Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Baseball: Last night was our last regular season game. It's hard to believe it's been three months since we started this thing. The other coaches and I were talking last night and we all agreed it's gone so fast. This has been a great season all of the coaches have gotten along great, the kids have learned so much and I believe I have the most respectful and well behaved teams in our league. All of our players are such good sports when we win and when we lose.

So last night our last regular season game against a team that we are way better than but have beat us as often as we've beaten them. The first four innings last night they had our number again. We kept it close but they were just beating us. We were making mental errors that we don't normally make and I thought we were in for a long night. The fifth inning comes and the score is 12-9 and we're loosing. We need at least 4 runs to win. I gather the team in and tell them we need to hit the ball and we need to score lots of runs. Well 20 minutes later the score is 22-12. We batted around the 12 man line up and every player on my team scored but one. The highlight had to be bases loaded and my best batter gets up to bat. He crushes a ball like I haven't seen crushed in our league as soon as he hit it I knew he had a triple but I was hoping he could go for the in the park homerun. He scored 3 runs on the triple and that's when the damage was too much for the other team to overcome. We had beat them to oblivion. They managed 1 run in the bottom of the 5th to make it 22-13 but they never stood another chance.

It was a great way to end our regular season and a great way to head into the tournament. I think we're going into the tournament a #2 seed in our division and #3 or 4 overall in the league. Not bad.

9-8 on the game over .500.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Marker: Hand someone a 20 dollar bill at a store and more often than not they whip out one of those counterfeit identifier pens and put a mark on the bill you just handed them. As they make the mark I always hold my breath and feel like a criminal. I've never counterfeited a bill in my life and only, during the lean years, have I even entertained the thought. But send me to a grocery store with a 20 and I feel like an instant criminal. What if the mark deems my bill fake what do I do. Do I go to jail? Get invested by the Secret Service? Basically what I concluded is that I'm out $20 bucks. But then this leads to multiple other thoughts. Why do I get stuck with the bad $20? What about the person I got it from? So in the end for peace of mind I now carry around a countefeit pen and when cashiers hand me money a put a nice little mark on the money and if it turns black...they're busted! I'm calling the cops of them. Citizens On Patrol!

Counterfeit: While on vacation to Mexico I was able to reread two books that made a huge impact when I first read them. The first I read was Through Painted Deserts by Donald Miller. I originally read this book in August 2005 as I began to wrap up ministry at Emmanuel where I was a youth pastor. He talks about the adventure of life and the beauty of leaving home so you can one day return to it. It was an interesting analogy because I was about to return to the home of my youth. The second book I read was Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller. I cracked it open in the airport of Acapulco and by the time we boarded the plane in Atlanta I had 20 short pages to left and was able to finish the book in one travel day. I think that book is best read that way and I was so happy to revisit so many truths that shook my thinking those years ago but removed what seemed to be spiritual scales that were covering my eyes to truth of the universe as well as truth of Christ and his Bride, the church.

I began this thought sometime in our travels home last week and I'll finish it here: The heart, the mind, the whatever you want to call it that sees beauty and feels beauty is created by God. I suppose if we wanted we could reduce it to science and explain that when we see something beautiful like a sunset or a woman a chemical washes over our brains and this stimulation is why beauty is so amazing...but why would be do that? There's no romance in science. "You know baby, as we sit here and gaze at this sunset and as I gaze at your beautiful face I feel the chemicals wash over my brain and...ME LIKEY! So let's make out. Is your brain doing the same thing?"

