mind in the morning and I was wondering what I would hear back in the early part of this week as to what hiring decisions would be made.  As mentioned in the previous post, there were two opportunities to coach in Ankeny, and I was really feeling the nudge that becoming the Head Coach for the 9th Grade Boys Team at the new Centennial High School would be the best fit.  In 2013 there will be 2 high schools in Ankeny and in preparation for divided schools they are beginning to split the sports teams as well at the freshmen level.  In this position I would have an opportunity to develop the program in the years to come and for this I was excited.  My prayer in the morning again was for God to make clear what His plan was in this through the decision to be made.  In this I was able to find peace to alleviate the distraction of curiosity as I prepared to go to work.  The peace once again came over me because I knew it was in God’s hands.

It was 9:42am that I received a phone call from the Athletic & Activities Director, Mr. Kevin Biggs, who was excited to offer me the opportunity to become the 9th Grade Boy’s Soccer Head Coach.  I shared my excitement and accepted the offer to join the team of coaches in the Ankeny School District!  What a blessing this was and I look forward to coaching this team in the Spring.  Following this news I had a 3 month review meeting with Pastor Scott Rains.  This meeting quickly reminded me of how blessed I am to be a part of such a great group of people excited to serve God and work to advance His Kingdom.  With just a few months under my belt, my experiences are great examples of why following God to step into this role provide continued affirmation!  As I left the review meeting it was off to lunch with some of my brothers in Christ, whom are a part of our Tuesday morning study, at Woody’s Smoke Shack.  As I drove I Thanked God for His response to prayer and was excited to begin sharing the news I received from Mr. Biggs.

Lunch with Jeremy, Taylor and SJ provided a great opportunity for fellowship, but also served as an opportunity to reflect on our experiences from Tuesday mornings.  The guys continue to share with us how they are being challenged to grow in their relationship with God and as a Follower of Christ.  I love to see how God uses the platform of leading this group to change their lives and shape their perspectives in many ways.  Friendships are being created and accountability relationships are resulting.  This is what being the Church is all about and God continues to be at work!  As we left lunch, I was full of joy and in tune with how God continues to bless this life.  What was to follow involved one of the biggest headline in sports for the week!

I picked up my girlfriend, Amy, and we set out to Ames to enjoy a night of tailgating and football.  We arrived at the lots as the sun was setting and enjoyed the opportunity to hang out with friends, enjoy some brats and watch a game for which we had little expectations.  What transpired over the next few hours, was beyond believable, but we witnessed an amazing battle between the #2 Team in the nation and the fearless Cyclones.  The game was amazing and I am Thankful that I had the opportunity to enjoy the experience with friends!  Simply amazing!

God shows up in a multitude of ways in our lives and for this we should be Thankful!  I am Thankful for the opportunity to share in life’s experiences with family and friends!  I am Thankful for how God provides for the opportunity to experience the blessings in this life!  I am Thankful for each day that I have on this earth!  I hope that what I have shared with you in this Bookend Blog Series provides encouragement for each of you to stop and reflect on how God is working in your life every day.    We give Thanks today for our many blessings, don’t forget to give Thanks to God for all He has done and for sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for our sins!

In The Middle(of the Bookends)!

November 23, 2011

As I continue to reflect on last week’s events, I continue to be thankful how God is present every day!  It is no accident why 14 young men get together at 6:30am on Tuesday mornings to go through a study, Discipleship and Mentoring, which I am co-leading with my Brother in Christ, SJ Risewick.  This study is another one of the 5 part study series I mentioned in my previous post.  We have been blessed with a strong group of guys age 20-36 who are seeking after God’s will and hoping for fellowship with other young godly men.  It is amazing to sit back and watch how God brings these men together in discussion and prayer each Tuesday morning.

