What uncommon things do we want to become common?

Things like:
our children having mutual love and respect for each other.
our teenage children having love, honor, respect and obedience for their parents.
us continually becoming better friends and lovers.
our family totally trusting God in all things and putting our faith in Him to fulfill his promises.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Fun at the Shindig

By Creg

After having so much fun at last year's Shindig we couldn't wait to go back. This year it was in North Carolina. We heard their grass was green instead of brown so we headed East.

We stopped in Alpharetta, Georgia just North of Atlanta, where Chelsa's wonderful Aunt & Uncle live. John & Dyna Kohler treated us to two days of hiking, canoeing, great cooking, and enlightening conversation.

Here are some pictures of us enjoying our day on the Chattahoochee River.
Sierra & Sterling man one canoe and Chelsa & Samantha another. John & Dyna are in the rear trying out their new inflatable kayak.

Sterling holds a crawfish that Samantha found.

Exploring on  a rock bed near a small island on the Chattahochee.

Wednesday we were on our way to North Carolina and it didn't take us long to find our friends, the Plaths, to go on a hike.

This is a scenic stop on a steep hiking trail with two of the Plath kids.

The Shindig had classes on Bible teaching, marriage, herbs, and more. There was a lot of time for games & fellowship between meals and classes. Twice a day we met in a large auditorium for music, teaching, and a little fun.

Mike Pearl playing music on a long blade saw with the soggy britches group in the back ground!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Colorado Adventure

By Creg
     For the last several months we have had quite a few big & hard jobs. To reward our kids for doing such a good job of working hard we decided to take a trip to Colorado. We stayed at my relative Deanna's house in Colorado Springs. When we first got there late Tuesday afternoon we went straight to The Garden of the Gods to do some hiking and rock climbing. Wednesday we went to Denver to spend the day at the Museum and eat at Casa Bonita. The restaurant was amazing with cliff divers, shoot-em-up cowboys, & a seemingly endless maze of tunnels & caves. Not to mention all-you-can-eat mexican food, including sopapillas.
      Thursday we went to Canon City to go whitewater rafting on the Arkansas River. We all had a blast. Friday we went with Deanna to Cheyenne Mountain to hike some of her favorite trails. It was a beautiful day & we loved every minute of it.

At the Mayan exhibit in the Denver museum

Samantha & Steele looking over the Arkansas River & Royal Gorge

Resting on our hike at Palmer Park
Rafting down the Arkansas River
Here comes some more whitewater
Garden of the Gods
Enjoying the hiking & scenery
A diver at Casa Bonita Restaurant
Hiking at Palmer Park
Steele going vertical barefoot

Steele & I took the river route up Cheyenne Mountain. We found a lot of flakes of Pyrite (Fools Gold)

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Michael's Baptism

By Creg
Michael getting baptized
 We met Michael a couple of years ago at Faithworks, where he was known as mighty Michael with the mighty appetite, and we became friends. He is a hard worker who doesn't have trouble finding a job, just trouble keeping one, because his demon would always come back at the worst time. He's been trying to break his drug addiction for most of his life, going through various programs & counselors. He knew he needed something different.

People from HOPE Church praising God for his rebirth
April 20th at Jacob's Dream on the ACU campus is when Michael started something different. After a lot of studying, prayer & sharing his testimony at church, Michael decided to give his life to Jesus & be baptized for the forgiveness of his sins so the Holy Spirit could come live in him.

He knows his addiction is not gone, and there will still be struggles ahead, but now he has the power to deal with them by giving them up to God for healing.

On July 10th Michael graduated from the Serenity House for recovering addicts. His story keeps getting better.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Skye's Puppies

By Creg

Nine puppies! After trying to breed Skye 3 different times, Sierra decided to use another male. This one was from Dallas, we had him with Skye for about a week . When she steadily grew larger, we knew it had worked! Skye whelped 9 puppies on April 16th. Sierra stayed with her the whole time to make sure everything went like it was supposed to. All the pups were sold in the first week, though one of the buyers dropped out a couple of days ago, so she has one left. The puppies are now 8 weeks old and so fun to play with. Everyone loves them.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Lost Diamond Found!

by: Chelsa

About a month ago my heart sank because I noticed one of the little diamonds in my wedding ring fell out. I had been doing lots of outside work digging, planting, and raking and figured it had fallen out somewhere in the dirt never to be found again, so I didn't even begin to search for it.  Because the metal on the ring was now scratching my hand, I decided to take the ring off and put it in my jewelry box. As I closed the lid to the box, I secretly wondered how much it would cost to replace the diamond and fix it.

