Friday, December 19, 2008

Where have the ornaments gone??

So this is the culprit! I knew somebody was taking the ornaments....

But how can I punish this face :) he starting grinning when I found him up there. They know they are in the wrong... and they are hoping their charming little toddler look will help them out.

Thad decided he would help me out, but I had to explain that a Ninja sword fight was not going to help the situation.
No children were harmed in the making of this picture

Now, if I could just find the ornaments.....

Merry Christmas!!!

it's just too cute a picture...

Well, we made gingerbread houses. Not your traditional style... but we had fun regardless of the interesting creations. When all was said and done, there were more sprinkles on Thad's plate than on his house. Plus I found more under the table later.

This one above is mine, with Santa and his reindeer

mine again..

Here's Thad's creation and you can see his sprinkles on the other side.
We had friends over who joined in the fun and I will make sure we do this next year as it is so fun!!

Thursday, December 04, 2008


Some of you have tried to view our blog and unfortunately could only see a bright red color! We're sorry for that. We do have a lovely background but it can only be read by certain programs and therefore defaults to unreadable red. If it's not fixed now, please tell us. But all should be right again and we thank you for your patience with us as we make our blog look "pretty". Thomas just loves the new look!! :)

Pictures from The Journey

Thomas teaching. He can't live without a whiteboard.

One of our kids taking communion.

Thomas again...rocking his "Matthew's Party" t-shirt and Velcro "old man" shoes.

You should buy this for yourself or someone else for Christmas

From the album "Come Let Us Adore Him".

I cry like once or twice a year, and it usually involves Manchester Untied losing. I admit it though, I cried like a baby listening to this song and eating french fries tonight. Let me explain, because there's some history here. I have been especially overwhelmed by the incarnation this year as I've been doing my quiet times and studying for my times of teaching. I really don't even have words. I mean, I'm rendered speechless when I try to wrap my mind around it.

Last night at The Journey I taught on the first 18 verses of the Gospel of John. They deal so beautifully with what it meant for the Word to become flesh (mankind) so that He could show us the best way that life could be experienced.

Have you ever thought about the world that Jesus was born into? The Roman Empire was in the middle of it's most glorious period (the Pax Romana) and yet the people of Rome and the surrounding world found themselves disillusioned by religion and philosophy, overwhelmed by a rising materialism, and immersed in every sort of debauchery and immorality. Surely they felt their emptiness and yet had no answer for it. For the Jews, they found themselves locked into a religious system of their own creation. Blinded by their own self righteousness and desire to be separate, they had completely lost their mission of being a light to the nations around them (Isaiah 60:1-5).

Jesus steps into this bringing grace and truth. To the gentiles, truth. All of the false idolatry and immorality that failed to satisfy them and stood in stark contrast to the truth presented by Jesus. He demonstrated what it was to live a life of meaning and purpose that wasn't a slave to physical desires, something severely lacking in the Roman world.

For the Jews, He revealed grace. The following of the Jewish Law had become its own religion that differed from its original intent at the time it was given. For most, the law was something to be kept in order to please God and was also a source of pride (something God ins't a big fan of). The problem with law is that it's mostly focused on "do not". The grace that Christ offered freed people from the burden of the law. This freedom allowed people to take the focus off of their own behavior and to focus on reaching out to those around them in need, both spiritually and physically.

I pray that you can really spend some time thinking about the incarnation and that it was directly for people like us. Whether you came out of hedonism and idolatry like the Romans, or self righteousness like the Jews, "the Word became flesh," for us all. That's what makes it a Merry Christmas.

We're Not in Kansas anymore...

