Thanks, Humans of Youngstown

This fine young man goes to the school I sub at

This fine young man goes to the school where I sub

Youngstown has been a place with a bad reputation for many years. So it was great to learn about this group on facebook called Humans of Youngstown. The point of their page is to feature pictures of people who have been stopped on the streets of downtown Youngstown, OH, and who’ve been asked questions not about things like politics or the economy, but about themselves.

The reason I first looked was because I recognized this mug as a student – and friend – who I work with where I substitute teach in Youngstown. We were working on his snare drum skills just yesterday! Continue reading


Our new church on mission: Pre-prom for kids with Autism

I wasn’t thrilled with having to get a part-time job.  Vanda, my wife, reminded me that God uses our situations – even situations we might see as a bump in the road – to do amazing things.  And so he did.

My first assignment as a substitute teacher for Summit Academy was with the Autism Unit on the west side of Youngstown, OH.  There are always at least two teachers in a classroom, and since Kristen Dimas was on maternity leave for the first few weeks of the school year, I had a steady gig filling in for her and working with Michelle Walsh. Continue reading

Noah the movie. Yeah, I’ll watch it.

And as a Christian, I’m even looking forward to it.

As the title of this post suggests, I haven’t seen the movie that opens today. So this isn’t a critique. I’m writing my four reasons to see the movie, before I actually see it, because now is the best time to say what I have to say, which has nothing to do with my estimation movie’s quality or possible lack of Biblical integrity.

My first reason: the trailers look awesome.  Russell Crowe and the rest of the cast have been in their fair share of great movies. This one looks like it will measure up.  I really enjoy movies and stories about people having courage to stand up for what is right, especially when so much is on the line.  Yes, my first reason is that basic.

Secondly: historical fiction is a widely accepted genre.  It’s when creative people make up stories set around real historical figures and events. And if some people have a problem with this movie because it’s fiction based on holy writ, why don’t they have a problem with Christians who do just that – and whose efforts we laud – like with books by Tim Lahaye and Jerry B. Jenkins (John’s Story, the entire Left Behind Series) and Tosca Lee (Iscariot). Continue reading

Hooked on Photic

250 px

250 px (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.

(Plato 428-c 347 BC)

Timon and Pumbaa taught me something about myself.  A few years back I was watching one of the extra features on a Lion King DVD and was shocked to hear Pumbaa describe what I’ve experienced all of my life without explanation.  Though I don’t remember exactly what he called it, he was referring to Photic Sneeze Reflex.

Basically, I sneeze at the sun.  It mostly happens when I go outdoors on a sunny day after having been inside for a bit.  It’s only when I first get outside. I could sneeze up to seven times. My kids – who have the same affliction, just not as severe – will say, “God bless you,” several times in a row between my first and second nasal expulsions of air just to cover their bases.

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A new twist on giving back packs

Out back pack packing crew for 2013

Out back pack packing crew for 2013

Last year, our church – Evangel Baptist – had a goal for our inaugural year of our new ministry of giving 20 back packs to needy families in our community.  We ended up giving 120!  Focusing on the two closest elementary schools to our church, we purchased back packs and filled them with supplies based on the schools’ supply lists for their grades.  The guidance counselors at the schools distributed them to the children on opening day 2012.

This year we tried doing it differently.  We had a back pack bash – a party celebrating the new school year!  It took a lot more work to do it this way.  Before our guests arrived I had a brief chat with our volunteers for the party.  I told them we were doing it this way because it was more practical and Biblical.


About 100 people came to the Back Pack Bash.

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How to build a house in Mexico

Our 3rd build. Everyone was hard at work!

Our 3rd build. Everyone was hard at work!

At one point, we hadn’t showered for four days.  We were cramped in rooms that each housed 26 people piled on triple-stacked bunk beds. And we weren’t allowed to wear shorts despite being in the hot Mexican desert for the week.

There are other aspects of our trip to Mexico that would gross you out, some would sadden and hopefully most would inspire you. I plan to share more about that in future blog posts. One of the most intriguing things for me, though, was the actions of our own kids.

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Meet the Robinsons: a great approach to new ministry ideas

What was your worst failure? It’s probably something you really stuck your neck out for.  My fellow writers know what I’m talking about. So much rejection. And how about people who are trying desperately to find a job or lose weight? In our performance driven society we are conditioned to find worth not only in success, but in the avoidance of defeat.

How you approach the concept of failure is critical to your spiritual journey.  Here’s a secret that may help you: not every attempt at ministry is a success. Even with the power of God behind us, he lets us fail at times.

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An attractive billboard

Northside Medical Center BillboardHere’s the billboard that grabs my attention every time I’m at the traffic light on Glenwood Avenue and Route 224. You can’t tell from my amateur photo, but a number lights up in that blank spot to advertise the average time a guest to Northside Hospital’s Emergency Room has to wait to be seen by a medical professional.

What a brilliant idea!  Even though that facility is miles from my home, I’m still interested in the billboard because I’ve done the parent thing; hanging out in ER waiting rooms for hours with a sick or injured child.  In those situations, it’s hard not to speculate on why it takes so long.

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Why is it tough to be the beneficiary of generosity?

Great idea: (pre) Mothers' Day Free Car wash

Great idea: (pre) Mothers’ Day Free Car wash

Moms always want a clean car.  Denny Pallay isn’t a mom, but he loves upkeep on cars and teaching people how to maintain their vehicles.  This picture is the result of the plans we made that I posted about during the kids’ Spring Break.

On Saturday, from noon to four pm, Denny led the way as a dozen or so people from the high school and junior high groups from our church washed, waxed and vacuumed cars for any mom. If that wasn’t enough, he recruited his wife and daughter, Sharon and Wendy, to put together sweets for the moms as they waited. And the charge for this? Absolutely nothing.

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Why did Jesus leave you here?

Photo credit: Ken Schwarz / / CC BY-NC-ND

Photo credit: Ken Schwarz / / CC BY-NC-ND

As has been humorously put, when we become Christians, there are two things we can do on earth that we won’t be able to do in heaven: sin and witness.  The question for us is to decide which one we think Jesus left us here to do.

-Mike Breen and Alex Absalom, Launching Missional Communities

Launching Missional Communities