Saturday, December 24, 2011

Mom and Dad Celebrate

      Despite the negative circumstances, I must say that it is totally awesome to be home for the Holidays.  We haven't been able to come home for Christmas in years, so spending this time with our parents, siblings and extended family is really great!

On the 22nd of December my parents celebrated 38 years of marriage!  Certainly, they are gaining deep insight into their covenant vows to stick beside each other "in sickness and in health" this year, and we had a wonderful time celebrating all that God has done in and thru them.

My dad had a good day!  He spent the day pretty content; sleeping a good amount, but also awake and alert at different times.  We all got to take pictures together and he was engaged with us, doing his best to pose with us and look at the camera!  That was a gift from him to my mom and the rest of us!

We got out their original wedding photo and hung it up on the wall behind my dad's bed.  

Going out to dinner was out of the question, but our sister-in-law Wendy prepared a delicious dinner and we all gathered together like we do almost every night now to eat and hang out.  All the kids and grandkids were there along with my grandma and one of my aunts.  

We are so thankful for my dad. 

This is me with my sister Leslie, Rachel, my mom and my brother David
Here's my dad with all 7 of his grandkids
My brother David, my Dad and Me

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

What does Salt do?

Tonight, my mom and I were taking care of my dad, and we were brushing his teeth and gums with a saline solution.  (He can no longer eat food because of his advanced sickness and thus he requires special mouth care.)   He is currently fighting a gum infection.

This set me again to reflecting on Jesus' words in Matthew chapter 5 where he calls his followers "the salt of the earth."   It's a powerful and profound word choice because salt does many things.

Tonight we were using salt to help fight infection.  My dad's gums are deteriorating from lack of use and an inability to adequately take care of his mouth.   Harmful bacteria have invaded and he is now suffering from a painfully irritating condition.  Since it's onset a few days ago, he's been constantly grinding his teeth.  (He can't talk, so I'm assuming this means that it hurts.)  And today, tragically, one of his teeth popped out!   The doctor has prescribed an antibiotic, but along with it we are using a most primitive antiseptic -salt.  Salt will help to bring healing and health to my father's mouth.  That's what salt does, and that's what Jesus followers are meant to do.

Christians are to help bring healing and health to a world infected with sin, full of suffering and tormented by pain.  

Related to this, salt is also a powerful preservative.  I learned this most impressively when we lived in Spain.  We've all heard that our forefathers used salt to keep their food fresh before modern refrigeration came along, but most of us don't do that any more.  In Spain however, one of the most popular foods is salt cured ham or Jamon Serrano.

To make this ham you take a whole pig leg and bury it in sea salt for over a week and then hang it up to dry for a few months.  Without the salt bath the meat would rot within days or even hours if it was hot outside!  A leg of ham left to itself will become a rotting, stinking, disgusting maggot infested chunk of biomass fit only for the trash.  But with salt, it's a whole different story.  Carnage gets redeemed.  The salt preserves the ham and enables it to be edible -not to mention delicious for months!

Commenting on Jesus' words here, Dietrich Bonhoeffer says:
But now Jesus calls them the salt of the earth -salt, the most indispensable necessity of life.  The disciples, that is to say, are the highest good, the supreme value which the earth possesses, for without them it cannot live.  They are the salt that sustains the earth... (The Cost of Discipleship chapter 7)

Salt brings life, salt fights death.  The preservation of the world and it's inhabitants continues as long as there is salt!   Without Christ's followers (the body of Christ!)  sharing God's love, serving, helping and blessing, the world would only be rotten sin filled carnage.  Redemption comes thru the salt, the disciples of Jesus.

And obviously, as I've already mentioned, salt makes things taste good.  Not much Jamon Serrano in the States, but we sure know about bacon!  One of the best foods ever; it's full of salt!   And bacon makes everything taste better.  (First century Jews unfortunately never got to experience this blessed gift...I love the New Covenant!)  Salt eradicates blandness, makes food enjoyable and completely improves it!  Christians are likewise supposed to make the world better by bringing the goodness and joy of Christ to life.  
Christians help to make people's lives taste better!

Jesus certainly had these things in mind when he called us the salt of earth over 2000 years ago.  I have one more thought that Jesus' desert dwelling 1st century followers could not have imagined, but is still (I think) quite applicable.

