Friday, December 31, 2010

Best of 2010

     Why read about celebrities that died in 2010? That's depressing. Read this instead. I present the Best of the Couch's in 2010:

  • After 16 1/2 years, I resigned from my church as youth pastor. How is this on the best list? It required a genuine walk of faith because I didn't know what was coming next. This was Abraham-style faith walkin'! Had to learn total dependance on God. Scary and reassuring at the same time. Thankful for the process. Very thankful.
  • Julia received the Gold President's Award in her class for the year. She adds this to her Silver from Kindergarten. Because of this and the fact that she gave all her money away to missionaries, she earned an iPod. Very well deserved. So proud of her accomplishments.
  • I walked in the Breast Cancer Awareness Walk in San Francisco which happened to be on my mom's birthday (who lost her battle to breast cancer in 2007). 43 miles in 2 days through the hills of San Francisco. Nobody said anything about hills! And a bonus was being able to do it with a good friend from college who became a better friend on this walk. Thanks, Schmidty.
  • Marty and I started our own ministry, "Missionaries to Ministers," because we are burdened for those who serve in the church that are also struggling. We have brochures and business cards and everything (even a fax machine). Call us for an appointment in office, via telephone or through Skype or iChat. 
  • We created a website. Check us out at 
  • During all this faith walking, I got the best Father's Day present from my 7 year old that I have ever received, a piece of original artwork worth more than any Rembrandt or Van Gogh that simply says "Happy Father's Day. Walking By Faith." 
  • Teaching the kids the 10 Commandments as we walked to school, for the Bible says to talk about these things as you walk along the road. Monday through Friday presented a great opportunity, so we memorized as we walked. Love hearing them recite all 10. 
  • Finding our "Pathway." Our new home church is Pathway Church in Redwood City. They have been just what we needed as we transitioned. Our good friends from college have poured their lives into this ministry and have welcomed us and provided a place for us to serve and enjoy tremendous fellowship. As I said, good friends in college, greater friends now. Thanks, Scott and Sue Aughtmon and Brett and Jenny Moody and all your boys! The Couch's love you all.
  • I went back to seminary through Liberty University Online. Passed my pastoral counseling course with an "A." I was so nervous about doing an online course, but God very obviously helped me through and I finished with a 98% in the class! I truly give all glory to Him because I submitted every assignment with trepidation, doubting I did it correctly. Whew! And that "A" affirms my fresh calling to help people. It's what I want to do.
  • Took Max to Disneyland as it was the year he turned 4 (the age each of my kids have their inaugural visit to the Happiest Place on Earth). He definitely had a friend in Buzz and Woody. 
My best reads of 2010
  • Visioneering, Andy Stanley (1999). This fueled me to help people struggling with addiction issues and gave me the courage to tell my story. What's your passion? Read this book and run with it.
  • A Resilient Life, Gordon MacDonald (2004). Were you born with a quitter's gene? Truly motivational words from someone who was and learned to run in spite of it. Very encouraged by this book.
  • The Will of God as a Way of LIfe, Jerry Sittser, (2000). How can you not listen to a man who lost his wife, his mother, and one of his own children in a car accident as he talks about God's will for our lives? Very, very practical teaching on God's will that will challenge your faith and help you put your trust where it belongs.
  • Telling Yourself the Truth, William Backus and Marie Chapian, (1980). This book helped me realize that when my anxiety is taking over my thoughts, I've stopped believing the Truth of God's Word in that moment. Life changing book.
  • Hurt People Hurt People, Sandra Wilson, (2001). Great insights into why we hurt and thus hurt others. Lots of healing potential in this one.
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid Do It Yourself Book, Jeff Kinny, (2008). Yeah, designed for kids, and kids at heart, I say. More of a draw your own comics, make some life lists, and fill in the journal in the back, but this book was one of my favorites in 2010 and inspired creativity in my kids which I will always promote. 
Best quotes of 2010

     "The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith, and the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety." - George Mueller

     "Believe in the belief God has in you." - T.S.C

     "Be thankful for the process regardless of the outcome." - T.S.C

     "You can do things nobody else ever has because there has never been another combination of God and you." - T.S.C.

