December 12, 2011

Christmas at Edgewood, 2011

Edgewood has an ongoing tradition of putting on a big Christmas production every year.  It is a great time of the year when guests are open to visiting churches to hear the Christmas story.  And it is an amazing opportunity for the church to reach out to the community.

However, over the last few years, we have noticed a pretty strong decline in attendance.  And, even worse, we haven't seen hardly anyone coming to know Christ through these productions.  The Christmas program has been referred to as one of our biggest outreaches of the year...but recently it hasn't been reaching many.  So this brought us to great prayers and discussions for how to move forward this year.

We had a great planning team that was open to God's leading.  This team came up with the following purpose statement for this year's program:
"We want our community to experience the love of God, the wonder of Jesus’ birth, and the significance of a relationship with Him."

After much prayerful discussion, we felt led to bring in World Class Illusionist, Brock Gill.  Brock also did two school assemblies to share a positive message in the school and to invite them to the full show at Edgewood the next day.  This proved to be an amazing way to connect with and reach out to our community.

I believe due mostly to the connection with these schools, our attendance (combined from two shows) was close to 700 as compared to 500 from the year before.  And we estimate that half of our attendance was made up of guests.  Brock was extremely impressive with his illusions and even better with his Gospel presentation.  He had a great connection with our audience and at least TEN people responded to receive Christ.  TEN!

That is where our joy comes....not in "an impressive show" or "high attendance" but in changed lives.  Ten lives are changed forever by what God did through this show.  We are very grateful!

November 14, 2011

Assimilation Strategy

Tonight we had a great meeting at Edgewood to talk about our new assimilation process. This was a result of several months of intense prayer, research, and discussion on this topic. We wanted to share the strategy with the church tonight and plan to launch this new process THIS Sunday, the 20th.

Here are the notes from what we discussed. Please let us know if you have any questions or suggestions for this process. We'll be evaluating as we go and definitely want to make this as strong as possible.  Any input or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Edgewood Mission Statement:
We live to honor God, to be equipped, to serve and to see lives transformed by the message and person of Jesus Christ.

By our research, we've found that in the first seven minutes of contact with our church, our first-time guests already know whether or not they are coming back. They’ve decided whether or not they’re coming back before the service even begins!

Everything speaks to first-time guests…everything. No detail can be ignored.
When someone decides they're going to visit a church for the first time, the enemy is going to do everything he can to try to stop them.  They will sleep in later than they hoped, the kids will spill their breakfast, the dogs will make a mess, etc. etc.  When they finally make it to the church, we have to work extra hard to overcome their already stressful morning.  We must go that extra mile to help them feel welcomed and comfortable at our church.

The Assimilation System is built around a three-step process:
1. Turn a first-time guest into a second-time guest.
2. Turn a second-time guest into a regular attender.
3. Turn a regular attender into a fully developing member.

Sounds simple enough...but how do you do that?  Well....

We feel our assimilation process needs to improve in these three areas:

1. We must be EXCELLENT in how we handle guests in their first 7 minutes on our campus.

- Customer Service Approach - We want our greeters/ushers to go the extra mile in helping our guests find what they need and feel comfortable at Edgewood.
- Greeters/Welcome Center/Ushers - We want these existing teams to understand the value of their ministry.  Also, these volunteers are all part of one big team working together toward the same goal.
- Parking Lot Team - This is a team we'd like to get started in order to help guests find a spot to park and know how to enter our confusing building.  We are currently looking for a volunteer to coordinate this, please let us know if you're interested.
- Coffee Fellowship - Our research has shown that guests' stress level is immediately dropped when they're standing behind a cup of coffee or have a donut in their hands.  We are going to work toward having coffee/snacks available before both services in order to help with this.  Our Sunday school classes currently volunteer for this, but we are looking for a coordinator to help keep this ministry consistent from one week to the next.
- Signage - Our building is confusing to navigate.  Later this week, new signs will be installed for the sole purpose of helping visitors know where to go.  They will label the South Entrance, the Auditorium, and Adult/Youth/Kids classrooms.

2. We need to be more efficient in getting contact information from guests in order to follow-up.
- Connection Cards - For this to work, every single person in the service needs to fill these out.  This will greatly encourage our guests to fill them out.  Without contact information, we can't do any type of follow-up.  These cards will also be used to challenge our regular attenders to grow spiritually.
- Follow Up Team - Dave Anderson is going to coordinate a Monday Response Team to send e-mails and HANDWRITE cards thanking guests for joining us.

3. We want to provide more opportunities and easy access to small groups, fellowship events, and service opportunities.
- People will not stay at a church long if they do not develop relationships.  We believe small groups and fellowship events will be the best avenue for those relationship to develop.  We will do our best to schedule as many of these as possible.  Allowing guests to join us in service opportunities also allows them to have ownership that Edgewood is now "their" church.

