Living and Ministering in Digital Babylon

Based on recent Barna research, Faith For Exiles is the latest book by David Kinnaman.

As I read the words on the very first page, I was hooked. David Kinnaman, in his latest book, Faith For Exiles, was describing what it was like to drop his oldest daughter off at college, with all of the emotions that you would expect. Having just dropped our twins off at schools that are 3000 miles away, I could relate to Kinnaman’s fears and anxieties concerning the question of how your child will fare spiritually in this new and secular environment without our guidance. Is their faith strong enough? Have we built the right character into them? Did we do a good job of preparing them spiritually for what lies ahead?

TOP LEFT: Jacob (left) waits in line to get on a bus to enter summer training for the Naval Academy
TOP RIGHT: Joshua waits in line to enter summer training for West Point
BOTTOM: Sign at West Point directing new students where to go

Kinnaman’s 2011 book, You Lost Me, argued that the church has a dropout problem. Research at the time showed that 59% of Young Adults who claimed a faith upbringing had left the church. New research shows the problem has gotten worse, with 64% of Young Adults abandoning the faith of their youth.     

What accounts for such a mass exodus? Kinnaman, and his co-author Mark Matlock, argue that our culture is “especially and insidiously faith repellant.” The biggest culprit, they contend, is our smart devices, which have created a digital culture that actually works against us. As a result, believers are swimming upstream, fighting to maintain their values and their faith beliefs in a culture that is becoming increasingly opposed and in some cases hostile to these values and beliefs.

Click on the image to watch this short video from thebibleproject.com, which explains what exile is and how the theme of “exile” is woven throughout the Bible

The Old Testament highlights God’s promise that if His people followed Him and worshiped Him alone, they would prosper. But He warned them that if they were disobedient, He would bring judgment in the form of invading armies who would conquer them and take them into captivity. Much of the Old Testament is story after story of the nation of Israel forsaking God to pursue false gods. God continually sends prophets to warn them of impending doom but His message inevitably falls on deaf ears.

Click on the image to watch this short video from thebibleproject.com, which highlights what it was supposed to look like for the Israelites who were living in exile in Babylon and what it means for us as believers “living in exile.”

God finally hands his people over to the Babylonians, who take the Israelites into exile, where they live for 70 years in a foreign land, amidst a foreign culture that serves foreign gods and does not share their religious and cultural values. In fact, one of the goals of taking a conquered people into captivity was the systematic dismantling and eradication of their culture and the assimilation and adoption of the invading empire’s culture and values.

Imagine what it was like to be a Jew living in Babylon. How hard would it be to resist adopting the culture in which you’re thoroughly steeped, while trying to keep your own faith and religious views alive?

Young Adults spend an enormous time on their phones and the content is not always helpful to to maintaining a vibrant faith. Photo by KAL VISUALS on Unsplash

We haven’t been taken into captivity and we’re not living in a foreign land, as the Israelites did, but the authors make the case that the internet age in which we’re living has created what they refer to as “Digital Babylon.” A sobering graphic shows that the average 15-23 year old spends nearly 2800 hours in a typical year engaging with media on their phone. For the average 15-23 year old who is not a Christian, only 153 of those 2800 hours contain ANY kind of spiritual or biblical content. The Christian Young Adult fares only slightly better, with 291 hours of biblical content to offset the nearly 2800 hours of input they’re getting.

Our “smart” devices have created a digital environment that is slowly indoctrinating us to views and values that are contrary to our faith. This is what it means to live in “Digital Babylon”.

It’s not all bad news though. There is a segment of Young Adults, identified as “resilient disciples” who are thriving spiritually even in this current cultural context. The book is really about the practices of this group that enable them to maintain a vibrant faith. It turns out that we’ve already identified many of these practices as critical to thriving spiritually and as a result, we’ve already implemented many of these practices in our own ministry to Young Adults.

Our prayer is that our influence would increase and the Lord would show us new ways and avenues to impact Young Adults, who are seeking to live as resilient disciples in “Digital Babylon.”

We greatly appreciate your partnership and your prayers as we strive to this end!

