Monday, August 31, 2015

No Social Media September

Last year, during the month of September, Charity and I ate no added sugar. It was a great experience of self discipline and a time we used to seek God more. It was really hard but really good! As September approaches us (tomorrow) I'm going to do a new No Something this September.

This one will be No Social Media September

The thoughts racing through your mind right now:
"Are you serious?!"
"How can you do that?"
"Think of all you're going to miss out on!"

Let me answer all of those

Yes, I am Serious
This is not something new for me. I've done many stents away from social media. I think the first was about 3 years ago when I was on sabbatical. It was a freeing time in my life! I've found in my life that it becomes a very natural thing, when I'm bored or have down time, to simply grab my phone and scroll through social media. While I don't think this is a bad thing I do think it's become a habit in my life I want to break.

I am sick of seeing people walking around staring at their screen
I am sick of seeing parents ignore their children
I am sick of missing out of my life because of a screen in my hand
I am sick of being distracted by things that are useless to me
I am sick of feeling tied to "knowing" what is going on every where

With God's Help
This isn't going to be something easy, at first. For the first week, probably the first 3-5 days, its going to be the most difficult. This is basically a fast. I am going to do this with God's help because I am going to replace the time, or as my friend Shawn Bagley taught me, "I'm going to redeem the time."

Social media has become a natural part of our day. There is a show I enjoy watching and one of the characters in the show always has her phone in her hand; ALWAYS. This is going to take some time to break something that is so natural in my life but I'm really excited to do it!

Think of All I Gain 
Some might think of all I'm going to miss out on. Trust me, what I'm going to gain is more than I'm going to miss. I want my life to be more personal interactions with others. Interactions that are face to face or on a phone call. I want to not just "like" my friends pictures, I want to hear what is going on in your life.

Now this might be a lofty goal to accomplish seeing that we have three children and it seems like our lives are going at a rapid rate of movement. But I am going to gain so much. I'm going to gain because I'm not just giving something up to give it up. I'm giving this up to seek God more, to spend more time with my kids and to pray.

I've been convicted over the last couple months
I've had hard conversations this summer
I've been sleep deprived and I need to hear from God

I'm excited for what there is to gain from this! Who knows, maybe you will join me! Its not too late.
Give me a call this month and let's chat!

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Combination of Prayer & Hard Work

This summer my church studied the life of Nehemiah. Nehemiah lived roughly 450 years before Jesus. Nehemiah was an Israelite. He was most likely born in the city of Susa, the capital city of Persia during the exile. We know he served under King Artaxerxes and received heart-breaking news about what had happened in Jerusalem.

Nehemiah didn't ignore the news, he didn't share it on Facebook or create a cool picture to post on Instagram and then move on with his life.

A commitment to prayer
When Nehemiah learned about the condition of Jerusalem, it broke his heart. Nehemiah wept, fasted and prayed for the city of God (Nehemiah 1:4). From reading the Bible it doesn't appear that Nehemiah prayed for Jerusalem only once. It doesn't seem like he stopped praying after a week or a month either. Nehemiah had this intense commitment to prayer:
"Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.” Nehemiah 1:11
Reading the first chapter of Nehemiah you get this sense of a deep commitment Nehemiah had to prayer.
Nehemiah doesn't complain to his friends.
Nehemiah doesn't turn to a bowl of ice cream to console him.
Nehemiah doesn't become apathetic and simply watch TV.
Nehemiah makes this huge commitment to prayer. But it doesn't stop there.

A commitment to hard work
After months of praying (about 4 months). Nehemiah takes a step of faith and asks the king for permission to return to Jerusalem and help rebuild the city. Take note, this is the same king who shut the project down years earlier and Persian kings weren't known for changing their mind. But because of his commitment to prayer, God moves in a huge way!

Nehemiah receives permission to return to Jerusalem. In ancient terms, we’re talking about a four month journey full of danger and potential for disaster. So this is no small deal to travel for four months on horseback. Nehemiah didn’t fly first-class because he worked for the king. After arriving in the city he inspects the wall (by night) to come up with a plan of how to rebuild the city.

Now comes the hard work. Nehemiah must inspire a group of un-inspired people to take part of a massive rebuilding project. After facing relentless opposition Nehemiah pressed on to rebuild the wall. Finally, with calloused hands and their faces covered in sweat the wall was completed!

The book doesn't end there though. There is a huge revival. The city is repopulated the God's people worship in an awesome way. If you've never studied the life of Nehemiah I highly recommend it.

Impacting
Studying the life of Nehemiah has been impacting to me. I've been trying to figure this balance of hard work and prayer. In the last couple years I have had a sense that as I work harder I want to pray more. To be honest, I see myself working harder. I am more familiar with pastoral ministry but by no means am perfect.

What happens when you work more though is you can begin to think it all depends on you. This is the opposite of what I'm aiming for. My hope is the outcome of my efforts is a reflection of my prayer life. The question the life of Nehemiah has left in my mind is, "How can I have a strong commitment to hard work and prayer?"

