Apr 10, 2018

my last moments with Carrie Fisher


It felt like a dream.

The story of how I arrived on the set of The Last Jedi is a blur to explain. What's most important is I was there, sitting next to her - Carrie Fisher. Fumbling around like any Star Wars fanboy on set, I didn't know what to do or say to steal even just 30 seconds of time with her.

Looking back on it now, it felt like nobody knew she would die in the near future... and yet everybody somehow knew. The details are hard to put together, like sometimes you just feel the weather is going to change, and there it goes... making you feel as if its your own superpower.

In that moment, I knew this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Like a creepy stalker with nothing creepy or stalky (is that even a word?) in my heart, I ended up near her for a brief second. She was in her full costume on set, seated on a "spaceship" and leaned over a particular table of random importance. Everyone was shuffling around getting ready for whatever was next, and I was magically a foot away from Princess Leia.

Princess. Freaking. Leia.

Only, I was now leaning over. I really was going in... "What am I thinking?" I dared to ask myself, yet not daring myself to stop. Before I knew it, I was gently kissing the top of her head. "Who does this?" I again wondered, yet "Thank you for everything," is what I courageously spoke.

No one stopped me. Everyone kept walking about. Her head just nodded. I noted that her hair was uniquely tight, as if it was exhausted from days of having been put together for the role. She seemed done filming anything at this point. Maybe that's why there were little pigtails up top in her hair, as if she wore this to be again be spunky under the grandeur of the role. It all made sense and was pure fanboy trivia I couldn't wait to share.

Moments passed. Nothing happened. No one asked me to leave or harassed me for the foolish thing I'd just pulled off.

I wondered... could I perhaps get a picture with her?

I sat down next to her, determined that nothing would stop me in my quest to make the most of this opportunity. She didn't seem bothered by it, but took a moment to herself to finish whatever she was doing with the papers in front of her. She then tilted her head my way and simply said, "If we're going to take it...." and then she nodded, appearing too sassy or tired to finish her sentence, yet too alive not to ad lib with me.

"Yes, thank you," I said. I moved just a bit closer and pulled out my phone to take a selfie.

First of all, I hate selfies. Even in this moment, I couldn't figure out the right angle or how to get my arm just two inches longer to encompass the regal gift of what was happening.

And I heard footsteps behind me. I half-panicked, wondering if security was about to bust me. The distinct sound corrected my fears, though. It was the sound of a female's heels and not a male's flatfoot. "Do you want a lift, Carrie?" the voice asked.

I turned and saw the rather tall Laura Dern in her costume as well, offering Carrie a firm arm to grab onto to stand up. "Clever," I  thought, "this is their way as actresses of helping each other get away from odd fans who sneak on set."

Except instead of standing up, Carrie Fisher used Laura Dern's arm to stand and wiggle just slightly enough to sit closer to me. "I needed to twist my leg over this crazy space bench," she said, giggling under her breath. With the best smile she could muster, she said, "Let's take this picture already."


"I can take it for you," Laura Dern said. (Maybe I don't need to say her full name every time I mention her, but c'mon - this was a freakishly tall actress in a full-length space dress offering to be my photographer on a phone I bought at Costco.)

Carrie and I held our smiles as we waited for Laura to snap the picture. Only as she place her arm near mine, I felt something bumpy. Glancing down for only a millisecond, I noted she was wearing some kind of Star Wars watch. I'd never seen it before, and it looked old - like a 1970's take on the classic Mickey Mouse watch you'd wind up everyday to watch his hands move about to tell the time. Only this one had single-color images of a few droids in the upper-left background and the Star Wars logo in the lower right-hand corner.

My eyes glanced back up in time for the photo to get taken.

"Take it," Carrie said, now sounding even more tired. I assumed she meant the photo, not realizing that Laura Dern (still full name) had just finished and was checking my phone to see how it turned out.

"She already took the photo," I said.

"The watch," Carrie said. "You can have it."

I turned my head and looked her in the eye. "What? Really?"

She nodded and smiled. I stood up to make sure I wasn't dreaming. Turning to look at her, I said, "Thank you, Ms Fisher. That is... so generous. I don't know what to say." So I tried to say something noble. "This is for the fans," I said.

She grinned, nodding again at me. Yet her eyes rolled back, as if to say, "Whatever."

I looked around the room as everyone kept bustling about. "No one is ever going to believe this story," I concluded.

Just a handful of moments passed by before everything changed. Laura Dern (pretty sure at this point she'll never not be mentioned otherwise) had handed me to the phone and now was noticing something larger. From a place of relational authority versus my mere guest fandom, she took authority and began gently leading.

"We should help you to a more comfortable place," she said, speaking to Carrie. Carrie nodded, but paused and bent over in fatigue.

Carrie took a moment to again look at me. "Take it," she said, more like a mumble than a sentence. She motioned to her watch. "Take it. Take it..." she repeated and nodded, as if to emphasize the importance of the moment. "Take... it."

Laura Dern was looking beyond this exchange, giving instructions for someone else to come over. Carrie Fisher extended her hand toward me and rolled it over so I could unfasten her rather unique watch.

Instinctively, my hands went in before my brain agreed it was a good idea. I somehow easily slipped the watch off and held it a half-moment before again telling her, "This is for the fans." I mentally paused to think of ways I could somehow let others see this in the years to come. Three random people on set were already looking at me, having watched all of this unfold. "Will they verify my story?" I wondered, "or will they claim something different happened to claim this watch themselves?"

By this point, Carrie was being lifted up and away to her dressing room.

"What if I'm the last fan to take a picture with her?" I considered. "Should I post the picture? Or, maybe she isn't ill but just tired," I argued back and forth with myself, creating seconds of personal distraction.

And yet the watch was in my hands. This was really happening.

I noticed the glass on the watch was loose, though. I barely touched it and it moved, as if it had been pried up and open many times in the past. The face plate also quickly came up. Some sort of brown, grounded material that had been stashed there was underneath. Before I knew it, I was shaking it out. Then I stopped to consider if I should, and then continued shaking it out again.

"Is she okay?" I turned, wondering in her direction. She was almost off set, being respectfully walked away all at once by a few people and small crowd that had been activated to help.

I stared at the watch. I considered the photo I'd taken with her.