Other items that we discussed at the meeting.
1. In order to collect the connection cards, the offering will now be at the end of the service.
2. The Welcome Center must remain strictly focused on visitors. Signups for ministries and events will take place through the connection cards.
3. The ushers will be handing out EDGEWOOD pens (for the next two weeks) with the bulletins in order to strongly encourage everyone to fill out the connection cards.  After the next two weeks, we will make sure they're available in a basket in the back and inside the pew racks.
4. The ushers will encourage each person (not just each family) to take a bulletin.  This will allow for each and every individual to fill out the card and make personal responses.
5. Because our parking lot fills up so quickly, we strongly encourage regular attenders to park on the far side of the parking lot or even across the street at the Elementary School.  We've gotta save our close spots for our guests.

Closing Quotes
"It doesn’t matter how well you preach or how talented your worship team is—if newcomers do not find relationships and take on responsibility within the church, they will not stay long."

Matthew 25:29 “To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given…but from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away.” God will never give you more than you are prepared to receive.

"The Kingdom only grows by one person at a time. Focus on the one God sends you, and the one will turn into many."

This is definitely a church-wide process and in order to pull it off with great success, it's going to take all of us working together....all of us going that extra mile.  Little things can make a HUGE difference.  We want to do our part and we are very excited to see what God's going to do!

November 4, 2011

Time to catch up

Many things have been happening since the last time I wrote on here.  I can't believe I didn't add one post throughout August, September and October!  It's time to catch up....

Edgewood has many things to be excited about right now.  We just got to celebrate the fact that we are now completely debt free. That is a huge relief and reason to celebrate as a church. 

The new vision/direction that I talked about on here in July is in FULL swing and things are going well.  .  In addition to all of those changes, we as a staff have been working hard at preparing an improved "assimilation" process.  We are looking at better ways to help people move through the process of "just visiting" to making Edgewood their home.  One interesting statistic that we found during our research...did you know that most people have decided whether or not they will come back to a church after their first SEVEN minutes on that church campus?  Seven minutes...that's before the service even starts!  Visitors notice everything and they have many times made up their minds about our church before the music even begins.  That sure changes our perspective on things and how we approach our guests!  We're finishing up some details for this strategy with the goal of launching this new plan on Sunday, November 20.  I invite any of you Edgewood readers to come join us in the sanctuary for a meeting on Monday, November 14th, at 7:00pm.  Dave and I are going to present these plans and share ways that the whole church can get involved.

In addition to the assimilation process, I'm absolutely PUMPED UP about our Christmas program this year.  We are bringing in World Class Illusionist, Brock Gill to highlight the show.  This is going to be a Christmas program like we've never seen before!  That's coming up on December 10th at 3:00 and 7:00.

Our "vision" team that met throughout the summer has continued meeting in order to evaluate our progress and to work on other church issues.  We're currently evaluating the structure of our Elder Board and wanting to make sure it's setup in the most effective way.  Lots of good things going on there.

On the personal side, a LOT has been going on as well.  It has been a privilege serving on the Edgewood staff, the elder board, and the vision team.  But through all the challenges over the last year, I have many times felt "under-equipped" in knowing how to handle these situations.  I have also realized that my education and background has been strictly in music and music ministry.  I haven't had much training in church ministry as a whole.  So, I have been praying hard about the possibility of going back to school.  I believe a seminary education would be very beneficial.  It would greatly enhance the ministries that I am already involved in and would give me a wider set of knowledge for things to come as well.  Multnomah Seminary in Portland has a Bellevue extension campus and I am strongly considering going there to get a Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies.  This would include many great Bible classes as well as a variety of ministry management classes....all of which would be hugely profitable to me.

As a family, we are feeling really comfortable in our schedules right now.  Megan has been able to continue with her job, but they've allowed her to work only two days a week.  That has continued to give us a steady income, but make it where she can be home with Madelyn more.  Megan and I have also both recently gotten involved teaching music lessons at a studio near our house.  It is extremely convenient, adds a few more hours of work/pay each week, and has been an enjoyable place to meet some new people.  So...I have been feeling that we've been in a great groove recently...working hard, but enjoying life.

And...then comes a little surprise =).....

We just recently found out that Megan is pregnant again!  Madelyn will be one in March and then will become a big sister in May.  Keep the diapers coming!  Even though this was a little sooner than we expected, we are excited about adding another little one to our family.  We should find out whether it's a boy or girl right around Christmas. can see why I haven't written in awhile.  There is a LOT going on right now.  It was time for an there ya go!  I'll try not to wait three months to write again.

I'd appreciate your prayers as we continue plowing ahead ...

For the church....I believe the next couple months are going to be very exciting.  Pray that the new assimilation process and the Christmas program will both be powerful opportunities to help new people connect with our church. 