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Guarding Your Life

This summer my church has been studying the book of Nehemiah. The life of Nehemiah has inspired me! Let me share some of his story. Nehemiah had received his brother’s report about Jerusalem while he was living in Susa. King Artaxerxes granted Nehemiah permission to travel to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall. It only took fifty-two days to rebuild the wall. From the time he first heard about the problem when he was in Susa until the wall was completed was only nine months. Nehemiah’s job wasn’t to just rebuild the wall, but to establish the people of God as a mature community of people living within the walls of Jerusalem. Basically he was called to Urban Renewal.

After the wall is rebuilt Nehemiah is called to establish God's people in the city of Jerusalem. Now that Nehemiah has men, he can trust, in the leadership roles he gives them directions to keep the gates shut (read Nehemiah 7:3). I find it significant that he puts such an emphasis on keeping the gates shut and having men there to guard them. 

Its almost like Nehemiah has just established the first neighborhood watch program. His actions reveal that Nehemiah was still concerned about Jerusalem. There was still a possibility of invasion from the enemy who opposed the rebuilding of the wall. There was another invasion he is concerned about also, a more subtle invasion. This was the invasion of thoughts and ideas coming through the gates that could undermine the work of God.

Let me ask you a few questions. Are you guarding the gates around your own life? Do you have things you just won’t let in? Sure, you lock your doors to keep your home safe at night. You lock your car so no one steals it. But do you have gates on your phone to protect your walk with the Lord? Do you have gates on your conversations at work with people of the opposite gender to protect your marriage from adultery? Do you have gates to prevent yourself from falling into addiction? The reason we don’t put up gates is because its hard work!

Let me get personal on the need for gates in our lives. You might know that I have an addictive personality. I started drinking alcohol at the age of 13. I’ve been arrested multiple times for alcohol related instances, the first being when I was 17 years old. When I was 20 I surrendered my life to the Lord and made a commitment to follow Him. I knew that meant I needed to give up alcohol, I needed to put up a gate in my life to keep alcohol out because I am not the kind of person who can have just one drink. This has been a gate I’ve had to reinforce, lock shut and fight to keep in place. There have been many times that I wanted to have just one sip but I know, if I start drinking again, sooner or later I’m going to end up back in jail.

I’ve keep this gate up for 15 years now and have to fight daily to keep it in place because its still a struggle for me. I have other gates up too, gates to keep porn out, gates to stay away from gambling, gates to avoid overspending because I’ve seen how destructive these temptations have been for me. When talking about gates in our lives, I’m not saying we shut ourselves off from the world but we do guard ourselves from the impurity of the world.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

I lost my joy

To be completely honest, this summer I’ve struggled with having joy in the Lord.
I’ve struggled to worship with a joyful heart.

This summer something horrible became obvious to me. It didn't happen immediately but more over time. I'm embarrassed to admit that I felt like I lost my joy. I felt like someone pulled the plug on my  joy and sat there passively watching it drain because I didn't know how to stop it.

It didn't happen immediately. It was through a series of events. There were so tough things that happened at work. I hurt my back. We had to cut our vacation short because our son wasn't sleeping. There were things going on with family. I think if it was one of these I would have been fine, but the combination of all of them, happening so close together, made it tough.

A few weeks ago I was preaching at a summer camp near Big Bear Lake and the worship overpowered me, as I began singing I felt my heart begin to change. At first I was singing because "it was the right thing to do." I felt like if the speaker wasn't singing it would look bad. As the week progressed something changed. The words changed from just singing to worship. There was a particular song, Eternal King that For All Seasons sang. The words overpowered me. It was exactly what I needed to hear!

I felt my joy returning the more I sang it. Before camp was done I knew I had to get their album and get this song in my bones. On my drive home from camp I found myself listening to Eternal King on repeat. It was exactly what I needed to worship The Lord with Joy. The book of Nehemiah says:
And on that day they offered great sacrifices, rejoicing because God had given them great joy. The women and children also rejoiced. The sound of rejoicing in Jerusalem could be heard far away. Nehemiah 12:43
The people had great joy because God had given them great joy!

You might ask this, “Does joy come before worship or does joy come in worship?” I think the text is teaching us that God gives us joy when we worship. The Psalms are full of instruction on joyful worship. Psalm 33:1 says, “Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him.”

You have the hope of eternity. You worship a living and active God who cares personally about each and every one of us. Sure, you might have struggles in the week but joy is found when we sing to the Lord.

