Periodically Pastor Jason and Pastor Brandon will post here their thoughts/rants/grumblings as they pertain to life, faith, ministry, leadership, or whatever else is going on in their messed up minds that week. If you would like to post as a guest blogger, email your post to email@example.com.
(Chris Huxman is the team lead on our Grace Cares Ministry, and has served in the past on the Lead Team)
I have had many influencers, both good and not so good, in my life. But I think one of the people who influenced me the most was my Grandpa Milo. I miss him so much since he passed away several years ago. Grandpa taught me many things. Perhaps one of the things I have not learned as well as I wish I had is how to balance the values of hard work and family. It is a constant struggle for me to shut down work mode and just say, "Yeah let's go out and play baseball, or jump on the trampoline, or play XBOX, or go to a movie." But I'm working on it.
Maybe the biggest way he did influence me is the gift of connecting with others. Like my grandpa, believe it or not, I not a very extroverted person. Yeah, you get into a conversation with me and you might regret it because it might be hard to get me to shut up, but in reality, while I love people and love caring for people, I am perfectly happy out on my tractor or in my truck on my own for hours on end.
Grandpa was that way to an extent. He was an old school, peace-loving Mennonite who always went to church and served the church and his denomination in many ways for many years. But this quiet, good ole Mennonite boy had a gift. He could connect with anyone. And I am so thankful that rubbed off on me. He taught me that all it takes to connect with someone is any common ground. It might be your faith, or politics, or sports, or farming, or kids. Or it might be something you disagree on but love to debate. But everyone has value.
The ability to connect has helped me in the workplace, in the lives of my children, and at Grace Crossing as well. Really in every aspect of my life! Thank you grandpa for influencing me with the gift of connecting with others.
If you have missed our May sermon series, we are looking at what it means to be influencers. To be salt and light and dot connectors in our world. Over the next couple weeks, as a staff, we will be writing blog posts about people who have influenced us and have lived out the characteristics of Jesus that we are discussing in our sermon series. Today, I write about someone who added value to me (Jason spoke about how Jesus added value to people in his message on Mother's Day, if you want to go back and check that out). This person was my high school Chemistry/Physics/Earth & Space Science teacher, who also was my Scholars Bowl coach (of which I was a two year captain, and four year varsity regional roster member, no big deal), Mr. Scott Boden. Mr. Boden (I like to call him Scott now) is currently the Goessel High School and Middle School Principle.
There were so many ways that Boden influenced me, from how he taught to the way he acted around his wife and kids, but what stuck with me the most is the way he invested in his students (especially myself and a couple of my friends).
I do not want to toot my own horn, but there was a time when I was a very intelligent young man. School came easy, and when I wanted to, I could get by without really trying. Normally this would be of positive note to say about someone, but it became a danger for me. There was a time during my sophomore year that I came to the realization that I didn't really have to try to be quasi-successful in school. While some of my teachers did not notice this trend, others did, but their response was to harp on me and tell me I was wasting potential (which was the truth, but was not communicated in a way that lead me to make a change). Mr. Boden noticed this trend quickly, and took an approach of making me feel as if he and I were equals. Now, it wasn't exactly "equals" as he still threatened to suspend me from Scholars Bowl if I didn't quit stealing things from rival schools, and still gave me detention for lighting unnecessary fires in class, but he treated me as if I was a real person, who understood real consequences, and could be trusted with real information. While I had experienced some amazing teachers, nobody to that point had treated me with the respect and candor that Mr. Boden did.
Upon developing this relationship, two things happened. First, I wanted to make sure that I did not let Mr. Boden down. Whether it was in areas of intelligence, creativity, or effort, I wanted him to know I was taking his investment in me seriously. The second, was that I knew I had an advocate, who would fight for me when I needed it, and offer advice when I needed it (of which I continue to use him in these capacities). Having an adult in my life, in the setting of school that so easily bored me, added value to me in a place where I can stopped caring about having value in.
On Sunday, Jason mentioned four questions that people ask before they allow someone to influence them. Those questions were, Do You Care? Can You Help? Can I Trust You? Why? I want to share a short story (among the thousands of Boden stories I have) on each one of those questions, to show how he influenced me.
