We returned home Friday afternoon from a great (and exhausting) week at district Kids Camp.

I had a blast filming and editing videos all week for a nightly ‘highlight reel’ video shown in the rally. I’ve been told that 13-children made first-time commitments to follow Jesus at camp this year! I believe in the impact and importance of the camp experience. As camp-weeks become more and more expensive to attend and pull off, I fear the inevitable, but I’m grateful to serve on a district that believes in the importance of financially investing in the lives of children by availing a camp-experience each Summer!

Here are the camp highlight videos from our week together –

Brand new track from Switchfoot. Can’t stop listening.

Here’s the acoustic version (video) –

Take the burden from my arms
Take the anchor off my lungs
Take me broken
Make me one
Break the silence and make it a song

CHORUS
Life is short, I want to live it well
One life, one story to tell
Life is short, I want to live it well
And You’re the One I’m living for
Awaken o my soul
Every breath that you take is a miracle
Life is short, I want to live it well

I want to sing with all my heart a lifelong song
Even if some notes come out right and some come out wrong
I can’t take none of that through the door
I’m living for more than just a funeral
I want to burn brighter than the dawn

I got one life and one love
I got one voice and maybe that’s enough
With one heartbeat, two hands to give
I’ve got one shot, one life to live

 

Also love the “story behind the song” from Jon Foreman –

On Sunday, Jess and I surprised the kids with an overnight stay at a hotel in State College. We thoroughly enjoyed the evening in the pool, pizza before bed and sleeping in on Monday morning! After a fantastic hotel breakfast, we headed to the Nittany Mall to walk around and window-shop for a few hours.

clawVWWhile we were walking near one end of the mall, we walked past a yellow Volkswagon Van coin-machine that featured 4 or 5 different “games of skill” including those claw-style games that are nearly impossible to win. Noticing both of our kids eyeballing the machine (okay, I’ll admit that I, too, was drawn in by the flashing lights and prizes!) I walked us over to the machines together as a family.

We walked a few laps around the enticing trap and I decided to use this opportunity to teach our kids a “lesson” (there was a slight chance I could have won a $100 Walmart giftcard, too). I played 2 credits ($1) and quickly lost on both attempts. I quickly mentioned how easy it was to lose that $1 and both kids seemed to ‘get it’.

We walked away and almost as quickly as we had turned around, Ezra exclaimed that he could win if he tried.

Perfect opportunity for a lesson, right? Right.

I gave Ezra the option of using some “his money” to play the game (Jess keeps an envelope of both kids’ money in her purse for the occasion we’re out and they find something they’d consider buying for themselves) and he quickly accepted that offer and before I could even catch up with him he was putting the dollar in the machine attempting to win a stuffed Minion toy. He tried very carefully to capture the first and then the second – both without hardly even budging the toys in his attempt. He was quite disappointed. I was certain he had learned his lesson, so we did some final conversing about the way these games work – identifying the reality that they’re designed to make it nearly impossible to win and that it’s OUR CHOICE to play or not to play!

We walked away (again) as a family and went on down the hallway to our next destination.

Little did I know, Ezra’s mind was still back at the VW claw machine. We were now at least sight-distance away from the machine when Ezra said boldly, “I could win a toy if I had one more dollar.”

I almost chose to ignore it, but I’m sure it was the Holy Spirit nudging me to interact again.

“What, buddy?” I asked.

“If I had one more chance, I KNOW I could win a prize.” Ezra repeated.

It was at that moment I was dumbstruck that Ezra really hadn’t yet learned this lesson I thought he had. I went back over all of the previous 10-minutes with him – I lost $1, he lost $1. Zero winning. Zero almost winning. Nothing to show for our $2 investment. Nothing.

“If I played one more time I would win.” He insisted.

I reached around and grabbed my wallet from my back pocket. I opened it and found a crisp $1 bill and as I pulled it out, I told him, Ezra, if you KNOW you can win by playing again, I want you to do it with MY money. “I want you to win, buddy.” (I half-hoped he’d learn the lesson at THAT point, turn down the dollar and move on to our next destination.)