Christianity itself is joyous. This is not difficult to apply. Nehemiah taught us that times of rejoicing are not a one time experience but are ongoing moments in the lives of those who have committed themselves to God. The account of Biblical celebration of worship is an invitation to us. We are invited to rejoice. We all battle our daily struggles which is why it is vitally important for us to purify ourselves before we worship God. We need to examine our hearts and do our best to prepare ourselves for worship. Its appropriate for us to arrive early and to sing with joy. In fact, we should be the most joyous group of people on the Peninsula right now. We celebrate the great acts of God on our behalf, particularly in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

When we do this others are going to notice our joy. People around us are going to start talking about us. They are going to start talking among themselves about the joy we exude. Then there will come a day when they will ask us about the joy we have. Others may have moments of happiness, but our joy will outlast that. The Jews rejoiced as they worshipped God. Their joy flooded the surrounding areas. It wasn’t their circumstances that had changed, it was their hearts. Your circumstances may not change, but you can still choose to worship God with joy. The reality is, we all worship something so let’s choose to worship God with a  joyful heart.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

My Beepi Experience

I'm not sure how many of you enjoy buying a car, I do not. In fact, I extremely dislike the hours I have to spend online trying to find a car. Then you have to contact them and see if it's still available and then see it.

Our car buying experience lead us to a dealership. We had a hard time finding what we wanted from a private party. We went to the dealer and found a car we 90% wanted. We figured it was close enough to what we wanted so we made an offer. They gave us a good deal on our trade-in so we shook hands and moved ahead. After getting more of our information in, Drivers Licenses, and Insurance information in the computer the manager came over. The original deal had no sales tax included in the price, the cost went up almost $2500. Needless to say after two hours we walked out.

We were sick of the whole process and two weeks later I called a company called Beepi.com. At first, I was skeptical. I actually asked a few questions and then got off the phone. I ended up calling them back about 15 minutes later and had a slew of questions answered.

Charity and I prayed about it overnight and we ended up purchasing a car we had never seen off a website we had never heard of. It sounds crazy right!

The whole online process was pretty easy. After making payment I was asked to enter our DL information and then submitted a picture of our insurance card.

My initial email told me the car would be in my driveway in 11 days. This was 2 days longer than they say on their website. I figured that was cool, just as long as it was there before we left on vacation. At this point Beepi would send me daily emails but no updates on shipping time for the car so I thought we were good to go until 2 days before it was supposed to arrive I got an email saying it wasn't going to make it.

At this point I called Beepi and was basically ready to cancel the car. They would have been totally cool with that and given me a full refund. We decided to wait. At this point Beepi offered us an Amazon gift card for our trouble (that I later had to email and ask about) But how it all played down, the day they wanted to deliver (3 days later) we were heading out on vacation!

Now when we finally got our car it had been 21 days since we ordered it. As I look back on the process I was a bit bummed but it was far better than having to search for a car online. We also didn't need to get the car immediately so it worked out fine for us.

The big day came and our car was finally delivered. It made it a little earlier, in the day, than our original delivery time. It came, parked in my driveway with a big white bow on the front! I took it for a spin around the block and was sold. The van drove great. The air worked. All the windows worked. The doors opened. It didn't smell like a dead raccoon. It was exactly as we had expected it to be.

We came inside and signed the paperwork and it really only took 15 minutes to complete. This was infinitely better than going to a dealership.

At this point you would think the whole thing was great! Well after putting the kids carseats in that night I realized the actuator on the drivers door was broken (not sure how Beepi missed that). We had to call Beepi and set up a time for them to come look at the van, take it to the Honda dealer, fix it and then return. This meant they needed to take it overnight. It wasn't the end of the world. And they even paid to fix it all up for us.

Today is our is our last day to return the car (did I mention Beepi lets you drive the car for 10 days and decide if you really like it?). As I write this post I know we're not going to return it. It fits our family, my wife loves it and its a smooth ride.

The question I think is, "Would I recommend Beepi to someone?"

Yes I would. We had some bumps along the road but Beepi was super helpful in the process. I have already recommended them to a few people and even saw another car with Beepi plates today as I drove home.

Thanks Beepi for making car buying way better than it has been before!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Summer Fishing

This summer we went to Donner Lake for a family vacation. It was a great time with the family, friends and fishing with my kids!

Sophie is quite an animal lover and Leah just loves to have fun. We went fishing the first night we were in town, it wasn't more than just 30 minutes after being in town. We started with powerbait and not a whole bunch of nothing! Ok, nothing but good times and fun memories! Sophie and Leah probably had more fun playing with each other than they did fishing.

After getting skunked a few times we broken down and bought some nightcrawlers (this was tough for Sophie). But once we bought them, we started catching fish.

It was fun seeing the difference between Sophie and Leah when they caught fish. Sophie was willing to get right in there and grab the fish. She wanted to hold it and make sure to get a picture with the fish.

When I look at these pictures I think of all the fun I've had fishing. I'm thankful to be able to make these memories with my kids and that they enjoy fishing as much as I did when I was their age.

About 25 minutes after Sophie caught her fish Leah landed one. Her response was completely opposite. She didn't want to touch the fish, she stayed away from it and her facial expression was much different. She still enjoyed it but not nearly as much as Sophie.

In the end, we released both fish. The following day we went back to the same spot and caught two crawfish. The girls thought the crawfish were creepy!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Donner Lake Train Track Hike/Walk

Last week we were up in Truckee and did the Donner Lake railroad track hike with our kids. As you read this, use the word hike loosely. 

The hike starts about 100 yards south of the bridge off old Highway 40. When you're driving look for this marker on the side of the road. 

