Living Breathing Cathedral

First I would like to extend an apology for filling up your social media feed the past week. I like to take photos. It’s my way of documenting life. My online scrapbook if you would.
This morning at about 6:30AM we returned from a week on the west coast to celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary. We packed each day with new adventures, sight-seeing and plenty of great food.
One of the best parts of the trip was the opportunity we had to spend a few days with Julie & Russ Reimer at their home along the Russian River. I told them several times they had their own little slice of heaven here. They didn’t disagree.
For me the trip was packed with highlights and favorites and the time I had to spend with Lisa, one on one, no diapers, just me and her….was priceless.
One of our biggest concerns leaving for this trip, was that our daughter Nora would begin walking while were gone. From the intelligence we have gathered, she has not. #whew.
We were fortunate to have the opportunity to wander through two separate stands of old-growth Coastal Redwoods. Trees that tower above the forest floor and appear to hold the sky up. Trees that have stood in the same spot for over 1,300 years. You can really lose yourself for a few moments as you wander and gawk at the massiveness the beauty all around you. It really puts a lot of things in perspective as you stand at the base of some of the oldest, living things 0n the planet.
For a guy like me that loves the woods and the fresh air, I felt like I was truly in a cathedral and that you couldn’t help but feel God’s presence in the midst of these Redwoods.
I wonder what we can all learn from these giants? The metaphors and the lessons are countless. I found myself constantly going back to the fact that time is fleeting. I kept saying to myself “What if these trees could talk? What would they tell us?” They have withstood the test of time. They have weathered 1,300 years of sun, rain, wind and constant change.
I think we all need to be reminded once in awhile that time is fleeting.
Every year on the Saturday before Sportscamp, as our counselor and leadership staff gather – we all stand there and go “Where did the year g0? It feels like we were just here yesterday!” How many of you can recall the same conversation you have every Christmas, every first Friday night football game of the fall, every child’s birthday, every everything….asking these same questions?
In an election season that is filled with anger, mistrust and little hope – it’s hard to not get drawn into it all and worry about what tomorrow will look like. I am not advocating burying our heads in the sand and tuning all of this out. I am advocating for a little more carpe diem. A little more focus on the now and a little less on the worry. Sha-La-La-La-La-Live for Today. Grass Roots anyone? I have a soft spot for the oldies.
I am going to put my phone on silent and appreciate the moments with Max & Nora that can’t be replaced or rewinded.
I am going to listen intently to the sacred conversations I am fortunate to still be able to have with my grandparents.
I am going to not let the todo lists win every time.
I am going to hold my wife’s hand and remind her how incredible she is.
I am going to engage each teenager I have a privilege to spend time with. I am going to tune in to what’s on their mind and tune out to the rest of the noise around me.
The challenge for all of us is to enjoy the moment and not miss life as it constantly moves by us. Spending time in these living, breathing Cathedrals this last week was something I will always cherish. We don’t have to go to California and walk among these giants to come to these conclusions. We need to appreciate the now as much as we worry about the future. We need to be present in today as much as we long for yesterday.
What are you going to do today?
“When I think of all the worries
People seem to find
And how they’re in a hurry
To complicate their minds…
…Sha la la la la la live for today
Sha la la la la la live for today
And don’t worry ’bout tomorrow, hey
Sha la la la la la live for today (live for today”
-The Grass Roots
Carpe Diem!
-Nate
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Waypoint YM State of the Ministry

This is an edited version of an email I sent to our Adult Volunteer Team last week. I think it’s important for all of us to know and celebrate the good things that are happening around these parts. Thank you for your continued prayers, encouragement and unbelievable support of all our youth ministry programs…

I hope you are all having a great summer. I hope it has been relaxing and awesome and that each of you had an opportunity to take some time off from life and simply relax. I know this time of year is nutty for all of us as the school year begins and we return to routines and schedules and demands on our time and our lives. 