God created us to experience beauty both the emotion of it as well as the euphoric feeling of it. This is a God given thing and I believe an experience that ultimately draws us into relationship with him. The problem comes when like everything else we begin to meddle and discover we can make a counterfeit experience for ourselves rather than being give and take we can make it all take. As the serpents voice echoes "go ahead and take the fruit and shortcut this relationship with God. If you bite you don't need his wisdom of good and evil you'll know it all-shortcut-shortcut" So we take the shortcut and we meddle and we discover than rather than enjoy a womans beauty in the way God created we experience casual sex or pornography or masturbation (oh crap did he just say the "M" word?) and we shortcut. We create this counterfeit experience that is neither right morally or experientally nor is it how God intended it and with this shortcut comes the briars and the thorns and the scrapes and the scars and the PAIN. Rather than experience the sun and the moon and the trees and the stars as beauty and let the romance and the chemicals wash over our brains we smoke crack and shoot heroin and shortcut and with the shortcut comes the briars and the thorns and the scapes and the PAIN.

Maybe those are two very extreme examples but let that idea trickle down and how often do we shortcut something that God intended and how often to we experience the result of pain? I feel compelled and convicted to stop shortcutting, maybe I've taken care of the "big things" but not the "smaller things" because afterall what good is a counterfeit's just counterfeit and painful.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Perhaps you thought since I was on vacation last week I would take a little time to relax but no...the mullet search continued.

I found two gems...

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

The Jerri Curl Mullet

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

The airport mexi mullet

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

While we went to Acapulco, Mexico for vacation it was definately a learning experience for me. I have seen poverty before and a little side trip we took into the mountains of Acapulco just reminded me of the oppression of poverty and our responsibility to do something about it.

This is a adorable little girl playing with her toys in the windowsill of a run down store.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

There is a half mile stretch from the Pacific ocean to the Lagoon and this wooded trail covers the walk to the lagoon.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

From an island looking over Acapulco Bay and onto where our hotel was.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

These people are street vendors who come running when they see us rich Americans walk by. I really took the picture because the little boy is wearing a Washington Redskins shirt.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

From the inside of a late 60's Volkswagon Bug beside a guy almost as big as me.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

The famous cliff divers. They charge 35 pesos to see them or roughly $3.50 american.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Just minutes from the tourist resort where the cliff divers jump was this room filled with trash. It just shows the paradox of the wealth and poverty found in Mexico.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

The sun decends taken from our hotel window.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Heather and I on a boat in the lagoon.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

This is a little snack bar on the lagoon where we pulled up to get drinks and stretch our legs.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Ice cold refreshing yet blazing hot!

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

I assume people still walk on this pier but I wasn't testing it.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Little girl sleeping in a hammock while her mom sold stuff to the tourists.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

This is a little ghetto of sorts, basically just shacks but if you look closely you'll see the thousands of wires- those are powerlines to the shacks.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

The sun breaking through the clouds.

World Cup: I was commenting a few weeks back about soccer and how it gets shunned in th US. At the time I didn’t realize I would be in Mexico so close to the start of the World Cup (June 9). It’s pretty cool here. There are posters and in Wal-Mart (Yes Mexico has wal-mart) there are 20 oz coke bottles in red, white and green. There are world cup soccer balls and other cool stuff. It’s neat to be in a country that loves soccer.

Tacos:: here is a “duh” statement for you. In Mexico there are lots of tacos. But not tacos like we know tacos. Basically a taco here is a layer of corn tortillas about the size of the palm of your hand. Generally a layer is about 6 tortillas and then on top is some meat, depending on what you order. On the side they bring some salsa, and then a variety of small dishes of hot sauces for your tacos. It’s that simple. If you count the meal we ate on Sunday at home and minus the Chic-Fil-A at the airport on Monday I have had Mexican food, tacos to be specific 4 of my last 5 meals. It’s great!

It should be noted that the preceding blogs were written during my travel to and from Mexico as well as while we were there as well. The reason why you are getting these entries about a week late is because there is not a free wifi hotspot to be found in Mexico. I’m not sure if I’ll go back and edit the dates of these so they are posted correctly or if I’ll just let you figure it out.

Listening To: I like to give credit where credit is due especially with bands and speakers that I hear and especially in the church world where bands and speakers get their business through word of mouth. Graham Davis (and his band) played our retreat this year. Musically they were excellent and Graham proved to be not just a music player but an actual worship leader. His heart was evident when he shared with the students and when he played and they took notice and their hearts were moved. It’s amazing when you can end a retreat weekend and see most every kid worshipping from his/her heart.