Before I could even finish my “pep talk” he was off and running with my dollar. Before I could even catch up with him he had the dollar inserted into a DIFFERENT (easier?) claw machine and he was deep set in his first-attempt.

No toy.

Second attempt.

No toy.

Let’s be honest – this probably wouldn’t be a blog post (or a sermon illustration for that matter) if he HAD won, right?

As the reality set in on his 6-year-old mind (and heart), Ezra turned around and I watched his facial expressions move from mad (at the stupid claw game) to broken. I was kneeling just a few steps behind him and he literally ran and buried his head in my chest.

Bawling.

Between his cries, he managed to whisper, “It was YOUR money, Dad. I’m so sorry.”

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Ezra showed me this drawing in his notebook. He drew it on our way home from the mall.

I barely managed to hold myself together there kneeling on the tile floor in front of the claw machine holding onto my favorite six year old in the whole world. It was one of those moments. Those moments that is written forever on my heart and I pray one that my son also remembers. I don’t want Ezra to only remember that claw machines are nearly impossible to win at. I want Ezra to learn that he can trust his Daddy. That he can listen to his Daddy’s experiences, advice, opinions and learn to trust him more and more. And as he learns to trust me, I hope that he grows to trust in his Heavenly Father all the more, too!

Lord, allow me to be an example to Ezra of your deep deep love for your sons and daughters.

I had the privilege of performing a wedding ceremony this past weekend in Indiana. As we were driving back to Pennsylvania I was trying to stay alert (and entertained) by seeking through radio-stations somewhere in mid-Ohio and stopped on a track I’d never heard before.

These lyrics caused me to pause on one particular track:

I’m so sick of that same old love . . .
my body’s had enough
I’m so sick of that same old love . . .
feels like I’ve blown apart
I’m so sick of that same old love . . .
the kind that breaks your heart . .

I liked the track – it’s quite catchy – FAIR WARNING THOUGH: the non radio-edit version of the song isn’t completely family-friendly (and neither is the album artwork!)

sameoldloveTurns out the track is sung by Selena Gomez, the (currently) 23-year old pop-star who came to fame thanks in part to her acting on a popular Disney Channel television show.

Today I took time to listen and read through the lyrics of this track I only partially heard on the radio. And I find myself connecting the dots of this song with some of what I said as a part of the wedding ceremony just days ago.

As I stood before the couple on Saturday evening and delivered my short wedding homily before they repeated their vows and said, “I do.”, I read to them from God’s Holy Word –

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 – 

“Love is patient and kind, love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.

As I acknowledged God’s definition of love, I admitted that unfortunately a false-love exists in our world – due to our sinful nature. And as we compared and contrasted these two loves, I encouraged this bride and groom to steer-clear of this broken, selfish, impatient, jealous kind of love and to instead run head-first towards God’s perfect love.

I found it comical that hours after presenting this truth to a bride and groom and a room full of witnesses, I hear a song on the radio that proves its necessity. The world cries out for real love.

My prayer is that Selena Gomez, the song’s writers (according to Wikipedia: Tor Hermansen, Mikkel Eriksen, Benjamin Levin, Charlotte Aitchison, Ross Golan), or the millions of fan-girls (and boys!) who will no-doubt playback and repeat this anthem during some of life’s crucial moments needn’t look very far to find someone willing to point them in the direction of the REAL love God offers, exemplifies and challenges His children to live out everyday!

May the true followers of Jesus point to and live out His love in a way that draws others towards relationship with him!