"Do I tell this story, given its odd ending and whatever mystery substance I just found?"

"I told her the watch was 'for the fans' - but how do I share this watch with the world?"

"Will I be accused of stealing? If so, would I fight for the right to keep this watch or just give it over to her family?"

And yes, sorry to say...

that is when I realized I was in my bed.

It felt like a dream, after all.

Believe me, I was just as psyched out as you... whomever "you" may be, reading this. Honestly, thank you for getting this far. I hope I didn't anger you in sharing this. It was a legitimate dream I woke up from on April 10, 2018 at 1:26am.

The kind of dream that you wonder if it should be shared. It was so vivid. So real.

And also the kind of dream you inner self must share. To be clear, I didn't want to get up out of bed and immediately write all of this. I just did. I just "had to." It felt imposed upon me, so to speak.

And that's when it occurred to me, only at the end, why.

I somehow easily slipped the dream off and held it a half-moment before telling you...

"This is for the fans."

Mar 29, 2018

Holy Week thought: Thursday

A group of teenagers hanging out with Jesus... it wasn't the first time, and apparently it won't be the last time.

Our church hosted an amazing Easter experience for our students during which I happened to catch these photos of two of our guy groups in a particular rotation. As they took part in watching a movie clip of Jesus with His disciples during the Last Supper, I watched as these young man all tried to dial into something they couldn't fully grasp... something none of us can fully grasp. Yet they tried anyway. The same was true for other groups of guys and girls throughout the night at different stations. 

It occurred to me that they took part in something that happened 20 centuries ago... because 20 centuries ago a group of teenagers following Jesus did their best to dial into something they couldn't fully grasp.

Ironic?

Perhaps some days you don't feel like you fully understand all that you are learning about God or can't make sense out of everything the Bible teaches. I'm not so sure that it comes down to whether or not you or I can master it all, but if we will lean into the Master... for in doing so we can be contagious students. The same is true if you are a parent or leader and don't feel like you know what you're doing some days. The real challenge, if it is a challenge at all, is to pull up to the table with Jesus everyday, enjoy His company and follow His lead to take part in whatever He is leading you to do. As both history and my photo demonstrates, if we do this next generation will have an example to show them what to do with the "food" before them.

A group of teenagers hanging out with Jesus... it wasn't the first time, and apparently it won't be the last time.
"When it was evening, Jesus sat down at the table with the Twelve." (Matthew 26:20)

Mar 28, 2018

Holy Week thought: Wednesday


Nothing. Or maybe... something?

Sometimes it seems like God is quiet. Take today, for example - on Wednesday of Holy Week we aren't quite sure what Jesus and the disciples did. The Bible doesn't record it, and some scholars assume this was due to them simply resting together after the long journey. What is clear is that much happened on Thursday, and so we know by default that Jesus was quite alive on Wednesday despite us not having a record of it.

Sound familiar?

How often in life do we not know what God is up to? We see a blank page that we assume is blank, or we wonder if He's up to writing something in "invisible ink." As if, "What a rascal." Maybe.

Or... maybe Jesus is quite alive and with you. Maybe His most important priority is not to say something new but to put His arm around you so you remember what is always true. Maybe He is creating a way for you to be simply resting together after the long journey.

Sure, "Thursday" is coming... much will happen "then." And maybe even then this page will remain blank as you look back on it. You won't know what happened or why it happened.

"Nothing. Or maybe... something?"

Feel free to ask those questions to Jesus. But... also feel free to embrace His embrace today. Perhaps that in itself is more than enough.
"Be still and know I am God." (Psalm 46:10)

Mar 27, 2018

Holy Week thought: Tuesday

We can't fool Jesus... so why not instead embrace Him?

On Tuesday morning, Jesus and his disciples returned to Jerusalem. They passed a withered fig tree on their way - an object lesson about how our lives are meant to produce fruit versus merely playing the part of a "tree."

It's Jesus' direct challenge to the phrase many of us drop out there - "You can't judge me. Only God can judge me." The catch? He actually will judge each of us. And He actually would rather you get right with Him today and get rooted in Him than bust you with accountability for living life on your own terms.

How easy is it for us to turn Easter into a time when we show how "religious" we are? How much more fruitful would it be to quit playing the game and letting every day be fruitful in Christ, through Christ, and for Christ?
Jesus was matter-of-fact: “Embrace this God-life. Really embrace it, and nothing will be too much for you. This mountain, for instance: Just say, ‘Go jump in the lake’—no shuffling or shilly-shallying—and it’s as good as done. That’s why I urge you to pray for absolutely everything, ranging from small to large. Include everything as you embrace this God-life, and you’ll get God’s everything. And when you assume the posture of prayer, remember that it’s not all asking. If you have anything against someone, forgive—only then will your heavenly Father be inclined to also wipe your slate clean of sins." (Mark 11)

Mar 26, 2018

Holy Week thought: Monday

How often are we confused, thinking we "weep" for our culture when we're actually just disappointed in our culture? Seriously, recognize the difference.

Weeping involves being changed by the ache and becoming a change-agent in the trenches. Disappointment involves being frustrated by the ache and critiquing it from a couch.

Jesus knew the difference... He took the time to weep, and then He took the time to humbly die for us. What would it look like to follow in His footsteps today?
And when Jesus drew near and saw the city, He wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes." (Luke 19:41)

