Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Gatlinburg Winterfest 2015 Update

Students - PLEASE make sure your parents have joined the Remind text update with the info I sent you. Also - please make sure they read this post.

Hello parents

As you know, safety is our primary concern for this weekend. We have no interest in putting our students and leaders in danger.

We have been watching very closely the conditions/forecasts both here and in Gatlinburg. I have also been in communication with Winterfest leadership as well as the local rental company supplying our lodging. We feel we have enough information to make a judgment call now, but we reserve the right to adjust our plans based on the weather.

Some roads in Gatlinburg are horrible, but the main roads and the roads to our cabins are totally clear. We believe getting from our lodging to the conference center will not be problematic for us at all.

The forecast on Friday predicts snow beginning here around 1:00 PM and snow/wintry mix in Gatlinburg beginning around 8:00.

We believe leaving at 9am on Friday instead of noon will allow us to keep ahead of bad weather and get to the cabins well before any dangerous conditions impact traveling safely. We are not scheduled to leave the cabin until after lunch on Saturday, and warmer temperatures/rain are predicted for that time. If the roads are bad, we will stay in our cabins. This means we may miss parts of the conference, but we feel it is the safest approach for the weekend.

We will be taking extra food with us just in case we do need to say in the cabins, but we do not expect to need it. We just want to be extra cautious.

It will be a good idea for your students to pack a blanket with them just in case we lose power while we are there so they can bundle up to stay warm. Again, we don't expect that...we just want to be cautious.

Please make sure your students confine themselves to ONE SMALL DUFFLE OR SUITCASE!! Space is a premium while we are traveling since we'll be taking extra food.

If you have any questions, please call, text, or email me.


Saturday, February 14, 2015

What's Love Got To Do With It?

I attended a wedding yesterday afternoon - actually, it was a re-wedding. The bride and groom are both friends of ours, and they had been married, divorced, gotten back together and decided to get remarried yesterday on Valentine’s Day. It was a very sweet ceremony where nearly 100 friends and family members gathered to show their support for the happy couple.

I always enjoy listening to another minister’s approach in officiating a wedding. The gentleman who performed the ceremony last night did a great job of talking about new beginnings and how the Lord never leaves us or forsakes us. He talked about how each of them was making a covenant, not a contract, before and to God. He painted a beautiful picture of what it means to LOVE each other - no matter what. I took comfort in his unique relationship with the bride and groom, and I thought of others whom I have been privileged to serve in a similar capacity. 

What struck me most, though, was how I saw Christ and His bride, the Church, in that ceremony. To use the officiating minister’s words, we live in a microwave age where most everything is disposable. Yet God, in His glory and grace, finds us to be worthy of saving. Worthy of sacrifice. Worthy to be loved. I took comfort in that because I feel like I don’t give Him a lot of reasons to love me. I took comfort because, thankfully, it’s not about me - it’s all about Him. What’s love got to do with it? Absolutely everything. And He offers it freely.

On this Valentine’s Day weekend, maybe we should be reminded to approach our spouses with that kind of love. To quote Paul’s letter to the Church at Corinth - maybe we should be patient, kind, and gentle…maybe we should keep no record of wrongs. What if we loved our spouses with the agape love that God has for us - one that gives, and KEEPS ON GIVING, without expecting anything in return? What if we offered love freely, with no expectation that it would be reciprocated? What’s love got to do with it? Yeah, absolutely everything.

Don’t forget that this weekend a lot of our high school students will be heading to Gatlinburg. We’ll be leaving at noon on Friday. We also have our spring mission camp coming up to Coldstream Christian Retreat. Signups are going on NOW.

Please let me know if there’s anything I can pray about for you or your family.

- Michael

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Driving Faith Home Pays Off...Sometimes

I was able to attend an event at our church on Friday night that was focused on young families. It was called “Family Experience” and was an incredible learning experience for me in several ways. Jared and Bridget had done an excellent job of preparing a night where moms, dads, grandparents, and kids could get together and learn about three different countries: South Korea, South Africa, and Greece.

I learned a lot about the culture of these three countries, and I even took away some thoughts about how I can better pray for both the Evangelicals in those nations as well as those who do not yet know Christ. But a bigger “a-ha” for me came with some intentional time with my son. I had decided that I was going to (on purpose, mind you), spend this time with him learning about our faith and how it is practiced in other countries. But I came away with something extra - confidence in how my son is practicing his faith here.

Now, hear me, ours is not a perfect home. For everything we get “right” regarding faith in our house, I feel like we get at least two other things “wrong.” But we are intentional about our faith. We pray together at meals, at night before we go to bed, and we read God’s Word. I have been better about this recently, but Carver and Kelley read Scripture together almost every morning. We do our best to find ways to connect our faith to things that happen to us every day. The fruit of that came out when I listened to Carver praying at the Family Experience.

As we “visited” each country, we ate food from that nation, played a game that kids play there, and watched a video about how we might be able to pray specifically for Christians and non-Christians there. When we got to South Africa, it was Carver’s turn to pray. I asked him what he saw in the video and then asked him to pray for South Africa however he felt led. What I heard was a beautiful prayer to God from Carver that sounded like he was talking to his Friend…maybe even his Daddy (not me, the other One).

I hope you’re not reading any degree of spiritual “have-to’s” in this. Do I think my son can pray well? Well, I’m not even sure we should be talking about it in those terms. Rather, my comfort came from listening to a little boy who already has a growing relationship with the Lord. No, he’s not a perfectly still young man who does the right thing in the wrong situation every single time. But his little heart is soft to the things of God. That broke me. 

I believe that Carver’s spiritual maturity at this stage in his life is directly related to mine and Kelley’s as well as our influence on him. It’s not magic; it doesn’t “work” the same for every kid or every family. And just because it’s like that now doesn’t mean it will be like that in the future. But for now, it would seem that the attention we are paying to “Driving Faith Home” is paying off. It is certainly setting a foundation for Carver that lends itself to a growing relationship with Christ. I’m thankful.

Don’t forget that Life Groups start back next week. Please let me know if I can pray about anything for you or your family.

- Michael