I wanted to send you all an email with two purposes in mind. One to tell you how things are going, what’s new and what I am looking forward to this year.

So……things are going awesome. I have never felt more excited about ministry or about the work we are doing with the young people we have the privilege of working with than I do now. I truly believe that our message of acceptance and grace and that is God is still speaking is so relevant today and today’s teenagers.

We have been busy this summer.

This summer over 110 teenagers went on mission trips with our church. These trips are led by volunteers like each of you who so generously give of their time and their vacations and their talents to make these trips a reality. I can’t begin to explain to you what an impact these trips have on these young people. In a world that is continuing to grow further and further apart – these trips are CRITICAL to tearing down stereotypes, teaching compassion and hard work and instilling values into each of one of these young people that I honestly don’t believe can be taught in any other setting.

We sent the most young people to summer camp of any congregation in the Ohio Conference of the U.C.C. These experiences at camp have shaped many of our lives and I don’t need to emphasize to this group why camp is important. I will say this – more now than ever, we need to continue to advocate for summer camp. Not specialty, high priced, resort style basketball camps led by Olympic gold medalists. Those camps are awesome in their own way. But I am talking about simply camp. A week spent intentionally in the woods, living and communing with other young people and some really awesome young and not so young adults. Camp is going to be continue to be a part of our culture and a big part of our youth ministries programs.

We held our 10th Annual Dog Wash and Dirty Dog 5K. This event has continued to be a favorite and a staple of our summer calendar. I am not a dog owner or dog enthusiast, but I love this event. Thanks to all who make this possible.

In early August, I fulfilled a dream that I had when I first started here nearly 10 years ago. I always envisioned a weekend camping trip where we could talk about life and look back at the past 18 years and look ahead to the next 100. A trip that would be small in size, but big in impact. A trip that would serve as a capstone to a young person’s experience in our youth ministries programs. Our first annual Senior Excursion to the Allegheny National Forest was a huge success. I am so grateful to the 7 seniors who committed to this trip and to Katie Virtue and Bill Plow for all they did to make this trip happen.

I am part of a group of youth leaders from the WRA & EOA Association that we call the Xtreme Team. We envisioned an event a year ago that would bring teenagers together from our churches all across NE Ohio for a day of worship, games, fellowship and serving others. On Sunday, August 14th over 100 teenagers from our Associations gathered at Trinity U.C.C. In Canton for this event. It was awesome. There is still some need for Jesus in our communities.

With the help of many and the leadership of one of our own young people, Andrew Lane, we now have a beautiful Prayer Labyrinth located in the woods behind the church. The rocks that shape this prayer labyrinth are all from Pilgrim Hills, thanks to the time and energy and equipment of so many generous people. I hope we can use this space often this year with our young people to simply take 5-10 minutes out of their crazy weeks to be in silence. In the woods. With God.

We are continuing to live into the space we call the Buoy. This summer we are adding sound proofing in the music room and the main room. We have added picnic tables on the back deck and we have done a complete reorganization of the upstairs storage area. We are going to shake things up this fall and have our SH group meet in the basement this fall. We are going to try an inter-generational class about Jesus, Bombs & Ice Cream for our high schoolers this Fall during Cross-Training.

I want to extend a word of gratitude that I have for each of you and your friendship and your patience and your team attitude and your willingness to serve. I am finding each and every day how wild it is juggling the life I live with a wife and two small children. It is the greatest thing ever. EVER. I wouldn’t change it for the world. The reality though is that I have had to cut and trim and scale back and sometimes I fall behind and get things out later than normal and sometimes emails don’t get answered for a couple of days. I am no less committed to this ministry or no less fully in love with what I get to do everyday. I am simply saying thank you for walking this journey with me and being there when I can’t and helping when I don’t even ask and stepping up when I need to step back. You are all incredible in each of your own, unique way and our young people are better and blessed because of each of you.

This fall is going to be another action-packed filled time with more and more craziness and more and more opportunities to introduce our young people to this radical guy named Jesus and all his shenanigans. And this brings me to the second part of this email….

