Wednesday, December 31, 2008

End of the year recap, part deux.

- July: This was the month we were supposed to go to Mexico for our annual mission trip, but the violence had gotten so bad in Juarez that we had to call it off and go to Nogales, Arizona instead. This was also the month that Troy began as Del Sol's Youth & Young Adults Pastor. On Sunday the 6th, we had one big patriotic service, then left for Nogales on the 7th.

I taught at the Mix on Christian denominations and Roman Catholicism, and the Socorro school district started up classes again. Aside from that, I don't think too much really happened in July.

- August: For the first time in several years, I took an extended vacation time - 8 whole days at the beginning of August. Most of the Del Sol staff also took vacations in August, then Walter started preaching a vision casting message series, which was great because it's always good to recast vision over and over and over again. Promotion Sunday was in August, as was another all-day staff meeting, several weddings, and several other important meetings.

And in Juarez, the violence kept growing and our hearts here on the borderland kept breaking.

- September: At the beginning of this month, my friend Bob Cossel had a retirement party after serving our great country for 27 years in the military. Now he's teaching and will be leading our Celebrate Recovery program at Del Sol. What an incredible man with an incredible, humble heart. We had our semi-annual church-wide leadership summit, started up a new year of Youth for Christ at Hanks High School, started remodeling our Firehouse youth center expansion, and formed a youth welcome team.

- October: This was the month that brought incredible change into my life. We had a church-wide service project, a mother/daughter retreat, a youth leader fellowship, a youth band field trip, our annual Fall Freakout halloween party, and a staff potluck lunch at the Firehouse, among other things - but those weren't the life changing events.

The two major life changing events were my college graduation, and the events that led up to my departure from youth ministry into multi-site church ministry. It was so sudden and unplanned; it was clearly a God-thing when we had a staff meeting where God interrupted and led us to pray about being a people who embrace risk and failure, and God led us to take steps now to become a multi-site church instead of waiting another few years.

Very quickly after that meeting, Walter and I talked about my involvement in this experiment, he talked to the church council, and they gave me the privilege and responsibility of leading this new site launch.

Wow ...what a life changing month October was!

- November: It was an amazing month at Del Sol Church and Fire Youth Ministry. We had a bunch of stuff in our calendars, but what amazed me the most was how the Del Sol Church family really stepped up and did some incredible things to serve literally hundreds of people through giving for Thanksgiving baskets, giving to restock our food pantry, and committing to give over 300 Angel Tree gifts for needy kids this Christ-mas.

I've written over and over and told people over and over that it's amazing how God is working in the hearts of the Del Sol Church family, and I'm so humbled and feel so privileged to be a part of this movement of God in our local church.

Oh, and the 30th of November was one of the most difficult days I've ever had; that was the day that I talked to my youth about my transition, how I'm being sent out of the youth ministry into this multi-site church experiment. That was one of the most difficult things and it was so weird because it was such good news, but still very sad at the same time. I've been grieving over this since it was made official in October, but I know this is God's will and that's what drives me every day.

- December: What a busy month December always is! Christ-mas parties, service projects, three packed Christ-mas Eve celebration services, my family coming in for Christ-mas I don't even know how to describe December or this holiday season, except to say it was different. There were difficult times, there were sad times, there were lonely times, but there were also some incredible moments that I wouldn't give up for anything (you can read about them

So 2008 is over and 2009 is about to begin in an hour here in El Paso. It's been a very different, difficult year nationally, in Juarez where over 1,600 people have been murdered, and in my life. Yet through it all - God has been good. Though my dad lost his job in July and our rental home is still vacant after a year and a half, though my brother was arrested right before Christ-mas on DUI charges, though I've had to begin saying goodbye to the ministry I've known for 4 & 1/2 years, though gas prices skyrocketed - God has been good. And I'm so excited to see what He'll so and how He'll bless us in 2009.

"For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations." - Psalm 100:5 (NIV)

"I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him." The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD." - Lamentations 3:24-26 (NIV)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

End of the year recap, part 1.

It's the time for us to look back and ponder on the previous year, and all I can say is wow, what a year 2008 has been! This has probably been the most transformational year for me up to this point in my life - and it certainly not been easy, but it's been worth it.

Wow, where do I even start this recap? In January I guess. Forgive me is the details are a bit sketchy - after all, it was a long time ago! =)

- January: In August of 2007, I started serving as interim Youth & Young Adults Pastor at what was then called Vista del Sol Baptist Church (VDSBC). The first 4 or 5 months were challenging, a time of learning, and a time of much opposition. I mean I was 21 years old, still in college, and there were many people who saw me as "little Ariel" and didn't have faith in me and didn't believe that Walter had made the right decision in letting me lead. By January though, I had found my groove, had proved myself, and had worked through much of that pushback. On Sunday, the 6th of January, we had a momentous day in the history of the church - our church voted with an 86% majority to change the name of VDSBC to simply Del Sol Church.

Even nearly a year later as I type this, that memory brings tears to my eyes. I remember barely sleeping on the night before the vote, I remember how Walter so passionately cast the vision for why we needed to do that, and I remember how when we finally reached the moment of the vote, my heart started pounding and I stopped breathing for a moment, knowing that the outcome of what was about to happen would be the deciding factor on whether or not our church would start to thrive, or begin to slowly die. I am so thankful to God that our church said we would do whatever it takes, even changing our name, to be a people who are focused on those who don't know Jesus instead of being focused on ourselves. Since then, God has blessed us more than we could imagine and I am so humbled to be in leadership in this incredible movement of God known as Del Sol Church.

Also in January, Dr. John MacKay (one of the church councilmen), Teri Valdespino (our Missions & Ministries Coordinator), and I went to the Creel area of Mexico to plan out the summer mission trip. It's amazing how even planning trips can be such a great time of ministry. Little did we know what the rest of 2008 would hold for us. We had our annual staff Christ-mas party in January (we do it after Christ-mas, when our calendars slow down a bit), we had a bonfire at the Watson's ranch, and we introduced the Movement 21 spiritual growth campaign.

