CCC blog

Posts Tagged ‘family’

The Story of a Roadside Memorial

“Daddy, look! A Pinwheel!”

Duncan squealed with glee at the sight of the pinwheel as we waited at the stop light. I looked over and saw the pinwheel, amidst the makeshift memorial for some unknown person. As habit, I said a brief prayer for the unknown victim’s family and friends.

Since moving into our home, in the fall of 2006, I’ve driven through the 132nd & Blondo intersection thousands of times. I stick to the same pattern when driving on it. When heading west on Blondo, people usually get in the left lane since the road goes from four lanes to two soon after the intersection. This can cause backup at the intersection, so people will line up in the right lane attempting to speed ahead of all the cars in the left lane. The cars in the left lane don’t want to be passed, so they speed ahead as well trying to not let the cars in the right lane merge. All while doing this at 40-50 mph in a metal object. (more…)

The Power of Sabbath

About a year ago, I started having my Sabbath on Mondays. The great thing about having it on Mondays was it became a real Sabbath. Before, when it was on Sundays, it wasn’t a day of rest. Because of my work as a pastor, Sundays were always a work day of some sort. Yes, I could rest Sunday afternoons, sometimes, but the Sabbath is suppose to be about an entire day of rest.

You would think this would be an easy principle/law for Christians to follow, but it isn’t. I’m surprised by how many people in the church think taking a Sabbath isn’t a reality for today. I find this odd. Even when I made the switch to Mondays, one individual (who has been a Christian for a long time) asked me if it was really necessary to have a day off during the week. Yes, yes it is. Just because you choose not to take a Sabbath, doesn’t mean I should abide by your faulty thinking. Sunday is a work day for me. If I didn’t take Monday off, there wouldn’t be a day off from work. (more…)

Beyond The Message: Balancing Family and Commitments

In the latest Beyond The Message, Middle School Pastor Klint Bitter and I talk a bit about how parents have to be intentional about balancing their families and their kids’ activities/commitments.

Being Proven Wrong, Thankfully

Being the Online Campus Pastor I often hear a lot of jokes about what my job entails. They are usually the same jokes with slight variations.

“You’re an Online Campus Pastor? What do you do all day? Facebook? Surf the web? Drink coffee?”

I roll with it. What am I going to say, that Facebook, surfing the web and drinking coffee aren’t part of the job? (Okay, drinking coffee isn’t part of my job requirements. However, don’t be surprised if the local Starbucks is the next CCC multi-site.) (more…)

Liam’s Lessons: The Life of Moses (Plus Star Wars, Lego and “The Prince of Egypt”)

Project 4:4 continues to be fun for our family. I’ve been reading the Children’s Bible to my boys. Every so often, I sit down with Liam to talk about what he is learning from the daily readings. We have recorded a number of these videos, but sometimes I forget to post them on the blog. It’s cool to see and hear Liam process the readings, and mix-in some pop culture as well. This video is no different, as Liam talks about Moses and segues into The Prince of Egypt, Star Wars and Lego.

Enjoy.

Guest Post: Making of the Wandering in the Desert Video

This is an excerpt from a post written by Anna Wastell. She is the Communications Director for Christ Community Church.

A few weeks ago I got to interview a woman that attends our church. I do a couple of interviews each month and typically go into them knowing the story I’m looking for. A specific experience with a group, or a certain angle on a situation – I’ve developed strategies for asking natural-seeming questions to get the story arc I want.

We’ve been working on a video piece to accompany a sermon on The Land Between from Numbers 11, one that tells the story of a person in the midst of the land between. It’s not a happy place, that land. It’s generally one ripe with complaints and emotional meltdown, but it’s also one where God can work the most powerfully.

I didn’t know much about her going into this interview; I had no idea where this story would arc, so I just had to trust God to direct this one. Her story is that of a childhood sexual abuse victim who was never taught to deal with what happened to her, who tangled herself in a web of lies and self-destructive behavior as an adult, who spent many years of her life wandering looking for only God knows what. But along the way, in the midst of the wandering, God was working in big ways. She landed in a career networking group at church and she found Jesus. She found truth. And she told her own story perfectly, with choice, precise words and with a gut-wrenching level of vulnerability. I was honored that she trusted me with her story.

We’re telling this story anonymously, so wanted some pretty b-roll to cover up some of the shots, places where her face would normally be seen. Our video guys took me out to a dirt road outside of Omaha at dusk one evening to capture the wandering of her story. It was a gorgeous Indian-Winter January evening. The road and fields we were on (sorry, Farmer) will play as desolate and lonely as we need them to in the video, but standing out in the middle of nowhere Nebraska in real life, the wind blowing my hair and my eyes squinting against the warm sun, with the sky wide open, I couldn’t help but sense just how vast the love of God really is, just how perfectly He wrote the big story

Beyond The Message: Christmas & Grief

While Christmas is synonymous with joy and times with loved ones, the holiday season can be painful for a lot of people. I sit down with Tim Perry to talk about loneliness, grief and pain that is associated with Christmas. Tim shares personally some of the thoughts and emotions he is experiencing since this is the first Christmas without either of his parents. Incredibly grateful for Tim sharing with me.