You are cordially invited to be a part of something incredible…again. . Something eternal & beautiful & rewarding & life-giving.

Something that is part of a much bigger picture that we will never fully grasp.

You will laugh until your sides hurts.

You will talk about farts & Instagram & Chipotle & hashtags.

You will throw your arm out playing dodgeball.

You will become skilled at ping-pong & marshmallow roasting.

You will sweat through a shirt playing gaga ball.

You will have conversations that will inspire you, challenge you & take you new places on your own spiritual journey.

You will have an encounter with the Divine.

On behalf of Jesus & everyone at Avon Lake U.C.C. you are invited to be a part of our Adult Youth Ministry Volunteer Team for the next twelve months….and hopefully 144 more months after that…at least.

 It is with a humongous amount of gratitude that I thank you for considering being a part of our team…again.

Your Team Captain & Biggest Fan, Nate

The reality is that God is still speaking, still moving, still changing lives and still matters. I look forward to all that this fall has in store and for even more opportunities to be in community with each of you.

Gratefully, Nate

Back to the Future Day

A reflection I shared with our high schoolers last night…

Today.

October 21st, 2015.

For many people in my age bracket – the future is officially here.

As a kid Marty McFly and Doc Brown and the Delorean and 88 mph were where it was at. The trilogy of Back to the Future Movies was our version of your 27 Fast & Furious movies.

If you have no idea what I am talking about…go rent or stream all three of the Back to the Future films. You won’t regret it.

How many of you wish you could go ahead 25 years and see what the world looks like? What your life looks like? Who you ended getting married to? How many kids you end up having? What you are doing for a living?

I think it is an inherent desire inside all of us to know what the future holds. We sometimes miss what’s happening all around us because we are too focused on what is up ahead.

Why does the future fascinate us? What are your hopes for the future? What are your fears for the future?

I can remember being your age and spending so much time daydreaming about someday being a famous General Manager for a sports franchise and living the life.

I think it’s a fine line.

Because I think daydreaming and envisioning the life you want to have and the person you hope to become is critical. So I say don’t stop daydreaming, don’t stop imagining a better world or new things or ways to make things easier.

George Lucas had a dream for a movie about a galaxy far, far away. 6 movies later, almost 40 years down the road….George Lucas sold that dream called Lucasfilm to Disney for 4 BILLION dollars. That is not a typo.

Two college guys from Buffalo, NY turned their original idea called “Trash Can Frisbee” into what we know as Kan Jam and have made millions of dollars off of this ridiculously simple concept.

We need each and every one of you to believe in your dreams, to continue to push the envelope and think outside of the box.

The other part of all of this is to simply enjoy the ride.

It’s easy to get caught on the fast moving river of life that demands you take 42 AP classes, be active in 26 clubs, play 6 sports, 3 instruments, work 2 jobs, have a social life, apply to 12 distinctly different universities, eat healthy all the time, get 8.5 hours of sleep every night, post only cool photos to your instagram account with witty captions, maintain a certain level of followers on your twitter account, watch your data constantly, keep up with the latest styles, trying to catch your breath, trying to figure out whether you are coming or going and trying to make sense of it all as flies by at 100 mph.

That’s not living. That’s existing.

“People travel to wonder at the height of the mountains, at the huge waves of the seas, at the long course of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars, and yet they pass by themselves without wondering.”             -St. Augustine

“Keep close to Nature’s heart…and break clear away once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” –John Muir

Life is an opportunity, benefit from it.
Life is beauty, admire it.
Life is bliss, taste it.
Life is a dream, realize it.
Life is a challenge, meet it.
Life is a duty, complete it.
Life is a game, play it.
Life is a promise, fulfill it.
Life is sorrow, overcome it.
Life is a song, sing it.
Life is a struggle, accept it.
Life is a tragedy, confront it.
Life is an adventure, dare it.
Life is luck, make it.
Life is too precious, do not destroy it.
Life is life, fight for it.

