Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Granger Film Festival

Well, the results [click on Granger Film Festival then 2008 Entries] from the Granger Film Festival are in, and - sadly - Grace did not win the grand prize. However, the good news is that out of the many videos they received, one of Grace's was chosen. (I submitted three). So, despite the fact that we didn't win anything, I am extremely pleased that my work and our church got some national exposure at a renowned event like the Granger Film Festival. That, in and of itself, is huge!

The irony of it all is that the video that they chose was a video that was created PRIOR to the purchase of our new and incredible video camera. Oh well.

I hope it's not too lofty to set a goal of Grace being one of the winners in next year's festival.

Friday, September 26, 2008

the funniest thing i've seen in a long time

If you are not a regular reader of The Fail Blog, you should be. 9.5 out of 10 of the posts make me crack up in pure unbounded laughter. (Please be aware that if you do go to their site, however, that a very select few of the posts may be offensive to some. For those that would find it useful to them, there is a G-Rated link you can choose). Anyhow, this one, in particular, almost made me die.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I wish you guys got to do what I've been doing...

I am currently in the middle of shooting a bunch of segments for a DVD that we (Grace) is sending out for our small groups to watch, along with a bunch of videos for the weekend services in October. It has been an incredibly busy couple of weeks, especially because this past Sunday was our annual meeting, which - for me - means the biggest project of the year: the year in review video. This year's video was especially fun to make because we have been through an incredibly historic year at Grace.

In order to pick out the most important images of this past year, I had to sift through almost 45 hours of footage. When it all came together in the video, it really put into perspective the amazing work that God is doing through His people at Grace. As I said in the year in review video: this year we learned to dream bigger. And I wasn't referring to the building. Yes, our new facility is a tool that God is using to bring people to Jesus in ways way beyond what anyone could have dreamed of. I was referring to having people dream bigger about what God will do and is doing. People from all over this community are stepping foot into the church -- A church -- for the first time. Healing is taking place. Restoration has begun in the hearts of many. Salvations. Baptisms. Discipleship. Helping the downtrodden in our community. In so many ways, Grace is an awesome, albeit imperfect example of what a New Testament church should look like. And people are responding en masse.

In going out over the last couple of weeks to film peoples' testimonies for our upcoming We Will Tell (Part II) campaign, it has been an INCREDIBLE blessing for me to meet all sorts of new people whom I have never met before even though we attend the same church. I feel like, sometimes, we get in our own little bubbles and we tend to lose perspective of the stuff going on all around us at all times. I have met with young and old, new believers and veterans of the faith, newcomers to Grace and others that have attended for many decades. And the underlying message in each of their stories goes something like this: I never thought a place like Grace existed. Then, for whatever reason, I became part of this body of believers and my life has never been the same.

Today, for instance, I filmed a lady from Australia who moved to the United States to become a professor here at Penn State all because she met somebody from Grace at a conference in London, England. I mean, what an awesome story!? She spoke with incredible passion tonight about what God is doing in her heart and how incredibly grateful she is that she found Grace and how at home she feels there. She said she never expected to find a church like Grace in America, as she came from a very similar church in her hometown of Melbourne, Australia. I also filmed a precious lady today who has been at Grace for nearly 30 years. She spoke of how, in 1998, when they first announced that they had purchased the land on Grubb Road, she could barely contain herself. She didn't even know if she'd be around another ten years, so the wait was excruciating for her. She wanted so badly to see the finished product, as she knew that God had amazing plans for His work here. Well, she's still here, and she spoke today about how Grace is positioning itself for the future. This incredible and godly woman, who was born before TV's were even in existence, spoke of how vital it is for Grace to embrace change, progress, and innovation. She knows that in order to reach this generation, we must adapt to the culture and meet the lost where they are. Her testimony literally brought me to tears. I can't wait for everybody to see what she had to say.

