Happy Birthday Jay!

April 24, 2012

10 years ago, I was playing basketball at a church camp in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.

I don’t remember much about the church camp, except for the fact that I was playing basketball against some high schoolers that thought they were really cool beating a 13 year old in basketball…at a church camp.

As fate would have it, I was not the only one who took notice at this mismatch, and the drummer from the band that was playing that week decided to enter the game.

Little did I know that he wasn’t just entering the game, but he was entering my life, and that I would be forever changed by this first encounter with Jay Smith.

“We got this man” he kept saying as we started a new game, running up and down the court.

“Just don’t be afraid, we just need a little intimidation.” (this was easier for the 6’4 guy to say to the 7th grader, but I believed him).

Needless to say we ended up winning that day, but we walked off the court with more than just a victory, we walked off the court with a friendship that has continued to last for the past 10 years.

4 years later, Jay started speaking at my home church and we got to hang out quite a bit. We would go grab lunch and dream about ministry and the “what if’s” of life. We attended retreats, camps, movies and all sorts of things together.

Jay invited me to play with him on his basketball team at the light house when I was a senior in high school, and my freshman year in college I played some flag football with him as well.

He was always including me, and it felt great to be apart of something, with someone who wanted you to be there.

My freshman year we decided to go on a road trip to visit some friends in Chicago and also celebrate Jay’s birthday.

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I told Jay I had a birthday surprise for him in Chicago…he thought we were going to a concert or something cool like that.

He should have known better.

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Medieval Times was great!

After an incredible trip to Chicago, we continued meeting over delicious food and had more insightful conversations about what the future may hold.

A couple years later Jay took a full time position at a church in the city, and I was hired on full time to do their middle school ministry.

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We were finally living in the reality of countless dreams. We were doing full time vocational ministry together and getting to try all sorts of cool things out. We planned and executed tons of programs, retreats, events, lock-ins, and parties…and I will forever cherish those moments we got to work in ministry together.

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This past fall, Jay got married! I got the opportunity to stand next to him, as a groomsmen, on his big day.

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(Ten years later, and he was still including me)

This past December, I resigned from the church that Jay and I got to be apart of together. It was one of the hardest things ever, not just because I was leaving the students, but because I felt like I was leaving one of my best friends.

But the beautiful thing about best friends, is they don’t let you leave them.

They chase after you and remind who you are.

They inspire you, challenge you, and keep reminding you that you are on the their team, that you are included.

Jay is one of my best friends, and though we are separated by 6 years of age, I have never once felt unwanted or unloved by him. He is one of the rare individuals that points people to Jesus, not some blue-eyed, plaid wearing, hipster Jesus…but the Jesus that conquers the grave for lost people, not only 2,000 years ago, but today as well. The Jesus that included everyone, especially those that no one else wanted to include. The Jesus who knew that love does stuff. The Jesus that steps on the basketball court when all hope is lost, and whispers

“We got this man”

Today is Jay’s 30th birthday, and I can’t wait to see the next chapters unfold in his life. I know they will be incredible, and I can’t wait to look back in ten years and tell you about another awesome decade of friendship and all that has happened.

Who knows, there may even be another Medieval Times experience in there somewhere.

Happy Birthday Jay!

And thanks again for stepping on the court 10 years ago, it changed everything.

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Andy Van Hook

July 20, 2011

This is Andy…

He has been one of my closest & greatest friends for the last 17 years.

It is hard to describe a friend you love so much, especially one as incredible as Andy.

Experiencing his friendship has been one of the greatest joys of my life.

Andy and I met when we were in 1st grade. Somehow my step-dad met Andy’s dad, and got me on his baseball team. We would continue to play baseball with each other for the next 6 years. Knowing Andy, meant knowing two of his other friends, Andy Gruel and Evan Dunn as well. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was joining a tripod of incredible friends, and it would take me about 4 years to make the tripod open up to a table. But it happened, and the two Andy’s, Evan and I became life long childhood friends.

