My First Christmas Letter

I’ve recently been getting back in touch with a lot of old friends that I haven’t talked to in 10-20+ years. I thought I’d post my first ever Christmas letter here to get people up to speed on my life these days.

What Do I Do These Days?

August of 2008 marked my fifth year of working for the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois. I maintain computer systems that host lots of web sites, email services, distributed storage, and authentication services for NCSA. You may have heard in the news recently that we are now in the process of building the world’s largest supercomputer, which is supposed to go online in 2010.

While I enjoy my job, my true passion is my church, Grace Community Church. I volunteer several hours each week there leading our TechArts teams (sound, video, production, and IT) and also help lead and serve on our board (which has been a huge task this year). For the past year and a half, Grace has been networked with, which is one of the most innovative and powerful churches in the US. This partnership has really excited me again about the life changing power of the local church.

Highlights From 2008…

In January our pastor resigned. He’d been the pastor of our church since long before I started attending 16 years ago. I helped lead the task of hiring a new pastor and leading in new ways during the transition of hiring our new pastor on July 1.

My dad went to Moscow and Siberia for a month-long mission trip in June & July. I was pretty proud of him, since he hadn’t gone on any mission trips for a few years due to his health. He spent a lot of his time training Christian leaders there from some churches he’d help plant about 18 years ago.

My Mom had both of her hips replaced this summer and fall. She’s been off work for almost 6 months as she’s been rehabilitating. Things have gone great for her, but it’s made for a slow rehabilitation for a lady that’s always on the go. Since both my parents have had both hips replaced now, I think I need to schedule an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon in about 15-20 years. 🙂

In September I became kind of a surrogate father. A friend of mine from church has 2 teenage brothers that she adopted a few years ago. The oldest one has been having some issues with her this year and they’d gotten to a point where she wasn’t comfortable with him continuing to live with her. So, R.C. has been living with me for the past few months. It’s been a really good experience for both of us.

Lessons & Growth in 2008…

  1. This year I’ve realized a new confidence in how God has created me. He has created me, and that’s good. Over the years I’ve gathered a lot of wisdom, and as a result I should use it and share it. In the past I’ve normally kept quiet and not offered my opinions, but I’ve come to realize my opinions also come with years of experience and are valuable. I no longer consider myself a kid, but rather a man who God can use. I’m no longer afraid of greatness.
  2. This year I’ve also gained a new level of trust in God. At church things looked almost impossible this spring. But, I’ve been reminded that I don’t need to have all the answers. Despite me not understanding all the details, God’s got my back and I can relax and not worry. If I’m following God’s leading, He’ll take care of the details and lead us to a new place.

So, anyway, that’s a brief look at God at work in my life this year. It’s funny how most of the excitement from this year was totally unexpected, but has been one of the best yet of my life. He’s still the Lord Emmanuel, God with us. I’m excited to see what new excitement is awaiting in 2009.

Merry Christmas!

Healing and Wholeness at Christmas

In the last couple of days I’ve really been struck with the reality that my faith is hypocritical. I look at so many hurting lives around me and honestly believe that those lives could be miraculously made whole and complete by God. He longs to bring complete hope, healing, and restoration to His children who are hurting. I want to see that continue in the lives around me.

But, sometimes in my own life and those that are closer to me, I don’t honestly expect God to show up such miraculous ways. I get used to the hurting and brokenness that faces me regularly and have almost given up on the idea of God fixing those issues. I notice myself internally voicing the following kinds of things:

  • “Well, that’s just the way Joe is. He’s been sexually abused when he was young, and he’ll always react in bad ways when he’s hurt or confused.”
  • “Since, Mikey is young and been brought up in a dysfunctional home, I shouldn’t expect him to be as mature as other kids. He’ll always be that way.”
  • “I’ll always suffer from the hurt and rejection from a couple of years ago. I just have to be tough and not let that hurt bring me down at times like the holidays.”

But, wait a minute. Didn’t I say that Jesus wanted to bring ‘hope, healing, and restoration to His children’? Isn’t He the blessed redeemer? Didn’t He come to seek and save the lost? Didn’t He come to bring healing and wholeness?

My king can bring healing to Joe, Mikey, and me.

Lord, continue to work in my life to bring healing and wholeness!