Another overwhelming theme in everybody's stories is the immense amount of respect that these people have for our pastors. People love Al, our senior pastor. I mean, they ADORE him. They appreciate his honesty, his vulnerability, and his humility. And the respect that people have for Derek and Mike -- while not surprising -- is simply incredible. What they say is true: we are so blessed to have such incredible leaders guiding us and doing their best to bring us closer to Christ.

If one thing has become ABUNDANTLY clear over these last couple weeks, it is this: God is moving at Grace Church in ways I think few - if any - people can possibly comprehend. In fact, I fully believe that we are only seeing the tip of the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what He is going to do at Grace. Innovation and change is never easy. Sacrifices must be made and there will be bumps along the way. But I ask any Grace attender who is not excited about what they are seeing happen all around them: how can you NOT be excited about what God is doing? And for those who are sitting on the sidelines watching the action, I beg of you to jump on board and be part of the incredible story that is being written at 7300 Grubb Road.

I think Derek summed it up nicely tonight:


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Allow me to brag a bit...

Things are really crazy right now. I have about 200 video projects going on, which I am very happy about. Some are for church, others are not. I'm glad that things are so busy with that right now, but it doesn't allow me much time to do other things...ya know, like blog.

One of the big projects I am working on this week is the video for the 2008 annual meeting being held this Sunday at Grace. I have had the privilege (some wouldn't call it that, but I consider it as such) of going through hours and hours and hours of video from this past year. In doing so, I feel the need to brag a little bit about this place called Grace. I have much to say, but for now, I am going to just say a couple things:
  • Grace Church is an absolutely amazing place. If you live in Erie and you're reading this and you have yet to visit Grace, I just need to say that you are missing out big time. PLEASE VISIT! We welcome you with open arms. But I have to warn you: when you do finally visit, please know that you have entered into a movement of God that is thriving like crazy.
  • This past year has been incredible. If somebody would have told me one year ago that we would have just under 1,000 people worshiping at Grace on any given weekend, I wouldn't have believed them. But in going back through the footage of this past year and seeing everything that makes Grace tick and everyone that makes Grace tick, it has brought me to tears several times as I realize how God is moving amongst His people and how He is leading so many in our community to begin a relationship with Him.
  • When I walked through the doors of Grace on Easter Sunday 2003, I had no idea that God had placed me in the middle of something so amazing. Over five years later, I continue to be grateful that I am a tiny little part of His story as it unfolds at Grace.
  • When I think about the future of Grace, I get goosebumps. I know it's going to be incredible. And the best part? This is only the beginning.

I have so much more to say about all this, but I must get some sleep right now.

Have a great Thursday, all!

Thursday, September 11, 2008


On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, I arrived at work at 8:30 to begin my day as a teller at First Union Bank in Port Orange, Florida. Just about 10 minutes before we opened the doors to customers, our manager ran from the break room to the teller line to tell us that the World Trade Center was on fire because a small plane had hit it. Shocked, but not terribly concerned, we continued about our business as usual.

At 9:00, we unlocked the doors and customers began to file in. A few minutes after we opened the doors, a customer came in and informed us that another plane had hit the other WTC tower. My coworkers and I then took turns going to the break room to watch the news coverage on TV. As the situation continued to unfold and as we began to realize that this was no accident, the decision was made to roll the TV out to the lobby so that we could continue to work but also so we could keep updated on the news of the attacks.
As the morning went on, customers began to come in with tears rolling down their cheeks. And the news just kept getting worse: the Pentagon was hit. Both towers collapsed. A plane crashed just outside of Pittsburgh. And of course there were the rumors: bombs at the State Department, planes headed towards the White House and the Capitol Building, Disneyworld and Cape Canaveral (both just 50 miles from where we were) was on the list of attack targets. Things got crazy quick. All of a sudden, people started coming to the bank wanting the withdraw their ENTIRE accounts. I remember one gentleman, who had more money in his account than we had in the entire bank, demanded we give him every last cent of his money. We had to scramble and borrow money from other First Union branches, but we eventually were able to get it to him.