We walked home together, ate sub stop together, played countless hours of N64 together, watched movies, swam, built dirt ramps, laughed, and played baseball.

This was growing up together.

In 7th grade Andy (VanHook) announced that he was moving to a place called Hallsville, Texas. Andy was going to be gone by summer, and we didn’t know what we were going to do.

I honestly thought that our friendship was over.

I couldn’t be more thankfully wrong.

Andy and I kept in touch, he would come and visit and tell me stories of East Texas and his friends, and I would catch him up on life in Oklahoma.

Every time Andy would visit, I would realize how old we were getting. He was getting tall and becoming a man, and in my mind we were still 12 playing N64.

We stayed in touch, and would switch off visiting each other every year.

We finally graduated high school and I decided to stay in Edmond and attend U.C.O., Andy headed to Baylor University in Waco, Texas. This is when I realized we were growing up, and fast.

Freshman year of college, I remember we were both dating girls at the time who we thought could be “the ones”. Andy drove up with his girlfriend (not his current wife) and my girlfriend (at the time) and we waited for them to get to my apartment, so that we could go on a double date together. I still remember opening the door and laughing the second we saw each other.

Without planning…

We were wearing the same shirt.

We went to dinner in matching shirts, and laughed a lot. Needless to say, the only relationship from that night that still exists is the friendship between Andy and I.

I visited Waco often, and loved getting to know the guys that Andy became friends with. They were guys that all needed a friend like Andy, someone to make them laugh, and someone that would be there for them in all circumstances.

I remember talking to Andy on the phone at length about what all college guys talk about: Calvinism, girls, and  Jesus.

Somehow we never could find the answers to our own questions, but knew exactly what the other needed to hear.

I remember when Andy started talking about this girl named MK. By the sound of his voice, I figured this was the girl he was going to marry. He was really nervous to talk to her, and I knew something was up, because Andy Van Hook doesn’t get nervous.

I remember meeting her and thinking what an incredible girl for my longest childhood friend.

I remember going down to Baylor last fall and walking around the campus with Andy, dreaming up ways for him to propose.

I remember Andy driving up on my 22nd birthday to surprise me.

I remember coming down in December for the night that he proposed.

I remember that she said yes.

And I will never forget this past weekend, watching him commit his life to her.

It has seriously been one of the greatest joys of my life being Andy’s friend. He is someone that changes the people around him, and makes them into something better.

He is kind and genuine.

And I have yet to cross paths with anyone that even remotely resembles him.

I usually don’t write about my job much on this blog, only my thoughts.

But today I wanted to write my thoughts…

About my job.

The other night I received the following text from an anonymous number

(I knew it was someone I should know, but I was too afraid to ask who, until later)

The text read:

“Question. Why middle school? For you…What draws you to them specifically? answer whenever…just wondering.”

I decided to write back the best I could, and so here is a bit of what I wrote and a little bit more that I forgot to mention.

Hope you enjoy.

What draws me to them?

Great question.

Many would say that I am crazy.

Some would say that I am just using this position as a stepping stone until I become a little more mature and can be in high school ministries.

Some think I am not capable of doing anything better.

Besides the crazy part, I disagree.

I do Middle School Ministries because it is their last glimpse of innocence

They are children when they enter and they exit as complicated teenagers.

They are testing limits and figuring out personalities.

they are strange.

And I absolutely love it!

I love seeing an awkward kid get welcomed into the group

I love seeing over confident, sporty kids lose at something…only to realize life is bigger than sports.

I love the quiet kid who engages the entire time I speak, as he sits in the chaos that is around him in the other chairs.

I love how the girls constantly care about whether I am dating someone or not, and giggle when I ask about their dating life.

I love the boy who is playing games on his iphone in the back, and thinks that I think he is reading his YouVersion bible.

I love the way they laugh.

I love when a student asks to read the scripture.

