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

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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

The Remedy

My favorite band on the planet – Zac Brown Band, just released their newest album, JEKYLL & HYDE. #nailedit #awesomework. Not only does Zac personally affirm summer camp in the pages of the album book, but he also includes a song on the album called “Remedy”. It’s pretty simple when you think about it. Here’s the lyrics to his hopefully-soon-to-be-next-big-hit:

I’ve been looking for a sound
That makes my heart sing
Been looking for a melody
That makes the church bells ring
Not looking for the fame
Or the fortune it might bring
In love, in music, in life

Jesus preached the golden rule
Buddha taught it too
Gandhi said eye for an eye
Makes the whole world go blind
With a little understanding
We can break these chains that we’ve been handed
I’ve got the medication
Love is the remedy

Pray to be stronger and wiser
Know you get what you give
Love one another
Amen (amen), amen

I’ve been thinking about the mark
That I’ll be leaving
Been looking for a truth
I can believe in
I got everything I need
Let this heart be my guide
In love, in music, in life

I’m not saying I’m a wise man
Heaven knows there’s much that I’m still finding
Making my way down this winding road
Holding on to what I love
Yeah, and leaving the rest behind
For love, for music, for life

Pray to be stronger and wiser
Know you get what you give
Love one another

(Love is the remedy)
We’re all in this world together
Life’s a gift that we have to treasure
Happiness, now that is the measure
Love is the remedy
(Love is the remedy)

Everyone can be forgiven
One love and one religion
Open up your heart and listen
Love is the remedy

Pray to be stronger and wiser
And know you get what you give
God is love one another
Amen (amen), amen, amen (amen)

Thinking about Baltimore and parents passing away too soon and summer camp and babies growing too fast. We are all in this together. You get what you give. Amen.

-Nate

Stand For Trees

Yesterday was Earth Day. I didn’t find much time to get online and post something about why I love Earth. But I sure hope my friends and followers don’t believe for a second that I love the Earth any less. Some people think Christmas should be everyday. I think Earth Day should be everyday. We all make conscious decisions every single day regarding our love or lack of respect for the Earth.

A few summers ago I had the opportunity to go out west with Lisa and spend some time traveling Highway 1 and doing a ton of other really cool things. By far my favorite part of the trip were the days we spent in Yosemite. We spent one day hiking through the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. These massive giants have been living, breathing wonders for hundreds of years. Standing at the base of these giants, you quickly realize your insignificance in the massiveness of this world.

I’ll never forget growing up on Latonia Blvd. in Toledo and the tiny Maple sapling that my parents planted on the tree lawn in front of our house when I was just a child. My parents loved that tree and one particular summer the City of Toledo decided to replace the water main running directly beneath that tree. My Mom fought and fought and called the City and stood guard to make sure our beloved maple tree was treated properly. The City workers had to dig that tree up and for several days it sat in our driveway in a gigantic ball of dirt and my Mom would water it religiously. When they were done working on the new water main, those workers carefully placed that tree back in it’s original location under the careful supervision of my mother. I learned a lot from that tree and now 25 years later that little Maple sapling is no longer little. It is a massive tree providing shade and privacy and beauty to a neighborhood and its residents. My Mom showed me what it meant to stand for trees.

Can you imagine what our planet would look like today if we had the concern and the patience and the foresight and the respect for all of God’s creation? It says in scripture that someday God will restore everything. Unfortunately it looks like God is going to have a lot of work to do.

Fortunately God has also given us the ability to continue to create new things and with that a responsibility to be good stewards of the Earth. We can begin the restoration today. We can stand for trees. Have you ever truly considered just how awesome and how valuable trees really are? Trees – the true miracle workers. And thankfully there are some people out there advocating for trees and their awesomeness. Let me introduce you to http://www.standfortrees.org….

Stand For Trees is an innovative grassroots campaign that enables individuals — all of us — to take real action to stop forest loss: the number one cause of species extinction and second-leading cause of CO2 emissions globally. Although we know stopping deforestation is critical to curbing climate change, we continue to lose a forest the size of New York City every 48 hours. And deforestation and forest degradation are now larger contributors to climate change than every plane, train, car, and ship on the planet combined.