Did I mention they also rocked! Not all the time, which can get annoying, but at very appropriate time they just rocked out for Jesus. It was great. Graham told me his website was down but when it’s up you can find it at Graham Davis Band.

Horse: I turn on espn last night and there is a big breaking news story about about Barbado which is the horse that won the Kentucky Derby and shattered it’s leg while running the preakness. All in the news and on the front page of what I believe was the New York Times is this horse. The Horse might die. Truth- I don’t give a crap. It’s a horse. If this were a professional athlete that got drilled in the face with a baseball and was near death I would care. If this was a football player that broke his back and might be paralyzed for the rest of his life I would care. But a horse…I don’t care.

It probably made me especially sensitive because I was on my way to Mexico when I was seeing these headlines. Mexico is not the most impoverished country in the world I know there but there is poverty in it’s tourist cities that make 99% of places in the US look like luxury. In the end I was thinking about all the kids in the US and in Mexico that are starving to death or going without medical care that will ultimately lead to their death and there is some horse getting more attention…sick human nature.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Instrument: Tonight I spoke at our district's annual youth retreat. I have been to this retreat 5 times now, 4 as a youth pastor and this year as one of the keynote speakers. I asked our prayer teams to pray for this night for sometime and I asked our church to pray. As Heather and I were talking this afternoon I had such a peace but a peace that was one of power. God was telling me he was going to use me mightily in the student's lives. I wasn't worred about it I was trying I didn't feel like I needed to perform. Basically I felt God say- Nick you are going to be my instrument tonight. As I was experiencing all of this Heather said -Nick I know God is going to use you tonight in an amazing way.

We talked for a while in exciting anticipation of what God was going to do. The night came and I have never been so at peace and comfortable. I wish I could explain it in words but I don't believe I can. It was honestly the feeling an instrument would get if it got feelings. Tonight I was the instrument that made beautiful music and the power was literally the breath of God. This sounds bad but I didn't care. I didn't care if one kid was impacted because I was the instrument of God. It was amazing, possibly one of the most amazing experiences as a public speaker. It wasn't about me, not about me at all!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting


Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Purpose Driven Cafe

We're on the Web: I almost forgot. We're on the web- or The Bridge Church

World Cup: First a little history. I played soccer growing up. I played soccer when people didn't play soccer. Soccer was the sport that kids played because their parent's didn't want them to get hurt playing football. I'm guess I played soccer because in Football you have to play according to your weight class. Probably good thing I didn't play football or as a 10 year old I would have been playing with 18 year olds. As I grew up I really loved soccer but to other kids it just wasn't football.

Then in the past 10 years or so with soccer gaining popularity and the beginning of a Major League Soccer and the women doing so well in the World Cup (winning it all 2 times in the last 4 cups and finishing in the top 3 in all of them) soccer is a little more respectable.

I was pleased to see that ESPN is going to cover the games that will go on for a month starting June 9. The U.S. is ranked 4th in the world. You won't grasp that magnitude of that ranking but let's just say it's amazing. So consider this my plug for World Cup soccer, the rest of the world goes crazy and as for me any my house we will join the PANDEMONIUM!

Eavesdropping: I find it funny that that word makes perfect sense but we probably don't catch it most of the time. Eaves- the place where the roof overhangs the wall of the house. I guess back in the old days people would stand under the eaves and listen in on conversations in the house. I also find it funny that right now I'm listening in on a conversation between a pastor and his youth pastor. I happen to know the pastor and as of 5 minutes ago I met the youth pastor. They're both nice guys and their church is in full support of the Bridge and have even supplied us some great resources, I like them a ton. But now as I listen in to this conversation the YP is kind of getting chewed out as much as can happen in Starbucks but what I'm hearing is griping. Basically the gripe is feeding the sheep. Feeding the sheep is dangerous business because sheep get fickle and then they bit you. The irony of it all is that sheep can feed themselves.