On Sunday, Damon preached on Philippians 3:4b-11, when Paul was boasting about all of his accomplishments and then said, "But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord... I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him...I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death..."

After he read that passage to us, he began talking about "falling in love." "Have you ever known anyone who has fallen in love? I'm not talking about a little crush, but really falling head over heels for someone. You know what happens...the person is consumed with being together, doing things together, and all thoughts are directed towards that person if they're not together. Nothing else matters."

Then he said "If I didn't know any better, I would think that Paul has fallen in love with Jesus. He wants to know Jesus. He's even willing to suffer and die for him. His thoughts, his words, his actions are all consuming...he's all about Jesus. But what about you? Have you ever fallen in love with Jesus?"....

As he continued on with his story, I began to remember my own beautiful love relationship with Jesus. It really began when I started getting serious about spending uninterrupted time focusing on knowing him.  It was hard to do with 4 small children at home because there were always things to attend to and I was having trouble concentrating. But I "happened to hear" a broadcast on Focus on the Family about a woman who had the same conundrum. She was at her wits end and told God "if you want me to spend time alone with you, then you're going to have to wake me up in the middle of the night or something!"  And God did that for her. Without fail.

She also mentioned prayer journaling as a way to stay on task and to not lose your train of thought. That was one of the problems I had. Since becoming an adult, I had wanted to be a person of prayer, because it seemed that the Christians I admired and looked up to the most were devout prayer warriors. I could pray out loud with other people just fine and was very comfortable doing so, but whenever it was just me, by myself, I didn't feel right talking out loud, so I prayed silently. Although my intentions would be pure, my actions were less than desirable.  The first 30 seconds or so would go great, but after the introduction...well... my mind would wander or I would get distracted or I would simply fall asleep.  And it would happen that way every time I tried to pray alone. That was very discouraging!  I would feel so guilty because I couldn't even spend a few moments with him really engaging in the relationship. What kind of Christian was I? I couldn't even pray alone to him!

I was desperate for change and for intimacy with God so when I heard that broadcast, I decided to try what that woman had done even though I hated writing! Not because I have something against writing, it was because I was terrible at it.  English was by far my worst subject in school.  Not the grammar part. I could dissect sentences with one hand tied behind my back. I could spell just fine. But for some reason, I didn't know how to get my thoughts down on paper. I must have had some sort of disability or lack of understanding when the teachers taught that subject. I felt totally lost when we had to write a paper or essay. Dad would have to help me write it when I got home.  Maybe I was bad at writing because I wasn't a reader. I didn't like to read real books as a child either.  I enjoyed books with pictures like Dr. Suess, but if it was just words, forget it. When I got older, Dad would pay me a penny a page to read the Nancy Drew Series in the summer to encourage me to read more. I did it. But it was hard and I didn't really enjoy it very much.

Even though writing was a challenge, to say the least, I bravely went ahead and bought a prayer journal, asked God to wake me up, and started my journey on December 21, 2006.  God is so good.  My first prayer journal experience was amazing. I loved it!  Towards the end of my very first post I wrote: 

"I wish I had started this journal sooner. I do have a lot to say to you and I have a lot to be thankful for and I have a lot to think about. Writing things down as a prayer to you is a great idea...My prayer life has never been very good and it hasn't been very meaningful or life changing...Praying was a burden, drudgery, hard to do. But this is wonderful!  I can do this and I want to do this for the rest of my life."

So I asked God to wake me up again the next night and he did.  Again and again.  He never failed. Every night he would wake me. It might be 2am or 4:30am or 6am., but it would happen. I would get up, go in the living room, and begin my time with Him. I would stay about an hour with Him reading his word and writing prayers, and then go back to bed. It's funny, but I never had any trouble falling back asleep. I would wake up the next morning feeling refreshed and ready to begin the day.

As time went on, I began to notice something.  A song would be playing in my head when I woke up. Not just any song, but a church song. And it wasn't the whole song.  Usually it was just a short phrase and it would repeat over and over in my mind. The really amazing thing was... it would be a different song each time He woke me up. They did not repeat.  He awakened me with a new song every morning.