We'll I was walking through the foyer and around the tent my boys had set up right in the middle of everything, when I glanced back and saw this sight. I started laughing and wondered how we killed the wicked witch of the east? This is how I found it, no tampering with the set up here! It's funny and of course my boys have no idea what movie scene they created.
But it turned my thoughts towards how I feel sometimes as we continue to live in a foreign land. This is not "Kansas" anymore and I feel lonely at times without much connection to home. I know that lies come from the evil one to discourage us and so I encourage myself in the Lord. But to be honest, we do have days where we feel so out of place. Even as our ministry here is going really well, we tend to doubt at times that we're making a difference. Again, we covet your prayers and encouragement as we daily connect with students or staff and desire to be used to the fullest. As always, the homesick feelings come during holiday time, but we know this will be another wonderful Christmas celebration. As we focus our eyes on the Lord, we are reminded that we are all in a foreign land and not "home" yet. Because Jesus himself was willing to come to this world, we can have hope for our future and the promise of a true home where we'll find true belonging.

Thanks for caring for us and checking in with us! We love to hear from you and think of all of you so often.
Blessings to you this day!

Monday, December 01, 2008

This is kinda regressive Turkey dinner... at least it's how I'm portraying it for you!

20 lb Turkey!!

The before shot... yes those are pears for our place cards... :)
Definitely a wonderful day and lots of yummy fellowship!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

More info on our youth church

Here is the handout we made for our youth church. I'm not sure if you can read it but if you click on it you should get a close up. I thought it was really cool how my friend Cindi highlighted certain words. I wrote a paraphrased version of Luke 24:32 for it. "Didn't our hearts burn within us when He spoke with us on our journey and opened the scriptures to us?" I thought that was really cool and it worked with the original text.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Journey: We're not a band. We're like a church type thing

At about 5:45 in the morning sometime this past June, I found myself sitting in front of my brother-in-law's sweet computer thinking and praying. I had ridiculous jet lag because we had only gotten to D.C. the previous afternoon. I remember praying and asking God what His plans were for VCS for the coming year. I remember that I just starting writing down ideas and then a vision for each of the ideas.

The thing I spent the most time thinking about was the idea of a youth church. Because of the diverse student population of VCS we frequently have kids that come to know the Lord from various cultural and religious backgrounds. Many of these kids come from homes where they have never been to a church. This could be because the family simply never went or because they were hostile towards the idea. The issue is that when these kids come to know the Lord at VCS they often have opportunities for discipleship but many never actually attend churches.

As the summer progressed I somehow managed to misplace my idea notebook. When we got back to Vienna we jumped straight back into things with school, chapel, and soccer. And then we had Spiritual Emphasis Week. As the week came to a close I discussed ideas about follow up with teachers and our speakers. In my heart I clearly heard God reminding me of the vision he gave me early one morning in the summer. I shared this idea with a few teachers and our secondary principal. Everyone thought it had amazing potential and so we started planning. What we came up with was The Journey: A Youth Church.

The Journey is intended for, but not limited to, these types of students. We want students who come to know the Lord from non-Christian backgrounds to experience a church community. Having The Journey be connected with the school provides an atmosphere of familiarity for both the students and the parents. Yesterday we announced the idea of The Journey to the students and we have had an amazing response. I think the coolest thing for me was discussing this idea with a small group of students. One girl said that she had come to know the Lord during her first year at VCS but has never been involved in a local church. She said that she was so excited about this because it was a church that she would feel comfortable being a part of. I seriously got choked up.

With the goal of reaching our kids in the context of their world, we decided to start a facebook group and a website. We already have 30 or so kids who have joined the facebook group and kids are leaving comments about being excited about things.

As you can imagine, this thing has taken a lot of work on the part of numerous individuals. The beauty of things is that God puts certain people in certain places to be used for His purposes. Myself and another teacher have been the main idea people but we have several people who have been involved in publicity and graphic design for things. We also have a tech (snort) guy handling our website. So this whole thing is pretty exciting.

Please be in prayer for The Journey. Our first meeting is Wednesday December 3rd. I'll post a bit more about the vision of The Journey as well as our structure and idea about the order of things later.

