What I Loved About January

Who needs more negativity and cynicism? Not I dear reader, not I!

Sometimes we just need to dwell on the things we love. I want to invite you to join along in the comments by just simply sharing the things you loved last month. It could be a moment, a show, book, smell, podcast, experience, etc… Whatever it is I just want to know what you LOVED about January! What about me? I am glad you asked!

I Loved My Family

With the all the snow, holidays, sickness, and transitions I got more time with my family than expected. This was exactly what the doctor ordered! Sure, sometimes being so cooped up for so long together we had thoughts of brutality. That being said time with those you love and those who love you in return is the most refreshing way to spend time.

I watched my 8-year-old Samuel learn how to make simple animations on his computer. It is amazing to see how much he grew in quality over as the month moved on. He worked incredibly hard at it and would take advice along the way.

My 4-year-old Joshua is a bundle of energy. This past month I watched this kid who can barely sit still focus on this wooden puzzle he got for Christmas. He spent so much time putting it together, taking it apart, and putting it together once again.

Sure he sometimes threw the pieces all over the room.
Sure he sometimes tried to use a piece as a weapon.
Sure he often dances on the puzzle when it is complete.

I just have never seen this kid sit and focus on something like that for so long. He was also extra snugly this month, which I enjoyed very much!

My 2-year-old Lainie is one sassy little girl. Her personality has really shown a sharp wittiness about her, which is crazy for a 2 year old. She wants to make you laugh. She wants to play with you. She wants to have your attention fully. She will say things to you and run off to make you chase her down. She is beautiful, so you smile while her cute little self is running away. Yeah, I am a little smitten.

My incredibly attractive wife is not only incredibly attractive, but also full of love. She loves people around her so sincerely. If I am honest, I am a bit jealous of her ability to love others.

It is Christlike.
It is giving.
It is responsive.
It is real.
It is beautiful.

I watch the way she hurts when someone she loves is hurting. I watch the way she rejoices when someone she loves has good news. I watch so much love just pour out of her. For those of you who know her know it first hand. It was something that made me know she was valuable. Plus, she is incredibly attractive!

Out of all the wonderful things I loved about January, my family topped the list. Now it is your turn…

What did you LOVE about January?

2017 In Review

2017 has been over for a while now. It was such a crazy year. It hasn’t been the best year for me, but it certainly hasn’t been the worst ever. I am alive and happy!

I did this last year and I really enjoyed it. I want to take a few moments and share a few of my favorite things from this past year.

  • Game of the Year- The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. You will easily get lost asking what is over that next hill? What is that on the Horizon? Is that another Shrine on that Island? What an adventurous game! It feels like Zelda and sucks you in like Minecraft. What a world! (Runner-up: Ghost Recon: Wildlands)
  • Book of the Year- Immeasurable by Skye Jethani. An honest look at the current state of the Modern Christian Church. It reflects on ambition, anger, community, consumerism, fame, health, justice, platform, preaching, rest, simplicity, success, vision, and more. Skye examines these issues with honest and thoughtful insight from experience. This is a great barometer for where we are at in our faith. (Runner-Up: The Trellis and The Vine by Colin Marshal and Tony Payne)
  • Movie of the Year- Baby Driver. Fast cars, great music, and interesting characters. This is a fun movie. The way the music and action intertwine is remarkable. This is an incredibly stylish and fun action movie! (Runner-Up: Thor Ragnarok)
  • Show of the Year- Better Call Saul. The performances from the cast just keep getting better and better. This season you really start to see things take that darker turn you knew was coming. The center of it all is the drama of the tumultuous relationship between Jimmy and his brother Chuck. So good! (Runner Up: Mindhunter)
  • Gadget of the Year- Nintendo Switch. I had been gaming less and less as I grew older. Then I got a switch! A console that goes with you where ever you are? Yeah. That is amazing. I spent a lot of time in line waiting to pick up my kids playing Stardew Valley. It is awesome! (Runner Up: Google Pixel 2)
  • Podcast of the Year- Doctrine and Devotion. I learn and laugh during this show. Joe Thorn and Jimmy are incredibly fun together. It is great for Theology Nerds, and those who would just like to learn more about the faith. It comes from a Reformed perspective. Even if that isn’t your thing, it is a good show. (Runner Up: The Movie Proposal)
  • Marriage Moment of the Year-  I can’t really explain it, but December seemed to be a turning point for us. We had a rough year and it just seemed like we both woke up and finished strong. We had more time together over the Holidays than we had anticipated which really helped us just be together more. I am blessed to be with Shelly!
  • Parenting Moment of the Year- I got my 8 year old his first knife. We went to get a steak, watch Thor, and then went to go grab it. We just had a good moment of bonding and interacting. He loves it and is careful with it. I made sure it was easy for him to close/open.
  • Challenge of the Year- I blogged about a few of the changes my family and I were going through. It had been a very challenging year for me and I am glad to be moving on to new challenges!
  • Accomplishment of the Year- I helped lead the Church I was at through a merger with another congregation. It was a great experience in Leadership. Experiences like that have potential to go bad very fast. It was a difficult but satisfying experience when all was said and done!
  • Lesson to carry into 2018- Keep the priorities in check. It did not take much to knock things around and I did not realize it was happening. Looking back I know I wasn’t taking care of myself, my wife, or my Children like I should. I also know I was not focusing on the other projects I was doing as well. I had to be taken back to see what was going on. I started 2018 by intentionally focusing on my priorities.