Leah was super excited to hold Isaiah for the picture and to just make sure, Charity was right outside the picture ready to help in the need of an emergency. Sophie was actually really excited to do the hike (heavy sarcasm).

Take 3 minutes to read the plaque here and learn about the wall near the tracks. There is some great history here to learn and ponder as you hike.

Now, when you do finally hike, walk about 100 feet up the road and enter the trail from there. We made the mistake and barging into the forest and charging away. When you do this with you two little kids and pregnant wife, this is what you get. Our girls totally charged the way and it was awesome!

Once we made it to the top we took some time to walk down the old train tracks. The girls were a bit scared and you can see it on Sophie's face. If you head West on the tracks there are a few small tunnels. If you head East there is a longer tunnel. 

The tunnel isn't pitch black because there are slats where the light comes in. There is a ton of graffiti in the tunnels which was kind of a bummer to see. 

There are some broken down rolling doors that you can walk out of and see a great view of Donner Lake. Leah couldn't keep her eyes open in the sun but was stoked on the adventure!

When I look back on this, these are family memories I think the kids will remember. It wasn't a long hike, it wasn't too strenuous but man it was fun!

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Serving with your children

Serving your your children can be a tricky thing to do. You have to ask yourself things like, "Am I willing to take my kids to the inner city to serve Jesus?" or, "Do I want to take my kids on a plane to serve in a foreign country?"

This Sunday I preached on Nehemiah chapter 3. There is a great verse tucked in here that really caught my attention:
Shallum son of Hallohesh, ruler of a half-district of Jerusalem, repaired the next section with the help of his daughters. Nehemiah 3:12
Here is a guy who is out working hard with his kids. Since I’m a dad with young daughters, I imagine Nehemiah going around encouraging the workers, and then he sees one man serving with his little girls out in the hot sun. We don’t know their ages, so any guess is speculation on my part, but I imagine the girls helping to clean up the rubble. They are moving the stones they can and laughing and giggling the whole time. They are helping their dad plaster and get the stones in just the right place so the wall will be as strong as possible. Their laughter and joy encourages those around them and motivates them to continue working hard.

Now this father probably could have completed the work faster without his daughters there. If you’ve ever served with your children it can actually take longer to work with them. But as the Church we are called to train up those who are younger and this is a great example of a father who did this!

I want to be like Shallum. I want to follow his example of serving alongside my kids, right in my hometown. That is why I am going to take part in our upcoming backpack drive at CPC this summer.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

A Father's Day Prayer

Today at church I prayed a special prayer for Father's. Now normally I don't write out my prayers like  I did for this one, but since it was a special day and tried it out. I didn't stick to my notes completely and used it more as a guide than a manuscript. Hope you enjoy!

God in Heaven, thank you for being our example of how a Father acts. Thank you for showing us your love for people by sending your Son to earth. Thank you for teaching us the importance of encouraging our children when you affirmed Jesus in His baptism. Thank you for caring about our eternal existence and desiring us to be with you.

God we confess that being a father has it’s share of difficulties and we pray you would wash us clean of our sin.

We pray you would meet our daily needs while we parent our children.
We pray you would teach us how to lead our families closer to you.
We pray for fathers who have lost children to be comforted today.
We pray for new fathers to get sleep, you know how tired they are.
We pray for elderly fathers to be supported by their adult children.
We pray for estranged fathers to be re-united with their children.
We pray for awesome fathers to continue to model their behavior.
We pray for those who long to be fathers to have their desires met.
We pray for each and every father here to love your truth and ways.

God we choose to trust you today as our perfect example of a Father. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

HALT

There is an old acronym: HALT.

It stands for; Hungry, Anxious, Lonely or Tired. I learned about this acronym when I was pastoring at my first church. It goes like this.

If you ever find yourself being hungry, anxious, lonely or tired it’s a good sign that you need rest. When we experience these symptoms in our life, we are more susceptible to being harsh with our children for not getting the grade we think they should have in school. There is a higher probability of be short with our waiter for not getting our order right at dinner. It might even get so bad we begin cursing at random people while we’re stuck in traffic. Now I know you’ve never done any of these things, but I’m just making some examples of what other people do.

Raymond Brown says: “Physically exhausted people are not likely to achieve as much as they desire.”

Monday, June 08, 2015

Confessions of a Dad: I love my phone too much

"Hey dad, wanna play?"
Looking down at his phone, "Give me one minute, I'm almost done."

Dear Dad,

Look up from your phone for just one minute, I'd like to tell you something. Your kid is only going to be this age once. Tomorrow she will be older. Today she wants to play: Legos, hide and seek, soccer or Go Fish. So why not play with her?

Do you know there is going to be a day that she isn't going to want to play with you. Sure, you'll still have your phone. In fact, it will be an upgraded model with more "cool" stuff. There will be more apps and games for you to play. But she will always be your kid, there is no trading up here.

Let me ask you: "Is what you're doing on there really that important?" I mean, can it wait? Do you really need to check your email every five minutes? Will the posts on Facebook still be there when she is in bed? Is it more important to check Craigslist right now?