Mar 2, 2018

the sin of tolerance

This article originally appeared in the February 2, 1959, issue of Christianity Today. It's written by Billy Graham.
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Billy Graham's ministry to the big cities, widened in its outreach by radio and television, is one of the outstanding contributions to the resurgence of evangelical Christianity in our generation. His radio message on "The Sin of Tolerance" has been especially blessed. Reprints are available from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in Minneapolis.
One of the pet words of this age is "tolerance." It is a good word, but we have tried to stretch it over too great an area of life. We have applied it too often where it does not belong. The word "tolerant" means "liberal," "broad-minded," "willing to put up with beliefs opposed to one's convictions," and "the allowance of something not wholly approved."
Tolerance, in one sense, implies the compromise of one's convictions, a yielding of ground upon important issues. Hence, over-tolerance in moral issues has made us soft, flabby and devoid of conviction.
We have become tolerant about divorce; we have become tolerant about the use of alcohol; we have become tolerant about delinquency; we have become tolerant about wickedness in high places; we have become tolerant about immorality; we have become tolerant about crime and we have become tolerant about godlessness. We have become tolerant of unbelief.
In a book recently published on what prominent people believe, 60 out of 100 did not even mention God, and only 11 out of 100 mentioned Jesus. There was a manifest tolerance toward soft character and a broadmindedness about morals, characteristic of our day. We have been sapped of conviction, drained of our beliefs and bereft of our faith.
The Way Is Narrow
The sciences, however, call for narrow-mindedness. There is no room for broad-mindedness in the laboratory. Water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit at sea level. It is never 100 degrees nor 189 degrees—but always 212. Water freezes at 32 degrees—not at 23 or 31.
Objects heavier than air are always attracted to the center of the earth. They always go down—never up. I know this is very narrow, but the law of gravity decrees it so, and science is narrow.
Take mathematics. The sum of two plus two is four—not three-and-a-half. That seems very narrow, but arithmetic is not broad. Neither is geometry. It says that a straight line is the shortest distance between two points. That seems very dogmatic and narrow, but geometry is intolerant.
A compass will always point to the magnetic north. It seems that is a very narrow view, but a compass is not very "broad-minded." If it were, all the ships at sea, and all the planes in the air would be in danger.
If you should ask a man the direction to New York City and he said, "Oh, just take any road you wish, they all lead there," you would question either his sanity or his truthfulness. Somehow, we have gotten it into our minds that "all roads lead to heaven." You hear people say, "Do your best," "Be honest," and "Be sincere—and you will make it to heaven all right."
But Jesus Christ, who journeyed from heaven to earth and back to heaven again—who knew the way better than any man who ever lived—said, "Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it" (Matt. 7:13,14).
Jesus was narrow about the way of salvation.
He plainly pointed out that there are two roads in life. One is broad—lacking in faith, convictions, and morals. It is the easy, popular, careless way. It is the way of the crowd, the way of the majority, the way of the world. He said, "Many there be that go in thereat." But he pointed out that this road, easy though it is, popular though it may be, heavily traveled though it is, leads to destruction. And in loving, compassionate intolerance he says, "Enter ye in at the strait gate … because strait is the gate and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life."
Our Lord's Intolerance
His was the intolerance of a pilot who maneuvers his plane through the storm, realizing that a single error, just one flash of broad-mindedness, might bring disaster to all those passengers on the plane.
Once while flying from Korea to Japan, we ran through a rough snowstorm; and when we arrived over the airport in Tokyo, the ceiling and visibility were almost zero. The pilot had to make an instrument landing. I sat up in the cockpit with the pilot and watched him sweat it out as he was brought in by ground control approach. A man in the tower at the airport talked us in. I did not want these men to be broad-minded, but narrow-minded. I knew that our lives depended on it. Just so, when we come in for the landing in the great airport in heaven, I don't want any broad-mindedness. I want to come in on the beam, and even though I may be considered narrow here, I want to be sure of a safe landing there.
Christ was so intolerant of man's lost estate that he left his lofty throne in the heavenlies, took on himself the form of man, suffered at the hands of evil men and died on a cross to purchase our redemption. So serious was man's plight that he could not look upon it lightly. With the love that was his, he could not be broadminded about a world held captive by its lusts, its appetites and its sins.
Having paid such a price, he could not be tolerant about man's indifference toward him and the redemption he had wrought. He said, "He that is not with me is against me" (Matt. 12:30). He also said, "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life, and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him" (John 3:36).
He spoke of two roads, two kingdoms, two masters, two rewards, and two eternities. And he said, "Ye cannot serve God and mammon" (Matt. 6:24). We have the power to choose whom we will serve, but the alternative to choosing Christ brings certain destruction. Christ said that! The broad, wide, easy, popular way leads to death and destruction. Only the way of the Cross leads home.
Playing Both Sides
The popular, tolerant attitude toward the gospel of Christ is like a man going to watch the Braves and the Dodgers play a baseball game and rooting for both sides. It would be impossible for a man who has no loyalty to a particular team to really get into the game.
Baseball fans are very intolerant in both Milwaukee and Los Angeles. If you would cheer for both sides in Los Angeles or Milwaukee, someone would yell, "Hey, make up your mind who you're for."
Christ said, "Ye cannot serve God and mammon … no man can serve two masters" (Matt. 6:24). One of the sins of this age is the sin of broad-mindedness. We need more people who will step out and say unashamedly, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord" (Josh. 24:15).
Jesus was intolerant toward hypocrisy.
He pronounced more "woes" on the Pharisees than on any other sect because they were given to outward piety but inward sham. "Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!" He said, "for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within ye are full of extortion and excess" (Matt. 23:25).
The church is a stage where all the performers are professors, but where too few of the professors are performers. A counterfeit Christian, singlehandedly, can do more to retard the progress of the church than a dozen saints can do to forward it. That is why Jesus was so intolerant with sham!
Sham's only reward is everlasting destruction. It is the only sin which has no reward in this life. Robbers have their loot; murderers their revenge; drunkards their stimulation; but the hypocrite has nothing but the contempt of his neighbors and the judgment of God hereafter. That is why Jesus said, "Be not as the hypocrites" (Matt. 6:16).
Jesus was intolerant toward selfishness.
He said, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself" (Luke 9:23). Self-centeredness is the basic cause of much of our distress in life. Hypochondria, a mental disorder which is accompanied by melancholy and depression, is often caused by self-pity and self-centeredness.
Most of us suffer from spiritual near-sightedness. Our interests, our loves, and our energies are too often focused upon ourselves.
Jesus was intolerant of selfishness. He underscored the fact that his disciples were to live outflowingly rather than selfishly. To the rich young ruler he said, "If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven …" (Matt. 19:21). It wasn't the giving of his goods that Jesus demanded, particularly-but his release from selfishness and its devastating effect on his personality and life.
He was intolerant of selfishness when he said, "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it" (Matt. 16:25). The "life" which Jesus urges us to lose is the selfishness that lives within us, the old nature of sin that is in conflict with God. Peter, James and John left their nets, but Jesus did not object to nets as such—it was the selfish living they symbolized that he wanted them to forsake. Matthew left the "custom seat," a political job, to follow Christ. But Jesus did not object to a political career as such—it was the selfish quality of living which it represented that he wanted Matthew to forsake.
So, in your life and mine, "self" must be crucified and Christ enthroned. He was intolerant of any other way, for he knew that selfishness and the Spirit of God cannot exist together.
Jesus was intolerant toward sin.
He was tolerant toward the sinner but intolerant toward the evil which enslaved him. To the adulteress he said, "Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more" (John 8:11). He forgave her because he loved her; but he condemned sin because he loathed it with a holy hatred.
God has always been intolerant of sin! His Word says: "Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil" (Isa. 1:16). "Awake to righteousness, and sin not" (1 Cor. 15:34). "Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts …" (Isa. 55:7).
Christ was "so intolerant of sin that he died on the cross to free men from its power. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). Sin lies at the root of society's difficulties today. Whatever separates man from God disunites man from man. The world problem will never be solved until the question of sin is settled.
But the Cross is God's answer to sin. To all who will receive the blessed news of salvation through Christ, it forever crosses out and cancels sin's power. Forest rangers know well the value of the "burn-back" in fighting forest fires. To save an area from being burned, they simply burn away all of the trees and shrubs to a safe distance; and when the fire reaches that burned-out spot, those standing there are safe from the flames. Fire is thus fought by fire.
Calvary was a colossal fighting of fire by fire. Christ, taking on himself all of our sins, allowed the fire of sin's judgment to fall upon him. The area around the Cross has become a place of refuge for all who would escape the judgment of sin. Take your place with him at the Cross; stand by the Cross; yield your life to him who redeemed you on the Cross, and the fire of sin's judgment can never touch you.
God is intolerant of sin. That intolerance sent his Son to die for us. He has said "that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish." The clear implication is that those who refuse to believe in Christ shall be eternally lost. Come to him today, while his Spirit deals with your heart!