Friday, November 21, 2008

More photography from Thad

what's a better subject than your naive little brother?

too much tilt

almost there....

that's better.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Last night we had the privilege of going to our school play, Tilly. A book written by Frank Peretti, it tells the story of a couple who chose to abort their baby only to be haunted by the memory forever. As the story unfolds, you find the mother dreaming about her little girl in heaven. I want to say so much more about the journey this family takes, but I won't ruin the story as I'm sure you will want to read it. I knew this would be a hard story to tell, but our students and one staff member did an excellent job!! Truly, I was moved to tears and felt like I could have really lost it at several points. As a mother, I cannot fathom choosing to kill my child. But the beauty of this story is the reality of God's grace and forgiveness found in Him. The couple does find true and lasting forgiveness in the arms of their Savior. How many women have chosen this path? How many more will choose it once the law makes it easier and more acceptable to do?
This play challenged my heart to pray for the mothers who have given in to the lie that "it will fix everything". Life and breath is God's to give and take away.
One of staff couples has an amazing story of the choice they made to glorify God despite other advice. When they found out their baby would potentially have brain damage due to a cyst found, they were encouraged to abort the baby and start over. But as they prayed for God's will and blessing, they found their baby was healed with no trace of this cyst anywhere! Today my son plays with their son and calls him his dear friend. God has a beautiful way of telling His story to the world and when we are willing, he will use us! Last night's performance was directed and led by this couple who made a beautiful choice to trust their Father. They had the privilege of watching their 3 year old boy debut in the play as a "little kid". What could be sweeter than to see your boy given life and now telling the story of how precious life truly is...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Picture perfect

At a fountain in the volksgarten downtown. I hope they will remember these days in Vienna... good memories are being made.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Science Fun

i realize this picture looks quite weird... but I can't get it to rotate and forgot to do that before I posted it. I'm lazy i know, but if we're sticking with the science theme it kinda looks like he's in a fetal position. Just about ready to come out... I'd say that's one big baby!

There's nothing as fun as getting your very own box to play with! he's pretty mad that his little brother is throwing toys into his "fort".

The next few pics are from our experiment. We simulated a volcano erupting with baking soda, vinegar and soap suds for added bubbles. We tried it in two cups of different heights. I definitely used the sink for easy clean up and was too lazy to make volcano out of play dough. But then again, it was unplanned and more of a last minute "I'm going crazy, must think of something to entertain them" type idea.

He looks pained... but I assure you he enjoyed it! By the way, that's a before shot.... somehow this post got all backwards and complicated. Sometimes my brain feels that way. I'll do better next time!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Thanks...but no thanks!

So, this is worth posting about b/c it made me laugh and want to throw up all at the same time. Today my precious children were helping me clean the house. I had been on the floor on my hands and knees scrubbing the tiles while Ian was trying to help but getting in the way! Then I heard Thad rustling around in the foyer and I came out to find that he was washing the floor. He had his little broom and was pushing it around while water was being smeared on the floor. I said "Oh, how sweet honey, thank you!". Then as an afterthought, I asked him where and how he'd gotten the broom wet. He promptly and very proudly proclaimed, "the toilet, mom!"

AAHHHHHH!!! I was disgusted that toilet water had been smeared on my floor...especially since I hadn't cleaned the toilet yet this week ;)

Bringing you More chaos from our household to yours!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

The Redeem Team

I'm not a big basketball fan. I love the NCAA tournament and I enjoy playing every now and again, but really it's just not my thing. I am however a big team USA guy as soon as the Olympics role around and it honestly doesn't even matter what sport it is. Maybe some of you are even like me and you've actually found yourself getting really into an intense match of water polo just because the USA was involved. All of this to say that I actually enjoyed watching the basketball in the Olympics this year and was proud that team USA redeemed themselves after their less than stellar showing last time out.