For our family...pray for Megan and the new baby, and pray that if it's God's will, He will make this opportunity to go to seminary become a reality.

July 31, 2011

I'm EXCITED about the new direction at Edgewood!

I just wanted to share how excited I am about the upcoming changes and new direction at Edgewood.  If you missed the announcement this morning, here is the video...

I have struggled with a sense of "comfort" at our church for a long time.  What I mean by that is I feel we are too comfortable within our four walls.  As a whole, we are too content in coming Sunday morning, enjoying a good service together, and going home.  Sunday mornings are important, don't get me wrong, but I think who we are as a church should be reflected through our lives EVERY day of the week.  It should change the way we act, change the way we spend our time, change the way we spend our money, change the way we deal with those around us, etc., etc.  Dave Anderson's new role as the "Pastor of Missional Living" is a HUGE step toward that direction.  We are wanting to put a stronger emphasis for each church member to grow individually in order to reach people outside the church through our daily lives.  While that is a huge mindset change, here are a few practical ways that Dave will help us work toward that goal:

1. Small Groups
2. Discipleship/Mentoring
3. Evangelism
4. Outreach Events

I am a firm believer in small groups and I'm excited that we will have someone overseeing and pushing this important ministry.  Megan and I have had the privilege of being a part of the 20's/30's small group for the last year.  Through this group, I have gotten more out of the Sunday morning sermons than ever before, I have met new people and developed stronger relationships, I have felt the support of a great group of people, and we have been involved in several mission-minded projects together as well.  To be honest, this small group is one of my favorite things that I'm involved in.  I love it and I'm thrilled that more people will be able to experience this type of setting in the very near future.

The importance of mentoring has been discussed on here before when I talked about being a multi-generational church.  It will be great to see more connections there as well.  Evangelism and outreach events were purposely listed as two separate headings.  Evangelism refers to more personal training and encouragement to share our faith in our every day lives.  Outreach events are church-wide events that Dave will be organizing with the intentions of reaching out to our community.  There are lots of possibilities here!  I am very excited about this new position for Dave and am praying for God to move through Dave in powerful ways.

And what about this?  Chuck Orr leading Student Ministries AND the Shannon Bullock/Sabrina Orr Team for Children's Ministries????  Wow!  I can't think of anybody that I'd rather have in these positions than those three.  They are absolutely amazing people who have strong hearts for the Lord, strong hearts for Edgewood, and strong hearts for kids/youth!  Any one of them would have been a great boost...but all three together? Wow!  God has truly provided amazing people for these roles!

While the responsibilities for Jerry and I will stay practically the same, I believe we will both sense a renewed passion and fresh excitement for our roles on this team.  We've got some details to work through over this next month, but we're pumped about kicking this into full gear on September 1st. 

The Board will officially vote on this plan at the August 18th meeting.  We'd love to hear your feedback before then.  What excites you most about this plan?  Are there any questions you have that would help clarify the goals or thoughts of these ideas?  Feel free to add them here on the blog, or contact one of the Elders or Staff.  We'd love to hear from you.

Be praying for us, be praying for God's clear direction as we get started, be praying about where you'd like to plug in to serve with us, and be praying for God to move in amazing ways.  We're looking forward to seeing what He's going to do this fall and throughout the year!

June 19, 2011

Father's Day

Today I have the opportunity to celebrate my first Father's Day.  I really wanted to share this entire story at our service this morning, but was concerned that I wouldn't be able to get through it.  Turns out even my abbreviated version was a little too hard for me to get through.  The love a daddy has for his own children is amazing and it completely overwhelmed me again during the first service.

I've shared some of this on the blog already, but here is the whole story that I wanted to share this morning....

On the evening of March 20, our church gathered together for our Annual Meeting.  However, Megan and I missed that meeting because that is the night that we welcomed little Madelyn into the world.  She was born on Sunday night and then on Monday, they decided we should stay another day at the hospital to make sure she was doing okay.  On Tuesday, they felt she was moving along well enough to send her home.  We were excited about taking her home and enjoyed showing her the house, her new room, and the closet full of clothes (that were all too big for her =).

Then, on Wednesday, we went right back to the doctor for her first checkup.  In my mind, I’m thinking this is going to be fun.  We put her in a cute outfit for her first doctor’s appointment and I even brought the camera with me and took some pictures.  I was expecting a quick, "she looks great" and we'd be on our way.
But our attitude pretty quickly changed when the doctor came in.  He looked at her chart and just stared at Madelyn for a few minutes.  She had dropped below 5lbs, she hadn’t been interested in eating enough, she was struggling to keep her temperature up, some of her blood levels were off, and she was showing signs of jaundice.  The doctor was very concerned about her, so he sent us to get some more lab work done.  We went over to the hospital and had tears in our eyes as we watched them drain two test tubes worth of blood out of her foot. 
That is a day I will probably never forget.  For whatever reason, that was the day I realized how strong the love is between a father and his own child.  When I thought there could be something wrong with our little baby, my heart just broke.  I had never felt that kind of love before.