     "We would be wise to be attentive and responsive to God along the way, even in matters that appear to have little significance... Perhaps our attention to these little things is the will of God, and our pre-occupation with the future a foolish distraction." - Jerry Sittser

     "Visions make leaders passionate, thorns make them authentic." - taken from the Maxwell Leadership Bible

     "Nobody other than you has the power to make you miserable. That power is yours alone." - from the book, Telling Yourself the Truth, Backus and Chapian

     "One of the worst things you can die with is potential. Die with failures before you die with potential." - Henry Cloud

(and here's one to take us into 2011) "Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never - in nothing great or small, large or petty - never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense." - Winston Churchill, 1941

     No matter what comes your way, make it a joyful New Year. God bless you.

Monday, December 20, 2010

And They Said It Wouldn't Last

     15 years ago I mailed a Christmas Card to a good friend from college and it pretty much changed my life. I had asked Miss Marty McKenzie to accompany me to the Singing Christmas Tree production at Capital Christian Center and as a thank you, I sent said card. Very shortly after, we started dating and because of the distance between us, I started sending cards weekly to stay connected to my new girlfriend since we only saw each other on the weekends. Marty had a co-worker, obviously jaded and scorned, for she had the nerve to say about my weekly card sending, "It won't last."
     Well, 15 years have passed, nearly 14 of those spent in wedded bliss, and my wife still receives a card from me weekly. It has become a part of my regular routine. And I thoroughly enjoy doing it. It still keeps us connected. Marty appreciates the effort and the sentiments written inside and thanks me every time she receives one.
     I've always liked to draw, so each envelope features a little artwork from me.

This one was a follow-up card after Marty threw me a surprise birthday party.

What to do with all those extra pictures? 

Embarking on a walk of faith.

One of my favorites. If anyone remembers the movie or TV show from the late 70's "Logan's Run," you'll get this one.

I'm not an artist if I don't draw superheroes.

Happy Halloween!

In our second year of marriage, Marty went on a trip to Africa and was gone for nearly 3 weeks. This envelope shows how I felt when she got back.

And of course, Schroeder the piano player from the best comic strip ever produced, "Peanuts." 

     I'm glad my kids will inherit these cards someday. They'll get to read all about their parents' relationship and romance and hopefully it will be an example to them, in some small way. And to Marty's former co-worker, wherever she is and whoever she was... it lasted.   

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Three Weeks Early and One Day Late

     Eight December's ago, Marty and I were awaiting the arrival of our first child. The day after Christmas we were lying in bed, just waking up. Our baby girl would be here in 3 weeks! We were so looking forward to meeting her. I began to sing to Marty's tummy as I had many times before, "Be My Baby," and then followed it up with "I'm Coming Out," which I would sing when I wanted her on the outside. Much to our surprise, she obeyed that morning. On December 26, 2002, three weeks early, our baby girl Julia was born, and a love switch I didn't know I had inside me was flipped on!
     The first time I left her in the nursery at the hospital the day she was born, I just cried. I looked at her through the thick glass and felt the separation. She was only hours old, but leaving her already felt like she was going off to college or I was giving her away at her wedding. I didn't want to go. I had only met her that day, but it hurt to walk away from her.
     For her eighth birthday we suggested she have a slumber party. She could invite three guests (all we can handle for an overnighter at this point), and she invited her best friend from pre-school, her best friend from Kindergarten and a girl in her current class that she has grown close to. Julia is a great friend maker and keeper. Marty bought some make-up for them to get a light makeover for the evening, then we'll take them to dinner and the 8 year old girls will sit at their own table, order whatever they want, laugh and giggle over 2nd grade stuff, come back and watch a movie and sleep in the living room.
     I have never seen Julia so excited. She cannot stop talking about her party and planning. She has made lists of things they can do. She's asked if any of the girls get a little nervous about sleeping in the living room, can they transfer to her bedroom. She has graciously included her little sister in her birthday party plans, and she has expressed adequately that she cannot wait for her slumber party.
     I love seeing her so happy. I love her. She is an exceptional kid, as all my children are. I can't believe our baby girl is growing up so quickly. For some reason, this slumber party is making her seem so grown up. And soon, I will be waving to her as she drives away, car packed, college bound, and then waving to her her as she drives away with the man I've entrusted her to. God help me.
     So I'm remembering a December from 8 years ago when our first born child became the best Christmas present we ever received, three weeks early and one day late.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Mid-December Ramblings

