Thursday, September 27, 2007

I went crazy last night

On Monday, I really pushed my kids during conditioning and while they ran hard, I'm sure they were angry about how I kept making them run more. But I really want them to get strong.

Last night, I got some insight into how they must've felt when I was working out with Jason. We had a good workout and we moved to the last excercise with which we usually finish our back workout, a type of single-armed upright row (hard to explain, it's a funky looking machine). After the first set I thought we might be done, but Jason (who goes first) got back on the machine for another set. After that set he told me to go fast, not taking a rest between sets. So we kept rotating back and forth, sets of 10 on each side without a rest between. Each time he sat down for another set, I got more frustrated, wondering when in the world we'd be done. After several painful sets, he threw another 45 pound plate on each side. I couldn't believe it and I was really angry about it.

We'd been doing sets of 1o and I figured I'd only do 6 or so with all the extra weight. But when I positioned myself for the final set, I blew a fuse emotionally. The frustration of not wanting to work out so hard (I am naturally lazy) and all the anxiety and frusration I've been experiencing the last couple weeks just exploded inside of me and I went crazy. I did a full 10 reps (as many as Jason - who is much bigger) and then did an additional two. When I switched to the left side (weaker side) I pumped out 6, took a deep breath and blew out 6 more. During the last 6 I was grunting, yelling and almost crying as I let out all kinds of frustration.

When I finished, Jason looked at me and asked, "did you get it all out?" I answered, "I hope so." I was shocked that my frustration was so obvious.

I just sent out this email to our entire church

Dear Trinity Family,

I’ve taken some time during the last couple days to pray about whether I should send out this message (and if I do) how I should go about sharing this information with all of you. Please know that as your pastor, I care about you very much and I want our entire church and the individuals that make up our church to be honoring God with every aspect of their lives.On Sunday we talked about the discipline of Giving Sacrificially. I shared the ways that giving to God first shapes us as followers of Christ. If you missed the message or would like to reread it, I can email the manuscript to you. One of the benefits of sacrificial giving is that it funds the mission of our local church in bringing the Kingdom of God into our little corner of the world. Your sacrificial giving supports internal ministries like curriculum for our kids’ department and rent for Madison Elementary as well as external ministries such as funding the church planting and missionary efforts of our denomination.

Trinity Family has an open book policy toward how we allocate our funds. If you’d like to see the church budget, I’d be glad to email you the spreadsheet. In setting our annual budget, our Advisory Council took the average monthly giving from last fiscal year, $8,400/month, to set the budget for the current fiscal year (July – June). During the first two months of this fiscal year (July and August) we were already $1,100 behind budget. After the first four of the five Sundays in September, our giving has been $5,306.22, putting us 3,093.78 behind our September needs heading into the 5th Sunday of the month.

Jesus’ teaching that how we spend our money points to the values of our heart (Luke 12:34) compels me to continue challenging us toward sacrificial giving. There’s nothing I want more than to see our church live with a 100% commitment to Jesus in every area and a huge obstacle toward that reality is our money management. There is no doubt in my mind that if we all respond with obedience to Christ we can bust through the $8,400 a month we brought in last year as well as bringing in the $3,093.78 we need this Sunday.

I also know that it’s scary to put God first. I’ve never struggled with the discipline of tithing but I have struggled with the discipline of Sabbath rest. It’s hard for me to trust that if I honor God by taking a day off, he’ll give me the strength to finish my work with the remaining 6 days. Let me be honest in saying I haven’t always obeyed God with a Sabbath, but when I take a Sabbath (and manage my time well the other 6 days) He always makes up the difference. The same is true with the discipline of sacrificial giving that as we give to God first as well as being responsible with the remaining resources, God will always meet our needs.

I struggled with whether to share this via email or to wait and share our need this Sunday in person, so I’ve decided to do both. I will talk a bit more about this on Sunday, but I also wanted to prepare you for Sunday by letting you know we’re $3,093.78 short heading into the last Sunday of the month. We CAN give $3,093.78 this Sunday! I’m praying for you as individuals and for our church as a whole. Let’s be obedient to God, let’s put him first with our money and then let’s enjoy watching how God uses our obedience to transform our “little corner of the world.”
God bless,

Donnie Miller

Friday, September 21, 2007

A huge night

Tonight was a huge night for Erin and me. We met with a potential birth-mom for a possible adoption. We've known about this mom for about three weeks and everything has been moving quickly. The first thing we did was design our adoption profile, which must've impressed the mom because she wanted to talk with us. I told Erin that I don't know if this is the right thing or not (still don't know yet) but we should do as much exploring as possible.