Feb 21, 2018

hindsight

Recently I was asked to put together some information about Connection Church - an amazing congregation I was the Lead Pastor of for ten years.

I've never taken the time to do this, and it honestly felt a bit weird. But... it also felt amazing.

I'm putting this here just to put it out there. To God be the Glory... and to people be the story.

In 2007:  (the Recession hit us hard, so we hit back hard)
- We led at least 15 people to Jesus
- We collected blankets to pass out to the homeless in Cleveland ("Shirt Off Your Back")
- We raised money to take care of 25 kids in Africa for a whole year (school, food, church)
- We began networking other local churches together
- We took part in ministry to the local jail, bringing Bibles to all the prisoners
- We did a food drive for a local ministry
- We did a book drive for a city literacy agency
- We co-hosted the renewal of wedding vows through a partnership we helped forge called the Medina Marriage Coalition
- We ran a concession stand at Reagan Park baseball fields
- We hosted a Back To School Fest for the whole community at Regal Cinemas, helping 24 area kids with bags of school supplies
- We held our first VBS co-hosted with another church
- We held a 24 hour prayer vigil
- We moved out of a movie theater and into Warehouse space
- We made Christmas better locally for 14 kids / 5 families through Adopt A Family
- We made Christmas better globally through Advent for Orphans (providing a full year of care for an orphan and resources for the house he/she lives in)
- We did “Operation Christmas Child” (shoe boxes of gifts for kids in Third World countries)
- We were in the newspaper 6 times

In 2008:
- We led at least 25 people to Jesus.
- We relocated to our second building, leaving the Warehouse for larger space down the street
- We hosted Learning Communities at local restaurants (Panera, Donatos) and the library to invite people to study with us
- We had live animals in our new building on Christmas Eve and gave out cash to our attendees so they could use it to be a blessing to others. In doing so, we made the front page of the Cleveland Plain Dealer (and two other notable papers locally).
- We renovated a returning soldier’s home, and again the news thought we were up to something good.
- We threw a “land cruise” in a neighborhood for a church member who had cancer… we turned a cul-de-sac into multiple ports with ethnic food and more.
- We established our network to invest into local networks and global ministry: The first 10% that we received financially would now be sent right back out to be a blessing to other ministries.  This included endeavors that work with unwed mothers in crisis, or local teens in need of a connection, or marriage initiatives across church lines.
- We began partnering with Gospel Harvest Ministries so they could build a church structure and feed its people during a hard famine… one they are still in.
- We did “Grow & Go” all summer - after taking part in a regular Sunday service, we then went out on a different serving project each week to bless people with random acts of kindness.
- We started a monthly food pantry ministry called Connection Cupboard,

In 2009:
- We led at least 15 people to Jesus
- We grew our Lead Team to seven members
- We officially paid down $60,000 in debt from the church's first/launch year
- We again were on the front page of the Cleveland Plain Dealer on Christmas for our services and giving away money on Christmas Eve
- We initiated local support and awareness we’re raising for Haiti
- We fed over 40 families through Connection Cupboard Food Pantry
- We hosted a massive VBS that drew in kids from all over, filling our building
- We helped Gospel Harvest Ministries in Kenya grow its financial sponsorship and ministry to reach even more orphans (28)
- We co-hosted Good Friday services with Heartland Church at our building.

In 2010:
- We led at least 16 people to Jesus.
- We expanded our concession stand ministry to include special events and multiple people serving to have better connections in the community.
- We began putting a Jesus-centered weekly article in the Medina Gazette that reached 13,000 people weekly.
- We fed over 60 families through Connection Cupboard food pantry.
- We set aside the first Monday of every month as a day set aside for pray – a 24 hour prayer vigil people signed up for various hours with God for.
- We became a church with a 7-Day facility – which means that when we weren’t using our building, someone else was for free… be it a business group or a local Girl Scout troop.
- We had a young adult from our church become our first global missionary.
- We discovered more dedicated leaders emerging within Connection Church. Our monthly large “Leaders Connection” meeting of volunteer leaders grew from 10 to 25.
- We created a lead team position over “Next Gen” ministries!  This allowed for ministry directors who spiritually invested into Tweens, Jr Teens, and High School Teens.
- Men’s Connection and Women’s Connection formed into their own unique movements, between weekly Bible studies and monthly food/events.
- For the first time ever, we had two services in the summer and three services in December.
- We “unsuccessfully successfully” read the Bible. Many of us set a goal to read the whole Bible, yet only a few people did (one of them did it in 90 days). The rest of us “failed,” but we praised God for it – for while we didn’t finish the goal of reading the whole thing, we did read it more than ever before.
- We co-hosted Good Friday services with Heartland Church at our building.
- We helped Gospel Harvest Ministries in Kenya grow its financial sponsorship and ministry to reach even more orphans (46)
- We finally hit budget as a church! It’s the first time ever – we brought in $190,865 internally, $6,484 externally, and $12,816 through fundraising; we paid out $3,086 to Birthcare of Medina (supports new moms in need), $3,086 to Cup’s CafĂ© (feeds area kids and adults for free), $3,086 to Westedge Church (Cleveland ministry to the under-resourced), $5,347 to The Reckoning (micro-financing ministry projects and loans all around the world), and $11,778 to Gospel Harvest Ministries (church and orphan care in Africa).