- February: Sunday the 3rd was day 1 of Movement 21, which is kind of like 40 Days of Purpose for youth, and it's only 21 days long, and it's got seven elements like prayer, fasting, intentional evangelism, etc. Movement 21 was one of the best things our youth ministry ever experienced together. We had an El Paso Baptist Association meeting at the church campus (which was a very interesting experience), and we began our midweek youth gatherings called "the Mix" on February 14th.

At the end of February, I had my first experience leading an out of town youth trip. I, along with several other adults, took a group of youth to Phoenix for the Dare2Share evangelism conference as a way to finish off Movement 21. Wow, what a learning experience that was! It was so humbling to know that so many parents would trust me with the lives of their kids, and that is a trust I vowed long ago to never violate. Also in February, I put in my resume to apply for the position of Youth & Young Adults Pastor (Y&YAP) at Del Sol - a job that I REALLY wanted.

Finally, throughout February, Teri Valdespino and I were working hard in planning and preparing for the annual mission trip to Mexico in July.

- March: In March we had this guy named Troy Sanchez, an applicant for the Y&YAP position, come in for a staff fellowship where we could get to know him more and to preach at Cielo Vista Church so we could observe him in action. We also had our first rehearsals for our annual dinner theater fundraiser.

Sunday, March 23rd was the best day of the year - Resurrection Sunday. Because it was in the middle of spring break, some on staff didn't expect a big crowd, but I had been praying for weeks for God to do something so great that it would blow our minds away. And He did. We had 3 worship celebrations and they were packed.

The 8 am was surprisingly full though not totally packed, but the 9:30 and 11 am gatherings were filled and overflowing. In one gathering (I think it was the 9:30 one) we brought in about 50 extra chairs when people kept coming in at the beginning of the celebration service, and there were still people standing against the walls because they couldn't find seats. It was SO humbling and amazing to see God honor my prayers like that.

By March, the drug violence in Juarez and other parts of Mexico had really started getting bad, and we began praying hard and talking about not taking a trip there in the summer.

- April: We began meetings for summer's VBS, had our dinner theater/silent auction fundraiser, had our yard sale, started summer trip parents' meetings, and had Troy Sanchez come in to speak to our youth at the Mix. By this time, the search team decided to offer the position to him instead of to me. And the way it was communicated to me? Talk about hurtful!

April began a dark tunnel of pain for me when I was rejected and this guy from out of town, who had never led a ministry, was chosen over me (the one who everyone seemed to want). I was hurt, and I struggled with God about it for about a month until I finally surrendered to Him and told Him I'd be open to whatever He allowed to happen.

Shortly after that, I started seriously talking with some friends about starting a new church, and I felt a peace from God about pursuing that.

- May: By now, things were really starting to get busy around Del Sol Church. We had a Compassion Sunday, where we emphasized the need as Christ-followers to be compassionate, and we had around 75 kids adopted through Compassion International and a local ministry we work with in Juarez.

On the 10th, some of our youth and leaders and I spent the day working at a Habitat for Humanity worksite as part of the Unify city-wide youth ministry network's "Project Serve." We also had our annual graduate dinner and graduate recognition ceremony on Sunday morning. Man, I remember how nervous I was when I walked out on that stage and had to introduce those graduates, then pray for them. Ha that I think back on it, I remember having a few people tell me after the 9:30 service that they enjoyed it and that I was funny, and then having someone tell me after the 11 am service that I didn't do good at all. I just love honesty!

May was also time for some graduations and a summer camp parents' meeting, and we had a fun photo scavenger hunt. Also, by May we had decided to call off the summer mission trip to Mexico because the violence had gotten so bad, and we were praying about what we should do instead.

- June: This month was a month of great life-change for me. I experienced some things and met some people who would leave me changed forever. June was also the month that I posted my first ever blog post. =)

There were more graduation ceremonies, an appreciation dinner that my leaders threw for me, our annual church-wide volunteer celebration dinner, and we sent 2 groups of youth to 2 different camps at the same time!

I took a group of about 30 people to Centrifuge youth camp - which was awesome - and I heard great things about what God did at Super Summer, but my highlight event of June was definitely the volunteer celebration on Friday the 13th.

See, I LOVE our volunteers at Del Sol Church. I love all the people of our church family, but I have a special fondness for our volunteers who give so much of their time and heart and money and love to help us be a church that loves God, loves people, and serves the world. So to have them all together in one place, and to be able to celebrate them and serve them a fancy dinner at a fancy, nationally renown restaurant like Cattleman's - that's a huge honor.

Us staff arrived at at the restaurant to find it dirty, unprepared, and stinkin' hot since they hadn't turned the air conditioners on like they were supposed to. We worked like crazy to get it ready for our volunteers and finished just in time for the first volunteers to walk in. We then sat them down, served them dinner, mingled with them, then we all went outside and had a very brief game, some giveaways, and a prayer of gratitude over our incredible volunteers. If you're a volunteer at Del Sol Church - please know how grateful we are for all you do and for how much we love you!

But I did say that I met some people who changed my life; two families really - the Moser family and the Pryor family.

I clearly remember when I met the Mosers. Lesli walked in the office and pretty much grilled me on the spot and when she left, I felt like I had just been hit by a truck! But despite my bumbling answers that day, they came on Sunday morning. Then they came back again ...and again ...and again - and now they're an incredible part of our church family.

I also remember when I met the Pryors. The first Pryor I met was Shannah, who had just finished high school and was looking for the young adult GrowGroup. Then later on that morning at the Firehouse, these three youth came in, and they seemed so scared and they looked like they really did not want to be there. I honestly did not think these people would be back, but they did come back again, and again, and again. I later found out that they were really close to not coming back, but God had better plans for Del Sol Church and for me. He knew that the church, and that my life, would not be the same without this family.

It's funny how at the beginning of the year, I had no idea at all that there was anybody named Moser or Pryor - but now in December, I can't even (and don't want to) imagine what my life or what the church would be like without these people. My life has been so blessed by these two families, and I don't even want to remember what life was like before I knew them.