 

Same Old Love (Radio Disney Version) – Selena Gomez

Lyrics:

Take away your things and go
You can’t take back what you said, I know
I’ve heard it all before, at least a million times
I’m not one to forget, you know

I don’t believe, I don’t believe it
You left in peace, left me in pieces
Too hard to breathe, I’m on my knees
Right now, ‘ow

I’m so sick of that same old love, that shit, it tears me up
I’m so sick of that same old love, my body’s had enough
Oh, (that same old love)
Oh, (that same old love)
I’m so sick of that same old love, feels like I’ve blown apart
I’m so sick of that same old love, the kind that breaks your heart
Oh, (that same old love)
Oh, (that same old love)

I’m not spending any time, wasting tonight on you
I know, I’ve heard it all
So don’t you try and change your mind
‘Cause I won’t be changing too, you know

You can’t believe, still can’t believe it
You left in peace, left me in pieces
Too hard to breathe, I’m on my knees
Right now, ‘ow

I’m so sick of that same old love, that shit, it tears me up
I’m so sick of that same old love, my body’s had enough
Oh, (that same old love)
Oh, (that same old love)
I’m so sick of that same old love, feels like I’ve blown apart
I’m so sick of that same old love, the kind that breaks your heart
Oh, (that same old love)
Oh, (that same old love)

I’m so sick of that, so sick of that love
I’m so sick of that, so sick of that love
I’m so sick of that, so sick of that love
I’m so sick of that, so sick of that love

I’m so sick of that same old love, that shit, it tears me up
I’m so sick of that same old love, my body’s had enough
Oh, (that same old love)
Oh, (that same old love)
I’m so sick of that same old love, feels like I’ve blown apart
I’m so sick of that same old love, the kind that breaks your heart
Oh, (that same old love)
Oh, (that same old love)

20151211_074724Today was my fourth day hunting this deer season – it was also my last. The season officially ends tomorrow, but tomorrow is too full to get back out into the woods for me with our Children’s Christmas Musical dress rehearsal and a staff Christmas dinner in the evening. Today was my “last shot”.

Yesterday I hunted all day with about 10-guys – most of them from our church. No deer for any of us. The first week of the season I was out on opening day and had a couple deer within sight, but wasn’t able to squeeze off a shot. Last Thursday I hunted all day with about 15-guys – only one 7-point buck fell to the youngest among us (way to go, Kenton!).

Today I was invited to join a 50-year hunting veteran, Denny, in the woods for my last chance at a deer this season. He offered to pick me up and would even secure me a tree stand to borrow! I was pumped to get into the woods this morning. The tree stand I was given to use was a Tree Lounge model – if you don’t know what a Tree Lounge tree stand is, please enjoy this old-school commercial:

I’ve never before used a “climbing” tree stand, so this was a new adventure for me this morning. I’m thankful that both Jason and Denny gave me lessons before just throwing me out into the woods on my own. After Denny got me setup to start climbing the tree this morning I climbed to about 12-feet before I cinched everything down and got in position. (I wondered all day if my body would survive a 12-foot fall versus a 30-foot fall). The view from my perch was fantastic!

20151211_074647

At about 10:30, two doe ran up on my right-side startling me from my perch. I quickly grabbed my borrowed Savage model 99 (.300) rifle and put the scope on the first doe. They both continued to run and I lost my opportunity on the first, but took the shot on doe #2 and she ran about 10-yards and dropped! I was super excited.

From his perch about 300-yards away, Denny radioed me telling me I scared the liver out of him – it had been a wonderfully peaceful morning up in our trees. We sat for another hour before heading over to where my doe was.

20151211_113307I was pumped. I was pumped to have shot a deer which meant meat in the freezer for our family AND was pumped knowing that I had a 50-year hunting veteran standing over my shoulder to walk me through gutting this little lady.

20151211_113334Denny was patient with me as I butchered my way through the field dressing process. When we finished we walked down to a nearby stream to wash up before enjoying our lunch together.

We spent the remainder of the day back up in our stands – unfortunately we didn’t see any more deer. I’m so thankful for the day, for the deer, and for the memories!

I am already looking forward to next year’s deer season. Definitely looking forward to a chance at a buck. I’m also definitely keeping my eyes open during this off-season for a great deal on a Tree Lounge tree stand!

If you’re interested, my first two deer-harvesting experiences are chronicled here on my blog – Deer Diary Entry 1 and Deer Diary Entry 2