Last night I crept into my 6 year old’s room and laid down next to her.  I could hear her deep breaths as she slept and feel the warmth of her next to me.  I began to cry for all of the parents in Connecticut who will never get the opportunity to do that again.

And I know that today, yet another face will appear on the screen of a young, angry person who committed the ultimate terror spree.  It seems like it is always a similar story: He enters a public place armed with a weapon and rage.  We wait to hear the fallout and guage the horror of his actions.  We ask the same questions, we get the same nonsensical answers.  We look into the faces of our children and try to imagine them living in a world filled with fear.  Some days the shooting spree is halfway across America and we attempt to pretend that would never happen where we live.  Some days it happens down the street.

As all of our hearts break over the two shootings this week in Oregon and Connecticut, we often ask ourselves how we can stop this.  Although we can never eliminate hatred in our fallen world, I do think we can make a difference.  I believe, even in the face of evil, that the love of Christ still changes things.  We will never erradicate all of the horror that free-will can create, but if we pour out love on the unlovable, the wounded, the lonely…we may save some.

So, what can we do?  It may be simple, but here’s where I think we start: Dive headfirst into the lives of children and teenagers.  Volunteer in children’s ministries, youth ministries, or outside organizations devoted to our young people.  Walk the streets of your neighborhoods and get to know the young people who live next door to you.  Look into the eyes of kids and teens and tell them they are LOVED, VALUED, and WORTHY.  We live in a world that is full of hurt, pain, and rejection.  Our voices, as Christians, have got to shout above the awful voices and BE the love of Christ.  And the best place to start is with “our” children.  Not just the ones you birthed, but all of them.

There will undoubtedly be an anti-gun debate that quickly errupts in the media, but I think the greater issue is that we have tried to create an America that is anti-God.  At this crossroads, it is quite evident that we must openly, loudly, and proudly proclaim Christ as the answer to this situation and our nation.  He is the HOPE of this world and right now, we need hope desperately.

Bottom line: We may grieve deeply, but we must act daily.  Fear is not an option.  Failure is not an option.  Forgetting is not an option.

We love you Clackamas and Connecticut.  We are praying.

For some reason, the most clicks I get on my blog are the posts I write about dating a pastor.  Who would have thought that so many people would be concerned about this particular topic?  For those of you who are indeed concerned about this, here’s some of my thoughts.

Rules for Dating a Pastor

1.  Get ready for the scrutiny.  Dear, sweet, innocent girl (or guy), Ministry will kill you.  If you don’t believe me, read the Bible.  Most people who devoted their lives to ministry ended up being murdered.  Now, you may not get physically killed in good ‘ole America, but you will get raked over the coals every now and again.  People won’t like you.  People won’t care about what you are doing if they think you should be doing something else.  People will tell you blatantly that they don’t approve of the very thing you feel like God told you to do.  And you won’t make it unless you are secure in who you are in Christ.  Get a backbone now because you’ll need it.

2.  You have to decide right now to Read More

Our small groups begin next week!  I am VERY excited to see each group begin to take shape.  We are in for a great semester of growing and getting to know some new people.  I wanted to highlight a few options that you might enjoy!

Young Adults

On Tuesday nights Rob and Lori Ball will be drinking coffee and talking about how to make sure your life is used at it’s maximum potential, what could be better?  If you are a senior in high school through mid-twenty somethings, this is going to be a lively group to be around!


Matt and Andrea Garner

I’m just really excited about the curriculum that the Garner’s chose.  It’s from Louie Giglio, one of my favorites, and he takes creativity to the max!  If you want to think about your life and your relationship with God from a different perspective, Louie delivers.  It’s a DON’T MISS THIS curriculum that we’ve never offered before.


Eli and Amber Ricondo

This group has some of my favorite people already signed up for it, so it’s bound to be a good group!  It’s about strengthening our families, too, so who doesn’t want that?  We all want to be the best moms, dads, wives, and husbands, so any tool to equip us for that is welcome!


Football with Dean Dawkins

Sometimes being spiritual simply boils down to doing life with other people who are on the journey with Jesus.  Don’t make it so hard.  Just sign up, eat snacks, and yell at the television.  You can even pray your team wins.


Mark and Stacy Newell

We’ve got some room left and we LOVE to get to know people better.  We want you to be in our group!  Our overarching theme in life is to live the adventure with Jesus, so that’s our curriculum this time and we can’t wait.