-Mother Teresa

O Me! O Life!

By Walt Whitman

Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring, Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish, Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?) Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d, Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me, Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined, The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?

                                       Answer.

That you are here—that life exists and identity, That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

2040 is 25 years from now. What will your 2040 look like? What will your Back to the Future Day look like?

Whatever it looks like – it’s in your hands and it starts today. Don’t waste another second worrying about the things that you have no control over. Waste an afternoon daydreaming about life and the pursuit of your happiness. Get lost in the woods. Sit and stare out onto our Great Lake.

My prayer is that each of you continuously imagines the life you wish for and work every single day to make it a reality. My prayer is that each of you also makes it a priority to stop and ponder, slow down and appreciate, relax and laugh, sit and wonder.

The challenge is figuring out how to do both. Happy Back to the Future Day.

-Nate

Talk It Out.

About a month ago I started receiving random inspirational quotes via text message. I get two or three every week. It’s my phone number along with 5 others, all of whom have crazy area codes I’ve never heard of. I’m not sure why I get these or who is sending them, but I have enjoyed this random dose of deep thought a few times throughout the week.

Earlier this week the quote that came through was “An argument will determine who is right. A discussion will determine what is right.” I thought about this a lot.

I thought about my best friend who is a cop in Bowling Green and our many conversations about his work, his wild stories and his thoughts on the state of race relations in our country today. I thought about the need for us all to understand what its like to be an African-American in America today AND what it’s like to be a police officer in America today.

I thought about the number of shootings in our country on a daily basis. I don’t know pretend to even begin to know what the solution to this is, but what we can’t do is absolutely nothing. I thought about how careless we handle something so precious as life.

I thought about a fraternity at Old Dominion that was suspended for banners they displayed from their house balcony on move-in weekend inviting parents to “Freshmen daughter drop off” along with “Go ahead and drop off mom too”. I thought about a culture of rape and sexual assault on our college campuses. I thought about my experience in a fraternity and how positive it was. We need to stop associating these two things as exclusive without looking at the bigger picture. We need to do more to protect and respect women AND men on our college campuses and everywhere else for that matter.

I thought about the forest fires in Washington and the drought in California and the Caitlyn Jenner Halloween costume and the refugee situation in Syria and the destruction of ancient artifacts and temples at the hands of ISIS and Presidential Campaigns and the possibility of a McWhopper and National Dog Day and a million other things.

We need more forums and town hall meetings and roundtables and average people engaging others, strangers, neighbors, families, fellow church members in these tough, awkward conversations.

We need less talk shows and less people on the extremes making policy for the majority of us in the middle.

We need to discuss the problems in our world. We need to recognize them and courageously tackle them.

I’m sure we may have different opinions on a lot of these topics and that is awesome. It’s what makes this whole big blender of people so great. I won’t argue with you – it’s not worth my energy, but I’m always happy to discuss these issues and work towards solutions and understandings and someday maybe, just maybe….we can figure out how to have world peace and how the Browns can finally win a Super Bowl. Wouldn’t that be nice?

-Nate

Jon Voyage

There’s a big debate in Cleveland tonight. It’s also National Root Beer Float Day. Today is also the final episode of the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. After 16 years at the helm of Comedy’s Centrals political satire show, Jon is moving on.

Many of you reading this might be really upset at this realization, some of you may be saying “good riddens.” I for one will miss Jon Stewart and will miss his comedic genius.

Watching Jon perfect his craft for so many years in a setting that allowed him to be…..him, was truly a gift. He resonated with many in my generation and brought many of us who would have never cared about politics or the future of our world or justice or integrity….into the fold. His ability to expose the hypocrisy of so many of our leaders and media outlets on both sides of the aisle was always masterful.

I have always admired comedians. It’s you against the world. It’s one of the few jobs where you get instant feedback on the quality of your work. It’s a job that is often thankless, hopeless and rarely pays well. I always thought doing stand-up comedy was something I would love to do. Not because I was really funny, but because I love to laugh.

