I used to love reading when I was younger…

…but after Street Fighter 2 came out as a video game, my love for reading turned into a love for arcade games.  Haha!

Anyhow, since being at the Children’s Pastors’ Conference in SD a few weeks ago, I got the itch to read again.  It’s been so helpful to me on so many levels.  It seriously feels like a lifestyle change.  Every night, I’ve spent some time reading so I can focus on growing as a leader, and as a man after Christ’s own heart.

At last year’s CPC, Britt Merrick spoke – and I just had to pick up his then-most recent book, Big God.  He was so engaging as a speaker, so I knew I could connect with his writing – and I was certainly correct in assuming that.

Here’s a short video about his testimony:

Big God focuses on the “Hall of Faith” (Hebrews 11: 1-40).  Britt’s intent is to encourage us to mature in our faith by “understanding the lives of people of faith from Scripture” (p. 34).  With that in mind, he takes the reader the through the accounts of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Rahab, David, and others – and exposes the extent of their faith (and the results thereof).  It’s about ordinary folks like you and I…people who’ve made mistakes…who do amazing things for God.

Some memorable quotes:

“Waiting on God never means paralysis…When we wait on God, we are to be engaged with God.” (p. 137)  God rewards active faith, and responds to our obedience.  Waiting on God doesn’t mean we simply sit and do nothing.  It’s about pursuing Him.

“The enemy designs temptation for our failure, but God designs testing for our growth.”  (p. 152).  In order for our faith to grow in strength, it must be exercised…just like a muscle does.  When we succumb to temptation, we are expressing a lack of trust in God’s purpose for our lives.

“We discover God’s plan – and realize that it’s better [than our plans] – when we choose to live it.  Be faithful in the little things that God calls you to do.  You’ll find that he who is faithful with little will be entrusted with more.” (drawn from Luke 6:10 – p. 165).  I have some pretty big hopes for my life/future.  Sometimes, those hopes cloud my ability to focus what God has in store in the present.

God might just put His hand on that which you love a lot to make sure that you love Him the most.  What is it that you need to offer up by faith?”  (on Abraham and Isaac, p.170).  This really made me think about where God truly is in the order of my life.  Is He the most important thing in my life?  Do I love Him more than my relationships?  My passions?  I can certainlysay that he is…but I have to say that my priorities don’t reflect that statement very well.

Whenever God blesses us, there is an expectation from Him that we will then, in turn, bless others.  He doesn’t bless you just for you.  You’re a part of that equation, but you’re not the totality.” (p. 222)  Imagine if the church truly adopted this mindset: blessing others as a result of the blessings of God!

Thanks for a great read, Britt!


Eleven Things…

Posted: March 14, 2012 in Uncategorized

I got tagged by my friend, Amanda, in this fun little “get to know you” game that’s making its way around the blogosphere.

{By the way:  If you’re a mom of young ones, if you like to cook, if you want to learn how to get into couponing, if you want to learn how to be crafty and creative, or if you just want to be a better person…click on her name and go to her blog}

Anyhow, I’m relatively new to blogging (well…except for the Xanga I used to have back in the day.  Yikes!), and I thought I’d just share a few things about myself, and get to know others a bit better!  Here’s how it goes down:

1. Post the rules
2. Post a photo of yourself & 11 random things.
3. Answer the questions set for you in the original post.
4. Create 11 new questions and tag people to answer them.
5. Go to their blog/twitter/facebook and tell them that you’ve tagged them.

11 facts:

1.  I am an exact mix of my parents’ personalities.  I can be very outgoing (dad), and very reserved (mom).

2.  I burnt the roof of my mouth from eating a hot slice of pizza yesterday.  Hurts to eat anything salty or anything that’s of high acidity.

3.  If I was not a children’s pastor, I would want to be a chef.

4.  I sneeze in threes.

5.  My two main love languages are words of affirmation and physical touch.

6.  I grind my teeth when I sleep.

7.  I just bought my first DSLR camera about a month ago, but I still haven’t learned how to use it!

8.  I keep my nativity scene up all year long.

9.  Morning routine = Wake up, workout, breakfast, devotional/prayer, brush teeth/shower, head to work.

10.  I would love to take a tour around the U.S. and visit every ballpark…..OR, go on some sort of food tour.

11.  When I was in pre-school, I bit a child in the face because he wouldn’t stop poking me in the back after I told him to stop.  And yes.  I broke skin…sucka!