Each year the state of New York (not to mention private businesses and even home-owners) spends millions of dollars a year on salt for the purpose of road de-icing.  Without the dedicated and efficient salting of our roads life as we know it in the Northeast would be stopped by the harshness of winter.  Without salt we wouldn't be able to see the roads much less drive on them!  Our health would suffer, our economy would suffer, our fellowship would suffer!  But we travel clean beautiful roads all winter long.   Road Salt makes "the way" accessible.  Likewise, as salt  Christians proclaim Christ and enable the world to see, travel, understand -and "know" THE WAY. (John 14:6)

In short, God created salt to heal, preserve, improve, and make life accessible to the world.

Here's our friend Adam Hilker plowing snow in Ithaca. 

Friday, December 9, 2011

Clip of the week; Can you lose your salvation?

Mark Driscoll does a great job explaining the way God keeps us saved!

Jesus said it in John 6:37-40

37All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Captain America Turns 4

We've fallen behind on our posts again, and it's actually been weeks since Titus turned 4.   It seems like yesterday we were at the birthing center in El Paso, awaiting the arrival of our little Texan.   My (Stephanie)  parents brought Jack, then 3, and Joe (only 1), to come and meet their little brother.   They were already in bed and I remember them arriving in their jammies giving kisses to little Titus in his red knit hat!  We have loved these four years with Titus and all the laughter he has brought to our family.  He is a good helper to big brother Jack, a crime-fighting side-kick to Joe, and a “gentle” wresting playmate for Ruby (not usually at her initiative).  He is our miniature man.  He doesn’t eat much at all, so we joke that we are keeping him small for bull-riding.  Titus loves to draw, cuddle, eat chocolate, laugh and get tickled! 

After our trip from NY, we made it to Santa Fe in time to celebrate his big day with both sets of grandparents (which in itself is a rare and special treat).  We had a ‘Captain America’ theme and it was a heroic adventure!

Titus got a sweet Captain America helmet.

His meemaw (J.W.'s mom) had arranged for the kids to get a tour of a local fire station.  She got to know the guys over there a few weeks before when they came over to help my dad and take him to the hospital.   While we were there the firemen got a call and had to drive the engines out with sirens blaring and lights flashing.   Cake, presents, family, and fire trucks, what more could a boy want?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Why we join Community Groups

 In order to truly be growing in our relationship with God, experiencing Gospel-centered fellowship and participating in the Christ-exalting mission of the Church (Matt 28:18-20; John 20:21; Acts 1:8) we must be a part of a small group.

We’ve been back in town just over three weeks now and so this past Wednesday we attended our first community group with Blaze Christian Fellowship.  We would have attended sooner, but the week before was Stephanie’s birthday and I decided to take her out to dinner.    It’s important to get plugged into the local church right away, and I fundamentally believe being part of a community group is the best and most effective way to do that.   Since being back in town we have consistently attended the worship services as well as a large outreach/service event.  When we were around this summer, we went to the annual church picnic.   Those are all very important venues for connection, but I am convinced that in order to truly be growing in our relationship with God, experiencing Gospel-centered fellowship and participating in the Christ-exalting mission of the Church (Matt 28:18-20; John 20:21; Acts 1:8) we must be a part of a small group.   In our CRU ministry at Cornell, we uphold Community Groups as our primary vehicle for both discipleship and evangelism. 

We picked a great week to start because it was Frito-Pie week!  Once a month the group eats together and has a more informal hang out time.   We all gathered in one of the members homes and I chowed three full bowls of fantastic red chile and beans while talking and getting to know other people.  Our kids were with us, and they too got to eat and make new friends.   It was fun and familial and everybody seemed really cool  -as people usually do when you first meet them;)  After eating we simply chilled and eventually someone started up a game of Mad Gab.  I don’t like games really, and I would have preferred to remain on the couch talking about trucks and chainsaws with some of the other guys, but playing together is a great way to get to know others and have a shared experience, so I jumped in with both feet.   Sadly my team got destroyed! 

A more typical meeting will include time studying the Bible, sharing about life and praying together.  Joining this new small group I have some specific hopes, desires and things I want to see.   

First of all, we are joining a small group for our spiritual health.  A Small group is a place where we are reminded of the good news and enabled to live in light of it.  