What About You?

All Things New

As 2017 came to a close on I began to notice I had been running on fumes. It never is one simple thing. It had been building for a while. I knew change had to come our way. That is why I love that these words from Revelation will not escape my heart right now.

“Behold, I am making all things new…”

The Changes

Long story short I stepped away from the church I was employed at.

I have been around that church since October of 2000. I left for a few years to grow and work with 2 other amazing organizations, but I came back for the opportunity to share God’s word and my life with the people who served there. They have been family to my family and I for a very long time. I am grateful for the time I spent there and I do feel like I accomplished a lot. As difficult as this decision was I have this resounding peace and relief knowing I was doing the right thing.

For the first time in a very long time, I will not be working full time for a church. I hate to say it, but I had been holding on to my position and security for dear life. It was the moment I let go of it God showed me what I knew all along, I was in His hands.

Things are going to be changing for my family and I. I worked from home and had the kids with me the majority of the time. This change is going to be hard on them, but even harder on me. I have turned into a big softy and I will miss these crazy little blessings. That being said I am also looking forward getting out of the house and working an 8-5. Please pray for this house as we adjust.

The New

I have been pretty comfortable for a while. Though, I can honestly say I am very excited that new things are happening to me in 2018.

New Job
New Routine
New Ideas
New Outlets
New Prayer
New Church
New Adventure

I have been told by wise men that hardships like what all happened in 2017 often become those life-defining moments that I will look back on. I don’t want to lie to you and say I handled this past year with a smile. That is not true! I complained a lot. I was real angry. I checked out. I really don’t like the way I handled a lot of this stress. I don’t like what I saw in myself. I have always pictured myself being able to handle these moments like these wonderful men and women around me I look up to, but I didn’t.

I am ready to let God change me. I am ready for his new. I want it to be the start of not just new circumstances, but a new level of my faith. I want to let this newness invade all aspects of me.

I want to leave you with the whole scripture from Revelation. It is an encouraging one. If you are running on empty I hope you can read it and see there is a promise for you. A promise bigger than just these present circumstances. The promise from the Alpha and Omega. The promise that you are in the hands of the one on the throne. The promise that you are a Child of God.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.
Revelations 21:3-7

Extra-Life begins today!

My friends over at Theology Gaming and I will be joining together with Extra-Life to raise funds and awareness to the good work that is done through the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.

I personally will be donating not just my time but also a donation of at least $20. Will you join me? Any donation, not matter how small, helps me reach my goal of $100. Together we have already raised $280 and the fun hasn’t even started yet!

I would love to raise more than $100 so please CLICK HERE!

Even if you are not able to give you can help out by sharing this post so someone else will know and hopefully join in giving!

You can follow along with the action here on our Twitch page. Today at 11 am CST Theology Gaming will begin playing and streaming for over 24 hours! I personally won’t be playing the entire time but will be on and off with the team over the weekend. We will giving away games to lucky donators and viewers over this time as well!

If you want to know when I am personally hosting join me tomorrow Saturday November 4th at 10 am CST. I will be joining forces with our good friend Jeremy Smith!

You might remember Jeremy from a series of posts I shared this past year. He has been a good personal friend, and friend of this blog. I am looking forward to our time together. He had shared an amazing story of how Children’s Miracle Network has helped out his family personally!

