Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Change Is Inevitable

What defines a year? Is it the events, stresses, conflicts, successes? We've seen them all. Here are the HUGE ones in chronological order.

1. Change?
After 20 years in student ministry God is leading us to focus His church on worshipping Him individually and corporately.  Leading worship has always been a passion along with leading, teaching, and mentoring students, but the desire for the full time change of focus is finally in place. It is very exciting. God starting moving our hearts in this direction in March of this year. I am grateful for Trinity Baptist Church. The pastoral leadership is allowing us the opportunity to transition into this new calling by leading worship on Sunday mornings. We have been able to pray and offer input on whoever comes into TBC as the new the student pastor. God's timing is always perfect and we look forward to seeing God place the right person in the position at the right time.

We started the process with fear, paperwork, anticipation and FEAR about how all this would end up. On August 5th while at a theme park with my students, we got a call saying a birth mother had chosen us to be the parents of her unborn baby girl. We met with her, started an awesome relationship, and awaited the coming of Sara Elizabeth Clair Stilwell. She was born on September 9th, and has changed our lives forever. After 16 years, 2 miscarriages, and numerous tests, this little girl is definitely worth the wait. More on Sara Beth later.

3. The Passing of my Grandmother.
Memaw, Elizabeth Day Sparks, 90, passed away on thanksgiving day. Her health had been steadily declining over the last year and a half. She got to meet and hold Sara Beth, her namesake, before she passed. She was surrounded by her family when she left this life, peaceful, but tough to swallow. I have no more grandparents. I think it hits me a lot harder than I expected

4. My AWESOME Wife
Kim has been fighting female health issues along with fibromyalgia since July. Within the last 2 months, she has become pretty much incapacitated. It is very disheartening to her because she is so excited to be MOMMY, but it has allowed us the awesome opportunity to pull together as a family, with our parents, siblings, and their kids, to take care of Kim and Sara Beth. I am so grateful for all our family. We are prating for a resolution and hopefully will get a treatment plan in place when we return to the doctor next week. I will withhold all the details until then. Please pray for us as God shows us His incredible love, patience and endurance.

So that's it in a nutshell. It may not seem like much, but to us, this year has seen MONUMENTAL CHANGE. All of it hasn't been pleasant, but all will be beneficial when it's all said and done. Change may be good, but it's tough. I'm looking forward to a new year, a new ministry, a new little girl, a renewed dedication to my awesome wife, and growing in Godliness. O yeah, and I think I'll blog a little more. I know, you don't believe me...

Monday, August 16, 2010


It has been an incredible summer. Kim and I started the adoption process in June along with a packed schedule. We were initially expecting a 6 month to a year process to find the right match with a birth mother and we were told if we were set on having a little girl it may take even longer. Our homestudy was jammed unexpectedly in the middle of 2 retreats with very little time to prepare or even catch our breath. With that done, we hoped for a baby by Christmas but expected much later.
Fast forward a few weeks to my last big event of the summer at Carowinds with 25 students. Our lawyer calls and says we have found a match and the little girl is due to enter the world at the end of September but she may come a lot earlier!! That was August 5. We went to GVille on August 8, went back this past weekend to move the birth mom into an apartment, and we are eagerly waiting the arrival of our precious Sara Elizabeth.
The whole experience has been a whirlwind, but we have seen God's hand in every step. The birth mom is a precious young lady and is grateful to be giving us the gift of life. It's been 16 years in the making and it's finally coming SOON. We are excited!!! Gotta go paint a nursery!!!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Throw Away Your iPhone 4? Are You Kidding Me??!!

Are you kidding me??!! I'm watching the Today Show's take on what Apple will announce at their press conference today. Despite what I've heard, here's my take on the whole situation.

I didn't buy the phone for Steve Jobs. I could care less if his "Corporate Sweet Heart" image is tarnished. Apple makes great products, has solid customer service, and has a track record of fixing mistakes and I'm good with that. All the critics can continue trashing, tarnishing, bashing, and mocking the iPhone 4, but I'm not the idiot you make me out to be. I'm a little more learned and educated than you give me credit for and I won't allow the tarnished image of apple to ruin my life. I thought networks made soap operas so they wouldn't have to carry the drama to national news. Epic FAIL!!