Life is Like a Broken Phone

It was the last day of our Spring Break trip visiting a potential college destination our boys were considering. As I was getting into the rental car, my phone slipped out of my hand and fell to the ground. There was a moment of panic as the phone hit the ground but I had a protective case on it and I had dropped it before and always seemed to avoid any serious damage.

My phone, with the familiar spiderweb-like cracked screen on the bottom right.

The phone was lying face down on the ground. As I picked it up and turned it over, I immediately noticed a spiderweb-like screen crack on the bottom right corner, along with a longer crack stretching across the bottom of the screen. My heart sank in frustration. While my phone wasn’t brand new, it still had plenty of life in it from my perspective. We all know that these new-fangled smart phones aren’t cheap, and one can hardly afford to be buying the latest technology every other year.

I briefly entertained thoughts of self-condemnation, chastising myself for being so careless.

I inspected the phone and found that even with a cracked screen, it appeared to be working normally. I resolved that I would be one of those people who was walking around for months, if not years, with a phone that technically worked on the inside but was clearly damaged on the outside.

Not long after, I noticed that the back plate on the phone was starting to come apart as if it was coming unglued. I wondered if the impact of hitting the ground had weakened the integrity of the back plate, causing it to loosen. I tried to squeeze it back together but clearly the glue was no longer able to hold it in place. I took solace in knowing that the case was holding it all together and it was still working normally.

The back plate on my phone started to come apart. That cant be good!

Over the next few weeks and months, that plate started pulling farther and farther apart. I determined that the issue was not related to the impact of hitting the ground but instead, the battery was failing and beginning to swell, pushing the back plate off and making it impossible to reattach, even with new glue. At that point, I realized that I was going to have to bite the bullet and get a new phone.

After some reflection, I considered how much our lives are like that broken phone. Every single one of us is broken – flawed in some way. It’s inevitable. We are born into a broken and fallen world where nothing works quite the way it was designed, including us. But just because we’re flawed doesn’t mean we can’t thrive and be productive.

Some of our flaws are external and visible to others, like the cracked screen on my phone. But some of our flaws are internal, hidden deep within the depths of our souls, like the battery that began to swell. Perhaps we’re not aware of our issues, or perhaps we are and we’re just really good at hiding our stuff.

The Pharisees were upset that Jesus’ disciples didn’t wash their hands before eating according to Jewish religious traditions. Photo by Samad Deldar from Pexels

In Matthew 15, the Pharisees were upset with Jesus because his disciples didn’t ceremonially wash their hands before eating. Jesus responded to the Pharisees by saying, “from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all other sexual immorality, theft, lying and slander. These are what defile you. Eating with unwashed hands could never defile you and make you unacceptable to God!” (Matthew 15:19-20, NLT)

What Jesus is saying is that our brokenness is an internal issue. All of the ugly stuff that we say and do or think but hide, all stem from our heart. The problem is that just like the battery on my phone began to swell and expand outward, what is on the inside in our hearts inevitably comes out, often in dark and ugly ways.

Unlike our phones when they break, we cannot just order a new, unbroken version of ourselves. We’re stuck with having to navigate broken screens and swelling batteries in our lives.

Jesus provides grace to deal with our brokenness and our internal issues. Photo by Greg Weaver on Unsplash

This is what makes the gospel such good news. The gospel is not just a message that saves us from sin and allows us entrance into heaven some day. The good news is that Jesus understands our pain and our issues and he meets us where we’re at every day. There is grace and forgiveness when we blow it, and there is truth and power to experience freedom and deliverance from sin and shame.

As a Christ-follower, I’m becoming more keenly aware of my brokenness and the internal issues that afflict me. I’m grateful that Jesus loves me and accepts me despite my flaws and issues and my hope is that he will meet me in my brokenness and help me understand my flaws and issues so that I might experience true freedom and victory.

We greatly appreciate your partnership and your prayers for us as we navigate life’s challenges and seek to help Young Professionals do the same!

A Few God Moments at Cru19

Moby Gym at Colorado State University

In many ways, this year’s Cru staff conference was similar to previous ones. We met at Colorado State University. There were lots of people. There were lots of meetings with some great and inspiring speakers. We saw old friends and made a few new friends.

However, the things I remember most about our time at Cru19 are the ways in which God seemed to meet us right where we’re at, in our present life situation.