We talked with an adoption lawyer and an adoption social worker over the past week. Both people helped us sort through some issues, answered some questions and gave us a good picture of the road ahead should we choose to pursue the adoption. But both said that the most important step is to meet with the mother, if there's "chemistry" between us we can continue to build the relationship.

So we met for dinner tonight and then went to a park and I'd say there was some chemistry. The mom seemed to trust us and we could tell how much she cares for this unborn baby. It was kind of awkward for the first 15 minutes until the mom announced, "I'm kind of nervous." Which we assured her we were too and we both loosened up from then on.

We wrote out a list of "easy" questions we'd ask tonight and some "harder" questions for later, but the mom seemed so comfortable that she volunteered some of the harder info we were going to ask later. Erin and I both felt she was being very honest with us. She has been hooked on drugs but she's been through rehab, still goes to NA and has been clean for a year and a half. To say this girl has had a tough life would be an understatement. After her dad died, her family moved from Mississippi to Kansas when she was 13. She was abused by her uncle and her mom has rejected her bi-racial daughter. She's living on state assistance and is home with her 18 month old daughter all day. She can't work because she has cervical cancer and pancreatis. She's had to stop chemo with the pregnancy and is worried that the cancer will come back in force after the pregnancy. I felt like crying as she told me all of this. How can someone get kicked by life so many times?

I'm going to go on another fast because I'm not sure what to do. I''m in desperate need of God's guidance.

The baby is due March 14th and she thinks its going to be a boy.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

My first gatorade bath

I knew it was coming. In the middle of the 4th quarter, one of the more squirrely kids said, "Guess what we're going to do to you, coach? Heh, heh, heh." Which prompted a "way to give it away" from another kid. I saw a couple kids go grab the cooler (thankfully it was actually water, not gatorade) and my center was standing right in front of me, looking behind me with huge eyes. I tried to walk slowly and pretend I didn't what was coming my way. The funny thing is that they're so short, they only got me from the waist down, which is fine by me, it was cold.

The necessary coaching changes that kept me up last Thursday night worked this Thursday afternoon. The kids are getting their plays down (we had no miscues) and learning how to hit, but some of the coaching changes I made put us over the top in today's game. First of all, we ran them really hard during practice this week, since they got tired last game. They had a lot more energy during the 2nd half of this game.

Secondly, moving our speedy powerback to tailback made a huge difference. He ran all over the other team, scoring two touchdowns, one of which was a 59 yard run. If he can get outside, he's almost unstoppable. We moved our tailback to powerback and he really liked it. After the game he said, "I like powerback, I get to hit a lot more." He's a great kid, incredible attitude. Rather than complaining that he only carried the ball once he was excited about getting to block more.

Thirdly, my play calling really improved. I was able to run one play to set up another play. I was so overwhelmed during our first game but I'm learning what to do as coach and it's becoming a lot easier to manage the game. We kept pitching the ball to our speedy tailback during the opening drive of the 3rd quarter, setting up the reverse. On 3rd and 8 from midfield, we ran a reverse to the wide receiver out of our usual sweep play. The whole defense was keying on the tailback that it took a second to notice he had handed off to the receiver. The receiver made a nice move to avoid two tackles and we got a HUGE first down. It was the first time all year I'd felt like my play calling made a difference. A couple plays later we ran a play where the tailback goes in motion, running by the quarterback and taking the hand off and then running to the left, outside the tackle. Our little tailback is so fast, he hit the outside and outran the defense for his 59 yard touchdown run. On the two point conversion, we ran the exact same play where the tailback goes in motion, but we had the quarterback fake the hand off and run to his right for a naked bootleg. It's a tricky play because it's really just an improv I made up, the line isn't blocking to the right so the QB is all alone. But the defense was expecting the tailback to take the hand off after going in motion that the QB ran right through two stunned defenders for the two point conversion. That made it 20-8 and we had the game.

