I’m Thankful For…

The Talking Heads help inspire my thoughts today, as I express what I’m most thankful for this Thanksgiving:

And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself: Well…How did I get here ?

Yeah, “How did I get here?”

Just one year ago this holiday wasn’t near as much fun. In fact, like most family holidays before it, it was slightly depressing. But this year I’m celebrating the holiday with MY family. Not just my parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and other assorted family; but for the first time I’m sharing that experience with my wife and two sons. Wow, that’s a great feeling.

Like the Talking Heads refer to, I do have a large automobile and beautiful house, both of which I’m thankful for. But, more so I have a beautiful wife and beautiful family (and a beautiful dog and two beautiful cats).

Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young helps me finish out my thought process with:

Our house is a very, very fine house
With two cats in the yard
Life used to be so hard
Now everything is easy
‘Cause of you

Thank you God, for blessing me this year with an amazing family! Your blessings are new every morning. Thank you.

What are you thankful for this year? Share your thoughts as a comment.

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 LifeChurch.tv, 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!

Shouldn’t This Be Less Fun?

This is the fifth and final part in my series on 5 life lessons that I learned from Labor Day weekend in 2005, while volunteering with efforts after Hurricane Katrina.

I’d come to serve these poor people.  I wasn’t sure what tasks lay ahead.  I knew some people were injured — maybe I’d work in triage wrapping bandages.  I knew people were here without money and food — maybe I’d work a food line.  Maybe I’d setup cots or give out clothes or cut branches or unload supplies or clean porta-potties.  I was willing to do whatever.  It’d likely be hard and probably push me out of my comfort zone.  I didn’t know how to encourage and support people after such a terrible event.  What if I needed to help in the clinic and had to touch someone’s blood?  Oh well, I want to make a difference and I guess it will be worth it.

Little did I expect that I’d be surfing the internet, creating online web forms, using my wireless laptop, configuring simple networks, and other geeky stuff that I always enjoy doing.

God has an amazing way of using our passions to serve with.  It’s great to be willing to do whatever for the glory of God.  But since God created us intentionally he’ll generally use the passions and skills that he wired into us to bring glory to him.  That’s part of what makes serving so much fun.

How have you seen God work through the skills and passions that He’s given you?  Did that surprise you?

It’s Safer Driving from the Back Seat

This is the fourth part in my series on 5 life lessons that I learned from Labor Day weekend in 2005, while volunteering with efforts after Hurricane Katrina.

  • Wow, a hurricane.
  • Hundreds of thousands forced out of their homes.  That sucks.
  • I hope someone helps them.
  • The church down there should help them.
  • The Church should help them.
  • Our church should do something.
  • I should do something.
  • I should do something tangible.
  • This process is unorganized.
  • Why doesn’t the Red Cross have this more organized?
  • Why doesn’t that leader organize things a bit better?
  • Why aren’t we doing this or that?
  • If I were in charge, I’d do it differently.
  • Why aren’t the leaders doing a better job of leading?  This is their job!
  • Wait, these ‘leaders’ just showed up and decided to do something.
  • This isn’t organized.  If I were here for a few days I’d do something different.
  • Wait, I’m here now.  I can lead now.  I’m here for a purpose.

Be present in the moment.  Don’t criticise from the back seat.  Even if you don’t drive for long, be willing to take your turn when the opportunity presents itself.