Bob Beaton (left), 1959 Graduate of the US Naval Academy, has worked with Midshipman at his alma mater for nearly 20 years!

Early in the conference Jen and I received a text from a person Jen works with in her side role of National Leadership Development. He wanted to connect us with a man he knew named Bob Beaton who is on staff with Cru at the Naval Academy. I texted Bob and we arranged to meet. It turns out, Bob is a 1959 graduate of the Naval Academy and after a long military career, joined Cru’s staff in 1994. In 2000, Bob started the Cru ministry at the Naval Academy and while he stepped down from leading the movement a few years ago, Bob is still active in ministering to Midshipmen (aka “Mids”) at the Yard (the US Naval Academy Campus).

Not long after that, Jen and I bumped into one of our former UC Davis students in the lobby of our hotel (one of the fun things about these conferences is running into people you haven’t connected with in a while). Her husband mentioned that they personally know the Cru Director at the Naval Academy and they introduced us to Kyle via text. Kyle and I were able to meet a few days later during an afternoon break.

After sharing introductions, I asked Kyle if he knew anything about our family. He said he only knew that we had a son who was entering the Naval Academy. I began to share a bit more, including the fact that Jacob has a twin brother, Joshua, who is at West Point.

Kyle Sponaugle (right) has been the director of the Cru ministry at the Naval Academy since 2008.

At that point, Kyle interrupted me and quickly pulled out his phone where he pulled up a photo and said, “I think I’ve already met your son.” The photo showed about 15 Plebes (that is what they call 1st year students) who were at the first Cru Bible study just a few weeks prior. Jacob was front and center in that photo. Kyle then went on to share that Jacob had talked with him after the group time and asked for prayer for his twin brother who is at West Point. Jacob never shared that his parents are on staff with Cru and that he is a staff kid.

It was amazing to find out that Jacob has already been pursuing a spiritual community on his own and we were able to connect with the leaders of that community at our national conference.

Jacob (Front Row, 4th from the right) at the Cru Navy Bible Study

A few days into the conference, we were scheduled to get phone calls from both Jacob and Joshua, ON THE SAME DAY! There are limited opportunities to talk to our boys during the summer training so we were pretty excited to hear from them. The problem was we had no idea the exact time they would call….we only had a Cable TV-like window of 5 hours where we knew a phone call would likely take place.

Joshua was all smiles on his FaceTime call to us during Cru19.

As it turned out, Jacob and Joshua both ended up calling us AT THE SAME TIME! It was a bit of a panic but we ended up getting them on our different phones where they were able to talk to each other via speaker phone. I think it was just what they both needed since the biggest challenge for them is that they are away from each other for the first time in their lives.

In the end, God provided inspiring and visionary speakers, just as we expected. He also refreshed us by connecting us to friends and colleagues we had not seen in a while. But the bonus was providing those moments that calmed our hearts as parents, allowing us a glimpse into what He’s doing in the lives of our sons who are no longer with us. Thank you for your continued prayers. They mean the world to us!

Embarking on a New Transition

It was Sunday afternoon when it dawned on me – our trash was scheduled to be picked up the next day and our boys were not around to collect the trash in the house and put the bins out on the street. I realized I had just inherited another chore – one that I had off-loaded to them several years ago.

It’s been a week since we dropped Jacob and Joshua off at the Naval Academy and West Point respectively. Jen and I have officially transitioned into Empty Nesters!

Joshua (left) and Jacob walking to their first day of kindergarten

Transitions are a fact of life. You start out as a baby and transition to a toddler. After the toddler phase comes the pre-school phase, followed by grade school and the dreaded teenage years. At 18, society views you as an adult, though we all know that mileage varies with teens these days.

As a Young Adult you either get a job or you go to college, after which you try to find a job and develop a career. Most Young adults will get married, at which point they enter a new series of transitions…Newly married with no kids which is often followed by the Married with kids stage, in which each child goes through the succession of aforementioned growth stages.

As a parent, I find that each phase has its pluses and minuses. Often, there’s a longing for your child to reach the next stage. I remember when our twins were babies, we couldn’t wait to get out of the diaper phase. And then when they were toddlers, we couldn’t wait for them to begin school, thinking about how much more restful and productive it might be for those few hours a day when the boys were not under our watchful eye.

