The Super Bowl is this Sunday! Personally I don’t see what all the hype is about. In the past we have never scheduled to have such lavish parties and gatherings. I thought we were growing out of this stage in America.

Yet we will gather around our TVs in anticipation. All to see if the groundhog sees his shadow or not. I’m cheering for the little guy to not see it. Not because I don’t want more winter…I just don’t like seeing him so frightened.

What’s that? I’m getting told the groundhog has nothing to do with the Super Bowl. Who knew?

The Super Bowl is one of America’s favorite festivities. Even those who don’t watch football still gather together with other people in their homes, churches, restaurants or anywhere else the game is playing to have a great time.

We eat foods we now associate with the big game. Chips and cheese, certain dips are made, soups, sandwiches, or smokies are all snacks I’ve witnessed. It really can be a great time with friends and family.

However the game isn’t a glamorous time for everyone. Not for the innocent people who are being forced to prostitute themselves before, during, and after the game. Prostitution is known to skyrocket in the city of the big game.

With a higher “target audience” those in charge make sure there are plenty of women available to fill the “need.”

It’s sick and wrong. It makes my heart heavy and my stomach turn.

In the past people have looked at prostitutes as immoral women, flaunting their bodies around just to make a buck. But no woman grows up wanting to live like that. She’s forced to, either because she has genuinely seen no other way out of a crisis or she’s been abducted and trafficked. And it does happen in the USA. We are not immune, but we have been blind.

I bring all this up, not to shame you for enjoying the Super Bowl. It’s not so you skip out on meeting together and rooting on your team or to make you feel guilty for having a good time.

I bring it up because the reality is, these horrific acts are happening every year and we as a nation have turned a blind eye. Without being informed of the situation, it can never change. And when we are informed, we must do something.

Maybe its praying. Start praying for these girls. That they may be freed. That they can come to know how they are worth so much more than they have been told.

You can help raise awareness. Find information and share it. Like a Facebook page so you become more aware yourself and share the information with others. Write a blog post. Talk with friends and family. The Covering House is an organization based in St. Louis that works to free and protect women who have been trafficked.

Donate Money to the cause. It is definitely a cause worth some investment. It takes finances to push any cause along. Partner with an organization working to end sex trafficking.

Volunteer. Another way you can help is by volunteering time and energy. You may not be able to help directly with a safe house or with the women who are being protected (for safety reasons) but there are many ways you can volunteer. Just contact an organization like The Covering House to see how you can help.

Don’t pass up the opportunity to make a difference. The situations are real. The need is great. This is a terrible human injustice and it needs to be stopped.

You can still enjoy the big game this Sunday but please don’t forget those who are not able to enjoy it. Take a stand for individuals who are unable to do it on their own.

What other organizations do you know of that combat sex-trafficking? What other ways do you know of to help?

This post started as a Facebook status. As it grew I realized it may fit better as a blog post. People tend to be more okay with blog posts being lengthy. 

It’s alright you can admit when you see a long status you think, “oh for crying out loud! Just tell me you are in a good mood and then move on!” So here it is!

 

On the morning of Monday August 22, 2011 we left out house in Curryville, MO and headed 4 hours south to begin a new chapter in our lives. It is a strange feeling, knowing everything you own is in a U-haul and a couple cars. It was a bit scary because we had not really lived away from family, and this was a place we didn’t really know.

The bootheel of Missouri is a strange land. Erase from your mind anything you know about southern, MO (aka Branson and rolling hills filled with trees). The bootheel is flat, farmland. I didn’t even know cotton was grown in Missouri until we moved down here!

But it has been amazing and became home so quickly for us! Noah began to really walk as we unpacked boxes. We celebrated his first birthday here. The only home Aaron has ever known is right here. Those in the church made us feel welcome immediately! We have had so many help us and encourage us these last couple years. We are truly blessed by everyone here! 

The ministry position I get to work in is amazing! I can’t imagine doing anything else. I love doing Youth Ministry and I especially love doing it here in Malden! The average Youth Minister stays in a position for 18-24 months. I’ve said from the beginning that I’m out to smash that number. I want to help bring it way up! 

It takes a while to really get the ball rolling when working in ministry. People have an idea of what my job should look like. They have the example of those who came before me. People can look at me and think, “Who does he think he is coming in here and telling us what to do? He’s not from around here.” I’ve not really experienced that here, but I have taken things slowly.