Tomorrow ...part 2. =)

Monday, December 29, 2008

Pics from today

Today I got back into the swing of things, back to the regular schedule of getting up early and going to the office. It was actually pretty nice to get back to the familiar pattern of things.

It was kind of sad though was the day that all the Christ-mas decorations were taken down. It looks so empty now!


When I went to get lunch though, I drove by Montwood High School and say the University of Pittsburgh band practicing for the Sun Bowl on Wednesday:

Then I spent the afternoon with Stephen, Kristin, and Savannah taking down the decorations at the Firehouse and moving almost everything off the floor since we're going to start refinishing the floors tomorrow:

Just thought I'd share some pics from my day with you!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

My greatest fear.

I have a few fears in life; I'm human, after all. Some of them are common fears, some of them are perhaps strange. They include insects (especially spiders), needles, heights, being alone, and pain.

Interestingly enough, I'm not afraid of death - being dead, that is. I can deal with being dead and I'm not at all afraid of it - but I am afraid of what will happen after I die. I'm not afraid that I'll go to hell because I am confident that because I have been positionally sanctified in Christ and have a relationship with Him and will spend eternity with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in Heaven.

In other words, I know I'll be in Heaven after I die. But I'm still afraid, and I think it's a healthy fear. I'm afraid of what God will say when I face Him. On Saturday morning I was reading in 1 Chronicles 10 where it tells how King Saul commits suicide, and I was chilled to the bone when I read verses 13 and 14:
"Saul died because he was unfaithful to the LORD; he did not keep the word of the LORD and even consulted a medium for guidance, and did not inquire of the LORD. So the LORD put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse." - 1 Chronicles 10:13-14 (NIV)

Did you get that? Saul died because he was unfaithful to the Lord and did not inquire of the Lord.

Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, scares me more than the thought of dying and facing the Lord and being called unfaithful. Nothing! I would rather be all alone on a 100 story tall tower, and have 1,000 spiders painfully jab needles into every square inch of my skin than be called unfaithful. Ok, maybe that's an extreme example but it's true!

King Saul will forever be known as unfaithful, and as one who didn't seek God. When he died and faced God, the Lord of all creation called him unfaithful. I can't even imagine how that must have felt and I cringe at the thought of anyone, let alone God, calling me unfaithful.

I am so scared of being called unfaithful and of what would happen if I stopped seeking God - and I think that's a healthy fear. It's what drives me to pray, to be in the Word, to go to church gatherings, to be authentic, to do life together with others, to go on short-term mission projects, to give sacrificially, to embrace risk and failure, to love extraordinarily, to be graceful and forgiving and patient in all circumstances.

I want to be known as one who seeks God above all and I want to be found faithful - no matter what!

"But be sure to fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you." - 1 Samuel 12:24 (NIV)

Friday, December 26, 2008

Post Christ-mas mind purge.

- Monday night I went to Abundant Living Faith Center's Christ-mas production, which was actually pretty cool.

- I spent the day in Juarez on Tuesday with the Pryor family. It was SOOOOO windy, but we had a great time inviting people to a party, giving them gifts, feeding them, and playing with the kids afterwards. As we left, I somehow got something in my eye that took like an hour of crying to get out. It was so painful and I was kind of bummed because I thought I might have scratched my eyeball or something, but by that night it felt totally better. While it was hurting, Shannah, Kayla, David, Leah, Sarah, and Jenna were great about helping me deal with it and distracting me by telling me stories about growing up with each other.

- Wednesday was Christ-mas Eve. I slept in, went for a run, washed my car, then showered up and headed out to the Del Sol Church east campus for our Christ-mas Eve services. I was there from about 2ish pm 'til just after 9 pm. Our services were amazing: Craig and the worship/tech team were amazing, Walter did a great analogy using the Christ-mas tree, and the ushers/greeters/parking team really hit the ball out of the park.

- And I must say ...I looked pretty "dashing" in my black shirt and royal purple tie. =)

- And of course Thursday was Christ-mas Day. I slept in 'til about 11 am, then got up and watched a couple of episodes of Discovery Channel's Mythbusters, then opened up gifts when my parents finally came to the living room around 1 pm or so. Then we watched like 3 more episodes of Mythbusters until I wandered to my room and crashed for a couple of hours. It was really a lazy dog day:
(I love this pic! You really should click the pic above to see Bob Barker's face.)

I then woke up, went for a run, showered, ate dinner, and watched Hancock with my family. After that I continued my tradition that I started last year of going Downtown to soak in the lights and walk around enjoying the history and architecture of this great city of El Paso:

I got back to the Eastside after a little over and hour and drove on Billy Casper (a big circular drive that's on the golf course) and checked out the wealthy people's light displays. I finally arrived home at just before midnight ...and thus ended my Christ-mas 2008 holiday.

I hope you had a very good Christ-mas, and I hope that you'll be tremendously blessed in the coming year!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

So this is Christ-mas ...

You know what has always intrigued me about the Christ-mas story (check it out in Matthew 2 and Luke 2)? The circumstances.

Jesus' parents were unmarried, His genealogy was pretty spotty with some very sordid and questionable characters in it, and He was by no means a wealthy man or from a wealthy family. Then these smelly, lonely, probably somewhat socially incompatible shepherds come to see little Baby Jesus. I don't imagine that Mary, after having traveled so far to register for the census and giving birth in a cave, would have wanted ANY company, let alone that of some socially outcast shepherds. That's not right.

Then not even 2 years after He was born, Jesus and his family had to run for their lives not just out of town, not out of state, not even to just a neighboring country - but to a different continent! Can you imagine how expensive that must've been? And then God provided for them, but He did it in the strangest way!

I mean think about it: strange men come to visit, saying they saw a star in the sky that they followed all the way from Asia to Israel. Come on, seriously? A star in the sky that you followed for thousands of miles? Surrrrrre, Wise Guys.

And the gifts? Gold, frankincense, and myrrh. What kind of gifts are those for a baby!? Seriously?! I know there were no Babies-R-Us stores over there nearly 2,000 years ago so the Magi couldn't have bought a stroller or playpen or something - but I'm sure there were some shops where they could have found more suitable gifts for a toddler than metal, spice, and oil. What about a toy tool set (since His dad was a carpenter), or some toddler size clothes, or something useful for a toddler?