Let me give you an example to help you. Walk to your room. While you're walking turn your phone to silent. Look at your dresser, there is tons of room there. Set your phone down, try facedown. Now walk out, leave it there.

I'll stop telling you how to live your life, I can see you're either frustrated with me or get the point. I know being a dad is tough for you but fight for her. She wants to play with you. Remember how big she smiles. Remember how much she laughs. She loves you!

Put your phone down, it can't really be more important than her.

Signed,
Me

This is a letter I wrote to myself and I'm sending to myself. It's not for you, though it may speak to your situation. The letter is for me. I'm sick of stuffing my face in the phone, so it's a reminder I need to focus on my family and what really matters most.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Inviting Your Kids to Pray

When was the last time you prayed with a child?

For me its on a daily basis. We pray with our kids a handful of times a day on a regular basis and then a few more times at random times. Let me tell you some of the regular times and share some of the fun things they pray for with child-like faith.

When We Read the Bible
One of the first things we do in the morning is read the Bible together. I used to just open up the Bible and read it but lately I've been modeling the need to pray before we read their Bible and after we read it. This has been a great way for us to teach our kids about some of the heroes in the Bible. The other day Leah moved the bookmark and said "Daddy, this is my favorite story. Please read it." Its great to teach your kids how to pray before reading God's word.

Breakfast
The next regular time we pray in our home is pretty quickly after we read the Bible. Our morning prayer is generally quick for the food and then we pray for our Compassion kids. I love hearing our kids grab what we've prayed. They pray for their kids to have food, to know Jesus, to be safe and to be healthy. I don't have to worry about my kids having food or being abducted but for our sponsor kids its a real issue and I believe God hears the prayers my 6 and 5 year old pray.

Walking to School
In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses encouraged the people to pray with their kids when they are walking. When we leave the house and get to the sidewalk I grab Sophie's hand and we pray. We pray for her day, for her to have wisdom, for her friend, her teacher and her principle. This is a time when I do the majority of the praying.

Dinner
After I drop Sophie off I normally don't see her until I come home. When we all sit at the table as a family we pray. Our girls have started praying for each item on our plate. Its great to hear them thank God for: macaroni, beans, water, forks, chicken, potatoes and bread. They make me smile when they pray for each item on the table.

Before Bed
The last time we pray together is right before bed. I used to pray or Charity would but lately I've invited the girls to start out our prayer time. Leah might pray for her brother to eat good to sleep well and its precious. Sophie has been generally praying for a cat. I wrap up our prayer time and then we kiss before bed.

These aren't the only times we pray.
We pray for fire trucks when we see them.
We pray when a tummy hurts.
We pray when someone gets a cut.

I'm convinced that my kids are going to learn about prayer from how I pray. We pray big prayers. We don't only just pray for food but we pray for God to move in big ways for others and I'm thankful to be able to do that.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Munchery

With recently having a baby we have been overwhelmed with how many people have brought us food! Many times people have texted to see if they can bring lunch, our church set us up on the meal ministry and others have brought over a warm cup of coffee in the morning.

Something a little different was an email I received from some friends. It was a gift card to "Munchery". To be honest I didn't know what Munchery was before getting the email but it sounded like had to do with food so I was in!

One afternoon Charity and I were ready to use the gift card so we jumped on munchery.com to see what was on the menu for the day. After registering for an account we started grazing and salivating over the dinner options. There was a problem; we were too late! We had to order by 2pm and it was 3pm. We had a few more days of the meal ministry taking care of us so we decided to wait until later.

While waiting I received an email letting me know that my first meal would be free! You heard me right, free! I thought maybe and entree and salad. Earlier this week we jumped online, at lunchtime, to order dinner. We both chose and entree, added a salad, got some sushi and dessert. When I went to check out the entire order was free. I was shocked! Even delivery was free. We checked out and waited for dinner to arrive.

When it arrived I have to confess that it was good! The food arrived promptly when it was scheduled to. It was great to heat up the oven and pop the meals in while eating some sushi and salad. The portions were just the right size for us (we don't eat a huge dinner).

The part that won me over was the special touch. In our bag was a handwritten note to our family along with an extra cookie. It was a small thought that made a huge impact. I began thinking about how we've lost the touch of  a handwritten card.

Overall I would recommend Munchery and we will be ordering from them soon!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Spending Time with My Kids; Gardening

When I was kid I used to help my dad with the backyard garden. I'm sure I wasn't really a huge help but enjoyed the time we spent together outside. In fact, I just love being outside and have since I was a little kid!

When we moved in to our house, last year, one of my dreams was to have a raised planter bed. I hadn't done outdoor gardening in decades and was a super rookie. I was able to take some of my skills from what I learned, and with the help of watching youtube, we started a pretty cool little garden.

Our first year we bought most of what we planted. We purchased: zucchini, watermelon and green bell peppers from Home Depot. We also had beets and carrot seed we planted. The zucchini went crazy, the squirrels ate the watermelon, the carrots tasted... interesting and the beets were awesome!