In 2011:
- We were asked to expand our weekly newspaper ministry to reach 63,000 people. Multiple people began emailing us about how they were being impacted from it. There is no way to gauge the specific number of people who came to know Jesus better through this, but the effect was all over.
- We hosted Back To School Fest at Liberty Plaza. Over 40 kids received backpacks and school supplies, not to mention the new partnership we’ve formed for continued ministry and relationships.
- Once a month we fed and connected with the under-resourced in Cleveland, including bringing over 45 shoeboxes full of gifts at Christmas time.
- We sacrificed a week of regular eating to consume nothing but rice and beans. The money we saved we sent to Africa, helping them finish a floor that has allowed a ministry there to care for more orphans and raise them up in the faith. Multiple new outlets covered this, including USA Today
- We collected shirts, coats, blankets and more for the Cleveland homeless and ended up with so many donations that we ran out of vehicles/people who could dispense it.

In 2012:
- We led at least 12 people to Jesus.
- We experienced a bitterweet tipping point - sweet, in that we restructured the church into three teams of people (Core Team, Resource Team, Lead Team) yet bitter in that it was when a divisive family created massive contention. Most of our energy went into putting out fires and our new building campaign. In response, though...
-  We started The Big Day of Serving. Working with Mayor Hanwell and five other churches, we brought 400 volunteers to Medina to do community service projects.
- We started a Saturday night service to reach new people. It brought in multiple young adults but our team couldn't sustain it past 9 months without feeling wearied.
- We began a "replant" effort in the fall of 2012 where I visited the homes of people in Connection and listened to whatever they wanted to share. It went further than I expected, even creating additional conversations into this summer. Ultimately, it allowed us to form values that weren't something I came up with on my own but ones that everyone had a "voice" into. That led to more hands on deck to put God first in all things and pursue the people He wants us to reach.
- Making Space (our building campaign) allowed us to expand 30,000 feet debt free, This opened up new classrooms for the kids on Easter Weekend and made space in our “Big Room” before Christmas.
- VBS again set records. One of our best at reaching kids/families.

I can write more about 2013-2017, but need to do that later. Maybe I already did.

In hindsight, we were quite nimble and audacious in our early years. When we got into our building, we had breakthroughs but also new responsibilities. It put us into a budget that quickly became an ongoing topic. That said, we did reach a ton of people along the way, helped some amazing people become lifelong friends and forged an identity as a genuine, "go to" church in the community.

I wish I knew then what I know now, but I only know what I know now by being who I was then. :)

Nov 7, 2017

the thing about giving


Did you by chance take part in the “family business?” 

In my case, the family business was combination of a private detective agency and a security company that was based out of our home. During elementary school I regularly answered phones, worked security shifts with my parents and traveled all over the country as my dad was called to follow someone to take pictures of them cheating on their spouse. Kind of makes for an interesting way to grow up, doesn’t it?

All throughout this experience a number of characters somehow found their way into working for my dad. From the 8-foot tall whiner named “Ed” to the often lazy “Jerry,” every employee had a distinctiveness that separated them from among the rest. It’s no wonder we didn’t really promote our company Christmas party to the masses - we’d need some security of our own!

One of these unique individuals was named “Oscar.” One of Oscar’s unique characteristics, if this can be considered. is the fact that he didn’t have much. He came from a humble area near Chicago where he and his family lived. As he worked for our company for a short while, I noticed my parents were quite generous in helping him with money, food, and other household “essentials” that he and his family were lacking in. And on every occasion, Oscar simply said (in his usual deep, raspy voice), “Thank you.”

Being a part of the family business, I didn’t want a chance to miss out on the family generosity. So without any prodding, I gathered up many of my favorite toys and gave them to Oscar to give to his kids. And as always, Oscar gave me his famous “Thank you.” And that was it - end of story.

Honestly, I was let down. I mean, come on - these were not just any toys but my Star Wars toys! I had spent months collecting these little plastic men and all I got out of it was a mere “Thank you?” Something didn’t seem right. I mean... surely I had missed the letter from Oscar’s kids that told me how much I was the greatest kid in the world for parting with such processed treasure.

Looking back on it all, I think this was a good lesson for me in something Jesus said:
But when you give to the poor and do acts of kindness, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing [give in complete secrecy], so that your charitable acts will be done in secret; and your Father who sees [what is done] in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:3-4)
Generosity involves giving up something you normally hold as a part of your life for something greater - a blessing to someone else, or a clearer connection to the greatest Giver of all. Like the lesson I learned during my younger days, sometimes you don’t get much more out of generosity than the affirmation that you did what was right and that should be enough.

Because we do not measure holiness by what we do but by who we are becoming.

Jesus warned us to be sure that when we make an offering, be it to God or to others, that we should not have a hidden agenda. Obedience in itself should be our reward, not because of external recognition but because of internal submission to Christ. And like Oscar, sometimes all God says is, “Thank You.”

Perhaps that should be enough - a thank you from God. You think?

Jul 2, 2017

strumming along

We all face the "bummer" side of life and people.

Today I realized that someone stole my guitar.


Keep in mind, I'm not a traveling musician - rather, this is more of a personal item that I've used over the years to write songs on or play in our church's worship band. It's given me something to tinker on around a campfire. Quite a few "silly songs" were belted out on it. Someone famous (I won't name drop) once used it when I loaned it to him on the fly. I've pulled it out on my kids' birthdays to sing the individual songs I composed for each of them as a biblical "blessing" when they were born.


