A New Normal

Narrows 9In the fall of 2011, my wife (Stefani) and I awakened to reality. We only have 12 short years left to shape our children’s lives, to teach them the way of Jesus’ mission and the values of His Kingdom. And these are the years they will remember. These are the years where stories are created – where memories are made – where trust is forged. The stories we create today will live beyond our last breath. These stories will shape our children’s futures and change our lives forever. When our kids are grown, we will revel in great adventures shared; laugh at our mistakes, and dream of adventures to come. If the stories are never created, they are never told, and life remains mundane.

Every great story requires risk, demands sacrifice, and defies comfort. Realities Stefani and I embraced while planning our first in a series of life shaping adventures with our kids.

“I look forward to going home, but not returning to normal.” After 26 nights of camping on the Colorado Plateau, my 12 year old daughters’ frank statement pierced my heart. There was nothing normal about the previous three-and-a-half weeks. We only had four changes of clothing, two tents, sleeping bags, showers every few days, two days food at any given time, and limited cell reception.

Life was simple. Electronic entertainment was replaced with imagination – movies replaced with books around the fire – the office chair replaced with hiking boots – the school room replace with nature. Our children’s ages? Noelle, eight. She is our risk taker. Ryan, nine. He is our genius. Karena, twelve. She is our care giver.

We have been training our children in the outdoors for years. And yet, we knew we were pushing the limits when all other families with young kids retreated from the trail prior to completing the first mile. We kept pushing on. Most trails are packed dirt, rock, and sand. Not this one. This was the Virgin River. For four miles, we fought against her strong current – the water a chilling 48 degrees. At times, we firmly held our children so they wouldn’t be swept away. The canyon walls of “The Narrows” towered hundreds of feet around us with moss hanging like garland above our heads. Every turn presented another world of wonder. The walls narrowed the further we went. Our shoes filled with sand. There was nothing comfortable other than the beauty and serenity of our surroundings. At the end of the day, we were physically and emotionally exhausted. Cheep ice cream never tasted better.

DSC_0269Days later we took off to find Hidden Canyon. And it was hidden well. A one mile trail twisted up a 1000 foot cliff. At times the trail was no wider than 24 inches. A chain bolted into the side of the cliff served as a hand rail. Tripping could result in a several hundred foot fall. Stefani and I gripped the back of our youngest children’s shirts in an effort to catch them if they were to slip. This futile act seemed to diminish our anxiety. Risky? Yes – with the reward of breath taking beauty.

Retreat! Sometimes this is for self-preservation. While driving into camp through the endless desert of Navajo Country, a storm built in the western horizon. We hadn’t seen rain in weeks. We could only imagine how refreshing a desert storm would be. It would clean the dust off our tents and filter the air – bring coolness after scorching days. This was no night to sit around the fire. After dinner, we moved into our tents waiting for the storm to hit. And it hit hard. But there wasn’t rain. It was dust. Wind was ripping through our tents bring with it gobs dirt – layering our sleeping bags like unwelcome snow. Our head lamps revealed the dust swirling in the air that choked our lungs. To say we were miserable is an understatement. The weather forecast predicted the storm to last 7 hours. In seven minutes, camp was torn down, and we were back on the road. Retreating to where nature would perhaps be less harsh.

DSC_0649“I look forward to going home, but not returning to normal.” There was nothing normal about this trip. These are only a few of the stories we created. After pondering the depth of this statement, I responded to Karena, “I look forward to going home too, but we don’t have to return to normal. We have the ability to choose a new normal.” Sitting down with our children, Stefani and I invited them to define the “new normal”. Our children didn’t hesitate. First – spend more time as a family. Second – spend more time with friends. Third –play more. Our son added a fourth for himself – do more school. He is our genius.

I am amazed at the simplicity of the “new normal” – relationships, recreation, and learning. And Jesus says, “Unless you become like children, you will not inherit the Kingdom of God.” A lesson from God, taught by children, found in the simplicity of life. In our pursuit of a discipleship adventure for our Children, God taught us.