We took what we learned and started earlier this year to get our garden ready.
(Planter Bed) 
(Sophie Planing) 
(Our germinated seeds) 
(Add Water)
After starting: beets, radish and zucchini we have added: tomatoes, cucumbers, corn and today watermelon!

(Zucchini going great)
(The bed has sprouted)
(Baby Persian cucumbers sprouting)
(Tomato plant)
(Leah watering)
I share all the pictures to give you a glimpse of the progress we're having. 

It is so much fun to teach my girls about germinating, planting and caring for our garden. Its fun to see seeds crack open and then turn into plants! We have great conversations outside and sometimes we just act silly, but the best part is I'm spending time with my kids and making memories! 

15 Years of being sober

April 20, 2015 was a big day for me. It was a day I never imagined would happen.

Today marks 15 years of being sober in my life.

Just over 15 years ago I walked out of a jail cell for the last time. I really thought that I would stay. I was on probation and had violated probation, I thought I was going to serve a year for that violation. When I got to jail that night I looked around and noticed the homeless drunks sitting in their stupor. I thought: "I'm not one of these guys..." but I was. Then it hit me: "I don't want to be like them when I grow up."

When I was a boy I wanted to be a fireman so I could save people but as a 20 year old I couldn't even get my life in order to help my self. I needed a change. That night I cried out to Jesus in the wee hours of the morning. I prayed a simple prayer, if you can it that. I made a request of God: "God, if you get me out of here I will do anything you want." Little did I know how much that request would change my life.

I was released 5 hours after praying that prayer.

A few days later I found myself attending my court mandated DUI school where I met a man named Brett Wheeler. Brett reached out to me at the end of class and invited me to attend church with him. Brett invested into me. He shared with me what he knew about God and helped me to find a solid relationship with Christ.

There isn't enough time to write what has changed in the last 15 years but for me its obvious when I look in the mirror; I am not the same man. God has changed my life and its only because of His mercy I have been able to stay sober for the last 15 years.
"Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit..." Ephesians 5:18

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Spending time with my kids: gas station trips

When I was a kid I used to love going to the corner store with my mom. I loved riding my bike there after we ate dinner. It seemed so big. It was like the biggest store in the whole world to the little six year old boy. The ceiling seemed like it was fifty feet high. I would meander up and down the candy isle looking for exactly the right bar to rot my teeth that night.

As our kids have grown we have taken more and more adventures with them. One of their favorites is heading to the local gas station for a treat. The store is a lot smaller to me now and the candy less appealing but the joy I see on my kids face is worth every cent of what I consider to be an overpriced candy bar.

As I think about the progression of these trips today was a big day for us. At first the trip was done with me pushing a double stroller. Charity and I would talk while the kids lounged in their toddler sized lazy boy chair on wheels. We would roll them up to the store where their grubby little hands would grab the treat of their choice.

After the stroller came the scooters. We would scooter to the store to find the hidden treats. Sometimes the ride home consisted of a kid on my shoulders and holding the scooter in my left hand.

Later our kids got balance bikes to help them prepare for bikes with no training wheels. They loved riding those bikes to the gas station. Generally I was walking, casually, behind them as the glided through the big world.

Today we all rode to the gas station…

Yep, we all jumped on our bikes and rode to the gas station. Leah is still rocking her balance bike and boy is she quick! She does need to keep both eyes on the road though! Sophie is pedaling away and she cruises down the street with her hair blowing in the wind. I’m not walking behind them anymore, today I was chasing them on my bike. We all rode to the gas station for a treat.

Now the point isn’t riding bikes, or wind blowing in your hair. The point is to spend time with my kids. The last thing my kids need is another five minutes on their iPad, or to watch another movie. They need to be outside and seeing the great big world. We are making memories as a family. We are preparing for a larger adventure that will take place one day (who knows what it will be, but its waiting for us). We are enjoying each other and smiling as a family. I hope they look back on these memories and enjoy them as much as I do.

Friday, May 01, 2015

One Week Later

I can't believe its been a week already...

I'm sitting here watching my son sleep and realized it was time to finally write about the last week.

Last Friday, April 24, was like any other Friday. I walked to Sophie to school. I dropped Leah off at school. Charity and I even went on a date. While we were on our date I realized she was carrying our baby low, I mean real low!

After the girls were back from school Charity went out with her sister to get a massage. Around 4pm she sent me a text message that said something to the effect of: "Grab my bag. Pack my toiletries in it. Pack your bag and let's meet at In-n-Out for dinner and then go to the hospital." I was obviously taken back by it but knew my wife knows her body.

We went to dinner at In-n-Out for dinner around 5:30pm and then headed across the street to the hospital where we were admitted relatively quickly. Charity was checked and dilated to a 3 and 90% effaced. We were staying and getting ready for our son. Around 10pm we met with our midwife and talked about our birth plan. At the end of our conversation she asked me: "Daddy, would you like to help deliver your son?" I was in good shock and immediately replied: "You bet! This is a dream come true."