We have so many kids involved with youth group. They are growing and challenging each other. It is so amazing to watch! I’m excited to continue the ministry here.

Basically this post is a very small update to celebrate living here in the bootheel for 2 years. We are so excited to see what God has in store for our future as we continue the work he has laid before us.

Thanks for all those who pray for us!

Chasing After Your Dreams

August 16, 2013

What is a goal that you have set for yourself? We all have at least one.

Maybe your goal/dream has to do with your appearance. You want to lose weight.

Or a location where you would like to live.

Perhaps a job you desire.

Sometimes we set them so lofty and we just think, “Ya that would be nice, but…” and then we make an excuse about why that dream could never come true.

But why not? Why couldn’t that dream come true? What is keeping you from pursuing it?

Dreams take sacrifices on our part to come true. Many times we just expect them to land in our lap with no effort on our part. We see the fame and fortune of others and wonder, “Why can’t that kind of thing happen to me?” We see the overnight success of a group of people and become frustrated.

I heard an interview with the band fun. where they talked about the truth of their “overnight success.” They had all been in failing bands before and it took years for them to get to where they are now.

The truth is, in most cases, it takes a lot of really hard work to achieve your goals. It is rarely easy.

For those people who don’t work hard and achieve “success,” they will likely fail fast unless they learn to work hard at keeping it.

Nothing comes easy. But we must make the decision to not let bumps or roadblocks stop us along the way.

I truly believe God has given us each dreams. He wants us to pursue after them and use them for His glory. Even with God giving us these dreams, it doesn’t mean they will be easy things to do.

What in life that’s worth anything is easy? The hard work makes the success that much more wonderful.

In order to reach our goals, we have to start. We have to break out of our normal routines and begin to chase after our dreams. Set small goals for yourself. What are checkpoints you can set for yourself to gauge if you are headed the right way.

Set those small goals and that will make the long road ahead more endurable. It will give you glimpses of hope when your dream seems so far away.

Pursue it though! Break free from normal, and chase the amazing dream that God has placed in your life.

What are your dreams? What is keeping you from chasing after them?

Community is essential

August 15, 2013

I’m one of those guys who thinks I can do things on my own.  I’ve never been much for working in groups. Mostly that’s because I always seemed to get stuck in a group with kids who didn’t want to work……and I liked good grades.

Or when I start something new, sometimes I don’t like to tell people. I don’t want them finding out until I’m perfect at it. I’m finding, though, not telling anyone sets me up for failure though. I have no accountability, no strength to keep myself going when my activity gets difficult.

However, when I tell others, I’m more likely to keep going. They help me to push forward when the initial excitement is over.

My success rate is even higher when I find someone to start with me.

I think this is true for all of us. We were made for community. We need other people. Some of us need more people than others, but all of us need at least one person in our lives to help push us forward. 

We desire companionship with others, a friend to lean on and go through life experiences with. It is a wonderful thing to find that companion.

We really do succeed more with others. 

This is one reason I don’t understand why people decide to not be a part of the church. 

“I’m a Christian but I hate the church and I don’t need it.” But the church is a community of people all trying to live this Christian life together. 

Yes, it’s true the people in the church are flawed. It’s true some churches do a better job than others at living out the Christian life. But we shouldn’t be so quick to write them all off.

When we find that group of people who will build us up to keep pressing forward to the prize that God has promised for a faithful life in Christ, it is the find of a lifetime!

Community is a part of who God is: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Why would we even want to go through life alone? Why would we want to live out our faith separately from the body of Christ?

Get plugged in somewhere. If you are starting a new activity, clue someone in to help you along the way, someone you can trust to push you when you don’t want to be pushed. 

If you are a Christian, find a community of believers. Help each others live out your faith. It is a lot easier to do this with others to help you along.

Do you even let other people’s expectations get in the way of what you know you should be doing? 

Maybe it is at a job and your employer expects more than what was discussed for your job description. They present you with task after task and it gets in the way of your actual job.

It could be at home, school, your friends, or other family members. 

Perhaps it is the other way though. Maybe in one of these areas, nobody really expects much of you. They don’t really expect you to do much and that starts to get in your head.

Many times I find myself in the second category. Nobody really expects a youth minister to amount to too much. Sure, they expect me to get lessons planned and events lined out. But beyond that. I’m the “youth guy.” Youth ministers are messy, unorganized, not really all that disciplined, not punctual, and childish. 

