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The Wall

I believe that I had planned on doing another blog post in August. With all the craziness of July/August with Wendy’s health, kids back to school, Wendy starting her new job, etc. I kinda forgot about the blog. But by the time I remembered in September, I felt a strange new obstacle: fear.

Fear of what may (or might not) come. Fear of not knowing what to say. Fear related to not knowing what to do. I hit this wall that I couldn’t explain where it came from, or how to get around/through it. So I just pretended the Wall wasn’t there for a while. But of course, the ol’ “head-in-the-sand” model is not only a poor practice for accomplishing anything, but it breeds other nasty little hangers-on: guilt, complacency, discontent, etc…

About a week ago, I attended a workshop called “Never Do Fundraising Again”. The basic premise was about how if you do partner development right the first time, you won’t have to “start over” multiple times throughout your ministry life. Obviously, being a rookie to this self-supporting ministry world, I haven’t been concerned about what things look like years from now…my eyes have been a little nearer to my feet, only looking at a week or a month ahead.

Without going into a full report of what I learned there, the big takeaways are:

  1. A handful of practical, actionable steps that don’t actually sound too difficult
  2. Removal of the Fear
  3. Inspiration to “Just do it” (Sorry, Nike™)


So I’m doing a blog post, to kick off the shackles a bit, and to start doing what I said I’d do: sharing with my MVP’s (Ministry Vision Partners) what’s going on with EMI, and what’s going on with the Neals.

With each post, it is my hope & desire to share three things:

  1. A brief update or story about our Neal Family and/or EMI Family
  2. A photo (or link to photos/stories) about EMI ministry impact
  3. A scripture that I’ve read recently

So for today…I’ve shared above a glimpse into where my head & heart have been in trying to get things moving (at least internally). Here is a link to a story from InsideEMI shared recently about how one young man’s life was changed by a ministry that EMI partnered with:

Inside EMI: David’s Story


Psalm 55:22

“Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.”


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It seems so odd that it has taken this long to formally start the support-raising process, but this is a whole new reality for us, and I think we’re starting to adjust. If you are seeing this blog, most likely it is because you saw the link on a support letter you recently received. So first of all, THANK YOU! You obviously read through the whole thing to the bottom in order to find the link, and took the time and effort to come here and learn more. That means so much!

Now, to talk a little more about what we mean by “support-raising”. That is the phrase that I think most people are familiar with in the context of missions and such. At EMI, we operate under the philosophy that we aren’t just asking for money. We are partaking in an endeavor with the Lord to build and grow His Kingdom, and we are excited and passionate about this – to the point of wanting to invite others to partner with us in this ministry. Regardless of whether or not people can give financially, I would not want to cheat anyone out of the opportunity to respond to God’s leading to partner with EMI in the mission of helping meet the needs of His children around the world.

As I said in the letter, we are asking God to call MVP’s — Ministry Vision Partners — who will seek God in how He would like you to respond.

The real stretch for me personally in this process has been the wrestling over the list of names I’m looking at right now. I’ve had some kind of connection – often a close, valued friendship – with just about everyone on my list. However, due to life changes (graduating from college, marriage, kids, moving out of state, etc.), I am not as connected to many as I once was. There is the bitter-sweet pang of nostalgia and from time-to-time I mourn the loss of those special connections. But it’s okay. I know that’s a normal part of life.

Frankly, some names were on the list, then off, then on again…and finally I decided that if I was that unsure of whether or not I should contact someone, I should just iinclude them, since obviously I don’t know the answers to the inner dialogue of my “What if…?” questions. I’ll just trust that God knows and let go…it’s not in my hands.

For most everyone that knows Wendy and I, EMI may be quite unheard-of, so I want to introduce stories of what God is doing through EMI now and then. This post has already gotten longer than I wanted though, so I’ll save EMI stories for the next post! 🙂

–God will make this happen, for He who calls you is faithful
(Thessalonians 5:24)

(EMI Architects & Engineers working with local ministry)

(EMI Architects & Engineers working with local ministry)

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Mr. All-or-Nothing

I think that’s it. That’s a core issue for me. I am utterly unsatisfied with average; with the world around me, and within myself.

