I could work with college students the rest of my life.

I love doing what I do.
I love Monday nights, I love Sunday mornings, I love home group nights, I love Saturdays at Forsyth Park.
I love having our pantry raided by hungry college students.
I love seeing young adults make their own decisions.
I love Wii Parties.
I love seeing faith lead to action.

I have learned, lately, that I love being where I am supposed to be. I love being WHO I am supposed to be.
For much of my adult life, I was neither.

As of today, September 1, being where I am supposed to be will change. I am no longer the College Pastor at Bible Baptist Church.

I am now the "Student Pastor." I will work with Middle and High School students.
I feel a bit like Jessie Spano on that Saved By The Bell episode (minus the sleeping pills):
"I'm so excited
I'm so excited
I'm so.....scared!"

Ok, I am really not scared. Ministry, to me is not a series of stepping stones leading to some ultimate goal. It is not about filling my resume for future jobs. Ministry is about the present, the here and now.

Meredith and I do not totally understand what God is up to, but we rarely do, and it rarely helps to know it. We just know we can trust Him. After all, over 4 years ago, I moved to Savannah to teach math, physics and Bible and coach volleyball and baseball. That did not make sense, necessarily, but those two years have started to make a pretty important piece of the puzzle of my life.

College students and young adults: we are so thankful that God allowed us to serve you for over 3 years. We are blown away at what He has done in us because of you all. We are so stoked to see what God does through Travis' leadership. Thank you for trusting us and for allowing God to work in you.

High School and Middle School students: we are so excited for this opportunity. We look forward to learning from you and being changed by God through you. Please trust that we will continually follow what God lays before us and we ask that you follow us and journey alongside us. We are in this together.




May 13, 2009

7:00 PM

My world changed.

"It doesn't matter, just as long as he is healthy."

Since we announced to our world that Meredith was pregnant with our first child last fall, we got asked the question, "Do you want a boy or a girl?" Almost as a reaction, our response for a short while was, "It doesn't matter, just as long as he is healthy."
It was a natural response.
We actually meant it.

But not too long after beind inundated with that question, I remembered one of my best friend's in the world, Paul Huneycutt. He and I roomed together with 2 other guys in college. Those three guys shaped my life, my perspectives, my heart as much as anyone in this world.

Paul was the kind of guy who would do anything to encourage you...even if you were the one who discouraged him.

The week before Paul's wedding, I literally hit him with his own car breaking his leg in a couple of places and putting him in a full-leg cast for his wedding day (and his wedding night). My stomach is in knots even now thinking about that moment.

Paul forgave me.
More than that, he restored me.
He didn't just accept my apology, he told me there must be some greater purpose for it happening.
Then he hobbled his way down the aisle, and said "I do" while sitting on a stool...

Not too long after that, Paul and his wife Lorie found out they were going to be parents.

Not too long after that, Lorie went into labor much too early and gave birth to a beautiful, tiny baby girl named Rylie. Rylie was treated for weeks at the hospital and Paul and Lorie were told she had a complication that would keep her in a wheel chair. She has cerebral palsy.

I remember visiting them in the hospital, with tears in my eyes watching Paul let little Rylie wrap her teeny tiny hands half-way around his pinky. I remember begging God for Rylie to make it.

I remember being amazed with Paul as he said:
"There has to be some greater purpose for this happening."

Paul and Lorie live in Wyoming where Paul is a youth pastor. Rylie is one of the greatest joys in Paul's life. You should see his face light up when he talks about her. When he talks of how she has changed him and made him a better person, a better father, a better husband, a better friend, a better Paul.

I thought of Paul and I realized that I really wanted Colten to be healthy...but if there was something that could only be accomplished through him being "unhealthy" I wanted that more.

The night before Meredith and I went to the hospital for her to be induced, we prayed that God would allow us to be changed by Colten, that He would do whatever He needed to do to change lives, regardless of our comfort. We prayed that God would use Colten to teach and change us first, so that we could be used to do the same for others.

At 7:00 PM on Wednesday, May 13, 2009 Colten James Gardner was born.
We are so thankful and humbled.

But our prayers haven't changed....because Paul, Lorie and Rylie changed them already.



Apparently Easter is upon us.

Funny how this MASSIVE celebration can just sneak up on you. We have grown pretty lazy when it comes to Easter. Christmas is easy to look forward to and to celebrate, not to mention the fact that we don't have to promote Christmas at all, every department store and mall already does it for us. Well, we complain about how they do it, but we certainly aren't upset when people come to our Christmas Eve services, right? We do Advent services and in many cases dedicate a whole month to prepare for Christmas.

Easter, though...oh, Easter. We casually wake up one morning to realize that Easter is upon us and we have done little to prepare. It is not all our fault, though. The Easter section in Target is much smaller than the displays they use for Christmas. Not to mention the fact that it is crammed in the back corner and there is no Easter music being played over the sound system. Oh, how different it would be if we could somehow create a catchy jingle with the words of Amazing Grace. Then we could be in the "Easter Spirit!"