Unlike last week, we got stronger as the game went on and the other team quit. But last week I thought we were even in talent, this week I think we were actually better than the other team. They scored on the first drive of the game with the use of a halfback pass, but once we got our guys to "stay home" we started shutting them down.

The biggest play of the game was when Ottawa had the ball on our 4 yard line with just 25 seconds left in the half. On 4th down, we stopped them to take over on downs but on the very first play, we fumbled and Ottawa recovered. Our QB and powerback told me the ball was wet. So right after our big goal line stand we give them the ball on our own 5 with 15 seconds left. But we stopped their run through the middle and the clock ran out. That series was the biggest of the game. They marched down field with the help of a reverse and a 4th down conversion where our guys thought they were punting. But when Ottawa ran out of trick plays and was forced to run up the middle, we stuffed them.

Very proud of our kids and loved seeing the excitement on their faces!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Service Project Sunday

I received a voicemail this morning saying, "Donnie, thanks for challenging us with biblical preaching on Sunday morning and then challenging us to go out and do it." I think that's a good description of what happened on Sunday.

Sunday morning we met at 9:00 and I preached on service, we shared communion and then went to City Hall to help with the final clean-up efforts of the Festival on the Trails. I thought we'd be picking up trash, but there wasn't much trash left for us to pick-up. Instead, we picked up what little trash was still on the ground and helped take down the barriers used for crowd control. We worked from about 10:00-11:30. While the work wasn't very strenuous (in fact Nate Warren pointed out it was easier to pick up the park then tear down our equipment on a regular Sunday morning), it was good to be outside on a beautiful day and working alongside others.

After we were done, we spent about 10 minutes reflecting together on the experience, asking "where did you see God today?" I experienced God teaching me humility. I had the thought that we'd be picking up truckloads of trash and that we'd be able to pat ourselves on the back knowing downtown would still be a dump without the heroic efforts of TFC! Instead, we arrived to see most of the trash was picked up and that we were helping city employees with their final tear-down efforts.

The point is this: service is not about recognition, it's about humility. We weren't doing that so the city could say, "thank goodness for Trinity Family, where would we be without that church?" Instead, we were doing this as a way to shape us into servants and a way to give to our community, even if it's done in relative anonymity. Service always does as much (if not more) for the one serving than the one being served.

I also pointed out on Sunday that one year ago we were having our big 1st birthday celebration. Now, a year later, rather than saying to Gardner "come to us" we were saying "we're coming to serve you." There has been a huge philosophical shift that God has been working in my life.

I also knew that when we do something different like this, especially something where we're asking for extra effort, we probably won't have everyone on board. Which was the case on Sunday, we had a crowd about half the usual size. While I'm a bit disappointed that half our congregation bailed, I'm really pumped for those who allowed God to shape them in this unique way.

To see more pictures, click here. You'll have to register, but it's no big deal.

Update - After writing my blog entry, David Brush sent me his entry, which is much more eloquent. link

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Inroads into our community

It's almost 3 AM and I can't sleep. I've got to work all day tomorrow with the 150 celebration, but I'm so wired from tonight that I can't sleep. I'm so relationship-driven and get so pumped up from spending time with people, that I can't calm down.

When we moved into Gardner, I started going to the football games right away, but I didn't know anyone there. My experience at tonight's game gave me a glimpse of how we've been able to make connections into our community.

The biggest thing was the tailgate party. Last year I joined the committee to help plan the 150th Celebration that's happening this weekend as a way to serve the community and to build relationships. It's worked. My subcommittee put together tonight's "Gardner's Biggest Ever Tailgate Party." It was a great time. We had a good group from TFC there and our band was the headlining entertainment. And they did a great job! In fact, a guy that's a real leader in Gardner and for whom I'm really praying, commented to me about how good they sounded.
I talked with our Mayor and the president of the biggest bank and they were commenting on how good the band sounded. I tried to get them to start a mosh pit, but they weren't too high on that. But they were both thanking me and TFC for the service project we're going to do this Sunday, helping clean up after the big festival on Saturday. A year ago, our Mayor hadn't even heard of TFC, now she's praising us for our service to the community!