I love the way they remember things that I forget

I love when they ask “Why?”

I love the look on their faces when I go to a game or school event that their families didn’t show up for.

I love waiting with the last kid, who is embarrassed because his parent is late again.

I love remembering their names

I love the cards and pictures they make for me

I love when I can be there for them.

And in all of this, God is constantly reminding me that in loving all these things, he is making me into something better,

something that points to Him.

I love who they are making me become.

Yes, there are days I want to leave it all and just go be a selfish college student, but God loves me and these students too much to allow me to do something stupid like that.

They are drawing me to him,

and in that

I am drawn to them.

I hope this answers your question.

P.S. Who is this again?

Sincerely,

-AB

A couple weeks ago I got to celebrate the 16th birthday of a girl who is an orphan.We call them foster kids in America, but I think the bible would call them orphans.A friend of mine has decided to pour her heart and time into this girl’s life, and she is actively helping rewrite this little girl’s story.

It’s really beautiful.

My friend decided to throw this girl a surprise birthday party for her 16th birthday.She asked a couple other friends to be there, who asked some of the high school students at my church to be there, and when it was all said and done about 25 people showed up for this girls sweet 16.

25 people who had only encountered this girl a couple times

25 people who decided that on this Friday night, they would be doing something for someone else.

What transpired that evening is something I will never forget.

Never.

I arrived at the party about twenty minutes after the surprise had happened, the kids were eating and enjoying themselves and I walked over to ask my friend how the surprise had gone. My friend told me that when she asked the girl if this was her first surprise birthday party,the girl responded,

“this is my first birthday party ever.”

Huh?

16 years old.

Never one, single birthday party.

16 years old.

Not a single gift.

16 years old

No candles to blow out.

16 years old.

No car waiting in the driveway.

16 years old.

No song of celebration ringing in her ears.

16 years old.

“This is my first birthday party ever”

As her words echoed in my mind the rest of the night, the cake was brought out and the candles were lit.

Everyone started singing Happy Birthday

A song that was clearly written for this moment

for this girl.

And then she bent down to blow out her candles and make a wish, her first birthday wish.

As she blew the candles out, they relit themselves.

(They were the trick candles, and so the only way to put them out is to stick them in water.)

Confused, She blew them out again

They relit

She blew them out again

They would relight

After she continued this process, I started realizing the redemption in this moment.

Every time she blew out the candles, they would relight.

Redeeming all those missed wishes

Redeeming all those lonely, quiet birthdays.

Redeeming what she had lost.

There are moments in this life where God’s kingdom is very evident,

and in the smoke from the candles

I witnessed it.

In the laughter, and joy that was in the room

I witnessed it.

God is alive in birthday parties for orphans.

Though I don’t think she can be defined by that title anymore.

Because orphans feel alone,

And this little girl does not.

My friend is redefining and redeeming this girl’s story.

And it is a very beautiful thing.

Christ in us, the hope of glory.

Today was Tuesday.

On Tuesdays I get the opportunity to spend time with about 15 five and six year olds. I am in a class that requires a field study, and so every Tuesday I have gotten to form relationships with these students, and every Tuesday I get welcomed with loud shouts of my arrival.

I love it.

Today in group time, as we were all circled around the big blue carpet, the teacher was describing all the things the children were going to get to do. She was explaining the plan for the day.

Suddenly one of the boy’s hands shot up in the air.

Everyone got quiet as the teacher called his name

“I am a great painter.” he said boldly.

I would like to tell you that this was relevant to what the teacher was talking about

but it wasn’t

It was a statement, something that he almost needed to get out of him. Something that whether or not the world was listening, he needed them to hear, and so as the class quieted, he informed them that he was not just a painter, but a great painter.

He was not showing off, this was different.He was letting everyone know that he was worth something. He was reminding himself and those around him that he had something to offer.

I think the reason this moment carried so much weight for me today, was because sometimes I forget who I am.