This is all so wrong!

But then I think ...wait a minute. Maybe this is all right.

Maybe those pungent shepherds as guests at Jesus' birth were the perfect gusts. Think about it - if Jesus really did come to "seek and to save the lost" like Luke 19:10 says, then what better guests than outcast shepherds to show the world that Jesus is not about perfect looking church people, but is about everyone no matter how clean and sharp, nor how filthy and imperfect.

And maybe gold, frankincense, and myrrh actually were pretty great gifts after all. I imagine when God warned Joseph not to go back to Bethlehem but to go to Egypt instead, Joseph must've thought "ok God, I know this is You telling me to do this, but how on earth can I afford to leave everything and move my family to another continent?" I imagine him sitting in despair yet confidence - despair because he doesn't know how to obey, but confidence because he knows this is Father God who has given him this command and the Father will provide for him.

And then ...Joseph looks around and remembers gold ...frankincense ...myrrh. Those things were not the cheap, crappy gifts that we give each other today. You couldn't get those thing last minute at Walgreen's; these were some seriously valuable gifts we're talking about here. God has already clearly commanded what Joseph needed to do, and with the gifts of the Magi He provided the means for Joseph to obey.

Maybe, even though this doesn't make sense in a human perspective, it really is right. Maybe God, since He is God after all, actually knew what He was doing!

So Christ-mas. Wow, it's so much more than cute little baby Jesus in a strangely uncomfortable pose, cuddly farm animals, shepherds, girly looking angels, and the three wise guys.

It's about God, coming down unexpectedly into our mess, making the first move to restore us, and guiding every step of the way since.

The circumstances of Christ-mas amaze me. Shepherds ...wise guys, frankincense, and myrrh ...a seedy heritage - somehow it's beautiful because all those things form an incredible tapestry that shows off the love, compassion, sovereignty, grace, and power of God.

"Don’t be afraid!" he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! - Luke 2:10-11, NLT

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

"Is there anybody you're sweet on?"

I was asked that today, and I simply replied "I got nothing ...and it's not for a lack of trying." But the question of why I don't have a significant other is something is something I think about a LOT. In Genesis 2:18, God said that it's not good for man to be alone and so He created a "suitable helper" for man. I believe that I've fully surrendered this desire for companionship to God, yet it's still a huge desire in my heart because I know that I was created to do life together with my "suitable helper."

So I don't know why God has me in this place in my life right now of being single. It's not easy; it's very lonely and I don't understand it - but I trust Him.

See I don't want to date "just for fun." Honestly, I think it's pretty screwed up to date someone "just for fun" because really, all you're doing is taking advantage of them - like test driving a car you're not gonna buy. Sure it's fun, but you're not going to commit and you're just wasting the salesman's time.

I've been told that I have to "play the dating game" but I am not going to use a woman like that. I don't believe a woman's heart is something to play games with. In my opinion, women are incredible gifts from God so I'm not looking for a fling, I'm looking for someone that is a marriage possibility. I mean I'm not expecting to marry the first woman I date, but I also don't want to date someone I wouldn't consider marrying.

The reason for that is that although I don't fully know what it will mean to be a campus pastor right now, I do know it's going to be a big responsibility. I know there will be tension between the work of ministry and my relationship with her and eventually, our kids. I know there will be incredible times of joy, and times of terrible heartache and hurt. I know this will be one of the greatest and most challenging places in my journey, and I know that I need a woman who will be devoted to God and trust Him through thick and thick, and who will go alongside me no matter what.

So I wait and I pray, and I wait and I pray, and I wait some more and I pray some more. I'm waiting for and praying for the woman who will love God more than she would ever love me, the one who will complement who I am, the one who is called to ministry - maybe even the ministry of being a pastor's wife and a mom.

I crave a woman to do life with, to dream with, to share experiences with, to talk with, to bounce ideas off of and get valuable feedback ...I just want to hold her hand, to have her put her head on my shoulders, to journey through life with her. I want someone to be my queen, the love of my life, someone just to be with ...especially at Christ-mas time.

I'm so tired of being alone, and I don't understand why God has me in this place right now - but I trust Him. This particular area is probably the hardest area for me to trust Him in, but I do.

Father God, I'm waiting on You for her, and I love her already with all my heart. In Your time, show me who she is and what I need to do to pursue her. I trust You, Father ...and I know one day You'll give me the precious gift of her and I won't be spending my Christ-mas alone. =)

"Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need." - Matthew 6:33 NLT

Monday, December 22, 2008

Randomness ...

- I'm SO glad two out of three of my brothers are home. Now it's just time for Adrian to come home tomorrow.

- I am so glad to be a part of the Del Sol Church family, and it's simply humbling to be in leadership in our family.

- Speaking of families, the Pryor family is amazing - each of them individually is awesome. And Kendra's "man-friend" Val is also pretty down.

- Went to Abundant Living Faith Center's Christ-mas production tonight. That facility is amazing, the people are so friendly, and I am blown away by the incredible coordination it must take to have weekend gatherings, let alone have a massive Christ-mas production with thousands of people at each show! Here are some pics and I think they're a close contender with Del Sol for the award for BEST Christ-mas tree in a church (that thing must be like least 30 feet tall!):



- At the end of the production tonight, Pastor Charles Nieman publicly thanked everyone involved in the production, and specifically thanked by name several people. When he had the audience clap for the video production team and the sound/lighting team, I looked at the people in the sound booth and I saw them light up with excitement when he mentioned several of them by name. That look on their face is something I won't soon forget. It challenged me to be more proactive about expressing my gratitude to people, especially my leaders and volunteers.

- I love my leaders and volunteers. If you're one of them, please know how grateful I am to you and for you, and know that I love you!

- I'm kind of nervous about going to Mexico tomorrow but more than how nervous I am, I'm ready and courageous.

- I think how culture has opened their arms back to Britney Spears is an incredible example of grace, and how God would have us in Christianity respond to sinners.

