Bro Love


That happened back in 1990 (or so). Our mom made us go down to the Sears portrait studio. I’m pretty sure we got into a fight shortly before the sitting, but dang it, we were going to look like loving brothers whether we liked it or not!

What’s Going On With My Back?!!

Some of my friends have been asking, “Why were you at the neurosurgeon?”  “What’s going on with your back?” so I thought I’d give everyone a rundown of what’s happening, in an attempt to save myself from having to tell the same story over and over.

A high school injury, years of being hunched over a computer, and moving heavy furniture last November have all come together to form “The Perfect Storm” (Cue epic disaster movie music.)

It’s actually not so much of a storm as it is a herniated disc.  What is a herniated disk?  It’s when that soft, cushiony, cartilage-y thing (disc) that sits between two vertebrae gets squashed and bulges out.  In my case, it’s bulging into the spinal canal and putting pressure in the nerves running down my lower back and left leg.  It hurts, but I’m tough 🙂

Last December, I started going to physical therapy and got prayer from anyone willing to lay hands on me.  I seemed to get some relief and bragged on Jesus to my physical therapist.  Then he sent me away and said I was good to go.  It only got worse after that.

The pain increased and traveled down my leg so I decided to find a chiropractor.  I started seeing Drs Andy and Trina Boswell in Rock Island.  They have proven to be massively caring and attentive.  They’ve seriously been a huge blessing in helping me navigate this issue.  I also made a few visits to Dr. Bob Kaminsky in Davenport who practices A.R.T. (Active Release Technique).  Experiencing A.R.T. is a lot like being tortured.  You sprawl out on a table while one person stretches you in uncomfortable positions and the other person digs his hands deep into the places on your body that hurt the worse.  You may find yourself wanting to scream obscenities, shout out to God, cry, or all three at once.  It’s painful, but brings results.

Eventually, my Family Practice Doctor sent me for an MRI (see below) so that we could get a definitive answer as to what was happening and why I wasn’t getting better.  THAT’S when we found out it was a herniated disc.

After seeing the MRI, my Family Practice Doctor sent me to see a neurosurgeon for a consultation.  I can’t say it was a great experience.  We waited for an hour and a half for about five minutes of his time.  He showed us the MRI, then shared my four options: do nothing and it might get better, take an oral steroid, get a localized steroid injection, or get surgery.  When I told him I wanted the least invasive treatment possible, he gave me a prescription for oral steroids, asked if I had any questions, and excused himself.  He had no advice for me, I didn’t get any answers, and I never took the steroids.

So, I’m taking the difficult route of doing nothing (medically).  I’ve set up a way to work while laying down (getting out of that desk chair has made a big difference).  I’m using an inversion table.  I’m taking a handful of herbal remedies and have adjusted my diet to include less inflammatory foods.  And I’ve also reduced my workout to just walking every day.

I have noticed improvements, but I still have a long way to go.  Thank you all so much for your prayers!  I can’t wait to wrestle you all when I’m better!!

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One Small Thing That Could Change Your Life

We have a tradition around our house.  We practice this tradition every Monday and it has changed us for the better.  Because of this tradition, there’s a greater sense of peace in our home, we’re a closer family, and we’ve learned some incredible things along the way.  When this tradition was first suggested to us by some friends of ours, I kind of shrugged it off.  But my wife persisted, and boy am I glad she did!

So what it this miracle tradition?

We call it Media Fast Monday.

On Mondays, the TV does not get turned on, the computer is only used for work and school, and video games are off limit.  It’s only for one day out of the week, but it makes a massive difference!

Here are a few of the benefits we’ve gained:

1. We get more reading in.  If you never seem to have time to read, you’d be surprised at how many books you can devour by simply spending one night a week with a book.  I could write an entire post about the difference reading makes, so dive in!

2. We spend quality time as a family.  Let’s be honest, time together around the TV set really isn’t quality time.  With the TV off, we play games together, work on art projects, and have fun interacting.  The kids don’t dread Media Fast Monday, they look forward to it!