Later that evening I was afforded the opportunity to venture to the Knapp Center to watch the Iowa State Cyclones play the Drake Bulldogs.  I grew up a Cyclone basketball fan in the era when Freddy Hoiberg was playing, and it is exciting seeing him back coaching in Ames.  Makes you probably think I was disappointed in the result or maybe even a little bitter after seeing Drake win 74-65.  This may surprise you sports fans out there but I do not get caught up in the results.  Even as a coach for soccer, I have a new found perspective from Christ that allows me to see the bigger picture and get past results.  I enjoy watching games because they are the opportunity for talents to be used and shared with others.  It is funny/sad to me seeing how rattled people get with missed calls or when their team misses shots.  I even catch myself at times still falling into that trap, but then I realize it is just a game and the game will end and lives will continue.  No ref is perfect, no athlete is perfect, so why should we expect them to be perfect?  I find it much more enjoyable watching a game, cheering on a team and appreciating the ability of the opponents and the action of the game play!  Where does that perspective come from?

Wednesdays of recent have seem to fly by, mostly because I am preparing for the Students that come to PowerLife, our Middle School Confirmation Ministry, and Ignition, our High School Student Ministry, on Wednesday nights.  Even though it seems to fly by, it is amazing how God shows up in the details of planning for the night and helps provide a sense of peace despite the list of things to accomplish prior to the students arriving.  Last Wednesday we had our biweekly staff meeting and wow was God present.  We were in need of His presence as we prayed for the church and the family affected by some news that had come to light in the public media and was to be addressed during the weekend messages.  Room 104 at the Station was full of God’s grace and presence and it is an amazing blessing to be a part of such a great team!  Then as we moved toward the evening when students would be arriving, I was planning for a Prayer Night.  A night in which we were able to focus in on the following: What is Prayer?, Why do we Pray? and How do we Pray?  If you are so inclined, I encourage you to watch this video and see how God speaks to you:

Nooma – Open

God definitely was present in the room on Wednesday night.  The students were well behaved and focused!  I had some great follow up from small group leaders about their experiences within their groups and prayers that were being lifted.  I love how a group of students can come together as a community of believers and support one another.  I also was able to pray over Jamie and Lisa in front of the students, to demonstrate how prayer takes shape differently for each of us.  I wanted to encourage them to begin praying so they can develop a comfort level to step out and pray for those in need when the opportunities arise in their daily lives.  Prayer is to be a posture of life where we are continually connected with God in communications so that He can guide our steps!  I was affirmed that I enjoy living in this posture and that I desire to continually develop and grow my prayer life.

Thursday I woke up with a decision to make.  I had spent most of Wednesday working and I am often reminded that Sabbath Days are important to our overall health and energy.  You might remember that commitment I was to make to work out more consistently as a part of my 30 Days to 30 initiative.  Well the P90X routine is not starting up until next week when Brad and I are going to begin the madness.  The decision to make, go play indoor soccer with some fellow coaches or just begin working?  As I wrestled with the decision, I knew that I wanted to get a workout in and this would be a great way to start the day.  God reminded me that it is okay to take some time out for oneself.  It was a great opportunity to play and involves a great level of competition.  Of course after I left I was glad I played and look forward to continuing the Thursday Mornings throughout the winter!  Another theme rang true for this day.  Because of my transition into ministry and the change in my schedule, I had considered coaching soccer at the High School Level.  I had previously interviewed with Des Moines Christian, but was hoping for an opportunity to interview in Ankeny.  That opportunity came earlier in the week and I was set to have the interview Thursday afternoon.  I stepped into the interview excited about the prospect of coaching in the community where I am already beginning to serve the youth.  I saw this opportunity as an extension of my mission for having impact on the lives of youth.  I was able to interview with the AD and a couple of current coaches.  To my surprise the interview was a quick as they were interviewing multiple candidates that evening for 2 positions, the Varsity Assistant and the Ankeny Centennial 9th Grade Head Coach.  As I walked away there was a sense of peace knowing that God’s will would be revealed in the early part of next week when I was to receive a follow up communication and a decision was to have been made.  Of course this was at the front of my mind for the remainder of the evening, but it was out of my control!  I put faith in God revealing His plans through these scenarios in life.  Will I be offered either of the positions?  Stay tuned…