- I'm so pumped about building up God's Kingdom by opening a new campus of Del Sol Church in (most likely) the Northeast side of town. My biggest prayer about that is "God, please don't let me screw this up", but I'm also praying for God to give me wisdom about the right people, the right place, and the right time.

- I really miss cheese. And beef. And their beautiful love-child, the cheeseburger.

- I'm going with Walter to a conference in Dallas in January. I'm pretty excited about that.

- I really miss interior Mexico. I REALLY want to go back this summer and see my "family" down there.

- I should have been in bed 10 minutes ago, so ...goodnight! Merry (almost) Christ-mas!!!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Thanks, God.

After a great day today, I come home to find the house empty with all the lights off except the Christ-mas lights.

When I walked in the door, this is what I saw in the living room:

Wow. How amazing! I enjoyed just sitting in the silence, enjoying the lights.

Thanks, God - what a great gift! Now if only You could arrange some snow for Christ-mas. =)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

My current love/hate relationship.

For quite awhile now I've been having digestive problems. Not anything painful, but just some pretty uncomfortable problems.

I've been to the doctor and had tests run on me, and we figured that I'm lactose intolerant. So, I've been staying away from dairy, cheese, beef, and fried foods because those foods all aggravate the problem.

But it's not just those foods that bother me. Pretty much ANYTHING I eat will disturb my stomach, so now I've gotten to the point where I almost dread having to eat. That's weird because I love food, but yet I also hate it because I know it'll make my life uncomfortable. I know I have to eat in order to live, but it's so annoying how it bothers my digestive system.

Sigh ...I miss not having to think about what I eat, trying to figure out if it has dairy in it and if it'll bother my stomach. I miss beef. I miss cheese.

On the upside, these digestive issues have helped me be more disciplined in my eating and have helped me eat healthier, but I sure do miss cheeseburgers! =)

Food. I love you, and I hate you.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Wow. This blows my mind!

Watch this, then read my thoughts below:

(Props to "Anne Chan" for bringing it to my attention)

Ok so China ...India ...Before Google ...Supercomputers that can compute more than the entire human species! This stuff is just mindblowing, yet what disturbed me the most was the question at the end of the video: "So what does it all mean?"

That's a great question to ask. Some other good questions to ask are "What are the implications of this?" and "Even though we can, should we?" Like, even though we can build a supercomputer that can compute more than all of humanity ...should we? And what are the implications if we do build it? I mean seriously would that affect humanity if we did that?

This video really just reminded me of Acts 17 where Paul goes to Athens and sees the philosophers and all the idols and come across the idol to an unknown god, and he tells them Who this God is that they didn't know about. Or the Magi in Matthew 2 who saw the star in the east and started searching to see what it was about, and their journey led them to Jesus.

Deep down, even these incredible thinkers of the First Century were asking themselves "so what does it all mean?" And today, people are still asking "so what does it all mean?", and they search and they search and they search ...

People are seeking, and not because that's the title Rick Warren or Bill Hybels coined to describe them. They're seeing stars in the sky, they're worshipping unknown gods, they're creating technology and passing on information without knowing why, and all the while they're asking what it's all about.

So this video challenged me. Some of us know the answer to the question. I'm of those people. Seekers need me to help them find what they're looking for.

Because just like in the First Century, the search always ends with Jesus Christ.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sunday night mind purge

- Monday was a pretty nice and chill day. I did some office work and finished up my message for the Mix on Thursday night.

- Tuesday was a GREAT day! Pastor Walter had all the staff over to his home for lunch and for our weekly staff meeting. In case you didn't know, Walter is an INCREDIBLE cook. He treated us to some Austrian delights then we had a great meeting afterwards.

- As if that great staff meeting wasn't enough - IT SNOWED ON TUESDAY!!! It wasn't enough to collect and it was just for about an hour, but it snowed. Oh man that was great! I hope it snows lots more this season ...maybe even on Christ-mas! I'm keeping my fingers crossed =)

- Wednesday was kind of cool too. I had lunch with a friend of mine who I hadn't seen in nearly 2 months I think, and we had our last Leadership Team GrowGroup for the semester. Well ...ever really, since I'll be transitioning into my new responsibilities next month.

- On Thursday morning I met with my accountability partner, then rushed over to the Westside to have lunch with Buck from Healing Place Church's El Paso campus. I learned SO much from that guy was totally worth the drive all the way over to the Westside.

- Thursday night I preached at the Mix, and it was ...not good. I know God will do with His Word what He will, but the whole night just felt so off. I was not confident about my message, the crowd seemed extra rowdy, and I just felt really bad about it. I think that I felt that way first because I didn't have anybody pray for me before we began and second, because it was the last gathering of the year for us. All I know is I left really discouraged and depressed.

- Friday morning was rough. I was depressed Thursday night and I thought I'd feel better after a good night's sleep - but I didn't. I can't remember the last time I felt as depressed as I did when I woke up on Friday. I stayed in bed for about an hour, just wanting to never get out and never face the world again.

Of course I knew that wasn't a Godly attitude, so I prayed for awhile then I finally made myself get out of bed, do my stretches, then go for a nice long run, listening to worship music as I ran. That helped me get out of my funk, and I just kept praying all day and seeking God and by the evening, God had finally brought me out of my depression.

- I slept in on Saturday, went running, then cleaned up and went to my rental property in the Northeast to trim the lawn. It was REALLY windy on Saturday. I love working on the yard when it's windy because there's no cleanup ...the wind just picks up the grass and carries it away. Where does it go? I don't know and I really don't care because I didn't have to clean it up! =)

- This morning was our weekly church gathering. Craig and the worship team were awesome and Walter really brought it with his message "Hope for the Grieving." Here are some things that really stuck out to me from his message:
*Christ-mas tends to bring out two intense emotions: joy or sorrow. Christ-mas tends to emphasize sorrow.
*God is with me in my sorrow (Psalm 34:18)
*God is aware of my sorrow (Job 13:27)
*God cares about my sorrow (Nahum 1:7)
- Your pain matters to God!
* God wants to help me in my sorrow (Hebrews 14:16)
*The Bible doesn't say to pretend it doesn't hurt, and God doesn't expect you to always smile.
*Release it (grief) or it will eventually explode out anyway.
*Faith is not pretending everything's ok. It's facing the facts without getting discouraged.
1) Accept what can't be changed
2) Focus on what's left, not what's on lost
4. Rely on God's resources to comfort me
* Grieve in community.
* Paul doesn't say (in Romans 12:15) to give good advice or fix their problems; he says "go mourn with them."
* If you're in pain, you're not alone in your hurt. It's not unique, so open up and share with people who've already been where you are.
* If you're not in pain, you have an obligation to help others through the pain you've already been through.
* Time doesn't heal all wounds - only the Holy Spirit can do that.