My Jesus: I'm a big fan of Rich Mullins and Derek Webb. Rich Mullins because he was willing to sing songs about Jesus in a blunt and honest fashion that could have been controversial, and I'm sure in his time they were. I like Derek Webb for the same reason but where Rich Mullins sang about Christ, Derek Webb sings about the church in a beautiful, blunt, controversial fashion. And on that same note Todd Agnew has a new song out called My Jesus. It's actually been out a few months and if you listen to Christian radio you've probably heard it and if you haven't...check it out!

Monday, May 15, 2006

The Bible vs. The Da Vinci Code: This was the headline on the front page of yesterday's paper. My first that a joke? Is it? I'm not threatened at all by the Da Vinci Code, the book or the movie. In fact I think I've recommened this book just like every other interesting book I've read. All I ask is to have the opportunity to talk about it with you afterward.

The Bible vs. the Da Vinci Code I'm sure it was an attempt to make an interesting headline but c'mon. The Bible the best selling book of all time with true historical facts, archeological evidence vs. The 3 year old partially plagarized work of fiction? Doesn't seem fair really. The Bible which has been translated into most known languages and sold over 6 Billion copies vs. the Da Vinci code that has sold...well not 6 billion copies.

Baseball: We played games on Friday night and Saturday morning which is the little league equivalent of a double header. Back to back games spells disaster for my team because we have 2 pitchers and in Little League they can't pitch on back to back days. So Friday night we played a very tough team and my strategy was to just pitch kids that had potential and hope for the best. Both of my pitchers did great and our bats kept us in the game. In true Cardiac A's fashion we took it into the 6th and tied it up but couldn't go ahead a run so we ended up loosing a tied game via the tie breaker. But we played a very good team and almost beat them at the end of the night we were 5-6- 1 game under .500.

Saturday we played a team we beat by one run previous and I went into the game only having 1 pitcher. I didn't tell Tyler he was going to pitch the whole game and honestly I didn't know if his arm could handle it. He had done it before but you can only ask a 9 year old to bail his team out so many times. His first inning was rough but after that he caught fire and struck out 6 batters in a row. He ended up pitching the full 5 innings and we won the game 10-6. It wasn't as close as the score tells. All in all it was a great victory and a good weekend of baseball. We have 5 games left and with a 6-6 record I'm hoping to end the season a few games over .500. In reality we are capable of winning every game we have left but I'm not banking on it.

Cookout: We hosted a cookout on Saturday as a way to invite our friends and coworkers to meet The Bridge Church. Our goal was to have more than 30 people at the cookout and at one point I counted 35 or so. Mission accomplished. It was a good event not because we were able to build some bridges but I feel I learned something. Events like the cookout are going to reach the easy people- the low lying fruit. It's going to take something else, something more exceptional to reach the harder to reach yet equally needing higher fruit. That doesn't mean there is no merit in things like this. I think it taught us how to act like a body of believers by doing things in the community and meeting people while we are out there, it reminded us to invite and bring and it compelled me to do greater more exeptional things.

Welcome to the journey...

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Teenagers: Heather and I went back to Frederick which is the place of our first and only youth ministry. We went back to do a final session of premartial counseling with a couple that is getting married in about a month. They are good friends and it was great to see them as well as some of the other great friends that we left the O'Neals! But what I had mixed emotions about was the fact that we would be seeing and interacting with our old youth group. Don't get me wrong I love those kids but they now have a new youth pastor and I don't want to do anything to hinder his impact with them. Being back with them for the short time that I was reminded me of how difficult youth ministry was at times. My wife, Heather, described it best when she said working with teenagers is like juggling little time bombs. The emotional roller coaster that they live on, them not knowing if they want to follow God one day or do their own thing the next day. All of this coupled with the fact that you have them for several hours a week and their parent's or friends have them the remaining week to destroy all the work God is leading you to do. I think youth ministry is incredibly valuable but I don't regret leaving it. But I am reminded of the hard road so many youth pastor's and workers are going to have to walk because the gospel they preach and the idea of making good decisions is not only counter cultural but counter parental and counter peer.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Serious: While this entry will come across as cynical and sarcastic I still think it's worth a read from most churches and pastors that I know. I have a tip that will change the way you do church. It will be call for a radical reformation of behaviors. It will attack the very core of your being a "loving" church but by listening you will be taking one step in a series of thousands in the right direction. While I can't make your heart follow I do hope these words help...and here they are.