     I'm supposed to be studying, but the house is too quiet. There's just something about that moment... you put the kids down, you still hear them rustling in their rooms, talking, singing, but eventually... quiet. Peace has settled over the house. The wife is gone for the evening, my text book is calling, but I'm ignoring it. Got the fire log burning, looking at the stockings hanging on the mantle. Four of the five of them were made by my mom. Marty's was made by her grandma. A few years ago she wanted to buy matching stockings for the whole family, but I refused, at least for mine. Those two pieces of felt sewn together have been the makings of the only stocking I've ever known and all I care to know. Mom wrote "God Bless You" at the top in felt tip marker. My siblings have the exact same style. Wonder if their's are hanging...

     Just spent a couple hours downloading free Christmas music from Amazon. Found some pretty cool tunes from Sixpence, Michael McDonald, and some unknowns (Little and Ashley, anyone?), but still cool, and FREE! I have 560 songs in my Christmas playlist on my iPod. Always looking for new, original Christmas music (we don't need another version of "Oh, Holy Night," or "Christmastime is Here," do we now?). Currently listening to Annie Lennox's latest holiday album. The voice of Eurythmics singing sacred carols... what a paradox.

     I'm staring at the tree, looking at the ornaments and reliving the memories attached to some of them. Got that one when I lived with Vito in an apartment in Cupertino, '94: My first "on my own" ornament. Mickey and Minnie ice skating was acquired on Pier 39, engaged to an incredible woman, couldn't wait to get married. And I'm not gonna lie, I have a crush on our tree topper. She's the most beautiful angel I've ever seen and she has perched there for the last 13 years. The kids decorated the lower half of the tree. Construction paper, baby's first Christmas, baked dough crafts, it's a mess down there, but it's endearing.

     I told Ella we may not have many presents this year. She said, "It doesn't matter if we have a lot or none at all." Good answer. Great attitude. We'll make a lot of memories this December. We're going to hit a pageant, stroll through Bethlehem A.D., there's always Christmas in the Park downtown. I realized a long tome ago that the best gift I can give my kids is fond memories.  I'm always trying to wrap those things up in bows and leave them for them. December 2010 won't be any different.

Merry Christmas.



Sunday, December 5, 2010

Don't Make Me Minister

There's a video going around of a group of people who are in a food court, and one by one, they start singing Handel's Hallelujah chorus until they are all in full harmony and counterpoint. It brought tears to my eyes for the name of my Lord was being sung in great chorus in a public setting, and so beautifully. And the effort was appreciated by those who were lucky enough to be shopping in the mall that day. It reminded me of an opportunity I had but my attitude had me in danger of missing out on something.
     When I was in college, I travelled with a singing group. In May we would go on a three week tour hitting churches up and down the western side of our Untied States. In the middle of touring, we found ourselves on a country highway in the middle of nowhere. We found a tiny diner on the side of the road and pulled over for lunch. It was customary for us to ask the manager of whatever eating establishment we were patronizing if we could sing our a cappella number for them. But this day, I just flat out did not want to do it. It was Saturday, our day off. We sang Sunday through Friday. My voice was tired. I was tired. Don't make me go in there and do what we did all week. I need a break!
     I walked in the diner, bad attitude and all, and noticed the owner of the place. She was asked if we could sing for the "crowd" and her expression said, "Why?" But she relented even though it was obvious she wasn't into it (just like me). We sang our number. We harmonized, we crescendoed and de-crescendoed, we did what we did every night and received a nice round of applause from the 6 customers who were there. As the applause came to a stop, there was one person still clapping, the owner. I'm not sure she was aware that everybody else had stopped, but she kept on. Then I noticed tears running down her careworn face. It was quite the contrast to her "what's the point" attitude she had when we asked her if we could sing. Immediately my attitude changed because this soul was touched, moved to tears. Something happened inside of her and she was blessed, ministered to, and received several hugs from our troupe as we walked out the door.
      I realized you never take a break from ministering.