Jon Stewart was a political satirist and at the end of the day….he was funny. Really, really funny. He may not have made you laugh, but for millions of people….they depended on him to help them laugh at life for the past 16 years. He helped me laugh through some of the toughest times in my life. In the weeks and months following my mom’s passing, my Dad and I would find conversation and distraction from our grieving by recounting a segment on Stewart’s show from the night before. It was healing and good and freeing.

Sometimes we can get caught up in this movement or that issue. Sometimes we have legitimate concerns like health issues or jobs or bills or what bbq sauce of 300 at the grocery store to purchase. Sometimes life just isn’t a laughing matter. Sometimes laughing seems inappropriate. Side note – Have you ever watched people in church when something funny happens? Some people literally get stuck in this awkward place between full on laughing their heads off and trying to hold in a lifetime of learned behavior to quietly sit and observe in your pew. Someone could do a photo essay capturing these people caught at a crossroads in emotions, reactions and behaviors. It’s priceless.

Sometimes though we need to laugh. We need to not take life or ourselves so seriously. We need to recognize the unique faults in each of us and laugh at the grand design of this wild, crazy and hysterical world we all live in each and everyday. For everything there is a season – a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to grieve and a time dance.

Laughing breaks down walls, it opens up conversations, it heals, it frees our souls, it gives life.

I hope you all laugh a little more than you did yesterday. I think in a similar way it could as much for our world if we all gave back a little more or talked to each other a little more or prayed a little more.

Thank you Jon for making me laugh. A lot. For many, many moons. Whatever you decide to do next, I hope you keep us laughing, because….God knows we all need it.

-Nate

“If ‘con’ is the opposite of pro, than isn’t Congress the opposite of progress. Or did I just freaking blow your mind.”                    -Jon Stewart

Daily Occurrences

I am troubled. Not because the Indians are terrible. Not because it finally got hot & humid this summer. Not because I can not for the life of me find my favorite rain coat (brown carhart, hooded – last seen at church. Have you seen it?).

I am troubled because of an article I read this past week. On July 23rd, the 204th day of the year we had the 204th mass shooting in our country. Quick math – that is one mass shooting (defined as shooting of 4 or more people in one incident) PER DAY in this country, this year.

I don’t care to even touch the gun debate issue with a 400 foot pole. I am well aware that this is an emotional, hot, fiery topic in our country and evokes all sorts of wild emotions. I do believe we can do more to prevent some of these shootings but not infringe on the rights of all Americans.

I want to pray for our country and for our leaders and for the victims of these shootings and for the people who have chose to use guns. I want to make sense of all of this. I want to find a solution. I want to know what Jesus would say about all of this.

I want compassion and discussion and understanding around mental illness.

I want articles about 204 random acts of kindness in the first 204 days of 2015 instead of the alternative.

We have the answer to this problem and it stares us right in the face every time we read the Gospels. Love. A whole, massive, ocean liner load of love.

I believe that if each and every one of us approached each new day as a gift and a blessing…things would be different.

I believe that if each an every one us extended help and grace and peace to every other soul we encounter…things would be different.

I believe that if each and every one of us acted as the Samaritan did on the Road to Jericho in each of our lives…things would be different.

I believe that if each and every one of us simply listened to each other…whether we know for a fact we don’t necessarily agree…things would be different.

I don’t want to live in a world where the daily occurrences we talk about our mass shootings. I want to be talking about daily occurrences of us feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, providing homes for the homeless and care for the sick.

I want to live in a world where we choose love always.

It’s on each one of us. Daily. To decide. Am I going to be a light in this world or not?

“Nothing changes if nothing changes.” -Ernie Larson

I pray that the remaining 154 days in 2015 are filled with acts of extravagant love and not senseless violence. I pray that we find a way to talk about these issues without polarizing the matter and retreating to the far ends of the field. I pray that each one of us chooses to be a light in this world with every new day and every new encounter and every new experience.