But what really pumps me up is just walking around the stands and seeing people I know all over the place. Kids running around "hey, Coach, do you have anymore hot dogs?" "Hey, Coach, that kid stole my hat!" I talked with one of our teens when I was near the student section. She introduced me to a friend by saying, "this is my pastor, he's a pretty cool guy." I was talking with some of the other Wheatridge staff and with an unchurched family that's new to our church and just invited by a TFC member.

The question, "if your church disappeared from the community tomorrow, would anyone other than your members notice it was gone?" has always haunted me. Tonight was a confirmation that we are making connections with and serving our community.
When we first moved to Gardner, I went to football games because I love football. Now I go to football games because I love football and because I'm a part of the community!
To see more pictures, click here. You'll have to register, but it's no big deal.

God knew I'd love coaching

Since we first moved to Gardner, I'd had the intention of getting involved in coaching at some level, but I'd never really knew where to start. But the desire to coach stayed with me and one of the ways I know something is from God is when it stays with me for a long time. Last spring at a Chamber event, the GEHS head football coach was speaking and I asked how I could get involved. He told me to contact Brian Essex at Wheatridge Middle School. I knew that would be easy because I'd played with Brian at MNU.

Brian wasn't sure if he'd be able to hire me, but just 1 day into practice, he got the approval. And now I know that God had been prompting me to coach because he knew how much I'd love it and how I'd be able to minister to so many kids. I'm almost feeling like this 7th grade football team is my 2nd congregation. I can't sleep tonight (it's 2:30) partly because I'm praying for these kids. At tonight's football game, I had to do some crisis intervention with a couple players.

The good kids are a joy to be around but the rougher kids are the ones I can tell really need a leader in their lives. One kid that has really be frustrating me because he forgets his position and misses games just had his 3rd unexcused practice, so we have to kick him off the team. But one of the other coaches just told me tonight that the kid has suicidal tendencies. Now I wish I could get more time with him, but it probably won't happen. But there is another kid who also frustrates me, but tonight at the tailgate party I could tell how much he looks up to me, so I need to be investing in him. Maybe I can meet him at school for lunch. He really needs a male role model to speak into his life. He was thanking me tonight for being such a good coach. I'm not that great of a coach, but he must be starving for some attention that he appreciates my coaching.

I told the JV team that if they found me at the tailgate party, I'd give them some hot dogs. This picture is some of the guys who took me up on the offer. God knew how much I'd love coaching and how I'd be able to invest in these kids, so he kept that desire in me until I acted on it.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Coaching Mistakes

We played our 2nd game of the year yesterday against Paolo. We had to play on the soccer practice field, the lines were fine but the surface was rough and uneven. But it's not like 7th grade JV is a precision offense or anything. In fact, in the 2nd half, Paolo kept running their QB behind the fullback over and over and we couldn't stop it. Real tricky!

We played a lot tougher than last week. We even stopped them on downs after they returned an interception to about the 20. I was so pumped at half-time, I was convinced we'd come out the 2nd half and take over the game. Unfortunately, Paola took over the game instead of us.

Coach Bartlett and I talked before the game about passing in the 2nd quarter when we had the strong wind behind us. I called a tailback pass that should've been a good fake play, but the QB forgot what play it was. On 3rd down, I called the pass that got intercepted. One coaching mistake there was we should've kept running the ball when we had the momentum. We've played two games and neither opponent has passed yet.

In the 3rd quarter, after Paola marched down the field to get the game's first TD, we then returned the kick past midfield and with one run by our powerback, we had the ball at the 20. I was so fired up after that run, the kids may have wondered if I'd freaked out! We then ran the exact same play, but our QB somehow forgot what he was supposed to do and we lost big yards. We went backwards again and ended up turning it over on downs.

My biggest mistake happened during that series, after the big run our starting center came off because he'd hurt his hand. I put in the backup but didn't think about what position the center played on defense. When we turned the ball over on downs, we went three plays on defense before realizing we were short a player, since I hadn't told our d-coordinator. Even with one less guy, we had them in 3rd and long before they realized we were missing a d-lineman and picked up big yards running right at that empty spot. If we'd gotten the ball back right there, we might have been able to score.