Yesterday in Chapel I spoke about Halloween and redemption (clearly connected I know). I started off with some of the history of Halloween as well as some of the misconceptions about the origin of Halloween that have sometimes been propagated within some Christian circles. Basically, Halloween does not have its origin in the Satanic sacrificing of virgins or anything like that. It was essentially a New Years Eve party for the ancient Celtic peoples of Europe that was eventually "Christianized" by the Catholic Church with the introduction of "All Saints Day."

Because of its connection with Pagan practices it became associated with Satan and Demon worship during the Middle Ages mainly b/c the non-Christians still celebrated the Celtic fest (10/31) while the Christians celebrated All Saints Day (11/1). That's mostly why nowadays people dress up in costumes with evil and jacked up themes. Those were the things associated with devil worship in the Middle Ages.

Anyway, the main reason I brought up Halloween was because it is a somewhat divisive subject and it clearly does have some evil things associated with it. Dressing up like witches, demons, and other things associated with stuff that is clearly condemned in scripture is certainly not a good idea. But I wonder, people are sinful and commit evil all the time and yet, they can be redeemed. Can we as God's people redeem things that some have taken and used for evil?

We do this all the time whether we realize it or not. If you and your spouse waited until marriage to have sex than you technically redeemed human sexuality from the way that it is portrayed in the culture. If you've ever taken part in a sporting event and in your mind and heart chosen to enjoy playing because it is a gift from the Lord than you have been a part of redeeming something that in many cases is used for personal glory and pride.

The idea of redemption is kind of a big deal in scripture. It's really the whole theme of the Bible because the idea of redemption is buying something back, remaking it, or using it the way it was originally intended. In Genesis 3 all of the perfection of how Man interacted with God and His creation got really screwed up because of sin. Now Man is really jacked and so is how he views and uses stuff (technical terminology I know).

The beautiful thing about God's plan is that He gives Man the opportunity to be redeemed and made new (2 Cor. 5:17). I really think that along with this comes the ability for Man to redeem or reclaim good things that God has given and to use them in a way that honors Him. That's what makes being a follower of Jesus such a cool thing. Because we have been redeemed (made new again) we have the ability to experience God's creation closer to the way that He originally intended it (it ain't quite there yet...see Rev. 21-22 for future details).

So as the Church let's hop on board with being the worldwide redeem team. Those guys in China were the "redeem team" because they put things right (America = owns everyone else in basketball). Let us live in a way that shows how people and stuff (even Halloween) can be redeemed when the focus is on the Lord Jesus. And let us join with all of creation in looking forward to the redemption that is to come (Rom. 8:23-24) when our bodies and all the stuff around us will be fully and completely MADE NEW!.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Pumpkin Part 2

Mmmmm.... Pumpkin seeds roasted! So, while Thomas and Thad were carving the great pumpkin, I was separating the stringed membranes from the seeds. Today we roasted them and they taste so yummy. First we added 2 tsp of olive oil and then seasonings to taste. I chose cayenne pepper, garlic powder and some cajun seasoning we had on hand. Of course you need to salt them well and then mix all ingredients together before putting them on a pan. Bake at 300 for 45 minutes checking and stirring every 15 minutes.

The result is a great snack and very rich in vitamins! Thad tried one and liked it...but then didn't like the aftertaste. We'll see if he'll try some more later.
Hope you can make some from your pumpkin!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Watch out Charlie Brown it's the Great Pumpkin

What a cute little dude. He looks like he's all ready for some Halloween pumpkin carving fun right? Wrong. It turns out the big tough man is deathly afraid of the inside guts of pumpkins. We were all set to do this thing together (I was actually looking forward to making him do the nasty part just like my dad used to do with me). He looked me dead in the eyes and flat out refused to put his hand in there. It was hilarious.