I distinctly remember the first morning this happened.  I can see myself, in my minds eye, sitting on the edge of my bed in the dark, wearing my navy blue comfy pajamas, bending over to slip on my house shoes, getting ready to get up and prayer journal. As I am sitting there, I realize a song phrase repeating itself over and over in my mind.  "Jesus, I come to Thee..." I sit there for a minute and wonder how long this has been going on but I just didn't "hear it." "Something" tells me that I should be paying attention to the words.  So I do.  I sit there in the stillness and the silence.  And listen.  And contemplate. I silently pray "Is that your Spirit helping me to remember to seek you? It is a comforting thought to think that it is! How I need the Counselor to be with me!"  I can't really describe to you the feeling of closeness I experienced in that moment. A moment in time when I realized that my Father in Heaven, the King of the Universe, the Creator, the great  I AM, was gently speaking to me through a song, drawing me to himself. I can hardly believe this is happening. God really does love me as an individual.  He is wooing me in this moment.  He truly desires to have an intimate relationship with me. I am thankful I am finally quiet and still enough to really listen to his call.
As my new prayer writing journey continued, I decided to include the song phrases in my journal along with my prayers. I would meditate on the words and what they might mean for me. I began to wake up each night smiling. I did this regularly for years.  In one of my journal posts I wrote:

"This morning when I woke up I was so excited to come journal.  I felt like a little kid on Christmas morning who couldn't wait to see what great gifts she would receive. How much better this is than Christmas. This gift of communing together with my LORD God Almighty and my blessed Savior and the Holy Spirit which lives inside me to teach me everything you've said and to give me depth of insight is AWESOME!  It's really unbelievable that you care for me that much- that you want to have a real relationship to your creation. I am spellbound!  I don't have the words to describe how amazing your grace is. It's a miracle! It's too good to be true, but it is true! Hallelujah! It is true!"

               ***   "Shout Hallelujah! Shout Hallelujah! Shout Hallelujah unto the Lord!"  ***

At one point I experienced an incredibly deeper level of intimacy with Jesus. There was a 3 month stretch several years ago where I had had the most amazing relationship with Him.  My mind was in a constant state of worshipfulness.  All day and all night. It was strange because I could be talking to someone and looking them in the eye and listening to what they had to say, but in the back of my mind there was this constant worshiping of God. It was like my mind could not stop worshiping Him.  I was so full of the fruit of His Spirit during that time.  He was all I wanted. The I peace I felt was unbelievable. It did not matter what situation I was in. If you were mad at me and wanted to hurt me. I would have been at peace. There were several times where in the past I would have gotten mad or frustrated and lashed out in some way, but because God was overflowing in me in such a big way, those things didn't phase me in the least.  He used me to minister to people in ways I didn't think possible. He gave me extra energy I didn't know I had.  I was bold and courageous in words and actions. Which is not in my nature at all.  Powerful prayers were said. Healing prayers occurred with my voice, but I wasn't really the one doing the talking. The Holy Spirit uttered the words I didn't know how to say.  I was obedient to his call, and he delivered. It was so beautiful and amazing to be that in love with Jesus.  It felt like I was experiencing what I imagine heaven is like, but I was still here.  I didn't want that feeling to ever go away.

But it did. And it never has come back that strongly since. A few days here. A few days there. But never the constant peace and joy and contentment I had experienced before. So when Damon was sharing about falling in love with Jesus, all those memories flooded my mind and I wanted it back. I wanted Him back. I wanted to fall in love with Jesus all over again.

So, after Damon's sermon on falling in love with Jesus, I went forward during the invitation and prayer time and spoke to Randy, one of our elders, and told him briefly about my former love relationship with Jesus and how I wanted it back again. He said "Chelsa, having this relationship is sort of like a marriage. There are close times and distant times. I don't know what to tell you on how to fix it, but let's pray and ask the Holy Spirit to give you wisdom and insight on what needs to be done." As he prayed for me, I shed a few tears then went back to my seat to sing with my brothers and sisters. The words to the songs came alive for me as I worshiped. When we all sat, I bent over and glanced down at the floor and saw Samantha's cute bare feet next to me.  Out of the corner of my eye I saw something glittering near her foot. I bent over and looked a little closer. "I wonder what that it? A piece of glitter?" I looked a little more closely. Surely that's not my diamond down there," I thought to myself.  I touched the small glittering object. It felt hard. "Seriously?..."  I picked up the tiny rock and placed it in the palm of my hand. "It is my lost diamond!!!" I couldn't believe it!  How could it be?  This diamond has been lost for 3-4 weeks. We clean this church building every week and Sterling has vacuumed this very spot several times since I lost it. Amazing! Absolutely amazing! As I stared at my diamond I could hear Jesus saying to me, "I want you to take this diamond and get your ring fixed. And when you put your ring back on remember that I want this relationship back just as much as you do. I love you, Chelsa."