But after the 3rd down conversion, Paolo took all but 25 seconds of the 4th quarter to march down and score another TD. Our guys quit on the touchdown run, which means they'll be running a lot this week.

I couldn't get to sleep last night, thinking of how we could move some guys around and how I could rearrange our play-calling. I found myself wishing we taped the games so I could watch the film, but quickly realized how ludicrous that would be. Man, I love this game!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

New Squat Max

Tonight I squatted 325 for the first time ever. Just before I lifted it off the rack, Jason said, "give me one good one." So, I did one and it was really easy. So I kept going. 5 reps later, I'd done a new single-rep max 5 times!
Good thing I just bought new jeans that are nice and loose.

TFC's 2nd Birthday

We celebrated our 2nd birthday on Sunday. That's a huge milestone for a new church and I'm proud of TFC. I talked a bit on Sunday about how this process has been shaping me, how God has been rearranging my picture of what church is all about. These past two years have been great, but we're only scratching the surface of what God wants to do through us.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Quite the compliment

Dr. Randy Beckum from MidAmerica Nazarene University came and talked about our discipline of connecting with believers. I set him up by explaining again how living out the 5 is how our church will be helping the kingdom of God break into our little corner of the world. It was a great time, Randy's one of the best communicators around.
But as I was talking with Randy after worship, he gave TFC an incredible compliment. He said "there's not a lot of churches around about which I can say this, but I could go to your church. You guys are doing things right. I love what you're doing. Keep doing what you're doing and finding ways to serve your community." Yeah, that was quite the compliment.
After thinking about it for awhile, I realized why Randy connected so well with what we're trying to do as a church; it's because Randy has been one of my most significant mentors. I'm leading a church in a way similar to how Randy would lead because I've learned so much about ministry from Randy.

Also, I just got back from visiting a family that came for the first time on Sunday (invited by another family) and the wife told me how excited she was to see our level of community involvement. It seems that people are starting to notice the things God is accomplishing through our church!

Friday, September 7, 2007

My Coaching Debut

4th down and 3. Just over 2 minutes left in the game. The ball sitting right at midfield. No question in my mind as to what we were going to do. We were going for it.
I called a time-out and got the team together. I challenged our entire offensive line. "We're running right up the middle. This is all up to you guys. Can you fire off the line and push them back for 3 yards?" They assured me they could do it. I called the play in the huddle, ran off the field and watched the play.

Our 3rd string QB who had literally only taken a few snaps during practice handed off to our 2nd string tailback. 4 yards later, we had the first down. It was our first first down of the game in our 32-0 opening season loss. We ended up picking up another first down or two after that first one. To have a drive at the end of the game where we actually moved the ball a bit gave our kids some confidence and excitement.

I had hoped Prairie View's JV would be as bad as ours. Well, they weren't a JV. They weren't really a varsity either, their school has only one squad. But the boys on that squad were big and they knew what they were doing. The ref had to help our offensive line stay on the line of scrimmage and no matter how many times Coach Bartlett explained it to them, we kept having 3 d-linemen on one side and only 1 on the other. Obviously, explaining something 100 times in practice just isn't enough.

But I loved it! I love the game of football; I can't get enough. After practice this afternoon, Erin and I headed out to CBAC to watch the Olathe South - Olathe East (Erin's an East grad) game. Tomorrow is my day off and I'll watch football all day, ending with the Iowa-Syracuse game at night. I'm loving the opportunity to invest in these kids. After leading Tuesday's practice without the other coaches, I grabbed 3 hotdogs and a gatorade and went up into the stands to watch the 8th grade varsity game. A bunch of JV kids saw me and yelled out "coach, coach!" As I sat and talked with them about school, music and football, I was very thankful for the opportunity to connect with these kids.

I gave the kids a rousing pregame speech in the end zone right before we took the field. We grabbed hands, ran from the end zone to the sidelines while the crowd was cheering and (I kid you not) I had to fight back tears. I loved it!