Fortunately, we have the solution. Since 2007, the international community has been working together on the REDD+ program to ‘reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. Now, for the first time, the Stand For Trees model allows individuals to be part of this solution by harnessing the power of technology and social media so we can all support local communities who are implementing REDD+ practices on the ground in tropical forest countries. When you Stand For Trees, you stand for investing in communities who are pursuing new economic opportunities — creating the economy of tomorrow where trees are more valuable standing than cut down.

Check out the video about Stand For Trees:

Trees. Can you really not like trees? Happy Earth Day Everyday.

-Nate

Way to Go Omaha

I love it when the church does stuff right. I love it when people challenge tradition, when they are convicted and when we shake things up a bit. Sounds a lot like what I have gotten myself into with all this Affirm Camp stuff. But anyways. Today is about Omaha, Nebraska.

Did you see the news? In a landmark, never-before-done decision – three groups of people from three of the world’s largest faith traditions have decided to go radical. A new campus has been approved where a Muslim, Christian and Jewish place of worship will all be located on one campus. Wow. Let that sink in for a minute.

It might not always be perfect and I am sure there will be uncomfortable exchanges and stares in the beginning, but this is purely awesome.

You can read more about this at: http://www.ucc.org/countryside_trifaith_movement_04142015

That they may all be one. Amen.

-Nate

Importance of Easter

Years ago at the Simply Youth Ministry Conference, I had the opportunity to hear Jeff Bethke speak. He’s known for his artistic abilities in slam poetry. The guy has some mad skills. He made a video called “Why I hate religion, but love Jesus” that went viral a few years ago. It has over 29 million views on YouTube. So earlier this week he posted a video called “Importance of Easter.” It’s not the lyrical mastery that his Why I hate Religion video was known for, but it’s authentic and real and a great message for Easter. It’s about you and me and the opportunity and the challenge that God has laid before us to restore this world. Check it out….

I hope that each of you comes to find the resurrection as beautiful and glorious and awesome and wonderful and incredible and amazing as God intended for it to be.

I hope that each of you decides what the most important work in this world is and you go and do it. – Glennon Doyle Melton

Christ has risen. That’s pretty awesome. Happy Easter.

-Nate

Affirm Camp

I have decided to start a movement. Why not? Margaret Mead once said “Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.” The Outdoor Ministries in the Ohio Conference are a gigantic part of my life. For over 25 years I have spent a week in late June running all over Pilgrim Hills. You all know this, because I talk about it all of the time.

Our camps are in a precarious spot. The financial situation is looking more and more bleak everyday. For some this is the end of the road. If we can’t cut it financially, then it’s time to close up shop and move on. I don’t necessarily believe it’s that simple. In April, our Board of Directors will be meeting to look at options for the future of our Outdoor Ministries. I want to give them something to think about.

I believe that there is thousands of people who have had their lives changed by our camps for the past 50 years and have no idea that we are on the brink of having to make some extremely hard decisions about the future of our Outdoor Ministries program and our two campsites.

I also believe that there is power in petitions, in a unified voice, in making a statement. Myself and several of my Christian Education, Faith Formation and Youth Ministry colleagues are starting a campaign called Affirm Camp. The statements of affirmation are listed below. The goal of this campaign is to collect as many signatures as possible between now and May 1st and show our Conference Minister, Rev. Phil Hart and the Board of Directors that there is still an immense amount of support for our camping program in Ohio.

I hope that each one of you would sign this petition and pass it along to your friends you have from camp and have them pass it on their friends from camp. I hope that if you have never been to camp, but have watched and listened as children and adults pour their hearts out about camp at your Camp Sunday and realize the importance of camp, that you too would sign this petition.

We have set-up a page at change.org where you sign the petition electronically. Please share this on all of your social media sites, reach out to anyone you know who may have been touched by camp at some point and have them sign it too. Please visit http://www.affirmcamp.org today and help our voice be heard. You can also follow us on Twitter @affirmcamp for all the latest updates.

AFFIRM CAMP STATEMENT PAPER

To affirm something is to declare it as true or right. In the Ohio Conference of the U.C.C. our Outdoor Ministries programs are at a crossroads. For over a year now, one of our two sites has been put on “sabbatical” and completely shutdown and closed up. Our entire camp executive staff was let go around the same time and a discernment team was formed. The team was tasked with making a recommendation to the Ohio Conference Board of Directors regarding the future of the Outdoor Ministries. They have yet to offer any formal recommendations, so in the meantime here is ours…

WE AFFIRM THAT WE MUST CONTINUE OUR OUTDOOR MINISTRIES PROGRAMS. These retreats, these weeks of our summers, these events and workdays…they shape our faith journeys and the faith journeys of thousands of others. They provide us with places and opportunities to be in community, to experience God in nature and to grow in countless ways. You simply can’t put a price tag on these experiences. Experiences at Pilgrim Hills and Templed Hills have helped to solidify an identity for members of the Ohio Conference. Without these places and this programming, we have little or no opportunity to become the body of Christ together.