Our God is a glorious and amazing God.  He loves us and he has created us to live life intimately connected to him.  He is the source of life and joy and satisfaction.   He also created us to live in fellowship with all the other people he loves.  The Christian life is meant to be lived in community, like a family, with God as our father. 

We are created in God’s image and that is why we are such relational beings.   Our Trinitarian God himself dwells in community; God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit exist within a loving fellowship and he made us to do the same.   God is a loving community and he created us to live life in loving community and he has declared plainly that it is not good for man to live alone.   Sin decimated our relationship with God and completely jacks up our relationships with others, but Jesus’ death on the cross conquers sin, and thru him and with him we can experience the joy-filled fellowship with God and others that we were made for.   In a small group, we get together with others to live rightly remember the truth and worship our amazing God. 

In a small group you get to sit with people who know you and who know you who can help you apply the gospel to your life.  It’s easy to show up to a worship service, sing some songs and hear some good teaching, but we need more than that.   I heard one teacher explain that we can experience conviction at a church service, but it’s in a small group that we experience repentance and thus real transformation.  I think we can receive exhortation during corporate worship, but in order to really live Christ-like we need the encouragement that comes in the small group setting.  

A small group is a place where we can be around older wiser Christians who can help us follow Jesus and experience his power in our lives.   
We really want to be a part of a group with some older married couples.  I asked to be in this one because I know one of the couples and I think we could really benefit from some time with them.  Not only are we currently walking thru difficult times, but Stephanie and I are in sort of a difficult and complex stage of life!  We need role-models and people around us who can support us and coach us and help us.  Words like discipleship, accountability, challenge and discipline all come to mind, but it all boils down to truth and grace.  We need people around us pointing us to God’s words of life and we need kind, loving, help –even when we don’t deserve it.

A small group is a place where we can participate in mission.   
Jesus has called and commissioned and empowered us as his followers to spread his name and advance his kingdom all over the earth.  A month ago we were living in New York, and today we are in New Mexico and in both places we are called to witness for Christ.  While here in Santa Fe we are praying that God would use us to advance the Gospel and I have specific friends and relatives who I am praying for intentionally.  But again, as the Christian life was not meant to be lived alone, the Christian mission was not meant to be done alone.   Jesus himself, as God did ministry in community with the Father and the Holy Spirit as well as his group of disciples.  Whenever he sent his guys out, he sent them in pairs or small groups.   In order to spread the good news and see people come to salvation we need the power of the Holy Spirit and the support of the body of Christ.  I want to be a part of a small group where we are praying together for people to see God’s glory.    I want to be a part of a small group where we can invite friends and relatives to experience gospel fellowship and see God’s grace in action.   I want to be a part of a small group where I can bring people to encounter Jesus. 

I’m joining this small group because it’s a connected to a church that I really love and believe in.  (It’s important for there to be some structure and helpful to maintain order to have the group leaders connected to and accountable to the elders and church leadership etc.)   Though I have not lived in Santa Fe for many years now, I have known the pastoral staff here for a while and have been attracted to the vision and potential of Blaze Christian Fellowship since the beginning.  The vision of Blaze is To spark a passion for God through His Gospel in the hearts of people so that they inturn ignite the world around them for Jesus Christ -but I before I read that on the website, I saw it being modeled in the life of the pastors and members.  My heart beats for that, and I want to join with others to se that happen!   I want to see thousands and thousands of people in Santa Fe, NM come to know God.  And the way to effectively be a part of all that is to be in a small group. 

The group I went to the other night was a little bit too big I think.  There were probably enough people in that group to form two healthy community groups.  But to be honest, I would rather have a group that’s kind of big than a group that’s too small because we have a big mission!  And since our God is big and our mission field is big, I like having a team that’s big. 

A current ‘buzzword’ is Missional Community.   A missional community is just a group of people who love Jesus, who worship Jesus, who trust in Jesus who are following Jesus together,  on mission –making disciples of all nations.   Fundamentally, I believe a small group should be more than a bible study, more than a small group of people who like each other, more than a weekly accountability time, more than a class.   I think this group will be a missional community and that’s why we joined.   

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Fall Retreat 2011

This year’s fall retreat was amazing! 