Joshua (left) and Jacob walking to their car on their last day of high school

When they were in grade school, we couldn’t wait for them to get to middle school, when they could watch themselves long enough for Jen and I to go out on a date without having to pay for a sitter.  If you’ve priced sitters recently, you know what I’m talking about!

In high school, we couldn’t wait for them to be able to drive themselves so we wouldn’t have to be their personal Uber, driving them back and forth to school and all around town to their various events and activities.

Now that they’ve graduated and have transitioned to college, I find that I no longer am looking forward to the next transition but instead, I’m longing for the stages that have passed.

Joshua (left) and Jacob are transitioning down a new path

Transitions are normal and even healthy, even though they may be hard and sometimes painful. Transitions often bring new challenges and new responsibilities which are often an opportunity for growth and personal development.

When I think about it, I realize that our job with Cru is really to help people transition. Specifically, we help Young adults as they navigate the transition from college to the professional world. Life for the recent grad is complicated with a lot of new responsibilities and demands. Figuring out how to integrate the spiritual dimension is especially tough given the lack of resources the church has traditionally invested into this audience.

Our ministry division has recently undergone a slight transition as well. Since Millennials are getting older, we realize that very soon, our target audience will be folks who are “Gen Z”, as opposed to “Millennials”. The name Millennials will soon be non-descriptive of the people we’re actually ministering to. As a result, we’ve changed our name to Cru Embark, to reflect the transitory nature of the 20-Something audience. In the months to come, you may notice some changes in our logo and other materials but know that our mission is the same and our audience is the same. We’ve simply made a slight name change to reflect the audience to which we’re seeking to minister.

We’re so grateful for you and your prayers for us. Please continue to pray for us as we Embark on this new transition of Empty-Nesthood and as we continue to help Young Professionals navigate the transitions of life!

One of the last photos of Jacob (left) and Joshua before Jacob reported to the Naval Academy.

Sibling Rivalries

Dave (left, 5 years old) and brother, Tom (6 years old)

Growing up, my brother Tom (who is a year older than me) and I were often mistaken for twins. I could never understand it because in my mind, we clearly look different (and I’m obviously the better looking one) but we were always about the same size growing up and often competed on the same sports teams.

In high school, we were sparring partners on the wrestling team. Practice matches could get very intense as we tried to best one another and on more than one occasion, the whole team gathered around us, entertainingly watching us as we “went at it”. In practice matches, we were rivals, but outside of practice we always had each other’s back. We wrestled in adjacent weight classes and often provided a 1-2 punch for the team, taking out the opponent’s light weights for a quick team lead. Our coach would sometimes jokingly refer to us as “Cheeseburger and Fries”, “Peanut Butter and Jelly” or “Combo Deluxe”!

Dave (left, 9 years old) and brother, Tom (10 years old) – Yankees Little League team

Growing up as identical twins, Jacob and Joshua have always been incredibly close, as you can imagine. We joke that they were “Womb-mates”.  But over the years, I’ve noticed some of the same sibling rivalry tendencies that I shared with my brother.

The other day, I was hanging out with my friend Pat, who was also our twins’ 5th grade Sunday School teacher. He shared about how they would show up early for Sunday School and immediately begin working on the weekly “Word Scramble” activity. Jacob and Joshua would feverishly attempt to be the first to finish, sometimes even arguing over who had “won” the competition for that week. He laughed that they often seemed more interested in beating the other one instead of figuring out how the activity connected with the lesson.

Even in running, there have been a number of occasions where things got heated and tempers flared as one tried to outdo the other at practice. But on the track or out on the course, Jacob and Joshua have always had each other’s back, often working together to outduel the competition.

It was not surprising to us that our boys applied to all the same colleges and made plans to go the same school. Nor was it surprising, because of their discipline and desire for both academic and physical challenge, that military academies were at the top of their list of college choices.

Joshua (left, heading to West Point) and Jacob (right, heading to the Naval Academy) suddenly find themselves as collegiate rivals, not just sibling rivals.

