Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Unselfish Birthday Wishes

I love the trend of unselfish birthday choices. There's nothing wrong with having a birthday or getting presents. Yet, if you're looking for the moments in your life where you are can have a large impact, birthdays could be on that list. Birthdays are usually a time when the limelight is directly shining on you, so what better way to use that stage than to share about your faith or kickstart a project with meaningful impact. Haley G. is one of our HP students who is doing just that.

Blackbox International is a Christian organization that exists to holistically rehabilitate sex-trafficked boys age 16 and under. There is an estimated 400,000 boys who are trafficked each year and Blackbox is making a difference. However, they need help. Haley wants to help.

This year on her birthday on January 19, Haley is raising money and awareness for Blackbox International. She wanted to do something different this year instead of just having another year of cake and presents. Her plan is to raise money from school, church and Facebook friends, then use the money for Blackbox. Her goal is to raise at least $200 to help another boy come into the organization. All the money raised will be given directly to Blackbox to make this happen.

I'm praying that her efforts are multiplied beyond what she hoped for, not only to encourage her faith but help Blackbox as they seek to assist 'the least of these'.

If you would like to help Haley in this, please contact me at Or contact her directly if you know her personally. Let's partner together to battle to help rescue these young boys made in the image of God.

You can read more about Blackbox International at

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Helping Students Keep Warm and Stay in School

Tulsa, Oklahoma - I would like to introduce you to Sarah W. Sarah is one of our High School students at Highland Park. She is actively involved in HPyouth. She is smart, athletic and a follower of Jesus Christ. And she is doing something extraordinary.
Last summer, we took our students to a CIY Move conference in Macomb, Illinois. Move is a week-long conference that aims to change youth and change the world. Sarah, along with many of our students, was challenged throughout the week to advance her faith and grow stronger in her commitment to follow Christ.

One video and challenge in particular hit her hard. The story of Ruby. Ruby is a High School student that chose to give up her birthday to raise money for a family to have a new house in South America. At the end of the week, we challenged our students to consider what they could do this next year that God was laying on their heart. Sarah decided that she wanted to do something like that.
After returning home, she shared with her parents what was on her heart and in her mind. Together they decided on a plan. Sarah would use her birthday in January 2015 to impact many poor underprivileged children in the Tulsa area. Project Elf is an amazing organization dedicated to helping children get the basic things they need for life and school. They provide them with coats, pencils, toothbrushes, combs and more. Sarah wants to help them.

So, in January 2015, Sarah is attempting to get many donations to help Project Elf be an even bigger impact than normal. The Children’s Ministry at Highland Park has already gotten behind her. The Middle School students of HP took time out of their Christmas party to go shopping for donations to surprise Sarah. Maybe by this point, you’re wondering how you could partner with her too? On Sunday, January 11, there will be a box next to the HP Caboose (the student information table in the downstairs lobby). In that box, bring any of the items in the list that follows to help support Sarah and Project Elf. This will also underscore to our students that they too can change the world for Christ.
Items needed:
  • Tennis Shoes
  • Socks
  • Underwear
  • Backpacks
  • Heavy Coats
  • Winter Hats and Gloves
  • Composition Books
  • Pencils
  • Binders (2 in)
  • Markers
  • Pocket Folders with Brads
  • Tri-Fold Science Project Boards
  • Toothbrushes
  • Money and Wal-Mart Gift Cards can also be given.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

My Thoughts after Meeting our Daughter

I wanted to get down some of the thoughts I have had since I wrote the "Open Letter" and subsequently meeting our daughter. We started the DHS adoption process last November/December. In the beginning of the year we went through hours and hours of training. In late spring and early summer, our schedule got busy with Jacob graduating High School and going on various Youth Ministry trips, so the adoption process slowed down a bit. We also needed to set aside some money to get Italian background checks to complete our application. Toward the end of the summer, a family generously gave us the money to get our background checks and it was back on!

The week that our background checks were completed, our profiles were matched with four kids. Our daughter was one of them. The four kids' case workers would need to review our profiles and determine if we were a good fit from their perspective. Throughout the next month we prayed that God would send each of the four kids to a godly home and He would send whichever child to us that He chose. We asked Him to make it clear. We asked Him for guidance. And we asked others to pray with us.