As a Father of 3 the heart of this organization really hits close to home. I know several friends and family who were blessed by Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Several kids I know and see often are here because of this work being done. As a Pastor I have had to make several visits to our local Children’s Miracle Network hospital at Vanderbilt and it is an incredible organization.

Please join in the movement! Your contribution today will help a child have a much better tomorrow.

Links you might have missed

Donate Here

Watch us here

Streaming schedule

Learn more about Extra-Life

Learn more about Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals

Join the discussions of Theology Gaming

Our very good friend Jeremy Grant Smith

GET OUT OF MY CITY

Get out of my city you voices of hate and chaos.
You spout evil, hatred, discord, and anarchy.
You are not welcome here.
You yell because you are small.
You do not speak for me.
You do not speak for us.
The loud voice of a few is not the voice of my city.

All people are created in His image.
All people were made valuable.
All people were made with dignity.
All people were made by Him, through Him, and for Him.
To deny this for some is to deny His voice, his image, his creation.
To accept this for only those who are like you is evil and always will be.

There is a White Supremacy Rally in my city tomorrow. It is messing with me. It is messing with my city.

Our Children are watching as a school is shut down due to a bomb threat.
Our Children are watching and that hurts me so deeply.
Our City Square is shut down in preparation for what could happen.
Our Police are being targeted as they prepare for the worst.
Our Hotels and Restaurants are overflowing as hate made the drive and settled into this town.
Our City Officials are going above and beyond to get us through this in Unity.
Our Churches are denouncing evil, gathering together, praying, and preparing.
Our Nation is watching.

I can’t imagine how much more it would mess with me if I was of a different race or culture. I can not even begin to understand what you are going through. I want to listen to you. I want to hear your heart. I want to know what I don’t because of my own ignorance.

I know this city is not perfect and we have work to do, but this hate isn’t the voice of Murfreesboro. Ignoring the ignorant is not enough we must stand together. We still have so much work to do.

The worst part about it is this rally is drawing other agents with evil agendas of their own. To stand against one evil we might not realize we are standing with an evil just as sinister.

The evil of chaos.
The evil of anarchy.
The evil of violence.
The evil that uses rage to manipulate.
The evil you don’t see pulling the strings.
GET OUT OF MY CITY.

We need you Lord Jesus.
We need you for this is your city.
We need you to guide us.
We need you to unite us.
We need you to change our hearts completely.
We need you to sift our own hearts to show the racism we might not even see.
We need you to fix us because only you can.
We need you in this City.
We need you because we have much work to do.
We need you.

I need you Lord Jesus.
Fix my broken heart.
Teach me to love my neighbor as you do.
Show me this city through your eyes.
Empower me to give my words to those who need it.
Give me your courage so I might stand for those who are being torn down.

Please pray for my city.
Please pray that this weekend be the beginning of true restoration.
Please pray that this city finds the answer to this hate in the love of Jesus Christ.
Please pray for those hate filled hearts to be changed by Jesus Christ.
Please pray for the safety of those serving this city.

Out Of Nothing… (Pt. 3)

What can you make out of nothing?

My friend Jeremy and I found out with our collaboration on SkyFactory 2.5! Ever heard of Minecraft? SkyFactory is Minecraft with a collection of mods added into it. You start a new world with nothing in it but 1 piece of dirt and 1 ordinary tree and that is all.

What can you create from just dirt and a tree? We were able to go from just the basics to producing more energy than we had needs for. It was a lot of fun. We had some great projects. Want to see for yourself? Check out our final episode! This is an overview of all that we did in our collaboration!

This was a whole lot of fun to do. Jeremy was a very patient and gracious collaborator. My free time and game time really started to dwindle as the series continued on. Jeremy was awesome to work with. Not only that, he is a whole lot of fun. We had a great time together and really accomplished a lot. You should really look into his site, channel, and more!

Want to know more about my friend Jeremy? Here you go!

The best place to find out about Jeremy is to go to his personal site at http://JeremyGrantSmith.com .
Subscribe to his YouTube page to get the latest Let’s Plays and Vlogs.
Follow him on Twitter to see what he is chatting about.
He is still on Google+ if you love Hangouts!
Or check out the ChurchMag YouTube channel for the Minecraft Theology series and Minecraft Let’s Play series that are still ongoing.

Wanna play along? Clicky on the linky!

Here is the playlist if you want to start at the beginning!