You can see why I would have had a hard time telling that story this morning.  I wanted to share it then, but even now through the blog, to encourage all of our dads to reignite that love you have for your kids.  God has placed each of us in an amazing role to have a HUGE impact on our children.  I know that my three months of daddy-hood experience is only scratching the surface in my understanding of being a Dad.  But, I have found out very quickly that it is such a privilege and such a responsibility.

And, by the way, we took Madelyn back to the doctor the next day and she was already showing signs of improvement.  When I heard that news, I breathed the biggest sigh of relief ever.   We were so grateful that she was going to be okay.
This experience also gave me just a small glimpse of understanding into the love our Heavenly Father has for His children. Wow!  Sure gives you a new perspective for how much we are loved!

As you’re celebrating Father's Day today, I pray you can fall in love with your kids and your family all over again and thank God for the blessings you have in your life. 

You'd never guess who picked out this shirt for her =).

May 24, 2011

3 Reasons to Celebrate being a Multi-Generational Church

This last Sunday night, we celebrated the end of our choir/orchestra year with a worship ministry concert.  We enjoyed sharing our favorite songs of the year and hearing songs from a ladies quartet and Eternal Noise.  I also took some time sharing 3 reasons why we at Edgewood should not just be content in "being" a multi-generational church, but we should celebrate and make the most of that fact.  I know I had an earlier post on here regarding some of these issues, but I wanted to share my thoughts from Sunday night as well.  Let me know what you think and if you have ideas for ways to continue to celebrate this even more.

1. We should celebrate being a multi-generational church because it gives us an opportunity to be the Body of Christ.  We need each other.

If we were all of the same age bracket and all liked the same types of things, we would have a very limited set of knowledge and skills. Romans 12:4-8 says,
“Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.  We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.  If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith.  If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach, if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.”
There is a powerful bond as we work together as the body of Christ.  We need each other.  I don't think there is anyone better to reach other teenagers than Christian teenagers.  I don't think there is anyone better to reach people in the workplace than Christian workers.  And I don't think there is anyone better to reach retired people than Christian retired people.  

God has placed each of us into this multi-generational family at Edgewood and we each have a purpose and a role. None of us are too young or too old to make a difference.  And none of us can do alone what all of us can all do together.

We are blessed to be a church with a very diverse group of ages. Let's make sure we're taking advantage of that blessing and constantly looking for ways to work together as a team, as one family, as the Body of Christ to do what God's called us to do.

2. We should celebrate being a multi-generational church because it gives us an opportunity to express our unity in Christ.

We all know that we live in a “have it your way” world.  We want everything to be exactly how we want it and exactly when we want it.  When we work together as a church, we are able to show the world we are different.  We are able to say that my God and my church are more important than my preferences.

Music is a powerful way through which we can worship God as a united congregation.  In a church with a wide range of ages, you can only imagine that we also have a wide range of opinions and musical preferences.  Whether you’re dealing with music issues like me, or any other area of conflict, I want to encourage you to remember the difference between the essentials and the nonessentials.

The essentials are worth fighting for. When it comes to music, our worship must be focused on God and pointing us to God.   It must be Biblically-based.  We want to focus our mind’s attention and our heart’s affection on Him.  When those essential items are out of line, then yes, we need to address and correct that immediately.

However, the nonessentials are not worth fighting for and we cannot waste the time God has given us arguing over issues that aren’t really that important.  So, in music, these would include whether the songs were written 2 weeks ago or two centuries ago, whether we use organs or drumsets, whether we wear suits or blue jeans, whether it’s a loud song of celebration or a soft, intimate song of worship....etc.etc.etc.  All of those and many more are simply nonessential items. 

When we argue over nonessential items and demand that we “have it our way”….we confirm to a watching world that we are no different from anyone else.

Sure, we at Edgewood have room to grow in this area, but I am extremely grateful that we are committed to staying focused on the essentials.  That gives us a great opportunity to exemplify our unity in Christ.
3. We should celebrate being a Multi-Generational Church because it allows us to continue God’s work for years and years to come.

The choir did a song at the concert called Find Us Faithful.  We previously used this song as part of our 50th Anniversary weekend.  The message of that song is exactly what I’m talking about here.  It shared how “those who’ve come before us have lined the way…their lives a stirring testament to God’s sustaining grace.”  It continues with “O may all who come behind us find us faithful, may the fire of our devotion light their way.  May the footprints that we leave, lead them to believe and the lives we live inspire them to obey.”

Psalm 78:3-4 encourages us to do that exact same thing.