Go running a couple times a week, just for general well-being? Not good enough! PR every time and do longer and harder races!

Take a little rest time on a Saturday? Nope….12 hours in a row of video games, movies, vegging ALL DAY.

Mmmm…1 slice of pizza? That won’t break the calorie bank. NO!! EAT ALL THE PIZZA!!

Oh, foot hurting a bit? Stay off it for a week, then ease back in a little at a time. NOPE! I want to run my 6 miles today or I quit for a month!!

I know it’s not exactly “rational” thinking. But I think it’s a fairly frequent way that my mind works. And this can be seen across all facets of my life, not just health/fitness. I’m like this sometimes in my relationships with friends/family; in the way I approach worship & relationship with God; in the way I am overwhelmed or bored at work; from not reading any books for months to reading several in a short amount of time; etc…

I don’t yet have an action plan to do anything about this going forward. I think this is just taking stock of reality and being honest and aware of myself. If you know me at all, please chime in and vote if you think this is true of me, or if you think it’s true of you or in general.

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December 20:  A good 3.5 mile run
December 21:  Rest day
December 22:  Okay, gonna run tonight…oh dang, forgot about worship band practice (6:00 – 9:30) oh well, Christmas break starts tomorrow!
December 23:  Ahhh….first day of no work. Might be able to get a good run in today, since I missed yesterday. (Time goes by…watch movies with kids, extra sleep…no run)
December 24:  Christmas Eve! I’ve got to be at church from about 2:00 – 7:00, so I need a morning run. (3+ hours making/eating breakfast, last minute errands….no run)
December 25:  Family time, church time, family time….no run
December 26:  UVC run club is meeting tonight, right? I haven’t been to it in like 2 months! But this is my last day of vacation! I have to watch these movies on Netflix instant play before they expire! I’m tired…..blah blah blah…..waffling back and forth, I go to the bedroom a couple of times and almost change……then somehow the thought of “I’ll be glad I ran after it’s done” takes hold. Boom. 4 miles.

It’s interesting/weird/frustrating/typical how often this pattern happens to me. But there are a few things I’ve learned about myself and exercising:

  1. I suck at sticking to a plan when I’m not in my “routine” (weekends, holidays, etc.)
  2. I take a day off, planning to make up for it with “X”….that usually doesn’t work out
  3. Clicking “Next Episode” on Netflix is waaaay too easy.
  4. I like the quote I’ve heard elsewhere: “You’ll never regret going for a run, but you will regret not going.” So true.

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Pushing Harder

I had some thoughts I wanted to share that wouldn’t fit in a G+/FB post, sooooo….

Today has been good. Since I’m sure many were wondering where my weekly CardioTrainer run post was…..I did the Nielson Challenge with Chris again, but experimented with doing so without my phone. It felt odd not having it, but they had a clock. My time was when I crossed the finish line was 19:59 on the clock, but I just checked the website, and it has me down at 19:43. Hmmm….Either way, it’s better than last last month, when I did it in 21:55.

At any rate, it was hard. It was chilly and windy. Half of the course we had a tail wind, the other half a head wind. And running into the head wind was hard. I’ve had plenty of longer runs than the NC 2 miles, but 2 miles is long enough for the mental games to mess with me. Sometimes it feels like every other step is a battle to keep going. My legs hurt. My lungs hurt. I’m tired. If I push too hard too soon I’ll run out of gas before the end. Just a sample of what thoughts I have to push through. Chris had trouble too, and afterwards we were both wheezing and coughing and groaning.

Why? Why do we do this to ourselves. I still revel in the irony that up until last year I mocked running with derision, and now it’s becoming a passion…maybe even an addiction.