Concerning my own YouTube channel, I am not sure if I will keep making content on it. It has been a fun hobby and great outlet for interaction, gaming, and creativity. I just am not sure if I have the creative energy to keep up with it in a way that will actually be worth while for viewers. One thing I learned with this project with Jeremy is that I may be through with YouTube for good.

I would love to do something with it that is new, different, and appealing. I also would love to integrate it more into this blog. I am just not sure how. Please help me brainstorm!

Only The Good Stuff

What is really making you HAPPY right now?
What are you enjoying?
What is it that you are really looking forward to doing?

I found a podcast that seeks to answer these questions.

Only The Good Stuff is a discussion about things being presently enjoyed.

No grumbling
No complaining
No cynicism
Only good stuff.

It is a refreshing discussion about the things that are making them really HAPPY! It seems to stand out in a world of criticism and cynicism. You need to give it a listen.

I think it is certainly time to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative!

So, being inspired by someone else’s good idea, I am going to share some things that are really making me happy right now!

  • Books: Gospel Fluency by Jeff Vanderstelt has been worth digesting. I am reading at a much slower pace lately which is really giving me time to think through this book. Have you ever wanted to grow in the way you speak about The Gospel? This book is for you! Even as a Pastor I find myself struggling to speak the good news. The goal of this book is to become as Fluent in the Gospel as you are with your first language!
  • TV: Into The Badlands on AMC has the most beautiful Kung Fu sequences on TV. I love a good Martial Arts epic. The story is interesting enough to make it watchable and curious as to what will happen next. Season 2 adds some amazing Characters.
  • Movies: Moana has been playing non-stop since we got it. The Music is fantastic, and the story gets incredibly deeper every time I watch it. I don’t want to spoil the ending for you, but it certainly has the most remarkable visualization of redemption and being given your new identity In Christ. I was blown away when I saw it and still am. I know it wasn’t meant to be Christian or deeply Theological. However, this beautiful scene shines like a glimmering truth nugget bursting out in plain sight.
  • Music: It isn’t really new, but Explosions In The Sky has been on repeat this week. I have a Spotify playlist with all their records. I rock out to it… rock out like a bandit gleefully flying away from the scene of his latest heist.
  • Game: Ghost Recon Wildlands is what happens when you take a Grand Theft Auto type open world Sandbox and add in an incredible Military Strategy game on top of it. The world you are in is beautiful and seems endless. The weapons customization options are a lot of fun to mess with. Playing with a team and making a plan is certainly interesting. That plan falling apart and you gotta react, this is where things get really fun. It is a great game.
  • Love: My wife and I are approaching 11 years together. It hasn’t always been easy, but I certainly feel like 2017 has been one of our best. It isn’t like a mountain top type of thing, but more of a soup that has been in the crock pot for a few hours and when it comes time to taste it, it is uniquely how it should be. She is my best friend and her heart is just beautiful. She has grown up a whole lot since the whole thing got started, it has been amazing to see.
  • Parenting: The other day Sam asked me what kind of kyber crystal Kylo Ryn had in his light saber and I cried. We pulled up a cool article that showed all the light-sabers in the Star Wars Canon and what they were made of. He has been asking a lot about geek stuff, but even more about Jesus and our faith. He saw a friend get Baptized a few weeks ago. He is close to baptism himself! Joshua makes the most interesting platforms to climb on to get the candy off the top of the fridge. Earlier this week Lainie crawled into my lap, laid her head on my chest, and just stole my heart.
  • Work: The Church I was the Pastor at just merged with another Church in town. It was a long process, but in the end, it was a step I can confidently say that we took together. I am proud of this family of believers that chose to give up so much familiarity to become something new. I would say the hard stuff is over, but in reality, the hard stuff just began. The past year has stretched me farther than I have ever been stretched before as a Leader. It has been difficult personally. It has been exciting. It has been good. It was tiring. It feels great to be able to dream about what can be. We really can be much better together than apart!
  • Podcast: This post was inspired by a Podcast I am enjoying called Only The Good Stuff. That is the easy choice, right? Here is another Podcast I am enjoying very much. The 5 Leadership Questions is like a conversation at a coffee shop with a leader you admire. The hosts do a great job is keeping it conversant. They really do pick the brain of some incredible men and I get to benefit from it! It is worth a listen of you are looking for a new podcast!
  • Trailer: Timing on this one is a little obvious… I cried. I cried when I watched it twice. I cried when I showed it to my kids. I cried when I loaded it up to link on here.

    Now it is your turn. What have you been enjoying?