-Nate

Camping With A New Perspective

Just like that…..it’s over. For a small group of around 170 of us we wait alllllllllll year long for one week in late June every year. This summer was my 26th year attending camp at Pilgrim Hills and specifically Sportscamp. Every year I think “no way can this one top last year”, but inevitably it does.

Camp was different this year though. It was my first time attending camp as a father. They say becoming a parent changes everything and whoever “they” are….were not lying. My week at Sportscamp was absolutely incredible as always and I found it absolutely incredible in different ways than I had in the past.

I saw the anxiety in the eyes of some of our youngest and newest campers on Sunday at check-in. I felt the anxiety in the parents as they snuck in one last hug before leaving their child in our care for an ENTIRE WEEK. What trust, what faith, what responsibility.

Nobody comes out of a week in the woods without some bumps and bruises and bug bites. It’s a part of the experience. It’s easy to pinpoint the exact place and moment and situation of almost every scraped knee, sunburnt forehead or massive mosquito bite. What is harder….well nearly impossible to pinpoint is the moment and place the and the situation where each one of these campers feel the presence of God. As 2nd graders they may not be able to articulate it as such, 7th graders affirm the experience by simply calling it cool and 11th graders pour their hearts out to people they only see once a year. I said to my group of high school students on Sunday evening that one of my biggest goals for the week was that each one of them would experience God’s presence at some point during the week.

Beyond the musty cabins, the suspect food offerings, the ice cold pool and the dilapidated basketball hoops there is a reason so many young people and not so young people like my 34 year old self return to these hills each and every year. It’s the one week out of our year where we have the unique opportunity to do live together with 170 other people in the midst of God’s beautiful creation. It’s a place and time that seems surreal when you compare it to the real world many of us live in the other 51 weeks of the year.

We need camp to help us all remember that there is still a grand design that God calls each of us to help restore and rebuild. Camp helps us slow down, breathe in the presence of God, laugh out loud, play until our hearts content, explore, dream, imagine and find ourselves among the trees, fields and paths of 300 some acres in Mid-Ohio.

Being at camp this summer I found myself praying over and over again that this life-changing experience will be available for our son Max and our future child-to-be-named later. As a parent I watched with so much pride as our youngest campers bravely tried new things, sang their hearts out in worship while fighting to keep their little eyes open after a long day. As a parent I watched junior highers discover skills and talents they didn’t know they had and navigate the rocky waters of learning social skills and interacting with the other gender. As a parent I watched with awe as our high school students articulated their faith through word, art, song, sportsmanship, leadership, example and laughter. As a parent I watched young adults give everything they possibly had with great compassion, care, energy, joy and grace to ensure that each of their campers had the absolute best time of their life. As a parent I watched a leadership team of directors and staff work tirelessly and carefully craft a schedule and a program that provided each and every camper with a full and rich experience while ensuring their safety and well-being all along the way.

As a parent I am thankful for our summer camping program and for those who are working to ensure we have these offerings for future generations. I am again for the 26th year in a row affirming camp and I couldn’t be happier.

Happy Camping.

-Nate

Back to the Bayou

This Sunday we are taking off. 2 charter buses, 1 Escalade, 1 support wagon and a therapy dog….oh and 97 of US…and all of our luggage….and Bracken’s luggage. We are heading back to the Gulf Coast and to Epworth Project in Slidell, LA.

The last time we were there in 2011 we were all moved by the stories of Katrina survivors and the sights of where the water had been and the immense amount of work still to be done. The last I heard was that 10 years later, only 40% of the rebuilding efforts have been completed in this region.