After we got the guts out, the debate raged as to what we should carve. I was thinking a nice cross or icthus fish or maybe even a Chi Rho (that P with the X that you've seen in Catholic stuff before). My wife came up with the cool idea of writing something in Hebrew. We thought of a couple of ideas before finally settling on the Hebrew word for "light." Kind of appropriate.I'm not even going to try and tell you how to actually pronounce this word, but just trust me, it's awesome. And now, my pumpkin is awesome as well. There are tons of amazing times that scripture uses this word. The first and most obvious is when God says "Let there be light."
I'm going to have to say that my favorite is Isaiah 9:2 "The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined."

That is just a freaking awesome verse. For those of us who have come to know God, we have new life and no longer live in fear or in the shadow of death. May we be so bold to live as lights in a dark place so that others will be drawn to the Lord.

You are the devil and the devil is bad

Ahh the W's. Clearly one of the best Christian ska bands of the late 90's. With those lyrics they pointed out one of the most obvious things ever, and yet I find myself a lot of times forgetting that I do have an enemy.

Not only is this guy/thing/whatever pronoun you want to use for him/her/it out there, it really doesn't like me because I like Jesus and he really really doesn't like Jesus. In 1 Peter it says that Satan "prowls around like roaring lion seeking someone to devour." He has apparently been up to this for a long time because in the first part of Job (arguably the oldest of the books of the Bible) God asks Satan what he's been up to and he says "...roaming through the Earth and going back and forth on it." Well, let's just say that he must have decided to take a few days in Vienna because this past week was uncanny in how some things went down.

The week before was Spiritual Emphasis Week at VCS and it was a tremendous success. We had 2 kids come to know the Lord and several others begin to deal with sin in their life through counseling with teachers. As Chaplain, I also spent time with teachers developing a plan for follow-up. We have designed a schedule for students to be able to meet together daily for prayer. We have also set up for teachers involved in discipleship and leading Bible studies to get together for prayer and accountablilty in teaching. And finally, we have layed the foundations for starting a youth church at the school for our kids who come from backgrounds that would prevent them from being able to attend a regular church.

You can imagine that as this past week started we were all pretty excited. And that's when Satan showed up...big time. I can't really go into much detail, but let me simply ask that you would be in prayer for visa and work permit issues pertaining to the teachers at the school. As big a deal as this is, one thing Satan probably isn't too happy about is the unity among the staff. We spent over an hour in prayer together about this situation and to a person I think we are all resting in God's provision for this situation. It's so cool to be facing a really big thing and yet to have a quiet confidence that God is in control and He will receive the most glory however something works out.

Friday, October 24, 2008


we love bruschetta and i wanted to share how lovely the meal looked.
All you need to compliment it is a glass of red wine, some kalamata olives and a little salad on the side.
it's one of our favorite meals!

Take some chopped tomatoes, fresh basil, olive oil and salt and minced garlic. Add according to taste and let sit for awhile in the fridge. Spoon over some toasted french bread and voila! You have an easy yummy meal. You can also rub fresh garlic on the bread once it comes out of the oven, but spoon tomatoes on top right away!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Smoothie time

Did you know you can put anything healthy into a smoothie and your kids will never know? Try flax seed, tons of crushed up vitamins, wheat germ.....even frozen spinach!
They just drink away and smile....and of course you're smiling cause you've won!

They're pretty cute drinking my vitamin boost and totally oblivious :)

Monday, October 20, 2008


Root beer floats for a euro at our junior class event.

Thomas hosted the game "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?"

We cooked chili and cornbread for the event and it was good!

Here is the singing game and the four staff members... they had such fun and we loved it when the music cut off and they had to finish the lines a cappella :)

Thomas singing his heart out... he did win the event overall and of course we laughed!
Our Junior class even called "Showtime!" was a hit with the school and provided a unique time of fun with staff and students. One of our students, Marson, led the games as the Host and did a fantastic job!
You had to vote for your favorite staff member to play in the singing game knows as "Don't Forget the Lyrics!" Thomas did get enough votes and participated...

Here are our 5th graders from VCS playing the game "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?"

And we had a cake walk to get others to participate in the cake raffle. Several people went home with a lovely dessert!