Then, when a youth minister shows some initiative it can be suspected, “oh they won’t be here for long. Looks like they are trying to move up to something bigger.” Of course “something bigger” refers to a senior minister position. 

What about a youth minister who just wants to to an excellent job at his ministry? What about a guy who wants to be a superb husband and father? 

I’m currently taking part in something called The Start Experiment. Those of us involved have decided to stop living a mediocre life and to trade it in for awesome.

As part of this round I’ve decided to get up at 5am every day. I’m going to run. I’m planning out specific times with my wife as well as each of my boys. As always, I am going to work hard at my job. I’m currently working on getting lessons finalized for this semester. 

I want to make the most of the life God has laid out for me. I want to use my time wisely and effectively. It wont be easy. This is day two of my 5 AM wake up, and it was so difficult to get out of bed and go for that run. 

There will be other things that will attempt to get in the way of my goals, but I can’t let them dictate what I know to be right. I can’t let other people’s expectations (too many, or not enough) hold me back. I can’t let fear of the unknown or what others may think stop me. 

Others may not always understand why we live the way we do, especially when we decide to leave the ordinary behind. But we must pursue what God has given us to live, no matter how crazy it seems to others.

No matter what they have decided our life should be.

So go after it! Life audaciously! Pursue awesome! Live the life God has prepared for you!

People who know me know I’m a Youth Minister. I work for a church and am in charge of lesson planning, recruiting, and activity planning for the youth group. I absolutely love my job and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. 

Not everyone feels that way about Youth Ministers. I know people who view this job as a stepping stone to become the lead minister. Others (who are not in ministry) sometimes as when I’m going to become a “real” pastor or when I plan on moving up.

There are times when people have referred to my job as “just” the youth minister.

For a while I let that kind of thing get to me. Just the youth minister? Is it some sort of lesser calling than other kinds of ministry? What do they mean by throwing in that 4 letter “j” word?

When people use that in reference to what you do, it makes a person feel lesser in some way.

Just the teacher’s aide,

Just a general practice doctor,

Just a volunteer,

Just a musician,

Just a writer,

and on and on we go.

Let me tell you though, you are not just anything! 

If you are following the call of God in your life then what you are doing matters. If you are using the gifts our Father has given you, then there is no insignificant way you are contributing.

God has a place for each of us in life. He has a call and a purpose for us all. When we listen to that call, people may not understand. They may try to guilt you into doing something “greater.” The problem with that is when we are following God’s lead, there is absolutely nothing greater we could be doing!

If you have been listening to the lies others have been telling you, that your call from God isn’t big enough or isn’t good enough, tune them out. 

Run from those voices. Plug your ears while singing “lalalalala.” 

God has given you a purpose to fulfill. Our responsibility is to live it out, no matter what other people are saying about it.

If you have been avoiding your call because of what others might say or do, push through that barrier. 

There is no greater place to be than in God’s will.

You aren’t just anything.

Life is Messy

July 26, 2013

Life is messy.

Some of you may read that line and think, “Duh Brandon. I think you are a little behind.”

Truth be told, I might be.

There are times (and they come way more often than not) that things do not go exactly as planned. Our plans may conflict with someone else’s. The kids may have a different idea for nap time. Time may get away from us. We get fired. Family and work may pull us in different directions. Car troubles pop up. 

I heard someone say this week, “If it’s not one thing it’s ten things.”

We just cannot always plan for everything.

Now don’t hear me saying that we should never plan ahead. Planning is good. Being prepared for the future is a good idea.

Go ahead and set money back.

Make goals.

Decide to reconnect with friends a year from now.

It’s a good idea for us to be thinking about the future. However, don’t be too frustrated when everything does not work out exactly as you had planned. More often than not, there are bumps along the way. 

And that’s okay.

Those bumps or twists and turns make for great opportunities to grow. Our character can mature and develop as a result of these unforeseen circumstances.

The road may twist in a way that leads to even better opportunities than you could have imagined.

That is not to say the bumps are not difficult. Often they can be very trying. They can test us and push us in ways we don’t want to be pushed.

But when we face these trials as opportunities to grow, we can face them with a fresh perspective.

I will be the first to tell you I do not like change. I squirm at changes in my pace and sometimes I down right hate when things don’t go as planned. 