 

A couple weeks ago, someone busted into our church building when no one was around. We had to replace the handle, but other than that we assumed that nothing was missing. It turns out that the one item that was taken was my guitar. I've from time to time kept it at the church building in case someone needed to borrow it or if I felt led to share something on it. This weekend I realized I hadn't seen it and discerned that this is likely what happened after the break-in.

So why am I sharing this?

Not sure. I know that social media is a place where we sometimes say things out loud that we'd otherwise say under our breath. It's where we might offer others a glimpse into our greatest joys or our greatest hurts. Sometimes it gets ugly, whether we're ranting about politics or pretending we're mob bosses who put a "hit" out on a local business or school official who wronged us, saying, "They bothered me. Now I declare a verbal war on them so that everyone knows what horrible people they are!"

I thought maybe I'd walk you through the ugly moments and beautiful moments of how all of this has played out inside of me. This morning I realized that my guitar had been stolen... and the awareness came to me just moments before I needed to engage as a pastor today and preach a message on my heart. But now I had a sliver of something else floating around inside of me - a frustration, perhaps, toward the mysterious person who took something that symbolizes so much to me. An item I'd hoped to pass down to my kids ones day or perhaps sing a song on to my future grand-kids. Who knows?

And yet... I don't know... something else was popping around inside of me, too. It was a beyond-me compassion and grace for this individual. I didn't have a reason for it, nor did I feel a religious guilt about *having* to forgive. Rather, I felt I'd already forgiven this person. I started to imagine that maybe someone homeless busted into our building and took the only thing he or she could carry on foot. And then I imagined that maybe my guitar for them will be something they sit down and use on the street as a way to beg for money for food. ("Or beer, probably" the cynic in me tried to argue. "Or food, too," the other Voice offered.)

Yeah, I was having a conversation. This might be hard to understand, but sometimes I have these chats with the Lord without realizing I'm having them. It's like I "discover" He's been telling me something before I understood the dialogue. In any event, I'm posting this because I was grateful for all the times I've spent with God before this moment because it prepared me for it. Rather than giving into my human bent to be angry, I was at rest in the Holy Spirit. I found myself strangely comforted by how "not disturbed" I was.

What a gift. What a Giver.

Perhaps someone will wrong you this week (or already has). Maybe another flawed human being (just like you) will let you down or make you feel betrayed.

We all face the "bummer" side of life and people.

But what if we could also all face the "Jesus" side of life and people?

Perhaps whomever wrongs you next doesn't have to receive the worst of you as you respond to the "worst" in them (note the quotes - it may not be as bad as you think). What if the time you spend with Jesus today will prepare you for that moment as it happens? This is why I love being a regular part of a church... it gives me a rhythm of gathering every week with other ragtag people who agree that God is much smarter than we are and maybe we can get through life better with Him and His wisdom. It's why I dig into His words each day and try to put Him first in all things. And when I get it wrong, I circle back and reset to get it right.

I don't know... maybe this is just me sharing out loud how I'm a real guy on a real journey with a real God.

Or maybe this is an invitation for you to get in on that journey, too. What do you say?

Dec 3, 2016

13


My love for this kid... no words remotely come close.

He's the real deal, and he turned 13 today. The rest of the family and I thoroughly enjoyed investing into him.

But let me tell you... beyond the presents we gave him, we're thankful for the gift he is. Jesus is at work in his heart and through his life. That means this young man, flaws and all, is in a much more rooted place as he starts his teenage journey than I was at his age. I know that in itself is by the grace of God, so... thank you, God.

Beyond the normal day-to-day with my son, he and I have spent the past several months working on a big project together. That means I've been that much closer to his thoughts and his character. I gotta tell ya - this world is a much better world with him in it.

Once again... thank you, God. Please lead us as we try to fan the flame you've put in my son that's already warmed our hearts.

Daniel, I love you! You are a world changer with the most generous heart. I pray that you never doubt how special you are to me and your entire family. Do not let anyone look down on your because you are young but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity... and when you fall short (as I do, daily) know that the love of your Father is even greater than the love of your father... His grace is enough!

Apr 21, 2016

the man in the mirror

One day, we wake up and realize we’re not children anymore.

Another day, we wake up and realize our children aren’t children anymore


(Ouch! Yeah, this is going to be one of those posts. Sorry – we gotta go there.)
 
The year my oldest son was born, my wife and I bought a journal.

It was intended to be something we’d write in each year on his birthday to sum up what we’d seen in him over that previous year. I remember the day we picked it out. I wanted this to be meaningful from the very start.

That’s when I saw a picture on the cover of one journal. It was a piece of art called “Always” by Ron Dicianni, and it moved me.


I was the man in the mirror, holding my baby boy. The man in front of the mirror was a long, long way off.

Or so I thought.

I still remember writing the first entry. I wanted to write something funny that would perhaps lead into something meaningful. (Apparently, some things never change.)


As context, the birthday journal idea went well for a long number of years. Unfortunately, my wife and I ended up getting caught up in the busyness of life. We actually haven’t written in it for four years. While I can justify it in saying that’s just how things go, I knew I had to pick it up again.

That’s when it hit me… the cover had changed.

More specifically, my placement in it with my son had changed.

It shredded me. I had to actually set it down.

Because the reason I’d picked it up was because earlier that night I found myself in front of a mirror again. This time, I was teaching that very same son how to shave. 


And this time, there were two men in the mirror.

(I told you I was going there. Please grab a Kleenex for me, too.)

Our kids growing up is by no means a bad thing. It means they’re preparing to own who God made them to be and the unique difference they can make in the world. While this same young man with shaving cream on his face still (literally) has a Peter Pan hat in his bedroom, he also started his first job the “day-after-the-shave.”

(That’s what I’m calling it, by the way. I may need therapy soon.)

Holding our kids firmly when they’re little is needed, but as they get older we need to hold them with an open hand. If we can do this well, we’ll still get a firm embrace from time to time that reminds us of when they were more handheld.