Immediately following the Upstate Fall Getaway, we entered into some transition, and the past few weeks have been a true adventure.  But, even though it has been a month since the getaway happened, I thought it was certainly worth writing about it. 

The October weather was rainy and cold but it did not dampen the spiritual atmosphere at Long Point Retreat Center.  Almost 250 students gathered from all over NY including 76 from Cornell.  Each year the retreat has grown and our movement has continued to bring more and more students for which we praise God!  The fall retreat is an epic end mark to the first phase of our ministry year.   We spent time hanging out, praising God, listening to fantastic preaching and fellowshipping around some grade-A camp cuisine.  (Seriously, the food was good!  And the volunteers who provided it truly came thru to bless us with plenty of nourishment!)

Our Speaker was pastor Drew Hyun.  Drew attended Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary and he currently resides in New York City.  He was definitely one of the most energetic speakers we’ve ever had and he brought powerful and meaningful messages from God’s word.  I was looking forward to Drew coming because he gave a talk a few years ago that has really impacted me personally.  I call the main points of Drew’s talk the Gospel Realities and I have them written inside the front cover of my Bible.  They serve to help me meditate on the ways Christ’s work on the cross influence my daily life.   Here they are below.

Because of Christ or In light of the Gospel, or In Christ
·      Fully Loved
·      Fully Accepted

·      Nothing to Prove
·      Nothing to Lose
·      Nothing to Hide
·      I am Free to make Mistakes

I’ve also written Nothing to Fear, because “do not fear” or “do not be afraid” is the most common exhortation in the Bible.  When Drew presents, he ties that concept in with “nothing to lose”.

            One of Drew’s strengths is his ability to help people process their life, their fears and their idols in light of the gospel.  He helps people to understand the awesome love of God and to recognize the danger and hopelessness of putting your faith in anything but Christ.  
Some of our students eating in the dining hall
The fall retreat really serves to bond our students together and equip them to walk with Christ together on Campus.  We are so grateful for all that God did that weekend!  
This picture cracks me up.  We set up a "study hall" at the retreat and our Cornell Students pack it out!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Amazing Send-off, Eventful Road-trip

We left Ithaca almost two weeks ago to come to New Mexico for a while.  Prior to leaving town we had some awesome times with our friends and our students at Cornell. 

Ned LaCelle with our kids 

Anna-Kate and Lucy Sheehan with Jack
After our Fall retreat the Sheehan family stayed with us for a day.  Their kids and ours had so much fun, Jack busted his teeth out!  They were apparently ready to come out, though in fact they weren’t actually loose yet.  Nothing brings excitement to a cup of morning coffee with friends like a kid walking up to you with blood dripping from his mouth looking bewildered and saying “uh oh.” 

Sam Ramsey got to be there for the family memory too.

 That Tuesday night we filled our home with students for a time of celebration.  We gathered in our living room to spend time praying and singing and thanking God for all that He has done in our midst throughout the first 6 weeks of school.  We also feasted on desserts and hung out til late in the night.

One Cornell Cru tradition is called “caking.”  I don’t know where it started, and I don’t claim any responsibility for it’s continuation, but it involves smashing cake on a person’s face on their Birthday.  It’s something the students do to each other, and it’s typically pretty entertaining.  It’s always a “surprise,” and the planning and execution of it are always eventful.  The students have never caked me……until now.  My birthday fell during fall break, but that afternoon a bunch of students came over to hang out and help us pack up some boxes.  By evening time we were eating some Pizza, and Jorge came up behind me with some cheesecake for my face!  Jack loved the whole idea and so he joined in as well.

We planned on leaving the next day, but it took a little longer to get say goodbye to people, get organized and pack the trailer.   Friends came by to lend a hand and hang out.  People graciously gave us cards full of encouragement and prayed with us.  Some even blessed us with gas money, which was very, very helpful.   Adam and Nic came over and we loaded our trailer and helped me get everything lashed down and ready to go.  It seemed good…but the only problem was how heavy it was. 

The next day we got a late start; around noon we hit the road.   But our minivan was not happy about pulling that trailer.  Our suspension was bottomed out and we were creeping down the road shaking and straining our transmission.  We made it to Elmira, NY which is about an hour down the road.  We ate lunch, and then after brainstorming different possibilities, we finally resigned to the fact that this was not going to work!   We were going to have to bring my truck.   Steph compared our van trying to pull that trailer to a dying bumblebee who’s just stung someone.   We drove back to Ithaca, quickly tossed everything from the trailer into my truck and took off in caravan.   We only made it to Jamestown, NY.