But when I refuse to let it get under my skin, then I continue to take advantage of the opportunity. I come out of the situation stronger. It’s not easy. It is doable though and even good for us.

So keep your head up if you are facing situations different than you had planned. Keep pushing forward, and look to see what can be learned where you are.

It may surprise you how this can help you in the future.

 

On Sunday night the teens that went to CIY had the opportunity to get up in front of the church and share about the week. It’s really cool being a part of a church that cares about the teens.

I was able to get up and share a little about CIY and the different ministries they perform. If you are hearing about them for the first time click here and you can head over to their webpage. Then the floor was open to each of the teens to talk about their week and we opened it up for the adults to ask questions.

The part of the trip everyone was most interested in were the Kingdom Worker cars.

CIY has a passion to help young people grow in their walk with Christ. They desire to see life change happen, not just at their events but long after each of the kids have left the conference. They encourage everyone to take steps to advance the Kingdom of God.

One way they get the ball rolling is by giving everyone a Kingdom Worker Card. This card comes sealed in an envelope. On it, is some way the teens will be challenged to trust God and advance His Kingdom. The teens know if they open the card, they are committing to doing whatever is inside.

Want to know what was on the cards that have been opened so far by our group?

Read 1 chapter from Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John everyday for the next school year.

Adopt a widow or widower from the church to invite over for holiday meals for the next year.

Lead 4 lessons over the next year in youth group.

Tutor a group of Jr. High students in a subject or activity you are good at.

Raise $2,500 to help 10 non-churched friends to go to CIY next year.

Isn’t that incredible?! Each of these students has quite a challenge ahead of them. Each of these tasks will require commitment to complete, and each will have an impact on their lives as well as the lives of people around them.

They have decided to leave the pew sitting “Christianity” behind and trade it in for an active faith. They want to change the world for Christ.

One girl, before getting a card, told my wife she wants to raise $2,000 to Central India Christian Mission to help send a guy through Bible College so he can plant churches in India.

Another girl, before getting her card, said she wants to share her testimony with a group of people. She wants the opportunity to share about how Jesus has changed her! She knows it will be hard, and maybe even scary, but none-the-less wants to do it.

These teens are an inspiration, and they are everywhere across our country, and even the world! They are serious about their faith and want to reach others for Christ.

If that does not get you motivated, I don’t know what will.

Christ has called us to more than going to a 9-5 job, coming home and watching TV until it’s time to go to bed. He’s called us to more than just going to church on Sunday’s and maybe Wednesdays.

We are called “for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10b). We are called to trust in our creator and go into our world, spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ.

It is amazing that these teens have the desire to make a difference. It’s not so they look amazing, or even because the tasks are all that glamorous, because in some cases they are not.

They want to do this work because they love God and have come to salvation and want to see the same change happen in others.

As an adult, that drives me to live out my faith a little more. If a teenager has the faith and courage to pursue a walk with Christ in his everyday life, what is stopping me?

Who can I share Jesus with today?

How can I serve someone?

What needs can I meet in the name of Christ?

What about you?

What can you do to make a difference for the Kingdom?

How can you be a Kingdom Worker?

Joseph’s Example

July 22, 2013

This last week my wife and I took a group of high school students to Longview, TX to attend CIY (Christ in Youth). 

Guys, it was downright awesome!

I’ve attended CIY in the past and enjoyed it. This was the largest group that we’ve taken and it was the best conference I have been to yet. 

The whole week we looked at the life of Joseph. Joseph was the son of Jacob (Israel) in the Old Testament. His story can be found in Genesis 37-50. Here’s how his story goes in a nutshell.

He was Jacob’s favorite son.

His brothers hated him.

His father gave him a coat.

His brothers hated him more.

He had dreams that one day his family would bow before him.

His brothers wanted him dead.

He was thrown in a bit by his brothers and sold into slavery by them.

He was sold in Egypt and ended up a slave in Potiphar’s house (the captain of the guard.)

Potiphar’s wife wanted to sleep with Joseph but he refused.

Potiphar had Joseph thrown in prison on a false accusation of trying to rape his wife.

Joseph interpreted dreams in prison but remained there for several years.

Joseph interpreted the Pharaoh’s dreams and was made 2nd in command in all of Egypt.

His brothers came and bowed before him.