- Today I found out that a dear friend of mine is in the hospital, most likely on her deathbed ...and her husband doesn't want visitors. That's hard because on the one hand, I think that he'd actually appreciate a visit but on the other hand, I want to respect his wishes.

So I won't be going to visit her ...but it's so sad that someone so faithful to God, someone who has still served faithfully even as cancer has attacked her several different times, will probably not be with us in 2009. Pray for Irene Tijerina, her husband Gilbert, and her daughter Kasey.

- Another lady I knew suddenly passed away this week - LuLu Cuellar. Pray for her husband Luis.

- There's a lot of grief in the world right now. Thank God that even in death, we have hope and we don't have to mourn as if we didn't!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday Five - Camera phone pics from this week

Today's Friday Five - my five favorite pics this week from my camera phone:

1. This is by far my most favorite pic of the week. It's from around noon on Tuesday when we got out first snow of the year!!!!!!!! It looks like rain on the windshield because it wasn't enough to collect on the ground, but it was still wonderful!


2. This one's from Monday; it's the Angel Tree from our lobby. We put it up for the Sunday after Thanksgiving and asked our church family to take the angels from it. We were blown away that on that Sunday - the week after we asked our church family to donate food for 106 Thanksgiving food baskets and the same Sunday that we asked our church family to bring food to stock up our food pantry - all the angels were taken. There were just over 300 angels on that tree! Way to go, Del Sol Church!


3. This was on Thursday after I had a lunch meeting with Buck Zengerle from Healing Place Church's El Paso campus. I was getting back on I-10 to head back to my side of the mountain and as I approached a traffic signal, I was just taken aback by the view of Mount Cristo Rey and it's sister mountains (Cristo Rey is the tallest peak, but the cross at the top is blocked by a light pole). How beautiful!


4. This was from Wednesday when I had lunch with my friend Daniel Day at The Bagel Shop down by UTEP. I was trying to get back to I-10 and I drove through UTEP to hit the Schuster on-ramp. It's hard to see but it's the big digital UTEP sign on the left and the poor colonias of Juarez, Mexico on the right. It's such a culture clash that you've got this big university and maybe 1,000 feet away is a poor neighborhood of a third world country. We are so blessed here in America!


5. This one's from today. I went by the office to drop off some Christ-mas cards and pick up my paycheck and when I was getting back into my car, I looked up and saw some fighter jets flying around in the skies. This is just one of the things I love about El Paso: Holloman Air Force base is so close and it's not uncommon to see those white streaks in the sky from the jets. Today was different though - I don't know if I've seen so many jets in the sky at the same time, but it looked pretty cool.


Monday, December 8, 2008

What a cool experience.

I just had a really cool experience a little while ago!

I was at SuperCuts getting my hair cleaned up a bit because I want it to grow out longer for the winter and they had some new people there. Now you should know that I had been intentionally going to the same stylist each time and had gotten to know the clerk so that if they wanted to, I could talk with them about God and invite them to Del Sol Church.

Of course I wasn't getting to know them just to invite them to church, because that would be pretty lame, but I had been getting to know them as people. Naturally, I was bummed when I found out that the people I had gotten to know weren't working there anymore.

So as I was waiting for them to call my name, I thought to myself "ok self, be open to what God's doing here" and I started thinking about how I could get to know the new people there. They called my name and this very nice guy named Robert ended up being my stylist. He was really friendly and outgoing, so that helped me be open to him. It really ended up being a divine appointment.

We talked for awhile about how long he had been a hairstylist and how he had moved from working on the Westside to working here on the Eastside. Then he asked what I do for a living ...and that's always a tricky thing to talk about because people tend to close up when I tell them I'm a pastor.

This guy, though, was really open to talking about church and started telling me about his journey and how he had been to different churches but just wasn't finding a place to connect. He told me that he wanted to come to DSC this Sunday.

I always carry invite cards with me in case I have the opportunity to invite someone to church, so I gave him one and asked him to come on Sunday and then give me a call so we can talk about the experience and so he can give me his honest feedback. As we were talking about it, the new clerk, Rush, came up and joined in our conversation and told me that "we need more people like you in this world because it's a messed up world." I replied "yeah, there's a lot of crap going on in this world and so we're here to bring hope to the community" and he really liked that [and he especially liked that I was a pastor and said "crap" =) ].

So I invited Rush and told him that if he ends up coming sometime, I'd love to hear his honest feedback about us because we're always looking to improve ourselves.

So I'm excited about Robert and Rush. I don't know if they were just being nice in saying they'd come to DSC sometime or if they're honestly seeking God, but I pray and hope that they will come this weekend and that they'll have a genuine experience with God. Pray for Robert and pray for Rush.

I'm excited to see what God's up to with these guys!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Sunday night mind purge

I feel really blessed. Really happy, joyful, content, and blessed. In my life are some of the greatest people in the world.

This has been kind of a slow week:
- Monday was pretty slow. I just did some stuff around the office.

- Tuesday was Youth for Christ at Hanks, and our weekly staff meeting. I LOVE our staff meetings. In case you don't know this, the DSC staff is made up of the greatest people in the world!

- Also on Tuesday, wee watched this amazing video about a woman named Catherine Rohr who gave up her career in New York to move to Houston and start the Prison Entrepreneurship Program, which helps prisoners succeed in life when they finish their prison terms. It was amazing story of how God uses anyone who is open to Him, obedient to Him, and bold for Him. She's changing the Texas prison system from the inside out.