One of my goals for this year’s trip is to help each of use our imagination to try to comprehend and understand and grasp just how devastating this storm was to this region. I have spent the past two evenings after Max has gone to bed, watching a documentary by Spike Lee called “When the Levees Broke” and it was absolutely captivated me. All the politics aside, the part that is so difficult to watch is the raw footage of humans suffering. People completely breaking down at the weight and gravity of the situation. Children scared and crying looking for their parents. Parents sobbing and mourning the loss of their children. Thousands of people scared and living in filth at the Superdome with NOTHING. I mean absolutely NOTHING. Many of us think of humans suffering in places like Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and other far reaches of the planet. But this is America. This happened in our own backyard. All I kept thinking was….we are so much better than this.

Many may question the amount of work and time and energy and resources that go into pulling off a trip like this. Moving 100 people across the country is no easy feat. There’s plenty of need in our own backyards. That’s absolutely true. The fact is that we need these experiences to step out of our comfort zones and our familiarities to “embrace the awkwardness” of serving others. Jesus tells us the importance over and over again of taking care of the least among us. But is anything Jesus asks us to do easy? Not at all. But that makes every drop of sweat equity, every uncomfortable night’s sleep and every achy muscle worth it knowing that what we were doing is absolutely, exactly and entirely what we are supposed to be doing.

Every time we choose to give, every time we choose to help, lend a hand, work for those in need, sweat for Jesus….we are restoring this planet little by little. There’s a whole lot of restoring to be done in New Orleans and we won’t even scratch the surface, but the restoring that will take place in each of us….will hopefully be significant. Hopefully each of us will return home with a greater sense of our purpose, our place in this world, our responsibility to care for those who can’t care for themselves, our need to cry out about injustices taking place and our ability to be a light in this crazy, crazy world.

Thank you for praying for this trip, for believing in this experience and for supporting this adventure. I hope you will follow our adventures on social media by following #SHMISSIONTRIP2015 all week long. Say some prayers for each of the adults and teenagers going on this trip, for the courageous bus drivers, for the incredible people at Epworth Project, for the people of New Orleans who so desperately need a hand and for God to be with us each and every step of this amazing journey.

Oh and while I am gone….I expect all of you in Cleveland to yell, scream, holler, beat your chests, stomp your feet for our redhot, championship bound Cleveland Cavaliers. #allin #gocavs

-Nate

THIS Sunday

This Sunday, I hope you will be in church. I hope you are in church every Sunday, but the reality is we are all extremely busy people with busy lives and being in church every Sunday just isn’t going to happen. Who am I kidding, I am not even in church every Sunday and I work for the church. It’s the realities of ministry and life in 2015.

But I really do hope you will be in church THIS Sunday, because this Sunday will be special. This Sunday we will be recognizing and lifting up and affirming the work and ministry of one individual who is so greatly deserving of all of this recognition and clamoring.

For the past 25 years Valerie Tanzilli has been a rock for Avon Lake United Church of Christ. For the past 25 years she has faithfully worked and served and cared for our church and our God in so many ways, I couldn’t begin to list them. Val is hanging it up at the end of June after a quarter of a century as our secretary and our financial secretary. It is hard to capture or to put into words just exactly the scope of her impact or the depth of her reach into the lives of so many of us over the years.

One of the most admirable qualities of Val is her humility. She is quiet and reserved and goes about allllllllllllllll of her work with never a gripe or a complaint or a whisper of discontent. While Rev. Kelly or myself or so many others are in front of you all the time talking and leading and ministering, Val is the steady presence behind the scenes that keeps the ship afloat and keeps the ship moving forward. You’ll never hear about the countless pieces of literature she proof reads for me or the hundreds or checks she processes and receipts she tallies. Nobody knows about all the phone calls she handles or the copies she runs and the mailings she sends out. She’s been to the Avon Lake post office mailing all of us our Drummer enough times she could drive it blindfolded. I mean…it is a straight shot down Electric. She’s sewn Confirmation stoles and unlocked my office 2 million times when I forget my keys. She is the gate keeper and the first impression for our church. She has many of your phone numbers memorized and is constantly asking about the well being of so many young people….because she cares more about them and more about our church than anyone else I know.