God made it clear. Our daughters name was sent back to us for consideration. We went to DHS and saw a couple pictures of her. We couldn't take anything with us, so we had to keep her image and profile in our memory. We decided to follow God's lead and move ahead with the adoption process of our daughter.

Last week, we had a meeting to find out more about her. We actually got to keep some pictures (that we can't post - sorry!) and info about her. We also got to see a video of her talking to her Adoptive Parents. She was staring into our souls. It might have been at that point that all was lost. I was smitten. Tears came to both our eyes. I felt like I was looking at my daughter in that video. At that moment, I wanted to reach out and hold her, protect her and make sure she knew that she was loved.

From that night on our love grew. Each day felt like eternity was increasing as we waited, first to pray and make the final decision to move forward, then to wait for the night we would meet.

That night finally came. We met our daughter on October 1, 2013. We can't tell you specific details about her, other than her age (she's 13), but we can tell you that she is adorable, lovable, friendly, sweet and likes to laugh and sing!

Today, I get to pick her up from school for the very first time. I am excited. Angie will be waiting at the house for us, getting dinner ready and hanging out with Kevin. We will get to hang out and get to know her better for a few hours. I told our daughter on the phone which car to look for and that I would be standing on top of it waving my arms. She giggled and said that wouldn't embarrass her, she would just tell everyone that I was her new Daddy. My heart turned to mush as I soaked up her words.

Some may say that she is lucky or fortunate to have a forever home, but I would say she is such a sweet special girl that we are blessed beyond words that God has chosen her for us. Picking her up today cannot come soon enough.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

YM Tip Game Idea: Bucket Ball

I created this game as a fun icebreaker for our students. I call it Bucket Ball.

Bucket Ball is set up with two long tables, end to end. On one end there is an igloo, bucket, clean trash can, etc... From the other end students line up taking turns trying to make a shot. After their attempt they go to the back of the line. If their attempt is good, there is a score. If their attempt failed, they must retrieve the ball and place it at the end of the table in front of the shooters. The next person in line does not have to wait for the person getting their ball if there is another ball left in front of them.

Here's how we played it.
Items needed:
For one set-up - two 6 foot tables, one container and five practice tennis balls.
For teams or multiple set-ups - Simply create the same set as many times as you want teams.

We played with two teams of 6.
1) Everyone must attempt their shot.
2) Cannot cross the end of the table.
3) Must bounce the ball at least once (we did change this after a couple games, but still fun as a rule).
4) When a ball makes it in the goal, it stays in. This means there are now less balls to cycle through shooting team members.
5) First team to five balls in wins.

We played best two out of three games wins.

Objectives: Relationship building, icebreaker

Sunday, September 29, 2013

An Open Letter to our Adopted Child

To our adopted child…

We have wanted you for ages. In fact for years before you were born, we wanted you. God has been preparing us for you for a long time.

Maybe it’s better if I start back at the beginning. When I was a child I remember being drawn by the idea of adoption. I pretended that I had ‘adopted’ my stuffed animals. When I saw news stories about kids without parents, it broke my heart. I remember watching movies like Disney’s Rescuers and Annie, and my emotions were tugged. TV shows like Different Strokes highlighted adoption while embracing the different colors of God’s children. As I grew older and I saw movies about the defenseless, the fatherless, and the lonely being protected, I was inspired. God was preparing me for you.

I know your mom played with dolls growing up, caring for them, loving them, teaching them and feeding them. Some of her favorite movies were about orphans….and singing (Annie and the Sound of Music). She watched shows like Little House on the Prairie which showed her a story of adoption. They had a home daycare where even as a young teen your mom got to love on real babies, playing with them, caring for them and feeding them. God was preparing her for you.

When your mom and I started dating we shared our desires to adopt. The idea had grown in each of us before we met and now we shared something special in God’s heart. We discussed our shared desire to adopt teens. Our dating years came and went. They flashed by as we finished High School and started college. Yet, God gave us many opportunities for practice and training with our nephews and nieces. We had no idea what God had in store, but know this…He was preparing us for you.

We married while attending a Christian college and soon after we started supporting a child from Compassion International. This was a small way to help a child in need. We prayed for and invested in the life of that child. Our classes taught us more about God’s love. God was preparing us for you.