- At staff, we also talked about people whose lives are changing, like a marriage that fell apart because of one of the spouses and how that spouse is now desperate to do anything to rebuild their marriage. That's what this is about, people! We do what we do at Del Sol Church to see people's lives changed when they have an encounter with God through Christ!

- Wednesday was an interesting day. I worked on some Christ-mas Eve invitation cards in the morning and then went to the Northeast to be with Cheryl and Savannah at their family member's funeral. I didn't know their family member but from the stories they told at the funeral, she must have been an amazing woman.

- Wednesday night was First Wednesday, our monthly communion service. We watched a video message from Gary Haugen on true justice and how God is a champion of justice and calls us to be involved in matters of justice. Gary is from the International Justice Mission, an organization that works to end atrocities like human trafficking and slavery in the world today. IJM is my favorite organization, but after the video we saw at staff on Tuesday, Prison Entrepreneurship Program is quickly becoming my third favorite, after IJM and Compassion International.

- Thursday morning I went to my orthodontist in Juarez for a checkup. I'll admit it is a bit disconcerting going to Juarez, but I've decided a long time ago that I'm not ever going to let fear get in my way and so something as simple as going to the orthodontist over there is my way of trusting God and not letting fear master me.

- Next I need to work on my fear of heights, insects, and needles! =)

- Friday was my day off. I slept in, then went for a run and was overcome with a sense of contentedness and joy as I ran. God is good. He is so good to me, and life is just great. I don't deserve to be so blessed.

- Friday was also my last day working at Parents' Night Out at the church. You can read about it here if you'd like.

- Saturday was a pretty great day. A pretty really great day. I slept in again, went for a nice long run, cleaned out my car and my parents cars, then spent the whole evening with some of my DSC peeps. We went to the city's Christ-mas tree lighting ceremony and parade, then we went and roamed through the Camino Real Hotel downtown, and then went to have dinner at Bassett Place's food court.

- I got home last night and couldn't sleep for awhile. I was overcome with gratitude to God for the people in my life, from my family to my friends to my church family to my fellow staff members. I seriously could not sleep - all I could do was pray and tell God how thankful I am for the people He's put in my life.

- I really don't deserve to be so blessed!

- Our church gathering this morning was great, and Walter's message was like a gut check. God's been speaking to me for awhile about increasing my giving, and in a time when the economy is so fragile and churches are not meeting their budgets, I feel I have a responsibility to step out in faith and increase my giving. I save more than I give, and I really don't think that's the way God would have me handle my money. He's blessed me so much and has always provided for me, and I know as I sacrifice and give a higher percentage, He'll keep providing for me.

- After church I went with a bunch of my youth to lunch at Cheddar's, and I was really upset that we had to sit at 2 booths instead of being put together at a table. Even though we were split, I enjoyed being with my youth. We'll have to try it again sometime soon at a place where we can all be together.

- I SERIOUSLY don't deserve to be so blessed!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Friday Five - Significant Events

It's Friday, and that means Friday Five. Yes I know I haven't done a Friday Five in a few weeks but now I'm back from my Friday Five hiatus!

Today, 5 significant events in my life that happened this week:

1. On Sunday I broke the big exciting good news to my youth: in January I will no longer be with youth ministry but will be leading up out endeavor to become a multi-site church by starting a second campus of Del Sol Church in the Northeast part of town. Talk about a big change! I'm a little scared and sad, but more excited than anything else about this.

2. Speaking of the Northeast, after 18 months of our house over there being without a tenant, tonight we finally had a family sign a contract to rent the house and leave some cash money. That means that in January, we'll have an additional income of $925 a month coming in and that will be a HUGE help since my dad's still out of a job and his unemployment insurance will run out pretty soon.

3. After 16 months of house-sitting every weekend (except maybe 3 or 4 when I was out of town) for a couple from my church, the wife finally came back home from being with her daughter up in Oregon to help her take care of her newborn baby. As nice as the money was, I'm really glad to not have to think about meal times for their pets anymore and plan my schedule around them either.

4. Tonight was my last night working at our "Parents Night Out" program. Every first Friday of the month for about 4 years, I've cared for 3rd-6th grade kids and even though I've enjoyed it (and the money), I prayed about it and knew that my time with PNO was over (long before God opened up the doors for me to lead our multi-site endeavor).

5. As for number 5? Well if 4 major life events wasn't enough for one week, I changed savings banks from EmigrantDirect which gives me a 3.00% interest rate to GMAC Bank which gives me a 3.75% rate. Gotta be a wise steward of my money, yo! =)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


"Who imagined the sun and gives source to its light, Yet conceals it to bring us the coolness of night? None can fathom" - Indescribable by Chris Tomlin

For some reason when I woke up this morning, those lyrics were the first waking thought of mine. I was "trippin' out" (as John David would say) about God's creativity and His hand in all our world - specifically, the sun.

Think about the sun: it's a huge burning ball of gases that the entire galaxy revolves around. If it was any closer, it would burn the world to a crisp, but any farther and we would freeze to death! We need it to grow plants, to warm our terrestrial globe, and to help our bodies produce necessary vitamins, and its light and warmth are necessary for our emotional health.

Its counterpart, the moon, appears after the sun "sets" for the evening and provides us a refreshing cool evening and reflects the sun, giving us just enough illumination so that we can enjoy the beautiful night sky.

Who but God could have been creative enough to think the sun up on their own? Seriously!?


Truly, God and His creation are indescribable!

"Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name."

"Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom." - Isaiah 40:26 & 28

Monday, December 1, 2008


What inspires you?

On my desk, right on top of my keyboard so I can see it everyday, I have this little business card I came across. On one side it's got the info for credit processing machines, but on the back it has this incredible artwork that really inspires me:

I don't know why it inspires me, but it does. I love the design, the colors, the shapes - for some reason this thing just really inspires me.

Something else that inspires me are old cars that still look like new. Check this thing out:

This is one sick car! It's kind of hard to tell, but this is a Lincoln Towncar from the 1980's - and it still looks like new! The paint is spotless, the body is intact, and the interior is pristine. It's so interesting and inspiring to see a car that's probably nearly 30 years old still be in such incredible shape.