I love my iPhone, it's my third one. I love keeping up with the technology and seeing it's a lot cheaper than buying new computers and laptops, I choose to go with the upgrades in the phone. My first gen iPhone fell victim to the bathroom tile floor. CRACK!!! From that came cases for protection. The crack was minimal so I waited for the 3G to come out. I've used it ruthlessly and consistently since it came out. I skipped the 3GS in anticipation for the current generation iPhone 4. I have dropped no calls and have had nothing but great service from the wifi, 3g connection, gps, amazing multi-tasking and all the other cool features of the phone. I bought a new case for protection to keep the phone safe. I would have done that regardless of the antenna-gate catastrophe. I'll enjoy and benefit from whatever "fix" they offer because I like free stuff and good technology. It works for me.

I wish AT&T had great 3G service all over the place. If I lived in a non-3G area, I may have bought a droid or something comparable. I make my choices for technology by what works for me. You decide based on what works for you and keep the playground my daddy can beat up your daddy talk for the 3rd graders.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

iPhone 4.0: First Thoughts

I was fortunate to get my iPhone 4.0 half a day early thanks to UPS and Apple. I followed the directions from AT&T's email and had no problems activating. It's beautiful, classy and fast compared to my 2 yr old iPhone 3G. I missed the 3GS upgrade in anticipation of this new design.

First Thoughts:
It is PRETTY! It has weight to it, not too much, but it doesn't have the plastic of the previous generation. It looks more like the 1st gen classy. I always thought the 2nd gen design was a little cheap looking. The display clarity is incredible.

It's FAST! Much faster with surfing, booting up, loading and switching from applications. I bought the TomTom navigation app months ago to find it was slow and inaccurate on the 3G. But not any more. GPS pulled up quick and efficient even inside the house.
A few key strokes and all my email was up and running, WiFi passwords restored, and ready to use.

Speakers? I never thing about using the speakers from the phone, and that hasn't changed. It stil sounds like a 1960 transistor radio

Antenna / Signal Strength: This may be a major design flaw. When my hand comes in contact with the antenna band, the signal drops BIG TIME. Bars GO AWAY QUICK? I'm hoping this will be remedied by a case, but direct contact with the antenna is essential for holding the phone without looking and feeling like a dork.

I'm looking forward to the first full day of use. More to come.

Since I switched from 3g, I am digging voice control. Even through bluetooth it's amazing.  Now I know how all those people on the Ford commercials feel. SWEET!!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Fighting the GPS

Do you ever carry on conversations with your GPS? Mine get rather heated. Just today on the way to Greenville (I WAS very impressed it picked up the road construction and detour information from I-385) we had a minor disagreement that lead to 14 recalculations and me feeling superior to the machine because I got to our destination a whole 2 minutes before she said we would. Take THAT Robyn, or Marilyn or whatever your name is. 
If I knew the way, why did I use the GPS in the first place? I think just for the joy of being right once in my life and being able to rub it into someone's face. Here's how the conversation went.

Garman: in 500 yards turn right
Me: nah I don't think so
Garman: recalculating... in 400 yards make a uturn
Garman: recalculating... in 300 yards turn left and MAKE U UTURN
Garman: recalculating... continue 2 miles and turn right
Me: Yeah, that's what I thought you stupid machine. Booyah!! YOU Finally figured out I'm RIGHT!! I'M ALWAYS RIGHT!!

As you can tell, I don't get to argue very much and when I do, I never win. Thank you Garman Robyn Marilyn for restoring my manhood and yielding to my superior directional skills.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Fresh New Things on the Horizon

I am always amazed by God and all He has in store for us. Several things are peaking over the horizon and we are very excited about it. Please be in prayer for us as we seek God's plan and perfect will in EVERY area of our lives. More details later. I PROMISE!!!

OK, now here's the post:

I LOVE Summer, except for the extreme SC heat. I'm kind of a cold weather dude. All this blubber doesn't bode well in 100 degrees 100% humidity, but i do LOVE SUMMER. We get to spend more time with students doing fun and exciting things. Sure, we have "planned" activities and programs, but it's doing life together that makes the biggest difference with me. I learn just as much from the students about culture, struggles, media and trends as they learn about walking with God from us. I started in student ministry in June of 1991 and 19 years later, I am finding out new ways students relate to God and each other. Here's some things I'm LOVING right now.