"What we have heard and known, what our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, His power, and the wonders He has done."
A faithful, contagious church will be excited about taking what they learn and turning right around and sharing that with others.  And that passing of God’s message from one generation to the next will allow the church to continue for years and years to come.

I read a quote recently that really surprised me.  It said that “90 percent of the ministries that target a younger generation run into trouble after only three years.”  If you only target one generation, you are missing so much growth that can come from both sides.

So, we have that opportunity at Edgewood, but even for us, it takes a willingness to step out of our comfort zones and interact with those in various stages of life.  I encourage you to get involved in ministries that aren’t simply for one age group.  Things like the choir and orchestra.  VBS is another great example.  It's serving the kids, but there is a great group of teenagers and adults of all ages working together to lead it.  Serving side by side is an excellent way to build up relationships and bridge that age gap. 

I recently read a book by Chuck Swindoll called Church Awakening.  He talked about these exact ideas in his book and offered ideas of an even stronger way that you can accomplish this goal.  And that is through mentoring. He said it like this….
“Every Christian needs at least three individuals….someone who has come before us who mentors us…someone beside us who shares our burden…and someone beyond us who we’re mentoring."
I think that is such a great challenge.  And I can tell you personally that there is SO MUCH power in relationships built through mentoring.  About three years ago I approached a gentlemen in our church and asked if he’d be willing to meet with me regularly for some areas of accountability.  We initially met just to discuss one or two issues.  But, as our relationship has grown and our trust level has grown, he has become a source of immense impact on my life.  We discuss spiritual issues, finances, family issues, church issues, you name it.  It has been such a blessing to have someone who I can trust who will speak the truth to me in love.

Over the last several months, I’ve also had a great opportunity to work with a high school student on his senior project.  He wanted to learn how to lead band rehearsals and conduct an orchestra.  Teaching him how to lead rehearsals and conduct has made me take a fresh look at how I do things in our rehearsals.  It has helped me to refine my approach by looking at it from a fresh light. 

I strongly encourage every single one of you to be praying about where you can find these mentoring connections.  Don’t be intimated thinking that you have to have the Bible memorized to make an impact.  Take what you do know and USE it.  God will take care of the rest.  We need people in this body to be willing to step up and say “I want to make an impact on somebody’s life.”

These mentoring relationships and other various ways of continually passing down God’s truths from one generation to the next will allow this church the opportunity to have an impact for years and years to come.

Again, I hope that this encouragement challenges us to not just “be” a multi-generational church, but to celebrate and take advantage of that fact.

May 2, 2011

World's Events of the Week

We have had three events happen in our world this week, all of enormous magnitude.  All three very different, and all worth talking about and remembering.

Tornadoes in the South
The severe storms in Alabama and surrounding states have been unreal.  To see the pictures of the devastation should help us all remember not to take life for granted.  I was so impressed by the many people interviewed on the news the last couple days.  Even though they lost entire homes and neighborhoods, people were praising God that they were still alive.  And, they were immediately concerned for those around them who lost even more.  My parents, one of my sisters, and two of my nieces live in Alabama.  They are all fine, but were without power for 5 days.  Even after the great inconvience of not having electricity for that long, they too have been quickly concerned for those around them and looking for ways to help.  We must continue to pray for those affected by these storms.  I pray that God will comfort them as the deal with the great losses, I pray that families and communities will come together and be there for each other, and I ultimately pray that even through this great disaster, people will realize their need for a Savior and turn to Him.

Royal Wedding
Okay, to be honest, I have no idea why there was SOOOO much hype about this wedding.  BUT, in a world of fighting and chaos, it was a nice breath of fresh air to hear about something positive on the news.  I watched part of the ceremony and every detail was just perfect and quite impressive.  I got a kick out of the thousands and thousands of people lined up on the streets (some waiting for days) just to get a glimpse of the bride and groom.  Also, I was stunned to hear that 2 BILLION people watched this wedding on television.  When we think about how big this is, I can't help but compare this to when Jesus returns to earth for His bride, the church.  Revelation 1:7 says "Look, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him."  There will be no need for news reports, DVRs, facebook statuses, twitter feeds, phone calls, mass emails, or any other communication to let us know.  Every eye will see His coming.  And His bride, the church, those who have a personal relationship with Him, will be united with Him in Heaven for eternity.  Now, that's a wedding I'm looking forward to!

Osama Bin Laden
Then, the third huge world event this week was announced by our President last night.  After years of searching and fighting, Osama Bin Laden has been killed.  Yes, it is a huge step in the fight against terrorism and that's a good thing.  But, I can never be excited about anyone's death, especially when you predict where he will lie for eternity.  Everyone has to make their own choice for their eternity...even Bin Laden.  I do hope we can all continue to pray for our country, our leaders, and our military through this time.