After a couple more years at college, we joined a team of church planting missionaries going to Ancona, Italy. We experienced highs and lows on the mission field, but through it all we saw God’s plan for Italy and our lives. During our time in Italy, we once again thought of adoption. Our normal travel schedule was that we would be in Italy for two years and back in the states for six months. We found that Italy wouldn’t allow foreigners to adopt Italian children and there were hurdles with adopting children in America while we were living abroad. We remembered an orphanage that we knew in an Asian country and sent them an email. We heard nothing. We looked at other opportunities, but didn’t really get anywhere. Months later, God led us to move to another city in Italy and help lead a church plant there. We were packing our things in Italy and coming back to the states to raise awareness and a team when we received the apology email from the orphanage. They had received our email but it went to their junk mail folder. They told us they were happy to help us adopt, but because of the move it wasn’t the right time. It seemed God was still working through us and preparing us for you.

While we were in the states preparing ourselves and our new team, we took a training course called Perspectives. The course looked at God’s heart for the nations. The presenters would often give us suggestions of events and opportunities that helped us keep a heart open to the nations. We went to a few of the events. One event was at a church that was hosting a group of orphans from Russia. There were teens and older children that spoke and sang in a choir. Their stories and the stories of other children like them shook us. We felt the increased pull of adoption, but not at that time. God wasn’t ready for us to adopt at that time, but He used their stories to continue molding our hearts. God was preparing us for you.

At a Christian concert in late 2008, we heard two different pleas. One was for Compassion International and the other was for an international adoption agency. We were still preparing to return to Italy, and while we talked seriously about the adoption challenge, we felt that that at that time God was wanting us to get back involved with Compassion International after a few years absence. Again, we provided financial resources for food and Bible training for a child around the world. Again we were praying and loving a new child, even if it was “long distance”. God was preparing us for you.

After almost two years of preparation, God sent us back to Italy – to the city of Verona. Three months after barely settling in, we received the kind of phone call you would never want to receive. My brother was in a terrible car accident and we needed to return to America. We came back to help our broken hurting family even while we also were broken and hurting. It would take God the next few years to heal our brokenness. However, through this tragedy God transformed us from an Aunt and an Uncle to substitute parents of our niece and nephews in the place of my brother. Their ages ranged from 14 to 21. Looking back, we realize God had been preparing us for this. And through this too God was preparing us for you.

In 2010, our church showed a video from the 111Project. This project has brought attention to the need of churches to see how they could make an impact in the foster system. This pulled at our hearts and brought to mind how God had given us a desire to adopt. Since my brother’s accident we had been taking care of him at home. We were still figuring out how this worked and what a normal life looked like for us. Yet the thought of being there for a child in need hit us hard, yet we waited as God healed our hearts. God was still preparing us for you.

In 2012, life seemed to turn a corner. I became an elder at our church and we began to become more involved in local ministry again, even as we continued to take care of my brother and his kids. Later that year, I would even become the Youth Minister at this same church. Throughout the year, close friends of ours waded through the waters of local adoption through DHS and it seemed to be less difficult than we imagined. We saw once more that children needed forever families, but this time we saw it in Oklahoma. God was preparing us for you.

In November, right after Thanksgiving in 2012, we were watching news that had been recorded on our DVR. We rarely watch the news, but this time we had seen something that drew our interest. While watching, a segment for “Waiting Child” came on. Waiting Child shows an interview with a child that is waiting to have a forever family. Your mom and I both remember seeing these interviews on TV when we were kids. So because of a bit of nostalgia and actual interest we watched. And after watching it, we looked at each other and rewound it to watch it again. Reality hit again that there truly were kids out there, teens that were longing to have a family that loved them and right here in the same state! We spent the next several days talking about it. God was preparing us for you.

We decided to move forward and find out more about local adoption, then start the process. That is how we got to this point of meeting you. We cannot wait to meet you, hold you, love you and guide in a knowledge that honors God and brings others to Him. God has prepared us for you.

You will be part of a family that loves the Lord, likes to laugh, enjoys games together, celebrates life joyfully, comes together in difficult times, knows the importance of praying together and longs to tell others about Jesus. God has prepared us for you.