What we never really considered was the possibility that they could end up going to different colleges. Through a series of unforeseen circumstances, that’s exactly what has happened. Beginning this summer, just 2 weeks after graduating, Jacob will report to the U.S. Naval Academy, while Joshua will report to West Point. Because of different recruiting strategies by the school’s respective coaches, Jacob will for sure be running Cross Country and Track for the Naval team, while Joshua will attempt to earn a spot onto the West Point team. Jacob and Joshua may find themselves in the position of being true competitive rivals, which could make for some very interesting family discussions.

As I consider this unique situation, I realize that rivalries aren’t always bad. Proverbs 27:17 says that “as iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” A healthy version of rivalry can help push us to become the best possible version of ourselves.

Hopefully, Joshua (left) and Jacob (right) will always be siblings first and rivals second!

Our prayer for Jacob and Joshua, in this next season of life, is that even though they will be attending rival schools and may even find themselves as rivals on the field, they will be siblings first, pushing each other and rooting for one another to become the best possible version of themselves.

We are grateful for you and your prayers for us and our twins. We would greatly appreciate your continued prayers for them as they enter this next season of life, not only being away from home but also being without each other for the first time. And please pray for us too as we officially become “empty nesters”.

 

BONUS MATERIAL: As I was preparing for this post, I came across an article about a famous set of identical twins who wrote competing advice columns. Did you know that the women behind the famous advice columns “Ask Ann Landers” and “Dear Abby” were identical twin sisters? And apparently (as well as ironically), they didn’t get along. Their competing columns created a bitter rivalry in which they didn’t even speak to each other for years. You can read more about their rivalry in this article  and also here.

Finding Your Ministry Sweet Spot

Last month I took an 8 day trip to visit some of our ministry partners throughout various parts of California. Though these trips are long and tiring, I love being able to connect with friends, many of whom I haven’t seen in years, to give ministry updates and share life stories with one another.

Dave with old San Jose room-mate Dave Reeves (and wife Heather) during my 8 day ministry trip to various parts of California.

Because I was traveling solo, the question people most asked me was how Jen is doing. The short answer is that she’s doing well.

It’s been 4 years now since her Vasculitis condition has been stabilized with medication. Recently, at her last visit with her Rheumatologist and her Pulmonologist, they suggested that they were considering taking her completely off her medication since she’s been in remission for more than 3 years. We really are grateful to the Lord for His provision and His care for us, His children.

Since Jen’s condition is stable, she is able to do all the things she had been doing with respect to our family life and work. There are no limitations or restrictions.

Jen (bottom row, 3rd from left) with other members of the SLI Design team. This is the team that is responsible for coordinating and executing Cru’s Senior Leadership Initiative, a 2 year coaching and development program for emerging and Executive leaders.

In fact, in many ways Jen is busier than I am. This is partly because in addition to co-leading our ministry to Young Professionals, Jen also has another role with Cru that takes about 25% of her time. She’s part of a team that coordinates a leadership development program for Cru staff called Senior Leadership Initiative (SLI). Jen was a participant in this program several years ago and after finishing, she was asked to join the leadership team that coordinates and implements the program for participants.

The SLI program is really an amazing opportunity for seasoned leaders to experience further development over the course of a 2 year commitment. Every 2 years a new round of SLI brings in about 25-30 participants, who are given personalized coaching and development in a cohort learning environment.

Jen (2nd from right) with a group of leaders who are currently going through Cru’s SLI program.

Being a part of this program really has allowed Jen to function within her ministry sweet spot.

I first heard the phrase “sweet spot” as a kid who was an avid baseball fan. The “sweet spot” referred to the spot on the bat that allowed the hitter to drive the ball with the greatest force. By making contact in just the right spot, the batter could maximize his swing and drive the ball the furthest, often hitting it out of the park.

In ministry, the sweet spot could be considered the situation in which you are able to leverage your talents and skills for maximum impact and effectiveness. Jen has been able to leverage and utilize her strengths of development and coaching to help Cru develop leaders who are able to serve in higher roles of ministry responsibility.

Jen speaking to a group of Cru leaders during a week-long SLI module.

As we interact and coach Young Professionals, our hope is to help them discover their unique talents and strengths so that they too may discover their ministry “sweet spot”. It’s a journey that takes time and reflection but the rewards are worth it.

We are continually grateful for you, our friends and ministry partners, for helping us to minister to Young Professionals and help them find their ministry “sweet spot”!