Do You Care? The foundational memory I have of when I realized Boden cared about me was after the State Science Assessment during my sophomore year. During this time I was in Boden's Chemistry AND Physics classes (I still am bitter at Hesston HS for letting me take those simultaneously as a sophomore). Historically I had been a great test taker, but this particular test was not in line with historical data, and after the results came back, he brought me into his office, and was more blunt and honest than a teacher probably should be, but that blunt honesty showed me that he cared more about me than he did whatever that standard protocol was for dealing with a student. I won't get into the details of what he told me, but he realized how I would be motivated and created a game plan that would snap me back to my potential. He showed me that day he cared enough to push limits to get the point across to me.
Can You Help? One of the smartest people I know, and more importantly to me, one of the smartest people I know in the areas I actually care about, Boden's knowledge and experience with how he dealt with me and other students showed that he in fact could handle mentoring the ridiculousness that we all know is me.
Can I Trust You? This specific story is another one of those grey areas Boden toed the line on to add value to me, and our relationship. A situation had come up at school that I was involved in, though not necessarily the prime culprit. Mr. Boden had heard word of the situation, and approached me to prepare me for what was ahead. While that does not seem to be a big deal on the surface, it was more that I could tell even then that he was going to the point that would not betray his colleagues, but that would also prepare me for what was ahead. It was the perfect balance of the two, and showed me where honesty (thought not necessarily unnecessary transparency) establishes real, beneficial, communication.
I had many amazing adults in my life who added value in those four areas Jason mentioned on Sunday (Do You Care? Can You Help? Can I Trust You? Why?) but throughout my four years at Hesston High School, no teacher continuously exceeded the normal call of duty on each of those four questions more than Mr. Boden. He played a large role in the way I saw myself, and the value I saw added to myself, as a high schooler, and continues to play a huge role in the way I interact and build relationships with students today.
Thanks for being an influencer to me, Mr. Boden, and I hope I have done well as the self-appointed co-godfather to your son.
We have had a pretty crazy first couple months of 2017, roller coaster with its ups and downs, and have missed out on blogging for a little bit. I am excited to get back into it here as we are post spring break, and post winter, and finally hitting some spring weather (both in temperature and wetness this week...surely April rain means in May we should have some pretty vegetation, there should be a saying about that).
With spring weather comes spring sports, and for me that has meant Moundridge Softball. I have had the great opportunity to team with head coach Aaron Annis in coaching the girls softball team here in Moundridge.
This new endeavor brought with it new challenges that I am continuing to have the opportunity to react to on a daily basis. The biggest challenge so far has been transition from baseball to softball (differing rules/skills/expectations/protocol/etc). I have spent the majority of my life playing and learning everything I can about baseball, and now am throw underhanded into a sport that is very similar and also completely different. It also is frustrating that the thing I was best at (pitching/holding runners) translates almost zero onto the softball field, but for the most part I feel I have adjusted well!
For me what I have noticed most recently though, is an attitude that has come to the surface for many of the girls. This is an attitude that is not isolated in Moundridge High School girls softball players, but also my boys at Chapman, as well as the years I spent playing and coaching at Manhattan Christian College. That attitude, or maybe more appropriately represented by the word, mentality, is that immediate results determine success.
When coaching hitting, it is easy for a girl to see that the ball went really high and far and think that's her success, when really, I just got dang good at finding her bat when throwing soft toss.
Or, probably a better example, when working with a developing hitter, and trying to make a small adjustment, let's say in not dropping her back shoulder as she is swinging. The next swing she takes she throws her hands at the ball and doesn't drop her back shoulder and I tell her "great job." However, if she still missed the ball, sometimes it is difficult to feel like a "good job" was done. As coaches we get looks because, while we were focussed on a small aspect of hitting or throwing or fielding that we were attempting to change and progress has been made, they might only see that they still didn't hit the ball, or still didn't stop the ball cleanly on a dig at first base.
What I wish I could convey more than anything (and this is much easier as a coach viewing from the sideline) is that what we are working on is just a piece in a much bigger puzzle, and that immediate results are not always going to be true indicators of long term success.
In my faith life, I also find myself transfixed on immediate results (both good and bad) and think that those are complete indicators of success. Sometimes, it's just part of the journey, it's just a piece of the puzzle and there is something much bigger going on.
I have to think that while Noah was sitting there on his giant boat waiting for water he had never seen before and not getting any he had to think, "Maybe I did it wrong."
I know Joseph was a very faithful man, but I wonder if he ever sat in jail thinking, "I've done everything right, and this is where it lands me. Doesn't feel like my faith and actions have proven 'successful' so far."