And don't even get us started about the mall! No Easter decorations except that creepy rabbit? The one that makes all the kids scream? Sure, white linen dresses and gray suits go on sale a week before Easter Sunday, but how are we to notice without the music and the radio contests? And what about the lack of TV commercials? Like the Cadbury bunny and Reese's peanut butter eggs are enough? How do they expect us to anticipate Easter without commercials about baskets and dyed eggs and pink ties!?

Again, we have become quite lazy. We no longer anticipate Easter because we no longer know how to. Without extreme marketing and catchy jingles, we have lost our ability to recognize significance in anything. Somehow, the pursuit of relevance has taken the place of our pursuit for God. So much so that we only pursue what others tell us to pursue. If we see enough of it on TV, or hear enough of it on the radio, it becomes important...

worth anticipating.

The old Christian practice of Lent has been mocked by many in recent times. I wonder if they were actually on to something.

40 full days of anticipation.
40 days of remembering.
40 days of meaning.
40 days of longning.

We have become lazy. May that never be said of us again.

May we value that which is important. May we anticiapte the Empty Tomb.



Success is abstract.
It is relative.
It is conditional.

For the entertainment business, success is largely based on sheer numbers.
How many records are sold.
How many tickets are sold.
How many viewers on any given night.

Often, true entertainment success comes in the for of returnees.
The number of people who watch the show weekly.
The number of people who come back when the band tours again.
The number of people who purchase the 2nd or 3rd album.

In turn, the corporations and companies in charge do what it takes to get more people to buy into what they are doing. In order to be successful as an entertainer, one must "give the people what they want." One must "keep them coming back for more."

Over time, the passion and love for the art (music, acting, playing) or the sport gives way to the passion for more followers. Slowly, the focus moves from love and passion to "success." Before you know it, there are new artists, new performers, new entertainers. The difference is that these newcomers have skipped the passion for the art or sport and are solely focused on the "success"
the money
the fame
the accolades
the recognition.

Many churches have become institutions for entertainment.
The pastors probably started the church based on on deep love for Jesus and to see the Kingdom come. But, over time, it became less about the message of hope and love and Jesus and more about how many, how many, how many...

how many came to church?
how many came to small group or sunday school?
how many gave financially?
how many brought friends?

Naturally, we recognize that to get people to come, you need to give them what they want. That is how N-Sync did it. That is how the Super Bowl does it. That is how American Idol does it. That is how Stephen Spielberg does it.

So, churches focus on what the people want. Because to be successful, you have to meet their wants. And if you have to choose, opt for what makes the most people happy. Opt for the what will please the most people.

So, we have loud music (because that is what the larger demographic wants)...
we have shorter messages (because that is what they asked for)...
we use a lot of video clips (because they have to be entertained)...
Each week becomes less and less about the message and more about the method.

Then we realize we have no time or resources to develop and train new followers of Jesus. We have even fewer resources to help our community who is in need.

We spent it all (time, money, people) on making sure we pleased everyone with our show.
Because after all...we have to get them in the doors, right?
I mean, Jesus used miracles and feedings to get them to follow Him, right?
(Which makes perfect sense why Jesus would end many miracles by saying "Don't tell anyone about this.")

Please do not misunderstand me. The church should lead the way in excellence. If we are not going to do it well, we are not doing it to the glory of God and we are better off not doing it.
I love good music. I think it should be in the church. The church should lead the way in the arts.
I love video clips. Many of them aid in the understanding and application of truth.

It breaks my heart to see the church sell out just so they can have sell-outs and standing room only.
It breaks my heart to see churches work so hard to verbally share the message of salvation, only to have nothing place to help someone walk through life with the gift.
It breaks my heart to see so many churches entertaining rather than equipping and encouraging.



Here are some things I have been thinking about recently...

+ I wish I would have paid more attention in college.

+ Stepping stones never help the present.

+ I miss playing baseball...but my shoulder doesn't.

+ There is a human growing inside of Meredith's stomach...sometimes that is weird.

+ Churches should be less focused on church and more on Jesus.

+ I never want comfort to interfere with an abundant life.

+ I am really excited to be a dad.

+ Meredith is too good for me.

+ I miss my friends.

+ I need to be challenged...continually.

+ Tim Tebow.

+ There is nothing quite like peace.

+ Love must be the beginning and the end of all things.

+What are you learning?+



there are people who have always motivated and challenged me.
some have done so athletically, others socially, many scholastically...but few have challenged me holistically.

one of the few is a friend of mine named james rowell.

do yourself a favor and read everything he has here.


old becomes new.

it is a fascinating thing when what was once old and forgotten is found and made new. for some, it is exhilarating...the thrill of the discovery and the hope from its restoration.

i am exhilarated.

sometimes, it takes the ancient history of the past to make you new again.
i guess what i am learning is that being "new" is not necessarily a method of reinvention, but rather a re-discovery of what was old.

old, simple truths.
old, simple memories.
old, simple observations.
old, simple context...somehow realized in the new, chaotic life.