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
My encouragement through all three of these events is this....we must continue to move forward in our lives with an eternal mindset.  Colossians 3:1-4 is a great encouragement...
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.
None of us are promised a tomorrow.  We, first, need to make sure we know where we stand with our relationship with God.  If that tornado took your family, would you be with Him now?  Even if you feel like you've done way more than God could forgive, you can still turn your life around and follow Him.  If Bin Laden would have repented and turned to God, even he, the evil man that he was, would have been saved.  Jesus' sacrifice on the cross was the ultimate payment for EVERY sin.  None of us are out of God's reach.  Second, we need to be sharing His love with everyone we can.  God has you placed where you are for a reason...don't waste that opportunity to make a difference in the lives of those around you.  And lastly, we've gotta quit wasting our time with trivial things.  I've recently had this same conversation in several different settings.  There are a lot of details in life, yes, but when we are bogged down with unimportant things, we get distracted from doing what God has called us to do.  Satan wants to waste our time, God wants us to use every second for His glory.  Use these huge events of the week to realign your focus and set your mind on things above.

March 26, 2011

Madelyn Joy Has Arrived!

The blog pollers have predicted it again!  You voted that you thought Madelyn would come early and you were right...10 days early to be exact!  Here's the recap of her first week.

Sunday, March 20th
Megan woke up early Sunday morning having contractions.  They were coming regularly, but were still 10-15 minutes apart.  Knowing we could still have a long ways to go, she encouraged me to go ahead and go to church Sunday morning.  I led both morning services with my cell phone on my music stand, ready to walk out as soon as she called =).  When I got home, they were about 8 minutes apart.  We went ahead and called the hospital and they suggested that we come on over.  We got there around 2:30, they decided to officially admit Megan at 3:30, and she had the baby at 6:00 on the dot.  We were shocked (and Megan was quite pleased) by how fast everything went.  As soon as we saw baby Madelyn, we knew our lives had changed forever.

Monday, March 21st
On Monday, the doctors quickly decided to keep us in the hospital another day.  Madelyn was a tiny 5 pounds, 4 ounces and wasn't too terribly interested in eating.  They were concerned about her being able to keep her temperature stable on her own.  We were happy about staying another day to make sure things with Madelyn and Megan were both going to be well taken care of.  We also enjoyed seeing several visitors from church and getting to show off our baby girl.

Tuesday, March 22nd
On Tuesday, the doctors felt like she was eating a little better, keeping her temperature up, and would be okay to go home.  She had to take her "car seat test" and then we were good to go!  When we got home, she was at first pretty unsettled.  We wondered what happened to our quiet little baby from the hospital =).  But, she calmed down before long.  She even slept through her first night at home ok, only getting up every three hours to eat.

Wednesday, March 23rd
On Wednesday morning, we already had an appointment to take her back to the doctor to see how things were going.  We were excited about her first checkup, even taking pictures to remember her first visit.  We assumed we'd hear everything looked good and we'd be on our way.  However, she was now down to 4 pounds, 15 ounces.  And, they were concerned about a yellow-tint to her skin, wondering about jaundice.  Even though these were minor concerns, I think this is when we realized how much we loved this little baby.  She had to go have some blood tests and when they pricked her little foot, Megan and I were crying almost as much as she was!  Wow, that love for your own child is something we've never experienced before and we were just overwhelmed.  We just wanted more than anything for her to be okay.

Thursday, March 24th
We went back to the doctor again on Thursday.  We were so relieved to hear that she had gained 2 ounces in 24-hours AND that her bilirubin levels were already going down.  She had eaten well, picked up some weight, and any jaundice concerns were already going away.  What a huge blessing to hear that she was going to be just fine.

Friday, March 25th
This was the first day of her life that she didn't have to see the doctor.  We are trying to feed her every two hours to help her eat as much as she can.  We're also keeping a close eye on her temperature, keeping her bundled up most of the day.  She still sleeps for a good chunk of the day, but is doing very well.  Since the doctor strongly suggested staying away from crowds of people, we're going to stay in this weekend instead of going out to church.

This has been quite an amazing, life-changing week for us.  We are enjoying every minute of holding her and just staring at her beautiful face.  Sure, hearing her cry at 2 in the morning isn't the most exciting thing, but it is a joy to be able to help her calm down again.  She's so adorable...even at 2 in the morning =).  The next interesting adjustment will be Madelyn meeting our dogs.  They have been at a friend's house this entire week.  The meeting should be an interesting one.

We praise God for our healthy, beautiful, baby girl and we thank you all for your prayers and encouragement.

March 2, 2011

Multi-Generational Church

We are blessed at Edgewood to have a multi-generational congregation.  Edgewood is a church where you can bring your kids, your parents, and your grandparents.  There is so much wisdom that "more experienced" people in life can share with us younger folk.  And there is also a fresh life and vision that younger folk can use to encourage the older ones.  There are powerful Scriptures that encourage both sides...