Another thing that inspires me is digital artwork. There's just nothing like a simple yet compelling website like the new NorthPoint website , or Stonecreek Church, or the El Paso Human Society.

The website that inspires me the most though, is Barton Damer's "Already Been Chewed" website that you can check out be clicking here. Scroll down just a bit and check out his latest reviews.

So what inspires you?

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Sunday night mind purge

What a week! No rest for the weary, as they say.

- I ended up taking Monday off to rest after last weekend. It was the first day off in about 9 days for me. I went to see my doctor in the afternoon and found out the results of my blood tests. Nothing too major, but I am having to make some minor life changes.

- We also did some major Christ-mas decorating at the church and at the Firehouse on Monday. The campus is looking good!

- Tuesday I had some meetings, then did some finishing touches with a few youth at the Firehouse, and delivered Thanksgiving baskets in the evening with our youth:
As always, it was an AWESOME, humbling, fun experience!

- Wednesday I spent most of the day at the office, getting ready for the BIG exciting good news this morning. Also on Wednesday night, one of my brothers came in town for a few days, which was really nice since it'd been nearly half a year since he'd been here.

- Thursday was Thanksgiving day. It was a nice simple day at home.

- Friday I spent almost the whole day in Mexico with the Pryor family and a team that had come in from Colorado to do missions work in Juarez. I was kind of nervous at first since I hadn't been to Juarez in so long - and then when our bus was pulled over at the bridge and we had to get out for a search, well that made me a little more nervous. But we got through it, and we made our way to the mission site.

Boy was it windy and sandy! But we invested our day there serving people, loving them, and giving the kids Christ-mas gifts. It was so cool, we ran out of food but we had some leftovers from the previous day and right when we ran out of the last parts of the leftovers and used the last plates and napkins, we served the last person. It was a lot like the story where Jesus used the fish and loaves to feed the thousands:

I really enjoyed my day, and it was pretty cool getting to know little Sarah Pryor more when she opened up to me a little on the trip. I absolutely love being with the Pryors, but man do they know how to wear a person out!

- Yesterday I slept in past 8 am for the first time in a couple of weeks. THAT was really nice. Then I went for a nice long run, which I hadn't done in a few days. That was REALLY nice. I honestly don't remember what I did throughout the day, but I do know I went to Walmart in the evening and did some shopping and got some new lights for the Christ-mas tree.

- Today ...well ...let's just say it was not the easiest day for me. I do feel relieved though because I was finally able to break the good news: starting in January, I will begin transitioning out of the youth ministry into our multi-site ministry endeavor. As awesome as this news is and as excited as I am about it, that was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do.

When the time came around to begin our 9:30 am gathering, I was trembling and really nervous. I just shared my story, shared my heart, talked about what this is and what it isn't, and talked about what this will look like and how to pray during this time. After that, Troy said a few words and had everyone surround me to pray for me. That was a really cool time - as I felt the weight of all those hands on me, I felt like God was saying that as heavy as the weight is of my new responsibilities, even heavier is the weight of the love and support I have.

It's surreal though; it's hitting me now and it's finally beginning to feel like this is really real. So I'm scared, but confident. Nervous, yet secure. Sad, yet at peace. This really is a good thing, and I'm so excited to see how God's gonna use Troy in this time, and I pray that the Lord does even greater things than we've seen before after I complete my transition into my new ministry responsibilities.

If you were there this morning, remember this is not a bad thing, and this is NOT me leaving. Remember our mission, and remember that this is simply me being obedient to the Father.

- After our gatherings, I went to lunch with Kayla, David, and Leah Pryor, Stephen, and Marissa and Jonathan. We were there at Wendy's for like 3 hours, then I took them back to the Firehouse and came home. I didn't get to nap today, but I did get to finish decorating my main Christ-mas tree. In addition to the decorations, there's about 700 lights (though you can't see them all in this pic):
Christ-mas tree 08

I might end up getting some large pearl baubles to contrast and sparkle a bit more, but we'll have to see how my week goes.

- Now I'm ready for bed, goodnight!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

What a scene!

Oh my goodness! I drove up to my house a little bit ago and saw this scene on the lawn of my neighbor across the street:


This picture just just cracks me up!!!

That snowman on the top looks like a pretty big jerk, like he's a bookie beating down the other snowman 'cause he didn't pay him back in time. I can just hear him yelling "where's my money, punk!?!" at the snowman on the ground.

So I don't know if the wind just blew those snowmen that way or if some mischievous souls set them that way while my neighbor was away - but either way, I think this is hilarious!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving recap

So last night I wasn't sure if I was going to go to the Thanksgiving parade today, but Shannon Rivera invited me to go and watch it with her husband and kids, so I decided to go. It was actually pretty cool and I'm glad I went.

This is my favorite part of the parade ...the police cars at the start of the parade:


And of course the fire trucks were pretty sweet:



A tribute to the late, great Don Haskins:


And to El Paso native Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek:


And a massive monster truck:


All in all, it was a pretty good parade that I, along with about 315,000 of my fellow El Pasoans, enjoyed together.

Afterwards, I arrived home just in time to enjoy my mom's awesome lunch she made with ham, turkey, stuffing, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce, bread, and pumpkin pies. Oh gosh, it was awesome!

After eating, we talked about what we're grateful for, then put on the Cowboys game. I crashed on the couch, then moved to take a nap in my bed. I got up around 5 or so and hit up the food for a second round:


Then I brushed my teeth and pulled out the Christ-mas tree. It's kind of my tradition to put up the tree on Thanksgiving afternoon. After about an hour, this ...


became this ...

I'll have to put on the rest of the lights and the decorations this weekend.

So it's been a pretty sweet Thanksgiving for me. I'm thankful for many things:

- My family
- My parents who have been married over 36 years
- My friends
- My church
- My staff team and my youth leaders
- My Honda
- Food to eat
- Clean water to drink
- A warm home
- A comfy bed
- Music
- And so much more ...

"Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." - 1 Thessalonians 5:18