I realize your church loves each other but perhaps the most painful thing for a visitor to experience while visitng your church is your "club" activities. These include the meet and greet time, the "prayer" time for each others needs complete with passing the microphone, and basically any kind of hand holding at the end of the service. I don't mean to be cruel but I don't care if Sheila's Uncle Mike is in the nursing home and I certainly don't want to spend 10 minutes on this topic (5 to hear you explain it 3 for the pastor to interpret what you said to the congregation and 2 to pray for it).

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Beat Down: My baseball team laid down it's first official beat down last night. We had received a few and I guess last night was the night we wanted to give one. In the first three innings our defense was unbelievable and I think we threw out 2 or 3 guys stealing. We also made some great plays off batted balls. In the last two innings the pitching was amazing and 5 of the 6 outs came on strikeouts. Final score was 7-1 and two hits worth mentioning was the rbi double scoring a run from first and the BASES CLEARING TRIPLE (3 RBI's).

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

bzz: I was reading some blogs on my list and I came across an idea new to me. I have read the book The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell and in the book the talks about how different people are catalysts for explosive change- it seems that this trait isn't learned but rather just a natural talent. I have also read Purple Cow by Seth Godin which is a marketing book and promotes being remarkable to be seen. Both books talk abou the out datedness of television and radio commercials and how word of mouth is the best way to inform others of new products. People don't choose products because they are the best they choose them because they are the most heard. Basically popularity makes a product...popular. Sounds overly simple but it's true.

So this new idea is not new at all but new to me. A w.o.m (word of mouth) marketing firm that uses your average joe to get the new products. I signed up. You can to at

Add: We added 4 to our launch team last night. This is great news! In the coming weeks we will also be releasing our website and some publicity items to announce our website opening.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Friends:: Sunday and yesterday my friend Tim was down visiting and going over some ministry I'm going to do at his camp this summer. Tim is a friend that is a kindred spirit with me and we seem to share an outlook on life. I actually met him in Colorado Springs in the summer of '02 when he was a youth pastor in York, PA and I was in Frederick, MD. Before too long Tim moved on to camp ministry in the York area and I was still in Frederick. Tim and I have spent more time in the car together travelling to all of our meetings and retreats than most married couples. So naturally time in the car is time in conversations. In case you can't tell by now I really value my friendship with Tim, I have to say it's definately unique but incredibly valuable.

So anyway he was visiting yesterday so I did what I would normally do I called up one of my friends here and we all three hung out. I'm not sure this is the litmus test of friendships but I think it's a good indicator. When you merge two friends or two sets of friends from different states and different ministry it's really determines if you are who you say you are. For instance if one group of my friends is very conservative and prudish and another group wild and crazy then there is a lack of consistency in my life and probably an indicator that my character is not consistence. I believe this is called Cognitive Dissonance.

So yesterday when Brandon, Tim and I were spending time together I was relieved to see that we all were having a good time and that I was being who I am...all the time.

Fries: I like french fries but I like regular fries better than shoestring fries and steak fries so when I'm ordering fries I ask what kind they serve. Because if they serve the kind I don't like I'll get potato salad or a baked potato- something that is better for me. So yesterday when I asked what kind of fries they had the waiter looked at me and says "french fries" in a tone that indicated I was a moron. Anger.

Then Tim asked what "blackened" was. The waiter looked at him and said "it's...blackened". This was when I concluded that he didn't actually have the ability to form a thought on his own he merely immitated back the sound he had just heard come from our mouths.