I’m pushing myself. And others around me help push me too. Knowing that my time last month was 21:55, I was hoping to get under 21:00….knocking a minute or so off my time. Chris said I’d do it closer to 19:00. “Yeah right,” I laughed. That was well beyond the vision of what I thought was possible. But I broke 20:00, which meant I pushed myself beyond what I thought I was capable. There’s more intrinsic value in this realization than there is value in the physical health benefits.

Spiritually, I feel like I’ve been leaning in more too. Not to draw too obvious of a parallel between the running and my journey with God, but I’m intrigued in following the thought of what it would be like to rely on Christ more, pray with more faith, and experience God in ways beyond what I think I am capable. When I start getting thoughts like, It’s too hard. It’s too risky. This might hurt. MWhat if my faith is too weak and I don’t believe God can do X.

Push through. Trust that God will sustain you beyond what you think you are capable of.

Eph. 3:20-21
20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

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Words Go Here….

I wish I could say something right now. But I’m too tired.

I’m half-way through my 2-week-long “Hell week”. I’ve got a huge annual inspection thing on Thursday, so I’ve burning the candle at both ends right now.

Hopefully by next week I will blah blah blahh…..

Too tired to even bother finishing that thought.

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Who Needs Sleep?

That title is an homage by the song of the same name, by one of my favorite bands ever, BNL (Barenaked Ladies). The funny (not the ha-ha kind) thing is, is that I have a friend who had a few nights in a row of waking up in the middle of the night like this, and I wondered why and what that must have been like for him as he described it on his blog – and now I get to experience it.

I don’t feel any physical affects really, other than a mild headache, but I definitely feel like I could not go to sleep right now if I tried. And this is pretty darn unusual for me, as I am a fairly heavy sleeper. Wendy often will ask if I know what happened in the night (kid-drama related, usually) and I rarely do.

Since it is so unusual, my next thought is that there must be a reason for it, right? So I ask God if there’s a reason He woke me? Is there someone in urgent need of prayer right now? Is there something I should have done yesterday that you’re getting me up to do now? Not sure I’ve heard an answer yet, but I decide to write this blog update and see what happens.

While I’m here, I can maybe start to tell you a little about what happened on retreat. I’m going to do a nut-and-bolts overview in this post, in an attempt to break up the whole retreat recap into bite-size, readable chunks. This is pretty general, so feel free to gloss over. I’ll get into personal specifics in my next post.

We stayed at a place called Horn Creek. Very nice accommodations, great food, amazing rec center, etc.

The format for the retreat is this: Friday we arrive between 5-7 and get settled in. There’s no dinner, but there are “heavy snacks.” Then some worship, then one guy talks – usually testimony type stuff. Then rec time from 9-12. I know that sounds late for physical activity, but for 55 dudes, it’s a great ice-breaker since we’re meeting guys for the first time, and a great de-compressor, as it helps us all relax and have a little fun after the work week.

Saturday I start with a little walk in the woods and devotions before breakfast. Then we have a morning worship session, and then break out into our 3 “teams”. There are 3 different 45-minute speakers in different places. So each team goes to one, then we rotate until we’ve heard all 3. Then lunch, then afternoon activity. This year it was a combination of Amazing Race-ish scavenger hunt/trivia game/using a compass type activity. It was really fun, but exhausting to basically be speed-hiking all over the grounds for a couple hours. After a freshen up time and dinner, we have evening worship, followed by what I call “open mic” time, which is an opportunity for any guy to share what’s going on with him.

Then Sunday is devos, breakfast, worship, then the “God Stroll” – a semi-structured time alone with God. Lastly we have communion – which for most of us is the highlight of the weekend. The way we do it is that there are several loaves of bread and little communion cups of grape juice. The idea is to take a piece of bread and juice to a guy that you’ve seen grow over the weekend, or they’ve ministered to you somehow, or you need to confess something and ask for forgiveness, or something like that.

Usually that’s it and we’re done by 11-ish and get lunch on the way home, but this year they actually had lunch for us too, which was cool. I was home by 4:00 and spent the next 3 hours or so kind of non-stop talking to Wendy about it, through kid-managing, through dinner, etc.

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