The resurgence of accountability, transparency, and biblical community.
I've seen a group of college students reach out to graduating seniors with the desire to disciple them in first century church dynamics. They eat meals together, hang out, play ultimate frisbee, feed the homeless, share the gospel conversationally with others, ALL TOGETHER.  With this comes a new desire to understand God through His word and through worship.

Excitement about serving.
We hosted a World Changers project last week at our church. Students during their first week out of school came at 5AM, yes 5AM to help cook, serve and clean up breakfast for 120 student missionaries. Many of them came back everyday at 5PM to help with dinner then joined the missionaries for worship. 

Boldness in the Gospel
Students are sharing conversationally with their friends about God and his perfect plan. They are attempting to put God at the beginning of the discussion instead of the end. Throw out all the canned presentations. This re-awakening of desire in KNOWING God through His word and through worship is playing out in everyday conversations face to face, via text, email, facebook, twitter, you name it.

We are still seeing drama and pettiness in many younger students. Materialism is leading the charge and worldly media has a generation by the throat. Young girls are looking for affection they miss from their fathers and change bff's like underwear. Young guys are trying to carve six packs and build biceps so they can show their lilly white chests every chance they get. Their conversation about girls, parents and freedom are far from Godly. 

The answer,
The older shall lead the younger. Two associational leaders were talking with me the other day about ministry and the downfall of our culture when one of my high school students interrupted us. He asked if I needed help with a middle school movie night. He asked what time I needed him and if he needed to bring anything. It was unsolicited and would have been unsuspected, but so many of our students are moving and impacting the culture towards Godliness. He and 7 others came to the middle school event and played games, fed and watched a movie with younger ones. They were highly esteemed and many seeds were planted.

Eight years ago, we came to our current church with a desire for true biblical community. It's been a long time coming and we are barely scratching the surface, but this young generation is leading the way. I only hope the rest of the folks, younger and OLDER will follow their example.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Organization, Communication, Conflict Resolution

In overlooking the last 19 years of ministry my attention has been drawn to a conversation with a former pastor / mentor. He asked me point blank, "What is your PASSION? What really fires you up, gives you the rush of adrenalin, allowing you to be all God has made you to be?" I didn't even have to think about it. It rolled right through my heart to my brain and through my mouth with no hesitation. Leading worship AND teaching. His challenge for me was exciting and seemingly impossible at the same time. He told me to focus 80% of my ministry time, resources, efforts and attention on those 2 things. The other 20% needed to handle all the "other" stuff that goes along with ministry. You know, organization, planning, putting out fires, trying to keep everyone happy, meeting the expectations of others (not really what he meant but definitely what I took from it). He also encouraged me that I needed to take care of my family, love my wife, and keep the home fires burning. This was 3 years ago. So how am I doing?


I still LOVE leading worship and teaching truth from God's word to students, but I would say the 80/20% rule has completely reversed.

There are several issues I seem to have trouble with over and over again. I'm in the process of learning but I seem to have a long way to go. Organization, Communication, and Conflict. I think these three things can either make or break a minister, namely ME.

Organization - I have the gadgets, the calendars, reminders beeping me for meetings and so on. But what about long term plans, implementing action steps, setting time lines for projects, ahhhhh I'm stressing as I type. I'm NO GOOD at that stuff.

Communication - COME ON PEOPLE!!! READ MY MIND!!! Call me, text me, email me, TALK TO ME!!! oh yeah, about what? I forgot to tell you? oops!! I believe communication falls in the same realm as organization. I stink at it.

Conflict - Why can't we all just get along??!! So what if we're human and our species has been fighting, fussing and killing since the fall of man. We can at least act civilized and biblical in our conversations to each other and take issues to the people we have the issue with instead of passing opinions and frustrations to people who are looking for more to put in their gossip bag. whew!!!
BUT... if I were better at communication and organization, these issues may not even come up. Who am I kidding, I tell students all the time that 90% of drama is of our own making. I'm right there.