Amanda’s Questions:

1. Have you ever been to Disneyland? If so, what is your favorite thing to do there? If not, do you plan on going in the near future?  Yes!  My two favorite rides are Toy Story Mania (California Adventure), and Indiana Jones.
2. Ocean or Mountains?  That’s a hard one.  I’d have to say ocean.  There’s just something about seeing the vastness of it.  Then, on top of that – there’s this completely different world underneath the surface of it, and it really does amaze me how that works.
3. A memory from your childhood.  I remember the day we picked up my very first dog, Lester.  We picked him up at what seemed like some junk yard or something, but I mostly remember bringing him home, and being so happy to have one.
4. Your favorite piece of furniture in your home.  Probably my bed!
5. A picture that you treasure.  This is a tough one – so I just picked one that always makes me smile!  It’s a picture of the 2011 VBA Song Crew.  This picture pretty much sums up their various personalities 🙂

6. An evening with no plans would be spent:  Going somewhere to eat 🙂
7. Camp fire or fireplace? Why?  Campfire – probably because I grew up with a fireplace, but didn’t really get to do the campfire thing very often.  Now, I really enjoy campfires…and making smores…with soft chocolate chip cookies instead of graham crackers (mmm hmmmm chiiiiiiiild)…
8. Something you wish you could buy at half price (either a one time purchase or something you have to buy often).  I’m not sure….maybe an iPad?  I don’t really need it…but I suppose it would be nice 🙂
9. You get to go back to high school and re-live one day. What day would it be?  Probably the day I won Tiger of the Year.  It was a total surprise.  I just remember how happy my parents were – especially during such a crazy time for the three of us.
10. You’re at your favorite restaurant. What do you order?  Bone-in Ribeye & Chipotle Mac & Cheese (Fleming’s), Kung Pao San Yang (Tsing Tao), Honey Walnut Shrimp (P.F. Chang’s), Rice, Lumpia, Menudo, and Pancit (Zeny’s), Crab Cake Po’Boy & Jalapeno Chips (Daisy Rey’s), Henny Penny Panini & Salt ‘n Pepper Chips (Cafe Connection), Burrito w/Carnitas, Barbacoa, Fajita Veggies, & Chips/Guac (Chipotle), Shrimp Burrito (Figaro’s), Tri-Tip Sandwich & Fries (Doghouse Grill)….the list really just keeps on going.   Haha!

11. Mama always said:  “Don’t drag your feet.”  Haha!  I used to do that when I was a kid – and it drove her nuts!


My Questions (Note:  if you want to answer these as a comment, go for it):

1.  Is there a story behind the name you were given?

2.  If you were to sum up your day with a movie title, what would it be?

3.  What’s your favorite part of your job (at-home or in an establishment)?

4.  What’s one of your pet peeves?

5.  Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

6.  Would you rather have your flight delayed 8 hours, or lose your luggage?

7.  Are you a morning person, or a night person?

8.  How would you describe your humor?

9.  When you are sick, what do you do to get better?

10.  If you could go anywhere for 10 days – and money wasn’t an issue – where would you go, and what would you do?

11.  What are 3 things you’re going to do this week to bring some else some joy?

Since July of 2009, I have probably gone to church maybe 8-10 times.

Some of you might be saying right now:  “How can that be possible, when you’re a Children’s Pastor?”  Well…

When I came on board as the Children’s Pastor at SVCC in July of 2009, I was determined to really get to know my ministry.  I began by running both services on Sunday so that I could focus on some things.  In my mind, there were some great advantages to doing this:

  • I got to know the kids and their parents.  I saw each and every person that came to that check-in kiosk, and had personal interaction with them.
  • I could “control” consistency of the material being taught.  There was no mystery as to whether or not both services got the main Bible points.
  • I was able to observe how my volunteers were doing in all of the different areas (not just Elementary – but also in the Pre-K room, and the Nursery).
  • If there was a concern/issue, I could be right there to address it – and take the fall instead of any of my volunteers.

Just like anything else, there were also some disadvantages to this:

  • By doing so much, I was doing several things  ‘ok’ instead of doing a few things with excellence.
  • I wasn’t being open to what God had in store for other people who could do a better job at certain areas of our ministry.
  • And here it is:  I WASN’T GOING TO CHURCH. *le gasp*

By doing this, I was missing out on being a part of our faith community.  I wasn’t in fellowship with the people of our church as I had been before.  I was missing out on the messages.  I would listen to our church’s online messages, but I’ll admit – I didn’t always get to that. I would rationalize by saying “I don’t want to burden someone else with running our children’s ministry, just so I could go to church.”