So at this stage of things, there are a few things my wife and I are trying to do to help our oldest emerge into adulthood. Maybe we can all do these in our attempt to be unconditional:
  • Pray with them. While it may be easier to just pray for them, we want to pray with our older kids. Even if they go through the stage of pushing back on faith, they need something consistent here. As life hands them a “trampoline” and says everything has now become flexible, they need this “foundation” for the trampoline to be set on.
  • Partner with others. We can’t be everywhere our older kids are, but we can partner with others who are. Our son’s first job is actually under an amazing Christian man who runs a hot dog restaurant locally. We talked about how cleaning plates in the kitchen is a “dish position that will impact his disposition.” Our owner even came over to pray with us at our meal when we ate there that night. That can be rare, but maybe it doesn’t need to be. Think of who else “gets it” and can help your son or daughter “get it,” too.
  • Prod with opportunities. While it may be impossible to return our older kids back to the innocence of their younger days, we can choose how to expose them to the world. My wife and I do our best to walk our kids through big headlines as they happen so they can get a mature understanding of the issue versus just hearing a sound-byte on it. We also decided when each of our kids was 13-years old to take them on a mission trip. My oldest and I went two years ago, and we’ll be back there again with his younger brother who is turning 13 this year.

Wait…

I just realized that I’m going to through all of this again with my emerging 13-year old!

Forget a piece of Kleenex. Please pass me the whole box!

Can you relate?
Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4)

Feb 17, 2016

thinking out loud

Perhaps I merely need space to do some thinking out loud.

Maybe this blog feels like it's where I've best figured this out before.

Here's what I know and wonder about, either way:
  • Knowing how to do something doesn't mean you're the person to do it: I see this all the time in my parenting as I watch my kids take ownership of something in an hour that I could do in five minutes. Maturity doesn't always equal doing things in a mature way, but investing into immature or underdeveloped people so they can step up. The future depends on me doing this in the present.
  • What you do doesn't define who you are: In some ways, our actions do validate who we really are on the inside - but we need to pay more attention to the inner workings of our life than our actions. When you are fatigued or can't seem to make your life produce what you want, that's when what's going on in your soul can kick in to guide and sustain you. It will also be where God speaks so that you know if you are hanging on for the right reasons or merely clinging to what you know out of insecurity.  
  • God's Story plays out in chapters: Sometimes we are in multiple chapters of one tale, and other times we merely make a cameo appearance. You can give a quarter (or more) of your life to something and it still only be a part of the Story God has for you. Don't get hung up on how much or how little your name appears on certain pages - let the Author writer what He wants, for He knows the best way to avoid watering down the Plot.
I can think of no more appropriate analogy than what this means today than watching my 5-year old daughter go down a sledding hill for the first time yesterday. She first went down with my wife and I a turn, and then asked, "Can I do it myself?"

Isn't that the most appropriate question of a 5-year old?

We reasoned that it was worth a gamble, but only if we went half-way up. The plan was for my wife and I to be at opposite ends - one to launch her, and the other to catch her.

Here's what happened... pay attention to my daughter's expression.


Maybe we're ready for the hill ahead... or maybe we're ready for half of it.

Perhaps we're to launch others. Perhaps we're to catch them.

Either way, something tells me we're meant to be out on that hill.

At least, that's what I'm just thinking out loud.
"In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord directs their steps." (Proverbs 16:9)


Feb 1, 2016

politically homeless?


Once upon a time...

there was a rich, famous man who became political,

who was known for regularly building huge structures,

who barked at people regarding what he thought

and who generally didn't care what they replied back to him.

His name was Pharaoh.

Pharaoh was popular among a certain segment of people who liked those things about him.

Then again, there were other people who wished some sort of plague would swoop in and take him out of the spotlight.


Once upon a time...

there was a man who was a public servant known for slamming the wealthy.

Some people nicknamed him Robin Hood.


Remember Robin Hood? He was either a villain or a hero, depending on who you spoke with.

Maybe he was both.

Perhaps it was an appropriate nickname for many reasons, for by all means he was within the system yet outside of it; he had resources but didn't take resources. 

In fact, at the end of the day he was sort of a hard guy to pin down.

Should he really be in power?



Hi, my name is Tony Myles and I am politically homeless.

What I mean by that is I have no interest in living under the roof of a particular political party.

Can we still be friends? I ask because I can already hear some of you cracking your knuckles to reply.

I wrote the two anecdotes above not to stir up trouble but to make a point - every human leader is flawed and can be stereotyped away so we don't have to pay attention. To top it off, messing with someone's candidate is like messing with that person's family. I get that.

But... do you? 

Do you get how they aren't your family, but you think they are?

I've spent multiple elections trying to help people lean into praying for wisdom in how they vote. Voting, after all, is a human idea that doesn't always reflect the truth and will of God. We have this belief that if many people say something must be a certain way that we have no choice but to agree.

Voting never has, nor never will, overpower the pure truth of God or His standards. 

What's common isn't Normal. What's Normal isn't common.

Another hurdle is there are many people who aren't sure that they fall into one camp 100%, if even 10%. Rather than jumping into another round of "WE'VE GOT SPIRIT, YES WE DO! WE'VE GOT SPIRIT, HOW 'BOUT YOU?" they elect (pun intended) to not elect.

I'm not sure that's entirely the best approach either.

Here's what I believe about all of that, right or wrong:
  • The issues matter more than the candidates: You'll likely never in my lifetime hear who "my candidate" or "my party" is. God is my leader in all things, and I believe what He cares about and proclaims transcends party lines. In fact, to be even clearer - what God cares about and proclaims transcends even my personal preferences or previous affiliations. If you or I are inclined to vote on something a certain way that conflicts with something He's made clear, then we are the ones who are to change - not Him.
  • The Gospel matters more than the parties: Jesus' teachings are highly political yet incredibly bi-partisan. As a follower of Christ and a Story-teller of His Story, I am called to do what I can where I can while realizing I can't do it all. No human platform, speech or rally cry - not even the snarkiest of Internet/meme graphics - can overshadow even the smallest punctuation marks of the Bible.
  • The Church matters more than the government: Someone just got really angry reading that. Again, apologies... but not really. I can't use the title "God" without letting Him be God. Makes sense, right? He gets to be first in all things. His agenda matters more than anyone's agenda. He says everyone in the whole world matters and not just one country. He says we're to go all into the world to make this known because eternity is a bigger deal than the next four years. Granted, the next four years play into eternity, but the mission of the Church must always take precedence over the mission of government. They work hand-in-hand sometimes, and we can show our faith in how we treat our rulers, but again - they are different.
  • The faith matters more than the skills: While I know none of my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ are perfect, I have a sense that many of them are teachable. You have to be in order to follow God. I'd like to see that in a political candidate a bit more than mere skills. Meaning, I'd love to see an "all-in" follower of Jesus who nods His life before God every day than someone who speaks well and plays political games better than others. If we only vote for the lesser of two evils, we're still voting for a form of evil.
Why did I write all of this?