I’ll highlight more tomorrow, but you can see the whole list at HERE and get yourself signed up before groups fill up!  Take the leap.





This was a MONUMENTAL week for North Creek Church!  As we round the corner to celebrating being six years old on Sept. 24, we reached this very amazing milestone: we had two Simply Worship events at two different locations with two different teams on two different days.

Unless you can jump back in time six years, you’ll miss the significance, so let me catch you up.  When we launched we had a shoe-string team.  By all statistics, we should have failed right out of the gate.  We were too small, too ill-equipped, and way too poor to plant a church.  If you know Mark and I, statistics are just the boundary line that should be broken by determination.  So we took our determination, our tenacious team, lots of prayers, and launched anyway.

Our worship team consisted of one: Jeremy Macias.  His smooth voice and lone guitar was all we had.  I will never lose the image of him standing solo on that stage belting out his best to a half dozen people standing in the audience.  Yes, we all cringe at the thought, but it was what we had, so we gave it our all.

Flash forward six years and we have multiple leaders dripping with talent and teams that are a force to be reckoned with when it comes to the presence of God.  We have enough worship team members to accomdate two campuses and we are building, as we speak, to prepare for a third.  What a difference a few years makes!

My favorite part of the story is that our worship team members come from so many different avenues…some, like Nate and Emily, have been there since almost the bitter beginning.  They deserve an award for sticking it out through some of those awkwardly painful services.  Lee actually learned to drum while he attended North Creek.  Matt walked in the doors of our church on a Wednesday to ask us about another church he wanted to attend…not so fast, buddy!  Jordan was in our youth ministry almost ten years ago…we were blessed to have him back in our lives via the merge.  Keagan, Nate J., Matt S. and Rachel were  all students who grew up on the youth stage.  And on, and on, and on…they all have these amazing journeys that brought them to our team and we love them all!

The moral of the story is to just keep going.  During the rough times, the painful times, the highs and the lows.  If you just don’t stop, you’ll eventually get where you intended to go from the very beginning.  And the best part of the deal is the people that you’ll meet along the way!  We’ve got the BEST stories to tell and have had the most fun!  Glory be to God for every step of this adventure!



This letter is to one of my heroes who turns 18 years old today.  Happy Birthday, Jessica Yonko!

Jessica –

You turned 12 years old the month that we started North Creek Church.  I remember the agonizing conversations with your parents behind the scenes.  They knew that they were called to be a part of this church, but the sacrifice was pulling their 6th grade girl out of the opportunity to be in a thriving youth ministry.  They knew their option was to drop you into a church that offered NOTHING for teenagers.  They were worried to say the least.

Now, I look back on those worries and laugh a bit.  I’ve seen you crowded into our church with over 100 teenagers around you and giggled about the fact that you don’t fit into the small group rooms because there are too many of you.  You have been a part of countless ministries, events, and friendships within the walls of our church.  These are the types of things that your parents (and us) only dreamed of for your life.

Although I know your parents were called, I am now quite confident that God called you as well.  Your ministry has been one of new birth, watching things grow and flourish, and then stepping out all over again to the great unknown with our second campus.  You have carried on your back the weight of faith and it has paid off time and time again.  When other teenagers would have demanded the coolest, the trendiest, the most popular youth group, you jumped in to building one from the ground up.  You are an entrepreneur of ministry, which means there is a lot of hard work with no guaranteed pay off.  You did it anyway.  And the payoff is eternal.

What I also love about you is that you aren’t perfect, but you have continually allowed Godly people to speak into your life and you’ve made corrections where necessary.  So many people miss that the point of following Jesus is simply to start following again when we get off course.  You have become a master at auto correcting yourself back to the path of Jesus.

I’m in awe of the woman I see before me where a little girl once was.  I stand amazed at how far you’ve come in these six years.  And now, we look to the future and we know that you’re going to have a beautiful life!  One filled with obedience, adventures, and blessing.

Thank you for dedicating your teen years to this crazy dream!  We wouldn’t want to take your chapter out of our story for anything.  You are one of my all-time favorite people and I look forward to watching the rest of your life unfold…

We love you!

Mark and Stacy

IMG_2508                                            Jessica and my daughter, Kennedy, in 2006.