Friday, April 18, 2014

Samantha meets her Star

By Creg

Mairead Nesbitt & Samantha after the concert

"My life is now complete."

That's what 13 year old's say after they have met their hero.

Shortly after Samantha started taking violin lessons a friend introduced her to the group Celtic Woman. One song and she was hooked (along with Sierra & Chelsa). CD's, DVD's, &  downloaded music followed. Since then the girls have been to three concerts to see their favorite musical group and they come away more impressed each time. After the last concert they got to meet two of the ladies after the show, but were rebuffed by those annoying security guards before Mairead came out. This time they were determined to meet her face to face.
Samantha tweeted  to Mairead that she would be at the Dallas performance and asked if they could meet afterward. During the show Mairead looked right at Samantha several times (they were on the 3rd row!) After the concert they went to the gate by the performers parking area and waited for them to come out of the theater. An hour later (which seemed like five minutes to the girls) Mairead came out & said, "You're Samantha, right?" Samantha almost melted. She signed autographs and posed for pictures for about ten minutes.

Ten minutes that will last forever in Samantha's mind.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Steele's 12th Birthday Bash

By Creg
Micheal getting stuffed in the barrel
Steele decided to invite some friends over for his 12th birthday. What do a group of 10-12 year old's do for fun? They get in a 55 gallon barrel, put pillows all around them and have someone roll them down a hill. Steele had tried rolling in a barrel on a flat surface but he thought it would be fun to try going down a hill for his party. So, we moved a huge wrestling mat to cover a small hill with padding. Then we put some crates held up with cinder blocks under the end of the mat so the barrel wouldn't keep rolling to the neighbors.

Steele carrying the barrel up the hill for the next turn while the ladies watch.
Who wants to go first? Steele tried it first to make sure all of the safety features (the pillows) were in working order before his friends arrived. He said it was a wild ride with the chance of injury being very low. When the guys started getting here they all sprinted to the hill to go next. They took turns going down the hill for about 45 minutes.

After that we played a game called nuke-em . It's similar to volleyball except you catch the ball when it comes over the net and then either throw it back over or throw it to a teammate who then throws it over the net. The object is to try not to let the ball hit the ground on your side.

Chelsa leads Chris in the beginning of the airplane game.
The airplane game was next. The idea is to make them think they are really high in the air and then try and get them to jump. Their really only 4-6 inches off the ground. After blindfolding them Chelsa puts their hands on her shoulders and tells them to get ready for lift off. Samantha & I lift the board they're standing on just off the ground.

Noah finally "jumps" to safety.
As Chelsa continues to talk she squats down & keeps their hands on her shoulders which makes it seem like they are rising higher & higher. When Chelsa is as low as she can go everyone starts screaming, "You're to high, you have to jump." Steele had a small branch & at that point he brushed it on their head, making them think they were as high as a tree. All of them loved it and really thought they were 8-10 feet in the air. They all wanted to go again, even after they realized they were barely off the ground.

Later, we took a trip to the river & played on the raft for a little while. When we stopped playing long enough to realize we were hungry we started a campfire & roasted hotdogs with smores for dessert.

The grand finale was a fireworks show that we put on in the back pasture. Steele had saved some miscellaneous bottle rockets and such from the New Years celebration we had. Everybody had a great time and Steele asked, "Do we have to wait until next year to do this again?"

Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Room of Healing

By Creg
This hotel room is where 4 couples, & 3 counselors spent 35 hours in 4 days together. There were bible studies, shared life experiences, intimate conversations, laughing, bold questions, wise advice, sad stories, & lots of crying (all of those tissue boxes in the picture were used by the time we were done).