30 Years and Counting

A few weeks ago, our boys had a rare weekday off of school so we decided to spend the day at the Happiest Place on earth, thinking it might be less crowded than normal.

A Family Fun Day at Disneyland – the Happiest Place on Earth!

Later in the day, we were waiting in line for the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, when a woman who was in line right behind us asked us if our boys were twins. We responded “yes”, to which she replied, “my daughters are twins too!” I looked down to see two cute twin girls who were probably about 9 or 10 years old.

1991 – Dave in Boston. Thanks to my friend Dan Barnard for the photo!

The mom began chatting with Jen about twindom while the girls and their cousin began telling me about all the rides they had been on and their exploits of the day.

After a few moments, one of the twins fearlessly asked me, “how old are you?” My response was to answer her question with a question, “how old do you think I am?”

The reality is, I’m old. Many of my friends from high school and college have kids who are married, and some are grandparents. Many of the students we’ve discipled over the years are married with kids, some of whom are high school age and beyond.

2000 – Dave in New England in one of our last vacation trips before kids!

What amazes me even more than the many lives we’ve been able to influence is the fact that the Lord has provided for every financial need for over 30 years. You probably know that one of the responsibilities of Cru staff members like us is that we raise all of the funds to cover our salaries, benefits and ministry expenses.

Last week, I received an e-mail from my employer (Cru) congratulating me on being on staff with Cru for 30 years. It’s hard to believe that it’s been that long, and yet, when I think about it, we’ve had the privilege of ministering to thousands of students and Young Professionals in many locations over the years.

2005 – Dave (center) at a Cru staff conference with former UC Davis students Tommy Forester (left) and Josh Payne (right).
2010 – Dave on a Paddle Boat at Lake Mission Viejo

Thirty years ago, when I joined Campus Crusade’s staff (now Cru), I received training in developing a Ministry Partnership team, a group of people who would commit to partnering with me financially to enable me to serve the Lord full-time. We are incredibly thankful for everyone who has partnered with us financially over the years, but as I reflect back on 30 years in full-time ministry, I’m especially grateful for the handful of ministry partners who have been supporting our ministry for the entire 30 years!

2019 – Dave (right) with Robert, a Young Professional living in Orange County!

Thank you for your continued partnership. Please know that you are an incredible blessing to us and we are extremely grateful for how the Lord continues to use you to demonstrate His faithfulness!

The Power of a New Year’s Resolution

Photo by Crazy nana on Unsplash

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who make New Year’s resolutions and those who don’t.

It’s not hard to figure out why some people hate New Year’s resolutions. Many people hate the idea of New Year’s resolutions because they’ve made them over and over again, only to fail miserably over and over again. Nobody likes the feeling of failure.

We resolve to lose weight and we actually gain weight. We resolve to get a handle on our finances and yet we go deeper into debt. We resolve to read more and watch TV less  and yet we find ourselves binge watching the latest Netflix series during our free time (when we should probably be exercising)!

Photo by Jamie Matociños on Unsplash

Have you ever wondered why so many New Year’s resolutions fail? It’s because for most of us, we try to change our outward behavior without changing the inner person. We fail to address the core issues that cause us to do the things that we say we don’t want to do but we end up doing anyway.

Photo from Pexels.com

In The Godfather III, there is a scene where Michael Corleone (played by Al Pacino), feeling remorseful for his sinful life, is at the Vatican City talking to a priest. The priest picks up a stone from the fountain next to him and says, “do you see this stone? It has been surrounded by water from this fountain for many years. But the water has never penetrated the inside.” He then smacks the stone onto the pavement and it breaks in two. “You see? The inside is completely dry. This is like Christianity. People have been surrounded by Christianity for thousands of years and yet it does not penetrate their hearts.”

Forty-five years ago, my parents made a New Year’s resolution that greatly impacted me. Though they had both grown up going to church, we were not a church-going family. My parents, after much reflection, resolved to recommit themselves to the Lord and begin taking their family to church on Sundays.

As an eight-year old boy, I suddenly found myself in church on Sundays instead of sleeping in or messing around the neighborhood. It was not my preference, but as the weeks and months went by, I learned about my sinfulness and my need for forgiveness. I also learned about the payment Jesus made on the cross for my sin. I learned that I could receive forgiveness and enter into a relationship with God simply by putting my faith in Jesus and His death for me. My life was changed because of a New Year’s resolution.