And now, we are redefining our lives to create a “new normal”.



4 Spiritual Positions

What is your spiriutal position in relation to God?

Which group do you most desire to live Jesus’ mission with?

Little Feet, Big Steps, God’s Mountain

This is from Stefani’s journal on October 25, 2009. It recaps our story so well, I feel it worthy of posting here…

At some point yesterday, I wondered if I had climbed a mountain – my feet were tired, my muscles ached, I was tired from head to toe. Yes, I had climbed a mountain. Today, I have spent time remembering what led to the climb. Here are some snapshots from my memories…

It was some time in 1998 – we were returning from a church leadership conference, Bill Hybles was speaking – Ron asked that scary question, “Did God say anything to you tonight?” I wanted to answer, but I wanted to hear from him first, “Yeah, but what did he say to you?” He wouldn’t go, I wouldn’t go, finally we both said, “God told me that one of these days, we’re going to start one of those churches that becomes the ‘Hope of the World’.” Looking at each other with bewilderment, we had no idea what that meant or when that time would come. Together we shared ideas of what that would look like – a church beyond walls, in the community, uniting people in generosity, sharing the extravagant love of God.

Flash forward to October 2006 – we were standing on a mountain in the Eastern Sierra – a beautiful place, full of majesty and splendor, focusing on the awesome creation of God. I looked at Ron and said, “God’s about to do something different with us, isn’t He.” We both knew – we just had no idea what ‘it’ was. Standing on the top of that mountain we knew there was a bigger one ahead of us – one we would climb – one we would probably have no trail map for –one that would require big steps out of our little feet.

Flash forward to August 2007 – we were again on top of a hill somewhere in TN that we had never heard of, somewhere that we never thought we would be – getting ready to go through the ringer at the Church Planting Assessment Center. Could this be the time that God had forecast so many years ago? Were we ready for this mountain? A resounding yes – in the form of affirmation from so many, including those who head CPAC. Only one question remained, “where?”

Flash forward to January 2008 – a moving van makes its way south along the I-95 corridor from PA to Northern Virginia. A place not known, A people not familiar with, A mountain with no map, A job with no income…

Who knew that the next 20 months would involve so many big steps – in raising funds, in building relationships, in establishing credibility, in unleashing generosity. Who knew that time could move so quickly.

October 25, 2009 Restore Community Church held the Grand Opening Celebration for Sunday Morning Services. And yet, the Church began long before that. And while most people see Church as this Sunday Morning thing, Restore is so much more – lived out daily in the community, as one person invests in another, as generosity is extended, as the extravagant love of Jesus is shared. Something tells me that the biggest steps are yet to be taken.

The Canvas Revealed

Paint PalletThere comes a time in the pursuit of every dream that all that can be done has been done. A point in time that the outcome is pre-determined before it is realized. A point in time that the painted canvas is complete, but not yet revealed.

At this point, the outcome can no longer be controlled, manipulated, or improved. It will be what it will be. For the leader only a couple questions matter… “Was I obedient to God’s leadership? Did I fully and faithfully steward the time, money, resources, and people God provided to accomplish His vision?” Freedom comes through faithfulness. At this point, the outcome is determined by God. For the canvas was painted by God and His servant provided the paint.

In four days, the image of Jesus’ bride the church will be revealed. She will be beautiful. God formed her. And gave her life. God grows His church – not me. I have been obedient and faithful. But the outcome of my labor is not my responsibility, it is God’s. I now sit back, having done all I can do and wait in exciting anticipation for God to reveal the work of His hands. The canvas is painted in heaven and in a few days will be revealed on earth.

Generosity and Success

Downpour Water Park

Downpour Water Park

Help is available to every Sterling family that needs help getting their kids back to school this year.

Sterling, VA – Through the collaborative efforts of Restore Community Church, Enrich NOVA::Generosity Can, Kids R First, and generous community members, every child in Sterling that comes from a family in need can receive necessary school supplies to return to school.