I Tim 4:12 "Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity."

Psalm 71:18 "Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come."
And I love how Psalm 78:3-4 encourages "Generational Evangelism"....passing on what we've learned to those coming behind us.
"What we have heard and known, what our fathers have told us.  We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, His power, and the wonders He has done."
And, in addition to learning from one another, there is a powerful bond as we work together as the body of Christ.  I don't think there is anyone better to reach other teenagers than Christian teenagers.  I don't think there is anyone better to reach people in the workplace than Christian workers.  And I don't think there is anyone better to reach retired people than Christian retired people.  God has placed each of us into this multi-generational family at Edgewood and we each have a purpose and a role.  None of us are too young or too old to make a difference.  And none of us can do alone what we can all do together.

I'd be curious to hear from you (even if you don't attend Edgewood) about ways that you have come alongside someone of a different age and learned from one another.  Or, what are ways that we as a church can encourage this better?  One story that always sticks out in my mind is a person from our old church in Arkansas.  I call her my "drum lady".  When I was in high school, I played drums for our adult orchestra on Sunday mornings.  There were many in the church that still thought drums shouldn't be a part of a worship service.  One deacon even went as far as telling me that "drums were from the devil."  While those people were extremely discouraging to a high schooler just trying to serve, I could always count on my "drum lady" to offer encouraging words.  She loved my playing and made sure to tell me almost every Sunday how much she appreciated me being in the orchestra.  Her son had played in bands and she loved seeing younger people involved in the worship services.  When I went away to college, I would still come back to our church in Arkansas from time to time.  Every time I was in town I made sure I found her (she always sat in the same pew =) to tell her how I was doing.  She would go on and on about how she missed me playing and usually offered me some money to go by a coke =).  My "drum lady", was a consistent encouragement to me week after week after week.  Her encouragement and her prayers for me made a huge impact in my life.  She was passing on the joy that God gave her and shared it with me and I am very grateful that she did.  Even though we were probably 60 years apart in age, we shared a special bond in Christ and were a regular encouragement to one another.

I pray for these types of connections at Edgewood.  We are blessed to be with a very diverse group of ages.  Let's make sure we're taking advantage of that blessing and constantly looking for ways to encourage one another and join as one to do what God's called us to do.

I recently read an article in Christianity Today about multi-generational churches.  It said that many times when churches brag that they are multi-generational it is a euphemism for "we are an aging church that wants to have more young people attending so that we don't die, but we don't want to change enough to actually attract any of them to come."

OUCH.  I pray that that is NOT the case at Edgewood.  I pray that we can continue to attract those of all ages, being willing to make changes to do so, and to truly join together to do what God's called us to do.

Baby is Coming!!

Madelyn's Room is Ready!
Today Megan made it to the 36-week mark on her pregnancy.  She is doing an amazing job and things are progressing along very well.  We have been praying for little Madelyn, reading a handful of books, redoing our family budget, setting up her room, stocking the house with diapers and formula, and trying to stock up on sleep =).  All we need now is the baby!

We appreciate your prayers that things will continue to go well and then for our lives as we adjust to having Madelyn with us.

Since you blog readers predicted she was going to be a girl awhile back, I thought I'd give you a chance to predict her arrival time.  Take your best guess over on the right.  Let's see how you do on this one!

February 10, 2011

We Cry Out by Jeremy Camp

One of the songs we've introduced at Edgewood recently is "We Cry Out" by Jeremy Camp.  Jeremy Camp has a great collection of powerful songs, but this one has quickly become one of my favorites.
Anthems fill the skies with praise, all Your mighty works display Your glory, they tell of Your glory
We who called upon Your Name cannot be silent we will praise, we'll sing it out, Oh we will sing it out
For we have seen the greatness of Your glory be revealed
And we have seen all that You've done and we cannot be still
God's glory is visible ALL around us if we only open our eyes.  His creation, His working through our lives, His love that He constantly shows, and so much more!  I love the challenge in this verse saying that because of who God is and all that He's done, we cannot be silent.  Our response must be to worship Him and live our lives in a way that brings glory to Him.

Then we can join and strongly sing the chorus....
We will cry out to You! Your loving-kindness and Your truth it has delivered us, You have delivered us!
Great is Your glory Lord! When nations learn of Your ways, they will bow down to You we will bow down to You.
As our congregation gets to know this song better, I picture that being such a powerful moment.  Singing that chorus in unity...we will cry out to Him, He has delivered us and we will bow down to Him.  Then, the last verse again is a challenge to not let our worship stop within the walls of the church.  But, instead we sing...
Into all the world we take the mystery of Your saving grace, Shine the light into the darkness.
We cannot be still or silent in our worship services, but we must also not be still and silent in our workplaces or with our friends.  Into ALL the world, we must shine the light and share His saving grace.