He revealed himself to them, displayed his forgiveness and they all lived in Egypt for the rest of their lives.

You can see why his story takes up so much of Genesis. 

Through all circumstances Joseph never gave up on God. When Potiphar’s wife tempted him day after day, he responded “How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?” He didn’t say, “Well God has left me here, I enjoy a good time with a beautiful woman, so okay. God will hopefully overlook this.” 

After being in prison for so long and then being brought before Pharaoh, Joseph still had not lost sight of who God was. When Pharaoh told Joseph he heard Joseph could interpret dreams Joseph said, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.” 

In other words, “No, I can’t. But God can.”

Joseph knew that God was in complete control of his life, no matter what was happening.

When bad things start happening to us, we look to God and blame Him. We yell at Him. We refuse to follow Him until He changes our situation. We compromise, believing God will understand because we have it so hard.

As Christians, that is not the response we should have. Joseph was in a pit, sold into slavery, and in prison, but never turned his back on God. 

I’m not saying we don’t face hardships in our lives. I’m not trying to downplay the difficulties you may currently be facing. None of that, though, excuses a lack of faith in God. 

God is faithful in all circumstances. We may not be able to see Him, or feel Him, but when we are carrying out His will, you can guarantee He is there.

God is faithful and that requires we are as well. We must be faithful followers in every circumstance we find ourselves. No situation is an excuse for us to leave the will of God.

So stand up! Rise up and carry out the will of God. There are people all around this world doing what you are doing every single day. 

As Christians, we are a part of the Kingdom of God. He has a plan for each of us. He has a purpose for us and he wants us to complete the work he has laid before us. 

Be faithful with the work He has given you. 

Be a Kingdom Worker.

Let’s face it. There are days when we all have to do things we just do not want to do.

It’s not always easy to get up in the morning. You may have had:

a restless night

a child kept you up

a bad dream

“baggage” carried over from yesterday

or any number of situations which cause you to want to stay in bed.

Perhaps going to work isn’t the problem for you. Maybe there is a task you just are not looking forward to doing. There might be a person you want to avoid at all costs. Maybe it’s a phone call you are dreading.

Whatever it is, I think we can agree there are days we just don’t want to do the things we need to do. Everything seems more difficult on those days. Communication and interacting with anyone seems that much more labored.

Well there is some good news!

You are not alone!

You are not the first person to feel the way you do. You are probably not the only person to be feeling that way at this very moment. There are others like you who have something in their lives they are dreading.

Also, it’s okay to be feeling this way.

Often, we as Christians, are expected to be in a constant state of feeling great. It doesn’t matter what situations surround us, other people expect us to be smiling and cheerful, ready for anything under the sky because Jesus has saved us from those days of feeling bad.

Or when we are allowed to feel bad, the grace period does not last very long. I’ve actually heard people say things like, “I know they went through a divorce, but that was a 6 months ago, he needs to be getting over it by now.”

Other people can easily make your “blah” days feel as if you are committing a terrible sin. You are not!

Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, prayed to God that He would not have to go through what He knew was going to happen. Our Savior had an obstacle to face that He just did not want to face. What a reassuring thought!

Now this is where it gets tricky. The uncertainty is normal. The lack of motivation is also normal. Everyone goes through periods of their lives when they are not quite as motivated. We all have our giants to face that we would rather not.

At some point though, we need to face the giant.

The phone call we need to make is not going to magically go away.

The conversation we need to have with an employee about his conduct at work wont resolve itself.

The chapter we are writing wont just finish itself.

Whatever it is we need to face. Whatever it is that is glaring down at us, causing us to hesitate, will continue to be there until we take care of it.

As I mentioned before, Jesus did not want to endure all he was getting ready to endure. He was in turmoil about it. But He did. He faced it head on, and as a result, each of us can be saved.

Each of us have been given certain tasks in our lives to accomplish. They can help grow our character or walk with Christ. They can make us stronger so we can face larger problems in the future.

Whatever you are facing that you may not want to, take courage. Stand strong, and face your situation. If you need to, find someone in your life who can encourage you through it. It is always better to face a trial with somebody.

I’m not trying to trivialize what you are experiencing. I understand that the situation is difficult. It may take great strength to just move through the day. But keep moving. Keep marching forward and following after God, even if it is a slow process.

I know it is easy to let these situations get to us. Rise above it, and overcome what seems to be impossible.

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