I wrapped up Thursday evening with dinner and football at the Chicken Coop with my Best Friend, Brad Carlson.  It had been some time since we had caught up in the midst of busyness with work, his prepping for a May Wedding and our different schedules.  It was great to just hang out, life on life, talking guy stuff and enjoying some football.  Helped take us away from the other things that keep us busy.  I appreciate these opportunities with friends and look forward to having more time available for friends as I work to become more intentional with my schedule, but also maintain emotional health with great friendships.  Oh I bet you just can’t wait for the right bookend to the week…

Last Week’s Left Bookend!

November 22, 2011

The first full week of the 30 Days to 30 Experience was great.  In the next few days I will be sharing with you a 3 part blog series that takes you through how I was able to experience God throughout the week!  Not only will you have examples of how God is working in my life and the life of others, you might even be challenged to pause and reflect on how God has been working in your life!

As I have done almost every Monday of 2011, I started the week with a Men’s Ministry Leadership Study with other men from Lutheran Church of Hope whom are seeking after God’s own heart!  The current devotion and discussion based study we are walking through is The Spirit Empowered Leader, written by Paul Leavenworth.  It is amazing that 11 men meet at 6:30am every Monday to spend time exploring how God is working in our lives, enter into discussion about how we can be leaders empowered by the Holy Spirit, and pray for one another to provide support and encouragement for the week ahead.  This is the 3rd study of a 5 study series that I have participated in, each lasting 13 weeks.  Not only is it an amazing way to connect with God and men at the outset of each week, but it is also a great way to continue growing in my leadership capacity as I continue to disciple leaders.  It is no accident this group of men continues to share in the journey of becoming Christ-like in our character.  Each of us are in different leadership roles within the community and we hope to follow Christ’s example of leadership.  It was a great way to start a day that had only just begun!

After a long day, I finally settled in at home at 11pm Monday night.  Up until this point I worked through the morning, then I then spent the majority of the afternoon and evening preparing for and leading the 2011 Johnston Urbandale Soccer Club(JUSC) Mobile Hunger Fight.  Players and families of JUSC came together to combat hunger by packaging meals for Meals from the Heartland at Johnston High School.  With nearly 200 volunteers in total and 2 hours of packaging, we were able to produce 47,736 meals that were shipped out later in the week to support the Convoy of Hope, where meals later are distributed to mission partners in New Mexico, Haiti and Africa.  When Matty Smith, Suzanne Morris and I set out to plan this event in late spring/early summer, we had no idea what to expect.  God proved He had much more planned than we could have imagined.  We believed that it would not be difficult get teams of volunteers to package meals.  The one concern and a hurdle in planning for a Meals from the Heartland event is the fundraising component.  In order to support the packaging event, a group that is planning a Mobile Hunger Fight must raise money to cover the cost of the product.  We proposed a final goal of packaging 50,000 meals and at a cost of $0.20 per meal we would need to raise $10,000.  As many Meals from the Heartland events I have been a part of, it once again proved true that God provides.  We surpassed the $10,000 fundraising goal minutes leading up to the event!  Praise God!  Here is a link to a clip from the Channel 5 News that aired last Monday night:

JUSC Mobile Hunger Fight

We are so blessed!  I love how Sam “Mr. Happy” Miller was able to partake in this experience and share this insight with those in our community.  The energy and the excitement surrounding the event was absolutely amazing.  Many players and parents walked away with an appreciation for the work we can do together to support those in need.  We could not have planned for, nor could have done enough to make this event turn out the way it did on our own.  Once the opportunity to serve grabs a hold of the hearts of others the power and impact that is produced is overwhelming.
I thank God for how He goes to work in the lives of others and how He shows up in my life.  This day was an example of God’s blessing and how His plans are much greater than our own.  I find that no matter how much I try to be in control of the situation, God takes care of business if it is in His will.  As I reflect on the “left side” of last week, I find a solid bookend that sets the tone for the remainder of the week, in which you will learn more about in the days to come.  To be continued…

30 to 30!