Over time, God really began to convict me.  I came to the point to where God had me realize a few things:

1)  My personal walk with God must come first.  Initially, I thought this to be a little selfish to think.  I thought to myself: “I’m a pastor – I’m supposed to think of others’ spiritual needs before my own.  I need to build other people up in their faith.”  The fact is, though, that I can only go so far with that – when I am not fully seeking God myself.  Part of growing close to God involves being in fellowship with other believers, as is mentioned in Acts 2: 42-47.

2)  I’m coddling my volunteers. One of my best friends in the entire universe, Jeff Loven, once told me: “You know your ministry is healthy when it can run without you.”  Our volunteers can definitely run services without me – but my desire is to see them thrive as leaders, whether I am there or not!  I used to worry if I had to leave town and have my leaders run service without me there.  Not that I doubted them – I just didn’t want them to feel burdened with all the details as they served.  How dare I stifle their growth as leaders?!  It’s like parenting:  If a parent did everything for their child, then the child will most likely have some difficulty being self-sufficient.  I need to give my leaders opportunity to grow as they serve.

3) I can do more by doing less.  I’m not that good.  There are others who can do things better than I ever could.  Each one of my volunteers is gifted in something – and if I were to really pay attention and highlight those gifts, then 1) they feel more valued as they serve, 2) the kids truly benefit from the leaders’ giftings, and 3) God gets the glory.  The fact is, by doing just about everything, I am more susceptible trusting in God less, because I am leaning on personal talent rather than on God’s Holy Spirit.  He needs to be the star, and we need to be in the supporting role with our God-given gifts.

With all of this in mind, I went to church today.  Last month, I asked a few key leaders to lead services once a month, and during the service they’re leading…I am worshiping “in the big church.”  I got to encounter God in a special way, I got to meet new people in our church, and a fellow co-laborer for God and his children had fun leading kids’ church today!

Gimme a break…

Posted: March 10, 2012 in Life

Today was a day of rest for me.

Last year, I decided that I’d take Fridays off from work to be able to just relax and collect myself before the busyness of the weekend could arrive.  While the intent of it was good, I was horribly inconsistent in terms of keeping my Sabbath.  Eventually, I found myself always back at the office on Friday – to the point to where I was working every day. Don’t get me wrong:  I love what I get to do!  However, if I am going to be at my best at work and in my relationships – I need to make sure that I rest.

So today, I decided to try again.  And here’s what I did:

  • Woke up, and did some exercising.  Zumba Fitness 2 on the Wii.  Don’t judge me!
  • Had a great devotional, and spent some time in prayer.
  • Had lunch with Chris Morshead at the Cafe Connection.  Great food, and really great conversation.
  • Watched The Lorax.  It was pretty good!  I’ve never read the book, so I’m not sure how it compares.
  • Did a bit of shopping.  Target.  Holler.
  • Did a bit of reading.  Big God (Britt Merrick).  Hoping to finish it by this next week.
  • Watched an Indoor Guard & Percussion show in Tulare.  Got to see some former students perform.  Great job to Haze, Kymbra, Jazmin, Alexis, and Thomas!

It was a real nice change of pace today.  I hope to stay more consistent this time around! 🙂

Hi. I’m New!

Posted: March 8, 2012 in Uncategorized

How often is it that you meet new people?

It’s a weekly occurrence for me – especially on the weekends at SVCC.  We get new kids just about every week, and it can be extremely intimidating for a kid to come into an already-established environment.

I like to be a part of the welcoming process when people come.  It’s always great to see the kids, see how their week’s been, hear what level they’ve accomplished on the latest video game, or meet their furry friend they’ve brought with them.  There’s also the fun of meeting new families.  A lot of the times, the kids are pretty shy when they come to church with us for the first time.  I’ve found myself following a pattern whenever a new friend visits us:

1)  Learn their name.  Try to say their name at least 3 times within the first minute of your conversation with them.  This helps to commit their name to memory.  When they come to service the next week, or if you run into them in the grocery store – and remember their name – the response is usually a good one!

2)  Introduce them to other kids.  Find out where they go to school, what grade they’re in, and what they’re hobbies they have.  This is helpful for me, as I try to find other kids who could befriend our guest.  You never know – you could be the catalyst behind a new, great friendship!