At about 10:45pm it was time to start pushing, gently. Charity did a great job. I was gloved up and ready to help catch our son. His head came out and next his body. I reached in, grabbed him and gently lifted him up on Charity's chest. It was surreal. At 11:13pm we had our third child.

Isaiah Justus Benson was 8 pounds 10 ounces and 21 inches long.

(Charity holding Isaiah for the first time) 
(Me holding Isaiah for the first time)
(Our first family shot)

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Ten years of Marriage

This last week Charity and I celebrated our 10 year anniversary. As we’ve talked about this milestone I’ve joking said: “These have been the best 10 years of your life Charity!” The reality is, this has been the best 10 years of my life!

I don’t have a list of the top 5 things you need to have a healthy marriage. I’m not going to share my 7 failures in marriage. Nor have I done a hours of research on stats to tell you 25 things to stay married for 25 years. I just want to share a handful of things people have shared with me and I’ve tried to apply to our marriage.

Kiss Before Bed
I’m pretty sure it was on our wedding night, or maybe a few months before, an older man I respect said this to me: “Kiss her every night before bed.” Now I love kissing my wife. When you tell an engaged man to kiss his wife every night before bed its a great idea so we did this. As I began traveling for ministry and school there were nights we couldn’t kiss. We tried our best to talk on those nights but just with being apart we couldn’t kiss; we wanted to though!

The longer we stayed married, as you could imagine, there were times we didn’t want to kiss. There were nights when we argued or just weren’t talking before bed. We didn’t feel like kissing. Most of this was probably my fault, I’m stubborn and brought a ton of baggage to our marriage. It has forced us to talk. Sometimes the kisses were colder and some nights they were steamy, but we’ve made it a point to kiss every night before bed.

Fight Well
One of my earliest memories of my parents is seeing my dad physically harming my mom. I was young and don’t recall the entire situation but I know my mom was crying and my dad was inflicting the pain. This obviously had scared me. I can’t recall a time when I saw my parents fight well. They fought, but not well.

With my past and the education we’ve both received, we’ve learned to fight well (please note the word learned). Fighting well doesn’t mean you just bury the pain deep inside (think; Ricky Bobby in Talladega Nights). Fighting well doesn’t mean you just say whatever is on your mind.

Fighting well means you implement better ways of communion. One could be to use “mirroring”. Mirroring is a technique where you repeat back to the person what they said to make sure you understand them. Another method is to just simply listen and not interupt. Another application is to pray for wisdom while your listening. Fighting well has been a success to a healthy marriage, we are going to fight so let’s do it well.

Laugh Often
One of my favorite things in life is to hear Charity laugh. Actually, when were dating, she had such a loud laugh it made me smile. Charity still laughs a whole bunch when we’re together. The more we laugh, the more we enjoy life. When we are laughing its a sign to me that we are enjoying the company of each other. It reminds me how much fun we have together. It reminds me of the joy of life we share.

Submit to Each Other 
This can be a tough one for couples. As humans we desire to be in control of our life and our situation. We want to take control and make our destiny. In a marriage it can be easy for one spouse to be domineering and demand to get their way. They can ignore their spouses feelings and selfishly care only about themselves.

The Bible talks about men and women submitting to each other out of reverence for Christ. This means that I don’t always get my way. This means that I need to listen, carefully, to my wife. I need to hear what she is saying when a decision must be made. I also need to listen carefully to God so my family makes the right decision. We believe in an equal voice in our marriage.

Have Sex
What would a good marriage post be without talking about sex! Someone once told me that if couples in their first year of marriage put a gum ball in a jar every time they had sex in the first year of marriage and then took one out every time they had sex the next five years there would still be gum balls in the jar. That is sad!

We have decided to maintain intimacy (obviously, we’re having our third kid). But it means meeting each others needs. It means sex isn’t just about getting what you want and rolling over. Its about growing as a couple and learning each other. Now you might be thinking: “This is weird reading this.” And it’s a little weird writing it, but if I don’t you might just keep thinking that what you see about sex in the movies is normal.

There is a trend in our culture to believe that you meet a person, take them to dinner and then have sex with them. We have such an over-saturation of porn that many people have no clue what sex in a marriage relationship looks like. I’m sure there are great books you can read to learn more. My point is the need to maintain sexual intimacy, mainly sex, in the marriage relationship. Have such a great marriage that you can’t imagine not having sex with that person!

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Chasing God- Book Review

Title: Chasing God 

Author: Roger Huang

Publisher: David C. Cook

Pages: 244

Quotable: "The hunger for money and security was being replaced by a hunger to set people free."

Last year City Impact gave this book out at our church. I took a copy and it sat on my shelf for many months, just sitting collecting dust. Then for some reason I was looking for a book to read; something not too heavy but a light read. I grabbed it a week ago and couldn't put it down. This rarely happens to me.

The book starts out describing the pain Roger saw in the Tenderloin district in San Francisco. He quickly turns to the immense pain he dealt with as a child growing up in Taipei... but the story is far from over. Rodger grabs your attention and then shares openly and honestly about the pain and struggle of his life. He shares about beatings, meeting his wife, meeting his Savior and the radical call to go into the city.