The next morning, we got up and drove to Erie, PA.  But we barely made it because the truck started freaking out!  We had to have it towed to a shop and we ended up wasting the whole day waiting for it to get fixed.   All in all the trip was starting out terribly!  Thankfully it wasn’t too expensive and we only needed the distributor to be adjusted.  So, that night, we made it to Cleveland.

After that, things went pretty smooth.  We were bummed to have to drive across the country in separate cars, but we switched the kids around, fired up the ol’ walkie talkies and it all turned out o.k.  And, it’s actually pretty handy to have both our vehicles here in Santa Fe right now. 

We made a lunch stop in Kearney, NE at Luke & Jakes BBQ with some friends and then spent a couple of nights with family in Colorado before we came down here to NM.  

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

This Season of Suffering

In this post I want to give you an update about our current life situation.  (updated 1/30)
This summer we got to spend time in Santa Fe.  In these previous posts, (post 1, post 2) I updated you about my dad’s declining health status; he has recently died from ALS.

Here we are together at my parents home in Santa Fe, NM
Though my dad had been struggling since the fall of 2010, it was difficult to imagine or comprehend exactly how the disease was destroying him until we visited and saw him in person.  Although his speech had been degrading throughout the year, we’d been corresponding on the telephone and without seeing him, we could not fully understand all the ways his body was being affected.   Seeing him at home when we visited this summer was thoroughly shocking.  We were consumed with grief for days, even as we tried to hang out and interact with him and enjoy our time together as a family.

My dad required full-time around the clock caretaking.  As the weeks wore on his body became more and more paralyzed.   In December, he lost his ability to  support any weight at all on his own two legs.   He got an amazing wheelchair, but his decline was so rapid he barely got to use it at all.   It was motorized and  using his head, he could adjust the foot rest and the reclining features of the chair.  He only went outside one time in that chair; just to the porch.   ALS took away his ability to speak; which was by far the most terrible affect.  He also was unable to eat and had to receive nutrients thru a tube.    His arms ceased to work and his body atrophied and collapsed around him.  Physically he was completely debilitated.   We had to help him do everything and he was totally bed-ridden for almost two months.

With ALS, one’s mind is generally un-affected though current reasearch is showing that approximately 50 percent of the time, ALS is accompanied by some degree of frontotemporal lobar degeneration.    Mentally my dad is still basically there, although we've observed what we believe are some cognitive affects which are altering the way he currently interacts, communicates and relates with us.    
My mom, dad, sister (Leslie) and me in Pecos, NM this summer
My mom was functioning as his primary caregiver, but we could see this summer that she needed a lot of help.   Relatives and friends have graciously pitched in to help her and my sister Rachel put her classes at UNM on hold to be at home.  But during our visit this in the summer of 2011 it became clear to Stephanie and I, that somehow we also needed to be there.  We need to be in Santa Fe with my dad, serving him and helping my mom during this season of suffering. 
We borrowed a wheelchair and went downtown this summer.
We returned to Cornell in August to get ready for our fall kick-off.  We did not know exactly what the future held, but we did want to proceed on campus with our students and get the school year rolling.   Together with our staff team and regional supervisors, we decided that we would get things going on campus and then leave after our Fall Retreat.  We were  granted a medical leave of absence in order to help my father in Santa Fe. 

The first 6 weeks on campus were some of the absolute best!   While living here we have maintained close contact with our staff team and have been coaching from a distance.   Right now the rest of our staff team and our CRU student leaders are trusting Jesus and doing an amazing job of shouldering the leadership burden.

We are currently living in New Mexico.  My father passed away just over a week ago.  (1/19/12) 

Along with the physical caretaking, it was critical during our time together to come around my dad and remind him of the hope of the Gospel.  Spiritually he is o.k.  He loves Jesus, and knows the comfort of God in the midst of this affliction, and yet, it is so easy to be overtaken with fear, attacked by anxiety.  As total paralysis and death draw nearer and nearer it is easy to get discouraged and depressed.     While with him this summer, we spent time reading from the Bible, reading Christian books and praying together.  We continued to do that together when we returned this fall.  Reading God's word and praying together were some of the best times that we had.  