3. Our marriage is stronger.  Again, time around the TV together really isn’t that quality, and good, quality one on one time usually leads to MORE one on one time with the spouse (if you catch my meaning).  Turning the TV off has made us better lovers :-).

4. Fasting Media has a detoxifying effect.  With the TV off, I tend to feel less anxious, the house is quieter, and having less stimulation helps to clear the brain and calibrate my thoughts.  I often do my best writing during a media fast.

I want to challenge you to give it a try for six weeks.  It may sound radical but it really is a small price to pay for the benefits you gain.  Don’t give in to the temptation to work late on Monday nights or preoccupy yourself with going out with friends or doing household maintenance projects.  Use the time to strengthen your family relationships, your mind, and your spirit.

Let me know what you think!  Do you think you’ll try it?  Do you do something similar?  Tell me about it!

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The Biggest Announcement Ever!!

It’s been a year and a half since we began considering our next step.  We’ve prayed, thought, been to conferences, taken assessments, sought wise advice, and waited patiently (and sometimes not-so-patiently) for God to speak to us.  We’re so excited to finally go public with it!  We’re planting a church!

A little history
In August of 2009 the ministry I was working for had to release half of its staff for financial reasons.  I loved my job there and continued to travel, speak, and lead prayer events even after I left the prayer center.

When I was faced with the task of deciding what to do next with my life, I thought I’d tackle the process from a different angle.  Instead of going into panic mode and getting another church or ministry staff job, I chose to waitI started a business so that I could have a measure of flexibility and still pay the bills.  I also did something I’d never done before when making a major life decision.  I sat down with my wife and children and told them that we were all going to pray and make this decision together; that we would let God lead all of us instead of simply moving ahead with my own big ideas and expecting the family to go with it.

I knew it was going to take time and I knew It would be difficult, but I chose to wait until we all heard from God (including my 7 year old).

A Ridiculous Idea
Shortly after our family meeting, I got together with my pastor to ask for prayer for our situation.  During our conversation, he asked me how I felt about church planting.  I laughed and said something about that being the LAST thing I wanted to do.

I had already been down that road in Ireland and in the U.S..  It was grueling, frustrating, and unfruitful.  I didn’t know at the time that there is some really good church planting resources out there and organizations that offer terrific support.

My pastor asked me to pray about it and he sent my wife and me to a conference for those just thinking about church planting (I didn’t know there were conferences like that).

After months of praying, people began making comments to me like, “I sure wish someone would plant a Vineyard Church in our community.” and “I would so be there if a Vineyard started here.”  A friend of mine, who had no idea that church planting was even an option for me, had a vision of me starting a church.

Believe it or not, I was still resisting the idea until…

A Powerful Confirmation
My wife came to me and said, “I think we’re suppose to plant that church.”

“I’m not so sure of that.”, I’d say.

This went on for months!  Then one day, I was working in my office.  It was a small room right off of the play room.  I could hear my three boys talking enthusiastically about something and I listened in.  They were talking about starting a church!  They took turns talking about what kind of childrens’ ministry it would have and what the youth group would be like.  They were totally on board and I was following close behind them.

Just a few days later, my wife and I attended another church planters conference.  This time, the national church planting director approached us out of the blue and invited us to dinner.  He spoke a powerful word into our lives and I was sold.  I knew it was what we were supposed to do!

A Bright Future
So here we are!  We went public with the plant during Sunday service this week.  We have a great pastor who is amazingly supportive (I love the fact that we have a mother church).  We’re assembling a launch team and we’ll have our first church service in the fall.

We don’t have  a location yet, but we know we’ll be on the west side of Moline or the East side of Rock Island.

We have a long way to go, but we have this AMAZING God who called us to it and is faithful to do His part in this lofty venture!

Please consider partnering with us with your prayers.  We need people who will lift us before God’s throne regularly.  The task is great, but He is greater still!

Thanks so much!

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Happy Festivus!