After I quit my teaching & coaching job 4 years ago and we started doing jobs as a family & spending more time ministering to others, the dynamics of our marriage changed quite a bit. We were now together 24/7 for the most part. Needless to say, some adjusting was required. Chelsa, along with being my wife, became my closest friend and employee (sort of). That was different. We struggled with those roles for a while & never quite got the communication & expectations like we wanted. After a few years of trying to fix things on our own we started talking about getting some marriage counseling, but we always decided we could do it on our own.

A couple of months ago we started going verse by verse through the book of Proverbs for our morning family Bible study. Over and over again Proverbs talks about how wise people seek Godly advice. It finally hit us that God was trying to tell us it's good to get Biblical counseling. So, we started looking at the options for retreat/seminar weekends for marriages. I found quite a few of them that looked fun & more like a vacation with an auditorium full of people laughing at a humorous speaker. That was not what we wanted. A friend recommended a marriage intensive through Relational Care out of Austin so we checked them out. It was by far the longest & most expensive, but most of the time you get what you pay for. So we signed up.

The first thing we did was several hours of on-line questionnaires. Then we went to Austin for 8 hours of counseling (which was absolutely wonderful). Then we went to the Omni Hotel in Austin for 4 days of "intensive" marriage counseling with 3 other couples. From 9 am until about 9 pm (we had an hour for lunch and an hour for dinner which we all ate together at a big table) we all were in the hotel room together.

The premise of Relational Care intensive counseling is not to try & change each other, that's the Holy Spirits job, but to heal any hurt (all anger comes from hurt) that has been experienced by learning how to care for & comfort each other. Remove their aloneness with a more intimate relationship. That starts with honesty & intimate openness. We all shared our childhood experiences and some had a lot of pain from that time. Others had some issues that they never realized until they talked it out with wise, trained counselors asking hard questions & giving Godly, scriptural advice. When you realize that your spouse might be acting in a way because of something from their childhood, you feel compassion for them filled with grace. We also talked about dealing with fear, what gets in the way of our spouses needs being met, how to confess, & lots more.

We all had some hurts & we all experienced some healing. Praise God.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Psalm 19

By Creg

Photo by Samantha Istre
The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
 Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they reveal knowledge.
 They have no speech, they use no words;
    no sound is heard from them.
 Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
    their words to the ends of the world.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

How Some Try To Explain A Universe Without God

By Creg

It's 18 minutes long, but just watch the first 3 minutes. This is how educated people have to contradict themselves to have a world without God.

Do you have any questions for Dr. Christian?

Faith Works Testimony

By Creg
We met John at Faith Works last semester. He's a great guy; here is his story.