You can read more about ALS disease here:

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

By the Bed of the Dying

C.T. Studd has been described as the Michael Jordan of Cricket.  (Pick your sports icon: Babe Ruth, Tom Brady, Koby Bryant?...whatever.)   As a college student in the late 1800’s C.T. became a legend and an inspiration playing the most popular sport of his day in England.  He was a rising star destined for riches and renown as a professional player.   You could say he had everything going for him; he was having fun, he was successful.  But he was also drifting away from the things of God.

Then came his brother’s illness.   C.T.’s  younger brother George contracted some kind of sickness that left him bed-ridden and debilitated for weeks.   He was suffering and presumably headed towards his death.  C.T. spent time sitting beside his dying brother and it was there that God met him and prompted him to contemplate life. 

There is something quite powerful and transforming about sitting by the bed of someone who is dying –or even very sick.  I am currently becoming more acquainted with this as my dad’s ALS disease continues to paralyze more and more of his body.  I got to hang out with him this summer and I plan to join him again in just a few weeks.

Grieving beside his brother, C.T. thought "Now what is all the popularity of the world to George? What is all the fame and flattering? What is it worth to possess the riches of the world, when a man comes to face Eternity?"   The reality that life is a vapor (James 4:14) came to bear upon his soul and the brilliance of worldly fame began to pale as he thought about what really mattered.

Pastor Dave Jones at Bethel Grove Church here in Ithaca was talking this past Sunday about sitting beside a friend dying of pancreatic cancer.  This friend was the best man in his wedding.   Dave said  “sitting there you come to realize something that you should behold every day!  You realize that this life and this world are out of your control.”   It’s so easy to delude ourselves into thinking that we are stronger than we really are –more wise than we really are, and even more important.   We go thru life with a false sense of invincibility and an inflated view of our significance.  But death has a way of slapping you back to reality!   Watching someone die reminds you that we aren't that powerful and in fact we are all terminal. You come to a new place of desperation as you grasp the truth that you are not the king of the Universe!  From that vantage point, many are given the grace to see and finally know Him who is the king: the one who is in control.    Sitting there watching someone’s life expire you get to see the emptiness of those things we typically glory in and recognize the greatness of God.   

God miraculously spared George Studd’s life and he suddenly recovered from his illness.  But thankfully, C.T. never recovered from the transformation he experienced sitting by the bed of the dying.   He returned to college much less passionate about cricket and much more passionate about Jesus.  He begin sharing his faith and joining with other men for the purpose of prayer.  C.T. Studd committed his life to the cause of world missions.  Banding together with some other classmates, C.T. toured college campuses with the “Cambridge 7” challenging students to live for God and give themselves wholly to the work of God’s kingdom.  After that he departed to foreign mission fields.  

Everyone needs to come to the realization that this life and this world are out of your control.   But thankfully, our God is in control and he loves us. 

Here is a video of C.T. Studd sermon quotes: 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Joe's Viking Birthday

Look at these Viking warriors!  What are they waiting for?  
A dragon?  A huge flaming boulder covered in tar flying thru the air?  
No......that would be unsafe......especially at a 5 year old birthday party.   But we did use a trebuchet to launch soccer balls and water balloons at our kids!  And that was a good time!  

Our little man Josiah turned 5 yesterday, and we celebrated his birthday with some of his friends last Sunday.  We went with a Viking/How to Train your Dragon theme.  The kids love that movie, and actually I think I love it even more.

Stephanie made some viking helmets out of 1 gallon milk jugs and I put together some swords using large paint stirrers and some pipe insulation.  We built the catapult out of some scrap wood.  Steph also made a dragon cake to go with the theme.

Josiah enjoyed his friends and the time together.  It's hard to believe that 5 years ago we were in Kearney, Nebraska.  Today Joe is attending pre-school at Trinity Lutheran, and also beginning to homeschool with Steph and Jack.
And, our daughter Ruby is very cute.  

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Gorges in the Sun

Hey friends,

It's time for us to get back in the schedule of updating this blog.  As i've emphasized before,  our goal is to update this thing about every 4 days.  The fall semester has started and things are going really well on campus so far.  I'll write some news on that later.