A lot of the game was chaos. I wasn't really prepared for managing all the aspects of the game. It was about all I could do to make sure the receiver got the play into the huddle and we always had 11 guys on the field. Special teams really made me nervous. I didn't know I'd be managing the game until about a week ago, but even so I still probably wouldn't have been ready for all the little things I had to watch over. But Coach Bartlett (who said it took him about a year to get used to managing a game) kept me in line and the refs helped remind me of some stuff, too. There really is a lot of babysitting at this level. While on the sidelines I'd be trying to figure out which receiver was going in with the next play (all 3 of them looked so similar with their game jerseys and helmets covering their tiny little heads), helping a kid with his pads, explaining to a kid who had missed practices why he wasn't in the game yet, while hoping our 3rd string QB could get the snap from center. There was a lot of chaos, but it was great!!!

Just a few minutes into the first quarter, our starting QB came out of the game crying. I turned to our second string QB who is also our starting tight end and he said his back hurt too badly to keep going. Both QB's got drilled in practice two days earlier while scrimaging 8th grade JV. So, I turned to our back-up tight end who (on a whim) I'd told to study the QB plays, too. That also meant we were out of tight ends. So a kid nicknamed Pedro (looks like "vote for Pedro") who has a great attitude and work ethic volunteered to go in at tight end and I was just hoping he'd remember which side to line up on.

We fumbled some snaps, pitched the ball over the tailbacks head and some other crazy stuff. But as the game went on and the kids started to figure out how to fire out of their stance and how good it felt to run hard and to hit (and as the other coach called off the dogs) we started to gain a little momentum. We can only get better; I hope!

I looked at the schedule and all the rest of the games are against actual JV squads, so I hope those other JV's are as bad as us. Have I said that yet?

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Super Servant - Michelle Corbin

Michelle Corbin is one of the unsung heroes of TFC! The Corbins open their house every Wednesday night to about 10-20 kids for youth group meetings. Michelle works hard to invest in the kids, prepare lessons and pray for them. You don't have to talk with Michelle for very long to pick up on her heart for teens.

And the coolest thing is that teens are coming to Christ! Michelle is going to share some stories on a Sunday morning, so I hope I'm not stealing her thunder, but there are kids coming to youth group (brought by friends) that have no Christian background. In fact, several of these kids don't even consider themselves to be Christian! That's awesome (not that they aren't yet followers of Christ but that they're hanging around our youth group where they're hearing about Christ)!

Michelle really needs our help, though. We need more adult sponsors and more families willing to open up their home for the Wednesday night gatherings. Please email Michelle at please at

Pre-game jitters

I've got them, haven't had this feeling since I was playing. We've got our first game this afternoon at 4:00 and I'm nervous. My hope is that Prairie View's (whoever they are) JV is as bad as ours.
I'm nervous our backs can't take handoffs and that the receivers will forget the plays from the time I tell them on the sideline and by the time they get to the huddle. I'm really nervous that our 0-line doesn't understand how physical they need to be and that their lack of blocking will get our QB's killed! A lot of these guys on JV don't have much of a clue what they're doing; which makes them like their coach! Although some guys are enthusiastic and ready to hit, so I hope they put in a good effort.
I also hope Prairie View's JV is as bad as ours! Have I said that yet? I'm not worried about winning or losing, although winning wouldl be nice. But I want the kids to have a good time and I'm worried that if they get destroyed, it will crush their little fighting spirits! I hope Prairie View's JV is bad so we can have a good (competitive) game.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

100 hour journey of prayer - completed

I started the 100 hours of prayer for TFC in the middle of January and I finally finished on August 30th. I blogged on the journey at the halfway point here.
I took a two week break after hour 55 when I was frustrated with the "flopping" of our Love and Logic weekend and the neighborhood group I'd tried to start. For some of my thoughts on those frustrations, check this out.
During these last 50 hours I've lifted a lot of names to God. I write down in my journal a person, family or concern I'm praying about and then talk to God about it for awhile. Writing it down helps keep my mind focused and it allows me to go back through and see what I've been praying about.
During these past 50 hours God has spoken to me a lot, too. He's been breaking my pride; showing me this church isn't about me, it's about him. Just when God took me to the point of feeling like I had no business leading a church, He "showed up" at TFC and started doing some great things. I started this journey knowing God wanted to do a lot in my heart, but I had no idea where he'd be taking me.
This really is a journey.