My Essential Story
John Hernandez
When I was first told we would be writing our story and that through this process two of us would be selected to give the commencement speech my immediate thought was I hope it wasn’t me they picked. Not because of some scheduling conflict. Unemployment has a way of clearing your calendar most days. But just to be safe I checked anyway and yep, sure enough after Judge Judy my day was all clear.
So what was really going on? Why wouldn’t  anyone want to get up in front of 200 or so strangers and pour their heart out? I mean, that’s not so tough, right?
Then it hit me that this is so much bigger than myself. This is about FaithWorks and the butterfly effect it creates. And so, upon reflection, it is truly a deep honor to be at graduation speaking about FaithWorks. Not only did I spend some of the best weeks of my life at FaithWorks, but it has continued to define my life in countless ways. But before I can enumerate those ways we need to take a trip back to the 80’s. The decade that summed up how big hair could get and how I became who I was.
When I was eight years old, I started my first business. Insects fascinated me so I read extensively on bugs. This was not an easy task. I grew up in a very rough neighborhood and reading a book was an offense punishable by wedgie. But onward I went to become the member of the summer reading club. Notice I did not say a member but the member as in one and only. I was too young to realize it at the time but I think I actually received hate mail from the librarian who had to come open the library just for me every day during summer break. At the very least, I don’t think I made her Christmas card list. So, I take the books and the passion and I collect every insect I can. Some alive, most pinned to cardboard I had collected and cut out. I used index cards to write out the descriptions and such and then I advertised on paper plates to all the neighborhood kids and charged fifty cents a pop to come see my self-professed, bug museum. I made like fifteen dollars. Donald Trump look out!
That little venture didn’t make me a bug mogul but it did motivate me and I lived my life for one central purpose after that—to make money. My family was poor but I was sharp and observant. My father was a cook at a restaurant and I could tell he wanted me to follow that path so he showed me prep and sautéing but I wasn’t the least bit interested in how flipping omelets is all in the wrist; I was watching the owners. That’s who I wanted to be. The cars, the parties, the lifestyle that was my ticket. I had to find out her secret. At the time, I was 13 and if you think it is hard to be heard as a 13 year old try being a 13 year old dishwasher. But I got audience with the owner. More like I ambushed her on the way in but hey, one man’s ambush is another man’s elevator pitch so I asked, “How did you get all this?” She said, “I went to college and I wasn’t afraid to step on people.” For that moment, I was inspired and terrified. I felt like one of my own bugs. I had no doubt that she would squash me if the heels weren’t Prada. The answer got me thinking, “Where could I go to some of the best colleges and where is the best placed to step on people. Answer: New York City. The people squashing capital of the States.
I received my bachelor of Business Administration, got married, got divorced, got my Masters in Public Administration, got married, got divorced. Seeing a pattern yet? But after lots of people squashing, including the people in my life, I was at the pinnacle of my career with the people skills of Attila the Hun and I was so alone. So utterly alone. Not lonely. Not like no people were around. I’m talking no one was living inside of me. Even my soul had abandoned me. Everyone around me could only take so much before the bags were packed and the cabs were called. But I forged on with the indignant, what was so wrong with me? There was no detracting life force encapsulating me.
I wasn’t a drug user or an alcoholic or a wife beater. I didn’t come from an abusive family, nobody put their cigarettes out on me or chained me up in a closet. I was highly educated, sharp and hard working. And soulless.
 Then I asked myself, “What did I want?”
But simply asking myself what I wanted was easy. Another far more powerful question that can be much harder to explore, but has the potential to bring about breathtaking clarity, is simply: What do I fear? And I feared lack of success as defined by a 13 year old dishwashing insect entrepreneur.
That’s where I was when FaithWorks found me. In the deepest, darkest mid-life crisis anyone could imagine. I had had everything and then in one swoop of the divorce pen I had nothing. Worse, I was less than nothing; no home, no car, no career, no money, no hope. It would have taken two of me just to equal zero.
But through FaithWorks, the scattered scraps of myself started to add up again and I discovered that I did indeed have a detracting life force and maybe it wasn’t drugs or abuse but it was every bit as hostile and detrimental. It was my separation from God. My soul hadn’t left me, I had kicked my soul out of the house.
And If you hear nothing else from me tonight hear this: There is no deeper, darker, damper, deadlier place than the Hell you live in when separated from God.
Enter the transformational power of FaithWorks. An initiative that brings together people from all walks of life; some of whom are off-the-charts in their separation from God.  Some come from environments and communities that told them they had no gifts. Others had to actively hide their abilities and passions for fear of being ostracized and ridiculed in a cookie cutter world. Students come to FaithWorks from every situation, every ethnicity. Some from educated, affluent families, others from ones that live at or near poverty. But they — we —I shared a common passion. That it is never too late to become what you might have been.
Because of this, whenever we see another FaithWorks graduate the rest of our lives, we know that we have a past in common. That both of us have secret powers that you often keep hidden from regular view. Regardless of how different our pre-FaithWorks backgrounds may have been, we will feel deeply connected — like people meeting from a long lost village or family or galaxy. We will actively seek other potential FaithWorks students to spread that connection from the community to the edges of infinity. When others talk about an intellectually or spiritually challenging experience they had or complain about how hard they had to work, we will glance at the other grads in the room and share a quick smile. That smile is a shared moment in which I really feel I have come to my roots. That I am surrounded by an incredible family that I am deeply connected to and that I care deeply about.
We have relied on that family atmosphere and each other’s grace daily but soon we will enter the outside world and be somewhat taken aback. But as long as your desire to love is greater than your fear of not being loved, you're on the right track. A life oriented toward giving is infinitely more rewarding than a life oriented toward self-preservation. But it doesn’t make it any less scary out there. ‘Out there’ will be far less efficient, far less fair, far less supportive, far less productive, and far more political than what we may have imagined it to be. There will be pessimism and cynicism and criticism everywhere. It is easy to succumb to this, to become cynical or negative ourselves. But if you do, you separate yourself from God and from the potential that you all have, and that would be a loss for yourself and for your fellow man and woman. 
So how do we survive life after FaithWorks? Trust your instincts, trust your passions, trust your empathy, trust the advice, trust the life skills, trust your love and most importantly trust your God.Trust that he has something in store for you just as he did for me with this speech—something bigger than yourselves. Trust that he will give you both:peace and success. Bread on the table while taking your shots at the moon. 

