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!

The Anchor of Hope

For the last year and half, Jen and I have been volunteering as coaches at an Orange County High School. Once a week, a group of students spend an hour with us going through a curriculum that teaches life skills and principles designed to help students experience greater success in pursuing their goals and ambitions.

Pedro was a student in Dave’s coaching group this last spring

To be honest, these groups are a real challenge. Many of these students are unmotivated and have been hardened by the circumstances of life.

Some have had close friends killed as a result of gang violence. Others have relatives who have been in and out of jail. Some have witnessed shootings. For many, there is a feeling of hopelessness.

Dictionary.com defines hope as “the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best.” But what do you do when events don’t turn out the way you wanted or life delivers unexpected hardships?

Our twins are in the middle of their senior year and they’ve been thinking and dreaming about life after high school. Their hope is to attend a military academy and they’ve been working diligently for the last several years to put themselves in a position to achieve that goal. But obtaining an appointment to any of the service academies is incredibly competitive. It might not work out the way they’ve planned.

Joshua (left) and Jacob experienced a week at West Point over the summer and are hoping to gain acceptance to one of the service academies as their college choice.

There is a tremendous amount of hopelessness in our culture these days, especially among Millennials. Many are discouraged by the political system and by how polarized we seem to be on many issues. Others are discouraged by the high cost of education and the amount of indebtedness they’ve incurred. For some, the job market is not as promising as they had hoped and the American dream seems elusive.

The Bible has a lot to say about hope. The author of Hebrews says that “we have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” The hope being spoken of is that God cannot lie, and therefore we can trust in His promises. The author says that Jesus is our High Priest who has gone into the inner sanctuary to make atonement for our sin, and as a result, we can run to God and take refuge.

Dave speaks to the UCLA Cru students at their weekly meeting

In other words, we can know God and we can come into His presence. He will not deny us no matter what we’ve done or we might be feeling about ourselves.

Jesus is the only one who can be an anchor of hope for our souls. Everything else will either let us down or is ultimately fleeting. We cannot put our hope in our job or in the political system or the college we want to attend. None of those things can provide ultimate meaning and purpose for our lives. Only Jesus can do that.

Thanks for your partnership with us in helping Young Professionals find meaning and purpose in Jesus, the hope of glory!

Frequently Asked Questions – Part 2

From the outset of our ministry a few years ago, the number one question we are asked is “How do you find the Young Professionals you will work with?” It’s a great question, because we’ve wondered that ourselves. When we worked with college students, we had no problem finding them. We just walked onto campus and there they were! We had proven methods and strategies for engaging with students and finding those who were interested spiritually.

But finding Young Professionals is more difficult. There is no central place, like a campus, where they congregate. We have to find different ways to locate them and engage with them.

One of the primary ways we’re meeting Young Professionals is through networking and referrals. Jen met with Rayna, a recent college grad who is living in Orange County, after we got her name from one of the local Cru campus ministry leaders.

It turns out that the way we’re finding Young Professionals is through networking. Like many other fields and industries, we are building our ministry by utilizing our existing network of relationships and seeking to expand our network through the people we meet and the relationships we are developing.

Let me share an example. Over the summer, I contacted one of our local Cru campus teams about meeting up to share with them who we are and what we do. (see our newsletter from last month – Frequently Asked Questions – Part 1).

We set a date to meet, but in the mean-time, I asked them to let us know if they had any recent grads who were living and/or working in Orange County with whom we could connect. I got an e-mail back with the name of a gal who had recently graduated and was living back at home in Orange County.

Jen arranged to meet with Rayna, who, as it turns out, lives very close to us. Jen explained what we’re doing and how we’re seeking to help Young Professionals stay connected to Jesus and live with purpose. Jen invited Rayna to be a part of a new Leadership Development Group that she is starting up. Rayna was excited to be a part of the group and began recruiting other women in the area whom she knows to be a part of the group with her.

Rayna invited some friends from her own local network to join her in being a part of Jen’s new Leadership Development Group

Rayna then told Jen about her college friend Chris who is a PhD student at UC Irvine.

I met with Chris and shared about what we’re doing, inviting Chris to be a part of my next Leadership Development group. Chris was not only interested but suggested I talk to his friend Arthur about the group.

Rayna connected Dave with Chris, a college friend who is a PhD student at UC Irvine.

The next week, I met with Arthur, heard his story, shared about our ministry and invited him to also be a part of my next group.

One simple e-mail and question ultimately led to us connecting with over half a dozen new people.

Chris introduced Dave to Arthur, a friend from a small group who is recent grad, living in South Orange County and working in Irvine.

While it may not be as easy to meet new people as it was when we were on campus, we’re starting to see the fruit of our networking efforts, as more and more Young Professionals are engaging with us and connecting us to their relational networks.

We are so grateful for your partnership which enables us to meet with people like Rayna, Chris and Arthur and others. Please continue to pray that we would connect with even more Young Professionals as our extended network continues to expand.

Frequently Asked Questions – Part 1

A few days ago, Jen and I drove to UCLA, but this time, it was not for Jen to see one of her many health specialists. Instead, we had scheduled to connect with the Cru leaders at UCLA to share our vision for Millennials and suggest ways we could help them prepare their seniors for life after college.