Why does any of this matter?
  1. I have strangely angered people simply by talking about politics. There are people in my life who constantly post about political topics, from the economy to sexuality; from health care to the poor. It's all worth talking about, because these are issues God does have perspective and guidance for us on. My hurdle is I sometimes find that if I even dip my toe into those waters I lose friends. Literally... I can think of five people right now who scaled back their friendship from me simply because I said, "You know, here's another way to think about this." For real.
  2. People want to know what I believe. As a pastor I understand that this is not my role in their lives. While I will happily give people a framework of things to think about, I've found that promoting a party or a candidate is ridiculous. I'd rather introduce people to Jesus and let Him work inside of them and reshape how they handle the political piece of their lives. To top it off, there are legit Christians in both of the major parties - and following Jesus together is one thing we can agree on. 
  3. I see too many of my friends just recycling what they already think and labeling others who think differently. If you assume someone else is idiotic, stupid or anything in this realm for not thinking as you do then you're missing out on a key truth in the world - everyone generally is trying to do what they think is right, whether or not it actually is. If we can speak to one another personally versus with punchlines, perhaps we could form a real relationship that transcends the topics.
So...

have you read all of this up until this point to simply see if you can I match up so you know what to write in the comments?

I'd suggest instead we keep growing, praying and developing.

The main way God wants to change the world is by changing people.

Maybe we can be two of them?
"But the people refused to listen... 'No!' they said. 'We want a king over us.'" (1 Samuel 8:19)

Jan 16, 2016

sweetness

As a kid...

I passed on meeting football legend Walter Payton just to see Star Wars in the theater a second time.

Walter Payton.

"Sweetness."

For real.



Tonight...

my 12-year old son just passed seeing Star Wars in the theater a second time to hang with me and his 5-year old sister.

His sister.

Sweetness.

For real.

"Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble." (1 John 2:10)

Dec 19, 2015

keeping our kids spoiler-free

It's been said that R2D2 is the most vulgar movie character of all-time.

After all, the director bleeped out every single word he said.

(ahem...)

Recently I took my oldest son with me to see the first show on opening night of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. According to him, it was "the best day ever."

It's not the first time he's said this. We've had many experiences over the years that qualified as "the best day ever." Every time he's made this claim, there's been one common theme: they've all been something we've never done before, and he had no preconceived expectations.

I call them "spoiler-free" moments.

Creating these moments isn't easy to accomplish when it comes to movies. These days just walking down the toy aisle at Wal-Mart will spoil a movie's plot through the merchandise alone, not to mention movie trailers and commercials.

But somehow we avoided all of that with Star Wars.

After an early dinner at a local Chinese buffet, we arrived at the theater two hours before showtime to get the best seats in the house and wait with the other fans.

Finally, the big moment arrived. The theater dimmed as one of the most famous opening lines of a movie emerged on the screen:


"A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away..."

A silent giddiness consumed the theater.

I leaned over to my son and whispered, "Remember this moment."

As the Star Wars logo filled the screen, he yelled out "WOO-HOO!" and soon the whole theater joined in. He leaned over to me and said, "I started that!"

From there, we were caught up in the epic story from start to finish.

I could tell during our ride home how much he'd gotten out of the experience. I asked him, "How did it feel not knowing anything going in?"

He replied, "It was so hard to avoid it all, but I'm so glad I did. I felt like I almost saw something in a magazine about it and I was mad because I didn't want to ruin the movie. I've had that happen before where I felt like there weren't any surprises going in, but this time it was different. Seriously, one of the best days of my life!"

The analogy was obvious, and I couldn't resist the opportunity for a lesson.

"You know," I began, "a lot of things in life are going to be like that. A lot of people won't think twice about spoiling things that should be saved for the right moment. It could be something like sex before marriage or the way we trust the authority in our life. Tonight you experienced the joy of waiting and not ruining something ahead of time. Do you understand the parallels?"

He nodded. It got deep.

I'm certainly not an expert on this, but as I looked back on the night I thought of three things that help my son stay spoiler-free.

Three Ways to Keep Our Kids "Spoiler-Free"

  1. Age-appropriateness:  I remember wanting to take my son to see the last Star Wars movie that came out but he was four-years-old at the time and that film was darker in tone. Skipping that and waiting ten years so he could be the right age to experience Star Wars in the theater was worth it. Part of parenting is keeping our kids innocent of evil and darkness as long as possible. Though it can be tempting to think our kids "can handle it," we're invited by God to help them stay sensitive to sin, profanity, sex and violence.
  2. Investing in what's honorable: We had to budget for the tickets, concessions, and dinner for our event to happen, but it was worth the celebration. It gave me a chance to affirm my son's good habits with a fun night out. While not every great choice or habit needs fanfare, surprising our kids with unexpected celebrations or ceremonies is powerful. Saying "I'm inspired by how hard you've been working at school this year" or "The way you're generous with others really blesses so many people," accompanied by a special event, can really affirm good habits.
  3. Living spoiler-free, too: Our kids may hear our words, but they will listen to our lives. If we're not endorsing the values coming out of our mouths with the choices we make, then they won't believe in them anymore than we do. Just as God has in mind the kind of future adult your kid can become, he has something incredible for you, too. Consider (and perhaps write down) how he might want you to grow as you attempt to grow your kid.
Epic galactic movies aside, helping our kids be "spoiler-free" doesn't mean they won't make mistakes and rush into experiences prematurely. But by helping them practice self-control in small things like movies, perhaps they'll be able to save the larger things (like sex for marriage) with greater enthusiasm since they'll know the value of delayed gratification.

And perhaps that will lead to multiple "best days ever" with their future spouse and kids.

What tips, thoughts, or hopes do you have on this?

P.S. Check out this post and others I wrote at Lifetree Family