November 14, 2011

Welcome back!  Since my last post I have been busy at work in my new role as Children and Student Ministries Director at Lutheran Church of Hope Ankeny.  I have experienced many blessings in the first three months!  Being on the go has made it difficult to find the time to slow down and reflect.  As a staff we have been reading the book, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, by Peter Scazzero.  During our meeting Saturday morning we were able to pause and reflect as a Leadership Team on the emotions we have been feeling recently.  This was a very healthy exercise and each of us felt as though we could have continued with the exercise in place of the meeting itself.  As we talked about our emotional health amidst the team, it created an environment of reflection.  I believe that this blog has provided an outlet of reflection that can be used to inspire others to “Take God Seriously.”

On Friday, November 11, 2011 I began an initiative 30 to 30!  It has been on my heart for months to start dedicate time to improve my Spiritual, Emotional and Physical Health. During the 30 days leading up to my 30th BDay, it is my hope to develop new habits that will improve my overall health.  I don’t particularly consider myself unhealthy, however there are some key changes that I would like to make so I can more fully step into who God has created me to Be.  In sharing this with you I hope to find a network of encouragement and support.  What I know is true, I cannot do this alone, with the help of God and others I will be able to develop new healthy habits that will promote my Spiritual, Emotional and Physical well being.

You might ask…Brent, what is it that you really want to work on improving?  I am glad to share more details in conversation, but here is a glimpse.  Many of us have experienced the energy that exercising provides!  There is a purpose in exercising, not only to treat our bodies like temples, but also to provide strength and energy that will help us Spiritually and Emotionally.  One of my goals is to have a consistent workout routine through the use of P90X and possibly a gym membership with winter in Iowa fast approaching.  Also, as life continues to move forward and the big 3-0 approaches, I have recognized that I don’t set aside time to catch up with family and friends with any consistency.  There are many high school and college friends I haven’t talked to in months, as a result I would like to make an effort to reach out and spend some time in reconnecting!  Lastly, and most important is Spiritual health.  Because we live such fast paced lives, we rarely take time to practice the discipline of quiet time with God.  I have been inconsistent in this recently, because of my focus on ministry development.  I find time, but it is often distracted time.  Instead of waking up and thinking of my to do list or checking emails on my phone, I hope to spend the first part of every day with God, like Jesus did(Mark 1:35).  I find this necessary in surrendering each day to God and centering my life on Christ, so I can live according to His plan.

As you read the above examples, I want you to know that I too want to help others in areas they are being challenged to make change.  There is no doubt in my mind that we all have areas in our lives where we would like more consistency to promote our overall health.  Research shows that there are different trains of thought as to how long it takes to create a new habit.  For new habits to be formed you need to practice it for 21, 28, 66 days?!  I suppose this could become my psyche, however what I have learned is that it takes daily focus and effort to spend time doing that which we believe is important.  I believe that Spiritual, Emotional and Physical health are important to living out my purpose.  As a result I must refocus daily to be the best steward of my time, talents and treasure.  I do not necessarily believe the fact that it takes a certain amount of days to create a new habit, because life can change instantly; example: Penn State News.  Therefore I do not want to get caught up in being a creature of habit, rather focusing my effort on the activities in life that promote growth in my relationship with God and others, all the while living into the purpose God has on my life.  In essence I can begin “Taking God Seriously” when it comes to my Spiritual, Emotional and Physical health and be an example of someone who embraces the challenge of refocusing on God each day!  Who wants to join me in this journey and walk along side me as I work to improve my overall health?