As I said, it is much easier to see from the sideline why keeping a pitcher in while they are struggling can lead to a fighters mentality when the games REALLY matter (or recognizing who won't have a fighters mentality when the games REALLY matter). In our lives, we sometimes see our immediate results and wonder, "why is this happening to me?" without being able to see what it will do for us in a later situation.
Life is going to beat us up, life will also give us reasons to be lifted up. Just like in softball, I hope I can take the immediate results with a grain of salt, whether good or bad, and build on them to create bigger victories in the future, rather than hang my head on an immediate setback, or settle for the small win in front of me, that doesn't necessarily mean future success in the same area.
GUEST BLOGGER!! Maegen Stucky is our guest blogger this week. She and her husband Luke are regulars at Grace Crossing and have two awesome boys, Crosby and Gracen. She has taught in Club 56 over the last year plus, and Luke volunteers in Grace Kids. You can check out her blog at mommamegsblog.wordpress.com
As 2017 looks at 2016 and says, "your time is up, my time is now" we all start to think, "what is on the table for me moving forward?"
It is funny because really, there is not that much difference between December 10 and January 2. One is approaching the end of the year, and one is kicking off the new one, but there is not really a difference. If you are a student or work in academics you are probably enjoying a winter break of sorts, but even then, you head back into the same school year you left off with. If you work in some other business, you most likely got a few days off over these couple weeks, but the grind kept going for the most part. There really is not that much difference, except in our perception. The perception of January 1 is that things start over and we have a renewed outlook on our upcoming time. While not entirely true, if this is motivating for us then it can be a great way to focus on something ahead or accomplish a goal that has thus far eluded us.
The truth is we could start a "resolution" on January 1, or March 8, or October 18, and there would not be much difference (two years in a row I started one the week after Thanksgiving; the first year I went a year without soda, the next a year without chocolate. Turkey day to turkey day. Chocolate was harder).
But the challenge has been placed before us by Pastor Jason to think, instead of a resolution, a word that could define our 2017. While we have had some awesome submissions, and I am excited to preach about a couple of them, I have been thinking about what mine would be, and the word I keep coming back to is "dad." It is no longer a secret that Nicole and I are expecting our first child in June (find out gender in January...my guess is girl), While the most important familial role for most of my life has been uncle, that role has, and will continue to, change in a big way.
What is it like to be a dad? How will my life change? How will I deal with discipline? Do I magically know how to unkink a slinky now? All these questions are a whirlwind in my mind. Now I am not worried about it, because I have watched some amazing dads raise their kids in the form of my dad, my siblings, friends parents, etc. and I know I have that proverbial "village" that will never let me fail...but that change and that next stage have got me all sorts of questioning.
So I do what I am supposed to do in questioning times like these...I turn to scripture and I see God described as Father and all of the "fatherly" traits he has; creator (already did my part on that one), provider, discipline, comforter, loving, guiding, offerer of wisdom, etc. When I read these things, I have a twofold response.
1. It is so amazing that in the most organic relationship, of parent and child, that God has provided us the blueprint for how to be a perfect father. All I have to do is follow how He has loved us and I will have given my child everything I can.
2. Uh oh...There is no way I can live up to those standards! I cannot be the perfect provider or comforter that God is, this kid is doomed! I am going to mess up more times than Wil. E Coyote trying to catch the roadrunner.
And the truth about fatherhood (I think) is that it is both of these things. My goal is to follow the first one, but the reality is the second one. I am not going to be a perfect dad, but if I take the examples of my Heavenly Father, my earthly father, and a lot of other great dads I have been around, and sprinkle my own unique personality into it, then that is really the best I can hope to do for my child(ren).
I was lucky, I had a great dad whose life portrayed many of the qualities and examples of a godly father. The reality is not everyone has had that. I have always been able to connect God the Father as loving, caring, providing, and that label has always made sense. But in today's world, there are a lot of people who have had fathers who have been: absent, abusive, unsupportive, impersonal, and any number of other shortcomings that when they hear the word "father" their mind goes somewhere opposite where it should and creates a barrier from accepting God as a true father and perfector of all things good for us.
So, that all being said, my word for 2017 is dad. I have six months of the year to continue to prepare for my child to enter the world and then comes the part where my goal as a father is to the best of my abilities, be someone who allows my children to see God as the perfect father because they associate a dad with someone who cares for, supports, looks out for, provides, and loves them, even when I am not perfect.