And I want to tell you something, you are God’s child. And you are made in His image. This is something that we believe fully. And you are made with a purpose. God wants to use you in His kingdom, to use you in His story. You will be magnificent in the adventure that God has planned for you, if you choose to follow Him. God has prepared you for Him.

We already love you and that love will only continue to grow. We look forward to being together as a family just as God has prepared.

Your Dad and Mom

Friday, March 01, 2013

HPYouth Harlem Shake Edition

So after watching CIY's new Harlem Shake CIYmove Edition our Youth Group created this:

Here's the CIY version too:

Friday, February 22, 2013

Screwtape's Old Tricks

Last Sunday, I preached at Highland Park. For that sermon on Patience, I wrote a new letter describing what C.S. Lewis' demon characters Screwtape and Wormwood are up to now. Here's the letter below and also the link to find my sermon online.

It’s easy to be patient, when you’re in control.

My dear Wormwood,

It’s been far too long since I last wrote. Since our tutelage ended, I have closely followed your illustrious career. I remain impressed with your creative and numerous efforts to advance our cause. I must admit to the bursting pride for you, my famous pupil, as I regale your unparalleled victories to those who know that it was I that instructed you. Your ability to convince your Assignments that comfort is a sign of their development is nothing short of genius, AND I might add the perfect culmination of the very lessons of which I imparted to you. I truly taught you well.

You are to be commended. Your most recent Assignment has methodically eliminated from her life anything that might produce the fruit she desires. That fruit is something that we want to, dare I say, MUST avoid. And the Assignment before her, has crippled himself by evading suffering, pain and trouble in a deluded attempt to avoid the very battle for which he longs.

Through the practice of not requesting the enemy’s assistance, they are become more and more defenseless and farther from the hope of which they originally desired. They have become like mice in a serpent’s cage. Destined to become our prize meal.

Alas, I have more to say than just glowing accolades of your fine body of work. There are pockets in this world that have uncovered the notion that if they ask their leader for the tools of the Fruit of his spirit, He will come to their rescue. Things like joy, peace and patience, among others. All of which, are potent enough to knock even a celebrated tempter like you off of your high perch. In their distress, they call out, realizing they aren’t alone in this war. Their leader comes to their rescue every time, but we have to throw everything at them so that they forget this truly battle changing fact.

It is therefore imperative that we deflect their attention from their leader, so that once more they will become like a solitary wounded antelope in the Serengeti, just waiting for the assumed fate of death by ravaging. Strategically, we ought to encourage their assumed slights and vengeful wrath which completely distorts their vision, ruins their witness and disrupts their tasks of inviting others.

The real delusion is that they think they won’t know suffering if they do not ask to be trained in these areas of improvement. In this world, there will be pain and sorrow no matter to what side of the war they belong. It is flawed thinking that nothing bad will ever happen to them if they avoid the fight. This flawed understanding is precisely what we want them to continue to think.

And now my request. My hope is that you might join us at the University to train those tempters unequipped and ignorant in the best methods for fighting the battle of today. I implore you to reply immediately for time is of the essence. Even now, our chances for advancement are slipping, but not without reach. However, if word gets out, the powerless will become wise to the resources at their disposal provided by their leader. And the efforts being made against us in certain parts of the world will become the norm rather than the exception.


Your Uncle Screwtape

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Twenty One Pilots - New Fave Group of 2013

I recently came across a musical duo named Twenty One Pilots. After youth group (A|Zero) last night I was playing it and several students were asking who was playing. After a few listens I fell in love with their eclectic style. I've now listened to their new CD "Vessel" dozens of times. My original thoughts were they were an amalgam of Eminem, Rufus Wainwright, .FUN, Matt & Kim, Owl City and Passion Pit. Every once in awhile they have a Mumford & Sons vibe on the song "Heart of Gold" and on my favorite song "Screen" there is a little bit of light Reggae. It would have to be light Reggae, because more than that I wouldn't have cared for it as much. The song's great, but the lyrics are amazing. I imagine a crowd of believers at a conference like CIY, singing the refrain...

"We're broken"
"We're broken"
We're broken people"

Over and over again with arms outstretched to God.