3)  Make eye contact with them throughout the service.  Make the connection with them during the service; affirm and acknowledge their presence.  Smiles and eye-contact can really go a long way.

4) Follow up.  I’m really trying to work on this one…but if you acquire their mailing information through your ministry’s registration form, send them a little note to say you enjoyed having them, and that you hope to see them again next weekend!  I remember how cool it was to get something in the mail.  I still do, in fact!  Even now – with all the awesomeness of electronic mail/media – there’s still something about getting a note/card/letter in the mailbox that makes you feel special!….Unless it’s a bill.  I could really do without those.

Think about a time where you felt welcomed by someone, and how you can use this in your new interactions with people.  Be a blessing to those you meet!

Waiting on God…

Posted: March 6, 2012 in Life

Read this segment from Britt Merrick’s book, Big God (p 137), tonight:

Waiting on God never means paralysis…when we wait on God, we are to be engaged with God…

Our faith is to be active, not passive.  That means we’re to study the Word of God – and seek the God of the Word.  We’re to be thoroughly engaged, worshiping, praying, asking and seeking.  We’ll find Jesus when we do these things.  When our prayer life increases and our Bible study increases and our worship life increases, we discover that it’s all about Jesus in the final analysis.  So everything else becomes peripheral and it gets easier to wait because we’re already working towards the goal, which is knowing Him!  Knowing and loving Jesus Christ is the goal of our existence.  And when He has us in a posture of waiting, if we refuse to be passive and seek and ask and press in through prayer and worship, we will find Him.  And in that moment, the soul is settled.  Abraham had to wait 25 years, but in the final analysis the Bible says that he was a friend of God.  The totality of his life was not summarized by the fact that he waited, but by the fact that he was a friend of the living God.  That’s what life is about.


Joyful Moments – March 4th

Posted: March 5, 2012 in Uncategorized

Today, I found joy in:

  • Teaching the elementary kids about how God has invited us to be a part of His Big Story.
  • Hearing about what these kids did this last week.
  • Celebrating birthdays as a community of kids and leaders.
  • Seeing younger leaders step up and lead a small group of 1st/2nd graders when we were in a pinch.
  • Praying with kids to receive Christ, and seeing the excitement they/their families have for that HUGE step.
  • Cooking/eating cuisine that I don’t often cook/eat.
  • Catching up with two friends that I hold so dear to my heart while eating dinner and watching a movie.
  • Holding the aforementioned couple’s 16-month old son in my arms, and playing with him.
  • Getting a text message from another dear friend, encouraging me to remember that I am “Amazing.”

Thank you, Jesus, for giving me Joy in so many ways today!

Yes, Man.

Posted: March 3, 2012 in Life

I was just at the Children’s Pastors’ Conference in San Diego, which is an amazing kidmin conference put on by the INCM.  I was attending a breakout session by Craig Jutila, entitled “How To Lead When Life Gets Busy.”  When I saw that this breakout was being offered, I just knew I had to check it out.

Craig said something very interesting during the breakout:  “Whenever you say yes, you are also saying no.”  Sounds counter-intuitive, yeah?  It does, until you think about it this way:

Right now, I am saying yes to writing this blog…which means I am saying no to sleep.

Craig’s complete quote was “Whenever you say yes, you are also saying no…to someone or something else.”

As I sat in his breakout session, I really began to think about how much of a “Yes Man” I really have become.  I’m a people-pleaser (check out this blog post from Ryan Frank, which addresses the dangers of people-pleasing in ministry).  I get asked to do a lot at times…and I will most likely say yes.  I’ll say yes because I’ve got the time, because I could make the time, because I want to help, because I don’t want to let folks down…the list really continues!

But I can’t help but think – by saying yes so often…what am I saying NO to?

Truth be told:  the busyness in my life is the direct result of my constant saying yes.  To a degree – even though the things I am saying yes to are good things – I am saying no to a lot of things – like spending time with God, spending time with family, building a relationship, or fulfilling what God’s will is for my life.

What’s the solution then?  For me, it’s to be prayerful in my decisions, and to pursue balance.

Posted: December 31, 2005 in Uncategorized

no more xanga….

thanks to all of my loyal readers! i’ll still be writing in my myspace (http://www.myspace.com/markutz )…holla

happy new year to y’all!


Posted: November 8, 2005 in Uncategorized

….my bullard seniors….my first batch of 4-year students….


….i dunno if i’m gonna be okay at championships….