So, here's the hump day realization I've come to. I need help, yeah I know I've asked before and ignored it. I'm praying God will help me deal with ME. I want Him to help me surround myself with people who can organize me and help me communicate. I want to talk with good conflict resolvers and get some wisdom and direction on how to handle it, learn from it, and build the kingdom through it. My starting place today is with this blog post. I'm laying a lot out there for interpretation and filtration, but DON'T DO IT!! This is nothing more than the rambling frustrations of a fat bald youth pastor who needed a vent session. Thanks for listening, have a nice day!!

Monday, May 17, 2010


I haven't blogged in months and I have nothing profound to say. I only ask for prayer and wisdom. Prayer from you and wisdom from God. James 1:5.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Day 39

39 days ago I started an experiment. I wanted to eat less and exercise more to lose some weight and build some endurance for the new year. Week 1 - gained 2 lbs. Week 2 - gained 2 more, Week 4 - lost 2 lbs. Week 5 - lost another 2 lbs. I have one more day, but as of Sunday, I've come full circle. My exercise has been sporadic at best. Fatdog probably lost and gained as well, we'll weigh him tomorrow too. 
Spiritually, I've been reading the Bible through in 90 days. I'm almost a month into it and have made it to 2 Kings. Transition has been the story of my life. Change is never easy, but I can say that most of the time, it's best. God is doing something great in Me, my wife, our church, and our community. Sometimes I feel like I'm spinning, getting dizzy, about to puke. But most of the time, I'm enjoying the excitement of the ride. Psalm 62:5-8 has been my heart's cry. 
In the mean time, Kim and I are starting a new "wellness" plan that includes healthy food and depriving myself of cheesecake. We'll see how it works.
SO tomorrow is it. 40 days...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Day 38

Two more days of the FatYouthPastor 40 day experiment. I've lost the 4 lbs. I gained the first 14 days so I'm back to very little change. The major difference is in me seeing what it's going to take to lose the weight and gain a healthy lifestyle. Kim and I started "The Maker's Diet" yesterday. I'm not sure what all the details are, I'm just eating what I'm told. I think it has to do with a jewish old testament diet. I'm sure I'll learn more if the first week is successful.
A lot has changed though, over the course of the experiment. More on that later.Here are some things I want to do before 2010 come to and end.

Kayak to Charleston
Lose 50 lbs.
Run a mile (yes, at one time without stopping)
NOT have a heart attack from running a mile
Write a song
Fix broke stuff at my house
THROW AWAY / SELL / DONATE all our family JUNK
Take Chaco down Mills Race on the Saluda River

I can probably add a hundred things to this, but I'll start small. In the mean time, if you live in central South Carolina and feel a rumble or shake, it's not an earthquake. Jeff's just trying to run...

Friday, January 15, 2010

Day 26

I put the brakes on the weight gain and I'm back down to +2 lbs from where I started so I guess I actually lost 2 pounds (not good seeing as I gained 4 in the first 2 weeks). I've done NO exercise this week but I have been eating better for the most part. I'm going to take today to be lazy and do NOTHING!! I've got some catchup to do on my B90X (read the bible in 90 days). Breaking into Joshua and Judges today. I'm praying for Kim to feel better. God is SO GOOD. 
There is a million things to do around the house and I'd love to find the motivation to take care of it all, but my only motivation is to park my carcass in the recliner and rest in true Fat Youth Pastor Form. 

Monday, January 11, 2010

Day 23

Fat Youth Pastor 40 day Experiment has not been a total failure, even if I did scarfed down 5Guys for lunch today. I forgot to weigh yesterday and we are on the way to ATL tonight for Kim's treatment tomorrow. That means Marietta Diner and halfway healthy fast food via chick-fil-a. Weigh in will be Wednesday morning before I eat chocolate chip pancakes with the FCA student leadership. This is much harder than I thought. I have purchased the domain so my buddy Brian Padget and I can finally document our escapades. Look out world.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Day 18

I don't think I've lost any weight and I haven't walked in 3 days. Chaco's getting lazy, I'm already there. BUT... I am going skiing with some college students friday. I may even get to see some REAL snow. I'll see what this endurance building has led me to. Can I keep up with the flat bellies?
I started Elevation Church's B90X read the bible through in 90 days. Already through Exodus and into Leviticus. Two students are going with me and their consistency amazes me.
I haven't had much time to blog, changes are everywhere and I'm very excited about what's coming up. More on that later. Fat Youth Pastor needs hi beauty sleep. (A LOT OF IT!)