For now though, i just wanted to share some pictures.  As I write this now, the rain is pouring down and has been for hours and days!  But last Monday the Sun was out and it was a perfect day for a Staff Picnic.  We gathered with the Simpson's, Brenner's, Wright's, and our intern Charlene and went out to Taughannock Falls park up the road and hung out and enjoyed the outdoors together.  Nic and Christy took some great pictures!

We were hanging out in the shallow's under a little waterfall. Jack and Joe loved standing beneath it!

Hudson Simpson is getting big and joining in the fun!  He'll be one year old on Oct. 18

I just love the different facial expressions!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Mindset of the Freshman Class

I don't know a whole lot about Beloit College and their "mindset" studies, but their work is pretty interesting and helpful for those of us who work at connecting and with students.   The Beloit College Mindset List,  looks at the "cultural touchstones" that shape and influence the lives of students entering college this fall. 

This video summarizes some of the findings.  One guy does the talking and the other guy sits there looking like a major creeper!

For this class of Freshman born mostly in 1993 Andre the Giant, River Phoenix, Frank Zappa, Arthur Ashe and the Commodore 64 have always been dead.  They’ve always wanted to be like Shaq or Kobe: Michael Who?  O.J. Simpson has always been accused of some crime, their parents have always been able to create a will and other legal documents online, charter schools have always been an alternative, Frasier, Sam, Woody and Rebecca have never Cheerfully frequented a bar in Boston during primetime, and they've quite possibly broken up with their significant others via texting, Facebook, or MySpace.
find out more at

Monday, August 22, 2011

King Size Grill!

Today we got things going on campus with the annual Fellowship fair BBQ!  We served over 700 hamburgers and hot dogs to hundreds of students.

This year we upgraded our grilling situation and rented two of these big dogs from Aardark Welding and Fabricating.

It was an excellent day!  Beautiful weather and the chance to meet and welcome tons of new students to campus!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Visiting Santa Fe 2

Today we drove from Windsor Colorado where we had been for the past three days visiting Stephanie's parents and some of our cousins and other relatives.  I'll post some pictures from those three days soon, as there are many good ones!

But right now, we are back in Santa Fe for two nights before we had back to Ithaca.  We came back down here so that we can accompany my mom and dad to the UNM hospital tomorrow to meet with a team of doctors.  It's a big appointment with a team of specialists that my dad goes to every three months.  We'll get a lot of information related to my dad's rapidly degenerating health.

Two weeks ago, when I wrote a post my dad was feeding himself.  But at this point we must feed him.  Two weeks ago when I wrote, my dad was still walking around the house without any real assistance,   but not this week.   His confidence is down after a recent fall off the bed and so now he is using his walker around the house.  We borrowed a wheel chair from the neighbors, and when my dad goes out we are using it.  In the coming weeks, he will get one fitted specifically for him.   We acquired a motorized hospital bed from a friend, and hopefully in the coming weeks my mom can put that together.

Over the past few weeks we've been modifying the house in little ways to make it more ready for the wheel chair when it comes.

We love spending this time with my dad, and as we get ready to head back to NY we feel extremely burdened as we strive to figure out what exactly we should do to best serve and help my mom and dad.  Please pray for us as we learn more and walk together thru this season of difficulty.

A glorious and helpful passage comes from Nehemiah 8:10 -The joy of the Lord is your strength...

Tonight we also read Psalm 111 together.  My dad has been going thru the One Year Bible for sometime now.
[111:1]  Praise the LORD! I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation. [2] Great are the works of the LORD, studied by all who delight in them. [3] Full of splendor and majesty is his work, and his righteousness endures forever. [4] He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered; the LORD is gracious and merciful. [5] He provides food for those who fear him; he remembers his covenant forever. [6] He has shown his people the power of his works, in giving them the inheritance of the nations. [7] The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy; [8] they are established forever and ever, to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness. [9] He sent redemption to his people; he has commanded his covenant forever. Holy and awesome is his name! [10] The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Visiting Santa Fe

We have been in New Mexico for 5 days and it has been good to be with family. 