This is what is important to me in 2017, my wife and child, and I look forward to it all (and accept any and all help and advice you all my have to send my way...and thank you for those who already have).
Here's to 2017!
We are in what is called the 'holiday season'. A season of joy. A season of celebration. A season of excitement. But, the reality is that it's also a season of high expectations, sometimes weird family dynamics & people getting sick right & left. A season of intensity & exhaustion; pressure & demands. It's also a season of on genuine loneliness & depression for some.
We WANT to make the season perfect, right? But it won't be. No matter how hard we try to orchestrate the whole thing, it won't be perfect. At least not what we perceive as perfect. Such unrealistic expectations are often set so high the only logical end result is disappointment. Our romantic versions of what this season SHOULD be collide with the reality that it often is.
Even as I sit at my desk writing this blog, just out of the corner of my eye sits my 'to-do' list for the next 2 weeks. It's long. There isn't enough time to get it all in. I begin to ask how I can meet with everyone & give them enough time to actually add value to them? How can I take adequate time to study, write & plan for 2017? It's overwhelming isn't it?
As stressful & chaotic as the season is, it is still an amazing time of year. It's a time to ask NOT what we 'wish' for, but what we 'hope' for. It's a time to reflect on what we really value within this season. During Christmas season & the approaching new year we are reminded of a God who came down to be WITH us. A God who said to His people in Isaiah, "I will give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes. I will give them the oil of joy instead of sorrow, & a spirit of praise instead of a spirit of no hope." Beauty instead of ashes? Joy instead of sorry? Praise instead of a spirit of no hope? That sounds like a GREAT holiday season, all because of God WITH us!
At Grace Crossing we are called to this mission; to turn ashes into beauty, sorrow into joy, hopelessness into praise. We have always been about giving people hope. May we always be a church where people can find this. Not only in this season, but every day of the year. God is WITH us...NOW, YESTERDAY, & TOMORROW. God is WITH us.
So celebrate the season! Enjoy your friends & family. Enjoy the parties, cheesy music, ugly sweaters & weird desserts. But listen to me...don't aim for perfection. God isn't looking for perfection, He is looking for you to be present this holiday season. Invite Him to be a part of & the focus of your holiday season. May we all take some time this season to reflect on the fact that we are not alone. We've never been alone & we never will be. God came down on Christmas morning to be with us. May our love for God, our love for ourselves & others outweigh the pressures & expectations of the season. And with all this said...I wish you all a Merry & Blessed Christmas.
A slight spoiler alert here; as I sat down today to study for my message for the #thankful series (which I will get to bring on November 27) I came across some scripture that I really needed today.
This scripture comes from Psalms 118.
118:1 Let all Israel repeat: His faithful love endures forever."
118:8 It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in people.
118:9 It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.
118:13 My enemies did their best to kill me, but the Lord rescued me.
118:14 The Lord is my strength and my song; He has given me victory.
118:22 The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.
118:24 This is the day that the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.
Today, in the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election and turmoil among the people, I found it so important to be reminded to take refuge in God rather than put our trust in princes or kings or presidents or senators or friends or even family. Our true hope and security is found in our creator and the spirit he has empowered us with (See Weekly Devo Nov 1).
Verse 22 then hit me hard as I thought about the cornerstone. Jesus, the rock that was cast way by the people, who was tossed aside, became the cornerstone, where one wall meets the other...where Jew and Gentile come together as Christians...where Republican and Democrat meet in the name of love and mercy and truth.
Sometimes our country moves further away from the cornerstone, some times we as individuals walk further away from the cornerstone, but it continues to be there, for it's 2016th year and counting (don't question the numbers, you get where I am going).
As we enter a potentially very new era in our country, the most important things I can do right now are:
-Pray for President Trump, Vice President Pence, their cabinet, the legislative system, the judiciary system, and all other leaders as they attempt to lead our country (1 Timothy 2:1-3)
-Take refuge in the fact that my God is sovereign and powerful beyond any measure I could imagine, and embrace His love, which will rule long after President Trump has come and gone, and long after any other system we as humans attempt to put into place...His love will endure forever.
I can't be salty when this is the case. I am still a citizen of a great country, and more importantly am a citizen of an indescribable home with my savior and God. This is the day that the Lord has made, I WILL rejoice and be glad in it.