And there are plenty of shots to be taken. We’re at a unique point in history. Where what once required many people spending many years and many millions can now be done by a small group of inspired people from a garage, or in my case, cardboard from a Sears refrigerator box. Ideas can be dispersed in real-time. Instant collaboration across continents. Music CD’s can be independently released, books can be self –published, higher education is just a click away. The revolutions of our generation — in business, education, entertainment, social services, religion and even politics — are not being catalyzed by popes or politicians, but by highly empowered individuals like ourselves—the change agents of our time — who can see with clarity how the assumptions of previous generations and the teachings of Jesus can be expounded upon in a digital age.
 These revolutions often grow out of nothing more than an intense hobby, a chance meeting or an inspired attempt to see if things can be a little better. If we can love a little harder and give of ourselves a little more today than we did yesterday then we will be successful.

So go forth with your careers, but leave space for your passions and God’s will. Remember that we are much, much more than our current station in life. We are future artists and authors, teachers and typists, dental assistants and dog breeders. And if we give our passions room to breathe the spiritual air, we might find that is all we need to help us move the dial forward for everyone and TURN IT UP.

Now, this isn’t just Joyful John Moment Chaser trying to make you feel good or take the weight of the world off your shoulders. I will tell you this, however--I know how badly the world needs each of you. I know how scarce a resource love is and how important you are to providing it to the world. I also know that FaithWorks’ graduates, like a tall person who learns to slouch to not stand out, sometimes undersell who they are, even to themselves. 

 But in thirteen weeks, we have mined something from the catacombs of ourselves more precious than any stone DeBeers could ever wrench from the earth—Love. Love for God, love for ourselves, love for relationships, love for all humanity and that—Love— is the truest measure of success.

Thank you and God bless.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Virtual Gifts

By Creg

This Christmas we gave each other virtual gifts (explained in the last post). We also did a few "real" gifts where everyone got something that they could create with; calligraphy pens, wood carving tools, a crystal growing kit, and a science experiment.

Here is the list (and a few pictures) of the virtual gifts each one received:

 Granny Kay got a Caribbean cruise, including a trip to pet sting rays at Sting Ray City in the Cayman Islands.

Pa King got a day of watching sports & western movies on the big screen while eating crawfish etoufee, dirty rice & pecan pie a la mode followed with a game of Uno with the grandkids. He also got a hover chair that can take him anywhere and a robot that serves Whataburger patty melts on request.

Steele was made the youngest employee of LEGOLAND. He will be designing LEGO sets from his latest ideas, including a series of Bible stories & characters. 

Samantha got a membership in Celtic Women, a fantastic Irish Celtic singing group with a violinist who is Samantha’s favorite. Now Samantha will be playing along side her hero during their world-wide tour.

Sterling got a game sideline pass to see his favorite team, the Miami Dolphins, and to stand by his favorite player, Cameron Wake, and get his game-worn jersey. After the victory Sterling will be flying to the Isle of Blynn near Pappa New Guinea to discover a living dinosaur!

Sierra got season tickets to the Carolina Panthers football games (including plane flights & lodging) and 12 pups birthed from her Golden Retriever Skye.

Chelsa got a beautiful, bountiful, diverse green garden. This garden are filled with delicious, nutritious vegetables, fruits, and herbs with NO plant harming bugs and where everything lives in perfect natural harmony. 

Creg got a wonderfully plush grass-filled pasture with a frog & turtle pond in the middle and a victory with Chelsa on the Amazing Race.

Harlem got a steak dinner & a day of drawing with his artistic father Brack. Then he found out that Brack is really Batman (Harlem’s favorite) and Harlem got a superhero uniform to help his dad save the world.

Brack got a shoe Ferris wheel so he can easily pick out his shoes for the day, which he has some for every occasion. He also got a 2013 Lincoln Navigator for $500 and a 1-bedroom apartment for $35 a month.

We had a lot of fun reading about our "gifts" & celebrating a wonderful time together.