If only I could get someone to take me on a walk!

What are the things you are hoping to change as you enter this New Year? What are your resolutions? They are probably similar to mine. I’d like to exercise more and read more. I should probably walk my dog more. I’d like to be more kind and compassionate and less impatient with others.

More than anything, my hope for this year is that Christ would penetrate my heart more deeply and that I would experience greater internal transformation as a result. I don’t want to just try to act better but my hope is that by Christ’s strength and power, I might be better – that I might become one who more accurately reflects Christ’s character to the world around me.

We are so grateful for you, our friends and ministry partners, whose encouragement motivates us to continue to pursue Jesus and the spiritual transformation that only he can offer.

Let us know what your resolutions are for this year and how we can pray for you to experience transformation in 2019!

Happy New Year!

2018 Lowe Family Year in Review

It’s been a year full of ups and downs and many new adventures for our family. We are blessed by the many friends and family who have journeyed with us in 2018. Enjoy this short video overview of our last year!

Crossing an Unknown Bridge

Have you ever had a task that you dreaded doing but the end result made it worth it? As I write this, I’m thinking about how I need to mow my lawn.

Yay! The Family photo. My most favorite thing in the WHOLE world!

Taking our family photo is one of those tasks that we dread. The mere mention of it to my family elicits a collective groan, and for good reason. Trying to find a time to take the photo and then coming up with an inspiring location is exhausting. Not to mention the task of trying to figure out what we’re all going to wear.

REJECTED PHOTO 1 – Joshua (right) looks like he’s half asleep.

And we know it’s not going to be a quick endeavor. Once we get to the location, we have to find the right spots and take numerous photos, adjusting for lighting, positioning, closed eyes and awkward smiles.

You promised me this wouldn’t take long. YOU LIED!

And someone (probably me) is certainly going to get frustrated that things aren’t going quickly or according to plan. Tensions will rise and patience will be tested. It’s the same every year. Who wants to go through all that?

REJECTED PHOTO 2 – I really don’t want a doggy poop bag in the photo

But afterwards, when the photos are all downloaded off the camera and edited on the computer, we’re always glad we did it.

This year we decided to take our photo at a local park near us. Based on online reviews, I thought it would be an interesting location with plenty of scenic backdrops. After walking around and taking a few photos, Jen suggested we pose on a short bridge that extends over the Oso Creek.

REJECTED PHOTO 3 – Now Jacob is asleep and Jen is looking at the dog. Dave is not even in the photo.

Bridges are interesting because of what they symbolize. Bridges not only help us get to another destination but they help us overcome obstacles that can make the journey more difficult. In our photo, we’re standing in the middle of a bridge, not quite yet to the other side. I think that truly depicts where we’re at in this season of life.

As you know, our boys are seniors in high school and they have been busy applying for schools and preparing for the next step in their educational journey.

United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland

For us, we’re keenly aware that at this time next year, we may very well be empty nesters. Our boys are busily preparing to leave; they have started to cross the bridge, but they’re not yet on the other side.

A few weeks ago, our entire family boarded a redeye flight from LAX to visit the Naval Academy, which is one of our boys’ top choices for next year. It was a whirlwind trip but it was fun to see the campus, meet the Cross Country coach and even see a former high school friend who is a current cadet. We don’t know for sure if our boys will end up at the Naval Academy or somewhere else, but it was another reminder that we’re on a bridge, headed for something new.

Jacob (left) and Joshua at the U.S. Naval Academy, where they met their friend Cameron Hurd, a current cadet who was a senior at their high school when they were just piddly little freshmen.

Jen and I are doing our best to enjoy this season, attempting to live in the present moment while peering to the other side of the bridge.

I’m reminded of message I heard recently in which the pastor urged us to celebrate each day and be grateful for each moment. He quoted Psalm 118:24, which says,

“this is the day which Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

We are so grateful for you and your prayers for us. Please pray that we would accept each day the Lord gives us and rejoice!

PHOTO SUCESS! Everyone is smiling and looking at the camera (even the dog). And nobody is in the background. I guess it was all worth it!