In January of 2011, my dad, Bill was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s) Disease.   For the past few years he had been feeling more and more ‘run down’ and found it necessary to sleep a bit more and schedule in a daily nap in order to make it thru the day, but otherwise he seemed in pretty good health.   He began working part time in 2003, and he visited his doctor more frequently during the past few years, always suspecting something wasn’t quite right, but his day to day life was not drastically altered really until last fall.  

Since we saw him a year ago, much has changed.  Last summer Bill flew to NY to pick up my sister Rachel and together they drove across the country to NM in a car with no A/C.  That was an adventure and a fun memory for them both.    Our whole family met up and spent time together in Alamogordo, New Mexico before my brother and his family moved out to England with the Air Force.   We went to White Sands, NM and had a picnic, took family photos, and went to the (Holoman) Air Force Base pool with Uncle Dave.  We went up to the mountains, had a camp-fire.  We had easy late night conversations and played games together.
We hung out at White Sands last summer

But as summer the summer of 2010 ended and fall came along, my dad’s health began to decline more significantly.  At times his speech would slur in conversation and that prompted more doctor visits.  Something was certainly wrong.   Tests were run and specialists were consulted.  In time, the numerous symptoms left no room for doubt in anyone's mind that my dad has ALS.  

This summer everything is drastically different.    Now his speech is slow and he is very difficult to understand.  It is a labor for him to communicate.  His fingers are curled and no longer useful.  His walk is slow and unsteady.  His neck muscles struggle to hold up his head. He has lost significant weight.  He can no longer button his shirts or zip his pants.  Though the disease has progressed much in the past 6 months, there is still a lot Bill is able to do.   We are grateful that his is still walking!  He is still able to feed himself with the use of a special grip on his utensils.  We praise the Lord that we can still communicate some.  Bill has a good sense of humor and has joked that his speech is a new “foreign language” for us to learn.  We love to see him smile and hear him laugh at our stories!  Just this morning we took the kids to nearby park today to launch rockets and Bill joined us.  He was able to walk there on his own and got to enjoy his grandkids run around.  We are grateful for each new memory we get to make, and keenly aware that each day we have is a gift.

Shaving is difficult, so when we showed up, Bill was sporting a nice white beard.  I helped him shave it off the other night.  We called it "manscaping".

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Crossing Cultures in Wildwood

Have you ever seen that T.V.  show called Jersey Shore?  I guess it’s about these wild New York ‘Italian’ kids who go out to the coast to waste their lives partying and hooking up with people.  It has characters with names like “Snooki” and ‘the Situation’.  It’s sort of popular, but to be honest I’ve never seen it.  And call me an idiot for not paying attention to details, but I never even knew Jersey had so much shore!  But it does and down at the southern tip you’ll find Wildwood.  

Before going to serve in Wildwood, New Jersiey this summer Stephanie and I were told that there are “tons of international students” there.  But to be honest, I didn’t totally believe it!  Even though my sister Rachel had served on the project and told me about it and my best friends told me what a great place it was to meet people from other countries, I thought they were all basically exaggerating!  I sincerely thought “sure, there probably are a few more international students in Wildwood than there are in Daytona Beach or something, -but seriously,  how many could there really be?”   But let me say that I was totally failing to comprehend the reality!  It’s basically mind blowing how many international students there are in Wildwood over the summer.  I don’t understand it!

But what does make sense to me is having a summer project there!  At least part of the  reason so many students come from all over the world is because of Mory’s Piers.  Mory’s Piers is a beach side boardwalk string of amusement parks. They have a very proficient internship system that involves sending recruiters to universities in countries like Romania, Kazakhstan, Turkey and China to promote their job opportunities.   Students sign contracts and then get on planes and move out here for the summer to work at Mory’s wannabe Disneyland.  I met some guys from Bulgaria.  They told me that there are at least 100 students from Bulgaria working at the Piers! At another point I heard there are 500 in the area and they jokingly call Wildwood –New Bulgaria during the summer.   And some students love it so much they come back year after year. 
In the middle of the project we host a raging BBQ and invite co-workers, neighbors and anyone else who the students have met.  Our students are working beside students from countries where it’s actually difficult to send missionaries.  They are  gaining cross-cultural ministry experience and having opportunities to proclaim the Gospel to people who have never met a Christian before!  

On Thursday nights we host what's called "international Cafe."  We broadcasted a wireless internet signal for people to use and the students would hang out on the driveway.  It's a great way to hang out together