WE AFFIRM THAT A PHYSICAL CAMP LOCATION IS VITALLY IMPORTANT. At least one of our sites must be preserved. If we let go of both of these camps, we will never be able to purchase the same kind of natural property again. Programming is important, but place is equally important. Throughout the Bible, we read about sacred spaces, holy land, holy ground. Just as we experience God through community, through service, through worship, through music, through prayer, through study, so do we experience God in and through nature. Some people are claiming that the programming can be replicated without the sites. We strongly disagree. We need at least one of these sites. They have sacred history for us.

WE AFFIRM THAT CAMP IS STILL RELEVANT IN 2015. Some people are saying that camp is a thing of the past. That is simply not true. In the March/April issue of Camping Magazine there is an article entitled Camper Enrollment Continued Upward Trend in 2014, reporting that over 72% of camps reported higher enrollment last year. Camp in the United States is a $15 billion dollar industry and employs over 1.5 million people. Each year over 11 million children and adults attend camp in the United States. Camp is very much an active and important part of our social fabric and should be treated as such.

WE AFFIRM THAT CAMP IS AN ASSET. For many it comes down to a simple question – is camp an asset or a liability to the Ohio Conference? Financially it uses more resources than it brings in. So you could answer it simply by saying camp is a liability. That’s simple thinking without looking at the value and worth of a camp experience. We affirm that camp is ABSOLUTELY an asset to our Conference and every decision regarding camp should be looked at with that mindset. There is way more to this equation then a balance sheet and sales projections. Our camping programs, at our sites, have nurtured the faith of thousands of UCC members in our conference; those individuals, in turn, have become assets in their individual congregations and in many other settings.

WE AFFIRM THAT OUR CONFERENCE SHOULD PROVIDE A VISION FOR FUTURE FUNDING. We understand that the camps have been operating at a deficit and that deficit spending cannot continue. We vehemently disagree that the answer is for the sites to be sold and our programming to end. If we are a people who believe that “In Christ all things are possible”, then we cannot give up without considering every possible option. Selling one site and investing the proceeds into the other, informing every congregation about the current situation, and considering a capital campaign are all options we recommend. We believe that many people believe that OCWM dollars can and should be used to support the ministries we find valuable.

WE AFFIRM THAT GOD IS STILL SPEAKING ABOUT OUTDOOR MINISTRIES. As Educators, Youth Ministry Professionals, current and former campers, and others who believe in camp, we see a lot working with today’s young people. The need for a place and space to be yourself and be accepted and be loved unconditionally and be away, is so incredibly important. The lives of our young people are jammed-packed, fast, stressful, overwhelming, scary and complete chaos. We have a responsibility to respond to this by providing all of us, young and old alike, with space and a place to “be still and know that God is God.”

There is a bright future for Outdoor Ministries in the Ohio Conference if we want it. It needs vision, leadership, dedication, hard work and passionate individuals to make it happen. Those of us signed below and on the following pages believe in this ministry and believe there is a way to make it work. We appreciate your time and continue to pray for our Outdoor Ministries and all of the decisions that lie in front of us.

Thanks for your help in hopefully preserving this vital ministry.

Happy Camping and Petitioning!

-Nate

A Mark of Distinction In Which I Take Just Pride

I was one of those guys who was absolutely positive I would never join a fraternity. It didn’t make sense to me. I didn’t have a lot of money as it was and the simple understanding of fraternities I had was that you basically paid for friends. No thank-you.

As my freshmen year at Baldwin-Wallace went along many of the guys that I had become friends with decided to go through rush and many of them had decided to join Phi Kappa Tau. One of six fraternities on campus. I still wasn’t convinced. As time went on though and the more I met the guys in the fraternity, my perspective changed and my attitude about Greek Life as a whole changed.