I called my dad who, at the time, was working at a plant in Greenville, PA. Anyone who remembers that day remembers thinking that they didn't know what was going to come next. I don't know why, but I was so scared for my dad even though he was over a hundred miles from where United 93 came down. I remember crying on the phone and telling him that I wished that our family was together, and I told him how much I love this country and how grateful I was that he brought his family to America.

Word came from our bank headquarters in Charlotte, NC that all branches would be closing at 12 noon. When the bank closed, I immediately drove over to my friend Rebekah's house. We watched TV in stunned silence as channel after channel went dark to pay respects for the thousands of people that were dying that day. We decided to go over to Don & Dianne White's (the leaders or our college ministry) house. I remember walking to the car that afternoon and thinking how quiet it was outside. I felt like everything around us had stopped. I will never forget that moment. It was incredibly eerie.

For the rest of that dreadful day, a bunch of us "family-less" college students gathered at the White's. Word came that evening that the Feds were in Daytona Beach looking for information on some students who had attended Embry-Riddle, the flight school that we all went to. All of a sudden, the attacks seemed a little closer and a little more personal. Not knowing what would or could happen on this day like no other, we went around locking the doors and closing the blinds on the windows. In retrospect, that was probably a little silly, but we all were in fear that night.

I remember thinking the worst when we were in the kitchen watching the little TV and there was breaking news that radar showed a formation of airplanes in Alaska. At this point, of course, there were supposed to be no airplanes in the sky anywhere in North America. I remember thinking that the next wave of attacks was about to begin. A few minutes later, they said that the Air Force had confirmed that the planes were theirs. Thank God.

As it turns out, there was no next wave. And, seven years later, we have been spared another attack on our soil. Whether or not you support our President, the war or whatever...I think it is worth being grateful to our government that nothing has happened since.

September 11, 2001 was my generation's December 7, 1941. It changed our country forever. It will be a day I will never forget. And as we pause today to remember the 2,700+ people that lost their lives that day, let us pray that a day like this never happens again.

Friday, September 05, 2008

To Dixie and Back

Well, routine reared it's ugly head again after having spent five wonderful days with Danielle at my dad's place in Myrtle Beach. Although two of the five days were spent driving, I have to say that it was absolutely worth the journey. We arrived into town at about 4 Friday afternoon after having left Erie at about 4:30 that morning (we stopped three times: once for breakfast at Panera somewhere in West Virginia, once for gas in Virginia, and once for a snack in North Carolina). I had arranged with MaryJo, my dad's wife, to keep our visit on the DL. We agreed to meet at a restaurant they like at the beach near their house. As they walked into the restaurant, the hostess brought them to the table that Danielle and I had already been sat at. He wondered why she was seating them at a table at which two people had already been seated. He was absolutely stunned when he figured out that it was us. It was the best reaction we could have hoped for! And -- hopefully -- the best birthday present we could have given him.

With my dad reaching the 70 year milestone on Sunday, I will do everything I can do utilize every opportunity that arises to go see him. I refuse to pass up any opportunity to spend time with my dad. It's already been two years since he retired and headed south, but the idea that I am 800 miles away from him is still something I am trying to get used to. For him, he chose to move his family to America 40 years ago and left his parents and other family back in England. For him, being separated from those you love is something that you "just do". I accept that, but that doesn't mean that I don't miss him terribly. So when Danielle emailed me early last week and said, "hey, wanna go to Myrtle Beach this weekend?", I jubilantly wrote back and said, "heck yes!" I would not have answered any other way.

I'm also very grateful that I have a wife who enjoys my company on roadtrips. I definitely enjoy hers. To many people, the very idea of a 13 hour roadtrip makes them cringe. To us, it is an opportunity to reconnect, laugh, and plan. We do not need music, a portable DVD player, or iPods to keep ourselves entertained. Actually, if I was to be completely honest with you, the drive down and back is my favorite part of the trip. We have each other, and, in my ever-so-slightly biased opinion, that is all we need. ;-)

[EDIT: i tried six times to upload a few pics, but Blogger must be having issues. i will upload them sometime later on friday if and when i get a chance. sorry!]