There is a lot packed into the lyrics of this song.  I hope it can become a favorite among our church and be an inspiration (and a challenge) to us all.

January 31, 2011

How do you "see" God in your life?

I've recently been asked how in the world I could believe in a God that has no "scientific" or "historical" proof of existing.  This person doesn't believe the Bible is true and wants to see some "proof" that God exists.

We've obviously had some interesting discussions, but it has also really got me thinking.  I do believe there are great answers in Lee Strobel's Case for Faith and Case for Christ books about historical and scientific backing of the Bible.  I also wholeheartedly believe that just the consistency of the Biblical writings and all the fulfilled prophecies is enough to prove the Bible on its own.

But what has really been fun to think about through this process was the personal side.  How have I seen God move in my life...not Lee Strobel...not words from the Bible...but me.

To list just a few...I am amazed by nature...God's creation.  Seeing the vastness of the ocean or the Grand Canyon, the beauty of the sunrise, the majesty of the!  Everytime we fly, I always pick a window seat because I'm just a big kid who loves to see out the window.  It's just remarkable.

I can also see God in a big way by His leading us to Seattle.  The timing of Edgewood looking for a worship pastor and us feeling led toward full-time ministry...the fact that the job fits so well with what I love doing...the heart that I already had for the Northwest by being born up here...and just detail after detail of how everything worked out.  I don't believe in coincidences.  Since coming here, it has been confirmed time after time that this is where He wants us.  Not only for the ministry, but also for our personal lives.  In our first year here, we heard about a marriage conference that proved to be a pivotal point in our marriage.  It so drastically changed our relationship in a positive way.  What's funny to me is that this conference is based out of Little Rock and we never heard about it until moving to Seattle =).  Also, moving away from friends and family was extremely difficult.  But, it made us focus more on each other.  Our marriage relationship has grown by LEAPS AND BOUNDS since we moved here.  There is no way that it was by our doing, but it is by what God has been doing through us when we just say "yes" and follow His direction.

And, as if Megan isn't crying already reading this =), I have just been in so much AWE over this new baby coming into our lives.  Hearing Madelyn's heartbeat when she's only a few weeks old, seeing her hands and feet move around with such joy after a few months, WOW!  It's hard for me to grasp not believing in God when we're seeing this miracle grow right in front of us.  It's absolutely amazing.  On a small note, I also think God knew exactly what He was doing by giving parents 9-months to get ready =)...we sure need it!

I give all the credit to God for these miracles and for many other things that He's done through our lives.  I know that science and Satan's deceiving ways try to steal the glory away from God.  It is a difficult world we live in and I do pray that all of us will seek out why we believe what we believe.  John 10:10 says, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the fullest."  I do pray for my friend regularly and for any others that they will truly find life and have it to the fullest!

PLEASE take a minute to comment on this post and share a story of how you've seen God in your life.  I'd love to hear your stories and celebrate with you.

January 10, 2011

Outlive Your Life

Last month, I read a great book by Max Lucado titled Outlive Your Life.  I thought some points of his would be particularly encouraging to share as we are beginning a new year.

The whole book is filled with amazing stories and great examples of ways to make the most out of your life. He reminds us that "life is racing by, and if we aren't careful, we will look up, and our shot at it will have passed us by."

I Corinthians 1:26-27 reminds us that we don't have to be hotshots or the best in our field to be used by God.  In fact, He wants to take the foolish to shame the wise and the powerless to shame the powerful.  He can use ANY of us if we will only let Him.

I particularly like his 3rd Chapter titled Let God Unshell You.  Max Lucado encourages us to make a careful exploration of who we are and the work we have been given. Who has God made you to be?  With whom do you feel most fluent?  When does your heart race?  We need to find those areas of passion that God has placed in our lives, realize that's who He has made us to be, and then allow Him to work through those areas in powerful ways.

He also has a good chapter about persecution.  If we are using our lives for God's glory, we better expect to be criticized, mocked, and persecuted.  His suggestion for preparing ourselves was to imitate the disciples.  We must linger long in the presence of Christ.  Meditate on His grace, ponder His love, memorize His words, and constantly talk to Him.  Be in His presence.  I love this quote too..
 "If you want to be bold tomorrow, then you need to be with Jesus today."
Max Lucado also dedicated an entire chapter to the importance of prayer.  He reminds us that God didn't call us to preach without ceasing, sing without ceasing, or attending meetings without ceasing.  He called us to pray without ceasing.

I found these points and the rest of the book to be very motivating.  Our lives are so short and too many times we waste the days away with things of little or no eternal value.  As we're into a brand new year, let's start fresh wanting to "outlive our lives" by making the most of every day God has blessed us with.