Most people in San Francisco are looking to get away from the Tenderloin, God called Roger to the Tenderloin!

If you are looking for a book that is going to reveal the grace of God, the honesty of a Christ follower and seeing the radical work of God at play I encourage you to grab this book and open it. Once you open I have a feeling you will be like me and find it tough to put down.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Movie Review: Annie

Movie Title: Annie

Year: 2014

Director: Will Gluck

Stars: Quvenzhané Wallis, Cameron Diaz, Jamie Foxx

The tune is catchy! My daughters saw Annie in the theater and pretty much came home singing "Its a hard knock life". Although I'm sure they had no clue what it meant; they were singing it.

Annie has the same plot line as the original. Its a modern version of the orphan kid who went to live with Daddy Warbucks. Well instead of a millionaire, now we have a billionaire! Mr. Stacks is a mobile tychoon who needs some help in his current mayoral race. What better way to get publicity and have the people love you than to let a foster kid from the wrong side of the tracks stay in your place. You will be captivated with the singing, storyline and humor in this modern version.

Honestly when I saw the trailer my first thought was: "This is lame, how can you redo Annie?" Well I like to admit that they have redone the classic and its a catch! We just bought it from Costco today and my family texted me to see if I could come home early so we could watch the movie. It made me laugh, smile, laugh, ponder and I might have had allergies also because I teared up.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Cambodia Food


Last month I had a very unique opportunity to travel to Cambodia. My hope in this blog post is to share an overview of the food I experienced in Phnom Penh. Not only the food, but the ability to eat at restaurants that helped others out.

Let me start out by saying, “I love Asian food!” Asian is one of my favorite cuisines. Eating Khmer food was a new experience but a great one! The first night in Phnom Penh we went to the best Vietnamese place I’ve ever been to; I’m still thinking about the egg rolls they served! We did end up eating there another night while in the country.

If you are in Phnom Penh here are two places I would recommend to eat at. All of these locations can be found in Lonely Planet (get the kindle version to save on weight).

This location, near the river, on the north side, was our favorite place to eat. We found it after our first full day in the country. It serves tapas (not my favorite) but the food was savory. They had wonderful salads, meet, rice and great shakes!

The food wasn’t even the best part! They had junior servers who would assit the regular server. The junior servers were young adults/teens who had once lived a risky life and are now receiving on the job training. After you eat, walk next door and find some great souvenirs to bring home to your family.

Located near the Russian Market, same street just a block south. This location was my favorite lunch place. They had some great options and the staff was very friendly. When we walked into the restaurant my first thought was “this is small and not what we’re looking for.” Then a staff member said, “we have more seating upstairs.”

The upstairs is the place to sit. Its like a mix between a comfy living room and a great coffee shop that serves killer food! I really enjoyed all we had to eat there and wish we would have eaten lunch here everyday. My absolute favorite part, ok two favorite parts, about this restaurant are their love for Jesus Christ and the great little shop they have. 

They have a page, in their menu, dedicated to their story and how Christ is their hope. The store was a great place to get cute little dresses for my daughters; my only regret is not buying two more.

So if you're in Cambodia check these places out, eat good food and help others!

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

No Facebook February


We have catchy titles for all sorts of things in our culture like: "No Shave November" or "Februhairy". Well After returning from Cambodia I realized something, I cared too much about social media. I also found myself clicking more links and being sucked into a certain app on my phone. At that point I realized I need a Facebook break and quick.

The break was great for me! I was able to avoid the website for all 28 days of February and as I look back on what I've called No Facebook February I've very thankful for the decision. Here are some positives of this experience:

More time with family
I had more time with my family. I noticed that I wasn't automatically going to the app when there was 5 seconds of downtime.

Increased Focus
I felt like I was more focused on things. I was dedicated to what I was working on. I was present when I was on a date with my wife. I wasn't tempted to tune out of a group conversation and grab my phone.

Affirmation
I didn't find my affirmation in what I posted. I wasn't constantly checking my Facebook to see if people liked my picture or cared about my status update. To be honest, like gut level honest, I struggle with acceptance and No Facebook February really helped me find my acceptance in God.

Like anything there can be some downsides in a commitment like this. Here is what I noticed.

Less Connection
I felt less connected. I felt like people were talking about things that I had no clue about. I did see the picture. I didn't watch the video. I didn't know she got engaged. I didn't know he lost his job. The list goes on and on. There is a reality that Facebook keeps us up to date on information.

It's a ministry tool 
Facebook is a ministry tool for me. When I hesitantly logged back in on March 1 I had 7 messages. Some were the typical group message but some were people reaching out. This isn't the first time this has happened to me. Facebook is a great ministry tool that needs to be managed.

If you asked me to sum it all up it would sound something like this. Overall, I didn't miss being away. In all honesty I enjoyed it. I felt more present in my life. I wasn't distracted by the thought and I'm sure I'll do it again in the future.

Now if you'll excuse me I need to post this on Facebook so you can read it.