Forgiving my Grandfather, a Pedophile

This could be another stream of consciousness post, so please bear with me. I am also going to be general, purposefully, with some of this. I’d been meaning to write this for awhile, but the sexual abuse scandal enveloping Penn State implored me to do so finally.

I first heard about the scandal on Twitter while watching the Nebraska vs Northwestern game. I read the story and immediately I could not focus on the game. All I could think of were the children who had their lives (allegedly, although indicted by a grand jury) shattered by Jerry Sandusky. I was also upset by the apparent negligence shown by various leaders at Penn State University. Upset is not a strong enough word, I was enraged. There was a reason I was feeling enraged.

This past spring, my grandfather passed away on my mom’s side of the family. This might be a surprise to many of you since I didn’t talk about his death, let alone ever mention my grandfather. A standard line of mine was that I grew up without grandfathers. In one sense, this is true. Both my grandfathers’ lives impacted mine deeply. This is a post about the grandfather that affected my life more adversely.

What I believe to be my earliest memory is me pretending to be asleep. I’m in my bedroom at the house I grew up in on Chicago St, here in Omaha. I had been napping. There is commotion in my room, and for some reason I keep my eyes shut. My grandfather is in the room, as well as some of my cousins from that side of the family. How long had they been in there? Who was in there first? No idea. I just pretended to sleep as they then tried to rouse me awake. They all left the room, and I waited for the quiet. Once it was still, I got up and left the room to join everyone else downstairs. (more…)

The Dark Side of the Ministry Life

I love my calling. I love my job. I love being a pastor. I have fond memories of when I was missionary working overseas and here in America. It’s hard to imagine living any other life than the one I have. But I also know there is a danger with that life.

I saw a recent post which highlighted the struggles a number of people face while working in ministry. The following stats are courtesy of PastorBurnout.com.

  • 40% of pastors and 47% of spouses are suffering from burnout, frantic schedules, and/or unrealistic expectations.
  • 45% of pastors’ wives say the greatest danger to them and their family is physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual burnout.
  • 45% of pastors say that they’ve experienced depression or burnout to the extent that they needed to take a leave of absence from ministry.
  • 50% feel unable to meet the needs of the job.
  • 52% of pastors say they and their spouses believe that being in pastoral ministry is hazardous to their family’s well-being and health.
  • 56% of pastors’ wives say that they have no close friends.
  • 57% would leave the pastorate if they had somewhere else to go or some other vocation they could do.
  • 70% don’t have any close friends.
  • 75% report severe stress causing anguish, worry, bewilderment, anger, depression, fear, and alienation.
  • 80% of pastors say they have insufficient time with their spouse.
  • 80% believe that pastoral ministry affects their families negatively.
  • 90% feel unqualified or poorly prepared for ministry.
  • 90% work more than 50 hours a week.
  • 94% feel under pressure to have a perfect family.

It’s no wonder people I’ve talked to about working full-time in ministry have reservations. They’ve seen and/or heard horror stories of what it can be like. (I have my own horror stories!) Why is that? Because the work is crucial.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
(John 10:10 ESV)

When God calls someone, He calls them to fulfill His mission. He calls them to love, serve and reach out to people in need. This kind of work will draw someone into spiritual warfare with the Enemy. If someone doesn’t take necessary precaution, they could open themselves, and their family, to unnecessary harm.

One thing I appreciate about working at Christ Community Church is the culture and environment that has been established by Lead Pastor Mark Ashton. Mark has a high standard of excellence he wants the staff to reach. He pushes us to serve and sacrifice. However, he also expects the staff to take Sabbaths. He expects the staff to focus on their marriage and family if they are married and/or have kids. He hopes that staff take time to focus on their own relationship with God, and are plugged into a Journey Group. He schedules times for staff development and has Q&A with the staff. He is leading us in pursuit of God and not in pursuit of keeping the status quo.

When I interact with Mark, or I interact with another leader, like Pastor Steve Walters, those guys are always asking about how I am doing, how my marriage is, and if things are going well with my kids. Of course, they are concerned that I am doing my job and staying on mission with it, but they are more concerned that I, and my family, are mentally/emotionally/physically/spiritually healthy. A few years ago when I backed off some commitments at church, to focus in on my family’s health, I received some criticism for doing so. Mark and Steve encouraged me for making that choice. My family is better off, I am better off, and my work is better off for making that decision.

I think this is one reason why the average length of stay, for a CCC staff member, is five years. While that may not seem like a long time, it is twice the average for a staff person at a church of comparable size. Staff enjoy working here and being a part of what God is doing here. The spiritual health of the staff is important. Are their difficulties here? Of course. Are their conflicts between staff at times? Of course. However, I think staff realize how good it is here. CCC is not perfect, but it is good.