Sometimes I doubt my talents, I insecurely forget about them. I focus on the things I cannot do, and allow other’s successes to become my failures.

I believe with all my heart that I have something to offer this world, but I lack the boldness of a 6 year old who informs his entire social network at group time, that he is indeed a “great painter.”

I want to be someone that knows what they were created for.

I want to see my friends come alive in the things that only they can do.

I want you to know that a 6 year old boy knows he is a great painter.

Because we were all 6 once.

And some of us have forgotten what we are great at

Maybe today you need to be reminded that you are as great at something,

as my 6 year old friend is at painting.

And my friend is a really great painter,

just ask him.

Missing An Arrow…

November 23, 2010

Today I had a rekindling in my heart. I picked up a book I read 7 years ago, and begged a good friend of mine to read it. He shrugged it off because he “isn’t much of a reader”, and I found myself angry, wanting to defend this book with my entire heart.

Why defend?

This book represents so many wonderful things to me.

It was given to me by one of my best friends and mentor, Nathan.

I read it, and it changed everything about how I viewed God and the world around me.

I lent this book out

I bought copies to give to friends

I told everyone and anyone about this thing

And then today I picked it up, and realized the journey it had taken me on…

(Yes, I wish I could tell you that this book was the Bible, but it is not…sorry to disappoint.)

The book I am talking about is An Arrow Pointing To Heaven: The Biography of Rich Mullins

And before Donald Miller, Shane Claiborne, and all the rest…there was this odd fellow by the name of Rich Mullins

You may know about him from some songs he wrote, but I doubt you would actually know him by just hearing Awesome God a couple times.

Rich was different

He cared more about an honest relationship with the creator of the universe, than he did about his relationship with record companies.

His desire was never to become famous, as much as it was to bring fame to Jesus.

He told odd stories, spoke of his heritage, and realized his own foolishness and brokenness often.

He valued the actual scriptures more than the “famous” faces that preached them…

(He never trusted preachers anyway.)

He didn’t dress in nice clothes, and wore a pony tail… and once he told his record label off after the insisted that he lose weight and write songs with more pop in them so that he may become more successful.

He had a love for native americans

And above all he had a love for music.

I could tell you stories that I have either read about, or heard from guys who met him while he was still alive, but I want you to read the book, and I think you get the point.

I miss this guy.

Why?

Because I believe we are missing an arrow.

In an age where worship music has become about style and performance, and less about community and God’s presence

I get scared.

I fear there is more energy in what to wear, what product to use, what to say, how to look, what songs to sing…than there is in the energy spent in prayer.

I feel like there is more talking to God on the stage, than off the stage.

There is more confidence in our abilities, and less in His spirit moving.

And I think in the end, we will experience a show instead of the living God.

We will sell out to lights and wonderful transitions…we will play the piano or guitar behind our words to manipulate attention.

And we will forget that God is not just a muse to inspire songs…

But a King to serve,

A Rescuer to thank,

And a Creator to be praised.

I think the one thing Rich Mullins knew better than most worship leaders realize today is this:

It isn’t about me.

Worship will happen without me.

God just allows me the humble task of joining in.

I have never witnessed a more powerful worship experience, than one of my last winter retreats as a student at the church I grew up in. My friend Nathan was leaving to go serve in Colorado, and it just so happened that his last weekend with the church was our winter retreat. Nathan was leading worship and so the entire group was just sad to know that after this weekend was over, Nathan was going to be gone.

Saturday night of worship Nathan did something I have never seen, nor can ever be replicated in a worship service again. He was leading worship and had the boldness to stop, to say that tonight was not about Him leaving, but about worshipping God. He walked off the stage with his entire band, and then the room went pitch black.

It was silent.

It was pitch black.

Then someone started singing, no instruments. no leaders. Just began a song that was familiar to everyone.

Words appeared on the screen, and we sang together.

When a song was finished, someone would start another song and so on.

It was pitch black, white words on the screen.