Three years, thousands of memories, countless laughs, and some new lifelong friendships later, I had found my place in Phi Kappa Tau. Looking back on my experience with fraternities, I have nothing but absolutely great things to say about it. Being in a fraternity, specifically Phi Kappa Tau, made me a better student, a better citizen and a better man.

Upon hearing the news and seeing the videos of what transpired at a social event for a fraternity at the University of Oklahoma recently, I was disgusted, frustrated and angry. Like a wildfire, and rightfully so, this story took over the internet and became another negative strike on fraternities and sororities as a whole. If you have no clue what incident I am referring to, simply Google SAE and University of Oklahoma. I don’t care to mention the specifics of what happened because it was that terrible and that appalling.

It is my hope that these individuals responsible for this face the justice they deserve and that organizations like SAE with long-standing, proud traditions, can root out those who don’t stand for the values of fraternity or anything at all for that matter.

This is exactly what fraternities are NOT. This incident does not and should not represent all fraternities. There is far more good happening and far more great young men and not so young men, like myself, who should not be defined by incidents like this. We need to look at the young men who volunteer parts of their summer to help at the Serious Fun Network Camps. These camps were founded by the late, Phi Tau and actor, Paul Newman for children with terminal illnesses and disabilities so that they too could experience camp. These are the stories that better represent fraternities. Not this garbage these kids were spewing in Oklahoma.

We need to start talking and talking out loud and talking often about racism in our country. We need to get awkward and we need to feel uncomfortable and confront this issue head on. I don’t believe that any one of us are free from racism or that any of us are free from an obligation to fight against racism. Unfortunately this is not going away anytime soon. Fortunately there are more of us who believe in love and acceptance and grace and won’t let an ugly thing like racism become the norm in our society.

Proudly, Nate

Phi Kappa Tau, by admitting me to membership, has conferred upon me a mark of distinction in which I take just pride. I believe in the spirit of brotherhood for which it stands. I shall strive to attain its ideals, and by so doing to bring to it honor and credit. I shall be loyal to my college and my chapter and shall keep strong my ties to them that I may ever retain the spirit of youth. I shall be a good and loyal citizen. I shall try always to discharge the obligation to others which arises from the fact that I am a fraternity man. –Phi Kappa Tau Creed authored by Roland W. Maxwell, Southern California ’22

Best Tournament in NE Ohio…and I quote

I don’t like to toot our own horn often. I don’t like to brag…it’s not part of my DNA. But then again it’s not everyday that our Cabin Fever Cornhole Tournament gets an endorsement from the number #2 ranked female player in the world and the current Queen of Cornhole.

Last week Stacia Pugh stopped out to film a short promo video for our tournament this year. We are so grateful to her for taking time to join us last week and for all of the awesome things she had to say about our tournament. Check it out!

There is still time to sign-up for this annual event. You can simply visit www.avonlakeucc.org/cornhole and register by this Sunday at midnight.

All proceeds from this event go to help fund our SH Mission Trip this summer to New Orleans. A group of 82 high school students and 26 adults will be spending a week there helping rebuild homes damaged by Hurricane Katrina, 10 years ago.

Thank-you so much for considering being a part of this year’s tournament. I look forward to sharing all of the life-changing moments and incredible experiences that all of these young people will have this June because of your generosity.

“Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve.” -MLK

-Nate

40 Days

40 Days. That’s a long time. In the hot sun with not much of anything…at all. Sounds like fun. The scripture of Jesus’ time in the desert only provides a small glimpse into what the experience must have been like. I came across a video the other day of a different depiction of that story told through drawings with no words. I have no idea how old it is or if you have already seen it, but I thought it was cool so I’m sharing it with all of you.

So…what did you think? How about the artist’s depiction of Satan? Makes you think doesn’t it?

During this Lenten season, my prayer is that we all recognize our own shortcomings and our inability to be able to resist all temptations. It’s ok, because Jesus was able to resist temptation. Jesus was perfect. Jesus overcame all of our failures. Seeing this video for some reason gave me a new appreciation for this time in the desert and and a better understanding of what it’s like for us to be in our own deserts. It’s hard, it’s uncomfortable, it’s tempting to give in, it stretches us physically, mentally and spiritually. Jesus tells us “but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The way through the deserts that life gives us is the living water that Jesus offers us today and each new day. Don’t try to do it on your own. Tag Jesus in and let him take the burdens and the worries and questions and the stress.

Prayers for each of you during this Lenten Journey.

-Nate

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