I don’t want to think about life in the office after June 30th because since my first day here way back in 2007, Val was the first person I met that morning and has provided me with so much for so many years, I just can’t fathom her not being there everyday. In the lyrics of the great Golden Girls….” Thank you for being a friend. Travel down the road and back again.Your heart is true, you’re a pal and a confidant.” I have traveled down many roads personally in the eight years I have known Val and along every single one of them, she was always a steady presence who was quick to offer a big hug, a word of care, a smile and generosity that knows no end. It won’t be easy not seeing her there at her desk everyday, but I know she’s not far away and will continue to be an active and caring part of this community of faith.

But life is about seasons and one thing that is certain is change. Our church will change after June 30th, but the changes will be so reflective of one humble, caring person’s 25 year legacy as the face of this congregation.

I hope you will be in church THIS Sunday. I hope you will be there to help us recognize this saint, this angel among us, our good friend and our confidant….Valerie Tanzilli.

Love you Val! See you on Sunday!

-Nate

In Awe

So let’s clear up the picture. I am the chunk in the corner in the pj’s that fit me three months earlier. #thanksmomanddad #roomforatleastfivemoresmores. This is the Taylor family on one of our regular camping trips circa 1985. The girl next to me is cousin Shelley. She just celebrated her 39th birthday. Unfortunately everyone told me it was her 40th so I congratulated her on the big 4-0 only to find out I was completely wrong. #iheartmyfamily. And then there’s my mom and my sister.

This Sunday is Mother’s Day and for me it particularly significant because it’s the first one since my Mom passed away and the first one with Lisa being a mom. #emotionsallllllllllacrosstheboard

In the past year my understanding of Mom’s and appreciation, respect and awe for who they are and what they do on a regular basis has grown immensely.

I think of all the things about MY Mom that I miss. Her constant phone calls, her hand-written letters at camp every year, her thoughtful gifts, her strong will, her incredible faith, the way she put my sister and I on a pedestal and always made us feel like we could do anything. I miss her Taco Salad and her fresh-squeezed lemonade. I think of all that she endured for so many years and know that I will never have anywhere near the strength, resolve or fight that she had. I am the Nate Taylor you all know today because of my Mom. It’s that simple. I only realize now how much of an impact she made on my life and is still making on the life of Max. For that alone, she is priceless. It’s comforting to know she is still right there, walking right by my side, every single day.

I think about all the ways that I have watched Lisa grow into her new role as a mother. There is no greater joy than watching Max’s face light up when she comes in the door. She is truly a super hero. Her ability to care for all of Max’s every needs with such though and patience and gentleness is pure art. I know she’s tired…a lot, but I know neither of us would trade this adventure for the world. Each new day presents new experiences in parenting and Lisa handles them with such ease and such grace. I couldn’t imagine this ride with anyone else.

Being able to witness your wife become a Mom and watching first-hand all that she does everyday is truly a privilege. I am entirely convinced that there is not a stronger species in the galaxy than the Mother. Wow.

One thing I learned this past year is that life is short. Each new day, every phone call, every laugh, every hug, kind word, encounter….is priceless. I can’t believe all that Max is doing already and I can’t believe this June will be a year since my Mom passed. Don’t wait to say what you have to say. Take advantage of every opportunity. Put your PHONE DOWN and look someone in the eye and talk to them. Tell your Mom & Dad you love them. Every day. Carpe Diem! Life is short………and we get so caught up in things that do not matter, that live casually passes by without us even knowing. Live in this moment. Right now.

Thank-you Mom for being you and being so incredibly perfect at it. I love you.

Thank-you Lisa for amazing me everyday and taking such good care of Max and me. We would be lost without you. I love you.

Thank-you to Moms everywhere. You don’t hear it enough and you’ll never ever come close to being as appreciated as you all deserve to be. You are the ones keeping this world turning. I am in awe of each and everyone of you.

Happy Mother’s Day.

-Nate

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