Here's a great answer to why they chose that name! "Ok so, I (Tyler) was in theatre class and we were studying a play called "All My Sons" written by Arthur Miller in the 40's. It was about a father who ran a company that provided parts for airplanes used in WWII. He then found out that his parts were faulty, so he comes to a moral crossroads:1. He can take the parts back and not send them out, but he will lose a lot of money in a financially tough situation. He would also taint his business and his name and be known as 'unreliable' in his trade. But this would ultimately be the 'right' thing to do. or,2. send the parts out, make the necessary money to provide for his family, not taint his name, etc. He ends up sending the parts out and twenty one pilots died because of it. His son was a pilot in the war who had lost his life. There was no evidence to prove that it was directly related but his daughter blamed her father for her brothers death. He ended up committing suicide at the end of the play. Here's how we make it relevant: I feel like we are all constantly encountering moral crossroads where the decisions that benefit the "now" will have consequences down the road; but the decision that might seem tough and tolling right away will ultimately be more rewarding. What is our purpose for playing music? We are constantly asking ourselves that question. The answer can change all the time, but for right now we are just going to stick with something as simple as "we want to make people think."

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

December 2012 Newsletter

Here's our December 2012 Newsletter. Right click on any of the pics below and choose "save link as..." to download the pdf.


QR code scanning info -
* What is a QR code? It's kind of like a bar code but it can contain much more data, contact info, web addresses, etc.

* How do I scan this on my device?
  • Windows 7 Phones with 7.5 (mango) update can use the bing vision search. [if you don't have this update try PhraseMeme Scanner (found on the windows marketplace)].
  • Android phones/tablets try QR Droid (found on the Android marketplace).
  • iPhone/iPad try QR-Reader (not tested personally).
  • Blackberry try QR Code Scanner Pro (not tested personally).
* How do I read it on my device? You'll need a reader with pdf support (PDF reader).

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Mind Divided

As you've read in my previous post, I am in the middle of a transition. Angie and I have been vocationally part of Team Expansion for thirteen and a half years, now I am starting as the Youth Minister for Highland Park Christian Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. This month, I am playing double duty. I am still full-time with Team Expansion (but also planning to use some of my remaining vacation days) until December 31, 2012, but also beginning my role at HP. Some days, I feel like my mind has multiple compartments in which my neurons keep racing back and forth. My day may start with me working on Team Expansion transition tasks and then I move onto planning for HP. Then after lunch, I might go to a meeting then finish the day working on administration/financial details for the eventual closing of the books for Team Expansion.

Because my time with Team Expansion has meant so much, I do want to make sure I live in the moment of my exit as a vocational member of a great missions organization (you might remember I'm staying on as a volunteer to continue some of the projects I've been working on). I don't want to wake up in February and think,'s already over? So, I am trying to remember the years and milestones of which we have been a part.

Of course, certain things come to mind readily....the first stages of planning for the work in Ancona, going through the arduous task of learning another language (and yes, I still practice it from time to time), the first gathering of believers in Ancona, the first outreaches, the first short term group, seeing a church formed in Ancona, the planning for the work in Verona, the survey trip to several potential and spiritually needy cities in Northern Italy, working on several creative resource projects for different countries around the world and on and on.

Other things, less monumental, stand out too, eating panserotti at Etrusca in Perugia, going to my first soccer game in Perugia, eating pizza by the slice at Pizzeria Centrale, watching the American style football team "The Ancona Dolphins" play in a 2000 year old stadium in Ancona, laughing with various team members over the years, fellowship with Italian Christians, walking down ancient alleyways and taking literally thousands of photos. Our memories cannot be contained within one post, short or long. I keep thinking of more like, going to the beach in Ancona, eating at Desiderio (all time favorite restaurant)

As I paused writing this post and walked into the kitchen, I was happy to learn that Angie was making homemade pizza! She had already made the pizza dough earlier and was rolling them out. While this isn't Desiderio, it's pretty close. I miserably tried to help her throw/roll one of the pizza doughs, but apparently I need more practice and Angie fixed it for me.

With pizza prepping to go in the oven, and us getting ready to watch the DVR'ed Survivor finale, I'll close this post. Throughout the month, you'll continue hearing from us and seeing changes on our website and social media. Thanks for reading and caring about us.