God was moving.

Without motion backgrounds

God was moving

Without drums, guitars, and designated worship leaders

God was moving

Don’t get me wrong, God is definitely big enough to move in smoke, lights, and instruments.

But there was something that night that changed the way I see worship …here was a group of people that loved Jesus and loved each other so much, that they cared less about how their voices sounded in the silence, and more about the fact that they were singing to their God.

Simply beautiful.

I don’t write this because I want to go back to that retreat and experience worship like that again

I don’t write to tell everyone what a bad job we are doing

I only write this because I believe that worship leaders are arrows.

And it is up to you to decide what you are going to point to.

Sincerely,

-AB

The Wedding!

March 5, 2010

This past sunday night I got to witness and be apart of one the greatest moments of my life.

My sister got married!

She married a wonderful man named Tyler Kelley. Tyler lives out everything others talk about or write about. He loves well, and is genuine. I love the way he looks at my sister and nephew, and I wouldn’t want anyone else to be married to my sister!

My sister is by far one of the most treasured people in my life and getting to witness her big day was surreal. I do not know of anyone more deserving or more loving than her, and getting to walk her down was a humbling and deep moment.

Giving her hand away in marriage, to someone who loves her as much I do, was one of the greatest joys of my life.

I am excited for their future and having another brother is always a good thing!

Congrats Tyler and Caitlin!

Love you both!

-AB

Happy 90th!

April 30, 2009

I have wish I could have blogged daily about this road trip I have been on since Sunday.

But I have not

so here are some updates.

We stayed in Nashville with my mom’s best friend from highschool.

Great people, I really enjoyed staying with them.

I then visited my good friend Lauren Turner at Belmont.

Belmont is a funny place, I mocked it pretty hard, and I don’t really feel too bad about it.

Top 3 comments on Belmont:

1. “At Belmont shoes and showering are neither liberal, nor postmodern”

2. “What’s ice cream? We have gelato here.”

3. “Honda Elements 18, Longboards 11, Tom’s Shoes 27”

We finally arrived yesterday to my mom’s cousins house. It is huge and pretty all around great times. I have been learning a lot about family dynamics and it has been pretty cool experience. Many things are too personal to write on the internet, but what I can say is that this trip will make for some great papers for my Major.

Oh and today is my Great Aunt Georgia’s 90th Birthday!

How does she celebrate you ask?

Watching Xena Warrior Princess while walking an hour on the treadmill.

I hope you realize today that there is a future for you,

and  no matter what happens in that future,

life does not cease.  

Love always,

-AB

P.S. If you would like to see some pics from my travels or just get updates, http://www.twitter.com/abuchner

After seeing Death Cab last night in Tulsa, I was having trouble placing Chris Walla and who he resembled. Then it came to me (with help from my buddy Jay)

This is the process, which led to Walla.

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+

buscemi

=

chris_walla_photographedbyryanrussell

Set list from the show:

  1. bixby canyon bridge
  2. the new year
  3. we laugh indoors 
  4. crooked teeth
  5. my mirror speaks 
  6. no sunlight
  7. company calls
  8.  title track
  9.  grapevine fires 
  10. i will possess your heart
  11.  i will follow you into the dark
  12.  title & registration
  13. cath…
  14. movie script ending
  15.  long division
  16.  sound of settling
  17.  marching bands of manhattan  
    Encore:
    1. little bribes, 
    2. soul meets body, 
    3. transatlanticism

I just got back from Chicago, with a couple of really great friends. Jay, Chuck, and I went up for fall break, we drove all night wednesday night there and then we drove all night saturday night to come back. It was a great trip filled with many great memories.

Here are just a few…


 We got to vote at the local 7-11

We walked around Chicago

Went to effin Medieval Times! (Red Knight is ours)

 

Brandon holding the sword (that the Male wench let him check out)

Stella and Beki!

(sorry I cant rotate pictures I am a moron)