On August 23, Restore Community Church unleashed a downpour of generosity by renting out Downpour Water Park at Algonkian Regional Park and providing a FREE Family Day at the Water Park to the community. Over 1000 people and 267 families participated in this event. Each family gave one or more backpacks to help children get back to school. In all, 425 packs were collected. This overflow of generosity and love is changing children’s lives and changing the Sterling community.

It is time for the church to leave the building and actively share Jesus’ love in practical ways by meeting people’s needs in the community. And this is what Restore does.

In less than a year, Restore has distributed 932 pounds of food to area food pantries, served over a week of meals to over 100 under resourced families, moved a single mom from a hostile situation to a safe environment, helped a family start a new business, and provided $2500 of daily necessities to families coming out of homelessness.

On Sunday, October 25, Restore has its’ grand opening at the Countryside Regal Cinema in Sterling. In Restore Community Church, generosity is a way of life. People interested in learning more about Restore Community Church can visit the church’s website at www.restorenova.com.

FREE Family Day… at the Waterpark

We believe generosity should be a way of life! And we live it! Downpour pg1 250pix

Restore Community Church (www.restorenova.com) is sponsoring a FREE FAMILY ADMITTANCE to Downpour Water Park at Algonkian Regional Park with donation of one new back-to-school backback. The backpacks will be donated to Kids R First to help families in need get their kids back to school!

Family Fun Activities…
* Free Downpour Water Park!
* Free Miniature Golf!
* Free Moon Bounce!
* Free New iPhone Give-away! Register online now!

Sunday, August 23; 11am – 7pm
47001 Fairway Drive, Sterling, VA 20165
(off Cascades Pkwy. by Potomac River)
Park info & map: www.nvrpa.org/parks/downpour

Here is how it works:
1) Your family donates at least one backpack
2) Backpacks are donated to Kids R First
3) Kids in need get a boost returning to school
4) Your family gets a day at Downpour Water Park
5) …and you could win a FREE iPhone! Register online now…

Register for a FREE iPhone at www.restoringcommunity.com (must register for the iPhone between 8/6 – 8/23)

Join us for A GREAT DAY of summer FUN and GENEROSITY!

Invite your neighbors and friends to join you! 

Missional Marries Attractional

Doug Foltz goes over goes over the top in articulating our conversation on missional verses attractional churches. Let’s start living a “both / and” model of church.

Here is Doug’s blog. It says it all.

I love all the chatter in the blog world about missional churches and attractional churches.  A good healthy debate is always fun.  My opinion is it takes both to reach different types of people.  But what would happen if a missional church and an attractional church came together and started having kids (planting churches).  I had a conversation with Ron Klabunde a couple of weeks ago that birthed this idea.

1.  Small groups would become house churches.  Small groups would become more than just home group bible studies.  They would evolve into missional communities.  These missional communities would live the Christian life together and would focus spreading the gospel of Christ by serving their neighbors and living their faith out loud where they live.  Missional church gatherings would be the core experience of the church rather than large group corporate worship on Sundays.

2.  There would still be large group worship on Sundays.  The attractional DNA would kick in to recognize that the best way to engage pre-Christians is through the Sunday morning worship experience.  This large group gathering would be a non-threatening place to bring your friends to church.  After all its a bit awkward to invite your pre-Christian friends to your home church.  Seems a little intimidating to culture at large.  Those who called the church home would come to serve on Sunday.  The target audience of the Sunday corporate gathering would be pre-Christians and those not yet connected to a missional community.  Thus as the church grows, it is completely feasible to be a church of 2000 connected in missional communities with only 200-300 in attendance at weekend services.  It would also be likely that once a month or so the entire church would gather for a large corporate gathering of all the believers where the focus of the service was on Christians.

3.  Less building and staff would be needed to run this church, thus allowing the church to unleash more people and money on serving community needs, planting more churches and worldwide missions.

I walked away from this conversation thinking that maybe missional and attractional churches should stop debate each other and begin starting churches together.  I could get really excited about that.  How about you?