You might be surprised that even among some of our colleagues with Cru, one of the most frequently asked questions we get is “What do you do?”

Perhaps you’ve asked that question as well. The short answer is that we provide resources and services to help Young Professionals thrive spiritually and live missionally (live with purpose).

The longer answer deserves a bit of context.

Conditions in a greenhouse are optimized for growth. The greenhouse is often a picture of a student’s college spiritual experience
Photo by João Jesus from Pexels

Picture a greenhouse. Plants thrive in a greenhouse because growth conditions are optimized. They receive just the right amount of sun, water and nutrients, all meticulously measured and delivered at just the right time. Negative growth conditions are minimized because the environment is controlled.

A campus ministry experience is often much like a greenhouse, where all the necessary ingredients for growth are integrated into the fabric and culture of the group. Spiritual growth is optimized and the student often doesn’t even think about it. Indeed, many Young Professionals have communicated to us that their most significant spiritual growth and development occurred while they were involved in a campus ministry or a college group.

Now picture a wild field. In the wild field, conditions are harsher and not optimized. The ingredients necessary for growth aren’t delivered in measured, timely intervals. The wild field has weeds, which choke out water and nutrients, bugs that eat your leaves and animals who eat your fruit or chew on your root system.

The wild field is a harsher environment, with weeds, bugs & animals that can impede the growth process. (Photo on pexels.com)

The wild field is a picture of life after college. Growth can happen but one must be exponentially more intentional about seeking out and providing their own growth resources than they were in the greenhouse.

After college, many Young Professionals are feverishly searching for a new greenhouse but are continually disappointed at the futility of their efforts. For many, finding the post-college greenhouse is like seeing a leprechaun riding a unicorn while being chased by Sasquatch. It’s so rare that it can almost be categorized as a myth or urban legend.

When we share these two word pictures with Young Professionals and even other Cru staff, a light bulb often goes off. It just makes sense.

So what is it that we do?

One dandelion can produce hundreds of other dandelions often even miles away. Millennials who are unleashed to fulfill their potential have the same capacity to impact their communities and the world!

We come alongside Young Professionals who are navigating through the wild field of life and help to provide some of those growth ingredients that will make it easier for them to thrive spiritually and live missionally. We don’t create another greenhouse community. Instead, our hope is to help them navigate through the weeds (distractions) and predators that make it harder to experience fruitfulness.

Essentially, our desire is to help them learn how to live out their faith and their purpose as adults in the real world, just like everyone else.

Thanks for joining with us in helping Young Professionals connect to opportunities for leadership development, coaching and vocational discipleship, so that they can be unleashed to fulfill their unique potential and make a significant impact on their communities and the world!

Adventure is Out There!

Enjoying great weather and a great view in South Boston!

Last weekend, we decided to go as a family to see the new Disney Pixar movie The Incredibles 2. It was a fun movie and like most Pixar movies, there were some great life messages communicated through the story.

Pixar movies have all been commercial successes among movie-goers and critics alike!

While debriefing the movie with the family afterward, someone asked, “What are your top 5 Pixar movies?”

I think the typical responses to that question might include movies like Toy Story, Finding Nemo or Monsters Inc. But one Pixar movie that is definitely in my top 5 is the movie UP, which is the story of Carl Fredrickson, who as a boy, dreams of a life of adventure. While fantasizing about traversing exotic canyons and far-off vistas, Carl encounters Ellie, a spit-fired, rambunctious girl who seems to perfectly complement Carl’s shy demeanor. Ellie shows Carl her “Adventure book”, a scrapbook with maps, posters and a host of blank pages to document all the “Stuff I’m Going to Do!”

UP chronicles the story of Carl Frederickson, a man who has always dreamed of adventure!

As the movie progresses, Carl and Ellie grow up, get married, build a home and begin saving for their big adventurous trip. But life continually brings challenges, both financial and health-related, that keep them from taking the trip of their dreams.   

Finally, Ellie gets sick and dies, leaving Carl alone and full of regret that he had not fulfilled the promise to provide a life of adventure that he had made when he was younger

Later in the movie, in a moment of reflection, Carl finds Ellie’s Adventure book. This time, he notices that the formerly blank pages are filled with photos and mementos of their many years together. The last photo of the two, taken just before her death, includes a note that says, “Thanks for the adventure!”

I love the message that adventure is not so much all the things you do but who you do it with. Adventure is more about loving deeply than just having new and novel experiences. When Jesus invites us in John 10:10 to experience the abundant life, I think this is what he means – He invites us into a relationship of knowing and loving Him deeply (with all our heart, soul, mind and strength).

Our 25 year anniversary book, documenting a quarter-century of adventure together!

This May, Jen and I celebrated our 25th year of marriage together. To commemorate our anniversary, I created my own “Adventure Book”, documenting many of the things we’ve done and experienced together – the ups and downs, the good and the bad. When I think back on our 25 years together, I’m so fortunate to have found a person who has loved me deeply and helped to make life such a great adventure!

If you’re reading this, it’s because you’ve likely been a part of our journey somehow. Thanks for being a part of this great adventure that we continue to enjoy together!

Overlooking the beautiful Hudson River from scenic West Point Military Academy, where we dropped off Jacob and Joshua to experience a week of life as a cadet.