Well today is Festivus!  Since it’s a time for the airing of grievances, I thought I’d share this with you.  I wrote this one a while back on one of my “Christians ruin everything” days.  I hope you like it…

Well, Christmas is almost here.  Kinda…

Recently, some close relatives of mine decided they weren’t going to be celebrating Christmas any more.  Many of the traditions we observe around this holiday were actually borrowed from pagan celebration rituals, such as the tree, the garland, yule log, and so forth.  The Mesopotamians worshiped their god Marduk.  The Persians had Sacaea.  And the Romans celebrated Saturnalia.  A few hundred years after the time of Christ, Christians hijacked this time of year to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Quite a strategic move, in my opinion.  Everyone’s whooping it up and having a great time.  Why not make a major, worldwide cultural shift?  Not an easy task and definitely one for the win column if you ask me.  Just think, if we didn’t have Christmas, human sacrifices might still be made to Marduk!

It’s unfortunate that, out of something I can only describe as theological exclusivism, so many believers seek to destroy excellent things by trying to dig up what was before.  “Celebrating the birth of our Savior and the hope of mankind?  PAGAN!  Don’t you know that the Romans worshiped Saturn?!!”  In the 1600s, the Puritans actually had Christmas banned for a few years.  Apparently people were partying too hard and it was time to put the kibosh on all that tomfoolery.  One person I spoke to actually used the Puritan ban as a reason for not celebrating this year.  What I want to know is, what does this constant probing and criticizing do for a person? Does it make them feel like they’ve one-upped the rest of the Body of Christ?  Does it make them feel closer to God?  I was listening to one woman rant about how she can’t stand to listen to modern worship music because the words “I” and “me” were used too often and it wasn’t “God-centered” enough.  I thought to myself, “Hmmmm…Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me I once was lost, but now I’m found.  Was blind, but now I see.”  You’re right lady.  The older songs don’t use “I and me” at all…  Let’s just say, I find it hard to see the life abundantly Jesus spoke about in a brand of Christianity that spends so much energy on “exposing the wrong” in everyone elses faith practices.

Maybe I just tend to cling too tightly to Philippians 4:8, “…Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right.  Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable.  Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”  Aren’t those things true of Christmas?  Families come together, we bless each other with gifts, we feast together, we reflect on the birth of Christ and how he’s changed our lives.  Those sound like some pretty lovely and excellent things to me!  After all, it was God who invented holidays.  He even made it mandatory for the children of Israel to take time out to feast and celebrate to help them always remember what He had done for them.  Isn’t that what Christmas is about?  Always remembering the awesome gift that is Jesus?

I wasn’t there in the 300’s when the Pope established December 25th as the day to remember Christ’s birth.  I’ve never been to a Winter Solstice, and I’ve never yelled “Jo, Saturnalia”.  All that I’ve ever known is the Jesus’ birthday Christmas.  It doesn’t matter to me whether he was born in December, March, or February for that matter.  All that I know is that a great appreciation swells up in me, this time of year, for the one who shed his deity, laid down his rights, and came to earth as a baby.  Luke chapter 2 still moves me to tears, and I love to see the look in my sons eyes as I read it to them on Christmas morning.

As for me, I choose to celebrate.  If your special insight and elevated ability to decode the history of this holiday keeps you from being with family members, exchanging gifts, and singing songs of celebration, then…happy Festivus.  Enjoy the airing of grievances.

Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”
Joyful, all ye nations rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With th’angelic host proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”

Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Christ, by highest Heav’n adored;
Christ the everlasting Lord;
Late in time, behold Him come,
Offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail th’incarnate Deity,
Pleased with us in flesh to dwell,
Jesus our Emmanuel.

Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Hail the heav’nly Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
Ris’n with healing in His wings.
Mild He lays His glory by,
Born that man no more may die.
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.

Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Come, Desire of nations, come,
Fix in us Thy humble home;
Rise, the woman’s conqu’ring Seed,
Bruise in us the serpent’s head.
Now display Thy saving power,
Ruined nature now restore;
Now in mystic union join
Thine to ours, and ours to Thine.

Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface,
Stamp Thine image in its place:
Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in Thy love.
Let us Thee, though lost, regain,
Thee, the Life, the inner man:
O, to all Thyself impart,
Formed in each believing heart.

Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”

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