The above statistics are something we must be on guard for at all times. It’s never obvious, it’s a slow drift into depression and burnout. It’s a slow drift into a strained marriage and family. It’s one reason why my wife and I are always militant to make sure we set boundaries. We set boundaries with our Sabbath. We set boundaries for our family. We make sure to have times of prayer, individually and corporately. We make sure we have healthy friendships. We don’t want to fit those things into the rest of our schedule, the rest of our schedule needs to fit around those necessary things.

When we make sure we are centered on Jesus, and we are taking care of our own and family’s spiritual health, it is easier to endure the spiritual warfare that will come. And it will come because the mission of reaching, helping and serving the world around us is great. However, it doesn’t need to defeat us.

It is also easier when your leadership makes sure your spiritual health is a priority. CCC makes sure this is a priority, and the trickle down effect is the people CCC interacts with, and reaches, will reap the benefits of a spiritually healthy leadership.

I want you to know that from the top down, here at CCC, we do our best to make sure we are healthy so we can lead/serve at our optimum best for Jesus.

Honoring Caleb, Supporting his Family, Responding to Westboro

This morning was unique in Christ Community Church’s history. The funeral service for US Navy SEAL Caleb Nelson was held in the Worship Center, with over 1,000 in attendance. The pageantry of the military funeral, and the veterans who came to line the road by holding American flags, was amazing and induced awe within me. Several media were in attendance to cover the service. While that was going on, down at the main intersection into Old Mill, you had a handful of individuals from Westboro Baptist picketing the funeral for their own reasons.

When I was driving into work, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I pulled into the Student Center parking lot, and from there I saw the Patriot Guard Riders. Their motorcycles were lined up in the back parking lot. I think there was roughly 120 of them. Amazing to see. They started making their way to the front of the church and lining the road near the entrance of the church. They all had American flags and stood with dignity and respect before the service.

Staff were asked to serve throughout the funeral. I ended up opening the front doors for people entering and exiting. I stood outside and watched the Patriot Guard Riders, along with soldiers and military personnel, set up and set a respectful and honoring tone to the proceedings. It induced a sense of awe in me to see these military men and women rally around the memory of Caleb Nelson and be a loving support to his wife, two sons, and other family. It was a beautiful thing to witness.

I had to pull away for a short time for a meeting at the local Starbucks. On the way there, I saw the small group of Westboro protesters. Inconsequential to say the least. Two, maybe three people? I tried to comprehend why they do what they do, but that is an effort in futility. When your business plan is to bait people to attack you, so you can sue them, it’s not something that makes a whole lot of sense.

Answer not a fool according to his folly,
lest you be like him yourself.
Answer a fool according to his folly,
lest he be wise in his own eyes.

-Proverbs 26:4-5

What would our response be to Westboro Baptist? Nothing. I know some churches and organizations have tried to engage them in dialog, but not on a day like this. This day was about honoring Caleb Nelson, not giving Westboro more attention. As a church, we asked that people just ignore them. They had their little protest far away from the church, nothing more.

What was cool was a group of people standing across the street to support the military, Caleb and his family. They were peacefully protesting Westboro. At the red light, I flashed them a thumbs up and got a smile from one of the individuals that saw me.

One of my friends, who fought in Iraq, was upset when I told him about the Westboro protest. However, he added at the end of his rant, we fight for their freedom to protest. He understood, even if he hated much of what they stand for as an organization.

When I came back to the church, the protestors were gone. (Good, no more talk about Westboro.) There were four huge groups of people lining the road with flags and signs supporting Caleb, his family and the military. Very cool to see. Just people wanting to show their support in some tangible way.

I went back inside CCC, and the Worship Center was packed. They were showing a video tribute to Caleb. Wonderful photos of him with his wife and two sons, his parents and fellow military personnel. After seeing one photo of him with his two boys, I found myself saying a prayer for them.

At the end of the video tribute was a passage from Isaiah.

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”
-Isaiah 6:8

That was Caleb. He answered the call.

Outside in the hall, I was hearing from others what had been shared during the service. In summation, Caleb represented everything that is good with the military. He represented everything that is good with being a father, husband and son. He represented everything that is good with being a Christian.

Some of the staff knew Caleb when he was a kid, and the knew his family well. They were telling me more stories about Caleb. As one pastor put it, “Caleb was the kind of man you hope your daughter marries.”

Caleb’s father, Larry Nelson, led the service with grace. Well done by him. (He is the pastor at Millard Alliance Church.)

The overflowing attendance by family, friends and military speaks to the kind of man Caleb was. Some of the media covering the service exited in tears at the testimony of Caleb’s life.

The closing song was “How Great Thou Art”. The words rang true.

And when I think that God, His Son not sparing,
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin:

When Christ shall come with shouts of acclamation
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow in humble adoration,
And there proclaim, my God, how great Thou art!

Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee:
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

May God bless and protect Caleb’s wife and two sons. May those boys know the kind of man their father was and be proud of him. May Caleb’s life and story continue to be told, and may it be an inspiration to many and draw people closer to Jesus.

Amen.

This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.”

-Selection from St. Crispin’s Day Speech, Henry V (Act IV scene iii)